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 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)
Ori 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.
Paper 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!
Kirby: 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 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.
Deus 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.
Skylanders 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.
Super 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.
In Toronto on Thursday, August 25th, Microsoft held their media showcase event, X16. And if you’re wondering why I’m only talking about it now, or where I’ve been for the past month for that matter, then I would like to kindly direct your attention over here.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend and take in a good many games coming and already available for Xbox One and Windows 10; some familiar, some new, and many Canadian. Admittedly, I was disappointed that the recently-revealed Sonic Mania wasn’t there, but there was enough going on to sufficiently distract me from that.
“The growth of our annual Media Showcase event has been truly incredible,” said Craig Tullett, Senior Marketing Director for Microsoft Canada “What started out as a small event for a handful of media 16 years ago has transformed into a full day celebration for the Canadian Xbox community. This year is especially exciting for us, because we’re showing more Canadian content than ever before. With new titles from AAA studios like The Coalition and Capcom Vancouver and an array of Canadian independent developers, we’re proud to be showcasing world-class innovation from our own backyard.”
Here’s a quick look at what I got to take a quick look at, along with some brief thoughts.
As I arrived, only one game (besides Sonic Mania) was on my mind first and foremost: Scalebound. But since that wasn’t there either, I immediately set out to find my runner-up from this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, ReCore.
From what I’d heard through those who had played it on the E3 showfloor, the combination of Mega Man producer Keiji Inafune and the developers behind Metroid Prime brought something which reflected qualities of both. The game played well for the short time I had with it, though I did get stuck at one point before calling it a day. All in all, I enjoyed that brief time with it, but decided to wait to be able to sit down with it and play it more fully — something I now have a review copy for as I prepare to cover it for The Mega Man Network, so keep your eyes peeled over there for a review soon (but not too soon — I only just got it).
Speaking of Inafune, I was always interested in trying one of the series he launched during his days working at Capcom, Dead Rising. I missed out on the original because I had no high definition television at the time, making the text impossible to read (seriously, what is with developers using ever-smaller text in newer games?). Following that, I never quite managed to make it happen, even after getting an HDTV, but maybe the time is nigh to rectify that.
While re-releases of the first two games are coming out today (huh, go figure) and later this month, what I got to sink my teeth into was Capcom Vancouver’s Dead Rising 4, which features a lovely holiday theme and will be fittingly released on December 6th.
I didn’t get to do too much before I had a scheduled meeting to attend, but I did get to have some fun trying out some different weapons on the snow-covered streets of Willamette, Colorado. I made my way to the firehouse, where troops were nailed to the wall and I could have Frank make goofy faces while taking selfies.
The best part, though, had to be donning the almost Iron Man-like exo-suit of powered armor that allows you to plow through crowds like a hot knife through undead butter. Picking up and tossing around large, heavy objects was pretty cool, too. I might have to take a closer look at this one during the winter months — if nothing else, I appreciate the seasonal appropriateness.
Side note: I’m about as sick of zombies as anyone, but Dead Rising has always been that one little thing I’ve been willing to make an exception for if the opportunity arose.
The GamesCom 2016 demo of Final Fantasy XV was on hand, and while I didn’t get a chance to play it, my wife did. You can find her thoughts on it at USgamer, and though I didn’t get to play it personally, I will say this: It’s the most interested I’ve ever been in playing a mainline Final Fantasy game.
Rather than turn-based combat, the comparison Nadia gave me was more along the lines of something like Xenoblade Chronicles X, which I suppose is good enough for me. I still prefer something more direct, but I might be able to work with this. Maybe we’ll find out when it comes out on November 29th (unless it gets delayed again).
I haven’t played a lot of Tekken, but Tekken 7 caught my eye at E3, if only because I thought it was the long-awaited Tekken X Street Fighter. No such luck, but Akuma was on full display as a playable character. He played familiar, yet differently, and I could imagine him being a good sort of introductory character for someone like me who knows Street Fighter pretty well but has a lot to learn when it comes to playing Tekken.
I love a good strategy game, but I’ve mostly played turn-based strategy. As such, I’ve always wondered if something like Halo Wars would be right for me. It wasn’t until very, very late in the Xbox 360’s lifespan that I learned there was a demo I could try, but the system died after I downloaded it but before I got to play it — and there was no PC version available. So when a sequel was announced, well, that immediately caught my interest.
343 Industries and Creative Assembly are not only producing a follow-up, but they’re also bring it — and the original — to PC as well. I had the opportunity to sit in on a demonstration of the game as developers explained about the story and other new features. It looked fairly intuitive and fun, especially the way the new bases and equipment moved in and unfolded, and I’m eager to sit down and try it out for myself.
Granted, there were demos available there, but this is the kind of game I’d want more time to toy with than I was afforded at the event — especially with other stuff to see. It sounds like I may have another crack at it before the February 2017 release date, but we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, since Halo Wars was recently available for free through Xbox Live Games with Gold, I’m going to try to get some practice in.
I tried Forza Motorsport 6, and for whatever reason, it didn’t quite grab me. It was very cool and realistic, but something about it didn’t quite mesh.
Seeing Forza Horizon 3 and its more open world and open (and off) road experiences, though, piqued my attention at E3 — especially after reading Jaz Rignall’s impressions on USgamer. Better still, the very same demo was available here!
In brief, you start with a bit of street racing in the Australian Outback, and after a bit of racing, a cutscene triggers as the group you were a part of intersects with another racing group of off-road trucks. After moving on down the beach and racing across the waves, the final leg of the demo features a… I don’t want to look like an idiot by saying dune buggy and being wrong, but an off-road vehicle of some kind, at any rate. You take the wheel of this vehicle and race a Jeep that’s suspended by a helicopter with a seemingly inept pilot (or maybe they find the Jeep driver equally as punchable as I do, so why not run him into a few trees?).
All in all, I had a blast with the demo, and am happy to have received a review copy to check out as well, so please look forward to that soon.
As an aside, there were two types of control schemes set up for the game: A regular Xbox One controller, and a steering wheel controller. For what it’s worth, I found the steering wheel unwieldy and difficult to use, as there seemed to be a disparity between the amount of tactile feedback provided by it versus what it seems should be provided based on what’s on-screen. I prefer the standard controller here.
Finally, I ran into Shane Luis from the terrific Rerez YouTube Channel as he was also checking out Forza Horizon 3, and we chatted for a few minutes, during which time he pointed Nadia and I to an indie game called Flinthook. And I’m glad he did, because that’s a fun little game featuring randomly-generated spaceships as you use your chainhook to get around and various weapons to take on those who would thwart your pirating schemes.
I hope to see more of this fun creation of Montreal’s Tribute Games before too long, but right now, it’s sitting with a 2017 release date. For now, I’m just disappointed that the nice little card-flyer I got with details of the game hadn’t been ruined in our rainy efforts to get home.
There were other games available to play there beyond these as well, including Everspace, Steep, Outlast 2, and the creepy We Happy Few. I wanted to play Cuphead again, but the impenetrable line forbade it. I’m kind of lousy at third-person shooters, so I passed on Gears of War 4, and I still need to play my Director’s Cut of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so I left Deus Ex: Mankind Divided alone for now. As much as I enjoyed Dragon Ball XenoVerse, I’m behind on my Dragon Ball viewing, so I didn’t touch the sequel for fear of spoilers. Plus, time was a factor for these as well.
Still others on display included Minecraft, Killer Instinct Season 3, and Batman The Telltale Series — all of which I have here at home, so I saw no point in bothering.
All told, it was a fun time — which was good, because I apparently overdid it and basically collapsed back into bed sick when I got home. Nonetheless, I and other Xbox One games have plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.
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.