Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Eve of the Next Generation

With today being the eve of the first "real" next generation console, I figured that now was the time to type up a post concerning my thoughts on the PlayStation 4.


I figure that most of you reading this know well about the PS4 already, but let me give you the TL;DR version. The PS4 runs on x86 architecture (PC) hardware rather than the PS3's cell processor (which makes it easier to develop on), has more RAM, better graphics, etc. You might wonder on why I chose a PlayStation console this time around. Was it because Microsoft screwed up E3 so bad? No. I just prefer Sony's exclusives more than Microsoft's this time around. Lastly, I just think that the console is a better value. Even though online play now has a fee, I've already gotten several dozen games for free on Sony's PlayStation Plus service. In all honesty, Sony's camp this time around just seems like a no brainer compared to Microsoft's obsessive buying habits with games and its huge focus on entertainment rather than games.

The PS4 at launch barely has any first party games. I'm fine with that. Looking at their first party titles, I'm more interested in games such as Infamous Second Son, The Order, Killzone, etc. more than any Microsoft exclusive at this time. Killzone Shadow Fall looks fantastic, and the third party titles available at launch such as Battlefield 4 and Assassin's Creed IV will keep me held over. Not to mention that I still have quite a large backlog of PS3/360/3DS games so I probably won't too annoyed that I'm not getting a steady stream of games. Unlike the PS3, the PS4 already has several games in development for it before launch. Comparing that to the PS3, almost nobody at launch knew how to even work with it.

I already went over Sony's new Dual Shock 4 controller since it was released a few weeks ago, and I have to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing all of the features in it. The controller currently works with the PS3, and while it's not a huge difference, using the controller throughout extended play periods is more comfortable than it was with the DS3. The touch pad, share features, and rumble obviously didn't work with the PS3, so I won't be able to get the full experience with the controller until tomorrow. You can see my impressions of the controller in the video below.
 
I want to give a shout to the PlayStation Vita here because apparently all PS4 games will able to be streamed on it. It finally gives a lot of people a reason buy a Vita since it means that you can play your PS4 all over the house and anywhere with WiFi. I'm really hoping that the feature works fine without any or minor lag.
To conclude, I can't wait to crack open and play my PS4 tomorrow. I have my charge station, games, and 2nd DS4 controller ready. And I'm really, really looking forward to blasting through Killzone's campaign, Battlefield 4's explosive multiplayer, and pirating it up in Assassin’s Creed IV

Sunday, June 9, 2013

E3 2013 Predictions - Nintendo

I've recently have seen a lot of guys doing some E3 predictions so I'd figure that I would go ahead and do my own as well.  E3 2013 has a lot on the line for "the big 3".  


Nintendo while still living in a pile of money is currently having issues with low sales of the Wii U.  Sony is also in financial turmoil with a similar situation as Nintendo.  The PlayStation Vita has been on life support for over a year now.  But the PlayStation 4 is currently gaining steam due to the recent blunder that was the Xbox One reveal event.  And speaking of that, Microsoft has a lot of convincing to do to make sure that the Xbox One will not be ignored by gamers.  While I'm sure the mainstream gamer (CoD lovers, sports lovers, TV lovers, etc.) is pleased, myself and actual gamers are not a big fan of the "always online" thing that they want to do.  It is worth noting that Microsoft is promising many exclusives to the XBO so it may still be worth buying... in a few years.

So yeah, we ALL know that a lot questions need to be answered on the end of "the big 3".  I'm mostly concerned about Nintendo so I'll only be focusing on them.  I will watch all 3, but I really only have the time to write about one company, so Nintendo it is. 

---
With the exception of the 3DS doing well now, negativity about the Wii U seems to be one of the hottest topics on a lot of gaming sites. It has become rather obvious that most of the media and game devs like to be cynical and jump to conclusions.  Michael Patcher seems to love talking about the Wii U and Nintendo's failure.  Oh, and EA.  The Nintendo Direct during E3 will be either Nintendo's doom to the Wii U or the beginning of the success of it.  To get back to my original topic, I'll be shooting out some predictions on what Nintendo may announce.

NOTE: I want to make a point that I'll mainly be talking about the Wii U.  I feel the 3DS is already a well-established console and that only brief mentions of the console (3DS) will be mentioned this year.  I know they will mention Pok√©mon X/Y along with probably the USA version of Shin Megami Tensei IV.  I can also see them talking about other 3DS Nintendo based games such as Mario & Luigi, Mario Golf, etc.  I'm really drawing a blank when it comes to the 3DS and new games.  =(

1. Wii U price drop.  The recent "recall" of the basic white 8 GB Wii U console is making this rather obvious.  I'm predicting that the basic model will become the premium model in terms of pricing ($299).  Another guess is that the current white console when recalled will have the 32 GB flash memory added and then the premium console will be available in white as well.  A doubtful guess is that another model with more memory (64 GB, 128 GB) may take the place of the current premium console but I highly doubt it as of this point.  That will likely happen in a year or two though.

2. Nintendo 3DS remodel - Okay, this is a huge guess.  But the original 3DS model already has a few design flaws with it.  The main two being the exclusion of the second analog stick (which would later be added in with Circle Pad Pro accessory -- BUT is only usable for a few games) and a slightly new design.  The original 3DS design while good, has the issues of making two marks on the sides of the top screen thanks to it laying on the bottom touch screen.  I would actually re-buy my 3DS if a model like this is announced.  Yes, the 3DS XL is good.  But is still big.  I want a portable console, not a tank.


3. Smash Bros reveal & more.  This is technically confirmed but the rest of this is a guess.  I predict that Nintendo will show a trailer for the Wii U version of Smash Bros.  I have a gut feeling that the 3DS version will be different from the console version, but will have benefits if both of them are linked together.  If a potential release date is announced, I predict the 3DS version will hit first as a sort of appetizer for the upcoming Wii U version.  Then a year or more later, the Wii U version will finally hit obviously with it being the superior (or a completely different) game. 

4. Mario & Zelda Wii U reveals.  

The Legend of Zelda Tech Demo for Wii U -- not the upcoming Zelda game... maybe.

Again, technically they have been confirmed for a reveal as well but I predict the following: The upcoming Wii U Mario game will likely be something very different as most console Mario games typically do something new.  I have a feeling the game will have more of a cooperative feature due to the Wii U's gamepad.  Galaxy 2 let another player help the main player, I feel that this idea will allow Luigi or a new character to play cooperatively with Mario in the game.  Obviously, the game will be a full on 3D Mario game.  Nothing like New Super Mario Bros. U.  I see this game coming out likely around November of this year to hit in time for the holidays.

Zelda on the other hand will likely only get a trailer.  It's been said that this one will again, have many new gameplay elements that have never been used in past Zelda games.  My guess is that Nintendo will show an action-packed trailer with Link duking it out with Ganon or another new villain along with showing of the game's new HD graphics.  Honestly, I feel that most gamers will be sold on the Wii U alone thanks to a trailer of this.  I predict it being released sometime in 2014. 

5. Mario Kart, and other various Nintendo based games & IPs.
I predict a new Mario Kart game will be announced for Wii U (no brainer at this point).  They might only make a brief mention of it, but I don't see having any game play or a trailer at this point.  I feel Iwata or whoever announces it will tell us to "stay tuned" for a future Nintendo Direct.


Other Nintendo IPs such as a Mario sports game (Soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.) will likely be announced as well.  This sports game will likely hit this year.  I also can see an "oddball" title such an older Nintendo IP get an announcement, but again, asking us to stay turned for more info (nothing of the game will be shown).  Then Nintendo will likely announce a well-known Nintendo IP such as Metroid, Donkey Kong, or Starfox will be getting a new game on Wii U along with a trailer.  Again, another "stay tuned" will likely be slapped onto this title too.

6. More progress concerning currently announced Wii U exclusives will likely be revealed, I'm guessing they will all be compiled into one big trailer for games hitting in 2013 or the beginning of 2014.  Games such as Sonic Lost World and Wind Waker HD will likely get individual mentions either before or after the viewing of this said trailer as they are big releases that will likely hit this year.  


The games in this trailer will likely be as follows: Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, "X" (mech game), Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, Yarn Yoshi, Yakuza 1 & 2 HD, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Sonic Lost World, etc.

6. As always, Nintendo will claim that 3rd party developers are their BFFs.
We know how Nintendo struggles to get developers on their home consoles.  This is something I don't need to discuss. But a few publishers seem to be still supporting Nintendo such as Ubisoft, Activision, Sega, and uh... OTHER developers.  I predict Nintendo will talk about how "unique" their versions of Watch Dogs and Assassins Creed IV will be compared to other versions of these games.  A brief video might show a guy at Ubisoft praising the Wii U versions but I doubt it.  Call of Duty Ghosts will likely be announced for the Wii U as well (as I don't think it has formally announced at this point). 


A trailer with known upcoming 3rd party titles (non-exclusive) will likely play after this. 

7. An unexpected 3rd party game or exclusive will announced for Wii U & 3DS.  This is always an easy one to guess on as it almost ALWAYS happens.  A lot of developers have openly said that aren't developing their current games on the Wii U (that are on PS3/360).  But what if Nintendo gave them a call and offered them $$$ & a publishing arrangement?  I can see a developer being easily convinced with that. 

For Wii U, I think Grand Theft Auto V would be huge.  I consider Rockstar to be a good developer who are open to other consoles.  Nintendo managed to get them to make the once exclusive GTA: Chinatown Wars on DS, so I still consider a Wii U version of GTA V as a potential "shocker" announcement.


As for the 3DS...  it’s hard to honestly think what the 3DS could get next.  Most of the currently big IPs are on the console now (except for the obvious "hardcore" games).  I can't even make a guess for this one.  =S 

8. Ending the E3 Nintendo Direct with Reggie but he's awesome -- If Nintendo doesn't end the Nintendo Direct with a random announcement with Reggie at the end, I will be very sad.  AND if he says "my body is ready" in any sort of way, it will just be epic even if he announces something completely random.

How can you not stare at this?

And that's it!  I really have nothing else to say.  We'll see on how many of these will be right (or partially right) on Tuesday.  See you at E3 (via the interwebs of course)!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

eStarland Store Review

Hello, guys.  I know it’s been a real long time but I’m back here to talk about a real adventure that I had last weekend.  An adventure about a massive video game warehouse store known as eStarland.  eStarland has been around for nearly a decade now… on the internet.  The website was always well known for having a constant inventory of new & retro games along with some niche merch such as anime figures and whatnot.  I never dealt with them on the web mainly because they never have any sales and that their retro video game prices are either decent or way too expensive.

The front of eStarland.  Very store like, right?

Fast forward to roughly 10 months ago, eStarland finally thought “Hey, maybe we should open a retail store!” and that’s where the magic began.  eStarland has a massive inventory of games.  In fact, they only have one warehouse of games.  It is the retail store.  As expected, this makes eStarland about 8x the size of a normal GameStop store with an inventory that’s expected to make any gamer crap themselves.  So, is eStarland an awesome game store or is just another GameStop rip-off?

Location
eStarland is located in Chantilly, Virginia.  For the few that know the northern Virginia area, its right outside of Leesburg.  From where I live (Western Maryland) it was about an hour and 10 minute drive.  I never knew about eStarland’s store until it was featured on Retroware TV’s The Game Chasers show.  In the most recent episode, the gang visited the store and gave it much praise on how awesome the place was.  I was intrigued and was shocked to see how close the place was to me.  Needless to say, I felt obligated to visit the place.  I’ve been sad on how no places within my area barely get any retro games anymore.  It always felt good on getting uncommon games locally for $5-10.  In recent years, it seems that resellers have invaded my area big time and are buying out all of the pawn shops the moment that they anything that’s worth buying.  Due to this, I stopped buying retro games for a few years because the selection went from decent to nearly nonexistent. 

The Store
It’s easy to say that the store looks more like an office/business place on the outside.  That’s because it has been for the last eight years.  Walking in the store at first looks like you’re walking into the reception of some business but then to the left is the entrance store or “showroom”.  At first glance, the store reminds me of a convention center’s dealer’s room.  The place has massive shelves full of games on the ends of the store.  In the middle of the store are smaller shelves that contain many common video games (you will see why I’m saying “common” in a minute) and a ton of video game accessories.  The store also features two giant shelves full of old strategy guides.  They also have about 4-6 shelves for video game and anime figures.  I laugh on how half of the figures say “THIS IS NOT A TOY FOR DISPLAY ONLY”.  Every new, uncommon, or rare game the store carries are usually in a glass case within a counter.  The store sells games new and used from all eras, even for current/next generation consoles (360, PS3, Wii U, 3DS, etc.). 
The selection is amazing and it’s almost overwhelming on how many games these guys have accumulated for the past decade.  If you want a game or a retro console, chances are they will more than likely have it.  eStarland takes trades from anywhere in the world.  Meaning American, Canadian, European, and Japanese gamers can easily sell their games to them.  I personally don’t recommend trading any video game to any retail store even eStarland.  If you think you have something rare, never EVER sell it to a retail store.  Online will and always be your best bet.

UPDATE: Apparently, their trade-in rates are rumored to be higher than most retail stores.  I’m sure they are.  But again, I still stand by my point that selling games online is way more profitable than trading it to any store.

Common games... common games everywhere!

Prices
As I stated back in the beginning of this post, eStarland’s prices aren’t exactly great.  The store does not price anything due to the constant market of games that constantly fluctuate in prices.  For example, one month a game that originally sold for $50 could be $80 due to rarity, the next week the publisher may re-print, port (to a new console), or remake/make a newer version the game making the older version less desirable which in turn would drop the value of the game.  Thankfully, the store will not force you to dump all of your games at the register just to see that you don’t want pay too much for a certain game.  The store has four PCs open that let you look up games on the website before visiting the store.  Keep in mind, that the website and store prices are exactly the same and that the store strictly stands by their prices (so don’t try your luck). 

To wrap up these sections, I felt like I needed to note on all of the things I liked and disliked about the store.  Enjoy!

Positive
  • The store has the biggest selection of Sega Genesis, Saturn, 32X and Sega CD games that I’ve ever seen.  The NES/SNES/N64 selection while big, was a little lacking in worthwhile titles as they seem to have either locked away or have sold all of the most noteworthy games.  Atari selection (all systems) seem to be small but was decent for what they had.
  • Portable games weren’t really on the floor unless they had a box.  A lot of DS/3DS/PSP/Vita games are within the glass cases but are available to buy. 
  • PS2/Xbox/Gamecube games are on the floor or on shelves that you can check out freely.  Some shelves with these are behind counters though.
  •  90 day return policy for anything.  For games/consoles that maybe 5-30+ years old you never know who or what was handling the games/consoles before you.  This made me comfortable on buying my Sega CD from them (and yes, it works).
A great selection of sports games.
Negative
  •  Every game that has ever been a recognizable IP such as any Nintendo IP or popular IP in the past such as Ninja Gaiden or Resident Evil are going to be pricey or extremely overpriced. 
  •  As I stated earlier, every uncommon or rare game is locked away.  Even games that I wouldn’t even consider rare.   If a game that is common but is well-known is missing on the floor, it’s likely locked away somewhere.
  • Every PlayStation (PS1) game is behind the counter on a shelf.  I saw even more PS1 games in front of the shelf within boxes.  I found it extremely odd on how a store that’s been open for nearly a year not to have their PS1 inventory on the floor.  I likely would of walked away with some PS1 games if I could of actually looked through the shelf (I can’t see from far away and I don’t have glasses yet).  I asked a store clerk to see if I could actually look through the games but he refused even if he was watching me go through them.  You would have to know what you wanted beforehand by either being a psychic or by digging through countless hours on the website. 
  •  Oh, and they have shelves like this on the other side of the store that you aren't allowed go through as well (mainly containing older Gamecube/PS2 games).  Make sure to bring your binoculars.
  •   On my previous note, the store seems to have no concern over theft as they had copies of Mega Man III and Chrono Trigger within reachable displays that could be yanked out at any time (I can even see customers taking them out so that they could buy them).  Their available copies of these games were not available on the floor.  The store does have cameras, but with that in mind, why was I not allowed to search through a shelf with permission when the store has a ton of cameras?  Okay, I am a little upset but still I fail to see why they forbid customers to look through some games that could lead into more purchases.
  • The store’s pricing on most retro video game hardware is terrible.  The Sega CD I walked away with was over the double the price I paid for my first one but I only bought it due to me being desperate for another one (and that it seems no man alive can fix my old Sega CD’s laser).
  • On that note, they do offer video game hardware repair.  I was told by a store clerk that it was very expensive though.  He even mentioned at one point that a PS3 laser cost $100 which I knew couldn’t have been true since I bought one back in the fall of last year for not even $40.  Something seems off here…
  • All current/next gen games cannot be browsed through.  Maybe this is because they don’t gut their games like GameStop, but even GameStop lets you browse through new and used games for the current/next gen consoles.  I feel they would sell newer games if they would just buy display cases and put used games on the floor and just place the discs elsewhere.  This isn’t really hard to do.
  • It seems that nearly every current gen game price is never updated unless the game is fairly old. 

I'll make sure to come prepared with glasses and binoculars next time!

It’s sad to say that my negatives do outweigh the positives.  Keep in mind, for a store that’s only been open for less than a year, I consider this to be a decent start.

Staff
Cheap Ass Gamer recently had a thread for an online sale that eStarland is having right now.  I posted my positive and negative list there and one guy claimed that the store’s staff were terrible.  I figured I’d throw in my two cents on this opinion.  Last Sunday, the store I went to had two employees that could have been anywhere between the ages of 18 to 23.  While browsing through games, I noticed a lot of people come in with their children.  At one point, I even had a kid who kept bumping into me and taking out random games and running away with them.  The employees didn’t seem to be very concerned to have children messing with their inventory.  I spoke to their staff a few times, and they were pretty quick to answer my questions.  Yeah, the PS1 thing was BS.  But I’ll put that behind them.  God only knows how many employees that the company actually has.  I also had some random conversations such as the one guy who noticed my MAGFest shirt brought up some odd video game camp thing that had a name similar to MAGFest.  I also schooled them about how Battletoads is likely one of the hardest games ever created (apparently the games they had on display were their own personal copies).  Were they bad?  Nah.  Were they gamers?  Probably not.  Getting decent employees for likely minimum wage these days is a tough thing to do.  None of them seemed like managers to me, but then again, it was a Sunday.  Maybe I didn’t see the infamous employee(s) that were mentioned on CAG… yet.  =S

A pretty good selection of Sega Saturn games

Overall Experience
I’m not going to lie.  I had a great time at eStarland.  The first glance I had inside the store was like “holy crap, this place is huge!”  And the first thing I see are classic games such as Mega Man III and the original Super Smash Bros. on and ready to play which added to the atmosphere of the place.  Once I started checking out games, I spent 90+ minutes just going through everything they had on the floor.  I had stacks at one point but I know to be careful since their prices were pretty high.  I put back a lot of games.  I calculated in my mind how much something could be when I picked it up.  The Sega CD I got I knew unless I found something else that would absolutely blow my mind that I would be getting it.  I left with probably $150 worth of games which a majority of that being for the Sega CD.  I put back a lot of games that had pretty high prices such as Donkey Kong Country 3 and the original Resident Evil on Sega Saturn.  These were games I would have liked but I believe RE was roughly $25+ for a disc only copy and DKC3 was $30+.  I found a cool 32X game called Metal Head complete for about $10 as well as a Sega CD game known as Hemdall for around the same price.  One Sega CD game I was looking forward to was The Terminator which for a licensed game was actually a really good game for its time, but they were out of stock. 

My overpriced loot.

To conclude, I think anyone who has a sight interest in retro games should visit eStarland.  Be wary of the high prices, but if you want to pick something up, make sure to check out the computers in the store to see what you’re getting yourself into.  If you’re looking for common hardware such as a Genesis, SNES, NES, etc., I highly suggest that you look elsewhere.  Other than that, check it out.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wii U Console Review



NOTE: This review was written back in December of 2012.  I just got around to posting it now.  =P
Introduction
Hello, everyone!  It's been a little over a month since the Wii U console has launched in the United States.  I’ve had a lot of time to play the Wii U for the month that it’s been out.  And so far, I’ve been pretty impressed.  The Wii U had some quirks with it at launch.  Mainly the very large console update that enabled a majority of the console’s features was not welcome at all.   I personally had a lot of trouble with its insane amount of updates.  It wasn’t until I purchased a Wii ethernet adapter that I was finally able to keep a stable connection online.  I’m not putting this against the Wii U in the review because mainly, they provided a day 1 update to enable the features that they promised. Lastly, I’m putting the game reviews aside as this post will already be pretty big in itself, but I will be referring to a few games as the review goes on.

Wii U Console
The Wii U console is Nintendo’s eighth generation home console.  It’s hard to believe that after two rocky E3 presentations that the console turned out being not so bad.   Everyone was worried about its online features and the game to TV streaming technology which Nintendo almost never commented on until launch.  The console itself is not exactly good looking, in fact, it’s really long.  Perhaps, too long.  Compared to the previous Nintendo consoles that came before it, the Wii U seems a bit large, but not nearly as large as the (first two models of the) PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (both models).  For whatever reason, the Wii U excluded an ethernet port.  The Wii U has a SD card slot, 4 USB 2.0 slots, and a drive which I’m going to consider a Blu Ray drive even though Nintendo does not call their disc format Blu Rays (but they are the exact same size – 25 GB per layer, similar to how Wii discs were more or less DVDs).  One final thing I want to note is how the Wii U put a sync button for other Wii & Wii U accessories right on the front of the console.  It always annoyed me how the Wii sync button was behind a lid which confused a lot of new users.

Wii U Gamepad
The Wii U gamepad (or tablet) is an interesting piece of technology.  It’s not that heavy, in fact, it’s actually very light.  The screen isn’t amazing by any means (it’s no OLED, like the Vita) but it’s also a touch screen (single touch, no multi-touch).  The Wii U gamepad does take a while to get used to, but after a while, it starts to feel natural.  I played and beat Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the gamepad without any problem and I never had any issue with the controls at all.  The streaming technology that the Wii U uses to stream the game to the gamepad works for the most part.  Not all games support it, but for those that do, it works great.  The range isn’t exactly impressive, I’d say it’s roughly 30 feet max, and it likely work within any room that the Wii U is in.  Just don’t bring it into the bathroom, as you will likely lose the signal.  The final thing to note is the gamepad’s lackluster battery.  I’d say on max settings with constant game play, the Wii U’s battery lasts about 2.5-3 hours.  You can extend its life by putting it on power saver and lower brightness settings, but the gamepad will need to be charged constantly.    

Wii U Pro Controller
The Wii U also offers a “hardcore” gaming controller known as the Wii U Pro Controller.  This controller isn’t included with the Wii U console, but it does offer a more console-like gaming experience for games such as Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II.  The controller is very similar to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 controller.  The buttons with the exception of the right analog stick are placed in the exact same spot as Microsoft’s controller.  That aside, the Wii U Pro Controller is actually much lighter than the Xbox controller.  Thankfully, unlike the 360 controller, the Wii U Pro Controller does not require batteries and can be recharged.  Nintendo claims the on a single charge that the Wii U pro controller can last up to 80 hours.  I personally was not able to buy one until today, so I’m unable to verify if this claim is true or not yet.  Other than that, I like it.  Since I already used the Wii U gamepad for a month, the controller and button placement worked for me on the first try with the pro controller.  I like it.

The Wii U OS

The operating system for the Wii U is very similar to the OS that has been seen on the Nintendo DSi and 3DS portable consoles.  On one screen (which can switched at any time), you can see squares that have a list of the applications and games available to use.  The other screen you can see the Mii plaza where you can see what other Wii U gamers are playing and talking about.  After the day one update, the Wii U has a wide variety of features to use.  As of end of the December, the Wii U now has access to popular media streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.  For each game, Nintendo has setup message boards for gamers to talk about the games that they are playing.  They can also exchange drawings if they please.  The boards are heavily moderated and do give the option on whether or not if your post will contain a spoiler or not.  I wouldn’t worry about seeing troll like or offensive posts, as Nintendo seems to rapidly delete any post that maybe causing trouble.  I personally don’t see a need for the boards, but for newer gamers that aren’t used to googling on what to do next in a game, the boards may provide them with the help they need in a Wii U game. 

Next, the Wii U is operated on the Nintendo Network that was recently introduced with some 3DS games.  The Nintendo Network is very similar to what was Nintendo’s WiFi connection in the past with the original Wii and DS systems.  The Wii U is the first Nintendo console to not rely on friend codes, and that Nintendo IDs can be exchanged with friends instead of an annoyingly long code.  This Nintendo ID will also be used in every online game you play, so choose your name wisely! 

Wii Transfer and Backwards Compatibility
As expected, the Wii U is backwards compatible with all original Wii games.  Of course, this means that Gamecube games are no longer supported (and this should have been obvious since it doesn’t have Gamecube controller and memory card ports).  The transfer process between the Wii and Wii U is a little tricky, and it requires some patience.  Both consoles need to be powered on at the same time.  Both also need to be on the internet, and you will have to have an SD card to swap data (which the Wii/Wii U will do for you).  Thankfully, the Wii U will transfer saves that will were previously copy locked such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Animal Crossing City Folk.  However, at the end of this transfer, it completely wipes your Wii.  Meaning that if you had any desire to have a Wii Sports game on the older Wii with your grandparents or a Smash Bros tournament with the vastly superior Gamecube controllers, consider your night ruined. 

After the long transfer process, the Wii along with most of your applications (not all of them transfer) and virtual console games, the original Wii menu can be accessed from the Wii U menu.  The Wii menu on the Wii U is basically an emulated Wii.  The original Wii also cannot use any of the cool new Wii U features such as the putting games on the gamepad or playing them with the new Wii U Pro Controller.  However, the Wii U does upscale games similar to the how earlier models of the PlayStation 3 upscaled PS2 games.   

The Wii U Shop


The Wii U Shop app is a vast improvement over the clunky Wii shop channel that was seen on the original Wii console.  The format is way more streamlined and is very easy on the eyes.  Several Wii U games can bought digitally without having to go to a store and buy games.  Sadly, most of these digital games are still sold at retail prices ($60 for most games).  The only problem I see with this is that most people will probably fill up their Wii U console memory after buying 2 games with the basic set or roughly eight games with the premium set.  Nintendo does give gamers more options for expanding the memory such as using SD cards or external hard drives, but I feel that a console that was this expensive should of expanded more on the console memory.  The Wii U’s cheaper previous gen competitors currently offer cheaper consoles with 4x or more space than the Wii U does.  Something tells me that in the future that Nintendo will update the console with more built in memory so that it will appeal to more hardcore gamers, but time will only tell.  That aside, the Wii U also offers demos, applications (that I previously mentioned), and smaller digital games similar to what has been seen on Xbox Live Arcade.

Launch lineup, graphical capabilities, online gaming, etc.
This is more or less the misc. part of the review. 

The launch lineup for the Wii U was actually very big.  Probably the biggest ever for a home Nintendo console.  However, most of these launch titles were already on last gen consoles before the Wii U was released.  The Wii U had very few exclusives to the console.  New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendoland are decent launch titles, but will not keep most gamers occupied for very long.  Zombi U on the other hand is actually a very good game.  But the difficulty and game play will likely turn most gamers off.  That aside, if a gamer for whatever reason wants a new console to play Assassin’s Creed IIICall of Duty Black Ops II, and Darksiders II on, then the Wii U will keep you occupied for quite a while.  If not, you might want to wait a little longer for the Wii U to bring out some games that are worth playing.

Speaking of games, many have been debating on how powerful the Wii U actually is.  It honestly seems that nobody has any idea on what the Wii U may or may not be capable of.  Apparently games such as Ninja Gaiden 3 run better on last gen consoles than on the Wii U.  But then other multi-platform games such as Call of Duty Black Ops II and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 seem to run just as good as its other versions.  All in all, just treat the Wii U as a console that can handle last gen games.  Sure, after next year, the Wii U will likely be underpowered compared to what Microsoft or Sony may offer up at E3 2013, but then again, the Wii U may have another year to finally show off what it’s made of.  Pikmin 3Bayonetta 2, and the upcoming Super Smash Bros. game aren’t expected to be released until next year.  It might be even longer until we see not only Smash Bros, but also a new 3D Mario and Zelda game.  Nintendo has been well known to deliver on its first party titles, but hopefully they will convince more third party developers to make more exclusives for the console.

This is what nightmares look like

Finally, online gaming was something I only got to try with Call of Duty Black Ops II.  Even before I had my ethernet adapter come in the mail, Black Ops II ran without a hitch.  It ran just as well as its only last gen counterparts.  Sure, it may not have had as many players playing, but the Wii versions of previous Call of Duty games have sold millions of copies, despite them being watered down versions of the games.  I can only see that number skyrocketing likely if the next Call of Duty stays last gen for next year (which it likely will).  Online gaming aside, online applications such as the Wii U Internet browser, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video ran great.  I feel these three apps are perfect for the Wii U.  Nothing really beats the feeling off watching Doctor Who on the gamepad during the night, and being able to turn off the TV with the gamepad and going bed (forgot to mention that the gamepad doubles as a universal TV remote). The YouTube app on the other hand, seems to be rather finicky at times.  I’ve had several issues with it such as constantly hanging while loading videos or simply stopping mid video and never loading the rest of the video.  Thankfully, all Wii U games and apps can be patched at any time, so hopefully the YouTube team will fix this issue soon.  I do not have a Hulu Plus subscription so I never had the chance to try it out.

Conclusion
Overall, the Wii U is a step in the right direction for Nintendo.  It’s trying really hard to impress everyone, and so far, I think it’s doing a decent job.  Every console has a bumpy first year, and it’s always a determination on whether or not a system will fail.  After the massive 3DS bomb in 2011, hopefully Nintendo will make sure that the system won’t stagnant and lose steam, or it may join the likes of PlayStation Vita and be on life support.  Despite me really digging the Wii U, it’s extremely hard to recommend due the last gen Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 having more storage space for cheaper, more games to choose from, and overall a cheaper console that more people have.  The Wii U doesn’t have the “wow” factor that its previous console had because with the exception of the TV to gamepad gimmick, the Wii U has little to nothing that we haven't seen before. 

It’s sad to say that the Wii U gamepad is what likely what made the console so expensive.  I feel if the console had itself for $250 (for basic) and $300 (premium) that it will appeal to more customers.  But unless sales completely tank after launch, I don’t think that the price will budge for quite a while.  Reggie Fils-Aime has already stated that the Wii U is selling at a loss, but if a consumer buys at least one Wii U game with the console, that it will sell at a profit.  I don't believe he ever specified on which set he was referring to, but I found that info to be fairly interesting. 

If you are a gamer, I’d say wait another year to see what happens with the Wii U.  We’ll have to see what Nintendo announces for the Wii U in the coming months and see if Nintendo can jump back and say “Hey, we games you have to play.”  All in all, the console a very much a step in the right direction for Nintendo.  I'm just having the problem of seeing if it will be worth it in the end.

Overall Rating for the Wii U:
7.5/10

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Wii U Experience



With my last few posts, some of you probably think that I hate the Wii U.  It's actually quite the opposite.  I like the Wii U.  I'm just a little upset with the way that Nintendo presented it.  At E3 2011, a lot of non-gamers mistook the Wii U as an add on accessory for the original Wii console.  Why was that?  Well, despite Nintendo's "hardcore" presentation, they failed to show the actual console itself in the presentation.  At E3 2012, Nintendo was like "Oops, hey guys, we ARE making a new console!"  As you can see in my last post, E3 2012 wasn't exactly good for Nintendo either.  Fast forward to now, Nintendo has everything set in stone for the Wii U, and the next console generation will finally begin.

I already covered what the Wii U was capable of.  So let me just go over what was changed about it since I last talked about it in January. 
  •  The Wii U is releasing in two versions: A Basic Set that is $300 which includes the console, the Wii U gamepad, sensor bar, and hookups (even a HDMI cable).  And a deluxe set that is $350 and includes everything I said above except it's Black, comes with the game Nintendoland, a Wii U stand, and some eShop bonuses.
  • The Wii U will have a wireless pro controller that will last up to 80 hours.  This controller is said to last a whopping 80 hours.  The controller layout is very similar to the Xbox 360 controller.
  •  IT HAS NO FRIEND CODES.  Yes, I was required to put this in caps.  The console will have Nintendo ids.  Praise da lord.
  • The Wii U Console has four USB ports, and will be able to expand on the existing 32 GB memory with a SD card or an external hard drive (up to 2 TB).
  • The Wii U is slightly longer than the original Wii console.  I didn't notice how long it was until it was until I saw it at GameStop.

The Wii U and original Wii Console (from Ign.com)

Back in July, I managed to get an invite to a Wii U Experience event in Washington, DC.  The event had a lot of E3 2012 builds of several Wii U launch titles.  I only tried out three games: Zombi U, Nintendoland, and Pikmin 3.  Before I go on about the games, let me talk about the controller.

The Wii U Experience event in Washington DC back in late July

The Wii U Controller

The Wii U controller is interesting.  If you have not seen it, it’s basically an iPad Mini with buttons and a smaller screen.  The screen however is still only a touch screen with single touch, meaning you can't do all of the fancy multi touch features that most smartphones are well known for using today.  It's not a big deal, but a bit of a bummer in my opinion (to note the 3DS that was released last year did not have a multi touch screen either).  The Wii U also has the same motion control technology that the Wii remote has, but it does not require a sensor bar (but one is included with the Wii U console in the United States).  This means you do not have to be facing the TV at all times, like you did with the Wii.  The technology that is the selling point (or gimmick as some like to say) is how you can play Wii U games without a TV.  Sadly, this feature was not available at the Wii U experience event.  When I asked about the feature to the woman in charge of coaching people in Pikmin 3, she had no idea that the Wii U even had this feature.  After describing it to her, she said to me: "I don't think that works, do you want me to ask my boss?" I kindly declined, but it worried me since the console was only three months away from launch at that time. 

The Games
The Wii U Experience had a lot of games.  But it also had a lot of lines, and a lot of game hogs.  That aside, I chose not to play games such as Super Mario Bros. U and Wii Fit U because they weren't offering anything new.  I also ignored ports of current games on display such as Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge.  The first game I tried out was Zombi U

Zombi U
Zombi U is a shooter with some survival horror mechanics thrown in it.  Think of how Resident Evil used to be without all of the stupid quick time events (QTEs). The level I played in the demo was somewhat linear, but was still pretty fun.  Thanks to the guy in charge of the game, he coached me on what to do/not do.  The game has a Metroid Prime like scanner system that scans any object around you for items and whatnot.  The coolest thing about it was how you can go 360 degrees with the controller to scan items.  The movement in the game is thankfully done with the joystick on the controller.  The game required me to find a key which made me backtrack a little (remember when games did that? lol), and the man in charge of the game kept constantly warning me of the stupid  nurse zombie that I would be encountering soon.  Needless to say, my body was ready.  The zombies that I encountered were relatively easy to kill.  The guy coaching me as surprised on how many headshots I pulled off and mentioned to me that no one else that night was even trying to shoot them in the head.  That's scary in itself.  Overall, from what I played, I liked Zombi U.

Nintendoland


Nintendoland at the Wii U Experience

Remember how Wii Play on the original Wii felt more like a glorified tech demo than a game?  Well, can you guess what Nintendoland is?  The exact same thing... sort of.  Nintendoland is basically a collection of mini games that are basically demonstrating on what the Wii U controller can do.  While this is cool, the only thing I have a problem with is how Nintendo is not offering this game for free with every Wii U console.  The only version of the console in the United States that offers it for free is the deluxe version of the console.  Everyone else that buys the slightly cheaper Basic set has to fork out an outrageous $60 for the game.  Nintendoland for the most part has some decent multiplayer games on it.  The ones I played were the Luigi's Mansion, Animal Crossing, and the Ninja star mini games. 

I very briefly played the same Ninja star game.  I was actually very disappointed in it because the control felt like it wasn't right and while flinging ninja stars with the Wii U controller's touch screen was cool, I was having a ton of trouble actually hitting anything.  After I noticed that it was nearly impossible to hit anything with the very limited amount of time I had (between each target), I ended up just shooting a million ninja stars at every enemy which made it impossible for me to miss.  Did I mention it had no limit on how many I could throw?  I guess that was cool.  I suppose my character was a very over prepared ninja since it felt like I threw about a thousand ninja stars by the end of the game.  Long story short, I didn't like it. 

The second game I tried out was the Luigi's Mansion mini game.  This game has four players.  Three Mii Players (with Luigi hats on) and a ghost player.  Three players play via the TV on Wii remotes while one player plays as the ghost on the Wii U controller.  The game takes place in a dark room where the three players playing via the TV have flashlights while the rest of the room is completely dark.  The player with the Wii U controller can see the entire room.  The goal of the game as the luigi players is to point your flashlight at the ghost.  The light hurts the ghost and it will eventually die if you point the light(s) at it for too long.  The ghost on the other hand has to sneak up on every Luigi and knock them down.  Once a player is down, they have to be revived by a fellow player.  To add more challenge to the game, each Luigi can also run out of battery life on their flashlights which also make them vulnerable to enemy attacks, but thankfully, many batteries are scattered throughout the room.  I had the chance to play as both roles in the game (and winning both)!  Honestly, I had a ton of fun with this game.  I felt it was fun playing each role, and that the players playing as the Luigis had to rely on team work to survive and to kill the ghost, while the player playing as the ghost had to strategize on when to attack a player that was away from other players, or had a dead flashlight.  Overall, this is by far my favorite game that I played from the demo version of Nintendoland.

The last game I tried out in Nintendoland was the Animal Crossing mini game.  While I'm a huge fan of the Animal Crossing series, I was actually saddened on how badly this mini game turned out.  Basically, think of how the Luigi's Mansion game I mentioned was like in terms on how people played the game.  Three people play with Wii remotes on the TV and one person plays the bad guy on the Wii U controller screen.  For the people playing as the Mii animals on the wii remotes, they basically have to pick up as much candy as they can.  But the person playing on the Wii U controller has to control the police dogs from the Animal Crossing games.  While this may sound easy, the hardest part is controlling one dog per analog stick.  I had a lot of trouble playing the role of the police dogs on the Wii U controller because even if you control both dogs at once going in one direction, it is still really hard to control both dogs at once.  Needless to say, it wasn't as bad as the ninja star game, but I didn't like it.

Pikmin 3
Pikmin 3 at the Wii U Experience


I really don't have too much to say about Pikmin 3 because it was more of the same.    If you played the Wii versions of Pikmin 1 & 2, Pikmin 3 controls exactly the same as the last games. While I never was a huge fan of the Pikmin series, I really enjoyed my time with Pikmin 3.  The graphics were a huge step up from the previous games, and I had a blast with the boss battle that I had at the end of the demo.  For fans of the series, I think you'll love it.  As for myself, I'll wait for it to drop in price.

To conclude...
I was on the fence about buying a Wii U at first. Amazingly enough, the thing that pulled me over was seeing a trailer for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 with Mario characters.  And while thinking about that, I thought how amazing Mario, Zelda, and Smash Bros. will be and how amazing all of those games will look in HD and with next gen (or I guess I should say this gen?  Whatever, lol) graphics. 
I reserved the Wii U Deluxe Set the day the release date was announced, and I'm glad I did because the console seems to be almost impossible to reserve now.  I'll be back with my impressions of the final hardware and the final versions of the games I'll be playing. 

I will have Nintendoland, New Super Mario Bros. UZombi U, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.  I also have the Wii U pro controller on the way as well.

As one final bonus, I saw a Wii U setup in Wal Mart a few nights ago.  I took some HD video of the controller in action.  Sadly no games were playable on it (only videos).  Enjoy!

I'll be getting my Wii U on Sunday morning!  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

Friday, July 6, 2012

E3 2012 and more


Hey, guys.  I know it's been a while since my last blog.  I seem to always forget I have one even though I have so much on my mind about the industry.  Since January, I finished up my Associate's degree (was technically done in December but needed a math class and 2 extra credits to graduate, so I did an internship) and now I'm starting on my Bachelor’s in the fall at the University of Baltimore.  With that said, I'm also still gaming.  I've been out of school since early May and I been catching up on my massive backlog of games, movies, and anime.  In February, I did get a Playstation Vita and I also have obtained many other 3DS/Vita games since then as well.

First off:
1. The Playstation Vita had a terrible launch and will likely end the year in misery. 
This honestly isn't much of a shocker.  The Vita is a powerful portable, but it had the same two problems that plagued the 3DS at launch as well: A lack of good games and a high price point.  At this time, I have five Vita games, and I just picked up Gravity Rush (great game) and Mortal Kombat (great port for the most part). 
Yeah, about that...

None of my friends I know own one yet and I personally think if the upcoming Call of Duty game for the system doesn't sell a ton, the Vita is sadly done for.  I can't think of any killer app for the Vita as of this point, and while Uncharted was great, it really doesn't keep you coming back after you've beaten it.

2. People are finally buying the 3DS because it now has good games and a lower price.
Just as I said above, the 3DS's second year has so far been great.
Looks like we're getting a bonus this year, woo hoo!

A lot of big games are hitting in the fall, and I feel 3DS sales will without a doubt blow the Vita out of the water this holiday season.  I also wish I wanted a year to buy one, but hey, I like new shiny things when they come out, but oh well.

And now for the main part of the article:
E3 2012 was terrible because the "Big 3" is holding out on their new consoles new year
Everyone should have known this before the show, but E3 was a total crapfest this year.  A lot of good games got some nice trailers (The Last of Us, Resident Evil 6, Halo 4, the God of War prequel sequel whatever game, etc.) but every conference was pretty boring.  Sony really had nothing new to offer, and Microsoft is basically ripping off the Wii U controller with its new Smartglass, go figure.

Nintendo even failed at trying to sell the Wii U to gamers.  It sure did better than last year (most people thought the Wii U was a new controller for the Wii since they never showed the system), so Nintendo finally acknowledged that "yes, we got a new console on the way!" but the games were for the most part were either on other consoles, or they weren't that great.  Everyone would agree that Nintendo is FINALLY getting on the ball for making this console for the "hardcore" gamer, but the problem is, we already have hardcore game consoles, therefore, I and many other gamers don't care about it.  
Come back tomorrow... we'll show you "more", we swear!

They had several conferences at E3 (compared to just one) and most of it was just fluff and apologizing to us that they had "no time".  Their main presentation was all Wii U and constantly told us to come back tomorrow for more stuff, and the 3DS was put on the backburner despite the system only being one year old.  Ouch.  The 3DS conference the next night was even worse and barely showed us anything that we didn't already know about.  It was just a massive waste of everyone's time for something that could have been done in 15 minutes at the main conference.  The kicker was that they held back announcements even after everything was over, and the Wii U still has no price or release date.  For that Nintendo, you made your E3 suck. 

Next year, I know E3 will be obviously be better.  But Nintendo is going to be in trouble selling the Wii U in general.  Since it's a year ahead of the upcoming Playstation and Xbox consoles, it best sell itself now before people are wowed but the "real" next generation of game consoles.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Magfest X

Hey, guys.  Over the weekend, I attended my first Magfest in National Harbor, MD.  This is actually the 10th Magfest so it felt pretty cool to be there at probably the best Magfest yet.  

If you aren't aware what Magfest is, it's basically a music and video game festival.  It started up a few years back, and I remember first hearing about it on a Screwattack podcast way back in 2007.  I was psyched that the convention was close to me, but due to a lack of funds and it being at bad times (new years, conflicting with work/school, etc), I never had the opportunity to attend one. This years Magfest was actually at a new location and was almost guaranteed that it wouldn't sell out this time.

With that said, I did some planning, and managed to make it for 1 of the 4 days (Saturday), since Saturday almost always has all of the big events planned on it.  One of the first things I did was attend a panel for a site I heard of a few years back known as Retroware.tv.  These guys are somewhat similar to the current trend of websites that are a sort of portal to gaming related shows.  The guys were really laid back, but they also knew their stuff.  They showed off some videos (with a rather amusing Pro Wrestling inspired announcement to their new free app), and even a preview of their upcoming big show, The Video Game Years.  It looked really interesting and I'll check it out in the future.  


That said, I think the most interesting show that stuck out to me (between all of their shows) was the one called The Game Chasers.  Basically a group of two friends go around Texas searching for rare video games. I found this pretty interesting since I've done like this myself (see my Pawn shop review posts in 2009) and I was really wow'ed at all of the things they did to obtain retro games and systems.  The guys aren't just all about business though, the show also has some really amusing moments such as Jay (one of the Game Chasers) running around a town with a Tigger costume on.  Sure it's random, but the duo joking around with each other actually gives the show some very good comic relief, not to mention the small arguments they get into when they debate on who will buy a certain game.  

Later on, one of my favorite game related bands, The Minibosses did a live show at the convention.  I only got to listen to two of their songs due to The Angry Video Nerd's (James Rolfe's) Q&A being only a few minutes after their concert ended, so I left the concert early so I could wait in line.  While I was in the huge line, I saw Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu, and his new band, the Earthbound Papas.  I managed to snap a quick picture of them before they went back into the back room.


James Rolfe's Q&A was pretty cool, he answered as many questions as he possibly could.  I thought of a random question for the heck of it.  I asked him how he made the replica cartridge for the Nintendo World Championships review (he tricked the audience in a review that he broke the game).  If you don't know, the gold cartridges of the game are referred to being one of the most rarest games of all time due to them being at the only Nintendo World Championship that was held over two decades ago.  He later had an autograph signing at the dealer's room.  I got him to sign my NES copies of Mega Man 2 and Friday the 13th.  



The last thing I did was seeing the main event: The Earthbound Papas concert.  This concert was insanely awesome, especially if you are a gamer.  Nobuo Uematsu and his band rocked their hearts out and played many memorable songs from the Final Fantasy games and various other games/shows that Uematsu and his band have worked on.  One minute, gamers were furiously headbanging and throwing each other around, and the next, they were holding up lighters and cell phones.  I was actually near the end of crowd so I couldn't see much of anything, but was still really awesome to have the chance to see them in concert.


All in all, Magfest X was a real awesome experience for me.  I'm glad that I got to go this year, and I'm looking forward to see what Magfest XI will deliver to gamers next year.