Welcome to your first VGHomework assignment! VGHomework is your chance to get in on the discussion from the latest episode of VGHangover. We’ll be adding…
Author: D.J. Ross
Earlier this month, the infamous Minecraft finally arrived on the Xbox 360. In case you’re not one of the millions of people who have experienced it on the PC (or one of the million who helped it shatter sales records on Xbox Live), we want to let you have the chance by giving you a download code for the brand new Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. We’ve only got one copy to give away, though, so pay attention if you want to be punching trees and interfering with sheep from the comfort of your sofa.
Fez is out this week! For reals! First announced all the way back in July of 2007 (the PS3 and Wii weren’t even a year old), you’ve probably heard of it since then if you follow the indie scene, or at least seen screenshots of its distinctive pixel graphics. I got to play it for a while at PAX last August, and it felt like a solid platformer. The Escher-like core mechanic—rotating the 2D world 90 degrees at a time to reveal new paths—took some time to get used to, but it was a nice twist (excuse me) on the genre.
What stuck out the most in my mind, though, is how one of the PAX presenters mentioned that part of the game’s ambition is to be something you can sit back and take your time with, which the player character’s leisurely movement encourages‐he’s definitely no Mario. That’s really cool, I thought, instantly imagining myself lazily rotating Fez‘s world around as I searched for the key to the next area. Will that fly with gamers accustomed to slurping up the newest releases and plowing through them so they can trade them in towards whatever’s out the next week? I’m a little skeptical, but considering how long the game has been in development, hopefully people can come to terms. I’d hate for everyone to rush through it too quickly.
This might go without saying at this point, but if you stop by your local games retailer this week to check out the new releases, expect to see familiar franchises from wall to wall. I know that the games industry loves to stick to their tried and true series—this generation more than ever—but even I’m a little surprised at the extent to which they’ve done it this week.
Shhh… Is everyone who picked up a Vita happily distracted playing their shiny, new handheld? Good, let’s talk about some of the non-Vita games coming out this week, including something that could shake up the whole industry.
With Soulcalibur V now unleashed upon the fighting game community, it’s time for BGM Mode to take a look back at the series’s epic soundtracks. And that’s not “epic” in the Internet forum sense–the Soul series has always done things on a grand scale, whether it’s the flashy action, the panoramic stage vistas, or even the ultra corny announcer. It follows that the music would be appropriately grandiose, usually sticking to a rich, orchestral sound but occasionally throwing in the odd electric guitar just because.
Let’s start off with Soulcalibur II‘s opening movie for good measure:
It’s the end of January and that refreshing winter lull is finally coming to an end—hope you carved a decent chunk out of your backlog! Triple-A titles are officially back in season with this week’s two big releases, and boy, are they big.
Despite the generally disappointed reactions to its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2 remains the most anticipated game out this week. Following the precedent they set nearly a decade ago with Final Fantasy X-2, Yoshinori Kitase and his team have dreamed up another direct Final Fantasy sequel, which is unusual for a series known for introducing a completely new setting and storyline with each game. You’ll play as Serah, sister of XIII‘s heroine, and encounter familiar faces and locations along your adventure, which is shorter than a typical Final Fantasy but does attempt to address some of people’s complaints about the original, like its infamous linearity.
We’re in a bit of a winter release lull, but that’s OK with all of us at VGH since it gives us time to catch up on all those amazing games from 2011. (Or, more realistically, we’re doing a few more tours of duty in Battlefield 3.) With that said, there are some new games out this week, so we’re teaming up here to give you the lowdown.
#5: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
Although this actually came out towards the end of 2010, 999 struck such a chord with me that I’m happy to feature it alongside the best games I played this year. I haven’t played many visual novels (the closest maybe being Hotel Dusk: Room 215), but I loved that the game took its time building up an elaborate mystery which, despite the many unexpected twists, all seemed to make sense in the end. The ways the creator managed to incorporate genre tropes and even the DS format into the story and gameplay were nothing short of genius and had me scrambling to play the game over so I could experience it again from a new perspective. It’s like The Prestige of video games—the deception is right under your nose the entire time, but you’d never in a million years suspect it.
Did you know Square Enix actually put out a Christmas album last year? It’s mostly (actually, entirely) the Square side of S-E (no holiday Dragon Quest arrangements in sight), but it’s still worth a listen just to experience some unusual and very jingly versions of a few classic Square tunes. Here are some of the more notable ones in case you’re tired of playing the same old Christmas Eve background music.
HO HO HO, I’m here to “WRAP UP” our gamer gift lists for this year. Some of these are things I mentioned when we all discussed our lists in Episode 33, but there’s some new stuff as well, so read on!
Games for Non-Gamers
Trying to get someone into gaming? Valve’s Portal 2 might be the key. It introduces a lengthy co-op mode with hours of the series’s trademark puzzles and wry humor. For new gamers, the first-person controls might be a bit of a shock, but reassure your non-gamer recipient that they can ease into them at their own pace, since there won’t be mobs of angry teenage boys shooting at them over Xbox Live.
When Q-Games announced in 2009 that their new PixelJunk title would be called PixelJunk Shooter, despite it playing more like Solar Jetman than Gradius, the 2D shooter fan in me cringed a little. Fast forward a couple years and Q-Games has spun elements from that game into a new title that plays more like a traditional shooter but, in a small twist of irony, is called PixelJunk SideScroller to set it apart from its less shootery siblings.
(Don’t worry. There will be time for questions at the end.)
It’s Mario Kart 7 week! The last big release of the year (provided you’re not devoting your life to Star Wars: The Old Republic in a couple weeks) zoomed onto shelves this Sunday, and I’ve been playing it a ton since then. You won’t find any odd mechanics like doubled-up drivers or motorcycles in this edition of Nintendo’s classic kart racer–they’ve opted to play it safe and give the 3DS a more traditional Kart. I’m totally fine with that.
The end of the year is rapidly approaching and we’re preparing a special episode to wrap up the first season of Video Game Hangover, but…
Is the brunt of the Fall releases over? (I secretly hope not, because if I can’t complain about all the games coming out I’ll have to figure out some other way to introduce these posts.) Anyway, it’s definitely waning but we still have a few more big releases left in the year. So what are they?
The biggest this week is undoubtedly The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for (what else?) the Wii. If you already listened to Episode 30, you know it’s a bit controversial among the VGH crew for its decision to use only motion controls, but I’m optimistic. Nintendo says they’ve prepared a cool, 1:1 swordfighting experience, and I want to see how well that works. I found the waggle-laden sword action in 2006’s Zelda: Twilight Princess to be pretty pointless, so at the very least this should be more engaging.
It was inevitable that I’d eventually have to feature Namco’s Ace Combat here in BGM Mode, since Ace Combat 5‘s soundtrack was directly responsible for piqing my interest in the series. Actually, Soulcalibur–another Namco game–also deserves some credit; after countless hours spent playing SC2 and 3 and enjoying the catchy and bombastic soundtracks, I started looking for more work from the series’ main composers, Junichi Nakatsuru and Keiki Kobayashi. As it turned out, they both worked together on the Ace Combat series, along with Tetsukazu Nakanishi. Somehow I settled on Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, picked up the soundtrack, and–after being totally blown away–finally played the game.
Eventually I made my way through each of the PlayStation 2 installments, and while their quality went up and down, the soundtracks were consistently excellent. Here are a few of the most memorable tracks, starting with Ace Combat 04, from all the way back in 2001, and wrapping up with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, which just came out last month.
Battlefield 3 is out today and it’s a big one. Developer DICE is calling it the successor to 2005’s Battlefield 2, which is to say it’s not a new entry in the Bad Company offshoot series that featured slightly scaled-down Battlefield gameplay and (rather successfully) introduced destructable environments. Destruction does return to some extent in BF3, along with series staples like jets, squad leaders, and 64-player Conquest games played over expansive maps–although the latter is exclusive to the PC version. No matter which version you pick up, though, you can expect the same world-class, team-based FPS gameplay that DICE has engineered down to a science since Battlefield 1942 nearly ten years ago. That’s provided you can ride out the launch week server woes and patches, of course. I’ll be making an effort to play it, in one form or another.
With this week’s Lore in a Minute retelling the history of Mega Man, I’ve had the Blue Bomber on my mind lately. So, what better time to showcase some music from one of the biggest game series–in fact, the biggest–of all time? I’ve already extolled the virtues of Magnet Man’s theme in VGH Episode 8, so I’ll spare you this time. (Although really, you should go listen to it anyway.) But, I’ll still kick things off with some Mega Man III.