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Jbul Blog

Is The Wii U The Best Next Gen System Right Now?

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Yep, I'm back from the grave for a short but sweet reflection. I'm sure most of you know the PS4 and the Titanic... err, Xbox One are around the corner and have some people hyped, but let's face the facts -- every system launch in history has, regardless of the quality of titles introduced at launch, suffered from a lack of games to play for many months afterward.

This has happened with the Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Xbox, N64, PS1, etc etc etc.

So while I'm stoked to get the next-generation underway, what about the games? And more importantly, what about the Wii U?

Here are the launch games for the PS4 and Xbox One, that even seem mildly interesting to me.

PS4

Killzone: Shadowfall

Resogun

Xbox One:

Crimson Dragon

Dead Rising 3

Pretty short list, eh? And as good as those games might be, I have a sinking feeling none of them will be AAA titles.

What about the last 6 months for the Wii U?

The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker HD

The Wonderful 101

Pikmin 3

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Super Mario 3D World (it releases in a few weeks, but for purposes of this list, it's very signifigant)

The last one on the Wii U list is a real kicker -- Super Mario 3D World, a game that is being created by the same studio (Tokyo EAD) that made the Super Mario Galaxy games -- unquestionably some of the very best games of this console generation. Have you seen the gameplay videos? Okay, obviously I'm a huge Mario fan, but look at this --

I know I will eventually get a PS4, but the Wii U is looking rediculously tempting for the holidays. What would you rather wake up to on Christmas morning -- the bloody gun-porn of KIllzone shadowfall, or this game? Think about it.

The Enigmatic Checkpoint Pt 1

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Ever heard of a checkpoint?   'Course you have.   It's when we fail, we get another chance at redemption, less far from our obstacle than providence would declare.  

 

Look, man.  I'm all about straight up talk that everyone can understand.   Here's the thing with checkpoints -- they are delicate.  They can dictate pace, story urgency, and difficulty like few other game mechanics can.   

 

They also are powerful tools for game balance that are still being toyed with, with the best of our developers, across all platforms.   Recently, Rayman Legends introcduced checkpoints to it's predocessor Rayman Origin's 2D platforming gamepa Why did they introduce checkpoints into that series?   Oh god, well... this is going to take a bit of history, to please bear with me (I don't erase or edit my blogs).   

 

Rayman Origins was a hell of a 2D left-to-right game. One that blew any Mario games (and their imitators) out of the water of the last 20 years.  It did well, don't get me wrong.  But Origins had some faults.  Mainly that it became MONSTROUSLY difficult in the last 1/2.   So much so that a lot of us checked out (including myself).  Finishing a game has been linked to LOVING a game in many studies. 

The lesson is this;   If we, as gamers, can fiinish we like the game MUCH MUCH more than if we didn't finish it.

 

Simple.  The games we finish, we naturally love more than games we DO NOT finish.  The conclusion?

 

We, as gamers, like challenge.  But we don't like shitty checkpoint systems that frustrate us.

 

For my first example, I introduce Rayman Legends.  Rayman Origins (the first, and critically acclaimed entry in the series) was a great game but suffered badly from an old-school checkpoint system that forced the player to begin LONG and very diffuc;t sessions of gameplay from distant checkpoints.   Some gamers loved this shit.  They loved being abused.   To them, Rayman Origins was like a Mario game where you got kicked in the balls every time you failed --- you got sent back to the beginning like a pathetic idiot. But most gamers, myself included, wanted a fair shake at finshing their levels without stress -- myself included.

 

Rayman Legends, the sequel to Origins, introduced many elements of gameplay to the series and quietly became one of the best 2D games of all time.  The difference?  Checkpoints.   The challenge was equal... it was just a matter of fairness -- when you passed a section you could continue without starting from the title screen.   This made the game SOOOO much sweeter,  Your accomplishment?  Saved. and you could continue.  NO ONE of sane mind would argue that Origins was a better game.    Legends, without the hype, was a more colorful, sweeter, more joyful game than Origins.  But it was also funner, and fairer.   And that, my friends, means it was a better game.

 

 

Next time -- How  Checkpoints made GTA 5 one of the best games of ALL TIME (among other reaons, perhaps)

Rayman Legends Is The Best Game I've Played This Year

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I liked Rayman Origins a great deal, even buying it twice on different systems (360, then my Vita), but at times it was the game became really frustrating -- the final few levels were devilish in their trial-and-error gameplay memorization requirements, and really took a lot of the joy out of the experience for me.  Still a great game though, make no mistake.

 

I knew from playing the Rayman Legends demo back on Wii U in February that it was going to be something special -- the musical levels alone were better than anything I'd played in Origins.   

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However, nothing prepared me for what is easily one of the best 2D platformers ever made, a game that puts everything Miyamoto has done in the 2D realm in the last 20 years to absolute shame.  Yes, it's that good.

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Rayman Legends is just a more refined work -- more beautiful, more joyous, more varied, and more importantly, much more playable.   Gone are the nasty trial-and-error time based chase levels, replaced with gleeful musical levels that top off each already amazing world.   They're more or less a reward for your hard work -- something to look forward to after a dastardly (but awesome) boss battle.  

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It's really sad to see Nintendo beat so badly at their own game.   Mario remains entertaining but boringly safe.  Rayman Legends is crazy, beautiful, and wonderful.  

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This is a single player game with tons of content.  True, you can play couch co-op with up to 3 additional (4 if you have a Wii U) players, but it's really obvious this game is meant to be enjoyed on your own.   

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So put down your dreary, cynical shooters and multiplayer pissing contests.   Embrace teriffic creativty, beautiful art, and a game that embodies pure happiness.   Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

WTF is up with Soapbox?

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I know I don't get around to blogging anymore, really hardly EVER, but I do visit forums and do a quick glance of the main page of Gamespot.   What the hell is going on with the user blogs section?   Did they change it *again*?    Where are the people's blogs I once enjoyed reading?  Now, according to the frontpage, the user blogs featured in the Soapbox section come from "votes" from users... but when I clicked on the button for more information, of course the link was/is/has been broken for awhile.  

 

So what the hell is going on?   Will Gamespot ever make up it's mind in how it wants to feature user content?   Honestly, it's getting f***king annoying.   And that's me using restraint. :P 

Microsoft's Birthday Present To Me (Not A Joke)

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Happy Birthday, FrostyJ1,

This month you'll be another year wiser. 

As a reward for reaching CONTENDERCHAMPION, or LEGENDstatus in MyAchievements, you've earned this special birthday gift: 

20 Microsoft Points


Your Microsoft Points will be automatically deposited into your Xbox Live account by the 15th of the month. If you're a CHAMPIONor LEGEND, consider this gift a special bonus to the Rewards already coming your way - and if not, keep building your Gamerscore to climb the ranks! 

MyAchievements is just one of the fun extras you get for being a part of Xbox Live Rewards. Check out MyXtras to keep track of all the ways you can earn Rewards for doing what you love! But first, take a deep breath and blow out those candles!

Hoping your birthday wishes come true, 

Xbox Live Rewards Squad

The Xbox One -- Aka "The Titanic" Of Game Consoles

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In my 30 years of playing video games -- from the early 90's when I'd check newsstands daily to see if a new issue of EGM had come in yet to 2013, current day -- that was literally the most worthless, astonishingly boring, overly bloated, bat-sh** delusional, out-of-touch,  cynical, thoughtless mess of a major game console reveal I have ever seen, by a considerable margin.  Hands down.  And no, I'm not kidding.



Phil Harrison (Vice President of Microsoft( has recently, and concretely confirmed 2 things that matter (or SHOULD matter, if you have a brain cell in your head and care about your basic rights as a consumer)


1) The Xbox One will NOT PLAY USED GAMES.   You must purchase the FULL MSRP "validation code" to play any used game you buy.  So there is absolutely no point.   Say goodbye to lending your game to a friend, or your cousin, or your brother.


2) The Xbox One will require a CONSTANT Internet connection to function.   No, You CANNOT play single player games offline.   Microsoft has confirmed that the system will need to "auto-validate" an online connection ONCE per 24 hours in order to FUNCTION AT ALL, INCLUDING SINGLE PLAYER GAMES.



If you buy, or are considering buying this machine, you are a moron.


There's a reason Sony and Nintendo stocks SKYROCKETED after the Xbox One conference -- it's as anti-consumer as a product can get.   A machine that EMBODIES DRM.  


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This news was so souring that I literally went online right afterward and pre-ordered a Playstation 4, AND I bought a Playstation Vita.   Seriously.  Sony deserves all of my money at this point.


Your thoughts?

Redemption

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After years of scraping by with crap jobs that didn't fit my skillset (awesome bartender), today I wandered into San Diego's busiest bar with a resume.  

 

"What have I got to lose?" I thought to myself.

 

The last 3 or 4 years has seen me struggle harder than ever before.   About a year ago I went back to my old job (from which I was unceremoniously let go 4 years ago from for reasons that had to do with politics more than anything) and have been happy to at least be making money bartending.   Thing is, the shifts are slow.   When I left, all of my old and amazingly profitable shifts went to other people, and there I was again at the bottom of the totem pole.   At least it's a job, I told myself.

 

Which is true.   Between being fired and eventually returning to Mr. Drunky's (not the real name of the bar), I applied for dozens, if not hundreds of bartending gigs.   10 years of experience, rugged good looks, and an outstanding personality (bear with me here) did little for me in way of finding a job.  Typcially, my interviews would last 60-90 seconds despite my sharp attire (I always dressed really well for interviews), confidence, and incredible resume before being nonchalantly dismissed with scathing indifference by my potential future employers. I kept trying, but eventually it sucked the life out of me.   I'd show up to interviews and be so sure I wouldn't get the job I'd be bitter beforehand. I'd written blogs about how bartending in San Diego has more to do with "who you know", and also noted a sad trend of bars to hire beautiful (but incompetent) female bartenders in place of those with real skill.

 

Then, today...

 

I see an ad in the paper. I haven't applied for a job in person in awhile, maybe years.  This time, I wouldn't dress up.  Nah, I was done with that monkey show.  This time, I'd go in, and with the confidence of present employment in my chest, it wouldn't matter.  The chances of me landing this job here were so negligible that I basically just tried to enjoy the beautiful sun shining down on the group of applicatants as we waited to be called in for a face-to-face.  

 

Finally, it was my turn.  "Ah sh*t, not this song and dance again, this'll be over in 2 minutes" I say to myself.   I see a man sitting in his chair with his arms crossed and a look of jaded exhaustion sweeping over his lazy brow.   I extend my hand, smiling. "I'm James".  The man sits there with his arms crossed and doesn't extend his hand.   

I sit down, making a quick mental note to not let this slight bother me.  

I was relaxed but slightly nervous.   I spoke quickly, possibly too quickly, and I made a note of it.  He asked me typcial questions that I answered completely honestly.   Then he said "What's your availability?".  Another typical question, I told myself.  "It's open, except Saturday and Sunday mornings".   

 

"You got the job... you start training Monday.  I'll call you tonight."

 

The Wii U Is The Worst Console Launch In History

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Since my last blog, which had a lot of you defending the slow start of the Wii U, two more crushing blows have been delivered to Nintendo.   First, the 7-month delay and loss of exclusivity of the only Third-Party exclusive Nintendo has lined up for at least 5-6 months in Rayman Legends, which Ubisoft decided to release multiplatform at the last minute to due to poor Wii U sales, and now this...

 

 

The Wii U sold somewhere between 44k-55k consoles in the month of January.   To put this in perspective, here are the sales of each Nintendo console in the January following launch since the Gamecube, which was Nintendo's least successful home console.

 

(credit to Dvader for finding these numbers)

 

GameCube raw numbers, NPD:

NPD Jan 2002: 61,685
NPD Jan 2003: 79,813
NPD Jan 2004: 131,000
NPD Jan 2005: 112,327
NPD Jan 2006: 66,000

Wii raw numbers, NPD:

NPD Jan 2007 (5 weeks reporting): 436,000
NPD Jan 2008: 274,000
NPD Jan 2009: 679,200
NPD Jan 2010: 465,800
NPD Jan 2011: 319,000
NPD Jan 2012: ~148,000

Wii U raw numbers, NPD:

NPD Jan 2013 (5 weeks reporting): 45,900 to 59,500


A Nintendo console has NEVER had numbers in January so low since Iwata has become president. The 45-59K figure is unprecedented. UNPRECEDENTED




The Gamecube was the lowpoint for Nintendo, hardware-wise.   And now the Wii U has failed even worse.

 

Here's another set of sales numbers from around the time the Gamecube was at it's peak.

 

January 2003 NPD (4 week period):

PS2: 448K

XBOX: 164K 
GCN: 81K 
GBA: 266K

 

More numbers from back when this generation was EXPLODING...  note that the GAMECUBE (at this point considered dead for 3-4 years) sold almost as much as the Wii U did, last month.

 

January 2007

Wii - 436,000
360 - 294,000
PS3 - 244,000
PS2 - 299,000
NDS - 239,000
PSP - 211,000
GBA - 179,000
GC - 34,000

 

 

 

 

 

Yes folks, the worst launch in videogame console history.  

Is The Wii U In Trouble?

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While Nintendo's promise of Wii U being the "hardcore machine fans have been asking for" has seemingly fallen through the cracks with almost no upcoming AAA third-party games being ported to the machine (including, but not limited to Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, Metro: Last Light, and Grand Theft Auto 5), with tons of developer mamby-pamby regarding reasons "why", including but not limited to failure to "find a unique use for the Wii U's gamepad in multi-system releases", the final nail in the coffin may have been set recently.

 

With Nintendo president Satoru Iwata apologizing to fans left and right for lack of software (he also apologized for slow loading times, and lengthly, required day-1 firmware updates on different occasions as well), on a recent conference call to investors regarding the future of gaming and profit strategy, EA President John Riccitiello said. arguably in essence was "The Wii U won't have our support, we're looking to focus our future on the real next-gen consoles."   

 

Nintendo president: No price cut for Wii U

Sorry, sorry, sorry... Did I mention I'm sorry?

 

A transcript of a portion of the conference call is here, courtesy of GAF.  I've added emphasis on a few portions. 

 

 

Quote:To avoid any confusion, I've just re-transcribed the Wii U quote from a recording of the investor call. Here it is in full:

Originally Posted by Electronic Arts:
Q: I know Nintendo came out today and was a little bit more cautious with their outlook for Wii U sales, doesn't sound like this is a platform you guys are really pursuing aggressively on. What does this really say about the consumers' willingness to adopt the next-gen consoles we should have something new from Sony and Microsoft, so what does that say with Nintendo going through the early struggles on the Wii U?

A: So, couple of things. First, you never count Nintendo out. They've got some of the best IPs in the game industry, when their marquee titles show up, that's when you usually see the bounce. I'm deeply respectful of the achievements they've had over the last several years, and so yeah, never really count them out.

Having said that, I wouldn't say that we see much correlation between the results that Nintendo have just shown with the console debut of the Wii U and what we see coming. We see a pretty sharp distinction and unfortunately I'm unable to go any further than that.

Ours is an industry where a lot of devices come in and represent themselves as the next generation or the next generation after that. You know in many ways, we would argue that the gen what we're describing as "Gen 4", is yet to come and it's that we're excited about, and that's what we're investing in, and frankly we've been quite consistent with that for some time, recognising the frustration our inability to articulate precisely why, causes for you.

 

While heated Nintendo fans petition to bring, at the very least, the new Tomb Raider to the console, Destructoid joins the legion of frustrated fans by dismissed developer bullsh!t on faux reasons why the Wii U isn't garnering third-party support.    

 

In short, the article points out that the typical excuse for no ports to the console have to do with companies failing to find unique uses for the Wii U's gamepad touchsceen interface.   But is this skirting the issue?   Couldn't they make ports that don't utilize the gamepad's touchscreen?  Or is it just an easy way of avoiding working on a console that Industry leaders consider to be a doomed and antiquated machine?  

 

I'd like to hear your thoughts.