I Fancy a Rant

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Do you know what? I am f**king sick of seeing the same articles repeated over and over again on every f**king gaming site I visit. "(insert game name here) runs at 1080p on PS4, 720p on Xbox One." "Flappy Bird (insert whatever you f**king like)." "Nintendo is doomed (like they have been since the N64)." I AM BLOODY SICK OF IT! I understand that websites publish articles like this to get hits. I know how business works. But for f**ks sake, I'm getting fed up of it. Sure, it was interesting to hear about a couple of games that run in 1080p on PS4 and not the Xbox One at first. Sure, maybe the abuse aimed at Flappy Birds was kinda funny at first. Sure, I'm critical of Nintendo myself at times. But these subjects aren't f**king interesting any more. Change the f**king record. This isn't news any more!!! I'd argue anything related to Flappy Bird wasn't even news in the first f**king place.

PS: On a side note I just wanted to say that Bravely Default is awesome. Any fan of old-school Final Fantasy really needs to get it.

My Game of the Year 2013 Winner

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

I didn’t know what to think when Nintendo first showed A Link Between Worlds to the world earlier this year via their Nintendo Direct video. Miyamoto had been hinting in the months leading up to its announcement that he would like to create a new Zelda game based on the SNES masterpiece A Link to the Past, but I didn’t put much thought behind what he was saying. But when A Link Between Worlds was announced as a sequel to A Link to the Past, but set six generations later, I was hit with a mix of feelings. I generally prefer 2D Zelda games, but after experiencing how well Ocarina of Time 3D felt to play on the 3DS, and how impressed I was with the port, I was honestly expecting the next portable Zelda entry to follow suit and be in full 3D. Instead A Link Between Worlds was in the classic 2D style, despite being rendered in 3D, and was set in the same iteration of Hyrule that SNES players first experienced over two decades ago. Yet, despite taking influence from the past, A Link Between Worlds was actually the most forward thinking and thoroughly enjoyable Zelda experience in over a decade. Not since The Wind Waker had a Zelda game pulled me in to its world this much, and in many ways this 3DS title was better than The Wind Waker in all the areas that matter the most to me. Unlike Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword, A Link Between Worlds fall in to none of the pitfalls that more recent Zelda games have. There’s no filler content, no forced hand holding, no annoying sidekick. And now, for the first time since the original game for the NES, you could tackle dungeons in any order. The game respected its players in ways that previous games hadn’t. The hand holding in Skyward Sword verged on insulting for a veteran of the series such as myself, but A Link Between Worlds just left you to explore to your hearts content and conquer dungeons on your own. And the ability to turn in to a drawing wasn’t a gimmick, it really did change the way Nintendo designed puzzles. My biggest criticism of Twilight Princess was that it recycled far too many puzzles, but A Link Between Worlds introduced new puzzled that were feasibly impossible in past games. A Link Between Worlds may be the best Zelda game in years, but it is also one of the finest games in the series in general. It was incredibly difficult to not vote for Fire Emblem: Awakening, but A Link Between Worlds is simply wonderful.

My Game of the Year 2013 Nominations [UPDATED]

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Here are my 10 nominations for Game of the Year 2013.

[UPDATED] Since writing this list I have had the chance to buy and play Media Molecule's wonderful Tearaway for the Vita, and I actually think that it deserves to replace BioShock Infinite in this list.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PlayStation 3)

Ni no Kuni proves that as long as a game is enjoyable it doesn’t have to stray too far away from the traditions of its genre. From top to bottom Ni no Kuni is rooted firmly in JRPG tropes; the only one it avoids is random battles. But the game is full of charm, the sort of which I haven’t felt since the glory days of the genre in the 1990’s, when it was ripe with creativity on the SNES and PlayStation. Level 5 are notorious for creating wonderful JRPGs, and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch isn’t an exception.

Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)

Although I am a big fan of role-playing games, and more specifically Japanese RPGs, one side of the genre that I have rarely played is that of tactical RPGs. I dabbled with Final Fantasy Tactics as a child, and played a little of Shining Force and the Game Boy Advance version of Fire Emblem (the first game in the series released in the west), but that was about it. Then I played Fire Emblem: Awakening. The game was already on my radar before it received its insane acclaim, but the praise it received took it to the top of my list. I’m no expert on this type of RPG, but Awakening blew me away. Of all the games in the genre that I have played, no matter how few, it is the best. I know a lot of Final Fantasy Tactics fans will hate me for saying that, but I can’t help which game I prefer.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS)

Animal Crossing: Wild World was the game that introduced me to Nintendo’s odd life simulation series, and it remains my favourite game in the series as well as one of my top 5 DS games. New Leaf is arguably just as good though. Animal Crossing, despite making its debut on a console, is the sort of game experience that is more at home on the go. It isn’t required that you play it in large stints, but it’s also one of the most rewarding series if you put the hours in to it. New Leaf doesn’t stray too far from what makes the series enjoyable, but it has enough new features to keep fans and newcomers alike coming back for more.

Pikmin 3 (Wii U)

Pikmin was a great game that felt dragged down by its time limit. Pikmin 2 got rid of the time limit, slowed the pace and allowed you to explore at your own pace. It was better than the original in just about every way. Pikmin 3 sees the time limit return, but this time it isn’t a heavy burden hanging over your head. You always know its there, but it doesn’t stop you taking the time to explore and see everything the world has to offer. I still think Pikmin 3 should have been a launch title for the Wii U, and I don’t really know what the delay really added to the game. But any Pikmin fan will fall in love with it. It comes highly recommended.

Rayman Legends (Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Vita, PC)

Rayman Origins is one of my favourite games of the seventh generation. Legends had a lot to live up to, as Origins was a glorious return to Rayman’s platform roots. In many ways Legends is just as good, even if the Murphy levels aren’t as engaging as the pure action stages. I enjoyed Origins more overall, but the fact that Legends comes with all the Origins levels included makes it a real winner.

Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Grand Theft Auto V was the biggest game of the year. It’s as simple as that. But was it the best? It’s a hard one. I love Grand Theft Auto, and V certainly got rid of the bitter taste in my mouth that IV left me with. Grand Theft Auto V was a brilliant return to form, as it corrected everything I disliked about IV. What I liked the most about it was that it brought back the ridiculousness of the early games that IV seemed to lack, and the way its story centred around the lives of three playable characters instead of just the one was great. It’s also probably Rockstar’s most realised open world effort to date. But the competition has been strong this year, so GTA V isn’t guaranteed anything.

Pokemon X and Y (Nintendo 3DS)

The first Pokemon games for the 3DS were also the biggest shake up for the series since Gold and Silver. They are the first to be rendered in full 3D, the first to let players customize the look of their character and the new Pokemon additions were, for the most part, the best in a long time. The games won’t do anything to win over critics of the series, but for fans such as myself they delivered on all fronts.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS)

A Link Between Worlds isn’t just a good game, it is the best Zelda game in over a decade, and a monumental return to form for the series after years of games that were good, but fundamentally flawed in many ways. A Link Between Worlds is everything I want in a Zelda game, and it really felt like Nintendo tailor made a Zelda game just for my tastes. It corrects all the mistakes made with Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword because it rids Link of an annoying side kick, drops the incessant hand holding and has a world that is a joy to explore. It is a magnificent game, and arguably the best piece of software Nintendo has released since Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Super Mario 3D World wasn’t the 3D Wii U Mario adventure we were all expecting, but as usual Nintendo proved its doubters wrong with one of Mario’s finest outings in over 3 years. It’s still the Mario we all know, so it won’t win over anyone who disliked past games. But because of this it is also still a wonderful gaming experience, and proves that Mario is still the king of fun.

Tearaway (Vita)

Tearaway is Media Molecule’s first game for the Vita, and much like their wonderful LittleBigPlanet it is another magical platformer. But Tearaway is their first 3D platformer, and if it isn’t the best game of the year it certainly is one of the most charming. From beginning to end you’ll find it impossible to play the game without a huge smile on your face, and it is one of the most polished looking and best playing platform games in quite some time. And while past Vita games have tried, but failed, to take advantage of all the hardware’s neat features, such as its rear touch pad, Tearaway is the best example of what the Vita has achieve so far. In fact the features of the Vita are so essential to the experience that Tearaway would never have been created if the Vita didn't exist. It would have been impossible for the game to be on any other format. Tearaway is easily the best original game for the Vita.

The Legend of Zelda: A Series Retrospective

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With The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds just around the corner I thought I’d do my own retrospective of the Zelda series.

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

The Legend of Zelda was the equivalent of Skyrim for the NES. It was a huge, completely open world adventure, the complete opposite of everything else Nintendo were releasing at the time. Alongside Elite for the PC it was the pioneer of this style of game play, and nothing else on consoles could compare back in 1986. The games eight main dungeons could be tackled in any order you saw fit, although there was a preferred root through the main quest, as tackling the eighth dungeon before the first would prove rather difficult. The game was so open that you could go through the entire adventure without ever receiving your sword, a challenge that only die-hard Zelda fans could accomplish. And the game itself had no hints of where to go next if you was stuck, a design idea that Shigeru Miyamoto deliberately chose as he wanted friends who were playing the game to talk amongst themselves to try and figure out where to go next. The game also had a super difficult ‘second quest’ that became available by finishing the first quest or by naming your game file ‘ZELDA’. No open world adventure game since has drawn me in quite as much as The Legend of Zelda did, and it rightly deserves its place amongst the best games of all time.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987)

Zelda II came before the Zelda formula was set in stone, and as a result it was about as different from the first game as fans could have imagined. The game had more structure, and instead of being played from a ¾ overhead perspective the main chunk of the game was side-scrolling. The overhead view remained only when Link travelled across the over world, all town and dungeon exploration was from a new perspective. The game also had a levelling system that made it more of an RPG than an action-adventure game. It also notably introduce the magic metre to the series, as well as Dark/Shadow Link. Zelda II also marked the first appearance of the Triforce of Courage, and it also introduced towns and fully interactive none-playable characters to the series. Released to critical acclaim the title was voted the best game of 1988 by Nintendo Power magazine, but over the years Zelda II has become known as the ‘black sheep’ of the series, mainly because it is so different to anything else the series has known. The game is also the most difficult in the series, and fans often roughly treat it, as it is often labelled as the worst game in the series. Personally I feel the game is rather hard done by.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)

Many fans saw A Link to the Past as a return to the series roots after the experimental second instalment. Bringing back the overhead perspective of the original, A Link to the Past was, from a pure game play perspective, the perfect refinement of the original title. But unlike the first game A Link to the Past wasn't a romp through a massively open world, instead it introduced structure to the series, and is the game that every subsequent title in the series has followed. But the lack of openness wasn’t a subtraction. A Link to the Past was a monumental achievement, and remains one of the best games Nintendo has ever made. The game has twelve dungeons, the most of any game in the series, and is home to arguably the best level design and puzzles that Nintendo has ever thought up. It was also the first to introduce the ‘two worlds’ concept that numerous Zelda games have copied since, with the light world (regular Hyrule) and the dark world (the evil realm) both accessible, and mastering travel through both is one of the titles finest elements. The game also introduced the legendary Master Sword, arguably gaming’s most famous and iconic weapon, and also marked the début of other memorable items such as the Pegasus Shoes and the Hookshot. A Link to the Past isn't my favourite game in the series, but it is damn close. It’s also the purest representation of the time-honoured Zelda formula.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)

In the early 90’s, much like today, Nintendo was dominating the portable gaming scene with the Game Boy, but many felt the Game Boy offered nothing more than watered down versions of console titles. Something such as Super Mario Land is an example of this. But Link’s Awakening smashed all preconceptions that the Game Boy couldn’t offer as rich an experience as a console, as Link’s Awakening felt just like A Link to the Past, only on the go. Many fans, in fact, regard Link’s first portable adventure even more highly than the Super NES classic. Link’s Awakening is also a significant game in the series for reasons other than marking Link’s portable début. The now usual trading side quest that every Zelda game seems to have originated here, and Link’s Awakening was also the first game set outside of Hyrule. Instead the entire game was played out on the island of Koholint. It was also the first game in the series not to include Zelda, Ganon or the Triforce, and some enemies from the Super Mario games also made appearances. When I first played Link’s Awakening I thought it was the best portable video game ever made, and over the years that opinion hasn’t changed.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

No other video game in history has demanded as much respect as Ocarina of Time. When the jump from 2D to 3D happened many questioned how the classic 2D franchises would adapt, and just like Mario 64 before it Ocarina of Time was a monumental leap. But this wasn’t just any other Zelda game. Sure, it still felt like a Zelda game. You still travelled across Hyrule, interacting with townsfolk and completing dungeons. But at the same time everything was so new. No game on consoles was this huge, and none of them offered as rich a world to explore. And the revolutionary Z-targeting finally got over that stumbling block of how to make combat in 3D as easy and precise as in 2D. The game was as close to perfect as the hardware at the time could allow it, and it created the template that all 3D action games follow still to this day. And this is all without mentioning how fantastic the level design was, or how strong the puzzles were, or how the game was the perfect balance between old and new, or how wonderful the soundtrack was, or how you simply didn’t want to stop playing it even when you reached the end. Ocarina of Time is arguably the greatest achievement in the industry, and even now, 15 years after its original release, the title is still lauded by gamers across the world.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)

Majora’s Mask was a direct reaction to the acclaim that Ocarina of Time received. Although it ran on the same engine (which is a rarity for Zelda games), it tried to differentiate itself from Ocarina in almost all aspects. Instead of being set in Hyrule it was set in Termina. At the time it was only the second game in the series set outside of the holy land. The game itself was played on a revolving three-day cycle, and it had only four dungeons. But it introduced a level of NPC interaction that no game in the series matched before or since, and it was heavily reliant on side quests. It was also much more difficult than Ocarina of Time, and by far the darkest game in the series to date. Even though the basic game play was identical it was a huge change overall. No Zelda game since has been this experimental with the series’ formula, and many point to Majora’s Mask as the best game in the series for this very reason. But it wasn’t received as well commercially. At the time of its release Majora’s Mask was the lowest selling entry in the series, but many attribute this to the fact that the game required the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak to be played, and a lot of consumers didn’t want to buy an expensive RAM expansion just to play a single game.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons (2001)

Oracle of Ages and Seasons were released very late in the lifespan of the Game Boy Colour, and they were the first games in the series developed by an outside company (not including the horrendous CDi games, they don’t count). They were developed by Flagship, a development team founded by Capcom, but this didn’t diminish their value. Although both released on the same day the Oracle games weren’t like the Pokemon games. Each was set in a totally different land, and each offered their own unique adventure. And each game focused on something different. Ages was far more puzzles heavy while Seasons was more about combat. But this didn’t take anything away from either experience, as Ages still had some tough battles and Seasons still challenged your mind. They both ran on a slightly modified version of Link’s Awakening’s engine, and they both shared the same graphical style. Anyone who loved Link’s Awakening fit straight in to these two wonderful portable experiences. The best aspect of the games is that, after finishing one, you received a password that allowed you to continue you adventure across both games. It didn’t matter which you started with, and linking them was the only way to see the true ending to each game. But today the Oracle games are sadly the most overlooked games in the series. Despite their critical acclaim (they are still two of the highest rated portable video games ever made) the games were lost in the hype surrounding the upcoming release of the Game Boy Advance, and many newer Zelda fans simply don’t know they even exist.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (2002)

Four Swords was only released alongside the Game Boy Advance port of A Link to the Past, and it wasn’t until recently that the game became available as a stand alone title when Nintendo released it as a free download from the eShop to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original game. Because of this a lot of people haven’t played the game, and while it is the weakest in the series it’s still worth experiencing at least once for nothing other than the fact that it was the first ever-multiplayer Zelda game. It isn’t as complex or as intricate as the other games in the series, but its randomised dungeons were still enjoyable to explore.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)

The Wind Waker is a notable game in the series for me, as I regard it the last truly great Zelda game. Not that the games since have been bad, because they haven’t, but up to the release of The Wind Waker the series was the most consistently brilliant in the industry. The Wind Waker played almost identically to Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, but this time you had to travel a vast ocean, visiting and re-visiting numerous islands, in your quest to rescue your kidnapped sister. The Wind Waker initially split fans, as its cel-shaded art style was seen by many a gorgeous step forward, but by just as many as child-like. This ultimately led a lot of people to believe that The Wind Waker was aimed more at children than the die-hard fans. Yet once gamers got their hands on it they found that, in terms of level design, it was as good as any Zelda game before it. The Zelda series may not have reached these heights since, but The Wind Waker was a glorious goodbye to the series golden years.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)

The Minish Cap was the third Zelda game developed by Flagship, after the Oracle games, and it remains the last entry in the series to be created by an outside company. Although A Link to the Past was ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2002 The Minish Cap remained the only original Zelda game released for the system (if you don’t like to count Four Swords). At the time of its release, and little did we really know at the time, The Minish Cap was actually the earliest game in the Zelda timeline, and it was originally going to tell the story of the creation of the Master Sword. But the script was ultimately changed, and the story actually revolved around the Four Sword, the same sword found in the Four Swords multiplayer game. Although not as good as Flagship’s first two Zelda games, The Minish Cap remains one of the best games ever made for the Game Boy Advance.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (2005)

Four Swords Adventures rounded off the Four Swords trilogy, consisting of itself, Four Swords and The Minish Cap. It brought across the multiplayer elements of Four Swords to the GameCube, but you could this time play by yourself and control all four Links’ either individually or as a team in pre-set formations. The game was best experienced with more than one player, but because players 2-4 all needed a Game Boy Advance and a GBA to GameCube link cable, finding friends with all the required kit wasn’t an easy task. But Four Swords Adventures remains an interesting game in the series, and it was a vast improvement over the original Four Swords concept.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)

The hype surrounding Twilight Princess was huge. When it was first shown to the world at E3 in 2004 the reception it received remains arguably the greatest moment in the history of the event, and the two-year wait for its release was agonizing. Initially it was to be released in 2005, but in a monumental move Nintendo delayed the title by a full year to port it across as a release title for their new, sixth generation console, the Wii. Thankfully it was still released for the GameCube, so fans weren’t forced to buy an entirely new console just to play it. But by the time its December 2006 release date drew near fans had seen it all. The title was released to huge critical acclaim and commercial success, and reports suggest that the title was purchased with three of every four Wii consoles sold in 2006. In many ways Twilight Princess was as brilliant as fans could have hoped for, but at the same time it started to show cracks in the Zelda formula. The game itself, although technically brilliant, felt more like Ocarina of Time 1.5 than an entirely new Zelda experience, and many veteran fans found it far too easy and predictable. And on a personal note I found many of the games puzzles disappointing, as a lot of them were re-used from past instalments. When it was at its finest Twilight Princess was just as good as the likes of The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening and Ocarina of Time, but unfortunately the overall experience brought it down. It’s still a great game on its own merits, but it wasn’t the revolution many wanted or expected it to be.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007)

Phantom Hourglass, above all else, was designed primarily to exploit the DS’s touch screen mechanics to its fullest. The entire game is played on the bottom screen, and touching the screen and dragging the stylus across it made Link walk. Tapping an enemy, or doing a quick swipe across the screen, made Link attack and swing his sword. Drawing a line on the screen when Link had his boomerang in his hand drew a path that the boomerang followed once thrown. Tapping a switch on a wall then you had the bow out made Link fire an arrow. Although it may sound like Nintendo wanted to create a game for no purpose other than to use the touch screen, when they could have mapped all controls to buttons instead, the game play was actually really enjoyable. Story wise Phantom Hourglass was a direct sequel to The Wind Waker, so you played as the same Link, and Tetra and the pirates all returned too. As did the sailing, although this time around your boat was steam-powered and followed a course you plotted automatically, which allowed for more combat in between journeys to pass the time. But despite its creative touch screen game play Phantom Hourglass had its fair share of problems. A lot of fans complained about its ease. Most veterans got through the whole adventure without dying at all, even against some of the cleverly designed bosses. And the game had a recurring dungeon that had to be visited multiple times throughout the adventure, but its necessity to force players to replay puzzles they had already beat before made it feel very tiresome and needless.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)

Most fans seem to prefer Phantom Hourglass to Spirit Tracks, but I actually enjoyed Spirit Tracks a lot more overall. The main reason for this is because it was a lot more difficult than Phantom Hourglass. And the dungeons were a lot more creative, and some of them had some genuinely difficult puzzles. Game play wise it was identical to Phantom Hourglass, but Spirit Tracks actually let you play as Zelda… sort of. At the beginning of the game Zelda kind of dies, but her spirit lives on and accompanies Link throughout his adventure. Her spirit can take over Phantoms, the heavily armed enemies found inside the Temple of the Ocean King in Phantom Hourglass, and this switches control from Link over to the Zelda-controlled Phantom. It was nice to actually see Zelda have more of an active role in the adventure, and this mechanic opened opportunities for some creative puzzles which required switching from Link to Zelda, and vice versa, in order to figure them out. But again, Spirit Tracks was a flawed game. Just like Phantom Hourglass this also had its own recurring dungeon, and although it addressed a lot of the problems found in Phantom Hourglass it still got tiresome revisiting the same dungeon over and over again. And Spirit Tracks, as the title suggests, replaced the boat travel from Phantom Hourglass with train travel, but because trains can only follow where their tracks take them the game felt like it was limiting freedom.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)

Touting motion controls that linked Link’s sword swings to the swing of the Wii Remote Plus, Skyward Sword felt like the video game that the Wii was designed for. It was the game that really showcased Nintendo’s vision of motion controlled gaming to its fullest. But Skyward Sword wasn’t released until 2011, and by that time the Wii was all but finished. The Wii U was announced at E3 that year, and Nintendo seemingly had nothing else planned for the Wii. Skyward Sword was their last big game, and had it come earlier in the lifespan of the Wii maybe it could have influenced more better designed motion controlled games. Outside of the new control scheme Skyward Sword was a good, solid Zelda game. Its dungeons were fantastic, and its art style was gorgeous. But as enjoyable as the game was it left a lot to be desired. The game started ridiculously slow, even slower than Twilight Princess. By the time you reached the first dungeon you had already spent hours aimlessly wandering around through what seemed to be a never-ending tutorial opening. The time in between each dungeon felt huge as well, and quite a lot of the game felt repetitive, especially the recurring fight against the Imprisoned. And the world, although gorgeous to look at, felt rather lacklustre. The sky world was so empty it made the great ocean in The Wind Waker feel action packed, and each of the three main regions of the main land of Hyrule were all separate and not interconnected, meaning you had to travel back to the sky to go from one area to the next. For every note Nintendo hit with Skyward Sword they missed an equal amount. It felt like a step forward for the series in terms of control, but a step backwards in terms of structure. It is a good game, and Zelda fans should enjoy it. But it wasn’t as special as it maybe could have been, and it really never reached the potential that it had.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)

So, what does the future of the Zelda series hold? A Link Between Worlds hits store shelves this Friday, and from what I’ve read and seen so far it seems to be the Zelda game that fans such as myself have been craving for years now. A sequel to A Link to the Past, it acts as a homage to the Zelda of old while changing the formula for the future. I won’t know exactly how good it is until I’ve played it, but so far it looks very promising.

I Sure Miss Sega Consoles

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It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 years since Sega released the Dreamcast in the west. Time sure flies. I was eight years old when Sega unleashed their last console upon the gaming world, and it was the first piece of gaming hardware that I was genuinely excited about.

I grew up playing games on an Amiga computer, then later on the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Saturn, but because I was so young I was never hyped to play these consoles. I just played them because my Dad already bought them. But I was so hyped for the Dreamcast, and that day my Dad brought one home was something special. I remember playing SoulCalibur, Sonic Adventure, Speed Devils, Hydro Thunder and Toy Commander pretty much every single day, later dabbling with the likes of Shenmue, Quake III Arena and Jet Set Radio. Those are memories I will never forget.

The Dreamcast is my second favourite console ever, but the console really is bittersweet. I adore it as a gaming system. The games released for it, especially the big ones, were all phenomenal and all showcased high levels of game design. SoulCalibur was unbelievable. Shenmue broke so much new ground. Jet Set Radio looked gorgeous. Even still to this day, when I play my Dreamcast, I can still feel that magic I first felt all those years ago.

But it also upsets me to play the Dreamcast, for as much as I adore it the console did fail monumentally compared to the PlayStation 2, and it did signal the end of Sega’s hardware division. Sega’s departure from the hardware business has left a void in the industry, one that the Xbox never quite filled despite the Xbox feeling like a spiritual successor to the Dreamcast. Sega did everything right with the Dreamcast, but it all came too late.

From the Sega CD/Mega CD onwards, none of Sega’s hardware releases went well. The Sega CD was progressive thinking, but was expensive and full of rubbish games (other than Sonic CD and the two Lunar titles), while the 32X, a 32-bit add-on for the Mega Drive, was pointless because only 6 months after it hit store shelves the Saturn was released, which rendered it completely useless. And the Saturn’s shock E3 showing in 1995 never helped its cause either. Sega made so many mistakes with the Sega CD, 32X and Saturn, and they were never quite forgiven for them with the Dreamcast

And it’s a huge shame, because the Dreamcast was the ultimate game system. Aimed squarely at the dedicated gamer, the Dreamcast had pretty much everything gamers could have wanted, and even had the ability to play games online (a first for consoles). It was years ahead of its time, yet once Sony announced the highly anticipated PS2 the sales dipped, and after only 18 months the Dreamcast hardware was discontinued.

The lifespan of the Dreamcast was only short, but the console gave me far more memories than any of the competitions hardware that generation. And that’s why I miss Sega hardware more than any other reason. Anyway, here’s a run down of the games I most enjoyed playing for the Dreamcast back in the day, some of which are still the best their genre has ever seen.

SoulCalibur

I like fighting games, but still to this day I’ve never come close to mastering any game in the genre. I really enjoy series such as Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Street Fighter, but I have always sucked at them and will probably always suck at them. Back when SoulCalibur came out I wasn’t a fan of the genre at all. While the first video game I ever played, Body Blows, was a 2D fighter the genre couldn’t keep my interest. But SoulCalibur wasn’t any ordinary game. I played that game for hours at a time as a kid, and still to this day bring it out every now and again to lay the smack down on anyone or anything. While I’ve never mastered any fighting game, SoulCalibur is the one that I’ve come closest. Truly one of the best games ever made.

Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2

Before Sega revitalized Sonic with 2010’s Sonic Colours, the last great 3D Sonic games were released nearly a decade previously for the Dreamcast. Sonic Adventure was the key launch title for the console, mainly because the Sega Saturn lacked its very own original Sonic title, meaning fans were starving for their Sonic fix. Sonic Adventure 2 came along two years later, in 2001, and was the mascot game of Sonic’s 10th birthday celebrations. While both games have aged over the years they are still hugely enjoyable and thoroughly worthwhile. While I prefer the original, Adventure 2 recaptures that essence of Sonic’s 2D games better than the first.

Jet Set Radio

No other game I have ever played has recaptured that essence of ‘cool’ exuberated by Jet Set Radio (or as all you Stateside call it, Jet Grind Radio). Jet Set was a 3D platformer, but instead of stomping on Goomba’s or smashing Robotnik you had to battle against an oppressive police force and rival roller-gangs in a effort to own the streets and stick it to the man. There wasn’t anything quite like it at launch, and its stunning cel-shade visual style was just as striking as the rest of the game. And the feeling you got skating around, spraying over rival tags, was awesome. This may very well be the best game for the system.

Space Channel 5

95% of people would look at Space Channel 5 and disregard it without even playing it. But you shouldn’t just cast aside Space Channel 5 - not at all. You see, despite how weird it looks, and admittedly plays, Space Channel 5 is arguably the greatest rhythm game ever made, and certainly one of the most striking games on the Dreamcast. And unlike pretty much all rhythm games today Space Channel 5 doesn’t require a huge piece of instrument-shaped plastic to play it. All you need is a plain old simple controller.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes

As a said above, I love fighters but suck at them. Capcom fighters in general aren’t necessarily the easiest for new comers, or those who suck at the genre, to get their teeth in to, because they aren’t as forgiving as the likes of Tekken or SoulCalibur, but Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is so good you won’t even care if you get your butt kicked all the time, you’ll simply enjoy the experience. Marvel 2 is often voted the greatest fighting game ever made, and while my uneducated mind disagrees with that statement I can totally understand why. It really is that good.

Shenmue and Shenmue II

Shenmue has become synonymous with the Dreamcast. Released in 2000 the game came on the back of a huge amount of hype. First conceived in the mid 90’s as a Sega Saturn RPG spin-off of Virtua Fighter as development went on the game went in a completely different path and was eventually split up in to a trilogy. At launch the first game was acclaimed, but some felt it was a little boring. The second, although not as good in my mind, managed to ‘fix’ some of the criticisms that were levelled at the original. Both games helped pioneer the sandbox genre, and the first one was an influence on DMA Design’s Grand Theft Auto III, which was released a year later. Unfortunately the Dreamcast’s poor commercial performance limited the series audience. The first game was one of only 5 Dreamcast titles to sell over one million units, but the game was a retail failure as it failed recouped its huge $70 development cost (at the time Shenmue was, by far, the most expensive video game ever made, and remained so until 2008). The sales of Shenmue II didn’t help the cause either, so Sega pulled the plug on the series after only two of the planned three games, leaving the series on an unresolved cliffhanger that fans have had to put up with for over a decade. And Half-Life fans think they have it bad. Series creator, and living legend, Yu Suzuki has stated multiple times over the years that he wants to create Shenmue III and finally bring closure to the series and its fans, but Sega doesn’t seem interested. I really hope they reconsider sometime in the future.

Power Stone

Power Stone was like Super Smash Bros., but it wasn’t restricted to 2D. The game was a duke it out in 3D environments, and it really was just as competitive and enjoyable as Nintendo’s universally praised franchise. I remember wiping the floor with my brother so many times. It may never win the same sort of acclaim as Smash Bros., but Power Stone really was just as enjoyable when played with others.

Ready 2 Rumble Boxing

The Dreamcast had unquestionably the best launch line up ever. If you bought one day one, and had the money, you could have bought enough fantastic games to last you for months. Ready 2 Rumble was one of these games, and it was another great example why the Dreamcast is probably the best console ever for fighting games. Cartoonish, and utterly bonkers, Ready 2 Rumble was a game I used to play a lot with other people. In many ways I treated it in the same manner I treated Power Stone, and I enjoyed it a lot more against people than playing it alone. If you still haven’t played this game, in any of its forms, you really need to.

The Typing of the Dead

The Typing of the Dead is a game that really shouldn’t be enjoyable, but it really is. Taking the mundane task of typing, and mixing it together with The House of the Dead 2 sounds, on paper, like a completely crazy idea, but in reality The Typing of the Dead was every bit better than the home port of Sega’s classic light gun series. Instead of aiming and shooting enemies walk towards you with text boxes on their chests, and you had to type out on your keyboard what was written in a text box to kill an enemy. The game starts out easily enough, but as you progress you’ll go from typing single words to kill enemies to typing full sentences. And the more you play the more you really do feel like you’re improving your typing skills. Kudos Sega, for taking a concept so outrageous and making it fun.

Crazy Taxi

LET’S GO MAKE SOME CRAZY MONEY!!! I still can’t believe Sega managed to make a game about driving a taxi worthwhile, let alone as hugely enjoyable as they did. I have played Crazy Taxi so much over the years that I know the game and the soundtrack like the back of my hand. The Dreamcast really showcased Sega’s arcade heritage like nothing else they ever did, and Crazy Taxi is one of the best examples. The game may have been ported so many times over the years that it has been all but worn out, but the Dreamcast version really was as good as us Sega fans say it is.

Thanks for the Memories

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Nintendo has announced that they will be discontinuing the Wii in Japan, which only signals the beginning of the end for the console in other regions also. The Wii will, sadly, be mostly remembered as the laughing stock of the seventh generation - the little white box that lacked the HD graphics and so-called 'hardcore' games found on the competition's hardware. But that shouldn't be the legacy of this under appreciated console.

The Wii was Nintendo’s revival after years lagging behind Sony. The PlayStation and PlayStation 2 dominated the competition, and many felt Nintendo had come to the end of their time. But the Wii saw a revival that many felt would be impossible.

The Wii wasn't perfect my any means. In many ways it was a terrible console. Apart from lacking the now industry standard HD visuals, Nintendo’s lack of enthusiasm in the online department also resulted in many simply batting off the idea that the Wii was anything other than a casual gaming machine. But the relevance of a console, in my opinion, doesn't come from its features but rather its games. It’s true that the Wii had a lot of shovel ware, but the same could be said for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, yet those are still seen two of the best consoles of all time. At its finest the games on the Wii weren't just as good as the competition – they were better.

Titles such as the Mario Galaxy duo, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, Metroid Prime 3, Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and No More Heroes showed levels of creativity not see on the competition’s hardware. And retro revivals such as Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Punch-Out!! and A Boy and His Blob, as well as party games like Wii Sports, meant the console had something for pretty much everyone.

And of course the lasting legacy of the Wii has to be the Virtual Console, a download service which provided specifically classic retro games from Nintendo’s past. Nintendo released games from consoles such as the NES, SNES and N64 for the service, while Sega allowed Master System and Mega Drive games to be purchased through the service also (which is something Nintendo fans would have at one point thought an impossible act).

Yes, I loved the Wii. It may have been seen as a useless little white box, but it was MY useless little white box. And I loved every minute I spent with it.

Pokemon Y Impressions

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I've been with the Pokemon series since the beginning, and over the years I've experienced first-hand how the series has evolved. Naturally Pokemon has become one of my all-time favourite franchises, and Pomemon X and Y were some of my most anticipated games of the year. Now that I have had Pokemon Y for over a week I thought it was time to give some impressions of the game so far.

The first thing that will strike you about X and Y is that, apart from it's graphical overhaul, the games are still typically Pokemon. You still travel across the world, battling and collecting Pokemon on your quest to become the best trainer in the world. For those hoping the sixth generation games would break the mould you'll be disappointed. But Pokemon ranks alongside other franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter, Dynasty Warriors and Super Mario as a franchise that is best it's type of game has to offer, therefore the necessity to change isn't required or really needed. We've seen many Pokemon clones over the years, and none of them have even come close to matching Game Freak's creation. And that is the joy of Pokemon. Nothing else is quite like it, even when other games are designed tobe like it.

But talking about the graphics, Pokemon has never looked this gorgeous before. It's still played from a 3/4 over the head perspective, like all previous main series games before it, but the worlds of past games have never felt this much alive. And the story, so far, is a lot more jovial and child-like, which is a nice change back after the rather serious tone of Black and White.

While the story still sees you collecting gym badges through your adventure, you've now got 4 friends who are also helping Kalos's regional Professor, Sycamore, to find out more about the mysterious Mega Evolution. Mega Evolutions are probably the biggest new feature to X and Y, as they introduce additional evolutionary forms to Pokemon that were once previously finished in their evolution. Pokemon like Blastoise, Charizard, Venusaur, Lucario and Gyarados, amongst others, can now Mega Evolve - although the effects only last one battle and require items to even activate in the first place. Mega Evolutions are interesting, but outside of a few stat boosts they don't really add anything new to the game play and feel rather pointless overall. I've not experienced them fully yet though, as I'm not even half way through collecting the gym badges, therefore I'm quite a way from beating the game. So hopefully their usefulness will improve.

The game feels very polished, but the battles suffer from serious frame-rate dips when the game is played with the 3D effects turned on. Sometimes the drop in frame-rate is so bad it feels as if the game is running in only single digits. But if you have the 3D turned off (which I would recommend) you won't run in to any of these problems.

Overall my experience with Pokemon Y so far has been thoroughly enjoyable. Nintendo are criticised often for milking their main franchises, but just like Mario and Zelda the Pokemon series has now reached a point where Nintendo have really perfected the formula. These game, much like all the past main series title, are must owns for anyone who has Nintendo's portable machine.

Welcome to the new GameSpot

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I was invited to the beta for the new GameSpot some days ago, and after spending years on the old site I can say I've not quite come to like the new site just yet. I'm sure it'll grow on me eventually, like anything I will eventually get used to using it and will forget that I ever disliked it. For now though I'm still in the process of trying to like it.

Hiroshi Yamauchi, former President of Nintendo, has Died.

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Hiroshi Yamauchi once stated that he had never played a video game in his life. That wasn't something you wanted to hear at the time, as he was still President of Nintendo when he apparently said it. Never-the-less, Yamauchi did a hell of a lot for Nintendo, the company founded by his great-grandfather.

He took the reigns in 1949, and stepped down to be replaced by Satoru Iwata in 2002 after 53 years, and his tenure as top-boss at the Big N saw the company grow from being a small-time Hanafuda Card company to become the most influential company the vidoe game industry has ever known.

I don't care whether or not he did or didn't play a video game, I have to thank him. Because without Hiroshi Yamauchi gamers all over the world would never have had the honour of playing masterpiece franchises like Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong or Metroid.

So thanks Yamauchi. Rest in peace. 

Finally got a Vita.

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With my new job, and my new income, I've finally had the money to invest in a PlayStation Vita. I've wanted one since launch, but the games weren't good enough to warrant an early adoption (especially after I wrongfully bought a 3DS early on). But it reached a point where, a few months ago, I considered getting one this year.

The one I bought was a second-hand 3G model, and apart from a slight scuff on the edge of the glass the hardware looks almost new. I got a 4GB memory card and LittleBigPlanet PS Vita and Uncharted: Golden Abyss with it. I'm tempted to get Persona 4 Golden, despite already owning the PS2 version, as it is supposed to be every bit better than the original.

I will also be getting a 3DS XL before the year is out, but unfortinately I won't be able to get one in time to play Pokemon Y on it :(