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Christ Centered Gamer Blog

This blog contains non-gaming related reviews and random ramblings

State of Construction

Hey guys.  Long time!

 

As a dreamer and idealist, I like to envision a better, bigger and stronger version of the gaming worlds I traverse.  Now I honestly hate any fiction that has something to do with zombies.  I will admit, there are pretty good series and movies out there that have excellent humour or even profound stories , but overall zombies seem too generic to pique my interest.   

I recently took a risk and got myself State of Decay.  State of Decay was originally an xbox exclusive, but it recently got ported over to PC.  SoD seems to have a few interesting concepts.  Like AMC's The Walking Dead, it's based on a survivalist community rather than just several generic characters.  This simple concept got me very excited, and hooked on the game.  A lot of action games share one characteristic these days - pure destruction.  Whether it's FPS, RPG or RTS, there will be opportunities that allow players to destroy static or dynamic entities in the world.  It has become such a popular theme, that we've forgotten how fun it can be to build up and out.  Minecraft is a prime example of the enjoyment embedded in creative and constructive games, but for someone with a liking of action or strategy - with good graphics - there's just a bulk of linear destructive games.

Back to the point!  So as I was saying, SoD allows you to build communities.  I see it as a pretty revolutionary game as there are multitudes of games covering the survival aspects of apocalypses and dilemmas, but not purposeful building and pursuit of prosperity.  It's fun defying the odds by gathering building materials, food and weapons...and scouting out new lofts.  There's also the issue of added responsibilities,  one has to consider the health and safety of fellow survivors.  

So SoD implements a really interesting concept, but the question arises: would it fly with other genres?

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The Sonic Sitcom: Episode 2

Here's the next episode of our cartoon show The Sonic Sitcom:

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My Thoughts on the Wii U

Nintendo's next generation system, called the Wii U, is the first of the eight generation systems to release in stores. But is it worth your money? Or should you pass it up for another system?

Simply put: No! Do not neglect the Wii U, just because the other systems have more power. The Wii U has so many features and upgrades to it, that you'll definitely want to try it! Let's take an examination of each of the important aspects as to what makes a console a good console:

1. Hardware

The Wii U's hardware is pretty much a mixture between a PS3 and a Wii. On one hand, you have the online functionality and graphics of the PS3 and the Nintendo innovation of the Wii. The two mix very well, taking my favorite parts of the last generation's systems. Top that off with an innovative way to play games, the off-TV play, and you've got possibly the best hardware in gaming thus far!

The off-TV play is much more useful than you might think. Having the Wii U for about a year now, my family and I have used the off-TV play function about as much as the normal function. It's very useful if someone wants to watch the game or their soap operas or even play another system. When someone wants to play our PS3, I can easily play Wii U while they're playing on the pad, which leads to less frustration. Sony tries to mimic this with the PS Vita, but the PS4 and Vita together cost about $400 more than a Wii U.

It also comes with bonus features such as Nintendo TV and Miiverse. I want to talk specifically about Miiverse, because I think it's one of the best additions to the Wii U. Miiverse is an online community where users can talk about any games that are on Wii U. It has a strict policy that doesn't allow vulgar language or anything sexually explicit. This is especially nice for people like me who can't play online due to foul-mouths. However, I should mention that certain communities find it easier to get away with things than others.

The battery life has been criticized, but I don't think it's a big deal. Though it is short, it can be plugged in and charged at any time, without it needing the system on (I'm looking at you PS3!).

2. Graphics

Simply put, the graphics to the Wii U are beautiful! Their slightly better than the PS3 and Xbox 360's, but with Nintendo's talent, they outshine them significantly. NintendoLand, which comes with the Deluxe bundle, has better graphics than anything I've seen on either PS3 or Xbox 360! What took Sony and Microsoft about six years was accomplished by Nintendo in one try! Now it's true that games such as New Super Mario Bros. U don't really push the hardware's limits, but even still, games like The Wind Waker HD and Sonic Lost World show that this system contains some of the best graphics out there.

3. Power

Okay, it's true: the Wii U has the power of the last two systems, while the PS4 and Xbox One have significantly more power. To me though, that doesn't matter. One of my favorite games, LittleBigPlanet 2, had almost infinite possibilities, and that was on a PS3's power. True, there were a few things that could have been improved, but for the most part, it was nearly limitless. Adding as much power as the PS4 and Xbox One does seems to be pointless. Games can't get much better. That is, unless they become more expensive. At the same time, Nintendo has won several game-of-the-year awards on Wii (which has significantly less power than the PS3 and Xbox 360). With the power of the Wii U, Nintendo seems to be even more open to making even higher quality games than before!

4. Games

Possibly the most important, the Wii U's game line-up is the best of the three next-gen systems. Though it's launch line-up started a bit slow, the Wii U's line-up has been increasing with some of the most varied games out there. PS4 and Xbox One both focus more on the shooter type genre than anything, while the Wii U features shooters, platformers, racers, kid-friendly, and mature games of the like. Unlike the Wii, the Wii U features great family games like Mario and Wii Party, while also featuring mature games like Assassin's Creed and Batman. Speaking of which, the third-party support is also a lot better than it was on Wii. Not to even mention that the next Smash Bros. and Zelda are coming out soon on Wii U.

I should also note that the Wii U is the only next-generation system that has backwards compatibility. I really wish that the PS4 or the Xbox One could play PS3 or Xbox 360 games. Sadly, this isn't the case. I know that the Xbox One can play 360 games if you have the 360 hooked up to it, but I'm referring to without the aid of another system. Thanks to this ability, you could download all your Wii game files into the Wii U and sell your Wii, saving you even more money.

The Verdict

If you're trying to decide which of the eighth-generation systems you should get, your first choice should be Wii U. Though it might not have as much power as the other two, the Wii U just has the best amount of content and variety for the cheapest price! I'm not saying that you shouldn't get a PS4 or an Xbox One, but rather that this is probably the best option of the three.

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Capcom 30th Anniversary Character Encyclopedia

So many video game developers and manufacturers have come and gone since I have starting playing games on my Commodore 64 and Atari 2600. Capcom is celebrating its 30th anniversary and have released an encyclopedia containing over 200 characters from their lesser known and popular video games alike. Many are familiar with their Street Fighter and Megaman games. Other popular series include Resident EvilDevil May Cry, Monster Hunter, and Viewtiful Joe. Looking though this encyclopedia I saw several games that were only available in Japan or in the arcade.

Since I have not spent too much time at arcades, I wasn't familiar with arcade exclusive games like Battle Circuit, Red Earth, Cyber Bots: Fullmetal Madness, Three Wonders, or Varth Operation Thunderstorm. Power Stone simultaneously came out on arcade and on the DreamCast (never owned one) in 2000. PSP owners can play the Power Stone collection that was released in 2006. Pirate Ship Higemaru was a Japanese arcade game that is now playable in the Capcom Arcade Cabinet collection on PSN and XBLA. 

Many games have memorable characters and this encyclopedia has bios on the main characters, supporting characters, bosses and ship specifications for games lacking characters. Each character has a dedicated page that shows their unique (and sometimes revealing for both males and females!) artwork and stats like their weapon of choice, height and weight. The character biography mentions how the character fights and how they change (if ever) throughout the series. I like how it mentions the game they first appeared in along with subsequent re-appearances. Many of the classic NES games like 1942 and Ghosts and Goblins are currently still playable on PSN, XBLA, or Wii Virtual Console. 

The book quality with the hard cover and pages is good. While the asking price is $16.99, I have seen this for less than $11 on Amazon. Chances are you may be spending more than that after being reminded of Capcom classics that need to be added to your collection. As I was writing this, my husband was pricing out the remainder of Breath of Fire series that we do not own...

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Risk Plants Vs. Zombies Collector's Edition

box

While the game of Risk has been around for decades, I have not played the game until it got the Plants Vs. Zombies makeover.  Instead of global domination, the Plants Vs. Zombies  version focuses on suburban domination.  Who cannot snicker at a suburb named Breakwind Butte?   One side of the game board is shaped like a brain and many of the suburb names play on that with names like Sierra Bella Park, Mount Brainer and Pituitary Glen.  There are color coded regions that give your army a bonus if you have control of all of the suburbs in that region.    The other side of the game board has the lawn backdrop from Plants Vs Zombies.    This side of the board accommodates the exclusive tower defense version of the game.   In this version of the game, victory is granted to the zombies if they make it across the yard or the plants if they are completely annihilated.  In the classic game mode you can win by eliminating your opponent's army or by completing three of the mission objectives.  

I like how this game gives you two basic training scenarios for beginners and an advanced one for increased difficulty.   One departure from the classic game of Risk is that this edition of the game is limited to two players.  One player plays as pea shooters while the other player controls brown coat zombies.  The board's regions are guarded by garden gnomes that are an enemy to both sides.  The zombies use three grey dice while the plants utilize three green ones.  Each team has a stack of faction cards that can aide in invasions or be traded in for units.  The cards seem to be of decent quality and the garden gnome and station wagon markers are made of cardboard.   My only complaint with the construction of the game is that holders for the pieces (instead of relying on the plastic bags they came in), would have been nice.  

The instruction manual is colorful and easy to read and understand.  It offers some good suggestions to increase or decrease the game's difficulty.  The suggested age range is 10+ and given the complexity of the game and rules, I think that's an accurate recommendation.  If you know anyone that enjoys either Risk or Plants Vs. Zombies, this game is worth checking out.  I have seen it online for less than $30 and you'll get hours of enjoyment out of it.


(Affiliate Link)

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Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (3DS) Preview & Unboxing

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a new game from Atlas in the hardcore Etrian Odyssey series.  This title is actually a remake of the first game, with a whole lot of enhancements.

For those new to the series (like I was before playing this game), it is a first person dungeon crawler RPG, similar to the rather old school Wizardry games from the 80s.  With a fair amount of modernization, and a Japanese flair.

One of the things those older games required was meticulously careful hand drawn maps.  To celebrate this, the Etrian Odyssey series uses the DS's bottom screen and requires you to draw your own.  It's rather ingenious, honestly.  For a hardcore RPG lover, it's a dream come true.

I am about half-way through this game, and I have done almost nothing else but play it non stop (besides work and family, of course) for about a month now.  It is just incredibly long, with a ton of content.  I would estimate at least 60 hours before I am done, at this rate.  It is also incredibly challenging at the higher difficulty levels.  (Picnic isn't for 'real' gamers.  ;))

This game is rated 'T', and I think it deserves that rating.  I have seen the use of the words 'D*mn' and 'H*ll' used in both text and voice-overs.  There is also alcohol and tobacco use, and the player can choose drink alcohol in certain story events.  There are also a few characters who wear revealing clothing, though thankfully not player characters.  The game even makes fun of the fact that female warriors would wear armor... by poking fun at a lady who joins you for a quest who wears skimpy outfits.  You have the option to ask her if she is cold.  :)  It's also somewhat of a repeating gag, as well.  I have enjoyed the banter of the characters quite a bit so far.

When you get the digital copy of the game, naturally, you only get the game, and cannot share.  This isn't as bad as it sounds, since the game has only one save slot, but that's still the case.  One thing to point out, though, is that digital 3DS games can backup their saves to SD card via the official firmware feature.  So that can actually be a pretty handy perk that makes the digital version worth considering.

On the other hand, the physical copy, especially for pre-orders and first-run purchasers, do get a pretty nice perk as well.  While I always enjoy having something I can hold in my hand when it comes to games (old fashioned, I know), they also give you a neat, if a bit short, picture book, and also an audio CD!  I have always been a huge fan of game music since I was a kid, and I still am.  My poor kids... anyway, I really enjoy the music in this game, and the samples included on the CD are really well done.  It's not a full OST, sadly, but what is included is all music I have enjoyed quite a bit from the game so far.

So, without further adieu, here are the pics:

Etrian Odyssey Untold box

 

Etrian Odyssey Untold opened

 

Etrian Odyssey Untold cd

There is a demo of this game on the 3DS eShop available, and any progress you make can be trransferred to the full game, so there is little risk checking it out.  If you are curious, I would say it is worth it!  I expect a full review to come sometime next month.

 

IBJamon

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Enervee ranks popular consoles by energy efficiency

The Enervee™ Score for Video Game Consoles is calculated based on performance per power consumption. Current models range from 4.58 to 36.70 performance (scaled) per kWh. This number is converted into an easy energy efficiency rating from 0 to 100 (best). For Gaming Consoles, the CPU, GPU, and system memory components have the biggest impact on energy efficiency.

1. Ouya 8GB     

 

2. PS3 SuperSlim 500GB

3. WiiU

4. Wii

5. Xbox 360 Slim 320GB

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Xbox One Revealed

Today Microsoft has revealed its upcoming console, the Xbox One.  Unlike the Wii U, it has the full support of Electronic Arts and will be launching with their popular sports games FIFA, NFL, UFC and NBA Live.  Forza Motorsport 5 will also be available on the system.  Last but not least, Call of Duty: Ghosts (at 60FPS!) will be making an appearance on this system.  The visuals look great and the system specs are impressive as well. The Xbox One will be sporting 8GB or RAM, USB 3.0 and a Blu-Ray drive.  Microsoft plans to launch 300,000 servers to crunch data real time to provide gamers with trending in games and TV shows and cloud storage space.  The system is very fast and switches between the home screen, games, movies and internet as fast as you can say it.  That's right, this system recognizes your voice and arm movements to enlarge windows or split the screen. Skype is now available and connecting with your friends is easier than ever.  The Xbox One can also use your cellphone as a remote to surf the web.  I'm curious is non-windows phones will be supported.  Time will tell, but this system does look impressive so far.    

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A Gamer's show and tell

Every week at my son’s preschool they have a show and tell for each letter of the alphabet.  Being the gamer geek that I am, a few of those weeks I sent him to school with a game box.  This week was the letter Z so he brought in the CD cover for Zork.   Needless to say it stood out from all of the zebras.  So looking over my game collection here’s some other possibilities…what are yours?  

A. Age of Empires series

B. Bit Trip Runner

C. Crayon Physics

D. Dance Dance Revolution

E. Elder Scrolls series

F. Flatout Series

G. Ghost Busters

H. Halo

I. In The Groove

J. Just Dance 3

K. Kid Icarus: Uprising

L. Little Big Planet

M. Mario Kart

N. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

O. Office Jerk

P. Portal

Q. Quantum Conundrum

R. Rayman Origins

S. Sonic Generations

T. Trackmania

U. Unreal series

V. VVVVV

W. Wario Ware series

X. Xenoblade Chronicles

Y. Yoshi

Z. Zork

 

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My kids are starting cook and to beat me at videogames

My seven year old got Cooking Mama for her birthday and we've all been playing that and have been doing cook-offs to see who can make the best dish.  While I have years of cooking experience, it doesn't make any difference in this title.  It was quite humbling to see that they could make better sandwiches than me.  Not to mention my failing at making rice.  I have since mastered sandwich (and rice) making but I have to actively play and practice to keep up with their scores.  Even though this experience has been humbling, it has been a great influence on my kids as they have been taking a greater interest in cooking and have started helping with mundane tasks like peeling and chopping carrots and potatoes (with supervision!).  This is a wonderful way to bond and teach kids how to cook.  Even if it involves getting whooped in Cooking Mama.     

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I doubt I'll buy another Nintendo product at launch again.

We have owned several Nintendo products going back to the NES.  Our house currently has 3 3DS', a DS Lite, A GBA, GBA SP, Gameboy, SNES, N64 and our latest acquisition, a Wii U deluxe.  While we didn't pre-order it, we did get it within a couple of weeks of its release.  We paid the full $350 price and I'm a little miffed to read they Nintendo is now offering a Zombi U edition of the console that includes the deluxe console with a pro controller, Zombie U, collector's book, and a digital download of Nintendo Land.  The retail price is set at $389.  An additional game and controller for $40? I want in on that deal.  I'm disappointed that  early adopters are getting the shaft here.  The ambassador program for the 3DS was a nice gesture after lowering the price of the unit.  What will Nintendo do to appease their upset fans now?  I think this will be the last time I buy a product of theirs on launch.  

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Gaming in Linux

I've been running Linux in one form or another on my systems since 2001 when Red Hat 7.1 came out. Since then, I have leaned towards Debian based distributions like Ubuntu or Mint. Linux is best known for being a free operating system alternative, especially for server environments, and a core component of Android. Now that Windows and Mac operating systems can be had for under $50 for desktop use, what does Linux bring to the table? A few examples are stability, flexibility, and open source alternatives to various office and multimedia suites. Gaming has never been its strong point. Humble Bundles have been great for Linux users since most of the games offered are multiplatform and have Linux installers. Many Linux versions have made their debut on the Humble Bundles. Even bigger news is that a beta version of Steam is now available. CrossOver, and its open source version Wine, has been making significant progress in improving Windows emulation. This allows popular Windows applications and games to run on Linux including Skyrim, Source Engine games (Left for Dead, Team Fortress 2, Portal), and Guild Wars 2. I thought I'd give it a go and see how Linux can play games in my Humble Bundle and Steam library, as well as check out Crossover since it was free for a day around Election Day. 

For Christmas I received a 2TB hard drive and that freed up a 500GB drive. I erased and installed a fresh copy of Linux Mint 14 KDE edition onto it. The install was painless and I now dual boot between Linux and Windows 8. Getting my ATI 7870 fully supported took some package manipulation, but it's now fully recognized when running commands like glxinfo and glxgears. Unfortunately, my results vary and I run into bugs regularly. Nvidia based cards have better Linux driver support, so I can only assume I would have had better results with an Nvidia graphics card. 

Installing Steam wasn't so bad, though it had quite a few dependencies to download onto my vanilla Linux install. I will say this: Steam is still definitely beta and has some stability issues. It's slow and unresponsive at times. The friends list seems to work, but there is often a delay when chatting, so I often switched to using an IM client like kopete instead. I found that using Steam on CrossOver seemed to be much more reliable. I'm sure Valve will fix it; we just need to be patient.

My games list is quite diminished compared to my Windows list. This is to be expected, since currently the number of Linux ported games is at only forty one in all of Steam. I have seven games to work with, and out of those only three worked out of the box. (Serious Sam 3 BFE, Cogs, and Uplink). After installing some of the broken games using my Humble Bundle installers, I was able to get And Yet It Moves and Space Chem working in Steam. For some reason, Steam doesn't seem to be checking or installing all of the necessary dependencies. VVVVV wouldn't run in Steam (missing executable error) but it did run via the Humble Bundle Installer. Bit.trip Runner didn't appear on my Steam list, but I was able to get it to play, though it managed to crash in twenty minutes or less, every time. Looking at the developer's Website, my Creative sound card may be to blame. Your mileage may vary.

It's not all bad news though. Serious Sam 3 impressed me the most, given it's system requirements and how smoothly it ran in Linux. The only kink I had to iron out was disabling my video card's HDMI audio as my primary sound device. After that, it worked like a charm. I bought this game knowing it would have Linux support; had I known the objectionable content, I may have passed on the 75% off sale. Every swear word imaginable is used including the F-bomb. There is a lot of gore and violent acts, as well as sexual innuendos and lewd conversations.

I was looking forward to playing Team Fortress 2 natively, but it wouldn't work. Fortunately CrossOver allowed me to play it by mimicking Steam in Windows for me. Since I saw Guild Wars 2 as a supported game for the latest version of CrossOver, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I tried installing it using my DVDs but it kept erroring out at 84%. I eventually switched to using the Windows downloadable exe file and I copied over my files from my Windows hard drive to save time. Success! I was able to log in and play my character....at 12 frames per second. While it's progress, it's certainly not playable.

Ultimately I'll be sticking with Windows for my gaming needs in the near future. Linux is definitely getting a much needed shot in the arm by having the support of Valve and the Humble Bundles. We've been patient so far, but the wait is not over yet. It will be worth it though. :)

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Wii U First Impressions

The new Wii U with a touchscreen on its controller makes new methods of gameplay possible. Nintendo conitinues on with it's family friendly motto that: gaming together is more fun.

On the last day of November, approximately twenty games will arrive that are specially designed for this controller. After getting the chance to play some of these games for a while, I've noticed that an extra screen greatly adds to the gaming experience. Cooperation takes on a whole new level as each player can watch a different screen thus adding more strategy to gaming.

New Super Mario Bros. U. 

Take Nintendo’s famous icon Mario. The Italian plumber is the main character of the game New Super Mario Bros. U. Nintendo, after some criticism, went back to their successful formula we all know and love. Just as in the old days, we run to the edge of the screen while jumping over all kinds of obstacles and scary creatures. And of course you hear the familiar sounds when you collect coins and eat mushrooms for extra strength. A new addition is the Boost Mode where another player adds blocks to the scenery. Those extra blocks can prevent you from falling into the depths and losing a life. The player who places the blocks using the controller, sees a different picture than the Mario player. Teamwork will be required to devise a strategy to dodge and run quickly through the level. Both players have a reasonable contribution to the final result, which differs from many cooperative modes in other games. Such direct form of coöperation in a console game is not often seen.

ZombiU

But the opposite is perhaps more fun. Counteraction. Ubisoft uses counteraction in the game ZombiU, especially for the Wii U. The game tells the story that in London an epidemic has broken out that causes the population to change into wandering monsters. In a dark building you play against each other to capture flags. The hero's goal is to capture the flags while the other player sends monsters to block them. With four flags spread over the building, a strategic war ensues. After a game, changing roles is still interesting because you fight with substantially different weapons. The controller will display your weapon arsenal. Try not to spend too much time switching weapons because you may be shot in the process!

Nintendoland

In the new Nintendoland you see cooperation and opposition back in various games based around the famous Nintendo characters. For instance you play Luigi's Ghost Mansion in a maze where the ghosts are played by your opponents. The game is similar to the famous Pacman-game. Back then the ghosts automatically ran in the same direction over and over again. Your opponents of course don’t run the same route every time and so the game is much more fun. If a ghost detects you, he warns his companions to get in close. Teamwork is key in this title.

Wii Fit U

There is no teamwork in Wii Fit U, only more difficult exercises. The Wii Fit U-game includes twenty new activities over the old game that sold four million copies. The restaurant-activity combines both agility and speed as you quickly serve the customers cakes and drinks by walking on the balance board. You must keep the gamepad controller flat, even when turning a corner otherwise the drinks and cakes fall from your tray. The gamepad shows you whether they fall, while the TV displays what route you need to take. Sometimes you do not know where to look for a moment and then the order ends up on the ground. 

The trampoline-activity combines the two screens in the same way: with the gamepad on the floor you see whether you are in the middle and will jump straight for a better result. On the screen you see the timing, when you can best jump. The trampoline is fun to practice and it's nice that you see how well you do on each jump. 

Lastly, there is a water shooter-activity where you power up the water hose by setting your foot on the balance board while aiming the beam with the gamepad. The goal is to hose away all of the men and monsters. While this sounds simple, you'll be feeling it the next day in your upper legs.

For statistics lovers, two things. First, you can transfer your performance from Wii Fit to the new U. Second, there will be a Fit Meter added to the game which counts your steps during your daily activities. And that data can be transferred to the Wii U system. All in all, Wii Fit U is a worthy addition to the Wii-Fit franchise.

Wii U

The Wii U console came out November 18th. With the pre-orders selling out, finding one in stores may be challenging. The list of games available for the Wii U is quite long, including LEGO City: Undercover, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Fifa 13, Neo Nano Assault, Pikmin 3, Just Dance 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Assassin’s Creed III, NBA 2K13, Rayman Legends and Toki Tori 2. The controller is now called a gamepad and includes a touch screen. Besides the familiar buttons of the Wii controllers are now two thumbsticks. The gamepad is also usable separately as a kind of tablet for playing games, watching videos, or browsing the internet. There is a built-in camera and microphone and the Wii U comes with a stylus. With just a hand gesture you can send films, games and photos from the gamepad to your TV screen. The separate TV button controls your TV's volume when the Wii is off. Through the Home button you can quickly do something in between gaming, like watching your social networks or search something on the internet. And the most important: almost all Wii games are playable on the Wii U, as well as the supporting gadgets like the Wii Remotes and Nunchuk.

Basic edition: 299.99 $, White, 8 GB,
Deluxe Edition: 349, 99 $, Black, 32GB, 
http://www.nintendo.com/wiiu/

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Has the Vita been revitalized or doomed?

While I didn't buy my Vita on launch week, I still paid full price for it a month or so after it's release.  I thoroughly enjoyed titles like Rayman Origins and Lumines: Electronic Symphony but have been disappointed in the lackluster choice of games available for the unit.   As awesome as the hardware is, without good software, the system is doomed.  As an owner of a hacked PSP, I was hoping that the Vita would broken from it's tight leash.  Sony has been persistent in removing every exploited game from their store and releasing system updates to close each loophole.  

Last week was an exciting week since there was a leaked kernel exploit that allows the system to play PSP ISO games.  Shortly after the leak, a major contributor stepped down for good. However, another known hacker has stepped up and made a public release of the custom emulator/firmware for the Vita.  The exploited PSP mini game has been removed from the store, but now is a good time to watch and see what other games are vulnerable to opening up this system against Sony's wishes.  

So with these possibilities comes great responsibility.  I for one own every game that I play. I realize that I am in the minority here.  If people continue to pirate games without giving what's due to the developers, the system is doomed.  If you have a curious mind and want to see what the Vita can really do, now is a good time to pick up a system (and some games and accessories for it!) and join the underground community.  

source: http://wololo.net/

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Unleashing the nuke in Mercs 2

How much is the life of a virtual being worth? How about 10 lives? Or 50?

            You see, I just recently finished writing my review for Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, and after finishing it, I began to question some of my actions. Near the end of the game, I acquired a nuclear bomb as part of the story, and after using it to infiltrate the final boss’s fortress, I bought a “few” extras just in case. But I think we all know where this is going.

            As would anyone who’s given nearly infinite power, I began buying and using as many nukes as I could afford. It was so easy. Because I had already completed the game, I already had the cash I needed, and I would just reload my save every time I ran out of the nukes. First I was just using them on buildings. After all, no one would miss one abandoned (or possibly inhabited) building, right? Next, I began using them on enemy soldiers, because they’re leader was evil, so they must be evil too, right? Then, I just stopped caring. Why should I care who I use this weapon on? I’m untouchable; there are no consequences strong enough to stop me from doing what I want. Even if I were to nuke every faction’s HQ, all their armies combined couldn’t stop me.

            Then I began to notice a pattern in other people’s play styles. Everyone would begin the game, travel to the nearest city, nuke a few buildings, then nuke the soldiers who would retaliate, and finally nuke anyone caught in the crossfire. The exact same thing I did.

             At first, it seemed like a natural thing. It’s fun to cause chaos, and it’s just a videogame. Why should I care about virtual people? But the more I thought about it, I began to realize just how sinister my thoughts were becoming.

            The first time I used the nuke, I had a (somewhat) justifiable reason: revenge. The second time, I just wanted to see what it would do to a building. I picked what I hoped was an abandoned building far away from anyone who might be hurt by the bomb. After that, I was hooked. It was such a gradual progression that I didn’t notice I had gone too far until I had already jumped off the cliff.

            It was only after nuking a neutral oilrig that I realized how far I had fallen. Without any particular reason, I decided to destroy fully operational oilrig, complete with workers and security guards. Since apparently no one in Venezuela can swim, everyone died. The entire oilrig, and all its workers…all of the innocent workers, gone.

            It may seem like such a trivial thing to anyone else, but for me, it was a lesson on how consuming power is. The old saying, “power consumes, and absolute power consumes absolutely” has never seemed so true to me.

            Power first appeared to me as a friend, offering to make everything easier. Then it turned into a toy, which I could use and abuse as I saw fit. And when people tried to stop me, it became an excuse to abuse that power. “Why should you tell me what to do? I’m bigger than you, I’m stronger than you, I’m better than you.” 

            Maybe it is just a videogame, maybe it doesn’t matter, and maybe I’m just over thinking this. But that day I encountered a side of me I was unaware of, one that could not be satisfied, bargained with, or made to see reason. A side without compassion or feeling, only chaos and destruction. Feeding off of pain and suffering, addicted to the rush of adrenalin, and willing to do anything to get another dose.

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Starting to regret buying a 3DS for my kid

My husband and I traded in our DS Lites and got a black and a blue 3DS on launch week.  For the most part we've been happy with our purchase.  Yeah, I would like to see better titles out but I've enjoyed Ridge Racer and most recently, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.  I'll admit that I've played mostly DS games on it than 3DS titles.  We appreciate the Ambassador games offered to compensate for paying full price. That was a nice selection of games.   I personally love the 3D camera and swap note is great for sharing Bible verses and encouragement among friends.  

So with all of these good features we didn't hesitate on purchasing one for our soon to be 8 year old daughter.  It was on sale for $100 less than what we paid for it and several family members pitched in for it.  No regrets right?  Wrong!

Just this week two videos irk me as a parent.  Even with parental control enabled my kids can watch a video of the song "The Fighter" which contains phrases like "Give them hell", "Imma d**n sure" and "Kiss my a**".  The video muted a** but the rest of the language was left intact.  These are not phrases I want my 8 year old repeating back to me.  

The other video that upsets me is the 3D version of Zamarat.  This video has a hairless green woman wearing a metal bikini with nipple covers and a metal G-string.  

Both of these videos are considered to be suitable for kids under 12.  My kids and I have watched many of the movies together and I find the mini 3D documentaries fascinating. My kids love the video game based movies, especially the Kirby one.  It's a bummer that I'll have to screen the movies from here on out.  Perhaps I'll have to remove the icon from the system altogether.  It's a shame if such drastic measures will have to be taken.  Nintendo, if you're reading this...please look over the videos before stamping them safe for kids of all ages.  Adding a rating summary would be helpful as well.

 

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Do'h! moments in gaming

Sometimes we make things harder on ourselves than they have to be.  This is true in gaming as well.  I buy many of my games used and they often don't include the instruction manuals with them.  (Yes I do read them if provided).  I also tend to avoid reading FAQs unless I'm stuck. I'm more than halfway through Kingdom Hearts and I JUST started to equip the abilities on my party.  One of my blunders that I still beat myself up over is that I beat Super Princess Peach without using the healing ability.  Apparently when I tried to use it I was at full health and never could get it to work so I just never bothered with it.  It made the game a little bit harder but it was still fun.     

So those are a couple of my stupid gaming moments.  Feel free to share yours to help me feel better!  

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Mass Effect 3: The End?

WARNING!!! MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

If you haven’t finished Mass Effect 3, go do that now, because I’ll be talking about the endings (and also because it’s amazing).

With Drew’s fantastic review uploaded (Which you can check out over here), I thought this would be a great time to talk about ME3’s ending, and more specifically, the controversy surrounding it. In case you haven’t been keeping up with it, fans aren’t particularly happy with the ending to say the least. People have petitioned to change the ending, proposed to boycott BioWare’s games, and some have even tried to sue BioWare. [i]Retake Mass Effect[/i] is probably the biggest force, and by raising over $80,000 for Child’s Play (the charity, not the movie series), they’ve tried to garner BioWare’s attention in hopes of having the endings changed. 

[Warning: Mass Effect 3 is rated M and this video contains scenes of the content earning it that rating

The “good, not great” ending

Many feel betrayed by this ending, others appreciate the risk BioWare took, but everyone seems to have taken a stance on the issue. Some see it as BioWare ending their series how they want to; after all, it’s their story, not ours. If they want to gamble on a risky ending that not everyone will like; that’s their choice, and we should respect that. But on the other hand, we’ve shaped the Mass Effect story as much as anyone else, or at least we feel like we did. Because even though every choice we’ve made in the series was written by BioWare, the combination of choices your Commander Shepard made is uniquely yours.

Other people have pointed out plot holes in the ending, but supporters of the ending have come forward trying to justify the ending by introducing the Indoctrination Theory. For the sake of brevity, I won’t explain the entire theory (read this if you'd like a more in-depth discussion). But the basic gist is that Shepard was hallucinating just about everything after going up the mysterious elevator in the crucible. There is plenty of evidence both for and against this theory; but if it is true, then it leaves me with one question. What is this, Super Mario Bros. 2?

Now that I have that comparison out of the way, I’d just like to say I actually like the Indoctrination Theory. In fact, I think it’s brilliant; it’s a great twist that makes you think. But assuming that it’s true, I have to ask, why isn’t it explained better? An ending is like a joke, if you have to explain it, then it’s not very good. If I have search the internet just to figure out an ending, then it shows poor writing. 

To make all of this even more confusing than it already is, BioWare has yet to comment on how the ending should be interpreted. It’s entirely possible (though unlikely) that this theory has no merit and the ending should be interpreted in some other way. Until BioWare releases more content, we have no way of knowing what happened. No game should end on an ambiguous cliff-hanger; especially not a series as respected and beloved as Mass Effect. 

And there’s just one other problem…BioWare exaggerated.

There are tons of other quotes I could use (here are some of them), but I think I’ve made my point. BioWare pulled a Peter Molyneux, and they need to fess up. Sure, games can change during development, but we expected (and given reason to expect) an ending similar to Mass Effect 1 or 2. An ending where our choices mattered, and where the “good” ending isn’t just a blue/green/red version of the bad ending.

However, I’m not convinced they need to completely change the ending. There are far worse endings out there, and even though this isn’t the best, kudos to BioWare for taking a risk. In a sea of predictable endings, BioWare did something completely unexpected, regardless of what some people would think of it. 

But that’s not to say it’s perfect. The current ending lacks any closure, is overly complex, full of plot holes, and makes your choices irrelevant; none of which are okay. We’ve spent hours upon hours: doing these characters’ loyalty missions, listening to their every line of dialogue, and replaying the entire game with different squadmates just to hear those extra bits of dialogue (or maybe that was just me). We care about the Mass Effect universe; we want to know what happens next. 

The best word to describe Mass Effect 3’s ending, is broken. There are some decent ideas interspersed throughout, but they’re all marred by their own set of issues. The Indoctrination Theory, while a neat idea, isn’t explained at all and may not even be true. An ending influenced by your Galactic Readiness level sounds great in theory, but it isn’t well implemented. And need I even mention the color-coded “Skittles” endings?

Skittles: taste the explosive rainbow

But the great thing about a broken ending in this day and age is that it can be fixed. Whether it’s fixed through an update that add in a bit more explanation and content, or through DLC, à la Fallout 3. The current ending isn’t complete, and that needs to be corrected. There’s no excuse anymore, BioWare is fully capable of fixing the ending. 

Personally, I don’t care whether or not I have to pay $15 to play an epilogue, I just want more. And I’ll be honest, I have no idea what could happen after that last scene. But we, the fans, want more. BioWare made the characters too likeable for us not to care (except for Diana Allers, of course).

We aren’t entitled to a better ending or epilogue DLC, and we probably don’t deserve it either. As soon as we saw the ending, we acted as if BioWare stabbed us in the back. We wrote nasty things about them, bashed them, and decided it was our right to demand a better ending. So BioWare didn’t fulfill all of their statements, it’s not the first time a company has done this. We need to point this out to BioWare, but we should respect the time and effort they put into this ending, even if it’s not very good. 

Time will tell how Mass Effect 3 will be remembered by the fans, and what BioWare does next could very well be the deciding factor. At the time of writing, BioWare has heard the fans criticisms and complaints, and is currently working on some form of additional content to tie up all of the loose ends. Mass Effect 3’s ending has already become one of the most memorable endings in recent history. But whether it’s remembered as the thought-provoking end to the spectacular trilogy, or the fantastic game whose ending “ruined” Mass Effect, is still undecided.

Your move BioWare.

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E3 2012 Nintendo press conference summary

After yesterdays early morning (early for a night owl like me) wakeup for Microsoft, it was somewhat of an amazement to me that I managed to spring out of bed today with equal or greater enthusiasm for Nintendo's press conference. Yes, Nintendo! What I've been waiting for. No dozing today, just a shivery awareness--possibly brought on by the overzealous air conditioner--of the awesomeness--hopefully--awaiting me.

After a short intro clip showing Mr. Miyamoto getting ready with cute little Pikmin dancing all around him, he and his Pikmin are up on the stage now, welcoming everyone. For those of us on the internet, Pikmin are popping up in the audience now, making a few members look uncomfortable. Miyamoto then welcomes Bill Trinen to the stage as his translator. He begins theorizing that game machines shouldn't be dependent on a TV, and intros the fancy new controller, claiming a "Dedicated personal screen changes the importance of TV screens".

Then, much to the delight of fans around the convention center, he shows off Pikmin 3. You can definitely tell a graphical update from the earlier installments, though I'd hate to see the riot if they looked the same. There's a new variety of 'Rock' Pikmin in this title, and says it uses the Wiimote/Nunchuck configuration as one of its main control methods. On the other hand, the Wii U gamepad brings in a much heavier strategy element, with an overhead map view and multiple commanders of Pikmin. Seems using the gamepad is a different game experience than the Wiimote option. That trend continues all conference; a rather interesting twist, I think. Now he's saying Pikmin 3 is a game for serious gamers (though not in those words). Then he pulls a Pikmin doll from his pocket as he leaves the stage. I love this guy.

Reggie Fils-Aime takes the stand next, and claims he feels like a...purple Pikmin? Awkward. I wonder sometimes if he says stuff like that intentionally just to make a joke for next year. Now he's saying that games are the most important part of this conference--is that a gentle rip of M$?--and that over the next hour, it'll be a solid demo of over 20 Wii U games. Next he says that the Wii U can change your life, and revolutionize your living room, and I wonder if this will turn into a design show. Reggie then tells us that Netflix, Amazon video, ETC will definitely be available on the Wii U, and that at E3.Nintendo.com hey're going to be updating their info as E3 continues, since there's "not enough time" to do so in this press conference alone. Supposedly, and to my everlasting horror, the Wii u is a very 'social console', and they're using the phrase “Asymmetric gameplay” to describe the unique experience of playing with the duel screens of gamepad and TV. And, as I faithfully recorded earlier, gamepad players play differently than 'standard' Wiimote players do. And, happily enough, the Wii U can use two gamepad's per console. I'm happy they addressed that after the complaints last year.

Now Reggie is showing off a detailed 3D view of the gamepad. Taking a note from Sony and Microsoft, the thumb sticks now have press buttons too, and also with a bit of Xbox flavor, trigger buttons aside from L and R are on the back, with those two being up top, making the thing resemble a really big GBA, almost. I see a USB slot as well, and I can only ponder the possibilities. Charging, hopefully too; it looked almost like there was a ubiquitous battery slot on the back, and I really wanted to not have to purchase batteries every three weeks, ala` wiimote. It's got a camera built in, along with a speaker and headphone jack. And a blue glowy home button. Really, the gamepad itself resembles a game console, or tablet of sorts, what with the touch screen. Here's hoping there will be someway to transfer games to it and carry it with you.

Now they're showing Miiverse again, though it was 'released' for public viewing earlier this week. Seems to be a hub of sorts for the console, as well as a social thingum. You can see/send simple text messages, somewhat like swapnote, and you can share screen shots taken from a game, as well as scores and such. And you'll be able eventually to view it with a 3DS, PC or mobile device. I smell Microsoft wizardry here.

Continuing to display Miiverse' potential, we wants to bring in an 'old friend'; namely Mario in the form of New Super Mario Bros U, which uses Miiverse within the interface as a 'real time social window'. Seems similar to Live!, from the slight view shown here. NSMBU seems to have a squirrel suit of sorts, and the old Yoshi mechnism, where you find a baby Yoshi and have to feed it enough to make it grow. I love that. It also features well as a gorgeous art style, gushy as that may sound. It can also be played standalone on the gamepad, and features 'boostmode', where up to four players use Wiimotes to control, and one player (for a possible total of five) helps them out with the game pad, making blocks appear or other helpful objects and triggers.

Next Harley Quin pops up on the big screen to annoy people. Or, I guess, intro Batman Arkham City on the Wii U. She's freaking everyone out as Martin Tremblay walks on stage and thankfully sends her away. Alright, so maybe she was just annoying me; the audience chuckled. Either way, Arkham City: Armored edition is a remade (or at least modified) version of Arkham City made specifically for Wii U. Batman not only has an armored suit, but uses a BAT computer to work through various puzzles and also set and actuate traps. The gamepad, of course, is used as the BAT and functions as a scanner, hacker and remote controller of batarangs, amongst other things like explosive gel traps. As cool as it is, I can't help but point out that Batman Arkham City is already wildly successful on other consoles at the present date.

Now Martin is bringing out Jeremiah Slaczka, to talk about Scribblenauts Unlimited. Now with adjectives, and hi-def. Just like the version on the DS, you can create loads of different objects using words to solve various puzzles, or fight, or ETC. Looks like a fun game, and again, it's very pretty looking and has a unique art style. Low res streaming disabled any sort of graphical comparison for me, though. In this, you use the gamepad to create the various stuff you'll use, and it looked handy with the touch screen. As an aside, you may notice I've no release dates to tell you; that's not because of my shoddy reporting, but because there were none given. Something I find annoying.

Reggie takes the stage again, kicking Martin off, to make the 'all about games' comment again. The next series of clips was sort of a blitzkrieg that left me nigh on frantic typing them down. 

Darksiders 2 made it, and was instantly recognizable, even for me. Not sure how I feel about the mixed up theology presented in the series, but the game itself looked crazy fun, with Death being a pretty agile dude fighting lots of towering critters. 

Then Mass Effect 3 popped up on the screen, and actually surprised me, because I genuinely didn't expect that. Even though I'd actually heard about it earlier last month. I probably don't have to waste text space describing that game, amirite? 

Next was Tank! Tank! Tank!, which, though still stunned by Mass Effect, appeared to be a tank-based shooter with nice multiplayer capability. Tekken Tag Tournament showed up next, which was another surprise to me; looked like Tekken, but with a few wink/nods at Nintendo. I'm excited for where this title will end up. 

Then Trine 2 Directors Cut, which is from all repute a pretty amazing platformer. Again though, there's the trend of either remade games being rereleased or older games being ported to the Wii U, and not a whole lot of completely original titles. I was hoping for at least one new IP at this years conference.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Ninjas edge wafted by next, filling the air with the scent of blood as Ryu tore, cut, and whirlwinded his gory way through various enemies. I swear, next time someone complains to me (as if I could even do anything about it) about Nintendo not having 'mature and hardcore' (which should probably be read 'violent') games, I will kindly point them out to this.

Aliens Colonial Marines is the final game, with all it's violent, creepy alien slaying (and being slayed) self swaggering about the screen. Supposedly, as hit the internet last month, the Wii U version will be better looking than the current Xbox and PS3 generation. Which is impressive, but not as much as may seem; it's a next-gen console being compared to current generations. If it didn't look good, there's a problem. In any case, the game does look nice, if bloody. I'm interested to see what it'll do with multiplayer, ad nothing has been mentioned yet. Whew...so many games, so little typing speed.

Next up for chat is the Music and fitness genres. For me, this is where the conference started going downhill. But Reggie punned himself over his 'My body is ready' comment last year, and I appreciate he can laugh at himself. Talking about how Wii Fit and Wii Fit+ got people into gaming who otherwise would not be, and how Wii Fit U introduces a new peripheral (Wii Fit meter) and uses the camera on the gamepad. Also Luge, which looks fun. The Fit meter looks like nothing more than a slightly advanced pedometer, which brings to mind the infamous glorified blood-pressure machine they tried to pass off last E3. 

Now a music game called SiNG, which tries to get everyone to play, since usually with music games a few people are playing and the rest are staring numbly at the TV. The gamepad displays lyrics, and you face your friends to sing instead of facing the TV, and everyone is supposed to sing along, both with you and a dancing character on the screen...It's karaoke basically, but you have to actually face your friends laughter instead of a cold, heartless blue lyric screen. I'm mildly mortified at this.

Scott Moffitt takes the stage now to talk about 3DS titles. But, limited on time by Reggie, he's hosting a 3DS press conference thingum in a live webcast tomorrow night. Which I think was probably wise, instead of trying to cram it all into one event. Still, he shows New Super Mario Bros 2 off, and it is all about gold coins. There's even a 'gold' Mario ability, and they brought back the famous Tanooki suit (the audience cheered). Mario can also punch in this version, much to my delight. NSMB2 is scheduled for release August 19th.

Next pops up an oddly flattened Mario image; can't fool me; I know Paper Mario when I see him. This new one in the series aptly named "Paper Mario: Sticker Star", and relies upon using stickers to fight with, explore, ETC. This holiday season. Not sure if I favor the idea of having to replace my stickers frequently, but as they showed hammers, fire flowers, scissors, ladders, and other stuff all in sticker form, I'm looking forward to giving it a shot.

Continuing to show off titles we saw at last E3 (can you tell me mild aggravation?) It's Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. And though I was complaining a bit earlier, the game looks good. Multiple mansions this time around, along with new ghosts requiring specific strategies to defeat. Whether this will be different from the original remains to be seen, but there were definitely some new facets. Like giant spiders. Launches this “holiday season”.

Scott then says you'll have to watch tomorrow to find out more, especially for third party stuff. Then he shows clips for Castlevania lords of shadow: mirror of fate, Epic Mickey: power of lllusion, Scribblenauts unlimited, and Kingdom hearts: dream drop distance. (all for 3DS).

Reggie kicks Martin off now and starts talking about Lego City, and using the Gamepad as a crime fighting tool. The Wii U gamepad is used as a scanning tool, and this seems to be a sort of open world crime fighting game, with sweet action mechanics. There's an exclusive portable version for the 3DS, but I'm still distracted by the Lego detective parkouring it up and laying a beat down on baddied. This has definitely taken the Lego series to new heights, well away from the slightly stodgy beginnings.

Reggies goal for Wii U this year is to provide new and engrossing game experience for everyone, hardcore or casual. Now he's praising Ubisoft for doing just that. Yves Guillomot, on behalf of Ubisoft, thanks Nintendo for the new oppurtunities the Wii U provides. Also, uses the phrase “asymmetric gameplay”. Hope that doesn't become a catchphrase. Regardless, they're showing off games with Xavier Poix now, including Just Dance 4. More random dancers, and this feels like yesterday all over again. But a dance mesh mode, called 'Puppet Master has been added to the series, and I can see it turning in an effective torture method. Then they throw up “strike a pose” and things turn awkward for a minute. I will say in its defense that the Just Dance series, wild flailing that it may be, is surprisingly fun, and this is the first music title at this E3 I haven't wanted to die in a fire.

Next, something hopefully masculine enough to slide past the fact I admitted to liking Just Dance, is Zombie U, one of the 'hardcore' titles they're offering up. The demo begins with the game pad being displayed as a survival kit pulled out of a hard case. In the game, it's used as a scanner and for inventory management, along with a sniper mode. Door hacking, too, and breaking free of a zombies unfriendly embrace (that's...not really something I think should be listed as a feature). Looks like a good title, in my eyes. Very pretty and spooky, graphically. And you can get zombified with the camera on the game pad, which they did with Reggie and spent the next five minutes just...staring at his face.

Now, in another wild rushing of clips, they've got Assassins Creed 3, Rabbids Land, Rayman Legends, Sports connection, and Avengers: battle for earth. All of these look great as well, so I'm quite happy with the updated graphical capabilities thus far. I'm less happy about the lack of Nintendo exclusives being displayed this year, but then, last year people complained over lack of third party games, so Nintendo cannot seem to catch a break.

Now there's props on stage, with 'Nintendo Land" emblazoned on the screen. Reggie is comparing Nintendo land to the original Wii Sports, in that it shows you what the controller can do. Now he's bringing on Katsuya Eguchi and Johnathan Yeckley to show what he means. It seems to be a variety title just like Wii sports, where your Mii visits different attractions which are based off classic Nintendo IP's. There's a Zelda title, as well as Donkey Kong and Animal Crossing, Takamaru's Ninja castle, and happily for me, a Luigi's mansion attraction. Oddly, it seems as though Nintendo land is not packaged in with the Wii U. It's supposed to launch at the same time as the Wii U later this year; one can always hope though, right?

More Nintendo Land stuff, this time at night with fireworks, but really no changes. Reggie says 'Together, better' and I'm frightened since it seems like one of those 'One of us. One of us. One of us' horror movie moments, but that's just another pop phrase for media consumption. Seems I've fallen for it. And...that was the end of the official conference. But in a very neat twist, they had a special presentation at the end just for internet viewers, where they rehashed games already shown and went over them deeper (giving more in depth gameplay videos about Nintendoland and Wii Fit U, for example). It's nothing spectacular, but it felt nice to be noticed.

And...that's all folks. Another Nintendo press conference with no release date for the Wii U, no price point, and very few brand new first party titles. Where is the Metroid, 3D Mario, or Zelda? Granted, Skyward Sword came out not that long ago, but still. Where is the list of release titles, even? Ah...Nintendo fanboy am I. And truly, I've been waiting for Wii U info since last year. But my non-biased side is unhappy with this conference, especially in retrospect. To be sure, I rank it well above Microsoft's yesterday (unfortunately, I missed Sony's), but at the same time, I can't help feeling a bit...mystified, I guess. It's like there was a cloak of sorts over information. Still, plenty of good titles, at least for the time being. Here's hoping for more info over the rest of E3.

--Isaac Anonymous

 

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Read our Sony E3 recap
Check out our Microsoft E3 summary  

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A look at E3: Microsoft's Press Conference

Bright eyed, bushy tailed, I awoke this morning in happy expectation of this years opening to E3; otherwise known as 'Gamers Christmas in July”. Which is weird, considering it's June. Either way, I grabbed a bottle of Root Beer and planted my rump firmly in front of my desk for the next few hours, hoping for awesomness to rain from the Microsoft flavored heavens that is their press conference.

 

Poppy showtunes start off the presentation. I can live without those, so I'm using the time to wipe the sleep from my eyes. Or, in reality, to nap on my desk for a few minutes. Global media briefing, the first man says? What kind of...never mind.

 

They're starting off with Halo 4, which was unexpected. They certainly aren't afraid to throw out their killer apps quickly. The live action trailer reminds me of the stink that happened over Killzone 2. Graphically, the title is definitely sharp, but I don't think anyone is surprised at that. What I was surprised over was the Covenants presence. I thought those guys were taken care of? Must've just been the Elites what made peace with humanity. Ah well, the new enemies--the Forerunners, the ones who made the original Halo's--look awesome in their form and armor. Weapons are pretty sweet looking too; has a sort of Ancients from Stargate look, with the moving and levitating parts. The guns literally assemble in mid air as Master Chief picks them up. Along with his jet pack seen in the earlier trailer (which was not shown in this presentation), Master Chief also sports new visors in this trailer. I wonder if multiple visor settings will be a gameplay mechanic, because he used his to give a black-and-white scan of the surrounding area, revealing enemies. One can always hope, right? To further complicate things, Cortana is apparently going insane. A recently released issue of Game Informer mentioned that AI's in the Halo universe start to degrade after several years and get taken out of commission, and, as stated in the trailer, Cortana has been 'alive' and working for eight years now. Whatever the case, Cortana has taken a flying leap off the deep end and you have to wonder what the Chief will have to do about it.

 

Don Matrick (senior VP of something or other) walks on stage to applause and eager faces to start the preamble. He claims the X360 is the number one best selling console in the world. Why does it seem every console out now is suddenly the number one selling console in the world? Someone's playing with statistics again, I think. He's also praising the Xbox for the large variety of non game related media opportunities it presents, but I can't help but think that the PS3, and even the Wii, offer similar items. Hmm...now he's talking about connecting all your devices...Windows Live connectivity? Nope. Hinting at something new.

 

The next clip shows a middle eastern man carrying his half dead comrade into a tent containing three men puzzling over maps. As they turn and frantically care for the their comrade, the other man lifts the veil off of his face and in a violent display kills them all. But wait...is that a Splinter Cell title? Oh snap. With Sam Fisher as the veiled man? What did I miss by not playing Conviction yet? There's a weird sort of bullet-time mechanic called "Killing in Motion", which is used to target multiple enemies and take them out in rapid succession. Seems sort of the like the system introduced in Conviction. I like it, though it seems from the demo as if the game is more stealth-action rather than the pure stealth of the traditional series; another facet brought in by Conviction, I think. Sam also seems much more agile than I'm used to; scaling dirt walls, flipping over barricades and doing all manner of fancy knifework with incredible speed. Also, it's not Michael Ironside voicing Sam, much to my disappointment. Oddly, it uses Kinect for voice commands (“Sam”, or rather the man playing the game, calls in an air strike in the demo) for various things. Fancy. Sam seems to be tracking down a list of assassination targets known as 'the blacklist', and so, shipping Spring 2013, the game is called Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

 

EA Sports' Andrew Wilson takes the stage next. The new Madden (august 28th, 2012; gotta love specific release dates, even if I'm not looking forward to the title) and Fifa (this fall) are both using Kinect extensively in their builds. They're really pushing Kinect this year, not that the voice commands aren't cool (especially in Splinter Cell). Fifa keeps track of how you react to the ref, and throws down penalties if you respond badly (in the demo, a guy cursed at him and was flagged for it). Nice. That's actually a really cool mechanic. I know some people who wouldn't be able to play with Kinect on. Now the focus switches to Madden. Blast, who is that guy walking on stage now? He's a quarterback, I know. I missed the name, shoddy reporter that I am. Kinect connectivity is actually pretty cool in this title too; the game responds as you speak the calls. Again, not a title I can appreciate, but I can see how the voice features could be used to enhance gameplay. Or (to be fair) in a noisy environ, severely detract from it.

 

The next clip shows sparkly magics firing at all manner of traditional fantasy critters. I like fantasy magics, so this already looks like fun. Surprisingly, it's Fable: The Journey (holiday 2012). Seems to be a rail shooter version set in the Fable universe. Didna expect that turn. Extensive use of Kinect of course (leading me to believe the title is Kinect only) but that may not be a bad thing; You use your hands to throw the various forms of magic. No complaints over that. Wish they'd shown more though. Hopefully they'll release other info over the course of the Expo. I could see this turning out to be a really fun game.

 

Next guy walking on stage, and I missed his name too. What is wrong with me? I may or may not have been thinking about the new Fable game too much to pay attention to the talking. Anyway, new Gears game. And it looks like...Baird takes lead? I need to play Gears 3 as well, apparently. Called Gears of War: Journey. Release date is TBA, far as I can see. Surprised that there's not a lot more on this title. It was a short little clip that really showed nothing about the game aside from its existence and the silly smile on Baird's face.

 

Next clip is Forza. I do love me some sim-racing, and Forza: Horizon looks...shiny, at least. They've added new features, like what looks to be real-world driving on car-laden highways and byways, as well as a day/night system. Not much is shown, but they've amped up the crash mechanics too. Cars were flipping and shredding, as opposed to the rather tame damage done in Forza 2. Assuming, at least, that wasn't just a demo trailer spoofed to make you buy the game; but we all know they wouldn't do that to us, right? Forza Horizon releases October 23rd, 2012.

 

The next guy up is Yusef Mehdi. Caught that one, and it's always nice to see a familiar face from last E3. He's detailing the Bing media search on Xbox; it's getting genre voice searching. Cool thing, if, again, you have a Kinect. Uncertain why they're listing as a sparkling feature something that other consoles, or TV guides, or entertainment companies, already had standard. It's also getting twelve other languages to use as well. Culturally unsound as it is, I never considered that it did not accept other languages already. Xbox is also getting the Nickleodean network, Paramount movies, Machinima, and Univision videos. Also looks like they're getting an NBA channel, NHL (next season), and later this year the magic Box is getting 24/7 ESPN. Yay? I suppose if you enjoy sports, you may be thrilled. The voice control, which they really seem to be pushing, is pretty fancy I guess. I didn't buy the console to watch TV or movies, however.

 

Or, for that matter, to listen to music. Coming soon is Xbox Music. Examining the Xbox Music interface and services, it looks like a repackaged version of their Zune software. Which is good stuff, but hardly new. Also it's going to be available on some tablets and phones, throwing your music around various devices.

 

The X360 is also getting a fitness program from Nike, presented by Stefan Olander (a higher up from Nike). What is this conference turning into? A shoe ad? A multimedia presentation? Nike claims if you have a body, you are an athlete, and so this program (I can't call it a game, in good conscience) is for you. Inspiring. Creepily enough, Nike fuel (a service they offer aside from Xbox related stuff) seems to track your every move and help you 'get fit'. That, however, just leads into the Nike+ (plus is the name, not an addition sign) Kinect training, a 'digital training experience'. Still spooky, but it's a creative thing in its own way. Looks to be a fairly detailed and meaty exercise program. Plus, you're able to compete against others in fitness over Xbox Live. It's an Xbox flavored Wii Fit, basically. Releases later in 2012. Though it strikes me as funny how many 'core' gamers (you know, the ones Microsoft claims to cater to) made fun of the Wii for having Wii Fit. Wonder what Sony is going to dream up for the health crowd?

 

Mark Whitten walks up next. I forget his title and rank within Microsoft, but he claims people love their smartphones and tablets and the connectivity they offer, and carry them everywhere. I don't have a Smartphone or a tablet, actually, and really don't see the point. But now he's talking about that new way of connecting they mentioned earlier (though I personally wonder if we really need to watch bonus features as we watch the show), and it turns out to be their new service: Xbox SmartGlass. It seems to work cross platform as an app for download, and he's showing off the fact that he can track the characters from Game of Thrones with a map on his iPad as they travel in the TV show. He used Sherlock Holmes as an earlier example; as well as stopping the movie on, say, his iPad, and picking it up in the exact same spot on his TV, the iPad starts to showcase trivia and tidbits about the movie as the TV picks up the feed. Now he's talking about immersive entertainment. And it works with games too, not just movies and TV. He customized a play in Madden on his tablet and it showed up in real time on the big screen. In Halo 4 (again, using an iPad as the portable device) it seems to act as both a nifty tidbit option, and also as a hub for multiplayer endeavours. That's the first feature I've seen that I consider cool, to be honest. Well, that's not exactly true. It's cool tech and very impressive, but just not what I wanted from an E3 conference. Now he's going on about how 'No one uses the browser on other consoles'. Which isn't true, and humorously enough was also a defense tried by Sony last year at E3. Didn't work then either. Anyway, his point was that Internet Explorer 8 is coming to Xbox later this year and revolutionizes console web surfing. Not my choice of web browser, and no word whether it'll require Live Gold in order to use or not. It also seems as if it requires Kinect voice control to use smoothly, and/or a tablet/smartphone using SmartGlass. He shows off a Prometheus trailer he reached only by voice, and then uses the touch screen on his phone as a mouse controller for the Xbox. Both SmartGlass and IE are coming this Fall, and are supposed to work with devices (TV, smartphone, tablet) you already own. Now he's running Windows 8 advertisements; Connecting computers, games, everything else. Dear sweet monkey fudge, where are the games here? Cool tech, but really.

 

Daniel Bissom, and Darrel Gallagher walk on stage now to show off a Tomb Raider demo, and it's the first time I've personally seen the new look. It showed Laura using a bow extensively (in both ranged and melee kills) as well as the 'traditional' Tomb Raider weaponry, like shotguns. I liked the bow mechanics, actually; enemies react to where they are shot with it (prompting me to make an 'Arrow in the Knee' joke to myself) and she'll also be able to use multiple arrow types (the demo showed normal arrows, as well as flaming ones used to set off gasoline, much to the men standing in the petrol's chagrin). It also showed off a skydiving segment (actually, a falling out of a plane segment) in which the player controlled her flight as she tried to a void trees. Interestingly enough, it also appears as if the Laura character will show physical damage as she takes it, and the game is said to have a fairly in depth survival mechanic, a completely different spin on the series. The first piece of DLC available will be an Xbox exclusive, though no mention of what it was.

 

Now they're talking about new games, as opposed to old favorites, to which I say: Yay! I was starting to lose hope. And they're doing one better: world premiere exclusives. They turn to a clip of Ascend: New Gods, which shows a rather big monster of sorts fighting off other monsters in titanic fashion. Not really much is shown, other than the fighting style favors God of War in its approach. Coming out sometime in 2012, I'm definitely keeping an eye out for this title.

 

Next thing shown is not much at all. No name, and no title that I saw, only a bike that seems like a female (and deadlier) version of Kit from Knightrider sitting on a stand. It favors Tron in it's graphical scheme. Coming 2012, whatever it was, so I expect more info revealed later, or at least punishing comments detailing on how I missed the title and release date. Either way, I'm good.

 

For the next clip, funnily enough, they threw "Director of Pirates of the Caribbean" up in big letters on the screen as a major thing, but left "And Rango" in small letters near the bottom. Visually the game reminds me of Tron (again) mixed with Portal. All the clip shows is wildly shifting metal architecture and two orbs that seem to want to connect with each other. It's called Matter, for Kinect and it's scheduled for release in 2013.

 

Unfortunately, I cannot spell the names of the Capcom reps taking the stage, and annoyingly enough I can't find it on Google. So sorry for the shoddy reporting, and no disrespect intended. Leave me a comment if you know. That aside, they're showing off Resident Evil 6. Leon is back, it seems, with a lady partner I first took to be Claire. They've added a nice melee kill option, and hopefully that'll be something you can use throughout the game and not just in certain triggered sequences. Now Leon and lady are entering a building to escape the zombie laden streets, and I have the urge to scream “Don't go in there!”, but Leon blows up several dozen shuffling dead in gory, limb tearing fashion and I'm suddenly confident of his abilities. Now they're trying to get to a helicopter and...yep, it's blowing up and the pilot has turned zombie. Fairly cool trailer, actually. It definitely seems to follow in the footsteps of the fourth and fifth entries of the series, with all that implies.

 

A lady named Alex Ruiz is now showing off Wreckateer, an Xbox Live! exclusive Kinect title. You use Kinect to control projectiles fired from a crossbow and blow up stuff., with differing ammunition such. Reminiscent of a 3D, beautifully animated Angry Birds. No complaints here either, except they're really, really pushing Kinect this year. Wreckateer is launching on Live this summer.

 

Next is South Park: the Stick of Truth. Tray Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, are presenting it in humorous fashion. And now Tray (I think) is making fun of Smartglass. I like him a bit more. They're stressing that they wanted it to look like the series does in order to stay true to it, and that they were pleased to succeed. Fans will be pleased, I think. Now they're talking about how tricky it was to imagine the locations and maps of the series, since normally they'd just cut to them. In the Stick of Truth, you play the New Kid in Town and try to fit in with 'the crew' in order to save the city, in what appears to be turn based RPG fashion in a mockingly fantastic fantasy realm of sorts. These guys, considering they actually talked about a game, brightened up the conference a bit. Though with an "everyone knows Jews can't be saviors" joke, and a bit of knowledge of typical South Park humor, I'm likely going to pass.

 

Now Usher unexpectedly pops up on the screen and is talking above an upbeat pop tune about how he helped out with a game. My Internet decided to be lackadaisical at this point, and starts freezing up a bit. But I can already see where this is going; or hear it, rather. And...yep. Dance Central 3. Seems as though Usher is actually at the conference coming out from backstage, and not just in a video clip. The good thing is, there's FIRE and pyrotechnics. Can't go wrong with fire on a stage show. And it's sort of distracting from the fact that 30-45 minutes of this presentation were about SmartGlass. Judging from the still shots I'm getting of the scene (internet...oh the internet) I'm not missing much. I mean, I saw the fire. What else is needed? Now if only the audio would die too. This has turned into a music video, rather than a gaming conference, and so I'm tempted to go get a sammich until I can no longer hear the music. Cool enough though, the real world dancing of Usher and his crew is blending seamlessly into the DC3 video behind them. There were a few "Oh snap that note was sour and hurt my ears" moments that I laughed at, however, so I am not sad when Usher leaves the stage.

 

Don Mattrick again. Makes a joke about 'Ushering in the future'. Nice. Talking about connecting everything for entertainment, and you can tell he's leading up to something, but still. I have no need to connect my TV to every facet of my life, and even less so to connect my mythical smartphone into every movie and song I own.

 

But then Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 pops up on the screen, and I am satiated for the moment. Very futuristic, very cool. It's making the leap Modern Warfare made compared to the original Call of Duty, and is set in 2025. The demo shows a city under heavy attack by drone fighter planes, complete with decimated cars and blowed up scenery. Looks like perhaps it features multiple path selection, but I could be wrong. Weapons have, obviously, taken a futuristic leap as well. He's showing off a sniper rifle with a scope capable of tracking enemies through solid objects when...Wait what? Clip editing for sake of time? I'm pretty sure everyone would want to see the whole thing, time issues or otherwise. Now he's using a PDA-like wrist device (a smartphone with SmartGlass, probably) to call in several UAV's for fire support, and uses them to blow up an enemy vehicle. Sweeeet. And then a building falls over in slowmo because of a fiery explosion, all of which is detailed in surprising depth, and all is laid to burnination. Or at least covered in dust. Now, in an oddly different and pretty exciting feature for a CoD game, the main character is flying a jet, guarding a vehicle. A futuristic jet, complete with motion tracking HUD and the ability to lift straight off the ground, nonetheless. As the clip fades, the slogan “The future is...BLACK” pops up on screen, and I'm left to bask in the glow for a few moments. Looks pretty amazing, fanboy as I may be.

 

And then...it's over, with the same pop music it started off with. I'm filled with equal parts excitement and disappointment. The games that were exhibited looked good, especially Splinter Cell, Black Ops 2, and (though I never thought to say it), Tomb Raider. But there weren't really very many games displayed; an acknowledgement of another Gears game, and a Dance Central game (really looking forward to that one, you know), and what feels like several hundred Kinect titles and several hours on the subject of connecting (or, dare I say it, 'Kinecting') various media devices into a conglomerate personal entertainment network. I can't say I'm thrilled over the fact that the conference seemed less fun this year, with more 'global media presentation' and less 'here's our new games'. Still, a small load of solid titles, and plenty for sports fans. Here's hoping the rest of the Expo reveals more X360 titles of worth, and that Sony and Nintendo up the ante on their conferences.

 

--Isaac Anonymous

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Check our our Sony E3 2012 impressions
Read our summary of the Nintendo E3 press conference  

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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