In a word…
Yes, it does look like Nintendo did enough with their new console/handheld hybrid to ensure that third-party software is not an issue – mainstream GPU, and a fairly “normal” controller (well… Nintendo Normal.) But, let’s face it – at this point in time in video game history, your average gaming enthusiast is not going to purchase Nintendo hardware to play what we can safely assume will be slightly watered down versions of CoD, GTA, Dishonored, Madden, etc. (when compared to their PlayStation, Xbox and/or PC brethren.)
So, leaving their main gaming platforms and making the switch to Switch is not going to be within the realm of probability for most gamers. Once again, and without any compelling reason for mass-man to join in on the fun (as they did with the original Wii), my belief is that the Switch will be (if Nintendo is lucky/smart) relegated to “second system” status and that its relative success will be almost entirely dependent on the quality and quantity of first-party software.
The new Zelda is already a foregone conclusion. The Switch teaser trailer offered a short, generic Mario game and not a whole lot else. How willing is Nintendo going to be to dip into their bag of under-utilized IP’S (here’s looking at you “Metroid Prime” series) and to nurture new IP’s more befitting an adult gamer demographic (if they can even remember how to do that?) And, can they put a new face/spin on those series’ that they have gone back to time and again to give them a reboot (here’s looking at you “Mario Kart” series?)
No, I think it is safe to say that there is not enough in what we have seen of Switch to make gamers switch. And, only time will tell if Nintendo’s first-party software development studios are up to the task this time around. They failed miserably with the Wii U and that wasn’t too long ago – their customers are still feeling the sting of that purchase decision. A strong offering out of the gate, with a clear road map of year one releases, could make their path to second system success a little easier to navigate and make Wii U consumers a little more forgiving/excited. But, without a strong lineup and a lack of vision on the software side of things?…
… consumers might just flip this particular Switch off.
Did Nintendo Learn Their Lesson? Will New IP Be a Priority? Will They Give Gamers ANY Reason to Make the “Switch?”
I just started taking this one for its initial test drive. “Ghost of a Tale” entered Steam Early Access today and is considered in an “Alpha” state by its developer. This EA version contains, according to SeithCG, about 30% of the content that will be available in the final version of the game (estimated to be complete six months (+/-) from now – when it will carry a price tag of $24.99.) I have played the game for about two hours and it is in a pretty solid state – no crashes, gameplay is all there and menu system is completely functional. The real surprise, however, is that the game has so many RPG features. I was expecting a cute little mouse stealth/action game – something along the lines of “Styx: Master of Shadows.” While the two games do share some DNA – small character trying to escape a medieval dungeon/prison (in this case, a minstrel mouse named Tilo) – Ghost of a Tale seems to be a much deeper experience to this point in time. Check out my gameplay footage below to get an idea of where the game is at.
Ghost of a TalePublisher: SeithCG Developer: SeithCG Release Date: 7/25/16 Platforms: PC/Steam Early Access (Coming Soon on Xbox One Preview) Price: $17.99 Initial Thoughts: Color me impressed – I can’t believe this game is primarily the work of one person. If he closes the deal, this is going to be a great game.
Never Underestimate a Mouse with a Mandolin in Search of the Rat Bastards That Kidnapped His True Love!
If I am to be completely honest with myself, E3 2016 was a disappointment. Between the announcement of Neo and Scorpio introducing the new three year console life-cycle and the parade of game trailers for games that have not announced release dates (God of War, Spider-Man, Death Stranding, etc.), it was like the major players were effectively saying that the games industry is done with 2016.
Of course, this is not the case and there are a number of good (potentially great) games coming between now and the end of the first quarter of 2017. Whether any of them are going to be better than the best that we have seen so far since last holiday season (Rise of the Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, The Climb, Ratchet & Clank comprise my short list), remains to be seen (although I am predisposed to believing that Dishonored 2 will give these titles a run for their money.)
In any event, the following games are those that stood out for me at the show, with the qualifier that they had to be scheduled for release no later than 3/31/17:
Dishonored 2 (Bethesda: 11/11/16)
Batman: Arkham VR (WBI: 10/13/16)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo: Early 2017)
Mafia III (2K: 10/7/16)
Horizon: Zero Dawn (SIE: 2/28/17)
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (WBI: 6/28/16)
For Honor (Ubisoft: 2/14/17)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Square-Enix: 8/23/16)
Batman: The Telltale Series (Telltale: Summer 2016)
Imagine a game that combines the best of Diablo, Zelda, a “create your own adventure” book and even the Disney animated feature, “Treasure Planet,” and you can begin to get an idea for the gameplay and world found in Spearhead Games’ “Stories: Path of Destinies.” Now, imagine that it looks, feels and plays like a AAA game and will only set you back 15 bucks!
Playing as a fox named Reynardo, a former pirate and now reluctant hero that has joined the rebellion against an Emperor gone mad and his legion of Raven enforcers, you use various swords, a Hookshot and earned abilities to try to put a stop to this reign of tyranny. Of course, the struggle comes at a cost and you will find yourself making decisions/choices at the end of each game Chapter that will potentially result in the death of friends and allies, or Reynardo succumbing to the power that seems to be required to ensure victory.
While Stories’ action can best be described as very Diablo-esque, it is the player’s choices determining Reynardo’s path and the story variants that unfold as a result of those choices that really make Stories stand out. Ultimately, the game is about the various paths that Reynardo can take to victory/enlightenment and each story variant is as interesting and entertaining as the last. And, it’s not just the choices and branching paths that make the game great. Stories also features a very tongue-in-cheek narrator that is Monty Python-esque in his droll, hilarious delivery, beautiful isometric worlds/levels above the clouds and below the surface, fast-paced, challenging Action-RPG gameplay and world back-tracking that blends the best of Zelda and Diablo, and a soundtrack that does a wonderful job of setting the tone and mood of each story as it unfolds.
I knew nothing about this game before its launch last week and purchased it on a whim. I wasn’t familiar with the developer and I was responding solely to the look of the game and its genre. What a surprise! Stories is easily one of the most clever, unique and fun-to-play games that I have experienced thus far in 2016 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It would be very easy to miss this one if you are a PlayStation 4 owner or Steam denizen (according to SteamSpy, there are fewer than 8,500 owners of the PC version after its first week of availability and I’m (educated) guessing that the PS4 version has sold less than that), but I encourage you to seek it out – you won’t be disappointed.
Stories: The Path of DestiniesPublisher: Spearhead Games Developer: Spearhead Games Platforms: PC/Steam, PlayStation 4 Release Date: April 12, 2016 Price: $14.99
So Many Stories… So Little Time…
For the week ending March 12th, 2016, the PlayStation 4 version of “Tom Clancy’s The Division”debuted at #1 on VGChartz. While the Xbox One version finished in second place for the week, it did so selling a little more than half the units of the PlayStation 4 version. In addition to the 3.3 million units or so of The Division that Ubisoft moved, they were also responsible for half of the games in the Top 10 list… most impressive.
Best-Selling Games (Globally) for the Week Ending 3/12/16:1. (PS4) Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 3. (WiiU) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD 4. (PS4) Far Cry: Primal 5. (PC) Tom Clancy’s The Division 6. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 7. (Xbox One) Far Cry: Primal 8. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 9. (3DS) Fire Emblem Fates 10. (PS4) Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
The Division Took the Lead in a Big Week for Ubisoft
For the week ending March 6th, 2016, we have a major global victory for publishers everywhere, as the “new coat of paint” version of “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD,” a game that was originally designed for the Nintendo Gamecube in Gen 6, debuted at #1 on VGChartz. In looking at the rest of the Top 10, not any surprises here – Far Cry: Primal had a good second week and Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto continue to be the first franchises purchased when someone new to Gen 8 buys a box.
Best-Selling Games (Globally) for the Week Ending 3/6/16:1. (Wii U) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD 2. (PS4) Far Cry: Primal 3. (Xbox One) Far Cry: Primal 4. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 5. (PS Vita) Gundam Breaker 3 6. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 7. (3DS) Fire Emblem Fates 8. (PS4) Gundam Breaker 3 9. (PS4) Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 10. (Xbox One) Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Nintendo Can’t Seem to Release any New IP, But They Found a Can of Paint to Spruce Up an Old One!
Some very big names and platforms hit the market in This Week in Gaming History, including Resident Evil, GBA, 3DS, God of War, Link’s wind-altering adventures and EA making the gaming world an offer that millions of consumers found they couldn’t refuse…
March 21, 1989: Phantasy Star II released for the SEGA Master System
March 26, 1993: Nintendo releases Kirby’s Adventure for the Nintendo Entertainment System – the only game in the series to be released on the platform
March 22, 1996: Resident Evil released on PlayStation, creating the “Survival Horror” genre and scaring the hell out of gamers worldwide
March 21, 2000: Thief II: The Metal Age releases for PC
March 21, 2001: Nintendo releases Gameboy Advance in Japan
March 26, 2002: EA releases 007: Agent Under Fire on Gen 6 consoles
March 24, 2003: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is released on Nintendo Gamecube
March 25, 2003: One of the worst games of all-time is released on this date – Batman: Dark Tomorrow, for the Gamecube
March 23, 2004: The original Far Cry is released on PC
March 22, 2005: The original God of War released for PlayStation 3
March 21, 2006: The Godfather: The Game released on PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox
March 27, 2011: Nintendo 3DS released in North America
It’s “Revival Week” for Gen 7 games on Gen 8, with a number of “Definitive/Limited/Super-Special-Secret Sauce” versions of Gen 7 games hitting the marketplace. So, if you have a hankering to spend your hard-earned cash to go from 720p to 1080p and maybe… just maybe, from 30 FPS to 60, this is your time my friend! Seriously, there is nothing quite like paying 40-50 bucks to sharpen up the focus a little bit on a game that will set you back $5 used at Gamestop…
Heavy RainPublisher: SCEA Developer: Quantic Dream Release Date: 3/1/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Digital Release) Price: NA Forecast: Cloudy
The digital-only release of Quantic Dream’s modern take on the point-and-click hits the PlayStation Store next Tuesday. Some people love this genre, others don’t. My POV is that, as long as the game offers freedom of movement (as opposed to the old-school static screen P&C adventure) I am OK with it. In the case of Heavy Rain, however, the subject matter is VERY dark and was difficult for me to stomach when it was originally released on PS3 a few years back… tread carefully.
Mortal Kombat XLPublisher: WBI Developer: NeatherRealm Studios Release Date: 3/1/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One Price: $59.99 Forecast: Partly Cloudy
Mortal Kombat X, + DLC, + a few new goodies = Mortal Kombat XL (you see what the marketing folks did there… genius!) PSA: MKX is currently $40 at Gamestop.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival EditionPublisher: NIS America Developer: Nippon Ichi Software Release Date: 3/1/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4 Price: $39.99 Forecast: Cloudy
This Action RPG originally released on PlayStation 3 back in 2013. The game barely made a dent at retail then, I don’t expect much to change in this particular “Revival.”
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HDPublisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo EAD Release Date: 3/4/16 Platforms: Wii U Price: $59.99 Forecast: Sunny
The HD remake of the Wii/Gamecube game includes an amiibo in the physical version (the digital version, sans amiibo, can be had for $49.99.) As a point of reference, the HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker sold less than two million units worldwide. On any other platform, that would make it a decent performer for a remake. On the Wii U, that is a phenomenal [...]
Looking back at the last 30 years of gaming history, this particular week in February is loaded with good stuff – including the debuts of two of the biggest franchises in the history of gaming. I am guessing you can figure out which ones they are!
February 21, 1986: The original Legend of Zelda is released for the Nintendo Entertainment System
February 20, 1987: Konami releases the original Contra in arcades
February 21, 1993: The first game to use Nintendo’s Super FX chip is released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment system – Star Fox
February 27, 1996: The future worldwide phenomenon that is Pokemon is released for the Nintendo Gameboy
February 27, 2009: Killzone 2 is released for PlayStation 3
February 23, 2010: Heavy Rain is released for PlayStation 3
February 25, 2014: Square-Enix’s reboot of the Thief series is released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
February 20, 2015: The Order: 1886 is released on PlayStation 4
I have been playing Legend of Zelda games dating back to the first one to appear on the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System for those of a certain youth), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (I didn’t spend very much time with the original NES – was always more of a SEGA Master System kind of guy.) When you decide to pony up the dough to purchase the latest adventures of Link, you likely know what you’re getting. While platforms may change and tech goes from side-scroll and isometric to real-time 3D with a user-controlled third-person camera, you can count on Link having to save Zelda (or some Zelda-like damsel in distress), a goof story, bombs, boomerangs, bow and arrow, a lot of green and maybe a new feature or two to keep things interesting.
In the case of The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, the new wrinkles are the multiplayer nature of the game (three players, each controlling a Link-like doppelganger called… wait for it… “Doppels”), a few new gadgets/gameplay twists, 128+ levels and a story that centers on what I believe to be Nintendo’s “jumping the shark” moment… fashion.
Yep, Link’s princess-du-jour, a Princess Styla (seriously… I’m not making this up) is too embarrassed to go out in public because the evil witch has stolen her best threads and she is forced to wear “this cursed outfit of ultimate ugliness” (again… not making it up – straight from the game.) Her pops, “King I-Don’t-Remember-His-Name-and-Does-it-Really-Matter?” needs you and your Doppels to go take on the witch, who has shacked up somewhere in the Drablands, and retrieve his daughter’s self-esteem.
Princess… I feel you – my level of embarrassment after writing the previous paragraph will likely keep me indoors for the remainder of the weekend – but I digress.
In spite of the ridiculous story, what we have in Tri Force Heroes is pretty standard multiplayer puzzle fare. The three Doppels must work together (you can also play it as a single player game, switching between the multiplicity of Links) to form “Totems” (stacking the Doppels and throwing each other around to reach other areas) to solve environmental puzzles of varying heights – using the classic Link tools o’ the trade. There are eight themed environments (ice, volcano, water, forest… the usual stuff), each featuring four levels, with each of those levels broken down into three small sections, with a boss or mini-boss section at the end. Players also have the ability to replay any of these levels via the King’s Challenges.
Here’s the thing for me; The game set me back $40 and, in spite of it being a somewhat clever twist on the typical Zelda adventure, there are so many better, cheaper puzzle games out there – some of which (looking at you “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons”) truly move the genre forward. I get it – it’s Zelda and we are all supposed to like it because, well… it’s Zelda. For me, however, I wish I had [...]