Nintendo Unveils the Wii Mini

With the recent release of the Wii U, Nintendo got that always valuable head start in the next generation of console wars. While the jury is still out on the device from a critical standpoint, the sales figures are already showing that their strategy of releasing a fresh new system for the holiday madness is paying off in a big way, as people are begging, fighting, and in some cases employing good old fashioned bartering to get one.

Surprisingly though, it turns out that the Wii U isn’t Nintendo’s only console release this year. While rumored in small circles for months, they’ve recently, officially unveiled a redesigned, reduced size, and reduced price version of the Nintendo Wii in the Wii Mini.

Priced at a very handy $99, the Wii Mini isn’t exactly the Nintendo Wii you know and love, and that’s not just a comment on the incredibly attractive new design. While you do get an included Wii Remote Plus controller, this is otherwise a pretty bare bones model of the classic console as Nintendo has taken away the Wi-Fi capabilities (though it still may support online play through add-ons via the USB ports) as well as the backwards compatibility feature with the Gamecube (this includes removing the memory card slots and Gamecube controller ports), essentially reducing the system to its barest essentials.

Is this a good buy then? That’s difficult to say, as ideally this is for gamers on a budget, or those that prefer their 360 or PS3 and want the cheapest way to add the famed Nintendo system to their collection. However, considering how easy it is to find an actual Wii system at a reasonable price (in some cases with game bundles) it’s hard to support such a watered down version of a once proud console.

However, if you haven’t had the chance to play such classics as “Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword”, “Super Mario Galaxy 2”, or “Mario Kart Wii”, and refuse to spend any more than that spare Benjamin you’ve got laying around, consider this the golden opportunity to get in on the Wii craze way, way, too late.

The Best of Black Friday Game Deals

I usually try to avoid the mass hysteria of Black Friday, but in the case of video games, I too fall victim to the beautiful deals and throw myself into the madness with open wallet, and little regard for common financial sense.

Luckily when it comes to games you can find a lot of great deals online that don’t require you to arm yourself and push some fellow human being on the ground to take advantage of. In that spirit, here is just a small sampling of the best online deals available right now.

*Note: Don’t be surprised if some of these are gone by the time you get to them as deals move and sell out quickly. Be sure to act accordingly then and as always consult the great Dealzon for the best finds.

Grand Theft Auto IV Complete Edition, GTA: San Andreas, and LA: Noire Complete (PC Download) – Amazon – $14.99

Have you ever eaten a food that was too rich and decadent? Same thing with this deal. Countless hours of Rockstar Gaming greatness for under $20 is almost too good a deal, as you’re basically forfeiting your life by buying it.

Get It Here

Dishonored (PC Download) – Green Man Gaming -$22.50

Anytime you can get a game that’s barely a month old for under $25 it’s a deal worth checking out. When that game is one of the best of the year by a mile, you should probably stop what you’re doing right now (including reading this) and pursue it.

Get It Here

Mass Effect Trilogy (PC Download) – Gamefly – $23.99

I once bought a Rolex watch in Chinatown that was an absolute perfect knock off, but broke later that day. It was a valuable lesson on something being too good to be true, and is the only reason I wouldn’t recommend jumping on this deal. It’s so mind-blowingly cheap, there almost has to somehow be a catch.

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Sleeping Dogs (360, PS3) – Best Buy – $24.99

Lots of great deals at Best Buy on console games, but kind of hard to ignore the steal on this modern Hong Kong crime epic and its bountiful gameplay. A real know a guy, who knows a guy type steal.

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Xbox 360 250GB Bundle with “Skyrim” and “Forza Motorsport 4” – NewEgg – $189.99

If you were somehow waiting to buy a 360 until just the right moment, then getting one for under $200 with one of the best RPG’s and one of the best racing games of all time, would finally be that moment.

Get It Here

Dead Or Alive 5 (360, PS3) – Gamestop – $29.99

While Gamestop isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with their bargains, there are a few to be found. Definitely grab the best fighting game of the year while you can.

Get It Here

Steam Autumn Sale

Finally it is once again time for the Steam Autumn Sale, which is running until 11/26. With almost too many good games to list, and deals rotating constantly, as well as mark downs of some kind on pretty much everything, it’s the first place any PC gamer should go.

Get Them Here

Why I’ve Come to Bury “Hitman” and Not the Dead

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author)

I truly, truly hope that the above quote is correct because this week in video games we saw a case of a dangerous old way of thinking and a potentially new idea of thinking that if carried over to other projects, and taken in as a new idea, will stretch the limits of what we once believed to be standard, or even possible.

What I mean is in reference to two recent games. One being “Hitman: Absolution” and the other being “The Walking Dead: Episode 5”. Specifically I’m talking about the plots of those games.

Ironically whereas “Hitman” is a game ideally about subtlety, and the art of skill, it’s story has all of the approach and delivery of a blunt hammer to the face delivered by a laughing lunatic. On the other hand, a game like “The Walking Dead” (which often asks the player to smash something in the head with a blunt object) delivers a tale so refined that we must now be careful how we speak of other game’s stories while praising them so we don’t accidentally lump them in the same league with “The Walking Dead” and therefore lose perspective.

“Hitman” is a dangerous game, and I’m not talking about the controversy surrounding the sexy nun enemies, or the general violence of the title. Instead it’s a dangerous game because of its disgusting and obvious story and stroytelling that,despite a couple of here and there moments of quality dialogue, fails to inspire a moment of emotional reaction, whatever that emotion may be . Whereas previous games in series wisely shunned a grand plot in favor of environment and mood as the larger themes, “Absolution” tries to go another route by making its presentation more of a high production, low grade movie. It’s every effort in that respect is so insultingly awful, it is the first game that should have not received the traditional M rating, but rather IM for “immature”.

Didn’t think that was funny? Well now you know how I feel as I tried to suffer through some of the most horrid attempts at sexual references, characters, plot, and of course comedy that have ever graced video games. It’s not even the content I’m against, but instead the delivery. It aims for Guy Ritchie, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino, and instead ends up with an effort more in line with the works of Roger Corman. The only difference was Corman’s schlock knew it was bad and had a sense of style about it, whereas “Hitman: Absolution” seems either unaware of how bad its bad really is, or otherwise doesn’t give a damn and couldn’t be bothered to make what’s there work.

“The Walking Dead” on the other hand? Don’t be surprised if the fifth and final episode in the game’s first season just won the series overall game of the year honors, as its use of characters and plot, and more importantly the player’s involvement in those aspects, is nothing short of revolutionary. The game works off of the same promise of “Mass Effect” or a TV show like “The Wire” where all the pieces supposedly matter, and what you do in the end will be just a reflection of the steps you took to get there.

Unlike “Mass Effect” though, but much like “The Wire”, “The Walking Dead” achieves this as suddenly your choices do come to bear upon you as you now are faced with the prospect of facing the tough moments that defined your journey in a fresh light, and only in the end when you see the ramifications of them are you given the gift of hindsight that allows you to regret, smile upon, and always question your choices, as the end results, and your reactions to them, give you something that few games ever have, and that is a better sense of who you are, and the person you’d maybe rather try to be.

Does a game like “Hitman” have to do the same? Well it would be nice, but that’s not the point. The point is that a title like that handles its story with a dangerous indifference can no longer be accepted. This is not the NES where a brief kidnapping of your girlfriend by some thugs leads to all the motivation you need to reach a single frame resolution and expect satisfaction. You don’t have to have a masterpiece story, but don’t try to pass an entire adventure that is framed by the mentality of the average thirteen year old boy, and done with all of the effort exhibited by the average two year old boy, and honestly tell yourself it is the best you can do without expecting to receive both the mixed reviews and mainstream public backlash you are getting now.

And if you do decide to be dumb and lazy in the same week, whatever you do don’t release that high profile game at the same time as a title that provides a blueprint for the future of the medium and expect to save face in the minds of either your peers, your critics, or your fans

That, and I’m sure the creators of “Hitman: Absolution” can understand this, would just be silly.

Indie Project “Gone Home” Looks to Push Your Idea of Mystery Games

“Bioshock 2” wasn’t a bad game at all, but overall it couldn’t escape that dreaded cash-in feeling it exuded by virtue of being a somewhat superfluous sequel to one of the greatest video games of all time.

Still, there were elements of it that showed hints of real potential, and even innovative design. We may soon know who to thank for that now as a few members of that development team have now formed an indie development team called The Fullbright Company, and their first announced project called “Gone Home” looks to be anything but cheap or a cash-in.

Instead it’s a mystery game, and while it’s set in the first person, don’t dare call it a shooter. It’s a story of a girl going to her families’ new home after some time abroad, only to find no one is home, and a note left by her sister pinned to the front door saying to go away and not to come looking for her. The entire game then looks to be the player (as the returning girl) exploring the home in order to discover just what happened while she was away.

The developers are touting that “Gone Home” will be entirely about environment, with one of the major aspects of this being the game’s setting of the mid 90’s which is supposed to give it a distant, yet oddly familiar feel. It’s a time that isn’t vastly different from our own, yet it still allows for an original vibe, and represents a time period which doesn’t specifically get mentioned much in gaming.

More than the when, or who, of the game though, it is the where that really matters, as the home itself is to be loaded with insane amount of details not necessarily relevant to the plot, but intricately designed all the same. Nearly everything in the house, from trash, to receipts, to old diaries is fully interactive and has something to tell the player about the virtual life of the people who inhabit this place. It’s the classic idea of sandbox gaming, but instead of a sprawling metropolitan area, or sweeping outdoor terrain, it takes place in a more intimate dwelling where the plot isn’t point A to point B, but rather a living, breathing idea that can be explored with little in the way of pre-determined objectives.

“Gone Home” looks to be a title that wants you to appreciate the little things in life, and how they make up the bigger ideas that we eventually use as landmarks in our personal history. A great example of this detail is a note written by the character’s mother that’s handwriting looks like the handwriting style one would have if they were a typical middle aged mom from around this time. Another might be how the players is able to define the entire father character by the books he keeps, and the gifts he gave his children more than anything directly, or even indirectly, said about him. They’re little things, but then again, this is to be a game of little things.

Also of interest at this point is the vague horror nature of the game. The whole “family missing” bit, along with some ominous warning signs about the house’s history and a vague suggestion to avoid the attic that have been mentioned, are all little hints that something indeed went seriously amiss here, and lends the game a sense of uncertainty, which can sometimes be something a great deal more terrifying than straight up horror.

Not a lot more is known about “Gone Home” at this point and it’s pretty clear that is how the developers want it. Level design is consistently the most unappreciated aspects of gaming, and “Gone Home” looks to be almost solely a well designed level. It’s the type of game then that might not be easy to judge by its eventual sales then, but rather measured on its success from a pure design standpoint. A game like “Gone Home” succeeds if it gets those who play it talking about it, and if it gets people in the industry considering it when making their next title. From the little shown so far, it looks like it could be well on the way to accomplishing just that.

Some “Black Ops II” and “LEGO Lord of the Rings” Customers Aren’t Exactly Getting What They Paid For

So you probably know that digital downloads for games are slowly becoming the norm, but it seems that recently disc manufacturers are going out of their way to insure that happens even sooner.

In what is a set of very improbable incidents, two recent big video games have been released with serious potential errors for customers that purchased the physical versions of the game. The first belongs to EA and Treyarch whose much anticipated “Black Ops II” release was blemished by news that some copies of the second disc of the PC version were not actually “Black Ops II”, but rather copies of “Mass Effect 2”. Of course this being EA, I’m sure that any customers that contacted them in regards to the problem where promptly told “What? You don’t like Mass Effect 2?”

I’m joking, of course, but what is funny is the similar incident that has befallen Warner Brothers at the same time, as their game “LEGO Lord of the Rings” has apparently shipped out some copies of their Xbox 360 version that contained only the demo disc. The gaff was made public when a Game Informer editor discovered that when they tried to purchase the game, it had been recalled only to find that another store they visited had received every single Xbox 360 copy with just the demo disc. The event is even more shameful than the embarrassing incident that occurred when people who bought “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean” received “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean” with no apology.

Currently people who received the wrong “Black Ops II” disc are being advised to download the game through the optional Steam method, while an alternate solution has not been brought up at this time. Meanwhile Warner Brothers is working on recalling the incorrect copies of “LEGO Lord of the Rings” which would suggest that they are attempting to resolve the matter, although they have not yet commented on how many copies were affected, or when the correct copies will be available in mass.

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