Friday, February 28, 2014

I was Featured in a PlayStation Video

Well this is pretty cool. It's not every day you get to appear in a PlayStation video (well, your online user name anyway). I can confirm the rumors are true. I have been featured in one of PlayStation's videos, which focuses on the share functionality of Sony's latest system.

I'm a frequent poster over the popular NeoGAF forum and I came across a new thread. The title had more to do with the new InFamous footage than the sharing videos. I pulled out my phone during my lunch break to check out the video. As it started playing, I didn't even notice the the name. It was my shared video that caught my eye. Take a look below and see if you can spot it. 

NBA 2k14. Mike Conley of the Grizzlies drains a 3 to beat the Clippers. I thought to myself, that looked really familiar. I think I've seen this before. So I immediately re-watched the first part of the video. My jaw dropped when I saw my PSN ID appear across the screen: jonboy_jlf_2004. So cool!

Being in Marketing/Communications myself, the concept of the share button instantly made sense to me back when Sony announced it. Every single time a user hits "share," it's nearly 100% free advertising for Sony. Videos streaming from their system across Facebook and Twitch (hopefully YouTube is added soon enough), plus the screenshot sharing feature through Twitter, are incredibly efficient ways to market a system and a brand. Not only do the videos and screenshots look great, they're almost always events that are going to come across as pure fun (like a game-winning 3-point shot). Others online see the videos and then they too want in. It's brilliant.

I have no idea if this video will be used as a television commercial or if it's just an online video to promote the share button on the dualshock 4. Even though I realize it's all part of the marketing of the sytem, as a huge fan of Sony and the PS4, I think it's pretty awesome. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nintendo Should Revive the Gamecube Controller with Smash Bros Wii U

Super Smash Bros Wii U and Mario Kart 8 are the two premier titles Nintendo is set to launch on the Wii U later this year. In case you haven't heard, the Wii U isn't exactly selling all that well. Nintendo was forced to cut their sales estimates by more than 6 million for the system.

Many have written articles with recommendations for "saving Nintendo" and "turning around the Wii U," but I'd like to take a moment to pose another idea. No, this won't save Nintendo or reverse the fortunes of the Wii U. It would, however, serve as a small gesture of goodwill to long-time Nintendo fans who've supported the company through difficult times: the should release a collector's edition of Super Smash Bros Wii U and bundle it with a redesigned, Gamecube-esque pro controller.

Collector's editions are somewhat rare, although not totally uncommon, for Nintendo. Most recently, we've seen special editions with Zelda titles. They went all-out on Skyward Sword for the Wii, releasing a special edition bundle including the game, 25th anniversary soundtrack (also with the standard version), and a Zelda-themed Wii Remote Plus.

For Wind Waker HD, they packaged the game with a custom Ganondorf figurine.

They also bundled a standard Wii controller with Wii Play and released the Metroid Prime Collection with a steel case and an art book. So it wouldn't be totally outside the realm of possibility for it to happen with Smash, yet it would be a first for the Smash series.

Perhaps I'm just being selfish regarding the controller choice, considering the Gamecube controller is probably my favorite of all-time. Additionally, I've only known Smash with a Cube controller. Of course I played the N64 original, but Super Smash Bros Melee is when the series really took off. The game worked to perfection with the controller, feeling as if every detail had been designed with the controller in mind. Nintendo must have agreed as they elected to enable a number of controller options for the next iteration: Super Smash Bros Brawl.

Unfortunately, the Wii U dropped the Gamecube compatibility of its predecessor and thus, the Gamecube controller ports. Therefore, Nintendo would have to create a complete new controller design to work wirelessly with the Wii U. To be honest, it saddens me that Nintendo went away from the Cube controller design in the first place. With a few tweaks to the triggers and the d-pad, they would have found a classic design with staying power, similar to what we've seen with Sony and Microsoft's controller. Instead, they chose a new design with their Wii Classic Controller and now the Wii U Pro Controller, and in the case of the latter, a design strikingly similar to that of their competitors.

In terms of design, I would use the same body as the Wavebird controller. The coloring would be all black with a subtle Smash Bros Wii U logo at the bottom center. I would also make the d-pad slightly larger, re-design the top z-button and add another to the left, and tweak the triggers ever so slightly to give them less travel distance and slightly more responsiveness when you press them down, but leaving that satisfying "click" at the end. Of course the center would need to be redesigned with a plus/minus button and also the home button. This would be me my ideal design, but there's now way I'd complain even if they just released the exact same controller. 

Let's be clear, the Wii U Gamepad and the Wii U Pro controller will be fine options for Super Smash Bros Wii U, but I'm not sure it will feel perfect on either of those. There are also attachments sold online (like the one here) that allow players to use the Gamecube controller on the Wii U, essentially turning it into a Wii Classic Controller - but not a Wii U Pro Controller. And the difference is significant being that some games do not support the old Wii Classic Controller as an option (ex. Mario 3D World does, Wind Waker HD does not). Given their history of supporting every input imaginable, one would think that Smash Bros Wii U will support the classic, but there's no way to be certain. So even if Nintendo doesn't make an updated Cube controller as I'm hoping, it's still possible the die-hard Smash fans will still be able to use our old Cube controllers. 

A move like this certainly isn't going to reverse Nintendo's fortunes with the Wii U, but I do think it would go a long way toward enticing fans of the Gamecube classic to return and play the latest edition of Nintendo's brawler...just how they remember it. Oh and if they really wanted to send the fans into a frenzy, they could finally announce the launch of a Gamecube Virtual Console to coincide with the controller's release.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2013 Game of the Year

2013 Game of the Year Awards

Although 2013 saw the release of two powerful new consoles in the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, the majority of my favorite games of the year came on the hardware we've grown familiar with over the past generation. 

I've compiled my top 10 games of the year and have listed them below, starting with my 10th favorite game and working up to number 1. There's also a brief explanation for each title. If you've missed any on this list, I highly encourage you to give these a shot.

10. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

Loved the original, but didn't remember it being this good. The art style and cel shading is unmatched even to this day.

9. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

While I didn't find 3D World to be as revolutionary as Mario 64 or Mario Galaxy, it's still an excellent entry to Nintendo's historic franchise.

8. Rayman Legends (PS Vita)

Just pure fun. Gorgeous art, near-perfect controls, and fantastic music. I could have done without the Murphy levels.

7. Guacamelee (PS Vita)

Drinkbox Studios nailed it yet again. Guacamelee was one of the games from 2013 to provide a significant challenge, requiring a familiarity with each of the game's many mechanics.

6. Grand Theft Auto V (PS3)

GTA didn't really reinvent the wheel (pardon the terrible pun), but Rockstar didn't need to. GTA V is pure fun from start to finish. There's a ton to see and do, but the story left me wanting more. The heist missions were great. In fact, I wish there had been more of them.

5. Tearaway (PS Vita)

Wow...not sure I've ever played a game more charming. I smiled more during my playthrough of Tearaway than probably any other game on this list. The art style and graphics are truly unmatched. Love how they used the Vita in so many different ways that never felt forced or inconvenient.

4. Bioshock Infinite (PS3)

The story ended up a in strange place that I didn't expect...but I could not stop playing Infinite. There was a constant urge to see what twist awaited behind the next corner. I found the gameplay somewhat repetitive at times, but never bad. The plot was enough to keep me going and, oh what a story it told.

3. Tomb Raider (PS3)

No doubt that Crystal Dynamics borrowed a number of mechanics from other recent high-profile titles, but Tomb Raider stands as on its own as an amazing title that breathes new life into an age-old franchise. They did a fantastic job making me care about Lara again.

2. Resogun (PS4)

This one took me by surprise and I certainly never expected it to be Game of the Year material. Gorgeous and addicting, I'll likely be playing Resogun throughout the PS4's life cycle.

1. The Last of Us (PS3)

Naughty Dog's latest masterpiece took everything I love about gaming and brought it together in a single, cohesive package. Jaw-dropping graphics, sublime acting, incredible story, fully immersive atmosphere, top-notch stealth gameplay (despite what some may tell you)...The Last of Us has it all. I knew immediately after finishing that I had experienced something very special. At the end of the day, there's really no higher recommendation I can give than to say that every adult who considers him/herself a gamer should play this game. It's uncomfortable and even hard to play at times. You'll laugh. You'll smile. You may even shed a tear. One thing, however, is certain: you will never forget playing The Last of Us.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Resogun Level 1

There are still a ton of folks out there better than me, but this is probably my best run yet on Level 1 (experienced difficulty). Unfortunately, I screwed up my chance at a high score on the following level. I was ranked in the top 100 for a while, but I'm around 125 now. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Greatness Has Arrived; Next-gen is Here

It's hard to believe the PlayStation 4 is now available in North America. It feels like only yesterday I was blogging about the PlayStation meeting (back in February), yet here we are in November. PS4 is out and the Xbox One is right around the corner. Somehow...the PS4 managed to shatter my lofty expectations in my first weekend with the system. I had a great time with a number of different launch titles and was often reminded just why I love this hobby so much.

Here are my impressions after one weekend with the console and a handful of launch games.

The visuals are downright stunning.
Resogun is truly the gem of the launch lineup. Upon starting the game, you'll probably be confused and overwhelmed at all that's happening on screen. Enemies attack from all sides, a voice keeps telling you to save humans, and a number of those said humans are "lost" with little explanation. Don't be deterred by the initial confusion. Stick with it and you'll quickly learn the nuance of the game, how you save those humans, and how to dispatch the countless enemies thrown your way. I enjoyed the time I spent with previous Housemarque titles, Super Stardust HD and Superstardust Delta, but neither drew me in as completely as Resogun has in my first weekend with the title. It's an old-school "shoot-em-up" at heart, yet there is enough innovation here to make the whole experience feel fresh. Oh...and there's also the graphics, which are completely mind-blowing.

Killzone: Shadow Fall
Yet another visual showcase.
This is the game where I'm most confused by the lower review scores, although I've admittedly spent almost all my time in the multiplayer mode. The graphics are gorgeous (noticing a trend here?), the control are perfect on the new DualShock 4, and I've had an absolute blast with the multiplayer. The early parts of the single player where markedly different from previous Killzone games and I found it entertaining thus far. I've actually never finished a Killzone game so I'm anxious to see if Shadow Fall holds my interest through to the conclusion. I can already say I'm enjoying the multiplayer far more than previous Killzone titles.

NBA 2K14
At times, you'll think it's the real thing.
The NBA 2K series has been the king of basketball games for years so it comes as no surprise they have made the jump to next-gen with ease. The majority of the upgrades come in the graphical department. At times, the game looks more true to life than any video game to come before it. Unfortunately, there are still graphical glitches and technical shortfalls that definitely remind you...yes, you're still playing a video game. Luckily, they aren't enough to break the experience. I came away very impressed by the crowd animations, which finally seem to be unique and diverse enough where you won't find the "tall guy in a blue hat" every other row. The gameplay is as rock solid as ever, but it actually plays slightly different from previous iterations. 2K wasn't bluffing when they hyped their eco-motion engine.

Looks to be a great "beat-em-up" for the family.
Knack is the title I spent the least amount of time with, although I did watch my young cousin play through the first couple of hours of the game. It controls well and the story seems better than I was expecting. Definitely the weakest in terms of graphics of the game's I've mentioned, but there are certain effects that have the "wow" factor. I'll reserve my full judgment until I've played more, but chances are if you're interested in these types of games, you'll probably like it. If not, it's certainly not going to win you over.

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