My Wii gathers dust for about 80% of the year. The only time I turn it on is for exclusive AAA releases and those are few and far between nowadays. Once people have seen the Kinect in action they want no part of the Wii anymore.
“The back half of any system cycle always attracts a higher proportion of buyers who are concerned with price, ease of use and group play.… [T]his late-adopter group is the next audience for the Wii,” he said in an e-mailed statement.
Call me edgy, but it seems to me that once you’re depending on the “late-adopter” group, your product is on its last legs.
Shame on you if you aren’t already click-clacking your way to plastic musical instrument heaven today. Harmonix’s Rock Band 3 releases today on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS and many reviews are already calling it the “best rhythm game ever.”
If you’re the poor soul that hosts your circle of friends’ Rock Band get togethers, there’s at least a $129.99 investment you have to make today to buy the game and new keyboard peripheral. On the bright side, it’s an actual MIDI keyboard so you can justify it by saying you got a “real” musical instrument, but we all know you’re just going to use it to hit five colored notes while getting drunk with your friends.
It’s alright. No one’s judging you. Except maybe your mom.
To celebrate a return to the best home karaoke platform ever, I’ve put together a Grooveshark playlist of 82 of the 83 songs in Rock Band 3. (The only song not on here is John Lennon’s Imagine, which i “imagine” is not on Grooveshark because of licensing reasons.) Enjoy getting to know these songs! It’ll be especially fun if you don’t know Spanish and get roped to sing the Juanes song. My heart goes out to you.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. The worst Metroid game is better than 90% of all the single player action-adventure games out there. The sense of discovery, progress, and frenetic action that you get from playing a Metroid game offers a feeling of fulfillment that few other gaming franchises can.
That being said, Metroid: Other M is definitely one of the weaker entries in the series. (Metroid Prime Pinball nonwithstanding)
It’s a little odd because Other M looks and smells like a Metroid game, but somethings a bit off with it. Perhaps part of it is the game’s focus on “storytelling and character development.” It’s the first Metroid game to utilize CGI cutscenes and voice acting heavily. And I do mean heavily. Some of these scenes clock in upwards of ten minutes.
Now, the length of the cutscenes isn’t so much the problem as the content. As the story was unfolding, I couldn’t help but feel like it was as awkwardly written and campy as Resident Evil. For example, one of the introductory movies explained at length why everyone in Samus’s old military unit gave the “thumbs up” sign after hearing mission orders. Then, in an incredibly melodramatic fashion, we got a very solemn monologue voiced by Samus as to why she gave the “thumbs down” sign instead as a symbol of independence.
At least, that’s the gist of what I remembered. Frankly, the entire thing played out to me as “blah blah thumbs up blah blah thumbs down.” I welcome engaging storylines and characters in my games, but Other M just reeked of B-Movie quality/self-aggrandizing-Japanese-Video-Game-Director-aspires-to-write-best-space-epic-ever. As I played through the game, I found myself pitying the poor localization dude who had to translate pages and pages of melodrama into English without making it into a complete joke. He tried his best, but putting frosting over poop is still poop.
That’s not to say the cinematics were shoddily presented; they actually look quite amazing for a 480p Wii title. The voice acting is also well done, with Samus sounding exactly like how I had imagined her. However, this leads to another problem, which is her characterization.
Other than some hints dropped here and there (she’s a girl!), the character of Samus has largely been left up to the imagination for the last 24 years. I’d wager that many people would consider her a badass no-nonsense bounty hunter who leans towards the side of angels, if anything. Making Samus’s past the focus of Other M‘s story ends up weakens the character because it pulls back the curtain to reveal one person’s interpretation of her (the director who thinks he’s a better storyteller than he actually is). She comes off as petulant, juvenile, needy, and emotionally inferior to her male counterparts. Instead of feeling like I was playing as an unfathomably hot Boba Fett, I began to feel like I was babysitting a needy girl who’s in way over her head. Not cool.
As for the actual game itself, the best thing I can say about it is that it kept my full attention (well, other than the cutscenes) throughout the 8 or so hours it took to complete. It’s a Metroid game so there’s thrilling shoot outs, timed escapes, tricky platforming, and creepy atmospheres. While some purists may cry foul at the forcefed waypoint directions, I did appreciate their purpose in keeping the game moving along at a nice pace. Rare was the case in which I was genuinely stuck.
However, the most egregious offense on Nintendo/Team Ninja’s part was shoehorning in a hybrid 1st person mode into the game. I’m talking about the gameplay mechanic where you have to constantly flip the Wiimote from a horizontal position in your hands to a position where you’re pointing and aiming at the screen.
In three words: It. Doesn’t. Work.
Not only is this motion awkward, it must be done in the middle of frenetic action moments! So you’re not only performing a complicated motion with your hands, you have to shift from a 3rd person view to a first person view on screen where you’re completely rooted! I don’t know about you, but this took a heavy cognitive toll on my brain. It wasn’t so much the concept of swapping back and forth, but the frustration I felt in having to run around an enemy, stop, flip the controller, get the aiming reticles right, and press the right button. More often than not, by the time I got the complex series of motions done, I had lost my opportunity to damage the boss’s weak point or had to reposition because enemies had caught up to my rooted position. It may have sounded like a good idea in the brainstorming session, but I can’t believe that this got through any sort of hands on testing.
It may sound like I’ve spent the last 900 or so words just blasting Metroid: Other M on its faults, but understand that it comes from the viewpoint of a series fan. The game is still worth playing if you’re into the series; just dont expect something on par with Super Metroid or Metroid Prime. If you’re a newcomer to the franchise, you could do a lot worse than Other M, but I strongly recommend you play the aforementioned first as a better showcase of what a Metroid game is really capable of in both 2d and 3d. Playing through either one of those games should leave you with the feeling that you’ve experienced some of the best titles the medium has ever produced.
Although Metroid has been one of Nintendo’s most storied franchises, it’s also paradoxically one of the least understood. Countless times I have seen people embarrass themselves (usually nostalgic gaming poseurs) by referring to Samus Aran as “Metroid”. No, you ninny,”Metroid” is the furthest life form from an attractive female bounty hunter. They are translucent life-sucking alien jellyfish with giant fangs. Capiche?
Nerd rage aside, Metroid lore can be a little confusing, so no one will judge you if you need to watch this 7 minute catch up video on what happened in the previous games. It’s a good time to catch up before Metroid: Other M releases on the Wii next week, as it promises to be a lot more focused on character and story than any other Metroid game prior. (For the first time ever, there’ll be voice acting in a Metroid game!)
However, we’ll still judge you if you pull the faux pas of calling the main character “Metroid.”
Disney recently put out the intro cinematic for the game and in it you can clearly see how much of a dick Mickey Mouse is. I mean seriously, who goes and messes up someone else’s carefully created world by bringing in a darkness of unimaginable horror then bounces back into his own dimension for 50+ years without so much as leaving a courtesy note?
Let me tell you a shameful secret of mine: I never played Goldeneye 64. Well, substantially anyway. I dabbled in it a couple of times, mainly at large social gatherings and never for an extended period of time. I was too busy being narrow minded with my elitist “mouse and keyboard 4 life” worldview as a teenager. But I did understand that it was (and still is to many people) the most beloved console FPS ever. With this in mind, I had a go with 4-player split screen multiplayer for Eurocom’s (published by Activision) upcoming remake of Goldeneye for the Wii at E3.
Now, I couldn’t tell you if this game fully recaptured the magic of the original N64 Goldeneye, but I can tell you that the game was a fairly fun Wii FPS. Activision smartly had a setup of Wii Classic Controller Pros (depicted above), which are basically Wii Classic Controllers with “love handles.” The handles make a big difference in ergonomics, especially for FPSs. It doesn’t feel quite as natural as an Xbox 360 controller for the genre, but definitely brings the Wii on par with the Playstation Dualshock. Having two analog sticks changes the gameplay experience too, but probably for the better.
Goldeneye Wii did seem rough around the edges though, at least in 4-player split screen. I noticed that there were no on screen notifications. There were no kill announcements nor any on screen score report of any sort so it was hard to know how I was doing at a given time without bringing up the intrusive scoreboard. It also didn’t seem as if there were any items on the level to pick up as well. Whether this was intended or just a function of being a demonstration build was unclear. Unsurprisingly, frame rates also seemed slightly sluggish (yet playable) with a 4-player split screen compared to a 2-player split screen. I’ll chalk this one up to “demo build” and “Wii hardware”
Like the original title, you can select from many different Bond characters to take into deathmatch. I remembered that the infamous Oddjob model had some sort of unfair advantage, which my opponents at the booth confirmed with a question for the Activision rep. Apparently his model is no longer harder to hit, but he does have the ability to throw his hat for an instant kill. To counteract this, he can’t throw grenades, like the other play models can. I found the hat throwing not too big of an advantage as it takes some time to wind up and does leave you vulnerable should you miss. I did manage to get a few kills like this though and it felt mildly satisfying, kind of like a lite-humiliation kill.
Hopefully, Eurocom will polish the game up when the game is finally released. Given past Wii FPS entries, I don’t think I’d expect Goldeneye Wii to compete with the big boys, namely Call of Duty and Halo on the 360/PS3. However, it could be a great source of nostalgia for those who cherished the original. I’d be curious to see how those fans receive this remake when it releases.
Oh, and I finished the 10-kill limit deathmatch in second with 8 kills. I blame trying to go for the hat kill too much.
Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii courtesy of Retro Studios (Metroid Prime).
That’s pretty much all you need to know about the game. If you have fond memories of playing Rare’s beloved Donkey Kong Country on your Super Nintendo, you’ll feel right at home in this 2D sequel on the Wii.
It’s clear that Nintendo didn’t tune the difficulty of this game to be as easy as, say, Super Mario Galaxy. One of the first things I noticed about DKCR was that I couldn’t sleepwalk through the game. Donkey Kong has three hearts and once he loses all three, you have to replay the level. Replenishing these hearts isn’t as easy as picking up the coins being thrown about you in Mario Galaxy as hearts seemed to be few and far between. Perhaps this was compounded by the fact that I felt extra pressure to play perfectly because my demo time was constrained on how many lives I lost. Nevertheless, I consider myself a fairly competent platformer, and was definitely challenged throughout the demo.
The E3 demo consisted of a 3 levels of which I was given the choice of playing 2. I first had a go with a boss stage involving a typical “jump on his head three times” encounter that I thought I would breeze through, but ended up having to concentrate to defeat. The encounter involved platforming boss mechanic standbys such as “run under the boss as he jumps really high” and “avoid the charging boss so he hits the wall and you can jump on his weak point.” I was thrown off, though, by the unpredictability of when the boss would leap high enough for me to run under and how quickly he would recover from the stun of running into the well. The other level was a standard side-scrolling platforming level that reminded me of the first level of the original Donkey Kong Country.
Donkey Kong has three moves he performs in the game: ground pound, big breath blow, and a spin attack. You may be familiar with these moves if you’ve played Super Smash Bros. Each is done by pressing a particular combination of buttons on the nunchuik and Wiimote. It’s not as simple as the sideways wiimote 2-button action, but is almost there. Donkey Kong can use the ground pound to make certain items fall from trees or as an attack against enemies. The breath maneuver can be used to blow the leaves off plants and flowers, uncovering hidden items. You can guess what the spin attack is used for.
Something new to the series is the utilization of Diddy Kong as a “helper” rather than a tag team partner. Once you break Diddy out of a “DK” labeled barrel, he will ride on top of Donkey Kong with his J=jetpack. Controlling Donkey Kong still, you’ll be able to hover for a short time while also being able to fire peanuts from Diddy’s cannon. More importantly, Diddy will also add two hearts to your life meter, increasing your survivability. Lose those two extra hearts, though, and Diddy will disappear again.
Although it was not playable at the show, I was told there would also be a 2 player co-op mode with the second player controlling Diddy. Not many more details would be given by the Nintendo rep, so we’ll have to see what this will entail exactly. It definitely sounds like something that could be fun, although I hope it’s not as passive as Super Mario Galaxy’s “co-op” play.
Other than that, the game is pretty much what you would expect from another entry in the Donkey Kong Country franchise. Nintendo has even brought back the iconic collectibles from the original franchise as well. You’ll want to replay levels to collect bananas, letters spelling “K” “O” “N” “G”, and also golden puzzle pieces. (My friendly Nintendo rep would not disclose what these are for yet)
Nintendo has had great success reconnecting with it’s 2D platforming roots in New Super Mario Bros Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns looks to continue that streak. If you’re a Wii owner who’s nostalgic for the ol’ DKC or just love 2D platformers, you’ll probably want to give this one a look this fall. Just keep in mind it’ll be a tad more difficult than some of the more recent platform games.
Ever wish you could hear Samus’s voice in a Metroid game? Metroid: Other M (MoM) makes those wishes come true.
Metroid games have traditionally been about solitary exploration and incidental narrative through found logscanning, but MoM represents a distinctive departure for the longstanding franchise with it’s heavy emphasis on cinematic storytelling. Virtually every character is voice acted as well, which is something Nintendo doesn’t often do for their games.
I almost felt guilty for indulging in MoM’s lengthy cutscenes at Nintendo’s E3 booth. It felt a little unsettling at first, but I quickly became accustomed to this New Metroid Order.
Without giving away story spoilers, MoM sheds a spotlight onto Samus’s origins. Here’s a character we know almost nothing about over the past 25 years other than her gender and profession. It’s kind of weird to all of a sudden learn where she came from and how she’s felt about her adventures so far. I’m not ready to pass judgement on this game design choice yet, but I can say that I’m intrigued enough to see the whole thing through.
From it’s initial announcement at E3 last year, I always envisioned MoM playing like Ninja Gaiden meets Super Metroid. The playable demo at E3 more or less confirmed this assumption. MoM shifts between 2D and 3D planes depending on what part of the map you’re in. If you’ve seen last year’s Shadow Complex, you have a good idea as to what the 2D corridors look like.
In a surprising move, no nunchuk is used while playing this game. The default controls are similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii where you tilt the controller on its side. <insert obligatory snarky comment on the uselessness of motion controls in games>
Gameplay didn’t throw very man curveballs at me. If you’ve played a metroid game before, this game will feel very natural for the most part. I found the way MoM handled “crippling” Samus at the start to be novel. At the start of the game, Samus works with one of her friends from the Federation. They haven’t “authorized” her to use missiles or heavy weaponry yet, so that’s how her starting ordinance loadout is explained.
I do have to draw attention to how annoying the first-person aiming system is, though. At one point in the demo, I had to fight a boss that could only be damaged by missiles. Problem is, you can only fire missiles by switching into first person aiming mode and pointing the Wiimote at the screen. In theory this sounds intuitive, but in practice it’s awful. I felt like an invalid fumbling around with the Wiimote trying to defeat this particular boss.
The problem lies with the fact that you have to completely change the way you hold the controller in a pressure-filled twitch action sequence. It’s just doesn’t feel natural to be flipping around the controller when you have a 2 second window in which to flip, aim, and fire. Novel exploration mechanic, sure. Twitch boss fight mechanic, HELL NO. Sadly, I fear we may be too close to launch for any significant control changes.
Despite this, I’m too much of a Metroid fan to let this completely derail my enthusiasm for MoM. The game does contain Team Ninja’s signature movement fluidity (other than the aforementioned first-person aiming issue) and the cinematic cutscenes and voice acting are a fascinating new wrinkle for the series.
Metroid: Other M releases for the Nintendo Wii this August.
If there’s one thing I learned from my extended visit to the Disney Interactive Studios booth at E3 2010, it’s that Warren Spector’s (Deus Ex, System Shock, Ultima Underworld) has gotten the people at his new studio, Junction Point, to drink his game design Kool-Aid.
Multiple times throughout my demonstration of Epic Mickey, the point of player choice and consequences was hammered home at almost every section of the game. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s Spector’s signature game design element. Give the player the freedom to choose how to solve in game problems and give these choices weight through tangible consequences in the game world. It was a huge part of what made Deus Ex so beloved and it’s clearly an integral element in his first title for Disney, Epic Mickey.
Epic Mickey is an ambitious action-adventure-platformer title being developed exclusively for the Wii. The gameplay can be broadly described as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time meets Super Mario World with the water spray backpack from Mario Sunshine. Mickey will have access to paint and paint thinner, which allows him to manipulate the game world by erasing or creating objects and environments. None of these mechanics can be trumpeted as truly original, but their blended execution is what makes this game stand out.
I was told that the overarching aesthetic theme of the game is “lost and forgotten” Disney characters and places, including Walt Disney’s first creation, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit. Disney buffs should also be ecstatic to see the attention to historical detail that Junction Point has poured into this game. I’ll admit to being a bit of a “casual” Disney fan, so I could only smile and nod as the Junction Point rep repeatedly pointed out structures (such as the Swiss Family Robinson’s Treehouse) and landmarks in the game that were once actual buildings and rides decommissioned from the real Disneyland itself. “Tickets” are also used as a form of currency in the game as a nod to the days in which you actually needed tickets to go on the rides at Disneyland.
Even the cutscenes are animated like an old Disney cartoon from the 50′s. You definitely get the feeling that you’re playing through a labor of love with this game. The attention to detail and presentation is just jaw dropping. What impressed me even more was the excitement and passion with which the Junction Point rep used to describe the game for me. Out of all the games I played at E3, Epic Mickey was the one I spent the most time on simply because the developer had so much to say and show from it.
The E3 demo was broken up into three distinct areas: Ventureland, Skull Island, and Steamboat Willy. Each of these “maps” seamlessly transitioned with one another despite having vastly differing gameplay elements.
Ventureland was a lot like visiting a town in Zelda. The focus on this “quest map” was on NPC interaction and problem solving. Here, the choice and consequence mechanic was clearly on display. One of my first tasks was to help Smee the Pirate win over a ladyfriend in exchange for a quest item. He’s unsure as to what kind of gift to get her. By doing a little investigating around town, I figured out that she loves roses, so I told him to get her some roses and boom, Cupid played, quest item received. Had I been lazy and just told him to get something else, she would have been less than impressed and taken it out on poor Smee who in turn would have charged me money for the quest item, rather than handing it over in gratitude.
Another situation involved Tiki Sam, a shop keeper, who tasked me with collecting three masks in exchange for another one of the quest items. Now, here’s where attention to detail can pay off as a player. If you pay attention to the screen as you’re talking to him, you’ll notice that there’s a few masks on the floor behind him in the shop. When you exit the shop, you can actually see a little opening behind some bushes that will lead you to the back door of the shop. Once inside, you can nab a mask without him noticing. If you try to take all the masks, though, he’ll catch you and impose a stiff penalty on obtaining the quest item you need.
I find stuff like this fascinating because they blur the line between “good” and “bad” in a game. Too often, games will purport to offer players a choice, but really only have one style of play be “right.” Epic Mickey looks to add a little grey area in how you approach things. The situation with Tiki Sam is one in which stealing his mask actually ends up saving you time and money compared to the “morally right” choice. The Junction Point rep explained the reasoning for offering an “evil” choice as getting back to Mickey’s roots as a “mischief maker.” Sure, I’ll bite on that. It’s certainly no bigger stretch than games that force a character to act on the straight and narrow all the time.
The Steamboat Willy stages act as a sort of transition in between game maps. These are “Super Mario”-esque platform stages with a very slick black and white “Steamboat Willy” presentation. In the demo, Mickey passes through one of these to get from Ventureland to Skull Island. At first glance they definitely give a *wow* impression, but once you got past the very cool visuals the gameplay is pretty standard 2D platform fare. Mickey can jump on enemies’ heads and even double jump to reach platforms and collect items. The actual level structure itself was fairly pedestrian. It might be interesting to see more inspired “platform map” designed in the full game, but I won’t be heartbroken if there aren’t simply because the visuals are so cool.
Finally, Skull Island showed off the “action map” portion of the game. It plays similarly to the overworld in a 3d Zelda game except Mickey is armed with his paint and thinner rather than a sword and shield. In fact, Mickey’s even followed by a little Navi Faerie-like companion named Gremlin Gus. He offers you little hints and comments as you come across places of note. I found it really interesting that he acts as a sort of conscience too. Use your paint thinner to eliminate a lot of enemies and he’ll say something like “Hmm, you’ve been using your paint thinner a bit liberally, is it really necessary?” I can see it getting annoying for some people, but personally it made me question my actions a little bit. Was there a better way of handling these creatures? Am I really murdering the lifeblood of the game world?
When all is said and done, any game starring Mickey freaking Mouse that gets me to question the morality of my actions is doing something right in my book.
For live gameplay videos with Warren Spector narrating, check out the 2 videos below:
I gotta admit, Homestar Runner was a huge part of my college days. Every Monday my friends and I would eagerly wait for the latest animated Strong Bad email to be posted so we could watch and quote it for the rest of the week. Though I stopped following the site in recent years, I was still very excited when Telltale Games announced an episodic adventure game based on the Homestar Runner characters and world. After a two month delay, the first episode was finally released yesterday on Wii Ware and for the PC.