Previous month:
May 2013
Next month:
July 2013

June 2013

Conan O'Brien Plays Injustice, Reveals New Characters

Flaming CTV's Conan O'Brien often crosses paths with new video games and rates them from an outsider's perspective, and on this E3 week he took some time to see what the recently released Injustice: Gods Among Us for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii U has to offer.  Cracking jokes all the while, Conan plays several matches and shares his observations.  Along the way he gives players their first look at the next downloadable character launching in July: General Zod, the Kryptonian supervillain who can launch his foes through the moon.  In addition to Zod, Conan also called on his own DC universe character, The Flaming C, in a battle against Aquaman.  Chances are The Flaming C skin (featuring the character's trademark costume consisting of an oven mitt, a jai alai glove, and ski goggles) will be available to the general public as an alternative look for Superman around the same time as Zod's release.  It's high time that Injustice had a sense of humor about itself, and adding The Flaming C is the perfect way to accomplish that.

See Batman's New Wonderful Toys In Arkham Origins Demo

BatmanThere's been some uncertainty and skepticism surrounding Batman: Arkham Origins for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbo 360, Nintendo Wii U, and PC ever since it was revealed that Arkham City developer Rocksteady was not at the helm on this project.  Can Warner Bros. Games Montreal live up to the Arkham legacy with its first original Batman project?  Will Origins follow on as a legitimate successor to the greatness that has preceded it?  At E3 this week, the studio has put together a twenty-minute presentation to show off a piece of Origins and establish that the spirit of Arkham City is alive and well in this prequel.  The gameplay demo on display shows off some of Batman's new tricks such as the enhanced Detective Mode which allows players to reconstruct and study crime scenes, the remote claw gadget, and the expansive open world structure that grants additional freedom to players.  While it's not right to judge an entire unfinished game based on a E3 demo, I like what I see here and feel better about Origins overall.  If nothing else, watching this demo makes me want to go replay Arkham City while I wait for Origins to release in October, so it must be doing something right.  Be sure to stick around to the end of the video for a surprise appearance from an old friend.  If nothing else, I want to know what happens next.  That's the mark of a great E3 demo: always leave 'em wanting more.

Nintendo Best Buy Wii U Demo Experience Needs Refinement

Nintendo ExperienceYesterday my fiancee Nicole and I set out to experience The Nintendo Experience Wii U demo at Best Buy and while we did get to play Super Mario 3D World in the end, the organizational aspects of the event need some refinement.  This is Nintendo's first stab at bringing E3 demos to the masses so there are surely some issues to be expected, I think that if the company tries this again in the future, there are a few ways to improve the experience.

Here is the core setup of the event.  People line up in the video game section of a participating Best Buy and an employee signs them up for their choice of Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, or The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD3D World players are taken in up to groups of four, Kart players in up to groups of two, and Wind Waker one at a time (we did not hear of anyone in our section of the line looking to play Tropical Freeze, but has to be two people at a time at most).  3D World players can choose from one of five levels to play, Kart players run two races, and the Wind Waker demo lasts ten minutes.  The bottleneck here is that there was only one Wii U demo station in use.  One person can take up ten minutes playing Wind Waker, and we overhead staff discussing that five people were waiting to play the Zelda demo in the front part of a line loaded with approximately two-hundred people that snaked all the way through the game department.  That's nearly one hour of the four-hour event held up by five people.  Long demos make sense at E3 itself where there can be multiple demo stations running a variety of games, but really doesn't work in a place like Best Buy.  Next time around, demos needs to be short and sweet.  The more players that can get on one at once, the better.  The key is to keep the line moving.

Continue reading "Nintendo Best Buy Wii U Demo Experience Needs Refinement" »

Should You Be Excited For Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag?

Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagUbisoft has found a hit in its Assassin's Creed franchise which means that we can count on seeing annual sequels until the property loses its luster.  This year's model is Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for just about every home platform in town: Sony Playstation 3, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, and PC.  There's a lot of options.  Chances are that you own or will own at least one of these systems by the time the game releases in October 2013.  This game will potentially reach more players than any other game in the series.  Yet after so many sequels, are people still feeling the Assassin's Creed love?  Should you be excited about another adventure?  This one has pirates!  Is that enough?  Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton walks us through his time with a demo of the game and wonders if skepticism is warranted.

Late last week, I stopped by Ubisoft's San Francisco HQ to watch ACIV in action, The walkthrough I saw was the same behind-closed-doors demo being shown at E3, but not the one that will be shown during their press conference. The demo was designed to give a sense of the open world, and the seamless way that it all flows together. Seamless. Did you notice how I used that word? That is Ubisoft's favorite word, when talking about Assassin's Creed IV.

The demo I saw, narrated by the game's head writer Darby McDevitt, had the protagonist Edward Kenway (father of ACIII's Hatham Kenway and grandfather of Connor) captaining his ship the Jackdaw across the wide blue Caribbean Sea. He was attacking and boarding enemy ships, swinging down from ship riggings to engage in swashbuckling derring-do, diving off of the ship to stealthily infiltrate an enemy island outposts, and peering through a spyglass into a torrential storm. And yep, there was nary a loading screen in sight.

Hamilton goes on to describe the demo beat by beat and outline whether or not he believed the developer's claims that paired with each major moment in the game.  I'm not quite sure where I stand with Black Flag.  It demos well and looks wonderful, but so did Assassin's Creed III and I was not pleased with that experience at all in the end.  It's the first Assassin's Creed game from which I walked away in frustration.  A lot of that frustration stems from failing missions because someone saw my character lurking in the shadows which I hear is no longer a failure condition in Black Flag, so that has my attention.  Hamilton describes some interesting and engaging situations that I'd like to explore for myself, but how much of what he's seen is demo bluster and how much will make it into the final product?  Black Flag is screaming for a rental, as I've learned my lesson about buying these games at or near launch without fully exploring them on a trial basis.  

Nintendo Nearly Showed Next Wii U Zelda At E3 2013

LinkNintendo has two Legend of Zelda games baking in the oven right now that are scheduled for release this year: The Wind Waker HD for the Wii U and A Link Between Worlds for the 3DS.  We all know that there's a third Zelda game in the works, too, and it's bound for the Wii U as a completely new home console adventure.  Nintendo's developers have said for a while now that the game is a long way from complete and it's still too early to show it off, but as it turns out, the company considered showing it at E3 2013 this week in Los Angeles after all.  Game Informer has the news.

[Shigeru] Miyamoto said, "We're also working on a new Wii U Zelda game. Work on that is progressing fairly concretely. In fact, we were thinking about showing it here at E3 but decided to wait just a little bit longer before sharing it with everyone."

While we all want to see the next Zelda, it's for the best that we didn't.  If everyone focuses on the next big new Zelda, the Wind Waker remake could be ignored by the community, and since Nintendo plans to sell many copies of that game, it needs to focus its marketing attention on that release.  There's a danger in looking too far ahead and playing too many cards at once.  I bet that once Wind Waker HD is in stores and been through the holidays as the prime Zelda game for the Wii U, we'll start to hear about the next game in the series.  There will be plenty of opportunity for all of these games in the end.  Take them one at a time for maximum enjoyment.

EvilCast Recap - Episode 181: E3 2013 Keynote Analysis Special

EvilCastThe coming of another Electronic Entertainment Expo means another round of press conferences and media briefings from the major video game publishers and hardware manufacturers.  I was called upon to guest on the EvilCast podcast at Games Are Evil once again, this time to discuss the major announcements unveiled by Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo.  Blake Grundman, Ross Polly, Keri Honea and I talk about the highs and low of launch prices for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the free-to-play aspect of Killer Instinct, Sony's hammer-throwing, mic-dropping announcement regarding DRM restrictions, EA's Plants vs Zombies developments, Ubisoft's intimidating doomsday information blasts, and the dozen or so awesome titles that Nintendo directly unveiled.  It's been a while E3 so far and the show has only just begun.  Download Episode 181 and discover just how much more ground we have to cover.

Don't Sleep Through Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

Mario and LuigiYou wouldn't expect the Mario brothers to be suited to RPG adventures, and yet the Mario & Luigi series has been one of the stand-out franchises within the Mario brand.  Now the pair are back for their fourth adventure together in this context, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for the Nintendo 3DS.  When Princess Peach is kidnapped and taken into Luigi's dreams, green 'stache must sleep his way to adventure as Mario ventures into his subconscious to save the day.  A dream manifestation of Luigi joins Mario in the dream state, leading to all kinds of wacky events and humorous situations for which the series is regarded.  Meanwhile, Prince Dreambert is trying to save the people of his own kingdom, Pi'illo Island (I love good wordplay!).  Surely the two quests will intersect somewhere along the way, hmm?  Watch the new trailer to see Mario and his dream brother discover just how deep dreams can go.  Mario & Luigi: Dream Team will be released August 11, 2013.

Koichi Hayashida Explains Why Super Mario 3D World Is The Cat's Meow

Cat MarioWhile everybody knew that Nintendo would eventually announce a new 3D Mario title for the Wii U, many expected something along the lines of Super Mario Galaxy 3 instead of Super Mario 3D World.  Think about it for a bit though and you'll find that creating a home console sequel to the Nintendo 3DS's Super Mario 3D Land actually makes perfect sense.  Project leader Koichi Hayashida explains why in this Nintendo Developer Direct.  You'll also learn why the development team decided to make the iconic green pipes transparent, how the new cat suit power-up provides Mario and friends with new moves, and what sort of challenges the team handled when adding the multiplayer modes for up to four players.  Super Mario 3D World is undoubtedly going to do very well among Wii U owners, so one might think that Nintendo could work its magic up to a certain arbitrary point and then stop, but interviews like these really stress how the company's staff goes the extra mile to make sure as much of the game is as perfect as possible.  It's commendable in this era of "we'll patch it later" development.

Mario Kart 8 Aims To Be Definitive Entry In The Series

Mario KartHave you noticed that the Mario Kart series has been building to something?  Neither had I, but once you listen to Mario Kart 8 producer Hideki Konno explain how the Wii U sequel is intended to be the definitive Mario Kart game and the grand culmination of all of the elements in the series, perhaps you'll start to understand.  Konno discusses how the new anti-gravity gimmick expands the level of freedom the developers enjoy, how the shift to high definition visuals impacted the franchise, spotlights the Mario Kart TV feature which is an expansion of the old Mario Kart Channel for the Wii, and points out the expansive multiplayer and controller options.  There's a lot to cover in this Nintendo Developer Direct, but it's interesting stuff and highlights some of the design decisions that players take for granted when enjoying the finished product.  Just wait to you see Rainbow Road with designed anti-gravity in mind!  Say, if this Mario Kart is intended to be definitive, might that mean the next sequel will be completely different?  I suppose that's best left as a question for another day.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Owes A Lot To Super Mario Bros. 2

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical FreezeEver since they started out together in the same arcade game in 1981, Mario and Donkey Kong have been intrinsically linked.  No matter how far each one progresses alone, the other still hovers in the background in some way.  Consider the recently announced Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Nintendo Wii U, for instance.  In this Nintendo Developer Direct, Kensuke Tanabe explains how one of Donkey Kong's new moves in Tropical Freeze owes everything to Mario's ability to pluck vegetables from the ground and throw them at enemies in Super Mario Bros. 2.  Now Kong has the pluck-and-throw power, allowing him to grab items from underground and heave them at foes and switch triggers to move forward.  Tanabe should know the pedigree here; after all, he worked on Super Mario Bros. 2 in addition to Tropical Freeze.  He also touches on updates to the Kong family's character models, elaborates on Dixie Kong's presence in the game, explains where the inspiration for viking invaders originated, and teases a fourth playable character that remains unannounced.  Will Kiddy Kong from Donkey Kong Country 3 turn up?  Only time will tell.