Author: AJ Amideo

I've been gaming pretty much since I was old enough to hold a controller. I've always been a console guy but I've recently kind of shifted over to Steam (though I'm still not giving up the controller). I'm also absolutely obsessed with arcades.

The PlayStation 3: A 12-Year Anniversary Retrospective

Well, it's another 12-year anniversary today and that means it's time once again for a retrospective of one of the great consoles of recent gaming history. This time around we have the distinct pleasure of taking a look back at the somewhat-remarkable run of Sony's PlayStation 3. Though news of its release came with lofty expectations, a series of unfortunate decisions over its lifetime (particularly at the start) did keep it from becoming the console titan it was meant to be. Despite this however, an extremely solid and varied library, along with a couple of strategically competitive moves allowed it to still finish out the generation neck and neck with the competition.

Coming off of the runaway successes that were the PS1 and PS2, it seemed as though Sony could do no wrong. Regrettably for them however, this was not the case. In the years and months leading up to the launch, Sony made a series of blunders that all contributed to a less-than-stellar start. For starters, they let Microsoft beat them to launch with the Xbox 360, a full year before the PlayStation 3 would be released. This gave the 360 plenty of time to carve out a decent foothold in the market and prove itself worthy of gamers hard-earned dollars. In addition, Sony selected the uniquely designed Cell processor for their system, which, while theoretically capable of delivering better graphics than the Xbox's more traditional Xenon processor, didn't really do so in practice. Making matters worse was the fact that the Cell's unorthodox design initially caused many third-party developers to struggle to deliver games that looked even as good as the 360 versions.

As if those two shortcomings weren't bad enough, there were two arguably even bigger issues with Sony's system. At the time Sony announced the PS3 to the world, they were in the midst of a legal dispute over the vibration technology in their controllers. As a result, the PS3 ended up having to launch without it. At that point in time, vibration had already been an industry standard for nearly two generations and was utilized with both the PS1 and PS2. More importantly, the previous year's Xbox 360 had it (and even the upcoming Nintendo Wii was advertising it). Sony was eventually able to settle the dispute and release a vibration controller for their new system, but not until almost a year and a half after the PS3 had already been released.

Finally, the most egregious error Sony made was with the price. Whereas the 360 was competitively priced, the PlayStation 3 was anything but. Questionable design decisions, such as their risky gamble to go with their expensive new (and not yet industry standard at the time) proprietary Blu-ray disc format, as well as the inclusion of additional internal hardware to enable backward compatibility for PlayStation 2 games, drove production costs through the roof. This resulted in a significant price disparity between the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, to the tune of 125 to 200%, depending on which models you were comparing. This means that in some cases Sony was asking for twice as much money as the competition, for a system that, to many gamers, was an arguably inferior offering.

Thankfully, despite these regrettable decisions, Sony was eventually able to turn the system's fortunes around. Shortly before correcting their embarrassing lack of a basic vibration controller, Sony pursued an aggressive (and costly) campaign to ensure that their Blu-ray technology did in fact become the industry standard. Then, starting in 2007, Sony also began selling PS3s with revised hardware configurations (such as the lack of an ability to read PS2 discs) in order to bring costs down. All of these measures together, in addition to the ever-increasing strength of exclusives available for the console, managed to change the PlayStation 3's reputation from a largely unnecessary exercise in extravagance to a genuinely compelling and competitive entertainment machine.

That library, in particular, is what we're here to talk about. And while it was a bit difficult to limit this list to just these 12, it's hard to argue that they're not all fantastic titles. So without further ado, here are 12 of the very best reasons to have owned a PlayStation 3:

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More Games To Play When It’s Halloween

Well, it's nearly that time again - my favorite holiday of my favorite month (in my favorite season). I love this time of year. A few years back I decided to mark the occasion by making a list for you featuring some of my favorite games I play to help get me in the festive spirit. This year, like an undead creature of the night, I have emerged once again to bring you even more. While a lot of these selections are sequels to games on my original list, that shouldn't diminish their value any. On the contrary, I'm sure you will find that some of these games are equally effective at striking the proper tone. So without further ado, allow me to present you with more games to play when it's Halloween:

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Games For Dads: Kirby: Star Allies

Games For Dads is a column featuring new or recent games that I feel are ideal for being played and enjoyed together by parents (dads, in my case) and their kids.

Welcome back to Games For Dads! It's been a few years now, since my first and only entry. At the time I had kind of assumed that the coming years would be rife with great Nintendo titles for me to enjoy with my son. Since then, my wife and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our family (who I look forward to gaming with in the coming years), but I haven't seen nearly as many must-play co-op experiences from Nintendo as I'd expected. There were one or two, to be sure (Yoshi's Woolly World is definitely worth a mention), but between the relatively quiet closing year(s) of the Wii U, and the fairly sparse opening year of the Switch, it's mostly just been titles with pretty lackluster co-op options (if any at all), or Switch ports of stuff I could have covered already on the Wii U (Mario Kart, for instance).

Yoshi aside, (I chose not to cover Mario Kart because my son isn't that big into racing games yet), there's been shockingly little else worth mentioning. Until recently, that is. Last month, Nintendo (and HAL Laboratory) gifted us with what is arguably the best original couch co-op multiplayer game to come to the Switch so far, as well as one of the finest Kirby games ever made.

It should go without saying that Kirby games are always family-friendly. Boys and girls of just about every age seem to adore the little pink puffball. Even with my son having grown a little bit older and more discerning, Kirby: Star Allies was still an instant hit for him. I picked the game up on a Friday and he basically played it for the entire weekend, only stopping to take breaks when he was hungry or his parents asked him to.

More friends means more chaotic fun to be had.
You've Got a Friend In Me

Every new Kirby release in recent years has done a good job of bringing some unique new feature to the table that has helped to differentiate it from past titles. Kirby: Triple Deluxe had a power-up that bestowed Kirby with the ability to inhale extra-large items, including obstacles and sometimes even scenery; Kirby: Planet Robobot introduced various fun little mechs for Kirby to tool around in. Kirby: Star Allies features a mechanic that, though similar to something that had previously been seen in Kirby: Super Star, has been significantly revamped and improved upon here - the ability to create friends.

Unlike the single pal you could have in Super Star, and only by swallowing and then dropping an enemy, in Star Allies you can instantly make multiple friends just by throwing hearts at them. Once hit by a heart, most enemy types will instantly convert into computer-controlled allies (hence the title). What's more, you can have up to three of them at any time.

The "make friends" mechanic is pretty ingenious as it offers a quick and easy way to assemble a fairly varied, super-hero team style crew of helpers to assist you. Additionally, the game offers local same-screen co-op for 2-4 players. That means you can recruit up to three real-life buddies (or family members) to play as any, or all, of your virtual ones. Meta Knight, indeed! While his sister is a bit too young still (and his mom doesn't play many games outside of Tetris and Dr Mario), I can tell you that my son and I had quite a blast playing it together, just the two of us.

Curling stone Kirby!
With Your Powers Combined

In addition to the fantastic four-player friending frenzy, Star Allies also brings back an improved power-combining mechanic similar to the ones found in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Kirby: Squeak Squad. What it allows you to do is combine just about any two powers in the game. So, for instance, crossing parasol with sword creates a splash sword. Beam and bomb gives you zap bombs. What do you get when you cross a staff with fire? A fire staff, naturally! And those are just a small portion of all the possible power pairings; there are literally dozens of others that are discoverable throughout the course of the game.

My son and I were only too happy to try and figure out all the different power combos as we played. One of our favorite discoveries was what happens when you cross stone with ice. A couple months ago, I had just introduced my son to the wonderful world of winter sports, thanks to the detailed television coverage of the PyeongChang Winter Games. So, you can imagine our excitement and surprise at traversing a level in our brand new Kirby game and then suddenly seeing him transform into a familiar-looking slip-sliding (enemy-smashing) curling stone.

Figuring out how to combine (and utilize) all the crazy power combinations is easily half the fun of Star Allies. What's also cool is that the ability to combine powers isn't merely limited to Kirby himself, as even his frienemies can get in on the fun. What this invariably results in is a delightfully chaotic ballet of different characters bounding all over the screen, hurling various elemental powers every which way. Moments like these are a joy to behold and kept my son and I endlessly entertained.

Star Slam Heroes, a mini-game in which Kirby charges up a baseball bat to see how far he can smack an incoming meteor.
Easy On the Eyes

So, even though Kirby: Star Allies does feature awesome AI/person-controlled multiplayer as well as slick new power combination options, it is a touch on the short side. My son was actually able to beat the game (with really not a whole lot of help) after only a few days. But, like past Kirby games, there are a couple of mini-games available from the start, in addition to a couple of extra modes that unlock upon completion of the game. Between these, the fantastic variety on offer in the main game, and also items to find and collect in every level, Star Allies does feature enough content to make it worthwhile.

As the first Kirby game to arrive on Nintendo's current most-powerful system, Star Allies is also pretty nice to look at. While Kirby games aren't typically known for pushing the envelope where graphics are concerned, they are always colorful. And this title does a great job of utilizing the Switch hardware to really make those colors pop. Even my little daughter seemed to be entranced by what she saw on the screen. (And I have a feeling that when she's ready, Star Allies will likely be one of the first games that she takes to.)

The music and stages are a great mix of the new and familiar​. My son played enough Kirby titles over the past couple years to feel right at home with Star Allies. The great thing about the Kirby franchise, one of the key reasons it enjoys such mass appeal and staying power, is that the games are so easy and inviting to pick up and play. Yet, a truly great Kirby game manages to be engaging and fun despite the familiarity and simplicity. That's what you get with Kirby: Star Allies - the perfect blend of old and new that is easy to learn and a whole lot of fun to play. Whether you're a longtime fan of Kirby or you've just been introduced, you're sure to enjoy this one. Kirby: Star Allies is a winner for kids and parents alike.

(This is a repost of an article that also appeared on 12/12 Games.)


[Images: Nintendo]

AJ’s 4 in February: 3rd Time’s the Charm?

Here we go again! It's now the second month of the year, which can mean only one thing: it's time for another round of..."4 IN FEBRUARY!!!" Last year marked my second consecutive year participating in #4iF and it was also my second year of failure. Will this year be different? Who knows? Who cares? For me, it's not so much about the finishing as it is the pure unadulterated fun of participating. So, what's on tap for AJ this year? Let's take a look!

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Review: Dragon Ball FighterZ

In the late summer of 1998, Cartoon Network began airing episodes of an obscure (in the US at the time) nine-year-old anime series called Dragon Ball Z. The show was an immediate hit. In fact, so immense was its popularity, that it nearly single-handedly brought anime (and manga) into the mainstream in America. When I was introduced to the series in the early autumn of '99, I was instantly hooked. Watching DBZ became a daily afternoon ritual with my buddy at the time. And I didn't stop there. Over the next few years I amassed a small collection of Dragon Ball Z paraphernalia including t-shirts, posters, action figures, and even VHS tapes and DVDs.

The first licensed video game to come out following the show's US debut was the Dimps-developed fighting game, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai. After it came to the GameCube in 2003, I pretty much jumped at the chance to try it out. After all, if there ever existed a property just screaming for a truly awesome fighting game adaptation, it was Dragon Ball Z. Sadly, however, Dimps wasn't quite up to the task.

Budokai was a bit of a let down. It didn't really do proper justice to the series. Despite this fact (and the tepid reviews), Dimps was allowed to go right on churning out a slew of lackluster, half-hearted sequels, year after year, for well over a decade. With so many titles that lacked even so much as a hint of additional effort or enthusiasm from Dimps, and no sign of a developer change on the horizon, it seemed like Dragon Ball Z was doomed to an eternity of uninspired shovelware video games.

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AJ’s Picks: The 12 Best Games of 2017

Happy New Year! Wait, is 2017 over already? Well, that was a (bluish) blur! Since another year has come and gone, that means it is time once again for me to share my picks for the top 12 greatest games to come out over the last 12 months. It wasn't an easy job, and it's a safe bet my selections won't resonate with everyone, but I feel pretty happy with them. So without further ado, here are my picks for the 12 best games of 2017.

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The Xbox 360: A 12-Year Anniversary Retrospective

Happy Birthday, Xbox 360! Believe it or not, today marks the 12th anniversary of the launch of the Xbox 360. Despite a somewhat lengthy initial period of supply shortages, followed almost immediately be several years of technical issues (including drives that would occasionally render game discs permanently unplayable, and, especially, the infamous "red ring of death"), the year-long head start the 360 enjoyed over the competition helped it to become arguably the most popular home console of a generation.

Of course, it wasn't the earlier availability alone that made it such a stunning success. Questionable decisions from Sony and Nintendo with their own PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles, in addition to early commitments by Microsoft to bring scores of fantastic games to the 360, made it the obvious choice for enthusiastic gamers around the world. In fact, not only did Microsoft manage to score several popular third-party franchises that had previously only appeared on the competition's hardware, but they also arranged publishing deals which resulted in the creation of brand new and amazing titles you could only experience on the Xbox 360. Speaking of amazing games, we went ahead and included a few examples of those below. So, read on for a look at 12 of the finest reasons to have ever owned an Xbox 360.

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Review: Sonic Mania

In 1994, after years of jealously playing Sega Genesis games at other people's houses (Sonic the Hedgehog, in particular), I finally decided to plunk down the allowance I'd managed to save up and buy the system for myself. I only took two games home with me that day and they were both Sonic titles, Sonic Spinball (a pack-in game that was included with the system) and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Despite the fact that Sonic 2 had already been available for two years by that point, I hadn't actually had the opportunity to play it yet, myself.

When I got home and popped it into my shiny new Genesis, I was mesmerized. Seeing that beautiful Emerald Hill Zone level was just like the first time I had seen the Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1, a few years earlier. Both times, I was blown away. The first Sonic game had turned the gaming world completely upside down, and the second, not only managed to recapture that same magic, but improve on it enough to stand on its own. But while the other great Sonic games from those Genesis days (Sonic 3, Sonic CD, and Sonic & Knuckles) were all more or less equally good, none of those games could really manage to pull off quite that same awe-inspiring first impression.

In the time since those 2-D glory days, many other Sonic games have come to many other consoles. Many have come in 3-D, some in 2, and some have even featured a mix of both; and while certain titles may have been arguably better than others, not one of them has even come close to reaching the lofty heights of the originals. None of them, that is, until now...

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The PlayStation Portable: A 12-Year Anniversary Retrospective

Well, today marks the 12th anniversary of the North American release of the PlayStation Portable. It's kind of hard to believe it's already been 12 years since Sony decided to enter the portable fray. In honor of the 12th anniversary, it only seems fitting to take a look back at the handheld console and talk about twelve of the greatest games to ever appear on it.

The PSP debuted in the US on March 24, 2005. The first real competitor to a Nintendo handheld since Sega's Game Gear (10 years earlier), the PlayStation Portable quickly positioned itself as a sleek and sexy alternative to the clunkier chunkier Nintendo DS. The PSP actually had a lot going for it: better graphics, a superior form factor, millions of ardent Sony fans, and a wealth of great games. It also had a few stumbles which were almost all hardware-related: screen issues on certain models, the decision to use prohibitively expensive proprietary memory cards, not to mention the incredibly unpopular PSP Go.

All in all though, the PSP was a pretty incredible little machine. Did I mention the great games? Let's delve into that further, shall we? Here are 12 shining examples of the best gaming experiences the PlayStation Portable had to offer:

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Getting the Extra Point: 6 Of My Favorite Football Games (USA Edition)

Today is a very special day in the world of sports. It's Super Bowl Sunday! And I, myself, am especially excited. That's because my second favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, are playing today and they have a very good chance of finally winning their first Super Bowl! (Yes, I have two favorite teams. Get over it.)

In all honesty though, being a fan of watching football is a fairly recent thing for me. Growing up, I was never really all that into it. I did enjoy playing it, however. Particularly the video game versions. As a matter of fact, I've been enjoying them in one form or another since the late '80s. Here is a list of 6 of my favorites.

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