The Video Game Odyssey

  • The Video Game Odyssey: Project X Zone is coming to America!

    3DS owners rejoice! The strategy RPG Project X Zone has been scheduled for release on June 25, 2013 according to both a report by IGN and its official site. Pronounced “Project Cross Zone,” The game is one of the most promising looking projects that Nintendo has on its way for American gamers, with over 200 iconic characters taken from three major Japanese publishers: Namco, Sega and Capcom. “Project X Zone promises to provide gamers with some fantastic, flashy battles with some of your favorite characters. After all, who doesn’t want to see these heroes team up to save the world?” Photo courtesy Google Images

    According to Namco’s website, the game’s story is that an ancient artifact known as the “Portalstone” has been stolen, causing a rift in space-time. As a result, various universes as well the past and present are being brought together and the heroes will team up to restore the world to normal.

    But enough about the story, what about the gameplay? A strategy RPG with all of your favorite Capcom, Namco and Sega characters you say? How will that pan out? Well, the gameplay combines the strategy of a game like Fire Emblem, providing characters with a grid that they will position themselves along. However, when combat is initiated, the game shifts into action-RPG mode. Players will be able to use the Directional Pad, the Circle Pad and the ABXY buttons to perform a number of combo attacks on enemies. If you are skilled enough, you can keep air-juggling an enemy under a string of successful combos until they die, ensuring that you never have to take damage from fights. In addition to the two main characters who will be operating together, there will apparently also be the option to assign a third character to jump in and perform support attacks. When certain characters are paired together for support it unlocks an even flashier, powerful attack called a “Cross Hit.” see more

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    April 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm


  • The Video Game Odyssey: Saying Farewell to LucasArts

    Well, it is official; Disney has shut down LucasArts for good, putting an end to the iconic development studio. According to the report by Kotaku, Disney has laid off over 150 employees and has also canceled both of the studio’s ongoing projects: Star Wars 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault. Furthermore, while the development studio has effectively been dispersed, Disney still plans on using the LucasArts name to license software to license games. While Kotaku’s sources reported that both projects were effectively shut down along with the rest of the studio, Game Informer talked with another representative from the parent company LucasFilm who told a different story. The confidential source stated that there was still a chance for “Star Wars 1313” to continue, licensed out to third-party developers and publishing partners. A game project that showed great promise. With LucasArts’ development team gone, will it ever see the light of day? Photo courtesy LucasArts.com

    Naturally, I was just as shocked as anyone when the news was released just earlier today. Disney only just acquired LucasFilm last year in a massive merger. LucasArts had been around for over 3 decades, providing us with a number of beloved Star Wars titles over the years, such as Star Wars X-Wing and Star Wars: Rebel Assault. In addition, LucasArts also was responsible for a number of successful PC adventure titles such as the Monkey Island series, Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. However, while the studio had hit its stride during the ‘90s with such titles, it has had trouble producing the same level of success in recent years. In fact, the Knights of the Old Republic series as well as the Star Wars: Battlefront titles where all outsourced to other development teams to work on. Meanwhile, LucasArts failed to find an audience for its FPS title, Fracture, when it was released in 2008. The studio’s latest game was Star Wars Kinect, a game that serves as an example of one of the studio’s most dismal creations to date.

    Even with its recent shaky history, Star Wars 1313 showed great promise. I really hope that the project can continue on with another studio. The same goes for Star Wars: First Assault, but now only time will tell if these projects will survive the fallout and emerge victorious onto store shelves. see more

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    April 4, 2013 at 12:43 am


  • The Video Game Odyssey: A Story of Life and Death

    Video games are primarily played for fun. But even with all the fun and whimsical titles that are released, there comes along the occasional title that manages to weave in mature themes and characters along with the fun. “Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch” is a great recent example of a game doing this, mixing in a look at a young boy dealing with the grief and depression of losing a loved one with helping others in a magical world of escapism. But despite the game’s well-done emotional depth and story, it still remained a light-hearted JRPG romp that everyone could enjoy. There are games that mix in deeper and darker tones into their story, characters and theme. The end result is a game like the recently released indie adventure horror PC game, “The Cat Lady.”

    Developed by indie developer Harvester Games, “The Cat Lady,” is the story of Susan Ashworth, a middle-aged woman with no friends, no family and no enthusiasm for life other than spending time with her cats. Finally, she makes the ultimate choice to take her own life. But this is just the beginning of Susan’s journey through a macabre world with dark, twisted nightmares. Without spoiling too much, her attempt is more or less thwarted and she is unwillingly returned to the world with a mission to destroy five killers labeled as “parasites” and the chance to rediscover a purpose for herself in life.

    This is a different kind of horror game — it’s a point-and-click adventure that is less focused on trying to make you jump out of your seat with jump scares and is more concerned with immersing you into the depressing atmosphere of its world and its characters. “The Cat Lady” is a game that is driven by its characters, from the deranged “parasites” that Susan is sent back to fight, to the young woman named Mitzi who becomes the friend that Susan never had. It is through these characters that “The Cat Lady” explores mature topics, such as suicide, depression, mental illness and more. But it does so without sounding preachy, pandering or patronizing. It treats its subjects with a level of care, respect and insight that one would expect from a well-written novel. From beginning to end, “The Cat Lady” is an adventure that any lover of horror can come to appreciate. see more

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    March 31, 2013 at 11:48 am


  • The Video Game Odyssey: Will the Blue Bomber Return?

    So let’s talk about one of my favorite gaming franchises: Megaman. Known as “Rockman” in Japan, The Blue Bomber is one of gaming’s oldest and biggest icons, alongside other classic characters from the 8-bit era like Mario and Zelda. But after 20 solid years of robot-blasting fun, we have suddenly seen a drought in Megaman games being released or even developed for that matter.

    Now the reason for this is no mystery. In October of 2010, Head of R&D Management Group, Consumer Games R&D Division and Contents Management Division Keiji Inafune announced that he would be leaving Capcom. Inafune had started at Capcom 23 years prior as an illustrator and graphic designer and was the lead artist who designed Megaman. Since then, he was involved in the development and design of almost every Megaman game. In a blog post titled “Sayonara” Inafune explained that he felt the need to “start his life over” and that he could no longer perform his job at Capcom to his own liking. Another project that showed promise, Megaman Online was cancelled for reasons that have yet to have been fully explained. Photo courtesy vgboxart.com

    With Inafune gone, the Megaman Legends 3 game that was under development for the 3DS eventually saw cancellation, despite attempts by Inafune to keep the project going after his departure from Capcom. Other Megaman-related projects also saw a similar decay. In June 2010, Korean online game publisher Neowhiz Games announced that it was working with Capcom to create a Megaman MMORPG. The game apparently was in the final stages of development; with a NPC design contest put out for fans with the prize being a chance to beta test the game. However, the contest winner never received any news regarding the beta and the restructuring of Neowhiz in 2012 had apparently complicated matters further. In the end, the game was recently officially announced to have been cancelled. see more

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    March 28, 2013 at 2:58 am


  • The Video Game Odyssey: Let’s Players

    As much as gamers love playing games, we love watching people playing games. Whether it’s a gaming journalist or commentator providing a sneak peek or gameplay exhibition or a fellow gamer just playing the game and engaging in various shenanigans, people who create video content related to video games form a large part of the gaming community. Besides the many writers and bloggers, they are some of the most vocal and recognizable parts of the gaming community. But even more importantly, they bring together gamers who share their love and enthusiasm for gaming.

    On YouTube there are literally hundreds of channels dedicated to people playing games. Gaming series called “Let’s Plays” are the most popular form of video game video content, in which people record their experiences playing different games, offering humorous or witty commentary to keep audiences entertained and engaged. People like Pewdiepie, the Yogscast, The RPGMinx and, more recently, the Gamegrumps, are prime examples of this format.  Some of these “LPers,” as they are sometimes called, stick to particular genres of games while others choose whatever games interest them at the moment. For the YouTubers with large enough followings, they might even ask their audience for suggestions on the next game they cover with some fans even going so far as mailing them games to play. Let’s Play videos are without a doubt one of the most popular forms of video that gamers create for other gamers to enjoy. Photo courtesy moddb.com

    It’s sometimes surprising to see how much love and admiration these people receive from their fans. While I may not be able to speak for everyone, I feel that as a fellow gamer and regular fan of such content creators I might be able to provide an answer. These people serve to not only to entertain us with their antics, but also serve as continual reminders of that simple, powerful joy we all share when we play video games. see more

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    March 19, 2013 at 12:00 am


  • The Video Game Odyssey: Farewell to 1UP, Gamespy and UGO

    This past Thursday, a formal announcement was made by Ziff-Davis Inc., the publishing and Internet company that owns the IGN Network, that it would be restructuring IGN Entertainment and dropping the secondary sites in the network. As a result, 1UP.com, Gamespy.com and UGO.com have been shut down and the staff have either been moved to the main IGN site or laid off. While the sites will no longer produce content, there has been no word on when or if the sites’ servers will be closed as well. 1UP.com’s former Editor-in-Chief wrote a heartfelt letter to the readers, thanking them for their passionate support while providing some insight into why it was time to say “Good-Bye.” Screenshot by Preston Sotelo

    Former 1UP Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Parish and Former Gamespy Editor-in-Chief Dan Stapleton wrote letters, explaining the situation to their readers and thanking them for supporting their respective sites. Though they lamented the ending of each site, both editors promised that though the staff had been moved around or laid off, they would still be involved in the gaming news media in one way or another.

    Now I am very sad to see these websites go. I enjoyed visiting these websites on a regular basis along with many other readers, but even I can understand that the company viewed running four websites that covered video games in parallel to be inefficient, despite the fact that each site had a unique voice and character. But it just stands as a stark reminder of the difficulties that various news media organizations have had to face over the past few years on top of having to deal with financial difficulties arising from having to adjust to the new, shifting digital landscape of the Internet and the economic recession that has plagued the U.S. for some time now. As IGN editor Casey Lynch points out the economic hardships have affected big gaming publications as much as the smaller ones. Lynch recounted the closing of Nintendo Power earlier this year, one of the oldest and most influential gaming publications ever, to drive the point home. see more

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    February 25, 2013 at 8:32 am


  • The Video Game Odyssey: The Next Generation for PlayStation

    In Wednesday’s PlayStation event, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4 at last. In addition, Sony also brought along a number of big-name developers to showcase some of the technical prowess of the new system as well as the creative potential it had to offer. Now I’ve only had a few hours to digest all the news, but I will offer my initial impressions of what most excited me about the new possibilities that the PS4 presents for gamers. The redesigned Dualshock controller features a new ergonomic look as well as a new share button to record videos or take screencaps while in-game. There is even a headphone jack, “Light Screen,” touch pad and more. Screenshot by Preston Sotelo

    Of all the inspirational and uplifting rhetoric, one of the most important concepts that Sony continually hammered home in the early parts of its presentation was “social.” From the re-designed PSN features to the new and expanded level of social integration into the gaming experience, Sony is determined to impress upon gamers that there will be little or no delays or barriers to their enjoyment and access to the content they want. Sony also emphasized that gamers will be even more connected their network of friends on the PSN than ever before so that they will be never truly be alone whilst gaming on a PS4. Your PSN profile can be connected to the social network of your preference, providing close friends with a more personal look at your profile while still insuring a level of anonymity against other PSN users. Screenshot by Preston Sotelo

    Lead System Architect Mark Cerny unveiled the new social network-like design of the PlayStation Network interface on the PS4. Numerous features such as easy creation and sharing of screenshots and video clips, and spectator modes that allow you to view and communicate in real-time with your PSN friends even while they are in-game, are both interesting new additions that further connect your friends. Cerny also discussed the new personalization features that will attempt to predict your gaming preferences so that you will only view ads or news on games or genres that you have demonstrated interest in. The new PSN features will also keep you updated on your friend’s recent gaming exploits and you will be able to spectate and communicate with them while in-game. Screenshot by Preston Sotelo see more

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    February 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm


  • The Video Game Odyssey: League of Opportunities

    ASU Summoners rejoice! A momentous opportunity is before you. Riot Games recently announced a new collegiate program that would allow League of Legends (LoL) players to create League of Legends clubs at their respective universities. These clubs will have the opportunity to receive official swag from Riot in addition to becoming part of a network of college LoL clubs and local organizers. If you have an existing club, then all you need to do is register your group with Riot to get started.

    Given the recent growth of E-Sports over the past few years and the soaring popularity of League of Legends across the world, this seems like a smart move for Riot to continue to expand and support their devoted community of players. In addition to being a great opportunity for players to meet up and have fun together, this program also serves as a chance for aspiring pro players to gather together in a more competitive environment to hone their skills. Riot Games is giving Summoners the chance to foster growing communities of gamers at their universities. Screenshot by Preston Sotelo

    For those who don’t know, League of Legends is a free-to-play MOBA (Multi-player Online Battle Arena) game. Its action-oriented strategy and teamwork-based gameplay has captivated thousands of players across the world. Players take the role of powerful mages called Summoners who call forth mighty champions to battle in various arenas in an organization called the League of Legends. see more

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    February 17, 2013 at 7:01 pm


  • The Video Game Odyssey: A Shocking Return from the Past

    One of the most beloved and influential horror games has made a triumphant return on Good Old Games.com, System Shock 2. Released on August 11, 1999, System Shock 2 was developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass and published by Night Dive Studios. However, since its initial release it has not seen a single re-release for gamers of more recent generation to enjoy. This was primarily due to complicated legal issues when one of the developers, Looking Glass studios, closed down and the Meadowbrook Insurance Group acquired their assets, which included rights to System Shock 2. According to a report by IGN, Night Dive Studios worked hard to negotiate with the two rights holders in order to secure its re-release on gog.com. There are also rumors that it will also be added to Steam at a later date as well.

    System Shock 2’s story takes place years in the future in the deep reaches of space. The player takes the role of a soldier in the year 2114 who has been assigned to the UNN Rickenbacker to escort humanity’s first spaceship capable of faster-than-light travel, the Von Braun, on its maiden voyage. Following several months into the ship’s voyage, the game opens up as you awaken from cryo-sleep with amnesia due to a computer malfunction. However, you find that the two ships have become infested with a parasitic alien life form known only as The Many. Now pitted against hordes of mutants with only an insane AI as your ally, you must find a way to survive and destroy the Many once and for all. Mutated crewmembers and other monstrosities lurk in every cranny. Due to the excellent sound design, you will often hear enemies before you see them. Photo courtesy Google Images

    System Shock 2 received large critical acclaim upon its release and was hailed by some critics as being “ahead of its time” in terms of game design and mechanics. The creepy, unnerving atmosphere and first-person gameplay elements have gone on to inspire a number of similar horror and action titles such as Bioshock and Dead Space. However, despite all this, it did not do well in sales, with only 58, 671 copies sold within a year of its initial release. Even with the limited commercial success, System Shock 2 has received numerous awards and was hailed as one of the best computer games ever made. see more

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    February 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm


  • The Video Game Odyssey: That’s No Moon, It’s a Star Wars RPG Sequel!

    Word has crept up in a recent IGN article about a possible Star Wars RPG being pitched by Obsidian Entertainment studios to LucasArts. According to the original RockPaperShotgun article, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart was lobbying to create a new Star Wars RPG that would take place sometime between Episode III and Episode IV. Players would play during the era where the last remnants of Jedi were being hunted down across the galaxy, while the Emperor worked to secure his new empire. Urquhart had reportedly added that Obsidian writer and designer Chris Avellone has written up an intriguing story for the game already, which was received with great interest by LucasArts.

    Now for those who don’t know, Obsidian is one of the studios behind the critically-acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) series, specifically KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords. Not to be confused with the MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW: TOR), the KOTOR games were masterful RPGs with great characters and equally engaging stories. As fun as the MMO was, it just didn’t hit that same sweet spot as well as the older titles that it was based upon. KOTOR 2’s gameplay was a pleasing mix of RPG and action elements. Players could arrange a party of able companions to fight alongside them and eventually, train some of them to become Jedi as well. Courtesy Google Images

    However, this pitch was made before Disney acquired LucasArts along with the rest of Star Wars. Regardless, Urquhart said he would continue to pitch the idea to the new management in charge of the Star Wars IP. According to an earlier RockPaperShotgun article, Disney has told the press via conference call in the past that it would like to focus more on creating Star Wars social and mobile games in the immediate future. It’s also entirely possible that they are waiting on the upcoming Microsoft and Sony consoles to be unveiled before they make a move on creating a triple-A Star Wars title. see more

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    February 10, 2013 at 11:35 am