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Friday, October 31, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Warning: In case you haven’t seen it, this trailer contains some f**ked up s**t.

It wasn’t long after the shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 young students and six faculty members were gunned down that I had come across School Shooter. Caught up in the outrage following the tragic mass shooting, School Shooter upset me. Why would anyone swing for the lowest common denominator that even the likes of Postal didn’t stoop to? Why would anyone design a system of actions and rewards that revolves around killing fleeing innocents in a school setting? I was swift to believe that such subject matter was completely off limits in the realm of video games.Read more.


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

On paper, Horde Mode and Titanfall fit together just as well as peanut butter and pickles (assuming you don’t like peanut butter and pickles). Picture this: Four jetpack boosting, wall-running players defend a harvester beacon against waves of minions and Titans attempting to destroy it. Players are only equipped with static (yet swappable) loadouts, Titans, and the occasional awarded sentry turret.

This format is far flung from the hunkered down, fortress building design that we’ve seen the co-op game-type take shape of from building barricades and setting traps in Gears 3, to ordering missile strikes and AC 130s in Call of Duty’s Survival Mode. Ostensibly speaking, Titanfall’s mechanics of stylish mobility doesn’t quite lend itself to defensive strategies as it does to assault and infiltration. However Respawn knows this; Frontier Defense (by way of Update 8) very much plays to the game’s strengths with “the best defense is a good offense” philosophy. Read more.


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Friday, October 24, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

I’d have to say that Nintendo’s Direct for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is easily one of their best efforts at addressing fans… directly. With one of their strongest franchises shepherding one of their biggest fanbases, Nintendo’s much more comfortable being quirky and creative, and rightfully so. What they’ve had to announce in yesterday’s Direct was overwhelming and exciting.

After some of the more obvious improvements in resolution and improved fidelity, Nintendo dropped the massive surprise of supporting up to 8 players at once in some of the game’s larger exclusive stages. Such a feat has merely been dreamed of before from the likes of kids on a school yard or drunken games of Smash, but Nintendo took the dive and made it a reality.

It’s a real bummer that it’s limited to local play, only reserving such chaos for those who can manage to fit 8 people in their living room (let alone gathering that many people together in the first place). I question the decision as perhaps a way to avoid online connection problems, as between Brawl and the recent 3DS game, Smash has never had a respectably successful network performance. Nonetheless, it feels like Destiny’s Vault of Glass, I just can’t manage to get that many people to agree in playing all at once.

New stages take center stage of the first portion of the Direct starting with “Danger Zones”. “Danger Zones” (or patches of lava) are sections of the stage that cause damage which you’ll find within the labyrinthine level design. More than the obvious damage infliction, Danger Zones will cause instant KOs if fighters touch them after reaching 100% damage. It’s a brilliant inclusion to solve the problem of fighters ricocheting (like many have in the underbelly of Hyrule Temple) while taking up to 400%+ damage without dying.

 I’m not sure how I feel about Jungle Hijinks though. It’s an interesting concept of taking one of the characteristics of Donkey Kong Country (where you barrel cannon into the background), and continue the fight there while players can carry on their battle up front. I can already predict issues of line-of-sight with the foreground battles getting away with what’s happening in the back. Though once again, to counter balance potential abuse of the complex design, players will be punished for constantly barreling back and forth which is signified by a temporary shroud of flames (doesn’t really look like flames) that will cause barrels to explode if they’re still active.

 Along with structural and balancing design, stages for Smash Wii U will get some aesthetical fan service as well. The Miiverse stage is inspired to the console’s social hub where players can sketch their own art and have them appear in the game. They didn’t go into great detail as to how exactly it’ll work, but it’s great fan services for the spontaneous phenomenon nonetheless. We’re also introduced to Palutena’s Guidance. In the Palutena’s Temple stage, players can hit down on the D-Pad to activate commentary and banter between Kid Icarus characters such as the Pit, the aforementioned Palutena, and more. I find this relatively annoying honestly, since the characters in Kid Icarus for the 3DS just couldn’t shut the fuck up.

Though Star Fox banter is totally acceptable.

Gaur Plain and a new Metroid level called Pyro Sphere feature event enemies that are exclusive to their stages. While we have Metal Face (I’m assuming he’s from Xenoblade; never played that game) who looks to be just a bastard, Ridley makes an appearance on Pyro Sphere and can actually join the fight like an elaborate assist trophy after receiving enough damage by a player. Ridley is susceptible to damage however (Metal Face is too by the way), making him more of an extra AI combatant rather than an annoying invincible nuisance. I’ve finally grown tired of things interrupting my Smash games, so I hope there’s an option to turn it off.


I’ll make this declaration out front, the SSB series has arguably the best soundtrack out of Nintendo’s franchises. Sure you have some classics from Zelda and Mario (particularly Galaxy), but the wide selection of music found in SSB can exist as a separate piece of merchandise on its own (as the announcer said, such a soundtrack could cost more than the game itself – available for Nintendo Club members). Smash for Wii U wears its music selection on its sleeve, allowing you to tinker with music options on the menus screen, matches themselves, and collect songs as well just like in the Brawl version. I’m surprised I don’t see more games using a song collecting feature (kudos to Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag).

Along with changes to Classic, All-Star, and the addition of Event mode, Smash Tour takes the concept of Smash Run, and dresses it like Mario Party. Admittedly, I’m still not entirely sure what Smash Tour is, but from what I understand of it, players will move their Miis across a board collecting power-ups, fighters, and other items. Once players meet, they engage in “battle” that can result in one player stealing fighters from the other. I quote “battle” because it doesn’t seem as if an actual fight ensues once players run into one another, and that players won’t throw down until the “final showdown”.  I was expecting more fights in-between, but I’m hoping Smash Run is as good a board game as core Smash is a fantastic multiplayer brawler.

I’ve already written about how I wish that Smash for Wii U would bring custom fighters to online matchmaking, unlike what was found in the 3DS version. That decision would determine my investment in Special Orders Mode. Special Orders – Master Orders & Crazy Orders – are the two modes that were teased on Miiverse a few weeks back which grant players prizes depending on how long the player lasts, creating a game-show-style test of endurance. I care less about the mode itself than I do about the insane amount of custom parts you can earn for your fighters. But all of this is moot if I can’t use them online in a game where I don’t know many players that have Wii Us who I can play with.

Since Melee, SSB has functioned as a Nintendo museum with its trophies by introducing many franchises to players, especially here in the west. I know I’m not the only one who found out about Earthbound and Fire Emblem collecting their trophies in Melee. Smash for Wii U is blowing up its trophy feature with different modes of display from galleries to trophy boxes and filling it with even more of the collectibles, turning it into a Nintendo (Capcom, Sega, and Bandi Namco as well) encyclopedia.

And while I’ve grown out of the compulsion of collecting trophies to catch up on my gaming history, Masterpieces looks to be one of the best history lessons in retro gaming. Though I’m 25, my gaming experience was very limited up until the Gamcube era. Masterpieces will give me a chance to get my hands on Punch-Out!, Balloon Fight, Megaman 2, Metroid, and hopefully much, much more.

We knew that the 3DS only had a fraction of the online features that we’d see in the Wii U version, and the Direct didn’t disappoint. Tournaments are back just as everyone predicted, but tourneys offer players a chance to organize their own conditions Mario Kart 8 style. I’m wondering if online rankings will incorporate a point system that scores a player’s performance, making easier to identify whose a badass and who’s still learning. And while voice chat is hamstringed by “potential connection interruptions”, Smash for Wii U does its damnest to establish a community with Miiverse like sketching tools for Smash photos and customs stages making a return from Brawl.

There is just too much content to talk about all at once discussing what will be included on release and in the future for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The development collaboration on this project has turned it into something of a love letter to Smash and Nintendo fans, along with what looks to be the most robust multiplayer game to ever come out of Nintendo. Smash for Wii U appears to be more of a platform rather than a game itself with tons of custom and/or community options and inevitable additions yet to come. People have stated that they believe that the 3DS was the lead platform of SSB. Perhaps that may be true in sales, however the Wii U version seems to be the definitive version. Full stop. 

By Jamaal Ryan

My Galaxy Note 3 is huge.

In fact, it’s so damn big that it fully eclipses my 3DS XL, and I’m afraid that if I remove it from my holster, a cop might mistake it for a gun.

I carry my phablet with pride despite its bulkiness. However with the recent launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, I’m facing less ridicule for the size of my phone (because you know, tech trends don’t become cool until Apple says so). Samsung wasn’t too far behind Apple with their Galaxy Note 4 released last Friday, which is getting stellar reviews from multiple outlets including this one. But what hasn’t been talked about as much is the device’s capabilities as a gaming platform that go above and beyond your average smartphone. Read more.
By Jamaal Ryan

Earlier this week on Miiverse, Super Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakuri teased two new game modes that will be exclusive to the title's Wii U version. Yesterday on Famitsu, Sakuri stated that he’s “not done yet” on the development of SSB Wii U, adding that created characters that were made on the 3DS can be transferred over to Nintendo’s home console. With the effort in bringing over custom fighters from 3DS to Wii U, could we finally be able to use our augmented roster in online matchmaking? Read more.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan
I’m not sure when I unconsciously abandoned the Super Smash Bros. franchise. It was either when I eventually hung my Nintendo fan-boy hat in search for gaming experiences on other platforms, or when Brawl sacrificed speed and control by tying weights around the fighters’ ankles that made them slow and occasionally trip. Either way, it’s been a long time since I’ve last taken SSB seriously.
This 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. has the potential to reel me back in. It’s mechanically similar to Melee and what those wizards accomplished with Project M, and Smashing on the go is much easier than going through the hassle of hooking up my Gamecube. However it doesn’t satiate my competitive nature as much as I’d assume a proper console release would. Read more.


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Friday, October 10, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

So check this shit out:

Talk about poor PR training.

I’m not gonna get into the preachy “Women should get paid equally” speech because, well… no shit they should. That’s a given. The archaic justification that women should get paid less because “They have to take care of their children” is about 70 years outdated.

Granted, this was in response to a specific question about women’s raises at a women’s conference, but that’s not an excuse for the tone-deaf language specifying that women shouldn’t ask for a bump in salary.

Before I ridicule the whole notion of “karma” within the context of his response, I do want to establish an understanding that the idea of karma could mean something totally different to Nadella than how we perceive it here in the west. Karma is treated with a level of tangibility in Indian cultures, particularly in the Hindu religion. My mother is a Buddhist (we’re Trinidadian, not Indian in case you’re asking), and the balance between “Good Karma & Bad Karma” is revered with the utmost importance. So I’m reluctant to be insensitive and claim, “Karma is bullshit”.

Having said that, I still think that his answer is ridiculous.

Though the question was fishing for his advice to women in the work force, Nadella, as the CEO of one of the biggest tech companies on the planet, should take ownership and responsibility of the gender pay gap, not leave it up to “karma”. This was his chance to encourage women to ask for deserved salary raises while establishing Microsoft’s full support matching their dollar to their male counter parts. He may have double backed on his statements, but I’m afraid that the 29% of women that work under the tech giant may get a bit thinner.

And rightfully so.

Image courtesy of The Telegraph 

By Jamaal Ryan

Even in vanilla Crucible, Destiny’s competitive multiplayer has balancing issues. From one shot melee attacks, to tracking grenades, to overpowered weapon performances (with shotguns, fusion rifles, steady auto rifles, and exotic weapons), to acquired abilities, many deaths feel cheap in this off-kilter yet mechanically sound multiplayer.

While some of these issues exist in the standard, stat-flattening Crucible modes, Bungie has claimed to deliberately shift the tides in favor for heavily invested players in Destiny’s Iron Banner event where armor and weapons with higher attack and defense numbers actually matter.

However the problem is, they actually don’t.

Shortly after the Iron Banner went live, players started flooding complaints in claiming that they, as high level players, were getting stomped by lower level guardians; a strange turn of events in a game where facing up against enemies 20 levels above you would be instantly fatal.

YouTuber OohaPieceaCandy lent some validity to these claims, recording Xbox One footage of his level 4 Warlock mopping the floor with level 25+ players.

Pretty obvious right? However some disagreed with Candy’s footage, claiming that his team members heavily influenced his performance. So for my own piece of mind, I decided to test out the Iron Banner myself.

After rummaging through the obligatory first mission coming out at only level 2, I dived straight into Iron Banner. Now don’t expect me to weave a story about how I crushed the opposing team, I didn’t. However with no heavy weapon, no double jump ability, no special melee, and no Super, I came out with 9 kills averaging a .82 K/D ratio. Those 9 kills were earned by both double teaming enemy players and taking out opponents on my own from full shields to 0 with that crappy auto rifle you first pick up. Judging by my performance, I'm almost certain that if I leveled up just enough to unlock all the aforementioned weapons and abilities, I would be just as competitive as if I were playing with my level 26 Hunter.

This doesn’t upset me, as I’ve largely walked away from Destiny altogether. Even the idea of the Iron Banner itself did nothing to reinvigorate my interest in the game because wielding a level advantage defies the very meaning of “competitive multiplayer” to me. But nonetheless, I can still fully empathize with players’ frustrations about the Iron Banner that were looking for an opportunity to show off their gear against one another.

This isn’t the first time Destiny has disappointed with event based add-on content. The Queen’s Wrath was a half-step in the right direction. With three updates to the game thus far, and only the Vault of Glass offering a fully enjoyable experience, I fear for Destiny’s near future and its ability to give players like me a reason to return.   

Image courtesy of GameZone.

By Jamaal Ryan

I was going to write about how un-phased I am about Nintendo confirming not making the Gamecube controller compatible with other Wii U games. But as I took out my dusty, crusty colorful game pad that I have fond memories of since middle school, I just realized… I really love the Gamecube controller. Sure the C-Stick is garbage, the controller itself requires a wire, and it has fewer inputs than modern day pads, but I still love the Gamecube controller.

Even as I’ve aged, the Gamecube controller fits my hands swimmingly compared to most game pads, especially when comparing it to Wii U’s other pro’ish alternative. The Wii U’s pro controller is much wider, and its analog stick placement feels incredibly awkward sitting on top of the face buttons on the right side instead of under them like nearly every other controller ever designed.

Like the rational for the nub’s lack of movement on the New 3DS, I have no issue using a controller that’s not properly formatted for shooters, which in this case, would be the Gamecube controller. The Z button is the only shoulder button, the analog sticks have octagonal movement as opposed to perfectly circular, they don’t click, and the triggers are borderline useless. But shooters are less likely to show up on Nintendo’s handheld (though I would love to see the return of Renegade Kid’s Moon), and with the hopeful exception of Splatoon, shooters are becoming less and less popular on the Wii U with major franchises like Call of Duty looking to bow out, at least for the time being.

That said, I think that the Gamecube controller is a superior controller to the Wii U Pro for almost every other genre. The key here is the placement and arrangement of the A, B, X & Y buttons. Jockish critics ridicule the Gamecube controller for its asymmetrical design. Little do they realize that it’s purposeful and brilliant. Every game has a main action button, which is what the large A button represented. The locations of X and Y border the northeastern quarters of the controller to allow your thumb to roll of A, allowing you to hit three buttons without having to lift your finger off of the controller (at least that’s true for folks with hands similar to mine). Try doing that with today’s diamond pattern. It’s not as easy. That only leaves B which is a simple sliding thumb away. Think of action/adventure games that use a main attack button, fighting games that require button combinations, and platformers where all you do is jump.

It’s a real bummer that the Gamecube controller is, indeed, not compatible with other Wii U titles. Thankfully, its sole existence on Wii U – at least for the time being – is used to make old Smash players feel at home. 

Image courtesy of Wired


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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

My thumbs hurt. They really fucking hurt.

After playing several hour sessions of Smash for the 3DS, and walking away with cramps in my palms and sharp pain shooting up and down my thumbs, I’ve thought about setting up a big ole bowl of warm water and Epsom Salt for some post Smashing recovery. That said, I’m not convinced that the 3DS is an appropriate platform for SSB.

And it’s not just pain that makes me believe so. Read more.


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Friday, October 3, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Watch this anyway.

I can't muster the interest in playing a game like Minecraft because I prefer playing something more than creating something. And as for Doctor Who, well... I just can't care.

But this? This is...


By Jamaal Ryan

I want to get ahead of this discussion because I can see it coming.

Today, Ubisoft revealed a trailer lavishly showing off its variety of weapons in their upcoming shooter, Far Cry 4. It shows an impressive array of sizzling auto rifles, punchy explosives, cringe-worthy crossbows, and weaponized wildlife. It certainly looks to be the follow up we both wanted and expected to Far Cry 3. Also in the video, we’re introduced to who is presumed to be your go-to weapons dealer, an assumed African native that’s seems to be infatuated with firearms. This, I can see, can cause some stirs.

Far Cry 3’s criticisms entered around the upswing of the advocacy of social representation, calling for more gender, racial, and sexual orientation diversity. The game’s vacationing-gone-wrong narrative was, if nothing else, sophomoric in its execution and grandiose in its vision, thus creating some unsettling interpretations of the depiction of our protagonist’s interactions with the island’s natives. That stench lingered for quite some time. And while ignored, a simple cover art for its sequel, Far Cry 4, was enough to re-ignite the uproar, offering a platform for new accusations of colonial racism. While I very much understood where this was coming from, I attempted to rationalize the debate by looking at the game’s – then – rumored lead character, the depiction of Pagan Min, and the creative minds behind Far Cry 4.

The flames have largely been doused, with the background of Pagan Min revealed, and the intentions of the script writers themselves. However after today, we may see this discussion again.

The terms “race” and “Far Cry” are well acquainted, and not in a good way unfortunately. Because of this, I couldn’t help but pay more attention to the weapons’ dealer’s accent than I did to the gameplay footage itself. This could be easily justified as an expected circumstance of being set in the Himalayan region, not too far from Africa.

“But what about a Black guy selling you guns?”

Yes. That certainly could generate suspicion as well, since Black characters in video games, from FF VII’s Barret to FF XIII’s Sazh (and almost everything in between), have often been associated with guns. The illustration reinforces the stereotype that is heavily influenced by America’s gang culture, and draws the assumption that Blacks are predisposed to violence; particularly gun violence. Here, we very well see a Black man who is enjoying the business of arms dealing.

By and large, it’s a simple 2-and-a-half minute video, whose purpose is to solely show off the ballistic action that emerges from Far Cry 4’s many, many guns. And regardless where you stand, it looks like a hell of a lot of fun.

But for some, this video game be a sliver of foreshadowing, an irritant for the sore spot that is Far Cry’s controversial past. However as I’ve emphasized before, hold your convictions until November 18th.

Image courtesy of Lightning Gaming News 


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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

PAC-MAN and Ms. PAC-MAN are relevant again! At least they’re gonna be more relevant in the month of October than they have been in quite some time. We’re all already clamoring to play as PAC-MAN and almost 50 other characters in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, and see where he stacks up against the other line up of newly added characters to Nintendo’s brawler. And while PAC-MAN will be fighting Nintendo and other popular Japanese characters, Bandi Namco is also using Ms. PAC-MAN in the fight against breast cancer in Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Together with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, BN has launched their Ms. PAC-MAN Pink Ribbon Campaign. The campaign will add an additional maze to PAC-MAN and Ms. PAC-MAN titles on both iOS and Android devices for $.99, in which all proceeds will then go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Ben Acevedo, Senior Producer at BANDAI NAMCO Games America Inc. states, “Breast cancer has directly affected my immediate family and it’s a fantastic opportunity for gamers and the industry to get involved. While the mazes we are offering in October are fun, the real challenge is to raise awareness and get players, producers, artists, and programmers across the mobile industry to join us and Join the Pac.”

On Android, you can pick up:
  • -          Ms. PAC-MAN for $3.99
  • -          PAC-MAN + Tournaments for Free

On iOS, you can pick up
  • -          PAC-MAN/Ms. PAC-MAN for $3.99
  • -          PAC-MAN Lite/Ms. PAC-MAN Lite for Free
  • -          PAC-MAN/Ms. PAC-MAN for iPad for $5.99

You can identify each titles that support the promotion by the pink breast cancer theme. 

Image courtesy of Gamer Headlines