Sorry for the delay in posting the usual June E3 news but I (like so many others) was waiting on Sony to get with the program and give the fans at least some idea of what they can expect to get excited about over the next year or two. Well, a year later Covid-19 still wouldn't take a hint and kindly flock off so this year's E3 event still wasn't the typical show everyone is used to. It was back, though, online only and rebranded as the "Electronic Entertainment Experience", but I'll always take some kind of a show over no show at all.
Microsoft and Bethesda got things going with their first E3 press conference as one singular industry titan. Followed shortly after by Nintendo, who did their now-standard E3 Nintendo Direct presentation. Sony, however, decided it was too cool for school, skipped E3 altogether and waited till just this month to hold their own upcoming releases showcase. But now that we've heard from all 3 players, I can finally round up the highlights for you.
It's so nice to be out of 2020. Between the pandemic and a multitude of various other reasons, it was surely a year most people would sooner forget. But that being said, 2020 wasn't actually a total loss. Despite several titles having to see their release dates pushed back due to the challenges of working through social distancing and quarantines, it was overall a pretty fantastic year for video games. Don't believe me? Well, just read on and see for yourself as I recap 12 of the very brightest spots in an otherwise pretty dark year.
For over 10 years prior to the launch of their N64 system, Nintendo sat fairly comfortably as the top dog in the video game console market. That all began to change by the mid-90s, however. Following Sega and Sony's (then) next-gen console face-off throughout much of 1995, Nintendo somewhat controversially opted to wait until the following year to release their own competing hardware. One of the main reasons for this decision was so that they could allow enough time for a sufficient pipeline of software titles to be ready to support the console (and not wind up in the same embarrassing predicament Sega had with their premature launch of the Saturn). While the delay did likely hurt them a bit with regard to potential sales lost, it also ensured that the N64 would make a strong impact when it did finally arrive (the lack of which for the Saturn no doubt contributed to that console's early demise).
While the official US launch date for the Nintendo 64 was intended to be Sunday, September 29th, 1996, as advertised, the vast majority of retailers broke that release date and began selling them before the start of the weekend. Following its successful launch, the Nintendo 64 achieved modest success throughout its life. The decision to stick with cartridges in the age of the compact disc, along with a slight lack of third-party support, would cause Nintendo's system to be pretty handily outsold by Sony's PlayStation console. However, the Saturn's early departure from the field, combined with an absolute wealth of outstanding first and second-party titles, still solidified the Nintendo 64 as both an unquestionable success for Nintendo, as well as an object of great affection for Nintendo fans, and gamers, everywhere.
With the end of 2019, the 2010s also finally came to a close. And now that I've looked back on all the great games of 2019, it's time to take a look back at the decade as a whole and talk about the titles that really stood out as the very best of the best. It may have been a long 10 years, with lots of changes in the gaming world, but it was chock full of gaming experiences that were absolutely second to none. While it may have pained me to narrow so many fantastic games down to only a dozen, I have done exactly that, just for you. Here are my picks for the 12 best games of the 2010s:
Happy 2020! It's a new year once again (and a new decade as well), and that means it's time for another round-up of the best games from the previous 12 months. 2019 was another amazing 365 days of great games to play. So many great games, in fact, that narrowing down my choices to merely a select 12 proved particularly difficult this time around. In the end though, I was able to get it done, and now feel sufficiently confident in my selections. I hope you will too. So without further ado, I humbly present, my picks for the 12 best games of 2019.
Well, the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo wrapped up a few days ago and it was definitely a memorable one for quite a few reasons. There was plenty of exciting news from the world of video games, as well as the typical head-scratcher or two. As with most E3s, there were far too many games shown and announcements made to possibly be able to cover everything in a single post, so I went ahead and condensed it down to a more easily digestible dozen for you. So without further ado, here are the top 12 highlights I have selected that were either unveiled or reconfirmed at the event.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Game Changers is a semi-regular column featuring games which have had a significant impact on me over the years. Games that were so incredibly stunning and awe-inspiring, they changed my conception of what a game could be at the time. Previously, I have written about Out Run, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Red Dead Redemption.
When the first-person shooters first rose to prominence, they were almost entirely non-existent anywhere besides the PC. Console controllers at the time simply weren't equipped to handle movement and aiming together in any kind of intuitive way. That all changed with Rare's 1997 smash hit, GoldenEye 007.
Rare made expert use of the uniquely designed Nintendo 64 controller when implementing the control scheme for the game. They utilized the brand new controller features like the analog joystiq, yellow C buttons, and gun-like Z trigger for more natural-feeling movement and shooting than had been possible before. The brilliance of their control scheme was that it worked so well with Nintendo's oddball controller. A device design that had previously left many fans scratching their heads suddenly made (some) sense. It seemed almost as if Nintendo had designed the controller for GoldenEye, and not the other way around. What's more is that for the first time, a game developer had successfully created an acceptable way to enjoy the wildly popular first-person shooter genre on a home game console.
While the first-person shooter control scheme may not have ultimately achieved perfection until 2001's Halo on the original Xbox, GoldenEye represented an absolutely crucial stepping stone along the path; basically, the only real stepping stone. The game opened up the world of first-person shooters to millions of people who only liked to play games on their television sets. The genius of this timeless classic cannot be overstated and the controls are only but one of the numerous reasons why.
It happens every year. Every year, without fail, at around this time, "real" news [and I use the word in inverted commas, because really - game releases and hints at game releases aren't really "news" at all. They're - at best - terrible product placement] drops right off the radar.
Why? Because some PR drone way up on high has decided that nothing can leak out prior to E3. And that results in what fans generally call "lots of slow news days." While that's a problem, E3 - and shows like it - have a far bigger issue that I want to tackle.
Please note: This article is LITTERED with links. They will open in a new window and will take you off-site.
Now that four-in-February is behind us, I thought I'd take some time to look into games that I'm at least a little curious about for the calendar year of 2016. I have divided my choices into three broad sections:
Things that will almost definitely be with us in the near-future or before the end of 2016.
Things that might make it into 2016, but you never know.
And, finally, things that I'm totally worried about. Sometimes with good reason.
So, let's take a look and see, shall we? Read more