The year of 2013 has been a busy one; between balancing the last year of my extended stay at University and finally entering the daily grind of the working world, time has gone by much quicker than I would have perhaps preferred. It’s important then to take the time for a brief retrospective, not only to supplement the lazy journalism that comes with the end of the year but because when I stop and think back, it has been another banner year for videogames. Continue reading Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Review Of 2013
2012 – a year that promised much, and will no doubt go down in the textbooks as one of the most interesting years of modern times. The Olympics offered a summer of sporting enjoyment in Britain, a Korean man dancing like a horse became the most popular thing the internet has ever churned out, and the world didn’t end as predicted by ancient calendars running out. Each point to their own a notable landmark I guess.
And so what of the world of videogames? It was an enviable task set for this year by the exploits of 2011; a year where games reached levels of exceptional quality in some cases. 2012 was a horrifically clichéd year in that some things were very good, and some things very poor. Below is my run through the year; I’ve broken away from looking specifically at the big three companies in detail to allow some more room for analysis, and to keep the points a bit shorter for reading purposes. Continue reading Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Review Of 2012
Nintendo have finally revealed the all important pricing and release details for their new console, the Wii U. Announced by company CEO Satoru Iwata on the official Nintendo website last night, the basic Wii U will cost 26,250 yen (£210/$338), while the black Premium model will be slightly pricier at 31,500 yen (£252/$405). The console will be released later than the anticipated November date, on the 8th December.
Both models will come packaged with a Wii U GamePad, a Wii U GamePad stylus, an HDMI cable, and AC adapters for the system and controller, while those who shell out for the Premium model will also nab a Wii U GamePad charging stand, Wii U GamePad playing stand and Wii U stand. The Premium model also has a memory capacity of 32GB compared to 8GB on the standard model. Mr Iwata also revealed some of the system specs which have been kept very secret up to this point. The memory reserved for games is 1GB, the same figure used to run the internal operating system, and game discs can hold up to 25GB of data (roughly the same as an average Blu Ray disc).
Doesn’t sound too bad yet does it? Well here’s the news that will kick your teeth in – the Wii U Gamepad has been priced at 13,340 yen, which at current exchange rates would be nearly £107. The initial prices for two of the launch games don’t appear to be particularly inviting either – New Super Mario Bros U has been priced at 5,985 yen (£48/$77) and NintendoLand (the game which attracted a great deal of derision at E3 this year and many people thought would be a bundle game) is 4,935 yen (£39/$66). Those exchange prices aren’t set in stone, but when you factor in costs such as VAT that will be applied when they go on sale we have to assume that Wii U games will be costing more than PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Also, I pity the poor person who breaks a Gamepad and has to buy a new one; I’m no mystic, but I would have a pop at guessing that the damn expensive controllers may well be the Wii U’s downfall in the future.
So now you know how much it’s going to cost – are you going to buy one?
UPDATE: After posting this article, Nintendo confirmed the details for European customers. Strangely we will be getting the console before its native Japan as it will go on sale on November 30th. NintendoLand has also been confirmed as a bundle game with every console sold.
- Nintendo have unveiled the 3DS XL, a larger version of the standard 3DS. The handheld (which was originally going to be announced at E3) features two slightly larger screens (the top screen increases to 4.88 inches from 3.58 and the bottom from 3.02 to 4.18 inches) and an improved battery life. However, it doesn’t feature a second circle pad that had to be shoehorned onto the original 3DS as a add-on, meaning games like Metal Gear Solid 3DS and Monster Hunter will be unplayable…and the 3DS XL is set to $200 when it gets released at the end of July. So, its more expensive and despite its increased size doesn’t have an extra analogue stick – I can’t help but think Nintendo have dun goofed.
- It would appear the next game in the queue for new HD graphics is the PS2 classic Okami. The game, which featured very distinctive artwork based on Japanese mythology, will also be playable with Playstation Move controls and support widescreen. It will be available via PSN for £16 this Autumn, which I think is a pretty good deal.
- Final Fantasy VII may finally be coming to Steam. Yesterday, a product description from Square was leaked indicating that the game will feature cloud support and 36 achievements via the Steam system, as well as a base price of £7.99. The page was quickly removed by Square, but the intent for the release is definitely there.
- Have you ever thought to yourself ‘I wish I was Stan Lee?’ Well, anyone who had that fantasy will soon be able to live out your wildest dreams, as the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man video game allows you to play as the legendary comic book writer complete with all of Spidey’s abilities. It looks bizarre in action, and yet is also strangely one of the funniest things you will ever see – check it out.
- Finally, on July 29th you will be able to travel to your nearest GAME (providing they didn’t shut down near the start of the year) and pick up a brand new white PS3, complete with a 320GB HDD and two controllers. You also get 90 days on Playstation Plus thrown in for good measure. It is set to cost £240.
And so the dust has finally settled on the main conferences at the Electronic Entertainment Expo; over the last two days Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony and Nintendo have all held their annual E3 media pitches. As with last year, I was furiously typing all the way through the conferences making notes, and below is my quick round up of all the relevant stuff from the two days. Continue reading E3 2012: Notes From The Five Conferences And Reaction
Up until around midday yesterday, E3 was running smooth as you like. As then Nintendo pulled a major cat out of the bag by announcing that they would be showing off a special pre-recorded broadcast by president Satoru Iwata at 11pm GMT, showing us a bit more on the new Wii U console. Around 80,000 people watched the stream live on Nintendo’s website, including myself to see what new tricks the Wii U has to play with. The video has since been re-uploaded for those who missed it, but if you don’t particularly desire watching Iwata talk for half an hour, here’s the main headlines summed up from the video:
- The Wii U tablet, the focus of much attention when the console was revealed at last year’s E3, has undergone a slight change in aesthetics. Most importantly, the circle pads have been replaced with two analogue sticks which can be clicked in, a NFS system has been added on the left hand side, some of the menu buttons have been moved to the right hand side for easier access (including one which lets the tablet act as a tv remote), and the back of the tablet has been modified to be more ergonomically friendly. Check out the image below for a before and after screenshot. In homage to the original NES controllers, the tablet has been officially named as the ‘Wii U Gamepad’.
- Most surprisingly, Iwata then revealed an entirely new controller in the form of the ‘Wii U Pro Controller’, which closely resembles a hybrid of the current PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers. The idea is that the Pro controller will allow for simultaneous two to four player games to be played on the Wii U, as only one Gamepad can be connected at any one time. All accusations of design stealing aside, this controller will allow the Wii U to function as a games console for those who do not desire the gimmick of the tablet screen, and will probably be the controller of choice for games like Mario Kart and the next Super Smash Bros. Good decision on Nintendo’s behalf
- The big change in Nintendo’s strategy for the Wii U however, is connectivity. The Wii was highly effective at getting people together to play in the same living room, but its capacity to connect beyond that was awful (the internet connectivity in particular is woeful compared to PSN and Xbox Live). The Wii U looks to change all that, with the big marquee being the all new ‘Miiverse’. Acting like an enormous forum using Mii’s, gamers can see what other people are playing, share thoughts and offer tips on games by leaving messages (which can be typed on hand drawn using the Gamepad’s screen) and connect in several other ways. Crucially, it will not just be limited to the Wii U, as the service can be accessed also on the 3DS, PC and *gasp* smartphones – for those of you who may be unaware, that is an enormous change in strategy as Nintendo are usually fairly secular in how they operate with other companies. The Miiverse will be at the forefront of Nintendo’s first real push into the online market; Iwata’s concluding note on the subject was that it will be the first thing people see when they switch on the Wii U console.
- In other stuff, the Miiverse concept was demonstrated by one of the most poorly acted sequences I have ever seen, notable only for the appearance of a grandad offering help on how to beat a zombie, and the ‘Non Specific Action Figure‘. Within seconds of thier appearance both were trending and will no doubt have turned into a meme in the time I have been asleep overnight. Go to 12:40 in the video link above to watch the segment in full.
It was a crafty move indeed by Nintendo to get this information out ahead of Microsoft and Sony’s conferences (which in case you need reminding start at 5:30pm and 2:30am GMT today), as on Wednesday they can now focus almost exclusively on games that will be available on the Wii U. Expect a new 2D Mario, a new Zelda, a new Metroid and several other surprises. It should be a cracker
7 – SUPER MARIO 64 (1996) – NINTENDO EAD
Super Mario 64 is to platformers what Star Wars was to the film industry when it was first released – people couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The world of the Mushroom Kingdom, which has previously been limited to side scrolling high jinks, was opened up for players to run, jump and kick about in, and not only became the instant reason for wanting a Nintendo 64 (when the console was put to bed for the Gamecube, roughly 1/3rd of N64 owners had a copy of Super Mario 64), but also became the quintessential 3D platformer that even to this day has rarely been bettered.
It wasn’t just the huge colourful worlds, objective based structures and classic characters given new proportions that impressed though – it was the sense that it was so far ahead of its time. By implementing the brand new analogue stick on the N64 controller, players had the freedom to move Mario about exactly where they wanted him to go, and also allowed for a fully adjustable camera that meant that players could take in the scenery and plan where they wanted to go – looking up at the peak of Bob-Omb Mountain and then proceeding to travel there may not seem special at all nowadays, but in 1996 it was like scaling Mt. Everest. It would even force Sony to create an analogue pad of their own for the Playstation.
As with other games in this list, Super Mario 64 has somewhat of an ageless quality to it – go and play it nowadays and it still feels as taught as the day it was released. Like Elvis Presley, it has many imitators; but there can only be one true King.
8 – GOLDENEYE 007 (1997) – RARE
In a world of ‘Doom clones’, Goldeneye 007 was a bolt from the blue. Based on the fantastic film of 1995, British company Rare incorporated new elements of design that made the game one of the most legendary first person shooters to ever be released.
Eschewing the balls out action of stuff like Doom, Goldeneye 007 (one of the first FPS’s released exclusively for a console) adopted a more realistic outlook. Much work was done to make the player get the feeling that you are James Bond, as sneaking around taking out security cameras and dispatching guards as quietly as possible becomes the most desirable way to progress through the game. Rare also introduced several new features that have become staples of the genre; guards will react differently depending on where they are shot, and the zoomable scoped sniper rifle that allowed you to kill enemies from a distance is now a standard inclusion in virtually every shooting game.
Goldeneye’s legacy however primarily lies in its multiplayer mode. Featuring fully customisable game modes and four player split screen action, this game became the measuring stick from which all other multiplayer games, not just first person shooters, were judged for sheer amounts of fun. Anyone who has played this game will have fun memories of chopping people to death, racing to get the golden gun for one shot kills, and cursing the person who decided to pick Oddjob. Arguments continue to rage about whether Goldeneye is still the ultimate deathmatch template, even after the likes of Halo and Call Of Duty have come along – a testament to the games continuing quality.
3 – TETRIS (1984) – VARIOUS
The Soviet Union – it’s not exactly the first location that people think of when it comes to considering influential games. It’s an irony then that possibly the most popular game of all time is the work of a Russian created near the end of the Cold War. Coming from the mind of Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris (which was the first entertainment medium to be exported from Russia to America during the Cold War) is an ageless game that has captured the minds of generations for years.
Part of its brilliance is its utter simplicity; you are presented with a rectangular area into which different shapes called tetrominoes (based around letters) are dropped. Your mission is to move and rotate the blocks as they fall in order to create complete lines of blocks, which then disappear once completed and grant the player points. The game only ends when the top level of the rectangular area is breached by a block. For a game that only utilises seven working pieces, the amount of replayability to be found in Tetris is utterly astonishing.
So apart from helping to thaw relations in the Cold War, why else does Tetris deserve to be on this list? How about the fact that it has been replicated on virtually every console ever made? If there is a console, chances are you will be able to drop blocks with it (the Game Boy version remains the most popular, having sold over 30 million copies and making gaming on the move popular). Tetris has also been proven as a game that improves the cognitive functions of the people that play it, paving the way for further popular puzzle games like Bust A Move and the Brain Training series on the Nintendo DS. So not only is it addictive – it makes you smarter.
4 – SUPER MARIO BROS (1985) – NINTENDO
In 1983, the games industry crashed in North America. Too many poor games (including Atari’s infamous E.T The Extra Terrestrial) from far too many third party companies caused annual revenue to drop by scarcely believable levels of 97%. In 1985, a white knight rode to the rescue from the land of the rising sun – the knight was Nintendo, and it had brought a fat Italian plumber along for the ride. His name was Mario, and he was about to save the industry.
Anyone with half an interest in the history of video games knows about Super Mario Bros – Mario travels across eight different worlds in search of Princess Toadstool, who has been kidnapped by the Koopa King Bowser. As a 2D side-scrolling adventure, Mario has to run, jump and swim past different obstacles and varied enemies, picking up powerups such as Mushrooms which allow him to grow in size along the way. Where Super Mario Bros excels is how it plays: its precise controls were way ahead of many of the games produced prior, and most of all it was bloody good fun.
The achievements of this game are a genuine Hall Of Fame rollcall. Bundled in with the brand new NES console, it sold over 40 million copies, which gave it the title of the best selling video game for over two decades. Like Pac Man before him, Mario became the defining mascot of the industry, and arguably remains in that position to this day due to the one of the most expansive and successful franchises in history. For me, the biggest impact of Super Mario Bros is that it put Nintendo on the map – the days of poor quality control and copycat games were swept away in a drive for efficiency and quality game design as companies looked to emulate the success of the Japanese company. The third generation of the industry had begun, and it was Mario who had instigated it.
Its time for a news update:
- We will start with the situation at GAME. Last week, the company filed for administration, and 277 stores around the UK were shut down with immediate effect while over 2,000 people were made redundant. On Sunday, the investment group Opcapita was cleared by several banks in the UK to buy a large portion of the business, thereby removing it from administration and saving 333 stores and roughly 3,000 jobs. The sale gives the struggling business a sense of stability, but now the real test for the GAME group begins – in the next six months, they will need to restore consumer faith in the brand while also fending off against the increased online competition that has arguably led to its initial demise, including Tesco who have now rebranded themselves as ‘the home of gaming in the UK’.
- The mystery surrounding Nintendo’s next console, the Wii U, continues to grow this week. First off, it seems we may have a relatively accurate release date, as a internal memo sent by Nintendo to retailers across the world (including Gamestop in America) reveals that the Big N are looking at November 18th 2012 for a release date – which would seem sensible enough considering Nintendo’s affiliation with that time of the year (the last two consoles, the Gamecube and Wii, were released on November 18th 2001 and November 19th 2006 respectively). Perhaps more pressing however is the rumours that the Wii U is not as powerful as the PS3 and Xbox 360 currently are – nevermind the next generation consoles that are invariably in the pipeline for Microsoft and Sony. A spokesman from Nintendo has said:
“We do not focus on technology specs. We understand that people like to dissect graphics and processing power, but the experience of playing will always be more important than raw numbers.”
In no lesser terms, that means Nintendo aren’t denying the claims. So much for the boasts pre-E3 last year that it would be more powerful than the Sun.
- In a unprecedented move for football fans, there will not be a standalone Euro Championships game this year – instead, EA (who interestingly enough received an award for ‘Worst Company In America’ this week), announced last week that UEFA Euro 2012 will be a download only expansion pack for FIFA 12. Set for release on April 24th, the expansion will cost £15.99, which is cheaper than the game would have been on disc. In one sense, it’s a very clever move by EA – it means they have to spend less on producing the game, and FIFA 12 has already shifted over 10 million copies so there is a large base to aim at. However, for what is going to essentially be a kit upgrade, £16 is far too much. My advice would be that if you are desperate to replicate the European Championships, simply download the teams that are missing from the Creation Centre in FIFA 12 and just make the tournament on there.
- Finally, surprising news from Harmonix – the music genre in gaming isn’t dead! Yesterday, the developers announced their newest creation, Rock Band Blitz, destined to be release this summer on XBLA and PSN. The game seems to have more in common with Harmonix’s PS2 games Amplitude and Frequency than Rock Band, featuring a multi track system where all the instruments in a song can be played…without the need for instruments. It also promises to utilise all previous Rock Band DLC along its own 25 song soundtrack, offering up a ridiculous amount of playability. Check out this trailer to see the intriguing concept in action
G’day folks, hope you have all had an enjoyable start to 2012. Here’s a quick update of the more interesting stories form the start of the New Year.
- The Christmas period has been a very successful time for Nintendo, certainly in its homeland of Japan. Last month they shifted 1,492,931 units of the 3DS in Japan, which broke records for the highest monthly hardware sales recorded in the country. This is a stark contrast to sales of the PS Vita, which similar to the 3DS has had a tough start to its life – only selling 402,704 units since its launch, which is below the anticipated numbers. It’s only taken a year, but the 3DS seems to be picking up steam now.
- Speaking of Steam, its been pretty good numbers coming from Valve’s digital service in 2011. Year by year unit sales have improved by over 100% for the seventh straight year in a row, and they had 5 million concurrent users for the first time in late December, no doubt fuelled by the brilliant sales that were on offer. The big cheese of Valve, Gabe Newell, has promised there will be more free to play games next year as Steam continues to go onwards and upwards.
- The good news continues in PC land for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It has already seen a steady growth in player base since its release late in December, and the enormous game has now been recognised by the Guinness Book Of Records for having the ‘Largest Entertainment Voice Over Project’ ever. With over 200,000 lines of dialogue recorded, its not hard to see why.
- Are we going to see Pokemon Grey this year? It certainly seems that way at this moment in time. Several Japanese publications have been dropping hints that a new game will be on the way, and that inkeeping with traditional format it will be an update to the existing games of the generation, Black & White, with more of a focus on one of the legendary Pokemon in the story – in this case, most likely it will be the ice dragon Kyurem. A domain name was registered for the game last year, but the Pokemon Company have been tight lipped on the issue. The main issue is whether or not it will be exclusive to the 3DS or not; more news on this when it arrives.
- And to finish with, we take a quick look back at 2011 – specifically, the most played games on Xbox Live for the year. It’s a depressingly solid set of statistics to back up the notion that gaming has become too orientated towards first person shooters, with the Call Of Duty franchise dominating the list. Black Ops took 1st prize, Modern Warfare 3 popped into 2nd, and Modern Warfare 2 took 3rd, while the original Modern Warfare is astonishingly high at 14th (not bad for a game released over four years ago). Another surprise is that Halo 3 still holds firm in 16th place. The full top 20 is listed below.
1. Call Of Duty: Black Ops
2. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
3. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
4. Halo: Reach
5. Battlefield 3
6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
7. Gears of War 3
8. FIFA 12
9. FIFA 11
10. Madden NFL 12
11. GTA IV
12. NBA 2K11
13. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
14. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
15. Battlefield 3 Beta
16. Halo 3
17. Gears Of War 2
18. Forza Motorsport 4
19. Red Dead Redemption
20. Call Of Duty: World At War
Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for my review of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and feel free to browse all the other content I have to offer on the blog. Happy reading 🙂