It is always sad to see somebody that is famous decide to end their careers. It is even sadder when such person or entity has been around for so long that you simply start assuming it will always be there, even though deep down you know that is not humanly possible. The most amazing ability an artist has, is being incredibly successful in making everybody believe they are immortal. Playing gigs, acting on plays, being in the constant focus of TV cameras, all those activities seem to be the true fountain of youth, because even though truly gifted people who stand around for long enough to let their surging wrinkles be noticed worldwide, their spirit remains somehow intact: partially due to our remembrance of a glorious past and partially because they find uncanny energy in the satisfying work they perform.
So maybe that is the reason why when a long-standing act comes to an end some people find a way to be as emotionally moved as they were when they saw a true friend wave goodbye for the last time, or when they shared what they knew to be the last kiss with that special someone who might never again show up. When immortals wave goodbye, we realize that even the most fantastic people who were able to enchant the world with their work will only truly be immortal on the thoughts of those who remember them. Coming to the conclusion that even immortals cannot truly reach immortality reveals the truth that every human being likes to forget: all things must, and will, come to an end. And, I might add, whether it is sudden, unannounced, or expected will not make a difference, it will be sad all the same.
Yesterday, R.E.M. announced that after 31 years of music, they would be bowing out of the stage for the last time; a surprise given that just in March they released a great new album, and an impending happening because 31 years is a whole lot of time. They leave behind 15 albums, 14 of which range from good to masterpiece, and a fanbase that had been shrinking ever since 1996. They did not inaugurate Alternative Rock, but they were the first ones in that genre to achieve a very high degree of success, hence opening the floodgates for the Grunge movement and – as a indirect consequence – for more bands born after the 90s than a regular music listener would possibly realize.
Compared to other bands who lasted this long, or had a similar meaningful effect on the music scenario, it is no exaggeration that R.E.M. goes down very quietly, probably because being quiet and laid-back is how they learned to be a band. For the first seven years of their career it would not be likely to walk to someone, say the band's name and look at a face of recognition. For almost a decade, R.E.M. was true to the label of alternative, they were an alternative to those tired of the homogeneous mainstream, but differently from other bands who gain underground fame simply because what they do is different – not necessarily meaningful and great – there was a lot of substance in the band's early works, enough substance to influence a whole new generation of musicians while being mostly restricted to College radios.
Success came in 1987 with Document and its two core songs "It's the end of the world" and "The One I Love" and due to that success the band would leave – one year later – their independent label for Warner Bros, signing at the time the biggest contract in the history of the industry. Green from 1998 did not bring the profits Warner expected, but in 1991 the album Out of Time with "Losing my Religion" turned R.E.M. into a worldwide phenomenon. And their commercial potential only grew with Automatic for the People (1992) and Monster (1994). All of a sudden, the laid-back underground College band was touring all around the world and reached the popularity of giants like U2. At some point during that decade, rock music lovers were usually divided between those of the R.E.M. team and the U2 team.
Starting from New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996) the once biggest band in the planet started to fade under the weight of its popularity. Due to the band's origins, it was never in their blood to make commercial music for the sake of selling, and the sequence of Out of Time, Automatic for the People and Monster might have been the biggest accidental explosion of popularity in the history of music. It is hard to say whether the band decided to drop producing easy-to-sell songs, or if it was all part of an organic process. The truth is that on the following decade, R.E.M. would keep performing at considerably big venues and touring the world, but with the declining commercial nature of the albums R.E.M. went back to the underground. Maybe not that same old and too dark underground of their early years, but an underground level directly below the mainstream. R.E.M. went full circle.
Maybe it was not their intention to be a part of such a circular story. Certainly, their biggest intent was in making music that felt right for themselves, and not for a bunch of dressed-up executives who are too worried about sales charts to have time to think about quality music. As the curtain closes on their career, the band's message of artistic integrity and their significance to the history of music will – without a doubt – be remembered by many people, but only those who look deep and try hard will be able to find it. Their message, their impact and their music all go back to where everything started, the good thing about it is that there is a lot of reward in discovering them. Just like it is delightful to find that extremely talented band playing on some unknown radio and realizing that they have what it takes to make it big, sometimes they just choose not to do it.
Much has been said about how The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has failed to create the usual level of overwhelming expectations that other recent Zelda titles have generated. It is hard to pinpoint exactly why that has happened, maybe it was the way on which it was first presented or maybe it is due to the game's art direction, which does not go completely against the norm, like Wind Waker did, and does not bring the sort of more adult and realistic design that fans had been dying to see for the whole five years leading to the reveal of Twilight Princess. Whatever is the case, not only did I feel that the general anticipation was not as high as expected, but I also personally experienced that. Differently from other Zelda games, I didn't cling to every picture that gave me a glance inside the game's world, just like I didn't get close to having outbursts of excitement whenever the date of the reveal of new footage was around the corner
It seems, though, that my time of mild and somehow controlled hopes is over, because after this week's overflowing amount of news and tiny details on the game – revealed in the latest edition of Game Informer – I am officially hyped and expecting a lot from Skyward Sword. I could go on and on talking about the promise of two overworlds, one that is inspired by Wind Waker's Great Sea and another that traces back to the more traditional Hyrule of other Zelda titles; how it appears that puzzles and battles will be expanded to outside the dungeons, making the exploration factor of the game much more dense – in a Metroid-like fashion – solving the recurring problem of lack of equipment usage outside the dungeon where they originated from; and what the controls will do to benefit combat turning it into a much more engaging and technical experience, occasionally giving them a puzzle-like nature. But that has all been discussed endlessly.
What truthfully caught my eye, and filled me up with dangerous hype, was a statement by Aonuma where he said that the Zelda team has been widely refreshed by new professionals, most of which grew up playing Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker and even Twilight Princess – it has been five years after all – as fans. And as we all have come to learn and know, if there is a group of people that knows what is good for a franchise, it is their fans. I believe those fans entered the team with bags full of ideas related to what could be in fact improved, and while some of those ideas were undoubtedly filtered to some degree by the team's leaders, apparently they were in a big enough number to shine through that demanding filter and affect the game.
I am not, in any way, expecting the series to be turned upside-down, but I am confident some changes in the pacing and in how the game progresses might be found in the final product, and will be severely beneficial to the franchise.
Until the games are released, and we witness how they impact the system's sales and the overall impression that the user base has on the Nintendo 3DS, it is awfully early to claim that the handheld is finally pacing towards glory. It is hard to conceive that games with the Nintendo stamp on the cover will do anything other than succeed critically and commercially, but this is a platform where some promising titles have turned into a disappointing mess, therefore caution automatically becomes the best antidote to prevent further disaster. Still, after Nintendo's late-night conference, getting a tiny bit more optimistic in relation to what is in store for the 3DS is a natural matter, which means Nintendo has done its task of putting a slightly brighter light onto the system smoothly.
After an annoying hiatus, Mario Tennis is back in a new iteration that – in the midst of an annoying lack of further details – leaves everybody hoping that it will have a full-fledged online mode. Visually, the game is closer to the Gamecube version that the Nintendo 64 original, but gameplay-wise I hope it will resemble the first title of the series a lot more. Meanwhile, Animal Crossing 3DS brings hopes that the series will have its vast untouched potential finally rightfully explored by Nintendo which, as the series gained new installments over the past few years, failed to implement a satisfactory amount of additions in the sequels. Kid Icarus appeared with the already expected announcement of its short delay, which will do the series a whole lot of good due to the fact that it will move further away from the shadows of the Mario and Zelda games of the holidays.
Bravely Default and the new Fire Emblem will start what will hopefully be a library of fantastic RPGs – that in the future – might compare to the heavyweights the Nintendo DS offered. Super Mario Land 3D (and its amazing cover, which I am deeply infatuated with) brings back memories of Super Mario 64, but one can't help feeling that the game is more straight-to-the-point and stripped down to its basics than the Nintendo 64 masterpiece, an interesting blend of the Super Mario Galaxy linearity with the Super Mario 64 setting. Luigi's Mansion 2 looked more astonishing than ever before, strangely making it the game I am most looking forward to play; obviously, Skyward Sword aside. And Mario Kart 7, a title that I still think might change, will add Lakitu and Metal Mario to the fray, and bring in the component of customizing your go-karts with tires and other accessories that add different behaviors to the vehicle.
Capcom is showing once again monstrous support to the system (I like to think this shameful pun was not intended), by developing not one, but two Monster Hunter games. The already know Monster Hunter 3G will be joined by the unexpected Monster Hunter 4, whose unknown exclusive nature, could be an immense weight tilting the scale on Nintendo's favor on the Japanese market. Monster Hunter 4 looks absolutely gorgeous, and with the relatively great success that the third installment of the series had in the western market, we could be talking about the most popular title of the franchise yet.
If hunting monsters, squashing Goombas, racing through the Mushroom Kingdom, being engaged into deep complex RPGs, busting ghosts, living peacefully in a quiet village, playing a wacky tennis match and shooting up baddies in a Greek Nintendo-made setting makes you giddy with excitement, then welcome to the party and start saving money for a 3DS; if everything fails to move you in a positive way, I heard watching movies is a great hobby alternative for playing games.
Here is my Super Meat Boy review. I am still on my quest to get a new video card to play Limbo, and consequently a few PC games I always wished I could play, but right now I am out of money because I am saving to buy something bigger (a car), therefore I am running a serious money-saving system! Anyway, I hope you enjoy this review if you manage to make it to the end, and recommend it if you like it.
Warning! Big review approaching!
A game good enough to die for…. over 1000 times
Once upon a time, there was Meat Boy. He lived happily with bandage girl, his beautiful sweet girlfriend. Such beauty and sweetness would clearly not go unnoticed by others, and unfortunately in this case, their relationship attracted the envy of Dr. Fetus. Such an evil man he was, and in his wish to tear apart the wonderful couple he developed a deep dislike for poor Meat Boy. Therefore Dr. Fetus beat Meat Boy up and took Bandage Girl away from him. Literally beaten down, Meat Boy was down in the dumps when a motivating - as usual very convincing - inner voice awoke the hero within him, and he set out in his exciting adventure.
Super Meat Boy may only seem like a straightforward platformer whose simplicity and insane difficulty level create a rather unique experience, but beneath the surface there is one of the most powerful love stories ever told, because it undoubtedly takes a lot of love for such a tiny guy to face not only the weirdest meanest assortment of traps ever setup by any level designer, but also death itself. For Bandage Girl, Meat Boy faces dangers beyond human comprehension, but his love feeds him motivation to keep going fearlessly; he overlooks all challenges ahead, and focuses on his goal: the shiny eyes and enchanting smile of his loved one. In other, much less poetic and complicated words, Super Meat Boy will possibly be the hardest – and occasionally most frustrating – game you will ever play.
Initially, the game is divided into six chapters, each comprised of twenty levels and one boss battle, and with the sixth chapter having five levels and one boss. The levels are all extremely short, ranging from ten to fifty seconds, but they have so many traps (buzz saws, cannons, creepy enemies, lava pits, tricky jumps, deadly lasers, crushing blocks, etc) that each millisecond of the experience comes packed with a lot of tension and nervousness. The game will always keep players on their toes; as a result, dying may come accompanied with an outburst of frustration while reaching your goal will have such a genuinely happy feeling that you won't be able to help celebrating.
It is rare to come across a level on which you will die less than a dozen times, but Team Meat did the game a great favor when they tried to strongly mitigate the frustration of dying. The levels being short obviously give a whole lot of support to that cause, and the fact that Meat Boy goes back to the beginning of the stage a few moments after he dies in a gory explosion of blood and meat also helps. In addition, it is vital that a game that requires so much precision and perfect timing have controls that allow for such perfection and do not – at any times – get in the way of the player. Super Meat Boy basically consists of running, jumping and wall-jumping, and all those commands have fast and precise responses
Players' advance through the game goes in a pace and manner that is similar to that or early Mega Man games. There is a lot of pattern memorization and getting through a level is a matter of being killed by a trap many times, finding a way to regularly go past it, only to be killed many times by the subsequent trap, and so on. As a consequence, there will be frustrating moments, but any player that goes into a game like Super Meat Boy should already be expecting that and be good at handling the frustration while enjoying the little seconds of joy that come with finally reaching Bandage Girl at the end of the stage, only to see her taken by Dr. Fetus to the next level. It is an endless cycle, and one that determined tough players will not be able to escape. Super Meat Boy is addictive by nature.
For the bravest among the brave, the fun of Super Meat Boy does not end when all regular levels are completed. All levels are timed, and when finished within a specific short, but reasonable, time an alternate Dark World version of that level will be unlocked. Hence, the total amount of stages grows to a whopping three hundred. There is also the possibility of unlocking other characters from indie games. Those characters are not just pixelated models that behave just Meat Boy, they have physics of their own and have certain special skills that can help players get through some of the more grinding situations that will show up on later levels. Those characters can be unlocked in two ways: some can be acquired by collecting bandages that are dangerously positioned on the levels, and others can be found by going into equally tough to reach warp zones that will lead Meat Boy to mini-levels inspired by those indie games. If you thought a platformer this straightforward could not hold any secrets, think again.
Super Meat Boy is a glorious, and possibly the most complete, homage to the ridiculously hard platformers that were a big part of the gaming industry in the 80s. The game is not ashamed to show its influences, starting from its title with suspiciously familiar initials to the pixel art that its visuals are. The game also looks back to the industry's past on its humorous cutscenes - appropriately lacking any display of technical prowess – that will make clear references to memorable titles of the past, delighting old-school players. When it is all said and done, Super Meat Boy is so fantastic that it ends up being more than a celebration of the past; it is the still young proof that what is truly great will never die, but will keep being reborn and refreshed through the years. And for that those who love the sheer simplicity of brilliant aged platformers should be thankful.
5th - Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Release Date: February 20, 2008
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is one of those games that you go into not expecting much. When you read about how the game joins great storytelling with puzzle-solving that punctuates the game's forward motion every five minutes or so, you might think it is going to be an entertaining experience, but it is hard to even imagine how much you will be drawn in by the game's incredible ability to feed you information about what is going on exactly, and – at the same time – make you hungry for a lot more. Curious Village gets the edge over its successors because it is probably the game that makes the biggest impression on players. Everything here is brand new, from the logic you have to use to figure out the puzzles while clinging to every word contained in their description; to the way the game holds a surprise around every corner. The Curious Village will always be the entry point for the astonishing Professor Layton series, and for that it will forever be the one people remember the most.
4th - Mario Kart DS
Release Date: November 14, 2005
Somewhere in the early 90s Nintendo somehow discovered gaming's Nirvana when they were developing a Kart-racing game and decided to theme it after the Mario world. More than ten years, and four games later, the formula refused to get old as all gamers – regardless of how many times they have been hit by a green shell in their lives – continued to buy that game and have a blast with it. Mario Kart DS is arguably, so far, the pinnacle of such series and for that it has every right to claim a spot close to the top. The combination of creative new tracks, a great selection of old-school racing courses and the biggest assortment of uniquely-designed karts yet gave birth to a rather lasting experience. Besides, the chance to – for the first time ever – race online against random strangers was definitely exciting and a big allure for both newcomers and experienced drivers.
3rd - The World Ends With You
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: April 22, 2008
Somewhere in the middle of a barrage of complaints regarding Square's apparent inability to renovate its selection of franchises, or innovate the core aspects of those, a game came around to prove that inside the company's headquarters there were still many creative people who dared to think outside the box, come up with new game mechanics and take risks, and those people were responsible for The World Ends With You. Being put in the shoes of Neku is being transported into a bizarre mysterious world where friendships are made and destroyed and where players of a weird game with sinister purposes go from one spot into another just to find out they are not getting any closer to their goal. The World Ends With You is a traditional JRPG in the way the story progresses, but all similarities end right there as the game features a thrilling action-packed battle system and a very unique way to upgrade the abilities your characters posses. The World Ends With You was not simply a way of showing what the Nintendo DS can allow developers to do, it was a way for Square to show the world that – when given the chance – they can still produce something that ranks up there with Final Fantasy in terms of quality.
2nd - GTA: Chinatown Wars
Release Date: March 17, 2009
The Grand Theft Auto series is widely known for its gigantic interactive free-roaming world. In other words, the GTA games are huge. When Chinatown Wars was announced for the Nintendo DS, there were doubts, questions, worries and a few people who were willing to bet in the game's failure. When Chinatown Wars was released, there was praise, compliments, positive feedback and a large group of newsmen were once again writing about how Rockstar seems to be nearly fail-proof. With the amazing cell-shaded visuals Rockstar worked around the system's major deficiencies, and allowed players to take home with them an enormous genuine GTA city in a tiny cartridge. Going against what people generally think of Nintendo as a conservative company, Rockstar was even able to – for the first time in the series – bring drug dealing into the formula, as a consequence not only did Chinatown Wars have all the central missions and sidequests of your average GTA game, but it also had a whole new deep activity for you to take part in. Chinatown Wars was also a a little less grounded in reality than other games of the series, which combined with the cartoonish graphics created a whole city that was much more extravagant and – naturally – much more fun.
1st - Mario and Luigi 3: Bowser's Inside Story
Release Date: September 14, 2009
The amusingly over-the-top character of the Mario and Luigi series completely blew up when it got to its third installment. If truly joining Mario and Luigi for the first time ever in an epic adventure was already an amazing move, bringing a controllable Bowser into the formula and making him work together with his biggest enemies (trapped inside his belly) was even better. Bowser's Inside story is hilarious for its dialogue, exciting for its surprisingly varied and unpredictable battles, and brilliant due to its puzzles that more often than not bring together things that are happening on the outside world, with Bowser, with what is going on inside his belly with Mario and Luigi. It is a long game with gorgeous visuals and character models, and that features many distinct gameplay segments. To top it off, the developers made use of every single element of the Nintendo DS design: the microphone, the dual screens, the touch controls, no single feature is overlooked here. Bowser's Inside Story is the perfect summary of a Nintendo DS game, it is lighthearted, fun, charming, intelligent, funny, well-produced and delightfully surprising.
10th - Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Text-based games found a great place to thrive on the Nintendo DS, and Ghost Trick was possibly the most creative. A spirit from a man that has just been murdered suddenly finds out that he has gained special powers upon passing away, skills that include taking over objects and making them move, communicating to certain people and – most important of all – turning back time and trying to stop people from getting killed. That is just the start of a nightlong adventure where he will try to find out the truth behind his death and behind his now forgotten identity. It is the tip of a complicated thread involving mystery, investigation, amazing characters you will deeply care about and a lot of time traveling and object manipulation to save important people who are key to the game's plot from getting murdered. Ghost Trick is like one of those addictive books you can't seem to put down until the story has reached a satisfying conclusion.
9th - Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Release Date: August 24, 2009
The second game of the Professor Layton series brought back our beloved puzzle-solving gentleman and his apprentice and put them on the trail of a box that – according to legend – seems to quietly murder whoever dares to open it to discover its unknown contents. The game is precisely like its predecessor – which by no means is a negative fact – aside from the storyline and the assortment of puzzles selected to be a part of this tale. The diabolical box carries the signature pacing of the series, slowly shedding some light into the darkness surrounding the history of the game's central plot and keeping players going on their exploration of many well-designed areas, and in the constant puzzle-solving.
8th - Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
Release Date: September 12, 2010
Story-wise Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is probably the most compelling game of the entire series. For two games players were left wondering about the background and life-story of the series' main character, knowing that there was something in there of value and interest, and finally - as the series reached its third installment - we could catch a glimpse of the occurrences that somehow built the brain covered by that enormous top hat. It was by far the game of the series with the biggest amount of mind-blowing cartoon-like cutscenes, different locations, puzzles and plot twists. A more than perfect closure for the original Layton trilogy.
7th - The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Release Date: December 7, 2009
Whenever there is a list of the best games released for a Nintendo platform there will invariably be a Zelda game in the midst of things. For the Nintendo DS, Spirit Tracks is it. In terms of structure, there is not such a big difference between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks: replace the boat with the train, a sea of blue water for an ocean of green grass, an interesting but frustrating central temple for an equally interesting but much less bothersome central temple, and you have got Spirit Tracks. Nintendo took a bold step in believing a Zelda game could work with controls limited to the touch screen, but surprisingly – despite the minor annoyance of occasionally having your hand block your view from part of the screen – the controls worked fine and added a lot to the series, especially in the use of some traditional equipment that were transformed and made much more interesting because of the touch controls.
6th - Pokemon Pearl/Diamond
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: April 22, 2007
The 4th generation of Pokemon is arguably the best of the bunch. Not because of the well-designed monsters, which are somehow in lesser number than those of the first two generations; not because of the clearly improved graphics; not because of the innovative gameplay elements, which are non-existent because the game is pretty much the same as its older brothers. The reason behind such superiority is the online component that transformed the quest of being a Pokemon Master from the generally local affair of raising a powerful team just to defeat your closest friends who had the game and a bunch of virtual mechanical trainers, to a worldwide struggle to trade, capture, train, grind and carefully assemble your a team of six monsters. Pokemon Pearl/Diamond gave a much more compelling reason to raise a bunch of monsters with ridiculously calculated strategies, and as a consequence made us spend hundreds of hours in this amazing little world.
15th - New Super Mario Bros.
Release Date: December 5, 2005
Nintendo decided it was time to strip Mario from every ability he had gained through the years and throw him back into a very traditional sidescrolling setting to see what would happen. The result was one of the best-selling titles on the system, and certainly one of its best. It maintained the charm of the original titles through its updated visuals, it had amazingly cool powerups, some remarkable levels and a lot of secrets that only the most devoted players could find. New Super Mario Bros. was a little bit too easy, especially when compared to the other games on its family tree, but it was still just as fun - and a lot more accessible - as any of them.
14th - Animal Crossing: Wild World
Release Date: December 5, 2005
Before City Folk turned Animal Crossing into a series that desperately needs some serious renovations, Wild World severely expanded the series' possibilities with the addition of online play. It was the same charming little game we knew and loved, but the frequent interactions you could have with other players simply by opening your city's gates was enough to warrant many hours of compelling exchange. Completing a furniture collection became a matter of negotiating with other players, rather than waiting for it to show in Nook's shop and seeing the wonderful ways on which the most talented Crossers decorated their cities inspired many others to try their hands with creative patterns.
13th - WarioWare: Do It Yourself
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: March 28, 2010
They say that in every sports journalist there is a frustrated athlete, just like in every gamer there is a little bit of an aspiring game developer. Do It Yourself is the encounter of the simplicity of the Wario Ware microgames with a straightforward game-developing tool that requires no programming skills, just a tiny dash of reasoning. Creating a single microgame demands time, which makes Do It Yourself a very long-lasting experience for those with creativity and a strong will to work around the game's fair limitations to build the microgame they want to. The only bad thing about Do It Yourself is Nintendo's inadequately strict policies to sharing content, but by itself the game is easily the most amazing game-developing tool that has ever been crafted specially for the average gamer.
12th - Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: August 22, 2005
Some series failed to adapt to the unique nature of the Nintendo DS, others were born out of its ingenuity, and a few others heavily benefited from it, as it was the case with Advance Wars. The already extremely addictive formula of the series gained a lot from the Dual Front battles where players had to monitor two geographically distant campaigns whose fates were somehow interlaced. Advance wars found a perfect home on the Nintendo DS and its tough single-player mode, where some scenarios could demand a lot of dedication from players to be fully figured out, and its unbelievably good multiplyer fun easily made this version of the game one of the most lasting experiences on the system.
11th - Okamiden
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Okami was possibly the second greatest adventure game released one generation ago, losing to the unforgettable Wind Waker, but beating the highly-anticipated Twilight Princess. When a game that slightly copies the Zelda formula is able to surpass a Nintendo-made adventure, that says a lot of things about its quality. Okamiden feels and plays like a humbler version of Okami, even though it might be just as long. The visuals, the boss battles, the environments are all here and with the addition of human partners Chibi, Ami's son, gains a bunch of different abilities through the game that help him succeed and keep surprising players. There is a lot of variety, and in terms of writing the game is at least as moving and compelling as Okami. As impossible of a concept as it may be, Capcom was able to translate the grandeur of Okami into the DS with ease creating the system's greatest adventure.
The Nintendo DS is saying goodbye and there really isn't much left to the system, so I decided it would be fair and fun to do a list with the best games to appear on the system. I hope you enjoy it!
20th - Yoshi's Island DS
Release Date: November 13, 2006
There are some things in life that just cannot possibly go wrong, and making a sequel to one of the most charming platformers of all time is sure one of them. Yoshi's Island DS is a whole lot like its predecessor, it has that laid-back slow-paced feeling of the original and some of its levels involve a surprising amount of puzzle solving for a platformer of this kind. The two screens make the crayon-drawn scenarios even more impressive and permit developers to make levels much bigger vertically. However, the real new feature here was the addition of four babies to the mix. Aside from Baby Mario we could also find Peach, Donkey Kong, Bowser and Wario each with awesome abilities that expands the gameplay possibilities to new horizons.
19th - Super Scribblenauts
Developer: 5th Cell
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Every gamer has a dream of being allowed to solve in-game problems with whatever tool they feel like is the best for the situation. Scribblenauts made the world go wild when it proposed to allow exactly that, but when it came out, execution wasn't exactly up to par with concept. Super Scribblenauts got rid of erratic controls, added the possibility of adding adjectives to the nouns you could write and replaced the repetitive action levels with even more puzzles. The result was a much more engaging experience that truly required a whole lot of reasoning to get through. Helicopters and chains were not the solution to half of the levels anymore, and Super Scribblenauts got much closer to total in-game freedom than Scribblenauts ever did.
18th - Elite Beat Agents
Release Date: November 6, 2006
Some agents use guns to accomplish their goals, others use spying techniques, but these guys just display their awesome dancing moves, and somehow they are so smooth and stylish that they motivate people to get over their problems. There are many words to describe Elite Beat Agents: ridiculous, over-the-top, cheesy, extravagant and weird, but each of those ingredients is combined with such precision that the result is pure amusing fun. There is something about the mixing of a catchy song and rhythm-based controls on one screen with the cartoonish development of a tough situation experienced by a certain character that slowly turns it around over the course of the song that transmits a contagious excitement that keeps players going for hours. Don't ask yourself how all those elements work together, just be happy they do and have a blast.
17th - Kirby Canvas Curse
Developer: Hall Laboratory
Release Date: March 24, 2005
Kirby Canvas Curse might not feature the same level of quality as some games mentioned on this list, but it deserves to make it because it is possibly the most important game in the history of the Nintendo DS. Before it, there were a whole lot of games, but none of them unquestionably showed that the sylus by itself would suffice as a tool for fully controlling a game. Kirby Canvas Curse was the one that did it. Poor Kirby loses his limbs and it is up to players to guide him through the many dangers he will encounter. Due to Kirby's defenseless nature without his arms and legs the game keeps you on your toes at all times, and the game definitely stands out among other Kirby titles.
16th - Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Release Date: October 11, 2005
Point-and-click games had been apparently left behind and forever forgotten on the dawn of PC gaming when some of the most remarkable titles produced fell right on that category, but with the Nintendo DS those titles found fertile ground to once again grow and become relevant. The Phoenix Wright series was certainly the most original of the bunch. Combining meticulous investigation with thrilling battles in the courthouse the game really sucked players into its setting with its extremely deep characters developed through a lot of interesting dialogue. The game's cases were all very well-written and kept players going strong through a game that would otherwise have been a chore with its long dialogues, and text-based gameplay. Nothing beats good writing.
If you thought you had gotten rid of my reviews, think again because here is one more. Pokemon Black got me really hooked. I ended up finishing it in a little over one week, even though I am busy with College and two jobs. However, I decided to do a cold-hearted analysis of the game and I ended up coming up with the score of 7.3, which is the average of the score I would give the game to a new player and the score I would give it to a more experienced player who has played many Pokemon games. Anyway, read it if you can; recommend it if you like it. Now I am off to Super Meat Boy while I try to find a new graphics card for my PC that will allow me to play Limbo.
Warning! Huge review approaching!
Being the same Pokemon we have always known and loved has become the series best feature and its biggest weakness
When it all began, the Pokemon series was fueled by its addictive nature. After Red/Blue opened up the floodgates and got the world completely hooked on the series, it was impossible not to want more, and a few years later there came Gold/Silver to put an end to our nearly insurmountable hunger to catch more monsters and put new Pokemon teams together. Ruby/Sapphire added a whole bunch of features that made battles much deeper and made competitive playing much more time-consuming and significant, and with its overwhelming online options Diamond/Pearl truly gave players a chance to verify if their skills were up to the Pokemon Master title. Underlining all of this, there has always been a technological leap: Gold/Silver gained true colors, Ruby/Sapphire gave real life to the Pokemon world and Diamond/Pearl put us closer to 3-D environments and battles than ever.
Then comes Pokemon Black/White, the game adds: 150 brand new monsters, the first time that has happened since the original game introduced us all monsters from Bulbasaur to Mew; brand new locations – some of which are rather remarkable like the New York-inspired Castelia City, or the entertainment district of Nimbasa and adds a cycle of seasons, where each in-game season corresponds to a real-life month. Still, there is no technical leap, no major detail that truly puts it a level above Diamond/Pearl, and as a consequence for those who have played the previous version, the duo of Black/White doesn't seem to take the series to anywhere new or exciting. If you thought the evolution between versions was already not enough, Black/White will only highlight that feeling, because its relationship with its predecessor is the closest one yet.
However, being more of the same is not necessarily a bad thing for Pokemon. It is the same extremely compelling game that Red/Blue was. Planning the team you are going to assemble, capturing the little monsters, evolving them until they turn into massive fearsome beasts and trying out the team you devoted so much time to against your friends to see if all your careful planning paid off is one of the most immersive and hooking cycles in videogame history, and before you notice you will most certainly have spent over 50 hours with the game. And since Nintendo has limited players to encountering only the Pokemon created for this version before they beat the game, there is a whole lot of learning and researching before putting together a good new set of six monsters to be by your side until you can find Pokemon from previous versions in the new continent.
Speaking of the land where this adventure takes place, Unova is truly a wonderful creation by the people at Game Freak. It is set up in pretty much the same way as previous continents explored by trainers: there is an evil organization with an evil plan that serves as the main conductor for the game's plot - Team Plasma, that wants to free all Pokemon in the world from humans; eight gym leaders; mountains; caves; islands; small towns; huge commercial centers and other things that will not surprise anybody. However, the cities are all extremely well-designed and most of them have quite unique features, including a port, a runway and huge skyscrapers. Of all continents in the Pokemon series, it is the one that is the most effective in drawing you in and, occasionally, making you feel good just by walking around a bridge or fishing on a beach looking for that rare Pokemon to show up so you can catch it.
Contrasting with the amazingly designed continent is the not-so-inspired group of 150 Pokemon that have been specially created for this version. Much has been said about how none of the generations introduced after the original 150 never truly compared to the creative design the first batch of Pokemon achieved. Not differently from the past two generations, this one comes with a bunch of Pokemon with some extremely questionable design: Klink is a lame uninspired and weird kind of Magnemite and Axew is too close to Lavitar to be called original. Not to mention Litwik, the candle ghost Pokemon; Foongus, which is closer to a inhabitant of the Mushroom Kingdom than an actual Pokemon; the ice cream-inspired Vanillite; and Solosis, which I am not even sure how to properly qualify. Some designs, on the other hand, are some of the best ever in the whole series, which leads me to believe that while some Pokemon received and extra amount of work, others were just quickly put together.
Pokemon Black/White adds two new types of battles to the series. The first one being Triple Battles, a natural evolution of Double Battles but with an extra twist: Pokemon positioned in the center can target all monsters in the arena, while Pokemon located in the corner attack creates directly opposite to them and the one in the center of the other team. Obviously that brings a whole new array of strategies to the table. Meanwhile, on Rotation battles both trainers send three Pokemon into the battlefield for a one-on-one match, but with the added ability to switch the order of the Pokemon without losing a turn, therefore allowing players to change the one-on-one combinations to their favor. Besides, in Unova the Pokemon contests have been replaced by Pokemon musicals, which is a nice way to take a break from the battles and explore another side of your Pokemon. As for online features, there is not much that is really new, aside from the C-Gear which allows you to use the game's online features from anywhere within the continent, therefore erasing the need for players to go to Pokecenters just to play online.
Technically speaking, Pokemon Black/White does not do much that is new. If put side by side with Diamond/Pearl it would be hard to tell which one is which based solely on a screenshot. These news games do some things differently, though. The camera work is certainly the most flexible of the whole series, because outside battles the camera's angle will occasionally shift in certain locations, either to a more open shot of the environment or to an angle that is closer to the main character than usual, and much more horizontal giving players a real 3-D feeling of the entire environment. Meanwhile, during battles the camera will also shift every once in a while to focus on specific parts of the battlefield. Even though the scenarios are quite charming, it is hard to be pleased with a game that shows so little technical evolution in the span of five years.
This is the Pokemon we have all known and loved, and that fact has now become the series' greatest strength and weakest point at the same time. It is easy to draw in new fans with a formula that is so addictive and with a world that becomes more convincing and overwhelming with each installment, but at the same time Nintendo will fail to keep long-time gamers entertained with an adventure they will feel like they have already played many times. In the end, whether or not Pokemon Black/White should be recommended is a matter of answering the following question: how many times have you experienced Pokemon? If the answer seems to be too low for you, then it is easy to state you will not regret buying this game; but if your answer is a number that makes you stop and be dazzled by it, then it is better to leave this one out of your collection and wait until you truly miss Pokemon to come back to the series, or until Nintendo decides to do a major overhaul.
Actual Score: 7.3
I guess that just like everybody else who only owns Nintendo systems I have been wondering for quite a while what am I supposed to play whilst waiting for Skyward Sword to come out and seal the deal for the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo 3DS does not pick up the pace. Strangely, I have a nearly total lack of backlog because when I look at my collection of over fifty Wii games I feel like I have played all games I wanted to, and the same goes for my not as big Gamecube collection. But just yesterday, when my gaming abstinence was starting to make me question my mental sanity I remembered Pokemon Black.
When the game came out, I was for the first time ever not in the mood for a new Pokemon adventure, because Nintendo didn't even wait for a new system to come around to create a new Pokemon generation, but the sudden urge to build a new Pokemon team got to me, and I knew I had to take advantage of it. I am currently halfway through the game with a solid Pokemon team, if you care to read about my game-playing updates.
Not too long after I thought of Pokemon Black I also remembered two little gems that I just have to try: Limbo and Super Meat Boy. Both are simplistic in their own way, but carry that kind of creative simple fun that appeals to me deeply in games of the sort. So from having nothing to play for the past two months, I have now found three new titles to dive into. Out of the three I must say I am more excited about Limbo, because it seems so unique and beautiful to my eyes. Sadly, I have to wait a couple of days until I can play it.
The history of the gaming industry can be divided in many before and after segments. For visuals, there is before 3-D and after 3-D; for shooters, there is before Goldeneye and after Goldeneye; for home consoles, there is before the NES and after the NES; for tridimensional combat, there is before Ocarina of Time and after Ocarina of Time. And, for the shift that most significantly rocked the core of the gaming world for the past ten years or so - the big casual invasion - there was the before and after the Nintendo DS.
Almost invariably, it is the Nintendo Wii that gets all the bad rep or the praise for tumbling down the rock walls surrounding the gaming world, and allowing everybody to join in the fun. But the true hero, or culprit, of the story was the Nintendo DS. The simple interface, intuitive controls and irresistable charm of Nintendogs, Brain Trainning, Big Brain Academy opened up the floodgates and the rest of the story we all know, a tale where Wii Party and Cooking Mama coexist with games like Bioshock and Call of Duty.
If before the Nintendo DS, the company already had a firm grip on the handheld market, during the system's life that grip only tightened. For the first time ever, the Big N had real competition, and for the most part of the battle the Nintendo DS cruised in sales and received software support by third-parties as if there was no rival. It was humble David beating mighty Goliath, but instead of a stone to the forehead it was games and blue ocean strategy.
But limiting the astounding success of the Nintendo DS simply to "games" is not looking at the big picture. The most adequate expression would be "games that could not be done anywhere else". Historically, portable games had been humble versions of games that were successful on the more powerful home systems. It was a trend that started changing with the GBA, but that was made more solid by the Nintendo DS. It is interesting to have a portable version of a home console, but it is even more appealing to have games that take advantage of the portable nature of the system instead of being limited by it.
On other systems petting a virtual dog would not be so satisfying; solving puzzles coined by a top-hat-wearing professor would not be so interactive; combining what is going on inside the belly of a beast and outside would not be so fast and seamless; battling different foes with two unique characters at the same time would not be possible; and navigating on your GPS while speeding away from the cops would not be so easy and natural.
The two screens, the stylus and the touch controls ended up being as significant to gameplay as the analog stick. After the analog controls, it became hard to imagine a good 3-D game without them; after the features introduced by the Nintendo DS, they have turned into almost mandatory items on the company's handheld line. The possibilities revealed by them were endless, and as good companies continue to dazzle us with their games, we have the boring task of just sitting and wondering what they will be able to do with better hardware and 3-D visuals.
With the Nintendo DS we saw: Mario go back to his roots; pair up with Luigi for another two adventures and drive is kart through the greatest tracks yes; Link sail the seas once more and become a train engineer. Kirby turned into a ball; Samus discovered there are other badass bounty hunters in the Universe besides her, just not as badass as she is; the Pokémon Universe went bigger and more competitive with the internet; we died, lost our
identity and saved pople from death to get closer to the truth; the Sun godess was reborn.
We went back in time at least twice: once with an average guy who goes on to save the word and with his mechanics genious female friend, and once with a professor and his apprentice. We played a deadly game, we made illegal deals, saved princesses, destroyed planets, conquered kingdoms, rescued friends, killed enemies, won tourneys and visited some weird locations.
Before the Nintendo DS, being a successful portable system was relatively simple, after the Nintendo DS that task became a lot harder. Before the Nintendo DS portable devices were simple versions of their home counterparts, after the Nintendo DS they have to be systems on their own. The Nintendo DS wasn't 1989, but it sure changed the world.
The direction on which Nintendo has taken the Star Fox series deeply baffles me. When it comes to their biggest franchises Nintendo always follows the successful formula that was established in an earlier installment of that series and tweaks it here and there in order to give it a fresh make up that captivates new audiences and leaves experienced gamers very satisfied. Mario has been chasing stars ever since Super Mario 64, because stars serve as a very adaptive version of the flagpoles of his sidescrolling gems; Link has been exploring dungeons since the dawn of the Zelda franchise; and Samus has been lonesomely crawling through maze-like environments ever since everybody thought she was actually a he.
As for Fox, it is true that aside from Star Fox Adventures his team has been mostly focused on blasting baddies that appear on screen at frantic rates, but the changing on the structure of how the shooting of enemies is done, and the mind-boggling mindset that allowing Fox to set out of his vehicle to engage in underwhelming shooting sequences actually adds something to the experience have deeply harmed the popularity and the status of Star Fox among Nintendo's greatest franchises. Nintendo itself was to blame for the character's diminishing popularity, because when a character is as recognizable and famous as Fox, all that it takes for a title featuring him to sell, is good developing and directing work behind it.
However, Nintendo, especially Shigeru Miyamoto, has apparently singled out the character as the sole culprit of his own downfall because Miyamoto has given the entire franchise an ultimatum by saying that the life or death of Star Fox will now depend on how well the remake of Star Fox 64 will do on t he Nintendo 3DS. It saddens me to see the life of the franchise, if Miyamoto's claims are to be believed, being attatched to such a fragile release whose sales will not be an accurate measure of how much people claim for a Star Fox title.
The Nintendo 3DS is not a system that has solidified a position in the market, and it is widely known that the handheld does not have a big user base as most people who plan on buying a 3DS are waiting for Nintendo to unleash more outstanding games on the platform. To make matters more gloomy, Star Fox 3DS is a remake rather than an original title, and even though it is the remake of the franchise's most acclaimed title, that does not necessarily mean all Star Fox fans who wish to see the series survive will buy it.
Personally, and I believe many people are on the same boat as I am, Star Fox 3DS is not in my plans because I have played the original Nintendo 64 game to death, and I don't plan on spending my money on that game again – despite the fact that I truly love it. Fox was taken out of the right path by poor management decisions and lack of a good handle on what made the franchise so popular, and now its destiny is possibly being judged based on a installment whose sales by no means will be indicative of how much people care about the Fox and his peers.
Star Fox needs another chance, but Star Fox 3DS cannot be it.
Once upon a time there was a company at the very top of its game. Perhaps, in terms of critical acclaim, that wasn't their brightest time, but it is undeniable that they were making more money than they had ever expected. Domination and supremacy, as solid and time-proven as they may seem, do not last forever though, and high peaks would not be really that high if the low valleys did not exist. Eight months ago Nintendo was at the top of the world, and now the industry questions every move the company has made, and by reading most reports you would think that the company is closer to bankruptcy than to financial stability; when in fact, Nintendo is not in such a desperate situation.
Refuting that the company is going through hard times is unthinkable. The company's leaders based their 3DS sales predictions on the anomaly that was the Nintendo DS' success, something that will be tough to achieve again with any gaming-dedicated portable devices. To further the troubles, Nintendo was apparently so excited by the great machine that they had engineered and the novelty that was getting 3D effects without glasses, that they completely forgot to plan the may in which the device would hit the market. In a flawless earth-shattering release the Nintendo 3DS would at least require the publishing of one major franchise game (the incoming Super Mario 3DS could have fit the bill), and an innovative easy-to-get-into game that would draw the wider audience, like the Brain Training games and Nintendogs did for the DS.
By the time March came around, all that could be found on the shelters were unappealing games that weren't that good. As Sony found out with the Playstation 3, as loyal as your audience may be, there isn't a meaningful group of people out there who are willing to buy a system solely on its future potential. With a more dramatic look, it could also be said that Nintendo is in a certain degree of trouble on the console market. The Nintendo Wii is beginning to naturally fade, and the system's total lack of great software this year is certainly aggravating that; its successor has already been announced, but while a large group of people in interested and have their ears open to any news regarding the console, another group was not very impressed by the company's E3 display.
The bottom line is that while Nintendo's situation is far from being overly bright, there is still a lot of time to turn it around. It may sound drastic, but it is hard to picture the 3DS as a portable that will be as successful as the one that preceded it, since the DS had overwhelming production from the get go, but portable systems don't need to sell 150 million units worldwide to be good, on the worst case scenario they have to outsell their competitor by one unit. And as for the Wii U, the Nintendo Wii didn't have completely positive reports at first glance either, so panicking over that would only be wise after Nintendo shows what they really have for the system ten months from now.
While I am sure there is more than one executive feeling the heat in Kyoto, they all know turning this game around is a matter of doing what Nintendo does so well: producing software.
When I checked my blog today and noticed that it has been nearly one month ever since I wrote something in this space I got quite surprised. That is probably the longest stretch without a blog post ever since.... ever? Strangely, I can't say I have been busy because now it has been a month I have been on vacation and had nothing really important to do; so if I had to blame it on someone I would probably blame it on Nintendo and their general lack of interesting reveals or news after E3. I will try to go back to writing more frequently because doing so really relax my mind and serves as an excellent distraction.
Still, I have just gotten a full-time job in an Information Technology company and I still have two things left in order to fully conclude my bachelor degree: Physics II and the writing and programming of my graduation project. However, I will try to write something whenever I feel like it.
I hope everybody is doing well!
Nintendo has yet to reveal the date on which we will all finally be able to play The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the first Zelda console release in nearly five years, but with each passing day the game's release creeps a little bit closer and as the people involved with the game start to let out little nuggets of information expectations begin to rise. Recently, Aonuma revealed some really interesting information on the world of Skyward Sword, some of which made me rather excited about what is to come.
"The game starts in Skyloft, this city that's floating in the air, and you'll come back to this town multiple times. Things are always proceeding along in town, and in that respect it's very much like Majora's Mask. Like with Majora, there are a lot of game events involving the townspeople that get intertwined with the main story. Link, Zelda and their other friends all go to the same boarding school, and you've got teachers and a principal as well. It's a bit of a different setting from previous Zeldas."
I always felt like Wind Waker, through Windfall Island and its slightly complex character relationships and behaviors, came close to achieving what Clock Town represented for Majora's Mask. However, on Twilight Princess Nintendo took a major step back when the citizens of the visually amazing Castle Town were nothing but empty shells with a single sentence to say when approached. Fans have been claiming for the second coming of Clock Town for a long while, and given the fact that Skyloft and the game's characters are all based in a boarding school, that setup could lead to very interesting relationships, sidequests and behaviors depending on the time of the day, the point where you are in the game and – hopefully – other factors.
"With previous Zeldas the common pattern was that the really neat items wouldn't show up until later on in the game. You need to have the basic item set or it wouldn't be Zelda, so the new items tended to get shunted to the latter part of the game. Miyamoto said that had to change, like 'This is neat, let's bring it out from the start.' So a lot of neat new items will show up pretty early on."
I had never really thought about it that way to be quite honest, but Miyamoto has a very good point. The really fragile point that needs to be addressed in terms of Link's items and equipment is their usage outside of the dungeons where we acquire them, which has been close to null in recent releases. Maybe bringing the coolest most useful items to the front end of the game will end up making them more frequently used, therefore creating interesting situations and puzzles outside the dungeons themselves, instead of having the huge overworld as an empty landscape where you can speed your horse through.
"Yes, it's only the people in Skyloft. Nobody on there thinks anything of it, though, because living in Skyloft and flying around on birds is normal to them. They don't have any awareness of there being a mainland beneath the clouds and so forth -- that gets expanded upon once Zelda goes missing, and you get access to the areas under the clouds."
Around E3 time someone involved with the project – I can't remember whether it was Miyamoto or Aonuma – mentioned how the world above the clouds would sort of be like Wind Waker's Great Sea, with clouds instead of water, a bird instead of a boat and floating islands instead of mountain tops. The fact that there is a land below the clouds probably means that whatever is above them won't be as huge as the entire Great Sea, but two independent fully-fledged overworlds beats only one at any time of the day, and I have a hunch that Nintendo will find a way to craft awe inspiring puzzles that involve combining events above the clouds with occurrences below them. That should open up quite a bunch of possibilities.
"The demo shows when you first meet him, and plainly he's looking down at Link, stopping his sword with his fingers and so forth. In terms of story image he's kind of like Dark Link; he sees right through Link's moves in battle. You can sort of swing your sword wildly and still hold your own against a lot of foes, but there's no way you can beat Ghiraham like that. You need to keep your distance and watch his moves, and it's something you'll need to change your strategy for. I think he's a pretty good change of pace as bosses go, and he'll change gradually throughout the game."
I like Ganondorf as much as everybody eles, but I believe I speak for most of the Zelda fan community that I am very happy we are getting a seemingly complex villain that is not Ganondorf. Skull Kid in all its creepy innocence and Vaati were great villains, and although I have a few complaints about Zant I still liked the guy even though he was not the main cruel mind behind all the happenings in Hyrule when it was all said and done. So I am definitely looking forward to knowing more about him.
"This game talks about the birth of the Master Sword, and it touches on why Ganondorf showed up. If you play it, I think you'll get some understanding on that. It connects to Ocarina, so if you play Ocarina of Time 3D and move on to this game, I think you'll catch on to a lot of things."
We already knew the part about the Master Sword, but the part about Ganondorf makes me really curious. I always thought he was just your average bad guy that wants to conker the realm he lives the closest to. Maybe there is much more to him than that.
"The whole game is complete, and we're fine-tuning the balance right now. We were going to have it wholly done by around E3, but there's so much volume to it, neither I nor Miyamoto have gotten to fully play out every aspect. The non-English localizations are proceeding along now, and we're trying to make this a simultaneous worldwide release. You have to put Zelda all out at once or else the story's going to get spoiled -- although, really, there's a ton to enjoy here even if you know a little about the story beforehand."
Can we get this game now, please?!
Out of the stellar collection of movies Pixar has crafted through the past sixteen years, their 2006 release, Cars, was almost universally considered to have been their weakest outing, sometimes being paired up with A Bug's Life in the awarding of that title. It naturally comes as a surprise then to find out that a company that has been historically averse to sequels – with the exception of their dearest child, Toy Story – decides to take it upon themselves to develop a follow-up for said film. If there is one undeniably great thing to be mentioned about the Cars franchise, is that it generates a lot of revenue for Disney coming from an audience the company is often wrongly accused of overlooking: young boys. Therefore, being aware of both of these facts, it is hard to go to the cinema without the lingering suspicious that Cars 2, in spite of what its producers have said, is more of an attempt to boast the franchise's merchandise sales than to make a traditional Pixar movie where viewers are overwhelmed by artistic value and brought to tears over a believable human script. And when you leave the cinema, it is hard not to think of Cars 2 as better-produced 90-minute hot wheels advertisement.
Radiator Springs, the charming heart-warming town that served as the core setting for the previous movie, is only seen in the very beginning of the flick and on the movie's final minutes, because most of the plot takes place in a world racing championship that travels to Japan, Italy and England; and naturally Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater are right in the middle of a competition that serves as the background of a worldwide conspiracy involving spies, shooting, explosions and gadgets that seem to come right out of a James Bond movie. Because of this fast-paced nature, Cars 2 will have its great moments of family friendly entertainment; but whereas a lot of time is spent in racing and spying sequences, there is little attention paid to the character development that had always made Pixar's movies stand out even from the motion pictures produced by the modern Disney's Animation Studios. Truth be told, the writting crew attempted to create an emotional ark or two through the movie, but it all comes off as unnatural and quickyl put together.
Instead of having action sequences that serve the purpose of putting us at the edge of our seats for characters that we learned to love through their deep dialogue; Cars 2 does action because it looks cool, and tries to adapt character development to it. It is a decision that ties the hands of extremely talented writers, and obviously takes away the Pixar spirit out of the whole thing. While McQueen is busy with racing, Mater ends up gaining the spotlight, which means that the movie sets up many comic opportunities for the adorable silly two truck to shine. The problem is that while as a second banana Mater proves to be an excellent character, the light that comes with being center stage reveals many rusty spots and weaknesses in the character, and after thirty minutes his jokes are not even that funny anymore.
With all that being said, Pixar's movies are obviously judged much harder than animations coming from other companies. Cars 2 will be succesful in entertaining its audience: kids will adore it, racing lovers will be awed by the mesmerizing shots of the action and parents will be happy. However, if it was hard to believe in cars with human-like attitudes, it will be even harder now that instead of being engaged mostly in racing, some of those cars will also be plotting devious schemes and playing the roles of spies. Many people wondered if there would ever come a day when Pixar would fail to deliver, fret not for that day has come to pass, Cars 2 is clearly miles and miles away from what the company truly has the capacity to produce.
Yet another E3 has come and gone away, and even though it lacked the flash and megatons of some previous editions, the overall result was very positive for all companies. Many questions were raised during this generation as to which company would be the first one to take the leap, Nintendo had the weakest tech, but maybe Microsoft and Sony would be the ones more interested in moving on due to the way their systems were beat down on this generation. As it turns out, Nintendo will get the head start, but questions remain on whether the Wii-U will be technically equivalent to whatever Sony and Microsoft are cooking, or if it will stay so much behind in terms of power that it will once again be left out of the multiplatform party.
One thing is for sure, Nintendo designed a console that has an innovative control with a good amount of motion sensing technology, but that does not have any lack of buttons that would limit more traditional games or force developers to go for a control scheme they are not exactly pleased with. The Wii-U allows for whatever kind of control strategy companies feel like using to develop their games. Sony showed that the Playstation 3 is still going very strong in terms of software, with games that appeal to all kinds of audiences while displaying amazing quality; and the PSV was a statement on how Sony has learned that being arrogant about the technical superiority of their system when the time to set a price for it comes is not a smart business strategy. As for Microsoft, the desperate focus on Kinect harmed the company, which presented great titles and sequels, but that failed to have the software variety Sony has.
So far, 2011 has been a great year, with plenty of amazing software hitting all consoles – with the exception of the Nintendo Wii – and the future is looking even more exciting after this year's E3.
A mildly amusing Distributed Systems lecture stopped me from being able to fully watch Sony's E3 conference, by the time I got home an Infamous 2 demo was being played, so let's start from there. Differently from Microsoft, Sony had something to appeal to all kinds of audiences and in a brief stint of ten minutes they clearly displayed that. Infamous 2 looked astonishing, the addition of Move to LittleBigPlanet 2 will make a game that is already simple and charming even more appealing to people who want to have an option to the overflow of shooters in the market and – the biggest surprise of the night in terms of software – the new Sly Cooper pleases the heart of both longtime gamers who have been waiting for the return of this franchise, and younger players who will be instantly drawn by the colorful look of this adventure.
Dust, Saints Row The Third, Star Trek, the new SSX with mountains from all over the world being presented in an incredibly realistic level of detail and Battlefield 3 will also leave Playstation 3 owners more than busy and happy on this coming year. Bioshock Infinite must have left everybody on the audience with a feeling of "I want to see more of this game. And I want to see it right now". It had all components that make a Bioshock game fantastic and a lot of thrilling moody action. On the other hand, Need for Speed: The Run could have used more racing and less scripted events and less pointless real-time events that add nothing whatsoever to the game other than showing its cinematic value.
And then it was time for the big star of the show: the Playstation Vita. The system is getting a lot of support and fantastic games right out of the gate, differently from the Nintendo 3DS. Uncharted showed how much power that little device has hidden inside of it, and the touch controls implemented in the game were pretty cool, especially when they showed how you can draw the path Drake must follow as he climbed of the ledges. Modnation Racers and the ability to create tracks simply by drawing on the screen also had me really excited for the system. LittleBigPlanet, Street Fighter vs Tekken, and the Diablo-like Ruin also showed a lot of potential, and the system automatically positioned itself as a threat to Nintendo's dominance of the handheld market.
But one thing remained to be announced for Sony's threat to be confirmed, and that was price. The price that hurt their two current generation systems could also harm the Playstation Vita, but to everybody's pleasant surprise the 3G Vita will cost 300 dollars, while the Wi-Fi Vita will be sold for 250 bucks. Sony has fortunately learned not to be arrogant in the pricing of their systems, and as a consequence, for the first time ever, Nintendo will have some really close competition on the portable gaming market. I believe it will be an extremely close race, instead of the previous generation's blowout, but due to the strength of the DS brand and Nintendo's device early release, I think Nintendo will come out on top again, but not without losing a big share of the market they dominated for so many years. This time, Sony means business.
First, let's get the minor – yet quite important - stuff out of the way. After Nintendo's conference the Nintendo 3DS has went from an interesting system to an absolute must-buy. Pretty soon the real software support the system has been lacking will arrive, and those who don't have it will be missing a lot. The only looming problem is that it needs a price drop after Sony showed to the world yesterday that they learned a lesson on how to properly price their systems. Zelda fans ought to be excited about the many goodies Nintendo revealed to commemorate the franchise's 25th anniversary, and about Skyward Sword, which is shaping up to be a great Zelda game with a few changes to the franchise's traditional structure. And finally, Wii fans are bound to be scratching their heads wondering what they will play on their system on the next few months, as nothing really new and exciting was announced.
Now, off to the tasty and rather polemic part of the conference: Wii U. Before you go out and yell to the world that Nintendo has lost it, let me remind you that not too long ago everybody thought that the motion controls introduced by Nintendo on E3 2005 were stupid in their look and execution. Six years later, all companies have opened their doors to motion controls and are trying to continue what the Wii introduced a few years back. Wii U is another chapter of Nintendo's inventive history on this industry, and as boring as it might sound, these new pages will probably develop in a very similar fashion to the ones that preceded them. As I write this, people who have watched Nintendo's conference are mainly divided into two groups: there are the ones who hated the whole concept of Wii U and are never going to give it a chance; and there are the ones who are not quite sure, but that trust Nintendo enough to explore this concept and give it a chance. Wii U will be the Nintendo Wii all over again.
Nintendo is to blame for the fact that it didn't quite cause the splash they were hoping for. It is understandable that they wanted to focus on the control, and not on the "box" are Reggie said after the conference, but from the initial video it was not quite clear if we were looking at an extension for the Wii or at an actual new console and the control was initially shown working with a slightly tweaked version of New Super Mario Bros Wii. Nintendo's attempt to explain the concept of Wii U was poor at best, and left almost everybody confused. Aside from being clearer, the conference also lacked something all new consoles must show on their first appearance: shiny tech demos. Showing a new console mostly with games whose visuals are pretty much on the same level as your underpowered current console doesn't help a whole lot and just increases the confusion on whether that is a new system or a new controller who serves as an extension for the Wii.
Speaking of visuals, Nintendo seems to have definitely given up on the race for graphics. The system's controller will be very expensive, so they had to cut back somewhere, and that was in hardware power. Differently from the Wii, though, third parties seem to be on board with Nintendo this time around, but I still feel that Nintendo has made another big mistake in making a system that will undoubtedly be less powerful than what Microsoft and Sony will have on the next generation. Only time will tell whether I am correct, but the way I see it Wii U will get great inventive games from Nintendo, some bright exclusives by third parties and a whole bunch of ports from the 360 and Playstation 3. Meaning that strong multiplatforms will be non-existent, as the system will have a unique control scheme and a much weaker hardware than the competition. Does it sound familiar? Yeah, just like the Nintendo Wii.
I really liked what I saw in terms of the experiences the control can generate, some gameplay videos I have watched from the show floor got me really excited about what could be done with this. But, I worry greatly about the future and about how this console will do in the long run. I have got no doubts it will sell a lot (it has the Wii brand on it, and Nintendo will not price it very high), but as Nintendo boasts about apparently much better online features, I fear that the Wii's biggest flaw might have been passed to its successor: the lack of multiplatforms and a tendency to attract ports due to its inferior hardware. Maybe, this time, Nintendo will be smarter and make sure they really get a lot of exclusive content that makes use of their fantastic tablet controller. Only time will tell.
Do we seriously need Hollywood-like trailers to get gamers pumped about and upcoming release? As I watch all these E3 announcements all I can think of is "Well, this looks cool, but I don't know how the game plays so I can't get that excited. Anything can sound excellent with CG animation and dramatic voice acting". Seriously people, more gameplay and less hiding the beautiful imperfections of the gamin industry with fake trailers.
When did it become vital for videogames to have as many extra features as your average Smartphone? Whenever I buy a system I think about the games I am going to play in it, and not about interactions with social networks, taking pictures and browsing the internet. Am I getting old and grumpy?
I have got a demand to make, Nintendo. Less movie trailers, and more game presentations; less extra features and superfluous content, and more Mario, Link, Kirby, Donkey Kong, Star Fox, F-Zero, Pikmin and stuff like that.