Pirates of Dark Water...

You would think pirates would be more represented in video games, but aside from Sid Meier's Pirates! Or the occasional smaller title like Age of Booty, very few games featuring Pirates have been released period. So something like Risen 2, an open-world rpg with a very strong Pirate theme, would seem like a welcome breath of fresh air based on concept alone. But anyone who has seen the videos and read the reviews for the pc version that come out a couple months ago  knows that it's considered a middling experience is best. Maybe Rocksteady should take a crack at it, seeing how well they did with the very under-represented Cowboy game...

Of course the big release this week is the latest side chapter of the Kingdom Hearts saga, which based on the storyline of Sora & Riku preparing for the return of Xenahort, is hopefully leading up to another full-fledged console game. This latest one has a lot of new gameplay ideas it is trying out such as Dream Eaters, pokemon-esque team mates you create and train in place of your usual Disney sidekicks, and the new Flowmotion system which allows for quickly getting around and doing unique attacks. The oddest choice seems to be the Drop system, where you have a time limit and no matter what you are doing when you run out, you will switch characters. This obviously could be particularly jarring in the middle of a fight and just seems to make no sense. That being said, while most reviews do complain about that, they also praise this as the best portable entry yet, so it's most likely a worthwhile purchase for fans of the series. I'm most likely picking it up myself this week, so I'll give my impressions after I get a few hours in.

That's pretty much it for today. I should have another post up by Thursday, until then. here's your TRAILER OF THE WEEK: Chasing Mavericks


Why is portable still a dirty word?

If Kingdom Hearts III was finally announced, but coming out for either the 3DS or the Vita, what would fan reaction be like? Probably not overly positive, as people have mostly been clamoring for a "proper" follow up on a current home console. Despite the ever-increasing market for mobile gaming in general and the strides portable consoles have made since the monochrome Gameboy days, gaming on the go is still seen as a less worthy endeavor. If a franchise isn't considered top-tier, it usually lives out its days in the portable market, just look at series like Kirby, Wario, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun & the Mario & Luigi titles. Popular and critically acclaimed, to be sure, but rarely seen outside of a portable screen if ever. They are considered lesser series, they don't get the same kind of push a Zelda or a core Mario title does. Even titles from big console franchises aren't given prime attention most of the time, handed off to some secondary development team, and usually worse off for it (just see the Vita Uncharted for the most recent example of this). Often, even positive reviews for a portable title usually come with the caveat that it's great for a portable game, implying that portable games are held to a lower standard.

But why is this? I mean sure, portable systems will pretty much never be able to match the home experience in terms of presentation, but there's no reason not to expect an epic experience in terms of gameplay. Super Mario 3D Land was a great game, but there's no reason it needed to offer such bite-sized levels. It could have easily been in scope the same size as Mario 64 or even one of the Galaxy titles.

People seem to think consoles and portables are competing, and maybe that's the case and the problem, portable gaming should be a complement to console gaming. Something where you can experience great gaming that isn't diminished in any way at least gameplay-wise from the console experience. The gaming public certainly has some blame here, but just look at the E3 presentations of the two big players in the portable market-Nintendo & Sony: The 3DS was given its own press conference, but it was behind closed doors, very no frills and not very exciting overall. The Vita barely got mentioned during Sony's conference, which seemed to say they had written it off already when it really needed a boost. It's pretty obvious that until the same companies that make these portable systems treat them with at least half the importance they do their home counterparts, portable gaming will remain a dirty word for gamers.

That's all I have for today, I should have another post up tomorrow talking more about Kingdom Hearts 3D & Darksiders II. Until then, here's your FREE GAME OF THE WEEK: Elemental Balance


I think we all need a break from Final Fantasy...

I love Final Fantasy, I've been playing it since the NES era. I've played and beaten nearly every FF game that has come stateside. FFVII, while overrated, can pretty much be held responsible for rpgs hitting the mainstream. It can overall stand right up there with series like Zelda & Mario as one of the biggest and most influential franchises of all time.

But while Mario & Zelda continue to deliver outstanding and innovative gameplay to this day (Skyward Sword & both Super Mario Galaxies are generally considered 3 of the best games of this generation), Final Fantasy has pretty much floundered in the current gen. FFXIII is easily the most divisive game in the series, with the majority hating it, and yet Square churned out FFXIII-2 (which addressed a lot of the gameplay issues of XIII, but none of the story or character issues) and has clear plans on FFXIII-3 despite a lukewarm feelings towards the game at best. FFXIV is an unmitigated disaster to the point where they have to try and completely re-launch it. And the oddly named Final Fantasy Versus XIII has languished in development since at least 2006.

So maybe it's time Square Enix gives Final Fantasy what it needs the most-a long break with a serious trip back to the drawing board. I don't know where they got this idea that we need an FF title every year or even every couple of years. Up until this generation we usually got 2 per console cycle with the occasional oddball offshoot like Tactics and that was great. It gave the developers time to really try out new and interesting ideas with every entry. I certainly wouldn't want them to do away with FF entirely, but Square Enix has a lot of very strong RPG franchises they can tap into that can take the spotlight while Final Fantasy hangs back a little and returns when the time is right. I certainly wouldn't be opposed to seeing a new Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger game, for instance. Or maybe a new property altogether. The bottom line is that Final Fantasy as a franchise really needs to do a drastic 180 and throwing a bunch of randomly strung together ideas at a wall and seeing what sticks is not working...

That's all for today, but I should certainly get one at least one more post in this weekend. Until then, here's your TRAILER OF THE WEEK: Branded


Superhero Movie day....

So yes I did manage to see both Amazing Spider-Man and Dark Knight rises this weekend. Of course, Spider-Man has been out for awhile. And the reviews have varied from calling it a fresh take to completely unnecessary rehash. I enjoyed the original Spider-Man movies, even the much maligned 3rd one, pretty much for the reasons listed here. I certainly felt a reboot wasn't necessary and certainly one made in a rush mostly to hang on to the rights to make Spider-Man movies doesn't seem like a winning formula.

And guess what? It's mostly not. There are ingredients here that have the makings of a good film-The cast overall is pretty good, especially Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, who he has great chemistry with. But by and large the script/directing is terrible, with Garfield spending half the movie with no mask on, revealing his secret identity at the drop of a hat. Rhys Ifans as Dr. Connors/The Lizard turns from sympathetic to stupidly evil with little rhyme or reason (his "master plan" is rather ridiculous, they really didn't need for him to have one, I'm pretty sure a giant lizard wreaking havoc in New York is enough of a plot), and on top of that The Lizard itself just looks terrible. Like a scaly version of The Thing from the Fantastic Four films.

So to sum up, keep hope for a good sequel, the basic components are there. Hopefully they'll have a smarter story to back them up this time (a fresher more threatening villain that hasn't been used like Kraven, for instance).

Dark Knight Rises had a hell of a lot to live up to, the finale of a trilogy that includes arguably the best superhero movie ever made and the final hauntingly brilliant performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Could the finale possibly top it? Well the short answer is no it really doesn't. Bane just isn't as interesting a villain, which is made worse by the metal mask on his face not really allowing Tom Hardy, who is a fantastic actor, to do all that much. The really could've put any big imposing guy in there an it would've worked just as well. That being said, the big set pieces are amazing, and it's still a great finale and a great ride that does actually leave things in a way I would love to see them continue, but I seriously doubt it since they are planning to reboot in several years.

That's really all I have for today, til next time here's your BIG BANG OF THE WEEK:


The 3DS has no good rpgs/the 3DS has plenty of great rpgs

Depending on how you look at it, if there is one area the 3DS library is pretty inefficient in its rpgs offerings. There are tons of great DS rpg you can play on it, but 3DS offerings are fairly slim. The only original title I can think of is Ghost Recon, which was a launch title, and since then there have been a few frankly overpriced remakes and that's it. So a good Diablo clone would probably be pretty welcome right? Unfortunately based on reviews and the demo I played, Heroes of Ruin is not the salvation portable rpg fans have been waiting for. It's slow and clunky and generic and sure as hell not worth the top tier $40 price tag, If anything it's another argument that most of these games would be better off as $20 offerings where we wouldn't judge them so harshly. Hopefully Kingdom Hearts 3D, which is out in 2 weeks will provide the rpg fix we have long waited for (which based on most early reviews, it does).

And of course finally, Dark Knight Rises is out tomorrow. Expectations are ridiculously high, but I have little doubt Nolan will provide one hell of a conclusion. The bigger question is what's next? It's almost a given that Warner & DC will be scrambling for a reboot to fit in line with an eventual Justice League film, and is that something people will embrace or reject? I could certainly go with a less grim and realistic take on Batman, but it has to be handled with the proper balance. Too bad Joss Whedon isn't available, huh? That must sting...

Anyways, I plan on seeing both DKR and Amazing Spider-Man tomorrow(finally) so expect reviews on both hopefully tomorrow, but no later than Sunday. In the meantime, here's your TRAILER OF THE WEEK: Oz, The Great and Powerful


National Treasure 3: Assassin's Creed

Ok, now I am not a huge fan of the Assassin's Creed series, but I know the basic extremely convoluted plot-Modern dude uses a device to see into his ancestors' (who were all well-trained assassins) lives. There is a secondary subplot about finding the locations of powerful artifacts, but the meat of this story is killing people in ancient times with style. Now, look at the synopsis of the plot of the upcoming film:

The plot of the film "revolves around a man[2] who learns his ancestors were trained Assassins after he is kidnapped by a secret org with ties to the Knights Templar, and sent back in time to retrieve historical artifacts."[3]

Now that essentially sounds like somebody just glanced over the cliff notes, and decided all that nasty killing wouldn't fit the magic PG-13 rating they were going for and instead made it a time-traveling treasure hunt. So where's Nic Cage? Really the only positive note is that the amazing Michael Fassbender is going to star, but he's hardly any guarantee of quality. I'll remain very skeptical until I've at least seen a trailer.

I've previously mentioned that the digital space available on current consoles is a great place to realize epic scale rpgs without a massive budget and costly price tag for the consumer. Looks like someone is finally listening with this week's PSN release of Rainbow Moon, a digital turn-based strategy rpg that according to most reviews, can easily run you 100 hours of gameplay for only 15 bucks. Sure, the graphics look very sub-par, but it's hard to find a better bang for your buck. I'll be holding off on it for now simply because I have no less than 5 big rpgs to get through atm, but I certainly plan on diving into it when I have the time. Most likely this Winter which as I have mentioned looks extremely void of big games and especially rpgs in general.

And finally seems like there is plenty of interest in a $100 console that plays Angry Birds after all. The Ouya console started a kickstarter fund. And reached it's goal in less than a day. Seeing as this is now a reality, I'm very intrigued. It will be interesting to see if can really offer some unique and creative experiences, because that's what I'm always looking for in a new console. Not fancy tech demos showing how impressive hair flows or water ripples, but something that shows new ideas. I'd much rather this be the future of consoles than some $400-600 box that simply offers me prettier versions of stuff I can already play. We'll see if it actually lives up to its potential,

That's all I have for today, but I should get another post up by this weekend. Until then, here's your FREE GAME OF THE WEEK: Toys vs. Nightmares

Rhythm is gonna get you...

Ok sorry for no Spider-Man review, emergency came up on the day I was planning on seeing it and record high temps kept me inside unless absolutely necessary.  When I do see it (which may be this week, but maybe not) I'll be sure to post a full review.

I did finally get around to finishing off Xenoblade Chronicles. Took nearly 90 hours and there are tons of optional stuff I skipped, so you easily get your money's worth and then some. It also offers a great contender for the adorable badass list in Riki, which I sadly didn't really discover til the final few hours of the game. Now if Last Story would just hurry up and get here so I can enjoy what will probably be the last worthwhile Wii game...

The second rhythm-based action title in as many weeks hits the 3DS. For those who like music games with a plot (which the recent FF title is lacking) this should be right up their alley. I played the demo available on the eshop and while it was fun, these games tend to be on the very short end unless you love going for that perfect score on every stage (which in this game is maddeningly inconsistent anyways), so for me it's a pass for now. I've got Pokemon Conquest to beat and Kingdom Hearts 3D in just under 3 weeks. That'll keep my 3DS low on battery power for awhile.

That's really all for today, I should have another post up by Wednesday, until then, here's your TRAILER OF THE WEEK: Taken 2


July is Squarenix month on the 3DS....

Seriously, this is actually a rather loaded month for the 3DS in general. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is out this week, an unusual game that offers plenty for fans of the series wonderful music and it's getting pretty solid reviews. Then Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure, another rhythm action title, hits the following week, and the 3DS also is getting Diablo-style adventure, Heroes of Ruin and the end of the month brings us Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance which you can check out the demo on the 3DS eshop, which gives an all-too brief glimpse (seriously, it's not even 10 minutes long) to judge anything in my opinion. I'll talk about those other releases in the coming weeks, but I think people can officially stop whining about there not being a steady stream of software as this month alone could keep one busy until the holidays.

The second huge nerd movie of the year, The Amazing Spider-Man opened today, and depending on what reviews you read it's either a nicely done take on familiar territory or territory that's too well-known to cover yet again and even a game performance by most of the actors can't save the well-worn material. Admittedly, there's little reason to do another origin story, after all Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man film was only 10 years ago. They could've easily done a movie without the origin, but I am a huge Spider-Man fan, so I'll definitely be seeing it this weekend and giving my opinions on it. At the very least it should be solid ground for a great sequel.

A $99 console with free games? Looks like it's happening It'll be an interesting experiment to be sure, but I'm not expecting it to put any serious dent in the market. People don't want to play free crappy mobile games on their TV. That kind of misses the point of those games. Also, why are they even trying this when many mobile companies claim they are the next thing and home consoles are a dying breed? If they manage to come up with some great free to play games sure, but if all we see are Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja knockoffs I don't think this'll be anything more than a mere novelty.

That's all for today, I should definitely be back Thursday or Friday with a Spider-Man review at least. Until then here's your TRAILER OF THE WEEK: Why Stop Now?