A Non-Kingdom Hearts Fan’s Early Impressions of Kingdom Hearts III

Wow, maybe I shouldn’t say things like this.

Real quick update on me/the site: I’ve been busy with other stuff. Some stuff I can talk about (Mega Visions and Nintendo Force stuff), others that I can’t (What? I just said I can’t talk about them). And to avoid further jinxing myself, that’s all I’ll say. Well, that, and I don’t look like the picture in that linked article. As much.

Anywho, I’m here to today to talk about Kingdom Hearts, and hopefully without anything that might be considered a spoiler. If you’re worried about spoilers, you probably shouldn’t be reading stuff like this anyway.

All the way back at Fan Expo, I got an opportunity to play it, and I was supposed to talk about it here! Then… see above. It reached a point that I figured whatever I had to say might be better saved for when the game is set to release, and with it coming out in Japan today and the rest of the world on Tuesday, January 29th… well, no time like the present.

So here’s the thing: Prior to the demo at the event I was fortunate enough to attend (big thanks to Square Enix for inviting me; I’m really not worthy), I’d never played a Kingdom Hearts game. I meant to, a long time ago, but I didn’t have a PlayStation 2 at the time, and while one would think that throwing Disney World and Final Fantasy into a blender would be perfect for a console shaped like a purple lunchbox, that never happened. I had eyes on getting a PlayStation 2 eventually, so I figured I’d get around to it, but then something happened…

I think this is Safe For Work (I watched it last night and didn’t pay attention to the language), but given the personality involved, I advise watching with caution, just to be safe.

So yeah, that happened. And between that and no sign of a Kingdom Hearts III in sight, leaving many a hungering fan desperate for more? I figured I was good.

Some 14 years on from the release of Kingdom Hearts II, and a sequel is finally nigh. And I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit intrigued. Not so intrigued as to dive through all of that, but with Toy Story, Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Wreck-It Ralph (among others) involved? That’s kinda hard for me to ignore. Getting an invitation to come check out the game for myself? That was just the cherry on top.

And you know what? I liked it!

The demo was in two parts. One was a boss battle against this rock monster that carried on for a bit. A lot of it was running straight up a steep cliff in order to reach it, dodging falling rocks and stuff all the while, then a little bit of attacking the feet and climbing up its massive body, sort of like Shadow of the Colossus lite. Building up a meter allowed me to call upon the power of Magic Mountain, summoning a train so covered in lights that they could probably see it all the way in Anaheim.

So that was cool. But what really won me over was the next part of the demo.

Toy Story! Protagonist Sora, along with Donald and Goofy, wind up in Andy’s bedroom, but something is amiss: A mysterious presence has emerged, and Buzz and Woody are trying to decide the best course of action as our heroes arrive on the scene.

You’re given quite a bit of the world to explore, especially considering you’re doing it at the size of a toy. You make your way to a toy store, and while this was softening me up, I think this might have been what delivered the finishing blow:

I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that there are (relatively) giant mech robots, and you can commandeer and pilot them! It’s enjoyable and somewhat short-lived, though you can find more around. A good chunk of my playtime was trying to figure out how to bring one with me, and failing that, scouting for where I could get another. Loved it!

Continuing my way through the toy store, I fought off enemies and solved puzzles up until it was time for the demo to end.

In the end, I think I’ve softened my stance. To be clear, I don’t think I’m quite on board with the whole conga line of a story, but from what I’ve played, I don’t think I really need to be. I just enjoyed dropping into Disney-themed worlds, interacting with characters I know and love, and teaming up with them to wallop some bad guys. And isn’t that all you really need?

Well, it’s all I really need. I’m not about to step in front of the mob of Keyblade-wielding fans that are probably going to rush the front gates of every game store from here to Epcot, but if I get the opportunity to indulge in this long-overdue title, I’ll more than happily do so.

With that said, Kingdom Hearts III wasn’t the only game I got to check out at the event.

Those of us in attendance were treated to a presentation about another upcoming Square Enix game titled Left Alive, whose poster you can see at right.

My thoughts on it: With Konami dropping the ball on Metal Gear so hard that it’s sitting somewhere around the Earth’s core as we speak, I guess there’s something of a void to fill, and maybe this could do it?

I don’t mean to oversell it, though. Left Alive is a spin-off of the Front Mission series, and watching it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Metal Gear throughout the presentation. That seems to be by design, at least in part, as the aforementioned poster and character designs were created by none other than Yoji Shinkawa, who had worked on Hideo Kojima’s blockbuster series over the years.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Front Mission. I know that it’s a thing, and it’s apparently related to this, and that’s about it. But what I saw here reminded me a lot of Metal Gear before everything went gonzo with clones, viruses, ninjas, and nanomachines. In the original title (at least on the Nintendo Entertainment System, don’t @ me), the giant walking tank from which the game draws its name — a seemingly revolutionary concept within the universe at the time — was about the most outrageous thing in the entire game, meme-able translation notwithstanding.

Incidentally, Left Alive does feature mechs. If I remember correctly, you can even take control of them! Seems to be a running theme here tonight.

Watching Left Alive reminded me of a more modern iteration of those simpler, more down-to-earth times in that series. Is that what they’re going for? I have no idea, I didn’t really get a very clear answer about that.

The game has you take control of multiple characters whose paths can cross and intersect, with what you do with one character potentially affecting another character’s journey. There are also situations where you’ll encounter Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and may need to persuade them in a course of action — say, convincing a father to come with you and his daughter in a bid to survive — with the results affecting the story later. You’ll also need to use stealth to survive throughout, too.

Like I said, I don’t mean to oversell the game, but I think if you were a fan of the Metal Gear franchise, especially in its earlier days, then this might be one to keep an eye on as we approach its March 5th release date.

Written by Darrel Scott; edited by David Oxford

Many gamers would say that Nintendo has fallen behind Sony and Microsoft when it comes to major console gaming in the past decade or so. While there are legions of hardcore Nintendo loyalists out there, the Wii and Wii U simply weren’t as powerful as the latest Xbox and PlayStation devices. But if there’s one clear advantage that remains with Nintendo, it’s the company’s ability to tap into nostalgia and build on games that people grew up with.

So far, the new Nintendo Switch is looking like an interesting play. Sales for the new console are reportedly off to a phenomenal start, and it seems that the experiment is paying off. Gamers appreciate the idea of a console that essentially doubles as a mobile gaming device, and Nintendo appears to have executed the concept pretty well.

Another reason the Switch seems to be performing well is related to the aforementioned ability to tap into nostalgia. Among the console’s best launch titles, players can find new games for the likes of The Legend of Zelda and Bomberman, two beloved franchises that have been off the shelves for quite some time. These aren’t the only good games you can play on the Switch, but it stands to reason they’re helping to drive sales.

With that said, here are a few more games Nintendo might be wise to explore for the Switch, both from its own past and to get at gamers’ nostalgia in general.

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Super Mario RPG

There will be plenty of Mario-related games that come out on the Switch, but Nintendo would still do well to reboot this underrated classic. Those who played Super Mario RPG (on Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Wii Virtual Console) know that it still stands as one of the most entertaining role playing games of all time. In fact, just last year an article emerged expressing that in 20 years, few Nintendo games have lived up to this one. Throw in the fact that an RPG is one of the easier genres or formats to flip seamlessly between mobile and console gaming, and this seems like a no-brainer.

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GoldenEye 007

Shooters are tricky on a device like the mobile component of the Switch. This iconic first person shooter was actually rebooted to somewhat mediocre effect for the Wii a few years ago, but a new flagship Nintendo device without a fresh attempt at resurrecting GoldenEye’s glory just seems like a shame! Plus, it could pave the way for a new generation of James Bond games, which have always been fun.

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X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse

In a way, it feels like the year of Wolverine (thanks to Hugh Jackman’s final film as the legendary Canadian hero). Still, despite the recent surge in popularity we haven’t seen a major Wolverine game in quite some time. Some of the most recent games starring the fearsome mutant are online slot reels that are more fun than you might think. These casual web games are actually considered to be among the most popular and entertaining around, and frequently adopt characters and series from popular entertainment, with the result that there are currently multiple Wolverine– and X-Men-related games in circulation. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was a classic platformer for the SNES back in 1994, and could be a great candidate for an update to the hybrid mobile and home console.

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Pokémon Red Version and Pokémon Blue Version

Pokémon is more relevant than ever thanks to the explosive popularity of Pokémon GO, and Nintendo ought to go ahead and capitalize. Brand new versions of the original games, with better graphics and perhaps slightly more complex gameplay, would be a wonderful surprise. These games could work well on both mobile and console modes, and it’s hard to imagine this being anything but a major seller for the Nintendo Switch. It’s hard that there’s never been a proper Pokémon game for consoles (outside of titles like Pokkén Tournament and Pokémon Snap), but there are rumors that Game Freak might be looking to develop a new Pokémon game for the Switch, although it’s still far too early to know any details.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Turtles are also riding a wave of popularity with a younger generation but older fans probably still have fond memories of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games from the ’90s. These arcade brawlers recall a time when Nintendo dominated the console market and arcades were filled with the sounds of clinking quarters and the smell of stale pizza. While not exclusive to Nintendo, the Switch is perfectly suited to make the most of the iconic arcade gameplay and help acquaint a new audience with the older games starring the heroes in a half shell.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Mario’s Hat or any of Nyteworks’ staff.

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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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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.

Joule-and-Seth-Puzzle-ReCore

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).

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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.

deadrising4propWhile 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.

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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).

Tekken7_screenshot_04

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.

HaloWars2MultiplayerDefendTheBase

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.

ForzaHorizon3_StreamCross

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.

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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.

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As noted in yesterday’s Nintendo Download (which admittedly only just got published today), Bravely Second: End Layer is now available for all to purchase, download, and enjoy in the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS. Or, if you’d rather have a physical copy, you can get that at retail once stores open. Either way, you’ll find that the suggested retail price is $49.99

If you’re interested and haven’t already done so, there is a free demo called Bravely Second: End Layer – The Ballad of the Three Cavaliers that you can download to get a taste of Square Enix’s sequel to the successful new role playing game Bravely Default. There, you can embark on an adventure unique to any you’ll find in the full version, and also be able to earn some bonuses that can carry over into the main game.

“Fans of classic role-playing games like Fire Emblem and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series will love Bravely Second: End Layer,” said Nintendo of Canada’s General Manager and Senior Director, Pierre-Paul Trepanier, in a press release. “And while fans of the first game will appreciate the returning characters and continuing story, newcomers can just as easily dive into this memorable RPG experience.”

Nintendo of Canada is touting this latest entry highly as part of an ongoing year’s worth of strong role playing games across their platforms. Bravely Second: End Layer follows the releases of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Final Fantasy Explorers, Project X Zone 2, Fire Emblem Fates, and the Virtual Console releases of Pokémon Red Version, Pokémon Blue Version, and Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition. More is on the way as well with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE for Wii U on June 24th, Monster Hunter Generations on Nintendo 3DS this summer, and Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past on the Nintendo 3DS later this year.

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 Saturday, November 7th, Xbox Canada is hosting a special event for its next big Xbox One and Xbox 360 release, Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Whether as part of a team of five or all by your lonesome, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in an outdoor adventure race set just north of Toronto. “Sweet” prizes and bragging rights are the prizes granted to the winners, while the losers… I don’t know, maybe they’ll be eaten by a bear or something. (Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure no one will be eaten by a bear.)

If you had the foresight to pre-order Rise of the Tomb Raider (and there’s still just under a week left to do so), then providing proof could allow you to receive some exclusive tools to help you out during the race. Mind, pre-ordering or even a purchase is not required, but it may help. Beyond that, there will be shuttle buses provided, as well as food and drink.

To register for the event, simply click here and enter the information requested by the form. Additional information can be provided by the official FAQ page, as well as following @XboxCanada on Twitter.

Just be sure to register now, if you haven’t already — space is limited.

Rise of the Tomb Raider launches exclusively for Xbox One and Xbox 360 on November 10th, 2015, with a Windows PC version coming in early 2016 and PlayStation 4 in late 2016.

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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Recently, Victor Lucas of Electric Playground took a few minutes to celebrate Canada Day by checking out some upcoming games which hail from the Great White North, including Assassin’s Creed III, Far Cry 3, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, LittleBigPlanet Karting, Star Trek, Watch Dogs, and Sleeping Dogs:

A fine sampling, indeed, though we couldn’t help but notice that Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon by Vancouver’s Next Level Games was absent.

Source: EP Daily