Just wanted to apologize for the lack of posts lately. School has been killing my free time lately (only 2 more classes to go until I graduate, though! Whoo hoo!)
There are several reviews that I've written, but haven't gotten around to posting yet. They'll be up soon.
In the meantime, here's what you can look forward to:
Bravely Default (3DS) - Review
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4) - Review
Skyborn (PC) - Review
Titanfall (Xbox One) - Review
Lucky for us, one of the greatest games of all time - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past - has just gotten a sequel in A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve got to say, I didn’t see this one coming. The question is, “does it live up to the original?”
Find out in my review… which just happens to be after the jump!
The basic story in The Legend of Zelda has always been pretty simplistic, but never “great.” Go ahead and flame me. I’ll wait.
While it’s never been an involving story, it HAS been an extremely interesting concept with multiple games helping to produce a VERY involved mythology. With the recent publishing of the Hyrule Historia hardcover book from Dark Horse Publishing, LOZ fans have finally gotten a handle on how all the games connect and feed off one another (though it’s still somewhat convoluted in a few areas).
The basic concept is a princess named Zelda (always a descendant of the original Zelda) is captured by the evil Ganon and a young kid named Link (always a descendant of the original Link) has to save her by traversing the land of Hyrule and gathering pieces of a thing called “the Triforce.” There have been a few games in the series which mixed this formula up (The Adventure of Link and Wind Waker being notable entries), but this is usually the standard. In all fairness, A Link to The Past was no different, only it was, in my opinion, the best executed Zelda title even today.
While I won’t go into details out of fear of spoiling the game, the story takes the same exact steps to get to its conclusion as the game it’s based off of. From a nostalgic point-of-view, this is great, but from a person wanting a true sequel to the original story it may not be entirely satisfying. At times, the game feels more like a modernized remake than the next chapter in a larger tale. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is noticeable and, in my opinion, worth mentioning.
|That's what I'm talkin' about! Classic Zelda action!|
So far, this is the best looking game I’ve seen on the 3DS. More than that, my biggest praise comes from the fact that Nintendo perfectly captured the atmosphere of ALTTP in a 3D environment. The designers even mostly kept the layout of the original overworld map from ALTTP, but changed some things around here and there to make it feel fresh.
(Speaking of 3D, turning the 3D slider all the way up doesn’t really add, nor take away from the overall effect. For most of my time playing, I left the 3D turned completely off.)
A Link to The Past had some of the best videogame music from the 16-bit era. ALBW remixes all those familiar tunes, some with new arrangements, in beautiful sounding, orchestral quality. Some of the themes even got me a little misty-eyed from pure nostalgia. I was taken right back to those times when I would spend hours and hours trudging through Hyrule and its Dark World. The new music introduced like the new villain’s theme is extremely well done, as well.
|Pop yo' self into the wall and you have the game's|
very well-designed "gimmick!"
|See that crack in the wall?|
If you’ve ever played a game in the Legend of Zelda series, you pretty much know what to expect in the next entry. The only thing that has really changed is how you receive items and weapons. Instead of getting a new item upon completion of a dungeon, ALBW introduces Ravio, a merchant who rents items for Link to use throughout his adventure. Ravio informs Link that there is a catch for renting his items, however: if Link falls in battle, Ravio will take all of his rented items back, forcing Link to re-rent, or buy them for a pretty expensive price. While this may sound like a troublesome gameplay element, it actually works quite well and introduces a fun sort of survival element to the game - you won’t want to die because you won’t want to lose your items. For 800 rupees each, you can purchase the items permanently, but you’ll find yourself scavenging for money in order to do so. It’s a neat addition to the series which I hope we see more of in future entries of the series.
The gameplay “hook” for this game is the whole “being able to merge into walls” thing. Link can now transform himself (because of a bracelet he receives from Ravio) into a 2D painting which he can use to both navigate dungeons and phase in and out between Hyrule and Lorule (though let’s be serious here – it’s the Dark World). I found this to be an extremely interesting gameplay mechanic because it forces you to think 2, 3, and 4th dimensionally in order to get around the world.
Also, there’s no ridiculous, hand-holding helper creature this time around. You play as Link with a sword, shield and items. Nothing else. That’s the way I like it.
Is it worth $40? Look at the final score and you’ll see what I think!
Screenshots taken from Google Images.
It might be a bit off-putting to include a game from the next-gen consoles on a list of greatest games from last year, but I think this one is well deserved. In my opinion, this is the best fighting game released since 2011’s Mortal Kombat. True, KI released with several missing features, but the game is tight and does its job extremely well with its fighting mechanics. It’s still the only Xbox One game that I own, and for the time being, I’m ok with that.
Square-Enix must be crazy. They didn’t consider the Tomb Raider reboot a financial success when it sold something like 2 or 3 million copies. I guess they were expecting Final Fantasy numbers, which even they have dwindled a bit in the past few years. Personally, I loved the reboot. I thought that adding a survivalist element, along with a much more personal and epic story, really lent itself well to a series in desperate need of revitalization.
I have yet to post my review for this 3DS game, but I’ll go ahead and tell you: it got a perfect 10. I absolutely loved this throwback to my all-time favorite Zelda title (of which I consider one of the best games of all time). It just goes to show that the 3DS is the place to go if you really want to get a bang for your buck when it comes to gaming. I hope Nintendo continues to release this kind of quality throughout the 3DS’ life, but come on – can’t we get titles of this magnitude on the Wii U?
This is the game that most websites cited as their top game of 2013. It’s definitely deserving of that spot, as it did new things with storytelling in a videogame and, in my opinion, solidified the fact that videogames are true literature. As I noted in my review, the game mechanics are all things that everyone has played before, but the execution was excellent, weaving in with the great story like no other game has before.
Should this even really be here? I mean, it’s not really a game is it? No, it’s not. It’s an interactive movie that you play on a game console. That being said, I can’t get past the phenomenal story that just happens to be the most original thing I’ve heard, seen, or read since… Well… It’s been so long, I can’t remember.
I know I’ve said it before, but Hollywood should really start employing writers and directors from the videogame industry. Titles like The Last of Us, Bioshock: Infinite, Mass Effect, and of course, Beyond: Two Souls, show a quality and originality that the film industry seems almost incapable of producing these days. It’s because of this originality in story that I have no choice but to give it the “Josh’s Personal Inner Dorkdom Game of The Year Award.” I’m just holding out that Quantic Dream will create a sequel at some point in the future, no matter how unlikely that is.
Usually this would be something I'd make sure and tune in for. But, whoo boy, I was sleepy last night. I fell asleep before 10! Wow!
And then my swisscheesed brain forgot all about the presentation until I was checking GoNintendo.com this afternoon. "Oh yeah, the Nintendo Direct," I thought to myself.
I won't take the time to recap the entire presentation here. There was a lot of good stuff in it, so check it out yourself if you're interested.
But I do want to point out one of the biggest reveals of the evening: the 3DS XL.
Many of you might be familiar with the DSi XL. It was the mammoth final iteration of the original DS. I have one (Liz got one for me for my birthday in 2010), and love it. In fact, I became so accustomed to its hugeness that when I recieved a 3DS this past Christmas it felt like I was playing the revolutionary glasses-free-3D handheld videogame system from Nintendo of Lilliput. Ok, I exaggerate a little, and the 3DS is an excellent system. But it is noticeably smaller than the DSi XL.
Enter the 3DS XL, a system roughly the same size as the DSi XL. (In fact, the entire form factor has a DSi XL feel.) In fact, the two screens are a whopping 90% larger than their original 3DS counterparts. Not only that, but the battery life has been extended a little bit also. To be clear, beyond this the 3DS XL is just a 3DS. No electronics or cpu specs have been altered. So this isn't like the change from DS Lite to DSi. This is a cosmetic upgrade almost exclusively. But that's fine with me.
Now here's the crazy part: It will be available starting August 19 of this year (the same day as New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS hits stores)! That's less than two months away. Talk about keeping info close to the vest (or, since this is Nintendo, should I say, "close to the overalls?"). It'll set you back 199.99 plus tax, but many retailers are already announcing "trade in your 3DS for a discount on a 3DS XL" deals. I just might take one of them up on that. (Liz is ok with it, since had a 3DS XL existed back in December that's what she would've gotten me.)
Major gaming and/or tech sites like IGN, GoNintendo, Nintendolife, Engadget, Gameinformer, etc. have all the details. So I'll just leave you with this comparison picture:
Now we're playing with power. (Bad, I know. But game systems don't have quotes.)
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Nintendo has a lot riding on this year's show. With the Wii U scheduled to launch sometime before Christmas, and the 3DS doing well but, as with any platform, in need of quality software just on the horizon, it's important that they 'bring the momentum.' One area where they are, perhaps surprisingly, poised to do just that is with on-line features.
I say "surprisingly" because for some time Nintendo has been known as the slow adopter when it comes to on-line. The reputation has some legitimacy, but in my experience is usually way overblown. It's true, when Microsoft gave the world XBox Live on the original XBox, Nintendo's on-line offering on the Gamecube was.....nothing. But, the PS2 had no on-line system either (though a few games had limited on-line features). When Sony got into the game on the PS3 with PSN (and Microsoft continued giving the world XBox Live on the XBox 360), Nintendo did as well with the Virtual Console and WiiWare services (united in the Wii Shop Channel) on the Wii. On the handheld side, the original DS had no unified on-line service (though some games had on-line functionality). Two years later the PSP got the PSN. Two years after that Nintendo released the DSi, which boasted, among other things, a downloadable service known as DSiWare. And most recently, Nintendo released the 3DS in March of 2011with it's downloadable service, the Nintendo eShop, rolling out three months later.
Of course, timing isn't everything. There's also the issue of quality. And it's here that the criticisms of Nintendo have a bit more teeth, as they say.
On the Wii, the story is mixed.
The Virtual Console service launched almost simultaneously with the system, offering software emulated (hence, "virtual") titles from consoles of the past (hence, "console"). The original selection was small, but grew over time. Perhaps one of the most mind blowing aspects of the service, especially for children of the 80's and 90's such as myself, was that the consoles of the past weren't limited to Nintendo consoles. Games from systems such as the Turbografx 16 (gasp) and SEGA Genesis (super gasp) would also be available. Oh to be able to travel back in time and tell the pre-teen version of myself that in the future I'd be able to, on a single Nintendo console, play Mario games, Bonk games, and Sonic games. Mind. Blown. As of this writing the Virtual Console service offers games from ten seperate systems (including arcade games), with new titles still being added. On the whole, aside from those disappointed that the selection isn't larger, the VC on the Wii has done well.
Then there's WiiWare. Announced June 2007, WiiWare was designed to fill a gap left by the VC. The Virtual Console was, as the name clearly indicated, a service exclusively for playing old games. WiiWare, on the other hand, would offer new downloadable titles in a wide range of genres from a wide range of developers. Excitement was in the air, and eleven months later the service launched. Now, don't let people mislead you through hyperbole. WiiWare has not been anywhere close to a disaster. Many quality titles have been released through it, and many gaming companies have made money off it. But two major problems prevented the service from reaching it's potential: 1) a 40mb file-size limitation (imposed presumably because of the Wii's small amount of internal storage, and download time concerns), and 2) a lack of promotion (this includes not only advertising, but promotion and ease of use within the WiiShop Channel itself).
A word should also be said about the lack of a unified on-line system outside of the various channels. Unlike XBox Live, on-line components of games are essentially self-contained within the games themselves. Each game had its own friending system and friends list (both using the much loved "friend codes"), as well as "who's on-line" monitoring system. So if I'm on my Wii playing Mario Kart, and Josh is on his playing Call of Duty, there's no way for me to know (aside from calling him up and saying, "Hey man, what are you doing?").
DSiWare is perhaps Nintendo's most disappointing chapter in the world of on-line. The idea was solid: inexpensive downloadable titles for a handheld. The problem has been in the execution, particularly with promotion/distribution. Much like WiiWare, the games themselves haven't been an issue. There are some lower quality titles, sure (as with any platform). But there are also some outstanding high-quality enjoyable ones also. The trick is learning about them, and then finding them in the DSi Shop. The limited memory of the DSi means the Shop Channel is a no-frills hurry-up-and-wait-for-the-next-screen-to-load affair. A splash page with icons for a few games is about all you get in terms of promoting titles. Nintendo has a website that tries to make up for this. And while the site is very useful, some DSi owner just won't be dedicated enough to find and use it.
But times they are a changin'. Enter the 3DS and its eShop channel. Launched three months after the 3DS itself, the eShop is, by most people's reckoning, a huge step in the right direction. No severe file size limitations like WiiWare, a mix of virtual console titles (from handheld consoles, of course) and new original games and applications, the availability of all DSiWare titles, and an excellent virtual store front. Titles are grouped together into different categories (games with Mario, applications, new releases, top sellers, etc.). After clicking on a title one can read more information about it, see what other players have rated the game, and in most cases see screenshots and videos. Purchasing titles is quick and painless, and the actual downloading can happen immediately or later when the system is in stand-by mode.
The 3DS also has a more robust on-line system. Friend codes still exist, but they are tied to the system itself now and not individual games. There's also the ability to see which friends are on-line and what they are playing.
But this is only the beginning. Recently Nintendo has announced that the majority of upcoming 3DS and Wii U retail games (as opposed to 'downloadable games') will be available both as physical cards/discs and downloads. The consumer will be able to choose the distribution method he/she prefers. Also of note, even the download option will be available at retail stores (like Wal-Mart, Target, etc.).
Word on the street is that the on-line aspect of the Wii U will be Nintendo's best (this word provided by people like EA CEO John Riccitello). Details aren't available yet, of course. So who knows what all this entails.
And that brings us to now, less than a week before Nintendo's E3 presentation. The Wii U has much to prove. Recapturing the 'core' after apparently losing it in the days of the N64 (it seems to me it was really the Gamecube era that saw this happen). Showing the new tablet controller isn't just a gimmick (I'm already convinced it isn't). Appeasing (or not) the folks who are anxious to see a Nintendo system with cutting edge graphics again. And generally, demonstrating that the Wii U is a system worth shelling out money for. On-line will be a part of that. And I'm very curious as to how that will play out.
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