Yet I can tell you without shame in my heart, or doubt in my words that I love “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.” Truly love it.
While I realized this the moment that I heard “Long Tall Sally” blasting from a helicopter stereo in a glorious tribute to the greatest sci-fi action movie of all time (“Predator”), it’s not even the game’s love of everything sci-fi 80s that stirs these emotions in me. Rather it’s something deeper, more real.
It’s because “Blood Dragon” reminds me that add-on content doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but can actually be fun.
Too often downloadable content is seen as a necessity, or worse a money grab. “Blood Dragon” is the antithesis of that idea. It was the brainchild of a group of developers who saw the opportunity to release the necessary DLC content for “Far Cry 3” as something more than an obligation to bang out some new items, or a side story in the same environment, but instead they took the chance to take all of the original game’s well developed mechanics, and use them as the foundation of something that would not only be creatively satisfying, but that could be as enjoyable to make as it would be enjoyable to play.
In this case it just happened to be a tribute to the world of over the top 80s video games, science fiction, and cartoons. Every aspect of the game is dipped deep into the well of 80s nostalgia, as the cutscense are straight out of an 80’s NES game, there’s a VCR filter over most of the proceedings, and the amount of film references is nerdgasmic. Seriously, if you took a sip of watered down light beer for every “Terminator” reference in the demo, you’d die of alcohol poisoning three minutes in. It’s like the proper video game adaptation of so many franchises we never got, all rolled into one.
But again this isn’t about the content of “Blood Dragon” specifically. It’s about how all other developers need to take notice of “Blood Dragon,” and remind themselves that the moment they feel bored doing DLC, they are probably doing it wrong. Before I saw “Blood Dragon” I honestly never considered that DLC could be a good thing for gaming, but just like “Bioshock Infinite” did for sequels, “Blood Dragon” shows the benefit of preserving the mechanics of a great game, but changing everything else to produce something that doesn’t give you more of what came before, but something more original that reminds you why you loved that game in the first place.
So while the neon infused hyper retro world of “Blood Dragon” should be enough to get anyone to play it (especially as you don’t even need “Far Cry 3” to do so, making it more of a standalone add-on), the real reason you should pick it up when it is released on May 1st is to show developers that gamers are tired of downloads that just put armor on horses, and instead crave expansions that actually expand and explore the possibilities of a franchise.
In a perfect world, there would be no need to tout the virtues of a game like “Guacamelee!” because you would already be hopelessly obsessed with it, and relaying your experience to others with conversations no more elaborate than “Dude!” and “I know.”
Instead there’s probably a pretty good chance you haven’t heard of “Guacamelee!,” and don’t know that you should be playing it, and not reading this, right now. Since you’re already here though (thanks by the way), let me skip the traditional review and just give you five quick reasons to experience the brilliance of a game where you play a dead peasant turned Mexican professional wrestler super hero, on a quest for revenge and love (actually…make that six reasons).
Style…Now In Color!
It takes all of a glance at “Guacamelee!” to notice that this game is a looker. Its Mexican culture and folklore motif is rarely used in major games (the great “Grim Fandango” is the only other that jumps to mind), and here is gloriously captured in every single aspect of the title, right down to the font. It makes every frame instantly recognizable, and turns the game into something truly great. If you cut “Gucamelee!,” it would bleed style and charm.
More importantly it would bleed it in vibrant colors. We’re still in the black, brown, and gray age of video game color palates, so when a title like “Guacamelee!” comes along and presents an already creative style in full Technicolor, it’s worth considering a purchase just to experience the brilliance that transpires when 16 bit art philosophy meets the hardware power of the modern age.
It’s Actually Really, Really Funny
It’s not all classic day of the dead style though, as the world of “Guacamelee!” also sports nods to cartoons like “Samurai Jack,” video games like “Mega Man,” internet programs like “Homestar Runner” and much, much, more. Nearly all of these references are well hidden in the game’s art style, and recognizing them is sure to lead to uncontrollable grins for anyone in the know.
Yet the game’s best jokes come from its own devices. Whether it’s your ability to morph into a chicken to get into small spaces, or the lamentations of a gun toting villain who realizes he’s wasted all of his bullets shooting the floor for emphasis, at its best, “Guacamelee!” feels like a lost golden age Disney movie when it comes to accessible, yet genuinely funny, humor.
Challenging, Yet Rewarding
As much as I love a game like “Dark Souls,” it’s hard to ignore that at a certain point the risk/reward factor becomes painfully uneven. However, even though “Guacamelee!” pays tribute to many classically challenging games like “Dark Souls” does, you never feel like you are being cruelly punished.
Even though it’s not exactly the most difficult game ever created, “Guacamelee!” does sport sections that require above average skill and patience. However, as long as you are willing to develop your skills and creatively explore the extent of those abilities, you won’t get hung up on too many sections due to unfair play. Even if you do though, the payoff always equals the effort. It’s difficult to find a game that can hit the mark when it comes to a balanced, yet progressive challenge, but that’s exactly what “Guacamelee!” offers.
Fresh Combat, Classic Adventure
“Guacamelee!’s” biggest gameplay feature would have to be its Metroidvania 2D adventure style, where a large map becomes more and more open to you as new abilities are earned. Yet that classic 2D trope isn’t the only familiar concept, as the better part of the gameplay is largely just a creative tribute to a video game age gone by.
The one aspect that feels like much more than an homage though is the combat. It’s a combination of Mexican lucha-libre and old fashioned brawling, all based around a fighting game combo system, and at its best produces moments previously unseen. Most enemies require you to use a variety of maneuvers to best them, and exploring the destructive potential the system is capable of is just as fun as exploring the levels themselves.
It’s Basically this Year’s “Journey”
Alright, so it probably won’t be nominated for a Grammy, and it’s potential to make grow men weep at its beauty is slightly less than “Journey,” but when playing “Guacamelee!” you get the same distinct impression that you’re playing something that exists well outside of the norm, and is artistically significant for the medium.
Though to be honest, “Guacamelee!” also resembles “Journey” in that it is very short. It’s not quite as short as last year’s indie sensation, but even if you are going for 100%, you’ll maybe get 10 hours out of it. While that is a little heartbreaking, considering the game’s bargain $14.99 price, it shouldn’t prevent you from playing “Guacamelee!”, and this year be the one who recommends that great indie game to everybody, and not the one who hears about it from everybody else.
I hate that idea. Hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it. Hate it. I hate every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting implication of it. It hate the sensibility that thinks anyone will like it. I hate the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.
While still not the official Microsoft statement, the recent, and soon to be infamous, tweets of Microsoft creative director Adam Orth on the subject seem to imply that if Microsoft isn’t already committed to the idea of making a console that requires an internet connection, they’ve certainly considered it.
Specifically he summed up the notion of a console that requires an internet connection with three simple words.
“Deal with it.”
Used as a rebuttal to every befuddled complaint thrown his way, Adam Orth would like it very much if we never dare question the motivations or intentions of Microsoft again. Because of these outlandish and insulting comments, Microsoft is now the ones who have to “deal with it,” as they scramble to make sure everyone knows that the views of Adam Orth “Do not reflect the customer centric views we take to our products.”
If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to laugh at that statement. You can either laugh at the implication that the creative director of Microsoft’s views somehow do not reflect the company he works for, or have a chuckle at the fact that the problem isn’t his viewpoints necessarily, but rather that he couldn’t say them in a more PR friendly manner.
Whatever you do though, don’t take this situation seriously. I do not mean to expect these rumors to turn out to be false (they most likely aren’t), but rather do not join the legions who will suddenly give credence to the notion of an online required console as a possible evolution of the medium, or attempt to play the devil’s advocate on the subject by attempting to analyze the notion as an inevitability.
For supporting this idea, Microsoft is simply wrong. They were wrong when they released consoles that died more frequently than a light bulb, and they are wrong again in creating a new system that once again suggests that purchasing a console and owning a game does not guarantee your ability to use either.
There is no logical argument that exists to support a DRM system in the current state the technology exists in, for anyone not on the corporate take. While there are an abundance of logical arguments against the system, none should be used to entertain this particular notion. Instead, if you are opposed to this idea, please just laugh uncontrollably at it anytime a Microsoft representative brings up the idea publically, in order to pay the same respect to them, that they do to you by supporting DRM.
If the next generation Xbox is online only, it should also come with a statement that all owners must sign, have notarized, and officially submit to a court of law. That statement will read:
“We hereby wave our right to ever complain through any available medium regarding any technical issues that may arise preventing us from using our systems. We have weighed our options to choose rationality and common sense against blind allegiance, and have chosen to deal with it.”
Can’t get enough “Bioshock Infinite?” It’s hard to blame you really, as along with being one of the most stylistically complex and intellectually rewarding games of all time, it’s also somewhat short.
Though the game’s developers are promising a bountiful amount of DLC add-ons for the title, if you really need your “Infinite” fix in the meantime, you may want to consider the somewhat intriguing upcoming board game version.
In production by board game creator PlaidHat Games, “Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia” will share the rough timeline of the video game, as players choose between warring factions and vie for control of the floating city of Columbia, all while rouge elements Booker and Elizabeth carry out their own adventure, and possibly disrupt or aid yours.
Details concerning the game’s rules are still coming, but it’s meant for 2-4 players, contains 52 impressively detailed miniatures, and sounds like a mix of “Risk,” “Monopoly,” and, thanks to the skyhook system of rails, even “Chutes and Ladders” (yeah I haven’t played a board game in a while…). On an aesthetic level, everything from the board and pieces, to the cards and papers are incredibly well designed and capture the creative spirit of the source material perfectly. Also given the amount of pieces shown so far, and the company’s usual style, it’s likely this will be a pretty in-depth and complex board game that should provide the same level of outside the box thinking fans have come to expect from this series.
While a board game version of a video game may seem like a step back technologically, this is actually a smart complement to “Infinite.” The revolution was one of the game’s biggest themes and plot points, and getting to explore it further (along with everything else about the world of “Infinite”) through an active means like a board game is an enticing proposition. Also considering it is so hard to incorporate multiplayer into the “Bioshock” video game world without it coming across as cheap (see “Bioshock 2”), this may be the perfect alternative.
Available at a pre-order discount price of $59.95, there is no firm release date for the set as of yet, but given the level of care that has seemingly been put into it, this looks to be the furthest thing from a cash-in attempt, and may be worth any serious “Bioshock” fan’s attention.
In an age of 24 hour news coverage, it’s nearly impossible to pull a surprise game announcement off anymore, as leaks happen everywhere and many people have become jaded to the point of trying to actively guess surprises, lest they be accused of being caught off guard.
So when Hideo Kojima revealed that the mysterious upcoming release “The Phantom Pain” is in fact “Metal Gear Solid 5,” he pulled of one of the few genuinely surprising game announcements of recent memory, even though there will be a vocal contingent that suggests otherwise.
While seemingly of good spirits about the decision, when questioned if he was even asked to do the role, Hayter responded simply “nope.”
Now there are some possibilities of why this is. Without trying to break down the entire convoluted “Metal Gear” story to this point, there is a possibility that the Snake in this game does not chronologically sync with the Solid Snake Hayter famously portrayed (he could be younger). The only thing is, another character that is almost definitely in the game, Hayter also voiced in the series around the appropriate chronological time, adding some more “Huh?” to the confounding announcement.
Also the, possibly temporary, new Snake actor sounds kind of like a young gravely Christian Bale “Batman”, as opposed to the undisputed bad ass you get from Hayter.
Admittedly I was upset when I first heard this news. Traditionally video game voice actors do not upstage the characters they play, but Hayter became one of the few exceptions. His work is instantly iconic, and completely inseparable from the character to the point of becoming a large factor in many gamers preferring the English audio of the series to the original Japanese, which is a rare occurrence.
Ideally, animation (or computer programming) would give you the advantage of maintaining an iconic actor and not having to worry about the years ruining the physical attributes of the character they play. For instance James Bond needs new actors, while Homer Simpson does not.
Then again this may all be another Kojima ruse to rile the fanbase (if so, mission accomplished). Somehow though, it doesn’t feel like that, and instead sounds like a true goodbye to one of video gaming’s most important voices. Hayter’s work helped not only build one of gaming’s biggest franchises, but also helped show that cinematic video gaming was not only possible, it could excel.
The NCAA tournament is living up to its billing again as one of the premiere sporting events out there, and like other premium events like the Super Bowl or The Masters, it actually drives quite a bit of app development as companies try to cash in on the popularity of this sport.
That’s always been true with broadcasters, blogs and fantasy sports games, along with tons of web-based bracket games, but now many app makers are joining in on the fun, and the ability to enjoy these games is being enhanced as a result.
This list covers some of the cool apps related to March Madness. There are tons of apps with the bracket feature that let’s you pick your games, but there are many other cool apps as well for basketball fans. Naturally, the NCAA has created an app where you can watch all the games live. For junkies who want to see every last-second win live, like Aaron Craft’s game-winning three for Ohio State, then this is the must-have app for the tournament. An app like this is great if your girlfriend is dragging you somewhere during the games. Some guys will just say no and head off to a sports bar, and there’s an app for that as well if you’re looking for the best place to watch the game. But some guys have girlfriends dreaming of an engagement and surfing for rings on sites like Primestyle.com. The guy may not be in a hurry to go along, but he doesn’t want to lose her either. So in that case, insisting on a sports bar over the place she wants to go can be a real problem, so that’s where the live apps are ideal.
I’m still looking for some games that go beyond just picking winners. Long ago we played a fantasy game at work where you could pick players in the tournament. You had to pick based on how much they would scores per game, but also on how long they might be in the tournament. It was a great game but I haven’t seen anything like it. Now that would be a cool app!
It’s hard to not have had doubts at some point about the title though, considering the substantial development time and departures of major developers during which. There is, however, precedent for games surviving that type of ordeal, as an elite group of titles managed to survive long delays, and massive amounts of hype and expectations, to emerge as great games. I can think of 8 in particular that were well worth the wait.
Honorable Mention – “Fallout 3” – A definite candidate, but “Fallout 3” gets a lot of love on this site, so just once I wanted to give some other titles their dues.
8. Mother 3
I remember seeing the first blurry and ugly screens of the “EarthBound 64” project in Nintendo Power, and being ecstatic about the prospect to a sequel about my favorite game ever.
As time went on screenshots and other news releases became fewer and fewer, until many started to believe the whole thing may have been an elaborate hoax. Then around 2004-2005, word got out that a third entrant in the cult hit “Mother” series would finally see release…in Japan. Not content with letting the land of the rising sun have all the fun, a dedicated group of American fans released an incredible and thorough translation of the title, so almost everyone could finally play the long awaited sequel.
While admittedly not the best game on this list, the “abandon all hope” mentality was strong regarding this one, and the dedicated translation efforts go to show that you can’t get in the way between fans and the games they really want.
7. LA Noire
Not all long awaited game are continuations or sequels.
The only original property on this list, there were rumblings of a 1940′s noire style video game dating back to 2003 when developer Team Bondi was formed. Originally set to be published exclusively by Sony, as the years wore on the game would switch publishers to Take Two, and seemingly grew in ambition as the release date kept slipping and slipping. Until the game graced the cover of a 2010 Game Informer, many even believed it to be quietly axed.
While reception to “L.A. Noire” was somewhat mixed due to its polarizing gameplay style, there is no denying the technical marvel of the graphics, or the pitch perfect execution of its retro style. The first video game to ever be accepted as an entrant to the Tribeca Film Festival, “L.A. Noire” emerged from an endless development cycle quite possibly something greater than it was originally conceived as.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The only reason this one isn’t higher, is because it was somewhat inevitable.
Still it was 1991 when “A Link to the Past” had Nintendo fans the world over gushing over the series’ brilliance, and outside of “Link’s Awakening” for the Game Boy, it would be 1998 before the true follow up to the series would see release. In the middle was a whole lot of nothing, as Nintendo remained mum about their most anticipated theoretical title, only casually referencing it, and often speaking of only delays.
Of course you probably know how this one turned out, as “Ocarina of Time” is widely regarded as one of the best games ever, and shows anticipation is a benefit if you can capitalize off of it.
How exactly Don McLean’s epic rock ballad “American Pie” (one of the few songs that can truly claim that title) avoided getting added to the music catalog until this point is beyond me, but as a fitting finale to the entire series, there can be no greater choice. It now joins songs like “Freebird,” “Cowboys From Hell,” “Jessica,” “Highway Star,” “Through the Fire and the Flames,” and the greatest of them all “Texas Flood” as the best digital songs the plastic instrument genre has to offer.
I haven’t played “Rock Band” or “Guitar Hero” in a while, but the games are institutions of my generation and among the coolest home releases ever created. It’s likely that twenty years from now people will still be able to pick up “Rock Band” for the first time and feel that same rush of rock star dreams joy, courtesy of an expertly made arcade style experience.
So while the music gaming genre craze is long past its heyday, let this stand as a good reason to dust off the drum kits, re-sticker that guitar, and get the band back together one last time.
As I fill out a bracket that will no doubt be null and void shortly after the round of 64, I kick back and smile at the upcoming joy that is the greatest playoff system in all of sports, the NCAA March Madness tournament.
It’s a tale of underdogs and goliaths. It’s one of men who aim to be heroes coming from all corners of the lands to do battle. From the heated debates regarding those involved, all the way to the moment one school, and one team, stand upon a pile of worthy, yet vanquished, foes to achieve the title of champion, there is no event in sports so epic and engrossing.
In fact, it would really make a great video game wouldn’t it?
This time every year, for the last few years, I have to remind myself there are no new college basketball games. The reasons why are nothing quite so epic as the famous tournament, but are as tragic as any great tale nonetheless.
Simply put college basketball games, unlike the NCAA Football games, didn’t sell well at all. Reports even put “NCAA Basketball 10,” the last entry in the field, selling just over 200,000 units total, which for a company like EA (the last developer to make an NCAA basketball game) was not cutting it. Combined with the always tricky NCAA licensing battles stemming from creating the likeness of college players in a game (and the historic so-so quality of the games themselves), from a business standpoint, the answer couldn’t have been more clear.
College basketball games had to go.
And you know what? It’s a damn shame.
While the games were never quite at the same level as their college football or professional basketball counterparts, EA’s series (and 2K’s before that for that matter) was improving leaps and bounds, and that strive to improve it each year washed away that “we’re the only game in town so deal with it” feel you sometimes get with their sports titles.
As for the sales, as atrocious as they were in terms of that type of game, as we near the opening rounds of the great tournament, I can’t help but feel like the biggest issue was the game’s typical release date around November, and not closer to the madness that is March for college basketball fans. Why you wouldn’t try to capitalize off of the frenzy surrounding that event remains beyond me.
You can do a lot of things in video games and get away with it, but at the end of the day you’ve got to sell. College basketball didn’t, and now they’re gone. Unlike that plucky “Cinderella” team that comes just short of the big game though, there is no next year for college basketball video games. Instead there is just time for even the most feverishly adherent of fans to vaguely remember that once, there was a contender.
When you consider the amount of work put into making a complete game even functional, it’s amazing that game developers have the time to create some of the coolest objects in the game, and hide them places where they may never be found. Yet ever since some hidden credits in “Adventure,” video games and secrets have gone hand and hand.
Of these secrets, the best are the hidden weapons. Often maniacally tucked away and requiring a great deal of luck and effort to ever wield, they usually serve as unopposed killing machines worth every ounce of time and energy used to harness them, though the journey to do so is often more difficult than the game ever would have been if you’d chosen not to seek them out.
I love them though for their holy grail like status in many of the titles they are featured in, and these are five of my favorites.
The Sword of Kings – “EarthBound”
Any day I get to mention “EarthBound” is a good day.
While not the most powerful of the 1/128 items, it is the only weapon that one of your characters can use in the game, giving him a significant offensive boost. It also must be unlocked against a very tough enemy at a point where, if you haven’t been level grinding, you are lucky enough to survive a battle with, much less play the odds of defeating enough to find the fabled sword.
To this day I’ve never unlocked the Sword of Kings, though I regularly try.
The MIRV – “Fallout 3″
There is a weapon in “Fallout 3” called the Fat Man that shoots a mini-nuclear warhead that nothing in the game can withstand. The MIRV shoots 8 of those warheads at once.
To unlock it, you must find five transcripts from the Keller family spread throughout the world. Unless you’re cheating, these are not easy to just run across, and even doing so yields no guarantee you know what the hell they lead to. Piece it all together though, and you’d find your way to a hidden section of the national guard depo where the most powerful, and unnecessary, weapon ever in a video game lies.
Even in a world built upon, and still teeming with, nuclear atrocities, the MIRV might just be the greatest war crime ever constructed. It’s also happens to be fun as hell.
Biggoron’s Sword – “Ocarina of Time”
A gaming secret in a major release that few people knew about? There was a pre-internet time when such a thing was possible.
You may think there is no greater sword in “Ocarina of Time” than the Master Sword, but you would be wrong. To get it though, you have to complete a VERY lengthy quest of which there are very few hints of its existence, or where to go next during it. Make it through this hellacious and confusing journey though, and you’ll be rewarded with a two handed sword that does twice the damage as the Master Sword, and looks 10x as intimidating.
Finding the Biggoron’s Sword without the step by step instructions was a truly rewarding experience back in the day. Even with the walkthrough, it is still one of Link’s greatest all time weapons.
Whoever discovered this gun in the game, and the sequence to get it, is an obsessive compulsive evil genius. The Scarab was clearly not meant to be found by 99.9% of the people who played “Halo 2,” as the commonly accepted process to acquire it demands tremendous skill, potential hours upon hours of patience, and a split second moment of reaction thats absence negates the previous two requirements.
Your reward is a normal looking gun floating above a warning marker in a seemingly unreachable part of the level, that just so happens to pack the firepower of a tank, and will obliterate any single obstacle in your path. The gun only lasts one level, but the thrill of acquiring it is forever.
Excalibur II – “Final Fantasy IX”
Though I’m sure this isn’t factually true, from my personal knowledge and experience, this is as hard of a hidden weapon to unlock as exists.
See, if you play “Final Fantasy IX” the normal way (beat the main game, do a few side quests, enjoy yourself) it takes you about 45-50 hours to complete. To unlock the Excalibur II, you’ll need to get to this 4-disc adventure’s final boss in under 12 hours.
It’s not a challenge any sane individual would ever undertake, and requires all of your powers and efforts to complete. Manage to do so though, and you are rewarded with a sword that can deal the series’ 9999 damage max to even the most powerful of enemies at will, not to mention more hardcore nerd bragging rights than you could acquire even through sex with an actual un-paid human.
So I’m very curious to know what your favorite hidden weapons are, and which are the most difficult you’ve ever personally found. Be sure to let me know in the comments below.