Posts tagged #Nintendo

Hyrule Warriors – Review (Wii U)

It’s been a while, but I’m back with a new game review! This time, I’ll be giving my thoughts on one of Nintendo’s latest big releases, Hyrule Warriors.

More after the jump!

Since the Wii U’s release in 2012, I haven’t really bought any new games. In fact, I have ONE game: New Super Mario Bros. U. Unfortunately, Nintendo hasn’t released a lot of games for the system in their major franchises; I’m pretty sure that the biggest release was Mario Kart 8 a few months back. Two years later, however, there are a lot of big games from Nintendo on the horizon – Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2, a new Zelda game that we got our first glimpse of earlier this year, and the list keeps going.

One of the releases that caught my attention when it was announced last year was a mash-up between Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series and Nintendo’s own Legend of Zelda franchise. I was stoked. If for nothing else, I’d finally get a Zelda game of some sort for the Wii U, and would have a new reason to boot up the system that had seen very few hours of actual game time from me. I’m a sucker for Zelda titles; what can I say?

The fanbase for the Warriors games has always been pretty divided. On one hand, you have people that love the strategy/hack ‘n slash series – on the other, you have folks who claim the series is boring and monotonous. I fall in the former category. While I never played the series’ main entries, Dynasty Warriors, I was a HUGE fan of the spin off, Samurai Warriors. I loved the frantic nature of the game, and how it’s very “real-time,” in that stuff is constantly going on, no matter what you do.

The Zelda/Warriors mash-up is a strange one to say the least. It’s definitely something I never thought I would see, and never knew that I actually wanted. From my point of view, the colliding of these two franchises works pretty well.


The game's antagonist, Cia
Story: 8/10
As I said in my A Link Between Worlds review, trying to explain a Zelda game’s story is extremely hard to do and, on paper, doesn’t really sound all that engaging. Most of the time, you’re dealing with two objectives: Save the princess and recover the Triforce. Occasionally (most often in recent years), it gets a little more nuanced than that, but that’s the basic gist. Combine those objectives with the fact that you have to figure out where whatever game you’re playing fits in the series’ timeline, and you’ve got yourself a right mess at times!
Hyrule Warriors expands on the traditional Zelda story (though the Triforce is still the main focus), in favor of one that incorporates some of our familiar games’ timelines and, like the titles’ very nature, mashes them up to tell what is (to me, at least) one of the most “interesting” Zelda stories to date.
My only complaint with the story is that, given the frantic nature of the Warriors series, a lot of it is told during gameplay.
“What? Isn’t that when you want the story to play out?”
True, most games’ stories are told during gameplay, but the Warriors series (this entry included) is all about constant combat and completing objectives on the battlefield while doing so. With that in mind, some of the story can occasionally get lost as dialogue pops up on the screen while you’re trying to take out hordes of enemies. This becomes very frustrating when you miss a key bit of dialogue that might help you with an objective, all because you’re trying to keep your troops safe or fighting some of the tougher enemies.   

The game's pretty, and you'll be doing stuff like this... a lot!
Visuals: 9/10
 As you all know, I’m a stickler for resolution. I have no idea what resolution Hyrule Warriors is running at, but it’s gorgeous! I have to attribute some of that (if not all of it) to the game’s art style. The only thing I could possibly say on the negative side of things is that the framerate chugs occasionally as the Wii U’s hardware struggles to keep up when there are a lot of enemies on screen at once. This isn’t something that happens all the time and is, in fact, pretty rare. But when it does, it’s fairly noticeable.

Sound: 7/10
The music in this game, quite literally, rocks! Quite a few familiar Zelda tunes are present and reworked with a metal flavor. Since the game is pretty fast-paced and all about action, a metal-influenced score is perfect. The only piece of music that I really wish was included is the Dark World theme from A Link to the Past. Sadly, I never heard it if it’s in there, and it would have been a great one for a game like this.
While the music may be great, I’ve got to dock it several points for one reason: the lack of voice acting. It’s been a staple of Zelda games since Ocarina of Time to not have spoken dialogue. Instead, all games have featured a “Sims-like” approach by having the characters start their dialogue with some kind of unintelligible gibberish. This was fine for the 64-bit era, but it really is time to start having voice acting in Zelda titles. Want to have Link remain the “silent protagonist?” That’s fine. In fact, I prefer it that way. But when it comes to the other characters, Nintendo should really start making an effort to give them a voice.
I mentioned earlier how you might miss some of the dialogue in the game, or miss an important cue related to an objective. This could have been easily remedied by including voice acting.
The other thing I docked points for: “Hey! LISTEN!” Ugh. That should have never been included, and should never be again, as it was one of the most annoying things about Ocarina of Time. It seems like you’re interrupted by it nearly every five minutes towards the beginning of the game.

All the characters play and handle differently. Lana is a prime example.
Gameplay: 8/10
Being outnumbered, swiping your sword through 100 enemies in one blow, and mild RPG and RTS elements have all been staples of the Warriors series. This entry is no different. It can be a little repetitive, but I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t get a thrill from wiping out an entire regiment of enemy troops by charging up Link’s sword and unleashing his spin attack!
To increase the replay value, as has been done in previous Warriors games, Hyrule Warriors allows you to select several characters throughout the game besides just Link. These characters all play differently and have different abilities and move sets that will keep you playing. Also, a friend can join in for some good, ol’ fashioned local co-op throughout all of the game’s various modes. Nic and I played co-op for several hours, and it was a blast! 

Controls: 8.5/10
Opting to dock the controls a few points was kind of difficult. It’s not really the controls of the game itself that I had problems with, but the design of the Wii U gamepad and pro controller. Basically, it all boils down to the fact that I don’t like the right analog stick being placed above the face buttons. Not only does it take getting used to, since it’s been below the face buttons on every controller since there were dual analog sticks on controllers, but I think it would serve this style of game more if it were placed where I’m used to (for camera controls sake). Just my personal take on it.

Closing Statements:
All in all, I loved Hyrule Warriors. Again, I never knew that I wanted a Zelda/Warriors hybrid, but I’m glad it happened. Sure, it’s going to be one of those games that people either love or get bored with quickly, but it’s definitely worth trying out. It’s action-packed, has great visuals and music, and it will definitely feed your need for a Zelda fix until the next full-fledged game in the series is released.

Final Score: 8.1/10


Posted on September 30, 2014 .

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Review)

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

There are quite a few games I would like to see resurrected or have a sequel from the 8/16-bit era. Chrono Trigger, Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden (NES storyline and gameplay, please), Final Fantasy VI, Actraiser… All of these games, in my opinion, deserve some kind of new, modern game that pays homage to their predecessors. There are probably millions of people out there who never played Actraiser, so they have no idea how great that game was. People have been clamoring for a Chrono sequel since Chrono Cross, and I fear that people may eventually forget about the series altogether if a new entry doesn’t get released anytime soon. A modern day outing would be a perfect way to expose gamers to classic games, while giving all of us that played them originally a way to relive the past.
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!


Story: 10/10
The basic story in The Legend of Zelda has always been pretty simplistic, but never “great.” Go ahead and flame me. I’ll wait.

Finished? Good.

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.

A Link Between Worlds might, at first glance, seem like a direct sequel to ALTTP, but it’s not. Again, we are dealing with ANOTHER Link and ANOTHER Zelda, only this time it seems as though this takes place a generation or two after ALTTP. Hopefully, Nintendo will give us some exact idea of where this one fits in the timeline.
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!
Visuals: 10/10
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.)

Sound: 10/10
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?
Gameplay: 10/10
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.

I enjoyed A Link Between Worlds immensely. I’ve enjoyed the other games in the Zelda series as well, but the franchise always seemed to me as though it lost something after A Link to The Past. That sense of freedom and exploration was one of the things that intrigued me as a kid when playing the old NES game, as well as with the Super NES iteration. A Link Between Worlds brings those elements back to the forefront, offering an amazing experience which puts itself right under ALTTP for me as the 2nd greatest Zelda game ever made. While it borders on being a straight-up remake, the game has enough differences that make it feel like it is its own, separate entity and, even without the nostalgia factor, A Link Between Worlds holds its place in Zelda greatness.
Is it worth $40? Look at the final score and you’ll see what I think!

Final Score: 10

(It should be noted that this is probably the first game score on The Inner Dorkdom that has ever gotten a perfect 10. J)


Screenshots taken from Google Images.

Posted on February 9, 2014 .

Josh's Top 5 Videogames of 2013

We’re over halfway through the first month of 2014, so now would be a good time to give a list of my top 5 favorite games from 2013, right? Well, maybe I should have done that towards the beginning of the month, but whatever. Here they are after the jump: Josh’s Top 5 Videogames of 2013!

This list goes from least to greatest, and just like everything else, these are the 5 games that I enjoyed the most. I’m sure nearly everyone’s top 5 would vary, including the other contributors to The Inner Dorkdom. However, these are the games that I would recommend everybody to pick up and give a shot if they were only able to play 5 games from 2013.

5. Killer Instinct (Xbox One) – Double Helix Games
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.

4. Tomb Raider (2013) (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Soon to be PS4 & Xbox One) – Square-Enix / Crystal Dynamics
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.

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS) - Nintendo
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?

2. The Last of Us (PS3) – Naughty Dog
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.

1. Beyond: Two Souls (PS3) – Quantic Dream [My Personal GOTY]
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.

Head-To-Head: The Newest Round of The Console Wars

All three next-gen consoles are now on the market. The Wii U, Playstation 4 and Xbox One are all set to have another near-decade of life in the gaming world, but which one should you own? Is there one console that is the definitive gaming machine? Do they all suck eggs? Make the jump and find out!

The console wars and videogame company competition have both been around since the option of home gaming was available back in the 70s. While I wasn’t around back then (80s kid, here), I do remember seeing commercial after commercial and print ad after print ad detailing jabs from Sega at Nintendo. However, I don’t remember Nintendo ever firing any shots back… but there was a reason for that: Nintendo’s products spoke for themselves. From 1985 to around 1996, Nintendo ruled the world and Sega desperately wanted a piece of the pie, trying to convince people that their inferior console was the way to go.

See what I did there? Even I referred to Sega’s products as inferior. Does that make me a Nintendo fanboy?

The simple fact is, I’ve always been able to set fandom aside in favor of a realistic outlook. At the time, Nintendo’s products WERE superior to Sega’s. A simple Google search of the Super NES and Sega Genesis’ technical specs will tell you that. But it hasn’t always been about tech, has it? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

In the 32 and 64-bit era of gaming, Nintendo was dethroned by Sony and their PlayStation console (Sega was no longer a threat due to the Saturn’s lack of popularity and the downfall of the Dreamcast would mark their last adventure in the console market). Which one was technically superior? The Nintendo 64. Which had more games, more companies developing for it, and ultimately sold more hardware and software? The PlayStation. Did this have anything to do with those commercials of Crash Bandicoot trashing Nintendo? I highly doubt it. Let’s just say that Sony owes Squaresoft (now SquareEnix) and Final Fantasy VII a humongous favor.

During the 128-bit era, Microsoft entered the fray with the original Xbox. Technically, it was on par with Nintendo’s Gamecube, both of which were more powerful than Sony’s Playstation 2. Which was the more successful console? The Playstation 2. Again, developers had chosen Sony in favor of everything else. I think that here, it had more to do with Sony being the first out of the gate and having a significant head start on their competition.

A similar situation could be seen with the previous generation’s console market. The Xbox 360 was the first console released this time around; therefore most developers went with the “new” tech, just as they had with the Playstation 2. Nintendo’s Wii was, indeed, the highest selling console, but the company chose to market the system as something the whole family could enjoy, rather than something strictly for gamers. This led to a good number of people buying the system so that they could play Wii Sports Bowling, not really caring whether they played the newest The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario title. As a result, software sales suffered and Microsoft continued to rake in the money off of the Xbox 360 software and its $80 million consoles sold.

Sony also saw an initial decline in sales due to trying to push their Blu-Ray format through their Playstation 3 and overcharging for the console. Over time (and a few price drops), however, the PS3 began to reach neck and neck with the Xbox 360.

So here we are in the present. Three new consoles from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are on store shelves once again. Fanboys the world over will lock in heated battles filled with hyperbole and idiocy as they try to determine which plastic box is “better.” It remains to be seen how this “console war” will turn out, but I thought it would make for an interesting article to compare the three and see how they measure up with one another by using categories common to all three systems.
Just to let you know, I’m writing this for gamers who only care to own one system per console generation as they try to judge which one they might consider picking up. As I stated with my console reviews, these are MY OPINIONS. I’m not trying to take sides here; I’m just trying to offer an objective viewpoint from the way I personally see things in the console world/videogame industry. Remember, I HAVE NO FAVORITES! I own all three. They didn’t get sent to me for free by Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft for review purposes. I bought them with my own money; therefore it would be foolish to say I spent money on something I knew I was going to hate.
(And yes, I saw the video of that kid who bought a PS4 on launch day just to smash it on the sidewalk, so I know stupid people like that exist. What an idiot. Trust me; I’m not like that guy. I value my dollars.)

1. Power/Graphics

Wii U –
Unfortunately, Nintendo, with its last two consoles, has been one generation behind. The Wii wasn’t up to technical snuff with the Xbox 360 or PS3, and instead was more on par with the company’s previous console, the Gamecube. The Wii U, while more powerful than the original Wii, is on par with the Xbox 360 and PS3, only ever so slightly more powerful. While games look a ton better than they did on the Wii, the Wii U still uses what is now considered “outdated” tech from around 2006/2007-ish.

PS4 –
More powerful than the PS3, the PS4 is the first console that I know of which outputs natively at 1080p (I had thought this about the Wii U at one point, but found out otherwise). As I’ve mentioned before in other articles and reviews, resolution may not be that important to some people, but resolution is also kind of like one of those hidden picture puzzles – once you see it, you can’t “unsee” it. The PS4 also offers graphical capabilities more comparable to visuals which can be found in newer PC hardware. Still not quite on that level, it’s a pretty large step up from the 2006 technology which the PS3 used for 6 years.

Xbox One –
If it wasn’t for the fact that the Xbox One doesn’t output natively at 1080p, there probably wouldn’t be a discernible difference between it and the PS4, since what’s under the two systems’ hoods are nearly identical. Though, I have to wonder: Is it that the Xbox One CAN’T run 1080p properly on certain games, or is it that no games support it right now? If no games support it, I have to ask, “why not?” This is something that really doesn’t make that much sense to me.

The Winner: PS4
Graphics aren’t everything - that’s a given. My favorite consoles of all time have been the Super NES, Gameboy Advance, and the DS/3DS, all three of which weren’t/aren’t capable of the stunning visuals seen on next-gen consoles. But in order to keep with the theme of looking at the console wars realistically, I believe that graphics ARE important nowadays to the success of a console. Games should always be fun; you’ll get no argument from me there, but games that look as good as they play can be a turning point for a lot of people. That being said, at these early stages of these new consoles’ lives, the PS4 seems to have the upper hand in the graphics department.

2. The Controller/How You Play

Wii U –
Rather than focus on graphics aspects and capabilities, Nintendo has chosen to put their efforts into the way we play games. When reading that sentence, you might think, “Well that’s good, right?”
I’m down for experimentation when it comes to game consoles, but Nintendo, in my opinion, hasn’t quite gotten it right yet. The motion controls of the Wii were neat, but that’s all they were – neat. It won over a casual fan-base, but the Wii-mote’s design was a little too off putting for some gamers, myself included.
The Wii U introduces yet another controller design, this time with more traditional features integrated into a tablet. I’m not a huge fan of the tablet for games. Instead, I use my touchscreen Wii U gamepad to navigate menus and my Netflix queue. Having a second screen for something like the DS or 3DS, a handheld system where you only have to shift your eyes to see the second screen is great, but having two visuals going on in my hands AND a television can be quite a bit distracting. I will say, however, that the ability to play some games on just the gamepad is a neat feature, though it neither makes nor breaks the controller or system design.
One problem that I believe Nintendo experiences with these radically different controllers is that developers feel like they need to add controller functionality to their games in order to support it. Apparently, this is why the Tomb Raider reboot never showed up on the console. Rather than develop something with an easily mapped control scheme across all platforms, developers know that they need to do something which will, at least in some way, show off the features of the gamepad. It’s my opinion that developers would rather take the easy route and not develop for the Wii U. Is this the best decision? Probably not, but at the same time, it’s kind of understandable. Why make a port of a game with features that just seem tacked on?

PS4 –
This is the first major redesign of the Playstation controller since the Dual Analog version on the original PS1. Built with comfort in mind, Sony also added a touchpad in the center for menu navigation with the possibility of game integration.
While I’ve never been the biggest fan of the controller’s analog stick placement, I admire Sony for keeping a familiar approach each time it releases a new controller. It’s not the most innovative way to go about things, but it’s also not too much too soon. The Playstation controller has slightly evolved with each new iteration, getting us used to new things rather than putting it all out there at once.

Xbox One –
Microsoft also took a familiar approach this time around, with some improvements made on the Xbox 360 controller. I still think they could have done a better job with things like the d-pad, but features like the rumble triggers are a neat addition. There’s not really that much to praise or curse about this controller.

The Winner: PS4 & Xbox One
How we play our games is, indeed, important. I think Sony and Microsoft get this one simply because they’ve given us something which we’re familiar with.
In the grand scheme of things, the Wii U gamepad is really not that far behind in this category. It does have the ability to play some games without the need of a television, and its button layout is more along the lines of what we think of now as a traditional console controller. I just really don’t see the touchscreen thing ever really taking off when it comes to consoles and it can, at times, become a hindrance in both the gamers who play and the developers who make games for the system.

3. User Interface and Features

Wii U, PS4, Xbox One –
Honestly, I think all three consoles are struggling a bit in this category, the PS4 less so than the Xbox One and Wii U, but not by much at all.
I think that the Xbox 360 had the best UI on a console to date. It was simple to use, I didn’t have any problems finding anything, and could basically pick it up straight out of the box and know where everything was located. When the Wii U came along, I was hoping that Nintendo had taken a page out of Microsoft’s book and created an interface which would at least make getting to your friends and engaging in multiplayer easier. In a way, they made it easier to get to your friends list (doing away with the horrid “friend codes” system), but everything now basically uses an app.
Want to look at your friends list? Open the app. Want to check your messages? Open the app. Then wait entirely too long for it to load. True enough, the time spent waiting for the app to load is only a matter of seconds, but this is, in my opinion, a step backwards from the instantaneous and effortlessness social features of the Xbox 360.
However, Microsoft isn’t innocent in this situation either. The Xbox One now has the same sort of setup, requiring you to open an app for almost everything you do. So does the PS4, only I noticed that it isn’t quite as bad on Sony’s system. It’s still not great, and doesn’t put it enough ahead of the competition to amount to anything, but it’s true nonetheless.
Some of the other features of the PS4 and Xbox One include internet streaming directly from a console to either TwitchTV or Ustream, cable box integration on the X1 and Game DVR (also on X1). These are all neat features, but I’m a gamer. I like to play games. These are all things that I personally have little to no interest in. Game DVR is pretty cool, but I could live without it. Streaming might be neat, but if I wanted to stream, a capture card is relatively inexpensive nowadays.

The Winner: Wii U & PS4
This one is tough to award a winner since all three have problems, but I have to give it to the Wii U and PS4. For some reason, the Xbox One’s interface just seems too cluttered. The entire thing being designed to function predominantly with Kinect is also a negative. It takes longer than what should be needed to figure out where everything is and how everything works, while the Wii U and PS4’s UIs are pretty straightforward, though still not exactly easy to navigate.

4. Games

Wii U –
It’s been no secret that the Wii U has been struggling over the past year in terms of games. I don’t believe that has anything to do with their quality or lack thereof, but instead the problem lies in Nintendo not releasing games from their big franchises on a regular basis. At this point, with a dip in exclusive 3rd party support, Nintendo is having to rely on 1st party titles in order to stay afloat – titles that they haven’t released. Don’t get me wrong, there are some interesting games in the pipeline, but by this point, a year after the console’s release, we should have seen some by now. Especially franchises like Zelda, Metroid, or Starfox. So far, we’ve only seen one game that I would consider a “triple-A” exclusive: Super Mario 3D World. All the really interesting games have been coming out on the 3DS. The new Legend of Zelda title being the most recent. And honestly, there’s really no reason that couldn’t have been successful on the Wii U.
Rest assured, there are a lot of people out there who love Nintendo franchises, myself included. The Wii U is the only place you’re going to get them. The question is, “when will Nintendo release them?”

PS4 –
I’ve already talked about what I thought of the launch lineup, so there’s no need to get into that. The only thing we can really do here is speculate on the future. Will there be new games from Naughty Dog on par with The Last of Us? A new Uncharted game has been announced, so I’m sure we’ll see new IPs. What about Quantic Dream? Probably.
I could go on and on about what games are probably coming out for the PS4.

Xbox One –
Microsoft could probably call their console “The Halo Gear Box” and it would be a more fitting title. The Halo and Gears of War franchises are pretty much what the system is known for. There’s no question that these two series will end up on Xbox One at some point. Other than sporadic exclusives, I really don’t see the Xbox One’s game library being any different than the PS4’s. One only needs to look at the PS3 and Xbox 360 for reference.

Winner: PS4 & Xbox One
When it comes to games, you won’t be able to go wrong with these two consoles. It all really boils down to (between those two) if you want your games to look slightly prettier or not.
Nintendo has gotten the reputation of being a “kiddy,” or “family friendly” company, which is probably true. Or at least, it’s more family oriented than the other two big names. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it kind of limits Nintendo in terms of diversity. The Xbox One and PS4 (and by relation, the PS3 & 360) will have a selection of all types of games from adults to younger children, whereas the Wii U’s games are usually centered around “all ages” with a focus on younger kids. The games that will be available for Wii U will be predominantly Nintendo franchises and have a more (for lack of a better term) “child-like” quality about them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but again, I can see where it’s kind of limiting to some degree.

Overview & Final Thoughts –
The only real way to run the gamut on gaming is to own all three consoles (and a PC, to a certain extent), but I understand that’s not always feasible. So after all is said and done, which console should you buy as you move forward into the future of gaming?
(Here’s the part where everyone who was expecting me to award an overall winner groans and gets extremely disappointed.)
I can’t answer that.

Just like this article and the opinions expressed in it, what you choose to play and the types of games you enjoy are for YOU to decide. All I can say is this: If I were going to have just one console of these 3, I would probably go with the PS4, with the Wii U at a close second. The PS4 performs just fine for me and the Wii U is the only place I’ll be able to play the Nintendo franchises I enjoy.
If you like diversity, the PS4 is probably for you.
If you want a console that is built to showcase new titles in classic Nintendo franchises with a more family friendly emphasis, go with the Wii U.
If you enjoy the competitive multiplayer scene and really like shooters, you’ll probably feel right at home on the Xbox One.

Personally, I enjoy all these types of games. So in all honesty, one is really no better than the other when you get right down to it. Games are games, fun is fun, and what we enjoy is what we enjoy. All three systems offer a varying degree of fun, each catering to a certain style. While that may impede or help a console manufacturer’s product sales, it shouldn’t have any bearing whatsoever on the fun that these consoles can bring you.



The Inner Dorkdom Podcast - Episode 11

Josh and Nic discuss their thoughts on E3 2013 until late into the night. Enjoy!

Runtime: 2 hours, 33 minutes
Posted on July 1, 2013 .

Josh's PS4 Thoughts

Console hardware is becoming increasingly difficult to discuss. As of right now, the Wii U has already been released and the PS4 was revealed only recently. How do the two compare and how will they stack up to Microsoft’s new Xbox? It’s really hard to say given the fact that no one outside the gaming industry has actually played anything other than the Wii U.

Some of the features revealed to be capable of the PS4 are kind of neat, but will they be enough to make the system sell? It seems as though Sony is going down the same road as Microsoft did last generation with more of a focus on social networking features. Stuff like being able to share gameplay videos across various media outlets such as YouTube and Facebook, or being able to spectate and take over the control of a friend’s game are cool ideas, but how much of that will simply be a novelty that will quickly wear off?

One thing about Sony’s presentation that I noticed was the very odd balance contained within. On the one hand, Sony was taking the Nintendo approach of, “this will change the way you play games,” but on the other, there was a focus on the PS4’s raw power, likening it to higher-end gaming PCs. While for most it would seem as though the presentation contained a good balance of the two, I felt like Sony is finding it hard to market this new console to consumers that have grown accustomed to current-gen hardware. More like, “how do we sell this thing? Is it the features, or the power?”
At least the “used games lockout” rumor proved to be false.

Going off pure features other than those mentioned above, it looks like there won’t be much more to offer than the PS3. The idea of playing games streamed to the Vita is ok, but it is a feature that requires one to actually own a Vita. Sony could possibly move a few more units by implementing this kind of connectivity, but given the Vita’s lackluster library, that’s highly doubtful. The PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility could also be problematic for some gamers. The Wii U succeeds here given the fact that it will play previous generation titles, as opposed to the PS4 which will not play PS3 games. In my opinion, every console should at least be capable of playing games from the previous console. I was disappointed that the Wii U can’t play Gamecube titles, but at least you can still boot up Wii software. In the final days of a console’s life, being able to play previous-gen titles on the new machine can keep the last generation alive for just a bit longer and ease people into the transition of a new box. Odd that Sony opted not to do so.

On power, there’s no question that the PS4 is in the lead so far. True enough, we don’t know what the exact specs on the Wii U are (which I’m getting really tired of saying, by the way), but then again, we probably never will. Nintendo has never been forthcoming with its system specs, something which Sony had no qualms with in their presentation. The PS4 will make a pretty big jump in improvement over PS3 architecture, making it a much easier system to develop for (according to developers, themselves), given its new, “not-cell” processor and various memory improvements.

In the graphics department, who can really say? It’s highly doubtful that the Wii U is capable of the near-PC quality visuals displayed by the PS4 demos, but you never know. As Nic and I talked about on the most recent episode of the podcast, we’ll never truly know until Nintendo develops and releases a game specifically built for the Wii U. But Nintendo’s system’s true power could possibly make itself known even further down the road seeing as how Nintendo has only just started experimenting with shaders and lighting effects.

So how does all this stack up to the new Xbox? There’s really no telling at this point since there has been no official news on anything pertaining to Microsoft’s new console other than a reveal event, similar to Sony’s, which is just around the corner. Judging by the rumors, the new Xbox will have nearly the exact same hardware that’s stuffed inside the PS4. Unfortunately, there are still some terrible rumors such as having to be constantly connected to the internet in order for the console to function and forced Kinect integration.
A lot of people ‘round the internet are already seeing the PS4 as the “one to beat” this generation, but I really think people are underestimating Microsoft. This is a company that has built a gaming empire with its Xbox Live online service. With comparable hardware under the hood and the consistent online features of the Xbox 360, there’s still a lot that remains to be seen. Also, there’s no doubt that Microsoft will take the same extreme measures in securing 3 rd party support as they did last generation. Sony has seemed to take similar measures, which will make the whole thing very interesting to watch.

Overall, I think the PS4 reveal was a good one, I just wasn’t overly impressed. The thing is though; I wasn’t really expecting to be. I remain skeptical that consoles will bring new things to the table that become mainstays of gaming, but I won’t know for sure until they’re hooked up to my television/monitor and the controllers are in my hands.

Sony has been the first to show what next-gen console gaming is capable of, something that Nintendo has yet to do, and Microsoft’s plans are still unknown. That being said, this year’s E3 will probably be one of the most interesting in recent history. E3 will give Nintendo a chance to reveal new games which will start to show the direction they want their console to go and the new systems will have a chance to build hype. I think that once the new Xbox is revealed and there is much more of a chance to compare and contrast all 3 systems, perhaps my excitement level will increase. All that can be said at this point is, “we’ll see….”

In order to wrap up, this brings me to something that people really need to realize: None of what you’ve just read, or what Nic has already written, or even what websites like IGN have written, really matters at this point because of 3 things:

1. The PS4 and Xbox HAVE NOT been released yet. No one has actually played the 2 consoles, aside from the aforementioned gaming industry (developers).
2. We don’t know how popular these features might eventually be. The PS3 was the first console to truly implement integration features (web browsing, streaming video, apps, etc.) and at first, they were services that nobody thought they would use from a videogame system. Now, these features have become the standard across the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. A year down the road, a “share button” could be what turns the tide for consoles. That’s highly doubtful, but entirely possible given consumer’s mindsets these days.
3. All these “impressions” are based off of how well Sony presented their product. Did these features make you want to buy their console? Based solely on a presentation, that’s really hard to determine. Just like point #1 states, we have not actually used the console yet. I remember my initial impressions of the original Xbox as not being that great, but after I actually bought one, I ended up enjoying it. You know what made me want to get a Nintendo 64 initially instead of a Playstation? Playing Mario 64 for hours on end at Wal-Mart. Until one can actually review the console, then these impressions are, for the most part, meaningless.

After E3, when perhaps journalists will be able to spend some hands-on time with the PS4, these impressions will take on a bit more validity. Even then, however, the features that Sony has revealed of the PS4 won’t be known until one buys the console, plugs it in, and starts to play. Remember, “Knowing [about a console] is only half the battle.”
“G.I. Joooooooooooooooooooooooooooooe!”


My History of Thoughts on Nintendo (A disclaimer for the upcoming "Nic vs. Josh" debate)

First off, I just want to say that I consider myself a Nintendo fan. Am I a fan of their hardware? I would say yes, but I’m more so a fan of their software. Growing up with franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Mario and Metroid kind of makes it hard to not eagerly anticipate the newest titles in their respective series.

Second, and most importantly, I think that Nintendo, in more recent years, has made some rather poor choices when it comes to hardware design and business in general. This doesn’t mean that my fandom has diminished or that I hate Nintendo, it just means that I’m sort of disappointed in their lack of willingness to compete with the rest of the video game world.

Here we go…

During the 8 and 16 bit eras, Nintendo ruled the entire planet. Sure, there was competition from Sega with the Master System and Genesis (maybe a little with the TurboGrafx 16), but Nintendo always seemed to 1-up (like that?) them in some fashion. Whether it was graphics, sound, or quality titles, Nintendo always seemed to have the bigger dog in the fight.

Around the 32/64 bit era, things started to change. Previously, CD-ROM based add-ons were met with mostly negative results. The Phillips CDi didn’t do well, the Sega CD was mostly horrible, and even Nintendo canceled a partnership with Sony during development of their own SNES CD add-on. Unfortunately for Nintendo, they created a monster that would prove to be much more competitive than Sega ever thought possible.

The Sony Playstation was released on American shores in 1995, but wasn’t exactly the most popular piece of hardware ever created. A year later, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 (previously known with the much cooler, Ultra 64 moniker), a much more powerful system. There was one problem, though: The system still used the cartridge format for games.

Now let’s step back and think for a second: Could Nintendo really be at fault for that? From Nintendo’s perspective, every CD-based add-on/console had failed up to that point. Why would Nintendo ever think to release a console with its primary form of media being the Compact Disc? Nintendo probably thought that they were doing the right thing, a thought with which I can mostly agree. The only thing one can really chalk it up to is timing. The time was just right for a CD-based console.

The one thing that really hurt Nintendo during that time was the announcement that Final Fantasy VII would be released for the Playstation rather than the Nintendo 64. By this point in history, RPGs were starting to become slightly more mainstream. Games for the SNES like Final Fantasy III (VI, as it would later be known) and Chrono Trigger were "must-have" games for 16 bit gamers. Because of the rise of RPGs and their ever expanding scope, Square decided to release FFVII on a console that could handle the larger demands of the game. There would be a hit taken when it came to visuals, but FFVII could be a much larger game with the CD format.

The quality (or lack thereof) of the game aside, FFVII was a monster title. The thing sold a ridiculous amount of copies and, (again) unfortunately for Nintendo, a LOT of Playstations. Because of the growing Sony console market and the ability to reach a much larger scope with the CD format, most of the previously "Nintendo loyal" third party developers jumped the Nintendo ship and began producing games on a near exclusive basis for the Playstation. While Nintendo was still successful during this period, due mainly to relying on their brand name and first party titles, the 128 bit era would start to see things change drastically.

Sony, still riding high as the dominant console when it came to software sales, released a more powerful console in March of 2000 dubbed, "Playstation 2." Sony would continue its dominance throughout this era as well, facing off against competition from Nintendo’s newly released "Gamecube" and newcomer to the console market, Microsoft and their "Xbox."

The Gamecube was a great system, don’t get me wrong. It was technically more powerful than the PS2 and more on equal footing with the more powerful Xbox. The problem was software sales and name recognition. The PS2 was not only the first out of the gate in the new generation of consoles, it also carried a more recognizable name this time around. Most third party developers were already on board with the Playstation brand previously, and with sold out preorders around the world, were more than willing to develop for the new system. The Gamecube was left out in the cold and the Xbox was just starting to gain steam.

Nintendo still had their first party titles which were, and still are, top-notch in terms of quality, but perhaps Nintendo’s shining decision was securing exclusive rights to Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise. This was a huge move for Nintendo, but the exclusivity of one franchise couldn’t make up for the ridiculous amount of third party franchises on the PS2. Also, Capcom’s exclusive contract must not have been a very long one. Shortly after the Gamecube release of Resident Evil 4, there was a port of that game (with huge additions), Resident Evil: Outbreak File 1&2, and Dead Aim all released for the PS2. Outbreak and Dead Aim being PS2 exclusive, I might add.

The only thing bad that can be said from a technical standpoint about the Gamecube is its choice of format: Mini-DVD. Other than wanting to preserve the small (size-wise) nature of the console, this is a decision that I honestly can’t understand to this day. Did this hurt the console? To be honest, I’m not really sure. It’s possible, because rather than have games cost roughly the same across all three consoles to produce physical copies, publishers perhaps had to pay a little extra for Mini DVD. I can’t really say for sure, simply because I don’t know how much it cost back in the day to produce that particular format.

In the current generation, things got even more hairy for Nintendo. Microsoft was the first company on the floor with their Xbox 360 in 2005. With more of a focus on multiplayer/networking and graphics that were a noticeable improvement over the previous consoles, it’s no wonder that the 360 gained popularity as quickly as it did.

A year later on November 11th, 2006, Sony released the Playstation 3. Unfortunately for them, Microsoft had mostly blanketed the market with the 360, so the PS3 was marketed as more of an entertainment "do-all" than a straight-up video game console. Sony also used the PS3 as more of a marketing tool to sell their new High Definition format: BluRay. While I commend Sony for wanting to integrate new features into home consoles, they were a bit ahead of their time. Video streaming services had not reached the popularity that they are in 2013 and neither had the advent of the "app." It was good to know the PS3 was capable of doing these things, but in 2006, people found it hard to care enough to drop $500 on the console.

Nearly a week later, Nintendo released the Wii. The problems that I had with the system are shared amongst most gamers, so I’ll break down some of those opinions:

Motion Controls -
When the Wii was first revealed, I remember seeing images of the controller and thinking, "What the crap is that thing?!" The design was so far removed from what gamers were used to that it was somewhat unrecognizable. There were a few familiar elements like a d-pad, a few face buttons, and an analog stick, but you were supposed to hold separate pieces in each hand and point it at the screen in order to interface with whatever game you were playing. On paper, the ideas for gameplay sound pretty cool, but in actuality, they become somewhat frustrating. First person games were tedious because movement was a lot more difficult; platformers mostly required you to turn the wii-mote portion on its side in a somewhat uncomfortable fashion; and having to point the controller at the screen constantly became quite tiring after extended periods of play.
I, like most gamers, like to "vedge out" while playing a video game. I don’t really care to wave my hands about just to make my in-game avatar turn around to look behind me, or have to point the controller constantly on screen to make sure my character moves in a particular direction. These actions are made much simpler by the use of dual analog sticks.
A "classic" controller was released with a more conventional design, but it was only compatible with a few regular Wii games and mostly used for downloadable (Virtual Console) titles.

Graphics -
High Definition graphics and imagery were becoming the standard before the Wii was released. I understand Nintendo’s focus on gameplay, but graphics immerse me in the experience as well as gameplay. When I’m having to deal with frustrating/tiring controls AND graphics that are nowhere near what they COULD be, the immersion is lost. Immersion is clearly what Nintendo was going for with the introduction of motion controls, but is it really that hard to have both graphics and gameplay? I don’t think that a game has to be pretty to be fun, I’m just saying that there’s no excuse for releasing a console that is underpowered when compared to its competition just for the sake of in-game controls.

Lack of Third Party Support -
This is the main problem with the Wii. I can’t blame anyone but Nintendo for this one. With the Gamecube, even though developers were attached to the PS2, they still knew that Nintendo could release a quality piece of hardware. Games COULD be ported, they just weren’t because of the popularity and large user install base of the PS2. I believe that had Nintendo released an equally powerful console like the Xbox 360 (and perhaps dropped the motion controls), they would have seen more third party developers gravitate towards them. Releasing a drastically, technically speaking, inferior console than what technology was capable of, made developers scoff at the Wii and mostly avoid it. Also, motion controls would HAVE to be integrated into the game since not everyone had the classic controller or "nunchuck" peripherals. These extra controller options, and added motion controls in general, take more time and therefore cost more money to implement. I honestly can’t blame third party companies for wanting to pass on the Wii. I don’t say that out of spite; I only say it because it’s the most realistic viewpoint.

Catering to the "Casual" market -
I’ve been talking about how I’ve been writing an article about this for a few weeks now, but I’ll go ahead and address part of the subject.
A casual market does, indeed, exist. The thing I get sick of hearing is the "core gamer" term. I think that the term is used in most cases to put a stamp on gamers who like games like Grand Theft Auto, etc. Most of the time, it’s used in some kind of derogatory manner, or to separate certain games from others that shouldn’t be separated in the first place.
I look at games in 2 different styles: Casual games… and EVERYTHING ELSE. There is no in-between. Grand Theft Auto is no more "core" than Super Mario Bros. A casual game is something like Angry Birds. Most of what you’ll find in an app store for your particular smartphone can be considered casual games. These games are defined by the fact that you can pick them up for 5 minutes and put them down. Basically, games you play when you’re bored or waiting in the doctor’s office.
Most gamers, just like we all did back in the 80s and 90s, take video games seriously. The video game market EXISTS because we take them so seriously. Not only do consumers take them seriously, but so do developers. Gone are the days when a game was developed over the course of a couple months with a team of 5-10 people. Nowadays, games usually have 40-100 people working on them and sometimes take up to 2 years to produce. With that kind of production, developers want to deliver the absolute best experience possible, which is something most of them didn’t feel was possible on the Wii. Just like developers want to deliver the best experience possible, gamers want to receive the best. Being a platform which caters predominantly to gamers who only want to pick a game up, play it for 5 minutes and then go to work, the Wii was not the platform to go to for most third party companies.

With the Wii, Nintendo based their marketing strategy around roping in the casual gamer… and they did it in spades. People who normally wouldn’t dare pick up the latest Nintendo console were actually making it a point to do so. One particular example that’s always used is that of someone’s grandma playing Wii Sports. Did this actually happen? Yes, it did. The problem is that a grandma is still a grandma. Because grandma enjoys bowling on Wii Sports, that doesn’t mean she’s going to be beating down the doors of her local Gamestop to preorder the next Mario or Zelda game. For grandma, it begins and ends with Wii Sports. My question is: What was the point in Nintendo doing this? The answer: To sell more systems. But system sales are only half the battle. If a company doesn’t have the software to back it up, then that company doesn’t get any back end off of titles sold and the console sits and collects dust. Such was the case with a great many Wiis that were sold in 2006 and onwards.

All that being said, the Wii DID have some solid titles, but those were few and far between. I realize that that’s subjective given to one’s tastes, but can’t that be said no matter what console is the subject of discussion? I believe the games that were the strongest were ones that were developed by Nintendo themselves… which were few and far between. Nintendo didn’t have the "next killer app" down the pipeline from month to month. Sometimes strong titles would release with 6 months to a year between them as opposed to the PS360 which had a new, large-scale title available nearly every month. But when you’ve only got one company releasing consistently, top-drawer games, what do you expect?

I’ve already made my recent opinions known about the Wii U, so I won’t go into that again. I’ll only say that Nintendo has a lot of catching up to do to win back all the gamers that they’ve lost to the other two big companies in recent years. I still love Nintendo and will probably continue to buy their hardware for as long as they continue to produce it. But when two other guys carry around bazookas and you’re still carrying around a pistol, it’s easy to see how the fight’s going to end.

Ok, I was done with the article and then I thought of this analogy to sum up the whole thing and expound upon that last line:

Nes = Pistol; Everything else at the time = BB-gun

Snes = Machine pistol; Everything else at the time = Pistol

N64 = Upgraded machine pistol; PSX = Regular machine pistol with more bullets

Gamecube = Assault rifle; Xbox = Assault rifle; PS2 = Slightly less powerful assault rifle with more bullets

Wii = 2 assault rifles duct taped together; Xbox 360 = Machine gun with buckets of bullets; PS3 = Machine gun you can play BluRays on, but has the same kind and amount of bullets as the Xbox 360, but sometimes misfire.

Wii U = Machine gun; Next Xbox = Bazooka of some sort; PS4 = Bazooka of some sort that will probably play BluRays.

Yeah, the analogy is a little bit ridiculous (and using the bazooka to represent the unknown was probably extreme), but it illustrates how Nintendo’s consoles are viewed by the majority of the gaming public (myself included) and that recently Nintendo has seemed to be behind in recent years. At times, being behind in a somewhat costly fashion.

With that, I release you!


Josh's Inner Dorkdom Journal: Episode 2 (The Wii-U)

I know I said I'd probably update this article/journal every Monday, but I'm just too excited about this to wait until then...

So after very little convincing, I caved and bought a Wii-U. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!

To answer one simple question, "Is it good," the answer is no... It's amazing! Not since the days of the Super Nintendo have I fallen instantly in love with a console. Sure, you have to do ALOT of waiting around upon first booting up the system due to a massive update, but it's well worth your time. As soon as I took the gamepad out of the box, I knew there was about to be some major magic goin' on. The thing was weighty. It felt as though it were well-built, something that can't, in my opinion, be said about the last few Nintendo consoles. When I picked it up, I felt more like I had just bought the most monstrous hand-held ever built... and this was just the controller!

I bought New Super Mario Bros. U as my first game and man is it nice to finally see Mario in glorious HD quality! Not only does the system display HD visuals, but it displays TRUE 1080p resolution, something of which the other two consoles cannot say. Even though both consoles claim to support 1080 resolutions, they, in fact, don't. 720p is the standard when it comes to gaming on consoles. The consoles only really "support" 1080, for movies (Blu-Ray / high-def cutscenes) and things like that.

As I mentioned in the last episode, I've been buying lots of games off of Steam for my PC, alot of which are games that I already own on either Xbox360 or PS3. The differences between The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim running at 720p on the Xbox and 1080i on a pretty high end PC are astonishing.  People who have never experienced a videogame in 1080 are truely missing out. Colors are more vibrant, black levels are... well... "blacker" and the overall image is just alot smoother than what console gamers are used to. This alone puts the Wii-U at the head of the pack when it comes to being THE console to own this generation.

Only problem is... this generation is almost over. It's been rumored (rumors that are highly likely) that the next systems from Sony and Microsoft will be revealed sometime in 2013 and release in 2014. If Nintendo would have released the Wii-U back in 2006, there would be no question that they would be back on top of the the console market, which is where they should have been all along. I seriously hope that the Wii-U does well, but how well it will perform when the next two powerhouses are released remains to be seen.

That's about all I've got for now, folks. I'm gonna leave it to Nic to write up a full-fledged review on the console itself. Just remember, kids: If you buy a Wii-U, you'll be playing with power! Wii-Power!

Wow, that really doesn't work. It was alot better back in the 90s when you could say, "SUPER power!"

Posted on December 8, 2012 .

Wii U Launch Thoughts

Given that the Wii U launch is just a hair over a month away, I figure it's past time that I, the resident Nintendo fanboy, weigh in on the September Wii U press conference and all the information that was revealed (and what information wasn't revealed). We're planning on doing a podcast about the Wii U launch in the coming weeks, so think of this as just a discussion of the major points.

Release Date
Most folks were thinking November. Nintendo had confirmed that it would come out before year's end, so anytime from September to December was technically possible. But several indicators pointed to November. Nintendo would certainly want to have the system on shelves for Christmas shopping. A December release would miss out on far too much of that shopping season. On the other hand, it seemed unlikely that Nintendo would have a press conference in September and release the system the same month, or even the one after it. And last but not least, Nintendo's two most recent consoles launched in November, so history was pointing to that month.

But when in that month? Answers to that question were a bit more varied. A lot of folks were betting on a Sunday (again, looking back to the launches of the Gamecube and Wii). But even banking on that (which turned out to be smart), which Sunday would be the one? The 25th would miss Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The 4th and the 11th were championed by some, but others thought those dates might be a bit early. Thus, a significant number of people, myself included, were guessing November 18th as the most probable date...if one were to guess. And they/we were right.

I'm fine with that date. It's coming out the week of Thanksgiving, allowing it to almost herald and usher in the 2012 Christmas shopping season.

The Price
Watch out folks, Nintendo is trying some modern approaches. Indeed, many were surprised to learn that Nintendo will be offering two different SKUs on launch day: the basic bundle (MSRP $299) and the deluxe bundle (MSRP $349). The basic bundle is what it sounds like: the system, one gamepad (both in white), a sensor bar, power cables, an HDMI cable, and 8GB of storage space. The deluxe bundle includes everything in the basic (except the hardware is black), 32GB of storage instead of 8, a cradle for the gamepad, a charging stand for the gamepad, stands for the console itself, and a pack-in game (Nintendo Land, which I'll talk about later).

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime explained in interviews that his company is always focused on maximizing purchase value for the consumer. The decision to offer two SKUs is a part of that. Why force people to pay for a game they aren't interested in? Why force people to pay for more storage space when they'd rather hold off and purchase the space (via SD cards or external hard drives) when they need it? This reasoning seems quite sound to me.

So what do I think of the prices? I think they're good. You don't want to go too cheap, because then the consumer will get the impression that the system isn't new/advanced enough to warrant a purchase. But you don't want to go too expensive, because then people won't buy it and you'll have to do price drops and play catch-up for the life of the console (I'm looking at you, PS3, which cost the same as a small country when it launched). $300 and $350 seem just about right.

The public seems to agree. Within a week or so of preorders opening, all major retailers were sold out. The deluxe bundles were the first to go (likely the stronger showing of Nintendo Land at this press conference over the one at E3 helped convince people that the game itself would be worth the extra fifty dollars, not to mention the extra storage space and charging cradle). And the basic bundles followed shortly after.

The Games
At last check, the Wii U will have 23 titles available for it...on launch day. Twenty-three titles is a fairly nice number for launch window (i.e., the first three or so months of a console's life). But for launch day, that's not bad at all. Here's a list of them, with the caveat that the list is subject to some change:

 Call of Duty: Black Ops II
 Skylanders Giants
 Transformers Prime
 Wipeout 3
 Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
 FIFA Soccer 13
 Tekken Tag Tournament 2
 New Super Mario Bros. U
 Ninja Gaiden: Razor’s Edge
 Nintendo Land
 Sing Party
 Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
 Warrios Orochi 3 Hyper
 Darksiders II
 Assassin’s Creed III
 ESPN Sports Connection
 Just Dance 4
 Rabbids Land
 Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013
 Scribblenauts Unlimited
 Game Party Champions
 Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition

I'd say that's a pretty good launch day line-up. There's a lot of variety and balance here, in several different ways. You have both first party and third party games (with third party titles actually outnumbering first party). You have 'core' games (Batman, Ninja Gaiden, Assassin's Creed, Darksiders, Call of Duty, ZombiU, Tekken), 'casual' games (Just Dance, Game Party Champions, Sing Party), and games somewhere in the middle. You have family friendly titles (Scribblenauts, NSMB U, ESPN Sports Connection), and more mature titles (Ninja Gaiden, ZombiU, etc.). You have platformers, first-person shooters, third-person action/adventures, sports titles, racing titles, music titles, and health titles. There really does appear to be something for everyone.

And I have to point out that for the first time since 1996, a Nintendo console is launching with a new Mario game ready to go. Some may argue that that isn't as big of a deal now as it used to be, but the fact is Mario titles still sell like crazy. So this should not be dismissed offhand. And on a personal level, a Mario title launching with a new Nintendo console brings up warm feelings of nostalgia for me.

The Controls
The centerpiece of the Wii U is, at least initially, the new gamepad. Reaction to it has been mixed. As usual, there are folks who almost seem to be looking for some negative spin to put on it (it's not an actual tablet like an iPad and that's stupid of Nintendo and confusing for the consumer, it's not a real advancement in game design as there's not much you can do with a second screen, etc.). Then there are those who attack it not on the conceptual level, but the technological level (it should have allowed for multi-touch, it's too light, some developers say it's laggy, etc.).

I'm going to reserve complete judgment until I get my hand on one. But I can analyze the conceptual criticisms right away. And I'm just not seeing them. Yes, it isn't a tablet, so you can't take it to Wal-Mart or the grandparents' house. But that's what you have a portable for (whether a tablet, a phone, or a real gaming device like a 3DS or Vita). And if you can't see possible innovative uses for a full-buttoned controller with a touch screen, motion sensors, front and rear facing cameras, NFC capability, and speakers, then all that demonstrates is you're not creative when it comes to game design.

As for the technical issues, while I like multi-touch, I don't think its absence is the end of the world. And, personal preference here, if the choice is between multi-touch capacitive or more precise stylus-friendly single-touch resistive, I'll take the latter every day of the week and twice on Sundays. For gaming, I think resistive is the way to go. And also, everything in the world doesn't have to be like flipping Apple (a rant for another day). Things like weight are a matter of personal preference, and I've heard some people say they think the weight is just fine. Lastly, regarding latency, reliable sources (such as Ubisoft's Michael Ancel) have publicly stated that the latency on the tablet is nearly non-existent. To be more exact, Ancel says the delay is only 1/60th of a second. Barring serious fighting game gamers (Josh), such a small delay is of no consequence.

Nintendo TVii
Coming completely out of nowhere was Nintendo's new entertainment hub/index. Not a media service itself, rather it integrates existing services, and adds new levels of social interaction to them.
On the first part of that, in a nutshell Nintendo TVii takes all the media sources a particular user has (Netflix, Hulu, cable/satellite, etc.) and combines them into one searchable database. So, say you want to look up Castle. It will let you know all ways you can watch it (old episodes on Netflix, new episode next Monday on ABC, recorded episodes on your TiVo). For on-demand sources, you can immediately play the episode. This all happens from the gamepad, and appears quite user friendly.
As for the second part, during live programming the gamepad displays a live message board of sorts, where people can comment in real time on what's happening. Screenshots even appear from time to time. With sporting events, the gamepad displays a live, interactive recap of the game (think ESPN's game tracker).

This is a significant move for Nintendo, as they are expanding their focus from just games to other forms of entertainment. I for one am intrigued by it, and am looking forward to watching some University of Alabama football with live gamepad interaction.

The Remaining Questions
In typical Nintendo fashion, the September press conference left some questions unanswered. Perhaps the biggest ones deal with Miiverse, the new social network service that apparently is significantly integrated into the Wii U itself. A few tidbits of info and a few screenshots and video snippets are all we have. Some folks are up in arms about this. I, on the other hand, am perfectly content to learn more about it when Nintendo is ready.

Well, I think that's it for now. Again, hopefully we'll have a podcast dedicated to the Wii U launch in the coming weeks.

Until next time,

 - Nic

Posted on October 17, 2012 .

My Videogame Life Pt. 3 (The Conclusion!)

-The Present & The Future-

So after reading the first 2 parts of this whole thing, we’re finally up to the present day of gaming, but let’s backtrack just a touch. I haven’t really covered handheld consoles, so let’s do that real quick…

I was never a handheld gamer until around the time of the Gameboy Advance. I had played an original Gameboy along the way, but the Advance was what really sold me on how awesome handhelds could be. Essentially, the GBA was a mini-SNES. Need I say more? How could you not love the fact that Nintendo was allowing ports of old 16-bit titles along with brand new IPs on a relatively cheap console? We were able to get Final Fantasy IV, V and VI (all with their correct Japanese numbering), new Metroid(s), Castlevania and a slew of other games which effectively ushered in “retro” gaming. The GBA allowed new gamers the opportunity to experience something that they may have missed out on (or not been alive for) the first time around. The GBA sported 2 different models: The original and a smaller, flip-top version with a MUCH brighter screen. There was also a ridiculously awesome attachment for the Gamecube called the Gameboy Advance Player that allowed GBA games to be played on a television through the GC itself.

Nintendo continued through to the Nintendo DS which introduced, in retrospect, a kind of useless second screen. It was a touch screen, so that was kind of cool, but other than being able to display stuff like maps and miscellaneous things like that, it was just a, “hey, that’s neat,” kind of thing. The important thing about the DS was the games for it. Phenomenal titles all around. Since the DS was significantly more powerful than the GBA, the system was capable of 3D graphics which lent themselves well to Square’s complete 3D remake of Final Fantasy IV. The only problem I had with the system was the amount of versions that were released over its lifespan. There were a total of 4 versions of the DS released over 6 years. The second version, the DSLite, was a smaller, lighter version of the handheld with brighter screens. The third, the DSi, was similar to the Lite, but dropped the GBA backwards compatibility in favor of features like a camera and several small applications. The fourth and final version, the DSi XL, was exactly the same as its previous version, only twice as large. I can understand maybe 2 versions of a system (upgrades and such), but 4?! Surely Nintendo could have cut out the middle 2 versions. What was the point in releasing the DSi and then a year and a half later releasing the DSi XL? Why not just wait for the larger, better one? But the DS, over its 6 years of existence, made a killing, so what do I know? I owned the original DS and the DSi, while Nic owned 3 of the 4 models.

It was at this time that Sony tried their hand at the handheld market, a market that Nintendo had completely dominated since the days of the original Gameboy. The result was the PlayStation Portable (PSP), a sleek black handheld that’s looks and interface definitely embodied Sony’s current gen system, the PlayStation 3. Was the PSP a good system? Did it topple Nintendo’s king-like reign in the handheld market? Kinda and no. Yes, the PSP was a good system, being nearly as powerful as the PS2, but no, it didn’t really effect Nintendo’s business at all and they still remain on the throne to this day. The whole UMD thing was kinda silly, as well.

So that brings us to the current generation. Right now, there are 3 consoles and 2 handhelds on the market: The Nintendo Wii and 3DS, Microsoft’s Xbox360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Vita. I own them all except for the 3DS, so I’ll give my thoughts on ‘em.

The Wii and 3DS –Quite honestly, this is my least favorite of the consoles I own. And I don’t just mean from this generation. I have a total of 6 games for the system. Thing is, those 6 games are all that have interested me from what the system has to offer. I have my own thoughts on Nintendo’s business decisions as of late, but I won’t go into them in very much detail so as not to sound like a hater. I will state this here so that it will be on the record for all time: I do not hate Nintendo. I think Nintendo, over the most recent years, has made some extremely poor choices that could have been easily remedied, but I’m not their business manager, so I can’t complain too heavily. The Wii is, in my personal opinion, the worst business decision they have made thus far.

Let me explain: Releasing a system to cater to non-gamers is not the way to sell a console. Not when you’re up against more recent heavy hitters such as Microsoft and Sony. Well, let me rephrase that –It’s not the way to sell software for your console. Nintendo currently holds the top spot as far as systems sold in this console generation. This is a good statistic, but if you look at their software sales, they aren’t nearly as high as Sony or Microsoft’s. One needs to look no further than a top-selling game like Call Of Duty. Which console do you think had more software sales for, say, Modern Warfare 3, a game that was available on all 3 major consoles? It wasn’t Nintendo, I can tell you that.
Xbox360 –Microsoft did absolutely no wrong this console generation… Except for that whole “red-ring-o-death” thing. Seriously, why not fix that? It took until about a year or so ago when Microsoft released a remodeled version of the console to finally fix a problem that completely breaks the thing. As far as software goes, this was the place to get your fill when it came to new and exciting titles. While most games were released for the big 2, the Xbox version usually outperformed the technically more powerful PS3.

PS3 and Vita –
For me, the PS3 is smack dab in the middle of the console war. While it’s more powerful than its competition, it is, by in large, not a videogame console. It’s a “do-all.” A “home entertainment system,” if you will. The PS3 plays nearly any kind of disc known to man except for HD-DVD (an unfortunately dead format. I think it was better than Blu-Ray). All the way from Compact Disc to Blu-Ray, the thing would play it all, including being backwards compatible with the previous 2 Sony systems. I heard at one point several years ago that the system was extremely hard to program for, which made developers a little apprehensive about making games exclusively for it. The system did have a few things going for it, though: Like the Wii, it had free online as opposed to Microsoft’s payment plans (although you get what you pay for. If you don’t pay, you run the risk of that big Sony hacking fiasco last year). It had some decent exclusives (God of War, Heavy Rain, Metal Gear Solid 4), and most importantly to me: It kept the exact same controller since the Dual Shock was released back in 1997.

The controller has obviously always been important in videogames. Each new console has released with a new controller that usually ends up adding something to the next generation’s design. Every single console owes its controller’s design to the original NES because they’ve all grown from there. The SNES added 4 face buttons and shoulder buttons on the top, the N64 added an analogue stick, all of which have been incorporated into all console’s controllers over the years. Sony just happened to find a design that works perfectly for all games and stuck with it. Not to sound like I’m trying to beat a dead horse here, but the Wii’s controls are something I just don’t see ever becoming the norm. At least not for a looooooooooong while. I like to relax while I play games, not wave a stick around like an idiot.

The Vita, on the other hand, needs to step it up quite a bit. I own one, but I own it for one simple reason: Mortal Kombat. Currently, it is the only handheld that has MK and for someone that likes to keep his MK chops up, the Vita version is where it’s at. The Vita needs stronger titles and hopefully it will get them once bigger titles like the portable Assassin’s Creed III spin-off are made available.
So what about the future? 2013’s E3 should be the big reveal for both Microsoft’s “Xbox720” and Sony’s PlayStation 4. Nintendo’s Wii successor, the Wii-U, was revealed at last year’s E3, effectively winning the conference. The 3DS is out there doing pretty decently, although it had a fairly rocky start from what I understand. Very little is known about the Wii-U and even less is known about the other two consoles. Nintendo has a lot to make up for with 3 rd party support on their new system, but with games like Ninja Gaiden, Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed III, it looks as though they’re making a step in the right direction. Microsoft only needs to keep doing what they’ve been doing and Sony needs to actually create a game console rather than a home entertainment system. 2013 should be an interesting year to say the least.

I hope this 3 part article has been at least somewhat interesting to you. I know that it became more of a “history of videogames” than about my personal experiences, but maybe it was interesting nonetheless. Through the new website, I hope to be able to update you guys on the progress that the videogame world continues to make with both reviews and opinions which might shape where you want to go when it comes to your games.


THE END *Doubleback by ZZ-Top should probably play right about now*
Posted on June 26, 2012 .

Make it Bigger!!

Last night at 11 pm Central Daylight Time all the Nintendos of the world (Nintendo of Japan, Nintendo of America, and Nintendo of Europe) had a simultaneous "Nintendo Direct" presentation. For the uninitiated, "Nintendo Direct" presentations are streaming video presenations created by Nintendo themselves and watchable on their websites (and in archived format on the Wii and 3DS). Nintendo uses these as opportunities to showcase software and hardware, and announce new software and hardware.

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 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.)

 - Nic

Posted on June 22, 2012 .

My Videogame Life Pt. 2

-The 32/64 and 128 Bit Era-

By the time the PlayStation was released in North America,the SNES was still going strong. Really,I (and nobody else,for that matter) had absolutely no interest in the thing until around 1996 when it was announced that the newest Final Fantasy title would be released exclusively for the console.

At this time,I owned a Nintendo 64. The N64 was,in my opinion,a great system. It was the first to introduce analogue sticks, which are something that are kind of the standard today. Plus,the graphics were phenomenal for its time. By this point,I was still getting Nintendo Power in my mailboxevery month,so I,like many others,saw an article before the N64’s release that displayed screenshots from a tech demo from Square. The tech demo showed characters from Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) fighting a humongous knight. Supposedly,this was going to be the tech that Square would use to develop for the N64,but alas,Square dropped the added graphical horsepower in favor of storage space.

Upon Final Fantasy VII’s announcement, sales of the original PlayStation skyrocketed while I was left thinking,“what in the world just happened?” Why was it that a company that wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without Nintendo,suddenly leaving and making games for another company? It was like Square was cheating on their wife or something! And that’s exactly how I felt when I bought a PlayStation in 1998.

Up until this point,I had been a Nintendo fan through and through. Thing is,that’s all there was. At least,that’s where all the great games were. Now it looked like all the larger franchises and interesting games were being moved to the PlayStation.

I remember the first time I ever played one was shortly after Final Fantasy VII had been released. Down at our local video store,you could rent a PlayStation for around $20 plus the price of the game. Naturally,I rented FFVII. I thought it sucked how you had to turn the thing upside down for it to work. I believe it was something to do with the disc drive going bad. Of course,the rented console didn’t come with a memory card,so in order to keep playing you had to 1) Not die. 2) Leave the system on if you had to walk away.

Was the original PlayStation all that great? Looking back on it,not really,no. The graphics were horrible,the load times were ridiculously long,and gameplay on most games was fairly stiff. It should be noted that this was a transitional period in gaming. Most games played on a 2D playing field before this time and we were now suddenly thrust into 3D. I had always been a PC gamer as well,so the transition wasn’t all that shocking to me,but people who had only owned consoles at this point were in a completely new world. That being said,there were good concepts in those horrible looking,horrible playing 3D games that would be the building blocks for some of today’s most popular franchises. Metal Gear Solid,Resident Evil… The list of potential new franchises was as long as your arm. The N64 still did well because of its first party franchises such as Mario and Zelda, but when it came to 3 rd party games,it just couldn’t hold up to the competition. Suddenly,“Nintendo” had been replaced by “PlayStation” as the household name when it came to games.

You can always see what system is the most popular simply by watching television. As a child of the ‘80s,I was raised on sitcoms. I watched everything from Andy Griffith,all the way to more recent shows like How I Met Your Mother. The movie, The Wizard showed us that the original NES was king and references in such shows as Full House made us realize that the SNES was where it was at in the early ‘90s,all the making us believe that those Olsen chicks were one person. In the late ‘90s,however, the PlayStation was the most featured console in television,letting us know that Sony had one that particular console war.

Sony would continue their dominance throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s with the release of the first 128 bit system, the rather simply titled,PlayStation 2. The first game I ever played for the PS2 was the demo for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The demo came packed in with my friend Danny’s copy of Konami’s Zone Of the Enders. I was taken aback with just how much the graphics and gameplay had improved from the first Metal Gear Solid.

While console wars had usually been comprised of just 2 companies duking it out for marketplace dominance (Nintendo/Sega,Nintendo/Sony),this time there would be 4 consoles in the war. Sony had the PS2,Nintendo had the Gamecube,Sega had the Dreamcast and newcomer Microsoft had the Xbox. Sega’s Dreamcast would quickly die off and fade into obscurity,leaving Sega to enter the 3 rd party software market,while the big 3 struggled to fight the battle.

The PS2 reigned supreme throughout its lifespan based on their head start and carryover of 3 rd party support from their previous system. Nintendo would,with the Gamecube,have to suffer the “sins of the father” (N64) and struggle to find its footing while lacking very much 3 rd party support at all. It’s a shame because,other than it’s media choice (mini-dvd),the Gamecube was technically more powerful than the PS2 and had more in common with the Xbox. Developers at this time had kind of blackballed Nintendo as the company they didn’t want to make games for. Was it because of the lack of 3 rd party support on their previous system? Was it because the storage capacity was smaller on the Gamecube? I have no idea. Nintendo put out some triple-A 1 st party titles around this time,just as they did with the N64,and have continued that trend here in the present.

Microsoft,new to the console world,would be the wildcard throughout this section of the console war. The Xboxwas easily the most powerful of the three systems,but it didn’t quite have the 3 rd party support of the PS2. Don’t get me wrong,there were a lot of games ported from the PS2 to Xbox, but there weren’t that many new franchises being debuted on the console… Except Halo.

Ugh… Halo.

I’m just not a huge fan of Halo. It’s ok,but I just don’t see what’s so special about it. Truthfully,I had already played Halo several years before it came out… when it was called Doom. That’s right,I said Doom! Sure,Doom wasn’t as pretty as Halo,but it was basically the same thing,only Doom was darker,you fought demons from Hell that you THOUGHT were aliens,and much cooler music than that choir chant stuff that everybody just loves to pieces. Heck, Master Chief even LOOKS like the Doom Guy!

Anyway,rant over. I just don’t care about Halo. Sorry.

My decision to buy an Xboxcame fairly early on. Dead Or Alive 3 had been a launch title for the system and I already had some experience with the fighting game franchise from Tecmo. I knew that one of the playable characters was none other than Ryu Hayabusa from the Ninja Gaiden series. I remember telling my friend Danny that if Tecmo ever announced a Ninja Gaiden game for Xbox,I’d go buy the system that very day. One day I get a call from Danny saying he got his new Game Informer magazine in the mail. He started out by telling me about some upcoming games within the mag until he finally got to one in which he said, “Dude,you’re gonna have to buy your Xbox today.” There,in a 2-page spread in Game Informer was a preview for Ninja Gaiden on Xbox. I went to Danny’s house,picked him up and we set off to buy an Xboxand Dead Or Alive 3 on the very day he told me about Ninja Gaiden.

As the 128-bit era of the console war ended,it was very clear that Sony had won yet again and Sega had lost so bad they had to get out of the business. Nintendo and Microsoft had sort of hung in the middle of things. Looking back on it,it seems as though Microsoft was using the original Xboxas a testing ground for a much larger weapon…

To Be Concluded…
*BTTF fanfare once again!*
Posted on June 21, 2012 .

My Videogame Life Pt. 1

-The 8 And 16-Bit Era-

From as far back as I can remember there was always a videogame console of some sort in our house. My dad,unlike most people his age,kept up with the times when it came to technology. Whether it was the latest computer tech,or more recently,technological advances in the realm of E-Cigs (Electronic Cigarettes),my dad was always at the forefront. And it was all because of me.

My dad was the kind of person who was probably one of the first in line when Pong was released.
Since the eighties was an era in which school systems were starting to employ home computers as an educational tool, and since it was also the time in which I was born,my father figured the best thing he could do was buy one and learn how to use it for my sake. Probably so I wouldn’t look like a dummy when I went to school and there were these TVs with letter-button-boxes,of which everyone but that stupid Josh kid could use. At the time,I was only concerned with the games you could play on the old Tandy computer he ended up buying. Sure,I had the Intellevison (a poor man’s Atari 2600) and a Texas Instruments cartridge loader thing,but the games for those systems were akin to Space Invaders. You know,stuff with one screen that you’d just play until you got bored. Kind of like Angry Birds. Yes,I just burned Angry Birds. But in all fairness,I have Angry Birds on my Android. And yes,I play it… until I get bored and decide to play something more substantial.

Around 1988 or ’89,my dad bought a Nintendo Entertainment System. Most people called it - or anything else that played videogames in the good ol’ days –a “Nintendo.” I called it the NES,thanks to my life-long,handicapped,friend who was sixyears my senior,Nic Weymouth. Some of you may know him from such shows as The Clone Cast and The Inner Dorkdom. You may also know him as the guy that posts copious amounts of pictures of his child on Facebook in which the pedophiles of the world are probably having a field-day. That was a crude joke and I apologize. But hey,if any of you know him and are friends with him on the FB,you probably just nodded your head and said,“Uh huh.”

It was a joke,people. Calm down.

The NES was nothing short of amazing. See how I just jumped right back on topic? No warning,no second chance,just right back in there! Moving on… The first real videogame I ever played was Super Mario Bros. Up until that point, myself and most everyone else that played games were used to the aforementioned, “static screen,” style of games. With SMB, you started at point-A and moved to point-B (a flag pole),all the while jumping on the top of Goombas (which I’m quite sure I heard somewhere is some kind of racial slang),flushing yourself down drain pipes, and being constantly told that,“the princess is in another castle.”

You know who made it to the second level first? My dad. I remember asking him to get me to the second level just so I could, “play in the blue world.” He wouldn’t do it. Not because he was a jerk or something, but because he thought I should do it myself. He realized early on that videogames (at this point,at least),were based on challenge. If I was going to get to the second level of the game,I would have to face the trippy obstacle course alone. Finally getting to “the blue world” a few days later was that much sweeter because of it.

Funny side-note: Before my dad remodeled the majority of our house,my room,and my parents’ room were side by side. Many times when I would go to the bathroom in the middle of the night,I’d hear the familiar sound of ducks flying around,falling to the ground and being presented by a hound dog as a trophy of accomplishment. I’d peak into my parents’ room (where the NES was),and see my dad sitting up in bed,calmly aiming the NES lightgun at any unlucky duck in his sights. I’ll never forget that until the day I die.

Throughout the NES’ lifespan,I acquired a slew of games for the console. One in particular that had an impact on me was a game my dad rented from a grocery store: Ninja Gaiden. NG was a game that not only focused on getting from here to there while slashing folks,monsters and demons with your sword,but also on story. In between every stage or two,the player would be presented with a cut-scene explaining why he/she was speedily doing all that slashing and jumping. Back in the day,people were only concerned with getting high scores in games like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man,but here was a game that made you want to play it just to see the next story moment.

A good story would play a huge role in most videogames in the future. Can you imagine playing a game like Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy if it were about nothing more than “getting lots of points?” It would be pretty boring,I’ll tell you that. Imagine sneaking around a military base, taking out soldiers for absolutely no reason.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Not very interesting,huh?

While I’m sure Ninja Gaiden wasn’t the first game with a story progression throughout it’s entirety,it was the first one I played that did. The thing is,NG set a standard because even as a little kid I always thought that Ninja Gaiden stood out from the rest of the games in my collection. It gave me a reason to play and fueled my imagination in a way that most games couldn’t.

When I was informed by my Nintendo Power (yes kids,this is before the internet, so getting our videogame news came from these tiny-volumed things called, “magazines”) that there was going to be a new Nintendo console,I was ecstatic. It was called the Super Nintendo. Holy crap! SUPER Nintendo! You automatically knew that this thing was gonna be the balls simply because it had the word “super” in front of Nintendo. The Nintendo is already awesome,so the SUPER Nintendo must be SUPER awesome!

By this point,Sega’s Genesis console was fairly new,but it pretty much went under the radar for me for a long time. I knew that a friend of Nic’s had one,but that was about it. Of course,I knew who Sonic was, and yeah,that looked like a pretty fun game,but I wasn’t nearly as impressed with it as what I saw with SUPER Mario World. I mean,how could you go wrong with a Mario game that had the word “super” in front of it?

Needless to say, I had a Super NES shortly after Christmas of the year it was released.

The 16-Bit era of gaming brought forth a lot of gaming goodness for me. Most of this is due to a little game that Nic introduced me to called Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan). I was not exactly new to RPGs (Role Playing Games). I had played The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link (both action oriented RPGs),but I had also played Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest in Japan): a free game that I received from Nintendo Power back in the day. See kids, it paid in those days to have a subscription to those magazine things. Sometimes they sent you free stuff. What website sends you free games? I’m really starting to sound old here… Anyway… Final Fantasy and other RPGs of the 16-Bit era concentrated more on story than ever before. And for a kid that always had an imagination bigger than his gut,RPGs were right up my alley. I poured over games life FFII,III,Chrono Trigger and a lot of other games produced by Squaresoft. If you saw that logo come up on the screen,you knew you were gonna get a quality title full of epic goodness. Ironically,Squaresoft would also be the company that turned the tide in the videogame industry for better or worse, depending on your point-of-view.

To Be Continued…
*Que the Back To The Future fanfare*

Resident Nintendo Fanboy Checking In

The short, short version: I want to purchase a Wii U on launch day (midnight that morning).

The short version: Before E3 I'd already decided I want to purchase a Wii U on launch day. Nintendo's press conference and other E3 goings didn't create that want in me, but they didn't lessen it either.

The normal length version (it's actually quite long):

It was Tuesday. Liz, Nigel and I had already eaten the traditional day-of-Nintendo's-E3-press-conference breakfast of muffins and milk (a tradition started last year, though last year Nigel didn't partake). It was almost 11 am CDT. Liz and Nigel were about to leave for the afternoon (him to be babysat, Liz to work), and I was about to be blown away by Nintendo's press conference. Or, so I'd hoped.

Don't get me wrong, and don't believe the anti-Nintendo hyperbole out there. The presser was not a smouldering epic pile of fail with a helping of weaksauce on the side. But it wasn't spectacular either. Having contemplated the reasons why for a day or so, here's my conclusion: What was missing was something new but also familiar enough to understand without yet playing. But I'll get to that in a more opinion-oriented piece later. But for now, a rundown of the event with my commentary.

The show began by highlighting Pikmin 3, an action-strategy-management title originally for Wii but not clearly coming out for the Wii U. I say "clearly" on purpose. The HD resolution of the Wii U was immediately noticeable. Gone were the jaggies of the past. This was crisp, clear, smooth, and well lit (i.e., some nice shader work going on). Now I've never played a Pikmin game in my life, so the reveal of #3 didn't blow me away. What it did do, however, is make me want to play it (and the previous two games in the series). I'd say that's pretty good for the first shot out the box with a game that seems spiritually connected with Lemmings (Let's Go!!). Also of note, the primary control scheme for Pikmin 3 doesn't use the Gamepad (that's what they're calling the new tablet controller). Instead, it's the good old Wiimote/nunchuck combo. As a guy who was initially skeptical of the Wiimote, then upon seeing it in action with the nunchuck was academically excited about it but bummed because he didn't think he'd be able to use it, and then upon getting a Wii (on launch night, with Zelda) found out that for him it might be the best control scheme ever, finding this out was good news.

Next up was a confirmation that the Wii U will have Netflix, HULU Plus, YouTube, and other media content that will apparently blow our minds. But this presser was all about the games, so that would have to wait for a later day. (Oh, you can use the Gamepad as a TV remote. I think that's cool.)

Then came a discussion of Miiverse. This is Nintendo's on-line social component to Wii U. With it you'll be able to see what games are popular amongst everyone who has an account on that particular machine (did you catch that? "Account"), as well as on-line friends, and everyone in your region. But it's more than that. You'll also be able to read comments left by these people regarding the games. They might be praising it, or perhaps asking for advice on how to clear a level or beat an enemy, or perhaps giving advice on how to do said things. It looks pretty interesting, and Nintendo says there's more to it than what they've revealed. So we'll have to wait and see.

Then the reveal of New Super Mario Bros. U. Like the other NSMB games, this is a 2D sidescrolling Mario game, but done with 3D graphics. And it looks great. Again, the HD visuals stand out immediately, as does the complexity of the backgrounds (there appears in some places to be 8-10 parallax scrolling layers). Gameplay-wise, it's a new 2D Mario game. Running, jumping, and stomping are the name of the game. Four-player simultaneous multiplayer returns (which is big fun, folks). And new powerups are definitely in store (one of them, which  gives Mario a flying squirrel suit, has already been revealed). Gamepad innovation comes in the form of "Boost Mode," which has the player with the Gamepad placing blocks on the main screen in an attempt to help (or hinder if you're evil) the other players. On the whole it looks very good, though like sports games and FPS sequels, one could complain it's simply more of the same.

Next up some folks from Warner Bros. Games joined Reggie on-stage. (Third-party developers on-stage at a Nintendo presser...this is progress from years ago). They showed two games.

The first was Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, an enhanced port of the very popular 3rd person action game on the PS3 and XBox360. And here I must pause and point something out. Here's a "core" game, one with a dark asthetic at that, showing up on a Nintendo console and not being of lesser quality than the other versions in anyway (graphics, audio, gameplay). This is new. This hasn't happened in many years. How long will it continue? Who knows. But for now, Nintendo has a console that is not doomed to get the short end of the stick because of hardware. Ok, back to the game itself. It looks good, with some nice use of the Gamepad (inventory selection, batarang steering, etc.), and some new gameplay ideas. But, as I said, it's a port of a game that's already out. Time will tell if folks who already have it will be inclined to purchase a Wii U and an enhanced version of a game they already have. I think Nintendo is hoping that there will be enough compelling games and experiences for Wii U that these folks will want to get a Wii U anyway, and once they have the system maybe they'll not mind plopping down some money for the Batman in armor. As for me, a guy who doesn't already have the game, I'll be contemplating a purchase when the time comes.

The second was Scribblenauts Unlimited. If you know anything about the Scribblenauts franchise, you know it ain't Batman. These are not 'core' games, but rather puzzle games. But, having played two others in the series I can attest, they are good. The whole idea since the first one on the DS is that you can summon any real world non-copyrighted object in order to help your character (Maxwell) solve the puzzles he faces. With Unlimited, one (maybe both) of those limits has been curtailed. This is due to the addition of an object editor that allows you to mix and match elements of pre-programmed items to make your own, which you can the share over the internet. So if you want to make a ride-able toaster with skulls for wheels that shoots trout, you can do that. This is one I'm definitely excited about. Oh, and this might make Todd happy, Unlimited has a story. In a first for the series, Unlimited explores Maxwell's history, why he solves these puzzles, and how he got his item conjuring notebook.

Next up was a 'sizzle reel' of upcoming games. Each game only got up to 15 seconds or so worth of screen time. This is unfortunate because some of the games in this montage, like Tekken (with super mushrooms from the Mario games?!?) and Mass Effect 3, could have generated more excitement among certain demographics had they been highlighted more. But, they will have to wait for another time.

Then Wii Fit U was announced. This is an extension of the two previous games. There are new activities, Gamepad usage (both for some of the activities, and as a replacement for the TV in others), and a pedometer, but so far it looks to be more Wii Fit. That isn't a bad thing at all. Wii Fit is a fun way to be more aware of one's own health and work to improve it. But 1) being more of an enjoyable utility than a game in the classic sense the excitement it can generate is at best different from that generated by traditional games, 2) it's a sequel to an enjoyable utility as opposed to a story or mascot driven traditional game.

Another 'expanded audience' game was shown, this time a music game called SiNG (working title). It's, as the name suggests, a singing game, but one that seems to emphasize multiplayer. Lyrics are displayed on the Gamepad (so everyone doesn't have to stare at the TV but can look at each other), some sections ask that everyone sing together, and the game encourages those not currently singing to dance along. Looks like fun, and hopefully it will sell well. But again, not the sort of thing that's going to pump people up at a press event.

Then the 3DS got a few minutes of love. The next day Nintendo did an hour presser just on the 3DS (which in my opinion was a bit less awkward than the Wii U one was at times), and I'm planning on writing about that later. So, moving on...

Next up was a game I'd been interested in since I heard about it last year at E3. It's one of those games that seems to blend genres and styles. Imagine Grand Theft Auto. Gritty, violent, full of prostitutes and gang bangers. Now image LEGO. Shiny colorful plastic bricks and minifigures, creative play, innocent fun. Now put them together. That's what Travelers Tales is doing with LEGO City Undercover. I'm not kidding, it's LEGO GTA. A large open world (LEGO City), mission-based and open gameplay, vehicles of all types. The only difference is, you play as a straight up good guy (a cop, Chase McCain) as opposed to a gangster. I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Oh, and at the end of the trailer something intriguing happens. Chase finds a pile of bouncing green LEGO bricks (which in the world of LEGO games means they can be assembled). As he puts them together it becomes apparent he's building a green warp pipe. Upon completion he hops on top of it, and is sucked in, accompanied by the authentic Mario warp pipe sound. Hmm....two non-Nintendo developed games with Mario elements in the trailer....

Then folks from Ubisoft come up on stage, like their WB counterparts earlier, to show off two games.

First up was Just Dance 4. You know where this is going. Dance games can be a lot of fun. The Just Dance series is well respected. And this one includes a mode where a player with the Gamepad can arbitrarily choose what dance moves the other players must perform.'s a dance game. It sounds good from a business standpoint, and a one day when I play that it'll probably be fun standpoint, but it doesn't generate that certain type of excitement.

The second game is called ZombiU, and it looks like the one to watch. Exclusive to Wii U (at least initially) ZombiU is, as the name suggests, a first-person survival horror game featuring zombies. Been there done that, it might be said. But it has some surprises. First is the whole concept of the game. You don't play as just one character. You start off the game like normal. You fight off zombies, collect items to help you in your quest, and perhaps even level-up your character. But the first time said character gets bit, that's it for him/her. The character becomes a zombie from there on out, and the player switches to playing as a new character. Your first task? Find the zombie you were just playing as, kill it, and get your stuff back (he/she was the one who had it, afterall). This continues presumably until you beat the game. I for one think this is a neat idea. Yes it limits character-driven storytelling a little, but makes up for it in the atmosphere it creates. The second area of surprises comes from the use of the Gamepad. It is used as a map, a scanner, a way to interact with certain objects in the game, an inventory, and so on. And about that inventory. Unlike some games, the action doesn't pause when going to the inventory screen. This means in tense situations you'll be looking down at the Gamepad (as though shuffling through your backpack), but also glancing up at the TV to make sure zombies aren't about to eat your brains (and they might be, I mean, they are coming to get you Barbra). I've read some reports from the show floor saying ZombiU is the sleeper game people should be looking forward to. Now, all of this info wasn't revealed in the press conference, and the zombification easter-egg using the Gamepad's forward facing camera they were demoing on stage glitched up. So even here the conference felt mixed to some people.

All totaled Ubisoft has 8 games coming out for Wii U during the launch window, varying from 'expanded audience' games like Just Dance and Rabbids Land, to classic platforming with Rayman Legends, to core offerings like ZombiU and Assassin's Creed 3 (which was not highlighted on stage but is playable on the show floor, and is confirmed to be in no way a watered down port of the PS360 versions; it's the same game made by the same team, with a few Wii U-specific enhancements thrown in).

I just read that although not mentioned among the 8, Ghost Recon Online is still coming to Wii U. And that confirms what I've been suspecting. Nintendo isn't giving everything away just yet. They've done this in the past, staggering the outflow of information to continue to build momentum. So, as Anakin said, "I know there are things about the Wii U that they're not telling me."

Ok, so, so far so good, right? Yes, there was some expanded audience stuff that people aren't going to go nuts over. But there was also some stuff of a more 'core' persuasion. Indeed, there was something for everyone. Well, at this point there's maybe 10 minutes left in the conference. I, and others also, were thinking how is Nintendo going to end this? What are they going to do to blow us away? Well, what they came up with is, in my opinion, a big reason why folks are so down on Nintendo's presser (even though many of them later have said the game in question is quite a bit of fun). What they came up with was...


Ok, so Reggie says the name, and asks what would happen if the game worlds of Nintendo's franchises collided, and I'm starting to get excited. Some sort of huge crossover game (a la the rumored Star Fox / Metroid crossover that people were talking about a few days ago)! But no, this is instead more of a minigame compilation. The eponymous Nintendoland is a virtual theme park, with 12 minigame attractions from different Nintendo franchises. Ok, I'm not a minigame complilation hater, so I keep listening with an open mind. One of Nintendo's game designers (who worked on titles like A Link to the Past) comes up on stage to explain a game based on Luigi's Mansion. It's a pac-man style chase game where four players are mii's with flashlights trying to find another player who's a ghost. The ghost-player has the Gamepad, the other players have Wiimotes. The four players can't see the ghost on the TV, but the ghost player can see everyone on the Gamepad. There's some strategy involved that I won't go into now. But he did, and that's the problem. This individual, speaking in Japanese and having someone translate for him, stood on stage with the game paused for about 4 minutes explaining how the game would work. Four minutes of explanation. Oy, this killed momentum. As I said, folks at the show report the game is actually a lot of fun, but the way it was presented obscured that.

Now I think on some level some folks at Nintendo knew that would happen. Reggie said a few times that with Wii U, you have to play to understand. (He said this is how it was with Wii. And while I kind of agree with him, WiiSports Tennis didn't need a big explanation. You saw someone playing it, and you got it.) This does seem to be Nintendo's PR puzzle. It's similar to the one they had with the 3DS (explaining glasses-free stereoscopic 3D doesn't really get across what it's like), but perhaps even more pronounced. However, Nintendo handled that just fine. The 3DS has actually sold more units than the DS had at this point in its lifespan. So I'm fairly confident Nintendo can find a way here as well.

For me the big question is 3rd parties. Nintendo can't reach sales dominance without the Wii U being perceived as the place to get the best of both Nintendo and non-Nintendo titles. For that perception to be out there, it needs to be true that the Wii U is the place for quality 3rd party games. Thus, 3rd parties need to support it seriously. I'd say there's already some big time support here, no doubt. But right now it remains to be seen whether it is enough to get jaded cooler-than-thou gamers who think PS360 is all that's needed and Nintendo is totally only for kids man (you know, the kind who spend a decent amount of money on their gaming hobby) to give the Wii U a try (since, it seems to me anyway, they're not likely to do so just based on the possibilities of a new control scheme). And if they don't give the Wii U a try in sufficient numbers, 3rd parties won't be inclined to continue to make their big games for Wii U (especially when the new PS and XBox systems come out, and porting a game to the Wii U will mean downgrading the graphics at least). And then you'll have a snowball effect / self-fulfilling prophecy. But more on that later.

Anyway, that was it. They ended the show with footage from the common hub area of Nintendoland, which virtual fireworks (in HD, granted) going off over the little Mii's heads. Not a great ending.

So that's it. Some very good stuff, but surprisingly little that wasn't already known about in some way. And no big Nintendo franchise revelations. (I saw some comments by folks super upset at Nintendo that a new Zelda wasn't announced. This is, pardon me, a bit silly, given that Skyward Sword just came out not even a year ago.) This, I think, is what made people feel like the presentation was lacking, and why some have taken that feeling and run to extremes with it, gloom-and-doom predicting the downfall of Nintendo as they always do.

But as I said, I still want to purchase a Wii U on launch. What say you?

Oh, and check out IGN, GoNintendo, NintendoLife, and GameTrailers if you want more info.

Pray for a true peace in space!

 - Nic

Posted on June 7, 2012 .

I, Sad

So I had a 3 page article written about what I hoped to see at E3... so far I haven't seen any of it. Absolutely none. This E3 has been crap, in my opinion. Maybe I'll post the article at some point. More later.
Posted on June 5, 2012 .

!?! E=E3 Squared Times Pi, Plus The Square Root Of Metroid... Ah, Forget It!?!

Has anyone ever heard of E3?? What a great idea. Why have they not done this before??

Ok, I was being sarcastic there. Most of you, if you have been paying attention of course, know that E3 is the "Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3 for short)". It is held currently at the Los Angeles Convention Center in California and it is the place to go if you want to find out what the next cool thing is in the video game world. You have all the heavy hitters in the video game community including the Big Three (Nintendo, Sony, and the all powerful Microsoft). If you didn't know, now, you know (and knowing is half the battle).

Anywho, I am not the video game guy. No sir, I am not. Don't get me wrong, I love video games. I just no longer have time to devote to endless hours of sitting on a couch, drinking Mtn. Dew, and screaming at the top of my lungs at an inanimate piece of hardware. Games, that are rated mature, and small children do not go well together. So, my playing of video games has dwindled to very little. If you want the real scoop on the state of video games, you would be better served by talking to Josh (All things Microsoft and Playstation) and Nic (all things Nintendo). But, like any self respecting Internet commentator, I still have an opinion on the trends in the industry (I like da way dat Plummer steps on them there tortoises, Uh-Huh). So I will attempt to put my cent and a half (I'm a little short on cash) into the pot and see if I can provide my prospective on the video game landscape and give you a little news along the way.

First up is a topic that is near and dear to me personally. Video Games that have a storyline. I could care less if I get to play with some loud mouthed stranger (under the age of 15) on some online server somewhere. I got very little use for online death match play. Playing with people I know is great and I If I had my way we would all be in the same room when that happens. That is probably not realistic, but I like to know and see the people I kill with my BFG. So, from my perspective, I am more interested in the experience and story than I am multiplayer. I have always thought that one day video games could become something akin to an interactive movie experience. They could immerse you fully into the fantasy of the silver screen and add a whole new dimension to our entertainment business (no matter what Roger Ebert says, hack). So it is with no small amount of interest that I saw two video game debut Footage at E3 that blew me away.

The first comes from the studio that gave us the Resistance and Uncharted franchises, Naughty Dog. Their new property called "The Last of Us" may bring an entirely new aspect to the gaming landscape. Naughty Dog has always valued story above all else and they look to be pushing the envelope to it's limit. This report at IGN contains the first gameplay footage that we have seen from the title. To say I'm floored, is an understatement. This looks like a movie and the fight/shoot out moment is jaw dropping in not only its brutality but also it's execution. The ability to be this fluid in a video game is amazing. Yes, you could just run and gun your way through, but it appears that would be an unwise decision. From what I gathered from the footage is that you have a limited amount of supplies, including weapons and ammunition to use. This makes finding different ways to dispatch your enemies that much more important (plus it looks really cool when you see it on screen). This is pushing the visual and narrative boundaries to the breaking point. This thing looks great and I can't wait to play it (really late at night when my children are in bed).

Second, is a new title from the makers of Heavy Rain, a story based game from the studio Quantic Dream. They call it "Beyond - Two Souls". Not only do you have a very cinematic looking game, it also stars a film actress (the very cute, Ellen Paige) as the title's main character. Again, my words fall short of the actual viewing of the trailer so head over here and check it out for yourself. Computer graphics are never going to completely replace human actors, but this makes a case for the continued use of them as a storytelling medium. Neither one of these games are new innovations, we have already seen this type of game before in titles such as Alan Wake, Heavy Rain, the Shenmue series, and Resident Evil, but they are a giant step forward in the way games tell stories.

While your at it check out the new trailer for Halo 4. It looks like the quality of the game has not tanked since Bungie handed over the series to Microsoft and 343 Industries. I am happily optimistic that we will have another great game on our hands.

Well, thats what I got for now. I'll try to be back with more updates from E3 and beyond as the need arises. If you want to check out all the E3 news and videos, head over to IGN at the link below (shameless plug for a great site) and then come back here for more of our meaningless ramblings (come on, you know you love us). Stay Frosty or Toasty for you Mortal Kombat freaks.

Todd "all your base are belong to us" B.


Nintendo and The Internets: The Story So Far (in a nutshell)

With E3 2012 beginning in less than a week, anticipation is building regarding The Video Game Big Three (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) and their respective presentations. The video game industry is a little like college football, in that momentum is a big part of the game (and that mascots are important). And E3 gives the companies a chance to gain, or lose, that momentum. A great showing can generate hype and excitement. A poor showing can generate apathy and internet 'memes.'

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.

 - Nic

Posted on May 29, 2012 .