Monday, December 31, 2012

So Long 2012!


Instead of our typical Monday news post, we at Aristogamer wanted to take this special day (being New Year's Eve and all) to wish everyone a sincere thank you for your continued support! How sincere? Sincere enough to bold this puppy up!

It's good to remember how amazing this gaming world truly is and the unique community whom with we all are able to share.  2012 has proven itself as a fantastic year for video games and we can't wait to see what 2013 has in store!

Have a supremely excellent (and safe of course) New Year's Eve and may 2013 follow as a good year of good gaming!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers Coming to USA

One of my personal favorite RPG franchises gets another port next year. The Shin Megami Tensei RPG series has been going since the 90's with the most recent SMT: Persona series being released on the PS2 and re-released on the PSP and PS Vita. Now the 3DS will receive a title from way back in the Sega Saturn  days. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is a first-person dungeon crawler with the usual turn based RPG elements, but what makes this series pretty unique is the animations that goes with it. Both in the original series and the Persona titles, the art style and story have been portrayed through Anime. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 even has it's own short Anime series, and Soul Hackers will be getting a big upgrade for the 3DS before it is released next year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

THQ Declares Bankruptcy

In a sad turn of events, game publisher THQ has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company has fallen on hard times with many of their franchises selling well, but not well enough to pay off whatever debt the company has taken on. While it sounds a bit dark and gloomy, the filing has revealed that things will still be continuing on for the publisher. 2013 releases like Company of Heroes 2 and South Park: The Stick of Truth are still in development and planned to be released. Investment group Clearlake Capital will aquire the business and most of it's franchises, as well as it's current in-house projects. An interesting point is that many in-development projects are still being worked on by various dev-teams. THQ President Jason Rubin is more optimistic about the Chapter 11 and sees it as a "new start." At the very least, we still get to see THQ in action for the near-future with some exciting titles being released next year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale Review

It has been a while since there has been a game that four friends can enjoy together as a group. Sure, you can play Call of Duty or Halo online, but there are few games of late that I can put on at a party that everyone can enjoy. Generally, the party games of choice are Rock Band/Guitar Hero or Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Playstation Allstars: Battle Royale looks to change that a bit. The new party game on the block, PABR, looks fun to play and seems like a good time, but is it just a carbon copy of the old standby, Super Smash Bros.? I spent days finding out.

PABR is pretty much exactly what it looks like: Super Smash Bros. with Sony characters and Sony themed maps. All of the usual aspects are there, with each character having unique moves tied to a button and moving in a different direction and pressing that button will result in a different move. You can play via a timed battle or with lives depending on your preference. A big difference is how you win in a match. The only way to score points or kill your opponents is to nail people with a characters’ super move, so as you fight you build up a super meter, with each character having a level 1, 2, and 3 super. Basically, you are on the offensive almost all the time: working out the best combos and attacks that build your super meter the fastest or with the most efficiency. Most of the maps have walls so you can’t fall off the stages, and if you can, then you just respawn and sit there for a few seconds vulnerable to attack. There is a guard and a dodge roll available but their only real use is to dodge someone else’s attacks and jump back in the action. It feels like the developers created an atmosphere where the more you are in your opponent’s face, smacking them around with combo after combo, the better. There is depth within the characters and their diversity, but unfortunately the solo player aspect of PABR is frankly forgettable and disappointing.

The story mode in PABR feels like it came out of the N64 days, with very little in the way of story. Essentially, the mode serves only as a way to familiarize yourself with the character of your choice. You simply fight a series of battles until you fight the boss who has a few snappy evil villain cliché one-liners. The rest of the single-player modes are some training battles and challenges. While they do help in training you in both general tactics and the moves of each character as well, the single-player side of PABR has to be the most barebones and simple single-player I have seen in a long time. Since the full roster of characters is unlocked from the beginning, the only motivation to play the single-player is to level up each character and unlock the various customizable additions each character has.

Each character can unlock various intros, icons, and so on through playing and leveling up said character. Each character only has 2 or 3 new things to unlock per category, but it is nice to have something to distinguish you when playing with friends or online. Unfortunately since all of the unlocks and leveling are purely aesthetic in nature, they serve about as much functionality as the names you can choose in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

The real meat of the game is in the characters themselves. Each character is pretty unique in how they are played and their fighting style. Big Daddy, for example, is very slow with a lot of power and his attacks can build up points very quickly, while an agile character like Kratos fights with his swords and his combos feel visceral and satisfying just as in the God of War franchise. Fighters like Sackboy and Parappa the Rapper are very close range and all of their moves reflect that in a really intuitive way. However sometimes the characters can feel similar enough depending on how much you play. After playing with Raiden from Metal Gear Solid for a while, then switching to Nariko from Heavenly Sword, I felt little difference in how I battled against my opponents. My strategy was more or less the same: make a lot of combos with my sword (or swords) and never let my foes get much respite. Same thing with characters like Nathan Drake from the Uncharted franchise or Colonel Radec from Killzone. I was fighting with a lot of guns and weapons that required timing, patience, and well placed grenades or shots. Though there are definable differences between the characters, the minute-to-minute gameplay feels very similar with certain characters. While both the character roster and the map choices are smaller in comparison to other fighting games, each character and map is still worth looking at, at least once.

The areas that you fight in are very interesting and engaging. Each map starts out as a background from a Sony IP and halfway through, it changes to another. Metal Gear Rex sliced through the background of a Loco Roco stage and started firing missiles everywhere. Another surprising addition is the use of Area Hazards. Each map, after transforming/changing in some way, will introduce a map hazard, which can be anything from missiles aimed at random parts of the stage to monkeys running around with giant hands smashing their way through the stage. If a character is hit by any of the hazards, their super meter will be depleted. It adds a certain amount of tension in playing, as well as a healthy dose of annoyance, especially when you are fully charged and ready to use a level 3 super, and you get smashed by giant baby headed rockets. The hazards, weapons, weapons, and the imbalanced supers can make the online aspect of PABR exasperating.

When you decide to take your skill and go online to fight someone besides your friends and family, tread carefully and be prepared to lose. I was matched against people who obviously played the game much more than me, and they knew exactly which characters were the most powerful and the combos that can get you super meters in no time. While each character is unique, some are much more powerful and versatile than others. Characters like Kratos and Raiden have very powerful and quick combos that build up their super meter and their level 1 supers are quite powerful in comparison to characters like Jack or Parappa. If you are willing to invest the time to learn move combos and really practice, then the multiplayer can be a challenging and fun experience. For me however, I ended up not playing it as much as I was quite jarred by the gap in skill I found.

Verdict: Playstation Allstars: Battle Royale is a fun game and I might even pull it out and play it once in a while. However I don’t think there is enough there to warrant a full priced purchase, unless you own a PS3 and a PS Vita. When you purchase the PS3 version of PABR, you receive a free copy of the game for your PS Vita. With the ability to play on your Vita and use it as a controller for the PS3 version, PABR would be a good investment if you are looking something that you can pick up and play for some fun. Otherwise, I would recommend waiting for it to go on sale and then trying it out.

As a side note, I have high hopes for the next game in this series. I feel like the developers would not go through all the trouble of making a game like this without plans to create sequels with bigger rosters and more maps, so hopefully the second iteration will improve on the first and fix some if its problems.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Valve PC possible in 2013

With the launch of Valve's new Big Picture mode for Steam (seen above), it looks like things are still making headway for Valve to release its own home PC/console hybrid. Designed specifically for PCs connected to televisions, Big Picture is a menu setup that should be more familiar to console gamers, providing large icons and smooth scrolling for selecting different options.

Valve's Gabe Newell said in a recent interview with Kotaku that Valve's goal with these living room PCs is to be designed similarly to consoles in terms of connivance while still providing the full PC gaming capabilities that next generation consoles will lack, therefore "unifying the environments".

Newell also states that although this PC developed with Valve and other companies to be a hybrid that bridges the gap between consoles and PCs, it's still to remain a more closed hardware system as compared to a general purpose computer. "If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that's what some people are really gonna want for their living room."

Though no specific date has been provided, Valve anticipates to see the first of their PC console to be showcased in 2013. Granted this is Valve we're talking about so for all we know it could be an additional 4 years before we can even buy one.

December 2012 Podcast

Devin, Casey, and Colby discuss the holiday season, gaming memories from years past, and how growing up affects the way games affect you.

Subscribe to us on iTunes

Or download here directly

Friday, December 14, 2012

AristoGamer December 2012 podcast

It's time for the holidays, which generally means bare wallets and more time for gaming. This month, we'll be discussing

  • Game recommendations
  • Holiday gaming memories
  • A look to next year

How to download and use Teamspeak

Date: Monday, December 17

Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Holiday Gaming Guide 2012

The holidays are rapidly approaching and that means the window to get gifts is closing soon. You know that gamer in your life? The one who’s always the last to get a present because you have no idea what they like? Or even worse, they get whatever game gets pushed on you by a Best Buy employee and ends up with Call of Juarez: The Cartel? This guide is for the both of you. These are the top games to gift for the holiday season for any of the gamers in your life.

Games for Casual Gamers

This category can be the toughest if you’re a hardcore gamer. It’s an awful feeling to give someone a game you thoroughly enjoy only to have them discard it later. This mistake is a common one in assuming they are as enthusiastic about gaming as you are. Maybe they’re not? Perhaps they just needed a Netflix machine and to have a fun activity for parties. For them, the games aren’t about sitting down alone and playing for an extended period of time, they’re about quick fun that can be enjoyed in groups. These are the best games this year for that:

Just Dance 4, Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Wii U
Will this game change your worldview? No. Will it grab your heartstrings and never let go? No. Will it dazzle you with great graphics, characters, and fantastic controls? No. But will you be able to have fun in a group of people and dance Gangnam Style every morning after having your daily bowl of Lucky Charms, still in your undies? Hell yes it will. Just Dance has been a paragon for dance games in the past few years, like Guitar Hero was for guitar rhythm games, and that legacy continues with Just Dance 4. With loads of new songs, dance moves, and the familiar smell of a combo of sweat and fun, Just Dance 4 is a great gift for casual players.

Mario Party 9, Platform: Wii
This game has been tearing friendships asunder for over ten years now. With each subsequent Mario Party, people tend to forget how nerve-wracking, unfair, and enraging this game is and buy it anyway. That being said, Mario Party is one of the best games to play with a large group of people – as long as they aren’t particularly competitive. The minigames are fun, the idea of an overarching board game with games in the middle is engaging, and it’s made fair for players without skill by its higher-than-usual random chances of success. As long as you’re not afraid to hear “OH YEAH, OF COURSE YOU WOULD GET IT, JUST LIKE YOU GET EVERYTHING,” screamed at you by someone you barely know, this game is an excellent pick.

Trials Evolution, Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PC
You’d think a game about dirt bikes wouldn’t be a great social game, but I can’t think of many more entertaining games to play with friends than Trials. The multitude of crazy deaths, jokes, and “Okay, give me that, let me do it”s that get thrown around produce endless fun. This game would be great even if it was just for one player, but the gaming gods (aka RedLynx) saw fit to bless us with multiplayer. Spend your time trying to cram the most flips into your jump, coming up with the sickest deaths, or time attacking one other. As surprising as it is, you can’t really go wrong with this as a party game.

Games for Families or Kids

I don’t like pigeon-holing kids into their own category, as they’re just tiny people developing their gamer taste and I don’t think inundating them with shovelware will promote good game taste. However, I recognize that there are certain guidelines some parents have for their kid to game safely and with age appropriate content. That doesn’t mean those games have to be awful, though. Here are some great games for kids and families to play.

Nintendo Land, Platform: Wii U
If you have a Wii U, this is the game to get for any category really, but especially for kids. Nintendo Land is like Wii Sports was for the Wii—a showcase of what the Wii U can do with its new hardware with a collection of fun minigames. But unlike Wii Sports, Nintendoland has much better graphics, more games, better games, and it features familiar Nintendo characters. So in ten minutes of time, you could be collecting candy in Animal Crossing, then shooting Ridley in Metroid, and on to running away from Toad in Mario. Though there’s an obvious grab for attention with beloved IPs, the games all stand up on their own without having to be propped up by the familiar characters. No matter if you’re one player, two players, or up to five players, Nintendoland is the best game for Wii U yet.

Professor Layton and The Miracle Mask, Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Nothing teaches you to open your mind and use critical thinking skills more than Professor Layton. It’s a tried and true series comprised of an overarching story connected by a mountain of puzzles. Though some of them can be difficult, Layton is a kind man, and allows you to get hints on the particularly difficult ones. Though there are some puzzles that may still escape kids, that’s when it’s time to bring in their elders for some pinch hitting. I’m a grown man and my parents still hand off Layton to me when they need help on a puzzle. It quickly turns from an engrossing, one-player experience to a group effort to solve the puzzles.

Minecraft, Platform: PC, Xbox Live Arcade
Okay, so Minecraft for PC has been out for some time, but the Xbox Live Arcade version was released earlier this year. Though we think it’s a different experience than original Minecraft, it’s nevertheless an excellent game for kids and parents alike. The Xbox version also takes away the confusion of how to make items, which is a bad thing if you really want the experience of learning Minecraft from nothing, but also eliminates the frustration of your first few hours in the game. The XBLA version also features local multiplayer and allows you to invite your Xbox Live friends into your world. It’s an excellent game for everyone, but especially curious minds aching to be given tools to sculpt their dreams.

Games for Hardcore Gamers

This group can be the most difficult to buy for, even for experienced gamers. Generally, they’ve already played all the games they’re interested in and know exactly what they want. If you’re not privy to that knowledge, it can be a treacherous time trying to buy for them. Luckily, there are a few safe bets you can try to make them happy.

Sound Shapes, Platform: Playstation 3, PS Vita
This game is one of my favorites this year, and it’s not as popular as it deserves to be. Imagine a platformer where your actions control the music. Every new map has a different song that your actions piece together. Both of the major aspects of this game — platforming and music — are excellent. The gameplay mechanics are fun, responsive, and interesting, and the music is done by well-known artists including Beck and Dead Mau5. Though it’s short, it’s cheap and completely worth it.

XenoBlade Chronicles, Platform: Wii
“There’s no such thing as a good, quality RPG on Wii” has been a saying amongst hardcore gamers for years. Well this year, after many trials and tribulations, that precedent has been broken with XenoBlade Chronicles. Though the game has a few issues with controls, it’s more than made up for with the scope of the game and the world it’s set in. You’re a race of people living on one of two giants that fought and killed each other in the middle of an ocean. In fact, when you’re outside, you can often look up and see what the rest of the giant’s body looks like from wherever you are. That’s awesome. It’s also incredibly long, some estimates going from 50 hours minimum all the way up to 200 hours. The dialogue gets a little annoying , but it’s an excellent game whose length is daunting even to the most hardcore of the hardcore. This game separates the men from the boys, and hardcore games do love a challenge.

Gamefly Subscription, Platform: All
Though this is a bit of a cop-out, it’s a smart idea. You don’t even have to pick what game, as they can burn through their heart’s content of games for however many months you want to gift them. Since Gamefly also expanded their library this year to include PC games, it’s an even better value than it was before.

Lighting Round

Here are a few final categories in case the gamer you had in mind wasn’t in any of the others.

Someone who’s too deep for their own good: 

Dear Esther, Platform: PC.  Because if you need a thesaurus to play it, probably a good gift for the person who’s taken up permanent residence in their own head.

Significant other who’s not as in to games as you are: 

Minecraft, Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PC. Nobody doesn’t like playing with virtual legos. And multiplayer means everyone can enjoy the fun of building elaborate structures for no real reason.

Somebody who is still playing Diablo 2 because they think Diablo 3 sucks:

 Torchlight 2, Platform: PC. It’s everything they expected from Diablo 3, but didn't get and more.

Mom or Dad who stopped playing games at SNES:  

Nintendo Wii U. Not only does it play Netflix, the games are easy to pick up and put down and aren’t intimidatingly complex. If you’ve got the money, drop it on a console for them. If not, buy them a new SNES and remind them how fun Super Metroid is.

Gears of War: Judgment and God of War: Ascension Multiplayer Presents

In a rush of goodies, both multiplayer footage and a multiplayer trailer have been released for Gears of War: Judgment and God of War: Ascension respectively. The multiplayer footage of Gears of War is intersting and fun as it shows off the "OverRun" mode where you get the chance to play as Locusts. I haven't played much of the Gears of War franchise myself but it looks fun and the curb stomping is always a blast.

On the more Greek Mythology side of video games God of War Ascension gets a new multiplayer trailer to show off it's addition to the already epic story. A series-first for the God of War franchise, God of War: Ascension will launch March 12, 2013 with PS Plus members getting an early start with the multiplayer January 8th. The lucky people of the Playstation Plus Membership will get to see what the multiplayer has to offer with a more open beta hopefully coming after Jan 8.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday News For Everyone to Enjoy

Whether you like Sci-Fi or Fantasy, this week new trailers and releases make everyone happy. First, the latest Skyrim DLC, Dragonborn, has been released and is a heck of an add-on. Not only do you get to meet the first Dragonborn, you get to travel to an island off the coast of Morrowind, Solstheim. Now if that makes no sens to you, no problem! but fans of the Elder Scrolls series will love going through the story missions and finding old and familiar terrain and landmarks.
If that doesn't exactly tickle your fancy, A new trailer was just released for Star Trek: Into Darkness with a bunch of awesome rolled into a 1 minute trailer. Not only that but rumors of a third Tron movie has been confirmed, more or less. Disney is in talks with a few scriptwriters to get the ball rolling with a new Tron movie. After hearing that I almost jumped for joy and wished for a time machine for christmas, that way I can travel into the future and enjoy the movie immediately.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Review

J and Tyranus go head to head in the latest game from Treyarch, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Is the game worth the money, or sill it generate as much outcry as Modern Warfare 3?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

So Many Games, Never Enough Money

It's early December and I’m sure that by now everyone has a wish list made out for the holidays and I bet there are at least two or three games on there. I know I have a handful of titles I want. The unfortunate part is almost all of them are at least $50 because they've been released in the past two months. Halo 4, Assassins Creed 3, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 have all been released in the past eight weeks. And that's only a portion of the holiday releases! It’s fair to say that unless you are an avid/hardcore gamer, most people will buy one or two games this holiday season. And since half of the recently released games have at least 20+ hours of content with multiplayer components that also require a time investment, I think it’s fair to say we’re getting a little flooded with video games. Unfortunately this habit has been going on for a while, with five or more games being released in a short time frame during the holiday season and almost nothing coming after. I think it’s time for a change that developers and publishers alike need to push for, before the market is so saturated that good games get passed over because they are competing with five or six blockbuster titles for attention.

Two of the biggest reasons for the holiday extravaganza of video games are Christmas shopping and conventions. One of the easiest things for families to do is to walk into a local GameStop and get a new game or two for their kid. All of the sudden, their shopping is halfway done with one trip to the game peddler. Now said parents can get some green Army men or a box set of Batman the Animated Series Season 1 and their kid will have one happy Christmas morning. Not only that, but because of all the holiday deals it gets even more opportunistic for anyone to start trading in old games or saving up for holiday deals; buy 2 get 1 free or buy this new game and only 8 dollars for an Xbox Live Subscription, that sort of thing. All the deals from Amazon to Walmart capitalize on the holiday season and the multitude of new games coming out. Developers and publishers know this and plan accordingly, realizing that they will get the maximum amount of immediate sales when they release in the fall. Not only that, but they get to spend the 6-8 months before that hyping it up, showing off game demos at conventions like E3. The amount of excitement that was garnered from the ship combat game demo for Assassins Creed 3 was ridiculous, and then in the following months we get multiple trailers, poster art, and gameplay videos. And all of that builds up to the fall release. If Assassins Creed released in May or June, Ubisoft wouldn't have as much momentum and excitement or nearly as many potential sales. Not all companies follow this idea though.

Some companies buck the usual process, with games like Mass Effect 3 released in March, and Bioshock Infinite planned to be released in February March.  However there is generally a period of summer doldrums where not many games at all are released. Whether or not it’s because of the close proximity to E3, I think that developers and publishers are missing out on a window of opportunity where there is much less competition to deal with. Lately Sony and Microsoft has take the summer slump and used the time to show off indie releases or smaller digital titles, but a $15 digital title is completely different from a full $60 release. While it seems as simple as 343 deciding to release Halo 5 in May instead of November, I’m sure there are plenty of other factors behind the scenes that help decide a release date. I feel that some of the bigger factors are completion dates and advertisement. Many triple-A games have huge ad campaigns running as far back as 5 or 6 months before the release. Bungie released regular video documentaries as Halo 3 was being made, and did the same for Halo: Reach. Those videos helped build hype for the game all the way until its release. And maybe that kind of ad campaign isn't as effective if there’s a new year that breaks it up or something along those lines. Honestly I don’t really know, and I’m sure most that aren't in the game industry are in the same position: mostly speculating based on evidence and theory. But maybe a solution is as simple as asking why. Posting on developer forums or being vocal about wondering why developers and publishers do what they do. It may seem slightly redundant to say “Speak louder! Ask questions!” but I think it could work. Gearbox has a Community Day where the entire company spends the day answering questions, and it is great to be able to sit in a room with the CEO of Gearbox Software and pick his brain. While a lot of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of developers, it isn’t solely up to them.

We as consumers are the ones that end up spending hundreds of dollars new games every year. And in that, parts of the developer’s actions are in reaction to us: to how and when we buy games. Personally, I always splurge a little for the holidays like anyone else, but after that I start searching for the best bargain, trading in older games and such for new titles that I want to play. Maybe that too is part of the reason we have been locked into this fall release schedule for big-name releases like Halo and Assassins Creed. They build up hype, and release quite a few of games in the fall and a lot of people buy them, effectively spending upwards of $200 on 3 new games in 2 months. That also affects the rest of the year. When I know I’m going to spend more money later, my mindset for the rest of the year is “I’ll save up for Christmas.” While there have been many good games that have been released earlier in the year, it always seems that the holiday game releases have a little extra advertising push to them, or more coverage across a bunch of different websites and stores. I’m not sure what else we can do to change this stigma of holiday releases, but I am worried that more games will compete for this 2-3 month release window and I won’t be able to enjoy games that look really interesting. If I buy Halo 4 and Playstation Allstars: Battle Royale, I miss out on games like Dishonored and COD: Black Ops 2. And it feels bad to talk to your friends who bought the other games and you can’t share in the experience of playing the same game.

Either way most of us will still buy a lot of games throughout the year, but if we keep having to spend all of our money in 2 months for 3 or 4 new games, there will be a breaking point where more and more people narrow down their choices to only 1 or 2 games, and it's sad that they can’t enjoy all the fun games that are released. If there is anything we can do to change it, it’s showing developers and producers that we love our games but would also like a more even release schedule. I think that in the end we would all benefit from being able to enjoy more games throughout the year, allowing us to not cherry-pick the best titles.
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