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      RUMOR: Fable 4 in Development by Playground Games

      It all Began with Project Ego
      Fable, one of Xbox's most beloved franchises, introduced me to the Original Xbox in the early 2000's. This was back when it was still known as 'Project Ego.' There have been a few years of uncertainty surrounding the Franchise. The last full-on Fable game was Fable 3, released in 2010, Fable Legends never got out of beta, Lionhead Studios has closed down, but it appears there's new life breathed into the Microsoft IP.

      Lionhead Developer all but confirms it...
      A former Lionhead Developer tweeted that he figured out which studio is responsible for building Fable 4, and it was an interesting choice. He has since deleted his Tweet, but once on the internet, always on the internet....

      Mmm ok, having no inside information, I totally know who's building Fable 4 now. Interesting choice…
      -  Don Williamson (@Donzanoid) January 6, 2018

      Playground Games is Developing Fable 4
      It didn't take long to figure out who he was talking about; the developers behind some of the best games on the Xbox One in terms of quality -- Playground Games. This is the great crew that brought us the Forza Horizon series, some of my favorite racing games of all time. Creating an RPG is a bit of a shift over what they're typically accustomed to developing, but if the amount of care and detail they put into the Horizon franchise is put into Fable 4 (or reboot), there is no reason to be concerned.
      Now let's hope that they can capture the child-like humor and art direction Lionhead managed to do so well.

      When will Fable 4 come out?
      It is possible that the game has been in development since late 2016 or early 2017, and many of the assets are already created due to the cancelled Fable Legends. While it's unlikely that we'll see Fable 4 released in 2018, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch that we get a teaser for it at E3 2018, with the game releasing by holiday of 2019.
      Are you looking forward to a Playground Games developed Fable 4? Discuss it in the comments below or hop on over to our forums!
      Source: WCCFTECH

      Sony Shows Its Commitment to PS VR with String of Hardware and Software Announcements

      PlayStation gamers who have invested in a PlayStation VR system would have been forgiven for thinking that Sony had given up on the platform up until only a couple of months ago. The anxiety was a result of very few developments happening with regards to the company's virtual reality gaming rig. But that assumption has now been truly blown out of the water. In recent months, Sony has made several PS VR-related announcements that show that it is still fully behind its VR system. For now, the future of the PS4's virtual reality gaming accessory seems secure.

      PlayStation VR Bundles Abound

      Although there has been a steady trickle of games announced for PS VR, initial evidence had suggested a lack of interest from developers. Sony also seemed to have forgotten about the system following its launch in October of 2016. In its defense, however, the platform did launch with dozens of dedicated PS VR and enhanced PS4 games at launch.
      However, as 2017 comes to a close, that trickle has now transformed into a flood. A string of new PS VR hardware and software announcements have been made in recent months. The hardware has been mainly in the form of new PS VR bundles. Crucially, most of these are tied in with upcoming PlayStation VR games.
      Some of the latest PS VR bundles to be announced in recent days include a Gran Turismo Sport themed bundle and an upgraded standard PS VR bundle. Released September 1, the new regular bundle is now officially the standard PlayStation VR bundled package.
      The latest addition to this growing list of PS VR bundles is the upcoming PlayStation VR DOOM VFR Bundle. That's set to hit store shelves on December 1, the same day as the fast-paced FPS VR game's release on PS VR.

      Sony Steps Up PS VR Support

      Consequently, the recent announcement with regards to new PS VR hardware packages shows commitment on Sony's part. Now the company needs to bundle the system with the PS4 Pro console to really increase uptake. For all these PS VR bundle releases, many PS4 owners are yet to invest in an accompanying PS VR system. The cost of the PS VR headset and skepticism about virtual reality among gamers has stymied sales thus far.
      Still, Sony's hardware upgrades have not been limited to the headset alone either. A PS VR-compatible wireless headset is also available. Meanwhile, the PS VR Aim Controller has grown to become an integral part of the PS VR ecosystem, particularly in shooters. All these developments show strong support of its product from Sony. As mentioned above, the next logical step would be to include the system in a PS4 Pro bundle.
      While the PS VR is the market leader in VR gaming, Sony does face competition from a number of companies. That includes premium headsets such as the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift and HTC's Vive. Adding to that is the availability of several low-cost VR solutions, although many are currently designed for use with smartphones.
      In that respect, it's no surprise to see Sony making a push on its own VR platform. The company has a head-start in VR gaming and it seems like its now starting to make the most of it.

      You Wait for One PS VR Game . . .

      The biggest show of support for the Platform, however, has been the slew of new and existing titles announced coming soon to PS VR. Dozens of stand-alone games, DLC content, and 'experiences' are slated for release on the platform in 2017 alone. The experiences include a variety of content that also shows the potential the platform has, even with non-gaming content. From swimming with sharks to VR Content apps, its all in there, and the library is growing.
      Notable titles set to arrive in 2017 include the aforementioned DOOM VFR and Justice League VR, both of which arrive in early December. In addition, Ark Park, Gunheart, Stardrone VR, Shooty Fruity, and RadianVR are all among a long list of games that will arrive on PS VR before the year is out. Several PlayStation VR 'Experiences' are due for release in 2017 as well.

      PS VR in 2018
      Even as we look to end the year with the release of several titles on PS VR, Sony is clearly also looking to bolster its non-gaming offering. In addition, several new games have also been already confirmed as coming to PS VR in 2018. As a result, Sony's recent announcements regarding PS VR games have made for positive reading. It will certainly be interesting to see if all this activity encourages gamers to purchase the system. Christmas 2017 will surely be interesting!
      Looking ahead to next year, the outlook for new PS VR titles is no different. There are already over a dozen PS VR games already confirmed so far. That list includes Drone Fighters, an arcade-style virtual reality drone fighting game in development by Surreal games. Also arriving in 2018 are Golem, Dead Secret, Pixel Ripped 1989, and The American Dream. That should make encouraging reading for the growing number of PS VR owners out there.
      Most of all though, Sony will be hoping that all its efforts result in more and more PS4 owners buying a PS VR headset as well! All in all, the above looks like impressive work from Sony. The Japanese company will be hoping that current and future PS VR owners agree.

      Nostalgia Train: Heretic - Shadow of the Serpent Riders Review

      Welcome back to the Nostagia Train – the series that brings you back in time to enjoy the beloved or not-so-beloved games of our past.  This time, we are headed back to 1994 when FPS shooters involved tricky mazes, creatures from another world, and mild motion-sickness. Following the success of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders was a dark, medieval take on the first-person shooter.
      A twisted atmosphere of ambient noise and uncertainty around every corner, Heretic is more than just a Doom clone. While most of the game takes cues from its predecessor, Heretic manages to stand on its own as a pretty solid game. There are a few functional changes and a different theme bundled with a little online multi-player option that makes this game worth checking out.

      Heretic: War of the Serpent Riders
      Three devious Serpent Riders with powerful magic have sought to control the kings of the world and wage war. However, the Sidhe elves resisted the riders. They sacrificed their own power to stop the kings from tearing each other a part at the cost of their own magic. Thus, the elves were rendered helpless before the Serpent Riders and forced to go into hiding. One remaining warrior, Corvus, seeks vengeance against the Serpent Riders and sets out to defeat the weakest first – D’Sparil. Will his vengeance be realized and can he make it home alive?



      Navigating the City of the Damned
      Heretic is your basic first-person shooter, but with a few perks. Unlike previous games, you can actually look up and down in this game! It’s a little change, but it really helps when you’re trying to find out what’s shooting you.  A less helpful tidbit is the introduction of gibs – that way you are pleasantly reminded of the fact that you died a horrible, skin-melting lava death.  Oh yes! And you can fly. So, there’s that.
      Aside from these small changes, game play is very similar to other FP shooters of the era. Players must navigate through a level-based structure with varying degrees of difficulty. Find weapons, find keys, find treasure and murder the bad guys.  Part of the fun of these games is figuring out the puzzles and unlocking the door forward to the next, more difficult level of the dungeon. That, and the abusive cheat codes.

      Trying to cheat, eh? Now you die!
      One of the best parts of Heretic and games like it is throwing on the cheat codes and slaughtering your foes. There are several codes for “god mode” or “all weapons” – but don’t go typing in IDKFA of IDDQD just yet. The game actually punishes players that try to use the secret codes from Doom. If you don’t believe me, give it a try!  You can download the game on steam!
      Overall, Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders is one of those games that slipped through the cracks. While the story isn't much to write home about, the actual game play is where Heretic shines. It was released at a time where Doom was king, and the release date had it competing with the next level of gaming. It had missed its mark, but it really is a solid game. If you are into old school first-person shooters, Heretic is really worth spending the time and money on. If you end up liking it, there are two sequels!
      So, what do you think? Want to head back into the past? Where should we go next? Let us know in the comments below!

      Nostalgia Train: Chrono Trigger Review

      Our next trip on the Nostalgia Train brings us to a true SNES treasure. While this beloved system had many memorable games, it’s truly an experience to play this classic. Chrono Trigger is regarded as one of the best RPGs of all time. With a rich story, easy-to-grasp gameplay, and an outstanding soundtrack, it’s no wonder this title always seems to end up at the top of any “Greatest Games of All Time” list. What else would you expect from the creators of Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and the Dragon Ball series? Seriously, all of the stars aligned on this project - complete with the musical genius of Yansunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu.
      While not overly complicated, Chrono Trigger is a masterpiece with outstanding graphics, multiple endings, and a New Game+ option that will keep you playing time and again. Originally released on the SNES in 1995, this JRPG favorite has been re-released on the Playstation, Nintendo DS, and it’s available for mobile download. If you’ve never gotten the chance to play, you are in for a treat.

      Hopping into the Epoch

      In 1000 AD, it's time for the Millennial Fair, and our hero, Chrono is enjoying the festival. Lucca, his best friend, shows off her latest invention when things suddenly go awry. Something strange happens to Lucca’s volunteer, Marle, and the three are thrown through time on an epic adventure. What starts as a search and rescue mission turns in something much more as Chrono and friends stumble across a shocking discovery. With the future in imminent peril, Chrono, Marle and Lucca must come up with a plan to save the world!

      Finding the Chrono Trigger

      Like most RPGs, Chrono Trigger is a sprawling adventure, but this journey takes us through time. Players guide a three-person party through various dungeons, trials and towns in search of information or treasure. What’s unique about this game is the use of time travel.  The main objective is to ultimately stop the apocalypse, but there are so many intricate plot details that create a wonderfully lighthearted, yet poignant narrative. Most of the mechanics are the same as other RPGS, but with unique designs. You encounter enemies directly in the field, and with minimal transition time, the fight begins. Player position actually effects the battle. Enemies move around and characters can be tossed across the screen. It makes for some interesting strategy changes, especially when trying to hit multiple enemies with one attack.
      There’s a total of six playable characters and one secret character. Like most RPGs, you have complete control of your party’s equipment. The party’s stats and abilities increase as they fight battles, which increase in difficulty over time. As characters level, they gain access to new abilities called Techs. While Techs and magic spells are character specific, Chrono Trigger adds a new twist.
      Characters can combine their turns to form Dual Techs and Triple Techs. It's important to try out different party combinations in order to discover all of these unique abilities. These special techs pull the efforts of two or more party members to create devastating attacks. It's debatable whether or not the Dual or Triple Techs are worth the cost, but that really depends on how you want to use your party.

      Multiple Endings and New Game+

      Besides battling bosses, there are plenty of side quests, secret missions and puzzles players can tackle across the different time periods. While these objectives are like many other great RPGs, Chrono Trigger created concepts still used in games today.
      After playing through the game once, the New Game + option appears. This allows you to retain most of your items, (provided that they are not directly involved with the storyline) levels, and techs to use at the start of a new game. The New Game+ option is pretty incredible, especially if you are a completionist gamer. Of course, this option is very helpful for anyone who wants to experience every single hidden ending that Chrono Trigger has to offer! There are thirteen in total and each is unique to how you defeat the game. The DS version expands upon the New Game+ idea by adding an additional dungeon and an optional final boss.  With so many side quests and secrets, Chrono Trigger keeps giving players  reason to pick up the controller again.

      Chrono Trigger: A Journey Through Time

      Chrono Trigger is an innovative RPG that paved the way for future genre classics, but it's very hard to capture the same magic. A truly remarkable tale of friendship, love, and sacrifice, this game has a solid plot that leaves a mark in my heart. It found a way to marry literary genres together into one epic story with heart-pumping action, touching and silly moments, and many surprise endings. Supported by an enchanting soundtrack and amazing graphics, considering the designer and the time period, it is a privilege to play this game.  With so many positive elements, Chrono Trigger certainly does earn a spot on every "Greatest Games of All Time" list.
      So what do you think? Have you played Chrono Trigger? What's taking you so long!!! How about Chrono Cross? Or perhaps Final Fantasy? Let us know in the comments below!


      The Surge Review: The Dystopian Future is Now

      The Surge is a new setting for the recent style of  “
      ” pioneered a few years back by Demon’s Souls. While most of the games in the genre have taken a turn to a darker, more macabre world (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, et al), The Surge places its brand of action squarely into a dystopian future.
      You enter the storyline of the game expecting a new lease on a damaged life but quickly come to realize things are not what they seem. Throughout the game, Deck13 Interactive pioneers a few unique twists to the combat mechanics that feel both new and borrowed from other games and genres, but overall work out quite nicely.
      Preparing for the Apocalypse

      The gameplay is very involved. You can target specific parts of your opponent to acquire pieces that can be crafted into new equipment for yourself. The general action elements of the combat system are easy to pick up, but animations adjust in their style, speed, and utility based on the armor, equipment, and weapons you use. The game looks nice, sounds nice, and should be able to keep your attention as a time-killer if you’re waiting for something else to release.
      Unfortunately, it’s just not overly engaging on its own. Don’t get me wrong. The game is good. It’s a fun bit of action for an hour or so at a time, but I didn’t find it to be the kind of thing that I got roped into for a completely unintentional binge-gaming session.
      Robots and Grim Future

      I think the problems it ran into in that regard were two-fold. The story starts out pretty interesting, but starts to feel off-kilter and failed to hold my interest as things progressed as it was all very predictable. And the “Hardcore” aspect of this “Hardcore Action Game” just didn’t feel right. The game felt more like the difficulty lay in figuring out how to “game” the system instead of adapting to an unexpected opponent. The AI rarely, if ever, changes its approach. Tactics for defeating your enemies quickly become very “rinse and repeat.” The game just doesn’t have that sense of serious tension in combat that it needed to shine on its own.
      The game does show us that this formula can work in more than a melancholy, depressive medieval apocalypse. But, then again, do we want it to? Part of the original's appeal was that overbearing sense of dread around every corner. The Surge presented something of a jump factor where the unexpected cyborg may pop out at an unexpected or inopportune time, but it lacked continuous tension.
      But, all in all, if all you’re looking for is a cool bit of cyborg bashing, gear grinding and a little bit of maze-exploration, the game is good.
      The Looks and Sounds of The End

      Graphically, the game was pretty well done. There wasn’t anything overly spectacular about it, but it didn’t disappoint by any means. The developers did a good job in altering the environment in different areas so that nothing looked overly repetitive or recycled. The shadows were well utilized and sensibly placed – something I feel many games fail badly at, but which The Surge did very well.
      The sound is generally pretty good and keeps well with the ambiance of the setting, but could have had a little more variety to it. But the 300th time of hearing the exact same impact noise when you swat a cyborg you start to wonder if they couldn’t have invested a little more time in variety in the “attack noises” department. Well, considering most of what you’ll be doing in the game is beating on things. However, I may be being overly critical. There are plenty of games out there with this exact same issue.
      Modular Upgrades, Bullet Time and Exoskeletons

      Gameplay was a good bit of action styled, timed-swing beat-em-up with the unique aforementioned targeting mechanism that the game utilizes to mix things up a bit from the standard mold. Mix in some crafting, gear grinding, and RPG elements related to upgrading your equipment and you've got a game. Once you get into it and understand the core elements, it quickly becomes second nature. It has plenty of replayability in short bursts just for the fun of it, but you might find it hard to get truly engrossed in the storyline.
      The game was well developed, all things told, and I can’t say that I ran into any serious bugs during my run through it. If anything, I ran into one instance where an enemy I wanted to kill accidentally glitched through the wall and I couldn’t reach it. But, this game respawns all its enemies each time you run back to the base to modify your gear. So, a quick jaunt back to the lab and back was all it took to fix the fluke.
      The Surge : Final Thoughts

      The only real place I have to say the game was disappointing was with the storyline. I felt really excited at first. The game was showing me something in the very beginning with my character that I thought was going to see some serious development- then it just jumped into sci-fi trope land. I would have liked to see the game explore your characters underlying backstory and personal struggle more.
      Instead, you run into the action trope: a character who picks something up they’ve never handled before in their life and has somehow suddenly and inexplicably innately mastered it.
      All in all, pick it up if you’re looking for a well-made smash-em-up to fill time between the last thing you beat and your next anticipated release. It will keep you occupied enough to feel like it was worth the investment, but I can’t promise it will end up on your all-time favorites list.

      The Evolution of Final Fantasy: Final Fantasy XII Review

      We have reached the final chapter of the PS2 era and not a moment too soon. On the eve of its remastered release, the time seems right to reminisce about the next title in the Evolution Series: Final Fantasy XII. Published just shy of 10 years ago, and with Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age coming out on July 11th, this entry took a page from its predecessors and broke the traditional mold of what “Final Fantasy” was.
      Praised for its state-of-the-art graphics (for the time), seamless transitions, and exciting new battle system, it was considered a huge step forward for the series for many. A breath of fresh air! On the other hand, following the huge departure from the previous mainstream title, Final Fantasy X, this is also the game that alienated some die-hard fans. With a series this versatile, it’s best to test it out.

      Time to Make a Few Changes

      Before we dive into the game itself, let’s see what’s changed!  Unlike the last entry, Final Fantasy XII has an open world experience. There are far fewer ‘narrow hallways’ here, but that is the least complicated of the changes. First and foremost, Gil is no longer a thing – but players can pick up loot to sell at local shops. You must farm materials in order upgrade equipment, purchase new items, or lower the cost of available merchandise -- and you do that by fighting monsters with a fancy new battle system!
      Speaking of enemies, this entry does away with any random encounters.  Instead, players are gifted to a Chrono Trigger-esque style of confronting enemies in the field.  Players can also go on “hunts” to kill special monsters for big rewards, which is pretty fun. As for battling, most of the characters are controlled via A.I. using the “Gambit System” where players set up abilities and let their characters charge into battle.  Of course, things or more intricate than that, but we’ll get into the details later.
      The final thing that’s really switched up is the growth system. Players gain experience through battles that buffs up their stats, but that’s your everyday RPG. The new addition is the License Board that allows characters to perform actions as the “licenses” are acquired.  This functions a lot like the sphere grid, so it’s not a far cry. While all of these changes seem minor, they do have a major effect on how the game is played.


      Endless War in Ivalice

      Following the wedding of Dalmasca’s Princess Ashe to Prince Rasler of Nabradia, the Archandian Empire invades both countries. With Rasler and the King of Dalmasca murdered, the chief suspect is the Dalmascan Captain, Basch. In the aftermath of Princess Ashe’s suicide, the traitorous Basch is sentenced to death. However, political intrigue is not always as it seems.
      Years later, a street rat, Vaan, gets himself and his friend, Penelo, drawn into the underbelly of the Dalmascan resistance as they try to take down the Archadian Empire. A story of blood, royalty, war and sky pirates paints a picture that not all conflicts are black and white.

      War, Pirates and a Little Bland

      Though the plot seems like it would be rolling with twists, turns and unexpected surprises, for a war story, it’s a little on the dull side. While the intrigue is there, the story seems to fit more in a MMORPG than an epic JRPG. There is so much going on; however, there is something to be said about a few weak characters.
      While I found several characters very well developed, (I loved Balthier and Basch!) some I felt lacked significant draw – mainly, Vaan. I understand that his character was meant to be vanilla in order for players to emulate with him, but I still didn’t feel the connection. It’s not so good when there are other more interesting characters overshadowing your main protagonists.
      In addition to the character problems, the soundtrack was a bit lacking. While it was a beautiful soundtrack, it's hard to compare to previous franchise entries. The title track, "Kiss Me Goodbye" stands out, but the rest is a little forgettable. It's really hard to follow Nobuo Uematsu.
      The story itself seems to seep in the lore, war, and turmoil of Ivalice itself. Of course, it could be argued that is the nature of this particular story. Stories of war are less focused on particular individuals as the situation surrounding them is far more threatening. It’s understandable why the plot and development play out as they does, but it’s also expected that not everyone would enjoy a less character-focused narrative. Either way, Final Fantasy XII does have a lot of love from its fans, and it’s all a matter of taste.

      Setting Up The Gambits and Licensing

      Final Fantasy XII's game-play starts off like any other entry in the series. Players control their party while navigating the world map, dungeons and towns, but this time it's possible to rotate the camera for a 360° view. In the field, the party of three is spread out, but while searching towns, players can only control Vaan. The world is mostly navigated on foot, by chocobo or airship - and they can also teleport between gate crystals. Players can explore Ivalice while battling monsters, covering plot points, or searching for treasure. The treasure, however, can be an irritating thing. It's always a gamble opening chests. For instance, you could explore a dungeon hoping to open a chest that could possibly contain a powerful weapon only to open it and discover a potion. It's a matter of chance, which is a little frustrating.
      While traveling from place to place, unlike previous franchise entries, players can actually see the monsters they could encounter. Monsters can range in difficulty - but slaying the beasts can earn the party EXP and loot. It could also fill in the game's bestiary, which can prove useful for farming materials. One criticism of Final Fantasy XII that the game requires excessive grinding to get items, level characters, and unlock all potential bazaar items. While some fans are pleased with this, others looking to enjoy the story may find themselves disappointed.

      Battle System

      One of the biggest changes in Final Fantasy XII is the battle system. While this isn't the first game in the franchise to change how the game is played, it is one of the first to incorporate a combo of the Active Time System and A.I. You can initiate commands through a battle menu, like usual, but you are given the option to set up actions. The new gambit system allows characters to take care of fights on their own.
      Overtime characters acquire gambits that work as one of the following actions: Target, an action, or priority. Targets specify the main focus of a party member at the onset of battle. For example: Vaan can either heal an ally with below 70% health, or attack the weakest target first. After the target is set, the action is carried out. Finally, the priority indicates which gambit should performed first. For many, this was a refreshing take on the battle system. Setting up gambits for battle requires a bit of finesse and it depends on how you develop your characters.
      In addition to the gambit system, players can also summon creatures called 'Espers' into combat and use limit breaks. Espers actually act as another party member until the time runs out or the summoner has been KOed.  In order to get them, players must defeat them battle. Limit breaks, or "quickenings" are unique to a character, can be advanced by the licensing system, and can be strung together for an ultimate chain attack.

      Licensing and Building Weapons

      Final Fantasy XII's level up system relies on two things: experience points and license points. As with most RPGs, fighting battles earns EXP. Earning EXP leads to stat boosts, but characters cannot grow through strength, magic, and health improvements alone. In order for characters to gain abilities, characters must obtain license points in order to improve on their skills.
      License Boards are split up into two sections: upper and lower. The Upper part focuses on Magic, techniques, accessories and augments, while the bottom takes care of weapons and armor. Players can use license points to upgrade available abilities. In order to activate the items ON the licence board, you have to actually have them. This could make the process a little bit daunting. Also - Espers and 'Quickenings' can only be assigned to one character. While all characters can obtain any license on the board, the Espers and Quickenings are character specific. While this does allow for a lot of freedom, it could also be tedious building points, finding the loot, purchasing the item, and then activating on the board. It's a game that requires time and patience.

      Final Fantasy XII: Final Thoughts

      A fresh step in a new direction, Final Fantasy XII is a cherished fan favorite. While it is one of the more difficult games in the franchise, it dared to shake things up for a new take on the JRPG. Though there were a few character and plot issues, the story is pretty solid. The music, though not as strong, suits the game, and the battle system is an exciting twist on the old franchise. Final Fantasy XII may have caused some controversy, but it is an excellent addition to the legacy and a fitting end to the PS2 era. July 11th can't come soon enough!
      So where does Final Fantasy XII sit on your list? Want to learn about Final Fantasy's first MMORPG? Let us know in the comments below - We'll see you on the PS3!


      Microsoft E3 2017 Press Conference Live

      Join us for Microsoft's E3 2017 Press Conference
      Microst's Press Conference will begin Sunday June 11, 2017 at 4:45 PM est. We'll be live blogging here. If you would like to participate in a live chat, visit our Xbox One Forums
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      E3 2017: Rumors, Hype and Wishful Thinking

      Yes!  The most wonderful time of year to be a gamer is here and the rumors are raining down like the Hammer of Dawn(DLC for Gears 4 anyone?). E3 2017 is just a few short weeks away and there is plenty of speculation floating about. Now that the big console news is out of the way, gamers are frothing at the mouth for some awesome games.  All the anticipation builds up, and one can only hope that some of these allegations are true!
      Last year left gamers stunned by the beautiful Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild footage, teased with Sony's VR development, and  left us desperate for some news about the Final Fantasy VII remake. We were treated to trailers on the Last Guardian, Gears of War 4, and a little bit of the Assassin's Creed film (well...now we know that one is torture. Will a video game based movie ever be good?) With June rapidly approaching, I’m biting off my nails thinking about what could be in store for the future! Can this year top last year? So let’s look at the possibilities! Here are my Top 10 E3 2017 rumors.

      #10 - Super Smash Brothers on the Switch

      We’ll start off with the rumor that is most likely true. Nintendo is looking up boost up the game library of their new toy: The Switch. What better way to make consoles fly off the shelf than to add one the company’s most popular fighting games. Players can already beat each other up on-the-go via the DS, but with the Switch’s new capabilities, why not? This is one of those little tidbits that's almost certain - but if not a port, perhaps a new one altogether? Probably not.

      #9 - Assassin's Creed: Origins

      Some screenshots of this work-in-progress were leaked not too long ago. Much on the game has been hush-hush, but the rumors surfacing mention the game taking place in Ancient Egypt, and that the working title of the game is Origins. These games have started to come out pretty regularly, so it's not completely off the table. Of course, with the quality of the series struggling a little bit, this one is a little further down the list of anticipated announcements. I'm still trying to forget they made a movie.


      # 8 - The Last of Us 2: Part 2

      This one is an exciting rumor. Naughty Dog has to top the amazing predecessor of this awaited sequel. While the game is noted to be in development, there's nothing I would like more than joining Ellie and Joel again - if only to find out what has become of that desolate world. We only got a sneak peak last year, it's been so long since anything else has surfaced. We have
      , and hopefully, we will have a little more during E3 2017. 


      #7 - Far Cry 5

      Ubisoft has its work cut out for it. With the Assassin's Creed series running long in the tooth, this franchise isn't too far behind. Without something to breath new life into it, this next entry could mean make or break for the future of Far Cry. Rumor has it this Ubisoft title will be based out of the Old West. Following a less than stellar Far Cry Primal, the developers are looking to shake things up. Only time will tell whether or not Far Cry 5 will get us excited about the series again.

      #6 - Halo 6

      What better way to showcase Project Scorpio for Microsoft than with this flagship series! A sneak peak at Halo 6 may be a long shot, but it would be a great title to get the new systems to move off the shelf. One can only hope for a new title with more Master Chief, a captivating story, and addicting multi-player action. Perhaps this one was kept under someone's hat until now...right?....right? (And that was wishful thinking.)


      #5 - Microsoft X 1 - Project Scorpio

      This one is pretty much certain. There is so much hype around the development of the Scorpio that it's impossible not to talk about it. With Oculus and Microsoft working together, this console boasts being the 'most powerful' console - and the VR capability doesn't hurt. A wave of the future. Not quite next gen, it's still something that's on my top ten for E3 2017.


      #4 - Super Nintendo Classic

      Since the NES Classic Console has been discontinued, I have my fingers crossed for this rumor. There's nothing I would love more than picking up a SNES Classic Console to play through Chrono Trigger, Link to the Past, and Super Mario All-Stars again. Of course, I could just plug in my actual SNES, but I'm always afraid of what might happen. The NES version was a smash hit for the holiday season - so why not another console comeback? Please....pretty please?

      #3 - Bloodborne 2

      A leaked poster can stir up so much hype! FromSoftware's action-RPG  isn't slotted until next year, but a sneak peak of the sequel to this brutally unforgiving title is just what we need. An expansion can only do so much to give players a fix of this creepy and punishing favorite. Then again, maybe they're just going to give us all false hope and then have an impossible boss slaughter us.


      #2 - Wolfenstein 2 and Evil Within 2

      Bethesda is setting the bar once again. This one is a double whammy with two heart-pumping, adrenaline-filled titles: Wolfenstein: New Colossus and The Evil Within 2. A gritty Nazi-bashing shooter or a terrifying, psychological survival-horror? Why not have both? With sequels for Fallout and Elder Scrolls looking pretty unlikely, it would be a frighteningly fun addition to E3 2017.



      # 1 - Red Dead Redemption 2

      And here is the show-stopper! This game is one of the most highly anticipated games of ...well, 2018. It's been so long since Rockstar's critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption released, and this is one PS4 Early Access title everyone is waiting to see. While I'm not 100% convinced that Rockstar will want to showcase anything at E3, this is one game that could end the whole conference on a top note.


      E3 2017 - The Final Recap
      And there you have it. While there certainly are a lot of rumors floating about, this is just a taste of the possibilities this year has to offer. Who knows? Maybe we'll even get to see some game footage of FFVII or Kingdom Hearts  3!  ...I won't hold my breath.
      So what do you all think? What rumors have you heard? What are you most excited about for E3 2017!? Let us know in the comments below.


      Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 Review

      Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a first person shooter developed by a relatively small studio (CI Games) whose prior works have pretty much revolved around a series of other Sniper titles and a brief dip into third person fantasy combat with Lords of the Fallen. That said, I went into this game with some pre-conceived notions about what I was expecting to play. So let’s talk first about what it is that the game really “is” and what it does.
      The Lone Sniper

      The entire function of the game is built around the idea of the player being a lone sniper out to get the bad guys and provides the player with tools and options to do so sight-unseen. In an attempt to provide the game with some degree of personal immersion, the story puts the player into a position where they are also pursuing a personal mission in the process of doing their job for the military.
      The game takes into account aspects of weapons handling that many other games regrettably neglect. It takes into consideration the significant effects of elevation, wind shear, breathing, and distance in scoping out and eliminating your target.
      They’ve also created an open world concept for the game that is different from past games in the series and, to an extent, it could be argued that this was an attempt to give the player more freedom in choice of their operations. Players also get to choose between three different skill trees as they gain experience and flesh out their play style.
      However…all of this seems pretty irrelevant when you take into consideration that there are other games out there that have done it better and are just more enjoyable.
      Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 Brings Back Realism

      Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 certainly has some good points. It takes the ridiculously unrealistic and absurd aspects of sniping that are unfortunately a part of so many first person shooters and brings it back to reality. So if there is anything Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 should be admired for, it’s bringing back realism and sanity to a task that’s been made so gamified that it actually ruins the game it’s put in.
      So if your thing is that you want realistic sniping, go ahead and give this game a try. You will more than likely be pleased by that aspect of the game. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing I can say about the game that really made me go “Wow, this is great!” There is a lot left to be desired in the rest of the game.
      The Devil's in the Details (Graphics)

      The graphics aren’t bad. They certainly look nice at long distances and they were appealing enough that it didn’t look dated, but with graphics, the devil really is in the details, and there were certain little demons running through the programming as I played the game that really killed the immersion. A few examples may be…
      Everything looks nice until the game deliberately zooms in to a kill-shot while sniping, then the entire animation when the bullet is supposed to strike the enemy looks cheap, poorly articulated, and in some instances even pixelish. This really destroys the immersion and takes a lot of the satisfaction away from what should have been a victorious moment.Hearing a helicopter fly overhead gives you a brief moment of anxiety as you rush to the nearest bushes…until you watch the helicopter fly directly over a series of trees/bushes that should bend and sway with the force of the approaching chopper…and instead they look exactly like they did when the chopper was nowhere in site. The execution is all very wooden and uninspired.A variety of graphical bugs have popped up almost routinely and kill the experience altogether.
      That said, I do feel like I need to say something about the overall programming of the game, which leaves a lot to be desired.
      Glitches, Bugs, and Long Load Times

      This game is unbelievably buggy. Everything from minor graphical glitches that phase out instantly to literally falling through the ground and disappearing beneath the map on multiple occasions. That by itself almost kills the game completely for me, not because of the inconvenience of the map glitch, but because that glitch then requires a complete re-load. And loading screens in this game are PAINFULLY long. When I say I’ve sat at a loading screen for a solid five minutes, I am not kidding. I have not seen loading screens this long in several generations of consoles.
      Sound in the game isn’t great either. It’s certainly not bad, but there needs to be a lot more “oomph” to certain things that just sounded too dull or under-emphasized and left me feeling a bit under-satisfied.
      Predictable Story & Character Development

      The story is pretty predictable and the character development…well. Let’s say they found the most painfully stereotypical writer they could to do the narrative for these characters. The characters don’t particularly have any personally heroic qualities to them that make you want to get attached to them, the acting is undeservedly melodramatic – characters will go from 0 to 100 on the drama scale and back again almost instantaneously – and the overall attitude of the main characters leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, if you were trying to create a genuinely unlikeable and groan-inducing character, that would have been easily achievable here. But, somehow, I don’t think that was the intention.
      Replayability isn’t really there either. Once I put it down… I was pretty certain I’d played enough of it and could move on to bigger and better things.
      Leaves a Lot to be Desired

      Overall, it’s not a bad game, but it certainly leaves a lot to be desired. If you’re looking for a realistic sniping game that does enough right in that regard to be a unique experience and get away from the complete and utter garbage fire that is “sniping” in most other FPS games, then definitely give it a shot. But if you’re looking for a fun, engaging storyline with a strong attention to immersion that will have you coming back every day eager for more…there are games out there that offer much more of that than Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 can muster.

      Nostalgia Train: Luigi's Mansion Review

      Back in 2001, Nintendo was on the verge of releasing it's latest console following the N64. This new system would take a step away from the classic cartridges in favor of slim and small discs and come in a lightweight cube-inspired design. That's not all that was planned for the future of Nintendo. The fans had long awaited a video game starring the brother of one of the most famous franchise icons of all time. Yes, 2001 brought the launch of the Nintendo Gamecube and Luigi's Mansion.

      The Younger Mario
      Luigi's Mansion, while not the first game to feature our favorite green plumber as the main character, is one of most memorable games for the Gamecube. It's a "ghost" hunting action-adventure game that pits Luigi against an unstoppable horde of ghouls and goblins.
      We join Luigi as he arrives at a creepy mansion he and his brother, Mario, won in a contest they never entered. Armed with only a flashlight, the younger brother discovers that something foul is afoot when he is promptly accosted by a legion of shadowy figures. Lucky for Luigi, Professor E. Gadd, a paranormal scientist, is on the scene testing out his newest device: the Poltergust 3000. Fearing something had happened to Mario, Luigi takes up the task of clearing out the house of ghosts and searching for his brother.

      Cleaning Luigi's Mansion
      The main goal of this action-platform adventure is to find what happened to Mario. Players guide Luigi through the mansion picking up treasure, sucking up ghosts, and uncovering secrets. In order to conduct a proper search, players must go through every room and clear out all of the enemies. After a room is clear, Luigi can search for money, special items, or keys. The game is broken into four parts: one for each floor of the mansion.
      Luigi, as terrified as he is, is armed with a flashlight, the ghost-sucking, element-blasting Poltergust 3000 and the Game Boy Horror communicator. Players can use the Game Boy Horror Communicator to check out a map of the mansion and keep track of the areas they've explored. However, before a room can be marked on the map, it has to be cleared of all the ghosts.
      In order to catch a ghost, Luigi must blast them with his flashlight to stun them. While stunned, players can try to suck up the ghost, draining their HP. If Luigi is hit, he will lose some hit points and drop some of his treasure. While some ghosts are fairly easy to catch, others have higher hit points and must be defeated with special items.Players can also encounter Boos, which are a little trickery to deal with than normal ghosts.
      Once a player catches all the ghost in an area, they must face the boss ghost. Once defeated, the ghosts are loaded into Professor E. Gadd's portrait machine and they are all available for your viewing pleasure.



      Treasures, Secrets, and Hidden Toads 
      While most of Luigi's Mansion is straight forward, there are few other tidbits that should be noted. While exploring, Luigi can find a few Toads hiding away. These little guys act as the save points of the game. Of course, if there are any creepy crawlies around, you can't use them.
      While Luigi makes his way through the mansion ghost-busting, he can make a good buck. Treasure is hidden everywhere in the boards, tapestries and cupboards. Even after a room is cleared, Luigi should be searching everywhere while he feebly cries for his brother. This is the best way to scare out hiding Boos; they could be lurking anywhere, even if the lights have come up.
      At the end of the game, the total money is tallied and players are given a score A-H. Depending on the score, a whole new mode can be unlocked - so it's a good idea to horde that moola.

      Re-Visiting Luigi's Mansion
      Luigi's Mansion is one of those games that is easy to pick up and just play. It's not very complicated and it comes with a fair amount of challenge. It's very different from other Nintendo titles, but it's incredibly short. I don't necessarily think that being a short game is a bad thing, if the price is right, of course. But the music starts to get repetitive after some time, and I wish Luigi had a bit more to say other than "
      ." Still, it was refreshing to get a game from his perspective that wasn't terrible. (*coughMarioisMissingcough*) 
      That being said, this game is incredibly fun. It's pretty satisfying to suck up all those ghouls and see the lights turn on in the mansion. Considering when the game was made, the graphics hold up pretty well, too! The puzzles are interesting and can be challenging at times, and while the story isn't something we haven't experienced, it does the job.
      The only additional criticism I could have for this game concerns the controls. At times, controlling the Poltergust 3000 was a bit of a pain, especially when you had to redirect Luigi while using it. Once you get used to the controls, it's a lot of fun. Overall, this is an excellent title to revisit.
      What do you all think? Have you played Luigi's Mansion lately? How about Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon? Let us know in the comments below.

      The Evolution of Final Fantasy: Final Fantasy XI Review

      After the success of Final Fantasy X, the series was about to take a completely different direction. So far, Final Fantasy was pretty much a single player game - if you don't count the few you can somehow split into a 2-player experience, of course. With advancement in technology and such an expansive world, it seemed to be the right direction for Square when they developed Final Fantasy XI into an MMORPG. What it became was a culmination of everything the developers had wanted for previous franchise entries but lacked the technology to do. Final Fantasy XI stepped away from the mold and became the first cross-platform MMORPG.

      Stepping Away From The Formula
      Before Final Fantasy XI, barring a few non-cannon entries, the franchise focused on a sprawling story where a single player controlled several party members throughout the game. With this new design, players could make their own hero by browsing the character creation, which had its limits. However, players could now take on the role of hero and decide how to develop that character throughout the game.
      Also, with online cross-platform capability, gamers could reach out across the world to connect with others and form their own party. With automatic language translation, it was quite possible to connect with just about anyone via PC, Xbox 360 or on the PlayStation network.
      Of course, with innovation comes a host of issues. This was a huge left turn for the series as the fans knew it. It required a paid subscription to play and there were plenty of problems in both game play and servers. However, those who really enjoyed the game do look on it as a labor of love, from beginning to the very last expansion pack.


      Does Our Story Ever Really Begin?
      Our story is set in the mythical land of Vana'diel, once a 'playground' for the gods and their children, all spawned from the mystical Crystal. After the Gods' children became headstrong and wished to become gods themselves, they were destroyed. After seeing this, the Goddess Altana wept - giving life to the main races of the world. The God of Twilight, Promathia, called Altana's actions weak, and poisoned the race with dark attributes. Promathia also created the race of beastmen, which serve as the main antagonists of the game, - and so the spiral of war plagued Vana'diel for all eternity!
      Sounds fun, right?
      After creating a character, based off of one of these races, the story begins in one of three main countries: San d'Oria, Bastock, or Windurst. These countries are banding together to defeat the evil Shadow Lord.
      And that's the long and short of it.

      Plot Overview
      The plot of Final Fantasy XI is very basic. Like many other stories in the series, it starts off with one main antagonist and then escalates into something far more crazy. Like most MMORPGs, the story takes a back seat to game play. It establishes the setting, the central focus for the game, and lets players run wild from there.
      The game contains several 'quest' and story objectives, and background is really dependant on character development. Through character creation, avatars are given strengths and weaknesses and placed in a particular starting area. Players essentially have to work their way up the ladder of their nation in order to go through the game.
      Additional story can be added via expansion packs, but these essentially provide more missions and end game content. Overall, the story is pretty vanilla.


      Game Play: The Very Basics
      FFXI is your typical MMORPG in a number of ways, but there are many things the set it apart from other games in the genre. Players create and control one character throughout the game, focusing on leveling up stats and completing quests. This can be done by exploring the world, speaking with NPCs, visiting towns and dungeons, and fighting battles. Of course, this isn't meant to be a solo venture. It's a better experience when players team up and tackle missions together, but there is something to be said about solo exploration.
      While there is a lot to this game, much of the enjoyment is found in actual game play; I'm merely providing these simple explanations - so let's tackle them piece by piece.

      Character Creation
      While other Final Fantasy titles have the characters pre-created, this game allows players to create, within limits, their own.  Players could choose from five different races: Humes, Tarutaru, Elvaan, Galka, and Mithra. They could also choose the gender (for most races) and alter the appearance of the character, but not by too much.
      From there, players choose a class and an allegiance. The 'class' or jobs were modeled after Final Fantasy III. Six come standard, others are gathered by completing quests or through expansion packs. The jobs work like they have in previous games. Jobs provide your character with abilities and stat growth.
      Allegiances are more or less the areas where your character can flourish, gain bonuses, and ultimately grow your character. As you climb your social ladder, the bonuses get better - but if you change your 'class,' the process starts all over again. This is part of the fun in creating your characters - it's important to choose wisely.
      Choosing a race dictates the bonuses, allegiances and the class type gamers could settle into. While any particular race could be any class, there are better combinations available. For instance, the Tarutaru excels in magic classes, but they make terrible warriors. Regardless of what players choose, everyone has the same basic background - which leads to some of the issues. The character scope is incredibly limited as far as customization is concerned. There isn't much to choose from and it can all seem pretty bland. But once players decide on a character - it's game on.

      Character Development
      While your character race usually stays the same, players could mix up their classes and allegiances.  While class changes are easier to switch, swapping your allegiance could be pricey and requires in-game currency. But before doing any of that, it's important to explore each city and really take it for all it's got!
      Players can also take advantage of auction houses, transportation, item storage and other exciting things in the cities of Vana'diel. Depending on your character's allegiance, a player can explore different parts of Vana'diel and really benefit from climbing societal ranks. By mixing things up, players could discover specialty armor, stat boosts, better weapons and rare items available to certain allegiances.  In order to get stronger, however, players have to level.
      Characters level by class, rather than leveling the character itself. A player's rank can grow by completing quests, but certain quests can only be reached by being a particular level. And that leads to the endless grinding. So, joining a guild or group is a very good idea. It's better not to grind alone - misery loves company.

      Healers, Mages and Tanks: Oh my!
      There is quite a bit of fighting in Final Fantasy XI, but it's very slow. Battles take some time, and unlike other franchise entries up to this point, players can actually run around in real-time. There is no 'separate' battle screen, but instead, monsters will just up an attack would-be adventurers. At the start of encounter, enemies can be 'claimed' by a player or a party, and no other player or party can join.
      Of course, if things don't go quite as planned, it is possible to die in battle. This results in losing a level or experience, and puts you back at the drawing board. Sometimes it's better to find a group.
      During battle, a player can go solo or have a party of up to six members. A varied group is a good idea: filled with magic users, support characters, a healer, a tank, and damage dealers.  Players can choose different abilities according to their class. The idea is to build up a party with 'skill chains' to constantly beat on the enemy with mages backing everyone up. Also, making use of 'Magic Bursts' or the game's limit break can really move battles along.

      Lack of Murdering and Killing Time
      Two of the main complaints with Final Fantasy XI revolve around the battle concept itself. The first main issue is a lack of Player VS Player. While there is a way to do it, it's only allowed in particular events and seasons. This is an MMORPG staple nowadays, and it was an area the game didn't excel.
      The second issue? Grinding. Endless hours of grinding. While many mention this as a 'labor of love,'  it took hours to do. While the game itself could be fun, it also sucked up a lot of time doing unnecessary things. At the time of its release it wasn't so bad, but as the years went on...it lost its luster.


      Final Fantasy XI: Final Thoughts
      It's hard to really consider Final Fantasy XI as part of the main series, but this is a franchise that defines itself by changing the formula. Borrowing from elements of the past, and crossing the console boundaries, this game established itself as worthy of the legacy. Though it lacked a decent story and it was an unforgiving grindfest, there is something to love about this MMORPG - otherwise it wouldn't have been the most profitable game of the series.
      There are so many things to explore: crafting, mini-games, different job classes, end-game content, and it's doesn't just end when you defeat the big boss. The game goes on. While it can feel like a job at times, it really does have some fun to it. But...good luck playing it on PS2 or XBOX 360 because those servers shut down in 2016. But this would not be the last MMORPG Square Enix attempted...no...there was a much darker, more sinister game planned...
      But before that, there were a couple other franchise entries to enjoy!
      So, what do you all think? Still playing Final Fantasy XI for PC? Or are you glad that chapter of your life is done? Let us know in the comments below!

      How Did GTA 5 Become So Successful?

      With the gaming-sphere still reeling from the recent news that GTA 5 broke 75 million shipped copies, many people are undoubtedly asking themselves the question, “how the heck is this game still selling so well?” right after asking “wait, people who haven’t bought GTA 5 still exist?”.
      Take-Two Interactive Software announced the new milestone in a recent earnings call early last month, amid news that the title nabbed top spot on game sales charts for the third time - in 2017 alone. The game has risen to the stature of being the best selling non-bundled game of all time, is consistently leading sales charts, and what’s more, the sales trends are pointing upwards, which is unprecedented at this point in a game’s life-cycle.

      So how did Rockstar achieve this feat?
      While we’re fairly certain that black magic wasn’t involved, we’d rather you didn’t quote us on that. What was involved, on the other hand, was a masterful use of a rare opportunity. GTA 5 was initially released around the changing of the console generation, and while several other titles were released during that period as well, it was GTA 5 that truly took advantage of the situation.

      Of course, there was more to it than that, but let’s go step by step.

      The way games usually sell, there is a major spike in sales upon and right after launch. Suddenly, the sales numbers drop sharply, then rise a tiny bit, and then remain steady following that for quite some time. After a while, this plateau, so to say, starts dropping steadily, until it reaches zero once the game ceases to be commercially available.
      In the case of GTA 5, we’re looking at a wildly different model, primarily since it had not one initial launch sales spike, but three. The game was released three times over the course of three years in waves. Initially it launched on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, then the Xbox One and Playstation 4 and finally on the PC. Each time the game “launched”, it was met with the accompanying high rate of sales.

      Obviously, Rockstar knew when the new (at the time) consoles would hit, and they made the conscious decision to release GTA 5 literally a mere month before then. The Enhanced Edition of the game was released a year later, and the PC version a year after that. The new versions contained a number of upgrades from the Xbox 360 and PS3: better graphics of course, up to 30 players in GTA Online lobbies first person mode, future DLC support, as well as a wider range of cheats - particularly for PS4 and Xbox One.
      Clearly, it wouldn’t have taken much effort to launch all five versions in one go, but this way the company secured three launch sale spikes, while keeping the game new and fresh. Thus keeping GTA 5 not only in the news, but at the forefront of the public consciousness.
      So sure, they released the game three times, but you need customers to actually create those sales. GTA 5’s publicity had many things going for it, but the most important factor happens to be the one money can’t buy. While it’s true that half of the title’s $265 million budget went towards marketing, that alone wouldn’t have caused this much of an impact without the years of history and infamy backing up the franchise.

      Controversy and Buzz around Grand Theft Auto

      Since it debuted in 1997, the Grand Theft Auto franchise had its share of controversy. Various groups attempted to ban games in the franchise multiple times, only giving it more publicity, while popularity spread like wildfire after GTA 3 was released.
      GTA 5 tapped what few games could: the mainstream market. Not every title has a veritable horde of loyal customers behind it like GTA, Call of Duty, Madden, FIFA, and Battlefield do. Sure, these are fairly popular with the core gaming community, but there are tens of millions of people out there who don’t identify as a gamer, don’t much care of the industry and only ever play these franchises. They’re the bulk, the vast majority, the backbone of GTA’s audience. These are the people who don’t read the gaming news, they don’t read the reviews and they don’t care about exclusives, 4K or third-party support. They buy consoles based on which one most of their ‘bros’ have, and grab whatever the hottest mainstream multiplayer title is.
      So yeah, these people make up the majority of GTA 5’s customers, but if they don’t read gaming news like I said, how did they know to buy it? Simple. The fact that GTA is a mainstream sensation is widely known, so the game was covered by non-gaming focused venues as well.
      Another major factor was the marketing campaign, which was less aimed at wooing newcomers to the franchise, and more of a friendly PSA to the casual gamers that “hey, there’s a new GTA game coming out, so you know, pre-order it and stuff”. There were billboards emblazoned with little more than a logo, the sides of buildings were painted with the less-than-appealing portrait of Trevor, and trams had the game’s name printed on their sides. That’s not how you sell a game, but in the case of GTA, its name is what sold the game.
      So there you have it. Between a triple-launch and overwhelming mainstream appeal, GTA 5 was set for outstanding victory, and Rockstar played all of their cards right, taking absolute advantage of the profitable situation they manoeuvred themselves into.
      Bravo, applause, pull curtains.

      STILL don't own GTA V? Purchase it Below


      Nostalgia Train: Milon's Secret Castle

      Welcome back aboard the Nostalgia Train - the series that takes a look back at crazy movies and games from our past that we love, hate, and sometimes forget about. Today's trip leads us back to the NES era - a time of masterpieces and some rather obscure titles. In honor of those forgotten cartridges, I give you Milon's Secret Castle. There's much to be said about this game and very little makes sense. It is one of those titles that you may have lying around or in the bottom of a box in your basement. Just remember, all trips down memory-lane aren't going to be good ones.

      Milon's Complicated Story
      As a gamer fires up this game on the good ol' NES, it becomes immediately apparent that it will be a bit of a dumpster fire. There is no explanation and no story; players are set before a castle with three doors, a well and that's it.
      After some digging, I finally found the game's story! It revolves around young Milon, who lives in a land where people use music to communicate with each other - but he can't understand anyone. Apparently, he's music illiterate. He decides to travel the world. Before he leaves, he wants to visit the Queen. Wouldn't you know it, she's been taken by an Evil Warlord. (As you do...) The court magician appoints Milon to save her. He gives Milon...bubbles and tells him the castle where she's being held has all sorts of tools for him, and that's it. Milon's off to save the day.

      Stormin' the Castle
      Milon's Secret Castle doesn't just lack a cohesive story, it doesn't really make any sense at all. A young man saving a girl is a basic trope, but why would Milon even attempt to meet with the queen knowing he could not communicate with her. If all the inhabitants of the land he lives in only communicate using music, why would he think the royal family was any different? For that matter, how in the world did the magician even clue Milon in?
      The story itself doesn't scratch the surface. Players aren't even clued into story, so it doesn't really matter. Playing the game is just and needlessly complicated.

      Sticky Platforms and Curious Secrets
      The game-play for Milon's Secret Castle isn't overly complicated. Milon is given a life bar and a single life. He can run, jump, and shoot bubbles. He has to enter the castle and discover the secrets within while battling beasts. There is no rhyme or reason to the placement of things, but Milon must fire his bubbles at everything. Bubbles will kill enemies, reveal secret doors, and break blocks.
      Players have to find the hidden shops, music boxes, and items in order to battle stage bosses. After defeating these bosses, Milon gets stronger and gamers advance to new parts of the castle to repeat the process all over again.

      Milon's Secret Castle: Keeping it Secret
      Looking past the story and the weird weapon, one of the things that makes this game frustrating is the difficulty. Unlike other platformers, when Milon gets hit, there is no 'post-hit invisibility.' He also has a very small life bar. When that depletes, it's game over. Players have to start at the beginning. Of course, if you manage to make it past the first boss, there is a trick to starting where you left off. Also, there are ways to increase Milon's health, but it's so minuscule it's barely worth it.
      Another pain point with this game is a lack of direction. While it's pretty neat that players can complete the game in any way they wish, it doesn't clue gamers in on what to do. The secrets are hidden so well that hardly anyone knew they had to look for them. The boss chamber only fills once certain bench marks are complete. Players can't even exit a level without finding a door first.
      Couple all of these grievances with sticky controls, respawning enemies, and cryptic hints, and you've got yourself a pretty terrible game. While it isn't the worst game, it's almost not worth remembering. ALMOST.
      So, play on, gamers. What do you think of Milon's Secret Castle? Want a more truthful review? Check out

      Scoot Over: Top 10 Versus & Couch Co-Op Games for the Holidays

      It's that time of year again! Time for families to make the trek back home or for people to attend parties, or do none or all of the above. Even with all of the festivities and travel, there is no excuse to stop gaming - in fact, there is every reason TO game. Let's be real - games are a big part of holiday fun. With technology today, we are no longer limited to only board games - though those are incredibly fun. What better way to spend the holidays than screaming at your siblings over an exciting co-op couch game! Not sure what's out there exactly? Well, here are my top ten co-op games!
      Let's be clear - these aren't in any particular order, as they are all great in their own way. These are also COUCH games - online play doesn't count for this list, though it could add to the fun! Without further ado...

      Nintendo Land  

      System: Nintendo Wii U

      Players: 1-5
      One of first co-op games on our list comes from those geniuses over at Nintendo: 
      . Players can explore this amusement park-themed game where they can team up to save Hyrule, hunt each other down in Luigi's Mansion, or a number of other fun "Nintendo-themed" activities. The mini-games aren't limited to multi-player events; there are some addictive solo games where players can try to beat each other's high score, like Ninja Castle. What's better than throwing ninja stars at things? Additionally,  Nintendo Land is easy to play, but it has enough challenge for adept players. Overall, this one is good for all ages and gamer levels.
      LittleBigPlanet 3

      System: Sony PS4

      Players: 1-4 (Plus Online Multi-Player)
      LittleBigPlanet 3 is an insanely fun co-op platformer following the adventures of Sackboy in his attempt to save Bunkum, the
      universe. This puzzle game requires a bit of cooperation and all of the players you can get. Players team up to explore and conquer levels, gathering items along the way. While any gamer can attempt this one alone, some puzzles and hidden items require team work! Of course, this is no problem when a player has a few partners. This game is adorable, addicting, but requires a little finesse. In addition to playing the story, gamers can also create their own levels, which adds another layer of fun to the mix. While this game is a blast, it might not be the best for novice players.
      Mario Party 

      System: Nintendo Systems

      Players: 1-4 (5 for Mario Party 10)
      This one seems like the most obvious of all the co-op games on the list. Party is in the title!
      games start as far back as the N64 and there is no sign of them slowing down. With a number of different boards, players follow a 'board game' style system that pits everyone against each other. The objective is to gather as many stars as possible before the final round; the player with the most wins. Of course, it's not as simple as that. Players must move around the board, gather coins, win mini-games, and deal with the treacherous Bowser! In the lastest version, Mario Party 10, a player can even play as Bowser. While the mini-games require a bit a skill, the game is mainly luck based. This one can grate on the nerves after awhile, so be sure to have another game handy.
      Super Smash Brothers 

      System: Nintendo Systems

      Players: 1-8
      The best co-op games often involve two or more characters beating each other to a bloody pulp. What better way to deal with holiday frustrations, right? Well, Super Smash Brothers provides a
      game with all of our favorite characters. The fighting mechanics range from easy (for you button-mashers out there!) to difficult, depending on what kind of combos a player plans on pulling out of his or her arsenal. There is a character for everyone, unlockables, and seeing Jigglypuff fly off the stage is so satisfying for some reason. Of course, fighting games aren't for everyone. If you aren't a fan, it's best to try another option on this list.
      Super Mario 3D World 

      System: Nintendo Wii U

      Players: 1-4
      Nintendo has it's fair-share of fun co-op games, and
      is no exception! This exciting platformer requires skill, cooperation, and puzzle solving - unless you like watching your friends die. In that case, all bets are off. Players team up and navigate the Mushroom Kingdom to save the Sprixie Princesses from Bowser. While it can get frustrating trying to play through the levels when one person is messing around, this game can be a blast for a four-player team. Plus, if anyone has ever played any Mario game before, no training is required!
      The Jackbox Party Pack 3 

      System: PC/Mac/PS4/Amazon Fire Family/ Xbox One

      Players: 1-8
      Here's an utterly awesome and almost effortless party game! Gather everyone around the TV and whip out your cell phones! The
      contains 5 crazy fun games that include trivia, terrible drawing skills, and quirky word play. Each game is straightforward and all players really need to know is how to use a cell phone with internet access. Players log into jackbox.tv, enter the code, and join their friends in board game-inspired fun. This game is for anyone and everyone, and actually has a 'clean' version - and how 'clean' it is can depend on your answers. Easy to set up, fun to play; this is gaming done right.
      Rocket League 

      System: Microsoft/PS4/XBOXONE/OS X/ Linux

      Players: 1-4(8)
      If fighting, trivia, or platform games aren't for you - maybe cars are more your speed!
       is an incredibly addictive competition that combines soccer, basketball, or hockey with demolition derby. It works beautifully. Rev up those engines, design your car, and take to the field to face off against local friends or attempt some group free-for-alls online. While it may take a few minutes for a novice to get the hang of the controls, the excitement and smack-talk that follows will be legendary.
      Wii Sports

      System: Nintendo Wii

      Players: 1-4+
      An oldie, but a goodie! These simple turn-based sport activities are easy and enjoyable for just about any level of gamer. Things could get incredibly exciting if you turn these into drinking games--ha, but I digress. Though there is a nice dose of competitive play, most of the Wii Sports games are low impact and quick to grasp. So grandma and your kid brother can both try their hand at bowling, baseball, golf, tennis or boxing. Play in teams, or go solo - but most of all, get up and have some fun!


      System: Microsoft Windows/ PS4/ Xbox One

      Players: 1-4
      There's a saying:
      . This is not true when it comes to Overcooked. This game was meant for multi-player! It thrives on culinary chaos as players work as a team to put together as many dishes as they can in a limited amount of time. Play against each other or team up in a simple 3-4 button game that requires a little teamwork and a plan. Either that or just let everyone run wild and burn the kitchen down.
      Mario Kart 8 

      System: Nintendo Systems

      Players: 1-4
      This is the ultimate
      . Racing games are always a blast, but Mario Kart 8 is a cut above the rest. Get ready to burn rubber while dodging pesky banana peels, navigating obstacles and winning that coveted trophy. It's hard to find someone who hasn't heard of or played any Mario Kart game before, but it's easy enough to play for even the most clueless gamer. Soon enough, Great Grandma will be cackling like Wario as she blasts you with red shells like a boss. It's classic, and it's a good time. 
      When it comes to co-op games, any one of these games is a winner. So what are you waiting for? Gather everyone up, pick a game, and start swearing at each other - and have an amazing gaming experience at the same time.
      What do you all think? What are your favorite co-op games? Prefer some old school two player action? Why not hop on the Nostalgia Train and check out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, or my personal favorite, Contra.
      Have a great holiday!


      Overcooked Review: Taste of Victory

      You know what's more fun than cooking in an actual kitchen? Being a master chef of the video game world! And what better way is there to spend time screaming at your friends or loved ones than sitting on the couch with Overcooked. Team 17 created a fun and fast-paced cooking based game that everyone can enjoy. Whether you are prepping the kitchen for four or going solo, this game is a great way to pass the time.

      Setting Up The Kitchen
      Our culinary quest starts like any other adventure; King Onion and his dog, Kevin, plead with us to save the world by satisfying the hunger of The Beast. Unfortunately, as players are cooking newbs, the only items they can serve up is salad. Let's face it;  the Beast's hunger cannot be satisfied by salad alone.

      King Onion takes it upon himself to send the players back in time to travel about and sharpen their cooking skills for a rematch. In order to prepare, the future master chefs (not to be confused with Master Chief...that's another game) must head through cities, go on the road, and venture into outer space to conjure delicious dishes to satisfy the Beast.
      Overcooked Recipe Book
      Overcooked has several different modes: Campaign, Versus, and DLC in the Lost Morsel, and Festive Seasoning. Regardless of the mode you choose, the game has the same focus.
      The object of Overcooked is to prepare and serve food while avoiding obstacles and beating the clock. The quicker players put out orders, the more tip money and points they receive. Each level usually has a particular recipe to prepare, such as soup, burgers, fish and chips, or pizza. Orders will consist of various ingredients that must be chopped, cooked, assembled, plated and sent out. In some cases, players are responsible for cleaning dishes, while in others they must avoid kitchen hazards like moving counter tops and jumping between food trucks.
      In the campaign mode, players tackle a series of levels that require a mastery of 1-3 stars to advance to the next section. Each level has a particular score that needs to be hit to earn a rank, and players must cooperate in order to master the kitchen. Versus mode pits players against each other in an all-out cook out. Overcooked's DLC options offer would-be chefs more levels and more avatar options.


      Next Top Chef?
      When I purchased this game during XBOX ONE's Black Friday deals, I was reminded fondly of an Atari game called
      . My nostalgia factor took over, and I sat down to play this game. First off, the graphics are pretty great. The game has an old school feel with smooth, modern graphics. The music is catchy, though forgettable - but that's not really what matters in a game like this.
      This game is addictive, especially as a co-op game. It's not enough to get one or two stars. I had to have them all, and each stage had a fair amount of difficulty. While not the hardest game on the shelf, some of the levels could prove to be pretty challenging depending on how well your team works together, or how many players you have.
      The controls are simple enough, and when it comes time for Versus mode, there is a fair amount of challenge swapping between avatars to beat your opponent - unless of course, you have more players.
      I found myself saying pretty often, "There's no way you could do this with one player." That being said, it really isn't as fun with just one person. I'm not sure it's meant to be played solo.

      Overcooked: Final Cook Off
      If you are looking for some good, competitive fun, this is the perfect game to pick up. It's a great game to play with a couple of friends or family members, provided you work as a team. Of course, if cooperation isn't your thing, you could find yourself screaming "CHOP THAT ONION" at someone you thought was your friend, but clearly doesn't know his or her way around a kitchen.
      Regardless, it's a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and with the added DLC, players can keep coming back to the kitchen for another round.
      So what do you think? Have you played Overcooked before? Which avatar is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
      Want to try Overcooked?
      Buy it here on XBOX ONE,  PS4, or Steam!


      Final Fantasy X Review - The Evolution of Final Fantasy

      The launch of the PlayStation 2 ushered in a new era for the Final Fantasy series. Though the developers tinkered with the layout of this series several times before, each entry kept key components so they still felt connected. As Final Fantasy X developed, fans of the series were about to see quite a few changes.  2001 gave us a new and innovative twist on this beloved franchise, leaving much of the foundation in the past.

      Out with the Old, In with the New
      Final Fantasy X has a lot of firsts for the franchise. It is the first game in the series to utilize voice acting, pre-rended backdrops and full three-dimensional areas. In addition to the technological advances, X is also the first entry to get a direct sequel in Final Fantasy X-2. Finally, the game's soundtrack is the first that Nobuo Uematsu was not the sole composer. Along with Uematsu,  Masahi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano had a hand in developing the music.
      With the new technological capabilities,  X gets an intense boost in graphics. The visuals are stunning and are even better in the HD remake. The world seems so vast and clear, and graphics only get better from here on out. Playing FFX is almost like watching a movie at times- because with better graphics comes more cut scenes. The developers did learn from previous entries and added an option to skip particular cut scenes (ie. long summons.) The capability only goes so far as the cut scene graphics are still far better than the in-game.
      Aside from auditory and visual alterations, there are few big changes as far as how the game is played. Final Fantasy X abandons the ATB style of the past in favorite of a new battle system, and instead of leveling stats, players are introduced to the Sphere Grid. Everything seems new, even down to the way players explore the world map. With all of the changes, it may be hard to believe that this game still plays like other franchise entries. While there are many changes, Final Fantasy X still does what it does best - creates a memorable story.

      Welcome to Spira
      Our journey begins with the young star of the Zanarkand Abes blitzball team, Tidus. He is participating in a blitzball tournament being held in honor of his late father, Jecht, a former star player. However, chaos ensues as the city is beset by a giant monster. Tidus can only wonder what is happening as his care-taker, Auron, grabs hold of him and the world around him is destroyed by the creature dubbed 'Sin.' When Tidus wakes, he discovers that he is not only alone, but in a time and place far removed from his home. Upon his rescue by Al-Bhed salvagers, he discovers his Zanarkand was destroyed 1000 years ago by Sin.
      Lost and confused, Tidus eventually finds himself in the company of the determined Yuna. She is a newly trained summoner on a pilgrimage to defeat Sin, along with her guardians Wakka, Lulu and Kimahri.  Tidus joins with Yuna in the hopes of finding Sin and using the creature to return home. However, he soon discovers a deeper connection with this new world and a possibility that he may find his estranged father. Not everything is as it seems in Spira in a tale of death, deceit, and false hope. Tidus and Yuna must band together to uncover the dark secrets of Spira and defeat Sin.


      I Write Sins not Tragedies
      Final Fantasy X's main plot is dark. Hidden behind all of the bright and cheery color palates is a very disturbing tale revolving around death, sacrifice and betrayal. Each of the characters settles into the story and has their own stand-out moment. It has some very interesting twists and a refreshing main protagonist in Tidus. He is a cocky young man who wants nothing to do with the adventure that is placed before him. He's also an outsider to this new world, not exactly a hero of destiny.  In fact, he barely knows how to handle a blade. It is interesting to see how his appearance in Spira has such a huge effect on the course of the world.
      The fan base tends to be a bit split on Tidus in general. He can go from being very heroic to incredibly annoying in minutes. Part of this could be the choice in voice acting, but I think most of it has to do with this dreaded
      . Regardless, most of the characters have some little quirk that could make them hard to relate to. If players get past those minor issues, Final Fantasy X has some pretty great characters and interesting villains. 
      When it comes to character development, at first each party member seems to be very one dimensional. However, as the story continues, each one opens up and grows with the narrative. As the journey unfolds, the layers peel back and players are privy to the dark secrets the characters and the world of Spira are hiding.

      Final Fantasy X: Game-Play
      The time of the top view overworld map has passed. All of the destinations in Final Fantasy X link together and are mere points on a map. Once the airship is acquired, players can either walk from place to place or hop on the airship to revisit areas covered in the story. Instead of exploring the world map and entering dungeons, players control Tidus in third-person perspective as he journeys through parts of Spira on a more realistic scale.
      At first, Tidus and company must walk (or ride a boat) to all of their destinations. While en route,  players can discover treasure, talk to NPCs, and run into random battles as they aide Yuna on her pilgrimage. Towns and villages transition easily to the 'open terrain' where gamers can explore and encounter monsters. While some players like this idea, others are unhappy with the game's linearity. Also, players don't actually get to control the airship. Still, there is some freedom when roaming Spira as all the parts connect, so the option to navigate the world map is still there.
      As players circumnavigate Spira, Tidus and friends must head into towns and claim summons to move along with the story. In order to get these 'Aeons,' Tidus must go through the Cloister of Trials - a sort of puzzle section that involves moving spheres around until the group reaches the final chamber. While the main goal is to reach the Aeon, there is also a secret treasure hidden in each trial. In addition to these tasks, a big part of the game involves fighting battles - as usual.

      Encountering Monsters and Combat
      While exploring open terrain, gamers can encounter random and fixed battles, like all the previous franchise entries. However, FFX abandons the Active Time Battle system in favor of something completely new: The Conditional Turn-Based Battle System. This new system takes out hasty decision making in favor of a more tactical approach. During an encounter, a new menu appears that displays the turn-order of the battle. Faster characters/enemies appear more often then those with slower stats. Also, certain attacks or battle options can have an effect on the turn-sequence as well.
      Players control up to seven different characters, but only three can partake in battle at one time. What's interesting is the option to swap out characters mid-battle. Characters also have strengths and weaknesses against particular enemies, for example; Tidus is adept at fighting fast enemies, but has trouble with monsters that are heavily armored. These battles require a bit more strategy; gamers need to swap characters in order to win and gain experience. Weapons and armor are unique to every character,  each has a specialty and the customization truly allows players to develop a different experience during each play-through.
      A fun addition to battles is the back-and-forth commentary from the characters. Since this is the first Final Fantasy with voice acting, it was fun to see the characters calling each other out and complaining about battles. It was a little touch, but it was fun.

      Weapons and Armor
      Taking a page from previous franchise entries, Final Fantasy X allows players to customize equipment. While each character can only equip particular pieces, it's possible to add abilities and stat boosts to everything. Characters can equip a weapon and a piece of armor. While some of the items come with pre-equipped abilities, players get the option to customize their equipment using items found in the game. Once the amount required is reached, it's possible to use a number of items, such as potions, to add abilities. While it isn't necessary, it's an exciting addition to game-play.

       Overdrives: The New Limit Break
      In addition to a battle system change, Limit Breaks have also been overhauled. Final Fantasy X developers took what worked best in the previous games and made a solid limit break system called 'Overdrives.' At first, these gauges are filled the old-fashioned way -- by a character taking hits from enemies. As the game progresses, more options become available, and characters can fill their gauges by killing enemies, healing party members, or a number of other ways. Overdrives require a bit of work from the player; based on the character, you might have to hit a sequence of buttons, mix two items together, or play slot reels. Overdrives can also be saved - they do not have to be used immediately. They can also be changed by completing specific tasks, for instance; Tidus can gain a new overdrive by killing a certain number of enemies.

      Summoning Monsters
      Final Fantasy X developers completely changed how summoned monsters work. In other entries, summoning a monster usually took up one action with a devastating attack. In this entry, Summoner Yuna calls upon these 'Aeons' to fight in battle. After Yuna calls a monster, he or she takes the place of the party to defeat the summoner's enemies. Players actually control the actions of their summons. What's more exciting is building a summon's overdrive. Like the character limit breaks, summoned monsters can unleash a furious attack after their gauge is filled.
      While there are a particular number Aeons players can access through the story-line, there are a few that can be obtained through side-quests. Players can also customize the stats and abilities for their Aeons, making each play-through unique.



      Sphere Grid: A New Way to Level
      Combat isn't the only thing that developers decided to shake up. Once again, the creators decided to change how players customize and level up their characters. Gamers still get experience points from battles, but the way that experience is used is much different. Each character's stat growth is based on a Sphere Grid system. Through battles, players accumulate special spheres and sphere points. These can be used to upgrade a character's stats and abilities.
      At first, when players begin, each character is set on a path. It's important to collect spheres; they are required in order to learn abilities. While battles provide the most basic ones, there are specialty spheres that can allow characters to learn abilities outside their projected paths. As the game continues, it's possible to explore other paths and develop the characters in unique ways. No play-through has to be the same. In the international version and the new HD version, there is an option of expert mode. In this mode, all characters start in the middle of the sphere grid and can be developed in whatever way the player chooses. However, to completely explore the sphere grid, gamers have to be open to attempting some of the more difficult parts of the game in order to obtain the spheres needed.

      Mini-Games: The Fun, the Unfair and the Frustrating
      One of the most frustrating parts of Final Fantasy X involves the mini-games.  Not all of the mini-games are terrible, but a great number of them are required in order to get some of the best equipment in the game. A little challenge is fine, but most of them are so insane that they take the fun right out of the game.
      One of the mini-games done right is the monster hunting. It's an interesting side quest that requires players to hunt down 10 of every monster in a region in order to forge an ultimate monster. Players can then challenge these beasts and gain some rare materials. While these battles are challenging, they are not impossible.  Another fun side mission is discovering the hidden Aeons. Again, this side mission isn't required and it has a fair amount of challenge.
      Blitzball is another mini-game that players are forced into, much like the card game in Final Fantasy IX. The big difference here is that Blitzball is more fun to play, and you don't have to win in order to continue on with the story. Playing Blitz and recruiting players can be enjoyable, and it's possible to get some specialty items out of the deal. However, this is where the games stop being fun.
      Catching butterflies, dodging lighting, chocobo racing and other mini-games can be downright grueling. These mini-games are incredibly frustrating, but completionists will have to get past that. If gamers want to get the ultimate weapons and armor for every character, they must complete these mini-games to do so. While I agree that mini-games should be challenging, there is something to be said about mundane and repetitive tasks.

      Final Thoughts
       Final Fantasy X was a huge departure from the series as we know it, but it still has the look and feel to be worthy of the franchise. With incredible musical tracks, a daring new battle system, a unique story and multiple customization options, this is a definitely an entry every fan should play at least once. As the series continues to evolve, FFX is an excellent example of how something new can still feel familiar and an exciting display of what to expect for the future.


      Nintendo Switch: The Next Generation of Nintendo

      At approximately 10 am, on Thursday Oct, 20th - Nintendo released a first look at the
      : Nintendo Switch. As I watched the trailer, I couldn't help but be hyped and filled with expectations. The sleek, chameleon-like console is making some pretty big promises. Nintendo boasts a system that can not only function as a high powered console, but one that can be taken mobile. In this new era where gaming is evolved, this next gen console could be just the boost Nintendo needs. 

      First Look at NX Gen Hardware
      Nintendo has always been a powerhouse in the hand-held market. While the numbers for their home consoles have been dropping since the Wii, this is an interesting way to bring both worlds together. It's adaptability for a new era of gamers.  Other systems have tried to have the ability to take the hardware of console gaming mobile. Nintendo Switch appears to have the capabilities of a home console taken on the road. With adjustable and convertible controls, the system can go from console and controller to hand-held with ease.
      Another interesting feature is the mobile multi-player, which allows numerous Nintendo Switch owners to pair up and play together. The preview makes it seem that while mobile, up to two players can use the Switch. However, it also shows a number of players gathered around to play Splatoon together. Nintendo has always been an advocate of linking up with friends to really enjoy gaming. It's good to see that the developers are keeping fun and camaraderie at the forefront.
      [gallery link=file" columns="2" size="full" ids="4885,4890]

      Nintendo Switch: Switching it up
      What's most appealing about this new console is the controls! It has the old stand-by pro controller, a convertible one for the road, and it splits off for multi-player. This provides a lot of opportunity for game developers to really expand upon this system. It seems that other companies agreed as the interested parties are through the roof. What the Wii U lacked, the Switch is planning to make up for ten-fold. Just think: Final Fantasy XV back on a Nintendo console! Playing Elder Scrolls on the go! There is no telling what the next gen holds.

      Questions and Concerns
      With such an innovative console, there are a bound to be concerns. With the mobile capability, I'm curious to see about how the quality and battery life is affected. Mobility is fine as long as the battery life is there. I'd hate to constantly be worrying about charging up a dead battery. Of course, quality switches from console to mobile are a concern, as well as the size of the portable controls. Regardless, this seems to be an exciting new step into the future of games for Nintendo.
      So, what do you all think? Are you as hyped up about the NX preview? What are your thoughts on Nintendo Switch. Let us know in the comments below, or sign up for our Nintendo Switch forums and join the discussion!

      Order the Nintendo Switch on Amazon!
      The Nintendo Switch can be found on Amazon now!!

      Have You Heard? Fallout Shelter Reviewed

      For fans of the outstanding Fallout video game series, there’s a nifty app out there that you may not have heard about. First released on the iOS platform in June 2015, Fallout Shelter is also available on Android and MS Windows. The latter has been available since July of this year.

      Fallout Shelter is a different kind of gaming experience; you won't find a vast, open world with seemingly no boundaries here. The game is essentially one-dimensional (although when zoomed in the graphics have a satisfyingly rich, 3D quality .) The horizontal game orientation gives the vault an ant colony quality. At first glance, the layout might pretty simplistic may appear mildly unappealing.

      From the teasing glimpse of the world outside the front entrance to the fluorescent glow of the inner chambers, Fallout Shelter looks like an arcade game at first. While it might look simplistic, however, there is a lot going on inside each one of those cells. Fallout Shelter offers depth where a lot of other app-oriented games fall short.
      Various Levels of Character Happiness

      Players can zoom in close to their vault inhabitants to see and hear what's going on. Playing the role of “overseer,” the game player watches as various characters go about their duties expressing either joy or sadness. A percentage meter indicates not only overall vault morale, but individual employee happiness as well. This is one of the first organizational details of the game. As in the other Fallout games, each character has a series of attributes identified as S.P.E.C.I.A.L. These letters stand for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. Much like role-playing abilities, these attributes help the character succeed in endeavors related to the ability.

      Each ability fits the function of a room. When the paired to a room where they have aptitude in that ability, characters improve happiness and morale.

      Morale drops for those dwellers at work where their aptitude is low. They no longer smile, and make negative comments in hopes the overseer will hear them.

      As with any overseer game, it’s important to keep the people happy. To keep the dwellers satisfied, the overseer must assure that the proper resources exist for the health and well being of everyone. There is still more to the vault than running the day-to-day. Occasionally an emergency occurs inside the vault; Fires break out, production falls below minimums and people get sick, or one of the chambers fills with creatures. Proper layout is important for successfully overcoming these breakouts. A monster invasion of rad rats, or a fire, can quickly spread to other rooms, overtaking the vault and killing the inhabitants. In addition to the internal emergencies, dwellers must also fight raiders and monsters during periodic attacks on the vault.

      [arve url=https://youtu.be/XJ2pHe2U260" align="center" description="Raider Attack, Fallout Shelter]
      Infinite Development in a Finite Structure

      There is a limit to how much development your vault can undergo. It takes a while to achieve, but there is a cap on the number of vault dwellers allowed inside the vault. While making babies and inviting in the occasional wanderer helps expand the fledgling vault, after a time the population maxes out, and the overseer must deny newcomers or release existing members of the vault community into the wild. In addition, there are only so many rooms that can be built.

      Weapons development takes a long time, and isn’t entirely necessary at the higher levels. Outfit design becomes useless as explorers return with countless uniforms. As the explorers continue to fill the vault to capacity, there’s little beyond the uniqueness of the various missions to keep the game interesting. Eventually everything devolves into a series of daily repetitions with little reward for the gamer.

      Additional Humbugs in Fallout Shelter

      Another challenge in the design of the game is the hold-and-drag feature. When moving a character from one room to another, players must press on the figure, then drag them across the vault to the new location. Moving characters to a full room will cause the lowest skill character in that room to switch places with the new character. Movement around the vault requires a swipe action on the screen. In the act of this swiping motion, it’s too easy to accidentally grab a character in one room and swipe them to another location. This causes havoc as characters run through the vault, switching locations and disrupting the assignment structure the player has put in place.

      A feature that would be nice to have is an ability to see the full stock of equipment being used in a given room. Currently the player must look at every character individually to determine the type of weapon they carry. For some missions, it is necessary to equip the explorers with a specific weapon; with 200 vault dwellers to look at, the one-by-one method of searching is frustrating.

      All of this action goes on inside the vault, but there is more to do beyond home for the successful overseer.
      Exploration: The Not so Great Outdoors

      One of the first things the overseer can do beyond the vault is to send dwellers on exploration missions. Sending well-armed and provisioned dwellers out into the wasteland generates the opportunity for external encounters. Explorers can also discover useful items and money(bottle caps) to help the vault thrive. Characters sent into the wasteland explore until the overseer either recalls them, or they die.

      Once outside of the vault, the character will radio in if they come across another site to explore (truck stops, markets, and other vaults.) The overseer can then decide whether he or she should enter. The overseer can also tap on the outside landscape and see how the explorer is doing. While exploring the wastelands, the explorer keeps a journal of his or her discoveries.
      Quests: Don't Lose Your Head

      Dwellers also go out into the world via a series of quests found in the overseer’s control center. Up to three dwellers can form a party to travel and complete various missions for items, caps, lunch boxes, pet crates, and Mr. Handy bots. Some of the more interactive missions include a questions/answer game called “Lose Your Head.” The team is able to avoid a fight by correctly answering a number of difficult questions.

      All the Charm of the Original

      Fallout Shelter maintains the spirit of the original series with the same quirky, 1950s oriented post-apocalyptic kitsch. The music sets the mood and the figures' cartoon charisma blends with an edgy violence to create the unique blend of sweet and savory that is the Fallout world. While the setting is nowhere as detailed as the console games, there is a very convincing sense that you are operating in the same world. The nostalgia of the parent games carries forward through various encounters in a way that is satisfying for fans of the franchise. The action is substantial and the challenges are consistent enough to offer many hours of entertainment even to players who have never tried the console games.
       Parting Thoughts

      Fallout Shelter is a fun game to play and is especially rewarding as an interlude between releases of the major console games. The shortcomings aren’t insurmountable, and for those who enjoy being an overseer, the reward is perpetual. Building a successful vault is an enjoyable challenge, and there are a lot of discoveries throughout the game-play experience. While the repetition becomes a bit of a drag, for a free app, it’s worth the time invested. After that, it's a matter interest.


      Nostalgia Train: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV - Turtles in Time

      Bury my shell at wounded knee after you jump back onto the Nostalgia Train. Our next trip takes us back to one the greatest times in video game history! The Super Nintendo truly was a golden era of video games, and this month's entry is no exception. Was there a better way to spend time with your siblings or friends than punching out foot soldiers in different time periods? The answer is always no. That's when I usually pull out my cartridge of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time.

      Cowabunga! Big Apple (3 Am)
      TMNT: IV is such a popular game that most enthusiasts call it merely 'Turtles in Time.' It's a 'beat'em up' with a simple premise and easy game play. Players join our heroes as they track down Krang and Shredder after the villains steal the Statue of Liberty during a televised tribute. Of course, this mission isn't so simple; Shredder has his own plan to banish the turtles into a time warp. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello must bash their way through legions of baddies in the past, present, and future in order to find and return the American symbol to its rightful place and time.

      Turtle Power! Turtles in Time
      While the plot is nothing really to write home about, it's perfect in its simplicity.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a deep plot in any game focused on beating your enemies to a pulp. Of course, the focus of this game is the addicting game play. To start, players select their favorite turtle; each has particular strengths and weaknesses. The object is to fight through each level and conquer the end boss, ultimately reaching Super Shredder and retrieve the Statue of Liberty.
      Each stage has different hazards and obstacles to overcome, such as moving platforms, falling rocks, and spaces that freeze a player dead in his/her tracks. At one point, players must throw foot soldiers at the screen in order to continue on. At the stage's end, the turtles must face the likes of the Baxter Stockman, Leatherhead, Beebop, Rocksteady and many other familiar TMNT enemies. While the game provides a fair amount of challenge with limited amount of lives and continues, it's not overly complicated and it's an easy game for just about anyone to play.


      The Co-op Game of Champions
      The past has given us plenty of fun and frustrating co-op games: Contra, Battletoads, Super Mario Brothers. Time has also given us some pretty interesting TMNT games - like the impossible one for the NES. Put those together, with
      , and you have a co-op game for the ages. 
      The cooperative play in Turtles in Time is seamless; players can fight alongside one another without attacking each other, but the game does require a bit a strategy. Health - or pizza- is limited, as are special attack hazards located in particular levels. Also, there are quite a few levels that throw out two bosses at the same time. It's times like these that it helps to have your best friend ready to punch out a mutated warthog.

      Technodrome: The Final Shell Shock
      After 25 years of awesome, this game is still one of the best ways to kill an afternoon. (Or an hour...depending on how good your teamwork is!) While there are certainly other amazing games out there, TMNT IV: Turtles in Time is the perfect game for endless amounts of beat'em up fun. In fact, I think it's about time I picked it up for another play-through. So what do you all think? What's your favorite co-op game? Have you picked up Turtles in Time lately? Let us know in the comments below!


      Tales From The Borderlands Revisited

      The folks over at Gearbox know a good thing when they see it, and when it comes to the Borderlands franchise they’ve got a good thing. Since the release of the original Borderlands game in October 2009, the series has expanded through Borderlands 2, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, and now Tales From the Borderlands, an offshoot from the Gearbox brainchild via Telltale Games.
      The entire Borderlands franchise is a DLC dream. This is Monty Haul crossbred with Seinfeld. The setting of Pandora, which is the central world of Borderlands, is unique, atmospheric, and enticing. In every instance, you want to get back into that world over and over again. With the game’s mix of story and action, cut scenes, role-playing, and adventure, the game far surpasses its status as a FPS, and moves into the realm of epic narrative.
      In Tales From the Borderlands, the aesthetic realizes its full potential: in plot, characterization, humor, and playability. It is built as a cinematic presentation interjected sporadically with timed options for the player to choose a response to various prompts, mostly determined through banter between characters. This is choose-your-own-adventure at its finest. Every choice the player makes in response to a prompt determines the arc of the story-line. The responses even determine the development of character relations.
      A third component of the game blends action and cinema to create a nearly seamless narrative experience. The player has a only a brief moment to react to combat prompts, usually intended to move the character out of harm’s way, before the character is smashed, shot, or otherwise killed.

      No Shortage of Personality
      The story centers primarily on Rhys, a Hyperion middle-runger hoping to climb higher on the corporate ladder. In short,Rhys finds out that his boss has been replaced by his nemesis, and that he isn’t getting the promotion he was expecting. Rhys and his friend Vaughn decide to make a trip from the Hyperion Space Complex to the surface of Pandora to conduct a little side business.
      Rhy's parallel story follows Fiona and her sister Sasha. Over the course of trying to make an exchange for a supposed vault key (the ever present motif in all of the Borderlands stories) Rhys and Vaughn get caught up with Fiona and Sasha and mayhem ensues. The writing is brilliant and the characters are unforgettable. The wit and flirtatiousness between Rhys and the female leads rounds the characters to form making every moment enjoyable, and it contributes to the player’s ever expanding understanding of the great Pandora and beyond.
      All of the beloved trappings of the Borderlands universe are here: dingy, dangerous Pandora; sterile, corporate Hyperion; cameos by the mysterious and enigmatic heroes of the Borderlands Hall of Fame. The graphics maintain the signature art-comic style of all of the Borderlands products, and while the style has been off-putting to some users in the past, fans of the franchise have nothing to fear in terms of the consistency and enjoyment they’ve come to expect.

      A Few Things That Bug, Tho
      At this point, it might seem like Tales From the Borderlands is a flawless gem of a game and that everyone who loves the Borderlands franchise is going to love this, too. Well, yeah, that’s probably pretty accurate. Still, for those who are tired of Handsome Jack and his apparent omnipresence, well, he’s back at it again. And it’s not like the story-line isn’t full of new characters to love and loathe. The story is rich enough with colorful villains and sideways anti-heroes that major personalities from earlier releases don’t need to be reprized.
      Another aspect of the game that some might find distracting is the interactive style. With its sideswipes and button mashing, one is reminded of the old arcade classic (and clunky at best mechanics) Dragon’s Lair, where dexterity and timing are the difference between success and failure. But the action in this game is fluid and it allows for a different sort of gaming experience from the straight up shooter that the other Borderlands products comprise.
      It’s worth mentioning that this game is episodic;  since it came out in 2014, all five episodes are available for one purchase price. For those players who enjoy the serial nature of a good story-line, the episodic style probably isn’t a problem. For players looking for a more unified narrative, or straight up action, this isn’t the game for them.

      The Borderlands Elephant In the Room
      The ultimate tease throughout the entire Borderlands story-line is the adventurer’s pursuit of the magical, mystical vault. The mystery surrounding the vault, and the promise of hoards of weapons, wealth, fame, and bizarre technology, has driven the story along for nearly a decade – but one has to ask, will they ever reveal the vault?
      As Tales From the Borderlands proves, players want more of Pandora. The promise of finding a vault has become a side-story to the tributaries of intrigue that the deeply complex and wildly fascinating Borderlands universe creates. Actually adding the vault experience would seemingly deepen the satisfaction of this well-designed concept. With the question of the vault answered, the world can continue to develop and the franchise would still thrive. If not, the pursuit of yet one more unattainable vault becomes gamer click-bait, and the hope and excitement will fade with the realization that no one is ever going to see inside one of Pandora’s vaults.
      Tales From the Borderlands is a hit for all the right reasons. The storytelling is brilliant and original. The characters are fresh, yet still familiar according to the style of the franchise. The mix of the interactive game-play with uninterrupted cinema is a new twist for the franchise that only adds to gamer satisfaction. There’s a lot to like about this game and virtually nothing to criticize. The fact that it’s available across a variety of platforms and so easily accessible means that everyone who can play it, should. Maybe soon, with all of the love fans of Borderlands have for the game, we’ll get a peek inside that vault after all.

      I am Setsuna Review: A Glimpse on Past Glory

      The highly anticipated I am Setsuna was designed in the shadow of legendary JRPGs to fill a void. While newer Western RPGs take a leaf from a grittier book and classic JRPG titles constantly evolve in order to keep fans, there is an emptiness where masterpieces once told epic stories. This was a time where battles revolved around an active-time battle system. A bi-gone era that had gamers searching sprawling maps for secrets, probing NPCs for much needed clues, and scratching their heads behind well-developed ‘plot-walls’ that granted restricted freedom.  Modern RPGs have taken a different route, involving more exploration, focusing less on controlling a group of characters, and incorporating more action-based combat.  With all of these changes in mind, Tokyo RPG Factory developed I am Setsuna for the PS4.


      Story First Look: I am Nostalgia
      I am Setsuna follows the journey of a hired swordsman as he tries to fulfill a contract. What starts as a simple 'hit' mission becomes a sprawling adventure as our main character, Endir, escorts his former mark, Setsuna, on her quest.  It's her duty to reach the Last Lands and sacrifice herself to stave off the impending monster invasion. Without giving too much away, the story is a simple trope that pays homage to many previous JRPGs.  We have a motley crew taking part in a very somber journey where many parts feel familiar and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Our semi-silent protagonist, strong-hearted girl, and many other characters create an enjoyable, if short-lived, tale. I am Setsuna provides the audience with interesting twists and a compelling story that fits the genre very well.

      Second Glance: Sacrifice for the Sake of Time
      While the story has a lot of potential, there are times when I am Setsuna misses the mark. Many of the main characters had interesting back stories,  but others needed little extra development - including the silent protagonist. Endir's involvement in the game was refreshing and different, but he was basically flat, and understandably so. Other characters in the past had the same design, but Endir wasn't some youth in a coming of age story. There is mystery behind the mask and it would have been interesting to explore it. The development of the villains also falls a bit short. At first, our main villain is menacing. However, as time passes and the true 'villain' is revealed, the build-up is rather anti-climactic.
      Another pain point is the ending. With much effort to leave out spoilers, the ending felt fast, forced, and somewhat confusing. It was almost as if the developers meant to carry on a greater story, but ran out of time. There were many little things I discovered in game exploration that could have added layers to the story, but the writers didn't build upon them. Instead of taking a place next to some of the great JRPGs, I am Setsuna's story fell a little short on expectations.
      Don't get me wrong, the story was decent. However, there were certain aspects that could have been expanded upon and the plot could have come together more seamlessly.


      Under Attack: The Battle Mechanics and World Navigation
      The basic play of I am Setsuna was modeled off of older JRPGs, particularly Chrono Trigger.  Three exchangeable party members navigate the world map (slowly) by foot or airship in search of dungeons and towns. While inside towns, players can talk to NPCs, find treasure, and purchase various items from shops. In dungeons, players can find treasure and encounter monsters. Players have the option of avoiding a fight, getting a first strike, or they can be ambushed. A victory earns EXP and sell-able spoils, but no actual gold. Gamers can get money by trading in their battle spoils to the Magic Consortium.

      Shops! Shops! Shops!
      There are four particular merchants in I am Setsuna: an Item's merchant, a blacksmith,  the Magic Consortium, and the Chef. Each of these merchants are typical of RPGs - one sells items, one sells weapons, one has abilities, and the final makes stat/material/and EXP consumable boosting items.
      The exchange system is rather unique in I am Sestuna. As mentioned previously, the Magic Consortium is the place to get gold, but it's also the only place where players can acquire abilities. Selling spoils not only results in cash, but a number of useful abilities for the party.
      With money in hand, players can purchase weapons, items, and stat boosting treats. In order to gain access to the treats, gamers should hang on to the green spoils they happen to pick up on their travels. Certain townsfolk will be looking for these ingredients and they will exchange the recipe for the items they need. Afterwards, players can hand off the recipe to the Chef and purchase the item as often as they wish.
      While characters can purchase whatever they want, they may have a hard time selling things like weapons and armor. Items and spoils are typically the only things that can be exchanged for gold.

      Character Set-Up : Spritnites, Weapons, and Talismans
      The character set-up for I am Setsuna is pretty basic and easy to follow; each character can equip a weapon and a talisman. The talismans provide boosts to battle stats, Fluxes, and special abilities, while the weapons increase attack and defensive stats.  Talismans can also give characters ability slots for items called Spritnites. Most Spritnites are character specific abilities, but there are many support Spritnites that can be shared among the party.  They are essentially the magic of the game and using them drains MP. When used in conjunction with one another, talismans can allot characters with fearsome abilities and strong defenses.

      Battle: Sneak Attacks and Escape
      When a party heads though a dungeon or any area with monsters, they have the option to engage in battle - much like Chrono Trigger.  A player can avoid a battle by dodging the monsters on the map, or try to get the jump on them for a first strike. I am Setsuna uses the ATB system with a little twist. As a battle begins, characters can attack like normal, but with the addition of a timing mechanic.
      Players can hold off on attack in order to build up Special Power or SP.  When a character is just about to attack, players can hit a button and use this 'SP' to deal extra damage or add special skills to an action, much like Super Mario RPG. Each character can store up to three SP at a time, and it's best to use them - they do not carry over from battle to battle.
      During an encounter, players control their party and choose from three actions: Attack, Tech, or Item. While Attack and Item are self explanatory, Tech acts as the 'special attack' that consumes MP on the menu. The type of tech a character has access to depends on which Spritnites he or she has equipped. These techs can be combined with other party members for a single powerful action. From that point, battles turn tactical. It's important to learn about the enemies in order to defeat them quickly and acquire rare drops. Thankfully, the game has a fun beastiary that provides useful tidbits about how to defeat enemies previously encountered.


      The Good, the Bad, and the Missed Chances
      The battle system and game play were very good in this game; it was basic and it worked - it was pretty safe. I liked the addition of the timing, the specific character classes, and the ability to customize my characters to a point. My biggest gripe with the actual game play is the same as the story. There simply wasn't enough. A few dungeons felt repetitive, and there were open areas that players had no reason to explore. I tried to explore as much of the map as possible, but found little reward for doing so. I actually wondered at some point if I was actually missing something - which I might be! There were many areas for growth.

      Final Thoughts
      Overall, I enjoyed playing through this fun RPG. The battle system was easy to learn, the characters were interesting, and the graphics were incredible. With a bit more game play,  more character development, and perhaps a little variation to the dungeons, this game could have been a classic. I am Setsuna is a fun, nostalgic nod to the great JRPGs of the past, but it doesn't match or surpass them. So, what did you all think of the game? Want to give it a try? Get it on PS4 or Steam.

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