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Here we are near the end of January 2014, and what do we have but another Thursday, which means this is the last Nintendo Download of the month. Apparently, Nintendo recognized this too, so they squeezed in some big announcements and releases before we hit February. Honestly, we don’t know if that has anything to do with it. Who cares, right? Let’s just get to the games!
We will start with Wii U. At long last, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) is coming to the eShop. Fans have been waiting for this day ever since the eShop began, and especially after A Link Between Worlds launched last year on 3DS. All we can say is that you better let Nintendo know you are grateful by downloading it right away. Unfortunately, though, that is it for new releases on Wii U. However, there are a couple promotions! First up is that the free 30-day trial of Wii Fit U ends tomorrow, January 31, so act fast. Also, Nintendo started a “Super Indie Connection Sale” on five select indie games. Purchase one of the games, and you will get any of the others for 60% off. (Get more details.)
The new game list is a bit larger on the 3DS eShop. It all starts with the classic Mario Bros. (NES) hitting the Virtual Console. There are a few new games, too. Castle Clout 3D has you strategizing on your own or with a friend in a 3D version of the popular game. Arc Style: Solitaire brings two versions of the classic single-player card game: Klondike and Monte Carlo. Touch Battle Tank 3D 2 brings the tanks back in 3D, but they still left out a multiplayer mode, so we’re not sure about this one just yet. However, this is a sale starting today on Ohno Odyssey, where you can download it for $3.99 (until February 20).
That’s it for this week’s Nintendo Download. Be sure to check out the full list of all the releases and prices below, along with the official press release information, straight from Nintendo of America. And be sure to let us know what game(s) or apps get you excited to play. Let us know in the comments below!
New on the Nintendo eShop on Wii U
New on the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS
Sales and Discounts for Nintendo eShops
[PR Email from Nintendo of America]
Are you a fan of indie games? Nintendo wants to push some key indie game a bit more over the next few weeks. Starting today, if you purchase (or have purchased in the past) one of these games at full price, you will be able to get any of the others at 60% off. What are the games? We’re glad you asked! Here they are with their normal prices (before the discount).
Toki Tori 2+ ($14.99)
Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party ($8.99)
BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien ($14.99)
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams ($14.99)
Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition ($9.99)
It is no secret that Nintendo needs to push its online offerings more than ever to help customers understand what is out there. This includes the great indie games. Hopefully this sale will help drive people to the eShop, where they can download and experience some of these amazing games built by indie developers.
“Super Indie Connection Sale” Launches Today in the Nintendo eShop on Wii U
Promotion Combines Five Independent Developers and Offers Fans 60 Percent Discounts on Select Downloadable Games
REDMOND, Wash.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Starting today, Wii U owners can take advantage of limited-time discounts on select indie games in the Nintendo eShop. Now through Feb. 13, fans who own any of the participating games already – or purchase one at full price during the promotion – will qualify to receive 60 percent off all other participating games.
The indie games that are participating in this exciting two-week Nintendo eShop sale include:
“Independent developers are responsible for some of the most creative and unique content in the Nintendo eShop on Wii U,” said Steve Singer, Nintendo of America’s vice president of Licensing.
“We noticed there were a lot of high-quality games by independent game developers in the Nintendo eShop,” said Collin Van Ginkel, co-founder of Two Tribes Publishing. “This type of special promotion helps us introduce games of other developers to our fans who may not otherwise discover all the great games available on Wii U.”
For more information about the Super Indie Connection Sale, visit http://www.nintendo.com/eshop/offers. Remember that Wii U features parental controls that let adults manage the content their children can access. For more information about this and other features, visit http://www.nintendo.com/wiiu.
About Nintendo: The worldwide pioneer in the creation of interactive entertainment, Nintendo Co., Ltd., of Kyoto, Japan, manufactures and markets hardware and software for its Wii U™ and Wii™ home consoles, and Nintendo 3DS™ and Nintendo DS™ families of portable systems. Since 1983, when it launched the Nintendo Entertainment System™, Nintendo has sold more than 4.1 billion video games and more than 659 million hardware units globally, including the current-generation Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 3DS XL, as well as the Game Boy™, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi™ and Nintendo DSi XL™, Super NES™, Nintendo 64™, Nintendo GameCube™ and Wii systems. It has also created industry icons that have become well-known, household names such as Mario™, Donkey Kong™, Metroid™, Zelda™ and Pokémon™. A wholly owned subsidiary, Nintendo of America Inc., based in Redmond, Wash., serves as headquarters for Nintendo’s operations in the Western Hemisphere. For more information about Nintendo, please visit the company’s website at http://www.nintendo.com.
[PR Email from Nintendo of America]
Over the past week, analysts have been going a bit overboard with speculation about Nintendo. Many have said they are doomed unless they get their software onto the mobile market. A few others have strongly disagreed, saying a move like that would not benefit the company. All of this was speculation in preparation for today’s investor briefing. What was discussed? While it was not streamed online, the notes are available on Nintendo’s Japanese website. So, let’s jump right in to what we know.
There was a great deal of information provided, but here are a few things that stood out. To start with, it looks like Nintendo has finally noticed that people have little to no clue the Wii U is a new console, and even if they do, they don’t quite know why upgrading is worth it. So, they are going to make a conscious effort to inform people what it is and why they should upgrade. Part of it comes down to providing the games and experiences that show off the Wii U’s potential.
Also, Mario Kart 8 is coming this May! Yes, the long-awaited return of Mario Kart to the home console is almost here. Soon, you will be racing locally and online in glorious high definition. More details about the game are coming later, but at least we have a more definite release timeframe now.
Speaking further of Wii U, it looks like Nintendo is bringing Nintendo DS games to the Wii U via Virtual Console. Some games, like Brain Age, will utilize the GamePad to put both DS screens in one. Nintendo also plans on implementing the near-field communication (NFC) feature on Wii U more in future projects. This is something that has been present in all GamePads since launch, but it has barely been utilized. Speaking of the Wii U GamePad, a firmware update will add a quick-start mode, which allows a player to bypass the main menu and go straight into a game after startup. The list of games available for quick-start will come from your recently played games.
Nintendo has recognized the disconnect between the 3DS and Wii U, and they want to fix that. It all started with the combined Nintendo Network ID and eShop accounts, but they want to do more. Nintendo is also putting together a development team for their smart device strategy. It does not seem like they will be putting their games on phones, but they do recognize the need to tap into that market. Specifically, they have realized the need to use smart devices to connect with existing fans and gain new ones. They also want to connect their efforts on the home console, handheld console, and smart device. Further, they are working hard on a plan to leap-frog over the current trends of wearable tech and begin developing non-wearable tech. This is a part of their “new blue ocean” strategy.
In addition to focusing on mobile, they are also planning to put more effort into the “quality of life” apps and games. Much of this includes what they want to do in connection to physical and mental health. This is the area it seems they will focus on with their non-wearable tech. In fact, this is a part of a large endeavor that will truly begin in April 2015 and be ready for launch in March 2016.
They also plan on licensing out their characters more often. What this means exactly is still a bit unknown, but plan on seeing more Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Kirby “things” than you have before. The United States was specifically mentioned as an area to expect growth. Truly, the most important question to ask is if Nintendo Entertainment Cereal with Mario and Zelda will return to the market.
EDIT: English translations of the presentation and Q & A session are now available.
Classic video game music reimagined in The String Arcade, now available for preorder String quartet album releases February 11; all profits support Alameda Music Project after-school program ALAMEDA, Calif. – January 28, 2014 – In August, Bay Area composer Dren McDonald led a successful Kickstarter campaign for The String Arcade, a recording of classic video game music reimagined for string quartet. The finished recording was distributed to backers this month and is now available for preorder to the general public from iTunes and BandCamp (see below for links). The String Arcade will officially release February 11 for digital download and CD. About The String Arcade – http://www.thestringarcade.com The String Arcade is a well-curated collection of music arranged for string quartet by Dren McDonald (Ghost Recon Commander, Ravenwood Fair) and Jason Poss (Lord of the Rings film trilogy, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King). The arrangements go far beyond chamber music emulations of the original themes, with each piece creatively interpreted, embellished, and reimagined to capture emotions evoked by the games. In conceiving the project, McDonald was inspired by John Lurie’s Stranger Than Paradisefilm soundtrack (1984), which featured a moody, string quartet score. Besides giving gamers a new way to enjoy beloved classics, The String Arcade is also poised to inspire young musicians to pick up a violin, viola, or cello. Several tracks were specifically chosen from games popular among kids, and all album proceeds will be donated to the Alameda Music Project (http://www.alamedamusicproject.org), a tuition-free K-5 after-school program launching in September. About The Music The String Arcade‘s 15 original arrangements (plus 2 CD bonus tracks) were inspired by games from Galaga to Minecraft and performed by local musicians, with a special appearance by the Boston-based Videri String Quartet. One preview track, Plants Vs. Zombies‘ “Grasswalk,” has been released as a free digital download: https://soundcloud.com/dren-mcdonald/plants-vs-zombies-from-the The String Arcade spans a few decades in video game history, from stand-up arcade classics (Galaga, TRON), through the 8- and 16-bit eras (Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Ecco the Dolphin) and the golden age of 1990s adventures (Monkey Island 2, Outlaws), to more recent hits (Portal 2, Minecraft), indie favorites (FTL — Faster Than Light, Scurvy Scallywags), and mobile/social games (graBLOX, Pettington Park, Ravenshire Castle). For a full track list, visit http://www.thestringarcade.com/#!about/c10fk. Preorder Details Until the album’s February 11 release, The String Arcade digital download can be preordered from iTunes for $7.99, a 20% savings over the normal $9.99 price: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-string-arcade/id805763356 The CD version, which includes two bonus tracks not included with the digital download, can be preordered from BandCamp for $9.99 (regularly $11.99):http://thestringarcade.bandcamp.com
Fresh speculation for Left 4 Dead 3 has surfaced online, this time by way of a leaked document on NeoGAF that reports to show slides of a Left 4 Dead 2 level rebuilt in Source Engine 2.0.
The map in question, the Plantation finale for the Swamp Fever campaign, shows a more detailed recreation of the map's ritzy architecture, as well as boosts to lighting, shadows, and foliage.
It's important to note that this prototype level, if real, could simply be a tech demonstration for the Source 2.0 engine, rather than evidence of a new Left 4 Dead title that will see updated campaigns from previous games.
Slides for the presentation boast that Source 2.0 will feature "redesigned tools & workflow," and a "powerful GUI front end for content authoring". The new engine "can be easily extended with custom and pre-game assets," features a "browser for quickly finding, managing, editing assets" and is also said to allow for "simple, automatic compiling of content."
Valve head honcho Gabe Newell said back in 2012 that the developer was working on its new Source 2.0 engine, and that Valve was just waiting for the right game to launch it with.
References to both Left 4 Dead 3 and Source 2.0 were spotted by fans last year during a tour round Valve's offices.
Examining ancient relics is just one small aspect of an archeologist's job. Sure, in-depth knowledge of deceased civilizations is important, but much less so than mastery of a deadly bow or a knack for a quick recovery after a bloody fight. Excitement defines the actions of an adventurous archeologist, no matter how reluctant you might be to bear arms, and you see this chaotic lifestyle through the eyes of perpetual survivor Lara Croft. Her life is one of bloodshed and misery, strength peppered with pain, and as she overcomes every crushing setback, she learns what kind of person she truly is. Such endeavors are so fantastical that her story of emotional growth is often overshadowed by the wildly unrealistic events, but the overwhelming beauty of the island is so gripping, and the exploration so expertly designed, that you become invested in Lara Croft's incredible journey.
The Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider is a lot like Lara Croft's excellent adventure from last year, only with enhanced visuals and extra features. Just about all of the downloadable content from the 2013 release is now located right on the disc. There are a host of new multiplayer maps to gun down your friends (or enemies) in, weapons pulled straight from Hitman: Absolution, and a handful of new characters to play as. Single player hasn't been ignored, either. One new tomb lets you flex your puzzle-solving muscle, and a variety of outfits give you more stylistic flexibility. Have you ever wanted Lara to dress like a 1930s explorer? Now's your chance! None of these additions are all that interesting, so if you've already played through Tomb Raider on an older console, there's little incentive to jump in again. Unless, that is, you love voice communication. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions support commands, so just saying "map" or "pistol" immediately does what you'd expect. It's not the most novel functionality, but at least it works.
Lara Croft is a junior member of a small crew searching for the remains of a lost kingdom that mysteriously vanished. Her companions encompass typical archetypes that are at once recognizable and forgettable. There's the scientifically minded man who wears glasses and shirts with geeky puns, the muscled fisherman who defies his impressive physique by repeatedly showing just how sensitive he is, and a stoic mercenary who's also a long-term mentor to Lara. Their names don't matter, because with such little development of their personalities, you quickly forget who they were as soon as they're offscreen. This tired cast is thrust into a story filled with equally tired tropes, so you rarely care about the overarching events.
It's unfortunate how poor so much of the exposition is, because Lara herself is well defined. She starts out as a strong-headed recent graduate determined to scout unexplored lands in search of this lost civilization, but quickly realizes the terrible predicament she's in when things go awry. You understand her unwillingness to believe the terrible events that have transpired, and feel as squeamish as she does when she's forced to kill an attacker. Killing eventually becomes commonplace for Lara, and though it's hard to accept how quickly she adjusts to this bloody lifestyle, her anxious cries during battle and exhausted collapses afterward make you see the scared person hiding beneath the surface. And when she finally cracks halfway through the adventure, shifting from someone fighting to defend herself to a person clearly on the offensive, you understand that, too, because everyone has a breaking point.
Her shift from wide-eyed adventurer to full-fledged killer makes sense, and that's precisely why it's so uncomfortable. We're forced to put ourselves in her shoes, question how we would respond to attacks on our lives, and wonder if we'd be able to fight when it would be so much easier to surrender. Smart pacing ensures that there is plenty of time to examine what transpired in that last deadly fight. With only a half dozen or so attackers, most battles are over before you get lulled into a rhythm that demands you turn off your moral leanings. So you scavenge for a while, explore the environments, and then face five minutes of chaos and screaming before you're once again left by yourself. Such deliberate and rare steps into bloodshed make every fight so much more effective and emotionally taxing. As smartly as Tomb Raider handles its rare forays into combat, it does a poor job of showing death. Lara is tortured in such sensational ways that it's downright gratuitous, as if the game is reveling in her torment.
Lara has no fear of being dangerously close to flames in very cramped places.
The overwhelming beauty of the island is so gripping, and the exploration so expertly designed, that you become invested in Lara Croft's incredible journey.
Thankfully, you can avoid such glorification if you want. Just don't die! Though that's often easier said than done. The early moments of Tomb Raider, and many other sections sprinkled throughout the adventure, are composed of quick-time events in which one mistimed button press leads to an immediate end. Often, these brief sequences are a welcome change of pace. When you're ambushed on a narrow bridge, or are running away from an avalanche, your heart races, and these sequences end quickly enough so that you don't get weighed down by your lack of input. However, by cramming so many QTEs in the first 10 minutes, the game makes you wade through tedious encounters before everything opens up. It's a shame that the early sections are so dry, because the rest of Lara's trip is full of excitement, but it's a small price to pay for the graphical brilliance these sections carry with them.
From the opening moments, Tomb Raider showcases its gorgeous visual design. Yes, the Definitive Edition sports better textures, lighting, and a variety of other technical effects than its PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 counterparts, but it's the art style that makes you want to venture deeper into this haunted island. As Lara picks her way through a claustrophobic cave, or hunts deer in a forest bursting with life, you feel as if you're a part of this world. Summit a mountain and then look toward the horizon; the delicate light streaming through the clouds creates a sense of romantic wonder that would please any couple on their honeymoon. This is a stunning game that shows how technical expertise can enhance artistic brilliance, and vice versa, as just about every element draws you ever more into Lara's world. The odd hiccups, such as flames that defy reality, stand out amid the well-realized look that seeps into just about every other element.
And you have plenty of time to admire the view. Lara travels through many different sections of the expansive map, and almost every one is a small-scale open environment. Hidden goodies are sprinkled throughout; some add details to the backstory, and others let you examine ancient treasures. Though none of them have much of a tangible impact, the sheer joy of uncovering their hiding places is endlessly satisfying. Tools that you gain throughout the adventure open up more pieces of the environment, letting you pull down structures with a rope arrow, blast through doors with a shotgun, and overcome other roadblocks as well. This encourages you to revisit sections to ferret out every lost doodad, and I spent hours just trampling through the environment in search of condor nests and flags.Come on, Lara, stop and smell the trees and worry about surviving later.
There are optional tombs to plunder as well. It's strange that a game titled Tomb Raider places so little emphasis on, well, raiding, but the bite-size side quests certainly add a nice puzzle-solving element. Tombs hide elaborate mechanical structures that need to be appropriately manipulated in order to make your way through them. You may have to balance a platform with weighted barrels or use the power of wind just right, and there's a thrilling rush when you figure out what needs to be done. Granted, many of these areas contain only one or two puzzles, so you may spend only five or so minutes in one before you find the treasure at the end. But even though they're brief, they provide a nice detour that urges you to use your cunning along with your various abilities to discover every secret.
Such deliberate and rare steps into bloodshed make every fight so much more effective and emotionally taxing.
Eventually, you have to pull your attention from burial masks to the armed men attacking you. Lara has a vulnerability that leads to a quick end if you get hit more than a couple of times, so combat is built on smart movement and steely precision in the face of danger. By standing near chest-high barriers, Lara automatically crouches safely out of harm's way, though don't expect to stand your ground as your killers swarm toward you. With Molotov cocktails and well-positioned shots, attackers make you pay for standing still, so you must be as fast on your feet as you are with your trigger finger. Roll from one pillar to the next, or climb up to higher ground to relish a brief moment of respite. Enemies pursue you, leaving themselves exposed as they try to mimic your motions, and it's satisfying to loose an arrow or pick them off with a pistol as they stumble clumsily behind you. There are some silly moments, such as when you merely wait for a dumb guy to stick his head out from cover, but combat is so fast and exciting that such missteps are easy to overlook.
Part of the reason the combat enthralls from beginning to end is how brief fights are. With only a few enemies present in most fights, you can eliminate threats within a few minutes, so you're back exploring the impressive locales in no time. That makes you appreciate each encounter all the more, and there is enough variety so that every fight feels different. You may approach a camp in the dead of night and have the choice to pick enemies off stealthily or take your chances with a full-out rush, or, in another scenario, you're hanging upside down in a snare while enemies rush toward you. Other times you're rolling around in a room with destructible pillars, or plunging through a burning building, and every fight requires a slightly different approach. This variety helps keep the fights exciting. Plus, even though you have a standard assortment of guns, the bow proves to be both more satisfying to use and more challenging. Taking out someone with the bow with one perfectly logged headshot feels so empowering that I deliberately fought without guns so that every fight could be as exciting as possible.
A gun? How gouche.
Unfortunately, while the single-player exploits are both inventive and exciting, when you venture into multiplayer, things lose that glow. Everything here feels fine. Sticking an arrow right through someone's head is just as satisfying here as it is against an AI opponent, and there are even traps to stop unsuspecting players in their tracks. But it's all so expected. Whereas the solo quest veered from the norms in interesting ways, such as by offering fully explorable environments and putting such a small emphasis on combat, the multiplayer just recycles much of what has become the standard in competitive arenas. Sure, there isn't anything inherently wrong with such uninspired battles, but it's a shame there aren't more interesting elements to wrestle away your attention from other games out there.
What's most remarkable about Tomb Raider is how its many elements so perfectly complement each other, so that no matter which activity you're currently engaged in, you're fully invested. Even the straightforward platforming, in which Lara's sticky hands ensure there's little chance of failure, is thrilling thanks to brief quick-time events that keep your mind focused on even your smallest actions. There are two things that hit me when I first played Tomb Raider last year, and then resurfaced when I played through the Definitive Edition, that cement this as one of my recent favorites. Lara herself is so well crafted that I grew attached to her exploits and was sad to say goodbye when the credits rolled. And the exquisite visual design is so breathtaking that I continually found myself staring at the scenery instead of pushing onward. Tomb Raider is a great reinvention of this enduring franchise that made me eager to see where Lara goes in her future.
Ever since I got my Wii U, I have been wondering how to use a GameCube controller when I want to play Super Smash Bros. That is my preferred controller, so you can imagine my disappointment when I realized there were no built-in GCN ports on the Wii U console. I was even more upset when I thought about the future Wii U installment of Super Smash Bros. Fortunately, I got this as a gift. It is the Total Console GC Adapter for Wii/Wii U, and it allows me to connect a GameCube controller to my Wii Remote.
Overall, I like the adapter, as it does what it claims. The only problems I noticed was how it did not seem to connect 100% every time. Sometimes, it would move the cursor around and start activating buttons I did not press. After a reconnect and a few seconds of patience, though, it was working fine.
Check out the quick video for a setup tutorial, explanation, and some further thoughts.
EDIT: I accidentally left out information about rumble. Since the GameCube controller is essentially functioning as a Classic Controller, and the connection cable does not carry power (to my knowledge), the GC controller does not have rumble. This is something I have not thought about in a while, since I’m use to using a WaveBird wireless GC controller, which also has no rumble.
Yesterday, Capcom has announced Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will finally be available on the Nintendo 3DS in North America in early 2015. This is the same game that Capcom announced as Monster Hunter 4G, which recently started development for Japan. The development team is really pushing Monster Hunter to the next level.
Check out the announcement video below, which also contains some additional footage.
A couple weeks ago, we started “The Worst of Miiverse.” So, here we are again, with some of the funniest, oddest, and downright weird things we have found on Nintendo’s gaming social network. In this week’s installment, we’ve got a couple Game of the Year nominations, someone who only wants Mario characters in Smash Bros., someone who already has Smash Bros. for Wii U or 3DS, someone who enjoys having no friends, an interesting drawing of Zelda, someone who found meaning to his life by playing Family Party 30 Great Games, and more.
So, sit back, relax, and prepare to be amazed by ten of the worst things we have found on Miiverse this past week.
(Click an image to view at full size.)
Thanks to Jeremy and Greg for finding many of these this week. If you run across a bad Miiverse post, please feel free to submit it in the comments, our forums, or contact us, and it might be featured in a future post.
Happy Friday! It's time for our To-Do list, filled with sneak peaks of this weeks shows, chances to win awesome stuff, and of course the community challenge. For those of you who don't know, the community challenge is a task that you must finish by Monday and can be anything from writing a feature to getting a high score in a game.This weekend on GameSpot
On the Top 5 Skyrim Mods, we'll be joining Kevin VanNord as he fights for his life across the Skyrim wilderness. There might also be some drunken hijinks and shenanigans to be had by your favorite Elder Scrolls hosts, Seb Ford and Cameron Robinson. Remember, you can tune in every Saturday at 12pm PST for the latest episode of the Top 5 Skyrim Mods Show. [ Top 5 Skyrim Mods Show Page]
Ever wonder why you feel more intellectual than the average non gamer? Well this Sunday at 12pm PST on Reality Check, Cameron will be giving you four reasons why video games make you smarter, explaining specifically what benefits video games have on the brain. [Reality Check Show Page]
This week's episode of House of Horrors is going to be a little different than our previous episodes since Jess and Zorine are celebrating Australia day. Be sure to tune in this Sunday at 7pm PST where we'll be playing Lucius, a psychological horror game from Shiver Games about the 6 year old son of Satan, enjoy! [House of Horros Show Page]
This week's Community Challenge is about Nintendo. It's been a hot topic here around the GameSpot offices. As you can see we've written about it, talked about it, heck it was even a discussion point on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show. So today we're here to ask your opinion, should Nintendo move away from hardware? Should they open up their games to other platforms? Or are they perfect just the way they are? If you need some help coming up with ideas there are awesome conversations in the Nintendo forum. The community team has kicked off this challenge with their own blogs, so check out what ohaifrancy and digitaldame had to say. Agree or disagree, we want to hear what you have to say.
Once you have completed the challenge leave a link to your blog in the comment section below (leave us suggestions for future challenge to.) The community team will pick their favorites and feature them in Tuesday’s GameSpotting blog!
You need to have the nostalgia gene to fully appreciate Might & Magic X: Legacy. I do, especially when it comes to role-playing games, so I did. But this is one of those "genre within a genre" retro affairs that self-consciously turns its back on modern conventions and embraces what us old folks were stuck with back in that antediluvian era known as the 1990s. Limbic Entertainment has created an old-fashioned RPG epic that might well have landed on some "best of" lists at the end of 1996. If you're the sort of person who fondly remembers a time before the Might & Magic name meant nothing but turn-based fantasy strategy, this game is for you.
Noting that M&MXL is not for everyone isn't necessarily an insult, either. On the contrary, it's clear from the very first moments of the game that the developers are trying to be as unfashionable as a pair of acid-washed jeans. Everything about this game can be traced back to first-person party-based RPGs from the 1990s, like the original M&M games, the Wizardry series, and even the Eye of the Beholder D&D line. The campaign setting of Ashan is all new for this franchise, however, having been ported over from Might & Magic Heroes right down to the goofy winged helmets. Oddly enough, this approach actually makes M&MXL more of a traditional fantasy game than its forebears, as the original M&M role-players blended spaceships in with their swords and sorcery. Still, the general objective seems to have been to create a new game that picks up right where this style of RPG left off about 15 years ago.The M&MXL bestiary includes the usual roster of fantasy monsters and mythological creatures, like this manticore, which almost looks like a cute puppy dog about to tear your throat out at this angle.
And that mission has been accomplished. Well, mostly. Several core components of the game are well done. There is a fair amount of choice when it comes to character creation, with four races and 12 classes (three per race) spread along the might and magic spectrums. Don't expect anything more revolutionary than the likes of dwarven defenders, human freemages, elven bladedancers, and orc barbarians in the beginning, but you have a lot of freedom to specialize once your party starts leveling up and you begin doling out points between attribute stats and skills. You can specialize in everything from maces and bows to a whopping seven schools of magic, allowing for the custom-crafting of almost any sort of heroic adventurer that you can dream up. The sheer amount of liberty even allows for some evolution during gameplay. I started off with an elven ranger who I thought would be good in ranged combat, but I eventually realized that she worked better as a second spellcaster who specialized in healing. A few levels later, and I had an impressive cleric wannabe curing poison and dishing out restoration incantations when she wasn't offing foes with her bow and arrow.
It's clear from the very first moments of the game that the developers are trying to be as unfashionable as a pair of acid-washed jeans.
Managing your party is more involved than in most RPGs, so you can't just storm off looking for adventure. First, you need to take care of business by buying food. Without it, you're not allowed to rest, which soon causes your party to grow tired and drop ability scores. You also need to rest to regain health and mana, because neither regenerates on its own over time. Not much of this is spelled out, and the tooltips offered up at the start of the game don't do much to explain the basics. All becomes clear if you're patient, though, or if you remember doing this stuff many years ago. Nevertheless, the game could use more hand-holding in the beginning.Battles in M&MXL are spectacularly hard and unforgiving. It took three hours to beat these guys. Well, not really, but it felt that long.
Like most RPGs released when grunge was still a thing, M&MXL features a first-person camera and grid-based movement where you move one step at a time. This system works relatively smoothly. Yes, you're stuck with an odd perspective that forces you to view the world as if the party were crammed into a car and looking out through the windshield, and the entire four-person party has to trudge as one through dungeons and forests, like a tank bristling with battle-axes and magic wands. But you soon get used to navigating in such a restricted fashion.
Movement has even been improved from the days of yore. M&MXL features turn-based combat, so you can't gimmick the system. Back in the day, it was common to cheat through real-time battles with tricks like the Eye of the Beholder Two Step, where you would zip forward to hit a monster and then immediately retreat before it could hit you back. Here, you're locked into battle once an enemy closes and the fight begins. So instead of dipsy-doodling back and forth, you're stuck going toe-to-toe with the bad guys. This results in some grueling combat, since you have virtually no range of motion once melee combat has started and no ability at all to choose the better part of valor and run away.
Managing your party is more involved than in most RPGs, so you can't just storm off looking for adventure.
In some ways, the game goes too far. Not only does it take away the exploits common to first-person RPGs in the '90s, but it hammers away at you relentlessly (even at the lower "adventurer" setting). Combat is unforgiving right from the opening tutorial quest to clean spiders out of an underground lair. Monsters flank and surround you in almost every other fight, frequently spawning in out of nowhere to your rear. Just when you've got your hands full with that minotaur in your face, along come two more to hassle you from behind. Most monsters also have devastating special abilities. Almost every enemy has the ability to stun you, poison you, enfeeble you, petrify you, hit you with extra attacks, and more. Wolves and goblins can insta-kill party members if they get lucky. I don't recall an easy battle in the entire campaign. That sounds sort of fun and intense, but really, I could have done without titanic half-hour struggles to best the likes of two goblins, a couple of cavemen, and a pack of panthers.Balance can be an issue in spots. You can easily run into enemies that will slice you to ribbons for not being at a high-enough level, like these nasty spectres.
M&MXL isn't impossibly hard, but the punishing difficulty can lead to tedium. You can (eventually) beat any monster, group of monsters, or even the game's collection of brutally tough bosses by thinking about what you're doing when it comes to strategizing and spellcasting. The extreme challenge is a natural fit for a revamped classic, but that doesn't make the occasional bitter pill of a battle easier to swallow. When actually playing the game, I was too busy cursing out the nagas or spiders gooning me from all sides to appreciate the retro character of the battle difficulty.
How dated M&MXL is in other areas is harder to appreciate. The story isn't particularly well developed. The opening preamble is about as exciting as listening to someone recite a tax return, and there isn't much of a tale told during the game itself. Your party consists of a bunch of heroes, oddly called "raiders," who are out to do good things for the human empire in a time of unrest. There isn't much role-playing to be had here; the game is a dry tactical affair where combat is the first order of the day, followed up by the odd puzzle.
Monster stock is limited. Areas and dungeons are populated by just a few specific types of creatures or human thugs, and the pace can drag because fighting the same fight over and over again. Loot isn't varied or particularly imaginative, either when it's dropped or when you check out what's available in shops. It gets better as you go, but there isn't a lot of memorable "gotta have it" gear. As a result, you can go for hours with few serious upgrades of weapons and armor. How items are doled out is also strange. Monsters don't tend to drop much when they're slain, but chests loaded with goodies and gold are strewn all over the wilderness like some kind of medieval take on geocaching.Minotaurs aren't too hellish in a labyrinth, but you don't want to be surrounded by three or four of them in a forest.
The throwback production values are as traditional as the adventure itself, though these elements have not aged all that tastefully. Animations can be choppy, especially in forests, and slowdown is a common occurrence in the wilderness and when there are multiple lighting effects on the screen at the same time. Sound is also sparse, with what seems like a handful of weapon and monster effects. Hero battle boasts like the orc warrior's "I kill you!" are repeated constantly. Even worse, your heroes shout their cries of sadness about being knocked out or killed a few seconds before the blow is actually delivered, so you get advance warning when somebody is about to be taken down. This makes battles a teensy bit anticlimactic.
Might & Magic X: Legacy is a somewhat successful trip back in time to an era when RPGs were both simpler and more complicated than they are today, and a lot more demanding of players when it came to combat. If nostalgia drives you to visit this particular kingdom, you'll not likely regret the time spend there. If your good old days weren't brimming with games of this nature, it's more difficult to appreciate the take-no-prisoners challenge and overlook the limitations.
This morning, IGN revealed Renegade Kid’s new project, Moon Chronicles, a re-make of the DS game “Moon” set in an episodic format with new, original content to come in “Season 2″.
The game is being priced out in such a way that the first four chapters (and a few additional missions), around 4 hours of content, will cost $8.99, and episodes 2-4 will be available as DLC for $1.99 and include 2 hours of content each. Season 2 will be completely new, and is likely to arrive some time next year.
The game is set to run at 60 fps with or without 3D enabled, and has been built from the ground up for Nintendo’s latest handheld. Moon Chronicles promises to look even better than the original, and will give gamers a non Monster Hunter-related reason to pull out their Circle Pad Pros.
Set in the year 2058, Season 1 follows Major Kane as he tries to uncover the secret behind a series of mysterious hatches found on the surface of the moon. Inspired by TV shows by Lost, Renegade Kid hopes to make Season 2 even more story-driven.
I, personally, cannot wait for the new title. It’s scheduled to release this Spring, around March or April! Stay tuned to the latest buzz about the game by following @JoolsWatsham or @renegadekidATX on Twitter.
IGN even provided some 3D screenshots, which you can view through your 3DS by scanning the QR code below:
It’s Thursday. It’s Thursday. That means another Nintendo Download. And in the middle of the retail gaming drought of early 2014, at least we have downloadable games to keep us going, right? Right? Ummm… Yeah, about that…
We have a whopping two additional titles to tell you about this week. On the Wii U eShop, you can grab Mighty Bomb Jack, where you control Jack through 16 levels of a pyramid to defeat the Belzebut and rescue the royal Pamera family. Over on the 3DS eShop, you can download Life Force, where you can go solo or with a friend blast through waves of enemies in six stages of intense action, switching from horizontal and vertical-scrolling environments. Unfortunately, though, that is all we are getting from Nintendo this week, in terms of new additions to the eShop.
There are some sales and other news, though. First up, remember that you only have a few more days remaining to cash in on the Wii Fit U free 30-day trial offer. It all ends on January 31. Also, we have yet another sale on Shin Megami Tensei IV for Nintendo 3DS eShop. It will be only $29.99 from January 27 until February 3. Fractured Soul is another great game from the 3DS eShop (read our review), and it is on sale starting today. Get it for only $5.99 until 9 AM Pacific Time on February 6.
With that, we are at the end of this week’s Nintendo Download. Be sure to check out the full list of all the releases and prices below, along with the official press release information, straight from Nintendo of America. And be sure to let us know what game(s) or apps get you excited to play. Let us know in the comments below!
New on the Nintendo eShop on Wii U
New on the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS
Sales and Discounts for Nintendo eShops
[PR Email from Nintendo of America]
Idea Factory, the company behind an upcoming card battle game Monster Monpiece sent out a statement today explaining their decision to censor parts of the game for its Western release. According the the statement, Both the Japanese and Western versions of the game contain the same total number of cards, but some of the high-level cards were replaced with “less exposed” lower-level versions of the game's Monster Girls due to some "intense sexual imagery."
Monster Monpiece allows players to power up their cards by getting the girls (in card form) to "expose themselves (take off their clothes) via the level-up features called First Crush Rub and Extreme Love." This specifically involves vigorously rubbing both sides of the Vita (see image below).Image Source: Wikipedia
"The number of censored cards is about 40 out of the approximately 350 card images available in the game. This means that over 300 cards are left untouched from the original images. That said, each card that has had its image removed will still have the same number of levels for the player to increase, but the higher level card images will be the same as the lower level, even though they have leveled up and have become more powerful." However, the statement says that this will not effect the length of the game, or any of the game's systems and features.
Monster Monpiece will also have a separate rating for the US and EU. In North America, the game was given a Mature rating by the ESRB; Europe's PEGI system rated the game 12+. Idea Factory says, "We received a Mature rating for Monster Monpiece from the ESRB with the censored material we submitted. However, for PEGI, and with the same material assets for their review, they rated it 12+ because of the minimal amount of violence shown in the game."
Idea Factory says their reason for the censorship deals with cultural differences. "Western society is not as lenient as that of Japan when sexual images are involved--especially images of humanoids that appear to be younger than a socially acceptable age. The borderline of what is 'acceptable' will always be extremely gray and vary from person to person, but as a responsible company working in the U.S., we had to make the difficult decision that we did. We sincerely apologize for those who do not agree with any level of censorship, but we greatly appreciate your understanding with the decision we have made."
Monster Monpiece is schedule to arrive on Vita in the US and EU sometime this spring.
Suicide is final. Unless, that is, you are Susan Ashworth, the Cat Lady. A bouquet of flowers is a symbol of love, unless you are Susan Ashworth, for whom they are a reminder of loss. If you're Susan Ashworth, life isn't fair--even after you've exorcised the most harmful demons from your soul.
The Cat Lady is Susan's story--a story of painful tragedy and cautious redemption, disguised as a horror adventure game. And it is at Susan's end that the story begins.
The surreal field you traverse in the opening minutes is at turns beautiful and horrific, just as you might term The Cat Lady's overall visual language. Susan looks as though she's been cut from a magazine and superimposed onto old Polaroid photos. She and other characters move gracelessly, and simple facial animations simulate only the vaguest of lip motions. It's a weird and striking look, and one that allows certain sequences to land with a weighty thud, leaving you feeling anxious, shocked, or melancholy. The surreality of The Cat Lady's characters is most evident in two women that provide Susan plenty of grief--one of which you meet after Susan has already decided that death is preferable to the grief of living.
One person's art is another's tragedy.
If you're Susan Ashworth, life isn't fair--even after you've exorcised the most harmful demons from your soul.
But even in death, Susan cannot find comfort. The old woman Susan encounters in this odd afterlife wants to strike a bargain, and Susan finds herself powerless to resist. There are monsters lurking in the world of the living, and if she hopes to find peace, Susan must vanquish them on behalf of this hag, this obstacle between her and her final rest. Just a few drops of blood should seal the deal.
The drops of blood you shed, however, are more than a few. And in return for her services, Susan receives the "gift" of temporary immortality--a gift that, for the suicidal, is a horrific curse. That first gruesome glimpse of bloodshed is an emotional bludgeon, and The Cat Lady smartly balances moments of quiet sadness with similar scenes of rage and misery throughout the game. It's important to note, however, that as shocking as some of these scenes are, they are not gratuitous, though at first they may seem so. Rather, The Cat Lady draws important parallels between Susan's suffering and the monsters she's been sent to annihilate. These monsters are incredibly, terrifyingly real, but they represent the depressed individual's enemies. And as anyone with depression might tell you, internal demons cannot be painlessly subdued.
The Cat Lady draws important parallels between Susan's suffering and the monsters she's been sent to annihilate.
The first of seven chapters effectively simulates Susan's confusion as she awakes in the hospital to find a sweet nurse at her side. But Susan is not inclined to share much about herself, and so early events, such as her reaction to a bouquet of flowers, are subtle mysteries that later become enlightened. Progressing is a matter of wandering from left to right with the arrow keys, accumulating objects, speaking with others, and solving puzzles by using those objects in particular ways. I was never stumped, but nor was The Cat Lady a complete cakewalk, though it isn't the challenge that the puzzles present so much as the atmosphere they create that makes them so interesting. To solve one early puzzle, for example, you must allow a psychiatric nurse to inject you with God knows what. You then find yourself in a foggy mental purgatory you must explore to move the story forward.It's hard to recognize beauty when you view it through a blackened lens.
I know this haze. I've survived a suicide attempt, and I spent years in and out of hospitals as I traveled the road to recovery. The Cat Lady deftly depicts events and emotions I've experienced--the defiance toward doctors, the feelings of worthlessness, the mistrust of anyone attempting to get too close. More importantly, however, it also depicts the long road to recovery, and does so without sugarcoating the painful realities of life. For Susan, true hope first arrives in the form of a young woman named Mitzi. Mitzi's life is no less troubled than Susan's, but her manner of dealing with her hardships is far different, though not necessarily any less violent.
The two bond over one of The Cat Lady's more interesting mysteries, and the one that leads to the game's final catharsis. The puzzles throughout the later chapters become both more macabre and more playful. My favorite among them involves frightening Susan's upstairs neighbor, a sequence that's told in flash-forward as you describe to Mitzi the urban legend that inspired your prank. You can mold the outcome of certain story events in this chapter and others, though sometimes, the dialogue choices are more about building up your own image of Susan than they are actually steering the plot.
Cats love piano music., it seems. Or at least, Susan's playing.
The puzzles throughout the later chapters become both more macabre and more playful.
Perhaps you come to The Cat Lady for the creep factor rather than for the remarkably human, empathetic story. There are a good number of eccentric and disruptive scenes, including one featuring a malformed, convulsive figure that shouts "misery!" when you approach. These scenes are carefully constructed for maximum effect so that even if you see the consequence coming (as I did in a puzzle involving some intricate machinery), you're still startled (as I was when I finished the puzzle). The horror is all the more effective for the quiet scenes that precede them, such as a flashback sequence that uses superimposed text to terrific, dramatic effect--and reveals the events that led to Susan's bottomward spiral.
Both Susan and Mitzi are ably voiced, as is much of the supporting cast. As Susan grows more confident, so too does the actress's performance crescendo from passionless victim to assertive companion. There are a few weak performances, a fast-talking Scottish mother among them, but it's the audio's recording quality that most detracts from the story. The voice-over often changes volume or tone abruptly, as if that particular line were recorded on a different day, in a different room, with a different microphone. Certain events, such as a ghastly one involving a bottle of bleach, are noticeably quiet, as if the intended voice-over and sound effects were never inserted. These aren't major issues, but given how important the sound and performances are in encouraging you to invest in Susan's struggles, they still stand out.
For Susan Ashworth, suicide is meant to be a way out, but it instead becomes a way forward. If you seek horror, The Cat Lady may sometimes freak you out, though probably not outright scare you. But that horror is in service of a touching character portrait--a portrait that's authentically, poignantly askew.
Last night, Nintendo of America took to Twitter to announce that the delayed 3DS app, Pokémon Bank has come to some Asian countries, and we should expect to hear more about its launch in other countries, including North America very soon. Fans of Pokémon who have been waiting a long time for this should soon have a reason to rejoice.
Pokémon Bank has launched in certain Asian countries. (1/2)
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) January 22, 2014
Please stay tuned to our social channels for updates on availability in other regions, including North America. (2/2)
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) January 22, 2014