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  1. Heyo, So E3 is this week. Yay! Hopefully we'll get a lot of cool announcements that we'll all be able to gush over and fantasize about over the next week. But my question to you is, what kind of content are you most interested in reading here? There are certain things we'll definitely cover, but chances are you'll hear most, if not every announcement elsewhere, so I'm wondering how viable it is to cover most information at all. Are you still interested in reading about it here? Would you check out our articles as a recap, or just to see if there are any details you missed from the initial announcement? Or are you mostly just interested in forum discussion about games and announcements? If you let us know what you're interested in here, that'll help us determine what kind of coverage to post. So for example, if everyone here mostly is just interested in forum discussion and don't really care about news articles, perhaps we'll focus mainly on creating new threads to discuss these things while covering only some of the biggest news, as well as our own opinions on some of the biggest developments. So please, let us know what you think below and what you're most interested in regarding the above, and a big thanks in advance!
  2. E3 is upon us, guys! How would you like to win a Mario "Silver Edition" amiibo to celebrate? How about a Pac-Man amiibo? Or perhaps a Charizard amiibo? All three? Watch this video to find out how you can win these little beauties: You have until next Friday (June 26th) Friday, July 3rd to enter each giveaway, so you'd better get your entries in soon. Good luck! Update: I've extended the deadline:
  3. Last year, we were met with a Harvest Moon game that wasn“t actually part of the long-lived Bokujou Monogatari farming series. You see, XSEED is now publishing the Bokujou Monogatari games in North America. But because Natsume owns the rights to the Harvest Moon name, XSEED couldn“t title the recent Story of Seasons as such. Natsume decided to take advantage of the fact that they still had the Harvest Moon name, and so they delivered their own brand new creation called Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley for 3DS. This Minecraft-esque farming simulator paled in comparison to the Bokujou Monogatari series and was extremely repetitive and empty. It seems Natsume hasn“t given up hope, however. They“ve listened to fans“ criticism of The Lost Valley and are aiming to make a (hopefully) better game with Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories. Very eager to see how different this upcoming title from Natsume would be, I had the lucky opportunity to try Seeds of Memories out at E3. Natsume boasts that Seeds of Memories is “inspired by the old-school gameplay of the very first games.†If you couldn“t guess from that, yes, Seeds of Memories has a top-down 2D view like the older Harvest Moon games versus The Lost Valley“s completely 3D one. The graphics alone already show a definite improvement over those of The Lost Valley. While it“s not a complete throwback to the days of old with pixels and such, it“s still a nice 2D cartoony art style that suits the game. Unfortunately, Natsume“s demo for Seeds of Memories at E3 didn“t really go into gameplay such as taking care of crops or animals. All it had you do was go around the town and talk to villagers. “Wait, Leah. Did you say ”town“?†I most certainly did! If you played The Lost Valley, one of the first things you probably noticed was the lack of a town, which was one of the biggest factors in making the game feel terribly empty. Thankfully, Natsume realized how important such a thing was in these types of games and implemented one in Seeds of Memories. Seeds of Memories“ plot is pretty basic as far as Harvest Moon games go. Basically, you must “unlock the titular Seeds of Memories†by performing tasks such as giving a villager their favorite item or catching a giant fish. In a way, this premise sounds very much like collecting musical notes in Harvest Moon: Magical Melody for the GameCube. If you liked that particular Harvest Moon title, then Seeds of Memories might be right up your alley. Natsume hopes to release Harvest Moon: Seeds of Memories sometime this winter for Wii U, Steam, iOS, and Android. While the demo that Natsume presented at E3 didn“t really show much to judge it properly, I am really hoping that Seeds of Memories is a lot better than The Lost Valley.
  4. E3 2015 took place recently, as most of you know. So hey, let's recap it! For our very first episode of The Weekly Podunk, a news show where we recap gaming news from the week before, we will be recapping E3 2015, which took place during the week prior to this episode's uploading. Enjoy! Song used in video: "Chiptune Does Dubstep" by TeknoAXE
  5. Another E3 has come and gone, and now it's time to reflect back on what was shown. This particular E3 will probably go down in history for one big reason — actually, make that THREE big reasons. In a highly strategic move, Sony played their trump cards one after the another during their E3 press conference, announcing some of the most highly anticipated games ever. The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Shenmue III are titles that many gamers thought they'd never see at this point, so to turn legends into reality really turned the event into a momentous one. Of course, it wasn't only a fantastic show because of that. Many other brand new games were shown off as well, and though there are a number of big sequels in the works (this year seems to be the year of the four-quel), creativity seemed to be abundant this year in comparison to previous years. With that, here are the ones that impressed the GP staff the most this around. Jason's Picks Star Wars Battlefront I've always thought DICE was a great fit for the Battlefront series given their pedigree working on FPS games, but I'd be lying if I told you I was excited for the new Battlefront revamp before E3. While it was great to see the series return after more than a decade, what could they add to improve on it? Better graphics? Not to mention they announced that there would be no space battles about a month back. And then they proceed to showed the first gameplay footage, and... that was all I needed to become a believer again. The Battle of Hoth was the perfect demo and really made you feel as if you were in the moment, being a part of something much bigger. The sound of zooming Speeders, Tie-Fighters, and X-Wings; of AT-ATs moving their giant steel legs, and blaster fire — this is what Star Wars is all about, and DICE captured it in all its glory. Super Mario Maker Like Star Wars Battlefront, this was also a game I was not really into until recently. I thought Super Mario Maker was a novel concept when it was announced last year, but creating levels didn't really excite me that much. And playing levels that other people created? If they weren't made by Nintendo, how good could they be? That answer came on the final night of The Nintendo World Championships 2015. The game that would decide the winner was none other than Super Mario Maker, and it was only at this point that I realized just how crazy the level design could be. What was even more impressive is that the levels shown were created by NOA's Treehouse division. If they could go wild like that, what might the rest of fans in general create? I can't wait to find out. Jonathan's Picks To Leave This is a game from FreakyCreations that I spoke highly of last year when I played it on the PlayStation Vita. The premise of the game is simple enough: Guide the door you're carrying to the end of a level without touching anything. When I played it on PS4 this year, I just wanted to assess the visual differences, and how different it felt playing the game with a controller instead of on a handheld. I was hooked again after just a few minutes, and could have sat there all day and played that game! The objective is simple, but execution requires mastery of patience and platforming skill. It's honestly one of my most anticipated games of next year. Truly a hidden gem. EarthBound Beginnings The audience reaction to the EarthBound Beginnings reveal at the Nintendo World Championships was on par with Sony's "Holy Trinity" announcements of The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenmue 3. It may not have aged gracefully, and at its core... it's just another 8-bit RPG that's super punishing like Dragon Warrior. But what it means for EarthBound fans is... hope. Getting MOTHER 3 is no longer a pipe dream, because we've gotten the first game after twenty years. I suspect we'll hear about the third game in a matter of time, if not during E3 next year. Leah's Picks Final Fantasy VII Remake The Final Fantasy VII Remake is probably what surprised people the most this E3, including me. I was pretty much gawking at the screen with my mouth open as I screeched, "OH MY GOD," when they revealed it. I was even shaking for a long time afterward! This long awaited remake is definitely going to be an interesting and exciting title to keep tabs on considering the design choices and changes Square Enix might make. Let's just hope it doesn't end up like Final Fantasy Versus XIII/Final Fantasy XV where we don't hear anything about it for an eternity. Cuphead I believe Cuphead was shown briefly during last year's E3, and it was then that I fell in love with the game's art style. We got to see more of it at this year's E3, and I even got the opportunity to test it out on the showfloor! Actually getting to play Cuphead and seeing it in motion had me begging for more. The animation is just so stunningly beautiful. And co-op is a blast, too. Man, I can't wait to finally play the finished version whenever it releases next year. Barrel's Picks New NieR It is a shock in itself that Square-Enix keeps giving Yoko Taro money to make games when they are anything but commercial successes. But, even more mind-blowing is that NieR not only gets a sequel, but one handled by Platinum Games, AKA the best developer of character-action games for the past two console generations. This concept has me even more excited after hearing that the excellent NieR composer, Keiichi Okabe, is returning for the soundtrack (almost arguably the original NieR“s greatest strength next to its bizarre, but surprisingly poignant, storytelling.) and Akihiko Yoshida on the art, known for his work in Final Fantasy XII/Tactics and Vagrant Story. Either way, this sounds like a peanut butter and jelly combination that I had no idea that I wanted and now that I do know about it… I want it pretty badly. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain To be honest, I“m not really sure why I“m looking forward to the game as much as I am. Ground Zeroes was laughably sparse on content and did not leave a particularly good impression on me by the time I was done. However, the more I see and hear of The Phantom Pain, the more clearly Ground Zeroes looks to be a stepping stone for a far greater game, and possibly a fitting send-off as Kojima“s last Metal Gear Solid title. Or… maybe the real reason I“m looking forward to it so much is because you capture tanks with floating parachutes, raise puppies for your personal army, beat up soldiers to add music to your cassette tape, and light a cigarette with a sniper rifle. But who knows, maybe Kojima just hoodwinked me with those exciting E3 trailers/demos and I“ll be stuck playing Raiden again by the time I get the final product. John's Pick Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Sony's capstone game may have been overshadowed by a series of bombshell announcements, but Naughty Dog once again paraded their uncanny ability to blend action sequences, storytelling and eye-popping visuals into quite the experience. The first gameplay demo of Uncharted 4 featured 30 seconds of Nathan Drake standing still, but a wild ride ensued once they addressed the control issue. This E3's extended demo delved a bit deeper into the game, but the consensus from attendees is that Naughty Dog is once again pushing the current generation of consoles to new heights. My shortlist for most anticipated games in 2016 contains two games. This is one of them. WildCardCorsair's Picks Horizon: Zero Dawn Most people were 'oohing' and 'ahhing' at the Final Fantasy VII Remake or the re-reveal of The Last Guardian, but for me Guerrilla Games stole the show with their brand new IP, Horizon: Zero Dawn. I'm sure most people are well aware of Guerrilla's last IP, Killzone, especially because it spanned 3 console generations and 2 handheld generations. But this — this is definitely something new. The environments look lush and vibrant. The monster design (basically dinobots) is striking. Even the premise is something that stands out among games releasing anytime soon. Plus the fact you can sum up the game by saying, "It's like if Nariko was in Monster Hunter fighting dinobots from Transformers," is pretty amazing. Fallout 4 Fire up your old Inkspots vinyl, the vault dwellers are back in town! While most people were probably more excited about Shenmue III, the sequel I was pumping my fist in the air for was Fallout 4. Sure, it was revealed a couple days before, but that did nothing to decrease my hype for it as the show rolled on. Being the lone survivor of Vault 111, and journeying into the Boston wasteland is top of my to-do list this year. With the obscene amount of time I put into Fallout 3, there's pretty much no way I wouldn't be as excited as a super mutant in a gattling gun factory. And dogmeat! And there you have it! If next year's E3 is even half as good as this year's, it's going to be another good show for sure. What were the games that you came away most impressed with from E3 2015? Let us know in the comments below!
  6. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Cuphead

    Like with Ori and the Blind Forest at last year“s E3, I feel like Microsoft knows how to turn heads when it comes to selecting an indie game to highlight during their conference and show proper. Cuphead caused a tremor on my Twitter feed while I was en route to Los Angeles because it appeals to the folks who grew up watching the early Disney shorts, or any given Looney Tunes cartoon. It“s rare that I open with highlighting a game“s visual style, but... Cuphead perfectly emulates the look and feel of animation from that era, even to the point where it causes some controversy. Characters and the environments they populate are just absolutely bursting forth with personality. As I was playing it on the show floor, I overheard someone asking a representative why a game like this hadn“t really happened before. I think, thanks to the Xbox One“s hardware (and how far PC gaming has come), this is really the first time a game like Cuphead can be made without sacrificing even the teeniest, tiniest bit of presentation due to hardware limitations. Before I even get into gameplay — allow me to reiterate. Its visual style is so appealing to me, as a fan of stuff like “Duck Amuck” (the greatest animated short of all time!) and similar ventures. The demo was played in groups of two, and the level I played started us out in a garden where a big, overexaggerated and mean-looking carrot was firing hypnotizing beams at us. While I was avoiding certain doom, I definitely got a feel for the environment around me. The cool little things the game places in the world that appeals to cartoon fans like me — such as the growth agent turning the carrot evil being called “ACME GROW” — are what“s going to make Cuphead a top tier title when it releases. I know it feels like I“m going on about visuals and ambiance a little too much, but... there just hasn“t been a game like Cuphead thrown my way. I“m kind of in love. Oh, and the fact that it“s a relatively difficult run-and-gun that plays similarly to any given Treasure game like Gunstar Heroes or Alien Soldier most definitely helps. The vegetables in the garden attacked at a pace that wasn“t too difficult to dodge once you figured out the patterns. If this game mixes up weaponry and defensive gameplay as well as it seemed to in the small slice I played, I“d say fans of stuff like Contra are in for a very nice surprise in 2016. There“s not really much more I can say than that, if I“m being perfectly honest. It has all the proper physics, philosophies and unique twists of a '90s run-and-gun shooter on the inside, and the single best example of how to capture the personality of Warner Bros. or Walt Disney in terms of its artistic approach. Cuphead should absolutely be on your radar if you“re a frothing animation geek like me. It releases exclusively for Xbox One and PC in 2016. You can check out the official website here for more information.
  7. Chibi-Robo charmed me from the very moment I set my eyes upon it in an issue of Nintendo Power. I got my mitts on a copy of Chibi-Robo! for the GameCube as soon as it released and instantly fell in love with it. While we haven“t had a proper console sequel since (though I did enjoy Park Patrol), it is still very nice to see that Nintendo is giving the tiny robot some attention years later. Yep, Chibi-Robo is getting a new game (and we“re surprisingly receiving a North American release!). Much to my excitement, I had the opportunity to test it out at Nintendo“s booth during E3. This particular Chibi-Robo game is titled Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash. Rather than sticking to its 3D platforming adventure roots, this 3DS title will be focused on 2D side-scrolling platforming. It is a tad disappointing that we aren“t able to explore a vast environment like we did in the original Chibi-Robo!. However, Zip Lash definitely brings something new and exciting to the table for the series (while, of course, still keeping it alive and having people interested in it). In Zip Lash, you control Chibi-Robo throughout levels with the aid of his trusty power cord. If you“re familiar with the Umihara Kawase series, Zip Lash feels very similar. With the power cord, you“re able to attack enemies, grab faraway objects, and grapple onto specific areas in order to progress. There are even boss battles and bonus stages (such as water-skiing) every so often. It all takes a bit getting used to, but you“re soon able to find yourself controlling Chibi-Robo and his power cord with ease and finesse. I“m very much looking forward to harder levels in the game that require me to think critically, such as how I should bounce the power cord off walls to get to a seemingly unreachable spot. Fans of the series need not fret about Zip Lash missing any of the memorable charm from the original Chibi-Robo!. The graphics and characters are still just as quirky, cute, and colorful. The dialogue also retains the same hilariousness and wittiness as the original Chibi-Robo!. While I don“t expect Zip Lash“s plot to be quite as grand, I“m still anticipating a cute, well-thought out storyline. I“m super happy that Nintendo is still giving Chibi-Robo some love. I trust in them to make Zip Lash the very best it can be, judging from what I played of the demo. I can“t wait to get a copy of Zip Lash for myself and show my support and adoration for the series. Now let“s hope I can get that bundle with that slick looking Chibi-Robo amiibo, too!
  8. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Dragon Quest Heroes

    I have little experience with “Musou” games outside of Hyrule Warriors, which I found ultimately satisfying in the end. I do, however, have a metric ton of Dragon Quest experience, having beaten most of the numbered games in the series, played the ones I didn“t finish a great deal, and even dabbled in some of the side games. Instead of lamenting that a Dragon Quest VIII 3DS localization hasn“t happened yet, I“ll tell you a little bit about the Dragon Quest experience we are getting on PlayStation 4 later this year... which happens to be a Musou game at its core. I had a chance to play through both experiences offered in the demo. One put my party in a field where the goal was to eradicate many monsters (one of whom was particularly stronger than the others). And the other was to topple a giant boss monster. Before going into each type of gameplay and what made them alike and different, let“s first discuss how the game operates. Have you played through Hyrule Warriors or any other Musou game? If you have, then you know battling is a matter of mastering combos and using the right attacks at the right time. There are plenty of different variations to attacking and there are many types of characters in your party — from brawlers that focus on close combat, to a mage that can use long and short range spells. You can freely switch between your entire party with just the single press of a button, so you have access to all of your team to fight through any combat situation. The field quest felt more like a typical Musou game, where there are handfuls of enemies to defeat all at once, none of whom required any critical thinking in combat. Smash everything you see, and do so handily. Until there“s something a little stronger that shows up, that leads the squad and makes you think outside the box for just a moment. Still, the “defeat all enemies” portion of the demo had me thinking everything was going to be easy street, then I pictured myself telling you all "It“s Hyrule Warriors, but Dragon Quest." Moving on… When I got to the boss, it was a different matter entirely. Rather than relying on the use of a specific weapon, toppling the giant golem terrorizing the town was a matter of using the town to your advantage; not prioritizing using one unit over another. Want to topple the beast? Find a way to jump onto the actual roofs of buildings and approach it from above with any fighter you choose — whether you zap its eye with a spell, or lunge at it with your blade or fist. Having a little trouble? Build your tension, and let each character reach an actual breaking point where they can then unleash a devastating blow. So, at the end of the day, I suppose it is a Dragon Quest variant of Hyrule Warriors. But the charm of those games is definitely loud and clear in Dragon Quest Heroes. And how the boss worked makes me think this game could offer some unique moments that make it memorable versus just another Musou game. It releases on October 13th, 2015 for PlayStation 4. You can check out the Square Enix store site which has details on Limited Editions and more, here.
  9. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Metroid Prime: Blast Ball

    When Metroid Prime: Federation Force was revealed, and the “Blast Ball” announced at the Nintendo World Championships actually turned out to be a part of that game... suffice to say they weren“t the Metroid games that many were expecting. I“m not here to talk about Internet petitions and take sides on this particular issue. Actually, I have no real attachment to the Metroid franchise, since I only played Super Metroid very recently, and I honestly feel even that was outclassed by the recently released Axiom Verge. So — I“m here to judge Metroid Prime: Blast Ball for what it was, not what it should be. It“s certainly intriguing, if nothing else. Unlike most booths at E3, Blast Ball wasn“t a single demo kiosk, but rather several linked together. Six people, three on two sets of teams, competed at once to score the most points in the span of five minutes. Much like what you saw during the Nintendo World Championships — I can simply describe Blast Ball as, well... Space Soccer. Instead of kicking the ball, though, you“re shooting it. Get a bunch of players shooting a ball in one direction, score a goal by ramming the ball into the goalie and making him or her self-destruct. If you spent the entire five minutes volleying the ball back and forth between each other and things ended in a tie, it moved on to the Sudden Death round. But... that never happened to any of the groups that went before or after me. Either team of people always managed to sneak in an edge somehow. Both this game and Splatoon are genres I wouldn“t normally enjoy. But when I experienced Splatoon last year at E3 via my previous gig, I could tell it had the makings of something special. While playing Metroid Prime: Blast Ball was mildly entertaining in its own right, it doesn“t have the new, refreshing staying power that something like Splatoon does. There may be enough twists to the shooting soccer-based gameplay to keep you interested for a hot minute, but it“s lacking in universal appeal, unfortunately. The visuals are forgettable at best; the ambiance feels rather phoned in. The key to a good multiplayer experience, in my opinion, isn“t just about gameplay that“s fun for five minutes or five hours. It“s about creating a world that“s fun to go back to and see more of. Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, even without the controversy, has none of these things. The gameplay is decent, but it feels like it will be short-winded if it doesn“t do enough to become something more than simply blasting a ball back and forth. Mario Sports games and other relevant sport spin-off fodder do enough to stay refreshing. This game, unfortunately, does not. Still, I suppose Blast Ball is just a piece of the entire Metroid Prime: Federation Force experience. Maybe that game hides more innovation that simple space soccer lacks. The full game releases in 2016, so we“ll be sure to offer more information as we have it.
  10. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Super Mario Maker

    When Mario Maker was revealed during E3 last year, I don“t think anyone could have imagined the things it was really capable of. Information about the game trickled out, then dried up — all leading up to its dramatic re-reveal during the Nintendo World Championships on June 14th. Super Mario Maker was now reality, and it was that night we got just a small taste of absolute insanity. When it was first announced last year, I honestly never imagined that it would be such a versatile title that Nintendo would be confident enough to let it send-off their Digital Event during E3 this year, much less have a gigantic presence comparable to Star Fox Zero and Treehouse Live on the show floor. They had an entire live event devoted to it, where they spent hours explaining the game to passersby. I“m going to do the same for you all, having watched the show and both played and created in the game. Did you get a chance to watch the Nintendo World Championships segment with Super Mario Maker? If watching the broadcast left you wanting to try out the Championship levels for yourself — you can! All of those levels, as well as the many available at the various Best Buy and E3 Demo kiosks, will be available in the full game for you to try for yourself. Playing through levels will be half the fun, so it“s great to know that there are already levels created that will be there on launch day, tried by thousands of people in Los Angeles and around the United States. As many know, you can choose between Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U styles of levels. The physics of the level you“re playing are determined by its game chosen. Mario can do certain things in one game that he can“t in others. Certain levels have certain power-ups. One tid-bit you might not know: The Mystery Mushroom amiibo power-up announced in the Direct is only specific to Super Mario Bros. stages. So unfortunately you won“t get to see 16 bit or HD sprites of Kirby, Marth, Wii Fit Trainer and more. There are a few new power-ups and features to mention besides the Mystery Mushroom, though. One thing you“ll notice as you“re playing through a level someone else created: if you die, you“ll see a red X where you fell — then, several other red X's will pop up on the screen, indicating that other players have died there. I think it“s interesting to seen where lots of people struggle in a level, so you can strengthen your resolve and be better than your peers. Without going into too many specifics about menus and filters and stuff: every level must be completed by its creator at least once to be deemed playable. Every time someone completes your level after that, it“s given a "Completion Rate." You can guess the Nintendo World Championships levels have a painfully low completion rate of like 17%. It fractions how many attempts over how many completed runs. Handy! There are also various modes besides 'Creation' that I haven“t really seen highlighted much outside of the show floor itself. One of these modes is the '100 Mario Challenge,' where you“re given 100 lives and 100 randomly generated Mario levels (no doubt from the pool of created levels online) and you“re tasked with beating them. That“s a fun challenge for those looking for a little more of a structured challenge as you play. Creating levels could take five minutes, or five hours depending on your level of skill, but there are many things to consider. You can build a level with multiple layers (such as taking a pipe down to an underground portion of a level, then back up), a blocked exit that can only be broken with the power of the brand new 8-bit Mario amiibo (which smashes blocks from the side, by the way), and more. If you would have talked to me about Mario Maker last year, I would have told you it felt limited. But... Super Mario Maker gives you every bit of tools at your disposal that the Tokyo EAD team has, or otherwise. I“d even go so far as to say it goes beyond what those teams were capable of at the time. Shaking, dragging and dropping various aspects of a level you“re creating changes them. You can turn a blooper into a Blooper-plus-family...make Bowser into Bowser Jr, and so, so much more. Want to make things giant? First place an enemy on the stage, then feed it a Super Mushroom. Every piece and part and enemy is universal across all Mario games, besides specific power-ups. Mario 1 has the Mystery Mushroom, Mario 3 has the Super Leaf, Mario World has the cape, and New Super Mario Bros. U has the Propeller Mushroom. Yoshi is in both World and U. Everything that makes sense to be there is there, and even some things that don“t really make sense are there. It“s really the ultimate Mario toolbox. But it“s more than a toolbox, because you can play thousands of creations — either freely through a series of expert filters, or in a more structured way thanks to the 100 Mario Challenge. Each amiibo character activated through the Mystery Mushroom has surprises too, despite only being a cosmetic change. Super Mario Maker is much more versatile and surprising than I ever really expected. It is a game with enough potential to carry Nintendo“s show at E3, and it“s more than worthy of being the focal point of his 30th anniversary. For more information, check here. And don“t worry. That book you saw during the Digital Event comes with every copy of the game. I still haven“t seen the big Limited Edition Bundle with the amiibo anywhere, though!
  11. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

    Like the cream filling sandwiched between two Oreo cookies, some things just go together naturally. Many people expected Intelligent Systems to be working on a brand new Paper Mario game, but I doubt people expected the worlds of Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi to collide. Here“s the thing, though: While the last Mario & Luigi game was a great experience, the last Paper Mario title was very polarizing (our own review was one of the more positive ones). So, the moment this game was revealed, one has to wonder: Does it feel more like a Mario & Luigi game, or is it a Paper Mario game? I am happy to report that, in terms of combat and most important gameplay elements, it is a Mario & Luigi game at its core. I suppose that“s evident given the game“s title, but in case you were worried — fear not. Everything familiar to longtime fans of Mario & Luigi has returned. There“s jumping, hammering, Bros. Attacks, experience points — everything you“d expect from a Mario RPG. Paper Mario, the character, is just an additive to an already successful formula. Having him around only enhances combat. And hey, outside of combat he can squeeze through tight places, which will probably mean plenty of environment-based puzzles in Paper Jam similar to Luigi“s dreaming mechanics of the previous game. The demo was divided into three separate experiences. One was a “quest” that set the two plus one brothers out to retrieve seven toads who needed to be rescued. This portion had the Bros. put in plenty of smaller combat situations where returning players would feel right at home, while new players got used to combat nuances like Bros. Attacks that hit shells back and forth. You control Paper Mario with the Y button; he needs to dodge and can attack as well. Trio Attacks are a new addition to the game that work like the powerful Luigi Dream World attacks from the last one. The combat is familiar, while doing new things, but nothing feels particularly groundbreaking or something that blew me away. The second experience pit you against a boss... which was definitely unique. Luigi was using Paper Mario as a paper airplane to dodge attacks, for example. I feel like this game“s bosses are going to be where its combat innovates the most, which has been a series staple since Superstar Saga, really. Look forward to having a smile on your face while you see what certain bosses are capable of and assess how to defeat them. Speaking of series staples: Papercraft Battles work a lot like the Giant battles of Dream Team & Bowser“s Inside Story. There are unique nuances specific to this game, but I“ll leave you to see what those are for yourself. I feel like experiencing these battles fresh is part of the fun! The short version of my experience with Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is that it“s more of what made Dream Team great, but using a different approach (a paper one versus a dream-based one) to expand upon old formulas. If you“ve liked the Mario & Luigi series thus far, I guarantee this will be another solid entry. For more information, you can check out the game“s official site here.
  12. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Mighty No. 9

    There have been so many Kickstarters created in the same spirit as Mighty No. 9 since comcept first revealed it to the world. There“s “Not Castlevania”, “Not Banjo-Kazooie”, “ ” and possibly more where those came from. But... what do you all look for most, when it comes to judging a game based on the thing it“s trying to closely emulate? Do you judge Beck and friends based on personalities and characterization, as well as plot? Do you judge presentation-related elements like visuals and sound? Or is gameplay all that matters in the end? When it comes to these various “Not” projects, I tend to examine physics and gameplay elements before anything else. I even made a point to play some of Mega Man Legacy Collection immediately before getting my hands on Mighty No. 9 at the Square-Enix booth. I“ll talk presentation first, though. These visuals are somewhat difficult for me to describe. It“s indeed an attempt at modern design, but I“m honestly not sure if I“m happy with how the character and enemy models themselves turned out. I am, however, satisfied with the various environments they populate. And at least the two mesh well together. I may not be able to pinpoint what I don“t like about the visuals, but the soundtrack is completely satisfying. I only really got the chance to immerse myself in an ice level, but I made a point to play every level in the demo so I could hear its music. The level I did play featured some fairly well-written dialogue that was filled with puns and the kind of humor you“d expect to find in a Mega Man game. Ultimately, the presentation side of things is consistent, even if I“m not necessarily a fan of certain aspects. Is Mighty No. 9 a successful attempt at recreating Mega Man“s gameplay? The answer is yes. If you“re looking for a specific comparison, I“d say to expect the gameplay of Mega Man: Powered Up, except you can burst forward infinitely versus a limited amount. Enemies go down easy, but not too easy. The bosses I faced required me to shoot them a lot first in order to weaken them, then charge into them to finish the job. Charging itself--that burst forward--has a combo system attached. Beck moves and jumps like he should. Ultimately, in terms of physics and how Beck himself “feels” — comcept did not miss the mark. At first, I thought the gameplay was too easy. But by the middle of the level, I was falling down a long-winded path of spikes on either side of me that was very difficult to navigate. I“m not sure if they“ve quite nailed down the concept of “Mega Man hard” with the level I attempted, but it“s certainly no slouch. All in all, I“d say Mighty No. 9 has been worth the wait. And it“s worth looking into if you never did wind up backing the project during its beginning phases. I may not consider it a phenomenal, groundbreaking, hype-generating experience, but... if you temper your expectations and peg Mighty No. 9 as simply a return to (Mega Man) form versus something that“s going to be masterful material, you won“t be disappointed. If you want to learn more, check out the official website.
  13. So I did one of these last year, and...wait, has it really already been a year since E3 2014? Because it doesn't feel like it. But indeed it has, and this year was chock full of surprises and megaton announcements topped off with a helping of new IPs and twists on the familiar. With what we saw, most of us probably wanted a place to gush about the things that really jumped out at us. This is my place to do just that. Doom Doom is an icon in the shooter world. THE icon, at that. It put first person shooters in the mainstream and covered the floor with demons and blood long before every other game started doing the same. The series was quiet after Doom 3, but it's coming back in a big, brutal way. Bucking the popular trends, Doom throws out cover, two-weapon inventories, and all the things that have limited us from just running up on some bad guys and shooting the crap out of them with a myriad of increasingly ridiculous weapons, and I'm absolutely stoked about that. FPS games have gotten far too sanitary and clingy to the player, and a game that throws you in with no regenerating health, no shields, and no mercy and expects you to circle-strafe your way to victory is the kick in the pants the genre needs right now. StarFox Zero Yes, I know there are actual screenshots, and no, I don't care. It's about time! While a new StarFox was mentioned at E3 2014, we didn't get any real info about it. Now that we've seen how the game looks and plays, I can't wait to get my paws on it. StarFox 64 has always been the high point of the series and one of my favorite games, and it's about time we get a new entry in the series that looks like it can match or even possibly outdo the high standards set by the N64 game. The fact that it's being at least partially developed by Platinum Games also has me excited, as Platinum has put together some quality action titles and I'll be happy to see them put those skills to work on bringing Fox and the crew to life on WiiU. The best part is that it's coming out this year, so it won't be long until we're doing barrel rolls and finding out what Wolf won't let us do this time. Horizon: Zero Dawn While I'm not a huge fan of Guerrilla's Killzone games, they were competent shooters with a lot of polish, so I'm confident they could deliver a new experience with great mechanics and amazing visuals. That experience is coming in the form of Horizon: Zero Dawn, with its concept of advanced tech vs. ancient weaponry painting a vivid world of clashing architectures and pitting the savage against the sleek. And robot dinosaurs! Don't forget the robot dinosaurs. Even if the gameplay doesn't look like much beyond a fairly standard third-person action-shooter at this point, I still want to dive into Horizon and get lost in the world of the Old Ones. Rare Replay Oh yes. I enjoy collections of past video games as much as anyone, but a collection of Rareware titles is one for the books. Bringing together some of their best games past and present, and also Grabbed by the Ghoulies (joke, I haven't played that game) Rare Replay is giving us some of the most treasured gaming experiences in one reasonably priced $30 package, along with some new features like challenges and achievements. I'm talking greats like RC Pro AM, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, Perfect Dark, my personal favorite underrated gem Jet Force Gemini, Battletoads Arcade, Viva Pinata, and more. Really, the only problem here is that I don't have an Xbox One, but the minute I get one, this collection is absolutely coming home with it. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam I love Mario & Luigi. I love Paper Mario. Would I love both of them together? You bet! This game looks to take the fun and frantic action-based combat and exploration of the Mario & Luigi series and fuse it with elements ripped straight out of Paper Mario in what's sure to be one of the most entertaining and satisfying Mario RPGs yet. While it may not be the Paper Mario sequel many were hoping for, it's still going to be a fantastic addition to the 3DS library and should be a huge treat for those who were less than impressed with Paper Mario: Sticker Star as the papercraft plumber gets back to the old ways of beating baddies. Shenmue III Hoo boy. Did anyone see this coming? If you're raising your hand right now, bring it down hard on your face, because you are a liar. After years upon years of hoping, begging, pleading, and praying, fans finally got what they never expected in the announcement that Shenmue III is finally happening, and through Kickstarter, you can make it happen. Naturally, the game is already fully funded on Kickstarter, so as a huge fan of the original game, I'm thrilled to know that after all these years I'll be able to hang with Ryo Hazuki once again when the game releases...whenever. The "estimated delivery" is December 2017, but those can usually be taken with a grain of salt. At any rate, whatever year this comes out is gonna be a huge year for gaming. Fallout 4 Oh man. Ohhhhh man. Ohmanohmanohmanohmanohmanohmanohman. FALLOUT 4. IS HAPPENING. THIS. FREAKING. YEAR!!!!!!!!! *deep breath* I'm okay. Yes, friends, loved ones, enemies, and people I don't have an opinion of one way or the other, the next trip to everyone's favorite Wasteland is coming much sooner than I could have anticipated. We saw the first reveal of Fallout 4 a bit before E3 started, and while that was exciting enough on its own, nothing, and I mean nothing could prepare me for the bombshell that Bethesda dropped during their first ever conference, when they announced that Fallout 4 is releasing on November 10, 2015. TWENTY FIFTEEN. THIS YEAR!!!!!!! THE HYPE IS SO REAL I CAN'T CONTAIN IT AHHHHHHHHHHHH (disclaimer for those who will inevitably say the game will miss its release date and slip into next year: shut up) Honorable Mentions: Killer instinct on PC Xbox boss Phil Spencer stopped by the PC Gaming Show to talk about Microsoft's plans for PC gaming, and casually mentioned that (former) Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct is headed to PC! No other info was given, but it's still exciting news for people like me who wanted to play it but don't have the system. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash Not the biggest announcement from Nintendo's lineup, but as a fan of the Mario Tennis games I couldn't be happier about this. I skipped on the 3DS Mario Tennis game since I don't play my handhelds much, so I'm glad Mario and co. are bringing the racket to WiiU. Just Cause 3 We've known about Just Cause 3 for a little while, which is why it just gets an honorable mention since it wasn't really revealed at E3 specifically. (yes, neither was Fallout 4, but that's Fallout 4) Anyway, I spent hours roaming around blowing stuff up in the lushly detailed world of Just Cause 2, and I'm looking forward to doing it again when Just Cause 3 comes out this year. Xenoblade Chronicles X This is another we've known about for a while, but the exciting news is that it was revealed to be coming out in December of this year. While I never played the original Xenoblade Chronicles, the footage I've seen of Xenoblade X still has me really excited to take this RPG for a spin. No Man's Sky I wrote about this last year, and, yep, I'm still super excited about it. Can we get a release date so I can whine about how far away it is? While that's not nearly everything at E3 I thought was worth getting excited over, it's a take on some of the things that really made me happy to be a gamer and excited for what's in store over the course of this year and 2016. Now that you've read my babbling, it's time to share your thoughts in the comments! What excited you the most? What disappointed you? What did you hope to see that didn't show? Whatever thoughts you have about E3 2015, let's hear them!
  14. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Mega Man Legacy Collection

    The announcement of Mega Man Legacy Collection elicited some very polarizing reactions from everyone here when it was first announced, much like the majority of social media and the Internet in general. For those unfamiliar, here“s a quick recap: this collection contains the first six Mega Man games, has a ton of extra features (more on that momentarily), and uses a brand new engine built to modernize these classic titles versus the simple ROM dump of the Virtual Console variants, and previously released anniversary collections. These games look and feel more faithful to the originals on current-gen consoles more than anything released before. I played through Heat Man“s stage in Mega Man 2 to get a feel for the game myself, but before that — I watched someone else play through Mega Man 1 in its entirety, while Frank Cifaldi from Digital Eclipse showed him (and me) everything the game could do. Here“s a look at the basic menu screen you see while you“re playing any given game in the Legacy Collection. It features save-states (you only get one), so you can save and load your progress at any time during gameplay. You can display the game in its original form, or in widescreen. If you pick 'Original,' you“re treated to frames featuring original Mega Man artwork, like something you“d see on the Super Game Boy, I suppose. You can turn said frame on or off, if you“d like. The game can display in one of three ways: If you turn the display filter off, you“ll get the most pristine visuals possible. If you select Monitor, you“ll see the game exactly like it would appear on Frank“s monitor setup at home. He mentioned fine-tuning it to suit the ideal setup for the game if you happened to be playing it on PC. The last option, 'TV,' displays the game as it would appear on a standard definition television back in 1991. I can“t stress enough, how perfect these games look and feel. I don“t often show it, but I“m kind of a retro gaming snob, at times. I know, for example, that NES games on the Wii U Virtual Console look like garbage, in terms of staying true to the original hardware. You can rest assured that Frank“s pride towards this Legacy Collection is absolutely warranted. I“m extremely happy with what I saw and played, and I suspect — if you approach these games as an achievement in video game archiving versus a cheap cash-in (because they“re not; I promise) — you will be happy as well. Mega Man Legacy Collection will release on PlayStation 4, XBox 1 and PC this summer. The Nintendo 3DS version of the game (which is being fine-tuned to meet that system“s specifications, hence the slight delay) will come a little later on, this winter. For more information, you can check out Digital Eclipse“s official website.
  15. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Rodea The Sky Soldier

    Rodea The Sky Soldier certainly has some interesting history. Many fans of Yuji Naka (creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, and games like NiGHTS Into Dreams, for those unfamiliar) are happy to see that this game exists, and is coming west sooner rather than later. I stopped by NISA“s booth and was able to get some hands-on time with the Wii U version of the game. For those unfamiliar with my Sonic Team-related history — suffice to say I have a history with Sonic, and I“ve had more than one run-in with NiGHTS Into Dreams in my day. I“m bringing up those two games because Rodea certainly should ignite familiar feelings to those who have played any Sonic games, and especially NiGHTS. The player controls Rodea, a robot who lost his memories and was found by a girl named Ion, and the game's story seems like a mixture of both heavy and comical. I got to see some opening scenes, as well as play through the game“s first stage in its entirety. There“s an old man who“s suspicious of Rodea, an evil empire, some fun dialogue... it“s all consistent with your average Sonic game, really, perhaps skewing a little darker at times. I think folks familiar with Naka“s work will see some of the tropes Rodea The Sky Soldier follows coming from a mile away. The gameplay... really worries me, though, if I“m being honest. I tried to get used to it, but I couldn“t really wrap my head around it. Maybe it“s a learning curve thing that I“ll get better at as time goes on, or maybe it“s a type of gameplay I“m not necessarily comfortable with? I don“t really have the heart to cut down a game in a preview context, when I“m playing it in a convention setting. I can, however, explain and offer a word of caution. Rather than controlling Rodea himself, it“s more like you control a reticle that, when you confirm its direction, makes Rodea go to the spot. I“m just not a fan of the “point and then [he] goes” style of gameplay. Pointing somewhere amidst action just doesn“t gel well with me. So I can“t call the gameplay bad, so much as say it... wasn“t what I was expecting. If you wanted full control over Rodea, you won“t get it. You can make him boost into things--and trust me, there are numerous things to collect, and each level has a bunch of numbers attached to an overall ranking system, such as completion time. But I feel like Rodea The Sky Soldier was too confusing for me. Y pushes you up in the air, A only pushes you further up if you“re already in the air? You can“t harm enemies while you“re standing on the ground with a punch attack, or something? Indeed, if you“re on the ground, it seemed to me you were virtually defenseless. It all just feels rather restrictive, in my opinion. It certainly wasn“t the best parts of NiGHTS. I“m not necessarily saying to avoid Rodea at all. Its story seems good enough, and it“s certainly very pretty and put together. Perhaps these words, in summary, are telling everyone who wants to see more from Rodea to go into it with a completely different set of expectations than I had. Don“t expect to fly as freely as you like. Just let the reticle guide your way. You can check here to learn more about the game.
  16. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Heart Forth, Alicia

    As much as I dislike using the term "Metroidvania," I“ve become an obnoxious, snobby connoisseur of the genre. I“ve played bite-sized experiences like Xeodrifter and Cave Story, as well as much more in depth ones like Axiom Verge and Ori and the Blind Forest. If you“re familiar with my work on Game Podunk outside of Individual Values, you“re probably highly cognizant of the fact that I“ve analyzed what makes these kinds of games good and bad, and what I“m personally looking for versus what other people who approach the genre could find interesting. During my time at E3 2015, I came across Heart Forth, Alicia - A Metroidvania RPG when I was looking for something else in Sony“s booth, but I“m rather glad I found it when I did. The most important element of any game with “RPG” in the title is its story. E3 is definitely not the ideal place to judge a game“s script and truly take everything in, but I have a few things of note to address here. The way characters interact with each other reminded me of Golden Sun. Alicia and other important characters have beautifully designed faces accompanying their dialogue, while minor characters have none. And a character indicates a particular emotion with a tiny little speech balloon that emotes from them with a sigh, or fear, or something to that effect. As the story goes, Alicia is sent to undergo a trial, then a piece of the sky falls. There“s an air of mystery and intrigue in the demo that definitely has me hungry for more. Characters seem to mesh well together. Alicia doesn“t seem like a particularly demure female protagonist, and that“s nice too. In terms of presentation (outside of dialogue and more concerning the towns and environments themselves), I“m reminded a lot of Cave Story. Character designs are varied and have personality, but are tiny. I faced handfuls of enemy types instead of the game just sticking with one or two kinds in a dungeon. There were the common enemy types you see in games like this, such as slimes and bats, but every once in a while you“d get a snail-like enemy that switched sides on you so you couldn“t attack it constantly, or an enemy where the only way to kill them was to whack their own projectile back at them. Part of what makes a "Metroidvania" game interesting are the types of enemies it has, and Heart Forth, Alicia has a full buffet of enemy types. Before moving onto the fundamentals, the boss character I faced was... a duck-like creature that burrowed underground and eventually had a spikey shell that moved so fast, it was like Sonic the Hedgehog blasting up walls and across the ceiling. It almost did me in, but I survived. Score one for me, score zero for the... burrowing duck... spikey shelled... almost kinda cute... creature. And now for the most important part. How open does this open world game feel? Is there appropriate signposting, e.g. are you able to tell when you“re not meant to explore an area yet besides being obliterated by an enemy that“s obviously too strong for you? How do the attacks and other mechanics fair in an extremely overpopulated genre? Let“s address these one by one. The dungeon I explored had plenty of secrets. Solving a puzzle often veered me away from my main objective and required some extra sleuthing down a path that was completely hidden. There were plenty of switches to throw a bag you would otherwise cast aside as meaningless onto that led to cool extras that were easy to miss for most. Some more puzzles operated with box-pushing mechanics. I wouldn“t necessarily say any of the level design is ground-breaking or revolutionary, but it“s certainly competent and entertaining. I experienced three types of attacks in the demo — a soft and charged close-combat attack, as well as eventually using the Wind Spell to control a brief ball of wind that I mostly used to press switches I couldn“t normally reach. I only saw one puzzle that used the Wind Spell before the demo ended, so I can“t yet assess how clever weapons are used to actually solve puzzles in the game. All in all, though, Heart Forth, Alicia is yet another solid "Metroidvania" game I'm highly anticipating. You should definitely keep an eye out for if you“re looking to scratch that itch. It has its own identity in a genre that is certainly not without its staples. What will make this game unique is its world, characters and plot moreso than its gameplay, I think. But there“s nothing wrong with that, in my eyes. Alonso Martin is the only mind behind this game; he did everything. Does he have what it takes to outdo his contemporaries? The demo certainly has my interest piqued. Heart Forth, Alicia will release on PlayStation 4, Vita, PC and Wii U sometime in 2016. Check out the developer“s official website and Twitter for more!
  17. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: The Legend of Legacy

    Two of my favorite games of all time, for various reasons, are Final Fantasy Legend 3 — otherwise known as SaGa 3 — and Chrono Trigger. The Legend of Legacy, recently announced for the West courtesy of ATLUS, combines the talent of Masato Kato (Chrono Trigger“s writer) with the developers and composer of the SaGa games. That“s my equivalent of peanut butter and chocolate. I was more than a little excited when the localization was confirmed, and I almost jumped for joy when I saw it on the show floor. I sat down with the game for about twenty-five minutes and, thankfully, I got to play from the beginning instead of being thrown in the middle somewhere. The game introduces you to combat and immediately stresses the importance of battle formations. Unlike most RPGs I“ve come across lately, Legend of Legacy has actual mechanics in place depending on what formation you choose. At the beginning, I could only see two: one that puts characters in a defensive stance, and one that has them all attack like normal. But apparently these formations are so versatile that you will eventually be able to create your own that adjust various battle mechanics to your liking. Other than that, it plays like most traditional turn-based RPGs, with a few twists. You can attack and use skills, but pressing the d-pad right or left allows you to switch the weapon you“re using on a turn-by-turn basis. Want to smack an enemy with your bare hands? You can do so! Want to switch between your gigantic sword or the other blade you found wandering the map? You“re free to do that too. I could see certain weapons being advantageous over others — like not being stuck with a fire-based weapon against an enemy that“s strong against fire — because you can switch, and that's refreshing to me. Your HP restores after each battle, so there“s no stress and you can grind easily and efficiently. Combat felt very fluid and entertaining, overall. I feel like once I learn more about Formations and how battles can be manipulated to suit your preferences, I“ll have a better grasp on what makes this concept so unique. But for now, it certainly has potential to be something special. In Legend of Legacy, you...quite literally, create the map as you move, similar to how Bastion did it. The bottom screen is devoted to cartography — you can get a rare item or skill for completing 100% of a map. Battles are not random. Enemies are persistent about pursuing you. The boss I faced was very difficult, but I managed to survive in the end. And hey, what little I saw of the plot (I didn“t want to spoil myself, so I skipped major scenes) seemed entertaining. This is definitely a game you should look out for. Once again, The Legend of Legacy is coming to North America this Fall, courtesy of ATLUS. You can check out the official website for more information.
  18. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Tearaway Unfolded

    When Tearaway came to the PlayStation Vita in late 2013, I had no idea how hard I would fall in love with it. It“s a game I hold to such high standards, a game that means so much to me that I wrote a lengthy piece quite some time ago that tries to get to the bottom of why I feel it“s so special. The world Media Molecule created felt like it was mine. In fact, I remember the game asking me to take a picture of my world. Rather than take a picture of my living room or the outside, I answered that request by taking a picture of my girlfriend. That picture of her started showing up in books devoted to the study of the sun — of what Tearaway considered my world! That“s the kind of experience that brings people closer to you to watch and see the crazy things Media Molecule is capable of. I feel like that“s one of many reasons why I“m excited about Tearaway Unfolded. It delivers the same “message” as the Vita version (plus brand new content, too), but it does so in different ways — ways much easier to share with people thanks to it being on PlayStation 4. Before I discuss these console-specific features, here“s a bit for those completely unfamiliar with Tearaway. This is a game created by the folks who made Little Big Planet, so you can expect the same care and attention to detail, in terms of its overall presentation. It tells the story of a message — Iota or Atoi — an actual letter given form and motivation thanks to You, an omniscient force helping it along. It“s a platforming game that“s built on “breaking the fourth wall”, so to speak. Interactions between the world of Tearaway Unfolded and You, the player, are absolutely vital. I was worried those interactions, which rely heavily on the Vita“s hardware specifically, wouldn“t translate so well on PlayStation 4. But, by the end of the E3 2015 demo, I“m confident the game will leave everyone who played the original game on Vita feeling just as happy as they did before, despite some different approaches. And if this is your first time ever playing Tearaway? I“m honestly all the more excited for you. There are three main components that stood out in the demo, and all three of them heavily involved the PlayStation 4 controller. The first involved a platform that seemed beyond my reach, so I swiped the touch-screen on the controller and made a gust of wind blow the paper down towards me. After the wind left, the platform returned back the way it was, and I could access a new area. When I was ambushed by a group of enemies that Atoi wasn“t strong enough to defeat on her own, the game prompted her to throw a rock at me — which ended up in my controller (there were indeed sounds of a crumpled up rock to add immersion, too) — so I could aim and then chuck it back at the enemies with much more force than Atoi could manage herself. After adventuring for a while, Atoi reached an ice cave where my Guiding Light — the LED light on the controller, mind you — had the power to melt the ice blocking her path forward. Those are just three features specific to the PlayStation 4. Others are indeed faithfully translated from the Vita, like drawing and cutting out shapes upon a citizen“s request. When an elk asked me to make it snow, I obliged by drawing a snowflake using the controller's touch-pad, then using the Guiding Light to pick it up and show the world what I could do. The one thing I was curious about was how the game would feel without the use of the Vita“s camera, but the game does indeed use the PlayStation Eye (which was available to me for the demo), so I“m not able to accurately assess how the world would feel without a camera for further immersion. Still, even without some of the hardware-specific details that made the Vita version so special to me, I am now fully confident that Tearaway Unfolded will show both new and returning fans how much fun the PlayStation 4“s world can be. It will be available on September 8th. If you want to hear even more before then, be sure to check out the game's official website.
  19. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: SteamWorld Heist

    Following up a successful game probably feels intimidating most of the time, especially if you“re a small development team like Image & Form. If you“ve played and enjoyed SteamWorld Dig, you“re probably expecting me to use certain key words and phrases when describing SteamWorld Heist, like “it“s more of what you love about the first game” and "the gameplay is very similar." I invite you to toss all those precognitions out the window. SteamWorld Heist isn“t an exploration-based platformer at all, but rather a turn-based strategy game mixed with elements of an action game. I got a chance to sit down with Image & Form CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson at E3 and spent a good thirty minutes immersing myself in a whole new world, and a new gameplay style that couldn“t be more different from the game that came before it. SteamWorld Heist opens with Captain Piper, who needs to save her small squad of space pirates who have been captured. My immediate instincts were to use the control stick to move my character, but I noticed it caused the camera to move instead. So I guess the first thing I can say about SteamWorld Heist is that you have a full view of the level around you to carefully time your movements, and that“s a very good thing. Character movement is limited, and you can see a line indicating a path where you can walk. SteamWorld Heist is a lot like Codename S.T.E.A.M. in that respect. You can only move your character(s) so far before your turn is up, so if you see an enemy--take cover or shoot it down. Thankfully, Image & Form are very fair with how they“ve implemented their system. Things you can do (such as picking up an item, taking cover) are clearly marked by appropriate symbols that you see as you plan your path forward. And all enemy combat is halted while you plan your attack; you won“t have to worry about being accidentally shot or feeling rushed to plan the best move. Speaking of planning the best move — when you go to take a shot at an enemy, you“re shown the full path the bullet will take. Your shots can ricochet off walls to hit enemies, sometimes affect the environment around you (such as shooting a wire to make an area burst into flames), and more! One of the fun, small things you“ll be able to do with SteamWorld Heist is find wacky ways to take out enemies. Whether you blast an enemy in one shot by aiming for their head, or take a few tries at them, how they die is pretty satisfying. This isn“t a game that just lets enemies fade away or disappear. This is the kind of game that lets your robotic foes kind of burst into a million pieces. They even leave their hat behind if you knock their head clean off their shoulders! And speaking of hats — there“s a hat compendium in the game, as well as extra characters, items and other stuff to collect. With that in mind, I“d say this game is just as much about enjoying the levels around you and trying to collect everything as it is about reaching the end. The attention to detail is consistent with SteamWorld Dig. If one of the things you liked about Dig was its charm and aesthetic, that“s one thing you can count on. I never would have expected SteamWorld Heist to be what it is — a turn-based strategy action-game. But I“m happy with the direction that Image & Form have taken with their next game. Even if the strategy genre intimidates you, I think that Heist has a fair enough take on the genre to feel welcoming towards everyone. Image & Form are bound to be looking at another success story here. If you“re looking for more information, you should check out the game“s website. It“s still planned for a 2015 release on all current gen platforms.
  20. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2015 Hands-On: Star Fox Zero

    Perfecting my high scores on Star Fox 64 was one of my favorite parts of being a kid. It“s one of the few hobbies I still partake in, and often, as an adult. I wanted to love every game that came after, whether we“re talking Star Fox Adventures, Assault, or Command. But nothing beats the game I grew up with. When Nintendo announced Star Fox Zero, my eyes lit up. It definitely seemed to embrace the fact that it was made with Star Fox 64 in mind wholeheartedly. And it borrows more than one concept from the fan favorite, too. But even though Miyamoto“s wording during the Digital Event may have been confusing, it“s definitely not a remake of the Nintendo 64 classic. It differs fundamentally in its sense of design (more on that in a second), and if it does match 64's place in the proverbial canon, it“s definitely taken some liberties with that game“s plot. The demo was a sizable chunk that had three phases. Phase one is the on-rails Star Fox action we all know and love. When Slippy had an enemy on his tail, I thought, “Okay, maybe this is a remake.” But then Falco — instead of being ambushed — suggested we take the back way to reach the tower where General Pepper needed to be protected. That definitely didn“t happen when I was a kid. After that, the game switched to All Range Mode and I was tasked with defeating ten enemies, then stopping a handful more on the ground from reaching the tower. After completing that phase, a boss attacked me. The boss could be defeated in one of two ways: either blast apart all four of its major components (this looked very satisfying, by the way), or fly inside the boss after destroying one of its components, then using your Walker mode to shoot the boss from inside the core. Here“s the thing about that, before I even go in-depth. One way, which I saw someone in front of me do, featured the words 'Mission Complete.' The other, core-destroying one, featured the words 'Mission Accomplished.' As fans of Star Fox 64 know, that word choice is most definitely indicative of branching paths, in terms of new levels that can be accessed each time you play the game. The game controls like a dream... mostly. You control the Arwing itself with the left control stick on the Gamepad. And the right control stick does things like brake (pull it back), boost (pull it forwards), and barrel roll (press either direction twice). Delegating those actions to the second stick on the Gamepad feels natural, and is a humongous improvement over any Star Fox air combat I“ve played lately. Laser-fire uses the triggers. You“ll feel super comfortable playing, I can guarantee that. If you press the A button, you can switch to the Walker. It“s kind of reminiscent of Landmaster controls if you do it on rails, insofar as you can hover upwards to shoot enemies that are hard to reach from the ground. In All Range Mode, you can move freely with it. It was fun to experiment with both forms of travel in all range mode, particularly when I was protecting the tower from these enemies that stuck to the ground. Sometimes it was easier to pick them off from the air, other times it felt beneficial to hit the ground as the Walker first, then hover slightly above them and snipe them with a lock-on shot. Just a few cautionary notes. One: Since the Gamepad is heavily involved for precise shooting (some enemies or parts of enemies are tiny and require precision), there is no map in All Range Mode... at least in the demo. I foresee things becoming slightly problematic if you“re trying to protect something or someone from enemies, and you have no clue where they are. I saw more than one person fail the “Protect General Pepper” phase because they genuinely couldn“t tell where an enemy was. The other grievance: gyroscopic controls sometimes messed me up. The woman demoing the game could tell this wasn“t my first rodeo. When the Arwing would face the opposite direction I wanted it to, or get all screwed up directions-wise, she told me I could correct the gyro on the Gamepad by pushing in the left stick. The fact that gyro needs to be consistently calibrated or corrected could lead to gameplay flaws if it“s not fine-tuned by the time the final game releases. Hopefully it will be though. It has everything you want, as a Star Fox diehard. The hit screen is exactly like the Nintendo 64 game, so I can only assume there will be medals. Some characters say the same lines as they did in that game. In terms of the game“s identity, I am wildly confused and need to see and hear more beyond Miyamoto“s words that it“s “not quite the fifth game in the series, and not quite a remake of Star Fox 64”. But in terms of gameplay, visuals, music and more... it“s everything you“ve wanted Star Fox to be since the 64 days. It could use some fixing up, but I guarantee it“s going to be one of those must-own titles this holiday. You can check here to see even more about the game.
  21. It“s certainly no secret that I love Mutant Mudds. And it“s also no secret that I“m highly anticipating Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, a game built "for super players." Ever since the game was initially announced, Renegade Kid promised to take Mudds veterans to task, while introducing more than one new twist in the gameplay. Once I heard Jools Watsham was going to be at E3, I decided I would play through the original Mutant Mudds and see if I could 100% the game during my initial flight into Los Angeles. I“m happy to report I succeeded. Rest assured, I am someone who has effectively mastered that game. And Mutant Mudds: Super Challenge most definitely chewed me up and spit me out. Think of this game as the Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels of Mutant Mudds. The gameplay starts off naturally difficult, because it assumes players have at least some experience with the first game. Mutant Mudds teaches you Renegade Kid“s level design conventions. Super Challenge shows you ways those conventions can be turned on their head sometimes, often leaving you to curse out loud at the game“s tendency to be a little mean. The game picks up right where the first left off. After gathering absolutely everything in the first game, Max says he“s going to go off on his own to investigate some "new intel." His new quest brings him to a brand new hub world that feels absolutely refreshing and much more open than the first game, as though you're progressing towards some larger purpose rather than just completing levels and cleaning up muddy pests. I played one later level from each world, including the final one, as well as facing one of many bosses. So, what“s changed? First and foremost, the diamonds you collect in each level as you progress to the end are much more cleverly hidden, or in particularly cruel spots. The first game sort of treated these collectibles as a path leading to the end of the level. In the case of Super Challenge, though, I can almost guarantee you won“t get all 100 on your first go...either because they“re too tricky to get to without a challenge, or because you“ll miss them at first, since you“re too focused on the chaos around you. The overall presentation is much improved as well. The ice glistens with a sparkle effect. The game“s 3D now places Max behind clouds in the game“s sky levels instead of simply placing him on the foreground. Kind of feels like a slight nod to Mega Man. Level designs often follow various themes now, such as one of later ones being a mirrored reflection of itself that has you approach it from both the left and right sides. There are handfuls of small touches that will make you appreciate how much love Renegade Kid put into the experience. It really does feel like a stepping stone to Mutant Mudds 2. I wouldn“t be surprised if many of the stylings of this game made it into the sequel. What impressed me the most, though, was the boss I fought. Every third level in the game is a ghost level, like those found in Mutant Mudds Deluxe. And the boss I fought...was also a ghost! That meant you could only harm it (and the other enemies around it) with a ghost shot item limited to only ten uses. Hitting the boss was easy. But getting to him... ergo, defeating the many ghost Mudds that stood between me and the boss that involve tricky platforming to avoid — was another matter. Most boss battles would have you just shoot something until it dies. The boss battle I experienced cleverly meshed tricky Mutant Mudds platforming with combat. Want to take up the challenge for yourself? There's a demo of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge on the eShop right now! The game will be released this summer. Do check out Renegade Kid“s official site for more information on this game, Dementium Remastered, and more!
  22. Going into E3 this year, I was fairly confident Nintendo would announce something Zelda-related at their Digital Event besides Hyrule Warriors for 3DS. I wanted it to be Link“s ReAwakening, of course... but I wasn“t going to rule out other options, especially if they lifted from the engine created for A Link Between Worlds. I“m rather disappointed the game didn“t stick with the "90's Link” aesthetic, but I“m proud to report that TriForce Heroes is everything you expect it to be... assuming you“ve played Four Swords Adventures or the Four Swords Anniversary Edition for Nintendo DSi. Triforce Heroes is a multiplayer Zelda game that focuses on co-operative play. It lifts most of its mechanics directly from A Link Between Worlds while also adding new components we don“t know much about yet, like an emphasis on fashion, plus a few other bells and whistles I“ll get to momentarily. The demo was a short romp that tasked me and two other (human) players with clearing only a few rooms by solving puzzles, fighting enemies together, and defeating a boss. It feels a little different than Four Swords insofar as combat often requires the Links to stack on top of one another in order like a totem pole to reach an enemy“s weak spot. Sometimes I would be the feet that pivoted and faced the top player towards the enemy that he or she would shoot...and sometimes I was the shooter. The gameplay is very solid in this respect; stacking Links is as simple as a press of the A button when one is near. You can toss one off you just as quick. It“s virtually seamless. Some of the things we did include shooting switches with arrows at different elevations, so they required the Links to stack and work together to defeat enemies that also weren“t always reachable with just one person alone. And there were parts where all three Links needed to be present, like pushing a super heavy box together to avoid spears as you progressed forward. The boss — an electrified monster — first let you hit it at surface level, then squished itself in to reach heights that required the Links to stack. TriForce Heroes definitely pushes co-op; that“s for sure. The only issue could be communication. I wasn“t able to get clarification, but given what the touch screen is used for... I don“t think voice chat will be activated for this game, online. The fact that it goes online is cool all by itself, but...you“re only able to communicate with other players using little Link avatars with cheery, sad, or pensive faces on the bottom screen. I often had to instruct my peers as to what to do, or someone had to clue me in when I was a certain part of the totem and got confused because so much was happening at once. It should be fine if you and your Zelda Faithful friends all react and play together, but... if there“s a difference in skill, I feel like there could be potential for a communication breakdown. All in all, TriForce Heroes definitely feels like a decent package. It should be fun to experience new co-operative twists on the already-established Four Swords formula, and even better to take them online! The game will be available this fall. Check Nintendo“s official website for more information.
  23. Whew, it's been quite a ride so far, hasn't it? Even though E3 actually officially begins tomorrow when the expo floor opens, most of the flood of announcements occurs on Monday, making this arguably the biggest day of the week for anyone watching from home, followed by the remaining conferences on Tuesday. And with that, here are a few random thoughts from me about the day's announcements. Microsoft's showing was fairly solid, although perhaps not quite as surprising as last year. Their biggest revelation was the announcement of Xbox 360 backwards compatibility, which is great service by them, but I don't know if it's quite enough to get people up in arms with excitement. Rare's offerings were definitely not expected. The new pirate game Sea of Thieves looks pretty rad, and it's great to see them working on something that isn't casual or Kinect-related for once. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that the Banjo-Threeie rumors ended up being false, though. Also, the announcement of Rare Replay was something I did not expect at all, but actually is sort of an incentive for me to get an Xbox One eventually. There's incredible value there, and ironically, it almost pains me to see Microsoft selling the collection at a price where each game is essentially a dollar apiece; even the bigger, Xbox 360 ones. Star Wars Battlefront essentially saved EA's conference from being a complete bore. It's almost ridiculous how good and fun that game looks. And though I don't quite remember seeing Star Destroyers in the atmosphere during The Battle of Hoth, it was a cool visual addition nonetheless. The battlefield in Star Wars has never looked or felt more alive; November can't come soon enough. Ubisoft didn't show too much that I was actually interested in, though it was good to see fans getting another Oblivion-developed South Park game. Sadly, it wasn't too surprising to me that Beyond Good & Evil 2 didn't show up; at this point, I'm beginning to wonder if it'll ever happen. There was one anonymous developer working on it about a year or two back that mentioned that work was progressing slowly on it, but that it wouldn't be out until 2016/2017, so perhaps we still have a year or two left before we can totally give up on seeing it. Who knows, perhaps Ubisoft will pull a 'Last Guardian' with it sometime then. Sony... well done, Sony. They pulled off what was perhaps the biggest bombshells (three of them!!) since perhaps back in 2004. To be honest, I'm rather shocked that so many people didn't believe The Last Guardian still exists; both Sony and Fumito Ueda have acknowledged within the last year that they were still on the project and that certain recent elements have escalated the game's development, so I can only assume these people are either jaded or weren't following the game closely enough; maybe both. Also, what's especially interesting to me is that the game is seemingly unchanged from its initial debut some 8 years ago. I was almost certain it would be radically different at this point due to the extreme delays and vaporware status its had for so long. The Final Fantasy VII Remake was legitimately shocking, if only because Square Enix was staunch in saying that they wouldn't do it in years' past. By and large, this is an amazing development, and speaks well of Square's current leadership and direction. Between this, Final Fantasy XV beginning to look like it might come out soon, and Kingdom Hearts 3's development continuing nicely, there's reason to believe Square is actually listening to fans, and I imagine they'll begin to thrive as a company because of it. I never was into Shenmue, but I can appreciate its popularity and legacy, so it was also pretty surprising to hear that Shenmue 3 is officially maybe happening if the Kickstarter is successful (it will be). It'll be interesting to see if SEGA will put out a remastered HD collection of the first two games in order to generate hype and get players up to speed before it eventually comes out. Uncharted is something I still need to play (all three games, actually), but holy cow, that Uncharted 4 live demo was something else. Naughty Dog is a master at scripting action-filled moments like that, and the fact that they managed to give the illusion that you were in an open world (but not really) was also pretty impressive. Personally, I can't wait to see what Nintendo and Square Enix have in store later today. What surprises might we find? After today, I honestly can't say; just about anything is possible. What were your thoughts on Day 1 of the E3 press conferences?
  24. Jason Clement

    Sea of Thieves is Rare's Newest Game

    Aside from a collection of its older games, it was also announced at Microsoft's E3 Press Conference today that Rare working on a brand new game called Sea of Thieves, which is a first-person, multiplayer pirate game for Xbox One. From the short trailer that was shown, it appears the visuals are a bit more stylized than realistic (much like Valve's Team Fortress 2), and will feature exploration of islands, ship battles, treasure looting, walking the plank, and much more. Check out the trailer below and see for yourself: Are you interested in checking out Sea of Thieves?
  25. The Nintendo World Championships 2015 certainly ended with quite a bang today in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, the final game that closed out the tournament turned out to be the game previously known as Mario Maker, which now has "Super" added to the title. During the last round of the NWC 2015, spectators were treated to a number of levels that were represented in each of the game's four different visual styles that were previously revealed last year as well as a slew of new bits of info. It was revealed that enemies will be able to grow larger just like Mario if they come into contact with a mushroom, and that all enemies, items, and obstacles will represented in the four distinct styles. One example we saw of this was Bowser's flying clown copter being represented in the 8-bit style during a level that was played using the Super Mario Bros. 3 aesthetic. Also intriguing is the use of a few new "hats" as it were; NWC 2015 finalists Cosmos and John Numbers made use of a buzzy beetle shell (and later, a spiny shell) that became sort of a hard hat that would protect Mario from certain obstacles. I'm sure there's plenty more that we haven't seen yet as well. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information about Super Mario Maker later this week at E3 2015. Are you excited for Super Mario Maker after seeing it demoed during the NWC 2015 final matches?