Sonic hasn't exactly had a crisis-free adulthood. Of all the popular characters who've been forced to cough out a new franchise entry every 9-18 months, Sonic's journey has perhaps been the most tortured of any since the era of pizza mascot games. We loved to think that maybe with the announcement of a brand new, reboot-level take of the core gameplay--Sonic 4 was going to be a spindash in the right direction.
Regardless of what you thought of Sonic 4: Episode 1 when it released in 2010, it was difficult not to drop it like a bad lover in reverence to a fan trailer of Mushroom Hill Zone as well as a playable demo of Emerald Hill Zone. These represented a bright new world where gorgeous graphics were the norm, but where nothing could stand in the way of the pixel-perfect physics of the the old games. Fans and faithful followers all rejoiced at the mere thought of a 2D Sonic with these priorities, which didn't seem to be keeping much momentum in Sonic 4.
This year's Sonic Generations may have been a testing bed for whether such hardcore physics and split-second gameplay can appease the market to which Sega's otherwise been oblivious. The positive reviews and attention it garnered must have had some effect on their plans for the next great Sonic title, because the above video comes with an announcement on Sega's dev blog:
Fans have been eagerly anticipating the next episode in Sonic's new side-scrolling adventure, and SEGA has been listening closely to their feedback. Armed with all-new character animations and a completely reworked physics engine, Episode II will expand the Sonic 4 storyline with new areas to speed through and new challenges to face.
So if you're among the many Sonic fans who wanted a more oldschool feel to what should be an instant classic, then Sega hopes to lure you back into the cycle of hope with these words. Will you take the plunge? Keep in mind that the slippery slope of too-many-characters has begun to tilt and keen, though the addition of Tails in Episode 2 may just introduce a co-op element that's been missing for years.
Another blind hope: if these new physics turn out to be as deliciously retro as they should be, will Sega release an updated version of Sonic 4: Episode 1 for free as an apology? Tune in next time, chili dogs!
Not enough RPGs on your mind this week? Good! Because Square-Enix just announced a collector's bundle for Final Fantasy XIII-2, and it looks like a doozy of a deal, designed to draw in FF-fans who remember what the series is supposed to be about. By that, of course, I mean the otherworldly concept art and extensive OSTs worth shelling out import fees to acquire!
The collector's edition you see here will come with an exclusive cover as well as a 20-page artbook, featuring concept and character art by the legendary Yoshitaka Amano. If that's not enough, you also get a four-CD soundtrack to fill your pretty little ears while you browse said artwork. (Now how much would you pay?)
If you said 'only $20 more than the regular edition,' then your budget will be delighted to find that's exactly how much this edition will cost. Not too shabby, considering some of us ponied up almost $80 just for Square soundtracks back in the import-only, pre-MP3 days. (And we liked it, too!)
On a grander note, it's nice to see that the concept of a reasonably-priced Collector's Edition is coming back in style next year. 2011's releases saw pricey packs upwards of $150 for something as simple as a model TR0N bike or a giant dragon statue. Between FFXIII-2 and Mass Effect 3, the goodie boxes of the future are looking like a much better value.
No word yet on whether Square-Enix wants to put in the oft-underrated Dress Sphere system back in their latest game-ending-in-2.
It's not every day that we get an official word on possibly two new Zelda titles, but it's certainly a good day when it happens! For this particular peek into the future, we can thank MyGames for interviewing Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma and NintendoEverything for the Portuguese translation.
Fans enthralled by the Master Sword will have more to salivate over with Aonuma's news: Nintendo is working on a brand-new Zelda game for Nintendo 3DS. As for what to expect, he says, "don't think that it is a direct sequel to the Zelda titles released on DS. We are talking about a new game, but it takes much of what has been done on previous handhelds."
In other words: don't expect quite the same graphics or stained-glass intro sequences, but do expect touch controls and unique forms of locomotion? Nothing sure yet, but there's always time to speculate wildly! (Hey guys: maybe it'll be in space!)
But hold on to your green hats and tiaras, because there's more! After the reveal of the new Zelda title, MyGames asked about the possibility of a remake of the classic Majora's Mask. Aonuma's reply was heartening:
It's something I'm asked about often and I assure you that it is something I've spoken to Miyamoto about. [...] We are considering the idea, but it didn't seem right to launch a remake one after another, so the next Zelda game on 3DS will be original.
It certainly sounds like a graphically-upgraded version of the black sheep of Zelda titles could see the light of day! Though given Nintendo's almost glacial release schedule recently, I wouldn't hold my breath on seeing the 3DS' third Zelda anytime in the next year or two.
Any hopes/dreams for the next original game in the series? Personally, I'd love to see the gliding segments àlaWind Waker in eye-pop-o-vision.
Terry Cavanagh had a lot riding on his latest creation, VVVVVV, and it was a pretty wild ride. The ups and downs of making a successful indie game have been chronicled before, but one of the ups is seeing your work appear on much bigger platforms. That's the case for Cavanagh, who just announced that his gravity-flipping retro game will be played soon on the 3DS.
Cavanagh is one of many developers at Indiecade this year, showing off his latest work, At A Distance. He may have a playable build of this 3DS port as well, if his photos are any indication!
He's working with publisher Nicalis to put out the downloadable version of VVVVVV. Nicalis are the same folks who completed the full graphic overhaul for Cave Story, to be released later this year. Between these titles and the recent Bit.Trip Saga, it seems the 3DS is becoming a haven for Western indie devs to get their goods past the usual PC-only audience. Whether Nintendo is courting these parties or whether it's just arising from the success of these titles, here's hoping we see more of them on modern systems.
As fans of Team Fortress, Half-Life, and DotA can attest, Valve always has its customers in mind... as long as those customers have patience in mind.
That's why it's impossible to be upset for the first free DLC pack for Portal 2 having missed its original projected summer release date. Sure, it would've been nice to have some more mind-bending challenges to occupy the time before the wave of holiday releases started, but we can now say that the 'Peer Review' DLC chapter will be hitting all platforms starting tomorrow, so those gamers who aren't pitching a tent for the midnight openings of Rage or Dark Souls can still have something to look forward to this week!
According to Valve's press agents, you, the player, "will continue the story of loyal bots P-Body and Atlas as you puzzle your way through a mysterious new co-op test track and once again match wits with GLaDOS." Exciting! Especially considering that the free DLC for the first Portal felt a bit sterile without our favorite bitchy AI voice rattling our respective self-esteems. The DLC will also include some single-player content, in the form of a challenge mode with leaderboards to tease your friends about.
It's worth noting, given the touchy subject of delays surrounding Valve's content, that the press release making the rounds mentions October 4th as the release date, while Valve's blog says Wednesday. Is GLaDOS making a joke about the Mayan calendar? We shall see! Console gamers should likely expect their access to 'Peer Review' to depend on their respective download service's usual update schedule.
If tomorrow/the-next-day/whenever is too long to wait for you to continue thinking with portals, don't forget the Summer Mapping Initiative contest that Valve put on produced dozens of well-rated community maps, as judged by peers and awarded with awesome Portal swag. And, as we all know, properly motivated subjects produce the best results!
After months of tenuous support and early-adopter woes, the 3DS community is still raucously rallying around a few key titles to justify their investment, and one of those is the iconic Super Mario 3D Land. In the N64 era and before, Nintendo launches have had Mario as a flagship launch title, but in this case they've chosen to wait for a plumber-studded showing during the holiday season. Regardless of how you feel about their launch strategy, it's becoming more clear that Nintendo is putting a lot of their best ideas into their Mario title.
One such idea comes from Japanese marketing boxes for the game, just revealed by Andriasang. After plenty of Nintendo titles not featuring the 3DS' full functionality, Super Mario 3D Land will have SpotPass support. What this means is that folks who purchase the big title will have the opportunity to register its data in their systems, then to share items with other 3DS gamers they pass on the street.
The other icon on the back of the box is a P-Wing block, which is apparently similar to the Assist Blocks that appeared in New Super Mario Bros. Wii as a way of increasing difficulty while enabling casual players to get a chance to see the whole game. It's not yet clear what these P-Wing blocks will do, but Miyamoto has referenced SMB3 a few times so far; a title in which the P-Wing block could allow skipping an entire level. (In the original game, this could backfire if the player dies after the handicap, as they would be reset to before the skipped level.) Besides the iconic powerup, there's little indication as to how the game-changing assist will work in this new title.
There are plenty of titles both big and niche for the 3DS this year--from Mario Kart to Cave Story. Seeing new features in a flagship title such as Super Mario 3D Land gives me hope that the rest of them will be just as rich!
There have been more than a few panicked debates and vows of boycott since Nintendo announced the official Circle Pad add-on for the 3DS, and for good reason. Most of the to-do has revolved around whether splitting the market is a good idea this early in the console's life--to say nothing of the feeling of a second punch in the gut for those early adopters who are still reeling from a $80 loyalty fee. But before we start peering into crystal balls and doomsaying an industry giant based on a 1500-yen accessory, why don't we have a gander at the only confirmed games to require the Circle Pad? We already knew about the pseudo-sequel, Monster Hunter 3G, but now there's evidence of an even bigger number! That's right: Monster Hunter 4!
Truth be told, the footage above may be enough to drum up excitement even among those who wouldn't normally consider themselves among the MonHan tribe: it seems the team at Capcom have seen fit to eschew the typical slow movements that have marked the past slew of titles, as the hunter in the above video can be seen mounting steppes with an almost Brooksian agility. There's also a cliff-hanging chase sequence which almost evokes Prince of Persia, and it all culminates in a game-changer as the hunter actually lands on top of a Wyvern for some impunable strikes.
Even as an amateur slayer of beasts, I can say that functions like these look like they'll make way for entirely new types of hunts and challenges, so this is one more must-have for me--making even the earliest of 3DS purchases an investment that's still paying off.
Just coming back from PAX and need some warm, cottony comfort to chase away the feeling of being surrounded by non-gamers? Well, Mojang has you covered--they've teamed up with Happy Socks (also Swedish!) to bring you a run of official Minecraft socks.
As shown, they come in a fully stackable, fully destructible little dirt block, and the effect only gets better once you open it and find a wearable piggy face, creeper, or mountain collage. Slip them on, and Happy Socks hopes you'll agree that the singular pixel style of Minecraft has never wrapped your toes quite like this! One glance at the isometric trees and everyone will know your calves are something special.
These may be more of a collector's item than a vanity thing, however: this socks-box will set you back $45. That's not a horrible price when one considers the 'prestige fee' that most official gaming gear carries, but the idea of spending that much and then even daring to break the seal and get some ambient carpet dirt on them is enough to make me shy away - let alone allowing them to wear out completely. But, if you've got the gold ore to make it happen, you should get them while the collab is still good!
We brought you news of a possible Minecraft convention some months ago, when Notch & co. were still soliciting ideas on what would make up such an event. It seems they've certainly built their confidence in those months, since Mojang has now reserved space in the famed Mandalay Bay hotel for this year. Yes, that means MineCon is happening in Vegas, November 18-19, and tickets are already on sale for the event!
The official site notes that the convention will host the "official Minecraft launch," despite that all accounts so far set that date for 11/11/11. Given the ground-up nature of enjoying a new world of Minecraft, it seems likely that the team will roll out the final, official update on the planned date, while the panels at MineCon will focus on what people have been able to make with those new features in the week-and-change that follow. (Well, that, and Notch will need time to play Skyrim!)
There's no word yet on what to expect once you're there, other than "keynotes and classes," but the Notch's original post mentioned ideas like speed-building, costume contests, and more. If you're attending, consider packing your diamond sword to fend off the inevitable wave of cosplayers as they interpret what a creeper looks like!
MineCon tickets are going for $99 in advance, not including hotel fare, and will stay on sale until Notch decides the hotel's whitelist has reached capacity.
Before he became a suspicious, murderous mess loosely presiding over a corrupt corner of the ocean, Andrew Ryan had a posh life in New York - but not a comfortable one, with his fiery ethics opposing modern society at every turn. That's one part of the story told by the first Bioshock novel, Bioshock: Rapture. Published by TOR and written by John Shirley (The Crow, Black Butterflies), it chronicles the creation and dissolution of one of the most ambitious and politically charged settings in any video game.
While Rapture itself is the brainchild of Irrational Games, it was later given over to 2K Marin to enact a sequel, which carried Ken Levine's blessing but not necessarily an archival approval. Part of what made the sequel stand out as a cash-in was its deathmatch multiplayer, supposedly taking place during the genetic haywire of Rapture's civil war. (Rather than undergo a horrifying and irreversible transformation, players got to fight over a 'Big Daddy' powerup for a moment of awesome stompyness!) It's unclear from the Amazon description whether the novel will include such powerups, but whether it does will certainly color purists' perceptions of it.
Bioshock: Rapture may also answer some questions about how the Ryan/Fontaine rivalry ended in such disaster while still apparently staying within the confines of an objectivist utopia. To get a feel for the period language and setting, check out the preview on TOR's website. The full book is $17 for paper, or $10 as an eBook. Commerce!
You may have heard some internet clamor recently over Wii owners taking amazing steps to support the release of a few choice titles here in North America. This has included mailing in small tokens like story pages or paper swords to Nintendo of America, in a sort of reverse-boycott known as Operation Rainfall. It can best be described as a bunch of rabid fans with money, trying to raise awareness and prove interest for the release of the Wii titles like Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower. The internet collective really started making it rain when they pushed an outdated listing for Xenoblade's old title, Monado, to the top of Amazon's most-preordered list. Having hundreds of gamers lay their credit cards on the line just in the hope of getting their favorite game on a boat to America has to be worth some response from Nintendo, right?
Thank you for your enthusiasm. We promised an update, so here it is. We never say "never," but we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time. Thanks so much for your passion, and for being such great fans!
In other words: we appreciate your loyalty, but we know all you really want to buy is Wii Play and Zelda.
The plot gets even sillier when one considers that Xenoblade is already fully translated: it's planned for release in September, but only in Europe. Would it really be so hard to put an ESRB logo over the PEGI one...?
I jest, of course--there has to be more to Nintendo's decision than spite. Sadly, all we have to go on is history, and the Wii recent history has been telling. Sin & Punishment 2 got a fair-sized marketing campaign, but didn't end up taking off like NoA hoped--though that's likely more a result of its arcade style and hardcore-only appeal than the American market in general. No More Heroes was another high-budget Wii title that's now relegated to the status of cult classic, rather than system seller.
Nintendo's reluctance to push Wii exclusives for core gamers, even while explicitly including those fans in the recent WiiU pitch, is bizarre to say the least. But astute gamers will remember this isn't the first time NoA has looked down and whispered, "no." They've also been steadily silent on the idea of rereleasing Earthbound or its sequel Mother 3, despite a large and affluent fanbase such as evidenced by Starmen.net. We've had years to speculate on that one, and everything from Beatles music to sales figures have been presented as evidence in the court of public opinion. It also may be last third-party title on which Nintendo spent a significant amount of marketing, back in 1995, only to have it sell pitifully in the pre-Playstation era of RPGs.
Contrast that with the Rainfall-focused games: approachable RPGs from popular directors. The sales of FFXIII last year more than prove there's a market for beautiful JRPGs; Sakaguchi's Last Story and Tetsuya Takahashi's Xenoblade should be hot in the minds of American fans. There's money on the table, if only NoA would put its chips down.
I'm no Nintendo-hater - I've owned a Wii since day one and couldn't bring myself to give up on it at any point. (Sure, it's more of a Smash Bros. machine, but that's where we're at now.) I just wish, more than anything, that Nintendo of America would offer some heart-to-heart talk about why it makes these sorts of decisions. Transparency is a long way off for any modern company, but it seems like it's only Nintendo fans who get all the benefits of a messy breakup with none of the closure.
As a (possibly) final farewell, hit the jump for some gameplay of Xenoblade's early levels, along with annotations on combat and the beautiful world surrounding the Monado. If you're in Europe, look forward to playing this in September and The Last Storysometime next year. If you're in America, well... keep writing!
When it comes to female characters, there's a wide range to go between 'completely exploitative' and 'gender equality.' Platinum Games' Bayonetta, as she was originally designed, straddles that divide, then winks knowingly at the camera. It's impossible to say for sure what makes her such a favorite in my mind--is it the stiletto sashay; the huge violet butterfly wings; the untouchable diva dialogue...? It's even possible to draw comparisons to Madonna's utterly unabashed sexuality in Platinum's protagonist, though the fact that the game's producer assumedly knows very little about drag does obscure the illusion somewhat.
There's a little less spandex and a lot more leather in the designs below, and for good reason: they were a little side-project by concept artist Wesley Burt, sometime around the game's launch. There are six characters in total, ranging from #1's 'Katy Perry with guns' to #6's 'steampunk harlequin' motif. I'm also in love with the liberal use of hair decorations here, as well as the positively Andersian piece on #3.
What's more interesting than Burt's redesigns, though, is what they say about the difference between Eastern and Western character art. These designs still have sexiness & sass, but with a lot more trappings and sturdiness. Bayonetta's boots actually look like they could hold pistols, and there's enough coverage on the old girl to evoke layers of armor. A game with this character would play less like Devil May Cry and more like Red Dead Redemption.
While the original, unbelievable design on Bayonetta fits the game's tone, it does leave one to wonder if Japanese developers will ever give a female character sufficient physical coverage to warrant going into battle alone. Part of me wants to bring up Samus Aran, but... well, we all played Other M.
So which Bizarro-Bayonetta needs her own game the most?
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