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  1. The original Gravity Rush was easily one of my favorite Vita releases. Sure, it was recently ported to PS4 as Gravity Rush Remastered, and, in doing so, lost its former exclusivity along with many other Vita releases. That said, there is something really special about Gravity Rush's original debut with its charming aesthetic on the Vita's gorgeous OLED screen and basically an entire game centered around, pardon me, the free-falling rush of controlled gravity. It certainly was not flawless, but it was ripe with potential and left many fans pining for a sequel after the original's end . Of course, a high-budget sequel directly to Vita was no longer in the cards now that Sony has pretty much abandoned the PS Vita in favor of the far more successful PS4 home console. Thankfully, Sony did not forget to make Gravity Rush 2 while shifting entirely to PS4, and though it is not certainly where I would ever expect to play it, I am glad that Gravity Rush 2 seems to remember what made the first title good and clearly improving upon it. What I liked about the demo is that gravity defying heroine, Kat, does not seem to have lost any of her former skills whatsoever. The tutorial refresher shows off all of her former abilities from melee attacks to being able to levitate/toss objects and everything controls a bit tighter than it once was. In particular, her mid-air dive kick that was a little bit too necessary in the original seems more accurate. Where Gravity Rush 2 starts drawing the differences is by making the world more lively, They amplify the already great cel-shaded aesthetic to the point where local NPCs are noticeably more character-based in the bustling marketplace they show off, which is refreshing to see after how empty and constantly terrified NPCs of the original were. Though, they still seem skittish when Kat uses her powers. This carries over to the side quests as well, which seem to actually have cutscenes and varied mission design this time around. In the original Gravity Rush, side quests were little more than time trials without any context. In the demo, however, they have you meet an eccentric delivery man whom has his cargo stolen by pirates. So, Kat zips around and flies after them only to be attacked by monsters. Beyond her standard attack kit, they give Kat a little taste of her entirely new crowd-clearing special moves as well as completely new fighting styles. The fighting style they show off in particular is called 'Lunar Style,' which seems more capable of dealing with aerial foes and also has her literally teleport as her connects her flurry of kicks. Admittedly, I did not see much more beyond that on the show floor as it seems to have had like a ten-minute time limit in place. Which is a real shame as the stuff right after seemed much more exciting with entirely new enemies and more bombastic attack skills (I envy those who saw more behind closed doors). But it was nice to see key criticisms of the original game getting addressed in Gravity Rush 2 for however brief my time was with it. And, for as little of the main story they showed off, there clearly looks to be familiar faces from first release making a quick return which fans will likely appreciate. Playing Gravity Rush 2 on the show floor was quite surreal. For one reason, it was because it is on PS4, where I would not have even considered possibility for a sequel a few years ago with a former Vita exclusive. The other reason is that I still feel like I don't know a whole lot about Gravity Rush 2, despite the final release supposedly happening by the end of the year. Gravity Rush 2 is flowing with potential by feeling clearly familiar in the eye-catching aesthetic while at the same time looks to go out of its way to address criticisms with the original's gameplay by adding more depth and variety overall. I can only hope that they upcoming title ultimately goes above and beyond expectations, but much like the original I expect to enjoy my time with the final release of Gravity Rush 2 regardless.
  2. Welcome to the seventy-first week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed the last one, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. If you're reading this on the day it's published, Shaymin should be available via the Nintendo Network. It'll be live from July 1st through 24th. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Interface These past few weeks have been filled with all kinds of surprise twists. I“ll get to E3 2016 in a moment since just one aspect of is what I“ll be focusing on. But after I got back from Los Angeles, I caught one heck of a severe cold [hence my absence last week], and then... three Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games were released on the Wii U Virtual Console. Europe already had Red & Blue Rescue Team, the first games in the series. But we got Explorers of Sky ahead of them -- you know, the one I said was the pinnacle of the series both in a previous IV and in my Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon review. Since I replayed the entirety of Sky“s main story and Special Episodes while I was in repair -- next week, I“ll talk about the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series quite a bit. For now, let“s go back to the main series. There are plenty of to talk about. Heck, they even revealed . And Battle Royale seems like it“s going to turn the competitive metagame on its head once again. But my biggest takeaway from the 45 minute “Zelda distraction” from Nintendo“s inaugural Treehouse Live stream for this year“s E3 is how welcoming and crazy-good the new UI feels in Pokémon Sun & Moon. Barrel can attest, ”cause he watched it right along with me: I was over the moon about how cleaned up the menus looked in battle, and how much more accessible they“ve made attacks, typing and more. I will never not fight for making the games I love friendlier to newcomers. I“m the type to consider adding Easy Mode to Dark Souls and other “controversial” fodder. Thankfully, though, Pokémon“s barrier of entry is relatively tame. Key items like the Experience Share (current gen) have made the grind easier than it“s ever been, which helps more people finish what they start. Everything“s become rhythmical and increasingly easier to bear over time, because -- as the adage goes -- it“s always someone“s first ever Pokémon game. Still, the Pokémon series“ largest barrier is... that there are now over 721 Pokémon. We might break 800 with every new critter Sun & Moon introduce! So let me be the first to say: it“s about dang time that they“ve rolled out a UI that accounts for things like what type an enemy Pokémon is, what move that you select will be most effective against it, and even how your specific stats have been lowered by altering moves like “Growl” and Abilities like “Intimidate”. There“s no more uncertainty when it comes to that. If you“re the type, you can literally stack numbers against your opponent, to see who will come out on top! Gosh, it feels so utterly refreshing. I“ve been waiting for them to make cosmetic changes like this to the battle menu since at least Diamond & Pearl. The battle menus aren“t all that“s improved, though. Zeroing in on your character when a trainer is near will stop from being surprised when a battle initiates, and make for the younger crowd playing these games to have an easier time of it. Indeed, I“m quite interested in the narrative, for the Sun & Moon Legendaries, how Magearna factors in to all this, the QR code stuff, and more. But my single biggest takeaway from all the E3 news and footage is that Pokémon as a whole just got a little more welcoming. The changes appear subtle to most people, but I for one am elated. It“s been a long time coming!
  3. It“s not quite Kingdom Hearts III, but 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is the closest series fans are going to get to the real thing, for a while. I“m not sure where to begin when trying to describe this game (particularly its naming conventions) to folks trying to come into the series for the first time. Suffice to say: newcomers should probably pick up the two prior “HD ReMIX”es that came out on the PlayStation 3 to not feel entirely lost when playing this one. Because this collection in particular is going to, collectively, help set up the stage for the third game in the series -- hence its odd numbering conventions being wildly close to “3.” Enter: Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -- A Fragmentary Passage. Hereafter, I“ll just refer to it as 0.2. It“s the part of this collection that features brand new content that fans have never seen before, that aims to tell the story of how Keyblade Master Aqua wound up... wherever she“ll be in Kingdom Hearts III. That portion of the game, along with gooey graphically upgraded Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, was playable on the show floor at E3. Since that“s the part that“s new and exciting... without further ado: As far as story goes, there wasn“t a lot revealed in the 30 minute gameplay demo. You do see the meaning behind the spoilery bits of , so I won“t tell you what happens. But Aqua is isolated, and spends the game talking to herself (and thus addressing the player). She“s very much reflecting on the passage of time -- since the point of the demo is to reconstruct the destroyed path to the Castle of Dreams [Cinderella“s World] in the Realm of Darkness by literally turning back time. The player, as Aqua, is tasked with collecting 5 gears that turn back the big clock on the castle through a very much ravaged town. Bits of buildings are floating in the air, making for a visual sense that Kingdom Hearts fans might recognize from The End of the World from the first game, for example. The scenery was most definitely interesting, and should make for a bit of a different twist on conventional Kingdom Hearts “worlds”. But, the demo lacked a map or any real sign-posting, so finding where the dang gears were took me a long-while. In the meantime, I re-familiarized myself with Aqua“s combat, which hasn“t changed or evolved much since Birth by Sleep. The new visual flairs were definitely there when it came to how Aqua used spells and what have you, but controlling her felt largely the same as it did in Birth by Sleep. It“s definitely the enemies and environments that were new. The boss of the demo was a Shadow Tornado like you see in . There wasn“t any new music showcased in the demo, and I“m not even sure if the featured songs -- " ," " ," and "Aqua“s Theme" -- were re-recorded at all. Where the game shines is definitely its visuals. My gracious, they“ve gone above and beyond to make Kingdom Hearts games look as pretty as Uncharted 4 or any of PlayStation“s “visual masterpieces”. You“ll definitely like what you see. Ultimately, if the idea of “more Aqua gameplay” excites you, this particular portion of the newest Kingdom Hearts collection will meet or exceed your expectations. I can“t really judge the final product based on a slightly-larger-than-normal “Premium Showcase” meant for E3 audiences -- but I can say that more Birth by Sleep is probably not a bad thing, if you“re a fan of the series. It seems like the plot may involve a lot of monologues, though. Get ready for a little soul-searching. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue will be available exclusively for the PlayStation 4 this December. We“ll offer more information as it comes. And hey, if you have any specific questions about how Dream Drop Distance plays in HD, be sure to let me know below. Not a lot has changed (beyond visuals) from what you“ve played on Nintendo 3DS.
  4. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2016 Hands-on: Dragon Quest Builders

    My love for Dragon Quest is infamous in certain circles. I bounced around the room like a game of racquetball when Nintendo announced that Dragon Quest VII and VIII on 3DS were finally coming West. As much as I pined for those games to leave Japan for years, I didn“t really feel the same way about Dragon Quest Builders. I approached the demo at E3 2016 willing to give it a chance because it“s Dragon Quest, and plenty of their spinoffs have had enough charm to win me over. But see, Minecraft and I have never really gotten along. I found its beginnings largely intimidating, since it didn“t really tell me what to do or where to go. And, from what I gather, Minecraft is a game where you kind of imagine your own story, versus see one unfold before you. If you feel the same way I do about Minecraft, I am happy to report that putting a Dragon Quest spin on that game“s conventions gives players a sense of direction, as well as an underlying story that gives the world you create meaning beyond what you make of it. If you don“t, and you love the kind of creativity that Minecraft yields, there“s absolutely plenty of that, too. Still, I“m going to spend most of this reflection offering up how Dragon Quest does Minecraft a fair bit differently. For those who don“t know, the original Dragon Quest was one of the first NES games to give you the ability to choose whether you want to “join forces with the last boss” or not. The Dragonlord offers the hero from that game the option to rule half a world with him. If you hit “Yes” at the time, it“s a trap and you get a Game Over. But see: Dragon Quest Builders takes place after that Game Over, in a ruined world (Alefgard) where the hero failed. Bad stuff happened, but now a new hero, the player, has been graced with the ability to build. Folks have apparently forgotten what the word “build” even means, so it“s up to you to -- quite literally -- rebuild and restore the civilization that the Dragonlord destroyed. The hero has a direct line of communication to the spirit that watches over the world, and said spirit guides you with a loose sense of what to do next. One of the first things that made me happy about Builders was the interaction between the silent protagonist and spirit. It plays with the trope in a bit of a humorous way -- it seems the hero of this game is largely reluctant to do anything, and doesn“t really understand what the heck is going on. You“re more or less prodded along your journey as God gives you a to-do list, and the few NPCs you meet probably think you“re crazy because you “hear voices” and what have you. It“s a fun plot that makes getting into a lighter, more directi version of Minecraft more interesting, to me. The experience is Minecraft, more or less. You build stuff out of raw materials, and the point of the game is to rebuild entire villages however you see fit. That kind of gameplay is entirely what you make of it, but that“s what“s made Minecraft is wildly popular as it“s become. The way Dragon Quest spins on it is by offering a more direct line of communication to the player, that stops things from ever becoming too intimidating. It sheds complexity in favor of telling a simple story, but that“s par for the course in even the mainline Dragon Quest series, much less its spinoffs. Replace Minecraft“s zombies with Slimes and other common Dragon Quest enemies, and you“ve got a decent picture of how combat works too. You“ll need to create healing items for yourself, simple replacement weapons if the one you“re using breaks, and more. You“ll get hungry and need to hide in your home at night -- it really does borrow heavily from Minecraft. I“m not exaggerating for the sake of it. At the end of the day, it seems like Dragon Quest Builders was created to give the conventions of that game a little more context, and a fun Dragon Quest plot. It“s honestly the first game to ever get me even remotely interested in what philosophies Minecraft is trying to communicate. I approached the demo expecting it to confuse and intimidate me, but it definitely delighted me, and has certainly warmed me up enough to put it on my personal “to buy” list. I“d absolutely recommend it, and it may be one of my favorite parts about the Square-Enix booth at this year's E3. Dragon Quest Builders releases for both the PlayStation 4 (physical and digital) and PlayStation Vita (digital only) on October 11th, 2016. We“ll offer more information as it comes.
  5. barrel

    E3 2016 Hands-on: Bound

    I knew next to nothing about Bound prior to playing it this year at E3. My reason for going to the Sony booth was specifically to play Gravity Rush 2 but -- amidst the sea of mostly familiar sequels -- the PS4 title Bound immediately caught my eye for many reasons. So, rather than prancing ahead in ignorance, l decided to curiously check out Sony Santa Montica Studio's rather uniquely styled 3D platformer. It is perhaps unsurprising that Sony has Bound under their banner. Not because it is that similar to prior properties at all, but more so in that evokes an overwhelming mystique that Journey had, while the captivating aesthetic ebbs and flows to the point of feeling almost tangible like the paper craft world of Tearaway did. Apparently it draws much inspiration from Modern Art styles, but I do not have a keen enough eye to discern which influences they may be in particular. There is one thing I can say about Bound with absolute confidence, however: it looks and sounds phenomenal in motion, and is incredibly picture-esque -- which is almost an understatement. Bound“s first demo (I was unable to try the second one) starts you off with some rather quick exposition for the masked ballerina-like protagonist in which her mother relays an order to kill a fiend that is terrorizing her kingdom. Yes, kill. Admittedly, I“m not sure how one is to go about murdering an incredibly menacing looking creature while only seemingly really equipped a cartwheel dodge and a flamboyant jump, but I suppose that answer will wait until the final game in August. Bound seemed more entreated with its visual storytelling than going too deep with its 3D platforming. The most complicated mechanic I encountered basically involved having to do two consecutive wall jumps to trigger switches that did not seem immediately obvious (even that took no more than like fifteen seconds to figure out.). Other than that it was mostly traversing thin balconies, slipping under doors, or climbing ladders, which I still quite enjoyed since it is just that stunning to look at throughout. That said, based on the small slice I played it clearly cared more about moving the player forward than them using mechanical 3D platforming finesse to progress. I was also charmed by the many minor visual details it smartly utilizes in the midst of gameplay as well. One of the apparent details I noticed, in terms of game design and presentation, is how much it complements the 3D traversal. For example, as you turn the camera into a wall that would, in most other games, likely obscure your view or hinge in a strange way. In Bound, however, the actual wall will seamlessly dissipate in a way that felt totally natural to its world while also allowing the player to clearly navigate about the near trance-inducing 3D environment. Another detail that I found really neat is how holding different button combinations will allow her change into different dance stances in a free form-like manner, which is also a nice touch. But anyway, after the brief and generally straightforward tutorial-themed traversal, the masked heroine eventually encounters what seems to be the kingdom-destroying fiend in question. The confrontation is cut short as it attempts to attack her with some sort of pillar and as she falls to her knees the scene quickly fade to black. Just before I expected to see a “Thanks for playing!” message while it also passively aggressively implied that I should get off, the gameplay perspective briefly switches from third person to a more distinctively bleak first person outlook. I can only best describe this snippet as one ambiguously walking around a dinner table and various shredded, pixelated fragments began to formulate into people around a surprisingly modern setting. It seems likely that this will serve as groundwork for a more relatable meta-narrative, but like most of Bound I can not say this with complete confidence. I mean, just before I was twirling about as a masked ballerina who is apparently out to kill someone, and am still wrapping my head around that premise. I would not go as far as to say it was my favorite title of the show, but Bound was easily my most pleasant hands-on surprise of E3. I definitely want to see more of what the downright gorgeous, and incredibly mysterious, world of Bound has in-store. It seems likely that if one has been captivated by the beautiful visuals, as well as if they have enjoyed more artsy titles such as Journey, then Bound should be worthy to keep an eye on its stylish PS4 debut later this year on August 14.
  6. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2016 Hands-on: Song of the Deep

    2015 brought some of the best Metroid-likes ever created to enthusiasts like me. Axiom Verge still reigns as the new king of the genre, for me. Ori and the Blind Forest was pretty top-tier as well. Since this is a genre I'm extremely proficient with, I'm always looking for new contenders. Heart Forth Alicia is a recent game I“ve played that showed a lot of promise, and... so too, does Song of the Deep, from Insomniac Games. I could spend a while discussing why I think the term “Metroidvania” and even my often-used “Metroid-like” are a couple of bad labels -- because the first thing that comes to mind about Song of the Deep is how it“s not a game where causing destruction will solve problems. Before I even get into the story and art-style, I“m going to just say right from the onset that this game is not very “Metroid-like” at all, despite the obvious label attached. The submarine that“s piloted during the game is a fragile thing, not some ultra-destructive force. I have no doubt that, throughout the game, combat will become a slightly larger focus as the submarine gets more parts. But I still feel that exploration and story are more philosophically important than killing everything you see, like other parts of the “Metroid-like” canon. Song of the Deep tells the story of a little girl, Merryn, and her father. They live meager lives, but they“re happy. Merryn“s father would often tell her stories about creatures that lived in the sea through verses of song. One day, her father doesn“t return. And then she has a dream that a terrible fate had befallen him, and she heard him calling her name for help. That“s when she built a fragile submarine from pieces of scrap -- to help her find her father. And the rest... is in the mechanics. I think you“ll be doing more skillful navigating than intense bits of combat. I don“t think fighting“s the point (at least not initially), this time. Merryn's journey already breaks one conventional rule of the “Metroid-like”... there“s no jumping. I think this is the first game in the genre I“ve heard of where 100% of it will probably be spent underwater, where gravity and jumping height are never a concern. Within minutes of gaining control of the submarine, I saw the bits and pieces of where the developers got their inspirations from. You can expect currents, pesky enemies to electrify you, multiple checkpoints to make any journey more bearable, and multiple difficulty levels to make the journey more (or less) possible. There was a much greater emphasis placed on grabbing and moving various objects to solve puzzles and gain items than there was on combat. Enemies were there, and they were tricky at times, but they weren“t numerous. And it“s not like you could shoot them up at first, anyway. Much of the first leg of the game that I played during the demo involves the use of a claw you get at a certain point. The claw can grab objects, destroy walls that are heavy enough, and defeat enemies with enough persistence. Puzzle-solving was intuitive, not too cumbersome and back-tracky. It“s all going to feel right at home to someone who“s played many a game like this one. The thing that sets Insomniac Games“ latest effort apart is its presentation and soundtrack. This is definitely going to be a tale full of child-like wonder, under the sea. I“ll embed the debut trailer below so you can see for yourself. But suffice to say: I“ve played many a Metroid-like in my time here on the site. Song of the Deep breaks enough conventional rules even with its basic concept, for me to say “consider giving this one the time of day”. You won“t have to wait much longer to do so, if you“re interested. The game will be released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on July 12th. If you want a physical version, you can grab one via GameStop -- the retailer who“s actually publishing the game. Otherwise, the game will be available digitally as well. We“ll offer more information and further thoughts as that July 12th date gets nearer.
  7. I actually did hear sort of hear about this as it was (allegedly) happening since someone made a tweet about it and it was retweeting like crazy. Anyhoo, the story is that someone went into full-on heist/hacking mode at E3 and tried to steal the demo for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Kotaku did a story covering it, and though it's hard to prove, it does sound like there's enough evidence to show that the attempt was a real thing. Of course, they didn't get away with it (or at least the story doesn't say they did), but it's interesting to think that someone tried. It's a pretty interesting read too, so check out the story if you get a chance. In the meantime, I think I've seen all that I need to of Breath of the Wild for now, although I really want to see a story trailer for it next. Can't wait! What do you guys think? Do you believe the rumors that someone almost stole the demo?
  8. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2016 Hands-on: I Am Setsuna

    If you“ve played video games as a hobby for a long while, you“ve no doubt noticed how the simpler mechanics and narratives of our youth have evolved and developed into amazing things. RPGs that used to be simple to pick up and play, today have complex systems that appeal to the enthusiast crowd and scare the stuffing out of newcomers. Some of my favorite RPGs of all time are the simpler ones, from the past. Complexity overwhelms me, if I“m being honest. Chrono Trigger is one of those personal favorites, and a legion of folks share my sentiments. What made that game good? Mitsuda helped create one of gaming“s most memorable soundtracks, with plenty of variety and nuances that helped make individual arrangements stand out. The characters were personality-driven and served a greater purpose. The battle system was unique for its day, and gave fans plenty of challenge and new concepts. There“s so much more, but… I Am Setsuna really wants you to remember what made Chrono Trigger so great. Just one look at oozes the same kind of nostalgia as something like Bravely Default: Flying Fairy did for traditional Final Fantasy. And that nostalgia carries over to the game with remarkable precision. The trailer isn“t deceptive in any way -- the inaugural game from Tokyo RPG Factory will indeed make you nostalgic the whole way through... but, unfortunately, it“s kind of an example of a game that follows the past to the letter, without doing anything to modernize it. I have a lot more to say about my time with the E3 demo than that -- and I did spend a lot of time with it. I believe the demo could only end when the player got a 'Game Over.' Since I“m extremely familiar with how Chrono Trigger plays -- no boss or challenge was ever able to get the better of me, and I spent a full hour playing, with an audience that was captivated and wondered if the screen would ever fade to black and go “Stay tuned for the full game!” -- It didn“t, to my knowledge. An hour is enough to completely unsell me on the game, unfortunately. When you spend enough time with it, you realize how desperately this game wants to be Chrono Trigger. It copies item names and Techs & Combos to the letter. The hero has “Cyclone” that works like Crono“s does, and he can combine with one of his allies to do an “X-Strike” like Crono and Glenn. There are a few nuances and mechanics that depart from Chrono Trigger, but they borrow from other Final Fantasy games (think FF7“s Materia) versus offering up anything “new and exciting”. Gosh, is this ever an experience that“s heavily rooted in the past. It doesn“t modernize things or try to push the gameplay forward in the same way that Bravely Default does, either. I found everything about my time with the game to be summed up in a single phrase: “one-note”. The soundtrack utilizes only piano melodies, for starters. And hey, the piano is my favorite instrument. But to have an entire video game soundtrack with nothing but? It“s a little too much for me, no matter how catchy some of the arrangements are. The story seems very one-dimensional--with characters that try to be cut-outs of various archetypes hobbyists are familiar with. I“m a little hesitant to be so wordy with these impressions, since I only played the first hour. But I think even Final Fantasy games that tried to market nostalgia, like IX, do a much better job of accomplishing their mission within the first hour. Unfortunately, I'm very underwhelmed by what I saw of I Am Setsuna. But you“re free to ignore my cautionary sentiments, especially if you“re a huge fan of Chrono Trigger and long for more like it. Even if I found everything rather symbolic of a “Tokyo RPG Factory” -- perhaps you“ll find value in things that I did not. I Am Setsuna is available on the PlayStation 4 on July 12th, 2016.
  9. So now that E3 2016 is officially over, we all have our things that we're excited about as well as things we're disappointed by. Personally, I'm most disappointed by the fact that Ubisoft's Steep was a complete wreck. Apparently the demo they showed off was super buggy and not fun at all, which is a shame because the on-stage demo at Ubisoft's conference looked really promising. That, and I've been waiting for another game like SSX, and this seems to be the closest we'll get to it in the meantime. Anyhow, I really hope Ubisoft can pull that one together before release, but with a launch date of December (I think that was it?), I'm not holding my breath. What was your biggest disappointment of the show? EDIT: Please don't say Nintendo unless you were most disappointed by Zelda; we knew they wouldn't be showing anything substantial and that they would be focusing solely on Zelda before E3 began.
  10. Jonathan Higgins

    E3 2016 Hands-on: Recore

    One part former Metroid Prime developers, one part Comcept -- Recore is a game that's attracted a lot of divisive attention. Most of E3 2016 has been a series of unreasonable lines, but I braved Recore after Zelda, so the wait didn't feel too overwhelming in comparison. While I was in line, we received instructions as to how to control things, and influence the flow of battle during the demo. It was a lot to take in. If you handled things in the proper way, almost line a rhythmic pattern, you were going to have a much easier time. There were lock-on techniques, charge shots, pet-companions to briefly summon, multiple explosions, and multiple colors of enemies to consider (you could easily switch between the colors of your shots with the d-pad). The third-person shooter isn't necessarily my genre of choice, but I adapted pretty quickly. Some enemies were tougher to handle than others, but it seems like -- despite the complexity of how things were relayed to us -- it should feel natural to seasoned shooter-folk, and easy enough to understand (with practice) for everyone else. The systems in place seem to be one part shooter, one part RPG. Enemies took numbered damage (that increases if you shoot ”em with the right color, or if you stack combo hits properly -- Mighty No. 9, anyone?), and I earned experience with every kill. Enemies themselves looked intimidating, but weren't particularly varied. They're the kinds of things you expect in games like these -- creatures that resembled bats and went down fairly easily, to creatures that ignited a burst of flames from themselves (that killed me a few times). Here's , so you can see these mechanics in action -- I'm not experienced enough in the genre to offer my usual nuances. Ultimately, it seems like Recore“s story and sense of character are going to be what set it apart from its contemporaries. The game's debut trailer showed the potential for a memorable tale, but I really couldn“t tell you if that promise will lead to praise later on. The demo places you in some story-driven context, but we weren“t really given any idea of what the basic plot was while playing. From the surface level I experienced on the show floor, it seems like a very tightly designed game. But it won't reinvent the wheel like Metroid Prime did at the time, nor does it seem to take any giant leaps forward for the genre. If you're super hyped for Recore -- I figure you should stay that way. It's competent in theory and in practice. But I'll need to see more than just gameplay and a glimpse of story before I can decide if it shines among a reasonably populated genre. Recore will be available on anything and everything Microsoft supports, as part of the Xbox Anywhere program. It“ll release this September, too. We“ll offer more information as it comes.
  11. Nintendo surprised more than a few people when they said the new Zelda would be the only playable game they bring to E3 2016. Whether or not that was the best approach for them, or overall, will be the subject of many thinkpieces for some time to come, I imagine. But one thing“s for sure: impressions of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are highly sought after by show-goers and series fans alike. Those of you at home have likely seen Nintendo Treehouse Live's presentation of the game, and y'all definitely liked the initial trailer too. Here on the west coast -- well -- the line completely filled up in six minutes. It took six hours of rigorous standing for me to finally reach the collective experience of Nintendo“s booth. And gosh, is it ever a sight to behold. But, I'm here to talk about how the game plays, not the journey it took for me to get there, right? I'll get to that. But I think it“s important that I first address a series of prejudices I have, so you know exactly where coming from. I rarely couple hands-on previews with caveats, but I feel like I was and still am in the minority of people -- who reacted to Tuesday morning's big reveal with trepidation, not unrivaled glee. Here's the thing: the Internet affectionately referred to Breath of the Wild as "The Legend of Zelda: Skyrim" before we learned a lot about it. However, I've never once played Skyrim, or ever completed a single Western-developed open-world "sandbox game" like what inspired Breath of the Wild because -- almost everything about how open-world RPGs work has consistently intimidated, overwhelmed, and ultimately shunned me as a player. I feel they don't respect my time, or more importantly my level of anxiety. The basic philosophy of modernizing the first The Legend of Zelda on NES to create a seamless, living world to explore forever is not why I play Zelda games, and not something I was attracted to from the onset. I waited for as long as I did not because of unrivaled excitement, but because of unrivaled worry. Why We Play The Legend of Zelda, as a franchise, is something I can usually turn to in order to help introduce non-gaming folks to how great games can be. I can pick any title from the entire series and heartily recommend it to anyone who“s never played a video game before in their lives. Because of how they instruct the player from the beginning and teach them how the basic controls work each time -- any given Zelda title is simple to learn, but hard to master. The reason the first Zelda worked so well as an introduction to gaming was because... well... the NES controller had two buttons, and the world -- while ultimately open for exploration and map-drawing -- was pretty tiny and manageable. This one has a billion buttons and things to do -- and just the area you could explore in the E3 demo was but a tiny spec of dust in the grand scheme of things. This is definitely the first Zelda in thirty years to leave newcomers completely in the dust. Its lack of direction and ultra-focused realism is terrifying to me, in ways that most modern open-world games are. It didn't sit well with me in the reveal, and it still doesn't sit well with me after I“ve played the demo. So it goes. And that“s where my perspective comes from. I don't play these games for the same reasons most of my Twitter feed seems to. I enjoy the sense of exploration and figuring stuff out that most of Link“s adventures provide, but there's always been a certain degree of linearity to tell me where to go when I“m done. If the guiding hand that leads you forward isn't specific enough -- it could lead to folks getting lost in this hugely vast Hyrule, where literally everything you see is a place you can go. I think there are two types of Zelda players: the ones who enjoy the more 2D, Link to the Past-style Zeldas where both the world and narrative are small, manageable, and enjoyable -- and those who absolutely pine for "The Legend of Zelda: Skyrim" to be a reality. As you probably gather by now, I'm in the former camp. And there are many people who are like-minded here; I'm not on an island. Plenty of the 3D entries have provided a perfect balance of linearity and complexity. But gosh, if it“s not too careful, Breath of the Wild could leave this type of person behind -- leave me behind. Two Demos The collective experience in Nintendo's booth is the summation of two demos. They gave me fifteen minutes of being dropped in a world with no direction or place to go, so I could just explore and see what happens. Then, I got to play from the very beginning of the game, where Link wakes up and first begins his new adventure. Now that my prejudices are out of the way -- I'm just going to tell you what happened during each of my sessions, not necessarily how I feel about them (yet). Despite my fears -- there is something immensely satisfying about taking a Bokoblin“s club and mashing his friends with it. Everything you've seen from Treehouse Live is as fun as it seems. The enemies are more alive than we've ever previously seen in a Zelda game. The sounds you make will tip them off. They'll summon their friends and make your life really difficult, really fast. You've got to micromanage even the tiniest bits of exploration you do if you're not confident about your combat skills... because there were no hearts to be seen in the demo, only food to find and eat. The standard skull-type enemies that used to haunt the nights in Ocarina of Time can now be chopped apart, and they summon the rest of their body and put themselves back together if you fail to destroy the head. You've got to make sure you completely eradicate your foes if you don“t want an overwhelming situation. Breath of the Wild is definitely not going to be "too easy" -- far from it. I wandered the earth for a bit, and didn't really discover anything too noteworthy. Collected a few materials, dispatched a few foes, scaled a cliff or two. One thing about the basic gameplay, for those who haven't really paid much attention to all the streams: the systems first introduced in Skyward Sword, like stamina and weapon durability, are back. You've got to keep every single aspect of Link's health in mind if you wanna survive for longer than five minutes. In previous games, falling from a cliff might lose you a heart or two. In this one -- if you scale to the top of a super-high cliff, then lose your footing because you run out of stamina -- you“ll die. It's a big bad world to explore -- the big is evident, but the mercilessness didn't really sink in for me until I played the demo. Back to my wandering: I was minding my own business, chucking bombs at things because I wanted to see how satisfying the explosions were and I honestly felt like some of the simpler weapons I picked up didn't get the job done (especially when it came to destroying the heads of those dang persistent skeletons). And then, a gigantic rock titan boss appeared. My peers playing the demo around me didn't find that, so I all of a sudden had an audience -- and I didn't have the means to kill him since I'd wasted all my bombs! It was an opportunity lost, as my "Exploration Demo" ended. From the Start The second demo started you off at the very beginning of the game. A practically naked Link wakes up after being submerged in water to find himself in a deserted temple. You find some clothes in a few chests and can choose whether to put them on or not. I used the Sheikah Slate to find my way to the outside world -- and with very little words exchanged, the title appeared on the top right corner as Link ran to the edge of the cliff, as seen in the initial trailer. It's extremely reminiscent of NES Zelda -- seeing that in action will delight series fans in every way; that can't be overstated. You even get to follow an old man to a cave, like in the first game. He seemed pretty indignant, and he scolded me (at first) when I snatched an apple from the stick he was roasting on an open flame. If every NPC reacts the same way the old man did, I can surmise that this Zelda will have just as memorable characters as ones that came before it, despite being heavily inspired by a game whose narrative was ultimately held back by hardware constraints. What little story I did see gives me the impression that the narrative could end up being relatively solid. I was a little worried they might phone in the story, after hearing things like "you can skip right to the end, if you want." But it seems like the story's there if you“re willing to follow the game's lead -- it's not necessarily something you'll have to dig out, like some quests in Xenoblade Chronicles and games of the same ilk. That's definitely comforting to me, since narrative is always an important part of my personal Zelda experience. Rest easy if we're in the same boat. Here's the thing about following the game's lead, though. I got lost, right from the beginning. As soon as you discover the Temple of Time (that's noticeable, and the game points you towards it from the onset), the guiding voice tells you to "follow the Sheikah Tablet", which marks an objective spot on your map. There were two objective spots marked on my Gamepad -- one, I assume, was to continue the narrative, and the other must have led to something else -- or would have. I worked my way over to the first marked spot on the map, which led me to a mountain with a curious structure poking on top of it. I inspected the poked out structure, looking for a way to interact with it. And when I found nothing, I gave up and went to the other marked spot on my map, assuming my objective was there instead. The person working the booth had to tell me where to go, and when I went back towards the poking structure, I saw the giant cave underneath the mountain that I'd climbed from the other side before. I“m not dumb -- I've played every single game in the series. The objective point of "follow the Shekiah Tablet" wasn't specific enough. I missed my mark, and wasted what precious little time I had with the demo wandering aimlessly back and forth. Without more specific directions for folks who don't wish to wander -- it could leave many feeling like their time“s been wasted. I know I was sad, and I kind of wanted a do-over. But that“s the way the ball bounces. Something like that can be an easy fix during localization, though. "Follow the Shekiah Tablet... to the cave" gives you something to look out for, as you explore. It's not too late for them to consider changing something like that, so the folks who approach this brand new kind of Zelda scared out of their darned minds can feel a little more at ease when they know exactly what it is they're looking for. And Overall... I've fully outlined how aware I am that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I don't agree philosophically, at all. I know I'm an outlier when it comes to how my impressions read overall. But I hope I've clearly articulated my point of view, after all this. The new Zelda terrifies me, and as a result of that -- I got way lost and squandered away my limited demo time with the beginning of the game. If the development team (and particularly localization) doesn't work extra hard to provide a much better sense of signposting to the objectives at hand, it could sour someone's experience of what the game is trying to accomplish. I know the game is trying to articulate a sense of harsh realism to make Hyrule feel more alive than ever before. But the objectives in a Zelda game should be crystal clear, so that folks who prefer to take this gigantic experience in more manageable chunks don“t get lost and waste time along the way. That“s the end of my experience. If you've got something to say or questions to ask, I“m more than happy to hear you out. Please, please share your thoughts below. In case you didn't know, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is slated for release on Wii U and "NX" sometime in 2017. We'll offer more information as it comes.
  12. I just discovered this earlier but apparently Sony is doing an achievement-like system for their E3 page for anyone who has a PSN account. Basically, there are different objectives (like watching a certain game's trailer, visiting its page, etc.) where once you fulfill them, you can claim a code for certain things, like avatars for upcoming games like Gravity Rush 2, Paragon, and others. So far I've unlocked a few codes for some avatars as well as a few themes. Not quite as cool as free games, I know, but it's still kinda cool. You can check this out at live.playstation.com if you're interested.
  13. If you were expecting Rhythm Heaven Megamix later on this Fall-- well, I have good news for you. Nintendo announced that it's available for purchase right now on the 3DS eShop for $29.99. True to its name, Rhythm Heaven Megamix features a mix of the most memorable minigames from past Rhythm Heaven titles and mixes them up into a sort of best hits collection. There are also a number of new minigames designed for this game as well, in addition to a story linking them altogether. But what about a physical release, you say? Nothing regarding this was announced, making it appear as if Megamix is a digital exclusive for the moment. If a physical release does happen, we'll let you know. Will you be downloading and playing Rhythm Heaven Megamix?
  14. A few new surprises were in store for Nintendo fans today as the company revealed two new games on the Treehouse Live segment at E3 2016 today. The first is Box Box Boy, a sequel to last year's intuitive 3DS puzzle game, Box Boy. This time around, you'll be able to make multiple sets of boxes at once, making the new puzzles a bit more complex. Also announced was a brand new RPG IP from Grezzo (the developer behind The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D) called Ever Oasis. It's an action-RPG where the objective is to build a prosperous oasis while exploring a savage desert and defending it from the chaos that threatens the area. Judging from the trailer, it appears to be inspired by games such as Secret of Mana and Fantasy Life. Ever Oasis is due out in 2017, but you won't have to wait long for Box Box Boy as it's set to release in a few weeks on June 30 on the 3DS eShop. What are your thoughts on Box Box Boy or Ever Oasis?
  15. Despite Nintendo's main focus on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at this year's E3, the company opened up today about a few more of their plans for the Fall. Namely, a release date for Paper Mario: Color Splash of October 7 (on Wii U). At the moment, this is the only confirmed first-party Wii U release for the rest of this year. Also, Nintendo will be demoing more of the game during the Treehouse Live segment tomorrow. Secondly, a new Mario Party game called Mario Party Star Rush will be coming to the 3DS, and it will be releasing on November 7. More info to come on it in tomorrow's Treehouse Live segment. Finally, a second wave of the Super Mario lineup of amiibo was announced, featuring Waluigi, Daisy, and Boo for the first time, and also new poses for Rosalina, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, and Wario. These amiibo will be releasing on November 4. It's unknown if these announcements represent the entirety of the rest of the year's announcements as far as 2016 releases go or if more unannounced first-party titles will be releasing before year's end. We'll have to wait and see what future Nintendo Directs have in store. Source: Press Release Are you glad to have a release date for Mario Party: Color Splash? What are your thoughts on the new amiibo?
  16. Today at Day 2 of E3 2016, Nintendo finally revealed what many fans have been wondering most during their Treehouse Live segment -- the full name of the upcoming Zelda title for Wii U and NX, which is officially titled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Accompanying the title was a brand new trailer that showed off the spirit of that title, in which the world was brought to life with its many varied locations. Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime mentioned that Breath of the Wild will be the biggest Zelda game to date, and that everyone playing the demo at E3 will not be able to explore all of the large area available to them during their time with the game. Even more impressive is that the large area on demo is just a small portion of the actual in-game map. You can check out the trailer and get a sense for how big the game is below. Fils-Aime mentioned that more about the game's story and characters will be discussed at a later date, and that they would be focusing on the gameplay itself this week at E3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is currently slated for release on Wii U and NX in 2017. Source: (via Nintendo) What are your thoughts on Breath of the Wild? Are you excited by what Nintendo showed today?
  17. If you haven't seen it yet, here's the E3 2016 trailer for Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV. Personally, I think the CG looks a bit too... uncanny valley-ish, I hate to say. It doesn't look like the mouth animations synch up with each actor when they talk, making it look like there's a slight audio delay. Aside from that, it looks like it'll be a pretty alright watch. I don't think I'll see it in theaters, but I'll definitely check it out when it hits Blu-ray. What do you guys think of it?
  18. After their stellar showing at E3 last year, there was no reason to believe today that Sony could have met or exceeded the excitement that The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Shenmue 3 generated. What else could make as strong of an impact? No one knew, but in the end, Sony pulled off a show to remember. In fact, with the exception of those three surprises last year, Sony's E3 2016 press conference could be considered their best-executed press conference ever. The beginning was a little strange and ominous with an orchestra that brought to life a rather dark and sinister theme (and what was up with the lady making the coughing noises?), but it was an effective way of starting the show with a bit of foreshadowing. Then, the theater went dark. Cut to the first bit of game footage shown, which begins with a young boy playing with hand-carved figures and using his imagination as children do. However, the boy's clothing seems to suggest a more primitive civilization, perhaps something ancient. His playing is cut short by the harsh call of a man from a nearby wooden shack, presumably his father. The man calls out from the dark within the shack, directing the boy to take his mother's knife and hunt... for he is hungry. While saying this, the man steps into the light, revealing a familiar, hardened, pale warrior who bears a red stripe across his face and his chest, and a fully grown beard as well. and echo throughout the auditorium as it becomes apparent that the game everyone is watching is none other than the newest entry of God of War. Despite not having any attachment to the series (I've never played a GoW title in my life), I have to admit that this was one of the best and most effective introductions, not only to a new game, but to any video game conference overall. The slow buildup and reveal of Kratos was extremely well executed, and for the first time, the audience actually saw a quality in the character that was virtually non-existent in the last few GoW games: humanity. It is never explicitly said in the gameplay shown that Kratos is the father of the boy, although it is heavily implied; even if he isn't, it wouldn't matter. Having a child, or even just being the boy's guardian reveals a different side to him and makes him a more interesting character than he ever was when he was only driven by anger, revenge, and bloodlust in the first four games. Sony Santa Monica appears to be taking longstanding criticism of the character to heart this time around -- namely, that he doesn't have any depth beyond revenge. Beyond that, it's apparent that Santa Monica Studio is taking God of War in a brand new direction overall, and one that has a much heavier narrative, not just with the overall plot, but likely with the characters and their personal growth as well. Where will it lead? We'll have to wait to find out, but it's a fascinating turn of events given how different it is compared to the previous games. After the trailer rolled, and a brief introduction from Shawn Layden, we were treated to a slew of other game trailers, one after another. The Last Guardian finally got a release date. A brand new IP called Days Gone (and yet once more set in a post-apocalyptic era) was announced. Horizon: Zero Dawn was once again given another gameplay demo that showed off how impressive and complex the in-game world is. The trailer for Detroit: Become Human showed more of the game's premise and a strong reliance on the player choosing how the narrative unfolds. Resident Evil VII (Resident EVII) was revealed and looked nothing like the increasingly action-focused previous installments in the series, but showed a return to the horror elements that the series was founded on. A series of VR game segments were shown, but didn't weigh the show down. Crash Bandicoot was announced to be getting a PS4 remaster. Hideo Kojima was brought out on stage and revealed the trailer for his upcoming game with Sony, Death Stranding, and also revealed that Norman Reedus would be starring in it as well. And last but not least, Insomniac was revealed to be making a new Spider-Man game that looked fantastic. You might not necessarily find all of these games to be interesting, but there's no mistaking that they're big games that people in general are interested in and are excited for, and all of their reveals were paced extremely well throughout the conference. Did you notice anything else different about this year's conference versus previous years? Sony cut out the self-promotion, marketing talk, kept the talking from executives to a minimum, and they virtually kept all third-party developers off the stage as well. Instead, they let the games do most of the talking, and it was the smartest thing they've done in years. Sony's conference wasn't just good because they happened to show a few new cool games. It was good because they respected the audience's time by making the best of the conference and showing them what everyone wanted to see: release dates from past announced games, brand new IP, exciting new games from existing IP, and even a bit of extra production values to top it off (an accompanying orchestra, Kojima's appearance etc.). Basically, they gave us reasons to continue being excited for the PlayStation 4's future, and if the reception from fans, critics, and journalists alike on social media and various gaming websites is any indication, Sony has succeeded far and above what everyone thought was possible.
  19. Jason Clement

    Nintendo details Treehouse Live plans for E3

    Nintendo is famously (or infamously) making only one game playable at their booth at E3 this year -- that being the currently unnamed The Legend of Zelda title in development for Wii U and NX -- but that doesn't mean it'll be the only game they talk about at the show. Today, the Big N has announced plans for their Treehouse Live segment -- a recurring feature of the last two years where members of the Treehouse localization team play and commentate on the games they're showing off in front of a live audience. This year, Treehouse Live will occur over two days, starting at 9 a.m. PT on June 14 and then on the next day (June 15) at 10 a.m. PT. Day 1 will focus on the The Legend of Zelda for Wii U and the very first look at Pokemon Sun and Moon. Day 2 will start with a Pokemon GO developer Q&A and then continue with Monster Hunter Generations, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Nintendo has not announced an E3-focused Nintendo Direct at this time, making this possibly the first E3 ever for the company to not have a press conference or Direct to showcase new info. We'll keep you updated if this changes. Source: Press Release What are your thoughts on the Treehouse Live plans? Will you be watching?
  20. Welcome to the sixty-fifth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed the last one, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. Now is your chance to grab Darkrai at participating GameStop stores. The last day to do so is March 24th. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Noteworthy I“ve got a few interesting tangents to go on in the coming weeks, as we get closer and closer to E3 2016. While it“s been confirmed that only the new Zelda will be playable, there“s still reasonable expectations that Pokémon Sun & Moon will be shown in much greater detail there, as Mr. Masuda will be among the Cool People there. Funnily enough--so will Barrel and I! Back to the task at hand: My wild tangents have been put on hold, because there“s actually a few relevant things in May [and from before] that I should catch you lot up on. First of all: if you“re reading this, and you own any recent Pokémon games, you“ve got two more days left (deadline of May 8th, 2016) to connect your 3DS to the Internet and obtain the Legendary Pokémon Zygarde via Mystery Gift (Get Via Internet from the Title Screen). There“s nothing particularly special about it, outside of its Original Trainer being “XYZ” and its caught location being something like “from the Pokémon cartoon”. The real shining diamonds come later on in the month--when a Shiny Xerneas will be available by the same means from May 11th through 17th. And a Shiny Yveltal“s coming from May 20th through 26th. The Legendary Pokémon of X & Y are “Shiny Locked”--meaning they can“t ever be caught Shiny in the wild. These Events for Xerneas and Yveltal are the only way you“ll ever see their Shiny variants without cheating. Here's a fancy trailer: Like I mentioned at the front of this article: May is the month of Darkrai for the big #Pokémon20 movement. You can grab codes at participating GameStops, and plushies & figurines while supplies last. Maybe act fast? But...Darkrai“s not the only Mystery Gift you“ll need codes to unlock this month! The Legendary Birds Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres are typically locked into the battle Ability “Pressure”, which decreases its opponents PP by 2 instead of just 1 when a move is used. Variants of the birds with their Hidden Abilities are being distributed to North America in May by way of the Pokémon Trainer Club Newsletter. You may recall the Special Demo Version of Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire was first distributed through these means! Articuno gains Snow Cloak, Zapdos gains Static, and Moltres gains Flame Body. Depending on how you shape the teams you put them on, it could make the birds more useful than ever before, in competitive battles! Oh, I“m not done, y“all. Remember the Kanto Classic competition? There“s going to be a Johto Classic one during the month of May. I“ve linked to the details--but the reward for participating is forthcoming. Not sure how varied the competition will be, since Blissey, Scizor and Skarmory are almost sure to rule the proverbial skies this time around. The news that the Pokémon Virtual Console downloads sold a big ole boatload kind of makes me wonder if all this is positioning towards a re-release of Pokémon Gold, Silver & Crystal on the 3DS Virtual Console. I suppose only time will tell! I think that“ll do it for this week. I just want to make sure you“re all caught up with the crazy Pokémon stuff going on this month in particular. Next week, I“ll address a comment I saw earlier, and maybe reveal another trick or two up my sleeve. Up to this point, the Mythical Pokémon Train has featured Mew, Celebi, Jirachi, and now Darkrai. Manaphy, Shaymin, Arceus and many more are to come! What I cover next week might lead to a few Snap decisions.