Giftamania 2016 (Updated)

Update: Added Dead Rising 4 and LEGO Dimensions expansion packs.

With apologies to Maffew, as well as everyone else for not getting this up a little sooner as I’d have liked.

Following is a quick list of titles and things good for grabbing as gifts for the gamer in your life this holiday season. Mind, these come as my own personal recommendations, and don’t account for everything, including some “obvious” picks (such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Final Fantasy XV, and Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon). Everything here has been released in some form or fashion since Christmas 2015.

Xbox One

killerinstinctdefeditionXbox One S – Your mileage may vary on this one; if you or the intended recipient don’t own an Xbox One already, then this is the way to go. If you/they are planning on getting a 4K TV in the next year, however, then you might want to wait for Microsoft’s Project Scorpio — or at least more details about it — to emerge.

Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition Originally introduced in 2013, the revival of Killer Instinct has finally reached completion after three “seasons” of releases. While I only reviewed the first season, much more content has been made available since then, including new guest stars from Halo, Gears of War, and Battletoads! What’s more, you can now get everything in one complete package at retail with the Definitive Edition, which also includes a soundtrack CD and code for a gold Gargos skin. Now that’s what I call an Ultra Combo! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

Forza Horizon 3 This open-world driving game is great for relaxing, but also provides plenty of excitement as you partake in various races, challenges, and even hunts for classic vehicles. Sync up your own custom soundtrack (or use one of the stations in the game) and hit the road — as well as the plains, beaches, and anywhere else you can think to drive! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

oriblindforestdefeditionboxOri and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (Review Pending) – Alongside Killer Instinct, this was one of the games which made me want an Xbox One in the first place, and I haven’t been disappointed. This Metroidvania-styled platformer has a beautifully eerie presence a surprising degree of emotion as well. I was saving this to say in my already long-overdue review, but to me, Ori feels like the perfect mascot for the Xbox One, and deserves to be adopted as one. Plus, for the price, how can you afford not to try it? (Also available for Windows via Steam)

ReCore (Review Pending) – From some of the creative minds who brought you Mega Man and Metroid Prime comes this mysterious tale from another world. As Joule Adams, you’re tasked with exploring the planet of Far Eden and finding out what happened to those who were supposed to colonize it for mankind’s survival. But while you seem to be the only human around, you’re not alone — a group of Corebots use the special abilities granted by their customizable frames (such as the “dog,” Mack) to assist you throughout this third-person adventure that feels in some ways like a mix of Mega Man Legends and Metroid Prime, coupled with its own unique elements as well. (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

Quantum Break (Review Pending) – Yeah, I know — I’m juggling a lot of balls in the air here (and yes, it’s driving me nuts). This is an extremely story-oriented third-person shooter with some interesting characters and some content that’s set up like an actual television serial interspersed with the game’s chapters. If you’re cool with a game you watch as or more often than you play, then this one’s definitely worth a look. (Also available on Windows 10)

Xbox Design Lab – The Xbox One Wireless Controller is one of my favorite controllers to come around in some time, with a comfortable feel and a Dpad that’s not only finally worth a damn, but pretty dang good in its own right! So what could make it better? How about your own choice of color scheme, and maybe a laser-engraved message as well? This holiday season, you can give a custom Xbox Design Lab controller as a gift by purchasing a code which the recipient can then redeem to make the controller of their dreams (and 14-day shipping is free!).

Dead Rising 4 – This late arrival to stores and this list alike is a must-own this holiday season for its Yuletide setting alone, but for fans of beat ’em up-styled gameplay, the latest adventure of Frank West really hits home.

Wii U

papermariocolorsplashboxPaper Mario: Color Splash After Paper Mario: Sticker Star, I thought that the magic of the series I loved might never return. Imagine my surprise when Nintendo took such great strides towards a return to form just one installment later! While still not quite on the level of the masterpiece that is Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, this lite-RPG adventure is a great choice for all ages.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Nintendo’s next console, the Switch, isn’t destined to join us until March of next year, and the Zelda title designed to bridge it and the Wii U, Breath of the Wild, may take even longer still. In the meantime, they’ve updated the game which bridged the GameCube and the Wii with improved visuals and other features, including amiibo support! Get the game with the Wolf Link w/Midna amiibo, and you can begin prepping it to join you in the next Zelda adventure, whenever it may come!

Nintendo 3DS

kirbyplanetrobobotboxKirby: Planet Robobot Simply put, this is a must-have for any Nintendo 3DS owner. To say anything more would simply diminish it; if you or someone you know hasn’t played it, then rectify that immediately (or at least come the holidays).

Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack This spiritual successor to games such as Mega Man Zero really brings the thunder — or the lightning, at least! And with the recent release of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 in the Nintendo eShop, you can now get both chapters together on a single game card at retail!

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam It’s a crossover no one knew they wanted — or was even possible! Establishing the Paper Mario series as a separate entity (well, even more so), Nintendo’s two long-running Mario role playing game series collide as denizens of the Paper world are released into the regular Mario world, and chaos ensues! This one is definitely a “cut” above!

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice While the original Sonic Boom games did little to endear the world to this iteration of the franchise, Fire & Ice is a much better second go. With humorous writing and voice acting that’s in keeping with the Sonic Boom cartoon and the addition of Amy Rose to the playable character roster, Fire & Ice doesn’t excel, but it is comfort gaming at its finest.

Project X Zone 2 Let’s get crazy! This turn-based strategy game brings together characters from several of SEGA, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Nintendo’s top titles for a fan service smorgasbord! Even if you don’t know all the characters involved (and the odds are pretty good that you won’t know everyone), don’t worry — you’ll probably find yourself wanting to check out some new games by the end of it. Heck, I never had any interest in SEGA’s Yakuza before, but now I can’t wait for Yakuza 0 to arrive on PlayStation 4 early next year!

PlayStation 4

dragonquestbuildersboxPlayStation 4 Pro – Speaking of PlayStation 4, if you’re interested in 4K gaming or virtual reality with PlayStation VR, then this is the model to look into. Just know that while it can stream 4K video, it won’t play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.

Dragon Quest Builders Part of Minecraft‘s strength is its go anywhere, do anything you want freedom. However, if you’re interested in a game which captures the building and resource mechanics while providing you with a bit more of a purpose, then this alternate timeline sequel to the original Dragon Quest ought to be right up your alley.

Ratchet & Clank This latest release in the long-running PlayStation-exclusive franchise combines what made the original game great with a bit of added flair from the motion picture release, turns it on its head, sprinkles in some elements from other installments, and provides an experience great for longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike. And given that the film (which is based on the original game, with this being based on that) didn’t quite set hearts aflutter while the game was a number-one bestseller, it’s probably safe to say that if you have to choose between the two, going with the game is probably the best choice.

Multiplatform

deusexmankindboxartDeus Ex: Mankind Divided (Review Pending) – The Canadian Video Game Awards 2016 winner for Best Console Game, Best Game Design, Best Narrative, Best Performance, and oh yeah, Game of the Year. As Adam Jensen, you’re a cybernetically-enhanced human (though you didn’t ask for this) who is putting his myriad tools to good use as you make the decisions you think will best see you through to victory. Lethal or non-lethal weapons? Employ stealth, or go in guns blazing? These choices and many more are yours.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration (Review Pending) – For as iconic a figure as Lara Croft has been for the industry over the years, this installment follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by being decidedly not for children — or the faint of heart. It’s definitely an intense game that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and some parts can be pretty gruesome as well. That said, the original version came to Xbox One last year, but 20 Year Celebration throws in all the extra content that has been released since then, including some additional skins (such as a Retro Lara for a nostalgic kick), a co-op mode, and an Extreme Difficulty mode. On PlayStation 4, it’s also one of the first games to take advantage of the HDR features and 4K resolution provided by the Pro version, as well as a chapter playable in PlayStation VR.

WWE 2K17 The latest installment in 2K Games’ long-running sports entertainment adaptation is opting for a little more of a sim flavor this year. Create your own Superstars and events, alter others, and have the full run of Raw, Smackdown, and the rest of the shows WWE brings to a worldwide audience every week.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan On the half-shell, they’re the heroes four; in this day and age, who could ask for more? This IDW Comics-styled game is all about teamwork, whether you’re working with friends or strangers in online multiplayer, or managing all four green teens yourself.

skylandersimaginatorsboxSkylanders Imaginators Continuing the ever-growing theme of player-created content, this year’s Skylanders title allows you to create your very own Skylander called an Imaginator. They come in all different types, and become more powerful when one of the new Senseis shows them their moves. Plus, if you get the PlayStation 4 version (though it should come to the others next year), you can also get Skylanders of Spyro’s old pal, Crash Bandicoot and his rival Dr. Neo Cortex.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Chewie… we’re home.” These words from Han Solo reflect the feeling of this LEGO title as the series gets back to its roots, but with some new tricks as well. And it just feels so right.

Mega Man Legacy Collection Released as a digital download for Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 late last year, this collection of the Blue Bomber’s six Nintendo Entertainment System adventures (and all the gobs of additional related content included) not only arrived on the Nintendo 3DS earlier this year, but at retail for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well. Plus, if you go for the physical Nintendo 3DS version, you can also add an exclusive gold Mega Man amiibo figure to your collection!

Mighty No. 9 This spiritual successor to Mega Man comes with a pretty severe caveat, as the game has been very divisive: If you or someone you know wants a challenge, then this one may deliver. That said, it’s best to look around and see if you can find a good bargain on it to keep your bets safe. Think of this one as “stocking stuffer” material, or consider trying the free demo first. Oh, and be careful about getting the Wii U version — that one apparently suffered from some pretty nasty hardware crashing issues, and I’m not sure if they ever got all those fixed.

LEGO Dimensions Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack – The toys alone are cool enough, but getting to use them in a game which does a pretty good job of marrying the LEGO and Sonic styles of gameplay is even better.

LEGO Dimensions Gremlins Team Pack – Based on one of my favorite holiday movies, exploring the town of Kingston Falls during the snowy holiday season makes this a perfect holiday gift for anyone who owns (or will soon own) LEGO Dimensions.

Other

supermarioadventuresSuper Mario Run Though this game is available now, you won’t be able to buy it in stores. However, as it commands a $13.99 price tag, an iTunes gift card or two for the intended recipient may not be the worst idea. Just remember that it launches as an iOS exclusive, while the Android version comes sometime later.

Super Mario Adventures This recently republished collection of the comic which originally ran in Nintendo Power magazine 25 years ago is, for many, one of the definitive pieces of Mario fiction (outside of the games, that is). A loose adaptation of Super Mario World, this also includes an additional chapter which loosely adapts Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins and gives us the origin of Wario. Sadly, the 14th and final installment was not included; thankfully, it was a standalone story, so the rest of the book holds up quite well on its own otherwise.

NES Classic Edition and NES Controllers – Good luck finding either of these! Even if you’re not interested in this plug ‘n play collection of 30 classic games for yourself, you’re almost guaranteed to know someone who is, so if you see one in the wild — grab it! And if you happen to come across the even rarer controller, a replica of the original NES input device, consider that it also works with some games (pretty much anything a sideways Wii Remote would) on the Wii and Wii U!

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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On Friday, April 1st at 7pm EST, tune in to the Nyteworks channel on Twitch for The Friday Nyteworks Stream!

This week, I’m going to play… well, I’m not exactly sure yet! The third season of Killer Instinct for Xbox One has just kicked off, and if I find out the status of my review code before showtime, then we’ll see what Tusk, Kim Wu, Rash from Battletoads, and the Arbiter from Halo bring to a world run by Ultratech, as well as whatever other goodies Iron Galaxy Studios have thrown into the mix.

And if I’m not ready to go with Killer Instinct, then we’ll hold off on that for a week and I’ll give Microsoft Studios’ own make-your-game program, Project Spark, through its paces. (Update: Just got the code, so Killer Instinct is on!)

For those who missed it, this will be the second episode of The Friday Nyteworks Stream; as of this writing, you can still catch last week’s on Twitch, or you can check it out over The Mega Man Network or the Nyteworks YouTube channel. In that episode, I took on the very first Mega Man game by way of Mega Man Legacy Collection for the PlayStation 4.

I hope you’ll check it out, enjoy, and tune in for episode two!

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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The big day for Xbox fans across Toronto is here! While the public part of the event is just getting underway as of this writing, the doors were open earlier in the day for members of the press to get in and check some things out. As such, Nadia and I donned our best black t-shirts for the occasion and headed out to the Sound Academy down by the lakeshore. And what things there were to see!

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More than 100 consoles and over 30 developers were on hand to talk about the latest and upcoming titles that are headed to the Xbox One and PC. There was some other fun as well, including a bar (not paid, unfortunately) and various snacks ranging from bite-sized grilled cheese sandwiches (with optional ketchup), pretzels, and kettle cooked potato chips. And in case anyone was worried about their calorie count, there were ways to work it off:

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We’re going to assume Ms. Croft foot the bill for that one.

In addition to Rise of the Tomb Raider, there was a massive Halo 5 stage set up with a giant screen. Just in case any shenanigans were afoot, these two gents (or possibly ladies — I’ve seen the anime and Dead or Alive 4) were on hand to keep the peace:

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Among the many, many games on hand were several sports titles which had their own special “sports bar” section:

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I can’t say I gave that one too close a look; the order of the day included NBA 2K16, NHL 16, FIFA 16, and Madden NFL 16. Me, I’m more of a WWE and NBA Jam kind of guy.

For those eager to put the pedal to the metal (and many were), there was another section for them to get in gear:

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Moto GP 2015, Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, and of course, Microsoft Game Studios’ own Turn 10-developed Forza Motorsport 6 were on hand here.

Other titles without any specific affiliation were all around as well. Skylanders SuperChargers was one, but I passed on that for others since we’re checking a separate showing out tomorrow. Mad Max, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Fable Legends, Quantum Break, Gigantic, Dark Souls III, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2, and more were all around — some more subtle than others. I wish I’d gotten to sit down with many more, but to do so would be more to nibble when I wanted to nosh, so I ended up focusing more on a smaller selection of titles which held my interest.

For what it’s worth, not everything I had hoped to see was there — Killer Instinct‘s third season (featuring Battletoad Rash) and Scalebound most prominently. Still, most of what I did get to see sent me away happy and still hoping I’ll be able to invest in an Xbox One sooner rather than later. (On an unrelated note: have I mentioned that I have a Patreon? Contributing to that could help me expand my coverage here…)

With that said, here’s where I directed my focus:

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Some years ago when I was working for Examiner, I had the opportunity to visit Eidos Montreal and check out what was the then-unreleased Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and I absolutely loved what I saw. I had hoped to be able to follow up that series of coverage with a review upon its release, but things happened and that didn’t. When the game was brought to the Wii U, complete with some issues addressed from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 version, I still wanted in, but it just never happened.

That love for what I saw still hasn’t gone away, though, so once I had the opportunity to view its follow-up in action, I leaped at the chance. Just as before, though, it was a hands-off demo as something of a vertical slice was shown. For his part, Adam Jensen looks more badass than ever with his suite of different abilities.

Following the trailer and demonstration, I got to speak briefly to one of the developers (whose name I regrettably did not get among all the bustling crowds) about a cause for concern from the previous game. The aforementioned issues related to the game’s structure, which allows you to play and build up skills for sneaking, hacking, and combat. Generally, the game is supposed to allow you to choose the method that fits your preference and you can go through from there, but there were instances such as bosses where people who focused on hacking and stealth were at a disadvantage due to not dumping points into their combat stats.

I asked about this, and was assured that they were developing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided so that players would not have to worry about being “bottlenecked” into such situations. If you come across such a boss, for instance, you’ll be able to find other ways around them.

Another thing I asked about with the customization of the first game in mind was if there might be some way to use data from Human Revolution in Mankind Divided. While that is not in the cards, they did mention a New Game + feature that will allow you to replay the game after beating it with your enhancements and stats from the end of the last playthrough. Perhaps with enough time and effort, one can even craft an “ultimate” Jensen?

He didn’t ask for this, but I certainly am.

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Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege

Some poor, unfortunate souls ended up coercing me into playing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was a multiplayer demonstration.

They couldn’t have known. I told them, but even then, they couldn’t have known.

I am not good at first-person shooters, so the events transpired thus: other players got irritated with me as I tried selecting a character that had already been chosen (my past experiences allowed more for choosing “types”; I didn’t realize it was character-driven), and I followed my squad mates up a building, then we went back down the building. Fire started being opened on us, I tried to shoot back, and I died.

I don’t think I lasted more than a minute, and while there’s apparently a time limit to revive a fallen comrade, no one bothered. I can’t say I blame them. Then my view went over to a camera perspective of someone else for the rest of the match. I think out of a 15 minute match (give or take), I was in it for maybe two.

I sincerely apologize to everyone whose time I ruined in that match, though I guess I didn’t likely affect much of it.

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Cuphead

Oh man, Cuphead. As someone who grew up watching vintage Looney Tunes and other classic cartoons on Nickelodeon and TNT every weeknight, the visuals here really resonate like nothing else. Part of me wonders why no one ever bothered to do this sooner.

Fascinatingly enough, it’s not just the visuals that are oldschool, but the gameplay as well. It’s a shoot ’em up not unlike Contra, and it is surprisingly tough. The fact that the demo only pits you against bosses and you have only one life only escalate matters. I don’t know if those matters — the single life in particular — were because it was a demo, but as someone who is a die-hard Contra fan, this was a bit tough for even me.

On the other hand, Nadia — who is kind of intimidated (?) by Contra — managed to beat one of those bosses. She thinks the difficulty was increased with two players on hand, though.

Suffice to say, this one warrants further study.

LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

I’m really not too sure what to say here. It’s LEGO. So it’s good, it’s solid, but not especially surprising. If you’ve kept up with LEGO games, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. Not a bad thing, just a very safe thing.

This one is based on the movies, and the demo took place during the Battle of New York from the first movie. You’re playing as the squad of ground-based heroes — Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor — as the Chitari swoop in all around, police officers are trying to take them down, and Iron Man is providing support from above (this is presumably before Hulk arrives). You use their different talents to proceed, though sometimes things seem a little obtuse — a LEGO staple of sorts.

Also, you get to rescue Stan Lee from a car trapped under a bridge.

The demo lacked much in the way of the humor the series is known for (aside from seeing Thor’s godly hair roll across the ground after he was taken down), but with audio straight from the film, the overall quality seems to be there on this one.

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Rare Replay

Saved this one for last, since I got to play more of this than anything. Even so, that’s three games’ worth, so that’s something.

Battletoads Arcade – At long last.

When Rare and Tradewest brought Battletoads to the Nintendo Entertainment System (also included) in 1991, ostensibly to compete with the red-hot Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I — and I think a lot of others — were expecting a beat ’em up in a similar vein to the TMNT’s greatest hits. And for the first stage, that’s what we got. The second stage involved descending down a long shaft, but still involved plenty of smacking enemies around — you were just moving more vertically than horizontally. The third stage had some more, and… that’s about as far as any of us got. The stage shifted to the notorious Turbo Tunnel, and the game was essentially changed from then on. This carried over into Battletoads in Battlemaniacs for the Super NES (not included) and the Game Boy titles (ditto) as well.

But Battletoads Arcade, which I only discovered just a handful of years ago? This is what I’ve been wanting from them this entire time, and what I played here delivered. It’s a bit edgier than most iterations of the Turtles, with blood splatters coming from enemies on the receiving end of particularly powerful attacks and their skeletons appearing and crumbling when defeated.

I got through several stages before pulling myself away to focus on other work. I can imagine it only being even better with all three characters running at once with three players, and in such a scenario, possibly being worth the entire price of the game for that alone.

Then there are the 29 other games included.

Blast Corps – Another game I’ve never gotten to play before, I toyed around with this one for a little bit, having heard its legend sung by those who had experienced it during its heyday. For the little bit I played — about two levels’ worth — it seems to live up to the legend.

I like games where you can just destroy stuff with reckless abandon, and between the bulldozer and jetpack-guided robot who smashes down into skyscrapers from above, this one delivers. I can see myself playing this one over and over just for fun.

Killer Instinct Gold – This is where things got a little bit awkward.

I own both this and the Super NES version of the first Killer Instinct. In this and most fighting games, particularly where only four face buttons are involved, I usually configure the controls to put the strong attacks on the front of the controller — my coordination isn’t so good as to allow me to work the shoulders/triggers with the directional inputs as I can with the face buttons, which takes a lot of punch out of my offense. Unfortunately, you can’t adjust the buttons here — at least, not through Rare Replay. It didn’t occur to me to check for in-game options until after I’d left, though having brought it up to the developers who were on hand, they didn’t mention such an option, either.

Another point that hurt this one was the visuals. There’s nothing to smooth the graphics out here, so it’s very pixelated; I find that’s usually okay for games with a more pixel-based appearance, but rendered and pre-rendered models, not so much. I noted the same thing when reviewing Rare’s Super NES Donkey Kong Country trilogy in Nintendo Force magazine — the games looked better on the lower-resolution Wii U GamePad, and as noted on this very site in my review of New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii U Virtual Console, I used blurring there as well.

I’d have gone to the CRT television-styled filter, but that was only available for pre-Nintendo 64 titles, leaving Killer Instinct Gold in a bit of an awkward place. They said they wanted to present the games as they originally were, “warts and all,” except I have to say my old standard-definition television was a lot better at making said warts more presentable.

Considering you can get the original arcade Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct II when you purchase seasons of the awesome new Killer Instinct, KI Gold isn’t a terrible loss in the face of the greater package.

That said, I never got to see the arcade Killer Instinct in my heyday — it was never in any arcades around me. And when I did find one years later, I was pretty lousy at it. I bought and played the Super NES version of Killer Instinct when it came out, and it very much has its own unique feel and quality to it.

I asked the developers on hand about the prospect of completing the set with a release of that version somehow… and they told me that was what was on Rare Replay. I was pretty sure it was the Nintendo 64 sequel, but when one of them asked another and he agreed that Killer Instinct Gold was the Super NES game, I figured I might as well drop the line of questioning. I could have pulled it up on my phone right there, but thinking about it, what would that have accomplished?

Oh well. At least I still have my Super NES and my original copy (complete with Killer Cuts CD, which I’m listening to as I write this), convenient as having it released on Xbox One in some way would be.

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This was the one Nadia was immediately attracted to, an old favorite from her childhood. Her takeaway from it was that it would take some getting used to, particularly as it featured a control scheme that she was less comfortable with (utilizing the A and B buttons, rather than the more natural X and B buttons).

Despite a few hiccups, Rare Replay was a hit, and it’s something I’d gladly drop $30 on for the wealth of gaming history included within. One disappointment I’ve been none too shy about mentioning is the absence of my first Rare game and a favorite, Wizards & Warriors. We took the opportunity to ask about its absence, and were informed it simply didn’t make the cut.

Fortunately, people have been vocal about wanting to see it and its follow-ups, so maybe some downloadable content is possible? The developers there would commit to nothing, but said to make our voices heard on social media, and maybe something will happen there. I wonder if it’s possible to get a #Wizards&Warriors hashtag going on Twitter? (I just tried — the “&” kills it. Any suggestions? #WizardsAndWarriors, maybe?)

So there we have it: the X15 Media Showcase was a good time, and I hope those of you who might have attended the evening portion had as great a time as I did. With each passing year, the Xbox One library keeps getting better, and even without Scalebound or Season 3 of Killer Instinct on the show floor, there was still a lot to see and a lot to look forward to. Hopefully I’ll have one of my own soon enough!

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I was this close to calling this one “X15 Media Showcase Gonna Give It To Ya’,” but I was afraid the message might get lost somewhere.

In any case, Xbox has had a busy week over in Germany for gamescom 2015. So before getting to the big news (at least, big if you’re going to be in Toronto later this month), here are a few highlights.

First up, there is the announcement of a third season of content for the Xbox One-exclusive combo-driven fighting game, Killer Instinct. And as part of that third season is a most unexpected — yet all-too fitting — new addition to the roster:

Hot on the heels of the recently-released Rare Replay that brought the brand back into the spotlight comes one mad, bad, and crazy toad — Battletoad, that is, as Rash makes the leap from Ragnarok World to take on whatever the evil corporation UltraTech has to throw at him. At the end of the trailer, Rash notes that “these cameos are killer.” Simple wordplay on the game’s title, or a hint that the toad-ally tubular trio are ready to take on a starring role again? You be the judge.

The third season doesn’t hit until March 2016, but if you’ve bought either Rare Replay or any prior Killer Instinct content, you can get mad, bad, and crazy yourself until September 8th with a sneak preview.

Next up: Things have been quiet with the focus of my #2 moment from the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference… that is, until now.

Scalebound, or what I called a cross between Mega Man and How to Train Your Dragon, is on its way towards a 2016 release from PlatinumGames and director Hideki Kamiya.

In Scalebound, you will experience the journey of a young loner named Drew, who is pulled into the strange, beautiful, and dangerous world of Draconis – where he is bonded to a fearsome and noble dragon, Thuban, the last of his kind. These two lone-wolf heroes, thrown together by fate, must learn to fight as one to defeat the powerful enemies that threaten Draconis, Earth, and a vast universe of parallel worlds.

It is in this Xbox One-exclusive title that you’ll work with your ferocious companion to take down monsters and armies alike as you explore the world of Draconis. What’s more, you can customize your dragon, starting with such shapes as winged serpents, four legged tanks, and more and evolving their appearance, as well as unique attacks and abilities.

On top of all that, there’s also a four-player co-op mode that Platinum is keeping details under wraps on for now. Maybe you can even form your own “Riders of Berk Draconis”?

Last on my list of gamescom highlights is that Xbox One backwards compatibility is coming in November. Over 100 Xbox 360 titles from such companies as 2K, Bandai Namco Games, Bethesda, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Koei Tecmo Games, Majesco, SEGA, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. will be available to play from the comfort of your current-generation console, complete with all the new features it provides.

For more details on these announcements and more (including Mafia III, Crackdown 3, and Halo Wars 2) from Xbox at gamescom 2015, just click here.

Now for the headline news…

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From 6 to 11pm local time on Wednesday, August 19th, Xbox fans will have the opportunity to converge and gather at the Sound Academy at 11 Polson St. for the X15 Media Showcase. Those who can’t make it all the way there will find a shuttle service available starting at 5:45pm to and from Union Station.

And in case you weren’t sure? Yes, this is for the general public.

With the promise of more than 100 consoles and over 30 developers, there will unquestionably be a lot to see there. There are no exact specifics on the lineup, but I’m told that “all our big upcoming titles like Halo, Forza, Tomb Raider, and Fable” will be there, as well as some “great” third party and [email protected] titles. Among the developers there will be some for Rare Replay, so it seems likely that will be on hand for anyone to try out as well.

And who knows? Maybe some cool stuff announced at gamescom 2015 will be there; if not some dragon-riding, maybe there will at least be a chance to get mad, bad, and crazy?

That last bit is pretty much conjecture on my part, but either way, it isn’t to be missed.

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Console launches always seem to bring out the worst. Not in people, necessarily, but in the weather.

While as of this writing, the Xbox One is not due to be released until midnight tonight, that didn’t stop grey skies, harsh winds, and eventually some precipitation of the snow-like variety from descending upon Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto, where a colossal Xbox One unit had appeared, waiting for just the right moment to reveal to a crowd of onlookers what surprises were in store within.

Upon collecting a certain number of Xbox Live GamerTags, each of which was displayed proudly on a large screen and entered into tonight’s drawing for a chance to win one of the shiny new next generation Microsoft consoles, the time was set to reveal what the oversized structure contained. Similar Xbox One Source events had taken place in Vancouver and Montreal, revealing live reenactments of the action to be found in Xbox One exclusives Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5, respectively.

While there was an air of mystery about which title would be shown off in Toronto, their hand was slightly tipped early by workers setting up props which included singed American flags, wooden barrels, and a skeleton wearing a suit of armor which appeared straight out of ancient Rome. This would be further reinforced by the passing out of gold-leaf “crowns” and rose petals just before showtime, as one of Microsoft’s newest franchises prepared to enter the spotlight.

Once the clock struck 4pm EST, the following unfolded within a gated-off area:

Truth be told, unless you were right up front, it was difficult to see what was going on through the crowd as Roman soldiers (and one brave civilian) circled the enclosure, spilling fake blood and ripping mock-intestines from their foes, leaving plenty for workers to clean up later. In addition to a scattering of plastic golden coins, the heat of some impressive pyrotechnics would cut through the cold while ash from the explosions rode through the air and into the crowd (fortunately, it came off with little fuss).

This was Ryse: Son of Rome.

Admittedly, my fingers were crossed for Killer Instinct early on. Though we were denied a live-action martial arts spectacle to usher in the resurrected Rare classic, we were informed that it was lying in wait among the demo units inside of the giant Xbox One console, which also contained demos for Ryse: Son of Rome and the two previously-shown titles, Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5.

The first 30 of those who arrived early on were able to procure black wristbands which allowed them to engage in Ryse-themed activities, such as posing in front of the box, learning to sword-fight from one of the soldiers on hand, and even enter into a specially-set dining area where, from what I could tell, they were given a most welcome gift of warm food and drink. Incidentally, though I arrived pretty early to be on-hand for the event, I somehow completely missed the wristband thing.

Oh well, Killer Instinct and McDonald’s across the street would suffice well enough for my liking. And after waiting for a bit in a moderately swift-moving line, I would soon have my chance. Luckily for me, it seemed that the group of fans ahead of me were more interested in other titles, so I was ushered in even more quickly than I expected.

As near as I can tell, the version of Killer Instinct being presented here was– or at least was based on– the free version that will be released as a download. This is insomuch as that Jago was the only playable character, though several others could be chosen as opponents. Fine by me– Jago and Fulgore were my mains back in the day, so he would make a fine gauge upon which to tell how the new game feels, and Sabrewulf would be my test subject.

Here’s the thing: After standing out in the cold and wind for a while, I cannot say my hands were in optimal game-playing condition (yes, I even had gloves). But even despite this handicap… well, what can I say? The game just really felt right. I moved right into performing all of the old moves I remembered, from his Hadoken-esque fireball to his flying kick, his Shoryuken-esque uppercut (I’m starting to remember why I used him so much), and one of my favorites: Repeatedly slashing opponents with his sword.

Just don’t ask about finishing moves– my memory isn’t that good, I’m afraid. Even so, based on what I played, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if I could have broken out one of the old moves and had it work flawlessly.

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One thing which stuck out to me as different was how long the match seemed to last. Even while chaining combos together to more quickly whittle down Sabrewulf’s health, the matches felt a bit more drawn out– not to a negative degree, mind, but in that they didn’t feel like they were over too quickly. Admittedly, my mind might be playing tricks on me with regards to how long a classic KI match would last, but this just felt more substantial, like there was a greater opportunity for both sides to get their licks in as needed. Or perhaps that was just for the demo, to better match how long the other game samples were running?

Even though the match felt longer than I remembered, it was still over quickly enough, and I was on my way. The staff invited me to join the line again to play another demo, but I declined, having enjoyed the experience I came for– perhaps if I can ever get to afford an Xbox One, I’ll get to try the others out. For now, I’m just eager to play more Killer Instinct.

Upon leaving, some swag was offered as a souvenir of the experience: A drawstring tote bag adorned with the Xbox One logo, a discount voucher for Xbox Live, and a black Xbox One toque, which still fails to cover my ears (this is a long-running problem I seem to have with promotional toques; I guess my head is just that big).

Here are some more pictures from the Toronto event, and if you would like to see more pics and videos from this and the previous Xbox One Source events, check out the official website and Xbox Canada’s Facebook page.