Monday, May 30, 2016

Let's Just Not and Say We Did

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but LJN, the toy company turned game company that was the bane of NES owners throughout the late 1980s, is back from the dead.

Image from Hardcore Gaming 101
"It was not by MY hand that I was given flesh! I was sent here by humans, who wish to pay ME tribute!"

It's not all doom and gloom, though. CollectorVision only has the rights to the LJN and Acclaim brands, not the horrible, horrible games they published, so with any luck the new crop of games bearing the brands will be less awful than the ones released in the 1980s and 1990s. Here's what the undead Acclaim plans to release for the Super NES in the near future...

"Justice Beaver?" Really? That's the name you're going with? At least the game itself looks solid, with the color-drenched visuals that people have come to expect from the Super Nintendo. CollectorVision also plans to release Exidy arcade games for the older ColecoVision. Granted, most of those games are already available for the ColecoVision, but they'll be adding Hard Hat and possibly Rip Cord to the system's library. Chiller [warning: gross stuff in that link] seems like a long shot, but stranger things have happened!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Money for (Almost) Nothing

News in the video game industry hasn't been terribly exciting these last two weeks, and I needed something provocative to motivate me to update my blog. I think I just found it. Here's what Wired editor Chris Kohler has to say about the future of the video game industry in his latest article:

"Soon you'll buy consoles the way you upgrade phones."

No we won't. No, we won't. Look, we've been through this before. Sega thought incremental updates were justified twenty years ago, releasing the Sega CD, 32X, and Saturn within two years of each other, and it sunk them as a console manufacturer. Stopgap hardware is even less appealing when you consider the diminishing returns that have resulted from two decades of technological advancement. The difference in visual quality between current gen and last gen games can be measured in pixels, as illustrated by this comparison between the five versions of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Image from YouTube
I'm sorry, but I can't convince myself to buy a new game console when all I'll get for my three hundred dollars is a sharper jacket patch. And what will the upcoming Playstation 4K and Xbox Scorpio give me? Support for ultra high definition televisions and virtual reality headsets? Fuck, if I can't afford those two systems (or the last two systems), I sure as hell won't have the money for an $800 TV set, or a $600 gadget that's destined to find itself buried in a closet along with all the other trendy but quickly forgotten tech junk from the last ten years.

Game companies can't even turn a profit on AAA releases like Street Fighter V. Now they're expecting to make money on exorbitantly priced hardware during a modest economic turnaround, with their target audience buried in college debt and fighting tooth and claw for work? Riiiight. And they say video game players are divorced from reality.

Special thanks to Twitter user Shake_Well for alerting me to this news. I mean, I'm not happy about it, but as they say, a friend is someone who warns you.

Let's end this on a more pleasant note. There's a Super Sale on Xbox Live right now... if you're still clinging to the Xbox 360 as I am, you can get dozens of its games at a drastic discount. If you're a Gold member, the prices are even better... you can get the Devil May Cry remake for a good four dollars less if you've subscribed to Microsoft's premium service.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cut the Crap, Nintendo

Courtesy of TechnoBuffalo, here's what CEO Tatsumi Kimishima is saying about the upcoming Nintendo game system, tentatively titled the NX:

When the NX is released, the Wii U business will slow…However, the NX is neither the successor to the Wii U nor to the 3DS. It’s a new way of playing games, which I think will have a larger impact than the Wii U, but I don’t feel it’s a pure replacement for the Wii U.

Heh, right. It feels like we're the ones getting buffaloed here. Didn't you pull this "third pillar" crap before with the Nintendo DS? Oh yes, I'm pretty sure you did, to cover your asses in case that system bombed. Nobody believed it then, and they don't believe it now. 

It's possible that the NX will reinvent gaming in the same way the motion-controlled Wii had ten years ago... although it's hard to say if those changes will be for the better. (The previously reviewed Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was released for the Wii along with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. I dread to think of how it would have played with the unwelcome addition of waggle.) I'm sure gamers would love to know what Nintendo has planned for their next system, but the empty hype is something we could all do without.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Reunited and It Feels So Good: Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions

Wait a minute! I was supposed to be updating this blog!

Whoops! Too slow!
(image from Giant Bomb)
Now that I've played a little more of it, I'd like to talk about Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which I purchased in an Xbox Live sale last week. As an action game, it's pretty good, combining the high-flying acrobatics of past Spider-Man titles with the flashy, combo-heavy combat of the God of War series. However, as fan service, it's absolutely incredible. The game is spread across four Marvel universes, each home to a different Spider-Man. Here comes the delicious twist... each of the webheads is played by a different actor from the past thirty five years of Spider-Man cartoons. Neil Patrick Harris from the short-lived CGI series gets things started as Amazing Spider-Man, and after a brief scuffle with Mysterio, we're introduced to his three parallel universe counterparts. Chris Daniel Barnes from the flawed but well-intentioned 1990s series is Noir Spider-Man, a leather-clad vigilante in a world of muted colors and superhuman mobsters. Josh Keaton from the promising yet all too brief Spectacular Spider-Man plays Ultimate Spider-Man, who fights re-imagined villains in the black suit that eventually becomes Venom.

Wait, wait! This is the best part! The futuristic Spider-Man 2099 is played by Dan Gilverzan, from 1981's Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Now I realize in hindsight how cheesy that series was (they fought a pixelated monster called Video Man at the height of the video game craze if that tells you anything) but Gilverzan's glib performance remains a highlight of the show, and it's a joy to hear him reprise the role after all these years. It's even better now that the writing has improved... when dimensional gatekeeper Madame Web instructs Spider-Man 2099 on how to fend off a swarm of troops in the tutorial, he responds, "Keep the battle tips comin', lady! It's like having Sun Tzu as a life coach!" The kid in me loves the return of his favorite Spider-Man... but the grown up loves the less stupid dialog!

First person punching scenes like this one
provide valuable catharsis after a frustrating
boss fight.
(image from Fandomania)
Okay, enough geeking out. Even without the fan service, Shattered Dimensions is a pretty solid game. The levels are kept linear, but that just keeps the design tight and leaves room for thrilling scenes that seem plucked from a big budget action film. Watch Spider-Man dive after the Hobgoblin from the roof of an impossibly high skyscraper! Sweat bullets as Kraven the Hunter kicks aside two of his strongest thugs so he can fight you himself! Succumb to the sadistic pleasure of pounding a mafia kingpin's face into mush after he spent the last thirty minutes tormenting you! It's wall to wall excitement, even when you're fumbling with the overburdened control scheme and swearing profusely at the stealth-focused Noir stages. (Sure, Spidey's more nimble than Batman was in Arkham Asylum, but it's still stealth. Yeech.)

So there you have it, true believers. Barring cameos in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, this is Spider-Man's best video game since... well, since video games existed. Now if you'll excuse me, my fists have a hot date with Deadpool's face.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May the Heat Stroke Be with You

I'd say something snarky about this year's Geek-O De Mayo, but I'm too busy trying not to melt. Curse you, Arizona weather! (shakes fist feebly at the sun that's trying to kill him)

Anyway! There's a wide assortment of games on sale for the Xbox 360 in honor of Star Wars day, including many which don't necessarily have anything to do with Star Wars. You'll find more information on StoreParser, which is fast replacing XBLDB as my Microsoft sales tracker of choice. Of special interest to me are Hydro Thunder Hurricane, which I've already purchased, and Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions, which cleverly casts voice actors from past Spiderman cartoons as different interpretations of the character. Shattered Dimensions is a little costly at ten dollars, but it's almost worth it just to hear Dan Gilvezan (of Spiderman and His Amazing Friends fame) play the webhead again.

Speaking of the Xbox, I'm fast running out of space on that hard drive I dropped into it last year and am thinking about slipping into something more spacious. I've found 320GB drives on eBay for as little as $30, but I'm nevertheless hesitant because it's money I don't really need to spend, and I'm not sure I use the system often enough to justify the purchase. Beyond that, buying these on eBay is a crap shoot, because not all of them are official Microsoft products... and the ones that aren't won't play classic Xbox games. I guess I'll have to mull it over. Provided I don't burst into flames first.

Okay, I guess that's it. You can go back to doing whatever it was you were doing... I'll just be here sitting in front of my computer in my underwear, panting like a dog whose owner forgot to roll down the window a crack.