Smash Bros: The Next Generation: Day 1

There are 35 days until E3, so I thought now would be an interesting time to start talking about the future of the Smash Bros. series. For the next 35 days, I will lay out one veteran character, one potential newcomer, and one stage idea with a list of accompanying tracks. Hopefully this will lead up to some sort of Smash Bros. info dump that I can write on, but if not, well it's just for fun anyway.

What is my goal by writing this? Well for one, I need to keep practicing, and this is a new challenge for me. 35 straight days of content. It's something I'm passionate for, so I'm hoping it'll work. Beyond that, I'm hoping that this information gets out into the zeitgeist, and somehow enters Masahiro Sakurai-san's mind through some sort of psychic osmosis, and then becomes a reality. We'll see how well that works.

And just so you know how this works, I have scrambled all of the franchises up so that nothing is in a predictable order, and no one day focuses on a particular group. I could have just done "Mario Week!" and "Random leftover shit!" week, but this sounded more interesting to me. Let me know how you like the format and I can consider revising it for the rest of the way. Also, please note that I do not think about tiers, and I do not think about "Final Destination: No Items." I think like I'm making a Smash Bros. game. Sorry if that bothers you ahead of time, but not really.

Veteran: Fox from Star Fox

Not my favorite Star Fox game, but my favorite Star Fox design.

One of the original Smash participants, Fox has seen a few ups and downs to his system, but nothing has changed dramatically. In fact he's only been cloned three times, making his general style repeated a few too many times. I think he needs to stay relatively the same, I mean we shouldn't go breaking the wheel here, but we need to start breaking his clones. I'll get to those when their time comes.

I'm a huge fan of this design not because of it's associated game, which was horrid, but because it's a bit unique for Fox. It looks more rough and tumble, and I always kind of pictured Fox as a Captain Kirk kind of captain. Also, I just like the more vibrant palette, and the lack of weasel head. I want alternate costumes for everybody as unlockable goodies in the next Smash, and I think borrowing from his Assault design would be a great second costume.

The Landmaster was a terrible Final Smash, in that it was retarded over-powered. I think this time should include something a little more kind, like a sniper bullet to the head. Something more akin to a high powered weapon upgrade from Slippy dropped down to Fox would be more my flavor. Or a Call of Duty style aircraft assault where his Arwing just lowers and shoots at people on the field periodically.

Potential Newcomer: Geno from Super Mario RPG

Geno comes to us with a wide array of special moves from his only main appearance in Super Mario RPG. From shooting his fingers as bullets to shooting rockets out of his elbow, the dude is packed with firepower. Throwing discs of destructive energy, calling down laser beams from orbit... Potentials for special moves and Smash Attacks are numerous. I for one believe a Geno Whirl is on order for his Final Smash. If the Whirl would connect at the moment it's thrown with only one enemy, that enemy is pretty much assured being knocked out. However, if it hits multiple targets, it's effectiveness at knocking out thins exponentially. Thus, if the opponents are all weak, you stand to gain something by hitting them all, but if you're in a one-on-one scenario, your victory is all but assured.

I have no really good idea for an alternate costume for Geno, other than slapping on a different outfit. Perhaps some pants could be on the table for discussion.

Stage: The Faceship from Mario Galaxy 2.

"More like Faceship!"

The Faceship from Mario Galaxy 2 is somewhat of difficult idea, but bear with me. Turned to be a profile view, you have a fairly flat boat-like surface with the hat frill and Mario's nose to catch on, and a towering smoke stack in the back to provide some terrain. Blow the size of the face ship up for proportion if you need too, and consider adding a planetoid or two hovering around it for extra fighting room. Alternatively, it could be a -really- weird stage if it rotated in different degrees, but the perspective and gravity remained the same for the players. At that point, I'm thinking we're a bit too complex, however. I like the idea of the ship traveling through space, showing different galaxies in the background, similar to Lylat Cruise from Smash Bros Brawl. There could be some great opportunities to mix other Nintendo franchises too, with Samus's ship or Olimar's ship flying in the backgrounds. Spaceman Tatanga could make an appearance zipping around while being chased by Deoxys. Also, any random other thing could show up in the background, like one of the Spacebattle scenes from Star Fox, or stages from Super Mario 3D Land.

Music for The Faceship could include:

Super Mario Galaxy - Purple Comet Challenge

Super Mario Galaxy - Gusty Garden Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Yoshi's Star Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Glider

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Bowser's Galaxy Generator

Super Paper Mario - Brobot Battle

And that's one down, 34 more new characters, old characters, and stages to go. And if you feel this stage's music wasn't varied, I feel you. I'm trying to keep it relatively themed to Mario's galaxy games, as I plan on other stages that will represent other aspects of Mario. You'll see.

What do you think of my selections so far? Don't go casting your votes for who you want just yet, I've got plenty more to cover so I might get there, but feel free to discuss my ideas so far. I'd love to see somebody really expand upon them!

-Make it a good one.

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What Nintendo Needs to Do to "Win."

"If wishes and buts were candy and nuts, then we'd all have a bowl of granola."

Console wars are kind of a weird thing to even talk about. From an intelligent, and rational person's point of view, it makes sense to want all the consoles to do well. Success for every platform, while remaining competitive, means better games for us. It's fun to root for your favorite and condemn the obvious loser, that's all fine and good; it's part of the game. I don't want to start any flame wars, so if that's all you're interested in doing, take a hike. I'm here to discuss a few strategies that I think will help ensure that Nintendo, as a company who is in a very strange position right now, continues to thrive as a competitor.

It's no small secret that Nintendo as a publisher and as a developer is at a sort of crossroads. The 3DS came out and had a shaky start, but has come through looking better for wear. If they can keep this momentum going, we're in luck. Recently, they announced a new Mario game, so I know I'll be slavishly waving my hard earned money at the person behind the counter to pick up my copy. Here's to hoping they do a little innovating on this title.

Ice White Nintendo 3DS

The future of the Nintendo Portable platform has me a bit intrigued though. The 3DS is here, and it looks like it will remain mostly successful. But what's next? A lot of Nintendo's share holders are calling for a Nintendo Phone, but that'll take a shoehorn the size of Montana to eke out an existence in that sea. If you think about the (complete, global) saturation of iPhones and Androids, there's really nothing left for Nintendo to bring to the table other than Mario. Perhaps Japan has a vastly different cellular market that has enough legroom for a new cell phone company, but over here isn't so likely. Nintendo could open up and just slap the Android interface in there, however, Nintendo is traditionally very tight-knit with it's devices. I foresee more of an iPhone path for them, if they were to ever go that way. And that's just not going to be viable in this ecosystem. Would you trade up your smart phone to a Nintendo Phone? Sure, there are some people saying yes. I don't think I would, though. I love my Samsung Nexus S and I'm addicted to Google's infrastructure. I'd probably still get the Nintendo Phone, but just to keep around as another dedicated gaming device. Because of that, I'd rather they spend their time making quality handhelds like they do now, something they pretty much own the market on.

Looking at the WiiU, I think Nintendo has the opportunity to make a bajillion dollars right off the bat. Would you like to know the very simple answer to this? Angry Birds. I won't deny any love loss for what i feel to be a lackluster game, but the fact is that it's got wings. If you slap that grumpy, red bastard on the front of a WiiU box, you're making money. Pack it in with every console as a game that can be played on the WiiU's tablet-like controller, and you've just banked. If you're Nintendo of course. Imagine now, if I may expand, all of your favorite iPhone and Android app store games coming over to Wii U. Game Dev Story. Sword and Sorcery. Canabalt. Anomaly: Warzone Earth. Cut the Rope. All streamed from the big white box to your lightweight tablet controller. Some of them even could come with button controls, which YHVH knows they need. And the Stylus that comes with it would make games like Cut the Rope more accurate, and more playable. Plus, you could have high-end graphics for all of them. Forget Infinity Blade's shine on the iPhone, imagine how good it could look with more horse power? The long and short of it is, opening itself up to this kind of an App Store (and preferably partnering with an existing partner, like Google) would be a killer.

Imagine: Angry Birds... Right there. And on the big screen, so the whole family can enjoy.

I just thought about playing Plants vs. Zombies (for the 9th time) on this controller, and I would kindly set fire to a puppy orphanage to have it.

Last, there's this little bit about the Virtual Console and how they handle it. For one, it's no secret that the Wii Virtual Console is kind of dead in the water. I'm not sure how much of that is Nintendo choking it out while they focus on the 3DS, and how much is that nobody just putting anything up there anymore. For another thing, they've been putting out NES games on the 3DS now, and I can't help but wonder why I'm paying for these. Again. With the WiiU, there needs to be enough forefront to create a way to convert my Virtual Console games from my Wii, to my WiiU and to my 3DS. If I have to be that roundabout, that's fine, I'm gonna move everything to the WiiU anyway. But having I'd be much happier not having to pay for Startropics again. At that point, Nintendo is sort of just asking people to go get emulators on their SD cards and go from there. If they open up that Virtual Console on all their machines, on your same profiles/accounts, that would be stellar. While on the subject of Virtual Consoles... Why haven't we seen Mother, Earthbound, and Yoshi's Island yet? There's some work to be done there, and I'm sure somebody on the interwebs would gladly take a contract job to do it.

With that off my mind, I want to know what you think? Can these strategies be improved? Do you have other ideas? Better ones, even? Please feel free to sound off below!

As a programming note/advertisement, I plan on discussing a -lot- of Smash Bros. in the coming month. Starting May 1st, and every day through E3, I'm going to drop something else I think should be in the next Smash Bros. All of that will lead up to hopefully -some- sort of announcement at E3 that I can geek out on, and then see if I have anything to expand upon with some crazy new knowledge. I look forward to the discussion!

Social Media Go: @DocRandle , Facebook, The Midnight Roost

-Make it a good one.

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Music Appreciation: Mass Effect 3

Music to save the galaxy by.

With less than 4 days to go, and 4 weeks since I last wrote something, I figured now would be as good a time as any to bring back some music appreciation. This time, however, I wanted to bring something that hasn't been released yet, and since Mass Effect is about the only thing I can think of right now, I decided to dig around to see what I could find. As luck would have it, I found some pretty great stuff.

The soundtracks of Mass Effect are some of my favorite in games. They are brilliant, they are beautiful, and they are mature. The first Mass Effect took us to a soundscape reminiscent of 70's and 80's sci-fi's like Blade Runner, Terminator, and The Running Man. It was a world of music long since lost, but brought back in a gorgeous way. From the fluttery openning of The Citadel's Presidium to the triumphant climax of From the Wreckage, this game set itself as an homage to "the good ol' days" that inspired it, as well as something truly unique in video games, and really all media in the past decade. Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, and Richard Jacques really pulled this one off.

Mass Effect 2 was a contentious title for a few people, myself included, at least at first. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was a better game in almost every way, but it had it's share of problems and, perhaps worst, didn't feel quite as "Mass Effect." A large part of this, I think, was due to the soundtrack. That's not to say it's bad, because it's not. Any game would be happy to have this quality of a soundtrack. It just lost some of that 80's sci-fi feeling that I had fell in love with. I mean, yeah, there was still The Suicide Mission, Garrus, and Mordin. But it seemed that the series had moved to broader, sweeping orchestral pieces rather than the more personal tones of the synthesizer. Oh well. The music in Afterlife pretty much made up for everything I might have been upset with. Here's a remix by the original composer, Jesse James Allen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUKrhOu6e28

The music of Mass Effect 2's DLC was composed by a different team, and was amazing in it's own right. It seemed to mix the love of the electronic with more of a Hans Zimmer approach to the broad themes. The combat theme to Overlord is one of my particular favorites, although something about The Shadow Broker battle just makes me stop everything I'm doing to sweep my hand with the music.

The team behind Mass Effect's 1 and 2, sans Jack Wall, combined with the talents of the team behind the DLC are coming back for an all out soundtrack blitz for the final game. Much like everything I've gathered from the Demo, it seems like this game really is taking what the teams learned from Mass Effect 2 and about how they could make it feel like Mass Effect 1 again. The phrase "this is what Mass Effect 2 should have been" comes to mind, but should also be discarded because Mass Effect 2 had to be exactly what it was to get here. It's called evolution, and from what I've played and heard, this series is really finding it's natural order.

I'm as spoiler free as I can with these links, even picking things with minimal spoiler titles. There shall be no "Death of Qui-gon" here, my friends, but I can't say for the suggested links afterwards. Just be forewarned.

First, a slight diversion, because Zeus almighty I cannot stop listening to this song. It's the dance music to the clubs in The Citadel.

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Next, something you're likely to hear early on, it's the Character Creation music. The char-creation of Mass Effect 2 was a favored piece, so this one fits right at home in my heart. Because that's where I store my music.

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If you've played the demo, then you are already familiar with the theme to the Salarian Homeworld. This one reminds me a lot of the Mass Effect DLC, with the sweeping orchestral intertwined with electronic doodads. Have a listen!

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Here's something for the lovestruck spacefarers, the romance theme. This appears to only be a piece of it, but it gives you a good look at what you'll be hearing in your eventual boning sequences. Unless your Forever Alone Shepard.

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Do you have a favorite piece of Mass Effect music from the series? On a scale from "Very" to "Hnnggh" how excited for Mass Effect 3 are you? Posty your comments below!

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Two Tribes announces plans for Toki Tori 2 on Wii U

Developer Two Tribes plans to place the puzzle platformer where it started: with Nintendo.

Ever since E3 2011, news about Wii U announcements have been the slimmest of slim. Today, Two Tribes has stated that they plan on bringing their creative platformer to Nintendo's newest system.

"People who’ve followed us in recent years know we’re pretty big fans of Nintendo," reads the press release. "The first Toki Tori was a launch game for the original WiiWare download service in 2008 and today we’ve decided that we are going to do everything in our power to make sure Toki Tori 2 graces Nintendo’s upcoming HD console as well!"

There's more information on it over at their blog, so check it out.

What do you think? Any crazy ideas popping into your head about Wii-U specific gameplay? Have you enjoyed anything in this series before? If you haven't, maybe now's a great time to check it out on your Android, as the original Toki Tori has been added to the Android Humble Indy Bundle. Here's a link to help you help others.

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2011: A Retrospective, Part 5

And here it is, the end of the end. The last 10 things about 2011 that were awesome.

One of Kirby's many Super Powers that are just gloriously destructive sequences in the game.

Kirby: Return to Dreamland - I love a good 2D Platformer, and Kirby never fails to deliver. Kirby: Return to Dreamland on Wii feels kind of like it would have been better turned into a 3DS game, especially given some of the camera work, but regardless, it's a joyful experience. It might not be as revolutionary as Mass Attack or even Epic Yarn, but it still makes for a relaxing multi-player romp through colorful, exciting locals, just the way Kirby used to always be.

Toki Tori 2 support - As a huge fan of the first Toki Tori, and everything else Two Tribes does, I was excited to see a sequel to puzzle platformer being announced. I was furthermore excited to see the sort of support during Alpha and Beta they were giving the community. They appear to be taking the Minecraft approach, and I'm excited to see what kind of results that has.

The table-top miniature gaming aesthetic isn't really important, it's just awesome.

Hoard - Yet another previously unknown gem to come out of the Steam Sale, Hoard is an interesting little game where you play a dragon that flies around setting the countryside and villages aflame for the sake of gathering gold. It's easy to pick up, but varied strategies makes for some great play, especially in multi-player.

Climb and climb!

Tobe’s Vertical Adventure - So hey, about 2D platformers. If you weren't aware, I realllly like them. Like a lot. This interesting little Indie platformer came out on Steam, and the soundtrack alone was reason enough to purchase it. If you haven't, go out and give it a shot. It has kind of a Donkey Kong '94/tobes-vertical-adventure/61-30780/ vibe to it.

I don't know about you, but I'm already excited.

Sonic CD - Alright, you are correct. This game did not come out last year. But it did come out on downloadable services, and it was the first time I had ever been able to play it, and you can (Sonic) color(s) me impressed. Not only is it just a great sonic game, this version also includes some great features, like swapping the soundtrack between the two different regions. Maybe it's just the weird Sonic fever I caught thanks to Generations, but I can't seem to get enough of these classic games.

Not a looker, but definitely a player. That doesn't sound right...

99 bullets - DSiWare gets a lot of flack for being chock full of shovelware, and probably for good reason; There's a mountain of crap on there. But a few games are unfortunately being lost in that generalization, and 99 Bullets is one of them. Having no correlation to the comic 100 Bullets, 99 is a unique take on the scrolling shooter. The goal is to manuever your little Geometry Wars shapely dude through a course, avoiding and blasting your way through enemies, as one would expect. But as the name implies, your limited. Each hit you take drops one of your bullets, and you only have 99 of them to fire. So the goal isn't just firing madly, but controlled bursts for maximum combos. It's a great gameplay mechanic that really changes up an otherwise run-of-the-mill genre.

Finger's crossed for a 3DS remake.

Pokemon Black/White - There seems to be this common notion that your first Pokemon is your favorite, and that most people believe anything past Mew is a travesty against God, America, and Sanity everywhere. I don't adhere to either of these. I can definitely understand the whole Nostalgia thing, and losing track of the truckloads of portable monsters, but the simple fact is that this series has improved with every iteration, and while the jump to Black and White might not have been the biggest improvement, it still is, in every way, the best Pokemon game to date. The music is better, the story is more interesting, they mix up a lot of tired out plot elements, the battles are way more dynamic, the camera work is better, and the multi-player interaction is vastly improved. Yes, you still collect and battle critters, you still get 8 badges, and then you beat an Elite 4. It's better, but it's not entirely different. So take your pick on whether or not you are still up with the series, or which one resonates more with you, but remember that these games are getting better every time.

Music Usage - It seems to be that games are getting a lot smarter about how they use Music to interact with the action. It's nothing new; games like Shadow of the Colossus and Twilight Princess have used shifting scores before, but it's trending much more this year. Pokemon Black and White, for example, has shifted from the "annoying beeping to tell you your health is low, in case you can't read and/or are color blind" and turned it into part of the music. The beep is still there, but now it's the baseline for a "you're in trouble" song that takes over when, well, you're in trouble. There's also a triumphant spin on the music when you're in your most important battles (like Gym Leaders, etc.). Skyrim's sudden cut to it's triumphant theme when dueling with Dragons invigorates any player and makes them feel like a damned god while they're winning. In other great uses of music, Sonic Generations allows the player to swap out songs when starting a stage, which helps keeps the audio fresh while allowing you to relive classic tunes like Super Sonic Racing.

Dinosaur Office - While not technically a game, Dinosaur Office has been piped through the Nintendo Video channel on everybody's 3DS and has been the best thing about that service. College Humor's stop-motion story about Dinosaurs who work in an everyday office environment is both a hilarious satire on the workplace, but also a nonsensical world where dinosaurs get stuck in traffic. It's the perfect show. Even if you don't have a 3DS you can check out most episodes on Youtube or on College Humor's website.

Kairosoft - The developers of Game Dev Story have been pumping out game after game of simulation goodness, and while you would expect them to be worst at the rate we're seeing them, they're actually not. Granted, they're not all winners. I wasn't a huge fan of Pocket League Story (the soccer team sim), but that's just me. I'm currently knee-deep in Mega Mall Story; an addiction that may partially be fed by my love of Board Game Top Shop. In any case, the fact that a small developer can keep pumping out these quality titles like this makes me hopeful, and gleeful, that the mobile environment isn't all shitty rip-offs and sub-par experiences.

Man. Last year was pretty awesome, wasn't it? Here's to 2012!

-Make it a Good One.

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2011: A Retrospective, Part 4

How have I not finished this yet? I swear that I did... Oh well. Here's 10 more, with the next 10 following soon, so stay tuned.

I love these weapon designs.

Shadows of the Damned - If there's one thing Western games still don't know how to do, it's be absolutely god-be-damned crazy. Thankfully, Suda 51 provides that in spades on his own. Mix in some decent gameplay (arguably, for once) with the help of Resident Evil 4 alum Shinji Mikami, and the unsoothing tones of Akira Yamaoka, and you have one of the strongest trinity's in gaming history. Now, Shadows of the Damned was by no means perfect. While they world which it takes place in is initially interesting, it ends up being kind of repetitive all the way through. There aren't a lot of varied gameplay mechanics, and what's there isn't always 100% solid. It's a 3rd person survival-shooter that doesn't have any sort of New Game + or bonus unlockables. Honestly, I don't felt that it lived up to a full price title. But what this game did right was be it's own game. It was beholden to nobody but the people who created, and I got the sense that if I didn't care for it, I could go fuck myself with a rusty knife. It's this kind of punk aesthetic, and creative overload that made for a fiercely unique experience that I look forward to encountering again later this year with Lollipop Chainsaw.

This game has a very "If Mega Man were a Puzzle Platformer with Sexy Ladies" vibe going on.

Mighty Switch Force - You've probably never heard of this 3DSWare exclusive, but if you're a fan of 2D games, you need to know everything you can about it. WayForward have been cementing themselves as the captains of the old-school genre in today's gaming ecosystem quite firmly. Between Shantae, Contra 4, and a handful of smaller titles, it's hard not to see it. They get it. The sprite art is second to none, the music is as catchy as it gets, and the gameplay mechanics are always intriguing. If you haven't sat down with this, go endure the 3DS Shop experience to find it and make it a part of your collection. You'll find it hard to regret your decision.

The original is great if you like nostalgic visuals, but this version looks slick.

Cave Story 3DS - So, I heard you like Metroid-style 2D exploration games. I also heard you like mysterious and heaft-felt stories. It's also been said, about you specifically (Yes, you), that you enjoy supporting 'indy' games. Well, buh-ruh-ther, do I have a deal for you. It's called Cave Story, and it's exactly all of those things. It's available kind of everywhere at this point: WiiWare, DSiWare, Steam. But Cave Story 3DS is a remake with a budget, and it shows. The improvements make this a super-slick package, while keeping the classic platform exploration and baddie-blasting in tact. It's a bit costly, so maybe you're fine checking out the original, but just please make sure that at some point in your life you play this game.

If you don't love her in the first 5 minutes of seeing her, then you're hollow inside.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - It's not (just) that I'm lazy, but I don't really feel like I need to explain this one. It's a console Zelda, and it's arguably the best one yet. From the puzzle/combat hybrid to the remarkable visuals, to the brilliantly realized characters, this game is just a class act from top to bottom. It has it's issues, like any game, but this is definitely a great direction for Zelda. The relationship between Link and Zelda is immediately realized, and one of (if not THE) most believable budding romance I have ever seen in a game.

Aliens.

Jamestown - The gameplay might not be the most unique aspect of this scrolling shoot-all-the-things game. The Western story set on Mars has a style in the music and the visuals that harks back to the 'good ol' days' of gaming. It doesn't have a whole lot of content, but it's still a great little gem on Steam.

Team Meat's Continued Support - It's easy to release a game, maybe a couple post-release patches, and then sit back and let the money roll in. What's not easy is spending a year and a half after your game came out consistently updating it. From a Mac version, constant bug fixes, and streams of cycling content; it's hard not to see the value in Super Meat Boy. Factor in The Binding of Isaac's constant additions and low barrier of cost, and you really know you're getting your money's worth. Granted, these games take out their true cost in your blood, sweat, and tears, but isn't that why we love them? If more developers could promise this kind of post-release content, without tacky DLC charges, I think the value proposition of a $60 dollar title would be a much easier argument to make.

Just some Kirby's working together.

Kirby: Mass Attack - I'm not sure if Nintendo just likes to use Kirby to help sell their quirky gameplay mechanics that they don't think would otherwise catch with a new IP, or if they just think Kirby really fits these types of mechanics, but whatever they're doing, it's working. Kirby: Mass Attack (not to be confused with Kirby: Mass Effect, where you get a renegade interrupt to eat everybody) isn't your typical platformer, it's almost an RTS platformer. You guide a growing army of up to 10 tiny Kirby's across various levels to try and get himself put back together. The variety in the puzzles and scenarios keeps this game fresh, even against the limited number over environments and music. It feels like they could have mixed things up a little more there, b ut in the end it's Gameplay that matters and it's gameplay that makes this an important title for all DS holders.

You may find this hard to believe: you're guiding the tanks.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth - This was another little surprise I picked out of the Steam Holiday Sale. A reverse Tower Defense game, you lead an army of tanks through a twisting series of streets in a city overrun by aliens. As I said, this is a reverse Tower Defense, so those aliens have become giant buildings with which to assault you. It's a bit contrived, but it's actually quite a blast to play. Plus, the interface is clean and the graphics are gorgeous, giving this little title a big 'pop.'

Free to Play all the things - It's a trend that doesn't show signs of stopping, and while there are certainly devious undertones in some cases, the fact is that Free to Play is the right price. Even if you're limited to a number of classes, or you don't have any sweet hats, it's still a great way to try new games. Maybe you'll find a special one or two that you want to invest more in, otherwise move on. These games are really opening up a lot of people to genres that they would never normally play. It also makes for cheap ways to play games with friends and loves ones, which is something I appreciate more with age.

Dungeon Defenders - Even more tower defense! This one is way more heavy on the RPG aspects than the other ones. Complete with loot drops, character stats and ability trees. It felt like kind of a lot to get through upfront, but once you climb that hill, there's a lot to be excited for. It's a grand co-op experience, and for cheap.

And with that, we're almost done. Only 10 more things that made last year amazing. Everything else, clearly, was garbage. But feel free to debate me right in the comments below!

-Make it a good one.

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2011: A Retrospective - Part 3

And I'm back from feeling like junk. Here's the third part of my five-part series.

There's an almost Yoshi's Island quality to the art style. Also, there's a disco ball buried under ground.

Raskulls - I noticed when this game came out that there was a lot of dislike of it, but I happened to have an absolute blast with it. Half-Brick is quickly becoming one of my favorite studios for their charming art styles, witty banter, and clever-yet-simple game mechanics. The whole point of Half Prick is a 2D Platform racer where you, an adorable skull headed figure in one of many adorable costumes, are pit against up to 3 other characters for a race to the finish. The interesting thing is the pseudo color-matching puzzle built in. The most common obstacle you'll find is a series of block stopping you, but you can zap them out of the way with a little wand object. It'll clear out all of the bricks of a matching color connected to that one, so with a little quick thinking, you can try and hedge out a superior path. The game also takes this simple premise and devises a series of unique gameplay options and puzzle-modes through it's single-player campaign, and it's amazing how much variety they squeeze out of it. It was an absolute gem of a game that I would love to see more of (especially on a portable system).

The kid took aim and drew his string back. He found the destructible environments to be conducive to stress relief.

Bastion - I almost feel like I don't need to talk about this game. If this one screenshot doesn't convince you to immerse yourself in a world of fantastic hand-painted visuals, perhaps this sample of the soundtrack will. No? How about if I told you that it there's an full arsenal of varied weapons that can be mixed and matched, and spec'd in different ways for a huge spectrum of variety? Maybe one of the most well-told stories, the kind that is done in a way that can only be realized in video games, and shows why this is the superior medium for storytelling? Alright, if this can't convince you, you're probably just dead inside.

There's a lot going on in this screenshot, and I think it blocks out the fact that this board is Yoshi's Island.

Fortune Street - So. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you're going to like this game. I'm not going to try and convince you that this Monopoly with a hint of Mario Party, skinned with a ton of Mario and Dragon Quest nostalgia is really for you. I am going to tell you that this is the best version of Board Game Top Shop I've played since Board Game Top Shop. If you don't even know what that means, I could try and convince you that this is Culdcept Saga without the Magic: the Gathering mechanic, but that might not do anything for you either. I'm just going to tell you that I love it, and that many a friend has and will be subjected to it. Also this.

You can have her!

Devil Survivor: Overclocked - Yes, it's a remake of the original Devil Survivor on the DS. Yes, there's little to no use of 3D, and they ignore the better, cleaner, bigger screen up top during the main action and dialogue. Yes, this game has a few problems. But it also has one of the best stories, some of the best strategy gameplay, and oh yeah, Jack mo'effin' Frost.

Ilo Milo - I love puzzle platformers, I love a good art style, and I love a good soundtrack. This game is like a puzzle-platforming Mario Galaxy and it's positively oozing with delightful tones. It's quite the package, and I highly recommend you investigate it shortly.

Eye sees what you did there.

Terreria - 2D Minecraft with a heavier RPG influence. That's about it, and that's about all there needs to be.

If I had an "Item of the Year" Category, Racoon Tail gets it by a mile.

Mario Kart 7 - It could be easy to write off Mario Kart 7 as a total rehash, or the 'necessary once every console' type game, but that would be greatly understating that it just might be the best Mario Kart ever. Some people say that your favorite Mario Kart is your first, but I disagree. Mario Kart DS was my favorite, and I've been in this series since the beginning. But this one takes the cake. It looks crisp and clean, the car customization adds some fun and let's me race the way I like to with the characters I want (Lakitu). The new tracks are great, and I love when they can implement the new Glider feature into the old ones. (The underwater thing is take-it-or-leave-it, to be honest.) About the only way they could improve on this series, I think, is to turn it into "Smash Kart" and start throwing in more Nintendo Characters and themed courses, rather than adding (*sigh*) Queen Bee and Metal Mario. Imagine Samus riding in a kart shaped like her ship, or Link riding a motorcycle designed after Epona. This is where I want to see this series go. Until then? This one is pretty damn good.

Andriasang - It seems like everybody this day and age is quoting Andriasang for their news straight out of Japan. They seem to do pretty good work breaking a lot of interesting stories, and providing an awesome look into the gaming landscape of our Eastern counterpart. I just wanted to give them props for the hard work they've been doing this last year.

Did I mention this game is kind of fucked up? Because it's REALLY fucked up.

Binding of Isaac - The gaming equivalent to enjoying being tied up in a dungeon and having hot candle wax poured onto one's backside, The Binding of Isaac is a simple game with a remoresless difficulty. You play as Isaac, a little boy escaping his mother (who believes God has comanded her to kill her son) by running into their basement. What ensues is essentially a randomly generated Zelda dungeon crawler. There's tons of power-ups, enemies, and bosses that keep this game feeling fresh, and also to keep you from ever actually beating it. It's not for the feint of heart (or the controller-throwing prone), but it's a pretty awesome little title.

The future is Orange.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Deus Ex may not have asked to be on this list, and I almost didn't put it on here. For as much a the game does, I feel like there's a lot of things it does wrong. But in the end, I'm enamored with the cyber-punk story and visual aesthetics. It may not be perfect, but it's pretty damn cool, none the less.

Part: The Third, down. Two more to go. How do you like them selections, folks?

-Make it a good one.

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2011: A Retrospective, Part 2

Another day, another 10 great things about last year.

Skyrim is full of delicious earth porn.

Skyrim - I have always been apprehensive of open-world type games. I've always felt that something fine tuned and more narrow will always be a more polished and enjoyable experience. While I don't think I'm wrong on that point, I have come around on the whole open world thing thanks to games like Assassin's Creed and, now, Skyrim. Oblivion was neat, Fallout was pretty awesome, and now Skyrim is frickin' amazing. From top to bottom there is some real spit-shine on a game I would have expected to be full of open-world jank. Sure, you've got the occasional mammoth on a treetop, or floating items, but overall this game really shines in a way that no open world game has for me, yet. It's atmospheric, it's immersive, and the game let's me get away with doing pretty much anything I want.

They did far more here then I ever expected they would/could.

Portal 2 - Portal will always be on a short list of perfect games, to me. There was absolutely nothing wrong with anything in it's execution. Hopes were high with Portal 2, but I was afraid that they would end up just sort of "more of the same"-ing it. That fear was out the window in the first minutes of that game with a little sphere named Wheatley telling me all about what was going on, and my hotel room chamber smashing through a wall. Clearly, this was going to be everything I loved about Portal only bigger and better. I was not disappointed, as I added the second Portal to that short, short list.

So gorgeous. So deadly.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet - Maybe it's the fact that I've been itching to get a new Metroid-vania style of game, or maybe it's the quirky and colorful aesthetic of Shadow Planet, but that game just hit a nerve with me. It was an inventive 2D game that was both familiar and new. The way the enemy terrain writhed and threatened me while being simultaneously dark and colorful begged me to comb every inch of that game to find all the hidden goodies.

Find Mii - So, I'm in love with the 3DS's Street Pass functionality. The old "Bark Mode" was cool, but it didn't work out since you could only have one active game at a time. But with Street Pass, all of the data of any games you own gets traded with other people. Find Mii is a game that everybody technically has if they own a 3DS, so it gets some of the most use. You take the Mii's that you find on a quest across a series of dungeons and forests to find your own Mii, who has been captured by evil monsters. It's fairly simplistic, but it's quirky in charming in that way that only Nintendo can be. It's a brilliant use of the feature, it's packed into the game, and it's been expanded by Nintendo just recently to be far more grand. Plus? If we learned anything from Team Fortress 2, it's that hats are awesome.

ACTION! ADVENTURE! SKYSHIPS!

Super Mario 3D Land - I think it speaks for itself that I have already cleared everything I can in this game. Every coin, every golden flag, with every character, on both worlds. There is nothing left for me in Mario 3D Land, and I still want to go back in and just do it all again. That game is pure platforming bliss, and I think Nintendo has really uncovered something important with it's use of the 3D technology. Even when you're not using the 3D, which makes pinpoint landings and jumps even easier, they've still found a way to make a 3D game with a fixed camera work. I have a few quirky nitpicks about this and that, but overall, I'm more excited for a more thought out, fully cooked Super Mario game on the 3DS.

Yep. Pretty much this.

Rock of Ages - Man, this game is weird. But it's weird in all the right ways. Overall, it's just a game about rolling a boulder through an obstacle course maintained and built by your opponents, all in an attempt to break down their defense and destroy them. A simple, and interesting enough game with some cool multi-player prospects, but what really helps launch Rock of Ages into the forefront is it's zany trip through history in the form of a comedic premise featuring Sisyphus escaping his torment and bowling his way to freedom. He comes across historical figures like Vlad the Impaler and Leonidas, represented by cut-outs of artistic representations of them, and re-enacted with modern referential material, such as Leonidas trying to kick Sisyphus down a well. It's all very bizarre, but very charming at the same time. The Monty Python-esque design combines with unique gameplay, to make one of the most interesting games this year.

Minecraft - Sure we've been playing it for over a year, but it's technically 'out,' now, and it is still getting better with every update. The ability to lose yourself in a world that you must survive in by using the landscapes around you to your advantage really works. Everything in the world around you is a tool or material that you can use, so you're not locked to just select items like you would be in any other game. It's a unique experience, to be sure. And even if you don't like the whole survival aspect of it, you can just freely build crap all willy-nilly. Go make giant 8-bit Mega Man characters, or monuments to The Normandy. Recreate The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, if you're that bored.

Arrow to the FAAACE!

Orcs Must Die - I almost skipped this one entirely until it went on sale on Steam recently, and I kick myself for having almost done so. This game is a fast paced tower defense/3rd person action game with a sense of style and really solid tech to back it up. Setting up traps and slaughtering waves of orcs is just good fun. Top to bottom, this game has a lot of care put into it, and it shows. All I could want out of a sequel at this point is some kind of multiplayer mode.

Sanctum - While we're on the subject of tower defense games, let's move to the first person perspective. Where Orcs Must Die had a whimsical fantasy setting, Sanctum is a super futuristic setting with only slightly less whimsy. It's more focused on the Defense Grid style of building mazes to force mindless mobs to run through while you assault them with your first person gun stuffs. It actually has a multi-player, and is a hell of a lot of fun because of it.

Not to be confused with Minecraft.

EDGE - A tricky little puzzle/platformer, EDGE has the right look, the right sound, and the right gameplay for your buck. It kind of feels like a game that was pulled out of the late 80's, early 90's, and cleaned up for a more current generation of hardware. It's really unique, and Two Tribes in general does great work, so I wanted to highlight it here.

So today was mostly filled with just regular ol' games. No positive trends or anything I wanted to hit on this week, but we'll see during the rest of the week if there was anything worth mentioning.

How about you? What were some of your favorite things this past year? What did you think of my recommendations so far? Feel free to leave comments below! I love 'em!

-Make it a good one.

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2011: A Retrospective

[NIFTY GRAPHIC HERE]

2011 is actually one of the better years I can think of, in general, for games. There weren't a whole lot of surprises, but I think everything came out just as good, and occasionally better, than I had expected. I wanted to take some time to highlight the best things in games. Not just the games themselves, but the grand industry surrounding them as well. I think the importance of trends and actions can sometimes be overshadowed, and I want to make sure they get some recognition.

Also? I wanted to come up with a list of 50 things. That's 10 things a day. There's no discernible order to them, so don't try to find my "favorite thing" about last year.

10 Things I Loved About Last Year.

This game has one of the better opening sequences in recent memory.

Dead Space 2 - It's been almost a year since this title came out, already, and I still recall so much of it vividly. From top to bottom, this game never stopped impressing me. Between just how crisp it looked and ran, the XBOX 360 no less; to the immaculate attention paid to the sound design; to the action that only broke camera a handful of times the entire game, Visceral Games really deserves to be commended for busting such a brilliant game. And just over two years after their initial title, managing to squeeze out Dead Space: Extraction, and the (quality arguments aside) full package that was Dante's Inferno. Those guys have done a lot in a short while, and Dead Space 2 stands as a crowning achievement.

More class than school in Japan.

Satoru Iwata - I've said before that I think he is the classiest son'bitch in games, and this only cemented that feeling. Maybe it's a difference in culture, but in the face of the 3DS not doing as well as was hoped, Iwata's actions still illicit a double take. He did what? He cut his salary in half?! And those of other managers? Rather than firing staff at the bottom and giving himself a bonus like every other CEO? I've heard it said that this is common in Japan, and maybe it's just my selective reading, but I still can never think of a time in history where I've seen this. In an era of Enrons and #OccupyWallstreet, it's nice to see a big ol' corporate man take a humbling hit like that. The 20 free games I got didn't hurt, either.

Like this, but with higher production values!

Persona 4 - The Anime - No shame here, I'll put any excuse to remind people that Persona 4 was a thing that I can. That game is, to this day, one of the most memorable titles I have ever played. And as I push thickly framed glasses up my nose, I want to be clear, that I enjoyed this game before Giant Bomb's Endurance Run. Well before all of that, my friend bought me Persona 4 for Christmas, considering my recent love with Persona 3. The first time I powered that game on was on a random whim at 4 in the morning. Some friends were over and we were talking, and I just felt like throwing down some JRPG action. 16 hours later, I finally took a nap. No game has ever, to this day, had that effect on me. And the thing I love about the anime? It manages to recapture everything that I loved about Persona 4, while still tossing it's own spins and curve balls in there to keep it engaging. I'm praying for localization at some point, but until then, watching it on Hulu is working just fine.

Professor Layton and the Curious Thing Happening Off-Camera

Professor Layton - It was a good year for Professor Layton fans the world over. Japan saw the release of Mask of Miracles, Layton's first 3DS outing; us local folk-al saw the release of The Last Spectre; and we received the jaw-dropping announcement of Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton. Plus the release of Layton's first full-length movie, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. It was an action-packed year for Layton's apprentices, and there's still plenty more to come.

So that totally happens.

Sonic Generations - Alright. I don't like to generally get nasty or snarky but: It's About. Fucking. Time. Huge nostalgia kick aside (which they nail in the face and straight to my childhood), they actually did it, you guys. They made a good Sonic game again. And what's weirder? It's probably the best Sonic yet. They made a new Sonic, that's cobbled together from all the old Sonics, AND MADE IT A BETTER SONIC! How does that work?! They didn't just lean on the drug of nostalgia; they actually made it look and feel blazing fast while playing buttery smooth. This game is miles ("Tails" Prower) above their Sonic 4 game, which wasn't bad, per se, but wasn't really great either. What's more, they didn't just make a lazy port to the 3DS, they tried to make an original, albeit similar, game. So owning both copies, I don't feel like I have the "gimped one" and the "amazing one." I mean, one is clearly better by virtue of tech, but the 3DS one is still pretty awesome.

25 amazing years.

The Zelda 25th Anniversary - I don't think they could have handled this better, really. A huge concert, tons of press, free games, updated versions of favorite games, a brand new big ass game... I mean... How awesome was that, you guys? I write this, a week away from going to see the Zelda Orchestra in Dallas, TX, and I'm still getting goosebumps. It does kind of make me bummed that Mario, the Big Red fucking M, got a half-assed package and a wave out the door, and Metroid was completely overlooked. But they pulled out all the stops with, arguably, their biggest franchise. A job well done, top to bottom.

The Steam Sales - It wasn't until the end of this year that I would have ever called myself a PC gamer. Sure, I loved me some Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, and the occasional MMO stint, but I was always a console guy. I think that's about over. I got a 27 inch monitor for Christmas, I've got me a wired 360 controller (for Super Meat Boy, etc.), and I have Steam. All year long Steam has been really ramping up it's services; providing screenshots, video recording, and the sales. My god, it's full of sales. The Summer Camp and Winter promotions were, I think, brilliant. They give you huge incentives, besides ridiculously priced content, to play some real hidden gems like Sanctum and Jamestown. Even if you didn't get anything especially cool, you still had a chance too, and I think that was half the fun. I got me a copy of Nimbus I can't wait to crack open, now that I can stop hounding for achievements, and I've got a couple dozen amazing titles to go back through. About the only thing I would love to see now is Steam hit other platforms. I would love to have access to the store via my Android, or choice games (like Binding of Isaac) available on my 3DS or Vita. It's a bit of a long shot, but it would be amazing.

The 3DS - I've mentioned it enough times that I might as well give it a slot to itself. The year started quite rough for the little guy, not unlike when the original DS launched. A couple of pretty neat titles, a bunch of quick-to-make-a-buck ports and remakes, and some virtual console titles were all we had for quite a while. Then came a huge price cut, a promise of 20 free virtual console games, and (most importantly) some key software. It took a while, but I believe the 3DS landed a far higher note than the DS did in it's first. I'm already in possession of a stack of games that dwarfs my PSP collection, and I earnestly enjoy them. Seeing what I've got up ahead, I've still got plenty to be excited about, too. The DS is still my favorite little guy, but the 3DS is quickly living up to his older brother.

VVVVVV - Like Persona 4, I'll take a good instance to show off this game whenever possible. It's a great little title with an amazing soundtrack. It was just released on the 3DSWare at the end of the year, and if you haven't checked it out yet, you're doing it wrong. Doing what wrong? Everything. Granted, maybe you just don't like awesome 2D platforms that challenge your twitch reflexes and love of chiptune music, and that's fine. Some people are just born without a soul, but that doesn't mean they're any less of a person. Well, they are, but not legally.

Chicks love Pushmo.

Pushmo - Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Guys. Seriously. Guys. Pushmo. Look at it. Oh my god it just. It just hits you right there, you know? That spot in your brain? The one that doesn't get scratched enough? Yeah. It gets you there. Right there. It just gets it's talons, or proboscis, whatever it uses, and it just fucking wedges right up in there and takes hold. And you don't want it to go. Every time your eyes are seperated from the screen and the puzzles; every time your ears are no longer drowning in the pleasant 'beatz,' it's painful. Like the loss of something, but you don't know what. You just know you want it back. That's Pushmo, guys. Pushmo.

Favorite Thing from Before 2011 that I just discovered this year: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey - I picked up this little DS title when it came up then shelved it for whatever distraction came my way. Going back to it, I rather enjoyed the story and atmosphere of it, and I highly recommend it to anybody who missed it.

And that's my list so far. Come back tomorrow and I'll have another 10 things that I just absolutely adored this year. Or don't. Whatever. I'm a blog, not a cop.

-Make it a good one.

As a note to Giant Bomb. Not that it matters, but this is reposted from my current blog. I post here just to get some feedback on my articles, but I still maintain that. You're more than welcome to follow me, and I won't often be linking that, so don't worry. This is strictly for feedback and discussion; nothing more. I'll be revamping some of my Smash Bros. articles and posting that stuff here retroactively, so stay tuned for that. Thanks!

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