A glimpse inside GHG HQ

Since I enjoy checking out other folks’ gaming setups, I thought it might be fun to quickly show you where I sit to play games and write here at GHG. Most setups out there are so much more robust than mine, and it’s just really cool to see the pride and effort that goes into them. I used to be heavily into home audio and video, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve downsized. Not sure what that’s all about, and chances are good I’ll get that urge again to go big.


Anyway, this is my view throughout most of the day. I do everything on a single Dell U2711 27″ monitor, which can definitely be challenging, especially when you’re trying to play, type, research, and capture video all at once. Although I had issues with its on-screen display controls a few years ago, it’s easily one of the best monitors I’ve ever owned. Great color accuracy, and with a resolution of 2560 x 1440, PC gaming and image editing on it is great.

My mouse is a SteelSeries Sensei Raw, which my good friend from Phoenix recommended. Since I’m left-handed, finding good, ambidextrous mice can be tough, but this one’s perfect. Good feel, excellent tracking, and zero issues so far. It replaced a Razer Lachesis that started giving me trouble within a year, and I don’t see myself going back anytime soon. The mousepad is a SteelSeries QcK Mass, which is large — but not too large at 12.6″ x 11.2″ — and that hasn’t let me down either.

My keyboard is less interesting — a  standard Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 — but since I type far more than I game on my PC these days, it’s my preferred way to click away. I have a CM Storm QuickFire Pro keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches in storage, and that thing’s super-responsive and built like a tank, but I don’t like typing on it, and perhaps more importantly, my wife can’t stand the loud noise.

The speakers hiding behind the monitor stand are part of a compact Onkyo 2.1 system, but I game almost exclusively via headphones, so they don’t get much use. The mains are small, though, so they don’t get in the way and take up minimal desk real estate.

The wired 360 Controller on the right is what I use for most modern PC games, and it’s what I played all three Batman: Arkham games with earlier this year. I use mouse and keyboard for first-person games, but even with those, if a controller option is offered, I’ll generally pick that. I know, PC sacrilege!


In terms of classic gaming, these are my weapons of choice.  Via import, Sega offers this great official Saturn-based USB controller, and it’s perfect for all of those old Sega games. The 6-button layout makes it a good choice for a lot of other fighting games as well, in case you don’t have a traditional joystick. I consider the Saturn directional pad one of the best ever made, so it’s nice being able to use it on PC.

While there is no official Nintendo USB controller, the Buffalo Classic USB Gamepad is about as close to perfect as you can get if you don’t have an adapter and want that Super Nintendo feel. The directional pad sits slightly higher than it does on an official controller, but everything’s responsive and very solid. I definitely recommend it over the more common Tomee knock-offs, which are cheap and of inconsistent quality.


My console stack is pretty light, and only includes the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. Nothing too exciting there. They all go through the Pioneer receiver below, and are then sent out to the Elgato Game Capture HD, where it’s split once again between the monitor and my PC for recording. Which reminds me: I still owe you a review of the Elgato. Soon, I promise!

So there you have it. It’s not the most luxurious setup in the world, but it gets the job done.


Review: The King of Arcades (DVD)

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“Do what you love.”

Those words have rung true for me throughout most of my life, and certainly throughout the majority of my career.  Back in late-’95, before I took my first videogame industry job as a Tester, my college counselor basically told me I was an idiot.  I believe she called it the worst mistake I could ever make and that there was no future in it. She was certain of it, and I walked out of there wondering if I was indeed screwing up my life.

Well, I decided to ignore her and follow my passion for gaming instead, and it would end up being one of the best choices I ever made. It rewarded me with a great career, where I had the pleasure of working with some of the best and brightest people I’ve ever known.  That moment is one I often cite when faced with dream-killing negativity and seemingly insurmountable odds. And that struggle is at the heart of Sean Tiedeman’s The King of Arcades.

Although the title sounds similar to 2007’s The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, this isn’t a documentary about two opposite, but like-minded players competing for Donkey Kong‘s high score.  No, this is about one man: Richie Knucklez, a passionate, energetic guy who equally loves his family, his friends, and ’80s arcade culture and game restoration.

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In that sense, The King of Arcades doesn’t have the same level of dramatic, competitive tension that The King of Kong had, but is rather a fascinating and intimate look into classic arcade culture and those who put their blood, sweat, and tears into preserving those cherished memories.

It’s full of wonderful time capsule-like vignettes, featuring interviews with many iconic industry figures, including Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Defender and Robotron creator Eugene Jarvis, and videogame “Father” Ralph H. Baer, to name just a few. They provide some historically interesting insight into the early days of videogames and their evolution, and are bookended by old commercials and news stories from when the arcade craze was at its peak. Some of them are hilariously cheesy, but they are all charming in their own right.

mpc-hc 2014-06-16 09-35-06-42For those of us who grew up in the arcades of the ’80s, The King of Arcades does a very effective job at tapping right into that nostalgia. I got more emotional than I thought I would seeing graveyard after graveyard of game cabinets in dark sheds, closed arcades, and dusty warehouses. It reminded me of a scene from the 2002 documentary Scratch, in which DJ Shadow reminisces very similarly about old records in basements, unearthing hidden treasures, and the forgotten, broken dreams of artists.

That undercurrent runs through every scene here, and even during the happiest of times, there is a sense that it won’t last forever.  What I enjoyed most about The King of Arcades is that even when things do hit rock-bottom, Knucklez keeps his head up and finds a way to persevere.  It doesn’t feel artificial, either.  In a lot of ways, I think viewers will find that even if their personalities don’t match, they’ll be able to relate well with Knucklez.  He talks us through his younger years working a job he couldn’t stand, and how a physical ticking time-bomb inspired him to live life to its fullest and follow his dreams.

mpc-hc 2014-06-16 11-47-58-92And follow them he does.  I often think back to how important arcades were for me, and how there was nothing that came close to walking into one and being hit by all of those beautiful cabinets and iconic sounds. Popping in The King of Arcades will bring back all of those memories that kept you coming back to places like Aladdin’s Castle, Tilt, and Golfland.

Although it’s not as cohesive as The King of Kong, this should still be on every arcade lover’s shortlist of DVDs to own. You can tell that those involved in the making of it respect and value videogames as much as Knucklez himself. And now I want to do nothing more than make my own dreams a reality, starting with the creation of our own indie game.  That, and maybe restoring an old arcade cabinet. If only I had the space!

Overall: B+

In terms of the DVD itself, I wrote previously about its packaging, and they did a nice job with the on-disc menus and extras as well. While I didn’t really care for the fact that two trailers precede the main menu, there’s a good amount of extra content to be had, which Kickstarter backers got a nice glimpse of during production.

The documentary itself has nice video and audio, and while the production value isn’t as polished as say, Indie Game: The Movie, it’s still tastefully done and fun to watch. Below are some menu system captures:

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Two months at GHG

When I was younger, I remember my dad telling me, “Just you wait… soon you’ll be looking at your life in terms of decades instead of years.”  Although great things have happened to me in my thirties — I got married to the love of my life, adopted a beautiful Rottweiler, bought and sold two homes, and lived in three states — they were certainly a blur. Some things are humorously coincidental, like the fact that exactly ten years ago, I was in a similar situation: between jobs, living at home, catching up on games, and thinking a lot about the future.

And here I am, already two months into writing this little blog of mine. It’s been a great experience so far, and it’s cool to see how it’s growing.

20140616_statsSince last month, I’ve added 22,798 words in 25 posts, for an average of 911.56 words per post. Some entries have definitely been longer than others, but I’ve tried my best to maintain some semblance of sanity with their length. Total content has increased by 61.72% over the past month.

I’m not sure how effective subscriptions are these days since most folks stay connected to website content via news aggregators and social media, but I saw an increase of 62.5% from 3 to 8. Not all that significant, but something to point out nonetheless.

Top keywords continue to be consistent from last month: game(s), like, time, good, just, and really. I just really like spending time with good games.

An all-time total of 1,146 views and 52 comments also seems low, but I haven’t done much to promote the blog. I might start looking at ways to broaden my audience soon, but I’ve wanted to stay focused on content up to this point.

Anyway, thanks again for visiting and reading GHG, as well as for the support you’ve shown on the various social media sites. The journey has just begun!


E3 2014: My Games of the Show

After a week full of announcements, surprises, disappointments, and more new games than you can shake a stick at, E3 has come to a close. Although I enjoy watching E3 from the comfort of home, there is a part of me that definitely misses not being able to physically be there and play the games in person. Despite the traffic, sore feet, headaches, and halitosis, you just can’t replace that in-person experience.

Anyway, now that the show is over and I’ve had a few days to think about the games that were on display, I wanted to share my personal list of titles I’m most excited about. Basically, if I had the power to, I’d play all of these right now.

Here we go, in relative order of my excitement level from lowest to highest. Special thanks to NeoGAF for providing a handy list of the games at E3 that I used for reference, several of which I completely missed earlier in the week.

One thing’s for sure: October of this year and what looks like all of 2015 are going to be crowded with lots of high-quality games. I hope your wallets are ready!


Hohokum (PS4/PS3/Vita, August 2014)
Supporting Cross-Play, this is a very unique-looking title that underscores the robust lineup that the PlayStation brand is known for. It has a look that is not unlike that of LocoRoco, and represents the style of new thinking common to many games of this decade. It looks like a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see those colors pop on the Vita.


Pushmo World (Wii U, June 2014)
Even though they can frustrate me, I love the puzzle games Pushmo and Crashmo on the 3DS. I gave Crashmo an A- back in January, and I was hoping the series wouldn’t end there. I’m really happy that it’s making its way to the Wii U next week! I honestly don’t know if Intelligent Systems is capable of making a bad game, although the jury’s still out on their recently announced Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. Just about everything they do is fun, polished, and imaginative.


Gunman Clive 2 (3DS, Q3 2014)
Nintendo released a ton of eShop trailers for their systems this year, but Gunman Clive 2 was the one that stood out for me. The original was a fun little action/platformer, but it was really short. It has a great style, good controls, and was the kind of game that definitely needed a sequel. And here it is, looking terrific. It should be a lot of fun.


Assassin’s Creed: Unity (PS4/Xbox One/PC, October 2014)
This is a series that I haven’t given much attention to over the years, but I was really impressed by what I saw at E3 this year. The cinematic trailer is nice, but the in-game footage is what’s truly gorgeous, and really said “next-generation” to me. All throughout the week, I was continually surprised by just how good most games look this generation in terms of raw detail, performance, and individual style.


Grand Theft Auto V (PS4/Xbox One/PC, Fall 2014)
I gave the original Grand Theft Auto V an A+ in March, and cited it as one of my favorite games on the PS3. I’ll likely have to double-dip on the PC, where it will finally be able to shine as bright as it was meant to. Not sure if I’ll have it in me to replay it from the start, but it sounds like you’ll be able to transfer your save data somehow. Hopefully that’s true for PC as well!


Evolve (PS4/Xbox One/PC, October 2014)
Online multiplayer games aren’t my thing, and that probably isn’t going to change anytime soon, but I have to mention this since so many of my former friends and coworkers are busting their rumps to get this game done. This was one of the last projects at THQ before the company went belly-up, so a lot of us have a lasting connection with it. It’s been receiving extremely high praise from press and players alike, so I have no doubt it will be a huge hit for Turtle Rock Studios and 2K Games.


Mirror’s Edge 2 (PS4/Xbox One/PC, 2016)
It’s tough to get too excited over a game slated for 2016, but I can’t deny that I’m really drawn to the game’s style.  It’s one of the most unique out there. I’m so glad that DICE is able to work on games like this again after a very successful — but ultimately uninteresting to me — run with the Battlefield series.


Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (Wii U/3DS, Q3 2014)
I played Shantae: Risky’s Revenge back in September of 2012, and I absolutely loved it. Pirate’s Curse, co-developed by WayForward and Inti Creates, looks insanely beautiful, and will definitely be a must-buy for me when it comes out later this year. Now to decide whether to get the Wii U or 3DS version. Those graphics might demand that I play it in HD.


Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (3DS, Q3 2014)
I’ve never played any of the Etrian Odyssey games, but I used to be a big fan of first-person dungeon crawlers on the old Apple //e. Mixing that style with cute, super-deformed Persona 3 and Persona 4 characters? Yeah, I won’t be able to resist that. Not one bit.


Bayonetta 2 + Bayonetta 1 (Wii U, October 2014)
Originally announced as a Wii U exclusive back in 2012, fans of Platinum Games are eagerly awaiting this one. I have admittedly not played the original, but this looks so crazy over-the-top that I’m now pretty excited about its arrival! It also has some Nintendo franchise tie-ins, including The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, which looks silly and awesome at the same time.


Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright (3DS, August 2014)
When I first heard that they were going to cross these two series together, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. Although they share some similarities, their styles are vastly different. I also wasn’t really sure if we’d ever get this game, but now that we are, and I’ve seen the trailer, I’m super-excited about it!  Both of these games have made me pretty mad in the past with their occasionally obscure puzzle designs, but this is looking really good. The animated cutscenes have a particularly premium feel to them that I can appreciate.


Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One/360, September 2014)
Although I have yet to play the first one, I really liked what I saw of this at Microsoft’s press conference. I don’t have an Xbox One yet, so I might get the 360 version. However, knowing there’s a superior version out there might be a hard pill to swallow. With the cheaper $400 Xbox One sans Kinect now out there, Microsoft’s making that decision a little easier for those of us still on the fence.


Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One, October 2014)
After a string of pretty serious games over the past year, like The Last of Us and Tomb Raider, games like Sunset Overdrive really stand out. I haven’t been much of an Insomniac follower over the years — the last game of theirs I ever completed was the original Spyro the Dragon! — but this looks like it could bring me back. I love the animation, and there’s a distinct Jet Grind Radio vibe going on as well, which is never a bad thing.


Driveclub (PS4, October 2014)
I really didn’t pay much attention to this leading up to E3, and prematurely wrote it off as just another racing game. However, after seeing some coverage, what I really like about it is that it is less Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, and more Project Gotham Racing. This is potentially very exciting news since fans of the PGR series have been left hanging since 2007. It looks and sounds great — including some phenomenal weather effects — so I’m really looking forward to seeing what the final product is like!


The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4/Xbox One/PC, February 2015)
This is yet another series (in a long line of them, can’t you tell?) that I have never played, but after getting a taste of it with this trailer and some of the other coverage this week, it now has my full attention. This just looks ridiculously good, and there’s no doubt I’m going to have to fire up my copy of The Witcher 2 on Steam sometime soon to see what it’s all about!


Costume Quest 2 (Everything under the sun, October 2014)
A fond memory of mine was working on the first Costume Quest at THQ. The team had the best time working with Double Fine, and it remains one of the smoothest and delightful projects we saw in QA. The first game was fun and charming, but rather simple and short. The sequel looks to really raise the bar and deliver a game that improves upon it in every way. Like Grim Fandango, it’s great to see Double Fine flourish and create games that their fans really want.


Volume (PS4/Vita/PC, 2014)
Mike Bithell’s Thomas Was Alone is one of my favorite Vita games. His next game looks like it has some interesting ideas, and I’m sure by the time it releases later this year, it will be of the same high quality as TWA. The very strange — but refreshingly cool — live-action trailer adds to its mystery and a seemingly dark, comedic nature.


Night in the Woods (PS4/PC, 2015)
Successfully funded on Kickstarter back in November 2013, this just looks lovely. It has a clean style, and looks to touch on some very serious life and existence issues. Music sounds great and you can tell the team is dedicated to making this an unforgettable and unique adventure. This one totally flew under the radar for me, but I think it’s one of the more interesting games I’ve seen this week.


Abzu (PS4, No Release Date)
From the same Art Director and Composer as 2012’s Journey — one of the most sublime PS3 games I played last generation — this looks to be another winner. Gorgeous visuals with a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere. Unless something goes terribly wrong during its development, I’ll be there on day one for this!


No Man’s Sky (PS4, No Release Date)
Dinosaurs, technology, Robotech-like space battles, and procedurally generated worlds to explore. It all sounds — and especially looks — brilliant, but I worry a little bit about the actual gameplay. Games like these have historically left me feeling empty because they lack focus, but I’m going to keep the faith with this one. I hope it ends up being a game from this generation that we’ll be talking about years from now.


Fantasy Life (3DS, October 2014)
Out of nowhere came the news of Level 5’s RPG being localized for the US. It wasn’t the Dragon Quest VII remake announcement I was hoping for, but this looks like a lot of fun! The musical score in particular — composed by Final Fantasy legend Nobuo Uematsu — sounds beautiful, with sweeping, grand melodies and nice instrumentation. I can’t wait for this one!


Grim Fandango (PS4/Vita, No Release Date)
If you are a fan of the classic PC adventure game, this was probably at or near the top of your list of favorite announcements this week. Just hearing them say “Grim Fandango” and seeing the logo up on screen was enough to give me chills. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long to remaster, but seeing as it’s been 16 years since the original, I suppose we can wait a little longer. No PC version as of yet, but it has to be coming out at some point, right? If so, I’ll have to get that version out of respect for the original.


Valiant Hearts (Everything except Wii U, June 2014)
Utilizing the UbiArt Framework engine, this adventure game looks so unique, and it’s nice to see a shifting focus from WWII overload to other conflicts. There are so many other stories to tell — such as these — so I’m really looking forward to this game’s release later this month.


Cuphead (Xbox One/PC, Q4 2014)
I had totally forgotten about this game until one of my friends mentioned it on Google+. I don’t like the name — it needs a subtitle or something — but the game itself looks absolutely amazing. With a convincing 1930’s animation style and slick design, it really stands out in an ever-growing sea of side-scrolling games. This is “retro” taken to a whole different level. More games like this, please!


Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One, Late 2015)
2013’s Tomb Raider totally exceeded my expectations when I played it earlier this year. After beating it, I immediately wanted to play a sequel. Although only shown in cutscene form, it looked intense, and I have full confidence that Crystal Dynamics will deliver a game that outdoes the original in every way possible. It’s one of my most anticipated games this generation, so here’s to the long wait.


Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4, 2015)
Although the trailer was short and didn’t show any gameplay, Uncharted 4 is obviously at or near the top of many Most Wanted lists, including mine. The PS3 trilogy is among my all-time favorites, and although Uncharted 3 was the weakest one, I trust that Naughty Dog will bring it back to its former glory on PS4. The footage shown, running realtime in-game at 1080p and 60fps, made jaws hit the floor. Subtle, almost imperceptible details shine through with each subsequent viewing. If the final game does indeed look as good as this, prepare for PS4 shortages once again.


Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4/Xbox One/PC, 2015)
Easily one of my most anticipated games right now. Not much more needs to be said about this one, and I’ll probably avoid most media on it from here on out. I know it’ll be good, and I’ll definitely be there on release day, no matter what!


Ori and the Blind Forest (Xbox One/360/PC, Q4 2014)
This was probably my favorite game of the show that was shown with actual gameplay. It’s stunningly beautiful with an aesthetic similar to the UbiArt Framework games, appears to have very smooth gameplay, all wrapped up in a mysteriously magical atmosphere. Seeing a game like this makes me so happy that 2D design and artwork has not just persevered, but thrived. I have very, very high hopes for this one. Maybe too high.


The Legend of Zelda (Wii U, 2015)
And finally, the Nintendo bomb felt around the world on Tuesday morning. I’ve already expressed my “slight” excitement over this one, but it’s worth it. This was easily the game at E3 that blew my mind the most. Sure, it looks like it was mainly just an in-engine cutscene, but that wide shot of Hyrule has already captured my imagination, looking so vibrant and full of life. As I heard someone say, “I want to live there!” Couldn’t agree more. Minus the monsters, perhaps. The art style is just perfect. It will be a long, excruciatingly painful wait for this one, but I’m sure it will be 100% worth it.


And with that, it’s now time to recover from the show and get back to actually playing games again. Have a great weekend everyone!


A glimpse of things to come

Ever since GHG got started, one of the things I’ve wanted to do is work with and showcase as many of the talented people I’ve crossed paths with throughout my life as possible.

Back when I was working at THQ in Phoenix, one of the things I meant to do — but never did complete — was a “wall of fame” that would display everyone with their pictures, plus tidbits of information about them, including their influences, favorite games, trivia, etc.

Although that never did materialize, I’m very excited to announce that I’m resurrecting something similar here. Behind the scenes, I’ve started reaching out to some of my friends and former coworkers to partner on some small GHG projects. What you see below is the first result of that effort:


I can’t wait to reveal the entire image — which will be used as one of GHG’s title banners — and share the artist interview as well. As much as I enjoyed Persona 4, it’ll be great to finally get rid of what I have now and replace it with some original art.

Thanks again, everyone — your support and encouragement fuel what I do.


E3 2014: Press Conference Round-Up

E3 is now going full-steam in its second day, and as usual, the hardware manufacturers and big publishers prefaced the show on Monday and early Tuesday with their own presentations. Showcasing their latest titles, release dates, and new announcements, they’re what gamers most look forward to… and dread.

As I brought up earlier this week, this is a particularly important E3 for both Microsoft and Nintendo.  With Sony leading this generation, its competitors need to pull out all the stops and show that they offer games and value that are unique to their platforms.  Let’s see how they did:



For Microsoft — and this had to be true for Sony and Nintendo as well — 2014 is all about the games. However, what I saw were a good number of multi-platform titles that have some exclusive platform content. For some context, I include PC in the platform definition, so when I see something that’s on a console and PC, it’s no longer an exclusive.

I’ve never been a fan of the same title being on different systems with each having different content.  It immediately makes me feel ripped-off, like I’m not getting the complete package. That being said, however, at least the Xbox One has those multi-platform games, unlike the Wii U.

20140611_nurburgringForza Motorsport 5 made an appearance, as one of Microsoft’s big announcements was the fact that you could download the Nurburgring DLC for free.  As someone who doesn’t yet own an Xbox One, I found this odd in that I was more surprised that the track wasn’t already in the game!  It’s in Forza Motorsport 4 and the Gran Turismo titles, so why not, right?

Forza 5 had a bit of a rocky start with gamers due to content and potential paywall issues, but it’s one of the few games I’m interested in on the console since the series is one of my favorites (I gave Forza 4 an A back in January). It didn’t seem like the audience knew how to react to this news.  Free is great, but it does raise immediate questions about what $60 should be getting you in the first place.

Forza Horizon 2 looked fantastic, though. I have the original Xbox 360 version, and it’s high in my queue, so I’m looking forward to finally playing it soon.  The driving game genre is one that has gotten a bit stale for me, but knowing that Horizon was among my friends’ favorite driving games this generation does bode well.

20140611_oriMoon Studios’ Ori and the Blind Forest is another Xbox One exclusive, and it’s just amazing! This is precisely the kind of game I want to see more of on their console, so Microsoft, I beg you: more games like this, please.

Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive was impressive as well, and I like the whole tongue-in-cheek, self-aware approach. I don’t care for the enemy designs, but maybe they’ll grow on me over time.

Playdead’s Inside, from the makers of the most excellent game Limbo, left me scratching my head, but I trust that they’ll deliver in the end.

Platinum Games had a video for the Xbox One exclusive Scalebound, but it was hard to tell what it was about, or to gauge its gameplay. The overall design didn’t have a distinctly unique look like most other Platinum titles, either. They did solid work on the Xbox 360, though, so I’m hopeful about its future.

I was initially really bummed out by Microsoft’s presentation, but as things progressed on and I thought back on it, I realized an important fact: there’s a lot there that will please traditional Xbox fans: Halo, Crackdown, Dead Rising, Fable, Destiny, etc. To be fair, that’s pretty much been Nintendo’s approach for generations: please the franchise fans.



I missed EA’s press conference, but I checked out highlights afterwards.  It looks like there were some big announcements: a new Mass Effect, another Dragon Age, a conceptual demo for fan-favorite Mirror’s Edge 2, the new Battlefield, the usual sports iterations, and a cool teaser for Star Wars: Battlefront.

The only game out of that list that interests me is Mirror’s Edge 2. For some reason, most EA franchises simply aren’t my cup of tea, even though I’m well aware that many of them are highly regarded.



I thought Ubisoft‘s conference was pretty good.  Aisha Tyler did a great job emceeing as usual; it’s strikingly effective when you have someone doing their thing who is comfortable in front of large crowds. Apart from some of the casual titles that didn’t interest me in the slightest — like Just Dance and Shape Up — they had some cool games on display.

20140611_valiant_heartsOne that really stood out for me was the UbiArt Framework game Valiant Hearts: The Great War.  I’d forgotten about this one, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that it comes out in two weeks on June 25th!  I do hope it’s good.  There’s something about the art style that felt a bit low-grade Adobe Flash to me at times, especially compared to the other gorgeous UbiArt games like Rayman Legends and Child of Light.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity looked terrific, although the combat was really slow and weird.  The lighting and world detail, however, are just stunning. It was a beautiful game to look at, and like other entries in the series, will surely be a huge hit for Ubisoft.

20140611_the_crewThe racing game The Crew also looked interesting, with its seamless coast-to-coast theme. The trailer for it was also nice, with its time-lapse compression of a 2-hour journey across the US, set to a nice, mellow soundtrack.  I’ll take that any day over the stuttery dubstep tripe found in most E3 trailers.

Far Cry 4‘s intro looked totally deranged! With voiceover work from Troy Baker — well-known for his roles as the Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins and Delsin in Infamous: Second Son — it made quite an impression, and got me interested in the series in general, which I have never played.

Tom Clancy’s The Division also had some neat ideas going on, but the multiplayer demo they showed seemed overly scripted and not very realistic.  The trailer shown at Sony’s press conference later that day helped flesh things out, and got me more excited about the game than I was here.



I missed and was eating dinner throughout most of Sony‘s presentation, but got online just in time to catch Batman: Arkham Knight.  That game, man.  It’s the kind of event that people call out sick for on release day.  It just looks amazing.  PS4 owners will get exclusive Scarecrow missions, which I know will be super-cool, but again, it just rubs me the wrong way that exclusive content is even a thing.  But, I digress.

20140611_entwinedAnyway, one of the better things from their presentation was the twin-stick title Entwined, which is available now for PS4.  It hearkens back to the creative freedom of Thatgamecompany’s early PS3 game Flower, and I like that this generation has showcased smaller indie titles just as much as the blockbusters. I think every system needs a healthy serving of both, and for every Edge of Tomorrow, there needs to be a Short Term 12.

Similarly, No Man’s Sky is looking phenomenal, and I can’t wait to play it.

The thing I was looking forward to the most was a bit of a disappointment for me: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Last year, we saw a map. This year, we saw Nate standing up and walking into a forest. It was stunning and detailed, of course, but I didn’t think it was enough.

20140611_uc4_titleI was really hoping for at least a glimpse of some gameplay and new features, but no such luck.  It had a more serious tone — like that of Uncharted 3 — so I hope the energy and humor of the first two games are not lost here.  I really don’t want this to be “The Last of Uncharted.”

LittleBigPlanet 3 looked like… LittleBigPlanet. It’s very pretty and vibrant, and there were some nice new features and characters with different abilities, but those controls.  One of the players on stage was having the hardest time doing simple wall-jumps, so tight control seems to remain as elusive as it’s ever been.

A little side-rant here, but was it just me, or was there practically nothing shown for the Vita? No love, I swear. Nothing on The Last Guardian either. Originally announced for a 2011 PS3 release, its delays have earned it the dubious distinction of becoming the Duke Nukem Forever of this generation, right up there with Half-Life 3.

There’s a lot for Sony fans to be happy about, though, including Infamous: First Light, Metal Gear Solid V, The Order: 1886, Driveclub, Ratchet & Clank, Grim Fandango, and Bloodborne.  Overall, I think Sony had the strongest lineup. They’re not necessarily all the kinds of games I myself enjoy playing, but it’s hard to deny that this is certainly the most robust and plentiful lineup of any of the current consoles.



This really was Nintendo’s E3 to lose. It’s not like the industry had high hopes to begin with, but you can’t let Nintendo fans down, especially those who have been raked over the coals for the past year and a half with the Wii U.  My expectations were high, so how do I think they did?

Well, it was about what I expected, which is both good and bad. Good in that it was much better than last year’s flop of a press conference, but bad in that it just wasn’t enough.

20140610_zelda_wiiu_1There was a lot of talk about Super Smash Bros. 4, but it was The Legend of Zelda for the Wii U that surprised everyone. Even if you were expecting it, the way it looked was astonishing. When Eiji Aonuma snapped his fingers and revealed the new Hyrule overworld, my jaw hit the floor.

It was also nice to hear him talk about ideas introduced in A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS carrying over to the console version. It shows that they acknowledge and understand that Zelda has run its course in terms of structure, and that it needs to change in ways that will keep it interesting and relevant.

Reggie showed off Nintendo’s “Amiibo” 3DS/Wii U NFC figures, similar to those seen in the Skylanders and Disney Infinity franchises. They look nice, and I’m sure they’ll make tons of money, but this seems like a bad place for Nintendo to be putting their efforts, especially with all the trouble the Wii U’s experienced.  I’m not the target market, though, so what do I know?

Yoshi’s Wooly World looks great.  I haven’t cared for any of the Yoshi games since the Super Nintendo classic Yoshi’s Island, so I hope it’s a worthy follow-up.  From what they showed, it has some inventive and creative ideas.

It wasn’t Super Mario Galaxy 3 like I had hoped, and it wasn’t even New Super Mario Bros. U 2.  Instead, one of their Mario games was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It looks fun, and I liked those levels in Super Mario 3D World, but it can’t help but feel like a stopgap until a real Mario title appears.

The other one — Mario Maker — lets you create your own Super Mario Bros. stages in the classic or New style.  I’m not really into “creator” games like I was back in the day, but I think it will be lots of fun playing the creations that come out of the Miiverse.

20140611_splatoonOne title that has generated some decent buzz is Splatoon, a 4 vs. 4 multiplayer arena game. It has some terrific design that feels unique in a world still dominated by Call of Duty and other violent shooters. In that sense, Splatoon‘s a breath of fresh air. The only thing I don’t like about it is the character designs. They’re painfully generic by Nintendo standards, so I hope they work those out a little more prior to release. Anyone else sensing an Amiibo tie-in opportunity?

On the 3DS, Fantasy Life, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and others have been making the rounds. As I mentioned earlier this week, things seem surprisingly light on the 3DS front after a couple very prolific years, so that platform’s future worries me a bit.

Overall, nothing besides The Legend of Zelda blew me away, and even as the great Shigeru Miyamoto teased Star Fox at the end of the presentation, I was left wanting more. Their lineup is solid, but with very little coming out in 2014, the patience of Wii U owners — including myself — will be tested once again.

But hey, props to them for even mentioning the amazing Mother 3.


E3 2014: The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

I have a lot to say about E3, but for now, here are some official 1920×1080 screenshots of the new Legend of Zelda for Wii U, just revealed about an hour and a half ago. It blew me and most of the gaming world away, and along with Batman: Arkham Knight, is now my most anticipated game of 2015.



20140610_zelda_wiiu_4Here’s the HD trailer as well, courtesy of GamesHQMedia on YouTube:


E3 2014: Let the games begin

The greatest (videogame) show on earth starts tomorrow, and as usual, the internet rumor mill has been doing some major overtime. I’ve seen some interesting ones, but I take ’em all with a big grain of salt until the press conferences conclude and the show floor opens. We can’t help it, though. It’s like waiting for a package from your favorite online retailer: sometimes the anticipation of it outweighs its actual arrival.

This is oftentimes true with E3 as well. Much like last year’s Nintendo press conference, I went in hoping for greatness, and instead felt like they kicked me square in the nuts. Microsoft left me equally tepid. Sony’s was by the numbers, but they delivered the goods. Sure, they too have had some missteps along the way, but honestly, who hasn’t?

2014 is the kind of year I love, though, because these are all about the games. Companies don’t have to spend time hyping up their new systems, and instead can focus on what really matters: content. Mario Kart 8 is proving that the Wii U might still have some fight left.


Microsoft‘s recent decision to drop the Kinect from the Xbox One was a bold move. It’s a move that early adopters are probably angry about, but for people like me, who were never sold on its technology on the 360 to begin with — and balked at its steep $500 price tag — I think this is great.

I hope this change for the Xbox One lets developers focus on traditional game experiences instead of gimmicks. As cool as games like Child of Eden and the Dance Central series were on the 360 with Kinect, making it an integral part of a console just never made that much sense to me, especially in the multiplatform-heavy world of today. However, with that being said, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft addresses this new future while not turning their backs on early supporters.

The 360 is currently my least-used system, while my PS3, Wii U, PC, Vita, and 3DS get about equal attention. I have yet to see a reason to get an Xbox One, but I hope E3 helps sway me. Exclusives are where Microsoft has traditionally hurt in the past, so hopefully there will be signs that things will be changing in the year ahead.

Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive looks like it could be one of those signs; something that’s pretty unique in a sea of serious shooters.

Update: Ori and the Blind Forest also looks like it could be great!


I expect Sony‘s offerings to be solid. Like the Xbox One, there just aren’t enough games on it to warrant a purchase from me yet, but that won’t be true for long.  I’m sure they’ll spend a lot of time talking up their numbers and whatnot, but I also expect a strong showing on the software side.

I’m most interested in seeing the next chapter of the Uncharted series for the PS4. I wasn’t overly thrilled with Uncharted 3, but its predecessors are among my favorite PS3 games.

Oddly enough, I’m pretty much over The Last Guardian. I adore both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, but I’ve simply stopped caring about the perpetually delayed follow-up from Sony. I’ll care again someday, but not today.

I also hope that there is some decent Vita content. For all the attention the Wii U gets as a dying platform, Sony’s handheld isn’t exactly setting the world on fire either.

Not much more for me to say regarding Sony. They’ve been an old reliable on the console front since the inception of E3.


Nintendo, however, like Microsoft, has to knock one out of the park this week.  3DS content for 2014 is light, and despite Mario Kart 8‘s terrific performance, they have to back it up with more high-quality games. They’ve really been pushing Super Smash Bros. 4, but to be honest, I’ve never been much of an Smash Bros. fan, so I’m not all that excited about that one.

I’m definitely looking forward to their Wii U offerings. I’m hopeful that we’ll see a new Zelda, Metroid, and possibly another Mario. The greedy side of me hopes it’s Super Mario Galaxy 3.

Dragon Quest VII is probably the one 3DS game I’m most excited about. No, it’s not going to spark skyrocketing sales or anything, but it’s the one game in the series I believe deserves a second chance. I loved it when I played it for the first time a few years ago, but it’s really rough around the edges. The 3DS remake, which has been out in Japan since February of 2013, is long overdue for a release here.

I don’t expect much in the third-party realm for the Wii U, but I’m hoping for a good turnout on the 3DS.

This update is intentionally light. I don’t want to speculate too much about the show and then have to eat crow afterwards. My show wrap-up will follow either at the end of this week or early next.

Enjoy E3 2014 everyone!


The King of Arcades is here!

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is one of my favorite videogame documentaries. It’s such an interesting and surprisingly human look into the world of competitive gaming as it relates to one of the most important games of all-time: Nintendo’s 1981 hit Donkey Kong. Whoever’s side you’re on — whether it be the larger than life Billy Mitchell or the humble every man Scott Wiebe — you’re left with a new appreciation (and also sympathy) for those whose hearts belong to the arcades of the ’80s in pursuit of the High Score.

Fast-forward to late 2012, when a small Kickstarter project called The King of Arcades appeared, focusing on Space Invaders world record holder Richie Knucklez. It received little attention, and I don’t remember how I even heard about it, but once I read what it was about and who was involved, I knew I had to back it. It was slow going, but it successfully met its mild $40,000 funding goal, plus another 16%.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world was still buzzing from the wildly successful Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2 Kickstarters, which raised a staggering $3.3 million and $2.9 million respectively. While I think those are great and certainly set a strong precedent for crowdsourcing’s potential, I prefer the little guys. Problem is, they’re hard to find. I wish discovery on Kickstarter was easier, because I’m sure for every small gaming-based project I back, I’ve missed dozens of others that have been equally deserving.


And now, after a year and a half, the finished product has finally arrived. Like most Kickstarters, following the project from beginning to end has been a lot of fun, and Sean Tiedeman has kept his backers apprised of its progress every step of the way. He’s also a genuinely nice guy who responds to emails quickly, making me even happier that I was able to fund this project.


The DVD itself came double-wrapped, so as not to damage the case. Always a nice touch. With Garbage Pail Kids-inspired cover and insert art by Joe Simko, the packaging is attractive and really stands out. Also included is an extra insert signed by Richie Knucklez, Director Sean Tiedeman, and Producer Krystle-Dawn Willing. The disc is designed like a quarter, easily the one coin all of us arcade-goers associate with the most. Those and tokens, of course.

I haven’t watched it yet, but plan on doing so over the weekend. I’ve intentionally not read too much about its actual content so that I can go in as fresh as possible, and I can’t wait. I’m sure it’ll be a fascinating journey through the arcade-rich history I so fondly remember from childhood.


A Second Chance: NES Remix (Wii U)


Back in January, I played NES Remix and gave it an unenthusiastic B-, citing its good ideas but ultimately lackluster selection of titles. I played through a good chunk of it, but gave up before going through the entire thing.

A few of my friends later told me that they had similar experiences with it initially, but that something clicked with them, and they ended up really enjoying it. I’d been through this before with the Dragon Quest series, which I had absolutely couldn’t stand for most of my life until I fell in love with it two decades later on the Nintendo DS. It’s for similar reasons that I haven’t parted ways with Final Fantasy XIII, Metal Gear Solid 4, Demon’s Souls, and many others. They’re all games that failed to click with me initially, but might later in life.


Also, with NES Remix 2 now available with bonuses, a seemingly better selection of games, and more robust features, I thought now would be a good time to give the original another go to see if I was simply too quick to judge.

After having played through a couple more hours of it, several things are standing out for me:

20140606_wiiu_nes_remix_gpFirst, playing it on the Game Pad is great. NES Remix feels like a game that is more at home on a handheld instead of a TV, since the bite-sized gameplay is just better on the small screen. It’s also nice to step away from the TV, lay down in bed to relax, and play through a few stages at a time.

This makes the game so much easier to pick up and play whenever you want, and with Nintendo’s latest June 2014 Wii U update, the new Quick Start menu makes getting into it — and all other Wii U games — a lot faster.

When it’s a big part of a game’s design, I can be rather compulsive about collecting everything, or getting the highest rating possible. In NES Remix, the best rating you can get in each of its mini-games is 3 stars with a rainbow outline.


This urge to achieve the best results can be — and has oftentimes been — my undoing. It’s one of the main reasons why I don’t finish most mobile games based on this scoring system, such as Cut The Rope, Angry Birds, and others. I’ve always said that if a game ceases to be fun, then you should just stop. However, sometimes I need to realize that it might not be the game that isn’t fun, and instead my own stubborn tendencies turning what should be a fun experience into a chore.

In NES Remix‘s case, I started playing the game earlier this year with the intent on rainbow 3-starring every stage, but that quickly became an exercise is frustration that pushed my patience to the limit, fueling my negative impressions of it. So this time, my goal is to simply 3-star the rest of the levels, and you know what? I’m OK with that. Life will still go on, with or without those rainbows.

20140606_nes_remix2I’m also not feeling so strongly anymore than the game selection isn’t good. True, seeing the first Super Mario Bros. here yet again feels like a retread in the worst possible way, but the manner in which you have to actually play it makes it feel like something completely new.

In many cases, you’re asked to do things you never thought about doing, sparking ideas about untapped gameplay potential in each of Nintendo’s franchises. It’s really cool when you stop and think about what the developer Indieszero crafted here.

It’s kind of fun playing games that I never grew up with too, such as Balloon Fight. It’s Nintendo’s take on Joust, and while the controls are strange, the challenge requirements force you to get used to them quickly. The variety also gives otherwise very average games like this one a modern achievement-focused approach, which is cool.

So here I am, now enjoying a game that I initially thought was quite mediocre. It might not be the instant classic that WarioWare, Inc. was on the Game Boy Advance over a decade ago, but it definitely shows how small design and goal tweaks can energize games of a bygone era.