They crew is back with the first episode of season 4!
The crew talk video games starting with the announcement of Hatsune Miku Project Mirai 2 DX. They then move on with other video games news and commentary. Next then look at New Japan Pro-Wrestling airing on AXS and a little about WWE’s NXT. Lastly the group look back at 2014 and make recommendations on movies and TV that you should watch from 2014!
(Wow, the logo image is such click bait, eh?)
They crew is back with the first episode of season 4!
The year past has been a rather difficult time to be a player of video games. Even the word “gamer” has become passé, tainted by the vociferous minority. Still, despite the efforts of certain people I could name, 2014 has been one of the best years for video games since the halcyon days of the Super NES/Genesis. Bungie released their first post-Halo work; Professor Layton teamed up with Phoenix Wright (finally); Hearthstone tried to do for digital card games what Ascension did for deck-building games; and Freddy Fazbear charmed his way into our hearts and urinary tracts. Those are the big successes of 2014, and more power to them. But they’re (largely) not what I played.
Let’s take a closer look at the five games I played the hell out of in 2014, and why you should drop that Duty disc, stop staring at those gaming monitors and and put your eyeballs on these.
5: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (NIS America, PS Vita, February/September)
I reviewed Danganronpa back in February, and found it to be a thrilling, hilarious trip through a twisted high school. When the sequel came out in September, I was a little busy and it fell through the cracks, but it’s no less fun and no less enthralling; it manages to correct a few of the problems I had with the first game and introduce me to a new cast of defectively apex classmates. Visual novels are still a hard sell in North America, though, so honestly it’s not that much of a surprise if these slipped past you, too. If you love detective games or ridiculous dialogue, there’s no need for despair: just go grab them.
4: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Sega, PS3/PS4/PS Vita/Wii U/3DS/Xbox One, February/December)
I feel pretty confident in saying that in all likelihood you haven’t played these. This is because there has been a perfect storm of problems making it too difficult to bring into North America: the PS3 version wasn’t available digitally until the summer, and pretty much every other version has some form of region locking or inconvenience. That’s a real shame, because this is probably the definitive version of both Puyo Puyo and Tetris available today. This even unseats my previous favorite version of Tetris (The Next Tetris Online for Dreamcast). I had to resort to ordering yen-based PS Network cards to get the game, and I don’t regret it at all. With the next-gen versions having been released this past month, hope is renewed for a potential North American release… but with Ubisoft having locked up the Tetris license, it ain’t looking likely.
3: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (Nicalis, PC/Mac/Linux/PS4/PS Vita, November)
Poop is funny. Let’s just get that out of the way right now, poop is funny and this game has a lot of poop. It’s also got a lot to say about religion, but the message is subtle underneath the hybridization of Rogue-like procedural generation and Zelda-like top-down gameplay. The game is fast-paced and challenging, and is deep enough that it’s a new experience every time you play. The PS4 and Vita versions are a little twitchy in terms of some nasty save-game bugs, but they’re mostly ironed out by the time you read this. I hope. Oh, and one more thing: poop. Funny. Trust me.
2: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (Square-Enix, 3DS, September)
I love music games. LOVE THEM. But ever since Harmonix wound down the production of Rock Band, it’s been really difficult to find good music games. Granted, the Kickstarter to revive Frequency was successful, but there’s something about jamming to music that brings back memories of casting Firaga that really speaks to me. The original Theatrhythm was all right, but had a few hiccups such as a too-strict main mode and a too-small set of on-card tracks. Curtain Call fixes these and grants access to a massive catalog of music almost right away. Plus, including one of my favorite characters from Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t hurt.
1: Mario Kart 8 (Nintendo, Wii U, May)
Mario Kart is one of those games that’s most analogous to pizza: even when it’s bad (ahem, Double Dash) it’s still pretty good. But the game’s notable in the year not necessarily for what it does well– it’s the best racing game since Split/Second— but for signalling the shift in Nintendo’s approach to DLC and titles-as-platforms. The announcement of the two DLC packs, which would include favorite retro tracks not initially included on-disc, completely upended the established paradigm of the games not necessarily obsolescing their past iterations. When Super Smash Bros. announced DLC, we knew it was the beginning of a new era. Mario Kart 8 doesn’t just improve upon its history, it improves upon every game Nintendo publishes thereafter. And not even Luigi can be angry about that.
Dishonorable Mention: Driveclub (Sony, PS4, October)
We live in an era where we no longer expect games to be “finished” by the time they are released. This has resulted in day-zero patches that creep into the gigabyte range (I’m looking at you, Halo). Being a former software developer, I get it. I really do. Marketing writes checks that developers can’t cash. But there is no excuse for a game to be launched broken, to remain broken months after release, and to be actively detrimental to its own sales. Driveclub hits all those rather awful marks. It was announced as a free title for Playstation Plus members, but when the game couldn’t even handle the artificially-suppressed number of paying customers, that offer was suspended indefinitely. And because the game still doesn’t really work online, nobody’s buying it. So it honestly doesn’t matter if the game’s a worthy successor to Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport; if nobody’s playing, it might as well be the entire text of this review pressed into a disc repeatedly.
As always, folks, thanks for supporting OTDT in 2014, and we look forward to serving you in 2015.
Super Smash Bros. is a game that, quite frankly, was never meant to be. No, I’m not saying its success was unexpected, I’m saying Nintendo deliberately tried to kill the game before it was even first released on the Nintendo 64. HAL Laboratories was trying to reinvent the fighting game genre to work with four players, and originally it wasn’t meant to star Nintendo’s showcase characters. The budget was small, the marketing was nonexistent outside of a very famous commercial, and it was never actually going to leave Japan if it hadn’t been such a smash hit in-country. But here we are, fifteen years later, and the game that broke all the rules about fighting games is breaking all the boundaries it can.
As with the previous three iterations of Super Smash Bros., players select their favorite Nintendo character or one of a handful of third-party guests, then proceed to cast, kick, pummel, or blast their rivals into submission. Damage accumulates on characters, making them less able to resist the extreme knockback effects of Smash attacks as their counters get higher. If a character is thrown too far beyond the boundaries of the screen, they are out; game modes that define victory as the most knockouts or the least falls are available. In addition to the frenetic multiplayer battle mode, the Wii U and 3DS games offer adventure modes and minigames for players to hone their skills in.
This fourth-generation installment of the series is the first to feature on a handheld console, and it was the 3DS version which released first this past October. Featuring the same massive cast of characters as the Wii U version, the 3DS card includes as its adventure mode “Smash Run”. In Smash Run, players are placed in a massive labyrinth filled with both their rivals and a plethora of foes; the fighters have five minutes to roam the maze, defeating the mooks and collecting powerup markers affecting their base stats. At the end of regulation time, a battle against the rival characters ensues, with random rules and/or victory conditions. Smash Run is a fun idea on paper, but the grunt monsters are too well-defended compared to the flimsy defenses of the other fighters. Worse, there’s no way to know in advance or to influence what the rules of the final battle are; this creates situations where you have spent five aggravating minutes maximizing your attack stat at the expense of speed, only for the battle to be a literal footrace.
The Wii U version dispenses with Smash Run in favor of Smash Tour, a board game conceit more reminiscent of Mario Party or Fortune Street than anything prior. Players roam a board collecting character and stat icons, similar to the setup in Smash Run, but when players collide on the board, a brief battle ensues to swap and steal those icons. In the end, players engage in a stock battle with as many lives as they have characters. Again, it’s a great idea in theory, but players have limited control over which characters they can work with at any given moment, and despite the efforts to balance the cast, sometimes you’re gonna get stuck with duds.
But the main draw of Smash Bros. is always the core battle game, and I’m glad to say that there is simply no better fighting game on the market right now. Combining the speed of Super Smash Bros. Melee with the forgiving mechanics of Brawl, the engine in Wii U/3DS is crisp and slick; you never feel like your character is slogging through molasses or that you’re fighting the controls more than your opponents. While the 3DS version is understandably limited to the built-in controller, the Wii U version allows you to use any controller Nintendo had first released in the 21st century. Literally. While the adapter to connect Gamecube controllers is in short supply as of this writing, using more recent controllers such as the Wii Classic Controller Plus or the Wii U Pro Controller is smooth and effortless. Using the Wii U GamePad as a controller was difficult for me, though; I was far more than happy enough to just use one of my classics. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, the 3DS version can sync to the Wii U to act as a controller on its own. Which is convenient for the 8-player battle mode on the big screen.
Nintendo has done a pretty good job of making the game “future-proof” by promising DLC characters. Mewtwo, the psychic powerhouse Pokemon, is scheduled to be released in early 2015, and is being offered free to owners of both versions. In addition, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the first game to make use of Nintendo’s new Amiibo figures, which were released alongside the game. (Amiibo functionality is scheduled to be patched in to the already-released Mario Kart 8 early next year as well.) Amiibo are, for lack of any better description, Skylander figures with Nintendo skins. Using the GamePad’s built-in NFC sensor, the figures store artificial intelligence data for the characters they represent, making them capable of learning from human and computer opponents. At Level 1, Amiibo figures are little more than ambulatory targets; by Level 15 they start becoming consistently able to read your moves and challenging your personal style; when they reach their cap of Level 50 they can rival top tournament players. The figures are well-sculpted and gorgeously painted, but the implementation of the system leaves a little bit to be desired. Amiibo level up too quickly, making them frustrating opponents in too short order. There’s no tweaking of the AI possible, meaning that if it learns a bad habit, the only way to retrain it is constant battling. Worse still, the figures’ main selling point– that they can be used across several games– is slightly not as advertised; an Amiibo can only be formatted for one title at a time. While this works well for figures that aren’t in multiple games, such as Marth or Mega Man, some of the more familiar faces like Mario and Peach can’t fight and drive at the same time. In the end, the Amiibo feature is an afterthought in contrast to the extremely well-developed customization of existing characters and Mii Fighters.
It should also be noted that the Amiibo features will be patched in to the 3DS version as well. Why aren’t they there already? Well, ask yourself this: why would Amiibo be added to a system that doesn’t have an NFC sensor? The answer is also why the 3DS version has an aggravatingly long initial loading time: it was programmed with Nintendo’s New 3DS system in mind, which launched in Japan alongside the 3DS version in October. North America and Europe did not get the New 3DS in 2014, and as of this writing Nintendo has not announced a release date for the rest of the world. Presumably the silence was meant to avoid gutting sales of 3DSes and 2DSes, particularly with the one-two punch of Smash and Pokemon hitting this holiday season, but it is still infuriating.
Honestly, though, even with the somewhat quirky nature of the minigames and unlock schemes, at the end of the day this is quite simply the biggest reason to own a Wii U. It’s also a damn compelling reason to get your 3DS warmed up again. Focusing on what Smash does best– fast-paced battles with a horde of your childhood heroes– has made these titles must-owns, and while the extra content such as trophies and Home Run Derby is nice to have, it doesn’t detract at all from the just-about-perfect main game. This game is one that hits Fifth Gear and doesn’t let up.
The crew, joined by Aki Munnell, Bryan Spiegel, and Sara Goldberg talk about X-Men the good, the bad, and the future.
THEN the show actually starts!
They take a look at the results of the Harmonix Kickstarter Amplitude. Give a final look at Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy and rate it.
Then they wrap it up with a talk about AKB48 and the recent attack on the group by a guy with a saw.
Want to see it the show live tweet at us using the hash tag #screwitdoitlive?
This time the cast sit down and look at the upcoming releases of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. From there they give their reactions to the upcoming Mighty Morphin Power Rangers re-envisioning movie from Saban and Lionsgate. We look at Lady Gaga’s current tour with Hatsune Miku and wonder where the fan coverage is.
We talk about Granola and its relationship to anime memes (think Nature Valley)
Jeanie, Prager, Chris, and Z are joined by Sara where they review the Tiger and Bunny: The Rising movie. They then talk about the new Super Sentai ToQger. Moving on Sara leads a review of the latest installment in the Professor Layton franchise.
This week the crew look at Tatsunoko being purchased by NTV. they review the 2014 remake of Robocop. Then Jim and Jeanie discuss the movie Pompeii and the man with the pout of incredible power. From there we look at Power Rangers Super Megaforce. Z then talks video games with Puyo Puyo Tetris, Inazuma 11, Kamen Rider Battride War 2, and fail once again to talk about the new Sonic the Hedgehog
In a relatively unsurprising move, Nintendo has slashed its financial forecast into taking a loss for the fiscal year ending in March of 2014. Until 2012, Nintendo was considered an evergreen company: it had not posted an annual loss in over thirty years. However, this year’s forecast will mark the third consecutive year of monetary bleeding for the company, and most analysts are pointing the finger at the Wii U.
From a consumer’s standpoint, the blame is understandable: Nintendo’s latest console has more or less done nothing in its year and change on the market, and third-party developers have fled from the system en masse, leaving only two heavyweights (Activision and Ubi Soft). The latest entry in the Mario series, Super Mario 3D World, barely registered in retail against the one-two punch of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 being released, and the horizon looks grim for any first-party titles, as few have been announced. There have even been rumors circulating that Nintendo has internally given up on the system and is focusing on its successor, after several developers have (anonymously) blasted the machine for being woefully underpowered.
It’s actually kind of amusing to me to hear these reports of doom and gloom come in, because they’re for the most part identical to the ones that came in about the Wii, and the 3DS, and the GameCube, and the Nintendo 64. In a fit of irony, most of the complaints about Nintendo “only releasing rehashes and more of the same Mario baloney” are in fact copy-and-pasted from the last console generation’s whining. What makes things different this time isn’t necessarily that the consumer moaning is omnipresent, but that the fiscal success isn’t there anymore to put the lie to it.
I own a Wii U, I’ll say that much. And I enjoy the machine for what it does, which is at the moment streaming videos and playing Wii discs. I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t some serious problems with the hardware, because there are: the lack of internally-upgradable storage, the lack of quality games for the system, the criminal underuse of the GamePad by other developers, and so on. But do I think that Nintendo is going to fold because of the machine’s lack of adoption and enthusiasm? Not in a million years.
And that is because of the other piece of Nintendo kit that I own, and that I’d wager a lot of people own: the 3DS, or one of its ilk. People tend to forget that during the dark days of the mid-to-late 90’s, Nintendo was kept afloat solely by the sales of its handheld division after its biggest third-party developer of the time, Square, jumped ship for the Playstation. Pokemon is literally the only thing that kept them going through the N64 and GameCube eras, and that’s not a bad thing. But the introduction of smartphones, and the ability for high-quality gaming experiences to be had on those devices, put a serious dent in the forecasts for the 3DS.
Again, it’s easy to think that Pokemon was the sole savior of the 3DS, but Pokemon X and Y only came out this past October. The system gained traction through the support of some very dedicated third-party developers like Atlus, Sega, and even Square-Enix. The handheld has made strides on both sides of the Pacific, and because of this Nintendo’s future looks relatively bright in that arena.
But that still leaves the question of the three consecutive annual losses. On the bright side, the amount of each loss has been dwindling: from a half-billion US dollars in 2012 to just over 300 million USD reported today. Some of this could be attributed to the lousy exchange rate of yen to USD in ’12 and ’13, but certainly not all of it; the rate has hovered around 100 to 1 for about a year now. If I had to guess (from an outsider’s perspective), I would say that the fault lies in the development and rollout of the ill-fated 2DS device, released alongside the Pokemon games in October of 2013. Exactly nobody was excited for the device, Nintendo failed to make a compelling case for its existence, and it honestly should have just been scuttled before they could blow millions on production and distribution on something which stores are having a hard time justifying shelf space for.
Three straight years in the red obviously looks bad for Nintendo, especially after three straight decades of profitability. Things look especially dismal for company president Satoru Iwata, who after last year’s losses made a public commitment to a 1 billion dollar profit for the coming year. To say he has egg on his face is a bit of an understatement at this point, and while there were rumors that he would resign in 2013 as punishment for the previous losses, I imagine several investors will be calling for blood this week. As exits go, Iwata’s would be bittersweet: while he’s run the company into some choppy waters, he also ushered in an era of unprecedented showmanship with the company’s marketing tactics, eschewing big trade events like E3 and CES in favor of more frequent, understated Nintendo Direct events. The company has also moved towards day-and-date global releases and pushed its digital infrastructure (somewhat) into the 21st century through the use of the eShop and full digital releases.
But Nintendo has been dead-last before, and they will be after their next resurgence. This is a company that will not die, no matter how badly their consoles sell, simply because they know how to make good games. Nintendo has always maintained that they will not make the switch to third-party development, and I imagine that’s a promise that their next CEO intends to keep. If that means that they continue to throw money down the “goofy unnecessary project” black hole, it just means that they have to work that much harder with their games. The company has never been one to rest on its laurels nor to wallow in defeat after a few bad steps. We may see a true next-gen system from them make its announcement this year, or we may see an “Ambassador” program similar to that which stimulated 3DS adoption. The form of the recovery is, by and large, irrelevant. What matters is that it’s a good bet that it will happen.
I mean, come on, this is the company that invented the 1-Up Mushroom; do you honestly think that they don’t have a few in reserve for themselves?