3DS Hands-On: Kid Icarus: Uprising

At Nintendo’s 3DS Conference here in New York, no one game in the demo room received more sparkle and pizzazz to distract you from another. Lined up, and in various small, circular stands were 3DSes. Everywhere. Same plain text sign above each wave of games. For me, Kid Icarus: Uprising was easily the star of the show. The 3DS has very significant graphical advances from the previous DS iterations. Of all the games present (and there were many gorgeous games), Kid Icarus has the most colorful, creative, and inviting visuals and art design. And thanks to the most comfortable, balanced thumbstick I’ve ever seen in the world of mobile gaming, quality shooter elements are now possible on the DS.

The playable demo offered two different stages. Level 1 which was labeled as easier and level 4 which was made for once you feel a bit more advanced and homey with the controls, which, I will add, are very easy to jump into. The first level starts off with Pit mid-flight, so you first learn the shooter controls. It’s pretty much on rails: the thumbstick on your left moves Pit, the stylus is used to aim your crosshairs and the left bumper will shoot. It might sound a little wild on pen and paper, but it works – for most people.

As a left-handed gamer for the history of my life, not every game was kind to my one-sided abilities. It kind of was relived a bit in Kid Icarus, holding the stylus with my right hand was something I could adjust to, but my left hand doing both the thumbstick and the bumper at the same time started to make the edge of the DS jam into my hand. It started to hurt. But there’s really no other way around it – there’s no other setup that could have been a better control scheme no matter how you look at it unless the 3DS had dual analog sticks, and then you wouldn’t even need the stylus.

Once you get accustomed to the flight controls, you start blowing through enemies. Place your cursor on them for an extra half second and you unleash a more focused attack from whichever ranged weapon you chose when the demo began (Orb, Claw, or Blades). Soon, you’ll find Pit kissing the ground to learn about the land controls. The camera can be moved by sliding the stylus – not ideal, but you can easily center the camera behind Pit, which is mostly how I handled that. Distant attacks will still yield your now-familiar attacks from the skies, but getting up close to your targets will allow you to bring the pain with your melee skills. You can also double tap the thumbstick to dash, like you would in many action/adventure games.

The soul put into the art and visuals shine very strongly in this title. Palutena, the Goddess of Light, is the one who has given you the ability to fly, and taught me the ropes in this first level of the demo, and had some dialogue going on during the demo. I didnt get much of the story just from this demo, mostly because it was noisy in the room I was playing, but the overarching goal is to take down Medusa and her swarms of hellions.

The game really felt the most polished, the most attractive, the most exciting experience that I had available to me thus far of the double fistful of games I’ve been able to get hands-on with thus far. It’s been forever since we’ve seen a Kid Icarus game, and ever since Brawl came out we’ve been wanting some one-on-one time with the brawlin’ angel. Now that it’s possible for shooters to succeed on a Nintendo platform, Kid Icarus has proved to me that it will not disappoint.

DC Universe Online Gets Release Date

The MMO, DC Universe, has finally announced its release date 01/11/11.  A nice choice of date, I would have to say. This release date is slated for North America on the PC and PS3 (UK Release Date: 1/14/11). If youre planning on grabbing one, the PC version will cost $49.99 while the PS3 is $59.99.  Both versions comes with a free 30-day subscription to the MMO.  After the trial, it will cost $15 a month – or $199 for a lifetime subscription.

For those wondering about the game, the main gist of it is that its an online universe where players can create their own brand of villains and heroes under the guidance of Batman, the Joker, Superman, etc.

Game features:

  • Visceral combat where you control every blow your character strikes
  • Choose your side superhero or villain as you battle to save or conquer the universe.
  • Fight alongside or against your favorite DC heroes and villains including Batman, The Joker, Superman, Wonder Woman and others…
  • State-of-the-art physics engine and use objects in the world around you as weapons, including even your enemies!
  • Create a custom DC-style hero or villain, each with a unique look and combination of superpowers.
  • Embark on heroic or villainous story-driven adventures
  • Explore the DC Universe Gotham City, Metropolis,  Arkham Asylum,  and the Justice League of America Watchtower.
While not free, the game itself is promising.  Ive always wanted to make my own kind of superhero and this game provides that and more. DC fans, this game may just be what you’re looking for.

Demons Souls Servers Extended Once Again

This isnt the first time that Atlus has decided to allow the servers for Demons Souls to remain online. Every time we hear the news of the online portion of the game shutting down soon, a tear is shed. The same goes for when we get the report that they changed their minds; only the tear is more happiness than sadness.

Atlus reps have joked about the PlayStation 3s title, famous for its brutal and unforgiving gameplay, taking on a life of its own.

Its starting to feel like even if we wanted to, we couldnt shut things down. Honestly, were more worried the servers will shut us down than the other way around.

For those who havent played this game (and shame on you for missing one of the best games in the PlayStation 3s library), the online feature of Demons Souls allows players to view other players mistakes via the ghostly figure that can be activated at any blood stain on the ground. Also, you can call for help against a tough boss or become the victim of a phantom, a player who invades another players world.

Another announcement they made with this was the latest White Tendency event starts on the 20th of this month and lasts until the new year. This will make otherwise unavailable enemies and gear there for the taking, as well as making the game just a bit easier.

[Source: 1up.com]

Community Voice #25: Your Favorite NES Games?

This Sunday, Nintendo released the Wii version of Super Mario All-Stars in celebration of Marios 25th Anniversary.  Sure, Nintendo probably could have honored their #1 mascot with more fanfare, but All-Stars includes some of the best games ever made, and I for one am not going to complain about that.

Still, Marios birthday has had me thinking a lot lately about my favorite games of the NES era.  While my experience is probably narrower than some, I know I have fond memories of days spent sitting on the floor, battling it out alone or with a friend, desperately trying to proceed in Battletoads, or finally save the princess in Super Mario Bros.

I would definitely have to say that some of my favorite games I never even owned, like Duck Tales (which I will buy on day-one if it is ever released on VC), or Bugs Bunnys Crazy Castle.  The original Legend of Zelda used to terrify me when I was a kid, I will admit, so it wasnt until I was older that I even completed Links first quest.

However, of the games I grew up playing, Id have to say that Super Mario Bros 3 and Bubble Bobble are at the top of my most frequently played list, even though, as with some of the others mentioned, I never actually owned a copy of Bubble Bobble until I was older.  Still, I have very fond memories of playing with friends or family, working together to reach the final level and defeat the bossno easy featand one that took patience and practice, like most other games of the era.

So, what were some of your favorite NES games as a kid? Or, if you didnt have one growing up, what are some of your current favorites?

What is Community Voice? Community Voice is your weekly chance to make yourself heard on Spawn Kill. Yes, you can leave comments on any post that we have, but The Community Voice is a feature that is notorious for encouraging discussion and fostering a sense of, yes, community. We want to hear from readers of the site, so let us know your opinions on the topics every week and let’s get something lively going!

Laras Back. Okay, Now What?

We’ve all heard the news. Lara Croft is back, and she doesn’t look a day past twenty. That’s because developer Crystal Dynamics is changing everything Lara stands for. No more bouncing boobs. No more nude shower scenes. Lara Croft is slinging on her backpack (unless that skeleton in The Last Revelation still has it) and getting ready to raid some tombs like never before.

As a longtime Tomb Raider fan, I couldn’t be happier. I was proud of the direction Crystal Dynamics decided to take my favorite shorts-wearing adventurer in the recent Guardian of Light. It might have been shown in a different style (an isometric platform view to be exact), and Lara might not have been blazing through ancients ruins by her lonesome, but it was surprisingly true to the Tomb Raider legacy. Everything I hold dear about my favorite Tomb Raider games was there, as exhilarating as it was in my childhood, a time when my understanding of “good” and “bad” games was limited to what was on the surface. Lara still had her saucy British quips. She could still roll and tumble this way and that, if only to make me grin myself silly. She could still leap that accidental, kamikaze leap into the abyss, and fire her twin pistols in two (that’s right, two) directions at once.

As a kid I loved all those things about Lara, so much that I would pretend I was jumping circles around raptors and other nonsensical baddies, pulling levers underwater and solving mythological puzzles, all with perfectly braided hair and fashionable shorts. Of course, finding those levers and solving those puzzles wasn’t so easy, and with age I learned how much I despised them. More than jungle raptors. More than that double-crossing [email protected]#&!, Jacqueline Natla. When the puzzles began frustrating me for hours without relief, when that one lever was hiding right under my nose, when GameFAQs could no longer ease my pain, that’s when Tomb Raider was spoiled for me.

The puzzles in Guardian of Light were reasonable. They were sensible. Underworld, on the other hand, made me pull my own hair and the hair of those around me. It wasn’t bad enough that the puzzles were poorly thought out. The final boss was a letdown, too, and so was the grand return of Lara’s doppelganger from the first Tomb Raider (you know, that creepy, inside-out copycat of Lara). In my eyes, the game had so much potential, and it was all squandered on those damn impossible puzzles.

I salute Crystal Dynamics, still riding on the success of their latest venture, for having the guts to push a new, baby-faced Lara onto the world. The series is finally starting to crawl out of its grave smelling like roses. But I have one appeal: Go easy on the puzzles, the death-defying stunts. Make me remember why the levels of Tomb Raider were environments I could get lost in without actually getting lost, why puzzles could be difficult without being unfair. Give Lara a break. And maybe a shower in between. With her clothes on.

Every Kratos Kill Ever: God of War III

Like it or not, God of War III marks the end of the Kratos saga.  We see a prequel with God of War: Ghost of Sparta, which will be next in the lineup of editorials featuring all of Kratos kills, but in God of War III, Kratos dies.  Theres certainly speculation about another installment, and people coming back from the dead in Greek mythology is hardly unheard of, but for now Kratos is no more.  We shouldnt plan to see our Spartan warrior again, but neither should we be surprised if we do.  God of War III also features the single longest list of kills of any of the games, as well as the most impressive as Kratos tackles the entire Pantheon, killing the top three gods and all their underlings/children.  And as with every other game, he starts off the butchery with something grandiose.

God of War III

Poseidon

Poseidon and Kratos have a history.  Kratos destroys Atlantis, the city dedicated to Poseidon, in Ghost of Sparta, and though it might have been his greatest affront, it certainly wasnt his first or last.  The way that Kratos destroys things associated with the god of the sea, whether it be a statue or a follower, is almost disdainful, like he considers water an afterthought.  He never openly challenges Poseidon like he does with Zeus or Ares, but hes always messing with his junk.  The opening fight of God of War III would prove to be one of the most epic fights of the entire series, and would prove that no one was beyond the reach of Kratos chained blades.

Mythologically, Poseidons history is vast.  He was one of the top three gods, second only to Zeus in the Pantheon and arguably the most powerful of the trio of Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus, given his dominion over the most abundant resource on the planet.  He was also father to some of myths greatest heroes, including Theseus (who Kratos also killed).  The death of Poseidon sets a tone for God of War III. It also sends a messages to the other gods: anyone can die.

Peirithous

Peirithous is a figure most people wouldnt know from Greek mythology, and indeed hes even easy to overlook in the game itself as he is not a boss fight so much as a means to an end.  The end is the acquisition of the Bow of Apollo; the means: Peirithous over a raging fire.  In mythology, Peirithous was a son of Zeus and friend to Theseus, often adventuring with the more known hero and even doing a bit of womanizing with him.  His greatest mistake was coveting the wife of Hades, Persephone herself (who Kratos had already slain by the time he meets Peirithous), and it was Peirithous attempt to journey to the Underworld and kidnap her that caused Kratos to find him in his eternal plight; encased in stiff brambles and unable to escape his hellish prison.  Kratos frees him, then kills him.  Such is the way of the Ghost of Sparta.

Hades

Possibly even more than Poseidon, Hades has a major chip on his shoulder in regards to our pal Kratos.  As mentioned in a previous installment of Every Kratos Kill Ever, once upon a time Kratos journeyed on down to the Underworld and put a blade or two into Persephone, the unwilling wife of Hades.  Whether or not there was any real love between the god and his goddess is debatable, but at the very least the possessive, manly type that Hades is would not have stood for such disrespect from a lowly mortal.

The Hades of God of War is actually quite different from most of his mythological depictions.  In the game he is shown as a very physical, warrior type with a gladatorial aesthetic to him.  In other mediums hes usually shown as something more devilish or death-like, appearances befitting his role as ruler of the Underworld.  His status as one of the sons of Cronos is important because it means that hes one of the most powerful beings alive.  He does seem quite powerful in God of War III, as his twin chain scythes possess the ability to drag even the biggest titans soul right from its body.  Naturally, Kratos can defeat this soul pulling with a little mashing of the shoulder buttons, proving that even the most powerful abilities are weak in the face of Kratos fury (and the players finger dexterity).

Helios

Poor Helios.  We knew even before God of War III was released that he would die.  There were trailers depicting it, a demo showcasing it, and a plethora of screenshots showing our boy ripping off the sun gods head with his bare hands.  Its a gruesome and painful way to die, even for a god.  We first met Helios in Chains of Olympus, where he got smacked out of the sky and kidnapped by the vengeful Persephone.

Mythologically, Helios is often mixed up with Apollo, the other sun god.  The God of War series never chooses to include Apollo in their games, aside from a bit of weaponry nomenclature here or there, leaving us with this watered down version.  It is Helios who drives the chariot of the sun across the sky every day.  Without him, even gods slip into the realm of Morpheus, god of sleep.  Oddly enough, after Kratos rips off Helios head, people dont just start dropping off into deep slumbers.  Apparently if hes kidnapped, things go to hell, but if hes just killed, everythings peachy.

Hermes

The Hermes fight is an interlude in God of War III thats nearly comic in its relief.  Kratos chases Hermes down, which is difficult given Hermes possesses the speed of  wind itself.  He dashes around like a manaic, until finally Kratos catches him and brutalizes him horribly, cutting limbs away as though they were branches on a dead tree.  Hermes himself was indeed a god, the son of Zeus and Hera, but was really just their messenger boy.  He scampered all across Greece in the role of a glorified mailman, and while he did plenty of godly breeding and partying, he never really does the kinds of godly things we associate with the rest.   Thankfully, he does have some redeeming qualities being also the god of thieves and liars, but none of these skills help him against the god of serial murder that is Kratos.  His end is grisly, and as with so many young men these days he is killed for a simple pair of shoes.

Hercules

There is little doubt that Hercules is the most well-known hero in Greek mythology.  Hes a household name, even in the 21st century, and whether this is due to Kevin Sorbos immaculate representation of him in the 90s, or to the Disney movie that enshrined him in a classic series of films, is irrelevant.  The fact is, hes popular, and theres a reason for it.  Hercules twelve labors stand as some of the best reading in Greek mythology, and his story has both elements of tragedy and victory in it, much like our Kratos.

In God of War III, the fight between Kratos and Hercules is set an arena, and it is a battle of brothers.  Hercules opens the match accusing Kratos of being Zeus favorite, something anyone who has been following the story would scoff at, but Hercules was never known for his wits.  Hercules actually does a fair job of withstanding Kratos blades, but when he starts getting arrogant and posturing to the crowd, Kratos shows him just how useful his hubris is, ripping away his gauntlets and using them to smash the heros head into pulp.

Cronos

How does a man-sized man, even one as ferocious as Kratos, slay a titan, a being whose fingernail is twice as big as its attacker?  Cronos is the size of a skyscraper, and though old and burdened with an entire city on his back, remains a nearly invincible foe.  Not even Zeus could properly slay the supreme titan.  But Kratos does, and in some of the most brutal ways youll probably ever witness in a video game.  Cronos is actually the father of Zeus, and his two brothers, and it was the original war between the newer gods and the titans that provides much of the impetus of God of War III.  Its all irrelevant to Kratos, he just wants revenge, but it provides a good background for him to travel about in.  The myths about Cronos vary.  In many instances, Zeus chops him up and scatters him throughout the realm of Tartarus so that he can never again rise to power.

In the Kratos-verse, he is chained and forced to carry around the labrynth in which Pandoras Box resides (which fans might remember from the very first game).   This time Kratos needs a simple stone from within the body of Cronos, but even after acquiring said stone, he doesnt stop.  Oh no, he doesnt stop.

Hephaestus

Its difficult to call Hephaestus a god.  He is certainly of godly lineage, and his ability to create masterwork weapons and armor is nothing short of godly, but he does not act like an immortal.  In nearly every myth, hes a cringing, hideous crybaby who, despite marrying the most stunningly beautiful creature in all of mythology, still manages to secrete an aroma of the pathetic. In God of War III, he is large, imposing, and a complete coward.  Kratos pleasures his wife, multiple times for those of a seedier nature, forces him to create a weapon, and then shocks him to death with it.  Hephaestus attempts a bit of trickery, but it amounts to nothing as Kratos wins and the god of forges loses again.

In mythology, Hephaestus is known for a few things.  He is the ugly god, the crippled god, the god of forges, and the god who managed to win Aphrodite, despite her protests.  Even in his victories, he loses as Aphrodite blatantly and openly has multiple affairs with Ares, and probably countless other mortals and/or deities.  Heck, even I tapped that.

Hera

If you thought Kratos was too noble to kill a woman, you were certainly wrong!  He kills several women in God of War III, though Hera is the only immortal.  Theres no boss battle.  She doesnt fight it.  She gets drunk, and he snaps her neck, using her body as a weight to solve the puzzle of her gardens.  Not a great ending for the Queen of the gods.  I suppose the worst part is that no one even tries to come to her defense.  Is Kratos really so frightening?  Wait he actually is.

Mythologically speaking, Hera was no warrior.  She was the godly equivalent of a housewife.  She looked the other way on most of her husbands dalliances, and kept his throne room nice and cozy for his return.  Its interesting from a gender standpoint to see that many of her children were accorded high places of power, particularly Athena and Artemis, but Hera herself never displayed any kind of destructive prowess at all.  Maybe that was also the point.  Shes depicted in God of War III as a matron, somewhat aged, but still rockin a sleek dress and some flashy bling.  Also note, do not insult Pandora.  I repeat, do not insult Pandora.

Gaia

At the end of God of War II, Kratos made an alliance with Gaia to overthrow Olympus.  This alliance carries into God of War III, and indeed Kratos begins the game astride her back as she climbs the great mountain.  But she gets trecherous, and when the time comes tosses him off on the long plunge into the Underworld.  From then on all bets are off, and Kratos is at war with everyone.

In the mythology, Gaia is actually the mother of all life.  Cronos, Uranus, Zeus; they all owe their existence to her extra-large womb.  She was born first of everything and created it all to suit her needs.  In God of War, she seems to have a lesser role, though she certainly does manage to lead the titans in Cronos absence.  She is depicted like we might expect, however, with Earthen tones and trees and shrub growing all over and around her.  She also narrates the entire saga, until God of War III when Athena takes over.  In the end she dies, like everyone else, and not even through any direct interaction but simply for getting in the way of Zeus and Kratos duel.

Zeus

Zeus is an odd character to have as an antagonist.  I suppose this makes sense as Kratos is an odd hero.  Throughout most of Greek mythology, Zeus is the father figure, the kind, bearded god that mortals and immortals alike looked to for inspiration or assistance.  Sure, he dabbled in a few extramarital affairs, and not every god loved him (a few conspired to overthrow him), but he is what we imagine when we think of mythology.  He sits on a cloud throwing lightning bolts.  The Zeus of Kratos world isnt that much different, honestly.  He is bearded, his eyes glow, he hurls bolts of lightning.  Im not sure he ever sits on a cloud, but he might as well (sounds comfortable to me).

However, hes much more villainous than in anything Ive ever seen him in.  He hates.  He hates Kratos, for sure, but he seems to hate just in general.   We never see him smile or break scowl for anything.   In the end, we would see that this hate came from the evils released from Pandoras Box.  His battle with Kratos spans games, and despite his status as father of the gods, he eventually falls to the sheer unstoppable force that is the Ghost of Sparta.  Their final battle spans four stages, takes on various forms, and ends when the player says it ends (literally, you can sit there for days smashing the guys face in if thats your thing).  The death of Zeus basically destroys the world, and despite ghost-Athenas interventions, its all in limbo as to how the world of that mythology will continue on, or if it will at all.

Kratos

In the end there was really only one way for Kratos to go.  Perhaps ideally it would have been in battle, the way that any true Spartan seeks death, but the saga of Kratos was hardly ideal for him or anyone in his path.  Would anyone have guessed that he would take his own life in the end?  Probably not.  It seems a melancholy way for a man of such passion to flicker out, but he certainly had his reasons, and better a blade through his chest than a slow withering into old age (if such a thing were even possible for whatever type of being Kratos had become by the end).

Perhaps its also the only fitting way that Kratos could die.  No one else could kill him, no matter how hard they tried or how many monsters they threw in his path, no one could do it.  Maybe in the end, the only person who could kill Kratos, was Kratos himself.  Whether you like it or not, its a poetic conclusion to one of the greatest epics in video game history.  And while many question as to whether he actually dies, given the post credits scene of God of War III, a scene that shows him being dragged off by an unknown body-snatcher, at least for now our hero of Sparta has passed on into whatever twilight realm heroes of his stature belong to.

Great Characters in Gaming: The Next Generation

After nearly a year long hiatus, Great Characters in Gaming is back with a version befitting our current generation of consoles (which are for some reason still dubbed next-gen).  This list follows the familiar format, but every character here is from a game released within the last two years, with one exception who made his debut back in 2007.  Characters featured in games these days need to bring more to the table than those of previous generations.  In the 80s, we were content with some pixels and a jump button.  The 90s saw a shift to a more character-driven gaming experience, but still lacked voice acting and quality dialog to speak.  It wasnt until the last decade (2000-2010) that we started seeing real effort put into character development, and the last five years in particular have seen a boom of believable players to star in the best of games.  Top notch voice acting combined with detailed writing has yielded us some memorable people, and below are just a few that I personally have found particularly wonderful.

John Marsten (Red Dead Redemption) One of the best things about John Marsten is that he is, in the simplest terms, a man.  To be a man seems a simple thing, but how many games star someone as just that?  Often the main character of a game is a superfluous mess.  We can either play as a completely unbelievable looking space marine, a hardcore punk replete with piercings and gnarly tattoos, or a pretty haired emo-king.  To actually play as a man is a rare experience.  John Marsten is that.  Hes seen things, as evidenced by the scars marring his face, yet hes come through them and found a life.  His quest is one of making that life survive despite the obstacles against him.  He has real motivations, and I think as players we can understand them immediately.  To add to this, Marsten has a great voice actor, and some of the best lines of dialog youll find.  He cracks jokes that are laugh out loud funny, but completely innocuous unless youre paying attention. My favorite scene below, though lacking any humor due to the seriousness of its subject matter, displays Marstens sense of honor.  It also gives a nice taste of a real western-style duel.

Oerba Yun Fang (Final Fantasy XIII) I knew I would like Fang the first time I saw her, before Final Fantasy XIII even came out.  She has a warriors aesthetic, but doesnt exude too much of the butch.  Playing through the game only solidified her image for me.  Her motivations are protection and defiance.  She is overly protective of anything to do with Vanille, while at the same time defiant not only at those set against her, but even to her own party members at times.  Despite her rough attitude and at times stern demeanor, she shows a soft side to simple things, like a fathers love for his child or a memory.  It is this dualism that makes her probably the best character in the game, and one of the best in the unconnected series.  Whats potentially more interesting is her past, which for most of the game is shrouded in some kind of cloud of forgetfulness.  When we finally learn who she is and whats shes done, it feels like the kind of moment where the hammer should fall.  However, in the end she is judged not by what shes done, but how she redeems herself.  The true Fang is not the monster, but the woman.  Below is a fan tribute video, and though it doesnt show off the wonderfully Australian voice acting of the North American version, it features one of my favorite, if overused, symphonic numbers.

Morrigan (Dragon Age: Origins) You may hate the decisions she forced you to make, and you may hate her for the ones she herself made, but theres no denying that Morrigan brings something to Dragon Age that no other character can quite match.  Shes snarky, clever, and almost impossible not to use whether you need a mage or not.  As with so many of their characters, BioWare has given her more than just a few dimensions.  Characters in JRPGs tend to be one-sided, simple to the point of humor, and while this isnt always the case, their dimensions can generally be guessed at by how spikey their hair is or how big their eyes are.  BioWare, on the other hand, creates characters you can understand.  They have complicated histories, interesting motivations, and speak in a way that we might expect real people to speak.  Morrigan is the best of all this.  We know what shes after, and could probably assume that its not going to be good for humanity or anyone around her, but we let her get away with it anyway because shes effing charming.  She has the best lines of dialogue in the entire game.  Taking her along for her ambient banter alone is worth the party slot.   One of my particular favorites:

Monkey (Enslaved) First appearances are not necessarily kind to Monkey, the main character of Ninja Theorys Enslaved.  He looks foolish in his tight pants, 80s haircut, and lack of shirt.  Hes also a bit of a jerk, though an understandable one, for the first half of the game.  But Monkey does something that few characters are capable of in any game.  Monkey changes.  This seems like an easy thing, change.  We all change when playing games.  We raise our attributes, we gain levels, we find new equipment.  But how often do characters actually evolve emotionally?  The fact is, they rarely ever do, and developers rarely allow them to.  Monkey changes his way of thinking, and by the end of the game is a different person than we was when he first made his way out of the slave ship with his companion Trip.  He changes from a selfish, self-minded person only looking to survive, to someone not only willing to help a young woman, but into someone who actually fights for the freedom of the human race.  Monkeys metamorphosis is part of what makes Enslaved such a good story to play through, and though he remains poorly dressed and somewhat foolish looking, by the end we can look past all that and see him for what he is.  Unfortunately, I couldnt find a video that really showcased his evolution, so instead, have a laugh.

Andrew Ryan (BioShock) Andrew Ryan is the literal voice for BioShock, one of the best games of this generation or any other.  He is the kind of man we wish existed in reality, a man to move mountains and forge rivers.  Much of his character was inspired by creations of Ayn Rand (so much so that when I read through Atlas Shrugged for the first time last year I pictured Francisco dAnconia as a younger Andrew Ryan), who he also shares a name likeness to.  In Ayn Rands books, characters like Andrew Ryan exist, and they change the world (or try to).  They are always larger than life and able to accomplish things that normal men can only dream of.  They rise above the riff-raff and carve their way into history books.  Andrew Ryan does this, doing things his way, and though it may have failed in the end due to the machinations of greedy, evil men, his accomplishment, the underwater city of Rapture, is so grand that even those of us outside the game wish that it were real.  We see it created in other games and revisited in sequels.  It is a paradise, fallen, but with a physical memory that we are unable to forget.  And it all came from the mind of this one man, this visionary who you are forced to kill.  Andrew Ryan is gamings tragic hero.

Community Voice #23 : Your Black Friday Hauls: Howd You Do?

The weekend after Thanksgiving, starting with the notorious Black Friday and going through Cyber Monday, are an annual shopping bonanza, in which retailers of all shapes and sizes offer steep discounts in an attempt to separate us from our hard-earned cash.

With the economy being relatively sour, and many people holding onto what money they can get, times have been especially tough for many retailers, especially after a relatively dismal Black Friday showing last year.  This year, many retailers attempted to balk the trends by offering discounts starting as soon as November 1 and leading up to the big weekend.

Amazon, for example, had some stellar deals all weekend long, especially on Black Friday itself, with many deals selling out almost instantly.  iPhone in hand, I know I scoured the deals as much as I could during holiday festivities and travel this past weekend, and managed to pick up deals like Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition (you can never have enough DA in my opinion) for only $35, Red Dead Redemption for $29, and Monopoly Streets for $25, all on PS3.  Im still kicking myself that I missed out on getting God of War Collection for only $10, and you could also find plenty of other steals like that as well.  Some retailers had PSPGo bundles for only $150, others had steep discounts on PS3, Wii, and 360 Console bundles.  Even Gamestop got into the action by offering several games (new) for only $10.

So, how did you guys do?  Did you score big deals online, or did you battle the crowds for the last deeply discounted PS3/TV bundle at Best Buy?  I love to hear a good deal, so please share your hauls in the comments, or maybe those items you hoped to find on sale but didnt (and maybe are still waiting for).

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Editorial: A PlayStation Thanksgiving

With turkey just around the corner, Id like to take a look back at this last year and why Im grateful for the PS3. Released at the end of 2006, the Playstation 3 has had an interesting run. From a struggling competitor to the Xbox 360, to now a dominating player on the market, its influence can be seen in its sales and game production.

I first picked up my PS3 around June of 2008 with the release of Metal Gear Solid 4. It was one of the big games that helped raise PS3 popularity due in part to its exclusivity. A 20-hour romp into the world of Solid Snake, the game is now a best-seller and continues to enthrall people not only with its incredible story line but also with a robust online multiplayer game. Along with Metal Gear, I picked up a few of the launch titles to get started: games like Resistance: Fall of Man and Assassins Creed. Resistance was an amazing first-person shooter that was a new IP for the PS3. The game followed a key soldier, Nathan Hale, on his journey through an invasion of an alien species and his struggles to not become one of them. The story, action, and most of all, weapons, were incredible and made the game one of my favorites even to this day.

Now skip ahead a few years to 2010. By this time, the PS3 has had many hugely successful titles ranging from Uncharted 2 to God of War 3 and even to smaller release titles like 3d Dot Game Heroes. The system has had its share of multi-platform blockbusters as well, such as Modern Warfare 1 and 2 and many, many sports games. The platform has outperformed all original expectations and has recently picked up sales thanks to a new marketing campaign and much needed price drops. With features such as free online play and the best Blu-Ray player on the market, the console should have a very long life. Having the PS3 these last few years has been an adventure. Whether Im traveling around on horseback through the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption, or if Im pulling headshots in Modern Warfare 2, the console has never let me down. Playstation has always provided great service to its customers in the form of fun games or a well developed console to play them on. Not once in these past years have I had to worry about my PS3 randomly dying, nor have I had to worry about not having a good game to play because of the consistent quality exclusives.

Although Im grateful for my family and health, the Playstation has been something I appreciate as well. Ive gotten my fill of killing baddies and racing around cities this past year thanks to the system. So this Thanksgiving, I urge all of you to stop for a minute and think about your console, be it PS3, Xbox 360, PC, or even Wii, and consider the fun youve had and the great games youve played. And from one gamer to another, Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday Gift Guide for Casual Gamers

Casual gamers seem to always be the hardest people to shop for, especially from a hardcore gamers perspective. They don’t like certain genres, they don’t spend all day playing games, and they often can’t handle games with complicated controls. While many of them would love to get an iTunes Store card to pay for their iPhone games, I’ve come up with a list of titles and accessories perfect for the casual gamers on your shopping list.
NBA Jam

I am a huge sports fan but not every gamer shares my passion for sports. With NBA Jam it doesn’t really matter if you are a huge basketball fan, everyone can enjoy this game. The controls are simple the game requires little skill and the games don’t last that long. The controls are really simple, especially on the Wii, which makes this one of the best pick-up and play titles. NBA Jam brings us back to the days of over the top sports games when even non-sports fans could sit down and enjoy playing a sports title. With little skill needed (simple flicks of the wrist) and great pick-up and play modes, NBA Jam is one of the best titles for the casual gamer.

Sonic Colors

Finally, Sega gets something right.  Sonic Colors is the first game featuring the blue blur that isnt atrocious and embarrassing, and its fun for kids and casual gamers, due to its relatively easy gameplay and modern touch.  It might be the game to get your girlfriend if shes disappointed another New Super Mario Bros wasnt released this year, and youre worried Donkey Kong Country might be too demanding.

Wii Storage Ottoman

Most casual gamers have Wiis, and they might even have a balance board and slew of other accessories, but since they arent traditional gamers (and many are women), rather than having their game gear proudly in view at all times, they may prefer a place to hide everything away when not in use.  Level Up has several great storage options, but this is one of their best.  It has room to save your Wii balance board, games, and accessories like the Wii wheel, all in a beautiful and functional piece of furniture.  This might be the best way to keep the gamers and casual gamers happy in your household.  Available from Kohls for $139.99.
Multiplatform

Rock Band 3

I’ve always felt that Harmonix has done everything they could do to make Rock Band a game that appeals to everyone. With Rock Band 3, they’ve truly outdone themselves. This version, more so than previous titles, is ideal for the casual gamer. Of course it doesn’t hurt that you can have seven people play at the same time (three on vocals, plus drums, guitar, bass and keyboard). Harmonix has catered more to the casual gamer by simplifying the navigation menus and offering more features that assist those who struggle with playing the plastic instruments. The new menu system allows for easy drop-in and drop-outs at any point, even in the middle of the song. All the songs are unlocked right off the bat so there’s no need to spend countless hours playing through the career mode. In-song options now allow players to switch difficulty at any point in the song. When you change the difficulty you automatically go into no fail mode, so if you want to challenge yourself you can do so without hurting the rest of the band or the score. In career mode you’ll now have more choice when it comes to the songs you play and if you happen to fail a song in a set, you can simply skip that song and move on. It really is all the little things in Rock Band 3 that lends itself to a more casual audience. It’s also a great game to play when you have a mix of casual and hardcore gamers.

Split/Second

I wouldn’t say I’m a big racing fan, but I love racing games that are more on the arcade side, and Split/Second is definitely that type of racer. With over-the-top explosions and multiple exciting game modes, Split/Second is a title that speaks to the racing fan in all of us. The controls are simple and so is the gameplay. In Split/Second you try to take out the enemy by triggering explosives set up all over the track. A button icon is displayed on the screen when they can be triggered so you’ll know when you need to hit it. The cars are pretty easy to control, they go fast but after a few racers you’ll get the hang of cornering and soon enough you’ll end up in first place every time. The career mode offers plenty of variation to the basic racing mode and the competition slowly gets harder and seems to scale a bit to your abilities. Split/Second kind of took over from Burnout. While Burnout had an amazing open world environment, many casual gamers were overwhelmed by this. Split/Second is a great racing game for all those casual gamers who miss the old days of Burnout, or who are looking for something a little less kiddie than Mario Kart.

Eclipse Universal Gaming Storage

If your casual gamer already owns Rockband 3, they might find this universal storage tower a convenient place to store their guitars and games when not in use. Because this unit is universal, it will work regardless of whether the giftee on your list owns a PS3, Wii, or 360, or even a combination of those. This storage unit can hold games, controllers, guitars, drumsticks, and even the consoles themselves.  Available from Walmart for $69.99, it is also a more affordable option than the Wii storage ottoman.

PC

Star Wars Clone Wars Adventures: Galactic Passport

While this is an MMO, Clone Wars Adventures includes many flash-type games that many casual gamers play when they’re bored. The only difference is these have a Star Wars theme to them and it works. If you are a Star Wars fan and don’t really play games, Clone Wars Adventures is a great game to get into. It’s a free to play browser-based game with a lot of minigames to choose from. The games range from tower defense to various puzzle games to a target practice title. Each of these games can be accesed from a menu rather than walking around the open world. It starts up fast and doesn’t require a powerful computer. If you wanted to interact with other people you can, or you can just get friends into the game and compete with them via Leaderboards. Clone Wars Adventures offers a lot of the same games that casual gamers love to play on their computer, but all in one place and with a Star Wars theme. With the Star wars Clone Wars Adventures: Galactic Passport, for only $20 you can give the casual gamer a 90-day premium Jedi Membership. This unlocks some of the more challenging levels within the mini-games, and includes a Yoda bobblehead!

Bejeweled 3

What casual gamer doesnt love to spend hours on games like Bejeweled?  With the third entry in the series releasinPreviewg on December 7, the puzzle fan in your life will be happy to know you thought of them with the gift of Bejeweled 3.  This latest version includes eight game modes: including Classic, Quest, Lightning and Zen.  The game also includes badges to earn, and secret games to uncover, as well as boasting smoother action and high-definition graphics.  Best of all, the game is available in a retail version for $19.99, so you dont have to worry about messing with download codes.

Amazon Gift Card

Unfortunately, most casual game portals (like PopCap, GameFish, etc.) dont allow you to purchase a gift certificate or card.  You can gift an individual game (or games), but you cant give that person on your list the ticket to purchase any game they want.  However, Amazon also has many casual games on offer, both digital and retail, including various entries in the DASH series, and more.  Let your receiver pick the games they want with an Amazon gift card, which you can purchase here in any amount youd like.

DS

Super Scribblenauts

Super Scribblenauts is a great game for someone who wants something easy to get into, and that they can play in small bursts if they want, or even on the go.  Having greatly improved the quirks of the original game, including moving Maxwell around the scene and the sometimes wonky physics, gamers are free to let their imaginations run wild as they use adjectives for the first time in this puzzle-focused sequel.  The par system from the first game has been removed, allowing gamers to experiment without penalty.

Picross 3D

If you have a casual gamer on your list who loves puzzles, then they will love Picross 3D, in which you must carefully remove blocks based on various clues in order to reveal their true shape.  With over 350 puzzles and a star system that will always having you go back to see if you can get a perfect score, this game will keep the puzzler on your list entertained for hours and hours.

Green (or Orange) Holiday DSi w/ Mario Party DS

Now, if you have a casual gamer on your list and they dont already own a DS, one of the holiday DSi bundles might be the perfect gift.  Available in either green or orange, each DSi comes with a copy of Mario Party DS, making them an excellent gift.  The DS has a great library of games that appeal to both hardcore and casual gamer, so you know that special someone will be thanking you for this one long after the tree is down and the presents put away.  Buy it on Amazon for $149.99 and get a bonus $25 video game credit you can keep for yourself, or add to your gift!