Xbox

Alas, it’s that time of year again where every otherwise-rational gaming enthusiast turns into drooling manchildren, evacuating their trousers for games that will never live up to their expectations. It must be E3 season!

Due to… scheduling conflicts (yeah let’s go with that), 30lives won’t be able to actively cover E3 this year like we were able to last year. However, we promise that we’ll be sending out smarmy tweets and Facebook posts whenever appropos, so make sure to watch our social media pages for ’em. Predictions? We haven’t been paying much attention. Personally I’m pining for a Fallout 4 trailer (with gameplay this time) and for Nintendo to pull something cool out their behinds. Otherwise, it’s looking like a “safe,” sterile and uneventful E3 this year, as none of the expected announcements really excite me.

If you’re new to E3, you’ll soon figure out that the actual press conferences (i.e., where the actual hype/hilarity happens) actually take place a few days from the conference. That’s right, starting tomorrow, all bets are on as to which company’s PR/marketing department deserves to be fired. Microsoft will kick off the pressers at 9:30am (PST, which is… 12:30am Tuesday Philippine time), followed by EA, Ubisoft, and Sony. Nintendo won’t have a live press conference; instead they’ll be broadcasting a live Nintendo Direct to take the company’s yearly dump on their fans. I really liked this chart from NeoGAF, so I’ll be stealing it. For those that didn’t make it past grade school, the Perth/AWST schedule is what you’re supposed to be looking at.

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Twitch.tv will be the official streaming partner for this year’s E3, and will be broadcasting a smorgasbord of content throughout the next week. For your convenience, here’s what’s on their schedule; please note that all times specified are in Pacific Standard Time.

Monday 6/9 PT

  • 9:30am – Xbox E3 2014 Media Briefing
  • 11:00am – Xbox E3 2014 Media Briefing Post show
  • 11:30pm – Hotline Miami 2 (Dennaton Games/Devolver Digital)
  • 12:00pm – EA World Premiere: E3 2014 Preview
  • 1:00pm – Battlefield Hardline Live Stream
  • 2:00pm – EA World Premiere: E3 2014 Post show
  • 2:30pm – Battlecry (Bethesda)
  • 3:00pm – Ubisoft 2014 E3 Media Briefing
  • 4:00pm – Ubisoft 2014 E3 Media Briefing Post show
  • 4:30pm – Witcher 3 (CD Projekt RED)
  • 5:00pm – Dying Light (Techland)
  • 5:30pm – Final thoughts
  • 6:00pm – PlayStation E3 2014 Press Conference

Tuesday 6/10 PT

  • 9:00am – Nintendo Digital Event
  • 10:00am – Deep Silver (Unannounced title)
  • 10:15am – Deep Silver (Unannounced title)
  • 10:30am – Dragon Age: Inquisition (EA)
  • 11:00am – Ubisoft (Unannounced title)
  • 11:20am – The Division (Ubisoft)
  • 11:40am – Farcry 4 (Ubisoft)
  • 12:00pm – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Activision)
  • 12:20pm – Microsoft Studios (Unannounced title)
  • 12:40pm – Microsoft Studios (Unannounced title)
  • 1:00pm – DRIVECLUB (SCEA)
  • 1:20pm – Evil Within (Bethesda)
  • 1:40pm – Lords of the Fallen (NAMCO)
  • 2:00pm – Destiny (Activision/BUNGIE)
  • 2:20pm – The Order: 1886 (SCEA)
  • 2:40pm – Nintendo Demo
  • 3:00pm – Evolve Special Tournament (2K)
  • 4:00pm – Super Smash Bros. Invitational (Nintendo)

Wednesday 6/11 PT

  • 10:00am – Alienware
  • 10:30am – Twitch Time
  • 11:00am – Sunset Overdrive (Insomniac Games/Microsoft Studios)
  • 11:20am – ID@Xbox (Unannounced title)
  • 11:40am – Killer Instinct: Season Two (Iron Galaxy/Microsoft Studios)
  • 12:00pm – Square Enix (Unannounced title)
  • 12:20pm – Square Enix (Unannounced title)
  • 12:40pm – H1Z1 (Sony Online Entertainment)
  • 1:00pm – EA (Unannounced title)
  • 1:20pm – Batman: Arkham Knight (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)
  • 1:40pm – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)
  • 2:10pm – Nintendo Demo
  • 2:30pm – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (Unannounced title)
  • 2:50pm – Crytek (Unannounced title)
  • 3:00pm – SCEA (Unannounced title)
  • 3:15pm – SCEA (Unannounced title)
  • 3:30pm – Hohokum (Honeyslug, SCE Santa Monica Studio)
  • 3:45pm – Helldivers (Arrowhead Game Studios/Sony Computer Entertainment)
  • 4:00pm – Alien Isolation (The Creative Assembly/SEGA)
  • 4:20pm – Civilization: Beyond Earth (2K)
  • 4:40pm – Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition on PS4 (Blizzard)
  • 5:00pm – Evolve Special Tournament (2K)

Thursday 6/12 PT

  • 10:00am – Tetris w/creator Alexey Pajitnov
  • 10:15am – Zombies Monsters Robots (Ying Pei Games)
  • 10:30am – Guinness World Records – certificate presentation
  • 11:00am – Fable Legends (LionHead/Microsoft Studios)
  • 11:20am – #IDARB (ID@Xbox)
  • 11:40am – Project Spark (Team Dakota/Microsoft Studios)
  • 12:00pm – Nintendo Demo
  • 12:20am – Square Enix (Unannounced title)
  • 12:40pm – PlanetSide 2 PS4 Edition (Sony Online Entertainment)
  • 1:00pm – 505 Games (TBD) 1:20pm – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (Unannounced title)
  • 1:40pm – Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (Gearbox/2K)
  • 2:00pm – Ubisoft (Unannounced title)
  • 2:20pm – The Crew (Ubisoft)
  • 2:40pm – Nintendo Demo
  • 3:00pm – Tecmo Koei (Unannounced title)
  • 3:20pm – Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (Disney Interactive)
  • 3:40pm – SEGA Sonic BOOM! (SEGA)
  • 4:00pm – Evolve Special Tournament (2K)

Y’know, it just doesn’t seem right that we’re twelve days into 2014 but we haven’t even decided on our collective GOTY candidates. Since objectivity runs into subjectivity on these lists, we’ve decided to take the scientific route and use some actual math and statistics to determine our true collective games of the year, based on the 30lives team’s myriad tastes. True science at work, dear friends!

tomb-raider

10. Tomb Raider (PS3, Xbox 360)
Lara Croft makes a triumphant return in the most engrossing and action-packed Tomb Raider ever. There are few dull moments and you really see Lara’s character develop throughout the game. A brilliant inventory system, great level design, and responsive combat mechanics makes it a perfect introduction to Lara Croft for the new generation of gamers. – Shin (read my full review here, dolts)

rabidsmt9. Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)
My second foray to the Shin Megami Tensei world (Persona 4 Golden being the first), SMT4 was one of the games that kept kicking my ass. What a refreshing game for a change too, in a world where today’s games kept holding your hand through the tough levels, SMT will keep kicking your ass until you scream no more and change the difficulty level to Fellows. – Cheena

We reviewed this game a while back too! Point your browsers right here.

8. Dragon’s Crown (PSVita, PS3)
I like 2D scrollers and dungeon crawler games. This became an insta-favorite for me and my constant gaming buddy since it’s one of the few co-op games that we both enjoy. I even bought a Vita version so I can level up my sorceress on the go. – Cheena

Check out our review of Dragon’s Crown right here!

7. Pokemon X/Y (3DS)
Pokemon X and Y
represents the series’ apex as it marks several technological and gameplay refinements that may upset some, but ultimately level the playing field down so new players and those that haven’t been paying attention to the games for a while (this guy) can play at a much higher level than in previous iterations of the series. I truly appreciated how scaleable the game can be: you can either choose to simply partake in this game’s respectable 30-hour quest, or catass yourself all the way to tens of thousands of wasted hours breeding and IV training and such. I would recommend talking to friends and loved ones first before making the latter choice. – Ryan

ni no kuni

6. Ni No Kuni (PS3)
I have been waiting for a spiritual successor to Dragon Quest VIII (one of the greatest games of all time, in my opinion) and this is probably the closest that I’ve accepted wholeheartedly. Ni no Kuni has the elements for a legendary RPG: good writing, lovable lead characters, collectible monsters and crafting. What’s even better is that the game is ensconced in a perfect Ghibli-rendered world. Absolutely breathtaking. – Cheena

Read Ryan’s take on the game here.

5. Saints Row IV (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
To me, video games are ultimately trivial hobbies—this is why I loathe games that take themselves too seriously, or try to pretend to be anything else than an interactive time-waster/rollercoaster ride. Saints Row IV is the ultimate “fuck around” game and in my opinion curbstomps (pause for inappropriate visual) Grand Theft Auto V where it counts the most: the “fun” department. Don’t get me wrong, I had a ton of fun with GTA V but Saints Row IV simply outclassed it as an open-world game (despite recycling much of SR3’s assets) as well as a multiplayer experience. – Ryan

fire-emblem-awakening-624x4044. Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
Turn-based strategy games will always be my favorite game genre and Intelligent Systems has revitalized an old franchise by producing a high quality game. I instantly fell in love with all the characters with all the ‘shipping’ features plus the introduction of the Casual mode embraces all noobs who want to play without the stress. – Cheena

Click here to read Cheena’s musings on FE: Awakening!

 

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3. Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4, Xbox One)
Assassin’s Creed IV made me forget the whole obnoxious memories entertainment “corporation x conspiracy” theories because: Pirates. Fond memories of Sid Meier’s Pirates were rekindled in a much more badass and violent manner. There is so much swashbuckling to do that I almost forgot I was playing an Assassin’s Creed game. It’s that good! -Alex

Last2. The Last of Us (PS3)
Though probably on the top of most gamers’ and outlets’ collective GOTY lists, in my honest opinion The Last of Us falls short for the simple reason that—under any real scrutiny—it’s a solid B+ game and nothing more. Though Naughty Dog has crafted a fine narrative in spite of the staid source material, the game screams “AAA” through and through, splashing on a beautiful coat of paint on your standard “monster closet” design. -Ryan; my full thoughts here

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
A Link Between Worlds reinvents the best Zelda game (A Link to the Past) to make it compelling to play in a concise package. I have not played a game all year long (2013) that made we want to pick up my 3DS and play for consecutive days as long as I could. This is the one 3DS game you shouldn’t miss and one you can repeat through-out the years in the form of speed runs.  -Alex

And there you have it, that’s our GOTY list. Any other games you folks felt should be on our list? Feel free to drop us a line on our Facebook page!

Video game budgets have been skyrocketing ever since Yu Suzuki’s spectacular failure Shenmue saddled Sega to the tune of $70 million. It’s a worrying trend, as oftentimes instead of becoming sure-fire profit or loss products, they become gambits that make or break entire companies, series, or even entire genres.

Grand Theft Auto V embodies the industry’s best and worst excesses in a lengthy, ultra-violent $60 package, in the sense that it currently holds the title of being the most expensively produced videogame in history ($200 million is no chump change to publisher Rockstar), continuing a tradition of open-world crime simulators that it helped build. Coarse language, nudity, and wanton violence are the game’s bread and butter; and while these excesses may seemingly push away a large segment of the game-playing market, it’s clearly an appealing product to the niche that it strives to please.

Grand Theft Auto V (1)

Pappy Issues

Listen, I’m not here to discuss the game’s myopic portrayal of women, alright? I’ve already heard enough drummed-up complaints that the game should somehow shoehorn a “strong female lead” to appeal to the ever-increasing female gaming segment. I will argue the point of it (excuse my French) being a fucking videogame, a static narrative that you, the player, ride along with. The game’s overarching storyline—while in no means “Oscar-worthy”—conveys a gripping set of scenarios that leaves you wondering what the next messed-up scheme the game’s three anti-heroes will work themselves into. Poor me; alienated because I could not identify with the deranged lunatics I’ve been playing as. Perhaps I should go back and play games featuring heroes that I actually identify with; heroes like Squall Leonhart, Samus Aran, and Ninja JaJaMaru-kun. Oh wait.

And unlike in games like Tomb Raider, or heck even GTA IV where the storyline and cutscenes misrepresent the player’s actions and motives right after (the industry has since coined a term for this: ludonarrative dissonance), V believably puts you in the shoes of three types of criminal minds: Franklin, the “thug for hire” who kills and engages in “scores” out of necessity; Michael, the hot-headed  “reformed” criminal that blames all of his problems on everybody except himself; and Trevor, the wildcard sociopath that kills and robs just for the hell of it. Except if you’ve had issues with self-flagellation or never had a strong male role-model, there is barely anything that the gamer can identify with any of these characters. The game’s about feeling like a badass criminal within the context of a realistic depiction of an American city, and that’s something it does very well.

Since I already fell down the rabbit hole I ironically said I was trying to dodge, let me end this mini-rant with this statement, and something that will echo one of my esteemed colleagues’ sentiments: based on how tight the narrative is and how it flows together until the (bitter) end, clearly Rockstar’s writers had a vision on how to take the player along for the ride. Changing that vision in order to pander to a niche that doesn’t represent the game’s target audience only serves to harm the narrative, and is indicative of what’s wrong with media today: everything has to be safe, focus-tested, by the numbers drivel. Hell, if you want to play as a chick, you can do so outside the main storyline anyways when GTA Online comes out.

Grand Theft Auto V (3)

I Wanna Live in Los Santos

Getting back to the point: the game’s hook isn’t its chronicle of events (although Rockstar has done a bang-up job this time); if anything it’s the sense of world-building that Rockstar has carefully spent its budget on that hooks the player in. San Andreas (the game’s twisted version of Los Angeles and its surrounding counties) is a huge place, bursting with life and featuring a truly open and expressive amount of gameplay opportunities. One minute you’re shooting up Grove Street after a deal gone bad, then you’re practicing your swing in a few relaxing rounds of golf the next. Call it schizophrenic, but that’s where the game’s wide appeal comes from: unlike contemporaries such as Saints Row and Sleeping Dogs, the amount of gameplay opportunities is staggering. You can literally play at your own pace for dozens of hours and barely scratch the game’s surface—the glass ceiling almost doesn’t exist.

As a simulacrum of the real-life Los Angeles, GTA V‘s game world hits it out of the park. The usual culprits such as the dingy vistas of downtown LA and the hillside homes of the Hollywood hills are given accurate depictions, but even minor details such as an approximation of the Griffith Observatory and the scenic Santa Monica pier are rendered beautifully, with some of the best-looking shaders and lighting effects I’ve seen this generation, quite an important detail if you’re trying to relive sunny Southern California. Unlike the muggy, dingy sights of Liberty City, driving through the expansive areas of San Andreas—even the awful, white-trash rural areas—is a joy. I did have difficulty with the game’s framerate at times, however: speeding past heavily-populated areas often reduced the game into a slideshow, at least on the PlayStation 3 version of the game I played through. This is exactly why I couldn’t get into MercurySteam’s Castlevania games: I gotta have my locked 60 frames per second!

The game’s “switching” mechanic allows you to swap between characters almost at will (except when missions or certain storyline junctures forbid you to), dividing the plot and missions between the three main characters. It also gives a little bit of insight to the characters as oftentimes you’ll switch to them engaging in mundane or borderline-sociopathic activities before you get to take control. It really shines within missions, however as it gives the player the opportunity to cater to his or her strengths as a gamer and complete given tasks accordingly. For instance, you can come in with guns blazing as Michael, switch to Franklin to snipe away at incoming baddies, and pull back to Trevor’s POV to ready a getaway vehicle… provided that he’s not violating the corpse of a deceased prostitute at that moment.

And while I can harp on and on about the game’s open-ended nature, it’s the new addition of heists that reel in the gameplay and gives missions some much-needed structure. Heists are subsets of missions where the player gets to plan and coordinate thefts or assassinations of certain targets with the core player characters, as well as an extended set of accomplices that gain additional abilities as more jobs are pulled off.

The player gets to choose from a branching path of plans that ultimately require the procurement of the correct “tools” for the job, if you will: disguises, weapons, and getaway vehicles, for instance. Once the main mission commences, the heist can go through with varying degrees of success: you can pull the heist off successfully, lose some team members in the process, or fail spectacularly and get popped back to jail. The structure and scale of these heists are laudable in the sense that missions aren’t one-dimensional affairs anymore: you actually have a solid goal in mind with a payoff that far eclipses that of the little favors you do as a glorified gofer.

Grand Theft Auto V (4)

“Don’t Get Smart With Me, Boy”

Satire and subtle social commentary has always been an important hallmark of the GTA series; something that was lost on the initial release of GTA IV, and thankfully brought back in full-swing in this game. While it doesn’t quite knock you over the head with references, I enjoyed GTA V’s intelligent swipes at sensitive topics such as telemetric marketing under the guise of social networking, government snooping, and America’s entitlement problem. Think of it as The Onion to Saints Row IV’s Family Guy. Although the biting commentary has been extant from the series’ inception, it’s one aspect of the game that Rockstar hardly ever gets credit for.

Ultimately, Grand Theft Auto V still succumbs to the same pitfalls that have plagued the series since its move to 3D in 2001. Translation: if you’ve never liked the series, this game probably won’t change your mind. Helicopter and plane missions are still hot garbage, the graphics (although top-notch) will never touch an enclosed narrative like The Last of Us or Uncharted, and the game’s attempts at serious melodrama are hilariously flat. Ultimately these are old complaints, ones that do not mar the game as if you’re picking up a Grand Theft Auto game, chances are you already know what you’re getting into.

I’ll say this: GTA V is fun. And that’s something that Grand Theft Auto lost when it moved to the current-gen era of consoles. Rockstar let the game’s tone and narrative overwhelm the fact that it’s a dumb crime simulator packaged with a dumb (yet oddly engaging) plot. This is an excellent case of a developer trimming down the extra baggage that a series gets after so many iterations, going back to the core of what made the game good in the first place and reinventing it with modern sensibilities and a next-gen coat of polish.

Grand Theft Auto V (5)

Though people are more familiar with Capcom’s Mickey Mouse platforming jaunts (the Magical Quest series which eventually made it to the GBA), Sega’s early takes on the franchise were nonetheless as excellent, if not underappreciated. Sega themselves seem to think so, as they made the puzzling decision to remake 1990’s Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse as a fully fleshed-out 2.5D platformer that takes the feel of the original game and modernizes it successfully, taking more liberties from the original than other recent efforts (such as Wayforward’s take on Ducktales).

It’s-a-Me, Mickey!

Castle of Illusion HD (2)Mickey Mouse is, by default, the most recognizable face in all of videogaming. Eclipsing even Mario’s popularity, there have been licensed (and unlicensed!) Mickey Mouse games for systems since the Atari 2600. Unfortunately, as Disney’s properties became more diluted as time went on, so did Mickey’s own videogame appearances. This is why games like Castle of Illusion are important: it reminds license holders that quality games serve to bolster their representative brands, and that quality need not be an expensive venture (as this game unquestionably shames Mickey’s last adventure, Epic Mickey 2).

Remakes are a dicey affair, however: there’s a fine balance between simply upscaling assets to please the fanbase, and adding enough of your own twist to justify them spending another $15-60 on what is essentially rehashed content. Castle of Illusion should be the poster child of HD remakes in the sense that it presents a completely new experience that has enough call backs to the original source, yet stands alone as a completely new adventure befitting its modern platform homes.

Most of the game is presented in a 2.5D perspective, with lush backgrounds that are rife with animation, almost to the point of being distracting. If this was a sprite game, I’d laud it for having well-animated parallax backgrounds, but I can’t quite articulate what this translates to when the entire game is built with polygons. There are also sections where Mickey walks in to the background and competes in another plane, a shout-out to Sega’s own Bug!, perhaps.

Castle of Illusion HD (1)

This planar addition improves on other sequences from the original game: take for instance, the Indiana Jones-type chase scene where Mickey runs from an apple barreling down his direction from the original. The remake interprets it as a Crash Bandicoot-style chase towards the players direction. It’s little touches like this that make me appreciate the work put into this remake. Another example: one thing that peeved me off in the original game was the game’s wonky jumping physics (which you simply cannot screw up if you want your platforming game to be successful); which I’m happy to report that Sega’s Australian team successfully alleviated. Even the original’s almost-iconic boss fights have been kept mostly the same, but contain little 3D cues and patterns that freshen up the experience a bit.

Castle of Illusion HD (3)It’s not immediately evident, but you go through the same exact worlds as the original game, with very similar thematic experiences throughout. Even though you have a little castle hub as a level selector, this area simply masks the fact that you are taking a very familiar route to the original game. It’s genius, really: even the most jaded Sega veterans won’t immediately recognize that most of the original’s structure was reused, even with the inspiration being very clear. I really like the added touch of an in-game narrator, making this feel less like a game and more like an old Mickey Mouse hardcover storybook.

For Pistol Packin’ Pete’s Sake

Being a budget game, there are some presentation problems that I found particularly annoying. As I am a stickler for framerates, I found the game’s low FPS count (which dipped to the sub-15s in some areas of the game) to be jarring and unacceptable, given that I’m of the impression that even with the complex backgrounds the developers brought to the table, there isn’t much going on to make the engine crawl. This is exactly why I couldn’t get into the Spanish-developed Castlevania games no matter how hard I tried; though granted, I was playing the PS3 version (shame on me). No word yet on how it plays on the PC, but I’m hoping its a little more optimized.

Castle of Illusion HD (4)

Another issue I had which may or may not correlate to the fact that it’s a downloadable game (I’m blaming modern game design ethos myself) is that at around four hours, the game is too short and offers little incentive to play through it again. The game is simply far too easy for platforming savants to even consider a challenge, and while the levels themselves take a bit of time to complete (and collect the collectibles within), the boss fights don’t offer enough of a deterrent to progress, as they all have easily-defeatable patterns.

With those two minor issues set aside, I really enjoyed my time with this new Castle of Illusion. I was pleasantly surprised that Sega’s new Australian studio put so much care and effort into what could merely have been a quick cash-in game to appeal to both nostalgic gamers and Mickey’s built-in fanbase. While it fails to touch the cream of the downloadable platformer crop, Sega’s marvelous redux is well worth your time and investment, a rare example of a game that you can play with the entire family. A Sunday morning kind of game, if you will.

Despite their questionable business practices, overt reliance on dumbed-down games that look down on the player, and continuous forcing of the Assassin’s Creed series down everyone’s throats (face it guys—the game will never be a classic) its games like Rayman Legends that make me forgive Ubisoft as a company.

Nintendo fans seem to be less-forgiving, however. I can understand: Legends was slated for a late-February release, but pushed back quite a few months as Ubisoft reneged on the game’s status as a Wii U exclusive, citing disappointing sales of their exclusive ZombiU as the primary motivator for this purely business decision. As I was curious to see how Ubisoft managed the port to other platforms without ancillary touchscreens, I requested a PlayStation 3 copy of Rayman Legends from the publisher for this review’s purpose.

Well at least you get to tack on a Mario hat on Rayman. That kinda makes up for the delay, huh Nintendo fans?
Well at least you get to tack on a Mario hat on Rayman. That kinda makes up for the delay, huh Nintendo fans?

To get that bit of trivia out of the way: the PlayStation 3 (and I’m assuming Xbox 360) version of Rayman Legends doesn’t feel like a half-baked port in direct comparison to its lead platform. From what I’ve been seeing, the main difference between the touchscreen-deficient versions of the game is that the CPU controls your fairy frog assistant, Murphy, providing context-sensitive actions that are triggered by button presses when needed. Levels that center on touch-screen puzzles are replaced with QTE-type affairs, which is kind of lame. Otherwise, it’s the same game with the same exact content* presented with the same amount of visual fidelity.

High-Fi and High-Fives

Touching on visual fidelity, Legends has that in spades. It takes the charming, flat-shaded look of Rayman Origins and bumps it up several notches, creating a stylized, colorful 2.5D look that reminds me of mid-90s quazi-CGI drivel such as Clockwork Knight… but in a good way. If you’ve played through its direct predecessor Origins you’d already know that Legends has a ton of variety tucked behind its deceptively simple 2D trappings.

That variety extends to its level design: touting more than 150 levels plus 40 more remixed from Origins, there’s a lot of content to wade through, and I could not pinpoint one single stage that I would consider filler. Apart from the main platforming stages, you’ll also run into “musical” levels—fun rhythm/platforming-based romps that serve to test the player’s ear/hand/eye coordination—as well as time-trial versions of the same stages you’ve already plowed through called “invasion” levels (it’s worth mentioning that the upcoming Vita port won’t include these levels out of the box, but will be patched in later).

Rayman Legends (4)

Whipped Cream and Lums

I realized that I jumped in head-first to the game’s mechanics before even explaining what the game’s about to the uninitiated. Legends is a 2D platformer, but one that relies more on twitch reflexes and speed rather than puzzle solving and exploration (because Baby Jesus knows that the world’s had enough of those “indie” puzzle-platformers). And when I say “speed,” I don’t mean that it’s paced the same way as a 2D Sonic; its pacing is more precise, deliberate, and frankly unforgiving. That’s not to dissuade the platforming wussies out there of course, the game is entirely fair, and gives the player ample time (and chances) to learn from mistakes made and eventually conquer any tricky bits.

And if you’ve played Origins before it, this indirect sequel metaphorically picks up where the last game left off, by taking the same ethos that it was built off of, and making just enough changes—visually and gameplay-wise—to get away from the notion that this is merely a level-pack, yet still keeping the core pace that hooked players in the first place. Expectations should be kept consistent: for the smart people who picked up the sleeper hit back in 2011, you already know what to expect here: a no-frills platformer that is thankfully light on the forced exploration and exposition that bogs down similar games in its genre (looking right at you, Ducktales).

I should also take some time to mention Rayman’s excellent co-op options: though not as accessible as a New Super Mario Bros. session, if you can get three other players in the room, the game’s frenetic pace and steady stream of jump-scares and fun boss challenges will keep even the most jaded of ex-gamers hooked until the bitter end. I’ve never had people play through more than ten levels of New Super Mario Bros. Wii but I had no problem finishing out a set of stages with a few non-gamer friends over at the office; which I found a little amazing and perplexing, personally.

Rayman Legends

I love when I’m unable to recite a particularly-good game’s storyline  because it underscores the fact that I enjoyed the ride not for the narrative, but for its gameplay merits. That being said, don’t ask me what Rayman Legends’ thumbtacked storyline is all about. All I remember is that I had to rescue a whole bunch of Teensies, or something like that.

It’s truly criminal that—like Rayman Origins before it—a lot of people will probably scoff at Legends’ appearances as a seemingly-outdated 2D platformer, when it’s not. Ubisoft has a real gem here, and quite a rarity: a game that can arguably out-Mario Mario. And even that bold comparison is doing the game a disservice, as I believe it can and should stand on its own as a unique experience that any gamer should experience and cherish. It’s gone multiplatform now, so there’s absolutely no excuse to skip this.

Rayman Legends (2)

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Yep, it’s a slow news day so we’re reporting on rumors. After infamous NeoGAF “leaker” crazy buttocks on a train (sic) rightfully got chastised for missing the mark on his PlayStation 4 launch prediction, the alleged Microsoft employee broke his silence today, revealing a few new avenues that Microsoft is pursuing with the Xbox One, including a potential program for reselling digital games, which would change the tide for consumers and cut out retail outlets such as GameStop of a lucrative source of income. As always, we’re marking these tips as hard rumors.

Here’s a rough translation of the poster’s usual cryptic text. What do you guys think? Leaks, or more speculative guesses disguised as such?

Back home now. Yay >_<

Apologies for the late October no show for the PS4. I heard it was that, but Sony is not my strong suit. It happens. Call 1800BUTOCXS for a refund of your money. ;)

Seriously, I am sorry though.

Xbox One November 8th hahaha no. Saw the Kotaku article, then retraction. That’s ok. I could have told them November 8th was a pipe dream. I know MS Better than SCEA haha.

  • Xbox One CS Representitives are being called in for November 15th
  • These are contractual reps, not ones that actually work for MS.
  • New CS software implemented for November 15th with support for the Xbox One
  • Called “Assisted Support Desktop”
  • Anti-phishing stuff to make it hard for scammers to call in about account info that isn’t theirs. If the customer doesn’t have an e-mail or a phone number to associate with the account, xbone reps will have to tell the caller to eff off.
  • I wish I had access to Sony CS 3 weeks ago.

Do you want to sell your digital games? OH NO I ONLY REPORT BAD NEWS FOR XBONE!

     For the following questions please assume that Microsoft Xbox One will offer a digital marketplace where you can purchase and sell digital video games.

New digital marketplace where you can purchase and sell digital video games:

  • This will be available through the systems’ premium subscription service (such as Xbox Live Gold/Playstation Plus)
  • You will have the ability to purchase and sell pre-owned digital video games.
  • You will have the ability to sell back/trade in your versions of digital games you have purchased.
  • You will have the ability to buy pre-owned digital versions of games through the online marketplace.
  • You will have a variety of prices and features available to purchase for pre-owned digital versions of games.
  • All transactions will take place via digital downloads/transfers within your next generation gaming system’s digital store.
  • New full game digital downloads will still be available, as will physical (disc) versions sold at retail stores/websites.
  • Pre-owned disc versions of games will be able to be played on the next generation gaming system for free.
  • There will be a marketplace service fee charged to the seller when they sell a digital version of a game.

And from a follow-up post:

To clarify, because some folks are reading it incorrectly and god forbid I post and enjoy Germany only to be yelled at by top internet men about getting things wrong.

Anyway

Digital resale is collating survey information! Not set in stone, but a direction to look at? Xbox One doing a good thing? It’s Impossible!

Okay, see you in 2014

IMG_0027Growing up, a lot of us did not have the privilege of being able to buy games every week. For the most part, I only got games on my birthday and during the Holidays, which might explain why I’m a savant at platforming games but couldn’t cut it in these newfangled vidya experiences.

I still vividly remember receiving Ducktales for my 6th birthday: my “cool” aunt that liked videogames just kind of handed it to me; a stubby purple cart that didn’t quite look like the rest of my monolithic NES cartridges. Looking back at the happy, long-necked yellow goose (which in no way resembled the Scrooge McDuck I’ve been watching on TV) flashing a grin in my general direction as well as its lack of supporting copyright documentation, even at the time it was fairly easy to deduce that this game was a counterfeit. After my initial look of apprehension, I piggy-backed it on my Honey Bee adapter and popped the game into my NES. It was  magical.

Let’s fast-forward some years later: Capcom inexplicably brings out Ducktales Remastered by way of the ever-loving purveyors of all things retro, Wayforward. Kind of an odd choice, really—no Ducktales-related media was released (or reissued) recently to my knowledge, so the timing of this redux is a little suspect. Heck, I’m not complaining; Alan Young (Scrooge) is 96 years old, so if Disney isn’t doing anything with the license soon this may very well be the man’s final gig before he kicks the bucket. Nice to hear ol’ Unca Scrooge for one last time, at least.

Ducktales Remastered (3)

Cel-Shoddy

I really cringe when I chance upon this cliche on any article that I read, but the graphics really are a mixed bag. I understand that meticulously drawing up backgrounds in 2D is a prohibitively expensive venture, but the difference between the low-poly backgrounds and the very well-animated character sprites (can you really call them sprites if they’re vectors, though? This is an important question) is really jarring and oftentimes distracting. Between foreground and background elements, the shading and lighting isn’t even consistent, so what ends up on screen appears amateurish at times.

Still, the amount of love put into the character design more than makes up for this somewhat-annoying distraction. Every character—from Scrooge himself down to the lowliest bats of the African mines—has been meticulously redrawn to look like close approximations of what Disney would draw for their Saturday morning cartoon block. Embarrassingly enough, the one thing a lot of these “HD remasters” miss from the original NES titles they’re supposed to be supplanting is all the “character” behind the sprites: it’s funny when a 16x16px blob of colors can portray more than a meticulously-drawn vector or a well-formed set of polygons. Thankfully Ducktales Remastered avoids that pitfall: every illustration is drawn and animated well; simply top-notch stuff.

I’ve read a lot of people get all uppity about how Wayforward “butchered” the soundtrack, but since I’m not some mealy-mouthed punk that heard the Moon theme the first time on YouTube, I’d say that virt did a bang-up job and found a great balance in modernizing Capcom’s score.

Ducktales Remastered (2)

One Step Backward

The best remakes often take solid ideas and designs from the original source material and seamlessly add new extensions to it. Bionic Commando: Rearmed was a fantastic remake in the sense that you couldn’t even tell which areas Grin (may they rest in peace) added in; the extended areas kept the same old-school sensibilities in its level design. Ducktales Remastered fails in this regard, as its new areas seem dry and functionless in comparison to the original’s streamlined-yet-expansive layouts. Wasn’t quite a fan of the forced backtracking Wayforward tacked on to the stages: the beauty of Capcom’s original Ducktales was that you could blitz through a level using one path and take another once you revisit the stage, so forcing you to go back and revisit these forks in the road doesn’t really jive with me.

Some of the changes are appreciated, however; cordoning-off or completely changing paths I’ve been used to certainly made for a fresher experience, speaking as someone who’s played the original to death. Additionally, Wayforward spiced up the dull boss battles from the original game by making them setpiece battles with a central mechanic/pattern. This is a welcome change from how the original bosses just kind of flew or moved around the screen, stopping every now and then to set up an attack or leave themselves open for a free hit.

Ducktales Remastered (1)

One addition that I really loathe is Wayforward’s needless addition of exposition and story scenes. Apart from giving nostalgialings a chubby from hearing the cartoon’s original cast all over again, I cannot fathom why they wasted their time on making so many drawn-out, soul-sucking cutscenes in between levels. An in-between cutscene here and there wouldn’t have been bad, but the mere fact that almost everything you do merits a nigh-unskippable cutscene and the fact that they hid the “skip” button in the pause menu is an abomination.

Ducktales Remastered (1)

Our search for scraps about the upcoming next-gen consoles takes us to beautiful Cologne, Germany where Gamescom—Europe’s largest videogame trade show—just kicked off, with two huge press briefers from both Microsoft and Sony. Here are some of the highlights in palatable, bullet-pointed chunks:

  • Microsoft had first dibs on the conference floor, so they came out strong out the gates by announcing a few neat-o exclusives: Peggle 2 being the biggest timed exclusive (why, Microsoft — I wanted to have this on my iPad like, yesterday), Fable Legends (fool me once…), a new game by Minecraft’s Mojang called Cobalt, and Ubisoft’s fairly interesting Kinect brawler called Fighter Within.
  • Speaking of which, Microsoft’s Xbox One launch lineup appears to be fairly stacked:
    • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag (Ubisoft, Ubisoft)
    • Battlefield 4 (DICE, Electronic Arts)
    • Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward, Activision)
    • Crimson Dragon (Grounding/Land Ho!, Microsoft Studios)
    • Dead Rising 3 (Capcom Vancouver, Microsoft)
    • FIFA 14 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
    • Fighter Within (AMA Ltd., Ubisoft)
    • Forza Motorsport 5 (Turn 10 Studios, Microsoft Studios)
    • Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft)
    • Killer Instinct (Double Helix, Microsoft Studios)
    • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (TT Games, Warner Bros. Interactive)
    • Lococycle (Twisted Pixel, Microsoft Studios)
    • Madden NFL 25 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
    • NBA 2K14 (Visual Concepts, 2K Sports)
    • NBA LIVE 14 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
    • Need for Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games, Electronic Arts)
    • Peggle 2 (Popcap, Electronic Arts)
    • Powerstar Golf (Zoe Mode, Microsoft Studios)
    • Ryse: Son of Rome (Crytek, Microsoft Studios)
    • Skylanders: Swap Force (Vicarious Visions, Activision)
    • Watch Dogs (Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)
    • Zoo Tycoon (Frontier Developments Ltd., Microsoft Studios)
    • Zumba Fitness: World Party (Zoë Mode, Majesco)
  • After completely alienating indie developers during the tail end of the Xbox 360’s lifespan, MS is attempting to woo them back with their new self-publishing program, which nets independent developers two free devkits with full access to the Xbox One’s SDK… The best part? No fees (heads up, IGDA Manila).
  • Europe has been a traditionally pro-Sony battleground, so Microsoft’s interesting decision to pack FIFA ’14 in with every Xbox One should turn more than a few heads in that region.
  • And in Sonytown, as we’ve mentioned earlier on our Facebook page, the magic launch date for the PlayStation 4 will be on the 15th of November in North American shores (or our Frankenstein grey-market not-really region).
  • Sony’s finally doing something with the Vita it seems, as they’ve officially slashed the price of the criminally-underutilized console to $199, with promises of “significant” price drops to its ludicrously-expensive memory cards. Now show us some 64GB cards Sony. Borderlands 2 will make a late debut on the handheld (cool, I guess) and indie darlings Fez, Starbound and Velocity X will be making their PSN debuts as well.
  • “Indie darlings” were definitely a huge part of the PlayStation summit: Minecraft (why is this still a big deal?) will be a PS4 launch title, War Thunder, Murasaki Baby, Housemarque, and Hotline Miami 2 will be making their way to Sony-branded boxes near you.
  • Sony also announced a new 12GB version of the PlayStation 3 priced at $199. If you buy this, we will laugh at you.
  • Still showing some legs on its now-depreciated console, Sony also announced Gran Turismo 6 for the 6th of December.
  • Rime was the big surprise of the show: think Ico meets Wind Waker. “If they won’t release Trico, we’ll do it ourselves, dammit!”

Haven’t caught any news for you Nintendo fans yet, but let’s be real: were you really expecting anything?

If you haven’t been up on your forum history (read: you are lucky enough to have a life outside the Internet), you may not be familiar with NeoGAF user “crazy buttocks on a train” and his bold, accurate predictions on everything next-gen over the past couple of months. Affectionately dubbed “CBOAT” by the forum populace, the rarely-active account has apparently been used in the past to “leak” information in the past, with a very high accuracy rate on his predicitions.

His latest cryptic post confirms what quite a few retail employees have been leaking on various spaces of the internet over the past couple of weeks: that the PlayStation 4’s launch will happen late-October (some have October 25th pegged down as the magic date). And being the generous leaker and so-called Microsoft insider that he is, he’s also spilled some juicy bits about the Xbox One’s own imminent launch, which we’re definitely branding as rumors for now.

Right below is a “translated” version of the original, borderline-unintelligible post.

Greetings from the land of beer and bratwurst and weird porn! Got here a little while ago and tired so I’m dropping this early. Then bed, then visiting some churches and friends, then work meetings stuff and then I’ll see how the game floor is later on this week.

TRUTHFACT 1:

No live stream for real reasons. Xbone architecture is still not full complete. The latest version of the SDK from a couple weeks ago dropped performances by 15-20 percent across the board. Now before you get mad at me this happens ALL THE TIME in console development and it will eventually be fixed but there’s no chance for an early October release or…

TRUTHFACT 2:

… certainly not for all 21 countries. Localization is absolute one hundred percent BS. TRUTHFACT. The excuses are some that nobody with common sense would consider. Look at the countries dropped. Cross references them against the languages being spoken [in them], official or otherwise in said countries. I said it yielded issues 2 months ago and the chicks have come home to roost. [something something Smartglass] Paying the price now.

TRUTHFACT 3:

Late October launch for PS4. Sony SDKs are ready. You could basically master your final version right now. Today, even!

TRUTHFACT 4:

If you thought people were mad about Bayonetta’s sequel going to WiiU you will be someone unhappy about what Microsoft is getting exclusively from Platinum. Other Japanese developers are in play but too, but Kamiya is the only one I can confirm. The game is not for North America or Europe, which makes no sense but whatever.

TRUTHFACT 5:

Big Park(?) killed their game. It was a MOBA. It’s dead. The whole studio is now focused on TV stuff. All the bes talent went to Big Tusk(?) or left MS entirely. Rare is still Kinect focused.

TRUTHFACT 6: New indie publishing policy is not set yet and probably won’t be until after launch.

TRUTHFACT 7:

September surprise early. I apologize in advance. Everything I saw over last 24 months said there was no chance of a kinectless SKU [to start]. Concrete decision up till now. However,

There are whispers that there will be a kinect optional SKU early next year, probably around March or April. There’s enough smoke around this that I didn’t want to wait until September to say it! We’ll have to wait for launch sales to see for sure.

ASS STORM INCOMING.

Capcom has just announced a retail bundle that collects this generation’s (or last) biggest titles from it’s main franchises — all for the price of $59.99!

The box contains 4 physical discs and 1 voucher code (for Mega Man 10) and will be available for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360. You’ll also get a free Capcom Travel Bag, okay? (lol)

Here is what’s inside the Capcom Essentials box *cue jack-in-the-box chime*:

7810234e9401b58ec4734ee9671b65c1

Best game in the bundle.

Note: I used the PS3 boxarts because it’s smaller and not because I hate Xbox, okay?

The Capcom Essentials Bundle will be available at retail on October 8th 2013.

Good Nintendo releases this week for a change. Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is officially out (though some local stores already broke streetdate last week) and Ducktales Remastered makes a comeback (multiplatform). Payday 2 is also this week and I’m hearing good things about it. Check it out if you are one of them FPS dorks.

Here are this week’s vidyas:

Angry Birds Trilogy (Wii/Wii U Retail)

Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff (Wii/Wii U/DS/3DS Retail)

Ducktales Remastered (Wii U eShop)

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS Retail)

Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D (3DS eShop)

 

Payday 2 (PS3 Retail)

DuckTales Remastered (PS3 PSN)

Mars: War Logs (PS3 PSN)

Thunder Wolves (PS3 PSN)

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches (PS3 DLC)

A-Men (PS Vita PSN)

BreakQuest: Extra Evolution (PS Vita PSN)

Fruit Ninja (PS Vita PSN)

Open Me! (PS Vita PSN)

 

Payday 2 (Retail)

Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff (Retail)

Charlie Murder (XBLA)

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches (DLC)

 

Betrayer (PC Steam)

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches (PC DLC)

DuckTales Remastered (PC Steam)

Europa Universalis 4 (PC/Mac Steam)

Hammerwatch (PC/Mac/Linus Steam)

Payday 2 (PC Steam)

Space Hulk (PC/Mac Steam)

Unholy Heights (PC/Mac)

Worms Clan Wars (PC Steam)

l_51fb2358603e8Popular gaming peripherals company HORI revealed their latest gaming tie-up; the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII controller. Sporting her default costume colors Red and White, this piece of waifu hardware costs 3,980 Yen and includes a special cleaning cloth (not pictured) and connects via a 3m long cable. It’ll be for sale on Nov. 21st, the same day Lightning Returns goes into retail.

It has an overall mass/weight of 160g and comes in dimensions of  155mm x 66mm x 105mm. Compare it to a PS3 DualShock 3 controller that weighs 190g with measurements of  160mm x 97mm x 55mm.

l_51fb2358ccdd3

 

Don’t forget to read up our previous Lightning Returns-related articles on other wallet-emaciating merchandise, including the Cloud Strife costume DLC, original soundtrack with costume DLCs, and the uber fangasmic ultimate box.

For my fellow Final Fantasy XIV ~A Realm Reborn~ players, Lightning ‘s showing up in the world of Eorzea and will hand out neat rewards. She’ll also receive a special Miq’ote costume in Lightning Returns as well.

 

Source: Famitsu

 

It’s the official release week for Dragon’s Crown (the image above is from the game’s fantastic unlockable gallery)! If you have a PS3 and/or PS Vita then this should be an instabuy for you or else we can’t be friends anymore. Meanwhile, Pikmin 3 arrives for the game-starved Wii U and Tales of Xillia finally sees the western light!

Here are this week’s vidyas:

Disney Planes (Wii/Wii U/DS/3DS Retail)

Pikmin 3 (Wii U Retail)

Cloudberry Kingdom (Wii U eShop)

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS Retail)

SteamWorld Dig (3DS eShop)

Dragon’s Crown (PS3/PS Vita Retail/PSN)

Tales of Xillia (PS3 Retail)

Ibb and Obb (PS3 PSN)

The Red Star (PS2 Classics)

Superfrog HD (PS3/PS Vita PSN)

Little Acorns (PS Vita PSN)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (XBLA)

Saints Row 4: Inauguration Station (Demo)

Divinity: Dragon Commander (PC) [Steam]

Guacamelee! (PC) [Steam]

Guncraft (PC) [Steam]

Papers, Please (PC/Mac) [Steam]

Saints Row 4: Inauguration Station (PC) [Steam]

The Sims 3: Dragon Valley (PC/Mac)

Killer is Dead is a third-person action slasher from the creative mind of Goichi Suda (Suda51) from Grasshopper Manufacture. The game’s tone is highly stylized and its plot outrageous enough to ruffle some feathers causing a sort of online debate between an XSEED employee and a guy who made a video dissing Suda 51. There were probably more discussions on Killer is Dead in a similar light (sexism, objectification of women) but honestly I wouldn’t focus on it so let’s get past that and get into everything else about the game as “Gigolo mode” is not the only thing going on for the game.

Main_Cast_-_Vivienne_Squall_2
We’ll never know how she does that trick. Aliens.

You play the role of Mondo Zappa who works for an “execution agency” which fulfills job requests to execute killers. Each main episode will take you to different places from a dinky back alley to the moon and face off against weird and freakish monstrosities called “Wires” who were once people but corrupted by an energy coming from the “Dark Side of the Moon” (he he he). Each plot character helps you out during the course of certain missions. Mika Takekawa, your plucky live-in assistant revives you when you run out of health for a price which you pre-pay by purchasing a “Mika Ticket” from the gift shop. Simply put, these tickets are continues. Vivienne Squall, is your boss who gives you a ride when chasing mobile targets or provides you with suppressing fire in dicey situations. Bryan Roses, a full fledged cyborg, is the chief of your execution office, when he isn’t taking on clients who end up skipping the payment portion of an execution contract, he brings in the heavy artillery by setting up a Gatling gun  to take out targets from a distance in certain missions. Mondo doesn’t seem to remember too much about his past but slowly regains his memories as the plot unravels his unmistakable connection with the dark energies coming from the moon.

You have two modes of attack in Killer is Dead, your katana and your cyborg arm which can turn into a machine gun, drill arm, freeze gun, and charge pulse rifle. Mondo can unlock attack skills by gathering moon crystals from killing Wire minions. Speaking of crystals, while they drop randomly from underlings, you can force a specific type of crystal to drop upon killing them by executing them. The execution sequence triggers when you have a high chain combo and knock an enemy’s HP to zero, you will then be prompted to select the Square, Triangle, Circle, or X button each of which will force a copious amount of crystals to drop from each bad guy. Mondo’s left arm is powered by blood crystals so you will need a blood resupply every now and then so you’ll definitely want to keep your chain combos up to maintain a seemingly endless supply of blood (like there is any shortage of that in the game). There really is a lot going on the screen when you get into the meat of the game so you’ll be mashing buttons in a certain pattern like crazy which is what I believe such action games are all about. If you’re not mashing buttons enough, you’re probably playing a crappy action game.

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Good Points:

killer-is-dead 2
Blue streaks come out of your katana when you up your attack speed through making high-chain combos.

Killer is Dead has a very rewarding combat experience when you get a hang of the game’s combo and defense system. Mondo’s attacks increase in speed and flare when you start stringing up high number combos (20 hits and above) and that’s when everything goes wild. You will be facing enemies from all directions and some of them will even shoot your from a far. Getting the hang of executing “dodge bursts” and “just guards” will treat you to a string of bloody-cool finishing moves and make you feel a million times cooler than you are in real life (obvious exaggeration may have to be pointed out here).  You can tell that the game is developed for anybody to have a real blast because you can score in a lot of lucky dodges and guards simply by mashing buttons. It’s a good thing that mashing buttons can get you through a stage, but only mastery of the game will net you a highest possible rank in a mission so the game is still challenging even if complete noobs can enjoy the game.

The music of the game is a great accompaniment to the mash-ups of locations, Suda 51’s inspirations for the game (Bayformers, James Bond, and Samurai Champloo), and even  specific situations (like the intimate scenes with the Mondo girls). There is a healthy mix of music genres in the game to keep it refreshing all through-out the game.

Bad Points:

There really isn’t anything to get behind the fragments of the game’s plot. Not like I was expecting extensive back stories on characters or anything but aside from the cool fight mechanics in combat, the plot of the story is barely fascinating or amusing and the punch lines for the jokes in the game were weak, very weak. A lot of things just simply didn’t make sense even if they are being tied up to the main story line but hey, unicorns! Let’s not bother explaining why they exist in the game, I guess Suda 51 and the rest of the team were taking LSD when they thought of that.

Display issues. Frame rates drop frequently when there are a lot of elements or particles on screen and on top of that there are times when the camera angles would mess up your view causing you to lose track of your targets or surroundings that would break your combo chain and possibly cost you the highest rank in a mission. I get hit with bad angles a lot and they tend to become very frustrating.

The mechanics for “gigolo mode” in Killer is Dead are extremely awkward for people who’ve gotten past the “curiosity” stage of growing up. I believe there is no need for an in-depth discussion on why would one feel uncomfortable with having to stare at women’s breasts, crotch, or hips (without the woman taking notice of your blatant eye-banging)  to muster enough courage to present gifts to women to gain affection and eventually make her agree with sleeping with you. The Gigolo glasses that come as DLC with every launch copy allows you to see the women in lingerie  (just like every boy’s dream of having “x-ray specs). The reasons you’ll be doing gigolo mode (hopefully) is to acquire new left arm attachments and for trophies. If you’re motivated by anything more than that, I would seriously recommend that you seek #help. For the record, the Gigolo Glasses increase your courage at a higher rate so I use them in the game so I get to see them in their lingerie all the time.

While we’re on the topic, I might as well touch the part were you get intimate with the Mondo Girls, specifically (Natalie, Koharu, and Betty (bonus DLC vampire.) There are three intimate scenes which just get more risque. Betty is basically a re-skin of Natalie whose scenes are pretty much your generic Hollywood movie scene while Koharu’s scenes play on men’s fantasy of a traditional Japanese girl with a hidden beast locked away inside her. When you get intimate with Koharu, there are taiko drums banging in the background and then you know why there is a hard, banging, and rhythmic beat going on right? I don’t know if I’m just wired the wrong way but I found it funny because it was obviously intentional and people, haven’t you not all done some kinky stuff in your lives?

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If its any consolation to those who would be deeply offended by this mode, one Mondo girl (Scarlet) does not operate within the confines of said gigolo mode but rather is the issuer of challenge missions where you have to beat regular bad guys with certain conditions such as (kill one type of enemy only, killing anything else means mission failure) and they’re not exactly easy. That’s more replay value right there.

Things That Swing Either Way:

Playing the game is easy but mastering it is hard. You can play through the story and the side quests without having to master the game and/or have mad twitch skills. However, I believe that people who like challenges should purchase this game and aspire to score a platinum trophy. I’m telling your right now getting a “plat” in this game would be a big achievement.

You will simply look too damned cool in this game. If stylized violence is your thing (not if you want to murder people IRL, okay?), you need not look further.

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In line with scoring platinum trophy, the game’s main missions are very short (6-7 hours tops). If you wanted to, you could finish the game in one sitting and it’s not even going to be that hard. If you don’t like exploring side quests or finding hidden items within stages, there isn’t going to be much value for you especially if you think  that the story line jumps into any sort of deep or existential discussions and similar (pretentious crap) themes people will gush about.

I have yet to find Juliet Starling in the game so that is more reason to go back to the game and the mere fact that a game crossover is included in the game as a secret rather than a DLC is certainly something refreshing to see in this day and age. Then again, an exuberant chainsaw wielding cheerleader may not be for everyone. So there’s that too.

Juliet_Starling_in_Killer_is_Dead
What happens between them? I don’t know. I have to find her first.

In Conclusion:

Killer is Dead has core game mechanics which rewards players who learn them with a fun time hacking, slashing, and shooting people in style. The game’s over-the-top treatment of everything points to the obvious that things are grossly exaggerated in the game so there is little merit to attack the game because of the Gigolo Mode. While possibly done in poor taste, they may have lost sales but let’s not start a revolution over it. While not being one of those “serious games”, the humor in the game is severely lacking so the game barely got a chuckle out of me even though some parts were meant to be funny. The music of the game sucks you into the mood real good whether you are busting through a Japanese fortress, dueling on the moon, or getting intimate with the Mondo Girls which sets a pretty good bar in terms of musical score for games. The violence and sexual content of this game however will make me think twice about letting kids (and immature people in general) playing this game. Killer is Dead is one of those games you don’t want to buy for your kids or if you do, better give them “the talk” and set them straight because if this is their reality for dating women, help…

If you’re going to pick-up Killer is Dead, I suggest you wait for the R1 version of the game which includes a 25 track OST and an art book for all launch copies. The R3 copy I bought just has the “Smooth Operator” DLC which is also included in the R1 copy of the game.

Oh and the game is in dual audio so you can go English voice or Japanese voice. I prefer the English voices but Mondo sounds nothing like a James Bond in both audio options.

Capcom just announced in the San Diego Comic Convention the return of their elite ninja agent Strider Hiryu in a brand new Strider game in development for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and next generation consoles Playstation 4 and Xbox One (still no love for the Wii U here I see) and is scheduled for release in 2014.

Like most modern-day renditions of classic games, Strider stays true to its roots and promises you the same old fast-paced and fluid action the original Strider games were known for before Strider Hiryu became a jobber in Capcom’s cross over fighting games. Check out the first trailer below:

 

Strider is being developed by Double Helix Games in conjunction with Capcom and is scheduled for digital release in early 2014.

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Reddit held an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with an anonymous source their moderators have independently confirmed as a Microsoft employee and someone who is an active developer and part of the Xbox One team. After reading through the AmA, I really don’t know what to make of it—sure, the whole tone of the responses seemed fairly level-headed, but Microsoft’s also been known for “astroturfing” forums and comment threads with positive praise for their console, so your guess is as good as ours if this is a legitimate or company-sanctioned information leak.

It’s not like there’s anything particularly juicy in here either—the most damning thing about the AmA is something we all already figured: that Xbox One players are essentially paying $199 extra for the “privilege” of having the Kinect 2 packed in the box. Still, it’s an interesting read! Here are some choice responses:

DSC00889Q: What was your reaction to the DRM reversal, and now this petition?
A: Personally I was a little surprised at the timeframe which we decided on the DRM reversal. I thought we didn’t push on its benefits enough.The petition shows there are lots of people who want these benefits as much as I do and clearly our execs care or Marc Whitten wouldn’t have referred to it in his IGN interview.

Q: Just one question, How loud is the console?
A: Almost inaudible. I run three at a time and they are drowned out by the fans in the desktops.

Q: How smooth is the interface right now with the snapping? can you snap between digital games or not? is the TV input lagging like it was in that wired interview?
A: Snapping is only available to certain apps such as IE, Skype, the game DVR upload tool, etc. Game titles cannot be snapped. I have not tried TV input but I did hook up a PC to the Xbox and watched netflix while I skyped someone.

Q: When you say games can’t be snapped you mean you can’t have them be the smaller view right? You can have other apps next to the game but you can’t have IE with Killer Instinct as the smaller snap on the right. Am saying this because you guys showed Killer Instinct with Twitch side by side.
A: Yes, AAA titles cannot be snapped (shown in smaller view). IE can however be snapped to look up how to perform a combination while you play :).

Q: Was the family sharing how everyone imagined it to be like (sharing games with 10 people only 2 game play one at the same time) or was it glorified demos ?
A: It was for full games. Can’t comment too much on this but its purpose was to eliminate the need to ever have to physically hand someone a game that you bought to share with them.

Q: Do you know anything about the rumor that Microsoft is upping the clock speed on the retail version? If you can’t answer that, do you think that the Xbox One is at disadvantage with it’s current specs compared to the PS4?
A: Can’t comment on the rumor. The facts are on paper, the PS4 has better specs and the most you can debate is by how much. What I can tell you is I have played Forza, Killer instinct, and Ryse on the Xbox One. They look as good as the games I play on a high end PC. Ryse reminded me of darksiders II.

DSC00891Q: What’s the atmosphere like in the office? Fun? Relaxed? Big bureaucracy? When you come up with a genius new idea, how easy is it for you to make a pitch to your boss or to a different team (Kinect team, for example)?

A: The team is huge, almost 1000 people. Most people in Microsoft have their own offices, it’s the way Microsoft have been since it started. For the Xbox team however, we have mostly large open spaces (thank Bungie for that), with the most senior people having their own offices. The average time employed at Microsoft to get your own office in the Xbox team is about 10 years. The division provides us free of charge a 24hour snack bar, dinner every day, and breakfast and lunch on the weekends if we choose to come in. In addition to that the team provides additional sustenance and booze whenever we all get together and show off what we did in the past couple weeks. There’s no way I can throw in 60hours/week for the long term if the environment was overly stressful.

Almost every subgroup within the team works on something that is related to the Kinect in some way. I personally come in contact with 4 or 5 different subgroups in a day.

That’s right, we have a release date for SUDA51’s next over-the-top action and fan service game Killer is Dead (it’s August 27, 2013 if you didn’t read the title). If graphic violence, outright crazy story lines, fast-paced action, and bodacious cartoon babes aren’t enough to hook you to get a copy at launch, XSEED Games has included the following bonuses for all launch copies:

  • An 80-page hardcover art book of Killer is Dead

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    This is a preview of the game box art and bonus art book.
  • A Killer is Dead soundtrack CD containing 25 tracks
  • The ‘Smooth Operator’ DLC pack containing the following:
    • Bonus in-game goods ‘Gigolo Glasses,’ an alternate costume for Vivienne and Mika
    • A bonus ‘Gigolo Mission’ with Betty
    • An additional episode with the vampiric Sebastian

You play the role of Mondo Zappa, a new recruit of an “execution agency” which targets criminals. Mondo’s weapon of choice is a Katana but also has a bionic left arm which can be modified with different attachments. Between cutting your way through bad guys and facing the final boss of the stage you can engage in gigolo missions where the goal is not to kill anything but to please the ladies to receive presents and rewards from them if you’re a smooth operator.  For preview on the action game play of Killer is Dead, you can view the trailer above but if you’re all about the fan service this trailer will give you a glimpse of what to expect:

 

For more details on Killer is Dead, check out the game’s official site at:  http://www.loveandkill.com.

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Killer is Dead was developed jointly by KADOKAWA GAMES and Goichi Suda (aka SUDA51) and his GRASSHOPPER MANUFACTURE studio and published by XSEED Games under Marvelous USA, Inc.

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Not that I wish anybody harm in their careers, but Corporate America is such a backwards beast. Take the tale of one Don Mattrick—not a week ago reviled by video game enthusiasts all over the web and forced to backpedal on the very same corporate policy he strong-armed; you’d expect such a PR blunder to cost him his job.

But nope: as today’s press release from Zynga shows, Don Mattrick is actually leaving Microsoft’s lofty Redmond headquarters and is making the drive down to sunny San Francisco to head the latter company as their CEO. “Don is unique in the game business,” as stated by Zynga founder Mark Pincus in the release. “He can execute in multiple domains — hardware, software, and network.” To be unprofessional and off-the-cuff for a second, I believe Mr. Pincus forgot one more domain Mattrick excelled in, and that is the domain of complete, unapologetic smugness.

You really cannot hate Mattrick here. He won. Microsoft lost, and we—as a collective hivemind—also lost. It really takes a certain kind of person with enough savvy and cunning to survive in the corporate world, and most of us (i.e., the 99%) can’t do what Mattrick just did, and that is fall upwards. Sure, you can argue that Zynga is a sinking ship all day, but the dude’s going to be a CEO of that (supposedly) failing company, make even more money and hop out with a golden parachute when that company eventually shuts down. In other words, he’s pulling a Jason Rubin.

As for Microsoft, apparently the games division will be headed temporarily by CEO Steve Ballmer. All’s I can say is… Please make this guy permanent head of the games division (ref: above video).

Coffee Stain Studio’s tower defense FPS hybrid: Sanctum 2 just released its first expansion pack: Road to Elysion. This first of four planned DLC expansions introduces a new playable character who is deeply tied up with the game’s story line. If you haven’t read my review of the game, delving more into the story line probably means more comic panels. I’m still disappointed about that approach but hey, new playable character, new weapons, and new perks which include a pet robot? There are more reasons to be excited than disappointed with Road to Elysion. I’ll certainly give some impressions as soon as I’ve gone through the expansion.Santcum2RTE_TSYGAN01 Oh yeah, check out their promo video above too, it’s hilarious.

Road to Elysion Features:

• New Playable Character and Weapons – Tsygan, the “Rogue Insurgent”, who also introduces the Gatling Laser and handheld Ballista to the game.
Four New Maps – These maps will introduce new tactics to make things more refreshing for those who played the hell out of Sanctum 2 already.
• Two New Towers – The Range Spire dramatically increases the reach of nearby offensive towers and the Slow Field Dispenser dramatically hinders the speed of enemies to make choke points more effective.
Enchanced Enemies – New support monsters can heal or mutate attacking creep to give you all sorts of new problems and if that isn’t enough, you’ll have to deal with an aerial boss monster this time around.
• Additional Perks – Customize your character even more with six new perks, including one that gives you an in-game pet robot that will fight for you.

The Sanctum 2: Road to Elysion DLC is now available on Steam for $3.99 and on Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 MS Points. You will need the full version of Sanctum 2 to play the DLC which goes for $14.99 on said platforms. But if you really like Sanctum 2 like me, you’re better off getting the season pass for all four (4) planned DLC at only $11.99.

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The 80s and 90s was also notorious for horrible box art.

One of the games which encompassed the late 80’s and early 90’s of gaming was the Double Dragon series. During this era, home consoles scrambled to bring the arcade experience home and Double Dragon was one of these arcade ports. Part of the experience was also the punishing difficulty where hardcore gamers would attempt to finish arcade games with just one credit/token for bragging rights and a seriously good sense of fulfillment. Among others were obviously the stereotype video game themes back in the day (the damsel in distress), odd depiction of what “tough heroes” and bad guys should look like, and awesomely cheesy music to pump you up for some hardcore twitch brawling.

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Here’s box cover art that will surely pop a feminist’s nerve.

The plot of Double Dragon was simple, bad guys kidnapped your girl friend so you (Billy Lee) and player 2: Jimmy Lee (SPOILER: who was the last boss in the original Double Dragon game) go on a rampage to get her back. It screams nothing more than male chauvinistic bravado and gives feminists cause to rally against a video game for repeatedly objectifying women as trophies rather than treat them as people. Not to mention the game’s plot which caters to the traditional male nerd fantasies of being a tough guy who can brawl his way through bullies and be a hero (get the girl too). However, taking all that video game psychology and stereotyping crap aside, what you have in front of you was a game that was challenging and pretty intuitive for a time where games operated on only two input buttons (the A and B button).

In spite of the 8-bit graphics the game play really makes you feel like a martial arts master when you’ve gotten the hang of the controls. Every move in the game can be used to gain a tactical advantage over your foes and there are times where your awareness of your environment pays off in the form of knocking tough mini-bosses off a ledge with only a jump kick. However, games like Double Dragon are also notorious of being cheap when ramping up the difficulty by simply flooding the screen with enemies and introducing foes who move twice as fast as you with really cheap moves. These “traps” will basically kick your ass repeatedly until you change your strategy to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same kind of intestinal fortitude so instead of trying to beat the game with one credit, they end up throwing down countless tokens in an attempt to finish the game. In the event that they do, they are treated with a really lame ending sequence that totally does not justify how much money they spent to finish a game. Pro-tip: You don’t finish an arcade game for the ending, you do it for high scores and bragging rights.

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Yuuuup, still there.

Fast-froward to 2012 with Way Forward‘s take on the Double Dragon series with retro-inspired title: Double Dragon Neon. This game does nothing new and simply reinforces the same stereotypes and plot lines from the old Double Dragon games.  Nothing has changed. The bad hair haircuts are still there along with the damsel in distress theme to the point that the opening sequence of the game is no different from the original Double Dragon game on the NES. You’ve got a bigger cast of female characters you have to beat down from classic Linda, geisha assassins, female ninjas, and even a rocketeer inspired flying female baddie. You will be forced to fight your own girl friend (Marian) towards the end of the game but you won’t need to kill her; only “knock her back to her senses”. They even remixed the cheesy music from the original Double Dragon and added a few songs with lyrics care of kick ass game music composer Jake Kaufman. As for game play, while the controls are still familiar, things have changed quite drastically which may not exactly be a welcome change for fans:

Mission Select:

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The “over world” of Double Dragon Neon looks pretty much like this.

There are ten (10) missions in this game but instead of having to play through all missions from the start as you would whenever you start your game, you can select any mission you have completed from the “over world” screen and play through that specific mission only. Now this wasn’t a big change or anything, this concept for side scrolling games has been used as early as Super Mario Bros. 3 to my knowledge but I can’t get used to this in a Double Dragon game. This basically screams “casual mode on”, play whenever you feel like it and finish it eventually. There is no real sense of urgency of having to complete the game in one sitting anymore. While I can still do that, the fact that the game isn’t designed that way anymore really takes your motivation away. However, it is understandable to some extent granted that gamers these days want longer hours clocked per game to feel that they got their money’s worth somehow which leads to the next change:

RPG-like Stat Progression :

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Because sound effects were lame back in the day.

While there are three (3) modes of difficulty, they require you to “level-up your character” or forge your mix-tapes in the game as they call it. These mix-tapes basically boost specific stats like Health, MP (for executing special attacks), Attack, and Defense. You will eventually be able to choose between ten (10) different stances and special moves that can all be upgraded with items you pick-up from defeating bosses.  This explains why you can return to missions at will: so that you can grind for money and upgrading items. Again, I lament the fact that the time sink in Double Dragon Neon became grinding stages repeatedly to power-up instead of mastering the punishing difficulty of the game. But RPG-like progression in a side scrolling brawler back in the days of the NES actually existed in the form of River City Ransom. If you played the Scott Pilgrim Vs the World video game, that would be the most modern comparison you have to that classic RPG/Brawler.

Clearly, there isn’t much left in the tank for the Double Dragon IP and as sad as it may be, I have come to terms with it because I enjoyed Double Dragon Neon more as a trip down memory lane with all the nostalgic sights and sounds (especially the soundtrack) rather than playing it like I had to finish the game without continues. Granted that it’s a solid brawler and somehow feels like Double Dragon, I simply can’t get behind it 100% anymore. As a matter of fact I don’t think there is any point in making another Double Dragon game, reboot , or even spin-offs because  Billy and Jimmy Lee actually suck as pop culture icons without having a constant look about them save for some sort of color coding scheme.

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Having said all that, you can opt NOT to buy Double Dragon Neon but if Double Dragon was part of your childhood, you’d probably want to buy the soundtrack. It’s ****in’ awesome!

Double Dragon Neon was released for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 as a digital download.

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At least we still get a happy ending. :D

Author’s Note: Double Dragon probably wasn’t ported to the NES first but it was the first time I encountered Double Dragon. Also, I’m well aware of multiple Double Dragon games in between the NES versions and the latest Double Dragon Neon. Unfortunately, I was unable to play all these games and spin offs because I didn’t have THAT much money to buy games back in the day. The Double Dragon movie poster was just there to highlight the color coding scheme of Billy and Jimmy Lee, I know it’s not game box art.