Monday, July 30, 2012

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale Full Character List and Stages Leaked

The clever users at NeoGAF have picked apart the data files posted on GameFAQs from the Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale beta and have uncovered a treasure trove of information. Included in the dam-bursting leak is what seems to be all characters, all items, and all stages. Here are the lists along with some images:

Characters:


Raiden (Metal Gear Solid)
Dante (DmC Devil May Cry)
Heihachi (Tekken)
Ratchet (Ratchet & Clank)
Sackboy (LittleBigPlanet)
Spike (Ape Escape)
Toro (Doko Demo Issyo)
Sir Daniel Fortesque (Medievil)
Jak (Jak & Daxter)
Nariko (Heavenly Sword)
Cole McGrath (inFAMOUS)
Evil Cole McGrath (inFAMOUS)
Kratos (God of War)
Sweet Tooth (Twisted Metal)
Big Daddy (Bioshock)
Nathan Drake (Uncharted)
Fat Princess (Fat Princess)
Parappa (Parappa the Rappa)
Sly Cooper (Sly Cooper)
Colonel Radec (Killzone)

Stages:

Sly Cooper - Paris



Bioshock Infinite - Columbia


Twisted Metal - Black Rock Stadium


Killzone - Invasion


Loco Roco - Franzea


Ape Escape - Timestation


Infamous - Alden's Tower


Uncharted 3 - Stowaways



Resistance - San Francisco


Already confirmed levels from:

God of War
LittleBigPlanet
Parappa the Rappa
Jak & Daxter


Items:
Atomizer (Resistance 3)
Baumusu Axe (The Mark of Kri)
Boots of Hermes (God of War III)
Freeze Missile (Twisted Metal)
Golf Club (Hot Shots Golf)
Gravity Shield (Wipeout)
Hedgehog Grenade (Resistance)
Dohvat Laser Designator (Killzone 3)
Leech Beem (Wipeout)
Murder of Crows (Bioshock Infinite)
Railgun (Metal Gear Solid 4)
Razor Claws (Ratchet and Clank)
RPG (Uncharted)
Scythe (Fat Princess)
Spear (God of War)
Sonic Rift (ModNation Racers)
Sackbot (Little Big Planet)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gabe Newell on Windows 8, post touch, and more

Gabe Newell isn't one to hold back his opinions and when queried about the future of gaming, he has quite a bit to say. At Casual Connect, the game conference aimed at casual games, he gave his thoughts on a range of topics, most interesting of which are his views on Windows 8 and what comes after touch.

Gabe Newell

In reference to Steam's decision to support Linux, Gabe says "I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space. I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers]. They’ll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, it’s going to be a good idea to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality." Though Linux has traditionally been viewed for power users and kernel-tweakers, its improving user interface and product compatibility make it a viable solution for people unhappy with Windows, but not ready to pay the price for a Mac.

The interviewer then asked what Gabe's thoughts on touch interfaces were. "If you look at the mouse and keyboard, it was stable for about 25 years. I think touch will be stable for about 10 years. I think post-touch, and we’ll be stable for a really long time — for another 25 years. I think touch will be this intermediate…." When pressed for specifics on what he thinks will define post touch, he mentioned the next big things being a combination of sensors, not just one, and also talked briefly about some experiments they did themselves.

"When you look at all of the muscles in your body, if you think of them as SCSI or USB, it turns out that your tongue is a pretty good way of connecting a mechanical system to your brain. But it’s really disconcerting to have the person you’re sitting next to going, 'Arglearglargle.' [Big laughs] 'You just Googled me, didn’t you?'" As strange as that sounds, many organizations have invested time and money into tongue-based input devices for a wide range of applications. And if this technology did become big, we could see the best sniper in Counter Strike also be the best make-out artist of all time.

tongue input device

Gabe added, much to my chagrin, "I don’t think tongue input is in our futures. But I do think you’ll have bands on your wrists, and you’ll be doing stuff with your hands. Your hands are incredibly expressive. If you look at somebody playing a guitar versus somebody playing a keyboard, there’s a far greater amount of data that you can get through the information that people convey through their hands than we’re currently using. Touch is…it’s nice that it’s mobile. It’s lousy in terms of symbol rate."

Gabe Newell is one of the more prolific figures in the modern gaming era, so his words carry weight. Could we be seeing a large Windows to Linux exodus at the dawn of 8? Or maybe touch will be out the door by 2020 and we'll all be using wrist watch sensors and Google Glass to interact with the internet and game devices. Nobody knows for sure, but when such bold statements come from a highly trusted source in the gaming world, it's difficult to discount.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Preview SDCC 2012

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, beautiful game by the dream team of Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, is coming to US shores January 22, 2013. I've already preordered my collector's edition and am more than ready to play and review it, but I thought I would check it out at SDCC as a teaser to myself. I was not disappointed.



The graphics are hands down gorgeous. The art style and choices made by Level-5/Studio Ghibli make Ni no Kuni look like a strange hybrid between a game and a Miyazaki film. I love it. Beyond that, many elements harken back to traditional RPGs that make me smile, since you rarely see them these days. Having the characters run around on the world map and be disproportionally big in comparison to cities and landmarks was something I didn't feel was broken, but RPG makers were hellbent to fix. Since Final Fantasy X, all I've wanted in a AAA RPG is to fly around the world map in my airship. That's it. Very simple request. But I haven't gotten it as I suppose many developers don't appreciate the same things I do, perhaps valuing size context and continuous worlds over the world map paradigm. The city was also beautiful, and felt like a fully realized area instead of a location I needed to be in for quest purposes.

But I digress, the battles are also interesting; they feel like a cross between a traditional RPG and Pokemon. There's a bit of active time battle action in the fights, but also the concept of choosing different creatures to fight for you. I rather like that as well, since it gives me a larger palate of fighters to choose from. I also find it beneficial that if my helper is knocked out, I can switch to my other character and her partner.

This game looks to harken back to older RPGs while providing world class visuals in the way only Studio Ghibli can. I am more than excited about Ni no Kuni's impending release and I hope to ring in the new year (albeit a bit late) the way I've always wanted to -- by driving around in a virtual boat for 4 hours occasionally kicking my legs up and squealing like I do when I'm gifted chocolates.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pokemon Black Version 2 Review


By this point, Pokémon as a series has grown so much that there is a generational gap between young kids who are just meeting their first Pokémon and the 20-somethings who remember the original 150 (151 if you include Mew) from their own childhood. As a special treat, I get to take an early stab at Pokémon Black 2. Taking advantage of my living situation, I picked up the game before its North American Release and decided to take another shot at catching all the Pokémon I can find. For the sake of continuity, I played Black 2 since I picked up Black some time ago. Is the first direct sequel in Pokémon history worth buying? I played hours upon hours of gameplay to provide an answer.

Pokemon Black 2 MapAs this is a sequel to Black/White, the story frequently refers back to its predecessor. You play the same character from Black/White, but the game takes place 2 years after the events of the previous game. Your friend Cheren has actually become a gym leader and the same people you saw in Black/White, like Adler, make a return appearance. As you make your way through the 8 gym badges, I noticed different gym leaders in some of the cities, as well as additional characters and events that help shape the world I was exploring. The plot is still more of the same: Evil guy comes in and wants to destroy everything with a legendary Pokémon, and you are tasked to stop him. This time, the odd-named evil corporation of choice is Team Plasma, making a return appearance from the first Black/White. Aside from the references to previous characters and events in Black/White, the story is still the same as it has been since the original games and is still uninteresting to those of us who have played the games for years. I can understand that people might argue otherwise, especially with both the games and the anime being vastly different than the manga. However, the game’s story itself has never been the focus of the game, and is still feels like a secondary priority to the main idea of the entire series: catching Pokémon. I wish the story didn’t feel like a cut-and-paste from the game before it. If there was actually an effort put into writing an actual story, I can only imagine how much better the game would be. That isn’t to say that the game is bad though, or not fun. All of the fun you remember from any of the previous Pokémon games is still there.

Pokemon Black 2 CharactersIf you are familiar with Pokémon at all, then you probably have an idea of what happens in black 2/White 2. You start off in a small town, receive a starter Pokémon, and start training to be a Pokémon master. Your character travels from city to city fighting gym leaders to obtain gym badges that eventually lead to you fighting the Elite Four. It’s been the same formula that has been used since the original games, and it still works. While this is a sequel, your character starts off in a different city and travels to many new locations. The inclusion of more places to see and new locations to visit assists in keeping the game fresh and new. Even though you travel to some of the same locations that were in Black/White, the locations usually have altered in a significant way or you see new parts of the same city. Game Freak has turned the pacing of Pokémon into a science. There is almost perfect balance when exploring through the early parts of the game, allowing you to catch as many Pokémon as you can, and setting each area up to slightly more difficult than the last. This slow evolution is perfect when training your Pokémon as you can train them in the perfect environment before fighting a gym leader. Being the main draw to the game itself catching, training and battling Pokémon in Black 2/White 2 is the best version to start with, and still just as fun if you already have Black/White.

Of all the main Pokémon games that have been released on handhelds, I think that this one is the best version that includes content for the casual Pokémon player and someone who literally has caught every Pokémon to date. Black 2/White 2 incorporated many new features and events that provide more things to do besides battling the gym leaders and catching Pokémon. The Pokémon League Tournament is probably the biggest addition that provides extra content after beating the game. The Pokémon League Tournament (PLT) is exactly what it sounds like – once you gain access to it, you can battle trainers in multiple tournaments. After battling and moving up the ranks, your opponents become gym leaders from all the various regions. If you go through and beat every tournament, you eventually hit the champion’s league, where you get to battle legendary trainers like Red from the original Pokémon Red and Lance.
Pokemon League Tournament
 Additionally, things like the Global Link and Dream World both serve to help you catch more Pokémon and interact with other people. The Global Link is a connection to the Pokémon website that allows you to play various minigames to catch rare Pokémon that would otherwise be uncatchable, while the Dream World uses the Global Link to let your Pokémon explore an entire new world and catch more Pokémon. Both of these features were introduced in Black/White and were improved upon even more in Black 2/White 2. One of the biggest changes between Black and Black 2 is the placement of all the Pokémon. In Black/White, you could only capture the 5th generation of Pokémon throughout your first run-through of the game. Only after you defeated the Elite Four could you move into a new area and catch Pokémon from older generations. Now, all the Pokémon are spread out throughout the entire map. In my first 20-30 minutes of playing, I was able to catch a Riolu, a Mareep, and an Azurill. This will definitely please any veteran of the Pokémon series and introduce the older generations of Pokémon to a younger audience. However, with all of these advancements it really made me wonder why events like the Pokémon League Tournament weren’t included in the first Black/White. While I can see the obvious advantages of having a sequel, a lot of the features, upgrades, and new events seem like they could have been included in Black/White, especially since the storyline didn’t change much. Either way, all of the same fun in catching Pokémon is there, and with all the extras included in the game, Black 2/White 2 is definitely the ideal Pokémon game to buy if you are starting your first Pokémon adventure.
Pokemon Black 2 Cover
One of the aspects of Pokémon that has evolved over time is the multiplayer/online component of Pokémon. Back when Wi-Fi didn’t exist, multiplayer was using a link cable between Gameboys. Now with infrared, Wi-Fi, and the Pokémon Global Link, there are numerous ways to interact with other people.  Black 2/White 2 has a strip mall of sorts that you can level up by interacting with other people who own Black/White or Black 2/White 2. The more people you connect with the bigger your mall gets. Although not necessarily that important when running around catching Pokémon, upgrading your mall and connecting with other people gives you the opportunity to obtain rare items and get certain services that can help you train your Pokémon. While there are some neat new side features in Black 2/White 2, there isn’t enough to really notice a difference if you were playing Black/White or Black 2/White 2. Your experience would be more or less the same.
Pokemon Black 2 Field
When Black/White was released, it was arguably one of the best games in the main series, with all of the upgrades, tweaks and additions made to it. Now with Black 2/White 2, I think that people will say the same thing. Everything Black/White did, Black 2/White 2 does better, and adds even more content: it feels like the sequel is what Black and White should have been a year ago. With all the additional content and tune-ups to existing systems, Black 2/White 2 feels more like a standalone game. You don’t need Black/White to enjoy the game, but there isn’t enough content to allow the game to stand on its own. If you have Black/White, you won’t be missing much by buying Black 2/White 2 immediately.

Verdict: If this is your first plunge into the Pokémon Universe, then Black 2/White 2 is the ideal game to start with. It’s just as fun as the Black/White with even more content. As much as I would like to recommend this game no matter what, I must add a small stipulation: If you are playing Black/White and are wondering whether or not to pick up this game, you might not want to buy it at full price. If added content like the Pokémon League Tournament is enough to convince you to buy it then go for it, but I would suggest waiting until a little later when a price drop occurs. Pokémon Black 2/White 2 is still a really great game, and worth buying for the most part. Unfortunately this game feels like an expansion instead of another full game.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII NOT Cancelled

The rumors of the death of Final Fantasy Versus XIII have been greatly exaggerated.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII Characters

Kotaku reported last week that rumors from industry insiders told of the game's quiet death and the roll up of resources on the title into Final Fantasy XV. I read this news and was disheartened, as there was some anecdotal credence to the argument. We haven't seen a public showing of the game for some time, large game conferences passing it by without nary a trailer or gameplay video. In fact, the last official mention of the game was in a short statement to Game Informer, saying "We would like to ask for your patience on an official announcement for this title. It always takes time when tackling the challenge of doing something completely new, but we are doing our best to bring information to the fans as quickly as we can. Your patience is greatly appreciated."

Then, like a ray of hope looking to make my world less bleak, Square-Enix head Yoicha Wada tweeted, roughly, "There's someone making a false rumor that Versus was cancelled. Haha...Just a minute ago, the regular Versus meeting ended. The presentation of the city knocked me off my feet~lol" Can you blame him? This low quality image already makes the game look modern and sleek.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII City
 
And the penthouse even moreso.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII Penthouse


Hopefully this means we'll be able to see more of the game at this year's TGS or one of the upcoming Square-Enix events, but one this is for certain -- Final Fantasy Versus XIII can't be counted out yet. Let's just hope this doesn't turn into the JRPG Duke Nukem Forever.

Resident Evil 6 Preview SDCC 2012

For full disclosure, I have not indulged in a Resident Evil game since Code Veronica on the Dreamcast. Things have changed in my extended leave of absence. The Resident Evil 6 characters, backstory, and gameplay have all changed and grown since the Dreamcast title. Now after many years I'm back to preview the latest numerical title in the series -- Resident Evil 6. I was lucky enough to play the demos for not only Chris Redfield, but also Leon. I did not have the time to play as Jake, unfortunately.








The two demos are strikingly different, Chris's taking on a more action shooter feel and Leon's section feeling more like a survival horror game, and seems to confirm what we already thought the game would be. I have no problem with the way that Chris's section feels or plays, though it did take me a bit to learn the controls, but it feels so much less like a Resident Evil game than I am used to. Perhaps that is due to me taking so much time off the Resident Evil series, but it feels to me like if I didn't know the title of the game, Chris's section could easily be a completely different IP, whereas Leon's definitely feels like a Resident Evil game. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as most series aren't afforded the opportunity to stick to the same formula and be successful long-term, but I think it's certainly interesting.

The gameplay for both sections felt great and responsive, even if they did feel like two completely different games. Most objectives were conveyed clearly, though the boss battle in Chris's section could have used a health bar for the boss or something, as I had no idea if I was doing the right thing or not. I also wish I had more time to figure out the health/inventory system for both as I had healing items on me, but was having a tough time using them. That's an issue that could be (and most likely will) cleared up by a tutorial level.

Overall, the title seems to be coming along swimmingly and will provide a zombie apocalypse experience you know and love as well as some you're not expecting. Kind of like Sonic Generations except without the strange gateway level.

Look for Resident Evil 6 on shelves October 2, 2012.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 2012 Podcast

Colby, Devin, and Casey discussed recent conventions including RTX and SDCC, how to distinguish good DLC from bad, and the effect public perception has on game companies.

 
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Friday, July 20, 2012

LittleBigPlanet Karting Preview SDCC 2012

Like most successful, child friendly genres these days, LittleBigPlanet now has its own kart racing game. Here's the full demo from SDCC 2012:




Unfortunately, I was just being polite to the Sony rep. This game lacks the fun tenseness of good kart titles like Mario Kart, while more heinously lacking the spirit of LittleBigPlanet. The controls are sloppy, items are uninspired, and is generally boring.

I'm sorry, LittleBigPlanet, but this is one game you did not capture my heart. Instead, you stumbled into the same pool of mediocrity as Crash Bandicoot, Sonic, South Park, so many other great IPs. Maybe someone should find out why Mario Kart is so much fun before trying to make their own game in the same genre? And no, the secret isn't characters with big heads in tiny cars. Though that can't hurt.

Sound Shapes Preview SDCC 2012

Sound Shapes is a title Vita owners are excited about and not many others have heard of. Here's the full demo video:




 I apologize for my egregious error in not putting the headphones on the camera. The platforming is simple and interesting enough, but the real strength is in the music. In the demo, you'll see me collect music notes and each of those add a layer onto the background song. With the end of each level, the song morphs and shifts, allowing you to rebuild it and progressing the song. Even the other lifeforms make beats when touched!

Perhaps the gameplay is too simple to warrant being a full game, but I believe it deserves your attention, especially if you love music.

The Ouya: A Crowdfunded Console


Somewhere between E3 and San Diego Comi-Con, a Kickstarter project raised over 5 million dollars, and is still going. The Ouya Kickstarterproject (No I have no idea how to pronounce it yet) is a crowd funded home console. Embracing the idea of affordable and fun, The Ouya is a $99 console that is supposedly as open sourced as the internet. The development team behind the idea explained that the Ouya is a console where all games are free to play in some way and is open for hackers to customize to their hearts content. The console, running android 4.0, will be easy to root, uses no special screws, and is completely open source. The specifications are on par with a new and expensive Smartphone, containing a Tegra3 quad-core processor, 1GB of ram, and an HDMI connection for support up to 1080p. While still in the planning stages, there have been prototypes shown off and the funding for the system is growing.
The possibilities here are quite interesting. The team behind the Ouya state that it will also have direct connections to online streaming channels like Twitch.tv. Since it is going to be open-source, anybody can program games/apps/tech for the console which allows for a lot of creativity and innovation, as well as a lot of bad games, buggy apps, and peripherals that don’t work. However it does look promising as the first game for the Ouya has been officially announced. A prequel to Human Element from Robert Bowling is announced as the 1st first-party title. At the moment all anyone can do is wait and see since the console itself is not going to be released for quite a while. But with already 5 million dollars in support and still 19 days before the project closes, it seems that people are hopeful that the Ouya will be a success.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why We Don't Rate Games


Chances are, if you’ve read a review or two from us, you’ll notice that we don’t score games. We have no “x monocles out of y” system to apply to our reviewed content. A few people have asked me why that is, given the propensity of larger review sites to lean heavily on whatever number scale they use.. The answer is a long one, so I thought it best to cover it in this week’s opinion piece.


 7.5, 8, 78%. Those are all scores given to Quantum Conundrum by Gamespot, IGN, and metacritic respectively. Since all reviewed the same game, it would be ideal for the scores to vary solely on what each reviewer appreciated or disliked about the game. However, there are too many external factors for that to be solely the case. Let’s first take a look at Gamespot and IGN. At first glance, it looks like the possibility exists that Gamespot has a higher score granularity than IGN, allowing for an arguably more precise score grading. That launches a debate about what is an appropriate grading system. 0-10? Should it be in increments of 0.5? Maybe 0.1? Or percentages? Perhaps metacritic is the most precise since its granularity is down to single digit percentiles? There’s simply no good way to determine how precise you need to be in a game review. And when you decide on a system, what distinguishes an 8.0 game from an 8.1 game? Or 8.5? How much is half a point worth?

This leads to a very specific problem I’ve had with trying to come up with a point system for reviews: how to grade a good game against other good games. If Uncharted 3 was slightly less good than Uncharted 2, but better than Uncharted 1, and both those games got a 9.5 and 8.5 respectively, that means Uncharted 3 should get a 9.0. But other games in the 9.0 range include Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and I thought Uncharted 3 was more fun. So does it get a 9.1 now? The scores are subjective and making distinctions like that gives a false sense of accuracy, when it actually functions to make the score appear more precise. The difference is subtle, but important. Accuracy defines the correctness of a value, or its closeness to what its true value is. Precision is defined by the number’s reproducibility. For example, if I played NCAA 13 twelve times and gave it an average score of 6.081, my score would be precise, but because I dislike football games, the number is lower than it should be because of bias, making it precise but inaccurate. Here's a great picture that helped me understand the difference from this blog:



Upon investigating further, you’ll find that both Gamespot and IGN actually have similar score granularity, so that must mean that the differences lie with the subjectivity of reviewing games, correct? Not quite. Now we get into the topic of score inflation. On a scale of 0-10, the average score should be 5, meaning neither good nor bad. However, that is not the case with either Gamespot or IGN. This article points to the average score of Gamespot to be a 7, whereas IGN’s is 8. So with respect to their averages, assuming identical granularity, Quantum Conundrum actually received a better score from Gamespot than IGN, with respect to its average. This problem is one that affects nearly everyone who has a score system at some point or another. Be it due to playing only good games, score inflation because of publisher relations, or simply confusion as to what the score deserves when compared to other games in its genre, average scores for a site tend to be not the average of their scales.

According to the review sites, Quantum Conundrum is an average to good game, and has a score as such. IGN then scores NCAA Football 13 with the same score, and Gamespot gives it a 6.5. That can arguably be due to one reviewer enjoying sports games more than the other. And that’s where the fatal flaw in scoring becomes evident. Let’s say we’ve normalized our score, so we’re on a percentage basis, we have an appropriate granularity, and we have an average rating right in the middle, effectively eliminating bias and making our score the most accurate on the planet. Scoring Quantum Conundrum with the same system as NCAA Football 13 makes absolutely no sense. The games have absolutely nothing to do with one another and grading them as such is unfair to both titles.


 NCAA Football 13 should be compared to other NCAA titles, and other football titles. I don’t even think scoring it against FIFA makes sense since both games are so different. Even if you were to give each game a specific genre, you could never have enough genres to properly differentiate titles from one another and give an accurate score in the genre. With a scoring system, it’s simply impossible to rate games and objectively review them.
So what do we do at AristoGamer? At the end of every review, we have a verdict:  a short paragraph summing up the positives and negatives of the game to make it quickly digestible if you were just looking to see if the game was good and don’t really care why. In addition, we include similar games and genres to the game being reviewed. This addition gives an anchor point for our review so that you can decide if this game is worth your time based on your experience with other titles. Not only is this far more useful than a score, it also provides a grounding point for the review. “If you like third-person shooters like Dead Space, online multiplayer games like Uncharted, or strategy games like Starcraft, you’ll love Starhawk” provides far more useful information to the reader than 8/10 and still maintains a sense of brevity.

 
It also adds a deeper level of insight into the game than a score system by providing context. When you say “x is like y,” you invite personal experience with x into the consideration of y, which brings with it tons of information exclusive to each reader. It also conjures a more useful mental picture of the new game by providing a link to something you’ve already done.  Comparing new titles to similar games also makes the review more inherently true to every individual’s experience because if the review made the game sound good, but you see that it’s like three titles you hate, you’ll be much more wary about rushing in to purchase.

Our system is imperfect—it is inherently subjective, as all reviews are, and I’m sure has more problems I haven’t thought about yet. I strongly believe that this style of reviewing and likening games to one another is a vast improvement over non-grounded, often dishonest numbers. If I asked a friend what he thought about a movie, I’d much rather hear “It was good, kind of like Shawshank Redemption, but with sharks” than “I’d give it a 4/5.”

What do you think about the review system on not only our site, but other sites you frequent?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tomb Raider Preview SDCC 2012

I remember first seeing the trailer for Tomb Raider at E3 last year. Lara's dirty clothes, wounded body, and all the impending danger made this look like a true remastering of the classic Tomb Raider we know and love. It looked like Uncharted, but more intense. I got to play the game at Comic Con this year, and the game seems to be coming along well. Here's the full demo video:



Tomb Raider really delivered on the gameplay. It was smooth, had good conveyance, and felt like I was in geniuine danger at times. Though there was not much combat in this, I got a sense for how it would work when I shot the deer and it felt good. Very simple, exactly what it needed to be with none of the frills that other games sometimes like to place on archery. Climbing objects felt good. It was definitely slower than Assassin's Creed, but felt a little more real as Lara's wounded and exhausted in the jungle and doing the things she's doing in the demo are pretty incredible for a real person.

I said earlier that this game looked like a more intense Uncharted. Unfortunately the demo also showed me it borrowed from Metal Gear Solid 4 with its gameplay to video ratio. Just by watching the video, you can tell when I'm playing and when the cinematics take over and just how much movie there is in this demo. I had multiple instances in which I wasn't sure if I should put down the controller since the demo was over and showing me a final cutscene or not, and I was sucked out of the game's world often by cinematics. Even in the beginning, I walked forward, stopped for a cut scene showing the boat, walked to the plane and jumped off, another cut scene, walk a bit more, more cutscenes. I'm playing this game because of the possibilities it has as an action adventure title, not the ease of transition it would have into being a movie.

I was planning on purchasing this game on day 1 before I played this demo, and quite frankly now I'd rather rent it. Perhaps the demo has a misleading amount of cinematics, but if that's how the whole game is going to be, I'd rather not support more cinema-games, especially when they're not billed as such. Perhaps someone should send the Tomb Raider people some reviews on MGS4 and warn them.

Playstation All Stars Battle Royale Preview SDCC 2012

San Diego Comic Con 2012 afforded me the opportunity to try out Sony's new brawler Playstation All Stars Battle Royale. Here's the full demo video:




The load times are quick and the controls are fluid, showing a clear willingness to put the polish on the game. The characters all had different movesets and drawbacks, allowing players to pick characters that play to their fighting strengths. Having this differentiation is very important, though I wish they would have had more characters. Perhaps closer to the game's release, we'll be able to see the full roster. The level designs are also great, switching from one environment to another and

The gameplay was hectic and incredibly fun. This game looks to be perfect for parties or non-serious fighting gamers. The only issue I can foresee is that Playstation 3 owners typically do not own more than 2 controllers, so you'd have to invite friends with controllers over to play. Though that's not a huge issue, Playstation just isn't known for local multiplayer and that may work against it.

All in all, Playstation All Stars Battle Royale is a fun game. It's on par with Super Smash Brothers for me, albeit with a much smaller character list. Though it won't be killing Nintendo's title in the slightest, it's a nice, fun game for PS3 owners who'd like to see Nathan Drake push a pillar onto Fat Princess.

Monday, July 16, 2012

AristoGamer July 2012 Podcast

Mid-July is here, and that means another installment of the AristoGamer Podcast. Join us to talk about the following topics
  • San Diego Comic Con 2012
  • RTX 2012
  • Differences between good and bad DLC
  • Swaying public opinion as it applies to consoles/games (e.g. Nintendo kiddy, Vita has no games)
Come armed to the teeth with questions and comments, this month should be a slobberknocker.

How to can download and use Teamspeak




Date: Tuesday, July 17th

Time: 7:00pm Central Time

Fortnite Announced


Epic Games's design director Cliff Bleszinski announced at San Diego Comic Con that the upcoming game Fortnite (which didn't have much information at E3 this year) is to be the flagship showoff for the new Unreal Engine 4.

Fortnite is going to be a PC exclusive game and will ultimately be a co-op survival sandbox. Players will have to take on the roles of scavengers for specific materials to build a wide variety of buildings and defense structures in order to ward off enemies.

Connecting this new information with the trailer that was released last year, the game appears to be visually similar to Team Fortress 2 and may include a similar level of humor. However, any further information such as price or a release date has not yet been released.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

8bitX Radio Syndication


We've been lucky enough to be syndicated by 8bitX Radio, one of the best sites for video game related internet radio. They feature video game podcasts, original music, and a large number of shows. They've got a large breadth of content from TecmoBowl to live events to album debuts and more! 8bitX also features live shows, so tune in often for the latest content.

We'll debut Thursday night at 8:30PM EST. You can check us and the network out at http://www.8bitx.com/

Playing and Replaying and Replaying


I wonder how many games a person actually goes back and replays. Aside from continuing multiplayer games like Starcraft or League of Legends, most games are played and then put away. Even games like Halo and Call of Duty are shelved eventually because their successor takes over and gamers move on. Game companies are constantly trying to incorporate additional content to keep the player playing. And some companies do a good job of incorporating replayability in interesting ways. Yet the idea itself is pretty old. Even Chrono Trigger has multiple endings and different missions that a player may have missed the first time through. Some companies don’t do so well and announce things like day 1 DLC, or additional “true endings” for a $10 dollar price tag. Since replay value is something that every company worries about maybe it’s time new ideas are formed and experimented with.


With Xbox Live and PSN, multiplayer has evolved past 4 dudes playing Goldeneye or Super Smash Bros. in a living room. As Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo push their consoles to be a conduit that connects a person to all of their friends and social networking needs, video games are pushing to keep up as well. Halo and Call of Duty both have their own separate services that track stats and give exclusive content. These services are great for friends who compete with each other or for Activision to get more money out of their audience by paying for a VIP Pass. However, it less than viable for most games. Recently, multiplayer has been added on to many games that really don’t need them. I’m sure that the Uncharted 3 multiplayer is fun for a while, but is it really necessary in a game that is played for the stellar story? Bioshock 2 had the same problem. Not only was the multiplayer so-so, but it was added onto a game that was advertised as a single-player experience. I think the solution lies in constantly updating the game with content. Instead of working on a DLC that is a portion of a story, the dev team could instead turn the story into an episodic series that allows for more room in terms of storytelling and development. After the initial release, a development team can go back and release more content related to the story in reasonable chunks within a reasonable time frame. Even though this method isn’t the right path for every game out there, I think if more companies considered this plan instead of just DLC like every other game, the audience would pay for a great story, and the company would turn a profit.

For games like Call of Duty, Halo, or even Assasins Creed, multiplayer has become an integral part of the game, so development teams should work on making the transition from single player to multiplayer smoother. Whether it is incorporating the multiplayer into the single player universe, or making the multiplayer element itself into its own story, blending the experience a person has by themselves and when with friends can go a long way in encouraging more people to play the game. Halo 4’s Spartan Ops is a good start. By releasing story-based content weekly, players will keep coming back for not just shooting their friends, but playing through another story that 343 has created. TellTale Games is doing a similar thing with The Walking Dead video game, releasing 5 episodes over a period of time. You can buy a season pass and have guaranteed access for each episode. If more games operated like this, then not only would game companies be able to make more money from additional purchases, but fans can enjoy well-developed content every month without feeling like they are being robbed.

Now let’s talk about DLC. Probably one of the easiest ways to extend a game, and it’s not necessarily a bad way either. Plenty of awesome DLC packs have been released for the Mass Effect series, Borderlands, and Red Dead Redemption. There have also been blunders that the fans did not take kindly to. Things like disc-locked content, day 1 DLC, or just bad DLC in general. First off, I do not have a problem with day 1 DLC. It sounds horrible, but the reality of development is that there is a lag between when a company like Bioware declares their game finished, and the actual release date. When that time lag can span 2 months or more, the dev team is sitting around, working on the next project, or just not working. DLC is a great way to explore different aspects of a video game’s story. Maybe there wasn’t enough time or money to add in this really cool side mission, so a dev team can spend an extra month or so, polish it up and expand it to make it a few hours longer, and ta-da! DLC for everyone to enjoy. The problem with DLC is in the inherent time delay between each release. Look at the time delay between Skyrim’s release and its first major DLC release. When a player has to wait months for new content on a game, they are most likely going to shelf it and move onto a new one. Since the development time for DLC can only be shortened so much, a more useful alternative would be perfect. Games like LittleBig Planet are fun because of the user generated content that is available 24/7. But there is a big difference between a few awesome user-generated levels, and an official release by the dev team with all the bells and whistles. What might work instead is a hybrid of the two options. Have dev teams constantly looking at user-created content and ideas, communicating with the community to generate content that is fan driven, as well as professionally created:”Shiny AND Satisfying.”

If day 1 DLC is the only viable option for a company to keep working on a really good game, then I can be okay with it, especially when they can announce more DLC because everyone bought the game and the DLC on day 1. However I think that there is a more elegant solution that should be looked into. Instead of just shipping added content as DLC, maybe a company like Naughty Dog or Irrational could release added story elements through different mediums. Maybe to get a more in-depth look at the Big Daddies of Bioshock, you can pay 1$.99 to download an interactive workshop on your iPad, which lets you make Big Daddies or read about how their interaction with the little girls came to be in a graphic novel. This kind of thing is already being implemented everywhere with companies trying to create more means of keeping the audience engaged in their game over everyone else’s. By creating a multifaceted world, companies can spread their income and investments over a variety of entertainment mediums, and the fans reap all the rewards by having the opportunity to absorb more content about whichever game they really like.

Two of the classic replay strategies are New Game+ and the incorporation of multiple endings. New Game+ is actually a pretty old concept. Basically the idea is that once you complete the game, you can start a new game using the same save file, keeping all of your old gear, levels, powers, etc. But when you do the game is harder based on your level and you usually have new items, harder bosses, and even possibly additional story elements. Even games as far back as the first Pokemon game and Chrono Trigger used New Game+ to keep kids playing their game. It’s not that hard to do in most genres. RPG and Action-Adventure titles all use the method to some degree to add an element of replayability to their game. Multiple endings are used the same way. By incorporating choice, and subsequently multiple paths for the story to follow, a video game can inherently create multiple endings, wherein no one playthrough can you completely finish the story. It’s a useful, but once again old, story manipulation technique. The do-it-yourself adventure is really fun, but it can only be spread out so far. In most games every possible game playthrough, the player will play 60-80% of the same story with that last 20-40% changing based on your decisions. Unless you’re playing an actual simulation game (Civilization, Sims, Simcity, etc.), there is a boundary in a choose-your-adventure game that can never really be crossed.

I think that New Game+ is an old, but good, tactic in adding replay value to a video game. But the idea and implementation need to be updated a lot. The Mass Effect Series is probably the best example. As a planned trilogy, your decisions have impact on later games and there was a dialogue choice that made each conversation any time you played through the games unique. However, not all games can be as big, or as big-budget, as the Mass Effect series. Instead, the old idea should be morphed a little to fit the needs of smaller games or different genres. Story intense games like Bioshock need to have applicable rewards other than just a different cutscene at the end. I think the answer lies in fusing this with social interaction. If you completed the story mode, and your friend did too, then that should unlock a co-op mode where you play the story together, or unlock a certain multiplayer mode. If this kind of reward system for playing through the story over and over again isn’t abused, I think it could extend the life span of a video game more than just creating different cutscenes or color palettes based on your in-game choices.

Most of the ideas that dev teams come up with to extend their games play-life are really interesting and fun. The battle comes in when there isn’t enough time to implement it the way the team originally planned, or when a producer insists on the game doing it a certain way because everyone else is to make more money. A lot of good ideas can go really bad because a company wants to abuse the idea to squeeze as much money as possible out of their targeted audience. While game companies are out to make money, it takes a certain balance. A proper synthesis of business and creative freedom to allow for the best game possible that makes a lot of money. You see the examples of that balance in current triple-A franchises like Halo or Mass Effect. They all have gameplay elements that have been tested and used, but not abused: at least not too much. Most of the ideas or solutions I’ve presented are used right now, but some haven’t exactly found that sweet spot, where it allows for great content while still making money. Either way we as gamers can have a say in what we like or dislike. It all comes down to how we respond to the games. If we like it, then let Activision or Bungie know. Not just by buying the game, but being active in forums. Send the company an email if you have to. Just make sure your voice is heard by the right people. If we do that enough, then companies will listen when we like, or don’t like, certain aspects of a game.

Replayabiltiy is an aspect in a game that is really hard to define and quantify. Now, a lot of people will walk into a store and ask “How much playtime am I getting out of this $60 game?” Depending on the genre and game you buy, you could play a game for 20 hours, go back and resell it, and buy a new game. But when it comes to trying to increase the number of hours consumed by playing any one game, video game companies need to both listen to their audience, and their development team when it comes to finding the best fit. Multiplayer may not work on a single-player story centered game, but episodic content might. It takes communication and the willingness to take a little risk. I hope that in time, we can all enjoy any game we like with the ability to share it with our friends and it is easy for them to join in on the fun. Or play a game into the wee hours of the morning, spending days or weeks on a game until every possible outlet has been exhausted, and still find more to play.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

San Diego Comic Con 2012 Coverage

AristoGamer will once again be covering Comic Con 2012 this year! Look forward to gameplay videos for upcoming titles for 360, PS3, 3DS, Wii, and Vita. Booths we'll be going to include:
  • Ubisoft
  • Square Enix
  • Nintendo
  • Xbox
  • Playstation
  • Sony
  • Capcom
  • EA
  • THQ
  • Activision
External events by Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will also be covered, so look forward to daily updates, news, pictures and videos starting Thursday July 12.

Halo 4 Multiplayer Gameplay Preview


This weekend, I was lucky enough to go to RTX, an internet and gaming convention in Austin, TX put together by the comedy final bosses at Rooster Teeth.  Aside from great panels, a plethora of laughs, and a high-profile expo room, a large draw of this event was the chance for the public to play Halo 4 for the first time. I braved the line, shrugged off the delicious nacho smell, and pushed the madness of boredom from my mind long enough to get a brief demo of Slayer. Was my inspiring journey worth the payoff, or would I have been better off drinking liquid cheese and enjoying Red vs. Blue?

 
Immediately, I was struck with the overhauled multiplayer start screen (you can see a little of it above). Similar to Call of Duty, you wait in a lobby for the game to begin and in that time you can customize your loadout. From primary and secondary weapons to abilities and drops, the level of customization is high enough to tweak it to be personal, but low enough that you won’t spend an extra 2 minutes in the lobby waiting for “that guy” in your party to finish customizing his scope. The interface is smooth and simple, allowing for ease of access and feels far less daunting to pick up the game for the first time. Classic weapons like the assault rifle, magnum, and sniper rifle are all back along with brand new Forerunner weapons that look incredible. The graphics have also been updated and it really shows in the firing, assassination, and vehicle animations. Even driving a ghost looks much smoother and damage looks more impressive. There’s quite a bit of detail that may get missed, but will be appreciated by those who care. If you get the chance to play it before release, do yourself a favor and look up—the sky is gorgeous.


I haven’t played a Halo game actively since Halo 3 and getting back on Slayer felt familiar. All of the physics felt the same, though my familiarity with the button layout was rusty. Call of Duty, Uncharted, and others have tainted my muscle memory, making me have to recall how to properly bash someone from behind, and let me tell you it’s great. Though this has been a feature before, you can perform a small instant kill by bashing your opponent from behind. When you do so, you’re treated with a short clip of you brutally murdering your foe, ala Gear of War. It’s generally rare, but feels damn good when you can pull it off. The HUD is also something to note since it’s not very present. All too often is my vision obscured with overly large minimaps, stats, and icons. What’s the point of building a gorgeous game if you only let me see a little of it? Halo does a great job of giving you the vital information and nothing further, making the interface more functional than frustrating. Video was not supposed to be taken, but some have captured the RTX live stream and uploaded it to YouTube. You can see a slayer match here:




Beyond a big overhaul in graphics and layout, there’s not too much new for the gameplay. It looks, feels, and sounds like a Halo game, but better, and that’s not a bad thing. I don’t think anyone is looking for Halo 4 to revolutionize the FPS genre, but it’s certainly going to please hardcore fans and newcomers alike. Can it hang with the big boys of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Gears of War? Absolutely. Don’t count Master Chief out yet. Halo 4 is the Gran Torino to Halo’s Clint Eastwood—just when he may have been out for the count, he comes back to remind you who’s boss and why.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012 Imminent


Been wondering where this year's Steam Summer Sale has been hiding? So have hundreds of thousands of gamers salivating at the opportunity to brutally murder their wallets. But as of yet, there's been no real, official summer sale. Until now.
Intrepid gamers have used Open Steamworks, a site to openly browse the Steam database, to discover bundles with Summer 2012 specified. Some of the bundles include:

  • TellTale Collection
  • Blinding of Isaac Bundle
  • Alan Wake Bundle 
  • Trine Bundle
  • Victoria Franchise
  • Majesty Franchise
  • Sword of the Stars Franchise
  • Command and Conquer Franchise
  • Bioshock Franchise Pack
  • Sniper Elite Franchise Pack
  • Civilization Collection
So it seems Valve is gearing up for a sale, but when will it begin? When should my bank account prepare a box of tissues and some chocolate cherry ice cream for the impending weep-fest? Nobody knows for certain, though reddit user bryanbell presents a reasonable case for the sale lasting from July 12th - July 22nd. Though his evidence is well thought out and put together, keep in mind that it is entirely circumstantial.

If it is true though, that puts the sale starting at the begining of San Diego Comic Con, which opens up opportunities for developers to have some cross-promotional materials to feed into the sale. Keep checking the site, as we'll be updating live from SDCC this year, and hopefully that will at least delay my eventual fall into destitution by keeping me away from Steam for 4 days.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses


Music is a very important, oft-neglected part of the video games we play. When a score is doing its work best, you rarely notice it. Blending in songs to fit with the environment, allowing them to be loopable, and avoiding becoming annoying are all difficult challenges most musical artists do not have to face. One of the best examples of a successful musical soundtrack exists within The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Each environment had its own feeling, ambiance, and sense of mystery because the music worked so well with each one. And this is not limited to just Skyward Sword; the entire Legend of Zelda series does a spectacular job of scoring its songs for the game. In fact,  job that the music stands on its own when heard out of context. So when I heard that The Legend of Zelda was showcasing its soundtrack during a live orchestrated event, I set out to find out exactly how well the songs would stand on their own. 



The answer? Spectacularly.

I obtained a box seat on the first level, within a stone’s throw of the stage, affording me a fantastic view of the screen, the musicians, and even the conductor’s video monitor. 

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

The video monitor was a clever idea, and one that I wish had been implemented more often in video game symphonies. I’m a long-time fan of the Distant Worlds concert, comprised of music from the Final Fantasy series, but when I saw their videos, the music seemed out of sync with the action on the screen. This small oversight did not ruin the show for me, but it certainly did suck some of the power out of the music as crescendos would reach their peak almost a second before the action on the screen could catch up. With this concert, however, visual cues were given to the conductor and a full rendering of what was happening on the screen, so she could be sure to keep the music at the same pace as the video. They synced up entirely well and did exactly what it was meant to do—reminded the audience of where they were when they first heard this music, how they felt, and brought them back to special times in their past that they shared with Link.

Eímear Noone, conductor of not only this and all other Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concerts, but also the music CD bundled with Skyward Sword, was spectacular.


Her conducting was right on point, kept pace quite well, and she managed the ensemble beautifully. However, she was not the person who really capped off the night for me. The creative director and producer for the tour, Jeron Moore, gave introductions to songs, was entertaining, and obviously knew his Zelda. (He's the one on the right)


The passion in his voice and his knowledge of the series made me feel right at home, and the show shined through as a labor of love on his part. He even mentioned taking audience feedback into account from earlier shows to put in more music, from Gerudo Fortress to Majora’s Mask. With every song introduction he did, I was reminded of myself talking about the soundtrack to the series I love so well. He made the show less of an intangible work of art and more of a love-letter from him, Eimear, and all of Nintendo to fans of the series. It was beautiful.



Three encores later, a grin had been painted on my face and it would not budge. Before making my way home, I purchased a shirt and poster to commemorate the night. Thought the shirt has not quite made it to my body, the poster now adorns my walls and adds at least 20% more class to my living space.


In short, the night was wonderful, not only because the music was well-played and arranged, but because of the people involved. The life of the show \was evident from the videos on screen to the nervous, yet charming creator on mic. I only hope they choose to do another run, this time with Skyward Sword music included.

The Legend of Zelda has burrowed deep into the hearts of gamers and there is no event that attests to this more than the concert, and this special, shared experience between the conductor, audience, and the game we love is one that I won’t soon forget.

Credit to Jeron Moore for his Instagram photos and the image from Eímear Noone's website for the image of her.

Sony Possibly Releasing Another Slim PS3?


Sony recently filed a new form factor of PS3 with the FCC. The newly discovered FCC filing suggest that the PS3 is about to get a younger brother in the form of a new SKU. To break down all the jargon and abbreviations: any time a company creates a device that has internet (pretty much any device these days) the company has to make a Stock-keeping unit and file it with the Federal Communications Comission. The SKU is a unique number that is used to identify each product for sale. Look at any Smartphone or 3DS, there will be a SKU somewhere that has a unique number, dictating which iPhone you have in comparison to all the other iPhones out there. Not too important to us, but it is a critical aspect to producing a device like a PS3. If there is a “super-slim” PS3 coming, then Gamescom this August is a likely target for the announcement. If the FFC filing is an indication, then the new console could use cheaper parts and be smaller, allowing for the price to drop a bit. I’m not sure how much it will incentivize people to buy a PS3 if they haven’t already, but go Sony for trying.

Final Fantasy 7 To Be Released on PC


 In the tradition of remakes, re-releases, and updates, Square Enix announced Final Fantasy 7 is coming to the PC. Again. After 14 years, the most popular game in the Final Fantasy franchise gets a second, proper port to the PC. The last time this happened was in 1998 and while it was a success, it did feature an unruly amount of bugs. I know I personally could not get past the Ultima Weapon cut scene and was forced to abandon my world-saving antics early.

Unfortunately, this release is not the HD remake anyone was expecting. The PC port will not feature HD graphics, changes in the backgrounds or new CG movies, but will feature uprezzed characters and monsters. Uprezzed means that Squeenix is taking a shortcut in increasing the resolution of everything to make it look nicer on an HD monitor without actually remaking the game with HD graphics.

In an odd pun, the game will feature cloud saves and an editor to maximize a characters health, magic, and money. This comes in addition to the announcement of PSOne compatibility for the Vita, allowing it to play Final Fantasy VII, Tomb Raider, and more with the 1.8 update coming soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Which is Better, 3DS or Vita?



3DS vs. Vita Infographic



Every generation, gamers are faced with a choice. This is a choice of great importance, one that determines not only how they will play games for some time. That choice is which console to purchase. Some lucky gamers get all the consoles, but for the majority, choosing which hardware to make your own is a daunting decision. So many factors go in to choosing that you could easily hurt yourself Googling.  That is why I’ve taken it upon myself to assist in answering the question “Which handheld console is right for me, the 3DS or the Vita?”

When approaching handheld gaming, I’m going to rule out smart devices since they are devices that also game, not gaming devices. For the current generation of handhelds, Nintendo and Sony are both duking it out for control over your pocket. Which deserves prime pants real estate: the 5” dual touch device packing specs that rival home consoles, or the two screen 3D wonder backed up by a bevy of classic titles and hardware backward compatibility?

Hardware 

Hardware Specs 3DS and Vita

The top screen of the 3DS is slightly larger than the previous generation and has a higher DPI count. This makes 3DS games look much higher definition than the previous models, but the odd ratio also makes upscaling DS games look worse. Playing a DS game on a 3DS after using a DSi or DS Lite even is like having someone rub their grubby fingers on your glasses.  There’s a way to display the game in its native resolution, but then it only takes up a small portion of the whole screen, and why would I settle for less screen real estate? The poor upscale quality and Pictochat are the reason I still bring my DS to large get-togethers.

The top screen on then 3DS also does stereoscopic 3D, effectively delivering the 3D from the console name. Seeing this in person is phenomenal… when it works. Nintendo includes a 3D strength slider to adjust for people holding the screen at different distances, or not being able to comfortably see 3D in full strength. For the most part, everyone who I have talked to uses the 3D function for a few seconds with a new game just to see what it does, and then promptly turns it off. The main reason is because of headaches, and this is something Nintendo warns about with the console. So without the 3D, we really just have a higher resolution DS, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I only wish the upscaling of DS games was not so awful.

On the other hand, the Vita has a 5” touch screen with 2:1 higher resolution than the PSP. This allows for much easier, cleaner looking upscaling than on the 3DS. The higher resolution screen is definitely taken advantage of by the beefier processor and GPU. The quad core processor and GPU mean that the Vita can display games that look very nearly like they came from a console. The screen is also touch enabled, which allows for more intuitive controls of not only the Vita OS, but in some games. The only place the hardware went wrong was in its inclusion of proprietary memory and the rear touch pad.

The 3DS includes an SD card slot to expand the memory and those are dirt cheap these days. The Vita, on the other hand, has proprietary memory for the Vita and you’re looking to pay 3x more for the same amount of memory.  I foolishly believed they had learned their lesson with the failure of both UMDs and Memory Stick Pro Duos with the PSP, but I suppose Bluray’s victory over HD-DVD bolstered their proprietary argument. The rear touchpad is also a bit of a sore spot for me, though I haven’t decided if it’s a hardware or software problem. For example, In Uncharted: Golden Abyss, you throw grenades by hitting the back touchpad and maybe I have monster hands, but I was throwing more ‘nades than Cave Johnson in a lemon factory. Either the touchpad needs to be smaller, or the software needs to have a fix.

The Vita also features a 3G data connection option, though it is not used for all data transfer. The prospect of gaming truly on the go and from virtually anywhere is exciting, but is a feature that’s sadly not enabled at this time. Perhaps sometime in the future, though even if it were, the $15/month price tag on 250MB of data would be enough to make me think twice about using it.
Also, Nintendo sells a second circle pad for the 3DS as an accessory that not only needs its own battery, but communicates via the IR port. It makes the console fit better in your hand — and believe me, the 3DS needs that — but it just seems silly, especially when they didn’t include that in the XL version.

Playstation Vita Winner


Software

Apps for 3DS and Vita

So what about the software available for each of these consoles? Not the games, we’ll get to those in a second, but the other stuff. Nintendo seems to be taking its commitment to gaming seriously, as it offers very little in the way of third party apps. Nintendo Video provides a seemingly random selection of music videos, original shorts, and trailers for games. I’m personally not enticed by any of these offerings, but seeing the Captain America trailer in 3D was neat. The 3DS now features Netflix, with Hulu Plus coming soon, with the promise of 3D videos coming to the 3DS, something the Vita can’t do.

What the Vita can do, however, is integrate into your social networks better. It offers foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Flickr integration in addition to Netflix, Hulu plus, Crackle, and Youtube for video. You can also play movies you’ve put on your Vita memory card, something the 3DS still doesn’t have. The inclusion of YouTube is one of the most exciting features, because now I can pause a game, YouTube a tutorial, and flip back to the game without ever having to pull out my smartphone. It also features access to Music Unlimited to purchase songs, in addition to playing MP3s you’ve loaded onto the device. Now why would you care about all of these extra things that you know your smartphone can do today? To be honest, I’m not sure, since most people have smart devices, though these features could be invaluable for those that do not. Being able to say you can do these things is one thing, but I’ve yet to see someone using their Vita to do all of the things it can do, perhaps because smartphones can do them faster, are more connected, and have longer battery life. If you don’t have a smartphone, however, the Vita is a godsend.

I’d like to give Nintendo credit for sticking to games, but if you’re really looking for extra software, the Vita has you covered for almost any need.

Playstation Vita Winner

Games

Popular Games 3DS and Vita


This is arguably the most important category. A console can be the most powerful, user friendly, full featured contender in the race, but with no games to back it up, it is doomed to fail. Just ask the Dreamcast.

The 3DS has been out over a year now, and has had time to accrue some great titles, most notably of which are Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land. Both titles were developed with the 3DS in mind, integrating not only the 3D display, but the gyroscope and accelerometer as well. In addition, Resident Evil Revelations takes hardcore gaming to the 3DS in a big way, being lauded as the best portable Resident Evil yet. Rounding out its list of great new titles is Kid Icarus Uprising, a revival of a very old, classic series from my childhood in a radically different way. All of these titles use the hardware well and look great doing it.

Not to be outdone, the Vita features Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a full-fledged Uncharted game that cuts no corners and delivers a comparable experience to the one found on the home console. Nathan Drake moves just as well as he has on the PS3, though that back touchpad wastes grenades if your fingers stray too far. The hands-down best Vita title yet is Gravity Rush. This new IP is one that will be around for some time, featuring an interesting art direction, innovative gameplay, and environments far larger than should be possible on a handheld title.  For lovers of classic PSP titles, a new Lumines game is out and it looks prettier than ever before.

Popular Ports 3DS and Vita

At launch, and throughout each of these consoles’ respective lives, ports or remakes are bound to come up to push hardware sales and garner interest. This generation is no exception. The 3DS came out of the corner swinging with Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a graphically updated of one of the most beloved Zelda games of all time. I’d be willing to bet more than a few people bought a 3DS specifically for this title. Super Street Fighter IV also made the cut and feels almost identical to the console version. The lack of a second stick meant almost nothing in a 3D fighter that’s bound to a solid line, but it certainly does in Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater. Just like Metal Gear titles on the PSP, not having a second thumb stick really cripples Snake’s agility as the player is scrambling to remember exactly what buttons do what.

The Vita’s ports feature Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, and all of the games included look and play spectacularly.  Including not one, but three games on the cartridge sells this game about at well as the gameplay does. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is about the same as Super Street Fighter IV—nothing really new, but a comparable experience to consoles. And Mortal Kombat has roughly the same story. Eventually, ports are going to be more common, as the Vita is toted to be a platform that can receive PS3 code with minimal changes, but as of now, pickings are slim.

Both consoles also feature some form of backward compatibility, although Vita's is certainly more disappointing.  It's compatible with PSP and PSOne games, but only when downloaded from PSN, so if you bought UMDs for your PSP, you cannot transfer those games. The PSOne capability is also an upcoming, promised feature that has not quite made it to the handheld. The 3DS offers direct hardware backward compatibility, though it has the issues mentioned earlier. Though GBA games are listed, only ambassadors (early adopters of the console before the price drop) have access to those games at this time.

The real deciding factor for games on these consoles comes down to two questions: How much do you love Nintendo IP, and what kind of gamer are you? Nintendo and Sony aim at two different markets—family/kids and teen/adults respectively—and it shows in their games lineup. Only one 3DS game is markedly violent, as opposed to the Vita’s lineup. If you’re looking for more adult games, you’re more likely to find your cup of tea on Sony’s platform. That being said, Nintendo pushes its core IPs quite hard in both handhelds and consoles (notice how Mario and Zelda are the top 3 games?). Though that may mark a lack of originality to some, the games still sell and are beloved by quite a large number of people, myself included. Zelda, Mario, Samus, and the lot all hold a connection with me, and it’s one that’s quite powerful.

Even taking those IPs away, the 3DS still holds dominance over Vita in the amount of games it offers. Perhaps the story will be different next year, but as of right now, the 3DS is winning this category.

Nintendo 3DS Winner

Sales

Console Sales 3DS and Vita

I don’t really need to say much about this data, other than we’re seeing now what we saw in the last generation—a clear lead by Nintendo. Not only does this mean that the 3DS is more popular, but it also means that the online community will be larger. The implications of this are far reaching, as I’m sure Vita has people using it, but I can’t seem to find anyone when I’m looking for people online.
To be fair, this data is skewed, as the 3DS has been out quite a bit longer than the Vita. Perhaps a more meaningful dataset would be their respective launch sales:

Launch Units 3DS and Vita
 
And here again, we see Nintendo leading the pack, and this was before the price drop to $169.99. Each console had arguably lackluster games on launch day, so why did Nintendo beat Sony?
I’d say this probably has to do with the poor performance of the PSP. For far too long did PSP owners like myself say “Just wait, in a few more years, we’ll have some great games from great developers.” And so we waited. And waited. And waited. And then the Vita came out and some of us said “Not again.” This position is completely understandable, and Sony has something to prove with its latest hardware. Nintendo has great first party support and decent third party support. Sony needs to show its commitment to its handheld games by introducing some great, worthwhile titles. Games like Uncharted and Gravity Rush are a start, but they’ll need more than two to convince someone to make the investment.

Numbers don’t lie. 3DS wins this one.

Nintendo 3DS Winner

Connectivity
The 3DS has the same problem that DS had—friend codes. They’ve gotten better over the years, but I still fail to see why I can’t just have a username and give people that. It’s silly. The Vita, on the other hand, is connected to PSN, which has a large built-in infrastructure and a community to go with it. The only downside is that Nintendo’s multiplayer community was never hacked and Sony is still reeling from the blow that hacktivists dealt two years ago.

The other side of this is how the handhelds connect to other devices. The 3DS should connect to the Wii U, and feature cross platform gaming, though no specific examples have been given yet. The prospect of being able to get a new experience with my handheld while someone plays on the console are wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what they do. The other side of this is the Vita’s connectivity to the PS3. It can turn the PS3 on, stream media, and turn it off. There’s also already two or three announced titles that support cloud saves and game transfers seamlessly between the PS3 and the Vita, allowing you to literally take the game with you anywhere you go. The same game, just on two different platforms that talk with one another. They even demoed Playstation All Stars Battle Royale playing 2 people on PS3 and 2 people on Vitas connected to the PS3. If they are already this far along, it’s going to be exciting seeing how far Sony and the developers will push it.

Both promise console connectivity, but Sony is more concrete about its plans and has shown off what it can do and how already. Sony wins this one.

Playstation Vita Winner




Verdict: Long story short, handheld gaming is about playing games, not listening to music, streaming video, or updating your statuses. It’s also not about which console induces the most TechnoLust. What’s the point of stellar hardware if there are so few titles to enjoy? It’s that reason why I’m declaring the Nintendo 3DS the recommended console for this year. Playstation Vita has so much potential, but too much potential, too little action is what killed the PSP, and I know myself and others are nervous about that happening again. The 3DS offers a decent library, is natively backward compatible (though at a cost), and costs less than a Vita. Until Sony and other developers show off what the Vita can do and why it’s worth the extra money, Nintendo is King of the Pockets yet again.

Nintendo 3DS Winner
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