All posts in Feature Articles

Do You Want to Beta-Test a Very Promising Upcoming 3DS Game and Others in the Future?

airace speed

AiRace-Speed-Plane-Concept-Art-7

Do You Want to Beta-Test a Very Promising Upcoming 3DS Game and Others in the Future?

by Menashe


We just got word from our friends at Qubic Games that their upcoming 3D sci-fi racing game, AiRace Speed, is ready for beta-tesing. It’s close enough to completion that I can practically smell it! Qubic Games is now looking for experienced gamers to join their beta-testing group. So, if you own a 3DS and are skilled at gaming, you can now apply here: http://www.airace-speed.com/test-airace-speed-and-other-qubicgames-titles/

AiRace Speed is one of our most anticipated 3DS games. We even included it in our list of 50 Upcoming 3DS Games We’re Most Excited For. You can think of it as taking inspiration thematically from F-Zero but going in a new direction with a different focus. The focus is more on meticulous level design plotted with hundreds of obstacles that will require you to be a master at maneuvering your futuristic aircraft. Each ship will handle differently and be shaped differently, requiring you to steer it in its own way to avoid the creative hazards that populate these 3D tunnels. AiRace Tunnel, an earlier game in the franchise, was a game we considered to be the best Racing game on DSiWare. So we only expect  the best out of AiRace Speed.

It’s always a thrill to try out new games before they come out so if you’d like to sign up, fill out the form here: http://www.airace-speed.com/test-airace-speed-and-other-qubicgames-titles/

Read more of our coverage of Qubic Games and their games:

Interview with Qubic Games about their upcoming projects

50 Upcoming 3DS Games We’re Excited For

2 Fast 4 Gnomz Review

And also make sure to check out our AiRace Speed gallery on Facebook.

 

5 Developers Who Would Make a Really Good Aliens Game

9
xenomorph

5 Developers Who Would Make a Really Good Aliens Game

by Ryan C.


No matter what your preferred form of entertainment is, be it video games, books, movies; disappointment is a common factor and some hit harder then others. I mention this because Aliens: Colonial Marines launched last week to overwhelmingly negative reviews. Besides ruining the continuity of the films, reviewers reported that the gameplay is just not up to snuff and tons of visual glitches. I’m a huge fans of the films and I wanted to have a great Aliens game. Regulars in our very own chat room should be sick of me talking about this game so I dedicate this article to them, because they clearly want to hear me talk about it more (also to get it out of my system).

For this article I picked five developers who I think should make an Aliens game. I’ll talk about what games they developed that made me pick them and talk about how their specific talents can craft a unique and atmospheric game to do the brand justice. Most importantly, there are tons of talented developers out there so don’t take this list too seriously and just have fun. So, in no particular order, here are five developers who should handle the Aliens license.

Ubisoft Montpellier

Most people know the company Ubisoft, but what many may not know is that their in-house development teams are named on where they are based out of, such as Ubisoft Montreal, Paris, etc. One of my personal favourites is Montipeller, known for there work on Rayman, Beyond Good & Evil, and most recently, Zombi U. If there is one major studio left who understands how to make a real survival horror game it is these guys. From perfect balance of resource management, slow tense moments, jump scares and false moments of horror, Zombi U just knows how to get under your skin.

Gamers take control of common every day people dealing with the zombie apocalypse while scavenging all the weapons and health they can. Players can only hold so much equipment, so excess items have to be dropped in a metal box to be saved for later or for future characters. Similar to Wayforward’s Aliens Infestation for the DS, once a character dies they are gone forever and need to be hunted down to reclaim the items they have. I can imagine a crew similar to the Nostramo in Alien; players can switch on the fly to other crew members to make use of their skills. Some characters could hack doors or craft special weapons like a flamethrower or combine two weapons into one. If done right, the game could be finished multiple ways similar to the old RPGs in the 90s like System Shock 2 of Deus Ex; focusing on combat, electronic skills, or surviving long enough for a rescue team.

Another game of theirs that is similar in a way to the overarching Aliens narrative is Beyond Good & Evil. The setup involves a company conspiracy involving an alien invasion, they appear to be fighting them in the public eye but has a secret agenda for them. One recurring theme in the movies is the Weyland-Yutani company’s secret desire to obtain the aliens for their bioweapons division. Beyond Good & Evil’s story is exceptionally strong with mystery, strong characterization of its female lead and conspiracy. Sounds like a good Alien story to me.

Valve

The main reason why I picked Valve is that they mastered both single player campaigns and multiplayer. Despite the fact I only beat the first Half Life a few months ago, it still blew me away and remains a finely craft, well-paced campaign. On the multiplayer side of things they got co-op (Left 4 Dead) and tactical death match variants (Team Fortress 2 and Counter Strike).

Looking back on my time with Half Life, there are elements of a good Alien story. It’s not really surprising though since James Cameron’s classic can be felt throughout the entire industry. The game involves Gordon Freeman trying to escape his laboratory that has been invaded with creatures from another dimension. Part way through the escape, soldiers from another corporation are found killing all surviving scientists to keep the incident a secret. Sound familiar? Besides similar plot points, the game itself is well-paced with action, puzzles, exploration and the occasional set piece that never seems overwhelming ala Call of Duty. The environments themselves are are well designed and despite being primarily set in a laboratory, are varied and never get repetitive. It is sad to see most mainstream shooters these days become nothing but linear, pop-n-shoot roller coaster of set pieces, but if anyone can do it tasteful, it’s Valve.

For multiplayer, it’s pretty self explanatory. Of all the reviews I read of Colonial Marines, most of them agreed that the game mode Escape is one of the best aspects. It teams up four marines who must reach point A to B before they are overwhelmed from the opposing Xenomorphs team. With Left 4 Dead and its sequel, Valve has a great grasp on the formula and I’m positive they can balance this mode up even more. In fact, “balance” is a fitting word as Valve is known for creating some of the most balanced competitive shooters ever. From team deathmatch on the surface of LV-426, Escape mode in the corridors of Fury 161, meaningful character classes in multiplayer and balanced weapons, I wish I could see Valve do an Aliens game. The only bad thing would be that it would take 10 years for them to make it.

Playdead

Who says 2D games can’t be atmospheric and forebode a sense of dread? With the limitations of creating worlds in a 2D space, developers have to be really creative to force emotions into a player; horror being one of the hardest. PlayDead’s Limbo may not be the most scary game, but it is effective in making the player themselves feel like a small insect in a big malevolent world.

What makes Limbo so effective is its smart use of shadows. While some objects may be difficult to distinguish, parts of the scenery can actually turn out to be a giant spider that immediately gives chase. This reminds me of the part in Aliens when the marines enter the hive and the aliens themselves kind of blend into the walls before attacking. Aliens Infestation proved that a side scroller can offer a tense and sometimes scary experience. The first Alien movie featured truckers in space with no weapons (besides a flamethrower) and it was terrifying. A game set in a space ship featuring a character with no combat training with amazing uses of shadows could offer up great scares.

Retro

Do I really need to explain why Retro should make an Aliens game? If anyone played Metroid Prime 3 until the end should know why. Towards the end of the game gamers find there way onto the G.F.S Valhalla that went missing months prior to the start of the game. It was raided by Space Pirates and left to drift endlessly into space. Travelling through it is one of the most tense and scariest moments in any Nintendo game. Dead bodies are left drifting in space, Metroids are seemingly everyone, and corpses are frozen in the last moments of trying to open a door before crumpling away to ash as air fills a once empty vacuum of space. If this doesn’t sound like the perfect setting to an Aliens game then you should take a good long look in the mirror at yourself.

The beauty of the G.F.S Valhalla is that it is strikingly similar to the premise of Colonial Marines, i.e., a bunch of space marines has to board the USS Sulacco to find out what happened to the crew featured in Aliens. Another common trick that Retro effectively uses is finding documents that detail what happened as the crew were being overwhelmed. It is common for horror games to have notes lying around the flesh out the setting and this would also be useful in an Aliens game such as (for example) what was going through Private Hudson’s mind as he was slowly losing his sanity.

Other then just Metroid Prime 3′s memorable sequence, Retro studios is known for creating a realistic otherworldly environment. Tallon IV in Metroid Prime remains one of the most creative and well detailed world in any game. I would love to see them make a unique planet in the Aliens universe that can be as remarkable as LV-426 or Fury 161.

One major criticism to Colonial Marines was the A.I., or lack thereof. Sure they can fall from the ceilings or burst out of wall vents, but Retro Studios also made awesome looking enemies that were intelligent and could navigate the environment wonderfully. Space Pirates flew to ledges for a clear shot, enemies pop up from underground when they sense your movement, and insects attack when their hive was in danger. I’m sure they could make the xenomorphs stalk the players and scale the environments in awe inducing ways.

Seriously Sega, please let Retro make it. I would totally forgive you for everything, even Sonic 2006.

Platinum Games

I was initially going to pick the Nintendo EAD group who made Pikmin but ultimately I picked Platinum games as their upcoming Wonderful 101 looks to be great. When people think of what genre of games would fit the franchise, first person shooters seems to be the main one, but looking at my game collection I found that the idea of a RTS akin to Pikmin would be surprisingly fun.

I imagine this game would step outside the film universe and just be a stand alone title or even in the Alien vs. Predator timeline. A setup could be that the Predators have created an army of Aliens for their test of worth and eventually gets overwhelmed by the xenos. The aliens themselves are similar in nature to ants, so controlling them in packs just make sense. With the primary enemies being predators, and possibly set on Earth, there is a wide variety of alien types and possibilties to expand the types available for variety. For those who don’t know: Aliens take on traits of the host, so one born from a human is different then one born from a dog. Each type could have advantages and disadvantages in combat and puzzling environments.

Another reason I picked Platinum is because they have a sense of style and cinematic flair. Some may argue that some of their games focus more on style then substance, but the latest trailer of The Wonderful 101 shows that they know how to pick a style and do it justice.

Basically this…with 100 times more murder

I never knew I wanted a RTS Aliens game, but now that I thought of it I really hope Sega is reading this.

Now before I end this, I do know there are many good Aliens games. Let’s have a quick look at some of the best.

Alien vs Predator (arcade)

Back in the 90′s Capcom essentially ruled the world with quality game after quality game. One game that fell through the cracks of time is their beat-em-up based on the AvP franchise. Forgotten? Yes. Fantastic? Hell yes.

Alien vs Predator (1999)

First person shooters are a pretty big deal these days, but in the 90′s during their rise in popularity we got much more variety in gameplay. AvP (1999) allowed you to play as the Marines, Aliens and Predators, each with their own unique campaign and gameplay styles. Marines play as a more common FPS while Aliens run hilariously fast along walls and ceilings. It may be dated in the visual department, but still remains a compelling experience.

Alien vs Predator 2

If you like AvP (1999) then you should feel right at home in the sequel. With more weapons and a inter-connected story (rather then three separate stories like in the predecessor) that takes play 50 years after Alien 3, there is a lot to fall in love with. Also, class based online multiplayer certainly doesn’t hurt.

Alien Infestation

I touched on this game in the main article so I won’t waste too much time talking about it. WayForward is known for making great games, even when they make licensed ones. Infestation makes the Xenomorphs scary and hard to kill, and once your colourful cast of marines actually die, they’re gone for good. It may be stressful at times, but that’s what Aliens do man.


With that, my love article of the Alien franchise comes to a close. It’s pretty obvious I’m a big nerd for it, but I’m not trying to come across as a whiny fanboy who thinks Sega owes me, but if they want to take some of my ideas I’ll totally be cool with that.

First Exclusive Screenshot of Cosmic Highway for Wii U

2
cosmic highway wii u

First Exclusive Screenshot of Cosmic Highway for Wii U

by Menashe


We held an exclusive interview and preview with Monty Goulet of Maestro Interactive earlier this week and in it we detailed the three games they have in the works for the Wii U. We promised to show you a screenshot of Cosmic Highway and today we can finally give you a first look. Think of this as an appetizer for the main course next week when the official Kickstarter campaign takes off. As you can expect, this screenshot being pre-Kickstarter, comes from a very early prototype of the game. The final product will progress much past what you see now.

What you see in the screenshot is the racer of the character called the “Inventor”. You can tell he’s sort of built his own racer from scratch as is evident from his steampunk  vehicle with those skis attached to the bottom. You can even see the inventor poking  his head out of the top, top hat and all. Each character/racer has his own accompanying music for when he’s in the lead and his own special weapon to give him an advantage over the others. The inventor can use the smokescreen ability to cloud up his opponents view. We’ll have to wait to see what kind of music goes with his steampunk style.

First Screenshot of the Prototype:

cosmic highway wii u

Click to see a larger version

Monty actually was kind enough to send me 10 screenshots of the game but I’d like to do my contribution to the Kickstarter campaign, so I’m only going to show this little tease. Next week you will hopefully be able to see the full reveal of the game in its early prototype form. So stay tuned for the Kickstarter.

This is what we wrote about Cosmic Highway in our preview:

Cosmic Highway – Like F-Zero But With Innovative Use of Sound to Propel Gameplay

cosmic highway wii u

The third Wii U game Maestro are working on is Cosmic Highway. Maestro’s main focus as a developer is to create unique audio experiences in games. Cosmic Highway is no different. You’ve played many racing games before, perhaps. But you’ve never played one that puts such a major emphasis on audio. Think F-Zero, with space racers cruising through 30 different tracks across the galaxy. Each racer will have its own musical style and special abilities. We don’t know all the different ways music and sound effects will affect gameplay but we were given one example.

Each racing track will have its own song. But the music will play with a different musical style according to the racer that’s in first place. So, if you’ve chose the classical racer and you’re in first place, everyone will know you’re in the lead because the soundtrack for the level will be be playing in classical music style. There are to be 180 different songs in the game and you’ll only be able to hear them all if you’re skilled enough to beat the game with every style of racer. There will even be five boss levels to complete. Cosmic Highway will be a game that appeals to both the single-player gamer and the entire family. There is even a five-player split screen mode that can be the life of any party. There will even be a secret world that is meant for Nintendo fans to enjoy. It will have many games that we all recognize from our past.

While the Big Publishers Snooze, Little Indie Studios Are Changing the Face of Wii U

14
indie game characters

While the Big Publishers Snooze, Little Indie Studios Are Changing the Face of Wii U

by Menashe


As I was working on my upcoming article, 70+ Upcoming Wii U Games We’re Excited For, I started reaching out to developers for quotes and new information on their upcoming games. Unsurprising, most of the big publishers kept their lips shut tight. However, many of the famous indie developers were very forthcoming and happy to contribute to the feature. The writing of the article became something of an organic, living process as it gave birth to a second idea which came from my amazement at the magnitude indies were embracing and taking advantage of the Wii U. I decided then and there to try and capture in words something of this indie force that has begun to coalesce on the Wii U.

Executives Make All the Creative Decisions in the “Big” Industry

Publishers on Wii U

For shame! There’s no question that big publishers like EA and Activision see the potential of the Wii U to enhance and expand gameplay for traditional gamers that have tired of the same old first-person shooters and cliches. But that doesn’t mean they care enough to do something about it. As long as there isn’t a big install base within three months of a system’s launch they cancel their projects or decide there isn’t enough of a penetration rate to warrant a port. Maybe later, the businessmen in suits conclude, when the Wii U has amassed two years of consumers, then it will be worth it to start porting their games. The creative minds and talented developers don’t get a say in the matter, even if they’re excited to work with the Wii U. As long as it doesn’t add up on paper in the here-and-now, the executives who run the company won’t allow it to pass.

Of course, this is a catch twenty-two. If you don’t support a new system with great games, how will it ever expand enough to become a lucrative market for you in the future? Most gaming systems are not massive markets from the get-go. It takes time until the new market of customers is solidified. In the meantime, it’s up to Nintendo to do it alone and build up a big enough user-base with their own exciting games until the system has become widespread enough to capture the attention of the big-publishers. It’s all about surviving through the long haul, not winning a few sales in the short-term.

A Long-term Build-up of Sales is More Important than Launch Sales

An increase in sales momentum over time matters a lot more...

An increase in sales momentum over time matters a lot more…

Look at the success of systems like the DS, 3DS and PS3. Their winning efforts, their late bloom, depended upon their staying power. Once they’d proven they were capable of surviving long enough, developers eventually saw the market as large enough to warrant their efforts. Meanwhile, the Wii saw incredible success at the beginning, but sales steadily declined as it went on. You can say that long-term momentum is a lot more important to a consoles health than its initial launch year. Sometimes that momentum comes from bringing out a handful of AAA titles in the holiday season while other times it can come from a price drop or an appealing bundle. The best momentum of all comes from the steady rise of quality in the library of games over time as the price of the system begins to drop.

The Wii U has this same predicament; it’s only natural to have small sales at the beginning when only a handful of people (3 million+ , cough, cough) own the system. But, this concept of short-term sales versus long-term sales is for a whole other article. What I really wanted to focus on in this “rant” is that Nintendo is not doing this alone. There are developers who are taking the system seriously and discovering brilliant ways to use the GamePad in innovative and creative manners. These are the same people that have been at the forefront of experimentation and innovation in the industry for a few years now. These are indie developers.

Indies are Taking Up an Increasingly Large Space in the Industry

indie game characters

While you weren’t looking, indies have practically taken over the industry. We’ve come a long way since Pixel (Daisuke Amaya) showed the world that you don’t need a massive 100-person studio to create an epic game. All it takes is one skilled fellow to create a Cave Story, a game that hearkens back to Super Metroid and other Metroidvanias filled with atmosphere and personality. These days, indie development studios number in the thousands and have created some of the industry’s most popular and well-received games, such as Minecraft and Amnesia. (If you like indie games, I think you’ll appreciate this list of the 60 Best Indie Games of All Time that I just made in this thread.) Guess what? Indies no longer just refer to people living out of a garage in their parents houses, but they now have become a first choice for many developers. Yes, many of them have a ton of previous experience in the industry. They chose voluntarily to leave their big company employees and form their own small indie studio where they get full creative control of the games they want to make.

Indies Very Often Have Tons of Experience

I could list hundreds of indies who have amassed incredible experience in the industry before deciding to go it alone. Just look at the Wii U and 3DS current library of indie games. Take Jools Watsham, for example. He’s been the leader of teams at Iguana/Acclaim, working on franchises like Turok and NBA Jam. But he decided he’d much rather leave and make his own studio, Renegade Kid. We owe him thanks for games like Mutant Mudds and Dementium. We’ll speak a bit more about his upcoming mystery game for Wii U (holiday season) in my next article, The 50+ Wii U Games We’re Most Excited For, with an exclusive quote we got from him especially for the article. (Hint: It’s an atmospheric FPS.)

wii u eshop

A few others:

- Fuzzy Wuzzy Games, bringing Armillo to Wii U very soon, is made up of ex-EA and Radical Games staff.

- Wayforward Technologies, of Mighty Switch Force and Shantae fame, are led by John Beck and Matt Bozon- both of whom have been working in the industry since the SNES days

- Tomorrow Corportation, who developed Little Inferno, is made up of Kyle Gabler and Kyle Gray, both of whom had experience at EA

- Two Tribes, bringing Toki Tori 2 to Wii U, has worked with major video game companies including Capcom, Nokia, Team17 and THQ

- Shin’en, who brought Nano Assault Neo to Wii U, has an assortment of staff from across the industry- some making games since the 80′s

Of course, there are also many talented indies who built up from scratch, starting off with smaller games until they had enough experience to make their magnus opum. Just look at Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy) and Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV). But, with many big publishers and game studios closing their doors for good or laying off staff after a single flop, more and more developers are realizing they can do it by themselves with a few other staff to join their team. The options for funding have also grown. There are already a number of exciting projects on their way to Wii U because of Kickstarter. Others have realized that releasing games digitally doesn’t contain the same expenses as retail does. There are no physical boxes that require a publishing deal to help publish and ship to stores.

Nintendo Opens the Door to Indies by Lightening the Requirements

wii u dev kit

Dev Kits for the approved developers

Even more encouraging: according to Nintendo’s latest shift in policy, it’s easier than ever to become an approved developer for the Wii U and 3DS eShop. What are the requirements?

1) You must have released at least one game in the past. Unproven teenagers without even a single game in their resume need not apply. But if you’re not using Wii U as your guinea pig to learn programming, you’re already good to go.

2) You must have registered yourself with the government as a business for tax purposes.

3) You’ll need to pay for a dev kit to work on. This doesn’t cost a tremendous amount but it does help to filter out the little kids who’ve made a Flash game online and now want to randomly publish their casual games on Wii U or 3DS.

Once you’ve proven to Nintendo that you believe in your product enough to pay a bit of money to buy a dev kit, you’ve had a bit of experience in the past, and you’ve registered yourself as a business (an absolutely simple bit of bureaucracy that anyone can do if they chose to) then you’re ready to submit yourself as a developer to Nintendo and get approval. What many might not realize is that until last month there used to be a fourth restriction which Nintendo is now dropping. In the past you had to have a registered place of work (an office) that is exclusively used for your business. This was a big hurdle for many developers. Thinking back to when I watched Indie Game: The Movie,  I don’t think Edmund McMillen of Team Meat was working in a rented office space. It looked more like it was in his own bedroom.

I know personally of some famous indie developers that had this hurdle with Nintendo’s restriction, but I won’t name them without their permission. Whatever the case, it’s nice to know Nintendo has made it even easier to become an approved developer. But, once again I’m digressing from my main point which is to focus on the indies who are taking advantage of the Wii U’s innovation. Although the Wii U isn’t receiving enough love from big publishers who are not doing enough with the potential of the Wii U (exception: Ubisoft, you still have my appreciation for ZombiU), indies are really stepping up to the plate to fill in the void.

Maestro Interactive Brings Innovation to Wii U With Three New Games

maestro interactive

There’s one example I’d like to give of a developer who really gets Wii U. They are called Maestro Interactive and they’re bringing three games to Wii U. *audience applause*

This is the kind of developer that gets me excited about the buzz Wii U is creating for indies inasmuch as it’s lacking the buzz with massive third-party developers. Maestro Interactive is located in Austin, Texas, the same place as Retro Studios. The founder of Maestro, Monty Goulet, actually worked with Retro Studios on Donkey Kong Country Returns. Monty served as a leading member of the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and he created many of the tools used in the organization. Monty also served as President of a Recording Studio, a Live Sound Engineer for Jazz Fest, and Chief Engineer of an internet radio station.

At one point, Retro Studios contracted Monty, using him to implement the audio in Donkey Kong Country Returns. When his contract for the game was finished, Monty developed his own sound design studio MGGSound, and along with that he formed his game studio, Maestro Interactive. Of course, the studio is made up of talented programmers and artists, but with a musician as its creative lead there’s a very strong focus on the audio experience and the artistry inherent in the game experience. From what I’ve heard of his compositions so far I’m somewhat reminded of David Wise, who was the prolific composer at Rareware back in the SNES and N64 era.

Post-Retro Studios, Maestro Creates a Port of Upcoming Super Ubi Land for Wii U

retro studios wii u

Having a positive experience working on Donkey Kong Country Returns at Retro Studios, Monty was very interested in pursuing development for his indie studio on the Wii U. The first opportunity came knocking when Monty played Super Ubi Land by Notion Games and was reminded of 2D retro platformers like Super Mario World, Kirby’s Dream World, and Donkey Kong Country. Ever the Donkey Kong fan, Monty began discussion with Notion Games over porting the in-development game to Wii U. (Kudos to Emily Rogers for getting Notion Games on board with Nintendo.) Offering advice and suggestions based on his own experience in the industry, Super Ubi Land was improved upon further and enhanced in a way that would fully take advantage of the Wii U. You’ll like the game if any of these elements mean something to you:

- a masterful soundtrack built by a studio who cherishes the audio experience of a game

- 2D retro platforming that plays like a love letter to Donkey Kong Country and similar classics

- massive boss battles

- hand-drawn graphics

Notion-Games-620x480

You can get an idea of the game in trailer below, although the game’s look has been improved upon to take advantage of the Wii U.

Their Magnum Opus, Fade Into Darkness

All this was just a prelude to Maestro Interactive’s own ambitions. Maestro wasn’t founded just to remain a contractor, but to realize their own vision. This brings us to Fade Into Darkness, which is one of those games I mentioned is taking advantage of the Wii U’s strengths. If I had to give an example to understand the gameplay you can imagine a mix between the atmospheric exploration and puzzle solving of Myst with a horror theme that will remind you of Amnesia. Take that combination and throw in an innovative focus on auditory gameplay and you’ll understand Fade Into Darkness a bit more.

fade into darkness

In Fade Into Darkness you play as a child who discovers his parents have left him a note saying he must stay put in his locked room as Mom and Dad go in search of help. They warn that there’s a terrible creature roaming their house but it avoids light. As long as he doesn’t leave his well-lit room he should be safe. Being played in first person, the game lets its players immerse themselves in a child’s world all alone. This is a feeling we have all experienced to some degree, but Fade Into Darkness takes our familiarity and flips it on its head, creating a thrilling experience. There’s a very rich and engrossing storyline that you will discover as you make your way from room to room, solving puzzles to illuminate each room you encounter.

Explore a Horror Environment Relying On Your Hearing To Guide You

An protoype build of the game in Unity, later swapped for a stronger engine

A protoype build of the game in Unity, later swapped out for a stronger engine

Since this is an auditory experience where the 3D positional audio actually matters, the rooms will start off dark and you will only have audio cues like music and sound effects to guide you through the room and solve different puzzles. As you discover a bit of light, it will lead you deeper into the puzzle as you continue to explore and eventually completely illuminate the room. But can you imagine what you’ll feel like when it’s pitch black and instead of hearing just the tick tock of a clock, you also hear the growl of a monster slowly approaching from far? The game features a heart-rate system as a health meter, once again relying on audio cues to convey information rather than a visual HUD. As you explore, the frights in your environments may speed up your heart rate and if it reaches a critical point, the game will reset. Faced between insanity and reality, you will often be required to concentrate and distinguish between creatures of darkness and regular environment in order to survive and eventually defeat the darkness. Your environment will come to life with the incredibly rich audio experience.

Exploration, horror, a complex-storyline: all ingredients of an immersive and atmospheric delight for Wii U gamers. But how indeed will it utilize the Wii U’s strengths? One feature in particular hasn’t really been possible on consoles and has been restricted to PC gaming. This is the point-and-click interface on the Wii U’s GamePad that will power much of the exploration and puzzles in the house you explore. Through tapping and dragging on the touch screen you can simulate a mouse-click in the same way it’s been done on an iPad. This is precisely how Nintendo intended to expand the console experiences to include gameplay only found elsewhere until now.

A spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness?

A spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness?

Another way Fade Into Darkness uses the Wii U’s strengths is by utilizing the speaker on the GamePad as well as your TV’s audio to create unique soundscapes and puzzles. For example, sounds coming from objects (or creatures) very close to you may sound like they’re right below your nose. It gives new meaning to positional audio. I can imagine the heart-rate sound would also be coming from the GamePad speaker as opposed to the TV.

Nintendo gamers haven’t had such a unique, deep, and psychological horror game on their systems’ since Eternal Darkness came out on the Gamecube. One thing to note is that the game was originally built in the Unity engine but then Maestro Interactive got a little more ambitious and switched development engines. They couldn’t let it slip to me which engine this would be due to an NDA effective until the official announcement. But, I’m guessing it’s Unreal Engine 3 as no one is usually as strict about such licensing policies as with Unreal Engine 3 but I may be surprised when the name finally gets out. We’ll see more this March when the game is fully revealed at GDC 2013. I’ve only shown one screenshot of the game because the last ones we’ve seen were from GDC 2012 and the game still looked like a Unity-game. Now that it’s been taken to a new level graphically, it wouldn’t be fair to show the old screenshots.

Cosmic Highway – Like F-Zero But With Innovative Use of Sound to Propel Gameplay

cosmic highway wii u

The third Wii U game Maestro are working on is Cosmic Highway. Maestro’s main focus as a developer is to create unique audio experiences in games. Cosmic Highway is no different. You’ve played many racing games before, perhaps. But you’ve never played one that puts such a major emphasis on audio. Think F-Zero, with space racers cruising through 30 different tracks across the galaxy. Each racer will have its own musical style and special abilities. We don’t know all the different ways music and sound effects will affect gameplay but we were given one example.

Each racing track will have its own song. But the music will play with a different musical style according to the racer that’s in first place. So, if you’ve chose the classical racer and you’re in first place, everyone will know you’re in the lead because the soundtrack for the level will be be playing in classical music style. There are to be 180 different songs in the game and you’ll only be able to hear them all if you’re skilled enough to beat the game with every style of racer. There will even be five boss levels to complete. Cosmic Highway will be a game that appeals to both the single-player gamer and the entire family. There is even a five-player split screen mode that can be the life of any party. There will even be a secret world that is meant for Nintendo fans to enjoy. It will have many games that we all recognize from our past.

Maestro’s artist was out of town until tomorrow, Thursday, but we’ll be getting screenshots from him then. So come back to see what it currently looks like. The full game reveal will take place in about a week.

Two Interview Questions about Nintendo for Monty Goulet

wii u indie games

The best part of all this is that Super Ubi Land, Fade Into Darkness, and Cosmic Highway will all be available by the end of Spring 2013, so there’s not long to wait. While most of the information I’ve written until now has come from my correspondence with Monty, I asked him two specific questions not related to his current projects that Nintendo fans would want to know:

NE: Are you allowed to share with us any of your experiences while working together with Retro Studios?

Monty: With regards to Retro, I unfortunately can not disclose really anything due to NDA’s and everything. I can say that these are some of the most talented people to work with, they truly understand the hardware that Nintendo develops and push it to its limits. I mean, it was said in an interview that when they showed their last title (Donkey Kong Country Returns) at E3 in 2010, they had about 70 levels to go. [From what I had seen of the game] that was pretty accurate so that is a testament to how skilled they are as developers.

NE: What do you think of the Wii U as Nintendo’s next-gen system? Does it have a future next to Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen systems? Does the indie-focus help along its success?

Monty: I think the Wii U is a great platform for developers and gamers. Sure, we have the new PS4 being announced tonight, and the Xbox 720 on the horizon, but the early adopters of the next generation will have more to look forward to from Nintendo than the other consoles. I mean, from a sales standpoint people complained that the Wii U sold roughly 60,000 in January. While that is a low number, its not bad necessarily. They have sold 3 Million since launch in November. People compared that to Xbox sales this past month, but the Xbox is a six-seven year old console retailing for much lower now- it balances out for Nintendo.

The issue with publishers pulling out is simply cash flow. They see that there is a small user base on the console, so they pull exclusivity like in the Rayman incident and try to reach a larger market. This isn’t always a smart play. If you look at Epic Mickey, it was on one platform, the Wii and sold 1.3 Million copies, whereas the sequel was on all the platforms and sold around a little over a third of that with 529,000 copies across three platforms. I think exclusivity to one platform helps move console sales and brings more gamers to the platform. That is why it is such a great idea to bring Indie teams to the Wii U to build for it. The more titles Indies bring to the console, the more people will play and buy a Wii U.

iOS has a great interface for their store that Nintendo seems to have emulated quite well, but Apple’s problem is that anyone can build on it…You have companies like GameSalad that are drag and drop for the phone and while some great games come out of those engines, you also get a lot of- as Reggie of Nintendo put it- “Garage Developers”, which hurts the platform in the end. Nintendo still limits the engines that the console can use, Unreal 3, Havok and Unity (in the near future), all of which are professional engines so everyone can expect high quality in the content on the eShop, something Apple can not do. I do like that you can patch and update your games for free on Nintendo’s platform, something FEZ found out the hard way could not be done on XBLA. Only time will tell however how much of a success the shop is for indies, when more developers titles get on the shop and competition grows.

Thanks to Monty Goulet and Maestro Interactive for sharing some of the under-wraps information on their games. And thanks to Emily Rogers for her valuable input into the current Nintendo – indie studio relationship. Keep informed of Maestro’s latest updates:

Website: http://maestrointeractivegames.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maestro_igames

Mailing List: http://maestrointeractivegames.com/Contact_Us.html

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/MaestroInteractive

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MaestroInteractiveGames

More Articles

Read my last article, Everything We Know About Super Smash Bros Wii U/3DS if you haven’t already, and stay tuned for my next article on Sunday, 50+ Upcoming Wii U Games That We’re Excited For. It will be filled with exclusive goodies so make sure not to miss it!

Wii U Talk: The Walk(through)

2
20130211_150935

 

 

Nintendo rarely does things the easy way. More often than not, this results in staggeringly original innovation, and combines existing technologies into something as revolutionary as the d-pad, analogue stick, Wiimote, Miiverse, TVii… But shunning the well-worn path and living only in the future does have its drawbacks, as seen with the Gamecube’s choice of optical drive, and the lacking online integration of the Wii.

The WiiU set out to address the shortcomings of its revolutionary predecessor, continuing the trend of delivering new gameplay opportunities, but using Nintendo’s newfound pile of money to fill in the gaps in the established console experience. Keen to do right by their customers, Nintendo allowed for near-universal storage expansion, and provided a multitude of choices for in-game voice chat.

Unfortunately the company’s “quirks” persist, with some design decisions limiting our options somewhat. So here’s the quick and dirty on how to get chatting in online games on the WiiU:

The bad:

Until Nintendo gets around to expanding the OS audio support, EVERYTHING must be plugged into the gamepad! Because the controller contains audio processing hardware, and to cut costs for end-users, Nintendo thought to include a standard four-pole 3.5mm headset jack. It’s quite probably the same hardware doohickie they’ve sold hundreds of millions of in the various models of DS, and it works just fine.

The “Pro” Controller does without the hardware necessary for voice chat, shaving the price and boosting battery life. To use either it or a Wiimote online, you’ll still have to be tethered to the gamepad.

Neither Bluetooth nor USB headsets work with the WiiU… yet. While nothing has been said of Bluetooth, Nintendo has confirmed that an incoming update will enable USB devices such as keyboards. It is not unprecedented for such compatibility to be introduced to a console, and Nintendo’s OS this time around is significantly more modifiable.

If you thought that the mic built into the gamepad was an obvious choice, think again! While it works perfectly for the inbuilt video calling software, it will seldomly be used within “traditional” games for VOIP purposes. Why, you ask? Because Nintendo are moneygrubbing bastards who want you to purchase every peripheral they can pump out! Well, that or the fact that the buttons and sticks of the gamepad interfere with the microphone when they’re being smacked about. Either way, Treyarch thankfully spared us from enduring constant clicking in addition to the usual vitriol spewing forth from the mouths of babes in Black Ops 2.

So what DOES work?! Fortunately, as long as you’re ok with having a small cord between your ears and your controller (hey, some people complained about the nunchaku cord!), the options are plentiful, cheap, and probably stuffed in a drawer somewhere around your living room. Let’s have a rummage!

The good:

(i)Phone Headsets: Found in over twelve billion homes around the world, and mostly in white, the humble 3.5mm phone headset is directly compatible with the WiiU. If it has three non-metallic bands on the plug, you can use it to chat. Just don’t eat while playing; ear buds constantly fall out of my head as I chew. Oh, and turn your TV volume off, no one needs to hear what you’re hearing them hear!

phones

PC Gaming Headsets: If you have a beloved headset already available, why stump for a WiiU specific one? As long as what you have possesses the classic dual 3.5mm stereo jacks (USB specific devices need not apply, see above as to why), a simple adapter will convert it to a single plug. This way you’ll be spared from having to break in a new headset, and you can call on the powers of years of ear sweat earned in glorious battle!

Either catch a passing mule-cart to your local Radioshack and pick up THIS for five and a half Guineas, or make haste for eBay with only four and try the Chinese market using the search phrase “PC headset to iphone adapter”. I prefer the commies’ take on the device, it’s less obtrusive, but the shipping times can vary wildly.

dongle

In terms of value, you will actually get a higher quality result if you go with a PC headset and an adapter over a licensed offering, it will be cheaper, and you can use it with your PC!

Audiophile Headphones: The one downside to gaming headsets is their bias towards heavy-handed bass. For the more discerning connoisseur of explosioney audioscapes, nothing beats a good set of real “cans”. Generally speaking, dollar for dollar, audio headphones are significantly better than gaming headsets. A couple of years ago I picked up a forty dollar pair of Sony MDRXD100’s (rolls off the tongue, that does), and they are truly fantastic when compared to even high-end gaming gear. Of course, they need a mic to go with that adapter…

mike

Standalone mics: There are a few options here. One way to go is with a simple “clip on” or lapel mic. I picked one up for three bucks from eBay, and while it doesn’t quite capture the nuances of my excellent lounge singing, it’s more than adequate for threatening small children over the internet. If you wind the headphone and mic cables together it can save you from potentially turning a quick trip to the toilet into an episode of the Dick Van Dyke show.

Spend a little more money and you can stick a fancy-pants modmic to your headphones, and turn them into a proper headset. Then when you want to dress up like a hipster and hit the town, you can just pop the mic off and be on your merry way.

The ugly:

An honourable mention goes to the PDP Afterglow Wireless headset. Before the WiiU was launched, this was lauded as the one and only wireless solution for the console. Hilariously though, that is not the case at all! A USB-powered transmitter clumsily takes an audio source from your TV and throws it wirelessly to the headset. This is great for watching TV in peace, but for voice chat to function you still have to connect the headset to the gamepad. As a dedicated WiiU device it would be somewhat of a pointless purchase, unless you’re an aficionado of coloured lights.

Finally, to all Wii CoD veterans out there, some sad news. The mighty PDP Headbanger, which saw use in nearly four different games, is not compatible with WiiU software. I know, I know, how could Nintendo let such a well constructed piece of kit fall by the wayside?! It’s terrible, but the harsh reality of an ever-changing world dictates that, like last year’s iPhone, everything eventually becomes obsolete. I would give mine a viking funeral were it not working flawlessly in the original Black Ops in Wii mode, a game which still has a community five times larger than the WiiU version and to me is still the most balanced, varied, and skilful game of the series.

Now, chat amongst yourselves.

[Hipster taken from Tumblr (of course!)]

 

Hyrule Historia Video Review

1
Hyrule-historia

Podcast Episode 3: The Rebootening

1
Wii_U_podcast

Well folks, the podcast may have been on hiatus, but it’s BACK! I’m glad to see that Nintendo hasn’t succumbed to doom within that time, as we’d be properly screwed for a second episode. The plan is to have a new episode done every two weeks, with intermittent mini-casts on single topics. We’ll be rotating the hosts as there’s too much knowledge and insight ready to be tapped in our great community to pass up on!

The first episode covered an enormous amount of ground; playing catchup from the Wii U release, covering recent news, and trying to shape the show. The hosts this week were Mattavelle1, Juegosmajicos, and myself (Cubits). Quite the international flavour for your listening holes:

Listen in!

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/cubits1/the-nintendo-enthusiast-17-2[/soundcloud]

I’ve included a table of contents on the link page in case you want to skip around to the more appealing topics. I am still hunting for a podcast host with the ability to have timestamp links ala YouTube, so we may move it in the future. If you know of anything, let me know in the Podcast Thread.

The podcast is also available in Youtube form, with entertaining moving pictures AND clickable timestamps (why wouldn’t you?!):

Gameplay or Graphics: Can one be enough for a game without the other?

gameplaygraphics

Gameplay or Graphics: Can one be enough for a game without the other?

by Charles D. (Cubits)


Gameplay is more important than graphical fidelity. It’s the phrase touted by every underdogging forum user in the face of technical superiority. It’s seemingly the company ethos of Nintendo. It’s what every PS3 or Xbox 360 fanboy wishes they could resort to when called out by a PC user.

It also happens to be true, but not with the sweeping generalisation many people seem to resort to. We’re currently in the middle of a shift between console generations. Nintendo has already laid their cards on the table, the result being a moderate rise of graphical prowess over the previous consoles coupled to a controller which has the innovation kitchen sink thrown at it.

The other consoles remain unknown quantities, with both Sony and Microsoft keeping tight lipped in their re-enactment of the Cold War standoff, each with their finger on the overclock button, waiting for the other to make a move (…or a kinect). The winner will come out with a slightly better power to price ratio, but ultimately both will take a hit.

wargames

Meanwhile the PC sits on the top of its mighty pedestal, elitism pouring out of it from every duct and vent as several hundred Watts file in through one aperature. It knows that whatever the console makers do, they’ll never impress the master. Launch titles will get the Perfect Dark Zero treatment, a shiny coat of lacquer, and it will be several years until the nextbox gets its Halo 4. By that time PC’s will have twelve-way SLI, require their own power plant to operate, and do away with monitors in favour of neck spikes.

And yet, as every device on the planet marches forth to glory in ever increasing Definitions of the term High, mobile phones included, the distinctly “low-fi” world of indie gaming is also exploding in popularity. Ever increasingly we’re seeing small, progressive games with ridiculous concepts capturing the hearts, minds, wallets, and industry awards of gaming society. Meanwhile, publishers are crumbling, development costs are heading towards Formula 1 Racing levels of insanity (more on that soon), and ever more “particle-effecty” games are simply iterating tired gameplay ideas. So where does this madness lead us? First to the distant past, to last century, to the year 1999!

I was in highschool, I was a “nerd”, and I was developing mods for Half-Life. Modding was a staggeringly popular pastime; it would sell the population incredibly short to merely call it a community. The amount of original gameplay ideas to come out of that period, out of that single engine, defied belief. Counter strike was actually an incredibly original idea at one time, though that impression has probably been glazed from wear by now (much like Call of Duty!).  HL also gave rise to Day of Defeat, Natural Selection, Science and Industry, They Hunger, The Opera, The Specialists, USS Darkstar, HL Rally, and HL Paintball (*cough*), just to name a few for variety.

This fairly restrictive game engine had been twisted into making puzzle games, racing games, FPS/RTS hybrids with asymmetrical gameplay (nudge nudge, Nintendo), psychological thrillers, and a raft of meticulously crafted story-driven “total conversions”. All of these were made by regular people, in their spare time. Many of the excellent ideas introduced during this period of creative prosperity are still trapped in the past, while modern AAA titles fail to innovate with such freedom.

charlie_escape

Half-Life 2 launched in 2004, and the modding scene took a significant nose-dive. The massively more capable game engine made HL2 an incredibly engaging game, but development for it was prohibitively labour intensive for the weekend modder. Prototyping ideas became more difficult, and longer development times meant it was noticeably harder to keep a team together. Many planned sequels for the standout mods of the original game were scrapped in early development as a result. It was a real shame, as the bottlenecks of the original engine meant that HL2-based sequels would be able to push the gameplay ideas they explored much further, with possible industry-wide effect. We’ll never know…

This journey into my past brings us, none too succinctly, back to the present, and back to relevance. The Wii U presents several interesting opportunities for developers and gamers alike. The relative financial ease of access to the much improved eShop promotes indie support, and the gamepad’s fisher-price playground of interactivity has so much potential to spark innovation it should be deemed a fire hazard. Yet it’s the continued Wiimote support which has me fascinated.

127882-RS2_S_021_Ninja

The Wii was terrific at redefining gameplay possibilities. Its unique controller brought depth, immersion, and accessibility to sports games and first person shooters in particular. It allowed for new takes on puzzle games, worked brilliantly for point’n’click, bore Red Steel 2, and saved the light gun genre. This was all in spite of the technical limitations of the console. The Wii was the HL1 of the last console generation. The Wii U is HL2 bar one important difference, the leapfrogging by the “next-gen” competing consoles will still make it the more accessible choice. It’s the best of both worlds.

I’m looking forward to Need For Speed: Most Wanted next month. It’s shaping up to be an incredibly feature-rich “port”, one which not only raises the bar for console graphical quality, but also leverages the unique hardware features to provide an expanded experience. I’m looking forward to a new Tiger Woods game from EA, should it ever actually come. The Wiimote defines console golf, and combining that with a view of the ball on the gamepad has been a dream of mine since the Wii U was announced. I’m looking forward to a multiplayer game which embraces the amazing “sword-slinging” of Red Steel 2. I’m looking forward to the definitive versions of games like Natural Selection 2 or Chivalry being on the Wii U due to the spectacularly apt control interface, rather than merely being a numbers game.

commander_NS2

The Wii was pushed to its limits to give us a taste of the Wiimote’s possibilities. Now Nintendo has the power to grow those ideas into larger, more filled out gaming experiences. Gameplay may be more important than graphics, but it’s always better to have both.

Wii U Console Review – ReviewTechUSA

3
Wii U Review feature

Our good friend (friend of Gaming Enthusiast, rather), Richard Masucci, has finally published a video review of the Wii U. To tell the truth, I am personally surprised at how positive his review is; in spite of having been positive about the Wii U early in the pre-launch hype scene, he did seem very wary about it once we were close to launch. Richard ultimately advises not to get the Wii U now, but expresses a lot of optimism about the system’s future – a thought we can certainly get behind.

Find out why he’s cautiously optimistic about the system, and positively reserved about recommending it to you:

Retro Studios Goes on Buying Spree! Picks Up Vigil, Junction Point, and Bioware Employees

3
Retro Studios Vigil Junction Point Bioware

Retro Studios Vigil Junction Point Bioware

Retro Studios Goes on Buying Spree! Pick Up Vigil, Junction Point, and Bioware Employees

Remember when we were joking about how Nintendo should buy Vigil Games, the makers of Darksider 1 and 2? No joke, Retro Studios just picked up a bunch of their employees. What about Junction Point? Those guys are headed by Warren Specter and made Epic Mickey 1 and 2. Retro Studios took some of their employees off the hands of Disney Interactive.

Lastly, Retro Studios also just hired a few ex-Bioware employees. We were working on a big rumor/article we were going to call “Retro 2.0″ but it looks like some of that has already started to come out on its own. But, from what we’ve heard so far, Retro Studios new game will blow whatever you saw from Monolith Soft in the recent Nintendo Direct out of the water. Meaning, it will be nothing short of jaw-dropping.

As you can tell, Nintendo realizes that having franchises like Dragon Quest and Monster Hunter on board their systems is important to have a hand in the the Japanese video game market. But Nintendo also needs a strong plan to control the North American market and win over “hardcore gamers” from Sony and Microsoft. Whereas many may think Nintendo doesn’t have such a plan, the cat is now creeping out of the bag. The plan begins with an expansion of Retro Studios but doesn’t stop there.

Stay tuned for E3 when Retro’s game will get its first reveal and more of Nintendo’s North American agenda becomes clear. In the meantime, look at the new Retro Studios employees:

1. Former: Senior Animator at Bioware. Current: Level 3 Animator at Retro.
2. Former: Concept Artist at Vigil. Current: Contract Concept Artist at Retro.
3. Former: Associate Character Artist at Vigil. Current: Contract Character Artist at Retro.
4. Former: Senior Character Artist at Vigil. Current: Level 3 Character Artist at Retro.
5. Former: Associate Environment Artist from Junction Point. Current: Environment Artist at Retro.

Source: NeoGaf.
via GoNintendo.

Gamecube Retro Review: 007 Nightfire

Nightfire_(PS2)_01

Nightfire_(PS2)_01

Gamecube Retro Review: 007 Nightfire

by Prime


50 years ago, the first official James Bond film was released. When it came out the producers knew they had something special. By the time the third one was released, they had a worldwide phenomenon. Recently the latest Bond film was released to critical and financial success proving that people still wanted their James Bond fix. In the video game world, it’s not that different, Bond has seen its ups and downs…err… mostly downs.

Since the beginning of the industry, James Bond games were released for multiple consoles. As you might’ve guessed, the technology wasn’t really up to par to fully realize the Bond universe. It wasn’t until Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 that players got to be Bond in a 3D world. Goldeneye alone made Bond games worthy of hype and anticipation. Developers knew that and that’s why EA nabbed the rights to make Bond games after the success of Goldeneye.

James Bond 007 NightFire (USA)3

EA then, developed Bond games based on the next two movies: Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough with mixed results. Because of that, EA decided to make original Bond games for the next generation of consoles. The first one to be released was Agent Under Fire released in 2001 for the PS2, later ported to the GameCube and Xbox in early 2002. The game as a next generation Bond game was disappointing. From the graphics to the presentation the game really lacked the flair that James Bond is known for.

That same year, EA promised to deliver a next generation Bond experience with the release of their newest game Nightfire developed by Eurocom. Released in November 2002, Nightfire felt different from Agent Under Fire in every possible way. But was it really the next generation Bond game after Goldeneye? Let’s find out.

james-bond-007-nightfire-52259.322334

Have you seen the Bond film Moonraker? That’s almost the same plot as Nightfire. Basically a supposed humanitarian, Raphael Drake, is opposed to nuclear weapons that he personally gets rid of them. In reality he is hoarding them for his own personal use, and that’s not a good thing… he’s trying to take over the world. Now, the story may not be that original and not that good even worthy of a Bond film but for a video game it’s interesting enough.

Nightfire is a first person shooter a la Goldeneye, as a matter of fact it resembles Goldeneye very much but that’s where the similarities end. Nightfire, like Agent Under Fire, has vehicle missions done with a different engine and team. It makes the game feel more diverse than just a straight forward first person shooter. The very first mission is really just a sneak peek at what the game is going to be like.

2

After the gun barrel sequence (completely omitted in Agent Under Fire) you’re in Paris, escorting a French agent who is chasing a truck with a stolen nuclear weapon set to blow up the Eiffel Tower. You’re on a helicopter sniping enemies and freeing the way for the sexy French agent. That’s your first taste of the FPS action of this game, suddenly in that same mission you’re now driving an Aston Martin trying to catch up with that truck. It’s a nice blend of both gameplays.

There are some special “Bond Moves” that gives you extra points in order to get the higher score. For example in that same mission in Paris if you shoot at the tire of the enemies’ car you’ll get a Bond Move token. The higher the score at the end of the missions the more content you will unlock like multiplayer maps and upgrades to your arsenal of weapons and gadgets.

james-bond-007-nightfire-52259.322337

It is clear that the FPS missions are the more polished of the two gameplays they’re very sleek in their execution especially on the GameCube running at 60fps with beautiful lighting and particle effects. I think Nightfire is the first Bond game that really recreates the exotic locales in the Bond movies. From the snowy Austrian castle to the skyscrapers of Tokyo to outer space, the missions are varied and beautiful to look at. Eurocom did a really good job in having FPS action and stealth at the same time on the missions.

The vehicle missions are a tad less polished with inconsistent frame rate, but it’s not like Everything Or Nothing’s (GameCube version) vehicle missions that are really just a mess. They do blend seamlessly with the FPS missions and are more action packed and fast paced. There is an impressive underwater mission in which your Aston Martin becomes a submarine a la The Spy Who Loved Me though.

007nightfire_screen001 - Copy

Character models are also well done especially Pierce Brosnan’s likeness. Long gone are the blocky character models used in Agent Under Fire as well as the clunky animations. Nightfire is really one of the best looking GameCube multiplatform games and that’s really saying something. Add some progressive scan goodness and you’ll be ready to play this game on your fancy HDTV without any problem.

Nightfire also has a multiplayer option in which 4 players plus AI bots battle it out in different game modes. Classic characters from past Bond films like Jaws and Oddjob return as playable characters. It’s quite fun, not exactly Goldeneye fun but it was really the best multiplayer of any EA Bond game.

Nightfire 1

In terms of music, Nightfire continues EA’s tradition of over using the Bond theme throughout the game. Yes, it’s a little bit annoying but some of the music is catchy and really makes you feel that you’re in a spy thriller. Also Nightfire is the first Bond game to have its own theme song which is cool. Voice acting is decent, Pierce Brosnan is not voiced by the actor himself which is a little bit disappointing and awkward but they get the job done.

So, is Nightfire really the first truly next gen Bond game after Goldeneye? I would say yes, from the presentation to the graphics the game really was the first to recreate the Bond universe like never before. In terms of gameplay, the blend of FPS action-stealth as well as vehicle missions is very well done even though, as I said before, the vehicle missions are a tad less polished.

I give this game

8 /10

The Nintendo Critic: Wii U – Marketing Gone Wrong

The Nintendo Critic is a section we’re launching where we try and point where Nintendo has fallen short. We like to think of the difference between being a Nintendo fanboy and a “Nintendo Enthusiast” is that an enthusiast isn’t blinded to harsh realities for all his positive feelings towards a game or company he admires. Mark Loughlin is the author of this piece, and, as always, he is our goto geek for all our business and marketing questions.

The Nintendo Critic: Wii U – Marketing Gone Wrong

The Wii U is a gorgeous little piece of tech with incredible amounts of potential but something has gone awry.  The general consumer doesn’t understand it. Now, there are several things in my mind that compound this issue but it all centralizes around marketing– Nintendo’s marketing decisions and direction.  As I will talk about a few times this is from my own experiences working in one of the UK’s top retailers.

The name “Wii U”

We can discuss the name until the cows come home as is evidenced by looking back upon the terabytes of forum discussion on the Revolution/Wii name change. Ultimately the name Wii U can be viewed in 2 ways- either as a continuation of a legacy and brand name, or as a gateway to confusion and disillusion by the blue ocean consumer.  The name of the console could have been named completely different than the previous console, the Wii, as Nintendo have always done this except (for the most part) within the handheld market. At least this way it would have been clear cut to the consumer that ‘This is a new system’.  The marketing team could have even spun the point to the rest of the higher-ups that although this Wii U isn’t as clear cut as Nintendo hoped, maybe, and I do mean maybe, Wii 2 would have been clearer as this has been employed in gaming through the Playstation market since its inception as well as other technology products (iPad, Samsung Galaxy S phones etc).  This has just been evidenced to me as lately as today, I had a colleague ask me “Can I not just buy the controller?”  This was among many other confused questions including if it was a handheld portable like the DS and how is it different to the Wii.

So this is an add-on?

Marketing = Communicating a Message to the Consumer

This just leads me into how Nintendo are informing their consumer base.  First of all, I don’t think it’s that big a deal because it would all work out in the end but today as it stands unless you’re a gamer or very tech savvy there is a good chance you don’t know anything about how the Wii U works, its purpose, or how you use it.  The adverts show a new way to play, how you use the controller, and at the very end a console alongside the controller that is very reminiscent of the Wii.  Maybe a campaign leading with the slogan in the same essence of “A new console for a new future” would help educate the consumer that this is an entirely new system.  The Mall tours throughout the UK (well partially, Nintendo UK always seem to ignore Northern Ireland and as a passionate Irish fan this has always irked me) are a good means as to get the controller into the hands of those who will have to buy it for their kids. But these events need to enforce that this is an ‘At-home system, with a new console’ because people can see the new controller, they have it in their hands but the unseen elements need to be addressed, like whether or not it is a handheld or tablet. In this day and age, it’s a common occurrence to be walking around with tablet that can play games in your hands.

Now I said that there is still a way this could all work out and this would be owing to the point that the general consumer would not be going crazy over the system until Christmas 2013, and by then there will be upwards of 6 million units in the marketplace– these would have been on most part bought up by the hardcore Nintendo consumer, who buys their systems at launch (*cough* *cough*), and they would be the likely informant to everyone around them.  This is how the problem will be solved: we, the traditional gamers, will be frustratingly pulling our hair out trying to explain to everyone that ‘NO, no you cannot just use the handheld, you have to use it in proximity to the console in your house, and no I do not mean the Wii, you have to get the new system, WiiU’.

As seen in Walmart

This isn’t safe enough for a Nintendo that holds a lot in the balance over the success of the Wii U. Their planning should have been better, they should have foreseen potential problems with the Wii U, no matter how unlikely the occurrence and developed a strategic plan to tackle the issue.  Rather than take a number of steps in the early months of the lifespan that seem to compound the issues, making them a tight web of misunderstanding inside a confused consumer that needs slow and steady coaching to unravel.

We went from a marketing slogan of, “Would you like to play?” to “How will U play next?” without making it apparent that to continue playing you need to upgrade, a term that has been embedded in peoples’ minds due to the nature of the mobile phone market that instantly tells them what is going on and what they need to do. Instead of a clever catch-phrase, Nintendo should have been devising a slogan that instantly communicates the gaming concept of their new system.

Let’s hope that despite these missteps and lack of precautions, Nintendo can still right the ship and steer it into clear waters.

Playthrough: Mega Man (part 2)

2

Happy 25th Birthday Mega Man! 25 years ago today the world saw release of one of the finest NES games ever made and the start to one fantastic franchise. For those who missed part 1, that can be found here. With that said, here is the four Dr. Wily stages.

Dr. Wily Stage 1

This level starts out with three of the pogo enemies in a row, but at this point I have the Ice Beam so I just froze them when they jumped high and walked under them. The boss of this stage is tricky, so whatever trick you can find to make the level easier should be exploited to its fullest. Immediately after these guys  are a pile of boulders that need to be moved and then some stairs with low ceilings. Between each ledge is a fire pillar and the best way to get past this part is to freeze them and use them as makeshift platforms.

The next room has some free health but the low ceiling makes the jump difficult, so naturally I messed up and didn’t get it. Upon climbing the ladder you will be in a long hallway with more boulders to move and those fast screw enemies. The good news here is that the boulders will kill most of them with a single toss. The next room after climbing a ladder down will have some narrow platforms with a low ceiling, and to top it off a Bullet Bill enemy will always be coming towards you, making it extremely easy to be knocked back into the pit of spikes.

If you can get passed the last section unscathed then the moving platforms that shoot will make their annoying return. There are only three of them and for some reason they never gave me as much trouble as Ice Man’s stage usually does. Remember that Platform Gun you got all the way back in Elec Man’s stage? Now comes the first time where you need it, as a wall is blocking your way and a ladder is just out of reach. In case you run out of ammo you can always go to the previous screen and farm the item pick-ups to restock on ammunition. I recommend you also make sure your electricity gun is maxed out too as the boss is after this section.

Clay Man is hard in how long the fight lasts rather then just being difficult. You can only attack him once per turn, and each time you attack he will separate into blocks to reform on the opposite side of the room. The pattern in which the blocks move is always the same, so it comes down to memorizing when to jump out of the way and when to stay still. There is a glitch here to make it easier though, and that is when the electricity hits his eye, pause and unpause the game as fast as you can to make it count many more times. I, of course, did not use this glitch. I beat the game enough times that I should not have to rely on dirty tricks anymore. That said, I died on Clay Man four times.

Death count 4

 

Dr. Wily Stage 2

This stage started off with some easing platforming, but it was made hard by dive-bombers from above and below you. One of them killed me right away as I was making a jump and it pushed me back into the pit. With this section, the best way to deal with the enemies is to equip the Elec Man beam as it shoots up, down, and straight in front so as soon as they close in for the attack, fire the beam to take care of everything on screen.

Another interesting thing about Mega Man 1 is that instead of having a room before Dr Wily with eight teleporters for a rematch against the eight robot masters, this game just throws in the bosses through the stage. I fought Cut Man here after the dive-bombers but this time there were no boulders to throw at him so I died on my first attempt. He actually is not too hard; just keep firing at him with your normal buster and avoid his scissor attack.

After this fight was more easing platforming but with turrets that shoot in five directions this time. This section was much easier as the timing for when they shoot is consistent and it is not as challenging to destroy them. Upon clearing this part I had to fight Elec Man again, and needless to say wrecked him with the Rolling Cutter

At this point is becomes clear that this level is just the same routine over again with platforming followed by a boss. Once I beaten Elec Man I had more jumps to conquer, and the enemy here was the ones that rise from the bottomless pits and explode into separate pieces. They are a bit difficult to avoid due to their numbers, but the good news is they don’t do that much damage. Instead of the level’s final boss right after this, there are some ladders to climb down with enemies that move back and forth in their basic pattern. Once again, the Elec Man beam does wonders here and makes quick work out of all the enemies.

The boss here is actually one of the hardest in the game. Maybe there is a secret to beating him efficiently, but it took me four tries to destroy him. The reason it is so hard is because a machine clones you, and whatever weapon you use, he uses. The way I finally managed to beat him was unload all the Elec Man beam ammo I had, followed by the Fire weapon. It is a really intense, pulse pounding battle as he will use the same strategy and constantly move towards you. It is simply exilerating and feels like an accomplishment when he is bested (not saying the rest of the game isn’t satisfying).

Death count 5

 

Dr. Wily Stage 3

This is by far the shortest stage in the game and it surprisingly does not make up for it in difficulty. There are a few screens where you must work your way down, avoiding wall and ceiling mounted turrets and the enemies that move back and forth. As always, the Elec Man beam is the preferred weapon, but really any weapon is helpful here. I took a few hits due to the shear numbers of all the potential threats, but this section is over in a jiffy.

Once the vertical descent is complete there is a long hallway that gets flooded with water. All this means is that it is constantly pushing you, making you run fast while the robot penguins charge at you. It is easy to get hurt due to their post death explosion but with proper timing, jumping and shooting will make short work of this hallway.

The boss is in the next room and can be a pain if you are stunned like me. I died on it three times because it did not seem like any weapons hurt him. The boss is a machine part in a bubble that will circle the room and shoot bullets at you. Each time you destroy one another will take its place and move faster. There are four boulders in the room that will kill one each, but after that you must attack it head on. When attacked with a weapon, it does not seem to be taking any damage, but the best way to deal with the remainders is too mash that fire button as fast as you can when it rolls along the bottom of the screen. Unless you are a world champion button masher you will probably take a few hits, but hopefully you can destroy all eight of them before they kill you. It may not be the best strategy, but it will get the job done.

Death count 3

 

Dr. Wily Stage 4

Here we are, the final stage of the game and this playthrough. To start off on the wrong foot I died two times in a row on the very first screen. It involves three very simple jumps and climbing a ladder. Sure, those enemies that rise and lower from the floor and ceiling respectively show up, but they didn’t even faze me. I missed the ladder twice due to me not pushing up in time on the control pad to grab onto it. Let this set the tone for how much I died on this level.

If you can get past the torturous notion of grabbing a ladder then you will find yourself in a long hallway of turrets, but as usual, the Elec Man beam will take care of this section with little trouble. After climbing some ladders (don’t worry, they are on solid ground this time) there will be another rail platform similar to Guts Man stage. There is only one of them this time, so I jumped on it and the section where the platform drops was so big that I panicked and fell into the spikes below. The second attempt I just missed the platform entirely. The third try I used the Platform Gun so I could jump on them and walk over to the ledge I was suppose to go on, but I fell through a tiny gap before the ladder and died. I have no idea why ladders were so hard to me this time.

Admittedly, I was becoming pretty angry at this point, but once I managed to get through these parts I had to fight the remaining bosses. Bomb Man was first and always easy to beat. Next was Fire Man, and I can never get the pattern down for him; he just keeps firing randomly and always taking off a fair bit of health. Ice Man is third and while he is easy to beat, the controls freeze up for a split second once he is defeated; this caused me to die many times as his last missile just killed me when I couldn’t move. Last up is Guts Man and while not particularly hard, he is just a pain as I was always low on energy.

To sum it up quickly and embarrassingly, I died on Bomb Man zero times, Fire Man zero, Ice Man four times, and Guts Man six times.

Thankfully, there is a checkpoint after these bosses, giving you some mercy before you fight Dr. Wily. He has two forms; the first one is weak to fire and the second form is weak to electricity. The only difference between the two forms is the type of projectiles they fire. Form one will shoot many small bullets while part two will fire one big rotating bullet. He is not the hardest final boss ever, but I still managed to die on him eight times.

To be honest, before I beat the game I had to take a break, so I ended up walking to the local comic book store to pick up the newest issue of Deadpool. Once I came home after some air and read the comic, I picked up the controller and beat the game after two deaths. In short, Deadpool is the man.

Death count 23

Total Death Count: 54

 

Final Words

After playing through Mega Man for the first time in awhile, I remembered why I love the series so much. Unless you play the games constantly, there is always a challenge to them after a small break. There are tons of games from my childhood that are considered hard that I can pick up now and plough through, but Mega Man always gives a challenge. Depending on my personal mood, some sections offer more resistance then others but it always feels like a fresh experience no matter how many times I play through. Maybe one day Capcom will make another Mega Man series, or make part 11 with updated features rather then banking on pure nostalgia (as great as 9 and 10 are), but until then, we have numerous games and genres to sink our teeth into and have fun while doing so.

So here’s to 25 years of pissing gamers off and making them enjoy every second of it.

Playthrough: Mega Man

4

by Ryan C.


It’s almost Mega Man’s 25th anniversary! Don’t act surprised, how could I not write up another article about the Blue Bomber. Instead of reviewing a game that you know how much I love, I figured I would just have some fun and play through the original game once more and write a little walk-through. It won’t be a complete guide, rather it will be me talking about each level, if I am having a hard time at a part, or just funny moments that happen. So turn on some classic tunes and join me in the play by play of the first Mega Man.

 

Bomb Man Stage

Every time I start out I always pick Bomb Man. I find him the easiest to take care of and he is pretty weak against the default Mega Buster, so my advice is to start with this chump. Upon starting the level, I was introduced to some jumping screws that hurl themselves at a high speed. These enemies aren’t tough, but they are easy to get hit by. After these were some bottomless pits, but each one spews out an enemy that rises and separates into 4 segments that explode on contact. Each of the pits are pretty close together, so get ready to avoid anywhere between 4 and 12 explosives. This is a nice start, not even a minute into the game and already these jumping screws and projectiles are wrecking me. If that wasn’t enough, immediately afterwards are some turrets that can fire high speed bullets in 5 directions, and like the previous section, there are numerous turrets grouped together. I hope you like avoiding bullets that cover the screen because this game certainly does.

After clearing this long stretch of hallway comes basic ladder climbing and platforming where I found some health, unfortunately I had to clear 4 wall clinging turrets to get it, meaning I probably could have avoided it altogether and kept the same amount of health, but live and learn. Upon regaining my lost health came another long hallway that introduced the shielded bad guys that can only be harmed just before they fire their weapons. If you can get the timing down they are not so bad, but I did take some damage. Once I killed him the game introduced a Bullet Bill type enemy that has a wavy pattern similar to the Medusa Heads in Castlevania. If you shoot them, they explode and respawn; if they go off the screen, they respawn. Top this with those enemies that come from the bottomless pits and it can be a challenge, but I found if I kept moving and shooting then they couldn’t touch me. Once I cleared this there was a ladder to climb and some platforms to jump over with spikes underneath. One of those Bullet Bills started chasing me, but the secret here is to let it go ahead of you and not shoot it, or else it will just respawn behind you again.

In case you forgot how much the game loved having projectiles shot in every direction, the next segment involves jumping on small ledges over spikes with enemies that fire in all 8 directions and respawn infinitely until you finish the part. Thankfully, after this part you can jump down into a small area and snag a free 1up. After getting my reward for dealing with this bullet hell styled level, I was off to fight the boss. I always found it weird that in this game there are a few rooms before the boss fight, whereas every other game just has a corridor before the encounter. I also forgot how short the level was, I will have this game done in no time.

Climbing down the ladder towards Bomb Man and there are enemies that move back and forth. Careful timing is the key here, but the first one hit me so I fell the rest of the way, not exactly great strategy but it got the job done.

Like I said before, Bomb Man is not hard, he jumps around and throws his bombs in an arc that are easy to avoid. I died here because it has been awhile and the explosion was big enough to reach me. On my second try at almost full health (got hit on the ladder again), I successfully destroyed him and made my way onto Guts Man.

Death Count: 1

 

Guts Man Stage

Similar to Bomb Man, Guts Man is not that hard of a boss. His weakness is the bomb weapon as it can kill him in three shots, but the bombs take an eternity to explode so I find it just as easy to shoot him with my default weapon.

The level starts out with some stairs to climb and the hard-hat enemies that can fire three bullets at a time. For some reason, I never bothered learning of the enemies’ names, so you’ll have to excuse my mediocre detailing of the enemies. After the stairs comes the infamous “rail platform” section. For those who do not know, there are rails with moving platforms on them that will drop if they go over a broken section. The timing needs to be perfect; otherwise you fall to your death. After playing this game so many times I generally don’t have an issue with this part anymore and only died here once.

When I got on solid ground again the game sent out three dive-bombers that stay high up in the air until you’re in range and then attack rapidly. They are cheap, annoying and took off a bit of health, but if you get past this then the hardest parts of the stage are thankfully over with. Once I climbed more stairs I met some evil miners that threw their pick axes at me. They can take a great damage of damage before they die and they need to be killed before you can jump to their platform.

In the final stretch of the level you are given a choice of falling down one of three pits. I wanted to go down the most leftward path, but those pesky dive-bombers knocked me into another one where I got some free health. That was nice, but the way I originally wanted to go had a 1up. Next up is my least favourite enemy: a pogo-jumping, one eyed, steel behemoth of a monster. One touch by them and 1/3 of your energy is gone. I could have stayed and fought but I took the wussy way out and ran underneath him when he jumped high enough. Once I fled I found myself at Guts Man’s door; low on health and no spare lives I did my best against him but died anyways. After doing the whole stage again and dying once more on the rail platforms, I killed Guts Man and was on my way to the next stage.

Death Count: 3

 

Elec Man Stage

Elec Man’s stage is unique in that it focuses on vertical platforming with an abundance of ladders and stair like jumps. The first screen involves three platforms with enemies that move faster if you’re on the same ledge as them. They are tricky to avoid but with careful timing they can be bypassed with ease. In fact, timing is everything in this stage, more so then any other thus far. From the enemy placements to the environmental hazards, this stage can be relatively easy or downright devious.

Anyways, passing the first screen will introduce the hazard of electricity shooting out from the ends of platforms. If you’re not careful they can knock you back, but the timing is consistent and are easy to avoid when jumping. The hardest part is the next two screens when I found myself climbing ladders with six incoming enemies. During these parts, three enemies will rise from the floor and three descend from the ceiling. Once they get in range of you they will fire two beams, which are hard to avoid, and getting hit will mean a drop down a few screens. While that seems like it would be annoying (it is) the next section features disappearing/reappearing blocks. How it works is a block will appear, and then the second one, once the third one appears that first will disappear. Straightforward in design, but devious in its execution and I fell down multiple screens at this part three times in a row. There is absolutely no trouble to tell how pro I am.

If you can pass all this nonsense then you will be given a choice as the level separates into two paths, right or left. I recommend going right to avoid enemies, but you will still have to avoid electricity beams. After this you can go left or right again and this time I went left, as all I had to do was climb the ladder in sync with the electricity beams. Once you get near the top there will be those annoying screw enemies that will knock you down, but in my case – killed me. What you got to do is sit tight near the bottom of the screen and let the screw just kill himself like an idiot.

At this point if you’re tired of ladders the game will finally give you some left to right platforming for a bit, but then it is straight back to ladders and vertical climbing again. There is an item that is required to beat the game in this level after the ascent continues, all you need is Guts Man’s power arm to lift the blocks to get it. What it does is make platforms to jump on. It is only necessary in two parts of the game, but it can make some levels easier. With the ability to make platforms, I ingeniously decided to call it that Platform Gun. With one more ladder left and that giant pogo tank-like enemy avoided like a boss, I died on Elec Man and got a game over.

To save you the time, I kept breezing through the level only dying once due to the electricity beams. When I finally made it back to Elec Man I use the Guts Man arm to throw those boulders at him, but they do very little and I kept dying repeatedly on him. After a lot of deaths and temper tantrums I realized I messed up the order and Elec Man’s weakness is actually the Rolling Cutter from Cut Man. The game just trolled me by having boulders in the boss room. This stage is to be continued…

Death Count: 11

 

Cut Man Stage

I took my failure to heart and decided to conquer Cut Man’s stage. It has one of the most memorable tunes in the series and it perfectly fitted my mood. The stage started off with some platforming and those pesky dive-bombers, but they did not faze me in the least. The level then went vertical, with ladders, wall turrets and enemies that move back and forth in their basic pattern.

To be quite honest, the only think I could think of while playing this stage was how much I was going to kill Elec Man when I got his weakness. I was on a vengeful path, taking minimal damage and kicking maximum ass. Even when the game rolled out the burly pogo-jumping tank, did I take damage? Of course not, I was on a mission and would not stop until I had Elec Man dead.

After climbing all the way up and passing some fortresses that shot out scissors, and climbing all the way down on the other side, I engaged Cut Man and defeated him in two hits with Guts Man strength. With scissors in hands, I made my return to Elec Man and settled the score.

Death Count: 0

 

Elec Man Stage re-visited

It was on like Donkey Kong. After ploughing through the level once again and taking only 2 hits, I finally beat him. Sweet sweet victory was mine. Forget Dr. Wily, I beaten Elec Man, my personal vendetta was complete.

Death Count: 0

 

Ice Man Stage

Before I even selected this one I knew I was going to come out rotted. This level infuriates me to no end, no matter how many times I play through it, I wondered if this time would be any different.

With a name like Ice Man, you can expect a lot of the ground to be covered in slippery ice and to be fair, the level is not that hard until the end. Starting off I made my way to the right climbing stairs and killing robot penguins that move in a wavy pattern. This part is pretty easy and after this are two rooms with the appearing/disappearing blocks again. I often hear a lot of people say how hard it is, but there is nothing to worry about. Sure there is an enemy on the ground, but it can be killed with the Rolling Cutter. There no spikes, no timer, nothing at all to worry about so if it takes you an hour, so be it; just figure out the pattern and do it.

What always got my blood boiling was the next section. It involves jumping on platforms that move and shoot bullets. Their movements are irregular, they shoot randomly and if you do get hit then it will most likely be a instant death in the bottomless pit where all this takes place over. Sometimes you think you can make a jump and the platform will move out of the way, or just shoot your ass down. If that is not enough, towards the end they send out the penguins again. This part is the worst and I always spend at least a half hour on it, but I got extremely lucky and only died once. Imagine that.

Right after this mess of a section you fight Ice Man, and the Elec Man beam kills him in three shots.

Death Count: 1

 

Fire Man Stage

For some reason, I always loved Fire Man’s song. It has a different vibe to it, but I absolutely love it and it fits the stage well and will probably be stuck in my head all day.

Starting off I found myself climbing up ladders and zig zagging my way up the screen, blasting turrets and then zig zagging downwards. The next room involve some platforms over fire pits, with flame pillars shooting up from the floor and fire enemies raining down from the ceiling. The platforms are narrow enough that one hit could of sent me straight down into one of those pits.

I am pleased to say I did not die here and then I climbed the ladder to do some vertical platforming. This room has some health behind the flame pillars, but obviously I didn’t need them. In the next section there is a combination of horizontal and vertical fire beams; some of the roofs are low, which made the fire hard to avoid sometimes. Before leaving this area I picked up more health and starting making my way downwards, whereupon the enemies that rain down knocked me into the lava. Luckily, this was the checkpoint room and actually spawned me a little further from where I died. I avoided falling in again and started climbing upwards once more, where I found some fire being shot through a tube. I had to cross through the tube twice, getting hit both times in the process. I always get hit here and I hate it.

After clearing another hallway and avoiding more fire pillars and raining enemies, I made my way to Fire Man where I died straight away. A defeat made more insulting by seeing another game over screen. I wanted to take a break from this playthrough after the robot masters, so I played through the level again, dying once by being pushed into the lava near the beginning. When I made it to Fire Man again I just unloaded the Ice Beam into him, it was a close call because he was using the same tactic as me, but thankfully I came out on top and the way to Dr. Wily was open.

Death Count: 3

 

So ends part 1, tune in Monday (Dec 17) where part 2 will be put up.

 

Tracking the Latest Wii U Sales: Was it a success or not?

5
wii u sales

Tracking the Latest Wii U Sales: Was it a success or not?

This info was gathered by a member of our community, TechnoHobbit

Wii U Consoles

US:
First Week (18th-24th): 425,000+
Second Week (25th-1st): 130,733*
Total: 542,583*
Europe:
First 2 Days (30th-1st): 178,615*
Total: 178,615*
Japan:
First 2 Days (8th-10th): 307,471
Total: 307,471*
Other:
First 5 Days (18th-24th): 50,249*
First Second Week (25th-1st): 16,114*
Total: 66,363*
Grand Total: 1,095,032* (yes 1 million).

Games (games are listed in order of how many sales they have)

1. Nintendo Land:
US:
First Week (18th-24th): 323,709*
Second Week (25th-1st): 77,385*
Europe:
First 2 Days (30th-1st): 124,490*
Japan:
First 2 Days (8th-10th): 66,583
Other:
First Week (18th-24th): 57,125*
Second Week (25th-1st): 33,922*
Grand Total: 683,214*
2. New Super Mario Bros. U:
US:
First Week (18th-24th): 243,000
Second Week (25th-1st): 62,104*
Europe:
First 2 Days (30th-1st): 90,507*
Japan:
First 2 Days (8th-10th): 160,140
Other:
First Week (18th-24th): 47,002*
Second Week (25th-1st): 25,694*
Grand Total: 628,447
3. ZombiU:
US:
First Week (18th-24th): 78,965*
Second Week (25th-1st): 19,391*
Europe:
First 2 Days (30th-1st): 52,922*
Japan:
First 2 Days (8th-10th): 10,680
Other:
First Week (18th-24th): 13,935*
Second Week (25th-1st): 12,037*
Grand Total: 187,930
4. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Japan: 106,454

Grand Total: 106,454
5. Call of Duty: Black Ops II
US (18th-1st): 64,137*
Europe (30th-1st): 12,170*
Other (18th-1st): 13,300*
Grand Total: 89,607*
6. Scribblenauts: Unlimited
US (18th-1st): 60,113*
Grand Total: 60,113*
7. Just Dance 4
US (18th-1st): 43,075*
Europe (30th-1st): 5,495*
Other (18th-1st): 8,496*
Grand Total: 57,066*
 
8. Batman: Arkham City
US (18th-1st): 36,973*
Europe (30th-1st): 8,345*
Other (18th-1st): 7,883*
Grand Total: 53,201*
 
9. Assassin’s Creed III
US (18th-1st): 32,674*
Europe (30th-1st): 9,636*
Other (18th-1st): 7335*
Grand Total: 49,645*
 
10. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed
US (18th-1st): 26,418*
Europe (30th-1st): 13,691*
Other (18th-1st): 6,891*
Grand Total: 47,000*
 
11. Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Grand Total: 41,036*
12. ESPN: Sports Connection
Grand Total: 33,007*
 
13. Skylanders Giants
Grand Total: 30,965*
 
14. Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Grand Total: 27,827*
 
14. Sing Party
Grand Total: 25,991*
 
16. Mass Effect 3
Grand Total: 23,726*
 
17. FIFA 13
Grand Total: 22,304*
 
18. Darksiders II
Grand Total: 16,853*
 
19. 007 Legends
Grand Total: 16,733*
 
20. Transformers Prime
Grand Total: 13,585*
 
21. WipeOut 3 The Game
Grand Total: 13,186*
 
22. Game Party: Champions
Grand Total: 12,970*
 
23. Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
Grand Total: 7,252 (incomplete data)
 
24. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013
Grand Total: 7,210*
 
Overall Games Sold Grand Total: 2,289,275
So, how do you think the Wii U fared?

Quick! Duke Nukem 3D Free and 475 Games up to 50% Off at GOG.com for 24 Hours!

Game Deals

Quick! Duke Nukem 3D Free and 475 Games up to 50% Off at GOG.com for 24 Hours!

This post comes from our sister-site, Gaming Enthusiast

Yes, it’s a massive holiday sale at GOG.com and almost every single game in their library is on sale for the holidays. Plus, Duke Nukem 3D is free to download for 24 hours only (later released as Duke Nukem 64 on the N64.) Capitalize on this sale now and pick up any game that fits your fancy. Steam Sales are usually on select games but this affects nearly every game they have to offer. So make sure you check it out. Plus, if you go through our affiliate link below to GOG.com you’ll be helping us support the site to provide you with more coverage of Nintendo and video games.

Check out what GOG.com are offering at their holiday sales through this link or below.

The Biggest 3DS RPG You Didn’t Know About: The Mystical Journey

19
The Mystical Journey

The Biggest 3DS RPG You Didn’t Know About: The Mystical Journey

by Menashe


A Massive 3DS Community

Danny Gump, known by his online nickname HullBreach, is the ‘overlord’ of a massive online community. HullBreach Online, DSi Paint, and 3DS Paint, are all part of his eclectic network of sub-divisions. To date, nearly 100,000 gamers have signed up to Gump’s virtual community and there are an impressive 45,000 members still actively participating as their dedicated collective of fans continues to grow.

It is the largest community of its kind. Other online Nintendo communities and sites are optimized for interaction via PC or possibly even a mobile phone. However, this Nintendo community is intended for interaction specifically via Nintendo’s hardware, whether Wii, DS, 3DS, and soon, Wii U.

What originally brought them together was a sci-fi space MMO called Hullbreach Online for the Wii browser created by Gump himself. As the Wii owners chatted together and grew friendlier within the MMO, Gump eventually extracted the chat functionality and ported it to DSi. This chat became extremely popular and led to the creation of an entire community on the handheld, complete with a painting application, forum, homebrew games, multiple chat rooms, and an openly available Browser SDK. When the 3DS was released, it was only natural for the community to extend their reach to the 3DS browser with a 3D painting application, similar to Colors! 3D, which, incidentally, also had its humble beginnings as a homebrew application for the DSi.

The many talented programmers and artists in the community, with Danny Gump at its helm, have been able to consistently grow and develop new features and software. But, all this was the antecedent to Hullbreach’s most ambitious project to date, The Mystical Journey. With all the latent talent surging in the community, it was only natural to put all that creativity and skill to use on a game for their beloved handheld. And that’s what I had a chance to talk about and discuss with Danny Gump recently. Throughout our Skype and email conversations I was given the chance to take a closer look at what makes this RPG so impressive and what the game is all about.

An Unconventional Gaming Engine

The most fascinating aspect of this 3DS role-playing game is that it has been programmed from the ground up with an unconventional gaming engine. It has been pulled off entirely through HTML and Javascript– which is all the 3DS browser really allows– and the PHP and MySQL database of the 3DS Paint website. If that sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, translate it as: the entire RPG game engine needs nothing to run other than your 3DS browser surfing on the 3DS Paint website. It’s practically a miracle, but through Gump’s testing, benchmarking, and improvising, he has managed to pull off this impressive feat. Years ago, this would not have been possible, but browser technology advancing the way it has turned Gump’s dream into a reality.

So, does this mean you’ll be able to play The Mystical Journey on any browser, anywhere? Yes, your mobile phone will also be able to run it, as it too can handle HTML and Javascript and a probably a whole lot more. However, the game has been made to run optimally for the 3DS. The speed, resolution, graphic capabilities, stylus input, and even the limitations of the 3DS (such as no sound on the browser) have been made to take full advantage of the 3DS’ strengths and weaknesses. The game also ties in with the DSi/3DS Paint community, so you will only be able to fully enjoy everything it has to offer if you play it via your 3DS browser. Still, the extra accessibility will probably allow the game to have additional exposure upon completion.

Like Square of the 90′s

So, what about the game itself? Why take the time and trouble to discuss the “coming-of-age” of this online community and its game, if the game itself was nothing special? As you can surmise, this RPG is incredibly ambitious and, from what I’ve seen so far, you have every right to get excited. But, let me warn in advance: if a deep, lengthy RPG that finds its appeal in the retro RPGs of yesteryear is not your thing, then you may as well move along to the next attraction. This is a game that is built upon simple browser technology, relying on a depth of character to find appeal. The test would be if you can play a game like Final Fantasy VI in today’s day and age and still enjoy yourself.

It’s no coincidence that I mention Final Fantasy VI, because that is the inspiration for the single-player campaign in the game. When I initially saw screenshots of The Mystical Journey, I almost wrote it off. Compared to the 3D advances made on the 3DS, these 2D sprites looked simple and out-of-date. But, when I watched my first tearjerker cut-scene, as a young boy is orphaned while watching his parents brutal murder, I realized the personality inherent in the game. The graphics adequately convey the emotions and depth, just as we once felt the sprites of Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, and Final Fantasy VI weren’t too rudimentary to create a game that can be called “art”. Give the game a chance and it will begin to impress you. You’ll momentarily forget about words like 1080p or Unreal Engine 4.

Norse Mythology

So, let’s dig deeper into the storyline and backdrop. Everyone is familiar with Greek mythology, as the Greek Gods have played countless roles in our current media, whether Movies, TV, or Video Games. However, besides for the overall Viking Culture, Norse Mythology has been notably absent. It seems the one place we are familiar with it from are the comics and movie of the superhero, Thor, which portray a reinvention of the Norse Deities. The names Thor, Loki, Odin, and Asgard are somewhat more recognizable due to Marvel Comic’s popular series. In video games, the landscape is even more bare. Save for some Norse inspiration in the world of Skyrim and the game Ragnarok, you won’t find much to work with.

The Mystical Journey, however, decides to make heavy use of the rich heritage of Norse Mythology and it pays off. But don’t count out the Greek Gods just yet. There will, in fact, be a colliding of the two mythologies as two separate threads of the storyline begin to coalesce. However, the Greek mythology remains a sub-plot, whereas the Norse deities take center stage for most of the game.

In an early cut-scene you learn that the jealous God Loki uses Hoedr as a pawn and has him framed for killing Loki’s own brother, the heroic and beloved God Baldur. The Gods are livid and begin rampaging and destroying the human world in their quest to find Hoedr. The party that is in your control attempts to bring the God back to Odin for judgement to calm the raging Gods.

A Rock from Olympus

In the sub-plot, a mysterious rock with unexplained properties has crash landed and it seems everyone is desperate to to use it for their own devices. Murder won’t stop some of them from trying to get their hands on it. The rock, called “hephaestusite”, fell from Mount Olympus of the Greek Gods and has the ability to float on water, self-repair when scratched, mimic its surroundings, emit an audible hum (it sings!), and repel magic attacks. Without giving too much away: expect one character to go down the path of the dark side due to the transformative effects of being exposed to the rock.

This mysterious shard of rock and others, discovered later, combine to alter the entire flow of Norse mythology. The Greek god of time, Chronos, can foresee aspects of this future, but he is outside of his own realm, so his power of seeing the future is hazy. He can see who has a big part on both sides, like a chess master anticipating moves, but he can’t see the endgame. Chronos has disguised himself in Midgard to monitor the resolution so that he can retrieve all the hephaestusite and return to Mt. Olympus with the Norse timeline restored. While everything unfolds with the hephaestusite subplot, the party is taking Hoedr back to Asgard so that he can willingly turn himself over to Odin. He chooses this fate so that the killing of mortals stops, as the other gods demolish entire cities in their search for him. Many of the party members join after they have lost loved ones or whole kingdoms at the hands of the gods, so they can guarantee the delivery of Hoedr and the end to bloodshed.

Epic in Breadth and Depth

As you probably have begun to sense from reading this brief glimpse of an overview, the game is rightfully epic in scope- both in breadth and depth. Breadth? The RPG will span 7 continents and 100+ villages. You probably have never encountered a single-player RPG that was released episodically but The Mystical Journey’s seven continents will be released one after another in episodes as the small team works tirelessly to realize their complete vision. Instead of sacrificing some of the scope in order to release it all in one shot, they will take the time to flesh out the world with everything they had in mind from the start. Because of this, while the first continent, Mannheim, should see release in the first quarter of 2013, the final continent of Asgard won’t be released until the end of 2013, in the best of circumstances. While you wait for each new installment, there will also be an MMO aspect that will allow players to battle in the Mt. Hildar coliseum for prizes, and they can meet in taverns on each continent to chat. This extended experience should give you more time to appreciate the entire universe they’ve so carefully and lovingly crafted.

And that is the depth I previously mentioned. The lore, side-characters, and mythology of the game is what is so impressive. I’ve seen some of their reference pages where they list characters, NPCs, sub-plots, and locations. It would make any fan of fantasy novels or RPGs grin with anticipation. Don’t expect a light-handed approach to this fantasy universe. It’s ready to unfurl in front of you over the course of a year. And it’s all being done for free, as a work of love. Love of Nintendo handhelds. Love of fantasy worlds. And love of the RPGs of yesteryear. If any of those themes resonate with your gaming sensibilities, The Mystical Journey is a game that you will be wise to bookmark and track until its due release.

 

Thank you to Arch_Enemy/Twiilight_Prince (TMJ’s sprite artist) for assisting in bringing this feature to publication

Top 25 Handheld Adventure Games

Best DS Adventure Games

Top 25 Handheld Adventure Games


Although the PC is usually considered the main home for adventure games, the DS managed to be a powerhouse for adventure games. And now it looks like that tradition will continue on the 3DS with the release of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. We decided to take a look back at the best adventure games to ever grace a handheld gaming system. Lookout for some recently famous series like Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright as well as many hidden gems.

More Adventure Games:
-Top 25 Classic Adventure Games
-Top 50 Modern-Day Adventure Games
-Top Ten Best PC Adventure Games
Best Adventure Games Series of All Time
Top 10 Console Adventure Games
Best Visual Novels
Best Interactive Fiction/Text Adventures
Best Free/Casual/Online Adventure Games

999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

999 received critical acclaim, with several near perfect scores emphasizing its well written story, remarkable presentation, and addictive gameplay.  Nine people have been abducted by a mysterious kidnapper who uses the alias “Zero.” They find themselves on a ship— possibly a replica of the RMS Titanic and are told that they have nine hours to escape before the ship sinks beneath the waves. Zero is running the “Nonary Game” – a game “where you will put your life on the line.” The group is forced to split up into various subgroups and explore “numbered doors,” behind which lie Zero’s puzzles. Zero promises that escape lies behind a door numbered 9. The characters must work together despite suspicions of each other to advance, as well as to discover Zero’s motive and identity. Emphasis is placed more on the characters, their motives, and the mystery of the situation than on the puzzles themselves.

Get it at Amazon

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

It is the sequel to the Nintendo DS title, 999, and is created by the same staff.  Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is nothing short of a masterpiece. Riveting from beginning to end, it sets a new standard for interactive storytelling, and demands an emotional investment from the player that ultimately pays off with one of the most satisfying endings in recent video gaming memory. Unless you have yet to experience its prequel 999, there is simply no excuse for you not to play this game. The game contains full voice acting (English and Japanese in the North American version and only Japanese in the European version), and is rendered in 3D models, rather than 2D sprites like its predecessor. Though the story is self-contained, it contains several references to 999.

Get it at Amazon

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Ghost Trick is one of the best adventure games on the DS and any fan of the genre should give it a try. It has a great story with great characters delivered in a very unique package. The premise of the game is fairly interesting: you start off dead and have to use your soul to possess and manipulate objects to accomplish goals. At first you are just trying to find out who you were and why you were killed, but as the story progresses you start uncovering bits and pieces of a bigger plot with national security implications (I kid you not). This game is from the creators of the Ace Attorney series, so people familiar with those games will probably see similarities here, mostly a good story with quirky characters, wrapping humor around a fairly tragic situation.

Get it at Amazon

Theresia

This is not just a game; it is a story. A work of art. This game is for all the souls out there who long to interactively satisfy a DARK aesthetic. The artwork is beautiful, and the music is haunting. The atmosphere of Theresia overall is one of dim nostalgia and painful, inexplicable longing. Beauty, darkness, psychological twists, and a meaningful story. If you’re part of the cult obsession with Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GC), then you’ll love Theresia.

“What is Theresia?” This is what the game asks you outright, and what it wants you to understand. At first, this seems a purely practical puzzle. But as the game goes on, and you wind deeper and deeper into the character’s mind, the question starts to become more abstract. Less than halfway through the game, you know WHAT Theresia is… and yet you find yourself unable to stop contemplating it; unable to truly satisfy the underlying question.

There are two halves to the story; Dear Emile and Dear Martel, the latter of which can only be accessed after completing Dear Emile. Each story revolves around a protagonist who awakens with no memory of who they are, where they are or how they got there. Both Dear Emile and Dear Martel are incredibly twisted: Dear Emile because of psychological reasons, and Dear Martel for biological ones. I’d say Dear Emile’s was the more warped of the two and Dear Martel had more of a sense of regret to it. The endings will make you go “wait…what the HELL was that?” Dear Emile’s story is almost an aftereffect of what goes on in Dear Martel, and it’s very exciting to play for the first time just to see how they intertwine.

Get it at Amazon

Flower, Sun, and Rain

Flower, Sun and Rain is an intriguing mystery adventure very much in the vein of Groundhog Day, created by the twisted mind of Suda51. You play a detective charged with locating and defusing a bomb by solving thought-provoking puzzles with a wealth of bizarre outcomes. Solving the mystery of what is happening to him and his surroundings is necessary before he eventually goes insane. Originally released on the Sony PlayStation®2, Flower, Sun and Rain was never available outside of Japan and has been high on wish lists of every Suda51 fan since Killer7 was unleashed on the western market in 2005. This updated Nintendo DS version features all the creative quirks that made the original a hit and uniquely utilises the touch screen to solve mysteries, offering players a more intimate experience. An addictive soundtrack, plenty of brain-teasing puzzles and a gripping story packed full of twists and humorous moments help make Suda-san’s title a must-try.

Get it at Amazon

Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Just what the DS ordered! The totally original noir art style just looks great on the DS. The story and characterization is top notch. The game unfolds like a film noir. And holding the DS like a book really is a nice touch and allows for a portrait style presentation of the characters. This game moves at it’s own pace, and if your not ready to play patiently and enjoy everything it has to offer, then stay away. BUT – for those of you who want something a little different with graphics that those around you will just have to see; then, Hotel Dusk is the game for you. Do not underestimate Cing. This game should definitely be in the Top 5 and should be apart of everyone’s collection. A keeper, for sure!

Get it at Amazon

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was one of the greatest sleeper hits of the current handheld generation, combining a unique visual style with an excellently written story that was expertly localized. The game made excellent use of the capabilities of the DS, from its microphone to its screen; even its sleep mode was utilized in puzzle solving. It was hailed – rightly so – as one of the best graphic adventures this generation had to offer. When Cing announced plans to continue the storyline with Last Window: The Secret of Cape West, it was a graphic adventure fan’s dream come true. One again, Cing delivers with a great adventure that feels like a contemporary cop movie with just the story elements.

Get it at Amazon

-Professor Layton series-

The Layton series waltzed into the gaming scene and offered an ingenious blend of Point and Click Adventure gameplay and logical puzzles to solve. Figuring out that adventure gamers would appreciate the logic puzzles more than other types of gamers is one of the most intelligent design decisions of the past generation. Plus, the worlds crafted in the Laytons series by Level 5 works so well, hand-in-hand with the adventure and puzzles found within. The entire series is full or artistry, magic, elegance, superb storyline, and charm. These are the individual games in the series:

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

The game follows the adventures of the titular Professor Layton and his young prodigy Luke. As the game begins the duo has been summoned to the village of St. Mystere where the patriarch of the village has recently passed away. Before he died he hid a large treasure and the Professor has been brought in to find the treasure. As you search for the treasure you’ll also solve a murder and uncover the major secrets that have been hidden in the sleepy hamlet. Along the way are 130 puzzles, which are the heart of the game.

Get it at Amazon

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

It begins with the Professor and Luke traveling to meet Layton’s mentor, Dr. Schrader, who has sent the pair a letter detailing his procuring of the Elysian Box, a chest rumored to kill anyone who tried to open it. Upon walking into his apartment, he is found lying on the floor, dead, with the box missing. The only clue he left behind was a train ticket for the high-class Molentary Express without a mentioned destination, which they promptly catch to begin their investigation to find out more on the fate of Dr. Schrader, and the whereabouts of his diabolical box. During their search, they encounter 153 additional puzzles, which are improved over the first game in the series.

Get it at Amazon

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

The game starts upon Luke receiving a letter purportedly sent by himself, ten years into the future, only a week after an accident in which Dr. Stahngun’s failed demonstration of a time machine caused himself and the Prime Minister to vanish. He and Layton travel to a desolate part of town to investigate a clock shop, but upon walking out, find themselves to have been thrust forward into the future London, ten years from then. In their efforts to find the truth of their unwound future, they are forced to solve 168 new puzzles, and to remember a forgotten past. Oh yeah, and they meet themselves in the future.

Get it at Amazon

Professor Layton and the Last Specter

Layton and the Last Specter is the last Layton games on the DS. However it is, chronologically, the first game in the series.It starts when Layton is called by an old friend named Clark to the mysterious, dark, and foggy town of Misthallery, where legends exist of a great, shadowy giant who protects the region whenever a special flute is played to summon him. However, recently, the figure has turned against the village, and it is up to the Professor, a young boy of the village named Luke Triton who is heavily involved in the legend of the Specter (we’re supposed to be meeting him for the first time), and Layton’s new assistant Emmy Altava, to figure out why the specter is wreaking havoc in the town. Together, they investigate the village and the Last Specter, and, while doing so, solve another 170 puzzles.

Get it at Amazon

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Miracle Mask was the first Layton game for the 3DS and it was the best-selling 3DS launch game in Japan. The art style is pseudo-3D. Professor Layton and Luke follow Jean Descole to a place known as Monte d’Or in search of a powerful mask said to have created the city. Professor Layton is forced to recall his past in order to uncover the secret of the mask in the present. The truth is hidden deep within the Miracle Mask.

Get it at Amazon

 

[Continue to the next page for the Phoenix Wright series and 12 other awesome adventure games]