There are a few games that I could rattle off if you asked me my favorite games of all time; Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Luigi’s Mansion, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Plants vs Zombies just to name a few. Those games are tied to significant events in my life, my fascination for history or they’re just crazy fun games that I enjoy playing at least once a year. I’ve found nearly every secret in those games, beaten the final boss dozens of times or finally 100% completed them after months. However, none of those games have captured me and kept a hold of me as much as the game I’m playing right now has.
Infamous: Second Son is the game, which if the year ended right now, I would say is my most favorite game of this year. I’d also venture to say it’s rocketing itself into my list of favorite games of all time. I’m ¾ of the way through the story of the game right now and I’ve already completed all the side quests in the game. That’s something that never happens. Even in Mario games I fly through the “story” and get to the end so I can say that I’ve finished the game. Then if I’m interested I go back and find all the coins, stars or whatever collectibles the game happens to have. Something about the way Infamous laid out their side quests and the numbers of them there are to do struck the perfect balance. Not only that, but they’ve been fun to finish. No unnecessarily difficult flags to collect like in Assassin’s Creed and nothing that I had to go completely out of my way for.
On the podcast this week we were asked about what our favorite games of the year had been so far. I mentioned a couple of titles, but I didn’t have a list of the games that I had played in front of me. Now I have the list of all the games I’ve played this year and I thought I’d give you my thoughts on the first half of the year. I haven’t played all of the big name titles out this year so this isn’t a comprehensive list of the best games of the year; just the best ones that I’ve played so far.
The Wii U has had a good year so far and there are a number of titles coming out throughout the rest of the year that I’m looking for. I also bought two new systems, the PS4 and the Vita, so I’ve had a lot of new stuff to play. These are some of the games I’ve played so far this year that I’ve really enjoyed. These games are listed in no particular order and, unlike our end of the year lists, it only comprises of games that came out this year.
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) – After the last three Mario Kart games (Wii, DS and 7) I was beginning to sour on the franchise. I played all of those games and had a fun time with them for a while, but things begin hampering the experiences. I thought maybe I was growing past my love of the franchise and it wasn’t going to be something I was interested in much longer. I went into Mario Kart 8 with a little bit of hesitation and tempered my expectations and because of that I’ve been incredibly happy with the experience. My family has gotten to the point where it’s a huge competition amongst all of us and everyone has a chance to win every race. There’s no more intentional throwing of races to let the younger kids win. There’s no incredibly broken rubber banding of the AI. There’s no snaking or cheater online. It’s just been great fun for everyone that I play the game with.
Capcom used to be one of the best developers in the business. They were a huge name in the NES and Super Nintendo era and have developed some of the most memorable franchises of all time. Recently, though, it seems like they’ve just sort of dropped off the face of the Earth releasing only a handful of titles every year.
While franchises like Resident Evil and Street Fighter continue to have a following some of their other franchises, most notably Mega Man, have been absent for years. Capcom has announced and then cancelled a number of games featuring the Blue Bomber. Dead Rising 3 for the Xbox One and Ultimate Street Fighter IV are their most recent releases.
The company just released a press release highlighting their lineup for E3 2014 announcing new titles and confirming their lineup of games that will be shown off at the biggest gaming event of the year. That list includes a port of Dead Rising 3 for the PC, a port of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for iOS, a compliation of three Phoenix Wright games for 3DS, and Monster Hunter 4 for North America.
So, a while back I posted an article where I took a look at the sales figures of Mario Kart as a franchise and speculated that Mario Kart 8 could to be the worst selling game in the franchise. In terms of the number of units sold I still hold to that statement, but I don’t think it will be the worst selling in terms of attach rate. In fact the news from over the weekend seems to confirm just that.
Back in my previous article I speculated that based on current sales figures Nintendo would sell 1.57 million units of the game. Nintendo announced that over the first weekend of availability Mario Kart 8 actually sold 1.2 million units worldwide. What that means is that in terms of current available units my speculation was pretty close. What I didn’t take into account in that article was potential sales due to the release of the game. That’s just a crapshoot and a guess at best so I wasn’t going to try and calculate those figures.
Now, what these initial sales tell me is that while history proves to be pretty accurate those are with static numbers over the life of a system. We don’t know how many of those sales came from bundles of the game with the Wii U as each territory sold a system/game bundle for the game. Based on the fact there is a bundle for the game I would wager that Mario Kart has proven that it will be able to move Wii U units. What type of boost that gives the console will not really be evident until the June NPD numbers are released and Nintendo either boasts about sales of the system jumping or dismisses the numbers altogether because the bump wasn’t that impressive. Many outlets were reporting that sales of the Wii U jumped by over 600% over the weekend off the back of Mario Kart 8 so I would expect Nintendo to be crowing about how good the system is doing now with quality software in the pipeline.
In a press release discussing the numbers Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime was quoted saying, “The early response to Mario Kart 8 demonstrates that the best days for Wii U are still ahead.” I think that’s absolutely true and with the slate of software from Nintendo expected to be release for the rest of this year and into 2015 it’s going to be good for fans of Nintendo. Whether or not this spurs third parties to jump back on the bandwagon is still to be seen.
Mario Kart 8 is even getting love from the mainstream press with reactions to both sales figures and Luigi (the man deserves the love). While my initial sales numbers would probably have to be tweaked over the life of the console I think overall the game will sell right around the 22-25% attach rate for the game on Wii U. This would make it the fourth best-selling game in the franchise overall.
The Mario Kart franchise has been one of the most successful selling franchises Nintendo has ever created. It started back on the Super Nintendo and has made one appearance on every console Nintendo has released since that time. You can pretty much bet that if a Nintendo system is sold it will have a Mario Kart game on it. Many people would even label it one of the best games that could be considered a system seller for the company. It’s so successful that it has been one of the best selling, if not THE best selling game on systems for the last two generations.
Recently the question was posed as to whether or not Mario Kart 8 could be the worst selling game in the franchise and could it potentially be bad enough to kill the franchise. I, personally, am not sure it would do that poorly, but it was an interesting question none-the-less and so I decided to do a little bit of research.
The era of free-to-play games is upon us, and really has been for a little while now. It’s mostly been relegated to the realm of mobile phones and PC, but not it’s begun its creep into the world of home video game consoles. Nintendo has even been experimenting with FTP style models now with a couple of titles. The first, Steel Diver: Sub Wars, gave you the multi-player portion of the game for free as well as a couple of single player missions. If you liked that and wanted access to more missions you could purchase the remaining single-player campaign for a small price. Then on top of that there were some historical submarine designs that could be purchased a la carte. Essentially it was just a demo of the game and not much else. Not really anything like more traditional free to play games. The second game, just released last week is Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball and that gives you a very different take on how to do a free-to-play game and I’m not sure it’s something I’d do very often.
The game is broken up into ten separate mini-games, each with a huge assortment of different challenges to complete. When you download the game you’re given access to about half a dozen different challenges in the first mini-game, Bat & Switch. It’s a good idea of just what to expect in the game as you get three different “modes” and a few variants of those modes. It’s enough to give you an idea of what to expect in the game, but not so much that you get your fill and can be done with it. After playing through the demo portion of the game you’re introduced to the free-to-play mechanic that this game has chosen to use, haggling.
I’ve been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed lately (imagine that) with the release of Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD on consoles, Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry as a standalone game and the acquisition of a copy of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation on the Vita. One topic of conversation that always comes up is who my favorite playable character in the series is so I thought I’d take some time to write up my thoughts on the matter and list out my favorite characters, both playable and not of the franchise. This list comes from all the games in the series, with the exception of the portable games on PSP and DS as I’ve never played those. Since they starred Altair anyway they are at least represented by their main playable character.
Since the franchise first made its appearance back in 2007 there have been eight playable characters across the seven main franchise releases (counting Liberation), DLC packages and portable releases. Here is how I rank them in terms of my favorite characters in the series. Keep in mind I really do like all of these characters and this list was really hard to put them in any sort of order (outside of my favorite). It’s like choosing which is better between pancakes and waffles. They’re both great, but if forced to pick I would choose pancakes.
Be warned that if you haven’t played these games yet there will be spoilery type things being talked about. And if you haven’t played these games yet what are you waiting for, go do it now.
There are as many different battle systems out there as there are RPGs. You have the pure turn based style games like Dragon Quest, the Active Time Battle system of Final Fantasy and even purely action based combat systems where you fight in real time. I know that Bravely Default isn’t the first game that allows RPG characters to hold an action for later in a turn or has a way to take their turn early, but it’s the first game that I’ve seen that uses it as so much of a focus of the game’s battle system.
The Brave/Default system is one of the more complex systems out there and takes a little while to wrap your head around, but when you do you’ll find it to be incredibly flexible and quite frankly a lot of fun to use. If you haven’t played the demo available on the eShop or know anything about the battle system let me explain basically how it works.
EA hasn’t really been very secretive about the companies feelings on the Wii U. There were a few titles from EA available at the launch of the system. Since that time there has not been another game from EA to hit the system and nothing coming in the forseeable future. As far back as May of 2013 EA Spokesman Jeff Brown said that there were no games in development for Wii U.
Today an anonymous source talked about the companies thoughts on the Wii U and they weren’t good.
“Nintendo was dead to us very quickly,” said the source. “It became a kids IP platform and we don’t really make games for kids. That was pretty true across the other labels too. Even the Mass Effect title on Wii U, which was a solid effort, could never do big business, and EA like Activision is only focused on games that can be big franchises”.
COO Peter Moore took to Twitter quickly after those statements came out to refute them saying, “Don’t trust “anonymous sources”. Nintendo’s a great partner. They never have been, and never will be, ‘dead’ to EA…”
Well, let’s look at some of Peter Moore’s comments about the system and see just what he thinks about Wii U and EA games appearing on the system. Back in 2011, before the system released, Peter Moore was in Japan to talk to Nintendo executives about the system and seemed to be very enthusiastic.
“There are no indications that there’s anything that feels like it’s off target. Our teams are working on it around the world. Our key franchises will be there. We’ve made that commitment to Nintendo.”
That seems to be pretty good and there was some early support on the Wii U with the release of Mass Effect 3, FIFA 13, and Madden NFL 13. With the relationship still strong between the two companies you would expect more games to come, right? Since the launch of the system there has been one other game from EA and that’s Need For Speed: Most Wanted. That doesn’t seem to be unprecedented support does it?
More comments from Peter Moore might explain why there haven’t been more EA games on the system. In July of 2013 he told GamesIndustry International the following:
“The lack of online engagement that we see on Wii U [is troubling]. It’s so integral to what we do. They’re so small it’s hardly worth running the servers. It seems like a box that’s out of sync with the future of EA – which is one that gives a real social feel to our games. The Wii U feels like an offline experience right now.”
So which is it? Does EA really still believe that Nintendo is a strong partner? If so why haven’t they supported the system in any way? If they don’t really believe in Wii U why not just come out and say it? As it is he just sounds disingenuous.
You might not have heard the name of Canada-based developer Next Level Games, but if you own a Nintendo console there’s a good chance that you’ve played at least one of their games. The company was founded just over 10 years ago in 2002 and the first game they worked on was NHL Hitz Pro for Midway. Since then they’ve moved on to work almost exclusively with Nintendo on a number of their properties.
They are the lead developer of the Mario Strikers franchise. They also led the development of the 2009 reboot of the Punch-Out!! franchise. After that they worked on the Wii port of some third party games like Transformers: Cybertron Adventures and Captain America: Super Soldier. Most recently they completed development of the sequel to a game that came out not long before their creation; Luigi’s Mansion.
While they are not technically a Nintendo developer the company has stated, through co-founder Jason Carr, that they are working exclusively on Nintendo products now. The small 70 person team studio likes the stability and the fit that comes from working with Nintendo. When asked if they’d thought about working with another company he said there was no reason for them to venture outside of that relationship because Nintendo continues to give them bigger and better IP to work with they like the relationship they’ve built with the company.
Next Level Games has routinely been featured among Canada’s Top 100 Employers, most recently in 2012, and a big part of that is family and fun. In an interview with Gamasutra Carr and producer Ken Yeeloy talked about why they’d been successful. They can’t go toe to toe with companies like EA when it comes to employee benefits and incentives. Instead they have fostered a place where people have fun when they come to work, but they also put a focus on employees families. The company doesn’t incentivize people to stay in the office away from their families. They don’t push long hours on their employees because they think it would make them unhappy. They attempt to foster a nice balance between work life and family life so that people enjoy coming in to work every day.
It’s unclear what project the company is working on as they have not announced any new games since the release of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. This company has become one of my favorite developers over the last few years and you can bet that whatever comes next from that studio is going to be high quality and it will most likely be another Nintendo property.