Dom Reviews: Splatoon—Not Squidding Around

Puns, yay!

Splatoon finally came out this past Friday! Cue excitement from me and many others, I presume. The hype around this game has been building for essentially a year now, since last year’s E3, so I jumped at the chance to write something about it. However, I’m not in big press. So although I played both available demos, I hadn’t received a review copy. This puts me in an awkward position: if you wanted to read a review about Splatoon, you’ve probably done so by now. You would know the major pros and cons (which, don’t worry, I’ll still go over) the game has. While I wasn’t lucky enough to get a review copy, I still got to spend a good number of hours with it, and I love it! Plus, this has given me the unique opportunity to discuss some of the more intriguing points that have been missed along with the traditional game review points.

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Smash Bros. 4: Smashing a Typical Review

Get it? It’s a pun because I’m going to talk about Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U. I was fortunate enough to recently purchase this game in addition to the console and I couldn’t be happier. Judging by reviews and fan responses, I’d wager that many people are happy with these purchases, too. However, I feel like discussion on the game is a bit lacking on a few topics, specifically regarding character choice.

SmashBrosLogoFirst things first, however. If you’re looking for a review of Smash Bros. 4 (what many fans are using as shorthand), here’s mine: it’s fun, has a lot of content, and has great artistic and musical direction. You can tell effort and care was present during the whole process. It has a few moments here and there of “extra” fluff, but everything is at least interesting. It deserves an A—not perfect, because that’s a relatively unattainable goal, but pretty damn amazing. I’ll keep it short, mostly because if you’ve seen one Smash game from Nintendo, you know what to expect. To me, the quality and fun of the game is at a high level, but is not the real story here.

This is a perfect chance to look at some issues that are at play within the game besides a purely mechanics-based, “objective” overview. In AAA development, quality should be expected (although we’ve seen some recent, huge transgressions) and is important, but it’s often the least interesting aspect of game development. We know the newest installment of GTA will be massive and technically sound and impressive, but what else? Sure, if a game is mechanically flawed, tell me; I do want to know if I’m about to purchase a glitch-riddled mess. Otherwise, I want to hear something a little deeper. What stories are we telling? Who’s involved? Do the mechanics bear any meaning, or are they simply just a vehicle to deliver the game? What does a game say about the world we live in? These are questions that are ever-present and deserve to be asked. Continue reading

A New Shiny Pokémon World

Gentle readers,

We talked about Pokémon a little bit recently. If for some reason you live under a rock, the 6th generation of Pocket Monsters’ games was released just a few weeks ago. If you, like me, are the lowest kind of nerd (besides Warhammer 40k players), you might have already played your way through the games. Let me say again how refreshing it is that the Fire-type starter doesn’t evolve into Fire/Fighting.

The Fire/Psychic combination is ideal to take advantage of a high special attack, a refreshing change from having to try split power moves between the Physical and Special categories. In short, I’ve been giggling like a kindergartener as my Delphox and I pyrokinesis our way across Kalos. This is just one of a few big changes that Gen6 brought with it. There’s also the new Fairy type, introduced as a balance for the Dragon-type (which, yes, 5 generations since Dragonite, still needs balancing), featuring a couple of old favorites were previously Normal-types like Clefable and the new Legendary, Xerneas (who will become important later).

Masahiro-sakuraiAll this to say nothing of Sky Battles, which only Pokémon that can fly or levitate may enter, or unprecedented trainer customization. There’s a new feature called PokéMon-Amie (get it?) that allows the player to pet and interact with their Pokémon. They’ve also widened and upgraded the internet-based Player Search System so you can trade and battle players all over the world. It’s a new shiny Pokémon world and I would like to take this opportunity to tell every hater who dismissed Pokémon as a fad in the 90s that they may, in fact, suck it. I apologize for the incomprehensible Pokéspeak, but I’m unaware of any other way to convey my excitement. Anyway, as I said, there’ve been some important Pokéhappenings. Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Super Smash Bros. uploaded this image to the games official page:


Captioned as “a photo taken during game development,” it’s pretty clearly the back of Xerneas’ head. This seems like strong indication that the Legendary Fairy (not to be confused with the Great Fairy) will be present in Super Smash Brothers for the WII U and 3DS. I suppose it’s possible that Xerneas might just be a PokéBall summon, but I doubt that because no one would actually be that cruel, right? So, that’s a thing that fans of Pokémon and SSB alike can get excited for.

The second little bit of news but one of primary import to any Pokémon players who might read this blog, Nintendo has confirmed that there is a savegame bug in Lumiose City, and that they will be releasing a downloadable fix to this problem. If your save has been rendered inaccessible by this bug, the fix should also restore your previous save file. Good news all around!

It’s an exciting time, I think, for the Pokémon franchise. With all sorts of new features, Nintendo has changed the ways in which players interact with the game. There’s a library of over 700 Pokémon which is crazy if you’ve been playing since the original hundred and fifty, and the new games were so anticipated that consumes bought 4 million copies in the first two days. It’s a good time to be a PokéFreak, I guess.

Boston Wanderings and Wii U

So I was in Boston for a week in August on a business trip, and in the evenings I would wander around fairly aimlessly. One night, I discovered Faneuil Hall, which is a sort of street fair, and there was a giant set of booths set up by Nintendo promoting Wii U and some of its many games. In general, the setup was poor, so I didn’t get to observe all of the games; in fact, I couldn’t tell you how many there were. Here are some of my opinions about the games that I did observe—I didn’t get to play any, sadly—that night.

wii u2In general, it seemed that gameplay for most of the games was too confusing or complicated for younger kids. While the kids (seemingly) ten and older had no trouble playing games without the assistance of one of the many Nintendo employees, everyone younger had at least one helper lending him or her a hand. This wouldn’t bother me if this was Sony or Microsoft who generally make games for an older, adult audience. But Nintendo prides itself as a family-friendly company making games that anyone at any age can play. With the new system, that doesn’t necessarily seem to be true.

Now on to the actual games that I spent significant time with:

Batman Arkham City

This seemed like a truly awesome game. While I didn’t get the chance to play it (it had the longest line), it seemed like the most fun. It was the only game that had a wide appeal to different audiences; it had everyone from little kids to adults playing and having a good time. The only complaint I had from watching was everything seemed about the same color. The graphics themselves were great, but the coloring was so monotone that it got hard to differentiate between some of the backgrounds and some of the characters.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

Now before y’all go throwing a hissy fit, I want to reiterate that I did not like this game nor its graphics. If you’ve forgotten my opinion, go refresh yourself here. With that out of the way, the graphics of Wind Waker HD looked effing amazing. Since I had just gotten a refresher from my Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert (post on that is forthcoming) of the original Wind Waker’s graphics a couple days earlier, I could make a comparison without too much trouble. Original Wind Waker’s problem was that the graphics resembled something from Nintendo 64, seeming a step backward. HD, however, was crisp, colorful, and elegant. I feel that this was what the original Wind Waker attempted but really did not accomplish. This is the game in particular that demonstrated how difficult it is to play Wii U. The little kid playing looked confused as hell. I felt sorry for him, because the Nintendo employee tried to explain it and he still couldn’t get it.

In short, Wii U looks promising. For me, it is not worth the high price tag, but I’d consider looking into it when/if the price drops.

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The Good, The Bad, and Then There’s Sony: An E3 Summary

Just as soon as it started, E3 has come to an end, leaving us with fantastical highs and long side-glances of apprehension. But what was good and what was bad? Certainly I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll give my opinion on the games that I think should be watched with much interest.

Unfortunately, my fears about Microsoft and the Xbox One were not alleviated, but neither were they exacerbated. It seemed like there was a general sense of hopelessness about the whole conference, and really, not too much stuck out to me. At least nothing that made me want to buy the damned Xbox One. Though the controversies I brought up last time weren’t exactly mentioned, they were more than content to make some new ones. During a play demo of the upcoming re-vamp of Mortal Kombat, one of the female developers, who was losing the match (playing a fighting game on a touch pad against someone using an arcade stick isn’t exactly a fair playing field), was told to “just let it happen” because “it [would] be over soon”. Something I absolutely do not watch game expos for is rapey side-comments about women losing games. It was gross, and it was clear that the developer wasn’t having any fun—which, when people already don’t like your system, is not the best way to go. All around, Microsoft came off as extremely unsupportive of their female playerbase. No one is amused.

However, Microsoft did have a couple good games at their showing. The ones I’m most excited for are Sunset Overdrive, a Borderlands-esque shooter which takes place in Titanfalla futuristic setting that almost reminds me of Jet Set Radio, and Titanfall. People are already getting excited over Titanfall for two reasons: it’s developed by a sect of people that left the Call of Duty camp (people who were the good part of that camp, some would argue) so it’s clear they already know their way around the genre—and it stars a non-sexualized female in a position of power. Unfortunately, from the gameplay it doesn’t seem as though she will be a playable character, but I’m happy that she’s there, at least. In such a male-dominated genre, baby steps are definitely the safe method to integration, but we’ll see if it’s more than just a novelty in the coming years.

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E3 Has Me Shivering With Antici……Pation

Those winds are blowing again, my friends. The winds of a new generation carrying with them the remnants of fanboy and fangirl tears alike as brave gamers prepare their wallets for the blow that they’ll inevitably receive. Tomorrow, once more the e3logodoors of E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, will metaphorically open to the public and we’ll see what these big name developers have been hiding up their sleeves.

Already this year things are a little bit different, and drama already arisen. First off, and most notable in my eyes, is that Nintendo isn’t going to be holding a conference in earnest. Certainly, they’re still going to have a presence with a Nintendo Direct panel—a more general panel encompassing more than just the new system—going on Tuesday and a panel dealing with the newest Pokémon games, X and Y, happening later on in the same day. However, I don’t know if it speaks more about Nintendo itself or its competitors that they don’t feel as though it would be worth it to hold a panel as normal.

If you’ve had your toes in the water of the gaming world at all in the past few weeks, you probably already know the other drama. Word’s out: no one is really overly impressed with the Xbox One. Especially with its lack of backwards compatibility, need to be hooked up to the internet more often than any gaming system, save for PC, should, and the seeming vendetta against used games and sharing games in general. The viral advertising against Microsoft concerning this, legitimate or not, hasn’t helped matters much either. Of course, words are cheap and for many, waiting until the One was shown at E3 would be Microsoft’s defining moment. However, it’s rumored that due to the widespread unfavorable opinion on the console (as well as an assumed inability to dispute said opinion) Microsoft has canceled their post-show media roundtable. As much as I’m side-eying the company right now, I sincerely hope that this isn’t true. Not only would this look poorly on the company and the system, it would also be confirming my worries that this system is not something worth investing in. And with titles like Banjo Kazooie: Grunty Land and Mirror’s Edge 2 tempting my spending, I’d really like there to be something redeeming about the One.

To the surprise of no one, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for any news about Dragon Age III: Inquisition and The Last of Us, but more than that, I’ll be looking especially hard for how this new era of games is going to present their characters. Of course, there’s still going to be our Halo’s and other series that have long since overstayed their welcome, but with the current release of Remember Me—an action adventure game staring a (hopefully) un-sexualized female character—and even the past release of the new Tomb Raider, I maintain the hope that females will overcome their tropes and companies will create more and more diverse characters that do more than just look pretty. (Although other aspects of the industry are continuously still trying to ignore that half the gaming audience is, indeed, female, which is a little disheartening.) With games such as Bayonetta 2 being listed—despite there being no confirmation if the title will actually make it to the E3 showroom—I think this is a good sign for progress on that front. It’s impossible to know for sure, however.

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

If you’re interested in looking at the state of the union, so to speak, you can watch the IGN stream here or the YouTube stream here. E3 starts tomorrow, Monday the tenth, at 9AM PST (Noon EST), so to make sure you hit the video streams you want, make sure to check out the schedule. I’ll be liveblogging on my tumblr (tagged “E3pocalypse ’13), so feel free to drop me a message telling me your opinion, or simply leave me a comment here.