5 Playstation Franchises We Would Love to See Brought Back

February 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Editor's Picks, Features, Playstation 3, Spotlight

The Playstation brand has had its fair share of amazing franchises developed exclusively for it. There are however a ton of great exclusives that have been left untouched ever since the PS1 and PS2 eras. Let’s take a look at 5 franchises that we would love to see brought back.

Spyro the Dragon

Many of us probably picked up the original Spyro the Dragon along with their original Playstation. It was one of the best platforming experiences out there and had a great and colorful world to go along with it. Spyro was a huge Playstation icon back in the day but lost a lot of its flair as various spin-offs brought down the quality of the franchise. While Insomniac, the developers behind Spyro, are unlikely to visit the franchise again another one of Sony’s in house studios can still produce a brand new entry in the Spyro the Dragon franchise. Seeing Spyro come back in HD along with a ton of interesting concepts and improvements is a thought that will get a lot of gamers excited.

Crash Bandicoot

Everyone loved Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation. Even the spin-offs such as Crash Bash and Crash CTR were titles that were loved by tons of Playstation fans out there. It was one of the first games that really worked hard to enhance 3D platforming and played a part in shaping the 3D platformers of our current gen. Not only will a resurgence of the franchise be a huge boost to the Playstation brand, it is also bound to generate a lot of hype as many gamers grew up playing the series and would love to see Crash back in an HD title.

How accessible should fighting games be?

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Fighting games are definitely among the top most competitive video games out there. The competitive fighting game scene has been going on since the 90s with the emergence of Street Fighter, Tekken, and other popular fighting game franchises. A key issue that has been discussed quite a lot recently is accessibility in fighting games. In recent years, with the emergence of newer fighting games such as Street Fighter 4 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 developers started implementing more “newbie” friendly approaches. Things like the revenge meter in Street Fighter and X-Factor in MvC3 were mechanics that give the losing side the ability to make a comeback. On the other hand older games of the generation were a lot less forgiving. Street Fighter 3: Third Strike for example was a very technically heavy game, it required the player to put a lot of time and dedication into playing it if wanted to improve in the game. While people who love to challenge themselves adored how complex the game is, other less inclined people might get turned off by how hard it is to get good at the game. So the question then arises: where do you draw the line between giving tools that make the game too easy and simply making the game more accessible to newer players?

In recent times, with the emergence of games such as Street Fighter 4, SoulCalibur 5, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, we have seen a huge emphasis on accessibility put on by the developers of these games. Their argument is that the more accessible a game is at first, the more attraction it will receive from the majority of people who play video games. People who were intimidated by how complex fighting games were are now more inclined to play a game simply because there are a variety of tools to ease their way through. While mixed opinions were made on these tools , the discussion about this issue reached a new heights as the new fighting game developed by Capcom is about to come out. Street Fighter X Tekken, the new collaboration project between Capcom and Namco, is trying to be the most accessible entry yet while still holding up the depth and complexity of Capcom’s fighting games. Some people think that these new tools that Capcom has implemented in the game will cause the game to become broken, and thus destroying its competitive potential. Others argue that these tools are mere methods to ease new player to fighting games and improve the community as a whole.

The truth is, accessibility is not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s the level and type of accessibility that makes or breaks a game. For example, the revenge gauge in SF4 which allowed you to do Ultra combos was an entirely new mechanics that gave the losing side some kind of advantage to make a comeback. However, even though it was a comeback mechanics the stronger side almost always won. That is because the mechanic was built well enough in that it didn’t break the game entirely, but in fact made it more accessible and entertaining at the same time. When you look at SFxT’s gem system you are looking at something quite unusual in fighting games. It gives the players the ability to customize the character they are using. There are different types of gems to choose from and they vary from easier input executions to power-ups such as increases in speed and attack power. As long as Capcom doesn’t make the gems extremely overpowered and balance them properly their potential can actually cause fighting games to reach new heights. But since the system itself carries so many different variables, it can prove to be quite a hefty task for Capcom to be able to give the game the balance it needs.

Street Fighter X Tekken is arriving in just a couple of weeks’ time, and people can’t really judge Capcom’s approach to the game until they have actually spent enough time with it. Will these new mechanics such as the gem system kill the game competitively? That’s hard to say, but from people who actually tested the game so far it seems that Capcom is looking to be on the right track. Either ways, the final game is where the real test lies, and only after several months of play time will the community realize if Capcom knew what they were doing all along or that they were right in stating that Capcom essentially screwed the competitiveness out of the game.

Five Promising Upcoming PS Vita Titles

February 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Features, PSV

The PS Vita’s launch library is quite possibly the largest launch day lineup in the history of hardware launches. With over 20 titles to choose from, it seems that Sony has done a great job in providing a great amount content directly from the get go. However, as a gamer it’s important for us to know that the product we just bought or are looking to buy is going to have great content on the long run. Here is a look at 5 upcoming PS Vita titles that should definitely be on your watch list.

Final Fantasy X HD

While not much yet is known about the game itself, the fact that were are receiving an HD upgrade for a fantastic entry in the Final Fantasy series is definitely an exciting prospect. Final Fantasy X HD is not looking to be a full on remake but rather a remastered version of Final Fantasy X similar to what has been done with other HD collections such as the MGS collection and the Jack and Daxter collection. The idea of having updated HD visuals with trophy support and possible additional content not available in the original version is a dream come true for Final Fantasy lovers.

Little Big Planet

The Little Big Planet franchise gained enormous popularity on the Playstation platform and is now looking to make its way to the PS Vita. This PS Vita version of the game is not a port of previous LBP titles but a brand new one that aims to create a unique LBP experience for Sony’s new handheld. The biggest changes being introduced in this title is the use of the PS Vita’s front and back touch screen to navigate sackboy across the different levels. The combination of touch and physical controls working together is usually hard to pull off but the developers seem to have hit the correct spot with their implementation in Little Big Planet on the Vita.

How is the global launch of the PS Vita shaping up?

February 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

The PS Vita already launched in Japan with mixed reception. Although initially sales were strong, a sharp decline in the 2nd week caused a lot of people question its current position in the Japanese market. As the global launch is inching closer and closer, let’s have a look at five key elements to assess how the worldwide launch of the platform is shaping up to be.

Price
Despite the 3DS now costing 170USD I still think the price of the PS Vita is good enough. You are paying for a premium piece of hardware that simply has more juice than every other mobile device in the market. However, the main problem in the pricing department is the memory cards’ prices. As soon as their prices were announced there was an immediate drawback in the excitement for the handheld as a whole. The prices seemed way too high and will mean that the entry fee to getting your PS Vita has increased. The main issue at hand here is that the Vita isn’t even bundled with any sort of memory card to start with even though it’s quite important that you have one. This will definitely hurt sales when the console launches worldwide on February 22nd of this year but I don’t think it will make or break the launch as a whole. Sony will probably cave in eventually and reduce the memory card prices as well as bundle a 4GB memory card with each PS Vita sold.

Hardware
From early impressions of the Japanese version of the device, things are looking pretty solid. There haven’t been many problems with the hardware per say except for a few exceptions here and there. The analog sticks seem to be really well made and feel more like their console counterparts. As for the touch screens and physical buttons, the response time and quality have been superb according to many tech and gaming publications. All in all it seems that any that we at North America, Europe, and Australia are lucky to have a delayed launch so that any problems can be fixed before the device reaches our doorstep.

Operating system
The operating system is very similar to what you would find on most current smartphones. It’s simple, slick and intuitive. Sony focused on making it so that you can pop in and out of any game instantly to do whatever you want. There are a ton of great features built in from the get go that allows you to customize the handheld just the way you want it. While the XMB is still dear to our hearts, the new OS is definitely a great fit for a handheld with a touch screen interface.

Games
If you haven’t already checked the launch lineup for NA (Europe and other regions will be very similar I reckon) then it might interest you to note that a whopping 27 titles are launching on day one for the PS Vita. These are not just any titles either, the platform is launching with the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, UMVC3, Rayman Origins, Escape Plan, and Lumines. The launch lineup is looking to be one of the best for any gaming platform out there and will sure give a lot of quality and variety to gamers who pick the PS Vita up. In addition, Sony already revealed that they have the first year and a half already planned for the PS Vita. This kind of software planning ensures that Sony is focusing on making content their number one priority for the device.

Battery Life:
From all the responses around the internet it seems that the PS Vita’s battery is actually pretty decent. While it’s nothing monstrous, tests have shown that the PS Vita’s battery can last around 4 hours while playing the most demanding game in its library yet Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Max brightness and sound were on during the test while Bluetooth was the only thing turned off. Honestly speaking the battery life is looking to provide you with enough time to play on the go.

Sony this time around took a lot of what made the original PSP’s launch somewhat weak and remedied most of the points with the PS Vita. Although the handheld’s memory card prices and the fact that it’s tied to 1 PSN ID are on its downside, Sony has overall covered most of the points required to have a successful product launch.

What do you think of the PS Vita? Do you think the launch will be successful or will it have the same struggles it now faces in Japan? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

MMORPGs needs to be based on interesting encounters, not high-end content only

February 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog

To me MMORPGs are a very peculiar subject. I have always struggled to stay interested in one for more than 2 weeks because of various reasons sometimes independent or common between each game. For example I always wanted to get into World Of Warcraft but every time I would start a 14 day trail (before the starter edition was out) I would end up playing for a couple of days and completely stopping. My brother on the other hand is an MMO fanatic. He loves the whole experience of leveling up and having a guild and raiding, etc. While I definitely see why he as well as tons of MMORPG fans out there love the genre, I couldn’t help but wonder if the genre itself needs a big revolution. The question then rises up: Should MMORPGs open up to accommodate none MMO fans?

There are tons of MMORPG fans that love what I hate about that specific genre of gaming. To start off let’s talk about the main issue, the grinding to level up. Most MMOs out there require the user to go through a lengthy process in order to reach a high enough level in the game to experience high end content. This on its own is a really weak design mechanic. By making people just focus on leveling up for the majority of the first part of the game just for them to reach the end game content is not a good design philosophy. Most people would say MMORPGs really start once you reach the max level. That is not how designing a game should be approached. Quality content need to be available all the way from the start up till the end. This is needed to ensure that the the experience as a whole is filled with interesting encounters. I for one would probably be enjoying MMOs a lot more if I am experience entertaining portions of the game right from the first few levels in.

Another thing MMOs have problem with is class flexibility as most of the time the game breaks down classes into very strict paths. Many new players would probably say, “I don’t know what I want to be” . A starting player is often very confused as to what he should choose since he/she is worried that they will put in a good chunk of hours into a character that turns out to be not to their suiting . This needs need to be adjusted and changed so that it allows a player to explore the character and have the flexibility vary enough to adjust the character somewhat to his own liking. I am not talking about full on class switches, but rather a softer change to accommodate different interests.

World of Warcraft was a definite revolution in MMORPGs that brought the whole genre to a brand new level of quality. However, as the game grows older and older it becomes harder for the game to continue to innovate because the foundation it was built on was based in 2002. New MMORPG titles such as the recently releases Star Wars: The Old Republic and the highly anticipated Guild Wars 2 are starting to show a branching path from what traditional MMOs are like. Titles are now beginning to make sure the experience all the way from level 1 to the max available level matters by providing abundant content from the start. Saving everything for the end is a thing of the past and MMORPGs need to develop away from its fundamental rules since that will benefit both current MMORPG fans and new prospective newcomers.

Soulcalibur V Review

February 3, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Playstation 3, Reviews, Spotlight, Xbox 360

It’s been 4 years since Soulcalibur IV arrived on consoles and the next entry in the popular franchise has finally arrived. Soulcalibur V is a fresh installment in the series that aims to welcome both newcomers as well as veterans of the series. Soulcalibur V presents a fantastic fighting game experience but suffers from a mediocre story mode and lack of single-player modes.

Soulcalibur V takes place 17 years after Soulcalibur IV and revolves around Sophitia’s children: Patroklos and Pyrrha. The main story mode follows the siblings as they venture around the world in search for answers regarding their past as well as a method to stop the evil doings of the series main antagonist Nightmare. While this is the first time that Soulcalibur has had a full-fledged story mode instead of the usual quest mode it still leaves much to be desired. The story is nothing impressive and the mode is extremely short spanning only 20 episodes which in total will require 1-2 hours to complete. The Arcade mode is just what you expect from a fighting game. Surprisingly however the mode lacks any story bits for the characters you choose to fight with. This leaves a lot of characters without proper introductions or endings that usually provide background information on the character’s history or motives within the game. There is also the quick battle mode which has you fighting a series of opponents until you lose. As a whole the single-player modes in the game are quite lacking when compared to other popular fighting games currently in the market and are definitely the disappointing portion of Soulcalibur V.

Now that the story is out of the way, let’s talk about what really matters in a fighting game: the gameplay mechanics and character roaster. Namco did an outstanding job with the fighting system of Soulcalibur V by improving its accessibility to new players while still retaining the great deal of depth that the franchise is known for. Most Soulcalibur fans will be familiar with the system in this iteration while still having a lot of new features to delve into. It gets rid of critical finishes from previous games and instead introduces the “critical gauge” that acts as a meter which can be utilized to do devastating special attacks. Soulcalibur V involves mechanics from both 3D fighting games as well as 2D fighting games which really makes for a fantastic hybrid.

As for the character roaster, it involves a mix of both new and old faces. Lots of the new characters act as sort of successors to previous characters in the Soulcalibur series such as Patrokols resembling Sophitia. While there is a great diversity in the playstyles of most characters there are a few characters that are very similar to one another. For example, it’s weird that the game decided to go with 3 characters that essentially mimic other characters each time you play with them which seems like a rushed decision to do. The majority of the cast however does impress as they play very differently and uniquely from one another.

Soulcalibur V also brings in an updated version of the creation mode found in previous games. This mode allows you to edit characters in game appearances to a great deal of detail. It also allows for the creation of your very own character to play with both online and offline. The creation mode has a great deal of options to mess with and boasts one of the best editing and creating systems in a fighting game yet.

Online in the game felt pretty solid from what I experienced. Playing with people close to your location is non-problematic as the game masks lag well. You can choose to play in both Ranked and Player matches as well as being able to create your own lobbies to invite your friends. Soulcalibur V also has the ability to save, play, and share replays of the matches you played as well as the ability to watch other people’s replays. The online mode holds its ground very well and is probably where you will be spending the majority of your time with Soulcalibur V.

What Soulcalibur lacks in Single player content, it makes up for it by having solid gameplay mechanics, fantastic visuals, and fairly good roaster of characters. The game felt like a great mix of 3D fighters with some mechanics popularized by 2D games. If you are looking for deep gorgeous looking fighting game to pick up then look no further as Soulcalibur V is definitely one of the best fighting games to experience out there.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

January 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews, Wii

After years of waiting, the next major installation in the Legend of Zelda franchise is finally upon us. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is set to be the first Zelda game in the timeline and will showcase the origin of the whole story and most significantly the Master Sword. The franchise is known for its high quality iterations but Skyward Sword is quite special in its own way. Nintendo is planning to push the franchise to new heights by adding in Weapon upgrades, various gameplay changes, and a whole new implementation of motion controls. Skyward Sword provides a highly polished Zelda experience with a series of welcomed changes that make it one of the best titles in the whole franchise.

Skyward Sword starts out with the series’ usual introduction to the world and its characters. You start your adventure in Skyloft, a floating city in the sky that has been created by the Goddess to save the people of land long ago .While most of the starting hours feel familiar to other entries, there are several points in which Skyward Sword diverts from how The Legend of Zelda usually starts. For starters, Link and Zelda this time around know each other from the start and develop a relationship that seems a lot more powerful than previous titles have showcased. In addition, Zelda is also not a princess but her importance is significant and is revealed as the story progresses. After a few opening hours Zelda disappears due to a series of events and Link must then embark on a journey to find her and stop whatever evil that is lurking out there from bringing corruption on to the world.

The major gameplay change in Skyward Sword is the control scheme. Traditional controls are out of the picture as they are replaced with full use of motion control using the Wii’s Motion Plus controller. While skeptical at first because of previous experiences with really badly implemented motion controls, the accuracy of the motion controls in the game blew me away. You use your Nunchuk extension both for moving Link around as well as acting as a shield in battle while the Motion Plus controller acts as your sword. The controls can be hard to get used to at first, but gives a lot more control to Link than any Zelda game yet. Each monster/enemy in the game suddenly becomes a mini-puzzle as you need to figure out their patterns and find their weak points. The addition of motion controls really enhanced the gameplay as a whole as it opened up a ton more depth and detail to how you approach enemies in the game.

Skyward Sword also adds in the ability to upgrade your items and shields by collecting different ingredients and visiting the shop in Skyloft to perform the chosen upgrade. Having upgrades in the game is a great addition to the game as it gives you more control as to how you want to improve Link. Another gameplay change is the addition of a stamina bar as well as a sprint button. The stamina bar is something that you would either like or hate from the start. While it adds a different sort of mechanic to the game, it can be frustrating because of the limitations it puts on you while playing. The Sprint button on the other hand is a god sent as it gets you to where you need a lot faster than before.

Should you buy a 3DS now?

January 9, 2012 by  
Filed under 3DS, Blog, Spotlight

I have been a proud owner of a Nintendo 3DS since the 2nd week of its launch. I have checked out and reviewed tons of titles for it and have spent a lot of time gaming on the platform. Along with the recent rise of interest in the console lots of people are debating whether or not to go ahead and make a purchase. To me the answer is simple and hopefully by the end of the blog you will have a good idea about what the current state of the Nintendo 3DS is.

The first thing people are worrying about when they think of buying a 3DS is that a redesign is coming out soon. Lots of people are afraid that they will make the purchase now only to find out that a redesign is released a couple of months from now. To that I say, I don’t think that will happen this year. The main reason behind my thoughts is that Nintendo has its hands full with the Wii U which is launching sometime in the second half of the year. I don’t think they want to launch a new 3DS model at the same time period. An announcement of a redesign might come in by the end of the year, but I don’t think that the new redesign will be sold till early 2013.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about what matters: the device itself and the games. The hardware of the 3DS is fairly solid except for disappointing battery life. I personally had no problems with the hardware and everything ran smoothly without any hiccups. To further enhance the capabilities of the 3DS Nintendo has announced the 2nd circle pad add-on. The add-on will enable you to play with two circle pads if the game you are playing supports it. Although there has been mixed responses from the 2nd circle pad add-on, its entirely optional and its up to you whether or not you want a 2nd circle pad.

Back when the 3DS launched there were barely any good titles on the system and most of the time my unit just sat there collecting dust. However, the 3DS is now building up quite an awesome library of games especially with Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 released near the end of last year. In addition Nintendo has already filled the 1st half 2012 with greatly anticipated titles such as Resident Evil: Revelations, Tales of the Abyss 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D as well as many others. Nintendo is also making way for tons of great content from the eShop as well. Virtual console titles such as Link’s Awakening as well as original eShop titles such as Pushmo are awesome games that are definitely worth checking out.

The 3DS is a great platform to play on. Sure it might not have the console like graphics, but it’s the quality of the games that matters and right now the 3DS is on a high stride. Ocarina of time 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7 are fantastic titles to start with while Resident Evil: Revelations and Kid Icarus: Uprising have tons of promise behind them. If you are looking for something on the go that can provide you with rich game experiences then the 3DS is a great platform that should not be dismissed simply due to a rocky start.

5 Reasons Why the PSN Store Needs a Redesign

January 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Features, Spotlight

The PSN Store has always felt quite clunky to me. While Microsoft is constantly focusing on improving the user interface constantly, Sony has just left the store as it is for quite some time now. People find it hard to navigate to where they need to at times and the overall design of the store feels somewhat lacking. Let’s look at 5 reasons that justify the fact that Sony needs a major PSN store redesign.

Search tool doesn’t work well

If you ever tried searching anything on the store you would immediately know what I mean. You search for one specific thing and end up with a list of things both related and COMPLETELY unrelated to what you were searching for. A simple example is while searching for Street Fighter 3: Third Strike Online Edition I was given a huge list of titles that have street fighter in their name and some others that are completely irrelevant. Such situations often cause people a ton of frustrating as they have to scroll through long lists of things they are not looking for to actually find what they want.

Text heavy interface is outdated

While Sony did some refinements to the Store a while back it still remains operating on a text heavy interface. Any interface operating with text heavy navigation is an immediate turn off to lots of users as it simply makes it more difficult to immediately spot what you want. People are now used to elegant image based navigation that makes it a lot easier to spot what you want. Sony needs to clean out on the text heavy interface and offer something a lot more intuitive to the modern user. The more graphic based the navigation is the easier it is to find what you need and make a purchase.

Dear developers, don’t announce your game if you can’t release it in the next 2 years

January 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Editor's Picks, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

One of my biggest gaming related disappointments recently has been the amount of information we have been getting in regards to Final Fantasy Versus 13. Although the game was announced alongside Final Fantasy 13 back in 2006 much of the game’s information, let alone a release date, are nowhere to be found. What bugs me even more is the fact that Final Fantasy 13 was released in March of 2010 and it already has a sequel that is already at 70% completion ready to be on shelves by January of 2012. These really early announcements combined with huge development time spans that just build up layers upon layers of hype are not helping the industry at all. The game will eventually reach a point where it’s going to be extremely hard or rather nearly impossible to live to that hype. This can both wear out the player anticipating the game as well as hurt the game itself because people are going to look at it a lot more strictly simply because it took too long to get released . Either ways, really early video game announcements combined with large development cycles are things that this industry needs to tone down on.

This magical unicorn is nowhere to be found.

The most recent example of a game that suffered at the hands of both a premature reveal and a long development cycle is none other than Gran Turismo 5. The game was announced near the release time of the PS3 and was one of the most anticipated exclusives for the console. The developers however were not really sure when the game will be ready and eventually kept pushing back the game further and further. This left fans of the GT series in frustration and disappointment because of the delay and it also raised the scale of what was expected of the game to a very high level. Eventually the game was released near the end of 2010, but was met with harsher criticism than usual because of the gigantic amount of expectations from it.

When it comes to the actual driving of GT5 it is one of the most accurate diving simulators to date if not the most accurate. The problem with GT5 was that it was built on a very early concept that just didn’t resonate well with the current presentation standards of games. The issue at hand here is that it went into 6 years of development that left it with an outdated presentation level that just did not cut it. The menus felt crowded and made it a real hassle to navigate through. The Career mode felt extremely dry mainly because it was based on something that would be considered normal back in the 2006 timeline. The combination of a 6 year development period and a premature announcement are leading factors as to why GT5 did not do what it needed to do.

If you look at a more “modern” game like Forza on the 360, you realize how much GT5 failed in presentation standards. Forza had an extremely appealing presentation with slick easy to navigate menus. It also included an actual voiced presenter that introduced the basics of the game to you and made it much easier for new players to actually get in the game. If you compare the two you would probably realize that Forza is the better game simply because of how much polish that went into it. To see that Forza was able to accomplish that level polish in nearly half the time span it took for GT5 makes us really wonder if 6 years of development were necessary to produce the game.

GT5 was not able to satisfy the level of expectations that people were hoping for.

Do I think that really long development time spans are completely wrong? Not necessarily. I believe that with current development tools and standards you can accomplish what you need in a much shorter time. If there is a massive title that actually need that huge time period then don’t announce it until it’s a year or 2 close to being finished. Announcing a game and then waiting a large span of time to actually get it on shelves is a very risky move in our current times. Developers should learn where other games have failed to perform and avoid this glaring mistake. Time your development and announcement right and your game will be received at a much better light than if otherwise not.

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