I will try make this as short and to the point as possible, so please understand.
Mr. Iwata's passing came as a shock to many of us who play, follow, and live video games. I had known about the health issues he has had for the past year, but I had always thought he would bounce back and keep reigning over the Nintendo faithful for many more years. Sadly, I will never get to see Iwata's legacy continue into the next decade or beyond because he was one of the most important influences in my life as a fellow Nintendo fan and gamer. And it's only been in the past 5 or so years that I've come to acknowledge his influence on the video games I had played, even before I knew who he was back in his programming days.
The first game I can recall playing that Iwata had been an integral part of was Kirby's Adventure. I was one of the few kids who stuck with the NES because my parents weren't willing to buy me a SNES because... well consoles cost money. So I still had my NES and one of the last games I bought for the system was Kirby's Adventure, still one of my favorite games for that system. Despite being an 8-bit game that look more dated compared to its 16-bit counterparts, it managed to squeeze every bit of power the NES had. Finally in '94, I get my very own SNES and stock up on the classics like Super Mario World and Super Metroid, but if not for Iwata, I doubt I would be the Earthbound fan I am today. The story of him saving the game from development hell sounds more like an urban folktale, yet that was the reality. I had known he worked on Earthbound after going back last year and playing it through to the end and seeing his name in the credits. I may have never noticed that before until now... often I forget the names of the people who work on the games I enjoy, but that particular moment, the Iwata name jumped out at me, but only knew why just after his death. In fact, many of the stories and quotes coming out the past day or two were unknown to me until now. It makes his legacy even more grand knowing that he was also a programming genius and not just the leader of a multi-billion dollar company. Earthbound holds a special place in my heart and I thank Mr. Iwata for making sure that people like me were able to experience such a wonderful game.
The Satoru Iwata I've seen in recent years was the Iwata I am most familiar with now. Iwata the programmer was sort of forgotten because I never really got to see it as it happened. Iwata the president and CEO was what I saw and that's possibly where I got to see Iwata at his greatest. The title of CEO carries around a certain stigma, but in Iwata's case, the way he presented himself, his ability to connect to fans, and his sense of humor all resonated with myself and others. He was the one of the few CEO's I could trust to make sure the games I played were fun because he was so open to the nature of game development and what his goals were for those games. He was able to sell me on the Wii, the console that brought me back to video games after a seemingly dry period for me, and Iwata deserves credit for that. And although the 3DS isn't considered to be a huge success by Nintendo handheld standards, it became my first ever handheld system I owned and the games made under Iwata's watch is why I own one. And I own a damn amiibo! I forgive Mr. Iwata for amiibos.
So as I look at the numerous pieces of fan art and Miiverse posts in memory of Iwata-San, I wonder what Nintendo's future holds. Games like Super Mario Maker and the next Zelda game will be just some of the final games Iwata would have at least made a small impact on. I'm not sure how Nintendo as a company will continue on without him, but I like to believe there is another budding programmer over the horizon waiting for his or her chance to follow in Iwata's footsteps. With Nintendo's future uncertain as NX edges closer to unveiling and mobile games beginning to take shape, I can at least appreciate Nintendo's past endeavors for providing me with some of the most fun I've ever had, gaming or otherwise. And it was Mr. Iwata that made that a reality for the past 20-plus years. I wished there was another 20 years of Nintendo Directs with Mr. Iwata speaking directly to us along with Miyamoto and Reggie, but for the time being, one piece of the Triforce has broken off and been taken from us.
My condolences to the Iwata family, his friends, and the entire Nintendo family. I will miss him dearly, but when my time is up, I'd love to just play a few minutes of Balloon Fight with him in the next life, just so I can thank him in person.
PAX East is over. Long over. It's been almost two weeks, Dalai! Why so late? Well concerned reader, it's not important. What's important is the here and now and now I am ready to talk about the exploits I had in Boston. PAX East 2015 was my third PAX East which makes me a certified veteran of the Boston video game convention scene... sort of. No PAX is ever the same and this year was no different. I met some new faces, played some interesting games, and even found a way to leave Boston free from illness and chapped lips despite the Boston cold lingering for much of the event. Well... staying in the hotel connected to the convention center certainly helped. Anyway, here's what I learned from PAX East 2K15.
By the way, blame Cities: Skylines for the delay. Being a mayor can be quite demanding.
PAX is still about the people... and the games... and the panels.
Let's face it. PAX is a great event, but ultimately the games and meeting your favorite internet personalities are not quite as important as getting to hang out with friends you might see only once or twice a year. For one weekend, my Twitter friends become real life friends, and that's pretty cool. More on that later, though.
Now the panels. Giant Bomb, PAXAMANIA, you can see them online. Form your own opinions if you haven't already. I will say that Giant Bomb and the supporting cast of miscreants continue to make me laugh each and every panel. They do good work, they truly do. The Bunch of Dads panel was hilarious and informative, even for someone like me who is not a dad nor is becoming one anytime soon. However, I would take Will Smith's daughter for a day because she is so damn adorable.
And finally the games. I managed to play more games this year than possibly the last two PAXes combined, somehow. Games like Splatoon and Overwatch had ridiculous long lines and although I really wanted to check them out, I'm on a schedule. Smaller games got my attention like Thumper (stick it in my veins good), Catlateral Damage (feline silliness good), Amplitude (a shame it's not coming to PC good), Moon Hunters (wish I learned about the game earlier good), Capsule Force (Not quite Divekick good, but still good), Move or Die (didn't feel like dying good), Dreadnought (too sluggish for me, but it looked good good), and my game of the show, Axiom Verge (Super Metroid good.) The two games that didn't click with me were Sentris and Codename: S.T.E.A.M., the former I couldn't grasp the concept because I'm an idiot, the latter being the kind of game I would likely get bored with after five minutes. If there were any other games I forgot to mention, it was probably forgettable or I didn't actually play it.
The PAX traditions.
Now that I'm on my Xrd PAX East, I've tried to make room for stuff I did in previous years. The Giant Bomb panel is tradition by default, but I have formed a few traditions I would like to keep. Like my Boston burger tradition, for example. Every year, my first Boston meal has to be a burger. A gigantic cheeseburger from Eagles Deli in '13, a pizza burger called the Minecraft at Mr. Bartley's in '14, and this year the Mac Attack at the Boston Burger Company. I mean, Guy Fieri had that burger and he's... uhh... I'll just leave it at that. So if Dan is reading this, mac & cheese on a pizza is fine, but amazing on a burger.
I guess another tradition is forming among the community of duders I'm around the Thursday before. It involves average Tex-Mex food and a dive bar in Cambridge and honestly, I'm perfectly fine with that. Unfortunately some traditions had to die like my annual Divekick match. That damn game made an appearance for some reason, but never got around to losing to some punk kid. I also skipped the Cards Against Humanity panel, even though it's always fun to attend.
So if you're planning on becoming an annual Pax goer, form some kind of tradition of your own, doesn't matter what it is. Whether it's going to Quincy Market or staying a night in the Boston drunk tank, keep your traditions alive.
The PAX chill.
If you live in the northeastern part of the United States, you understand that March is a funny month weather-wise. One day it's bitterly cold, the next day close to t-shirt weather. Snow is not unusual, but the Boston snow was a sight to behold. Yes, much of downtown was free of the mess, but venture out into the less traveled areas and you understand why New Englanders bitched about the snow for two months straight. The stories about Bostonians leaving chairs to keep their parking spots are real. I saw that shit with my own eyes. Boston parking sucks on any other day, but that record-breaking snow didn't do me any favors. Luckily, next year's PAX East is scheduled for mid-late April so I can forgo the winter coat and this year's snow piles should be melted by then.
I guess I should be grateful I snagged a room right by the convention center so I avoided the cold more often than most... with the exception of the Saturday night Harmonix hike. That was a chilly walk, but I got to see someone get their phone slapped out of their hand.
The PAX cuisine.
Yeah, more food bullshit. Burgers and fake Mexican food aside, there was one other meal which has eluded me the past two years. The locals call them steak tips. Some refer to them as tiyups (spelling varies depending on excitement.) Never had them until this year. Long story short, Boston needs to advertise steak tips more often in travel brochures because they're excellent. So thanks to the Silvertone Bar & Grill for the best (and only) steak tips I've ever tasted. And as @aurahack, friend of aurahack, and I were finishing off our tips, collusion was happening nearby as a gathering of various elements of Giant Bomb and Harmonix sat down for I would assume steak tips. Aside from some mild gawking, we kept our distance knowing we'll have time to see them during the show.
And boy did I need those tips because it's difficult to find time to eat during the show. Convention center nachos can only fuel me for so long and the Hot Pocket food truck looked incredibly shady.
Even the garbage served at the Harmonix party didn't satisfy my hunger. So if you're counting, Harmonix has a 1-1 record.
The PAX head.
Last year was the inaugural PAX fake video game wrestling panel starring several gaming developers, journalists, and personalities all in one gloriously dumb package. That year, nobody knew what to expect and maybe half the room was full. This year, I knew word has spread on how wonderfully dumb this spectacle was in the past and I had to do something special. Friends of mine made signs. Really good, professional looking signs. My creation, however, was a tad different. Since I have few art skills left and I'm not exactly creative when it comes to sign making, I went a different route, the extra mile if you will.
If you saw a three foot tall cardboard head of Dave Lang looming above on PAX Sunday, that's all my doing. Apologies to @jadegl for having to sit next to this head of human garbage. That big, dumb head got a hell of a lot of attention, but being the only giant head in attendance, I guess I should have expected that.
Even John Drake took a selfie with myself and the head! That reminds me, I need to get that picture from him.
Anyway, the head served its purpose delighting a handful of people and disgusting hundreds of others. So what to do with the head Jeff called "a fucking nightmare." Well, I gave it a good home in the end.
Sadly, the whereabouts of the massive piece of cardboard are unknown to me. Perhaps Lang placed it on the ceiling of his bedroom or it's making @epicsteve reconsider his employment situation. Wherever it is, I'm glad to see that hunk of cardboard bring so much joy and bewilderment to the PAXAMANIA fans, even though the appearance of Swery and Sharapova was way more impactful and cooler.
The PAX weird.
Let's face it, parts of PAX are strange. I've seen businessmen and women coexisting with nerds in the Westin hotel lobby. I've seen the same guy cosplaying as Waluigi last year... cosplaying as Waluigi. I had a walking plant run into me from behind. I witnessed shitty singing at the Hard Rock Cafe and @Trace reacting in horror to said singers. I saw Cyclops StreetPassing. And this.
Don't change a thing. Can't have everybody walking around in normal shit like me.
The PAX conclusion.
All things must come to an end, including this blog. It sounds cliche, but these memories will stick with me for a long time. Getting to share a room with @aurahack, @chaser324, and @smashecontrollers was a blast. Getting to share a hug with @sparklykiss is always welcome. Even getting to talk about games to complete strangers is nice. I love having to opportunity to chat with the likes of Brad and Vinny and the Will Smith family clan. I still end up with some regrets. There were games I never got a chance to try. I didn't get to explore Boston much this year, but the snow can be a hindrance. I really wish I had working Nintendo 64 controllers because while my N64 and WWF Wrestlemania 2000 worked on the hotel TV, my controllers have seen better days. Regardless of those minor problems, PAX East was a huge success. Recommend it to your friends and coworkers.
I think I'm a bit late, but how about that PAX East last week, guys? Oh yes, it's all behind us now, but I wanted to write something about my experience as one of the many who represented Giant Bomb and as a repeat PAX East offender. See, this was my 2nd PAX event and with the extra bit of experience I managed to organize my adventures a little better and not get completely engulfed in the craziness of PAX and Boston in general. Still, I learned a great many things on this trip and I, well... let's list them right now in some random order.
PAX is not just about the games, silly! It's about the people!
Coming into PAX East last year, I wasn't sure what to expect to be perfectly honest. I came into the whole trip blindly and thinking maybe I would mostly go it alone the whole time. By the time the show ended, I met several new duders and had an amazing experience even outside the confines of the convention. This year was no different and met with many of those same people from last year as well as some fresh faces. It's still a bit weird to try to match actual faces and names to avatars, but now I didn't quite have that same awkward feeling I had last year when I felt like the new kid in town. There were awkward feelings, but that's only because I can be awkward on occasion.
So my word of advice: don't ever go it alone. Share a room with someone you trust (thanks to @epicsteve and @natetodamax for the bed and the cheap room rate) and be on the lookout for our kind. The Giant Bomb presence is quite large and easy to find, especially when wearing a @fobwashed brand T-shirt. Unlike many of the people who gather in the forums and chat, we don't bite. Actually some of us hug because we all carry the PAX pox so who cares, right? And if you're truly lucky, you might even get to play a Bomberman cloneor two. So in conclusion, yeah we're all pretty awesome.
PAX still has games, silly!
This year's crop of games at PAX East was a bit disappointing compared to last year, however there were a number of great titles I found and tried for myself that could eventually be in my Steam catalog. I'll start with Divekick because that was the clear favorite of PAX East 2013 and made its return this year with more Gat. Unfortunately, I only found time for a single match where I got to see both Johnny Gat and the new Baz. And after my 0-4 run last year, I'm happy to announce I had a perfect 1-0 record this year. Now I can retire from Divekick to pursue other interests like Roundabout, my "Game of the Show?" It's a puzzle game where you play as a constantly rotating limousine and you pick up passengers and some FMV happens. It's deliberately awful and it's kinda beautiful? I had so much fun exploding a lot and I'm almost positive I'll be getting my hands on that game when it's released. As for a runner-up, there's Broforce. It's available on Steam via early access so if you love America and blowing shit up as the greatest bros in history, do they have a game for you. Most of the games I played were pretty solid like Shovel Knight, Westerado, Galak-Z, and others. There were others I couldn't get to try, but looked very promising such as Below, Mushroom 11, Hyper Light Drifter, Sportsfriends, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and more. All of those games are small, indie titles. No big AAA bullshit this time around. I'm sure Evolve is going to be fine and I'll buy the Borderlands Pre-Sequel thing, but it's more Borderlands. I don't need to watch some demo to know how Borderlands works.
PAX is also about the silly panels, silly!
I probably don't need to go too deep into the discussion about the panels since the important ones are available on this site and the internet at large, but seeing your favorite internet celebrities from the gaming world never gets old. Awkward at times, yes, but never old. This year was especially weird since I was able to get both great seats and in the case of the Giant Bomb panel, VIP treatment. The panels speak for themselves, expect maybe the Royal Rumble which I... I can't believe that happened, honestly. That panel also hit my nostalgic nerve center since Wrestlemania 2000 was my only wrestling game purchase ever, back in the day when I still gave a shit about the spectacle.
One of the best parts of PAX has to be the interaction between the speakers and the crowd, especially after the panels. I mean, how often does a commoner like myself get to talk about games with the likes of Rich Gallup and Danny O'Dwyer? When will I ever get a chance to meet Dr. Tracksuit in person? Watching from afar on the internet is fine, but meeting these guys in person is on another level.
I need to see more of Boston.
This PAX trip felt more PAX oriented than last year. My time spent in the city seemed more limited and I didn't get to see everything I wanted while in town. Part of that is due to the fact I arrived on Thursday and had to leave Sunday afternoon leaving maybe a day's worth of non-PAX related sightseeing to do. Also, I had to save my energy for PAX since I started my trip early on Tuesday with a stop at the Baseball Hall of Fame in New York and a brief stay in New Hampshire, a state I may end up moving to in the near future, but that's for another day.
Anyway, Boston is an lovely city just to walk around and get lost in. And getting lost in Boston is easy to do without some form of GPS. I spent a fair amount of time outside of PAX just enjoying the city, the gorgeous weather, the insane crowds in Quincy Market. Seriously, that place was full of people who probably haven't seen or felt a warm climate in ages. And as a wannabe foodie, Boston is one of the best cities to just pig out. I guess I'm starting a new tradition where my first meal in Boston is a burger and fries and in true video game fashion, I ordered a burger called "The Minecraft." That pizza burger was pretty awesome so thanks to Mr. Bartley's in Cambridge for building (ugh... sorry about that) my burger.
So, I think next year might be the year I decide to add a few days to the itinerary and not try to cram everything in a few short days since there's so much of the city I have yet to see.
Bring less booze! I have a massive surplus.
So New Hampshire has tax-free liquor and I stocked up because fuck "the man." I bought a decent cache of booze while in the Granite State and combined with the significant amount of beer I brought from home, I had a small saloon in the back of my car. Most of the beer never left the car and the vast majority of booze came home with me, including a small bottle of maple-flavored whiskey which turned out to be fairly decent. The Kessler, however, was kind of like our very own Kessler: quite harsh at first, but maybe you get used to it over time, and perhaps you might even learn to love it. So if anybody wants to visit me, I've got some Yuengling and several bottles of various spirits. Speaking of Yuengling, they were competing hard against Wildstar in terms of advertising in Boston which completely threw me off because I expect Sam Adams to dominate in that field. It's like I never left Pennsylvania.
Pwnmeal is probably not food.
Cards Against Humanity tricked many a PAX goer with their Pwnmeal campaign, an elaborate ruse of which may never be seen... until next PAX. Or maybe Pwnmeal will become an actual product someday. All I know is I didn't die from the small amount of raw oats I consumed and the cards inside the packet likely tasted the same as the oats. It was still more believable than the Newegg bullshit being fed to us.
StreetPassing like a mad man!
If anybody spotted a Gil from Pennsylvania in your StreetPass travels in Boston, hello! I finally found a venue where my 3DS can be put to the test and all the StreetPassing was a great way to pass the time while in line for the numerous panels. Thanks, Nintendo. Now maybe show up for PAX next time.
Finally, PAX might become an annual thing for me.
Coming into PAX East last year, I didn't expect to return this year. I completely expected that trip to be a one-time thing, but it's almost like a drug. It's something that you can get hooked on the first time and I don't plan on skipping it next year. It's going to be an early PAX East next year, a potentially bitterly cold one at that, but I'm planning on being in Boston freezing my lips off. To the scores of duders I met last week, thanks for joining the conversation and maybe I'll see you next time! As for now, there's always the internet. I'll be on that shitshow until then.
People love to shit on Nintendo for using nostalgia to prop up their games, but I love when Nintendo adds those Easter eggs to their core games. It's a reminder that my childhood was awesome and maybe better than yours. So when Nintendo unveiled a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the world split into two camps. One group criticized Nintendo for making a nostalgic cash grab. The other group was drooling in amazement. I mean, can a game set literally in the same world as its 20 year old predecessor work in the present day? According to Gamespot and one Vinny Caravella, absolutely. A Link Between Worlds uses that classic world to its advantage. I love how nearly everything is right where it was 20 years ago, yet the subtle differences work so well it feels fresh and new. Even in a game where the entire world is a giant A Link to the Past Easter egg, they find a way to throw in references to other games like Majora's Mask and Skyward Sword.
Also A Link Between Worlds wins the Game To Convince Me to Buy a 3DS Award. Thanks for the hole in my wallet, nostalgia.
Speaking of nostalgia, here's the king of nostalgia himself, Mario.
I think even the most die-hard Nintendo fan can see the Wii U hasn't lived up to its potential yet. That doesn't mean the fledgling console is void of good games because as long as Nintendo makes games for it, the Wii U will have great games. Take Super Mario 3D World, for instance. It's not quite the second coming of Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario 64 or Super Mario World depending on what you played when you were 11, but 3D World is pure magic in motion that never likes doing the same tricks over and over again. Mario has some new powers like illegal human cloning and being a cat and yes, the cat suit is quite prominent and often vital to finding many of the stars and stamps. The cat suit is destined to become a classic in its own right, but Super Mario 3D World also loves its one-off concepts like Kuribo's "motherfucking" Skate! Nostalgia with a twist! Perhaps the best part of 3D World is that Mario can be dragged to the sidelines for the awkward Luigi (it is his year you know), Peach (clearly the best choice) or Toad if you wanna be that guy. So yes, it's like Doki Doki... I mean Super Mario Bros. 2 in that fashion. If Mario bores you, you can mix things up.
Super Mario 3D World gets the win here because it's the same wonderful 3D Mario experience while blending parts that make the 2D games great. It's that one game that Wii U owners have every right to brag about.
The SimCity I was introduced to during E3 2012 looked like the SimCity I had been dreaming of for 20 years. Curved roads, 3D, online regions, this game could have had it all. I rode that hype train for months all the way until March when that train suddenly lost its brakes, derailed, caught on fire and crashed into an elementary school full of children. I was willing to forgive EA and Maxis for forcing me to be connected online at all times since my internet rarely goes out, but when the server side is swamped with a million people trying to walk through a single door, I was pissed as was you were probably... unless you don't own SimCity, then lucky you! So a week passes and tensions are high amongst the SimCity community, but they got their servers in order and things were normal. Except for the lack of key features like cheetah speed and achievements. At some point, EA and Maxis had to apologize for underestimating demand and releasing SimCity with servers at less than adequate capacity. At least I got a free copy of one of the Dead Space games, whichever one it was.
So after all the troubles and tribulations of the launch, we all found out that SimCity was actually pretty mediocre. I understand Maxis had a vision of a SimCity with more social interaction and cooperative play which makes a ton of sense if SimCity were structured better. City plots are unbelievably small and fill up way too quickly. Key components to city building like highways are nowhere to be found. The traffic system was horribly flawed. The mining of resources and trading with other cities sounds neat on paper, but never worked all that well in practice. The list goes on and on and on. I really wanted to justify my $80 pre-order and played a decent amount of SimCity finding some sense of enjoyment whenever I can. Sadly, all I have to show for it are some cities that haven't been touched in months and one game in my Origin account that I completely forgotten about.
I remember now. It was Dead Space 3. Fucking hell, EA!
It all started with a package to an address located on a mysterious highway in the middle of Kentucky, but I am not sure how it finishes yet. Nobody does. Five episodes were promised, but only two have been released, the last one way back in May. Back to the plot, it's basically a story about a man and his dog as they try to find this place on Kentucky Route Zero and... adventures. I'd rather not spoil anything, but let's just say its style of writing is damn near poetic and quirky enough to where I couldn't put the game down. Well... is it a game again? I had this issue with Gone Home and Proteus in Dalai's 2013 VGXTs: Episode 1 so the hypocrisy could possibly ring true except the other parts around the game are phenomenal. Those surreal parts where the camera zooms in breaking apart the scene with such brilliant artistry to show something even more haunting and beautiful, the bits of bluegrass which made me stop and contemplate about the travels ahead, the weird bits of humor scattered across the countryside, all those components and more made me appreciate games more as a work of art than ever before.
Bioshock Infinite felt much more like an event than just a game during the first few weeks it was released. I was fresh off my PAX East trip and was going to jump right into Bioshock Infinite since SimCity was a total bummer and I had a feeling Infinite was going to be something special. About two weeks after launch, I finished the game along with thousands of others and like those thousands of others, I had to talk about the ending, ask questions about the ending, read about how it was the best conclusion to a video game ever or in the rare case, an underwhelming ending with a cheap excuse for the reason this world existed. This game was hailed as a lock for Game of the Year prematurely, but also for good reason. No other game was discussed in detail and to death this year like Bioshock Infinite. Weeks and months passed and all of a sudden everybody seems to be on this Bioshock hate train. The Monday morning quarterbacking continues today with even more vigor and more barbs thrown at the game for almost cheating the system by using the multiverse and time-travel tropes to fill in the plot holes. People bitched about the politics, why the racism angle wasn't explored deeper or why the Vox Populi had to be these asshole murderers who burned everything to the ground or why that whole conflict was eventually turned into background noise in favor of this Booker = Comstock narrative or... I need to stop before my head explodes. Seriously, who the fuck cares? The game was awesome!
Bioshock Infinite is a spectacular roller coaster ride of action and exposition that surpasses the original Bioshock in so many ways. The combat is fun, especially when you start experimenting with the vigors. There are several memorable characters you meet, kill, and follow you around. The use of music is original and inventive. There are countless moments where my jaw figuratively dropped like when Elizabeth creates a rip to reveal 1980s Paris in all its Tears for Fears glory, or when the millions of lighthouses were shown to Booker's amazement, or the death of Songbird in Rapture of all places. It's an extraordinary world that looks great, plays great, and tells a story I'll remember for years to come.
And for the record, Back to the Future II is a kick-ass movie.
Let's end this awards show with a big bang, not a shitty concert. I've been expanding my horizons over the past several years trying out games in genres that are out of my comfort zone like the occasional JRPG and first-person shooter. I've loved games across a wide spectrum of styles and tastes, but for me there's nothing like a platformer that reminds me of my gaming beginnings. That's where Super Mario Galaxy comes in. Giant Bomb's own Alex Navarro said that Super Mario 3D World is what he imagined a Mario game would look like when he was a young lad, but Super Mario Galaxy was how I imagined a future Mario would play like back when I was a young lad. Super Mario Galaxy was the most fun I've had with a game since I was, well, a young lad. Each level is crafted to be pure fun without any filler or unnecessary bullshit difficulty. The controls were precise and felt natural making great use of the Wii tech, possibly some of the best use of the Wii Remote ever. It even looked great, but I had the advantage of having a standard definition TV at the time, but holy crap it looks so colorful and pretty even today. And if you finished the game, you got to see one of the most surreal endings Nintendo has ever made. Super Mario Galaxy was that rare game that brightened up this dreary, brown generation and made me grin from ear to ear like no other game can and that's why Super Mario Galaxy is my Game of the Generation.
And that's it for this, the Year of Luigi and oh fuck.
I could say that The Stanley Parable is the Duck Amuck of video games, but it's the player that seems to have full control, not the creator. For my first run through, I went the straight path the narrator wanted me to go, no deviations, nothing out of the ordinary. That's fine and all, but the fun in this game is finding new ways to mess with what could be the best narrator in a video game ever. The narrator is really the centerpiece of this... well, I guess it's a game. It's genuinely funny and also points out and openly mocks some of the common tropes we see in video games on a daily basis. Good job, The Stanley Parable. Everyone thinks you are very funny.
Brothers is in my personal top 10 despite only buying it yesterday and I had to scramble to find a suitable award for Brothers. Sure, the style is beautiful and I can't resist the urge to sit on every bench I stumble upon, but there are a few other games with better graphics. I'd give it a award for Best Video Game Moment, but I haven't gotten into the good parts yet. So I made up a bullshit award devoted to the game's most unique mechanic. The concept of controlling two people with both analog sticks has been done and in Brothers it works very well even if it can get confusing sometimes. I will continue to play Brothers the remaining of the year and from what I played is just lovely so I had to mention it in some way.
A lot of love and attention was put into The Swapper judging by the game's visuals. I believe every object in the game was crafted by clay and everyday objects which gives The Swapper a distinct look that works wonderfully. There's a sense of loneliness and hopelessness wandering around this abandoned space station traversing through dimly lit corridors, wide expanses of space and eerie sounds rarely duplicated in other games. The Swapper is what I'd imagine a modern, dark 2D Metroid game would look and sound like. And if atmosphere is not a big deal to you, there's an excellent puzzle game thrown in here which makes you feel smart every time you complete one.
I should play more Gunpoint. Sometimes adulthood and video games don't mix and I have to make due with the free time I have. There are a number of 2013 games I need to finish like Mario, Zelda, Brothers, the list goes on. At least I played those games long enough to form an opinion on them. Gunpoint, not quite yet. I'm only about 40 minutes in and I enjoy the whole idea of planning my missions, stealthily moving my way into buildings and crashing through windows before escaping with the goods. It's a fine game and I hope to find time to complete Gunpoint because my backlog is large enough already.
I think Dota 2 might be the most polarizing game on Giant Bomb. Some people swear by the MOBA, others won't touch it with a ten-foot pole. I have done an excellent job not playing any Dota 2 although the temptation was there. Many of my Twitter/Giant Bomb friends are very active Dota 2 players. Brad "Bad at Games" Shoemaker is the official Giant Bomb spokesperson for Dota 2. I even watched bits of The International this summer just for the hell of it. Dota 2 was gifted to me. There is a llama courier which I would buy in an instant. DOTA 2 IS INSTALLED ON MY FUCKING PC!
My family tree in Rogue Legacy is soaked in blood and I couldn't be happier.
Rogue Legacy is a fairly unforgiving side-scrolling rogueish-likeish thing that fed my completion addiction for a solid week or three. After several hours, the game shows its repetition and the rooms start looking a bit samey and familiar, however the gameplay never gets dull. Part of the variety is due to the character traits that change with every new heir. I found myself rooting for my guy to win even though I knew he was destined for failure. My OCD, dwarf assassin with bowel troubles can kick some serious ass, but the reason Rogue Legacy is so great is its tight controls, like Super Meat Boy territory or classic 2D Mario territory. It's pure gameplay bliss that just gets better as you progress through the game. Unfortunately my current save might be useless since I'm currently at New Game +5 which is so goddamn hard it hurts! Maybe it's time to pick a guy with vertigo.
Everybody has an opinion about video games this year and people love to make up awards for shit. I am here to continue that tradition with my contribution to this farce we call the year of Luigi. 2013 was not the best year for anything including video games, but the year did have some amazing moments like... hey those new consoles, right? And that Steam controller might be neat. Cookie Clicker? Holy shit that Wii U has so many games like... Pikmin 3? Anyway, I played a fair share of games this year and it feels like I played more current year titles than in the past. I guess building a PC and succumbing to the urges of the 3DS can do that to a man. So I can actually make up awards this year without feeling like an asshole. So let's kick off this shitshow.
Earthbound is one of the few games that I return to every few years just to relive the story of four unlikely heroes taking down the embodiment of pure evil, and I was happy to see Nintendo recognizing the passion for Earthbound in America and re-releasing it on the Wii U almost 20 years after its original run. So naturally, I had to shell out several dollars as a statement to Nintendo that there's an audience in America that loves Earthbound and the Mother trilogy even though I have the original cartridge... although that Supaboy I purchased early this year so I can replay it was ill-timed and pointless now. Anyhoo, Earthbound on the Wii U is exactly that, but the best part about playing it again on the Wii U was being able to share my joy with the Miiverse community and chronicle the adventures of Ness and the gang as well as seeing the thousands of players from all around the world sharing their experiences (first or fiftieth) with me. Earthbound certainly holds up very well in almost every way, from its traditional, but quirky combat system to its trademark humor. And it hit me this year that Earthbound is my favorite game ever made. No other game can put a smile on my face or turn me into an pile of emotional mush like Earthbound.
Sleeping Dogs was the game that basically convinced me to build a PC since my 4 year old laptop couldn't run the game faster than 3 frames per second, but the investment was worth the money. Sleeping Dogs can be easily be dismissed as a Grand Theft Auto clone, but it manages to trump GTA in a number of ways. The story of Wei Shen digging into the underground crime scene of Hong Kong is not exactly original, but it's not the star of the show. Sleeping Dogs shines brightest on the streets where you're taking down criminals using your fists and feet as weapons. It's the melee combat that future open world games should emulate, period. Add to that a vibrant Hong Kong street scene and brutal environmental props, I realized why it's a favorite among the community. And goddammit it looks amazing. I guess I should give Sleeping Dogs the award for Most Graphics, too.
My love of gambling and video games finally came together with the arrival of Salty Bet, a site that lets you bet on MUGEN fights. Really dumb MUGEN fights. The premise is simple: Salty Bet gives you a few bucks, you guess who wins, win fake money. The bigger the upset, the more money you win. But is Salty Bet really about winning? It was really nice to crack $100000 in Salty Bucks (twice) before I pissed it away, but the star of the show is the fights themselves. The characters cover a massive spectrum of culture from Dragon Ball Z (never bet DBZ) to Touhou to Marvel to fucking fast food mascots and their dark alter-egos. It's a waste of time and dumb as shit, but whenever Darude - Sandstorm plays on the stream, I just need to DUDUDUDUDUDUDUDUDU... until it's over.
Let's get a bit more personal, folks. I had a great time at PAX East this year, more fun than I ever anticipated. And a good chunk of that fun was centered around this booth where people were playing this fighting game with a ridiculous 2-button controller that looks like it would find a great home on some dumb game show. Naturally I'm attracted to this kind of stupidity so I had to give this game its due. As much as I like Divekick at home with a keyboard with way too many buttons, this particular game in this particular setting was close to perfect. It didn't matter that I lost every match I participated in, the competitiveness and the humor that game oozes out made my week at PAX much more entertaining. There were other games I played at PAX, better games I played at PAX, but nothing compares to this moment for me.
If you didn't care for this pick, I guess the part in Bioshock Infinite where you return to Rapture was fucking awesome.
I found a way to play Gone Home and Proteus this week for the first time and... are these games?
I'll start with Gone Home, a 2-hour long story about a girl coming home for the first time in a year finding the house empty and garbage strewn about. She finds a bunch of journal entries chronicling her sister's escapades with another girl and some highlighters, some dinnerware and some books her JFK-obsessed dad wrote. It's basically a love story with some teenage angst and rebellion set in the Pacific Northwest in the tail end of the Grunge era with a short side-story about her parent's dirty laundry mixed in. It's a story told pretty well, but I wasn't entirely captivated by it. The story seems fairly mundane to me, but maybe I don't fit the demographic for this game. That's not really my beef with Gone Home. My problem with Gone Home is that it's barely a game. The whole experience of Gone Home consists of a lot of meaningless pointing and clicking with zero challenge, which might be the game designer's vision, but I think it needed more. I could be missing the point on Gone Home and if people like it, that's cool. There was nothing for me in those 2 hours.
At least Proteus looks neat. It's got a style and some interesting visuals, but once again, no game. You walk around a bunch, look at stuff, then turn the game off because I would like there to be more interaction somewhere. Once again, Proteus wasn't my jam. It's a walking simulator. Let me at least drink a soda while gazing at the stars.
Gone Home and Proteus are in the same boat as one my more disappointing games of last year, Little Inferno, another game with little game in it and where the story hogs the stage keeping gameplay relegated to being a useless stage prop.
Guacamelee! is a game that does a lot of things well. The controls are solid, the humor is humorous, the visuals are sharp and colorful, and the difficulty is just the right amount of quasi-masochism. Guacamelee! is not an easy game, but it's a great game. But I'm here about the music.
The music of Guacamelee! seems somewhat forgotten in the Game of the Year award talks, but without it, this game would be like eating a burrito without the beans. A good portion of the soundtrack is straight-up mariachi and listening to that while walking through town feels so positive and happy and colorful and some other words. Just give it a listen. It's beautiful.
I guess since the final wave of new consoles is arriving this month, now might be a good time to reminisce and say something about how awesome video games are or how influential these handful of games changed the way we think about and play games. I can describe the feeling I first played Wii Sports and seeing the joy on the faces of my friends and family as they were trying to bowl a strike. Or share my feelgings on the final moments of Portals 1 and 2. Or explain how estactic I was when I gathered all 240 Stars in my personal best game of the generation, Super Mario Galaxy. Or show how much time I wasted/spent with Team Fortress 2 or Borderlands or Terraria. I can find my list of my favorite games of the generation and write a simple paragraph about why that game is awesome or changed my life. I can dig through the news archives looking at all the reactions to various announcements, trailers, etc.
Or I can go in a completely different direction and blog about all the strange, stupid shit we had to suffer through the past 8 years or so.
Nothing Is Certain but Death and Shovelware
We always look back at the best of what was offered and we like to forget the worst of the worst, but those shitty games exist in somebody's closet stuck between your old tax returns and some old porno mags. Licensed games will always exist and even though Batman managed to buck the trend, manylicensedproperties kept the tradition of bad going. And as always, bad games extend to original properties based on the trends of the era, Rock Revolution. No console is immune to shovelware, but the Wii in particular became the dumping ground for awful games thanks to its popularity, cheaper development costs and its simplified control scheme. Oddly enough, some games actually sold well while most probably made enough to make a profit from the gullible Walmart bargain bin Christmas shopper. The Wii made Calvin Tucker the redneck he is today and Jerry Rice the dog football lover we never expected. I can list several more games, but the ultimate example of shoddy game design came from Data Design Interactive, makers of Ninjabread Man and about 30 other terrible games IGN were forced to review. Later on, the shovelware migrated to the Kinect and made for some greatmaterial for the Giant Bomb crew, but it was the Wii that ruled over the land with some of the best games along with some of the worst.
Deadly Premonition... Depending on Who You Ask. Right, Zach?
This one gets its own spot in the weird category. On one hand, Deadly Premonition is a broken piece of hot garbage with a story that is too ridiculous to comprehend. On the other hand, it's a broken piece of hot garbage with a story that is too ridiculous to comprehend... in a good way. Many of us here are familiar with the Endurance Run and many of us have memories of that giant ghost dog or Thomas and his dancing, but there was a clear love/hate relationship with Deadly Premonition from all sides, virtually no middle ground whatsoever. There are actually some crazy people out there who are trying to make a case for Deadly Premonition as Game of the Generation, but there are even crazier people who think Swery 65 should hang from a hook through his face. In any case, Deadly Premonition is a game too horrible to play with a story too good and surreal to ignore.
This Part of the Blog Is Sponsored by Doritos and Mountain Dew
Product placement and advertising isn't new to games, but advertising and promotions took some odd turns this generation. As stated above, Doritos and Mountain Dew became the de facto products to ridicule this generation since it became synonymous with Microsoft, particularly the Halo and Call of Duty franchises, although Sony attempted to retaliate with its love affair with Taco Bell and poorly planned giveaways. Call of Duty went so far as to associate itself with Jeep for Christ's sake. In general, in-game advertising was limited to sports games and the occasional Cool Spot or Yo! Noid, but now we see ads everywhere, even on the Xbox Dashboard. Even the President of the United States put up ads for his re-election campaign.
Corporate advertising is difficult to avoid in daily life, but video games used to be a place to escape the bombardment of ads, but now we must live like hermits and renounce technology in order to get away from Pepsi ads and Obama.
That's really all I need to say, really. NEXT!
The Derailing of the Hype Train
All games have to start somewhere and unless you're Typing of the Dead: Overkill, they get a press release or a big reveal at E3. And before a game's release, we are surrounded by trailers, gameplay footage, news, celebrity endorsements from Kid Rock and other wackiness which is done deliberately to boost hype and ultimately sales. For example, Final Fantasy XIV was officially announced at E3 months before Final Fantasy XIII was released. Want another one? How about Wii Music and the infamous Ravi Drums? One more? How about just all of Sony's E3 press conference in 2006? I can divide this into a separate blog if I had the manpower.
Video game companies often pitch their games to the public in unusual ways as they attempt to capture a certain demographic or their fanbase, but often announcements and demos go awry like the live demo issues for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in 2011 or BAM! the Kudo incident of 2009 or this.
The industry never ceases to disappoint sometimes, but then I think of Cammie Dunaway and I just fucking smile. If you're wondering where she is, she's an executive for KidZania, a Mexican kid... job thing where they dress up and... work or something? Child labor maybe? Just be glad she's not selling statues of bloody, headless torsos... or is she?
Several Generations in the Making
Duke Nukem Forever began as a game slated for the 5th console generation of consoles, but somehow through sheer ineptitude it found its way onto shelves during the back half of the 7th generation. There are often games that get delayed or go through major shifts in development, but Duke Nukem Forever took that to the extreme by shifting from the Quake Engine and eventually to its own version of the Unreal Engine, yet the game itself felt stuck in the 90's, just not in a good way. It was the game that wouldn't die, but should have been shot in a Detroit alley years ago.
Let's end this farce already and open up the floor. What about this generation made you question our species as a whole? I know I missed some crucial WTF moments like all the company closures and brokenlaunches, but I don't have all day to research it all so have at it. And with that, here's something about Too Human.
When I saw my Twitter feed explode this afternoon, I hadn't bothered to read any of it at first. I had expected either some major video game-related news or something horribly tragic, but I didn't expect both to be true simultaneously. So naturally when I heard that Ryan Davis had passed away, I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. It's always difficult to even imagine someone as young as Ryan (just a few years older than myself) dying suddenly, especially right after perhaps the greatest moment of his life, yet here we are trying to cope with this realization. His passing seems way too soon and I always expected Ryan to continue making people smile and laugh for many more years whether it's here at Giant Bomb or wherever his future would have taken him.
I share many of the same memories of Ryan as most people here on Giant Bomb. I watch the Quick Looks, read his reviews with curiosity, listen to the Bombcast while in the car or at home. Oddly enough, I was listening to an old Bombcast hearing that infamous giggle Ryan would do on occasion when the news broke. I was also glad to have met Ryan once just a few months ago at PAX East talking about breast milk and other stuff. It's one thing to hear Ryan on a Bombcast or watching him on the site with friends and colleagues, but after talking to him at PAX, you understand why people follow and admire him. Ryan might have been an asshole, but his brand of assholishness was infectious and always cheerful. And of course, he always was the most charmingly garrulous of the group.
It's been 5 years since Giant Bomb officially opened for business and the core four of Jeff, Ryan, Vinny and Brad was a constant for all that time, but I don't know if I will be able to get used to Giant Bomb without its podcast host and summer jam expert. They say time heals all wounds and maybe that will ring true someday, but for now the best way to heal those wounds is to remember those awesome moments. Trust me, there's no shortage of awesome Ryan Davis material. The internet proved that today.
So with that said, my condolences to the staff, friends and family. Thanks for all the great memories.
Being my first ever video game convention, I wasn't sure what to expect from PAX. I've all heard many of the horrors of PAX ranging from massive lines for demos and cramped spaces to potential malnourishment and dehydration to the flu/pox/plague. With the exception of the illness, that was mostly true. However, the true PAX experience is about playing video games and talking to people who passionately love video games. I was really glad to spend some time playing several games during the convention, but was even more glad to meet several developers and gamers (many of them from the Giant Bomb community) just to talk about... anything, really.
But enough with the intro, let's start with the games.
I was sucked into the Lang Zone, guys. This might sound like a bad thing to the uninformed, but the Lang Zone is a fantastic place where people love to dive, kick, divekick and occasionally jump. I was able to play Divekick on a number of occasions throughout PAX and I think I lost every battle. I don't really care about that because I couldn't stop laughing or smiling or thinking about how brilliantly dumb this game is. And even though I sucked at Divekick, it could be the only fighting game I might be able to master at some point. Besides the goofy characters and wacky antics, Divekick excels at being a fun and surprisingly complex fighter despite having only two buttons at your disposal. It's a fighting game without filler and that's a beautiful thing.
Remember Me was the only "AAA" game I actually played during PAX and the only "AAA" game I wanted to try out since the style and action looked pretty cool. After a lengthy demo, I was actually impressed with Remember Me in many ways. It's almost like a 3rd person Mirror's Edge with splashes of Deus Ex and Uncharted thrown in for flavor. It's technically impressive and the action can be intense, but if I have one criticism, the combat was simplistic in the demo. Hopefully the combos aren't just hitting X until you're blue in the face in the finished product.
I've never played a Saint Row game before, but I appreciate the absurdity that they strive for every few years. This year looks like they've gone for something more subtle. You see, you play as the President of the United States with superpowers fighting aliens. If that doesn't sell you on the game, you can also kill with dubstep, just like in real life. Even if I don't ever play Saints Row IV, its existence is a wonderful thing. Thanks, Deep Silver.
I made a beeline for the Nintendo booth on the morning of PAX on day 1 so I was able to play The Wonderful 101 fairly early with little wait. And while the Nintendo booth was disappointing overall, The Wonderful 101 was the main bright spot at the booth. Platinum Games did a wonderful job (no pun intended) on the art direction and action in this game. There's a Viewtiful Joe vibe I get while playing it, and I really liked Viewtiful Joe.
Watch_Dogs - Two videos, nothing crazy or new, but informative, I guess.
If that wasn't enough, here are all the tabletop games I played while at PAX.
Oh, the panels! PAX isn't just about games. It's about people talking about games. Here are some panels I went to where they talked about games.
The Giant Bomb one
I've seen Giant Bomb panels on the website, but seeing it's nothing compared to seeing them live. Yes, they were hilarious. Yes, breast milk was consumed. Yes, many of the questions were dumb. And yes, I love mariachi bands. You can see part one of the panel right now to see the circus for yourself so I won't delve into details. I will comment on the pre-game show where our group started the official start of the line for the panel. Then, a game of Spaceteam broke out with me, @mattbodega, @epicsteve and @voxel during the lengthy wait in line. Yes, Kessler sold me on Spaceteam. Yes, Spaceteam is awesome. After the panel, it was the casual meet and greet with the Giant Bomb staff. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but they're all very approachable and easy to talk to. They all seem like a group of awesome guys who love their craft and are willing to share their love of games with anybody, even the nervous and awkward like me.
The other one with Ryan Davis
The 404ing it: Breaking (Down) the Internet panel had its moments, mostly Ryan Davis being Ryan Davis. It couldn't top the Giant Bomb panel in terms of hilarity and it was just a bunch of stupid internet shit like Heather O'Rourke tribute videos and AYDS, but I laughed at Ryan's hijinks. So mission accomplished.
The other one with Jeff Gerstmann and Ryan Davis
People love Cards Against Humanity. I think it's because we hate humanity or maybe the card game that makes you feel dirty is actually fun to play. The majority of the panel consisted of user submissions and most of them were... good? There were a few gems and very few shitty submissions.
After the panel, I can say I am a proud(?) owner of CAH and the PAX packs which I will never use because inside jokes. The only regret was not getting able to play the game amongst the people I met.
The one with Randy Pitchford
The Gearbox panel was about 50 minutes of Borderlands 2 talk with about 5 minutes of awkward Aliens: Colonial Marines apologies in between. Randy Pitchford did some magic tricks before the show officially began and then some Borderlands 2 magic. The group of Gearbox panelists introduced us to increased level caps, a new playable character, a teaser to the 4th DLC pack and telling us how they're fixing the Aliens game they may or may not have worked on. Overall, the panel was neat and they seemed really sorry about Aliens seeing how they gave away so much shit like hats, the Psycho character pack and even some loot boxes.
They were really sorry for Aliens.
The Stuff Not PAX-related
Video games are great and all, but I just can't spend my entire trip in a convention center in the middle of nowhere. That's why I spent some time actually seeing the rest of the city. Thursday was my alone time as I did a power tour of Boston. If you have an extra day to waste and want to see some history, walk the Freedom Trail. It cuts right through downtown Boston and it's odd to see skyscrapers mixed with 18th century buildings and 300 year old burial grounds. But a word of advice for those willing to walk as far as Bunker Hill Monument, don't climb the monument after walking for several hours. The view from the top is nice, but fuck the 300 steps.
Speaking of walking, just walking around the city was one of my highlights of the trip. One of the best/worst parts of Boston is the layout. I've been in large cities before like Philadelphia and New York, but they had urban planners laying out the city. Boston is a clusterfuck of roads going in all directions without any order whatsoever. The best way to see Boston is from the ground just getting lost downtown or in the North End just getting immersed in the city's architecture and vibe. Seriously, Boston is a beautiful city with lots of friendly people (some with that famous Boston accent) and excellent food and I would love to visit the city in the summer when Boston Common is actually green and the wind doesn't destroy my face.
I never did get to visit every place I wanted to during my stay in Boston, but there's always next time... if I return to PAX East.
I'll keep it short and simple since I'm now way past the TL;DR stage, but the users I got to meet at PAX were all friendly and not at all representative of the typical dicks we associate with the internet. I spent much of the 3-day event hanging out with several people from the community from charming Englishmen to moderators who keep people like myself from ruining Giant Bomb for everybody else. I could have easily spent PAX by my lonesome playing several sessions of Divekick with random strangers, but that's not the ideal PAX experience.
Time to end this thing already.
So in conclusion, if you get an opportunity to go to PAX whether it's in Boston, Seattle, Australia or wherever, go and have a great time like I did. Go play some amazing and unusual games you never thought you'd like. Talk to developers about anything from getting in the business to what that giant yellow button does. See the town for yourself just to get away from the PAX madness. Eat awesome food, but don't eat at the convention center. Don't be afraid to talk to random strangers, unless they're dressed in League of Legends cosplay. I still know nothing about League of Legends. Get lost among the indie games. Take lots of pictures. Avoid tabletop games if you know nothing about them. Don't drive anywhere in Boston. Take the T. Walk if you can. Find the Lang Zone and divekick in. Drink a Double Gulp. Spaceteam. Ask Ryan Davis if that really was breast milk he drank. Bring Yuengling because it's nowhere to be found in Boston.
I'm done. It's been a great PAX and I would love to go back next year.
First off, I would like to apologize to anybody who saw me hype SimCity and made a decision to purchase the game because of my actions. Now that I've got that out of the way, I would like to express my thoughts on said game.
My SimCity history goes back a long way, from staring at Will Wright's green hair in the SNES version to obsessing about SimCity 4 to the point where other video games didn't matter to me. I have always had nothing but positive things to say about SimCity in general, but SimCity (SimCity 5, SimCity '13) has done nothing but disappoint me and probably you, too. I can rant for ages about the lack of an offline mode and being at the mercy of EA's 3 or 4 servers for the first few days, but that's been talked to death already. Now this may be hard to believe, but I actually was able to play SimCity at various times the past few days despite EA's attempts to sabotage my cities. What I played had potential, but there are issues outside of internet stability that have me concerned.
And my opinions on the "game" portion of SimCity were cemented in place when I popped in SimCity 4 while the servers shit their pants. After a 6 hour session, I realized that SimCity 4 was the superior game, not this newfangled version. Despite all the fancy graphics, statistical output and building flexibility, SimCity feels small and constricted due to the city size and lack of customized regions. So here are a list of thoughts that popped in my head during my sessions.
The smoke coming from my ears still hasn't dissipated from all the thinking.
SimCity is the first game in the series (SimCity Societies doesn't count) to take several steps backwards in some areas in order to move a few steps ahead in other areas. Simulating cities down to the individual schlub sounds like a great idea on paper, but if that compromises the overall size and scope of the game, then it's failed on a fundamental level. Like I stated above, people want to build megalopolises like New York, but the size limit forces us to build Hoboken, or maybe the East Village. Even when I see the option to build a university, there are actually universities that are the size of the plot of land given to you in SimCity.
But it's not all about size.
What disappoints me more about SimCity is what's not in SimCity. The elimination of subways and the inability to build your own highways are a major blow to some virtual urban planners, but I expect a new SimCity game to have more transportation and building options. For example, where are the mixed-use buildings? Where are my prisons? No courthouses? No natural gas? Where did the amusement parks go? What about zoos? Are there even museums in SimCity? And what's with the lack of farms? In fairness to Maxis, some of these issues are alleviated with the option to upgrade existing buildings and the addition of brand new buildings like oil refineries and bus terminals. What this tells me is that EA is going to go microtransaction crazy a la The Sims 3. EA could follow the Sims model easily by adding expansions and building packs to squeeze more money out of us. At least vanilla versions of The Sims feel finished and could be all you really need if you haven't dug too deep into expansion hell. SimCity never relied heavily on expansions, but more on the community to enhance the experience. And even SimCity 4 sans Rush Hour felt complete. SimCity 2013 just feels like a game that might have needed a few more months of development just dedicating to adding as much stuff as possible. At least arcologies are back, right?
I always hated arcologies.
As I'm typing this, I'm wondering if Giant Bomb needed another negative SimCity rant to clog up the site? And my answer is yes, yes it does. Despite EA's best efforts, there may be hope for the future. SimCity's existence is putting the city building simulation genre back on the map so that's a plus. If EA or another company wishes to revisit the genre, they know there is an audience of wannabe urban planners who would stab their own mother to get a hold of a new SimCity or a competent SimCity clone. Cities XL came surprisingly close, but that game had its own issues, one of them being an uninspired MMO portion that was scrapped after just a few months after the initial launch. Some SimCity fans might be a bit demanding, but what we ultimately want is lots of customization, as many building types/styles as possible and enough space to build the city of our wildest dreams. Sadly, I don't think SimCity does any of that.