Posts Tagged ‘ Playstation ’

Going Retro: Getting into Game Collecting

Disclaimer: The top image is not my game collection….yet!

I went to GameStop a few years back (I don’t have nearly as much of a problem with them as some) and saw a friend of mine who was the store manager at the time. Before I left, she recommended I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Her recommendation was so high that I wound up going to Barnes & Noble the same time to pick it up. I read the full book in a flight to Seattle and back.

I loved the book, but it also kindled a fire in me for nostalgia of my own childhood, primarily for video games. I started thinking about my backlog of games on current consoles and, like many gamers, wondered if I’d ever get through them all. Then the idea hit me: If I couldn’t play through all the games, why not start collecting them and curating a library of of the best ones?

I started by going to garage sales and looking for older games. One of the first I went to I met a guy who was also collecting and working towards a complete North American licensed release NES library. He invited me to join a Facebook group and I began to realize how many people were into retro game collecting. I decided I need t obetter define what games I wanted to start building my own library.

What Games To Get?

I started by thinking about consoles. I still had my NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Genesis, and PS3 at this point. I decided I would try to get all the consoles I had played growing up and a “Top 100” library of the best games on each system. Then I’d also include memorable games I enjoyed as a child if they weren’t on the “Top 100” list. This meant acquiring an Atari 2600, Sega Saturn & Dreamcast, a Playstation and PS2. I didn’t include hand held systems as they have never been a big interest for me.

To determine a “best of” hunting list for each system, I started with sites like IGN and GameSpot that had done “Top 100” articles before. Next, I went to fogurms where posters had debated their picks for the best games with discussion and votes moving games up/down the list and adding/dropping off the list. I took the titles that appeared across each list and made that my Hunting List.

For example:
IGN Top 100 NES Games
Retro Sanctuary Top 100 Best NES Games
Game FAQs Top 100 NES Games

All in all, I actually came up with a list of:

  • 106 Atari 2600
  • 164 NES
  • 147 SNES
  • 101 Sega Genesis
  • 88 N64
  • 95 Sega Dreamcast
  • 83 GameCube
  • 215 PS2
  • 220 PS3

Obviously the “Top 100” grew with the additional titles I remembered and moreso as I decided to include infamously bad titles and all RPGs.

Benefits of the List, and How to Use It

I highly recommend creating a list to work from, even if you are going for a complete library of every title on a system. Put the list in Google Drive and get the app on your phone. I use a spreadsheet listing the titles and their Pricecharting value across 6 rows to minimize scrolling, divided up by systems. This way your list is always on hand and you can make sure you don’t buy a duplicate of something you’ve already picked up (so long as you update and save the file in Google Drive, of course).

I did mention I keep the price for each game from Pricecharting on my list. I’ve seen in some groups there are people who think Pricecharting is crap and should never be used. I’ve yet to understand why some think this. Pricecharting basically tracks prices of completed auctions from eBay to give an average price. Using completed auctions ensures you’re getting information based on what people are actually willing to pay. I don’t advise taking it as the absolute price, though. You can look at the auctions the data is coming from to make sure they’re recent. If not, you can go to ebay directly and see what recent prices were on sold listings. Sometimes Pricecharting doesn’t have recent data on their averages, but I find this an uncommon occurrence.

One thing to remember is these are largely eBay based prices, so I think it’s safe to push for a bit less than those prices since a seller would lose 10% to eBay fees, not to mention the hassle of shipping.

Where To Hunt for Games?

The simple answer is: everywhere.

Garage Sales / Flea Markets / Thrift Stores / Antique Stores
Obviously these are all hit or miss, but you never know what you might find. I always keep an eye out for other items completely unrelated to video games that I can flip for profit to further pay for game collecting such as vintage posters, Disney or Warner Bros. items, or anything that I think might be worth reasonably more than is being asked.

GameStop
If you’re looking for XBox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, or Wii U games, it’s worth looking into GameStop prices. There are some titles I’ve gotten much cheaper at GameStop than Pricecharting shows, meaning you’re actually better off with GameStop, especially if you have their Power Up Reward card. A few examples as of the time of this writing:

Sakura Wars on Wii is worth $25, but $13.50 with discount at GameStop
Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii is worth $34, but $27 with discount at GameStop
Ar tonelico Qoga: Kneel of Ar Ciel on PS3 is worth $22.50, but $9 with discount at GameStop

If you’re really lucky and can find a copy of Dokapon Kingdom at GameStop, it will run you $45 rather than $80 for just the disc.

It’s just a matter of researching the titles you’re looking for and checking if they have them near you, then going or calling to verify if they’re complete with manual. If you hunt during a Buy 2 Get 1 Free weekend, you can really clean up.

Half Price Books
People in a lot of gaming groups hate Half Price Books, primarily because they overprice games. I’ve found some stores do, some don’t, and some are reasonably in line with Pricecharting prices. I find it’s worth looking at least and I tend to drive around to as many as I can on the coupon weeks for 20-50% off coupon purchases. That’s how I got Skies of Arcadia on GameCube for $35 and Mario Cement Factory for $50.

Game Stores
The chain stores, such as Game X-Change, are unlikely to offer real deals unless you catch them slipping on values. Sometimes you’ll find fair prices on titles you’ve been looking for but haven’t had luck finding. Game X-Change also offers a B2G1 deal on all games $7.95 or less. This doesn’t help as you get to a point where you’re hunting more expensive titles, of course.

Your best bet is small independent stores where the owner is more likely to be willing to work a deal with you if you buy multiple games at a time and return with repeat business.

eBay
Of course, this is sort of a last resort, but if you’re patient and watch close, you’ll sometimes catch good deals on games you’ve been looking for with no luck for a long while.

Facebook Groups
You’ll find Facebook groups where people buy, sell, and trade their extra games. I recommend taking some time to get a feel for how the group is and if you want to work with them for trades.

Gaming Conventions
If you want to get a good deal at conventions, you probably want to work on your haggling skills and still go in with good games to trade and cash to spend. The last few conventions I’ve been to weren’t too great for deals, but were full of rare things you won’t find at the average store. You might use conventions to target rare and hard to find additions for your collection.

Growing Up Gaming – Playstation

Like so many others, I started the shift to Playstation from Nintendo for one game in particular. Final Fantasy VII.

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Final Fantasy II and III (still talking US SNES here) made me a full Final Fantasy fanatic. When Squaresoft announced the next installment on Playstation, it was already no question I would get it, but then the commercials showed off some cut scenes and it was like the future had arrived. The cut scenes they showed were like nothing we’d had seen before. If you go back to look at them now, they still aren’t that bad, but certainly show their age.

Then there are the graphics of the actual game. They aren’t too bad in combat, and the backgrounds were definitely beautiful, but the polygonal block bodies of the characters are certainly rough. The game definitely had weaknesses, not helped by some poor localization translations due to a rather short deadline given to the localization team. It has since developed a divided opinion with some feeling it’s an overrated entry and others feeling it’s the best entry in the series.

Personally, I had leaned towards it being a great game that was still overrated, but have started leaning back towards it being pretty damn good. I’m not sure it’s the best entry in the series and I honestly don’t want to try to narrow down a de facto decision of which I think is the absolute best, but Final Fantasy VII, in my mind, definitely deserves its praise.I think Sephiroth is generally overrated and JENOVA is generally underrated in the game’s dual villain dichotomy. While I liked all of the cast, and I was stunned when Aeris (Aerith!) was killed, my favorite team was Cloud, Tifa, and Red XIII (Tifa being the best of waifus past, present, or future).

Hopefully the forthcoming remake collection will make the game what it truly should be, with improved localization and fleshed out segments that were clunky or unclear in the original release.

The summons got more details in their animations and more impressive, but there was one thing I particularly didn’t like about them – too many Bahamuts. I’m on board with Bahamut being among the strongest summons, if not THE strongest, but having Bahamut Zero, Neo-Bahamut, and Super Hyper Ultra Supreme Zeta Excelsior Turbo Arcade Capcom Bahamut got a bit much.

I finished Final Fantasy VIII on the system, but didn’t like the game nearly as much, especially the Draw system. The graphics were a clear improvement over the polygons of VII, but are still pretty rough to go back to today and the story and characters weren’t as memorable for me. I will give VIII credit on having a better ending than VII, though, since it actually had a conclusion for the main characters while VII basically gave us a Final Fantasy ending for Disney’s The Lion King.

I loved Final Fantasy IX much more than its predecessor and it ranks highly in my all time favorites in the series. With the return of characters being specific classes, the game seemed able to really set scenes to give each character their own story arc with personality and growth.It was alos a nice change to have the more cheerful world and cast after the darker, even angsty, atmosphere of the previous two games. Even Final Fantasy VI was a good bit darker, particularly the second half. While I said previously that I would be hard pressed to pinpoint my absolute favorite Final Fantasy, I do think IX is my favorite ending of them all, and definitely my favorite ending of the series on Playstation.

The other Final Fantasy game often overlooked on the system is Final Fantasy Tactics. I had not played tactical RPGs with the aforementioned exception of Shining Force II. I actually liked the earlier portion of Tactics as the story is more grounded in the war and political intrigue amidst the kingdoms before it gets into demons and monsters and nefarious looming evils.

Though I loved Final Fantasy VII, another RPG I have fond memories of came out alongside it on the Playstation – Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. Where Square Enix was breaking new ground with CG cut scenes gaming hadn’t seen the equal to before, Lunar (originally on Sega CD) had beautifully animated anime cut scenes and vocal songs that kicked off right from the intro. It is a fantastic game a lot of voice acting (and includes a collection of outtakes and bloopers at the end, which get rather amusing).

 

There are so many RPGs on Playstation and so many I never played as a result. A few others I particularly enjoyed were Star Ocean: The Second Story, Wild Arms, Breath of Fire III, and Tales of Destiny. Chrono Cross was a good RPG, but came off feeling a little disappointing for me as a follow up to Chrono Trigger. Likewise, I enjoyed Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete, but not as much as Silver Star Story.

Moving away from RPGs, Playstation pulled me far into a new genre: Survival Horror. I had been exposed to the genre with Alone in the Dark on PC, but didn’t get too far in that one. Now Resident Evil 2 truly dragged me into it. I learned to dread the “click click click” of Lickers and became paranoid of a sudden burst of glass with dogs or ravens coming for me. I really knew to be worried if I found a room with a ribbon, ammo, and herbs with a typewriter. This led me to go back to play the first one and I then continued with each main entry since.

Playstation also had Spider-Man, which was the first really good Spider-Man game (also available on N64) that let you climb the walls and ceilings as well as web swing on top of good combat. It was followed by the equally good Spider-Man: Enter Electro. While the games may not seem as good today, especially without an open world, they were absolutely great at their time. These games began the tradition of having unlockable costumes that I really hope continues on the new Playstation 4 game.

The last game to have the a long lasting impact on me from the Playstation is Metal Gear Solid. I most remember the trippy 4th wall break with Psycho Mantis being such a surprise. The solution was quite clever as well, though it drove me nuts figuring out the call frequency that’s given to you on the back of the case. The Metal Gear Solid theme is one of my favorite video game music pieces.

This line up is far from complete, though. I played Crash Bandicoot and was introduced to Spyro the Dragon on the system. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was a lot of fun as well. And yet despite all the good memories on Playstation, I still barely scratched the surface of what was available. As with every console I collect for, hopefully I’ll be able to get back to more of them some day.

That’s it for this entry. Next up, I’ll briefly discuss my time with the overshadowed Nintendo 64.

 

National Videogame Museum Opens Its Doors

The National Videogame Museum (NVM) opened in Frisco, TX on April 2, 2016. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. 10:00 AM, to be precise, was the opening of the doors. I was there and I was excited. Obviously, it’s taken a while for me to get to writing my thoughts on the grand opening of the nation’s, the world’s, first museum dedicated to the history of video games (I use “video game” though the museum officially uses “videogame”).

I had arrived at the Frisco Discovery Center, where the NVM is located, at 10:05 with a bit of a hurried step. I wanted to get in with plenty of time to look around as I was meeting someone in 3 hours to hand over some video games I had accumulated that weren’t going into my collection. I knew the doors opened at 10, so I went right in. And found the line. I followed the line outside again and saw just how many had arrived to see the history of their hobby.

There were a lot. The Museum holds about 240 people and the line was well out of the building and along the sidewalk, starting to curl around the build like a human formation of Nibbles.

0001 Outside

One or two people showed up

I stood in line with a mother whose 7 year old son was running around playing with other kids while they waited. Preston was here to see more about video game history, particularly Pac-Man and Galaga. I learned something from Preston’s mother in the hour we waited outside.

Pixels was a good movie. That’s right, Pixels.

Pixels

Yes, THAT Pixels.

Preston saw Pixels more than once in theaters and probably a dozen times at home since it released on blu-ray and DVD. Pixels introduced this young boy to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q*bert, and made him want to learn more. He went to Google and began reading about these games and these characters and when they came out. He grew interested not only in the games themselves, but their history.

If a 7 year old boy loves a movie about video game characters, and that movie drives him to pursue the history of the industry, then I have to say the movie did something right. Adults and critics may not like it, but if it stirred the interest and curiosity of children, then it’s a good movie by my measure.

And so, there we were, at the first museum in the nation that would let him explore more of that history. TekForce was present and volunteered to provide music and MC the waiting room that we reached at 11 o’clock. I was able to speak with him a moment and learned that the museum was expecting 1,500 visitors for the grand opening day. In the first hour, they were adjusting expectations to 4,000. They underestimated how many people would come out for the grand opening.

As we waited for our ticket groups to be called there were pictures available to color, music played, and a couch set up with a Wii U and Super Mario Bros. available to play. Kids were having a great time. There was also trivia to win prizes – the question I was present for was regarding Pac-Man’s original name (The answer is Puck Man).

At 11:35, our ticket group was called up and we finally went into the NVM lobby to pay for our tickets to the museum proper. Tickets are $12 for adults, but include $1 worth of tokens for the arcade at the end of the museum. By noon, 2 hours after arrival, I finally set foot inside.

The Museum is divided into 16 stages, all of which cover a different portion of video game history.

IMG_7651.JPG

But first, you’re greeted by Mario

 

Stage 1, “Begin” covers the early days of video game history. In fact, with Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box Prototype” on display, it might be safe to say this touches on video game pre-history and then advances through history from there.

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An important aspect of the NVM is that it’s not just exhibits to look at and read. There are a lot of interactive features at the museum, mostly in the form of playable games in the exhibits. Almost every Stage has something you can play.

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Just like the one you grew up with, right?

Stage 2, “Timeline” is the most time consuming interactive option. With screens set up above oversized Super Nintendo controllers, this allows visitors to browse every single video game console ever released to get some information about them. Release year, MSRP, some highlighted games, as well as notorious games, and some of the most valuable on the system can be reviewed. There are 53 different consoles to read about, all of which are on display on the wall.

Stage 3, “Third Party” showcases a number of the third party titles that helped consoles excel with the public. Pitfall, which is playable in the exhibit, Stampede, Megamania, River Raid are on display in their original boxes in a display case while some notable Nintendo entries from Activision share the bottom shelf of the display with Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, Rampage, and more.

Stage 4, “Control” is, quite simply, a full wall with a history of controllers through the years. Multiple controllers from each system are displayed, as well as a disassembled Atari 5200 controller.

Stage 5, “Portable” explores portable games. Game n’ Watch is on display, along with others that pre-dated the Game Boy most think of when “portable gaming” is mentioned.

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Again, there are playable games set up here as well. However, one of the most notable items features in this display is the Barbie Edition Game Boy, which is an unreleased prototype Game Boy Pocket. Supposedly the deal never went through and only two of the systems, along with a gaudy carry case, were made.

Stage 6, “Crash” is ironically my favorite exhibit, despite its dark days in gaming history. It deals with the video game crash of 1983. The first thing I liked was the introduction plaque does detail that the cause of the crash is much more complicated than the simple examples often cited, but not without being self aware of these rumors. Poor E.T. still appears in the stage’s image, even though it’s acknowledged the game was not the cause.

What I really liked about this exhibit, though, was the “going out of business” store front. With various 80s items such as Pac Man trading cards and bubble gum under the glass, a Top 5 sign for the week’s hottest games (which includes E.T., I might add), and a sign indicating the store is going out of business, it’s a very nicely done presentation.

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I promise I was also NOT the cause of the crash.

Stage 7, “Rise” presents the return of video games, stronger than ever, on both computer and with the Nintendo Entertainment System. A lot, and I do mean a lot, of set ups are here to play and interact with.

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At this point, as you venture through the museum, you’ll find the bathrooms. Not exactly something you’d think worth mentioning, but this is the NATIONAL VIDEOGAME MUSEUM, so of course the bathroom entries are worth mentioning with their clever indication of “Men’s” and “Women’s” signs.

 

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Women’s

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Men’s

Stage 8, “Create” presents games moving from just being games and actually involving the user in the creative process. Games like Mario Paint are on display, but I wasn’t able to spend much time hands on (there were a lot of people here, remember?).

Stage 9, “Invent” presents a theoretical game studio’s office. Games adorn the shelves, a PC and work station are present, various articles and news clippings are framed on the walls.

Stage 10, “Transmit” discusses the rise of online gaming with various Blizzard entries, Quake, and two terminals that visitors can use to communicate and send a webcam image to each other on either side of the exhibit with.

Stage 11, “Listen” details music coming into games more with entries such as Parappa the Rapper and, of course, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

Stage 12, “Unplugged” is likely to surprise many visitors with the various board games that were released based on video game properties. Frogger, Q*bert, Pac-Man, Legend of Zelda, and more are all on display.

Across from “Unplugged” is an exhibit showcasing various items. Systems, the Pokemon series, rare and valuable games, this section is an eclectic mix of things that didn’t belong to a single exhibit, but are definitely fun to look at.

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Before venturing to the next stage, there’s also an exhibit with various pieces of merchandise, including the wearable Mega Man helmet.

Stage 13, “Family” accurately portrays a family living room from the 1980s, with a console hooked up for play on the television, a fake plant, wood panel walls, and a Dogs Playing Poker painting on the wall! There are even family photos on display.

Stage 14, “Sanctuary” depicts a teen’s bedroom. Bear in mind, the NVM is in Frisco, Tx, so if you aren’t a Cowboys and Rangers fan, forgive the decor!

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A Pac-Man throw pillow, 80s movie posters, a record playing 80s music, and a Mario phone. It’s worth noting that the visitor I caught in this picture….still had trouble with the NES Zapper hitting the ducks in Duck Hunt.

Stage 15, “Respect” isn’t an exhibit so much as an art display. A cube art mural of Ralph Baer hangs near the conclusion of the museum tour.

Stage 16, “Bonus” is a collection of framed posters, displays, arcade machines, and a life size statue of Gabriel Belmont. Along the wall next to Stage 16 are a line of consoles, all of which had someone playing them. I did get to finally play a bit of Bonk’s Adventure on Turbo Grafx-16, though. Above the consoles is a mural with a number of recognizable video game characters.

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Stage 16 leads to an 80s style arcade to conclude the tour of the National Videogame Museum. The lights are dark and lit more by the neon marquees and the screens of video games than overhead light and it was packed with a person on just about every cabinet. A machine is in the arcade to give tokens for dollar bills in case your 4 tokens from entry aren’t enough to get your gaming fix.

Finally, you exit the arcade to find yourself in the gift shop. I didn’t look at everything, but overall they had some cool items in there. Some books particularly caught my eye and they were all priced reasonably compared to Amazon.

I’ve gone on for over 1700 words about this museum and don’t think I’ve scratched describing it. I was hopeful for this endeavor after visiting the “History of Videogames” exhibit at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, WA, but this is far beyond what was presented there.

The one thing I’d like to see NVM add if they are ever able to expand in size is to build a display library for every system. The curators, I believe, have only brought out a small part of their overall collection. I would love to see a glass display shelving every Atari or NES title in their boxes. In time, seeing every video game on every system lined up on shelves, their spines facing out would be truly a sight to see.

If conclusion, if you’re in the DFW area in Texas and have time to get to Frisco, the National Videogame Museum is well worth your time. I only had a couple of hours available and don’t feel like it was remotely enough time. I’m looking forward to going back with friends when they come into town, but I might have to sneak an extra trip before they make it.

My only hope is that they get repeat business and are able to stay open for a long time to come. Video games have become a huge part of our culture, both in America and across the globe, and it’s great to see a museum preserving and sharing their history.

 

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – More of the Same? That’s Okay!

This week, Ubisoft officially announced the next Assassin’s Creed game would be titled Syndicate and confirmed it would take place in Victorian era London. As has become standard for the Internet, responses ranged from eager anticipation to bemoaning a release of yet another Assassin’s Creed game that is essentially the same game repackaged with a new coat of paint.

The first Assassin’s Creed was released in 2007 and in the past 8 years, there have been 9 entries in the main series with an additional thirteen side games, as well as comics, graphic novels, a short film, animated shorts, and soon a full length feature film starring Michael Fassbender. It’s hard to argue that’s not a lot of games in 8 years. It is.

Focusing on the main series, 9 entries is essentially a new entry in the main series every year with a little short of here and there to squeeze an extra in that cycle time. This has led to some gamers seeing Assassin’s Creed as old, dull, boring, or a cheap rehash of the same game with nothing new. Some would prefer more creativity and true innovation in each sequel with longer cycle times while others are happy to play the games as they are each year.

Unity Cover

With the exception of when they’re released buggy as all get out.

Essentially, Assassin’s Creed has become Ubisoft’s Call of Duty, a franchise that uses the same engine and same gameplay with each installment allowing for short cycle times and fast turn around getting the product out. Personally, I’ve played every installment except for Rogue and have yet to play Unity. I own it, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. I actually acknowledge it’s the same game each time with a new location, but I’m actually okay with that. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon in the game world either.

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8 games in 9 years with only two missing an annual release.

The question, though, is whether or not this rehashing with a few new bells and whistles is acceptable or not. Personally, I’d argue it is.

Assassin’s Creed is Ubisoft’s tentpole movie if they were a Hollywood film studio. Paramount Pictures has a proven track record that year after year they will make millions of dollars on sTransformer, though I’d actually take any Assassin’s Creed plot over Transformers films myself. Essentially, Ubisoft knows they’ll make money with each installment with minimal development time and minimal investment. It’s a low risk, high return on investment game.

Some will feel that’s bad from a perspective of the art and craftsmanship of a team making the games, but I again point to Hollywood. Not every movie, nor every game, needs to be a critically acclaimed artistic achievement. Some are summer blockbusters you enjoy with popcorn, talk about for the weekend, and maybe watch again later on DVD, Bluray, or Netflix. Maybe you make your child watch/play through it one day.

The reason I compare it to the Hollywood tentpole movies is that it serves a similar purpose. It keeps revenue coming in and allows Ubisoft to continue to operate and take chances with other games. For every wildly profitable Assassin’s Creed they publish, they can take chances on smaller games and new IPs like Watch_Dogs, Child of Light, or Valiant Hearts The Great War plus games like South Park The Stick of Truth. Ubisoft isn’t a one trick pony milking their only cash cow. They’ve made a lot of games. 76, to be precise, of varying types just between Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II, for example.

If the profits weren’t rolling in from the blockbuster title each year, would we have gotten Child of Light or Valiant Hearts at all? Valiant Hearts was already a labor of love that almost didn’t get the okay to be made. And while, yes, Ubisoft doesn’t make award winning game after award winning game, it’s still good for them to be doing some exploration with other ideas and genres. Plus Watch_Dogs likely wouldn’t have been made at all if it weren’t for Assassin’s Creed’s success. That game had its share of complaints as well, but I wager the second is going to be a huge improvement much like the leap from Assassin’s Creed to its first sequel and may give Ubisoft two flagship games to generate revenue and allow for more experimentation with other games as well.

So whether you’re like me and love some stabbin’ each year or you’re tired of Assassin’s Creed entirely, I think it’s worth remembering that so long as the games are bringing in a profit, it’s quite likely that we all could benefit from it allowing Ubisoft to bring other games forward in the future.

How Resident Evil’s Horror Could Survive

Capcom has been going in new directions with Resident Evil for a while now with mixed results.  After being one of the most well known series in the survival horror genre with Resident Evil 1-3 and Code Veronica, Resident Evil was always an anticipated release when a new installment was announced.  The Resident Evil REmake and Resident Evil 0 were well received on GameCube and a Resident Evil 2 REmake is one of the most fan requested games out there.

But with Resident Evil 4, Capcom switched to over the shoulder gameplay rather than the old clunky “tank control” scheme, yet 4 was still highly praised despite getting away from Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus.  That warm reception wasn’t waiting for Resident Evil 5, which followed Chris Redfield and his new partner Shiva in Africa where the T-Virus’s origins were first discovered and Umbrella as fans came to know it was born (which las plagas from Resident Evil 4 still factored in).  Resident Evil 5 split fans as the game seemed to get further away from its survival horror roots and go more towards an action game.  Resident Evil 6 had fans hopeful with the apparent return to a city devastated by a new outbreak similar to Raccoon City, but while the game started with more familiar elements of survival horror, it started showing signs of action. When the game picks up with Chris Redfield, it’s more of that action game style with giants stomping through cities and battles of 2 men against tanks.  The final chapter takes it even further with motorcyles outrunning tanks and jumping over helicopters and a plane crashing into a city before a fresh outbreak of a new virus.

Resident Evil has been going bigger and bigger like a Hollywood action film. Explosions are more frequent than tense jump scares as Capcom has sought to pursue a more broad audience.  Left in its wake are the faithful fans who still long for survival horror like Resident Evil was built upon.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is supposed to be a return to survival horror while still using the over the shoulder model and hopefully Capcom gets it right.  We’ll see how that pans out in February 2015, but in the meantime, here are a few things that I think Capcom should do with the series to get it back on track.

1. Start over but continue forward
Fans are familiar with the established characters of Resident Evil.  Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, and Albert Whesker are the familiar faces the series follows, but that may also be detrimental at this point as well.  These characters are likewise familiar with these events. While they tried to give Chris some PTSD elements, he’s overall able to push through and Leon has become so hardened to bioweapons he’s pretty much a specialist specifically for such operations.

For that reason, I think it’s time to get away from bioweapons being common and time for the old cast to step aside for new characters.  For Resident Evil 7, I would set the game about 5-10 years after Resident Evil 6.  After the incident in China, almost all nations around the globe unified to outlaw the research on bioweapons and aggressively hunted down any cells still continuing work from the days of Umbrella (and Neo-Umbrella was just a ridiculous name).  Essentially start the game in a world where the events of Resident Evil 1-6 are a dark mark in human history but no indication of such things have been seen for years now.

Set the game anywhere you like, though I would likely pick a more remote country – perhaps somewhere in South America. Perhaps an Interpol task force or a drug taskforce infiltrate a compound on information of a major drug production operation.  During the infiltration, something goes wrong and only a handful make it into the facility (yes, mirroring the set up of the original Resident Evil).  As they begin to investigate the facility, they find out a group has been doing research from the ground up based off Umbrella’s T-Virus and have successfully recreated it.  Thus we are thrown back into a game where the protagonist is just as terrified as the player is when creatures start coming at them rather than cool and collected and the player is dealing with claustrophobic corridors, zombie workers, undead dogs, spiders, rats, or whatever creatures you like, and a few mutants as well.  Perhaps you can even bring back a new version of Tyrant if you really wanted.

The key point is to get back to basics of the plot and have this scenario be completely new to the characters in the story so they have reason to be terrified.  Sure, people would have still heard of these things, but even 5 years after the China incident, a 25 year old operative would have been in college and possibly less than concerned with such events.  It yields itself for fear from the characters and if done well, that fear will be passed on to the player as the new research can be completely unknown and with enough variations the game can keep players unsure of what to expect.

2. Over the shoulder, under pressure

The over the shoulder perspective worked well in Resident Evil 4 and has worked well ever since on its own.  Slow moving zombies are easy to get headshots on when you’re able to aim reliably.  But 6 headshots only kills 6 zombies if there’s a dozen shambling towards you and your 6 shooter is slow to reload or worse, you only have 20 bullets to your name and have no clue what’s in the next hallway.

That’s a bit key to survival horror in my opinion.  Limited resources and inventory management.  In a game like Resident Evil 4-6 where you’re moving forward, I understand the need to suspend disbelief and have magical storage units that hold items, but having a dozen guns on your person is a bit much.  Bring back the limited inventory and the storage chests with their own limited inventory.  If the facility we’re in is designed so it makes sense, don’t even have the storage units share inventory and make players have to go back to retrieve what they stashed.

That sense of “did I bring the right weapon and do I have enough ammo” helps build tension as you open one more door or go down one more dark set of stairs.  In Resident Evil 6, having “enough” ammo was okay because you’d be able to blast through the zombies or monsters and collect more ammo from their body to keep blasting away.  In the old Resident Evil games, realizing you were at max capacity on two weapons and just found three more boxes of bullets actually instilled a bit of fear because “Why are they giving me this much ammo? Oh no, what’s about to come after me?!”

3. Bruce Lee doesn’t train zombie defense
This one is a problem we brought upon ourselves.  In the old tank control Resident Evil games, we were always grumbly about having to wildly swing a knife when we were low on ammo.  Why couldn’t we side kick a zombie in the chest? Why couldn’t we have any form of hand to hand combat?

Well, we eventually got it and it honestly made the games trivial enough that survival wasn’t a big deal.  Even without the abundance of zombies dropping ammo, you could conserve a lot by taking two shots and then giving a round house to splatter a zombies head, or deliver a running bulldog worthy of Rick Steiner from WWE.  If you can take out monsters without guns, why worry?

Having this be a new recruit on the team would make the idea of going hand to hand against creatures willing to bite your face off a bit outlandish.  And if they’ve only gone through basic hand to hand, they aren’t in a position to reliably fight off these creatures anyway, giving a reasonable excuse for removing the feature and putting us back to relying on our ever diminished ammunition and somewhat unreliable knife, or maybe a collapsible baton this time. Just cuz…

4. We can still acknowledge our favorite characters

Just because a new character is green behind the ears and about ready to soil himself over this horror he’s stumbled into doesn’t mean we can’t give him some reassurance now and then.  After managing to find a radio, you could get word out reporting what you’ve found.  Later on, your next opportunity to try and make radio contact could be none other than Leon Kennedy, Jill Valentine, or any other of the familiar characters. While not on site with you, they could offer some insight and advice to the new character, encouraging him to keep it together and make it through this alive while they marshal resources to get there.

5. And don’t go straight into the same problem again

At the end of the game, why not have the problem unresolved and even escalating?  Why not have the protagonist stop the researchers at the facility in this game only to radio into HQ at the end to tell them he’s found there are other facilities set up and something worse.  Our final scene could show that the virus has already somehow been spread to contaminate a nearby city.

And that easily sets you up to go right into Resident Evil 8 with an outbreak in a city just like Resident Evil 2.  And again like Resident Evil 2, why not go even worse than Leon’s predicament? Why not have a protagonist that isn’t part of any organization or organized force? Perhaps a retired police officer, or even just a random citizen trying to survive this.  You could have your new character from the previous game arrive and split the game between the two like the old games used to at times and you could again have our established characters remotely involved or arrive late.  For that matter, I’d have them running clean up and just a few steps behind to contain the situation before it gets out of hand so all their specialized skills and knowledge aren’t enough to prevent the horror from breaking out again.

I’d even consider it worth thinking about having each game take place with a new character who may come into contact with familiar characters, and only rarely have the game mostly focus on familiar characters arriving to work in a new location.

Conclusion:

I’ll admit some of this might come across as just re-visiting Resident Evil 1 and 2 with new characters and a new location, but I think that’s almost what Capcom should do at this point.  By going forward without a reboot, it lets fans of the series continue on while also introducing those old games’ style of survival horror elements to a generation that never played the old games.  A generation of gamers never played the Playstation entries and likely have no interest in doing so, which would make this a new experience for them while nostalgia would likely make these worthwhile, yet still different enough, to be interesting for old players.

E3 – Day 1

E3 Recap time!

Getting caught up on E3 news for the first day here.  I’ve said before I’m not an X-Box fan, so I didn’t watch the Microsoft presentation, though moreso because I wasn’t at the computer but was picking up a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on GameCube (what’s up?!) at the time.  From what I’ve heard second hand, nothing particularly stands out to me as amazing for me.  Halo fans will probably be thrilled at the variety of 100 multiplayer maps in Halo’s Master Chief collection, so that’s out there for fans of the series.

The things that intrigued me from Microsoft’s presentation are available on PS4, though.  Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Division, and Dragon Age: Inquisition are some games I’m looking forward to.

Ubisoft’s presentation was rather interesting.  I’ve never played a Far Cry game either, but the Far Cry 4 preview was a great hook. It’s a good start up to pull you into the story.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue following the Assassin’s Creed series with Unity as it looks like it’s going to grow in importance of multi-player which doesn’t tend to get my interest for console games, but on the other hand, the trailer did look pretty good.  With the open world design and problems coming up as you move, the game could be more interesting than other installations have gotten.  I was particularly interested in the way they showed the character running after a thief, but stopping when he came upon a murder scene. Coming out of the murder scene, you hear the comment “I can’t solve every problem” which could make the game very interesting if there’s some impact on ignoring some problems and addressing others, especially if there’s no way to resolve them all.

The Division looks interesting and if I can get a friend or two to play alongside me, I’ll definitely be playing that.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War.  We didn’t see the gameplay of this game, but the art style is very stylized and the central character it revolves around that ties all the characters together is a dog. Set in World War I, it’s an extremely unique game inspired by letters from soldiers in World War I.  It has support from historians and actual photos are apparently used courtesy of various historical sources.  Just from the trailer video, it looks like it will be a rather touching and emotional game in its own right.  It may be one of those games that every gamer should play when all is said and done.

I’m also not a FPS player, but the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six preview actually looked really cool.  Another one that looks like it would be a lot of fun with friends who play together regularly.  I have to give them credit when an FPS actually gets my interest.

Now I’m caught up….. I’ll blog thoughts live on the Sony presentation.  🙂

Sony Presentation

Sony kicked off with Destiny.  Again, I’m not a fan of FPS games, but this one has been doing a fantastic job of making me want to know more about it.  From the commercial last year with the law of the pack to this intro video just now, it looks like a cool world they’re building.  I’m not sure it’s enough to pull me into an FPS game, but it does look like a cool game.  Exclusives for Playstation with PS4 players able to play Destiny Alpha next week and July 17th for beta for Playstation.  Looks like PS4 will also get it released first.  Exclusive weapons, ships, and maps for PS4.

Next showing is The Order 1886, a PS4 exclusive IP.  It looks pretty darn good from what they showed.  Seamless transition from what looks like cut scenes and play footage.

Entwined. A game about two souls in love who can’t be together (looks like a bird and a fish).  Guiding two characters at once, one with each analogue stick (yikes).  It looks somewhat Star Fox-ish in style, flying through tunnels and hitting targets.  It looks like a very artistic game from a small development team.  Sony continues to promote the small and indie developers.  PS4 available now for $9.99 tonight with PS3 and Vita (cross buy) to come.

Getting more inFAMOUS content in August.  There’s another exclusive Playstation title.

Little Big Planet 3 is showing next.  From what I heard, the Project Spark game shown at Microsoft’s project looked a lot like Little Big Planet.  With LBP’s fan base, I’d say it’s already got the lead, despite Conker’s addition to Project Spark.  I played Little Big Planet 1 a bit, but honestly, this game with the 4 player team work really looks like it will be a lot of fun.  It will be coming out in November.

Big cheers for Shuhei Yoshida on stage.

Yoshida is introducing a new IP – Bloodborne.  Another zombie based world, looks like it’s set in a medieval time period. Coming in 2015.

Next up we see Far Cry 4.  The intro from UbiSoft was interesting, as earlier stated.  This showed more of the gameplay. Fairly standard FPS in terms of shooting, but still interesting.  Big news…you can invite friends to play with you who don’t have the game only on PS4.  That’s a pretty big thing.

They’re going through letters from players about things they’ve wanted to see next.  Here’s what we get in response to these letters:

Next up…Zombies.  Amusing style trailer.  Very different approach to zombie style game for Dead Island 2.  Funny trailer, check it out.  30 day exclusive beta and an exclusive character class for PS4.

Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition on PS4 will include zombies from Last of Us in a special dungeon.

Battlefield Hardline gameplay trailer up next.  It looks like it would make a great Bruckheimer/Bay film.

Disney Infinity exclusive edition on PS3 and PS4 with Incredible Hulk.

Partnership with Paradox Interactive.  More exclusive PS4 games, starting with Magicka 2.

Grim Fandango will be getting remastered exclusively to PS4 and Vita.

Console debut exclusive to PS Platforms: Devolver, Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, The Talos Principle – a lot of indy style games in there.

Another PS4 exclusive with a violent brawler game called Let It Die coming in 2015.

Giant Squid development team (creator of Journey’s new team) bringing us Abzu.  It looks a lot like Journey in style, but underwater.  This is also a PS4 exclusive.

Final game that will make its debut on PS4 looks like a Sci Fi exploration world. Interesting art style that reminds me of Wild Star a bit.  Looks like another FPS, though currently they’re flying a space ship…into space through meteors, able to shoot in the ship from cockpit view.  Looks like worlds can be discovered and the player who discovers them is marked as such.  Flying around the planet, did a barrel roll!  Shooting down other ships.  The title is No Man’s Sky.  Indy game as well and looks damn impressive.  Every player starts on a different planet.

They’re now talking about the Playstation Camera, an optional addition (nice jab at Microsoft), and how it can bring gaming to a new dimension. Yes, folks, Project Morpheous.  Sony’s Virtual Reality headset.  Creative teams are working with Sony to define this, the game’s in the booth with three game demos, two of which are new.  (Stay tuned, planning a solo blog post on this)

Shawn Layden on stage, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.  Talking about the drive for innovation at Playstation.  PSN – Playstation Network – robust and evolving, reacting to what gamers want; to share experiences and connect with friends.  New tools are brought to the PS4 faithful with Share Factory and photo mode in inFAMOUS Second Son.  95% of PS4s are connected worldwide, social activity is astounding. 1.25B hours spent gaming, +1B multiplayer sessions, share button has been used 220 million times, and YouTube is coming to PS4 later this year.  With a press of the Share button, pS4 gamers can upload video to their YouTube channel.  Can see your friend’s shared YouTube videos in the “what’s new” activity feed.  150 million spectate sessions.  Twitch and Ustream will allow viewers to communicate with the players they’re watching.  Create broadcast sets for your broadcasts.

This YouTube feature is going to be an amazingly massive feature.  They brushed over it, but I predict this is one of the biggest features hitting any console.

Sony is committed to Free to Play games.  Currently 25 F2P games coming in the next 12 months – Kingdom Under Fire, Planetside 2, and Guns Up.  At point of entry, free to play is free to play.

Playstation Now hits open beta on PS4 July 31st this year.  Select Sony televisions will be able to access Playstation Now without a Playstation console.  Just need the Dualshock controller.  Wise move to help the sluggish television sales.

Support continues for the Playstation Vita.  It will have access to Playstation Now. It has 100 games in development. Child of Light and Tales of Hearts R, Tales from the Borderlands, and Minecraft (full console experience with co-op).  The US will also be getting Vita TV due to the unprecedented support and demand.  $99 for Vita TV or $140 for Vita TV, a Dualshock 3 controller, HD cable, and digital Lego Movie game voucher.

Mortal Kombat X footage premiere is up next.  Graphics look great.  New characters I’ve never seen before.  Graphics are smooth and the game is gory as ever. 😉

Entertainment offering is taking a “new superhero twist.”  Sony Picture Entertainment is bringing exclusive content to PS4 (this is sort of what Microsoft got burned for talking about last year).  Powers is the first series, based on Bendis and Omen’s graphic novel series.

RATCHET AND CLANK MOVIE!  I’m not going to lie, this looks like it will be awesome.

The Last of Us comes to PS4 (not news, but we get a look at it).  This game pushed PS3 to the limits…PS4 takes it further and it does look amazing.  July 29, 2014 release date.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain new trailer shown.

Grand Theft Auto 5 coming to PS4, footage shown from Playstation 4.  Comes out this fall, taking advantage of the system capabilities and features enhancements. Current PS3 and 360 players will be able to transfer their progress to PS4.

Batman: Arkham Knight footage up next.  I still don’t like the new suit, but the game looks amazing. Showing a lot of the gameplay footage of the Batmobile useage.  Movements look faster and smoother than past games.  Exclusive missions on Playstation.

And to wrap up the presentation…

UNCHARTED 4.  The crowd is pretty happy.  Just a trailer, really. It’ll be out in 2015.

End with a montage of footage from various games for Playstation 4.  Kingdom Hearts 3 was shown among them as well.

All in all, really impressive presentation from Sony.

Introduction to Ninja Fox Games & More

I thought about jumping right into this blog with a first article, but decided introductions were in order first, for both the blog and the author.

I was born in January 1981 and when I was little, a good friend of mine had an Atari 2600.  The first games I remember playing are Pac Man, Chopper Command, and Joust.  From that point on, I’ve been a gamer my entire life.  In elementary school, I worked with my parents’ help to sell raffle tickets for a fund raiser and won the first place prize for selling the most tickets. I won $100 and used that money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System.  My dad and I would play Super Mario Bros. together to see who could beat it first.  My dad rescued Princess Toadstool before I did, but I beat the game with the fire flower’s power first.

That first taste of video game victory was so sweet.

A few years later during a trip to visit a relative in Houston, TX, I bought the Super Nintendo Entertainment system which still has some of my favorite games of all time.

Oh Squaresoft, I miss you…

I later purchased a Sega Genesis and Sega Game Gear, a Game Boy Pocket, and a GameBoy Color.  I never bought a Sega Saturn, but I rented it from the local Blockbuster and remember playing Panzer Dragoon.  I was primarily a Nintendo guy with my Sega experience mostly contained to Sonic the Hedgehog and a few other titles, but like so many other RPG fans, I jumped ship when Final Fantasy VII came out on the Playstation.

Because this was mind blowing cutting edge polygons right here.  And because we fell in love (lust?) with Tifa Lockheart.
Coincidentally, this was my standard team!

I didn’t completely abandon Nintendo considering I came back to the N64 two years later.  I continued with the GameCube as well as the PS2 and later the PS3 and I’ve recently gotten a Nintendo Wii and got a release Playstation 4.

By 2013, I had sold a lot of my games, but had kept all my consoles and I discovered there are a lot of people out there who, like me, still love the old games as much as new ones and there are groups out there focused on collecting retro games.  I decided that I wanted to gather up some of the old games and start to dig more into the history of video games over the years and decided I’d go back and get every system I’ve ever played in addition to the ones I’ve owned through the years and plan to build a “Top 100” library for each console.

My library now includes:
Atari 2600
Nintendo Entertainment System
Game Boy
Sega Genesis with Sega CD & Sega 32X
Game Gear
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Sega Saturn
Sega Dreamcast
N64
GameCube
Playstation
Playstation 2
Playstation 3
Playstation Vita
Nintendo Wii
Playstation 4

Fair warning now, I’ve never been an X-Box fan and have never played X-Box, X-Box 360, nor do I have any interest in the X-Box One.

I’ve also got a fairly well rooted history with MMORPGs as well!  I played EverQuest for about 4 years, Final Fantasy XI for 1 year, World of Warcraft for 9 continuous, uninterrupted years, dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Final Fantasy XIV before finally moving currently into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

So there you have my background in Video Games, but what’s up with the title of this blog saying “& More” huh?  Well, I’m not just a gaming geek, I’m a well rounded geek/nerd!

At age 10, I picked up X-Men #1
https://i0.wp.com/static1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20091219024361/marveldatabase/images/c/c3/X-Men_Vol_2_1_Variant_C.jpg
So now I’ve been collecting comic books for 23 years.  I’ve focused on X-Men, but I’ve collected quite a few Uncanny X-Men, a full run of Wolverine, and full run of Amazing Spider-Man from its first relaunch/renumbering (later dropped for the standard numbering) along with a decent mix of other titles from Marvel, an occasional run in Batman, and some other publishers as well.  Currently, Superior Spider-Man (soon to again be Amazing Spider-Man) and IDW’s TMNT are my favorite monthly books and I’ve lost so much interest since Marvel Now!, my ongoing subscription to Wolverine and any X-Titles is really in question.

I also am a bit of an otaku, having started with Sci-Fi Channel airing what was then Saturday Anime, but often called Japanimation at the time with Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Project A-Ko, and one of my favorites to this day, Record of Lodoss War.


Kind of surprising how well D&D works as an anime.

Over the years, I’ve continued to watch anime and have attended A-Kon in Dallas, TX for the last nine years with 2014 being my 10 year anniversary in attendance.  If I get any readers to this blog who love anime, don’t hesitate to e-mail suggestions to watch!  This anime interest has extended into a few series of manga, though I don’t tend to pick those up anymore simply due to the sheer volume of a series and the cost in keeping up with it.

My interest in anime has also led me to a financially semi-unhealthy interest in statues and figures, which weren’t so bad contained to anime, but got a bit insane expanding to the statue maquettes from Sideshow Collectibles of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Fellowship of the Ring (where’s Merry and Pippin, Sideshow?!)

I also enjoy a lot of different movies, TV series, animated series, and web series such as the Jace Hall Show and Felicia Day’s The Guild!

So that explains the “Games & More” so we’re all done!

Wait, what’s up with the whole “Ninja Fox” thing?  Well, to put it simply, I like foxes and I like ninja.  A friend of mine and I were developing a web comic that I’m now planning to move to a novel format and one of the main characters is based off Japanese kitsune myths and is admittedly one of my favorite characters in the series.  The character’s name is “Swift” (yes, that just might be a slight homage to this guy) and he’s a ninja and has fox ears and a tail.  On various forums and online games I’ll use Swift, NinjaFox, or SwiftNinjaFox as a handle.

So there you have it. A potentially unnecessarily long introduction to this blog.  I look forward to writing and sharing more thoughts, opinions, and perhaps a small helping of nonsense.

-Jeff “SwiftNinjaFox”