All posts by GamesOfSteele

Happy Birthday, N64! My Top Ten Nintendo 64 Games

From Doing Barrel Rolls to Throwing Shells At Friends, We Countdown the Top 10 Games on the Nintendo 64.

Written by Jonathan Steele

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Mario Kart 8 Review

The latest installment in the world’s #1 karting series is finally here. After decades of great racing experiences, Mario Kart 8 aims to be the culmination and perfection of all that came before it, and it surpasses that goal with ease. The core gameplay of Mario Kart 8 is as brilliantly fun as ever, and this eighth entry feels like the crowning achievement of the series.

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review

It’s on like Donkey Kong

Before any gamer purchases a console, there is one question he always asks: what does the game library look like? Do these games make this console worth buying? Are they better than the other options out there? Okay that’s three questions. Sue me. But these are questions that the Wii U has had a hard time answering until late last year. Fantastic titles like Super Mario 3D World and Wind Waker HD have helped a lot, but Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is really under a lot of pressure to tip the scale a little farther toward the Wii U’s viability as a console. This is especially evident when you consider that it’s the first major Wii U release this year. The next one is Mario Kart 8, which isn’t scheduled to do its massive scale-tipping until the end of May. So how about it, DKCTF? Do you have what it takes to make the Wii U look more appealing to the nay-sayers?

“… these are questions that the Wii U has had a hard time answering until late last year.”

Overview

This time around, the Kongs find themselves under attack from an icy group of bandits from the north known as the Snowmads. The entirety of DK Island is magically covered in snow and ice, while the Kongs are blown five islands away and forced to fight their way back island by island. It’s not much of a story, but it’s not really fair to expect that from a game in the platforming genre. At least it’s not about someone stealing DK’s banana hoard again.

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Retro Studios worked hard to create wholly unique worlds that purposefully departed from the overused themes. I feel like they really nailed it for the most part, and each area feels fresh and interesting, while still being a lot of fun and quite challenging. Unfortunately, the game starts off on the wrong foot. I didn’t much care for the overall design or concept of World 1, the music was pretty terrible (more on that later), and things just weren’t quite as interesting as I expected. I still enjoyed playing through it, but I just wasn’t that impressed. I’m happy to say that things really picked up after that, and I felt like each of the other islands were incredibly well done. So let’s break it down a little more, shall we?

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How Nintendo (might have) Just Revolutionized In-App Purchases

Last week during a new Nintendo Direct live stream, Nintendo announced a bunch of new games as well as more info on previously-announced titles. Most people are talking about the biggest news, like the confirmed release date for Mario Kart 8 (May 30th woo!) or the latest addition to the Super Smash Bros. roster. But something completely different caught my eye. It’s something I never really saw coming, but it has real game-changing potential in the realm of IAPs (In-App Purchases).

Before we go any further, let’s talk about IAPs briefly. In case you’ve been living under a rock, IAP is a rather brilliant idea that Apple started (or at least made famous) with the App Store. It actually started as a good thing. You download an app and it’s yours, but you can spend additional money within the app to unlock more features. It was all well and good until people figured out a way to warp it, so now there are two “types” of IAPs:

Type A) You spend real money to buy a permanent component of the game that becomes yours forever (level packs, bonus items, upgrades, etc.)

Type B) You spend real money to get fake money, and when you have spent all that fake money in-game, you have to go back and buy more fake money using more real money. And down, down, down the spiral you go.

In case you were wondering, Type B is total garbage and a dirty way to get people to spend their cash. Logan covers this very well in his most recent article. I wanted to stop and make this clarification because I believe Nintendo will never stoop as low as “Type B” IAPs. What they have done is revolutionized “Type A,” which was already a perfectly fair method.

“To be fair, it actually looked kind of fun and seemed to be a quality game, but it was what followed the initial explanation that really caught my attention.”

So enough about IAPs. The 3DS game that was announced is called “Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball.” When I heard that title, I started tuning out at first. Most sports-based video games just don’t interest me in the slightest. In Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, you play as some kid who goes around playing baseball-themed minigames. Rustys-Real-Deal-Baseball-HittingEach minigame has a very simple premise (hence the name “minigame” I suppose). You can pitch, catch, bat, ump, play outfield, etc. To be fair, it actually looked kind of fun and seemed to be a quality game, but it was what followed the initial explanation that really caught my attention. When you aren’t playing these little games, you go to a shop run by a seasoned old baseball player named Rusty Slugger. He will give you tips and hints as well as training. But you can also buy additional game types from him with real-world money. Boom, IAPs. But what’s so different about IAPs in this game?

Bargaining.

“… Rusty will initially charge you $4.00. However, you then have the ability to haggle with him.”

Yup. Bargaining. In Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, when you try to buy a new minigame, Rusty will initially charge you $4.00. However, you then have the ability to haggle with him. You can basically tell him, “I’m not paying that much! Here, how would you like this [insert item] that I collected earlier in the game?” Rusty will then take that thing from you and lower the price. The actual, real-world price. There may be other ways to haggle with him that I don’t know about, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can negotiate at all. It’s a brilliant idea. It gives the player the feeling that they have power over how much money they spend, and at the same time, Nintendo probably only planned for that thing to cost $1-2 anyway. They just started it at $4.00 so you feel good about it once you fight it down to a lower price. It also adds a bit of fun to the fact that you are spending your hard-earned cash. It turns the process into a minigame of its own, rather than just having a cold popup that says, “Are you sure you want to spend all that hard-earned cash? Click OK to confirm!”

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I understand that this could just turn into nothing and we all forget about it in a month. But nevertheless, it is a fantastic idea. If nothing else, it’s a sign that Nintendo continues to aggressively think outside the box. Could you imagine this concept extrapolated out to other games? How about Call of Duty DLC? “This latest map pack cost $15.00… unless you can convince us to drop it to $10.00 by killing 100 zombies in 5 minutes.” Suddenly, the dreaded prospect of having to spend more money has been alleviated by turning it into a game of sorts. A game where I can win back some of my money.

I believe this method is simultaneously beneficial to developers and fair to gamers. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Music Inspired by Video Games

Written by Jonathan Steele

If you are anything like me, then you have browsed the Internet in search of your favorite video game soundtracks a time or two. And I don’t mean Halo or Mass Effect, though those games do have fantastic music. I’m talking about the good old fashioned stuff. I’m talking about Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda, etc. Those games just had a distinct sound to them that was instantly recognizable and brought back so many memories. I eventually discovered that this sound is called “chiptune.” I started searching for original music that included that chiptune sound, and to my dismay, what I found was disappointing. There was almost none at all, and the stuff I could find had terrible quality. Eventually I gave up and just kept listening to whatever electronic music I could find.

Then, years later, I downloaded a little game on my iPhone called Extreme Road Trip 2.

I immediately noticed that this game’s soundtrack was exactly what I had been looking for. It had that chiptune sound, but it also had a wide range of other “normal” instruments mixed in as well. I was impressed. It didn’t take me long to discover that the artist was Jimmy Hinson, aka Big Giant Circles. Almost immediately, he became my favorite musician. His first full album, Impostor Nostalgia, captivated me with its incredible sound that was simultaneously nostalgic and original. Instead of writing music that was 100% chiptune, which could quickly get boring, he brings in all sorts of instruments with chiptune at the forefront. It’s beautifully executed, and his music is a joy to listen to.

But here’s the best part: Big Giant Circles just released his second full album, The Glory Days. I was part of the Kickstarter campaign, so I’ve been listening to it for the past week, and I can honestly say it’s everything I’d hoped it would be. Jimmy does it again with a gorgeous array of styles and sounds, only this time he kicks it up a notch with even more variety than before. No single song is anything like another, and that is truly a feat for any artist. One of my favorite things about this album is how skillfully he embeds classic video game themes into his music. Most people just take a game’s theme song and change the rhythm up or turn it into dubstep. Not Jimmy. He writes a fully original song and then weaves that classic theme in with it. In fact, he does it so well that I didn’t recognize one of the most well-known video game themes in history until I listened to the track for about the fifth time. Then suddenly it just hit me, “Oh my gosh! That’s the theme from Super Mario World!”

If you are a fan of classic video games, and you love hearing the sounds that take you right back to the glory days, you need to buy this album. And yes, please buy it on Bandcamp or iTunes. Don’t go download a torrent. This guy has worked tirelessly on this album and his skill is unparalleled. He deserves every penny. So what are you waiting for? Get to listening! Here are just a few of my favorite tracks from The Glory Days to get you started.

My Top 5 Most Anticipated Wii U Games of 2014 (So Far)

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Written by Jonathan Steele

All-in-all, 2013 actually ended up to be a pretty good year for the Wii U. Toward the end of the year, there were several solid first-party releases, as well as plenty of third-party games to fill in the cracks. But 2013 has ended, and 2014 is well underway. So what delicious gaming morsels are Nintendo and its partners cooking up for us over the coming months? I’m positive that there are many games in the works that we don’t know about yet, but here are just a few confirmed titles I’m really excited about.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Release Date: February 21, 2014

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Retro Studios blew me away with their first attempt at bringing back Donkey Kong in 2010. It was a game that I revisited several times, and I am very much looking forward to the sequel. From everything I’ve seen so far, it really looks like this won’t just be a cheap cash-in that rides on the previous game’s success. There are new characters, new enemies, fresh gameplay experiences, and much more. I can’t wait to play this game. Check out the latest trailer revealing Cranky Kong as a playable character. (Scrooge McDuck’s bouncing cane, anyone?)

Mario Kart 8

Release Date: May 2014

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Everyone knows you pretty much can’t go wrong with Mario Kart no matter how you slice it, but Mario Kart 8 is shaping up to be the best that the series has ever seen. The most notable addition is an anti-gravity ability for the karts and bikes (yup, bikes are back!). Pair that up with the gliders and underwater-driving from Mario Kart 7, and things could become very interesting. I was afraid that this simple addition, while very cool, wouldn’t be enough to really make things fresh, but this latest trailer shows just how alive and varied the courses might be. Check it out. (I wonder what happens when you accidentally smack into that airliner head-on…)

Super Smash Bros. Wii U

Release Date: TBA 2014

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Ah good old Smash Bros. This game will probably be the single reason that many people buy the Wii U this year, and rightly so. It promises to be a great addition to the franchise. Possibly the most interesting thing about this iteration is the fact that it is being released for both Wii U and 3DS. This will mark the first time that Super Smash Bros. makes an appearance on a handheld. I’m excited to see what they do with that. Can I start a match on my Wii U and finish it on my 3DS? Can a 3DS owner join in a match being played on Wii U? We’ll find out soon enough. Character-wise, I personally am most excited about Mega Man (it’s about freaking time they added him), so check out this über-cool Mega Man reveal trailer. (You can see all the other awesome SSB trailers here)

“The Legend of Zelda U”

Release Date: TBA

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While we currently know next-to-nothing about this game (not even the title), we do know that it is coming for sure. Nintendo has confirmed that an HD Zelda title for the Wii U is currently in the works, and has been for some time. I dare say we can expect it to be nothing like the Wii U Tech Demo from E3 2011, since Nintendo has made it clear that they will be turning the Zelda conventions upside-down and rethinking the basic elements of the past games. I have a funny feeling that it will be so different that it will upset several fans at first (like Wind Waker did), but I can’t wait to see how they decide to shake things up. I think it’s safe to say Nintendo knows what they’re doing at this point, and we can trust them.

Hyrule Warriors

Release Date: TBA

Wait… what?? If you had told me a few months ago that Nintendo was going to do a mashup of the beloved Zelda franchise and Dynasty Warriors, I’d have laughed in your face. I bought a Dynasty Warriors game once. It was terrible. It was pretty much repetitive hack-n-slash. I didn’t last an hour before I returned it. And now Nintendo wants to let those guys make a Zelda-themed game? I have to be honest, I am pretty skeptical, but this game made my list because I believe that Nintendo is watching over this project very carefully. I’m trusting that they won’t let these guys ruin Zelda’s good name. And come on, there’s no denying that it just looks really freakin cool. Check out the reveal trailer to see Link on steroids.

So what about you, dear reader? Which Wii U games are you most excited about? Let us know by casting your vote below!