One of the classic game for the old NES returns as Kid Icarus soars again in Nintendo’s latest game for the 3DS, Kid Icarus Uprising. In addition, I have a review of Konami’s new hack ‘n slash game Blades of Time. In our news this week, we’re hearing some troubling news about gaming stalwart Sega who is cutting both games and employees.
IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK
Sega cuts games and staff
Things are looking none too good at the house of Sonic. Sega has slashed its financial forecast for the current fiscal year, announced plans to cut its staff in the U.S. and Europe and canceled an unknown number of games. Sega said it expects to report a 7.1 billion yen (approximately $85 million) loss for the fiscal year, which ends on March 31. Calling the current economic climate "challenging" and noting its expected loss was "extraordinary," the company said it plans to move more into the digital content development space.
The company did not release details on just how many employees would lose their jobs or what games would be canceled. It appears they plans to focus less on boxed software and more on downloadable titles on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network as well as the mobile space, where it has seen some success in the past year.
Ubisoft Announces Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Commander for Facebook
Ubisoft announced that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Commander, a fast-paced tactical combat game, is currently in development for Facebook and is scheduled to be available this spring. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Commander is being developed by Loot Drop, co-founded by famed, award-winning game designers and developers John Romero and Brenda Garno Brathwaite. Brathwaite, who also serves as the game’s lead designer, has created a Facebook game with high production values and deep gameplay that hard-core gamers have come to expect from console games. While the Ghost Recon franchise is rooted in hard-core gaming, Ghost Recon Commander will be approachable and fun for all types of Facebook gamers, including both hardcore and social game players. Loot Drop is also developing the game for mobile platforms.
In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Commander, players will be able to develop their own “Ghost,” an elite Special Forces operator utilizing stealth, firepower and exciting near-future technology to take command of the battlefield against impossible odds. Following Ubisoft’s companion gaming strategy, players are encouraged to play the game before jumping into Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier™, which will be available on consoles May 22 and Ghost Recon Online, available later this year on PC. By playing Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Commander, players will be able to unlock exclusive items and bonuses giving them a head start when playing Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Ghost Recon Online.
First gameplay trailer for Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
The successor to the highest-rated Transformers game of all time and in development by the acclaimed team at High Moon Studios, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron allows players to experience the darkest hours of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons as they vie for control of their dying home world. Fans will fight through both sides of the Transformers' most epic battles that culminate in their legendary exodus from Cybertron. With the stakes higher and scale bigger than ever, fans will embark on an action-packed journey through massive, war-torn environments designed around each character's unique abilities and alternate forms, including Grimlock’s nearly indestructible T-Rex form and the legendary Combaticons combining into the colossal Bruticus. Taking the franchise's competitive multiplayer to all-new heights, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron lets fans go head-to-head in blistering Autobot vs. Decepticon matches after creating their own unique characters with the most in-depth, advanced customization ever before seen in a Transformers game. Check out the trailer:
Assassin’s Creed III breaks pre-order Record
After only three weeks of the game being available for pre-order in North America, Assassin’s Creed III has made history for Ubisoft in North America with reserves for the title being higher than any previous Assassin’s Creed game in the same time period. Assassin’s Creed III has more than 10 times the U.S. pre-order total that Assassin’s Creed Revelations had in the same time period, and the game has already reached Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s life-to-date U.S. pre-order total. Assassin’s Creed III is on track to match the life-to-date U.S. pre-order figures for Ubisoft’s previously most pre-ordered game, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, by E3 in June.
“On October 30th players will experience the biggest game launch in Ubisoft’s history with the highly anticipated release of Assassins Creed III,” said Tony Key, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Ubisoft. “With a development cycle of three years, Assassins Creed III is the true next-generation experience of the Assassins Creed brand. The production value of the game, combined with the biggest marketing commitment we’ve ever made, will make Assassins Creed III the highest-selling Assassin’s Creed game ever. Additionally, the new setting and hero makes this the perfect time to jump into the series for anyone that has not previously played an Assassin’s Creed game.”
Assassin’s Creed III, the fifth installment of the acclaimed series, will be available on the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, the Wii U and Windows PC.
New details on Men in Black game
In anticipation of the release of the motion picture Men in Black 3, in 3D in theaters May 25, 2012, Activision announced that the videogame Men In Black: Alien Crisis will hit shelves in North America on May 22 for the PlayStation 3 system with PlayStation®Move support, Xbox 360, and the Wii. To maximize ultimate agent gameplay, all versions of the game are compatible with the Top Shot Elite peripheral, the PlayStation 3 version is also compatible with the PlayStation Move sharp shooter and the Wii version with the Wii Zapper.
In Men In Black: Alien Crisis, players take on the role as Peter Delacoeur, a MIB Agent in training, assigned to unearth enemy aliens who are planning to destroy planet Earth. With hidden surveillance and stealthy guards on the prowl, players must ambush confidential alien intelligence and stop all alien attacks. Men In Black: Alien Crisis brings exciting, realistic MIB Agent movements as players shoot, and dodge their way through action-packed levels to escape fierce alien assaults. Additionally, all platforms feature two-player split-screen gameplay and four-person “hot-seat” competitive action for awesome friends and family involvement.
To create a completely authentic Men in Black world and tone, Activision aligned with Jeff Gomez and Mark S. Pensavalle’s Starlight Runner Entertainment, Inc. to create the story and script of the upcoming videogame. Starlight Runner, a leading creator and producer of highly successful transmedia franchises, was selected by Sony Pictures to work in concert with the filmmakers to provide a single voice to the Men in Black universe with the upcoming film and related properties.
Men In Black: Alien Crisis will be available May 22.
Disney Epic Mickey Paints Its Way To The Nintendo 3DS
Disney Interactive Media Group announced the development of “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion,” the first Nintendo 3DS title in the “Disney Epic Mickey” franchise. The title features an interactive combination of painting, dual screen integration and 3D transformation capabilities designed to give players the unique ability to create objects and even characters they can place in the world of Wasteland.
In “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion,” Reality is What You Paint of It. The game offers a special drawing and painting function that allows players to create rough versions of objects that magically transform into classic Disney-style 2D illustrations. Utilizing the game’s unparalleled dual screen integration, players then move their creations to the top screen where they are further transformed into full-color, fully-rendered 3D visuals.
Paying tribute to the classic Sega Genesis title “Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse,” “Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion” focuses on the fabled Castle of Illusion, which has fallen into Wasteland, an alternate world filled with 80 years of forgotten Disney characters and theme park attractions – and now forgotten video games. The evil witch Mizrabel, villainess from the classic “ Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse ,” finds herself an unwilling inhabitant of Wasteland, and unleashes a plot to escape using the Castle of Illusion to imprison and drain the cartoon essence from currently famous Toons. Players will take on the role of Mickey Mouse as he utilizes his magical brush to wield paint and thinner to confront Mizrabel and save the Toons.
The game is slated for a fall 2012 release.
DUE OUT NEXT WEEK
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir (Nintendo) Rated T 3DS
A visceral 3D horror tale unfolds before your eyes: The Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir game invites players to experience supernatural thrills they won't soon forget, using the built-in camera functions and augmented-reality features of the Nintendo 3DS system. The game's mysterious storyline involves a girl named Maya who has been hiding in the darkness of an old house, cursed by a malevolent woman in black. To free Maya from the curse, players must use the "diary of faces" - a 16-page AR notebook included with the game - to view ghostly images and interact with the world Maya is trapped in. The Nintendo 3DS system becomes the Camera Obscura in players' hands and is capable of revealing the supernatural and dispelling evil spirits. The lines between reality and fiction blur in this chilling horror adventure.
Phantom Breaker Special Edition (7-Sixty) Rated T Xbox 360
A mysterious man named Phantom grants a select few the ability to use special powers in his own tournament of duelists. Duels take place in the shadows of Tokyo as combatants fight for a chance to have their wish granted, but does Phantom really have the power to grant a wish to the tournament's winner? Does the promise of a wish only serve to mask his true motives? Fight your way through the tournament and uncover Phantom's secrets along the way. Phantom Breaker features a cast of 14 characters, each armed with their own unique weapons and abilities. Uncover the secrets behind Phantom and his duels through 11 unique story modes told through the eyes of 11 different duelists. Hone your skills in training mode, challenge your friends with local multiplayer or take the fight online and duel players from around the world on Xbox LIVE.
Kid Icarus Uprising (Nintnedo) 3DS
Back when the NES first came out in the 1980s there were a handful of games that were absolute must haves…Super Mario Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda, Mike Tyson’s Punch-out, Metroid, and Kid Icarus. Now some 25 years later (and 20 years after the last game in the series) Kid Icarus rises again in Kid Icarus Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. Once again you take control of the Angelic hero, Pit, as he battles against the evil forces of Medusa who wants to destroy mankind.
Let’s not kid ourselves; this is an important game to Nintendo. More than any other console maker, Nintendo thrives on its core characters like Zelsa, Mario Bros., Metroid, and Donkey Kong and Kid Icarus had to be a good game to take its place among those Nintendo stalwarts, and while its not a perfect game, it certainly succeeds in just about every area. Developed by Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai and his Project Sora team, Kid Icarus Uprising is a game that combines standard shooter play, rail shooter parts in the air and third-person platforming action when it's on the ground. Now this might seem like it might make for a jumbled mess of styles but it all blends together smoothly.
Based on Greek Mythology, albeit a lite-version of the myths, Kid Icarus is both whimsical yet exciting. The game delivers equal amounts of action and laughs throughout, and witty banter abounds in the games fantastic voice dialog. The characters often break down the so-called 4th barrier and freely admit that they are in a game. Pit has no wings of his own so relies on gaining his flying ability from Palutena, the Goddess of Light.
The sections in the air are your rail shooting sections where Pit’s forward movement is controlled by the game leaving you to dodge enemy attacks and take aim with his weapons. These sections almost feel like an old style sci-fi game like Galaga or Defender where you shoot and dodge and dodge and shoot. These sections are just fantastic and feature breathtaking level design. Since you’re utilizing the circle pad and stylus, the game comes packed with a plastic stand to mount your 3DS. Admittedly using the stand isn’t going to be comfortable for every player so Nintendo has included a liberal number of options for customizing the control scheme to fit any player’s needs.
The ground sections are mainly platform play and also give you greater control over Pit. Pit will utilize both missile and melee weapons as he tackles a huge array of enemies that have their unique strengths and weaknesses. There are even parts where you have Pit climb into various vehicles including a mech which sticks out like a sore thumb in this setting but is a lot of fun. The platforming sections can be a little less forgiving than the aerial sections as some narrow walkways and tough jumps can leave you falling to your death. There are nine weapon classes, each featuring a variety of weapons. Cannons feature slow but powerful long-ranged shots, while clubs let you deflect shots back at your opponents. Other types range from blades and staffs to claws and bows. Each weapon has its own stats and there’s a ton of customizing that you can do as well with the fusion system. Weapons can be fused together to create new, more powerful weapons. With the aid of a simple grid, you can view the results of possible weapon fusions and decide which weapons to fuse to create something new.
The single-player campaign can take 10 – 12 hours to complete and then you can try your hand at multi-player. The versus mode is playable either online or locally, and allows you to take your hard-earned weapons and powers into battle, either in teams or in a free-for-all. Free-for-all features up to six players going head-to-head trying to kill one another in deathmatch style play. There’s also a Light Vs. Dark team mode. Here, teams kill each other until one team's life gauge is used up at which point the player who died last transforms into an angel. Now you have to protect your angel trying to deplete the other team's life gauge. Light Vs. Dark features a number of different options to change up the gameplay.
Kid Icarus is a gorgeous game loaded with charm, humor, and fast-paced action. It’s control system is a little dicey but its one of the few weaknesses in this rebirth of a longtime Nintendo favorite. Grade A-
Blades of Time (Konami) PS3
I really wanted to like Blades of Time…really…It looked on the outside like a weird combination of Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia with a dash of God of War thrown in, but unfortunately this sequel to 2009’s “X-Blades” has a few too many obstacles to allow it to rise above mediocrity. Ayumi is the scantily clad eye-candy heroine of Blades of Time, a fantasy action, hack ‘n slash adventure. There is a completely inane storyline about Ayumi arriving on a mysterious island called Dragonland, rich in treasure but naturally fraught with peril. No previous adventurer has ever returned from Dragonland…naturally. Of course it’s never quite that simple and Ayumi finds herself caught up in a battle between factions who are fighting for control of the land.
Despite some large environments to explore Blades of Time is fairly linear which honestly I don’t have a problem with. The next areas won’t open until you’ve met your objective in the current area. A quick press of the d-pad will bring up a compass to point you in the direction of your next objective so you need not ever worry about getting lost or knowing where to go next. The compass will also provide hints to the locations of treasure chests where you can find upgraded weapons and firearms or various other battle perks.
A standard skill tree is provided which allows you to expend your earned experience points to buy a wide variety of power-ups including magical attacks. These include an almost overwhelming set of combo attacks. Earning a new combo transports you to an arena to practice your new combo which isn’t very realistic but is helpful. The problem is, and you’ve likely heard me say this over and over again, is that there are so many combos that its simply not easy to remember them all and even if you do, many don’t have any greater effect on the battlefield than your standard attacks so likely you’ll find a few attacks that you like and stick with those.
Combat is just ok. The schemes are fine but there isn’t the gritty feel that you get with so many other similar games and the effects of combat are also boring and mundane. Between battles the game features numerous platforming and puzzle solving sections. The platforming sections are made needlessly difficult and frustrating due to a lousy camera view. This often leads to you falling to your death. Fortunately checkpoints are quite frequent, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying and if there’s anything I hate in a game its frustration and annoyance being used as a substitute for challenging level design.
Blades of Time’s key feature is the ability to allow Ayumi to rewind time. Now this isn’t like Prince of Persia Sands of Time where you could rewind to recover from falling to your doom, but rather it’s a battle aid. You can run up, attack a foe several times with your sword, and then hit the rewind button. This creates a clone of Ayumi who will then mimic the moves you just did…in this case you now have the Ayumi clone attacking the enemy along with the true Ayumi. The one caveat is that if you rewind time it not only affects Ayumi but the enemy as well. This if you’re fighting a boss, his health meter will go back to what it was when you rewound time. So in a sense you’re giving a boost to the enemy as well. Kind of stupid if you ask me…and it makes for more careful use of the power. Add to that the fact that health is always in short supply and boss battles become a chore.
It’s clear that developers Gaijin Entertainment spent most of the design budget on Ayumi. She looks good and has a ton of animations. But none of the character models look nearly as good. Voice acting is decent…enthusiastic although Ayumi’s voice doesn’t sound like you might think it should. While Blades of Time has some fun elements it’s bogged down with too many frustrating platforming sections, irksome boss battles, weak character designs and a muddled story, and this game is strictly a renter if nothing else is available. Grade C+
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