To view the extent of this problem, try typing “best Superman game” into Google. Soon you’ll be met with the equivalent of a shrug, as the only results are people asking if there ever has been a good Superman game. Specify that search to read “top 10 best Superman games,” and the most relevant result is the “top 10 worst Superman games.”
That’s right. The Superman problem is so great that it even breaks Google.
While it’s impossible to attribute the problem to any single issue, the biggest one has to be Superman himself. Simply put, Superman is too powerful, and doesn’t make an effective video game character because there are only so many things that can cause him harm, or scenarios where he is in actual danger. So unless you’re going to equip every thug with kryptonite gloves (which you shouldn’t because it’s a terrible idea), there is a very limited rouge gallery that can even contain the god-man. On the other hand, the entire reason you want to play Superman is to use those very powers that makes him an issue in the first place.
That last part got me thinking. Maybe the solution to the Superman problem lies somewhere in the fact that so many Superman games have been 3D action titles. While that would seem the most likely home for the man of steel, it’s beginning to look like a truly great Superman game will not emerge until a developer is willing to chart some unconventional territory.
Specifically, that territory may be an adventure game, and that developer Telltale Games.
Ok, so it’s not the first thing you think of when you think Superman, but that’s the point. It’s something outside of the Superman comfort zone, that has turned into the rut the character’s games are in. For instance it would be interesting to see “Walking Dead’s” choice system make a return, and force gamers to actually grapple with the decisions that come with essentially being God on Earth, rather than just wail on baddies level after level. Hell, Clark Kent could even be made useable, courtesy of some journalistic investigation sequences
Best of all, they wouldn’t even have to trim down on the few highlights that do exist in Superman games. You could still have flying, you’d still have the epic feel of playing as Superman, and the powers issue is addressed as you would still be able to use all of Superman’s abilities, but with the emphasis now on plot and progression, there would be no need to trim them down, as the developers could instead have greater control over the action sequences where you get to use them.
It’s not the only Superman idea out there, and it’s certainly not one that is guaranteed to work, however it is an example of how the Superman problem doesn’t have to be one without resolution, and that there are still ideas for the series that haven’t been explored which could potentially turn the games from running joke, into a franchise that is as anticipated as the next “Batman” game.
As a rule I try not to get excited about movies based on video games for reasons that should be painfully (very painfully) obvious.
But for those of you that may not know, John Carpenter is one of the greatest horror film directors of all time, and during a streak in the late 70′s and into the 80′s directed some truly immortal movies, including the greatest sci-fi horror flick ever made, “The Thing.”
So when that man says he’s interested in making a video game into a movie, you pay attention. When that move is an adaptation of “Dead Space,” you have permission to shed your cynicism towards the whole idea.
Even in that spirit though, it’s hard to not start imagining that Carpenter would in fact knock this out of the park. “Dead Space” the game is an elaborate haunted house type horror story, with some psychologically intense elements and an incredibly interesting plot that doesn’t interrupt the scares. Carpenter made his name directing films like that, and, when you consider the fact this is a case of a big name director who is genuinely excited about adapting a video game, it’s easy to forget that Carpenter hasn’t done a truly noteworthy film in about 20 years, and to start considering the possibility that this could just work in a big way.
Plus, are you going to tell me you’re not going to give the man who directed “The Thing” the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making one more truly great film?
Chris Rock once said on monogamy that a man is “basically as faithful as his options.” In other words, if they have the ability to cheat, they are much more likely.
The same can easily be said when it comes to videogames and piracy. Everyone knows how much of a problem piracy is, yet many still succumb to the allure. After all, it’s easy, it’s free, and you don’t even have to see the victims if you don’t look hard.
However, the victims are very real, and the numbers to support it are staggering. Take for instance the recently released indie game “Game Dev Tycoon,” where you are tasked with running a video game development studio. It’s been announced by the game’s developer that figures seem to show that of the roughly 3300 copies of the game being played so far, a whopping 93.6% are pirated copies. Naturally for a small studio like Greenheart Games, or anyone really, those are crippling.
While cases like this are all too common, this one does have a silver, and very humorous, lining.
The problem becomes so great, that sooner or later you eventually will lose your studio as you usually can’t profit enough to get ahead, making those copies of “Game Dev Tycoon” essentially unwinnable.
While that’s humorous enough as is, the best part of this story has to be the befuddled reactions from the users of these pirated copies, as they just can’t understand why this is happening in their game, and are pleading with other players for a way to resolve the issue. One even remarks that the whole thing is “not fair,” while another asks is DRM can fix the problem.
While the irony there is seemingly only lost on the people affected, the real irony is that the people who pirated the game about running a video game development studio seem to have gotten the most realistic version of that process. Gaming needs an indie scene to challenge the perceptions of the industry and test the waters of what works and what is accepted at large. Piracy kills that creative market, and unfortunately a viable solution on a massive scale has not been presented yet, and quite possibly never will.
Still though, it’s nice to know that pending financial and creative doom hasn’t deterred the better spirits of at least one developer, and it’s hard to not applaud them in their efforts to make a small, but very clear, stand against the matter the best way they know how.
I used to love getting a video game magazine in the mail, whether it be Nintendo Power, Expert Gamer, Electronic Gaming Monthly, or Game Informer. It was a once a month mind blow where I got pages of information, galleries of photos, and sweet, sweet reviews regarding my favorite pastime in every issue.
That was once a month. Once a year though, there was an event that was like getting a year’s worth of magazines at one time. They called it E3, and to any gamer who grew up in the 90’s, it was this mythical ceremony beyond comprehension.
However, it’s no exaggeration to say that over the last 10 years or so, the event has been slowly dying. What was a mark your calendar and anticipate sleepless nights in anticipation extravaganza, now resembles more of a begrudging necessity where companies do their best to budget as much flash as possible to blind people to the fact they are mostly seeing the exact titles that they’ve known would be there for months due to leaks, or worse retreads of previously released information to fill time.
The writing is on the wall for the event, and has been for some time. Instead of just bleeding the spectacle though, it is time for E3 to die.
Understand that E3, much like the gaming magazine, was only as big as it once was because video games were not. There was no video game channel, there was no segment on the news concerning them (with few exceptions), and there certainly was no internet in the way there is today. Having a singular large event like E3 that didn’t just acknowledge video games, but glorified them, was not only justified in a different time, it was required.
That of course isn’t the case anymore. Instead E3 is an unfortunate lingering relic of a different time that is being unnecessarily worshiped due to the misguided value placed in nostalgia, and is dragging down the potential growth of the entire industry. The larger companies don’t need it, yet they still feel obligated to put on a big spectacle, and completely drown out the noise that smaller companies could use the time for in the process. Meanwhile the growing numbers of embarrassing presentations have their ridicule magnified much larger than necessary by the inherit spectacle E3 still carries, and the rare previously unannounced great game that can emerge (say like “Watch Dogs”) then spends the next few weeks making rounds on every facet of the internet watering down the initial moment until it might as well have not existed at all.
It’s time for gaming companies to take the cue from Nintendo and 2K and move on. Whether that means companies hold their own shows, or provide more services like Nintendo Direct that allow them a forum for their own exclusive major announcements, it doesn’t matter so long as they are no longer dependent on a few days in Los Angeles to define the course of their next year.
It was as long ago as 2008 when representatives from EA, Ubisoft, and others, were quoted lamenting that E3 wasn’t the profitable gala spectacle it once was, and were contemplating ways to bring it back to prominence. The truth is that if the day ever did exist when that resurgence was still possible, it has now passed. If the gaming industry is still truly fiscally dependent on E3, then it has only itself to blame for not making use of the considerable resources available to forge a new path to greener pastures.
Nintendo has been criticized for living in the past, and being behind the times, but in this move they are truly ahead of the game. It’s hard to say goodbye to something that still manages to entertain, but there has never been a case where relying on the glory days was a benefit to anyone, and it certainly isn’t the case with E3.
If you haven’t been following, the oculus rift is an amazing new virtual reality device that will allow the gamer to achieve a sort of free look effect while playing a game. It’s not quite the vision of virtual reality that we pictured from sci-fi, but it does represent the most realistic step towards that vision that video gaming has ever seen.
Now that early units have begun shipping to early kickstarter backers, we’re starting to get some pretty interesting footage of the device showing everyone exactly why that is.
The first comes to us from a gamer playing the free running “Mirror’s Edge.”
“Mirror’s Edge” is the exact type of game that people dreamed about when they heard of the oculus rift, and also the type they worried if the device was capable of handling. From that video, I’m going to say that concern has been addressed triumphantly
In fact, I pretty much just have to say “wow.” While we don’t know how much time was invested in learning to play the game, it doesn’t appear that the user in that video misses much of a step with the rift, and instead the only times he seems disoriented are when he’s in a particularly narrow movement space, admiring the rift’s ability to put a new perspective on the game, or when participating in an awe inspiring free fall which serves as the definitive climax to the video.
While it’s difficult to gain the same sensation that the rift supposedly inspires just by watching a video, it doesn’t take much imagination when viewing that video to see that it has potential to lend a truly unprecedented interactive experience to select titles. Of course when you’re talking creative and imaginative experiences, nothing tops the next video.
In what has to be the most incredible demonstration of interactive gaming ever filmed, the person in that video is using an omni-directional treadmill, which can read and feed your movements to a video game character, and pairs it with the oculus rift to play “Team Fortress 2″ in a manner more in line with the virtual reality experience we’ve all dreamed of, albeit in a much more exhausting manner than previously considered.
The other thing that video shows is that there is a possible future for VR gaming, which is an idea that has never really been given an honest attempt or chance. Whether or not the oculus rift is the device we all look back to when identifying the true turning point of the concept, even the earliest and roughest footage shows a VR device that does something no other has truly managed to do yet.
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.
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.