Thursday, February 28, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Revisiting The NES And SNES

Confession #1: I never owned a Super Nintendo (SNES) growing up. For whatever reason, I owned a Sega Genesis instead. As I've grown older, I realized the number of incredible titles I missed and I've made an effort to play as many as I can. Lucky for me, my high-school girlfriend (and now my wife) owned one of the greatest gaming systems of all-time. She also had a decent collection of games to go with it.

Confession #2: I've never beaten The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I've played it on a few different occasions, but never all the way through. Coincidentally, I've recently discovered Neogaf's buy/sell/trade thread, which is an excellent place to find old-school games for a respectable price. So whenever I came across a copy of Link to the Past for $20, I had to pull the trigger.

The first thing to strike me is how beautiful the game still looks. It's really amazing how the SNES has aged so well. Original Nintendo titles don't hold up nearly as well as the 16-bit SNES generation. The colors in Link to the Past really pop and the art style is exactly what we've come to expect from the Zelda series. I'm still very early in the game, but I hope to make Throwback Thursdays a recurring segment here on Retro Raconteur. Perhaps I will revisit my experience with Link to the Past in the coming months.

Still looks beautiful today.
I've also unearthed an original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that belongs to my brother-in-law. Regrettably, I sold my system long ago. His system also came with a wide array of titles and he even had many of the original boxes. Upon finding these two legacy systems, I'm getting an itch to start collecting old systems and games. I'm already off to a good start with the aforementioned SNES and NES.

It really is amazing to look back on the history of gaming to see how the industry has changed. Even still, you can also see how much has stayed the same. Nintendo has taken Mario, Metroid, and Zelda from 2d to 3d, they've added new control schemes, new weapons, and new worlds to explore, yet that core experience of each title is rock solid. It's part of the reason Nintendo's titles still resonate with so many gamers across the globe.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trophy Tuesday: Sly Cooper Thieves in Time

Sony's latest title featuring the thieving raccoon has been fairly well-received among critics. It's also a great game for trophy hunters out there...especially if you have the Vita version. rates the platinum difficulty a 3/10 for Sly Cooper Thieves In Time, and estimates approximately 10-15 hours to obtain every trophy. If you're really looking to skyrocket your PSN level, you can transfer your save to the Vita using the cloud save feature. Sly is actually part of Sony's cross-buy promotion, which means you'll receive a digital copy of the Vita version when you purchase for PS3. By utilizing cloud save, you only have to beat the game once. You then transfer that save to the Vita and load the game. Every trophy you've earned on the PS3 version will instantly pop on the Vita version. Alternatively, you can also continue transferring saves back and forth (as I did) to keep your game moving forward even on the go. 

Sly's most difficult (AKA- annoying) trophies involve a plethora of collectables. There are far more collectables in this entry of Sly over the previous three games. The clue bottles make a return, but you'll also be collecting specific treasures and sly masks. There are certain tasks you can complete to unlock a in-game maps for the clue bottles and treasures; however, there is no map for the masks. 
The Vita makes treasure hunting a breeze.
Fortunately for Vita owners, there's another added benefit to having both games. You can use the Vita's AR treasures mode to highlight every treasure, mask, and clue bottle in orange (make sure you go to options on the PS3 version to enable the AR server first). The rest of the screen appears in a green/night-vision-esque hue. I'm sad to admit it, I didn't even know about this feature until very late in the game. Even so, it proved invaluable for finding those last few masks. 

If you only have a few platinum trophies and are looking for a quick way to increase your level, look no further than Sly. Not only is it an attainable platinum, it's also a great game. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

PlayStation 4 Now Official, Releasing This Year

The PlayStation 4 is official and it's coming this year. If you're reading this blog, you undoubtedly knew this already as Sony formally unveiled the console this week. Actually...they didn't unveil it all! Although we saw games, tech demos, and the controller, we never saw the console itself. Earlier in the week, I posted a few recommendations for Sony on how they could have the best showing possible. Let's see if they earned a passing grade.

1.) Save Something For E3


Sony definitely kept a number of details under wraps. While we know the console is set to release "Holiday 2013," we don't have a firm date. The company made no mention of price, other than to say it would be "affordable." What company doesn't say this? Still, let's hope they learned from the PS3's launch and manage to release the console for $399 or less.

And of course, we're all itching to know what the system itself actually looks like. It's a little pointless if you think about it. The console's shell serves no other purpose than to house the internals (which are incredible by the way). Even so, there's just something about a nice, sleek design sitting next to your television. We're almost assured to see the system at this year's E3.

2.) Show The Console And Show The Controller


As mentioned above, we didn't get to see the console. Sony President of Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida told The Guardian, "Our focus here was to show some games and talk about the key principles - we wanted to save the unveiling of the actual console."

After the fact, I'm actually glad they didn't revel both. It definitely leaves us wanting more as we begin the wait for this summer's E3. After all, can we really complain considering they revealed a near-final version of...

...the dualshock 4! The leaks were mostly accurate; however, this version looks more polished overall. The new controller features a touchpad (similar to the Vita's backtouch), as well as new L1/L2/R1/R2 shoulder buttons, a share button, and semi-concave thumbsticks. The controller also appears more ergonomically pleasing than the dualshock 3. The company proved they care about fan response by making revisions to the thumbsticks and the triggers, two of the more popular criticisms regarding the dualshock 3.

3.) Show Real Gameplay


I'm really happy about this one. We have to be at least nine months from release so I had reservations they'd actually show gameplay. We saw live demos of Killzone: Shadow Fall, a new title called Knack, and Watch_Dogs from Ubisoft. As expected, Killzone looks absolutely amazing and Watch_Dogs continues to impress.

4.) So Why Do I Need A New Console?


I say incomplete not because Sony did a poor job of illustrating the need for a new console, but because the presentation was mostly packed with goals, ideas, and lofty expectations. We've yet to see if they'll actually deliver on cloud gaming for every generation through Gaikai (one of my previous predictions), remote play with the Vita on every PS4 game, how the new social features will work, and more.

Overall Grade? Pass

For this type of event so far in advance, Sony really hit it out of the park. We saw gameplay. We saw the new controller. We saw innovative ideas. We saw concepts. We even got a few surprises with Bungie showing Destiny and Blizzard announcing Diablo III for both PS3 and PS4.

I look forward to the news that will no doubt trickle out over the coming months leading up to E3. I'm also curious to see how Microsoft responds. Sony fired the first shot of the new console war and they definitely made it count.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Are Your Favorite PlayStation Memories?

A new trend has taken Twitter by storm: #PlayStationMemory. Sony's incredible marketing campaign for today's PlayStation Meeting certainly isn't sputtering at the finish line. In fact, it's been just the opposite. Although I have no idea who started the trend, #PlayStationMemory is officially dominating Twitter. Here are a few memories posted thus far:

@jeffrubenstein: Trading in my SNES, Game Boy, & every game I owned for a PS1, Twisted Metal, & RE in 1996 #PlayStationMemory

@JimSterling: That PSOne demo with the T-Rek and the Whale. Also that puzzle game demo that ranked your IQ at the end. #PlayStationMemory

@GameOverGreggy: Waiting 9 hours in line to buy the @PlayStation 2 #PlayStationMemory

This got me thinking about my fondest PlayStation memories and I quickly realized they are rather unique. First of all, I got a PlayStation because of school. Yep. You read that correctly. School!

A company called lightspan adventures designed a series of educational games around the character known as Mars Moose. My father, a superintendent of schools at the time, realized the potential of this. He actually implemented a program where certain classrooms had a PlayStation to play these educational games. We also had a close friend who worked at lightspan. She gave us the games and voila! My parents bought me a PlayStation.

In terms of "real" games, there are two games I remember most fondly: Twisted Metal 2 (TM2) and Final Fantasy VII (FFVII). My friends and I played TM2 for hours on end. This was the go-to game at all our sleepovers. We'd play multiplayer death match, but we spent most of our time on the co-op campaign mode. Even my younger sister enjoyed playing TM2.

Having FFVII on a list of PlayStation Memories is an absolute must. You probably already know how great the game is so I won't even go there. Instead, I'd like to share a specific story. I was in the 6th grade when I played FFVII for the first time. A certain 8th grade girl wanted to come over to my house to "visit my sister" (man how naive you can be in the 6th grade!). Well, she arrived...and I was playing FFVII. And I continued to play FFVII. She came into my room several times and I literally didn't budge. "Hey. What's up? Oh, my sister is in the other room." And I just kept on playing. Talk about playing "hard to get" long before I'd even heard the phrase "hard to get."

I could go on for quite some time about my favorite PlayStation memories. I remember the first time I saw Madden on PS2 and my jaw hit the floor. The helmets! The grass! You can even see their breath in the cold weather! Buying a PS3 and only planning to use it for a blu-ray player. My first platinum trophy. Aye, such great memories.

As I've blogged on a few different occasions, Sony has an incredible opportunity before them tonight. They've hyped the PlayStation base better than any company I've seen in a long time. None of it will matter if they don't deliver on this evening's event.

So...get your popcorn, pull up a chair, and find one of the 1,348 websites streaming the event (that's an exaggeration) in 9 different languages (that part is actually true) and enjoy hearing about the PS4! I'm confident we're about to have another amazing #PlayStationMemory.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

AltEgo Announces New League of Legends App

Actually have a bit of news for you guys with this update and it comes via AltEgo. Today, AltEgo announced a new League of Legends (LoL) application for the Android Operating System (OS). The free application, Champion Select, allows users to share in-game accomplishments via popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"It's nice to be able to brag about winning a game of LoL to your friends on Facebook and Twitter, especially when you're such a new player," said JP of Electronic Arts.

Champion Select also allows players to create customized posters featuring a user’s team and stats, providing LoL players with a more enriched experience. Further development is expected, which will offer users even more personalization of their posters. The application brings LoL to social media by  giving players not only the ability to brag, but to also show their friends what they've been doing in-game. Users also have the ability to quickly view different skins for all of the champions. 

"We play LoL a lot, and are always posting our victories. We thought that this would be a much more fun way to do it. These posters allow you to get across messages that go further than just a screenshot," said Seth Gerson, CEO of AltEgo.

The application allows players to actually view a champion’s skin, which gives an idea of how it will appear in-game. Although its currently in beta, this app is already showing quite an opportunity for growth. 

Champion Select is currently available only on Android. It can be downloaded for free from Google Play and requires Android OS 2.2 or higher. 

For more information, feel free to contact Morgan J. East, Community Manager of AltEgo, at 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Marketing For PlayStation Meeting Has Been Superb

Excited yet?
It would be an understatement to say Sony's recent marketing has been poor. From the early PlayStation 3 (PS3) commercials to the lack of any marketing push for certain titles (ex. Sly Cooper Thieves in Time), the company has struggled to get a grasp on how best to market many of its products. As I discussed last week, Sony has a unique opportunity on their hands with this week's Futre of PlayStation event and despite past struggles, the marketing for this meeting has been absolutely superb. 

Sony has released a video each day, starting with the history of the original PlayStation (PS1) this past Friday. Saturday night's video detailed the story and hype of the PlayStation 2 (PS2). Sunday's video focused on the PS3. Does this point to a PSP video for Monday and a PS Vita video for Tuesday, all leading up to the PS4 event this Wednesday? That remains to be seen, but of the videos released thus far, they will undoubtedly conjure up a number of memories about owning your first Sony console. This sense of nostalgia is exactly what Sony is hoping for with these videos. 

Geoff Keighley of tweeted out "Best PlayStation Meeting video yet coming to GT early next week." But even folks who aren't directly associated with the video game industry are taking notice. Mark Gurman of tweeted "Sony continues teasing the next PlayStation...they're setting ridiculously highly expectations" 

So have they set the expectations too high? I suppose we won't know the answer until Wednesday, but the expectations themselves though are certainly high. As someone who works in marketing myself, I'm more intrigued by the why. Why are they releasing daily videos? Strictly just for hype? How do they relate to the PS4 event? Some answers are obvious. They want to ride a continuous stream of momentum leading up to Wednesday. They're focusing on their "past" while teasing the "future." But there's more than that; specifically, why is Sony attempting to draw on their past in hyping their future?
Does this still resonate with consumers?
Reason #1: Brand Loyalty
Sony currently holds the #1 and #2 spot for all-time home console sales with the PS2 and PS1, respectively. Each system sold more than 100 million units worldwide with the PS2 selling over 150 million (source). Those numbers are staggering. For comparison's sake, even the most optimistic estimates have the PS3 selling roughly 77 million units worldwide. That's nearly a 50% drop in user base from one generation to the next! Think about that for a second. Of those 150 million PS3 owners, roughly half of them purchased a PS3. And this is assuming that no one bought the PS3 as their first Sony console, which is highly unlikely.

With these videos, Sony is hoping to bring back those 150 million PS2 owners. They're attempting to remind you of the feelings you once held toward the brand, feelings that resulted in more sales than any home console ever. In a sense, they're conveying how they once had your full trust as a consumer. They were the go-to option for gamers, a pinnace they're boldly trying to reach again...with PS4.

The best-selling home console of all-time.
Reason #2: Brand Power
This could almost be included with reason #1, but I thought it different for a couple of reasons. Sony has often been described as an arrogant company. They once posited that gamers would get a second job to afford the insanely overpriced launch PS3. Aside from Nintendo though, I'm not sure anyone can claim to have changed the industry as much as Sony. And that certainly brings a sense of power and respect that Microsoft just doesn't have yet. These retrospective videos attempt to show Sony isn't a new kid on the block (Ouya) or the still relatively young but promising (Xbox). They are showing how they were (and still are?) the company that once toppled the almighty Nintendo for console supremacy back in the mid-90's. 

The home console that changed everything.
Reason #3: Gamers Can Relive That Past...While Enjoying The Future (theory)
It's entirely possible these videos were only designed and created for the reasons already mentioned. After all, a strong brand is an incredibly powerful tool. Perhaps I'm giving them too much credit, but I think there's more to it than the first two reasons I outlined.

Let's start with Sony's purchase of Gaikai, the streaming service. I think it comes full circle here with the announcement that every PS1, PS2, and PS3 game will be available from day 1 on the PS4 via cloud gaming. How is that any different from PS1 and PS2 classics currently offered on the PlayStation Store? Well for starters, it's every game. And's going to be part of the PlayStation Plus subscription service. Users won't actually pay on a game by game basis. 
"Uhh...what?" - reaction of most when I mention Sega Channel
Anyone remember Sega Channel? No? Didn't think so. It was such a niche product, I don't know anyone else who had it.  My wonderful parents realized its awesomeness and gave it to me as a gift. For a monthly fee, I had unlimited access to roughly 35-50 games, which changed each month. Sound familiar yet? Personally, I think Sega was ahead of its time as this is almost exactly what Sony has created with the PlayStation Plus service and its Instant Game Library. More on Sega Channel here and here if you're thinking I'm a loon who created this with my imagination. How big a statement would it be if Sony announced that every game you grew up playing will be available on PS4 through a new Gaikai application?

These videos, while expertly crafted and resulting in rampant speculation, mean nothing if Sony's event flops on Wednesday. Although I'm clearly a zealous PlayStation fan, I think it accurate to say Sony has our attention for this week's PlayStation Meeting. The gaming world is watching; will Sony deliver? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One Week Until "The Future Of PlayStation"

On January 31st, Sony dropped a bombshell announcement. They issued a series of tweets, emails, facebook posts, and blog posts within seconds of one another. The purpose of said tweets, emails, and posts? The above video. "Come see the future of PlayStation."

The Internet reacted accordingly and whipped itself into a frenzy over the news. Why you ask? Sony's event and this announcement are likely the official beginning of a new console generation. That's right. The PlayStation 4 is set to be revealed next week in New York. The mainstream gaming sights have already made their predictions. Now we're just counting the days.

Sony is really pushing this as a big event. First of all, they're live streaming, clearly indicating they want their fans to watch. This isn't going to be a corporate meeting filled with financials (although I'm sure there will be some); no, this event is focusing on the gamer. They've invited industry editors and are having the event in New York's famed Hammerstein Ballroom. So instead of predicting what Sony will do, how about hearing what they should do at the event? At least, what they should do if they want to please millions of die-hard fans and trophy hunters like myself ;-)
E3 remains a key show for industry enthusiasts
1.) Save Something For E3

Not what you were expecting at the top of the list? It's true though. Unless the console is releasing within 2-4 months, which I can't possibly imagine, Sony can't afford to show all their cards from the beginning. Announcing a price or release date this soon would give Microsoft ample time to counter that. Many have stressed the importance of being first in this console generation and up until this point, rumors pointed to Microsoft as being slightly ahead of Sony for planned their planned release date.

Recent "Apple-style" press conferences from all three major video game companies seem to be moving us toward an industry where E3 is less important. While I certainly believe this to be true, we aren't there yet. E3 remains an important industry show and Sony shouldn't ignore it just yet.

The infamous boomerang controller
2.) Show The Console and Show The Controller

This one may go without saying, but we absolutely need to see the new console and the new controller. Rumors have suggested a slight redesign of Sony's classic dualshock we all know so well. Expectations range from minor improvements to the triggers and thumbsticks, to a Vita-esque touchpade in the center of the controller. A share button has also been mentioned, which would theoretically give players the option of quickly posting gameplay videos or screenshots to their favorite social media outlets. Sony needs to show this now so they have a chance to receive any constructive feedback. After all, we really don't want a boomerang controller.
Mockup by kairu of NeoGaf
Most consoles launch with a flagship FPS. 
3.) Show Gameplay...Real Gameplay

Back when Sony first debuted the PS3, attendees gawked over the now legendary footage of Killzone 2. Many questioned whether the footage was truly running on PS3 hardware and it turns out, they were right. Although Sony certainly came very close to achieving that quality in later titles, they admitted the video in question was in fact a "target render" rather than actual gameplay. Don't repeat that mistake with the PS4.

As a child growing up, the leaps and bounds in terms of graphical quality seemed monumental between each generation. While we're getting closer to graphical ubiquity (I mean...can they really get that much better?), I believe Sony can - and should - wow us one more time. Rumors indicate the Killzone franchise may once again be the title to showcase the system's power. This time...just make sure it's legit.
Sony acquired Gaikai for $380 million.
4.) So Why Do I Need A New Console?

I love my PS3. The games look fantastic. Online games are great. So...why do I new console? As has been proven time and time again, graphics are important but not the end-all, be-all. Two of the best selling consoles of all time were actually two of the least powerful systems in their respective generations (PS2 and then the Wii). IGN and the Podcast Beyond crew recently speculated about this and I think they're close with their ideas. Namely, Gaikai will play a key role in what's coming.

So, just what is going on with Gaikai, the cloud gaming service Sony acquired for $380 million back in September? Is it just so the console can be backward compatible with legacy titles? Is Sony envisioning a world where I can play any PS4 title by streaming it to my Vita through Gaikai? If so, what's the point of buying the new console? So many questions remain to be answered in relation to Gaikai. Sony invested a significant amount of money in them, so what's the payoff? It's almost certainly intertwined with the PS4.

Regardless, I'm definitely looking forward to next Wednesday. We'll get a peek into the company's future and hopefully we fans will be excited about what we see. And so I leave you with this wonderful  Kaz Hirai gif, courtesy of NeoGaf user Dawg. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trophy Tuesday

Oh to hear the satisfying little tone of a new trophy increasing my PSN score by a tiny fraction of a percentage point. To someone who isn't a gamer (and even to some who are), it's very difficult to explain the tenacity and dedication with which many Playstation, Xbox, and Steam gamers pursue these seemingly useless little trinkets. Just to get an idea of how far a gamer will go for these digital rewards, look no further than the 2010 Great IGN Trophy Whore War.

I must confess: I myself am a trophy addict. You see, it all started with Infamous. I really loved the title from Sucker Punch and thought it might be cool to go for the platinum trophy. I wanted to play through a separate time as Evil Cole. I wanted to collect all the power-ups. So, I played the game and searched every inch of Empire City for those little blast shards. Finally, I received this...
Unlock the platinum trophy by unlocking all other trophies.
Well, I say "received." It really just appeared in my PSN Profile, which I admittedly thought was cool. After that, I honestly didn't think anything else about it. That is...until a fellow gamer and friend commented on the platinum trophy. Then I suddenly realized that he too may pursue the Infamous platinum. Even worse, he may pursue more trophies and pass my level! I couldn't have that. And so began the great trophy war between myself and two of my closest friends.

Currently, we are all hovering around the level 19 mark. It's a never ending competition, not to see who's the best or the most talented, but to see who has the most dedication to push forward for a higher PSN score and the ever elusive platinum trophy. I'm currently 2nd in the trophy race, but my tally of 39 Platinum Trophies has long been the benchmark (at least for us...more on that later).
Sony's official PSN ID Badge.
The way PSN calculates points is quite unique. Bronze, silver, gold and platinum all have different weights depending on your current level. If you're a level 5 and you get three platinums, three days in a row, your level is going to skyrocket fast. For someone like me who sits at level 19, three platinums wouldn't even shift me a single level. My friends and I have each held a significant lead at some point during our trophy war, only to have the other two come storming back to even things up and eventually take the lead. You're never really out of the race.

Thanks to a wonderful little website called PSN Profiles, it's easier than ever to keep track of your trophies. You can see where you rank against other Playstation gamers, pinpoint your very first trophy, and even learn about the rarest trophy in your collection. My profile is featured at the bottom of this page. To the average gamer, a level 19 with nearly 3,000 trophies may seem like a lot. But take a look at PSN Profiles leader board here. I play a ton of video games. I can honestly say I have no idea how someone can have enough time to earn this many trophies. Beta tester? Game developer? Who knows! Even guys who play games for a living, such as IGN's Greg Miller , only come in at a level 22.

To be totally honest, I'm not sure if trophies/achievements are good for gaming or not. I can honestly say I've played some games just because they have easy trophies. Additionally, I have played a few games far more than I would have if they hadn't had obtainable platinum trophies. I enjoyed Assassin's Creed II, but without trophies, I would have stopped the game immediately upon beating the single player story. Then there are games that are so good, it doesn't really matter about the trophies. I platinumed both Mass Effect 2 and Skyrim (over 120 hours!)...but I loved every second of it.
The main downside to trophy hunting is when a gamer misses out on other quality titles. Maybe the trophies are too difficult that they don't even bother playing or maybe the player is too busy spending hours in another game just for one trophy. Recently,  I've made an effort to focus on quality instead of quantity. I pursue platinum trophies relentlessly with quality titles like Dishonored and Sly Cooper, rather than Kung Fu Panda or Megamind, which are notoriously easy platinums.

Trophies and achievements may be new, but accomplishing random tasks just for fun have been around since the days of Pac-Man and Mario. Only now, we have a record of completing these inane tasks. What would be really awesome is if Sony and Microsoft would work out a rewards program, similar to Club Nintendo (although it rewards purchases, not in-game achievements). Perhaps an Infamous platinum trophy earns you a poster or maybe a Skyrim platinum nets you $10 PSN store credit? The opportunities are endless for companies to further develop an already loyal fan base.

In a very weird way, I guess the trophies make it all seem worth it. No matter what happens to your saves, hard drives, or if you never pick up another title, your trophies and experiences with each game can never be taken away. Don't have a platinum trophy yet? Give it a shot. You just might become addicted.

The Last of Us Delayed?

It's looking more and more likely that the PS3 exclusive title from Naughty Dog has been delayed. I received this email from Best Buy yesterday saying my pre-order date had changed.

Today, Gamestop has updated their company listing to also reflect the 6/18 date.

The Last of Us was originally scheduled to release on May 7th. While delays are never preferable, it is likely Naughty Dog will use the extra month for further polishing and overall fine-tuning. It's clear Sony has marked this as their flagship PS3 title for 2013.

UPDATE: Sony has confirmed the delay; however, the title's new release date is June 14th, 2013 (not the 18th indicated in the Best Buy email). The 14th is a unique choice as it falls on the Friday after E3. Official Sony comment here:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Metroid Prime is the Greatest Game of All-Time

There's no better way to kick off a new gaming blog than to discuss my favorite game of all time: Metroid Prime. While not a popular choice for best game of all-time, the first-person adventure is certainly one of the most critically acclaimed titles in video game history. The original Gamecube title has an astonishing 97 metascore on, which would be tied for 2nd if metacritic included legacy platforms in their all-time rankings.

Metroid Prime released in 2002 from the relatively unknown Retro Studios. Many longtime Nintendo fans were just a tad enraged when they learned one of Nintendo's most beloved franchises had been given to an up-and-coming studio, not to mention the longtime 2d series would not only be going 3d, but also 1st person. Early screenshots and preview builds of the game did nothing to quell those fears. Sensing the game wasn't shaping up as they'd hoped, Nintendo and Retro started meeting more often. While we'll likely never know the exact details of what happened in those meetings, Nintendo cancelled Retro's other projects and everyone focused solely on Metroid.

When the game released, critics were blown away. Not only did the game play well as a 1st person shooter/adventure, Retro took Metroid from 2d to 3d flawlessly. The series retained its sense of exploration, isolation, and epic boss battles. I remember picking up the latest copy of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) and flipping through until I found the Prime review. I had hoped for a silver award, maybe even a gold, but what I found was almost unthinkable: three 10's and EGM's prestigious platinum award.

From the moment you pop the mini-DVD into little purple cube, you'll realize the game sets itself apart in a big way. You're treated instantly to a sleek menu accompanied by a wonderful score; Metroid Prime exudes polish from the very first menu and until the final credits roll. At the time of its release, Metroid Prime was the best looking game on a console. Period. Yes, that includes the more powerful Xbox system, which of course featured Halo: Combat Evolved. Prime wasn't just good; it excelled on so many levels. I could go on for pages about what makes Prime great, but I'll try and highlight three reasons why it's my personal favorite game of all-time.

1.) The Boss Battles: Every gamer loves a good boss battle and Prime is chock-full of them. The best boss fights are those when you face seemingly insurmountable odds. A creature far more powerful than yourself, yet you have the ability to outsmart it by exploiting a particular weakness. I will never forget the sense of awe when battling Meta Ridley, Thardus, and even the Parasite Queen in the game's opening sequence. The music, the sequence of events leading up to it, and the fights themselves are just astounding. 

2.) The Sense of Isolation: This is one area where many modern games fail. The original Dead Space did an excellent job of making you feel completely alone and isolated; however, other games like Resident Evil have slowly turned into more action-oriented games. While Prime has plenty of action, you play as a bounty hunter who is very much alone. This is made completely evident from the moment you investigate the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon. The other locations Samus visits throughout Tallon IV continue to illustrate the isolation and how alone you are. Even so, you're never bored or left wondering where to go next. From the ice-capped Phendrana Drifts to the underground Magmoor Caverns, you'll always want to push forward and explore even more of the beautiful planet.

3.) The Little Things: Part of what makes Prime so great are the tiny details. The way Samus can see her reflection in the visor when a large light flashes or the way it fogs up when she enters a room with disconnected pipes. My personal favorite is the heat that rises from her arm cannon after you fire off a few bursts in quick succession. Prime is loaded with these unique touches. And speaking of loading, it's almost non-existant, which is unheard of for a disc based title. Prime hides its loading in very subtle ways through the use of locked doors and moving elevators. In fact, you'll never see a single loading screen for the 10-15 hours you spend behind the visor.

If you've never played Metroid Prime, do yourself a favor and find a Gamecube (or a Wii) to play it. The first game can be had for fairly cheap on eBay and Amazon. Even better if you can find a copy of the collection with all three Prime titles; although finding a copy for a decent price may prove difficult. What's more surprising is the following sequels, Metroid Prime 2 Echoes and Metroid Prime 3 Corruption, are equally as good. Every Metroid fan has a preference, but the original Prime will always have a special place for me because it did something incredibly unique that had never been done before. Although it released more than a decade ago, Metroid Prime remains my favorite game of all-time.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Retro Raconteur?

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Hello and welcome to the Retro Raconteur, your home for discussions on all things gaming. If you've read any of my posts before, you'll know I've attempted to blog regularly on several different occasions. I've never been able to post regularly over on extended period of time.

A few things inspired me to try yet again. First and foremost, fellow blogger and close friend, Jordan, has done an amazing job with her fashion blog Opal & Violet. She posts frequently and does a great job of capturing her unique style. I've also been inspired a number of times by Logan over at Rememorandom, another friend who has an excellent blog. Secondly, I now have a focus. Before, I was really all over the place with sports, Harry Potter, television, gaming, movies, etc... Now? The Retro Raconteur is all about gaming. I may throw in an occasional tech post (it does relate to gaming after all) and maybe mention a movie from time to time, but the main focus here is the video game industry. I have a focus and vision I didn't have before.

Video games have long been my passion. I've joked with my wife before and said I would be totally fine to live in a retirement home when I'm old - so long as I have the latest console with a steady supply of games. I say that partially in jest, but what makes video games so great is they provide us with an opportunity to relax, to be entertained, to engage with others, and perhaps most importantly, they allow us to escape from and clear our minds of life's hardships.

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Oh - why Retro Raconteur? Well "retro" means "of or designating the the style of an earlier time." It's often used in the video game world to describe old-school games and systems such as the original Super Mario Bros. and Nintendo. I've recently developed a new appreciation for these games after unearthing my wife's old Super Nintendo and her brother's original Nintendo Entertainment System (they still work!). Secondly, who wouldn't want to be a "raconteur?" It's just a fabulous word no matter you look at it. It also has a pretty awesome definition: "a person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly." Basically, it's everything I aspire to be as a writer and blogger.

I hope you'll enjoy.

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