Every time a new Zelda game is set to launch, I find myself drawn back to the series, eager to explore what’s changed over the past 27 years, and what has remained the same. Usually this culminates in a month’s worth of revisiting my favorite legends past – A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Link’s Awakening, Wind Waker, and Minish Cap – but every once in awhile, I’ll be motivated enough to go back and fill in some of the embarrassing gaps in my Legend of Zelda knowledge. This year, I finally completed The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, a game that manages to be excellent from beginning to end despite being the weakest of all the portable Zeldas. It’s a milestone I’m glad to have crossed, but I didn’t find it as cathartic an experience as when I finally completed Majora’sMask for the first time. I guess it came along at the right time in my life.
I wrote about that experience a few years ago, back when Invisible Gamer was barely a thing and I hadn’t earned the 3 dedicated readers I have now. Give it a read below, and see what’s special to me about Majora’s Mask. And maybe in the comments below, tell us what some of your favorite Zelda games are, and why?
The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask turned 10 this year, and to celebrate, I promised myself I’d finally complete it.
What’s that? No, you read right. Despite being one of the biggest Nintendo fans you’re likely to ever meet, I’d never actually made it through Eiji Aonuma’s directorial debut. That is, until tonight.
10 years ago, my world was a vastly different place. My mom was still alive. I hadn’t been married, or divorced. 9/11 hadn’t happened. And I was still in high school, and working my first full time job…at Funcoland. Despite the fact that high school was quickly coming to an end and I was supposed to be making major decisions about “my future,” I was vastly more concerned with showing my friends that I didn’t need the upcoming Playstation 2 to stay in the game. That my N64 still had plenty of life in its 4 year-old carcass, thank you. Conveniently, the day the PS2 was unleashed on North America – October 26th – it was accompanied by one of the worst selections of launch titles to ever disgrace a game console; Nintendo dropped Majora’s Mask the same day and made my argument pretty easy to support. Majora required 8 megabytes of RAM, for chrissakes, how could it not be amazing?
As it turned out, I’d actually been playing the game for a couple of weeks before it shipped. Thanks to a Nintendo rep who took his job way more seriously than any of us did, Funco had a demo cartridge at the beginning of October, for customers to try before commiting to a pre-order. Unbeknownst to those customers, however, was the lie implicit in the cartridge’s “not for resale” label: this was not a demo, but the full game, and I’d been taking it home every night, working my way as far as Snowhead before my own copy arrived and I had to start over from scratch.
Majora’s Mask, despite its premise of a world-ending calamity in the form of “THE MOON IS FALLING!”, tells an incredibly nuanced tale about knowing who your real friends are, and it’s absolutely brimming with sidequests directly related to fulfilling this conceit. Forget dungeons: they’re present, of course, but the real meat-and-potatoes of Majora’s Mask is these sidequests. Unlike its predecessor, Ocarina of Time, Aonuma’s game demands real detective work from players hoping to bring order back to the lives of Clock Town’s citizens. Characters have specific, intersecting schedules, and though the world is set to end three days after Link’s arrival, players won’t be able to see the game’s complete ending without addressing everyone. This is only possible because the game plays out like an extended version of Groundhog Day, with Link’s magical ocarina giving him the ability to reset the “doomsday clock” at any time.
I’m not entirely certain why I stopped playing Majora’s Mask shortly after I received my own copy, but It’s likely these sidequests, and my absolutely loathing the idea of not “saving” everyone, that ultimately caused me to put the game on hold for 10 years. But I’ve finally come back to it. I’ve filled out every slot in my Bomber’s Notebook, collected every mask, and stopped the moon from falling. I’ve finished Majora’s Mask! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how to feel about finally getting to check this off my list, but I do find the circumstances under which I’ve completed the game highly appropriate. Majora’s Mask is awash in nostalgia for a bygone era – one of simplicity, of nuclear relationships, of knowing exactly who you are and where you fit in the world – that has quietly been subsumed by anonymity. The last time I played the game, I knew myself and everyone I interacted with. Today, with the ubiquity of the Internet, we’re all hiding behind Majora’s Mask, hoping that maybe, if we do something big enough, someone will notice us.
This weekend, fans in attendance at Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds panel at New York Comic Con got a wealth of insight into the game’s development, along with a bounty of new details about its story, setting, and new features… and even some vague hints about the future of the Zelda franchise. And it all came directly from the mouth of longtime Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma, for whom the panel presented a first-ever opportunity to interact directly with fans.
Aonuma began the discussion by thanking attendees for their enthusiasm, then took a brief moment to praise the artistry he’s seen in Zelda Miiverse posts on the Wii U. The audience seemed to hang on Aonuma’s every word, and he clearly enjoyed the attention, grinning earnestly at with each frequent round of applause he received.
After a few brief notes on the recently released The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Aonuma switched gears to the main topic of the panel: the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Over a montage of newly revealed production art, Aonuma used a discussion of dual worlds in previous Zelda games to introduce Lorule, an alternate dimension that exists alongside Hyrule in Link Between Worlds. Despite earlier speculation, Aonuma insists this isn’t the same Dark World that existed in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (with which the new game shares a nearly identical map of Hyrule), but it does appear to serve the same narrative purpose. Lorule is a dark reflection of Hyrule: the kingdom has fallen to the forces of evil, and the people are in despair.
Hyrule and Lorule.
Ruling over this fallen kingdom is Princess Hilda, a dead ringer for Princess Zelda in all but the color of her hair. According to a new trailer that debuted at the panel, Hilda lures Link into Lorule and forces him to do her bidding by kidnapping Zelda and holding her hostage. Whether or not she’s acting out of evil or altruism for her kingdom is unclear at this point. Also unclear is the exact nature of Yuga, a sorcerer who possesses the ability to turn people into paintings. We’re guessing from his orange hair, large nose and slanted eyes that he may be related to Ganondorf, but whether or not that turns out to be the case, he’s almost certainly responsible for Lorule’s sad state of affairs.
Hilda and Zelda.
At some point in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Link will gain the ability to turn into a drawing of himself, allowing him to merge with walls. This makes for some interesting puzzles like those first revealed at E3, wherein Link can walk along walls and slip between the bars on dungeons windows, but the so-called Merge ability is also used to move back and forth between dimensions. In a newly revealed gameplay segment shown at the panel, Link uses the Merge ability to slip through a crack in a ramshackle building in Lorule, only to emerge inside a locked house in Hyrule where an embarrassed woman is modeling a new dress. According to Aonuma, there are many such places that can only be accessed by slipping through the cracks between Hyrule and Lorule, and this should make for some interesting new puzzles.
During a stage demo, Aonuma also revealed the existence of smaller dungeons scattered throughout The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Link will plunder these dungeons for huge stashes of rupees, which are more important now than ever before. This is because, unlike in previous Zelda games where essential tools are locked deep inside dungeons, nearly every item tool has been made available for rent or purchase by Link from the very start. For example, the bow can be rented for 50 rupees, or purchased for 400. While having all of Link’s equipment available for purchase up front sounds hauntingly similar to something that might’ve been born at a PopCap planning meeting, it gives players the unique experience of being able to complete the game’s dungeons in any order they choose.
That’s a concept that hasn’t been seen in this series since the very first Legend of Zelda, and it’s lead to some interesting questions for a company that has been criticized in recent years for holding players hands a little too tightly. How are new players going to cope with a game that is so wide open? And how will Nintendo balance the game’s difficulty between those who need frequent help, and those who want none of it?
As Aonuma explained to a fan who brought up these concerns in a post-panel Q&A session, the difficulty in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds comes from learning how to use the right tools to solve specific tasks, and then re-learning the same tools when new challenges require a different way of thinking. This might sound like a headache for players used to the “Zelda 64″ school of design, but longtime fans are sure to appreciate how shameless A Link Between Worlds is about throwing Navi out with the bathwater.
Due to time constraints, the Q&A session had to be cut short, but not before an exuberant Aonuma got a chance to drop a few tantalizing hints about what’s next for the series. In response to a fan who asked what to expect from the first original Wii U installment of the series, Aonuma responded only by suggesting players look to the unique design elements of Wind Waker HD and A Link Between Worlds for an idea of what future installments might be like. And for fans eagerly awaiting news of a Majora’s Mask 3DS remake, Aonuma had only this to say: play through A Link Between Worlds, and you might get your answer.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds launches in North America and Europe on November 22nd.
The GRID Lab at Ohio University is tucked in the basement of a building, unknown to most students. The room is filled with television screens, gaming systems and computers, ready to create, study and test games. For the members of Betwixt Games, the lab is where they work on their game: Max Impulse.
Inspired by futuristic racing games like F-Zero, Max Impulse takes racers to a variety of terrains across the universe, from Heaven’s Gate on a gas giant, to Devil’s Tongue, which has players racing on and around a volcano. The aim is to go beyond the racetrack though, by not only giving players interesting tracks to race their gravity-defying machines, but also by creating interesting characters and stories behind the races.
Burke actually welcomes the comparisons to the F-Zero series.
“Most people try to say, we’re this and they’re that.” he says. “I think there is definitely a hole in that genre, and when people actually play it, they’ll notice a difference right off the bat.”
Max Impulse began as a class project for the university’s game design and animation program. Creative Director Matthew Burke and Art Director Emily Zink had already worked together on another game project, known as Neglect, and their approach to Max Impulse had largely been shaped by their previous work.
“Neglect taught me a couple of lessons.” Burke says, “It was a great idea, but that sort of concept didn’t really work in a vertical slice. It was too big and we didn’t really have the expertise.”
Burke wanted to make a system that would just work at its core, and then from there they could create any level.
For Max Impulse, Burke pitched an idea for a capstone project that would work well with a small team that had limitations from the programs they use. The game is built in Maya, and the team lacked a full-time programmer, so they let that dictate the scope of the project. The result was the antigravity racer, set in locales that would show off the creative team’s skills.
“I wanted to make crazy, upside down tracks. It has made it a little more interesting,” says Burke.
What began as a smaller-scale class project has now grown into a full game. The team produced one level that was presented at the Ohio University Student Expo, and their second is starting to come together as well. The team has decided to expand the amount of levels, and would love to someday release the game for sale. There’s just one small problem: they have been developing Max Impulse with a free educational software license for the Unity game engine, and to sell the game, they would have to purchase a full license that would cost about $2,500.
“Even if the ten of us put in $100, we wouldn’t even be able to afford Unity.” says Burke.
In addition, the team wants to get a full time programmer on board, so that they can develop better AI for the game. And getting the licenses now would help them out on future games, or even expansions to Max Impulse.
Betwixt turned to Kickstarter to find the funding they need. The team has broken down exactly what the funds will be going to, and everything made beyond their goal will be going into making the game bigger and better. They aim to at least get the game on Mac and PC when it releases, which will be sometime next summer. Even if the Kickstarter fails, Max Impulse will carry on, it may just not be released quite how the team would like.
Fans were all in a tizzy over the recent revelation that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds would allow players to tackle dungeons in any order – an approach that hasn’t been featured since the original Legend of Zelda. But are Aonuma and co. merely testing the waters with the latest entry in its beloved series, or does this signal a sea change for a series that many players feel has become stale over the past two decades? Nobody knows for sure but Nintendo, but if previous portable Zeldas are any indication, it’s very likely the latter. Let’s examine the many ways portable Zeldas of generations past have influenced their bigger cousins on the N64, Gamecube, and Wii… and take a quick look at some series experiments that might best be left in the dustbins of history.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Platform: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, 3DS Virtual Console
Year of first release: 1993
Of all the portable Zeldas, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening might still be the most influential, despite its having been released over 20 years ago. For starters, it was the first Zelda game to take Link beyond the reaches of Hyrule. This gave the development team room to experiment, whether by including characters from other popular games of the time like Super Mario World and Sim City, or by featuring a story that had absolutely nothing to do with Princess Zelda, Ganon, or the Triforce — both concepts that would ultimately lead the series to one of its most memorably unique entries, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. And let’s not forget, Link’s Awakening was also the first Zelda game to feature series staples like learnable songs, an extended item-trading sequence, and the fan-favorite fishing minigame.
For the frog, the bell doth toll.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons & The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages Platform: Game Boy Color, 3DS Virtual Console
Year of first release: 2001
On a surface level, the two Zelda: Oracle games appear to have done little to influence subsequent games in the franchise, which is a shame considering the unique ways the two games work together. But consider this: the Oracle games were the first mainline Zelda entries built outside of Nintendo headquarters, with development handled by now-defunct Capcom subsidiary Flagship. Sure, previous third-party Zelda games left a lot to be desired, but the Oracle games remain just as captivating as anything Nintendo has developed internally, and the Flagship partnership paved the way for future outside developers to leave their mark on beloved Nintendo franchises like Metroid and Super Smash Bros. In fact, Nintendo thought so highly of Flagship that it hired much of the shuttered studio’s staff after its untimely demise, and Oracle director Hidemaro Fujibayashi has led the development of nearly every game in the series since, including the superb Game Boy Advance entry The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and the series’ Wii swan song, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Oracle of Seasons: the first Zelda game to feature hicks getting drunk off apple cider.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of first release: 2007
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was dismissed by fans upon its original release for ditching the series’ traditional button-based control setup for a stylus-based input system that could only ever work on the Nintendo DS, and most continue to ignore the game to this day. But its most-maligned feature was also its most influential. The concept of a direct interface between player and character led to the immensely rewarding 1:1 swordplay and unique puzzles that made Skyward Sword such a refreshing change of pace.
Phantom Hourglass is also the first game in the series to feature real-time item selection via the touch screen, which, as fans of Ocarina of Time 3D and Wind Waker HD will tell you, has improved the flow of both games significantly. Who’d have thought a silly little touch screen would’ve done so much for gaming? Oh, wait.
You’ve got the touch!
If it ain’t broke…
Of course, not every experiment Nintendo has undertaken with the Zelda series has been for the best. Phantom Hourglass‘s bland central dungeon, to which players are forced to return repeatedly throughout the course of their adventure, was dismissed as a way for developers to extend the game’s playtime without actually creating fresh content, and the concept inexplicably returned in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (and, to an extent, Skyward Sword.) And who could forget those awful microphone-based puzzles in the DS Zelda games? I get mad just thinking about those.
There’s also the matter of multiplayer. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and its sequel Four Swords Adventures introduced an amusing mix of cooperative and competitive play to the series, but subsequent multiplayer Zeldas never really took hold in players’ imaginations, and the feature hasn’t returned in years. Rumors have suggested there’s some kind of multiplayer component to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and while Nintendo hasn’t said anything publicly about it, it’s a mystery that’ll be solved soon enough: the game releases on November 22nd.
What are some of your favorite mechanics in the Zelda series, and how would you like to see the franchise evolve for future iterations? Sound off in the comments below, and please… leave Tingle alone!
It’s almost here: E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the mecca of video games and the herald of a new generation. From Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony to the indie hits of tomorrow, E3 represents the future of gaming; this year quite literally, as two new home consoles will be unveiled and playable for the first time. There are no Invisible Gamer boots on the ground in the Greater Los Angeles Area this week, but we’ll still have coverage of the show as it progresses. Before things kick off this morning with the Microsoft press conference, however, we thought we’d bring you a little idea of what we think, what we hope, and what we fear might happen. Nathan and Gabe give you their thoughts on what to expect at E3:
[Editor's Note: These predictions were made before Microsoft's press release regarding always-on connectivity, used game licenses, and Kinect's required connection. -Brien]
Conference: Monday, June 10
9:30am Pacific / 12:30pm Eastern
Nathan: As an owner of all five of the major current platforms (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Vita, and 3DS), I tend to be a Playstation 3 gamer more than anything else. I was, however, a heavy Xbox gamer in the previous generation. Right now, it comes down to one thing for me: exclusives. I bought my Xbox 360 solely for Kinect Star Wars (yes, you read that correctly) and Alan Wake. Microsoft, give me a reason to switch brand loyalties again with new exclusive titles, or at least give me enough exclusives to be a multi-system guy again in this next generation.
Gabe: Don’t mention Halo. It’s going to be hard to do for a company with such a clear flagship franchise, but Halo 4 has only been out for 7 months. If Quantum Break isn’t ready to be shown yet, don’t mention that either, but blow us away with whatever Black Tusk is working on, Ryse (which I’m still skeptical on), and all of these unannounced exclusives that were promised at E3. Microsoft has been doing quite a bit of talking after the Xbox One was revealed, and it needs to back it up. Is Respawn Entertainment’s first game really an exclusive, and is it multiplayer only? Of course, finally shooting down the anti-consumer and anti-privacy rumors surrounding the system is also a “must.”
Sony Conference: Monday, June 10 6:00pm Pacific / 9:00pm Eastern
Nathan: My predictions and hopes for Sony would be that they (a) deal with the major issues that plagued Microsoft recently by discussing how they plan to handle used games and any form of online game authentication and (b) provide me with a reason to be happy about owning a Vita. That latter is where I expect my greatest disappointment. I was one of those early adopters of the Vita who preordered the 3G version just to get it a week earlier than the regular launch day. Since then, I have “platinumed’ Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Resistance: Burning Skies, but other than Uncharted, Wipeout, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there have been very few games that I’ve cared to pick up for the handheld. In fact, the only games I still own physically are Uncharted and UMVC3, and the former is just because I prefer to own Uncharted games in physical form, even though it is available via PS+. At this point, PS+ has hit most of the Vita games I care about. Give us more than just remote play.
Gabe: The biggest concern for Sony should just be to keep up the momentum at the conference. They’re going on last, and we’ve already seen two huge exclusives for the PS4 at the system’s reveal event. The Last Guardian has been rumored, and that would be something special, but Bungie’s Destiny getting its first gameplay reveal at the conference is going to be the biggest draw. With so many people still in the dark about what the game really is, showing it off at the biggest stage in gaming is sure to create some buzz. As far as the Vita is concerned, Sony has to announce more exclusives, not cross-buy games. Gamers aren’t going to rush out to get a Vita if the games are also on the PS3, so more titles like Killzone: Mercenary need to be announced. And for the love of everything sacred, do not show anything that reminds us of Wonderbook.
Nintendo Nintendo Direct: Tuesday, June 11
7:00am Pacific /10:00am Eastern
Nathan: Nintendo appears to be intending to do their own showcase of games without the fanfare of E3. Given how little I’ve found to excite me in Nintendo’s last few E3 presentations, I’m hoping that this focus on game demos and such will finally show us something to get the hardcore gamers in the audience excited for a Nintendo product.
I was an early (pre price-drop) adopter of the 3DS and a somewhat early adopter of the Wii U. At present, I only actually own one 3DS game, and it’s a 3D console port (Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition), while the only other games to have truly justified my purchase have been Super Mario 3D Land and Resident Evil: Revelations, the latter of which is no longer a 3DS exclusive. With the Wii U, it is even worse. The only Wii U exclusive that I have cared about at all was the survival horror title ZombiU, and the only other games I’ve picked up have been multiplatform titles like Injustice: Gods Among Us or the aforementioned now-multiplatform Resident Evil: Revelations.
Nintendo: Give me some exclusive titles that provide a reason to be happy to own either of your flagship systems right now.
Gabe: Personally, I think the opportunity to let me see all of Nintendo’s upcoming games without all the buzz words that are so prevalent in an E3 is going to be awesome, but it makes no sense for a company trying to drastically improve its sales. The Wii U is struggling, and Nintendo is promising an impressive number of quality games at the conference, but they’re showing them through a Nintendo Direct event that is watched by those who already own the system. Of the games Nintendo has already said will be on display, the 3D Mario and Super Smash Bros. are my two biggest exclusives, and both Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101 really intrigue me. I’m also really hoping that a Retro-developed Star Fox game gets announced for the Wii U, mixing in a small amount of Adventures-style ground exploration with classic dogfights. Last year’s Nintendo press conference was absolutely terrible, with Nintendo not even revealing one of its biggest games until after it was over, failing to mention many huge 3DS games, and focusing far too much on multi-platform ports. They’re in trouble, but this E3 could give them a serious boost.
What can we really expect from E3? Who will bring the biggest surprises? Who will have the weakest show? Sound off in the comments below!
They line shelves, stand watch over living rooms and adorn walls. From the statues, to the art books, to the hardcover game guides, the gaming community loves their collector’s editions and other collectables. Some cost hundreds of dollars, and many will scour bargain bins and eBay auctions to find the ones they missed.
It could be said that the very first collector’s edition was the first copies of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Those who pre-ordered the game received a limited edition box with gold “collector’s edition” card, and a golden game cartridge. Over time, the extras expanded into behind-the-scenes documentaries, art prints, game soundtracks, and replicas of in-game characters and items. With the rise of digital content, collector’s editions today often include special costumes, side content and even access to future DLC or other games.
While all these bonuses have become an expectation with every AAA game release, why is it that we have become so drawn to collector’s editions?
From a psychological perspective, the interest in collector’s editions is a complex one. There are essentially four different types of collectors and all four types are represented in the gaming community, according to an article by William McIntosh and Brandon Schmeichel in Leisure Sciences. The first is those who are simply passionate collectors. No price is too high for them to get the next item for the perfect collection. These are the people who actively search for those rare classics, and are willing to pay any price to get them. Inquisitive collectors are more focused on the investment side of collecting. They see their collections as something that will increase in value over time, either for themselves or for their heirs. They pick their purchases accordingly. You see these collectors with what they may deem as every game worth owning on a system, and selling the entire bundle for a fortune. They may also be searching for items in high demand, and then turning them for a profit later. Then there are the hobbyists, who collect simply because they enjoy it. The shopping, the hunt for the perfect addition, is just part of the hobby. And then there are those who see the items they collect as statements. These are the expressive collectors, who may simply shell out the extra cash for a collector’s edition because they love the series.
Though there are different types, and though most may actually fall into several of these categories, at the core of each type is some sort of self-fulfillment need that is motivating them. Many times, this need stems from what is known as terror management theory, a social psychology concept that attempts to explain the reasoning behind human behavior. Terror management theory explains that the actions of people are motivated by the need to reduce awareness of one’s own mortality. Many times this is done by participating in culturally valued activities, or by believing that their activities will allow them to have some sort of immortality beyond their death. In a consumer culture, purchasing and investing has cultural value, so collector’s editions allow us to participate in something of value. We see the items inside as symbols of our participation in culture, and many of us probably have a bit of pride in showing items in our collections to friends.
Another theory for the motivations of collecting is that people use their hobby as a way to receive feedback on if they are succeeding. Known as compensation theory, collectors can set out a task and set goals that allow them to get the feedback they are lacking. This allows us to develop a more positive sense of self as we set goals that are more tangible.
Part of the process of collecting anything comes with gaining knowledge. For most of us, we start learning what constitutes a good or bad deal. We start finding other people who are interested in games and consult them on what good or bad prices are for certain editions, or if a game is worth purchasing at all. Beyond the act of finding information, collectors also gain the identity of becoming an expert in their area, and the community of other people who also are interested.
In the end, many of us end up with collector’s editions for a variety of reasons on the surface. At the core, though, we all have similar psychological motivations. From it all we gain both a broader individual identity, as well as acceptance into a group. Not bad benefits from buying the latest game with all the perks.
For better or worse, the next generation of home video game consoles is (nearly) fully upon us. Yesterday morning, Microsoft debuted the successor to its wildly successful Xbox 360 console, the Xbox One. Opinions on the presentation varied wildly here at Invisible Gamer, but one thing’s for certain: this next console cycle won’t be anything like the last one.
So. What’d we think about yesterday’s unveiling?
Gabe Gurwin, Editor: I think Microsoft made a good decision to start with entertainment and then add in games. The announcement of 15 exclusives within the first year, along with much better Kinect technology, has me excited. Still, it would have been nice to see more than one exclusive title at the reveal. Also, the used games restrictions and whatever online requirements they have are so anti-consumer it’s not even funny. I want a console that appreciates the gamer, not one that says I have “permission” to play a game. I don’t care what the manufacturer thinks: if I buy a game, it’s mine.
Amy Elyse Brighter, Editor: I wanted this to be about games, and it wasn’t. At the same time, I think we’re seeing what Microsoft wants its brand to be: an all-in-one entertainment center. From what we saw today, they’re nailing that, especially with the media switching. Of the games they did show, I wanted to see some gameplay, and a few more teases of what to expect from their new IPs. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks for E3 for that.
Also, I’m not a huge fan of the name. I get the idea behind it, but I think it’s slightly confusing for the average consumer.
Michael Burns, Founder: In my house, the Xbox 360 gets used just about as much as the PS3 – both are essentially movie boxes, for the most part. I don’t need another movie box; I’ve already got a million of them. Sure, it’s nice that this single box can play Blu-ray movies and stream HBO Go (unlike with my current setup), but this whole idea of a single-box approach Microsoft tried to sell yesterday doesn’t really work for me, because guess what? Even if you’re an Xbox-only household, you can’t play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, meaning you’re going to have to keep your 360 plugged in so you can continue accessing all that great content you’ve been amassing for the past 8 years.
As far as games coming out for Xbox One (and PS4, for that matter), I don’t think it’s going to surprise anyone here that the more the industry looks forward, the more I look back. I don’t care about Call of Duty, driving sims or sports games, just like I don’t care about Killzone or really anything that Sony debuted at the PS4 reveal: I like games that are games, and the industry these days doesn’t make games so much as it tries to make interactive movies. Nintendo might be in dire straights with the Wii U, and maybe their software doesn’t appeal to the audience that would make the Xbox One and PS4 successful, but at least they’re still making actual games. I mean, have you seen the 3DS’s library, lately? Hot damn!
If I actually felt compelled to buy into Microsoft or Sony’s vision of “next gen” and I had to make a decision today, it would be PS4 all the way, because I’ve already got a core component of that ecosystem – the PS Vita. But honestly, I don’t see much value in either of these systems right now, other than the twinge of tech lust inside of me that wants to buy everything all the time. Wii U notwithstanding , this will be the first console generation that I take a wait-and-see approach, and I know I’m not alone in that. And if both Microsoft and Sony can’t convince someone like me that I need to have their latest tech, I don’t know how they’re possibly going to convince the broader audience that has already amassed plenty of other tech that does largely the same thing as these new platforms.
Q: Is Xbox One backward compatible?A: #DealWithIt Q: What about used games? A: #SuckItUpQ: I don’t have reliable InternetA: Move
Game|Life‘s Chris Kohler, summing it up as succinctly as ever.
Nathan Butler, Editor: For each of the two most recent console generations, I have owned each of the three major consoles and both major handhelds. I’ve tended to favor Sony this generation, focusing on the PS3 and its exclusives (Uncharted, Eye of Judgment, etc.), but I picked up the Xbox 360 for its Kinect Star Wars Limited Edition console to play that, Alan Wake, and the handful of other exclusives that have gotten my attention (far and few between, those.)
I came into the Xbox One reveal with few expectations, looking for something that might draw me out of Sony’s camp for my primary console of the next generation. I saw nothing that even remotely did so. In fact, their approach to games that (a) require installation and (b) require a full-price CD key, in essence, to be played, pretty much guarantees that I won’t be playing much on Xbox One if/when I pick one up. I feed my gaming habit mostly by buying and selling on eBay, and by trading in old games toward preorders at Gamestop, so that I can limit my out-of-pocket cost for any new game (a month with several new $60 games doesn’t really work on a teacher’s salary.) The chill that Xbox One’s approach is likely to bring to that market is a deal-breaker for me.
Sure, it will finally have a BD player. Yes, the new Kinect looks like what Kinect was supposed to be in the first place. None of that balances out the used game angle for me. I understand why Microsoft is doing this, but I don’t think the company has any real sense of the impact this decision will have when it comes time for consumers to choose which new console to purchase.
Xbox One: The most advanced TV box ever…until the next one!
Brien Bell, Managing Editor: I tried to be open-minded about the reveal of a new Xbox. It’s no secret that my loyalties tend to run toward a certain Japanese hardware manufacturer that doesn’t begin with the letter ‘N’, but I like to think that even the most fanboy-ish among us can remain impartial when it comes to deciding which console suits our needs. Having both current-gen HD consoles in my household, I appreciate the Xbox 360′s design sensibilities, the ergonomics of the controller layout, and the (relatively) easy-to-use Dashboard. But so far, I’ve found little reason to be excited by the prospect of the Xbox One. A few reasons:
My living arrangements: whether in the main room or the bedroom, Kinect has never been a viable prospect. I’m not about to re-arrange furniture to accommodate swiping from screen to screen, no matter how useful it may be (turns out, the new Kinect has a wider field-of-vision, making this a non issue – Michael). Also, on the topic of Kinect, I’m just not interested in voice commands, and I won’t be if they’re part of the PlayStation 4, either. It’s just not something I want.
Cord-cutter: one of the big focuses of the reveal was the television integration; having recently cancelled my satellite subscription, this feature is almost meaningless. I have some interest in the ESPN content that’s still exclusive to Microsoft, but that’s not what I’d buy a console for.
“Xbox, Games… Xbox?”: Games are what I buy a console for. We already knew that E3 was going to be where they would showcase their full lineup of software, but the lack of any actual gameplay demos at this event was pretty alarming. Call of Duty was the show-stopper, of course, and has been at most Xbox events for the last several years. Yesterday’s event would’ve been a great place for the first playable demo on the new hardware, which was (ostensibly) right there on stage. But it just didn’t happen.
Xbox has a plan. It’s probably even a good plan, for those who want an all-purpose machine. But for me, until there’s a more compelling reason than Quantum Break, I don’t feel the need to pick this up day one, or evangelize it to my non-gaming friends, which is really what Microsoft is banking on.
And there you have it: our initial thoughts on Xbox One. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Games don’t exactly fly off the shelves from mid-May to the beginning of August. While everyone’s out seeing the newest superhero movies and heading to the beach to get some sun, we gamers often struggle to keep ourselves entertained with a stream of titles. However, just because there aren’t many big titles getting released over the summer doesn’t mean that there aren’t already a ton of great games to play during the warmest months. The biggest criteria for making it on this list were fun and lasting appeal; these games can’t leave the disc tray after just a day or two when there are so few new titles hitting stores. Anyone looking for something to enjoy during the summer is in luck, because there are plenty of excellent choices available to play during the coming months.
Second Sight Platform: Xbox, PS2, GameCube Year of First Release: 2004 Developer: Free Radical
This is one title that I mention constantly to anyone who will listen, and with good reason. Not enough people have heard of or experienced Free Radical’s suspense-filled psychological thriller, and the hours of time players have to spend to get completely mesmerized by the game’s complex narrative make it a perfect choice to dive into over the summer. In addition, the inclusion of telekinetic abilities and unique combat make Second Sight a blast to play. Unlike other characters with superpowers, protagonist John Vattic feels underpowered in almost every encounter, and a large portion of the game is spent hiding and sneaking through levels. Add in a twist that no one can see coming, and players are looking at one of the most immersive experiences in the medium.
Mario Super Sluggers Platform: Wii Year of First Release: 2008 Developer: Namco Bandai
What some consider the black sheep of the Mario sports games also happens to be one of the best for some pure, dumb fun. Sitting around a room with a group of friends and picking from the huge selection of characters in the Mario universe is awesome on its own, but laughing as skilled players throw completely unhittable pitches past frustrated batters is where the majority of the fun can be found. The game’s classic cinematic style oozes classic Nintendo nostalgia, and the numerous hazard-filled fields offer an experience not available anywhere else. Ok, maybe it’s available on Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube, but that game doesn’t let players waggle their arms in the air like idiots! This game is also the best chance for inspiring players to go out and play some real sports.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Platform: Nintendo 64, GameCube, 3DS Year of First Release: 1998 Developer: Nintendo EAD
Yes, it’s one of the best games ever made, but that doesn’t mean that Link’s first outing on the Nintendo 64 is any less deserving of players’ time during the summer. The game’s combat, setting and story speak for themselves, but Ocarina of Time’s ability to keep people playing for hours at a time is why it made this list. The 3DS version of the title also added vastly superior visuals and updated controls, making it the best version to play, especially when considering that it’s the only one that can be taken on the go. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it to go back and experience the original 1998 release on its native system, especially after spending a long day outside with friends.
Mario Tennis Platform: Game Boy Color Year of First Release: 2001 Developer: Camelot
Mario has had a long history of serving and acing, but he’s noticeably absent for the vast majority of Mario Tennis on the Game Boy Color. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why the game is so captivating. Instead of controlling the famous cast of Mario characters, players take on the role of a new student to a prestigious tennis academy and face off against other students as they advance from JV to varsity and beyond. The game’s surprisingly deep tennis gameplay and emphasis on RPG elements mean that it will stay in Game Boys for weeks at a time, and players might want to go see if their tennis skills have actually improved at all after playing.
Halo: Combat Evolved Platform: Xbox Year of First Release: 2001 Developer: Bungie
No, it can’t be the HD remake on the 360; it needs to be old school, classic Halo. Call over some friends, order a bunch of pizza, hook up some original Xbox consoles and get ready for one of the best local competitive games of all time. Halo is what got me into serious gaming (I still consider it to be my favorite game) and I’d spend hours with my friends playing slayer and capture the flag on Blood Gulch with no time limit. That’s the only map that should be played for these marathon sessions, and for some added fun, partition the room that the game is set up in with a curtain and put a TV and Xbox on either side. No more screen-looking, you lying bastards. There’s no way you could’ve known where I was hiding.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance Platform: GameCube Year of First Release: 2005 Developer: Intelligent Systems
It was released near the end of the GameCube’s lifespan, but Path of Radiance is still the best Fire Emblem game to come out stateside. Featuring a deep combat system, an impressive amount of supporting characters and a story that blows away all those that come before it in the series, Path of Radiance is a game that is best played alone and with a large chunk of devoted time. Yes, this is one summer game that should not be played with a large group of people. The 2005 title also includes social commentary on racism and a story that is far less black-and-white than any other game in the series. Its Wii sequel, Radiant Dawn, is incredibly hard to find, but fans of Path of Radiance should definitely check it out if they’re willing to pay a little extra.
Super Monkey Ball 2 Platform: GameCube Year of First Release: 2002 Developer: Amusement Vision
Sega’s awesome platforming-puzzle game is one of my favorites to play every summer because of its mix of unique, colorful levels and a collection of mini-games that can rival any party game on the market. Super Monkey Ball 2 might be a little more rage-inducing than some of the other titles included in this list, but its carefree whimsy and “pick up and play” gameplay make it a perfect summer game. Just stay away from the one on the Game Boy Advance. It’s horrible.
Trials Evolution Platforms: Xbox 360, PC Year of First Release: 2012 Developer: RedLynx
It may be a small XBLA release, but RedLynx’s motorcycle platform-racer is one of the biggest time-sucks in recent memory. Playing against friends’ times and doing endless flips off of high jumps makes this well worth the money, and watching videos from gamers like SeaNanners and Hutch helps to add some laughs when players are away from their consoles. Add in the massive amount of user-created tracks, and this game will get endless hours of playtime.
That’s my list of the best games to play during the summer, but if my tastes and preferences aren’t the same as yours, feel free to let us know what some of your favorite summer games are! Are your criteria for a good summer game different from mine? Do you prefer to play your summer games on a different system? It can be tough going months without unwrapping a brand new title, but we can still have a great time gaming!
Of all the stupid jargon the games media has invented to describe something that only the most enthusiastic amongst us will ever understand, there’s one godawful word that sticks in my craw every time I feel the urge to utter it, which is, unfortunately for me, all the time (seriously, guys: my throat really hurts.) That word, of course, is “Metroidvania,” a portmanteau meant to describe the common design elements between Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, along with every subsequent game designed to mimic the two. For those uninitiated few who need a refresher, the formula for creating a successful Metroidvania is, more or less, as follows (gracious thanks to Daniel Primed for the succinct summation):
free-roaming nature (few restrictions on where to travel)
emphasis on exploration
a progressively expanding ability system tied to the exploration and combat
Now, as much as I hate using the neologism coined to describe this most potent of gaming cocktails, the truth is, I would trade all the Marios, Zeldas, Grand Theft Autos, and (insert your favorite game series here) that have ever existed for half as many Metroidvanias. In the nearly twenty years since Super Metroid launched for the SNES, there’s been no other design that has held up so well from generation to generation, nor one that has influenced the creation of so many great games – even those that aren’t specifically meant to ape Metroid and Castlevania, like Minecraft, Batman: Arkham City, or the recently released Tomb Raider reboot.
If your tastes are anything like mine, you’re probably always up for another roll in the hay with Samus and Alucard, but why not try something new for a change? Each of the following 12 games offers a fresh take or interesting variation on the Metroidvania formula, and each is sublime in its own right. So, read on – no matter what platform you game on, you’re sure to find something special!
Guacamelee Platform: PS3, Vita
Year of first release: 2013 Developer:DrinkBox Studios
DrinkBox Studios, developer of the Tales from Space games, is back with a vengeance with its third release, which hit PS3 and Vita in North America on April 9th. Guacamelee is classic Metroidvania through and through, with vast, interconnected environments to explore, secret collectibles hidden everywhere, and plenty of sequence-breaking exploits for speedrunners to take advantage of. What sets it apart is its unique presentation: if you’re not charmed by its humorous take on Mexican mythology (you play as a recently-deceased farmer-turned-luchador, on a quest to save the world El Presidente’s Daughter from a sombrero’d skeleton with plans to merge the lands of the living and the dead) and don’t find yourself addicted to its sassy trumpet themes, perhaps you’ll get a kick out of identifying the countless references to video game and Internet culture that DrinkBox has stuffed its game with. Having said that, don’t be surprised twenty years from now when you go to play this future-classic and realize you can’t remember what the deal was with the monkey in the shearling coat.
Monster Tale Platform: DS
Year of first release: 2011 Developer:DreamRift
In Monster Tale, players take control of Ellie, a young girl on an epic quest to defeat the Kid-Kings, a group of not-quite-evil human brats who’ve seen fit to take over Monster World. The game’s open-ended platforming and lite RPG elements aren’t quite as satisfying here as the games DreamRift was inspired by, but the game’s pet-sim element takes the “familiars” system of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and runs with it, devoting the DS’s entire lower screen to the care of Ellie’s pet, Chomp, who can evolve into several distinct forms depending on how players choose to interact with him. This is a good one for introduce young children to the genre, challenging enough that experienced players will enjoy it as well.
Fun fact: If you’re wondering where you’ve heard of DreamRift before, wonder no longer: they were responsible for the better-than-its-console-cousin 3DS version of Epic Mickey. Staff at DreamRift also worked on another essential under-the-radar DS title, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.
Shadow Complex Platform: Xbox 360, PC
Year of first release: 2009 Developer:Chair Entertainment
Back before Chair made its millions from the visually stunning but yawn-inducing Infinity Blade titles for iOS, it released Shadow Complex on Xbox Live Arcade. Though the game doesn’t do much visually to set itself apart from all the military-themed Unreal Engine games that have flooded the console market this generation, it has earned a special place in the hearts of longtime gamers with its rock-solid platforming and hidden objectives that tests even the most skilled players. Shadow Complex remains one of the purest, most heartfelt love letters to Super Metroid ever released and is an essential addition to any platforming fan’s library.
Now, seriously, Chair: how about putting some of that Apple money back into games that people actually, you know, want to play?
Aliens Infestation Platform: DS
Year of first release: 2011 Developer:WayForward Technologies
If you’re still holding out hope for Metroid: Dread, it’s time to let it go. It’s never going to happen.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a proper Metroid experience on the DS – in fact, thanks to the luminaries at WayForward, you get two! The more recent of these, Aliens Infestation, plays a lot like Metroid: Fusion, which makes it the best Aliens game ever made by default (it’s also fitting given the similarities between the two franchises, but you can Google that if you’re interested.) Due to its segmented narrative, Infestation’s world isn’t a huge, interconnected network of chambers and tunnels like most of the other games in this list, but each level is big enough that it’s easy to get lost if you don’t pay attention to your map. Aliens Infestation distinguishes itself with its so-called “permadeath” mechanic, in which characters who die are gone permanently and players can lose the game if they lose too many characters. This, along with the ever-present threat of xenomorphs lurking behind every door and ventilation shaft, lends a palpable sense of — ehem — dread to the game, making it an easy recommendation for players who like a healthy dose of tension in their platforming.
Oh, and a little word of advice: turn the volume down – way down – once the credits begin to roll. Trust me on this one.
LostWinds Platform: Wii, iOS
Year of first release: 2008 Developer:Frontier Developments
With its gentle pace, inviting landscapes and soothing soundtrack, LostWinds is everything Aliens Infestation is not. An early standout on the WiiWare service, the game puts players in control of Toku, a young boy with the ability to manipulate the wind. Both LostWinds and its equally wondrous sequel have recently migrated onto iOS, and the combination of intuitive touch screen controls and Apple’s gorgeous displays makes both titles shine beyond their already-excellent (but sadly not Wii U-compatible) Wii versions. The game’s low difficulty level might offend some players looking for the challenge of a more traditional Metroidvania experience, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more relaxing rainy-day platformer, no matter how skilled you are.
The Iconoclasts Platform: PC
Year of first release: TBD Developer:Joakim Sandberg
You’d be forgiven for never having heard of The Iconoclasts before – the indie PC gaming scene can be even more inscrutable than the App Store – but now that you have, lone wolf developer Joakim Sandberg’s latest really ought to be right at the top of your gaming priorities. Sandberg’s detailed sprite work, fluid animation and catchy soundtrack will draw you in immediately, but the deeply-written characters and cerebral narrative put this game on a level rarely seen within the platforming genre. You can download The Iconoclasts right now, for free, from Sandberg’s website, but there’s one unfortunate catch: the game simply isn’t finished, and the developer hasn’t given any indication that this will change any time soon. A recent PC Gamer preview based on an IGF build of the game seems to suggest a final release isn’t far off, so with any luck, we’ll all be playing The Iconoclasts by the end of the year. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about the game:
And hey, Joakim, if you’re reading: I will Kickstart the shit out of this if it gets us a 3DS or Vita release. Just saying.
VVVVVV Platform: PC, 3DS
Year of first release: 2010 Developer:Terry Cavanaugh
You don’t really need to know how to pronounce this one, but you should be aware up front that VVVVVV’s gravity-shifting platforming will destroy you. Still interested? Good.
This C64-inspired puzzle-platformer, which has players rescuing the five missing crew members of an interstellar vessel that has been marooned on a hostile planet, has less in common with Metroid and Castlevania than most of the other games on this list – there are no weapons, few enemies, and you can’t even jump! – but its non-linear structure and copious checkpoints make it really easy to pick up when you have just a few minutes to spare. Just make sure not to play in public if you’re prone to hissy fits.
And also: Oh. My. God. That soundtrack.
You Have to Win the Game Platform: PC
Year of first release: 2012 Developer:J. Kyle Pittman
VVVVVV is excellent, but if you’ve already played it, give You Have to Win the Game a shot. Featuring a similar art style, a slightly-less-punishing difficulty level, and a price of free, this one’s an easy recommendation for players interested in…well, all of those things I just mentioned.
Waking Mars Platform: iOS, Android, PC
Year of first release: 2012 Developer:Tiger Style
Waking Mars was the first open-ended platformer of real substance made specifically for smartphones and tablets, and it’s appropriately more puzzle-oriented than action-heavy. Yes, this is another “space man explores a mysterious planet” game, but it earns an easy recommendation just for daring to be different. How different? Let me explain.
In Waking Mars, you play an astronaut on a mission to study and catalog the plantlike life forms populating the inner world of Mars. By mastering your understanding of each unique creature, you’ll be able to turn the planet’s inhospitable caverns in to living, breathing gardens of exotic delight, and ultimately will make your way off the planet. It sounds like a tough sell, but If you’ve ever fantasized about trading Samus’s missile blaster for a watering can, Waking Mars proves that you can blend even the most disparate genres into an unforgettable experience.
Knytt Underground Platform: PC, PS3, Vita
Year of first release: 2012 Developer:Nifflas
I’ll admit up front that I’m not a huge fan of Knytt Underground’s minimalist art style, and its playable character is looks like she was designed by the people responsible for MineSweeper – but the proof, as they say, is in the play, and Knytt Underground’s gameplay holds up in spite of its visual blandness. If you’ve finished Guacamelee and are looking for “more like this” on your current Sony platform of choice, you really don’t have too many options – it’s either this, or the obtuse-but-excellent Tomba! – but even the worst Metroidvania is better than most anything else you can play today. I’ll just leave this trailer here for you, and if you like what you see, head on over to the PlayStation Network and give the demo a shot. You just might love it.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge Platform: DS, iOS
Year of first release: 2010 Developer:WayForward Technologies
Shantae. That’s the name of one of those Bratz dolls, right? The original Shantae, released for Gameboy Color at a time when the world had already moved on to the Gameboy Advance, suffered the fate of being the best platformer with the worst name on a system chock-full of great games with more marketable names, like “Super Mario 47″ and “Mega Man 20XX.” Seriously, take a look at the game’s cover art and answer honestly: does that look like a game you would have bought?
Fortunately for players, developer WayForward was paying attention as the value of Shantae skyrocketed on eBay (even during a recession), and responded by building an even better sequel for players who couldn’t justify dropping $100 or more on a Gameboy game.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, a download-only title that, just like its predecessor, is better than any other platformer released on DS, stars a genie named Shantae who’s been tasked with ridding her peaceful village of the influence of Risky Boots, a lady pirate with a penchant for meddling in the lives of the little people, and also not wearing a whole lot of clothing.
Genie versus pirate: shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Wrong. At the beginning of the game, Shantae is stripped of all her godlike geniepowers, and forced to hoof it across the land on her own two legs. Luckily, Shantae’s no ordinary girl even without genie status; she’s capable not only of transforming into various creatures to navigate tricky environmental puzzles, but of whipping the daylights out of Risky’s minions using nothing but her luscious ponytail.
That’s right: Metroidvania + head banging. Rock and roll, mother lickers.
Cave Story Platform: PC, DSi, Wii, 3DS
Year of first release: 2004 Developer:Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya
Cave Story. If you’ve played it, you knew it was going to show up on this list; if you haven’t, shame on you, fake gamer! Long held up as the one of the finest examples of independent game development, Cave Story legitimized the movement to develop modern games in the style of the classics we all played in our youth, and proved that it didn’t take gigaflops and polydongles to make a compelling experience in the 20th century.
Cave Story tells the story of Quote, an amnesiac robot who wakes up in an underground colony of rabbit people being tormented by a nefarious, upjumped scientist. Its combination of brilliant artwork, fantastic level design, pitch-perfect score and countless secrets that only the most obsessive (and skilled) players will ever find puts it at the absolute pinnacle of Metroidvanias not called Metroid or Castlevania – it’s quite simply not to be missed. Good thing, then, that it’s been released on pretty much every platform that matters.
Fun fact: Cave Story is a digital-only release, like most of the titles on this list, though a revamped, polygon-based version was released at retail for the 3DS. It may not be the definitive version of the game – for my money, that would actually be the eShop version of the game (also released for the 3DS) – but the mere fact of its physical existence makes it a required purchase for serious Cave Story fans. It also proves, yet again, that gameplay is what really matters in the end – because no matter what it looks like, Cave Story is one of the best games you will ever play.
And that’s a wrap! Have you played all the games on this list? Which ones are your favorite? What other Metroidvanias do you think players should check out? And what about that word, Metroidvania – do you love it, or hate it? Sound off in the comments below!
Yesterday, a couple of Invisible Gamers had a tête-à-tête over Sony’s reveal of their new home gaming platform, the PlayStation 4. Today, we reveal the secret, shocking truths contained within that conversation…hold on to your butts!
MICHAEL: Well, let’s get this started. What’d you think?
BRIEN: Between the interactivity options, the social experience, and the lineup of games they introduced, there’s a lot to look forward to! We still need to know about form factor, price, and online, but so far I’m very excited.
MICHAEL: Listen, we’re obviously in opposite corners here, but I wasn’t impressed. Not that what they showed wasn’t interesting from a conceptual standpoint – there just weren’t any games shown that had me more excited than what’s already available (or has been previously announced) for PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U.
Also, as a handheld guy, It was great to see they’re improving the Vita cross-play experience for PS4, but there was no mention of any new Vita games, no Vita price drop, and just just nothing to convince me they’re thinking of the platform as anything more than a Wii U Gamepad for PS4.
BRIEN: I think Andrew House was smart to get out of the way early in the presentation that this was not a PlayStation 3 event, this was not a PlayStation Vita event, this was a PlayStation 4 event. I can understand your frustration, but this wasn’t the time or place to announce anything other than “here is PlayStation 4″ and “it’s coming this year.” For what was a two-hour presentation, adding a focus on Vita would have made it overly long and take attention away from what they were trying to unveil. I’d like to see a clear and concise vision for the handheld’s future, but they had a message to drive home in New York: the PS4 is the future of not just your living room, but your social life.
That’s obviously in contrast to what you see at a venue like E3 where the show is beholden to more than one platform. But the things they mentioned for both PS3 and Vita were intriguing; Diablo and Destiny coming to the former, and massive integration into PS4 for the latter.
MICHAEL: Actually, they billed this event as “The Future of PlayStation.” I assumed Vita was part of that future, not just as a footnote. Remember when they billed the Vita as the future of your social life, but then all of that fancy technology and confusing social integration just gave way to another (admittedly awesome) way to play games? At least the social functions for PS4 seemed interesting – as someone who checks Miiverse regularly even though there isn’t always a game to play in the system, I’m certainly glad they’ve chosen to focus on offering services that will augment the experience and joy of playing games, versus giving out esoteric “game goods”. I still have no idea what to do with those on my Vita, and they pop up all the time.
As for the length of the presentation: it was already overly long, even with the focus staying on PS4. Maybe we follow a different group of people on Twitter, but my feed was full of people (figuratively) throwing their hands up in exasperation over the length of the game demos, recycled tech demos from last E3, and clever concepts that looked suspiciously like failed experiments from last-gen consoles (hello, Wii Music!). It was interesting to see some of the luminaries from my youth spitting out words like “teraflops” like it was 1999 again, but I think they needed to focus on games and why those games were inherently better than anything I can already play on existing platforms. And they failed to do that.
BRIEN: Here’s what Sony needed to do yesterday: they needed to come out of the gate and say “we have a new console, it’s the PlayStation 4, and it’s coming this year.” And they did that. They needed to say “we know that developers didn’t like making games for PS3, so we’ve made it easier for them with PS4. And this is the system they want to be on.” And they did that. And they needed to get out in front of the competition and say “we’re here, now what do you have?” And they did that.
Anyone who’s working on a next-gen title can now say ‘yes, it’s for PlayStation 4′ (like we saw this morning with The Witcher 3), which gives Sony the brief, but powerful advantage of saying that their system is the only next gen-system (all due respect to Wii U) that these games have been announced for.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of Jonathan Blow and Bungie coming out on stage. These are developers who, whether through contract or circumstance, have been essentially nonexistent on the PlayStation platform. And they were on stage and announcing timed exclusivity and exclusive content for the PS4. This kind of thing is normally in the realm of Microsoft, but Sony took a page from their competitor’s playbook, got out in front of things, and put themselves in a remarkably strong position.
MICHAEL: I agree with a lot of what you said, though I think it’s ludicrous to call PS4 the first next-gen system when so much of what makes the system “next-gen” has been lifted either in theory from the Wii U playbook or from hardware or services that have been available on PC for years. Also, having Jonathan Blow representing your brand isn’t a selling point, from my perspective. Braid was fun, sure, but far from deserving of the praise it received, and worse than that, this is a developer who publicly shits on practically every game everybody else has released in the past few years. Apparently if you’re not ripping off Myst, you’re not making a good game.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m far more likely to pick up a PS4 at this point than whatever Microsoft has up its sleeves. Vita integration is a key selling point for me – off-TV play has been a HUGE part of the Wii U experience for me – and Sony’s got a fantastic back catalog that I hope will be better represented through Gaikai than its current implementation on the PSN (though I’m really curious to see whether licensing and streaming issues have a negative effect on the new service.) But this presentation bored me. I wanted to see games, and there was nothing from Naughty Dog, thatgamecompany, or any other developer whose games I actually care about (except Watch Dogs, which I’ll be playing on Wii U.) I know that stuff will come. It just wasn’t there in New York.
BRIEN: Yeah, it’s definitely important to show what Gaikai could be. While not every aspect of that service will be rolled out immediately (hello, TVii), the fact that they’re so hopeful on the future of that experience is important. Whether or not it ultimately succeeds, just being able to look at the future and say “this is what we want to do, and we think we can do it” is a good step to take.
MICHAEL: Okay, let’s wrap this up. Final thoughts on the PS4 reveal?
BRIEN: All in all, I was encouraged by it. Did they show everything that everyone wanted? Of course not. We’re a long way from Holiday 2013 – in the next four months we have GDC, PAX East, E3, Gamescom, SDCC, and TGS for Sony to hone the PS4′s image. But did they hit a “solid triple,” as Jeff Gertsmann said on Revision3′s post-show wrap? I think so. This was the reveal they needed to position themselves as the “first” next-gen console, all due respect to Nintendo. There’s a lot more to be said, and plenty of time to discern where this generation will eventually lead, but overall I was happy with the announcement, and I’m looking forward to the months to come. It’s exciting times.
MICHAEL: Definitely. Despite what you might think from my reactions so far, I’m really excited to see where Sony can go with the PS4. I don’t agree that anything the PS4 offers is any more next-gen than Wii U – it’s been years since we’ve been past the point of computational power and improved graphics processing adding anything inherently new to the gaming experience – but it’s definitely looking like the most viable platform for non-Nintendo gamers outside of PC. Time will tell if the platform or the console experience in general can continue to remain relevant in the face of things like Steam and the iPad, but if anyone can make this generation of gaming the best ever, it’s Sony with their stable of exclusive content.