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  1. Ah, June. Summer is here, E3 shows us all the games we should be excited for, and it's the last month of the second fiscal quarter. As such, this month tends to be the most abnormal in terms of releases. This month we have some much anticipated titles such as The Last of Us and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but June certainly isn't bursting to the seam with tons of AAA and niche titles. Were the Junes of the past much like the June of the present? Let's take a wordy trip down Memory Lane to find out! 2003 In June of 2003, there wasn't too much going on. However, racing fans got a great treat in the form of Midnight Club II. The nighttime racing sequel was well-met by critics and fans alike, offering multiple locales the race along and many secret shortcuts to discover. In addition, the online multiplayer helped the game out a lot; back in the day, it was a pretty big deal! Other notable releases: Wario World 2004 When the Game Boy Advance version of A Link to the Past come with a second game, Four Swords, gamers that got together and had enough link cables were in for quite the adventure. Later, Nintendo decided to make a sequel to the novel idea and released The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure on the GameCube in June of 2004. Sure, you still needed a fair amount of GBAs and some link cables (to hook up to the GameCube), but the beefed-up adventure was well worth it for those who could get some friends together. Other notable releases: Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2005 In June of 2005, the Nintendo DS had only come out a few months ago, and new games using the system's touch screen in innovative ways were still trickling out. One of these titles was Meteos, a puzzle game that required quick reactions and the use of the stylus. Meteos offered a lot of modes and content, making it a perfect addition to the DS's growing library. Other notable releases: Kirby Canvas Curse, Yoshi Topsy-Turvy 2006 Even compared to other Junes of the past, June of 2006 was pretty bare bones. The start of that summer would have many gamers working on their backlog... unless of course they owned a PlayStation Portable, and instead got the treat of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. This prequel to the smash hit Grand Theft Auto III offered a similar gameplay experience on the go... which was more than enough for many gamers to take the plunge and buy a PSP. Other notable releases: Titan Quest 2007 June 2007 was the month of the remakes. Tomb Raider Anniversary was a remake of the very first Tomb Raider for Lara's 10 year anniversary, and it ended up being a relative hit. This remake faithfully took the entirety of the original and updated the gameplay and visuals, giving a whole new generation of gamers a chance to enjoy the series. Other notable releases: Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition 2008 In the middle of 2008, nothing of real note came out. Well, except of course Metal Gear Solid 4. The highly hyped new entry to the stealth series was one of the reasons to own a PlayStation 3 in the early days, and 4 does not disappoint fans. Whether you were there for the crazy story or the fan gameplay, Metal Gear Solid 4 was your game of June. Other notable releases: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World 2009 June 2009 had many smaller releases that catered more to target audiences rather than AAA releases. One of these titles was Prototype, a tale of a man with strange powers in a city that's losing control. Prototype often gets compared to inFamous, which may or may not be a fair comparison, but the new IP still scratched that free-roaming, super-power itch that many games could not. Other notable releases: BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Rock Band Unplugged 2010 Like most Junes, the June of 2010 was a little light on the releases, but the games that came out were a pretty big deals. This sixth month gave us the sequel to the N64 title Sin and Punishment, in the form of the Wii title Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. The sequel stayed true to the original's roots, offering an on-rails shooter that fans could be excited to grab. Other notable releases: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker 2011 Alright, alright, Duke Nukem Forever is not actually the best game to come out in June of 2011, nor was it the most hyped release. However, this new release to the somewhat raunchy franchise was very, very long in the making--at least two console generations! Therefore, good or bad, we have to at least celebrate the game's release... hey, at least it was a little entertaining? Other notable releases: inFamous 2, Alice: Madness Returns 2012 Last year was a bit odd. Most of the releases were portable based, of varying amounts of how anticipated it was, but the only big console release for June was Spec Ops: The Line, which in itself was quite the oddity. Those that have played the entry may know what I'm talking about, but for those that don't... Spec Ops touted itself much like a Call of Duty or Battlefield clone, but ended up being quite different and thought-provoking. Someone that stuck through with the single player until the end got quite the deep experience. Other notable releases: Pokemon Conquest, Gungnir, Unchained Blades That's a fair amount of old June releases! Some are more memorable than others to be sure, but you can't deny the impact these releases had on our gaming history... even if a few weren't in the right way! Which June releases did you enjoy the most? Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments below!
  2. Jared

    Grumpy Old Man

  3. (Picture credit from Penny-Arcade.com: http://art.penny-arc...098_C3d43-L.jpg) I recently became an "adult" to the extent that it's a detriment. Let me clarify that before my wife kills me - my son and wife are the best things that have ever happened to me as a person. But as a gamer, they've been pretty tough. The baby may only sleep for an hour or so you had better hope that your mission is more of a sortie. But that's not something I can blame the industry for. But I can say that some games don't understand the idea of instant gratification, the idea that every time you're playing a game you're enjoying your time. If you're a game developer, ask yourself this: If the time between savepoints wasn't fun, why was it there? If you were watching the events unfold for the first time would they be interesting? If you had to describe what you did in an hour's span to someone else, could you make that sound interesting? The game that I've been referencing here, to be honest, is Zelda: Skyward Sword. I don't mean to rant against it, and I certainly don't hate it - it's just in dire need of an editor. Seriously, no game should follow a style guide, but this game garner some massive improvements by following those rules I put forth above. Let me tell you (with some spoilers) what I've done in the last five hours or so: * Fought the reincarnation of an evil god for the second time (Awesome! Well, not as awesome as the first time, but still...) * Finally got to hear some storyline information after hours of doing random quests for the sword... * Learned a new skill that did exactly what a previous skill did... * Fought a flying whale with eyes growing out of it (Alright, yeah!)... * ...that required precise controls and wasn't any fun... * Fought, uh, the reincarnation of an evil god again (it's only been an hour or so since the last time...) * Fought the swimming controls to talk to a dragon... * ...that turned an entire area into an underwater dungeon with annoying swimming controls... * ...that required precise controls and wasn't any fun... * ...to catch... musical notes... And so on, and so on. The game is split into three parts with three sections in each - three initial visits to the surface, three visits to those areas to get musical flames, and three more visits to get parts of a song... and the second and third acts feel entirely useless to the plot and to the structure. Every mission feels like it's tacked on after the first section, every bit of storyline effectiveness reduced by adding long pauses before you hear a peep from Zelda or any of the Skyloft denziens. The big problem here is not player agency - the player is always involved, and there are barely any cutscenes. The problem is not the inanity of the quests (like tadpole hunting), since those can certainly be done well (like in Mass Effect 2). The problem is that the game is structured like a game that doesn't care that someone has to play it. It wants to get its message across in its own particular way and thinks that games these days need to be long to be worth buying. But that isn't why people buy Zelda - they buy Zelda for dungeon designs (such as the first Dark World dungeon in LttP), the quirky sense of humor (the hookshot goes BOOO-OOOO-OOOOING), and its characters (Malon and Midna have so many fans you'd think that they were the titular characters in their respective games). Skyward Sword focuses on all of the wrong things. But its combat is nice! (And, no - a game that can be "chunked" out like this isn't going to lose its sense of immersion. Just look at Skyrim for a game that did it right - the universe is all there, and you can play as little or as much as you'd like.) Here's some more exampls of games that could've been better with an editor: - Metal Gear Solid 4 (intentionally?) favored quantity over quality with 1.5-hour-long cutscenes, a very literal example of Telling instead of Showing. When previous games in the series put the most interesting content behind codec calls this isn't super surprising but the final game in the Snake series didn't take any of the criticisms on previous games into consideration. I theorize that this game is really the End of Evangelion of the Metal Gear Solid series. - Tales of Vesperia, that lost sight of its message thanks to its reliance on the Spirits (summons) plot. Yuri was a "renegade" with a heart, but a total departure from this plot by the game's second half made it feel like a dangling thread. And, just to be positive, games that did length well: - Portal 2 had three "acts," but none could really be cut. Trimmed a bit, maybe, but almost every puzzle was interesting enough to be kept in - Skyrim and Saints Row are both "long" games, but with simple components for the most part. Walk around, find a thing, kill the thing, find a treasure. Every day can feel like an accomplishment. Zelda is the worst offender I can think of recently. But it's not a terrible game. It doesn't tarnish the Zelda legacy. But, hopefully, it's a game which signals the end of an era instead of a proving point. Because this isn't how games can go on, with gamers getting older. If the industry only focuses on the 12-to-20-year-old crowd then it's going to lose out on a share of the market that actually has money to spend, a market share willing to pay for quality. Arkham Asylum, Skyrim, Portal - they knew how to do it. Let's hope that other games try to copy their success. (Oh boy, I just realized that all of my positive examples are American and all of the negative ones are Japanese. That wasn't intentional. There are great Japanese games out there! Bayonetta for one. And, uh...)