Author Archives: robcarroll93

The Real Problem Facing the Wii U

With E3 less than a month away talk about the Wii U’s numerous hurdles is at an all time high. It needs massive and innovative first and third party support, the Nintendo Network needs explaining and there needs to be some degree of competition with the App store and services such as Steam. But is there perhaps a bigger problem, one that people may not have considered?

The Wii was this generation’s most successful console and the majority of that success came because of its massive appeal. Of course plenty of the Nintendo faithful bought it but so did millions of others. Many of these were young people who weren’t yet teenagers, or older people who were well into their retirement. It was this market that gave the Wii it’s massive success. The problem that this creates, the real problem facing Nintendo, is that these people won’t care about the Wii U.

For example, my partner’s 12 year old sister, who is well aware of what the Wii U is, simply isn’t interested. She loves the Wii and isn’t planning on getting rid of it for a new console anytime soon. She is a casual gamer, she doesn’t care about staying up to date with games and consoles, she just wants to play games that she finds fun. On the other end of the spectrum I know a retired couple who use the Wii for things such as Wii Fit and Wii Sports, they won’t buy a Wii U because they already have the games that they want. The same goes for my brother and his wife, who use the Wii for party games, they have no reason to want the Wii U, it has nothing to offer them other than unnecessary expense.

What this means is that, before they reach any other hurdles, Nintendo are hamstrung by the fact that millions of customers will not buy their next console. This means that when they try to attract new audiences they will have to start by filling the gap left by the casual consumers of this generation who don’t want the Wii U, and then build up from there. In effect where originally they may have wanted to attract, for argument’s sake, 35 million non-Nintendo fans they now have to attract closer to 70 million. Even for Nintendo this could be too high a hurdle to jump over.

Of course only time will tell as to how big the effect of this will be, and Nintendo may find some genius way of getting around the problem. But of all the problems facing the Wii U, this could easily be its biggest.

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Dragon’s Dogma: Skyrim Killer?

Shortly before Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning was released this year I played the demo and I speculated that the game could perhaps be a better RPG than Skyrim was. If you read my blog regularly you’ll know that Skyrim was my game of the year for 2011 so it should be obvious that I was impressed by the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur. Sadly, though the game is good, it was nowhere near as good as Skyrim was.

Later this month Capcom will be releasing their own fantasy RPG which, like Skyrim, features quite an emphasis on both dragon’s and roaming bosses that you can stumble across whilst exploring. At this stage, like when I speculated about Kingdom’s of Amalur, all I have played is a demo but that demo has left me feeling very impressed by what Capcom have achieved.

One of people’s biggest complaints about Skyrim involves the combat which can feel a bit limp wrested at times. Fortunately Dragon’s Dogma features a great combat system which is controlled easily but isn’t simplistic to the point where it is boring. Also, and this perhaps is a complaint that is more personal to me, the dragon’s in Skyrim, although very cool, were too easy and too repetitive to fight. This is something that, from the demo at least, it seems Dragon’s Dogma will not suffer with.

The game features a variety of different bosses which can be tackled in a number of ways, in case you haven’t played the demo I won’t go into details I’ll just say that you can climb onto stuff and lop heads off or, if you’d prefer, you could hang back with the Mage in your party and shoot it from afar whilst the more melee oriented party members take it on up close.

That’s the other great thing about Dragon’s Dogma, having other characters fight along side you lends more of an epic feeling to the fighting, in Skyrim you are a one man killing machine but in Dragon’s Dogma it’s important to use your allies to take down the beasts you fight. This adds something that Skyrim is quite frankly lacking. A world as big as one in an RPG such as Skyrim can be lonely and many people find it all too easy to simply miss any of the companions you can meet in Skyrim, this isn’t a problem in Dragon’s Dogma.

All in all the demo has left me excited for the game, sadly I still haven’t finished Mass Effect 3 and I bought Killzone 2 and Heavy Rain the other day, neither of which I’ve played before, so I might have to wait a while before I have the time to get into Dragon’s Dogma, but I can’t wait to try the full game and everyone who is a fan of RPGs should definitely try the demo and get the game.

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The Future of Sony

This year Sony are expected to lose $6.4 billion and lay off 10000 employees. This will not only mark their biggest loss so far but it will also be the fourth year in a row which has caused them to run at a loss. Of course the problem encompasses Sony as a whole and not just their gaming division but here I will focus on what it could mean for the world of gaming.

With the PS2 Sony created the worlds most successful gaming console and both it’s successor and predecessor have been incredibly successful. They also released the high selling PSP and boast a vast list of first party developers and exclusive games. At the moment, if you are a hardcore gamer then, whether you are a fan or not, they really are the kings of gaming. With all this bad news though, can it really last?

The Vita so far has been a dismal failure and Sony aren’t showing signs of even attempting to turn it around, there are virtually no adverts for it, not many shops here in the U.K stock it (I.e. Tesco etc.) there is no sign of a price cut and it still doesn’t really have any huge games. On top of this the PS3 seems to be gradually losing momentum, Insomniac, creators of Rachet and Clank and Resistance are going third party and Santa Monica studios, the developers behind God of War, are considering going third party as well. On top of this notable studios such as Zipper Interactive, the developers behind Socom, MAG and Unit 13 have been closed down and, although there are some exclusives coming over the next year there is nothing that can really match the magnitude of last year’s Uncharted 3 or Killzone 3.

In short the PS3 is gradually slowing in pace and the Vita doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast, this means that many people are looking toward the next generation, but what, if anything, will Sony offer? The world of gaming has changed drastically since the release of the PS3, digital gaming, phone and tablet gaming, as well as casual gaming have all seen a huge rise in popularity. Retailers such as GAME are struggling to stay open and consoles as an all round entertainment hub can’t do much more than they currently do in terms of offering TV, film, photo and online services. Short of a huge graphical boost and a massive change in direction in terms of how games are distributed (a Sony app store, more focus on downloaded games and perhaps even streaming games) there is little that Sony can do with a PS4 and with the market how it is there is very little chance of it actually being profitable.

This seems to be reflected in their reluctance to even tease a next generation console, perhaps they aren’t even planning one? If they aren’t then the world of console gaming will be a drastically different place. Let’s face it, Microsoft’s next console is likely to be a while because of the success of Kinect and when it does come it will probably be even more Kinect heavy and causal gamer oriented. This will mean Nintendo will be left to cater to the hardcore gamers and will really be the only console that still resembles (albeit remotely thanks to its tablet controller) what gaming looks like today.

I hope Sony do manage to turn things around and I know it’s about their whole company and not just the gaming side of it but, certainly for the foreseeable future at least, the future looks dark for Sony and the PlayStation brand.

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Trophies Are Ruining Games

Trophies and Achievements are incredibly popular things, they add new areas of competition and bragging rights and can greatly increase a games longevity. People even become addicted to unlocking them and take an immense amount of pride in their Gamerscore or number of platinum trophies. Personally though, I hate them.

On one hand trophies can add to games, completionists are rewarded and masochists have something to brag about. But what about the rest of us? Personally, so long as I’ve done the main story of a game, and possibly a select few side quests, then I consider it completed and I’m done with it. In the past this wasn’t a problem but now people can see that I haven’t got 100% of the trophies. People think I haven’t completed the game and that it looks bad, essentially many gamers are punished by the trophy/achievement system rather than rewarded by it.

Also if you were to borrow a game and then find out that you didn’t like it that game is listed as being 0% complete and, quite frankly, looks messy and ruins the list of games that you have played by again making you look like a poor gamer. This shouldn’t be how it is, you should just be happy knowing you’ve completed these games, haven’t completed those ones and didn’t enjoy the others. You shouldn’t be judged for it by being given a big fat zero for others to laugh at.

My other major problem is that it causes some gamers to simply miss the point of the game. Instead of paying attention to the great story and awesome gameplay of a game like Uncharted 3, some gamers just focus on getting a platinum trophy. I even know of some people who refuse to play a game like Metal Gear Solid 4 because it doesn’t have trophies. This is utter madness and it is bad for gaming.

Ultimately I’d appreciate it if the next generation of consoles did away with trophies and achievements altogether, some level of in game rewards might work as an alternative, the Metal Gear Series does this quite effectively in the first 3 MGS games but did admittedly lose track in the fourth. Only time will tell how things shape up with the next generation but hopefully at least Nintendo will keep their games trophy/achievement free.

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Rented Gaming

I have long been of the opinion that games are too expensive. When a new game comes out it usually costs £35-40, and that might be for a game that doesn’t even come with multiplayer modes, so once single player is done the game is done. I’ve thought for a while that this needs to change but it hasn’t so I’ve looked at alternatives.

This is where my love of renting games comes from, as much as I love retailers like GAME, and want them to succeed, games are too expensive. As alternatives, over in the U.S you have Gamefly and here in U.K we have LoveFilm. LoveFilm let’s you have 3 games out at a time and has no late fees and it only costs £14.99 a month, much better than £40 for one game. So in a month like October where you have Assassin’s Creed 3, Resident Evil 6 and Bioshock Infinite coming out, instead of spending £120 you just spend £14.99.

For me personally this is a good thing but for the industry it’s not so good. So long as games are so overpriced retailers will find it hard to compete with rental services because even though it’s cool to have a shelf full of games its cooler to be able to pay next months rent. Until games drop in price I’ll stick to renting mine. Of course online passes could ruin things here but they have yet to be applied to most games so we’ll have to wait to see how things go there and, besides, when all games come with an online pass most of the industry will die anyway, but that’s a whole other issue.

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A Year of the 3DS

The 3DS has been out now for over a year and after a bad launch and a worrying few months it’s found it’s feet and is selling by the truck load. In celebration of its birthday I’ll be doing a run down of what I think are its greatest games.

Super Mario 3D Land

It may not be the greatest Mario game Nintendo have made but it deserves your attention because a) it’s an all round great game and b) it’s one of the few 3DS games to really put the 3D to proper, game enhancing use.

Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D

Some argue it should’ve stayed on consoles but I think they’re mad. This is the definitive version of a great game, if you own a 3DS you should buy it. The controls, graphics, sound and story are all superb.

Resident Evil:Revelations

A real return to form for the series after Resident Evil 5 and proof that Nintendo can still get some truly great hardcore third party titles. It also helps that the game features the best graphics that the 3DS has. An absolute master class in game making, I hope they do more.

The Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time 3D

I have to admit the experience was different for me because playing this version was the first time I’d ever played a Zelda game but even so the experience was jaw dropping and its cemented my love of the Zelda series. It’s a great game and this is a great update of it.

Mario Kart 7

Ever since the GameCube I’ve loved Mario Kart games but this one is definitely the best of the lot. The addition of flying and being able to customise your Kart’s has only added to what was already a great formula and the tracks that they chose are superb.

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Kid Icarus: Uprising Review

Kid Icarus: Uprising is Nintendo’s attempt at reviving an old franchise and for the most part it’s a success there are some glaring flaws with the game design which keep it from joining the ranks of Mario, Metroid and Zelda but it is still an enjoyable game and I hope the franchise continues.

The graphics are one of the standout parts of the game. In their own way they match those of Resident Evil: Revelations. The screen is usually ablaze with colour and action and the frame rate is pretty consistent. Although the screen can at times be too busy to clearly see what’s going on it is all in all a pleasing game to look at.

The story is simple but it’s effective enough to keep the game going on and provides a good enough backdrop for the constant action. It’s the action that really makes this game shine. The levels are all split into air sections, ground sections and boss fights and the near limitless supply of weapons, as well the incredibly flexible difficulty level keep the combat fresh and fun.

The multiplayer also seems to be good fun, though I admit I’ve only played a few games. The combat is different to that in the single player but is no less fun. My only real complaints, with the entire game, not just the multiplayer, is the control set up. Using the stylus to aim and the one shoulder button to attack is painful and the stand doesn’t do anything to help, nor does the circle pad pro. It makes long play sessions hard work because the pain builds up and ruins it. This isn’t game breaking but it really is a shame.

Aside from that and the fact that at times the action can be too much the game is great and although it hasn’t lived up to the hype that’s built up around it it is nonetheless a worthy buy and I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years to see a sequel.

Score: 8/10

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Game Go Into Administration

It was announced yesterday that Game, the UK’s biggest retail chain dedicated to gaming, has gone into administration. Of course it is not certain that this will result in the closing of all of Game’s stores, Indeed there are even rumours circulating that this is part of a plan to create a new company once Game goes under. Whatever the outcome though, this is big news.

I for one love Game, although they may not have the widest selection of games and their queues are often unnecessarily long their games are well priced, their staff are knowledgable and friendly and their reward card is pretty useful. If administration ends up with them closing down then gaming will likely never be the same. Whilst supermarkets may sell games they are not dedicated purely to doing so and so can’t provide the level of guidance that Game could. Parents looking for presents without any real knowledge will find it much harder to buy and if you don’t already know what game you are looking for then there will no longer be a shop to go to be shown what you want.

Aside from this it must also be considered that if Game can go under then why can’t others? What if GameStop goes under in America? What if retailers across Europe go under? Game sales could plummet, retail chains such as Game operate as a great form of advertising, take them away and games just aren’t in the public eye enough.

Whatever happens this is bad news, Game and Gamestation will still be open for the foreseeable future but if they do close there will be nothing to fill the void. They need to come back, change their strategy and start fresh. The gaming world has been changing and the reason Game has gone into administration is because they haven’t changed with it. With the economy crashing Game needed to put more effort into working around people having less money, they needed more emphasis on digital distribution and ultimately they needed to put the same level of effort into staying open as they have done recently under the threat of administration.

I hope they don’t close but they’ll have to make drastic changes to stay open.

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Wii U: How to be a Success

In a few months the Wii U will be here and hopefully by the end of E3 we’ll know pretty much all we need to know before it launches. I’ve already decided that I’m buying one, pretty much no matter what they say at E3, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my doubts. There are some crucial things that Nintendo need to ensure for the Wii U to be a success.

The key thing is third party support. Nintendo’s first party content is stellar and I’m sure there’ll be a strong first party game or two for launch but what they need is long term third party support. Their launch and immediate post launch third part support is great: Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, Batman, Aliens, all great looking games. What Nintendo need to do is secure some other big names, Bioshock, Resident Evil 6 etc. but also get long term third party support so they can keep up with Sony and Microsoft when they release their new consoles.

Second of all they need to consider price. The Wii U could easily be very expensive, that controller does not look cheap. The real issue is that in terms of specifications and power, aside from the controller, it is only likely to be about as good as the current Sony and Microsoft consoles so it can’t really be allowed to cost all that more than those two do.

The other key area of improvement is in it’s online capability. The Wii is severely backward with this, it doesn’t feature anywhere near the same level of multiplayer functionality as its competitors and the Wii U seriously needs to catch up. Also it needs to offer more entertainment. The PS3 and 360 feature things such as TV services, social networking. Lovefilm, Netflix etc and the Wii, again is lagging behind.

Ultimately most of the details like this will probably be revealed at E3 and the rest will become clear as the consoles launch draws nearer. I for one have high hopes for the Wii U and can’t wait for its launch.

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Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D Review

Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D is, for me, the most anticipated 3DS game of the year. The Metal Gear series is my favourite of all time so when I heard about this latest game I was instantly excited. Initially I was worried that the small screen and lack of a second stick would be an issue but, luckily, they aren’t. This game is great and this version, for me, is the definitive one.

The most important part of it is the gameplay. I don’t own a circle pad pro and so didn’t use one throughout the game and I have to say I don’t see why you’d need to. The camera controls are mapped to the face buttons and the camera controls great. The game is a port of the Subsistence version of MGS 3 so you get to control the camera. Aside from the camera the game is of course a great blend of stealth and action. Although it can occasionally be hard to spot a guard due to the size of the screen sneaking is more less as fun as it has always been, the same goes for the combat. The control layout is great and easy to use and the CQC is just as cool as it was when it first came out.

Graphically the game is stunning, whilst it doesn’t reach the same lofty heights of Capcom’s Resident Evil: Revelations it still performs really well and the 3D effect serves to the make the jungle really come alive. Although the screen is small and this does lead to a couple of issues such as spotting guards there aren’t any issues that are game breakers. The HUD has been moved to the bottom screen which really lets the improved graphics shine through by ensuring that the environment isn’t crowded with things like health bars and radars. There are occasional moments when the frame rate drops but, like the occasional screen size issues, these really aren’t game breaking and are to be expected when you put a game like this on such a small screen.

Story wise it’s as great as it was on the PS2, the game doesn’t miss anything out from the original so you get to experience the whole thing. There are some issues with lengthy cutscenes and radio conversations which, when you’re about to get off of a bus, can be frustrating but I’m glad that they kept the cutscenes and conversations because they really add to the game by creating the great story and fleshing out the characters.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not you should buy the HD Collection or this handheld game but this seems crazy to me. If you owned a 360 or PS3 and a 3DS then you should buy both. That way you can play the game at home or when you’re out and I have to say its the fact that you can play this game anywhere that makes it worth buying. You never have to be without a Metal Gear game and that is great.

All in all, although it does have a few minor flaws, the game is fantastic and is a must buy. I would recommend avoiding the Circle Pad Pro, it just seems like a waste of money because the game handles really well without it. Essentially you all need to buy this game, and fast. Forget Kid Icarus, forget Resident Evil, forget Heroes of Ruin, this is the best 3DS game to come out during the first quarter of 2012.

Score: 9.5/10

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