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Posts Tagged ‘Nintendo DS’

The Legend of Innovation: Part 1

Some video game series tend to fall into a comfortable pattern. As long as innovation still occurs and the things that make them great are improved upon, the games stay largely the same. When a developer has the guts to step out of their comfort zone, the rewards can often far outweigh the risks if it’s done right. While a lot of games in the Legend of Zelda series are very similar to the formula laid out by A Link to the Past, there are a few that stand out as games that dared to be different. With The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the first fully motion-controlled title in the series coming soon, I wanted to honor some of the others that went against the grain. Today, I’m going to start by talking a little about The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

With a game as good as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, both the bar and formula had been set for portable games in the series. Top-down action, item collecting and dungeon exploring adventures ensued. When Nintendo released the DS in 2004, they swore that all their big games were going to get the touch-screen treatment. If you told me back then that there was going to be an awesome Zelda game that required you to use mostly the touch screen to control it, I would have called you a fool and thrown a glass of water in your face.

While I honestly never quite got to the point where I could roll whenever I wanted to,  every other control was pulled off without a hitch. Moving by dragging the stylus feels natural, swinging your sword by slicing with the stylus is easy and fun and you can draw a path for your freaking boomerang. It would have been easy for Nintendo to have taken the easy route and allow you to control Link with the d-pad. Instead, they managed to not only make it work, they made it work well. Even the boat you sail around the world can be directed by simply drawing a path on a map. You can then enjoy the scenery and blast some octoroks on your way. While a bit controversial, the dungeon visited over and over with an added time limit each time, was an idea that I enjoyed. While a bit frustrating at times, it’s a great mechanism for testing the skills you’ve picked up elsewhere during the game.

Revolutionary control scheme aside, as a direct sequel to Wind Waker, the graphics are amazing. The colorful cel-shaded graphics have very few equals in the life of the system and fit perfectly with the theme the game portrays. Equally as colorful are the characters the story has to offer. Linebeck, the captain of the ship Link sails throughout the game, falls into a short list of Zelda characters in which I ended up being truly invested. The story itself has all the usual Zelda trappings, but does a great job of continuing upon the story set up in Wind Waker, which just goes to show you that any game linked either directly or indirectly to Ocarina of Time automatically gets bonus points.

In the end, the lesson that The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has to teach is a powerful one. While taking a chance doesn’t always work out, I’m not naming any names Star Fox Command, when it does, it can revitalize a series and make it feel fresh again. In three days, I’ll continue my tribute by tatling on a Zelda game that involves a mean-looking moon. That’s right, there were three Majora’s Mask references in the last sentence.

"Ni no Kuni" Coming To America

The video game collaboration between Studio Ghibli (Porco Rosso, Spirited Away, Ponyo) and Level-5 (Professor Layton series) is heading stateside.

Yesterday Level-5 president Akihiro Hino announced that the English version of the PS3 title Ni no Kuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joō (translated as “Second Country: The Queen of White Sacred Ash”) will be released sometime in America in early 2012. The game follows a young boy named Oliver, who receives a doll soon after his mother passes away. The doll reveals itself to be a fairy named Shizuka, who gives Oliver a magic book that can take him to an alternate world. There he goes on a quest to find a cure to revive his mother, battling all sorts of dangers with the help of his friends. Ni no Kuni features original animation from Studio Ghibli, as well as sound direction from acclaimed composer Joe Hisashi.

An official US release date for the Ni no Kuni DS title Shikkoku no Madōshi (“The Jet-Black Mage”) has yet to be determined.

Catch ‘Em All in the Big City

There is a pattern that has emerged which can predict how I will behave during the launch of a brand new Pokemon game.  First, I will be slightly interested and watch a couple of videos.  Second, I will decide that it’s not different enough from the previous entry and I will swear up and down that I’m not getting it.  Finally, about a week or two after its release, I will go and buy it anyways and still love it.  This has happened for the last three games in this series for me and will likely continue on, but since I’ve gotten the chance to play it, I thought I’d share how I feel about this latest entry into Nintendo’s biggest portable franchise.

From the very first time I pooped my copy of Pokemon Red into my Gameboy Color, I’ve loved this series.  Simply, the formula they’ve created works and if you compare Pokemon Black and White to their predecessors, you’ll notice that to its core, not much has changed.  You are still a rookie trainer who is just starting their journey to become a master trainer and has to collect gym badges while occasionally dealing with a group with “team” in their name that has some nefarious intention.  The thing that really makes getting into a new one of these games worth it, is the little changes that can really make a difference.

One of the best new subtle differences in these new titles are the dynamic camera angles.  Believe me, I know this sounds particularly trivial, but it really makes a huge difference.  Not only does it give a whole new life to the battles by zooming and panning around the screen while your pocket monsters do battle, but even in the environments you walk around in outside of battle are even more impressive because of this feature.  Speaking of battles, the sprites of your monsters, which were typically motionless when they weren’t attacking all now have an idle animation, which helps add character to the various creatures and make them seem a bit more real.

This next thing could easily be misconstrued as a bad thing, but has been quite enjoyable.  In the main part of your quest, the beginning until you defeat the elite four, there are nothing but brand spanking new Pokemon.  Once you complete the main quest, you can of course access a new area with familiar creatures and import ones from past games, but until then you get to have an experience much like that first game where every Pokemon you ran into is new.  As a fan who has been playing these game for years, I really appreciated this feature.

A new feature which I’m sure will give this game some legs is seasons.  The game is currently set to be in autumn, but each month we will be treated to a brand new season which will change the environment and give us access to new locations, items and Pokemon.  Paired with the time of day feature, this really makes the game world feel like a living breathing world that changes.  As well, this game takes place in a new region, the Unova region, which unlike most of the other games has a lot more of an urban feel to it.  With the dynamic camera you get to see everything from large skyscrapers, to giant highways which in and of itself gives this game an inherently different feel from the others.  The online features, though very similar to those of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, have been made a bit more convenient and they’ve even included video chatting for those of us who have a DSi.

In short, this game has a lot of reasons to write it off, but you will be doing yourself a disservice if you do so.  If you enjoy the addictive gameplay of the series, which I logged over 100 hours into Pokemon Pearl, then you will continue to enjoy it here.  If you think there’s not enough different about it, then give it a try, because the subtle changes may surprise you with how much they positively effect the games.  If you like Pokemon, you will enjoy this game, pure and simple.  If you haven’t gotten into it yet, go for it!  It’s a great series that is a lot of fun and can last you for quite a while.  You should definitely buy this game, it’s worth it.

Keep your eyes open next week as I will be standing in a line on saturday night so I can get my hands on the Nintendo 3DS.  I’ll be bringing you my impressions of the system on tuesday as well as launch day updates via Twitter as I stand in line on saturday night, so don’t miss it!  See you then, in three glorious dimensions!

Mentor Interactive: Cosmos Chaos

During 2010’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, I had the pleasure of speaking with a group called Mentor Interactive.  I was immediately swept off my feet by the passion that these folks had for the games they were making which were, as you may have guessed, educational in nature.  While companies like Nintendo have done some interesting things with educational game like Brain Age, they never really managed to find that happy medium between educational and entertaining.  With one of the titles shown to me by Mentor Interactive, I think we may finally have it.

When I was growing up, I watched a lot of cartoons.  I also played my fair share of video games.  If in that time, someone had come to me and said that I could play a game that is like the cartoons I watch and it counts as doing homework, I would have been on that faster than that sentence could end.  With Mentor Interactive’s Cosmos Chaos, it seems like that dream could certainly be possible for kids today.

Designed with 4th to 7th graders in mind, you play as a character whose dog, Hugo, gets captured by an evil villain by the name of Dr. Z, you have to upgrade your robot friend named Buddy to help you defeat Dr. Z and his robot cronies to save the universe.  The characters are fun and interesting and the story would fit right in with anything on Nickelodeon nowadays.  How does this have anything to do with learning do you ask?  The gameplay is masterfully designed so that the child playing is learning the entire time.

As with most RPGs, there is fair amount of talking to people around towns in this game.  What they’ve done is that throughout the conversation, certain words will allow you to look at their definition, which will give you experience points.  You can also obtain additional points by seeing the word used in a sentence.  Towards the end of the conversation, it even further reinforces the words by checking your understanding of what they mean.  The more you remember, the more experience you gain to contribute to your robot Buddy.

It also wouldn’t be an RPG without random battle encounters.  This is where Buddy comes into play.  The battles are very similar to normal role-playing games and you can hit extra-hard by hitting the button at the right timing as a bar goes along a slider.  Each enemy robot has a different color which corresponds to its weakness and Buddy has various attacks that he can use on enemies.  At the end of the fight, Buddy will gain some experience, but first you have to play one of a series of mini-games all based on the words that you’ve been learning throughout your conversations.  Even refilling health and the points Buddy uses to attack have logic based puzzles involved.

This game is so chock-full of learning, that a kid would not be able to make it out without learning.  If nothing else, the story is interesting, fun and provides a great opportunity to read.  Never have I felt more promise for an educational game than with Cosmos Chaos.  It is available now, so pick it up if you have or know a child that wants an awesome game that will also help them learn.  That wasn’t the only game I got to see from Mentor Interactive as well, so keep your eye out for more, but for now I’ll see you next week!

Possess This Game

It seems like few games today are difficult enough to have the humbling experience of dying near the beginning of the game.  With the game I’ve been playing lately, they’ve taken it one step further.  The very first thing you see in the game is a shot of your corpse.  Like it or not, you’ve died, even before getting started. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is not about whether you can survive, but how you use the afterlife that is given to you.

Capcom’s latest Nintendo DS venture comes from the creator that brought us the Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright series, Shu Takumi.  As I consider the aforementioned series one of the best on the system, I was pretty excited about picking this new game up.  If you enjoyed the adventures of Takumi’s famed attorney, then you will definitely enjoy this newest outing.  The characters are ridiculous and likable, the story is engaging in all the right ways and there are enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes.  It’s also got a very interesting art style with character animations that have rarely-seen fluidity for the DS.

As soon as the main character becomes aware of his situation, he learns that he has some interesting powers.  This fact sets up the gameplay for the different sections of the game.  As a spirit, you can move between different objects and with some you can perform a trick.  Using these tricks will allow you to move throughout the different areas.  As well, should you stumble across a freshly dead body, you can use your ghostly powers to travel back to the last four minutes of that persons life and prevent their death.

When you take this game down to its core, it’s a puzzle game with a fun twist.  As with the Ace Attorney series, if you were to strip the story out of the equation, the experience would be much less meaningful.  With the added motivation that the story gives you, it makes what would otherwise be a fairly simple point-a to point-b puzzler and vitalizes it.  It also flows quite nicely from chapter to chapter.  It’s very easy to say that I’m just going to play one more chapter and suddenly it’s 4am and I’ve played more like four more chapters.

For fans of the Phoenix Wright series, you definitely need to pick this one up.  For everyone else, if you have a DS and enjoy a good detective story, I also recommend picking this one up.  This just goes to show you that even with the 3DS looming on the horizon, there are still top-quality games coming out for the handheld already on shelves.

Another Kingdom Hearts that isn’t 3? Well… all right…

But the next one better be 3 damnit! This newest iteration of the series is a remake of a cellphone game named Kingdom Hearts: Coded. It was only released in Japan, but now with the remake on the DS North America will be able to experience the story of this installment of the series.

Set after the events of Kingdom Hearts II, the story revolves around a journal entry that Jiminy Cricket finds in his journal. The thing is, he didn’t write it. King Mickey orders the journal digitized and enters the digital world to find out more about this entry. While in this world, Mickey encounters a digital Sora, who the player will take control of. Digital Sora has to fight many “bugs” that look like red and black heartless on his journey to investigate the identity of “them” and to live out the contents of the journal so the truth can be unveiled.

• The future of the KINGDOM HEARTS series arrives on Nintendo DS: From world-renowned creator and character designer Tetsuya Nomura comes the latest installment in the beloved KINGDOM HEARTS series. Sora, Mickey, Donald, Goofy and a host of familiar faces from KINGDOM HEARTS and FINAL FANTASY unite once again for an exciting new adventure.

• Classic KINGDOM HEARTS gameplay with innovative twists: All-new features include a new character growth system created specifically for the Nintendo DS release, building on the series’ immersive blend of action and role-playing elements.

• An assortment of diverse and entertaining boss battles: Guide Sora like never before through boss battles inspired by side-scrolling, shooting and classic FINAL FANTASY games.

• Endless possibilities in the Avatar Menu: Players can design their own avatar using over 800 unlockable parts and trade playable maps with friends.

What really catches my eye about this game is the description of the boss battles. Apparently they range from classic KH style to side-scrolling battles to shooters. Too many games today are making boss battles feel too similar in the way they are fought, so if this game truly provides many different types of battles I welcome it to my DS library.

This growth system sounds very intriguing and it should make multiple playthroughs a lot of fun. The avatar system sounds like a little extra feature that won’t matter much, but 800 unlockable parts makes me wonder exactly what it will entail. Finally, the tradable maps that can be played and earn you items and avatar parts will add to the social aspect of the game. Using the DS’s Tag Mode to trade maps while you aren’t playing means that if you to a large gaming event there’s a good chance you could walk away with a lot of extra game time in the form of new maps.

I don’t know if these screens are from the original cellphone version of the game or the DS remake, but I am hoping they are not the remake. The DS is capable of graphics much better than what I see here. I’m looking forward to this game, but like I said before I am anxiously awaiting an announcement for Kingdom Hearts 3. These prequels and side stories on the mobile platforms are fun, but I want another epic adventure featuring Sora (the real one, not a digital version) and friends kicking heartless ass.

Episode LVIII: Cocaine Does Not Make A Prius Look Any Cooler

The Bastards make sure those other guys don’t have the cojones to take over their show!

This week the B3 crew discuss the week in sports, the new movie The Other Guys and the video games Snoopy Flying Ace, Try Not To Fart and Pokémon HeartGold Version. Plus the gang tries their hardest to bring back a childhood classic…

Holy Hell! Treyarch & Activision Release "Call of Duty: Black OPS" Multi-Player Trailer

Just when you think that Treyarch and Activision couldn’t come out with anything more, they go beyond the Call of Duty to bring you this crazy beast of a game. Looking from the new video that I obtain from the recent email of the multi-player trailer, it’s just absolutely mind-blowing.

(Please watch the video, because if you don’t you won’t understand what I’m saying!)

In the first part of the video you can see that they have created this special stationary camera (above) that can help you see around other areas that you wouldn’t normally be able to see. (Unless, of course, you had the set up from The Dark Knight, where he has the gun with the sticky explosives. Now just turn those into cameras, and it would be even sicker.) But I have to say with this tactical advantage you do have to put this in the right spots; otherwise wherever you put it it will be easy pickings.

Top pic: Crossbow Gun from COD: Black Ops
Bottom pic: The Real crosbow gun the Tac 15

Now what’s cool about the gun they show in the video is that it’s an actual real gun. They have taken the AR -15 gun and slapped it on to a sick crossbow frame. That is just absolutely beautiful, especially for just target practice or hunting. Now to actually see it in the game makes me happy. When this game comes out I know that I’m going to be running around doing my Rambo scream left and right. The video footage itself makes it look like the warheads were actually exploding! (Video provided more info on this very sexy gun. Damn, do I wish I was in Ballistics!)

Top pic: The new way to back stab! If you get tired of throwing, you can just shoot it!
Bottom pic: The actual Spetnaz knife that’s used in combat. It contains a charge to shoot out the knife.

This beautiful piece of equipment is called a Ballistic Knife. Its sexiness was featured on the First season of Deadliest Warrior, where they had the Army Rangers go up against the Spetnaz. (I have to say that was one of the most interesting pair-ups to see battle one another.) This blade is devastating because people think it’s just a knife; until it shoots off, stabs you, and finally makes you let out a nice blood-curdling scream as you bleed out.

RC explosive (Hmm…why does that look so familiar?)
C4 Drone from Frontlines: Fuel of War

Now if you’re wondering why I’m showing the other little RC bang fuck your dead vehicle, it’s so no fucking noobs on Call of Duty can say “Oh man, that’s the first of its kind in video gaming!” Man do I hate ignorant people, but with that said this little vehicle that is shown in the game is an awesome add-on to Call of Duty: Black Ops. Yet I feel that if people are able to see that you can blow up people with that, they will just think that it’s probably only that powerful to kill only soldiers. I’m hoping that they did it correctly and made the blast strong enough to drive this under a tank and take it out.

Sniper Rifle (Not sure if it’s moving too fast for me, but it sure is sexy!)

With what I have shown you, hopefully it’s opened your eyes to what these companies can do to in order to find the most up-to-date technologies to put into the game. It certainly helps to make the gameplay that more intense. I’m just glad that I have the common knowledge to find the actual weapons that were shown in the game to you so that you can see that they actually exist (or have at least been in another game). The graphics have been getting better, which is impressive because they have been putting these last couple games on the same systems. Now a few things I can hope to see from the game is that they added the Israel Corner Shot weapon (as seen in the movie Wanted and the Discovery show Future Weapons), bigger maps and some newer interesting weapons that many of you haven’t seen to date. My suggestion may be to go and put the money down on Call of Duty: Black Ops if you haven’t already, since they usually have a setup for you to get to play a beta or demo of the game before it comes out.

Call of Duty: BLACK Ops
Console/Platform:  XBOX 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii, DS, PC
Company: Treyarch/Activision
Gameplay: First Person Shooter
Release date: 11-9-2010

P.S. Here is more video on the PSE Tac 15 crossbow (which, if you got time to kill, is a seven-minute long promo), along with more videos of Call of Duty: Black Ops if you haven’t gotten to see them. Along with that I was showing you the main guns that were eye candy to me, since the other ones seemed like the same weapons that are often used in the COD series.

E3: A Sun, an Eye and an Ape With a Tie

I had such wonderful plans for my money: food, shelter, gas and toilet paper to name a few.  All of that changed however, when I played a selection of Nintendo’s lineup of games at E3 this year.  Nintendo was clearly the leader of this years E3 in terms of sheer volume of new game announcements and quality titles.  My Wii and DS are going to be working overtime and my wallet is already openly weeping.

As a huge fan of it on the SNES, my first stop was to check out Donkey Kong Country Returns.  To put it simply, this game is basically New Super Donkey Kong Country Wii.  A lot like New Super Mario Bros, it takes the foundation set by the original game and adds little bits of new things.  You’ll find all the original vine swinging and mine cart racing still there, but you also get co-op play, ground pounding and some plane-switching action.  All of the new stuff feels great and the two-player element really adds another dimension.  There is definitely the potential for some frustration, as both players share a pool of lives, but not nearly as much as the chaos created by the multiplayer in New Super Mario Bros Wii.

The level I got to play was jungle-themed much like those from the original, though there seemed to be a tiki twist to it as well.  The gameplay was extremely easy to jump right into and felt both familiar and fresh.  A lot of the action was your standard DKC platforming, collecting bananas and visiting bonus areas.  One odd thing that caught my eye was the inclusion of jigsaw puzzle pieces that strongly resembles the “Jiggys” of the Banjo Kazooie franchise as collectible items.  One new thing that also stood out was that, every once in a while, a barrel will shoot you into the background.  Once there, you’ll either hop into a bonus barrel or do some action back there in order to progress the level.  I know, it’s not a new concept by any stretch, but it is a welcome addition to the DKC formula.  To sum up, if you are a fan of the original games, then you will be love the feel of playing a Donkey Kong Country game again, if you are new to the series then this will be a great chance to get you into it and if you are not a fan then perhaps you should borrow it from someone who is and see if it doesn’t change your mind.

In the interest of heading straight for old favorites, I ran towards Goldeneye 007 next.  Sadly, they did not have a demo of the single player campaign available to play, but they did have some multiplayer set up.  I jumped in as Alec Trevelyan, but was immediately sad that I didn’t pick Odd Job.  While everyone else that was playable threw grenades, our favorite bowler-wearing henchman threw his hat.  We played using classic controller pros and it felt very natural right away.  To be honest, I loved the game, but I was terrible at it.  My butt-kicking aside, the shooting was very smooth and while adapting to how the FPS genre has evolved over the years, it still felt very much like Goldeneye 007.

After that, I saw an opening and dove in at Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.  I will proudly admit that my dog ran from the room and I hurt my voice cheering and clapping when they announced this game at last year’s E3.  Getting my hands on the game, it looks as though I won’t be disappointed.  In the demo at the booth, they had a battling section and a puzzle section to experience.  Mainly, the battle system simply got a facelift and a firmware update.  The 360-view camera pans and grandiose djinn attacks are still there, but better-looking than ever.  The character models, while still remaining in the Golden Sun art style, have a Final Fantasy IV DS feel to them.  Thankfully, the issues such as wasting an attack when an enemy in one spot dies and someone attacks thin air have been addressed.

In the puzzle section of the demo, again it was a mixture of the same formula with some small updates.  You are once again moving statues and pillars with your powers but some new things have been thrown in as well.  In the demo training area there were posters put up that you had to burn down with fire synergy.  Overall, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn looked very pretty, but was also quite familiar.  Is this a bad thing you might ask?  Absolutely not, says I, because that formula, familiar as it may be, was and still is a ton of fun.  I will very likely be clawing at the gate of my nearest DS game retailer when that game ships in Q4 of 2010.

These are just three of the games that I played while basking in the glow of Nintendo’s booth.  I will be back to talk about all the other Nintendo goodness that I experienced, later this week.  Hint: it may or may not involve a legend.