Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Generation's Future Nostalgic Games (Guest Article by Matt Petras)

As a young gamer who spends a lot of time watching gaming vlogs on Youtube, listening to gaming podcasts, and other things of that matter, I get subjected to a lot of older people reminiscing over games of their childhood. Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man 2, The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac-Man: They go on and on. This got me thinking: What are my generation's nostalgic games going to be? What games are MY generation going to tell their kids about and rummage through their garages to find?

I have created a list of the top ten games that will most likely be my generation's most nostalgic games, throughout childhood and teenage years. These games are not what I think I'm going to look back on, but rather my generation collectively. I'm 15, soon to be in 10th grade, so let's just say today's High School crowd. Within the next couple years this may change just a bit, but I think that this list is going to stay rather unchanged.

#1: 7th Generation Call of Duty Games
Can I hear a "Mr. Obvious!"? Call of Duty hit the teenage demographic and it hit it hard. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was by far the biggest first-person-shooter to release after Halo 3. It seemed as though if you were a teenager back in 2007, if Halo 3 didn't hook you, Call of Duty 4 did: Many got addicted to both. And if you hadn't tried either of them yet, your friends were begging you to. Once Activision cast its rod with Call of Duty bait, most of the teenage fish kept biting over and over again with World at War, Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops, and, after November 8th, most likely Modern Warfare 3.

Critical Highlights: Perfect review scores from GameInformer, Official Xbox Magazine, and more; Mark Bozon on Modern Warfare 2: " of the best first-person shooters out there..."
Sales Highlights: Black Ops is in 1 out of 8 US Households; Modern Warfare 2 made over 550 million dollars within the first five days of release

#2: Grand Theft Auto Series
When I was making this list, I almost forgot about Grand Theft Auto: Silly me! Grand Theft Auto was very appealing to guys around my age because, when the PS2 GTA's were coming out, we were still kids: Not teenagers yet. "There's a game where we can deal drugs, kill tons of people, and steal cars?! Count me in, but please don't tell my mom!" Other than the obvious appeal of playing a naughty video game, open-world games seemed to hit a sweet-spot for kids around my age. Not just the PS2 titles, but I think GTA4 as well as the GTA games on PSP are also going to be rather nostalgic for my peers down the line.

Critical Highlights: Perfect scores for GTA3 from Eurogamer, G4 TV, Official US Playstation Magazine, and more; Hilary Goldstein of IGN: "Without question, Grand Theft Auto IV is the best game since Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time."
Sales Highlights: 158, 000 units sold in first month for GTA Liberty City Stories on PSP; GTA Vice City has sold 17.5 million unites (as of March 2008)

#3: 7th Generation Halo Games
Being the first home console of the 7th Generation, the Xbox 360 was off to a good start. It was more powerful than any other console on the market, and had a very well-received online infrastructure. The PS3 was priced out of the market, Wii's were too hard to find, and Halo 3 was coming to the console. Halo 3 released and was a huge hit, both commercially and critically. Halo 3 was the first major first-person-shooter of this generation, and the general consensus is that it's very well-made to boot. The online multiplayer was what really hooked teens, and what kept them buying new Halo's as they released.

Critical Highlights Perfect scores for Halo 3 from GamePro, G4 TV, 1UP and more; Chris Watters from Gamespot: "...Halo: Reach is a towering achievement that delivers an enormous amount of engaging content that players will no doubt be enjoying for years to come."
Sales Highlights 170 million dollars made off on Halo 3 on day one; 2 million units of Halo ODST sold within first 24 hours

#4: Wii Sports/Kinect Sports/Sports Champions
Remember how huge the Wii was when it came out? "You wave your hand with the controller and the game picks up your movement?! Crazy!" Everybody wanted to try out the Wii, and the first game that most people tried was Wii Sports. The Wii and Wii Sports did so well, that the competition took note, with Microsoft creating the Kinect and Sony creating the Move. When you tried out the Kinect, you probably played Kinect Sports first, and if you tried out the Move, you almost certainly played Sports Champions. Motion Control has become, by far and large, the most successful new idea of this generation of consoles, and these three games showed people why.

Critical Highlights: Arthur Gies of IGN on Kinect Sports: "As an example of what Kinect can do, and as a point of entry for gamers and casuals alike, Kinect Sports delivers an easily accessible but surprisingly nuanced game."; 9/10 from Nintendojo for Wii Sports
Sales Highlights: Kinect Sports has sold 3 million units worldwide, as of August 19th, 2011; the Wii has sold 87.57 million units worldwide, each console including Wii Sports

#5: Spyro/Crash Games on PS1
The first home console I ever owned was a PS1. For most of my classmates, the PS1 may not have been their first, but it was certainly one of their firsts. And the two series that appealed to my demographic at the time the most were Spyro and Crash. These two action-platformers were colorful, kiddie, and well-respected. My classmates still to this day talk about their love for these two series and their lust for a true sequel for either series. The Spyro and Crash games are the Super Mario Bros. of my generation.

Critical Highlights: Perfect scores for Spyro: Year of the Dragon from GamePro, Official US Playstation Magazine, and more; Johnny Ballgame from Gamepro on Crash Bandicoot: Warped: "If you own a PlayStation, you're a fool if you don't buy this game!"
Sales Highlights: The Crash Bandicoot sereis has sold 34.4 million units on the PS1; The Spyro the Dragon series has sold 20 million units

#6: Jak and Daxter/Sly Cooper/Ratchet and Clank
When the PS2 was in its prime time (first 5 or 6 years), people my age were in the 9-12 range. The Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, and Ratchet and Clank games were geared right at that age demographic, and they did very well. Pull a male, high school student out at random and I guarantee they've played a game from one of those three series on the PS2. Many have probably played games from two of the series, some all three. These action-platformers were just mature enough to be raised above "kiddie" to be "cool" in the minds of my peers. I often hear my classmates talk about these games even today.

Critical Higlights Perfect score from Official US Playstation Magazine for Ratchet and Clank; Perfect score from FHM for Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
Sales Highlights All three Sly Cooper games received a "Greatest Hits" re-release; Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal sold 207, 500 units within first month

#7: Tony Hawk/Skate Series
Tony Hawk was the first skateboarding series that mattered. The series was a success with games across numerous platforms, such as the PS1, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, and Game Boy Advance. Skateboarding hits the 10-17 age group, so naturally it's the roughly the same for the Tony Hawk games. Many of my peers got addicted to the Tony Hawk games on the PS1 and PS2 in particular: I, myself have memories of playing the games at a friend's house and having a blast. The Skate series was the next big thing for skatboarding, with a revolutionary dual-stick control scheme. Once Tony Hawk got old, teens and kids moved onto Skate. I still have friends who love to play the Skate games, and even I had a good time with the first Skate.

Critical Highlights: Perfect review scores from Gamepro, Gaming Age, and more; Tony hawk's Pro Skater 2 on PS2 received perfect review scores from Gamespot, Games Radar, and more
Sales Highlights: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 was the third-best selling PS2 game of Novemeber, 2001; Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 sold 5.3 million copies by 2007

#8: Guitar Hero/Rockband
The three Guitar Hero games on PS2 became successful quickly after they released simply because of how original they were. There was nothing else like the the plastic guitar-strumming music-rhythm gameplay that the games provided. Rock Band was just as successful, adding drums and vocals to the mix alongside bass and guitar. My generation will look back on the battle between Guitar Hero and Rock Band, super-difficult songs like Through the Fire and Flames, and good times playing the games with friends fondly.

Critical Highlights: Perfect review scores from 1UP and G4 TV, among others; Hilary Goldstein on Rock Band 2: " game fans would be absolutely crazy not to buy Rock Band 2"
Sales Highlights: Guitar Hero 3 is the best-selling US video game since 1995; Rock Band DLC sports over 28 million downloads as of December 2008

#9: Super Smash Bros. Series
Like the GTA series, this is another one I nearly forgot. While the N64 original may be a bit too old for my generation, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl were a big hit for my peers and I. If you owned a Gamecube, you owned and were addicted to Super Smash Bros. Melee: Simple as that. The hype leading up to Brawl was overwhelming, and the final product didn't disappoint. Smash Bros. is, at least to me, the ultimate multiplayer game.

Critical Highlights: Perfect review scores from Nintendo Power, Gaming Age, G4 TV, and more; Matt Cassamassina on Brawl: "one of the great multiplayer titles of the generation and simply not to be missed."
Sales Highlights: Melee is the best-selling Gamecube game; Brawl sold over 500 million units on day one

#10: World of Warcraft
I know a lot of people around my age that play WoW: They ADORE the game. They pay monthly for it and never complain. They're close to exploding when each new patch for the game releases. And you know what everyone else's reaction to the game is?: "Ha, that game is so nerdy!". Making fun of World of Warcraft is just as prevalent as the people who play it. Because of this, World of Warcraft is a game that will never leave the minds of my Generation.

Critical Highlights: Perfect review scores from G4 TV, Gamespy, Gameshark, and more for original World of Warcraft; Dustin Quillen from 1UP on WoW Cataclysm: "...I'm enjoying Cataclysm quite a bit -- more so than any other Warcraft expansion to date, in fact."
Sales Highlights: 8.6 retail units sold in US for all versions of World of Warcraft, as of July 2009; 4.7 million copies sold of Cataclysm within first month

Honorable Mentions:
Uncharted Series
Gears of War Series
Left 4 Dead Series
Super Mario 64
Super Mario Sunshine
Little Big Planet
God of War Series
Mario Kart Series

This is a highly-debatable topic, so please, sound off in the comments with your take!

This article is a guest submission by video game blogger Matthew "matt456p" Petras. If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to check him out at the following sites:

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Submissions

Hey everyone,

I have been toying with the idea lately of networking with other video game bloggers and setting up a collaborative network of sorts, one in which we write for and promote each other's blogs and we mutually benefit from it. I have submitted guest articles to a few blogs out there, but I have only just started accepting guest submissions for my own blog.

The kind of guest submissions I would be looking for, and interested in writing myself in return, are as follows:
  • Video game reviews. I mainly stick to recent, current-generation releases, but I am also interested in games from past generations, rarities, imports and hardware reviews. In short, if it's gaming-related, I'm interested.
  • Opinionated articles and rants, provided they are well presented and backed-up with factual points.
  • Industry news, gaming news and other topical discussions that are of interest to the gaming community.
  • Lists (such as "Best Of" and "Top 10") that cover any aspect of gaming or gamer culture.
  • Buyer's guides to a particular series, genre or gaming platform
So what is the benefit of collaborating? Well, networking with other bloggers is a great way to gain exposure to your own blog or website and have some fun meeting like-minded people in the process. Similar to other venues like Youtube and Tumblr, promoting other people's work and having your own work promoted helps both parties gain exposure and a greater following. It's win-win.

If you are interested in writing for my blog and/or having me write for yours, hit me up in the comments below or through a direct message on Twitter (@browland1) and we can discuss possibly working together on something. Please include a link to your blog or website so that I have an idea of what kind of writing you're into.

That is all for now. Thanks for reading and supporting my blog!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Shadows of the Damned (Xbox 360, Playstation 3)

The combination of video games and comedy is a mixture that doesn’t always work, since for every laugh-out-loud hilarious game like Conker’s Bad Fur Day, there is the painfully unfunny Leisure Suit Larry and Naughty Bears. There is often a fine line between the effective use of toilet humor and sexual innuendo and drowning the gaming experience in a sea of groan-worthy jokes that ultimately kill the experience Thankfully, Shadows of the Damned fall into the latter category and succeeds at giving us a playable, if unremarkable, third-person action game that combines equal parts Resident Evil, Alan Wake and a very adult sense of humor.  Be warned, this game is not for everyone, but read on if you’re intrigued.

The story for Shadows of the Damned concerns a demon hunter named Garcia Hotspur, a gun-toting ruffian who is as quick with the sexual puns as he is with his guns. The game begins with a confrontation with the demon lord Fleming in which Garcia’s girlfriend Paula is killed and taking through a portal into the depths of hell, and Garcia being a pillar of male bravado, jumps in after her and spends the rest of the game trying traversing the nightmarish levels in an effort to save her.  This being hell, the rules of light, dark and logic do not apply. At various points, your surroundings are plunged into a thick darkness that drains your health, forcing you to light goat-head lamps to dispel the darkness and the creatures lurking within it. Aiding Garcia in his travels are two friends, the very aptly named Johnson and Big Willy, and they provide much of the comic relief throughout the game. Johnson is a floating skull with a British accent who transforms into the various guns that Garcia must use, plus he provides tips on how to use your weapons and get through the environment. Big Willy is a floating creature that marks your checkpoints with flaming piles of excrement, which sounds ridiculous but you will often be very glad to see him once you have gotten through a particularly difficult area. Connecting the story and the characters is a Grindhouse-style of storytelling that gives the game a cinematic feel that works for the most part, although the dialogue and it’s abundance of sex jokes and foul language is definitely not for every taste.

The story is told in a very straight-forward manner and the game plays out in a very linear fashion as a result.  Throughout the various pits, caves, towns and houses, you are given a minimal amount of freedom to explore and find hidden items, such as red gems that upgrade your items, liquor bottles to boost your health and ammunition for your weapons. However, this is really were the freedom stops as there is only one right path to get through the levels and the game keeps you moving towards these bottlenecks at a good pace. To prevent backtracking, paths close behind you, doors lock and even ladders you just climbed become inaccessible, so take a little extra time to explore before moving onto the next area. Similar to Resident Evil, the levels are broken up in stages and chapters, each containing one or more boss battles.  To break up the “rinse and repeat” monotony, you are given various levels that break the “A to B” level design, such as a shooting gallery level, a side-scrolling shooter level and a few puzzles that add variety. These provide some whimsical fun but are little more than diversions you’ll neither be frustrated with or blown away by.
Those familiar with the Resident Evil style of gameplay will immediately feel at home with Shadows of the Damned, as it controls very similar to latter entries in the series. All of your guns have a laser-like aiming system that takes a little getting used to, but unlike Resident Evil, you are able to move around while aiming and shooting and I see this as an improvement on the old formula. The guns are stylish implements of hell but they function as three different weapon classes; the pistol, shotgun and machine gun. These guns are upgraded as you acquire blue gems throughout the game and each gun has two kinds of shots, the standard rounds and a burst of light that is used to light lamps and weaken creatures shielded by the darkness. The weapons feel meaty and powerful , and the pistol (called the Hot Boner) even shoots sticky rounds that explode. As you can tell from that last sentence, everything about this game is a sexual innuendo of some kind. The difficulty level here is moderate and most gamers will only find certain areas frustrating, however the boss battles generally will not be among them. Most bosses follow the “shoot the red area until the creature dies” formula and well-timed shooting and dodging pretty much assures success in most battles. The frustration comes in levels where you need to be either very quick to get away from certain creatures or very accurate in shooting. To divulge more would be spoiling plot points, but you will know what I mean when you play the game.

The graphics and sound production is fantastic and, similar to my opinions on Alice: The Madness Returns, they save the game from being another garden variety third-person action game.  The game takes place in hell and this has given the developers license to make it as twisted as possible, though it is not done to quite the same effect as Dante’s Inferno. Environments are well detailed and full of subtle touches that will likely escape notice on the first playthrough, but the variety in the levels also serves to keep monotony at bay. Hell in this game is a mix of caverns, Victorian houses, swamps and other nasty places that are more creepy than nightmarish. There are some levels, such as a super-dirty vision of the Las Vegas strip and the haunted library, that provide the real eye candy. The aforementioned side-scrolling shooter level is done in a strange cardboard-cutout style that isn’t as impressive or quirky as the designers likely intended, but it’s one level and it’s over fairly quick. The dialogue between the characters, both the protagonist and the enemies, is one of the key selling points and they lay on the toilet humor very thick. This could work against most games, however Shadows of the Damned is so self-aware of its own ridiculousness that you’ll more often be laughing with the game than at it. Not every dick joke is a winner, but there were very few moments where I shook my head as one would at a bad comedian tanking in front of a crowded bar.
Shadows of the Damned was made to appeal to third person action fans with an irreverent sense of humor and it succeeds very well at giving you a fun diversion for about 8 hours. Stripped to its bare essentials, it’s a playable action game with familiar controls and gunplay mechanics, and the style elevates it to something rather unique. Personally, I have fallen out of love with the Resident Evil games over the years and it is refreshing to play a game that combines elements of that series with newer action games like Alan Wake. However, my initial caveat stands – there is nothing about this game that is remotely tasteful, so don’t buy this for your kids or for anyone whose sensitivities might be offended. For those like myself, with a cheeky grin and a gutter-bound mind, this is definitely a game for you to check out.  
Rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: The Last Rocket (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad) - Review by SplatterTrigger

Very rarely do I come across a game that pulls at my nostalgic video game roots at the way that The Last Rocket did.This is an iOS puzzle/platformer that is only available for your iPhone,iPAD and iPOD Touch. Gleaming with 8-bit charm and catchy chip tunes I instantly fell in love with this enjoyable game. But before I continue to gush about it let's clear up the basics.

You play as Flip,the Last Rocket,and your goal is to collect scattered memory bits. The scattered memory bits will aid the on board Autonomous Mechanical Intelligence (AMI)escape before a ship tumbles into a star.The story does take a backseat somewhat but you can get different endings depending on how you complete the game. Each level takes up a single screen with a combined number of 64 levels with 8 per stage. A puzzle in essence is the level itself. Honestly figuring a majority of them out isn't to much of a challenge (until the later stages). Trying to collect all the gears (some are hidden)in each level; along with mastering a great deal of coordination and reflexes; is were the true challenge lies. And believe me you WILL be challenged! But not to the point of complete frustration. One of The Last Rocket's charm is the ability to frustrate you but not to the point of tossing your iOS device away. For some reason you'll find yourself diving right back in after a death.

Controls are handled by a simple touch or swipe to move Flip.Swiping will cause Flip to side step; to a limited degree; depending on the environment's restrictions. By a simple touch Flip will blast off the surface. Touching again will send Flip in a reverse direction. Using these two mechanics is key to solving the games puzzles and collecting the gears for AMI. Mixing them in with moving platforms,spikes,air vents and flame jets ,to name a few, only heightens your precise timing.

8-bit graphics bring a very retro feel to The Last Rocket. Especially to those of us that hail from the 8-bit gaming generation. Original chip tunes also add to the retro feel. Shaun Inman did an incredible one man job(and YES he did the music as well) of creating The Last Rocket.For $2.99 this indie video game is a steal in my opinion.

Now only to to better my time.....

Check out The Last Rocket here

This review is a guest submission by video game blogger and Youtube personality SplatterTrigger. If you enjoy his reviews, please be sure to check him out at the following sites:

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nintendo's Predicament - Shrinking Sales and Salaries

Nintendo has been in the headlines of the gaming world a lot lately, due to positive factors such as their showcasing at the E3 expo and the hype surrounding their next console, as well as less-positive factors such as the 3DS hitting below projection and the revelation that Nintendo is reporting a staggering 50% loss in earnings over the same quarter last year. The 3DS is the likely culprit and Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, has taken "personal responsibility" and a 50% cut in his salary. This has many gamers thinking that Nintendo is on point and making amends in a classy and sincere way, however I am looking at this more as a PR move to save face and shift more units. 

To address the first point about the loss in earnings, it is indeed disheartening that Nintendo, which has dominated console sales in recent years and has long since owned the handheld market, is losing steam. The Wii and Nintendo DS has sold phenomenally well, however both have since slowed down as the other consoles have caught up. The 3DS launch was lukewarm because, in my opinion, the high price combined with the paucity of A-list titles available. Like many people, I was disappointed that the launch didn't include games like Kid Icarus, Starfox, Mario and Zelda. Some quality games were made available, but certainly not enough to entice me to shell out $250. Nintendo has blamed a "changing market" combined with stiff competition from Apple as factors in the 3DS not hitting sales projections, however I think the outcome would have been different had better titles been available right out of the gate and the price slightly lower. That's my take on it, anyway.

The second point is the controversial price cut for the 3DS, which occurred within the first few months of the system's like and jilted those who paid full price. Nintendo has apologized for this and offered some compensation, but I believe the price cut to be strategic as well. Knowing Nintendo, being a business like any other, they would sooner drop a system altogether instead of selling it at a loss, so the price cut is a move to shift more units in a shorter period of time, especially with the holidays only being a few months away. While Nintendo might not make as much money per unit, the real money is in the game sales and this is really the sweetest plum. The purchase of the console is (one would hope) a one-time investment and it's the software titles and the DLC that keep the money flowing, so more units sold means more games sold. Added to which, the sales of games from the Nintendo online store and the virtual console will pad the coffers nicely. Make no mistake, Nintendo is not going to sell the 3DS at a loss or lower the price only to see increasingly diminishing returns - this is all strategic and I hope it works. Heck, the price cut has enticed me further, especially with better games on the horizon.

The last point and one that I've seen some very interesting discussion on, is the paycut that Iwata and the other executives at Nintendo have taken. Some feel that this is an altruistic move that shows both that the humble brass at Nintendo has heart, and an exemplification of the cultural difference between the Japanese business ethics and the greedy, money-grubbing American executives. Others, myself included, don't doubt that it's well intended but we view it more as PR stunt to save face and restore some consumer confidence. Iwata was making, with conversion, close to $2 million and his paycut now brings that down to less than $1 million. This seems like a lot and one could argue that other CEOs get paid many times that much, but what has not been published is how much Iwata makes in stocks, shares and bonuses. This is based on pure conjecture on my part, but I'm willing to bet that anything he loses in salary will be made up for in his other interests in Nintendo. 

Believe it or not, it is very common for CEOs and other company executives to have low salaries because they are often big shareholders. For example, Steve Jobs of Apple only makes an annual salary of $1.00. That's right, one measly dollar. His millions come from shares in Apple that have rocketed in recent years thanks to the iPod and iPhone and the growing popularity of Mac computers. Similarly, Eric Schmidt of Google took home just under $315,000 in 2010 while Jeff Bezos of made less than $2 million (Source). Given that these are massively profitable companies, certainly leaps and bounds ahead of Nintendo, you would think their CEOs and presidents take home massive paychecks...and you'd be right, just not in the sense of where the money actually comes from. 

My point in this article is that Nintendo seems to be going into panic mode at the first sign of shrinking profits, and this is understandable given how well they have performed over the past years. This is a sign of changing times in the game industry and Nintendo is feeling the pain like so many others, but I hope people understand that they are still a business whose primary objective is to make money and they will adjust their business model accordingly. The 3DS price cut and the PR machine kicking into hyperdrive is just the first wave.,