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Game Freak Should Remake Pokémon Red and Blue on Nintendo Switch

Over 20 years after its debut, the
Pokémon craze is as strong as ever, and the franchise is once again preparing to evolve on new hardware. With no official word, fans are left to speculate whether the upcoming Pokémon game for Nintendo Switch is the beginning of the eighth generation, a return trip to Sinnoh, or something else entirely. Recent rumors suggest the mystery game could even be a series reboot.

All of these are viable options, but another possibility that Game Freak should consider exploring is a return to the beginning. For the first ever main series
Pokémon game in HD and the first ever main series Pokémon game on a home console, Game Freak should consider returning to Kanto with remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue.

But those games already got remakes!” I hear you cry, and that’s an excellent point. Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green were excellent remakes, and they’re some of my favorite games in the series to date. However, those games are rapidly approaching their 15th anniversary, and there are many compelling reasons why it’s time to triple dip.

The Games Desperately Need an Update

Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green made their debut in 2004, and the Pokémon series has gone through some drastic changes in the decade and a half since then. The most obvious difference at first glance is just how much the graphics have changed. Fire Red and Leaf Green came out during the third generation, and from the fourth generation onward the Pokémon series has used 3D graphics. The results have been hit or miss (at least in my opinion), but that’s largely due to hardware restrictions and the low resolution of Nintendo handheld screens. If ever there was a right console to bring the original games into the 3D space, the HD-capable Switch is it.

Another big way that Pokémon has evolved since the Game Boy Advance days is in the realm of online play. The Wireless Adapter that let players trade and battle without a link cable was pretty impressive stuff for a handheld in 2004, but it’s time for the first generation to embrace wireless play on a global scale with all the features available in newer games.

The fourth generation of Pokémon games also brought some pretty big changes to the battle system. Most notably, physical and special attack classifications have been reorganized in a way that makes a little more sense. Whether an attack was physical or special used to be based entirely on its type. For instance, all Fire attacks were special and all Steel attacks were physical. Ever since Diamond and Pearl, each move’s status as either physical or special is determined individually, based on the attack’s description. So Surf is special and Aqua Tail is physical, even though they’re both Water-type moves. While more casual players might not notice the difference, it drastically changed the face of competitive Pokémon battling forever, and returning to Fire Red after four generations with the new battle mechanics can be a bit jarring.

Even the control scheme of the Game Boy Advance is showing its age, as Pokémon began its shift towards touch screen controls on Nintendo DS. Switch offers plenty of other features that could enhance the experience as well, including HD rumble, the ability to take and upload in-game screenshots, Amiibo support, and, of course, the ability to play both at home or on the go.

It’s the Right Time For Old and New Fans Alike

I think it goes without saying that remaking some of the most popular and influential games of all time is a guaranteed recipe for millions upon millions of sales, but the timing is especially advantageous right now. Thanks to the incredible success of Pokémon GO, interest in the franchise has skyrocketed to an all-time high, and millions of people have become new fans of Pokémon. Because GO initially included only monsters from the first generation, they are bound to be some of the most popular among new fans.

There’s also been a revival of Generation One love outside of the games. Last year The Pokémon Company returned to Kanto with their latest film, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You. The new movie served as a reboot to the film franchise, introducing many new viewers to the Indigo League quest for the first time. How many of these new fans would love to play that story out for themselves on Switch?

The timing is also right when it comes to longtime or lapsed fans of the series. Back during the high point of Wii’s life cycle, New Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country Returns each sold astronomically well, and nostalgia was a major factor. For many players, Wii was the first Nintendo console they owned since Super Nintendo, and Nintendo capitalized with two top-rated 2D platformers that reminded those lapsed players of the gameplay they fell in love with decades ago. We’re seeing a repeat of that situation on Nintendo Switch, with Nintendo strongly appealing to lapsed gamers from the Nintendo 64 era and before. How many millions of Pokémon Red and Blue fans fell in love with the series 20 years ago, but haven’t picked up a new game in two or three or six generations? Remaking the games that started it all on Nintendo Switch is the perfect way to bring them back into the fold.

Game Freak Should Take Their Time on Switch

Creating a new generation of Pokémon games from scratch requires an immense amount of time and effort, and that will be more true than ever on Nintendo Switch, as main series Pokémon games have never been in HD before. The developers will have to pay even greater attention to detail than usual, and the pressure to deliver an impressive, polished world filled with imaginative and well-crafted Pokémon will be high. You only get one shot at nailing Pokémon‘s HD debut, so it’s not something you want to rush.

By starting with a re-imagined Kanto, Game Freak’s developers can practice developing an HD Pokémon game in a familiar setting, significantly reducing the challenge. This means they can take their sweet time quietly and carefully sculpting each new eighth generation Pokémon while fans joyously relive the Game Boy days or experience Kanto for the first time. Given Switch’s immense popularity, it’s certain to be many young gamers’ first console, making it the perfect platform for a return to square one.

While the talented team at Game Freak dreams up a new story, a new land, and new monsters, they can also use the extra time to master the new hardware. As Pokémon Sun and Moon director Shigeru Ohmori recently revealed, it can take quite some time to realize what a new console is capable of creating. Game Freak initially thought what they achieved with Pokémon X and Y was the pinnacle of the capabilities of Nintendo 3DS (boy what a letdown that would have been!), but their mastery of the hardware continued to evolve with Sun and Moon before culminating in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Remaking the first generation of Pokémon games in HD should give Game Freak ample time to gain an intimate understanding of Nintendo Switch development, allowing the eighth generation to be a true example of a Pokémon game that pushes Switch to its limits.

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The ESRB’s Loot Box Response is About Pleasing Politicians, Not Players

The proliferation of loot boxes in video games has been one of the hottest and most controversial topics of the past year, and the story took the national spotlight back in November thanks to the catastrophic backlash against Star Wars Battlefront II. While loot boxes have proven to be an immensely lucrative gameplay mechanic, they’re often criticized when they create a ‘pay to win’ environment or when they blur the line between gaming and gambling, which is especially concerning when young gamers are involved.

In response to growing concerns, the Entertainment Software Rating Board issued a statement back in October of 2017, declaring that loot boxes are not gambling.

“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling. While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is
always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.” — The ESRB

This was far from the end of the discussion, as the tumultuous launch of Battlefront II managed to spark outrage from not only gamers, but politicians as well.

In a November press conference, Hawaii Representative Chris Lee criticized “predatory practices in online gaming,” going so far as to call Battlefront IIa Star Wars themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money.” Lee has since acted on this proclamation, introducing legislature that includes restrictions and transparency requirements for loot boxes. In January, Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker took action as well, introducing a bill to investigate whether or not loot boxes are predatory towards children, and declaring that the industry and the state need to “sit down to figure out the best way to regulate this.”

The ESRB remained silent on the topic for months following Battlefront II’s launch, but they recently issued a new statement, promising that they’ve “absorbed every tweet, email, Facebook post and singing telegram” and laying out their plan of action for the future. Starting soon, the ESRB will introduce a new label on physical games, denoting that the game features in-game purchases.

The key thing to note here is that this new label is not exclusive to loot boxes. Any in-game purchase will trigger the issuance of this label, which means there’s no differentiation between microtransactions, DLC, expansion packs, loot boxes, or any other kind of in-game payment. Everything falls under the same umbrella. Because nearly every major release has some sort of in-game purchase in it, this label will be practically omnipresent at retail. As with their earlier statement in October, the ESRB does not want loot boxes to be singled out.

In addition to the new label, the ESRB has also launched a new website, ParentalTools.org. The website currently features a short video clip announcing the new In-Game Purchases label as well as a section on parental controls. Gaming platforms like Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and others already have their own built-in parental controls that allow you to limit the amount of time or money that can be spent on a game, so the ESRB’s new website simply directs you on how to access them.

The ESRB is taking action in the public eye, but they’ve shifted the narrative to the wider focus of ‘in-game purchases’ while downplaying the specific source of the backlash. Rather than introducing changes to make parents more aware of loot boxes, the ESRB directs those with concerns to existing tools. The goal here is to maintain the status quo as much as possible, because regulating a lucrative business model (no matter how controversial it may be) is bad for business. These moves aren’t about appeasing players, or parents. They’re about appeasing politicians and avoiding government-imposed regulations.

The legislature introduced by Representative Lee in Hawaii is much more pointed and specific than the broad topic of in-game purchases. One of the new bills, if passed, would ban the sale of video games with loot boxes to those under 21 years of age, while another would require that all loot boxes list their probability rates. These types of restrictions are only being proposed in a few places currently, but if the concern spreads and similar legislature appears across the nation, publishers could stand to lose out on a lot of future profits. By beating most states to the punch with a new self-imposed regulation, the ESRB hopes to avoid government interference without truly changing anything. Whether or not this strategy will work remains to be seen.

Does the ESRB have the right idea in keeping things the way they are now, or is more regulation needed to protect young gamers from predatory game mechanics? Should loot boxes be required to follow the same regulations as casino gambling, or are they more analogous to playing cards? These are debates that the industry will need to have going forward, and the ESRB would prefer they happen without government oversight.

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Seeing How Zelda: Breath of the Wild Explores Themes of Death, Failure, and Acceptance

(This editorial contains major spoilers for
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s story is brilliantly executed, and it’s primarily a result of its non-linearity. You, the player, can recall Link’s lost memories in any order you wish. You can tackle other major plot elements surrounding the Divine Beasts and Hyrule’s Champions in any order as well. Or you can just forego it all and face Ganon in the nude.

What many people seem to disagree about is how the actual plot of
Breath of the Wild stacks up when compared to past Zelda games or other games in general. Some think the lack of a more human antagonist harms the story. Others think the entire quest is much too simple: Link wakes up, fights Ganon, and saves the day.

For me, the lingering feelings of fear, despair, and stagnation, all of which are brought to fruition through Calamity Ganon, drew me in. The depth of the characters and the interactivity with nature are also elements that should not be overlooked as integral to the story experience. And all of this builds onto each other to create a fulfilling narrative by the end of the game.

When comparing
Breath of the Wild to other past Zelda games, there are a lot of similar elements. Throughout the main quest, Link falls into the familiar pattern of helping out different races and characters he finds in their darkest hours. This feature was highlighted most iconically in Ocarina of Time, in which both child and adult Link fixed problems ranging from finding a missing princess of the Zoras to defeating a fire-breathing dragon.

Having spent ample time experiencing
Breath of the Wild, there is no contest as to which game shows off this formula better in terms of feels. Instead of having a selfish Zora princess fall for Link, a selfless one in Champion Mipha expresses her deep affection for Breath of the Wild’s hero from beyond the grave. Through optional cut scenes and character interactions depicting how much she cares about Link and how much her people cared about her, there is a much greater emotional depth than the scattered Zoras of Ocarina talking about menial things like fish and diving while Ruto has gone missing.

The familiar element of the passage of time is also found in many
Zelda games, but in Breath of the Wild, it is used to boost the emotional depth in the game’s story, which it capitalizes on it to make for effective narrative moments. Take Yunobo and the Gorons as a prime example. After taming Divine Beast Vah Rudania, Link meets the spirit of Daruk who laments not being alive for his people. Daruk prepares to settle down to accept his situation while appreciating the beauty of Hyrule that remained after calamity fell over a century ago. Suddenly, Daruk looks down Death Mountain to see his descendant Yunobo cheering because he sees the ghost of his ancestor. The Goron youth is extremely cheerful and inspired because of it. Small moments like these, rather than the Gorons needing to fix a Dodongo infestation or a cursed patriarch (which often feel like tools to progress Link’s quest to collect important artifacts rather than change lives), really show off Breath of the Wild‘s story in its theme of accepting tragedy and triumphantly moving past it.

All throughout the adventure,
Breath of the Wild’s characters must accept their faults and failures and continue onward in the face of the most violent adversity as Calamity Ganon’s shadow looms over the land. Zelda herself, who has a more fleshed out character arc than any previous character in the franchise, considers herself a disgrace. That vision of herself affects her relationships with her kingdom, her father, and Link in realistic ways. These relationships either remain stagnant, as with her father whose death is tragically never shown, or change drastically as with Link throughout the memories of their adventure. The dynamics of the main characters build the consequences of their actions and failures in the past. In fact, all Link, Zelda, King Rhoam, and the Champions do in the past is fail by the end of the memories. With touching scenes such as Zelda’s tearful desperation in Link’s arms by Hylia River, Fi’s call after Link’s demise, and the Great Deku Tree’s hopeful address to Zelda as she puts away the Master Sword of Resurrection, Breath of the Wild feels like it has so much weight compared to most Zelda tales, in large part because of the despair and destruction that all of these likable heroes were powerless to prevent a century before the player controls Link.

This method of storytelling in
Breath of the Wild was a daring narrative move on the producers’ part and one that I feel really paid off. Breath of the Wild could have easily been another Zelda tale in which the hero and princess seal away the darkness while only enduring the generic hardship of a spooky castle looming over the land or the somewhat vague threat of a man in the northwestern-most quadrant of the sea. Instead, this game’s story makes you work for the accomplishment of sealing away ultimate malice by the end of the game. Because Calamity Ganon is simply a force of nature at this point, so totally corrupted by the evil of Demise’s wrath, it is very intimidating as well. The interplay with Calamity Ganon as an obvious final boss and impending force that pushes Link onward from the start of the game is a marvelous touch. This mixes the unpredictable motif of nature with the tragic element that causes the heroes to fail, get back up, and try harder.

Breath of the wild’s story also takes another risk in that each one of the main characters from the Divine Beasts of Hyrule remain dead. Since each of the four Champions has a uniquely intimate relationship with Link, whether as a lover, mentor, rival, or brother, their moments at the end of each Divine Beast truly shine as the player discovers the permanence of their spiritual state and Mipha, Urbosa, Revali, and Daruk themselves accept what happened to the land and their lives as they release the emotional burdens they had been carrying for so long. It is nothing short of touching to watch the Champions finally feel at peace after a century of hopeless lamentations no one could hear and focus on the only thing that ties them to Hyrule any longer: ridding the world of Ganon.

Revisiting the time mechanic, it is actually somewhat remarkable how much of a role the century between the majority of the story and the actual gameplay has to play in
Breath of the Wild’s story. It is made even more impressive considering that time travel in the traditional sense of Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword is not the gimmick of this tale. Everything feels like it has more gravity, like a legend should, because of the century that passed since the Calamity befell Hyrule. It also allows for a duality of nature. If you are the kind of player who simply wants to freely enjoy the villages and wilderness Hyrule has to offer, then enough time has passed for that to be possible without the intricacies of the plot butting in. However, if one wants the full heartrending experience, the secrets and reveals Hyrule provides can be a powerful testament to the tear-jerking story this adventure offers.

Tying together the prevalence of nature and the heroes’ acceptance of what must be done after such terrible calamity,
Breath of the Wild caps off with an epic final battle against the symbolic, hateful force Ganon transforms into. This climax hits home with a sense of fate and finality that is truly fitting for the resounding emotional punch Breath of the Wild was going for.

After all of this, I cannot wait to see how the downloadable story-driven content expands this epic quest even further in the near future! But what do you think? Join this discussion about
Breath of the Wild‘s plot, characters and scenes down below!

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Five Ways Pokémon Sun and Moon Could Be So Much Better on Nintendo Switch

Pokémon Sun and Moon launched late last year to generally positive reviews and record-breaking sales, but that’s not to say they’re flawless experiences. Dated hardware and a few questionable design choices kept the twin games from being truly outstanding in my book, which is why I was thrilled when Eurogamer reported that a new and improved version of the seventh generation games is in the works for Nintendo Switch. Here’s five ways Pokémon Sun and Moon can be even better on Nintendo’s next console!

Skippable Tutorials

Let’s get one thing out in the open: Pokémon Sun and Moon‘s first few hours are rough. I fell in love with my copy of Sun well before it reached its conclusion, but that love wasn’t instantaneous. In fact, the poor pacing of the beginning sections had me so frustrated that I almost quit playing altogether. In talking with friends, roommates, co-workers, and colleagues online, I’ve found this to be a pretty common sentiment.

Sun and Moon are heavily story-driven experiences (more so than most other games in the series), and the early parts of the games are also heavy on tutorials and repetitive exposition. This is always somewhat true in Pokémon games, but Sun and Moon crank the early game hand-holding up to a whole new level. You can barely take five steps without triggering a wall of text or a cutscene on Melemele Island. You can’t figure anything out for yourself by exploring, as NPCs like Lillie, Hau, and Kukui (and sometimes a combination thereof) constantly interrupt to over-explain things before you ever get the chance. My thumb was exhausted from mashing the A button long before I left the first island.

While this “user-friendly” approach will no doubt be helpful for the influx of new
Pokémon fans drawn to the series by Pokémon GO, it can be a considerable annoyance for longtime players. You shouldn’t have to read an in-game novel before the fun starts. Much of this frustration could be alleviated by making all of the early game tutorials skippable. I’d love to be able to check off a box that says “I’m not five years old” at the start of the game and simply be done with it, but just giving players the opportunity to opt out each individual time that a tutorial or lengthy explanation is about to be delivered would be a gift from Arceus above.

Improved Graphics

Sun and Moon have the most ambitious visuals in the series to date by far, and it’s a huge step in the right direction. The region is beautiful and scenic, and battles have been re-designed with more active backgrounds. Trainers even stand beside their Pokémon in battle, adding to the sense that this is the most immersive experience the series has ever offered.

All of that said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Nintendo 3DS released six years ago, and it was already far from top-of-the-line hardware at the time.
Sun and Moon squeeze as much performance out of the handheld as they can, but there are some obvious technical limitations, and a few simple tweaks could make a world of difference.

The art style of
Sun and Moon is wonderful, but the dated hardware and low resolution screen don’t allow it to shine to its fullest. On Nintendo Switch, that same beautiful world could be explored in much greater detail and clarity. Improved draw distances (perhaps coupled with some re-worked camera angles) would allow you to see Alolan landmarks clearly from far away. HD graphics (720p on the go and up to 1080p at home) would give Alola a much more crisp and polished look. No more jagged edges or pixelated character models would be amazing.

Smoother, More Immersive Gameplay

In addition to prettier graphics, beefier hardware means better overall performance. 3DS does its best to give you a smooth adventure in Alola, but it definitely comes up short at times.

Like
X, Y, Omega Ruby, and Alpha Sapphire before them, Sun and Moon suffer from some pretty severe frame rate drops at times. Double Battles, Battle Royals, Totem Pokémon battles, and the Poké Finder feature all trigger a considerable amount of lag, and that was my experience on a New Nintendo 3DS. I can’t imagine they run any smoother on the older hardware, but Nintendo Switch would have no trouble keeping a steady frame rate throughout.

The hardware limitations of 3DS are noticeable out in the overworld as well, thanks to a surprising number of transition screens. The game takes a brief moment to prep the next screen not just when entering and exiting new routes or towns, but sometimes even in the middle of routes themselves. Even simple actions like opening a small gate or talking to a person who won’t move out of your path can trigger a brief transition screen. These breaks in the action are never long by any means, but they’re frequent enough that they add up to a stop-and-go feel that detracts from the immersion. The improved hardware of Switch could allow you to run around the overworld freely without the nuisance of these frequent pauses.

In addition to making both the actual gameplay and cutscenes look better with some HD polish,
Sun and Moon could be greatly enhanced by blurring the barriers between the two. Classic Pokémon games carried out their “cutscenes” without any shift away from the normal gameplay look, but the more complicated 3D games have not been able to replicate this. Instead, they rely on (you guessed it) a brief transition screen to reset the camera and cut to the action. Many modern RPGs and action-adventure titles have evolved beyond this need for a distinction between the two, and Pokémon could and should do the same on Switch.

An Expanded Post-Game Experience

Warning: This section contains key story details from
Pokémon Sun and Moon. If you’re avoiding spoilers, now’s your last chance to turn back!

Pokémon Sun and Moon feature a relatively entertaining and interesting story (even if it’s not always well-delivered) and a fair depth of content, but there are still many unanswered questions, and an enhanced version of the games needs to feature additional content.

Once you’ve completed Sun and Moon‘s main story, you can access a dimensional portal that takes you to a parallel world. The time of day is inverted in this new world (so if it’s daytime in your world, it’ll be night in the other world), which heavily implies that you’re actually crossing over from Sun to Moon or vice versa.

This opens the door to numerous questions and potential opportunities, but
Sun and Moon don’t really take advantage of any of them. A new and improved version of the games could greatly expand the role this second world has. In addition to obvious ideas like allowing players to acquire unique Pokémon (other than just Cosmog) and items in the other world, you could discover new or alternate truths behind the games’ story. Remember how exciting it was to face Trainer Red in a final, challenging showdown atop Mount Silver in the second generation? Imagine traveling to another universe for an intense battle with an alternate version of yourself as final showdown in Sun and Moon‘s successor!

In addition to the parallel universe,
Sun and Moon also underutilized the universe of the Ultra Beasts. We enter it only briefly, see very little of it, and are quickly returned to our own world, never to see it again. What is this strange universe? How did Ultra Beasts come to be? These are questions that beg to be explored further.

One final area of
Sun and Moon‘s story that could use some fleshing out is their relation to other games in the series. There are numerous connections and tie-ins with other games strewn throughout the story (such as characters from Kanto), as well as some rather peculiar Legendary references. Players can collect cells and cores in order to recreate the sixth generation Legendary Pokémon Zygarde on their adventure (just what is it doing broken up into 100 pieces in Alola?), and Type: Null appears to be an attempt to recreate the fourth generation Legendary Pokémon Arceus as a synthetic being. Arceus, by the way, happens to be the literal God of the Pokémon universe, so that’s a pretty big deal, but Sun and Moon don’t really do much to build on that concept.

If Game Freak really wants to keep fans engaged beyond the main story, they can add new events that elaborate on these connections, or even offer players the chance to visit some areas in another region to explore some of these story questions. Obviously remaking an entire region in the
Sun and Moon graphics engine as a post-game mission is out of the question, but a one-off trip to a city in Kanto would be an incredible treat for fans while also testing the waters for a potential 3D, HD remake of the original games. Lillie’s story ends with her setting off to Kanto in hopes of finding Bill, the well-known Pokémon researcher. That sounds like a perfect excuse to revisit Cerulean City to me!

Pokémon That Follow You on the Overworld

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon franchise, and Nintendo celebrated by re-releasing Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow on the 3DS Virtual Console. Playing through Yellow again was a blissful nostalgia trip, and I was reminded of how exciting it was as a child to see Pikachu following behind me in the game. More recently, I found my old copy of SoulSilver while doing some house cleaning, and it instantly brought a smile to my face to see my trusty Red Gyarados walking behind me.

Having a Pokémon follow the player in the overworld is such a small touch, but it adds so much and it’s something that many new fans haven’t experienced yet. Data miners have found
walking and running animations for every Pokémon in Sun and Moon, but the feature didn’t make it into the final version. Adding that in for the Switch release would be a great way to make players feel even more connected to the experience and to the Pokémon friends they meet in Alola.


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Nintendo Should Keep Breath of the Wild’s Place in the Zelda Timeline a Secret

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the most highly-anticipated Nintendo games in years, and Nintendo has been keeping the hype strong with regular video teasers that highlight its features. One area that Nintendo hasn’t spent much time on thus far is Breath of the Wild‘s story, especially in relation to previous games. While there are plenty of theories floating around based on the footage we’ve seen so far, Nintendo hasn’t revealed the next Zelda adventure’s place in the timeline.

This has been a nice change of pace, as figuring out where each new game falls into the overall series chronology is a key part of the Zelda experience for many longtime fans, and most recent entries have had their timeline placement revealed well ahead of launch. In the absence of an official announcement, fans have been pouring over every detail in each new trailer to try to piece together the correct placement, and it’s been fun to see just how much diversity of opinion there is and just how much mystery remains.

The footage we’ve seen so far contains numerous references to the Goddess Hylia, indicating a connection of some sort to Skyward Sword at the beginning of the overall series timeline. The game also features Koroks, a race that previously only existed in The Wind Waker on the “Adult Timeline” of events. The most recent trailer featured ruins that almost identically match a fountain found in Twilight Princess on the “Child Timeline” of events, and the depiction of the Master Sword perfectly matches its location in the “Downfall Timeline” and A Link to the Past.

Breath of the Wild seems to be drawing from all over the history of Hyrule for its characters, locations, and themes. This makes its place in the timeline nearly impossible to pinpoint with any degree of certainty, and it also gives it the potential to be the most lore-rich entry in the history of the franchise. That’s a combination that could give Breath of the Wild a sense of adventure and discovery like Zelda hasn’t seen since the original game on NES.

Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto has emphasized that Breath of the Wild is all about giving the player freedom to go out and explore the world. While Skyward Sword relied heavily on its story to drive the gameplay, Breath of the Wild‘s story is a bit “vague.”

“This game has a heavy focus on experience and also freedom. It’s not really story heavy. You can choose to do all of the tasks and all of the missions and you’ll still get to the end, or you could choose not to do all of them, and you can still get to the end. The story isn’t as clear cut as it was in the past with the existence of Ganon, Link, and Zelda. With this one it’s a little bit more vague. You’ll kind of feel what Ganon is, and you’re going to feel maybe this is what Zelda is like, or this is what Link is like. It’s really Link’s adventure in discovering all of that.”
— Shigeru Miyamoto

Producer Eiji Aonuma has made similar statements, and he’s even gone so far as to say that his goal is to create a Zelda game where the story is created by the player’s actions rather than being set in stone.

“What I really, really want to create, what my ultimate hope or goal is, to create a game without a story – not to say that the story is nonexistent, but it’s a story that isn’t already created. It’s a story that the player, in interacting with the space or environment, creates. So, a story that is defined by the player, not one that is already prepared, and a game that just kind of follows that path, if that makes sense.”
— Eiji Aonuma

Leaving Breath of the Wild‘s timeline placement as an unknown takes this philosophy of player-created story experiences one step further. While it’s likely that we’ll learn the truth about Calamity Ganon and Link’s long sleep during the course of the game, there’s no reason for the game (or its developers) to draw concrete connections to previous events in Hyrule. Just as Breath of the Wild will ask players to interact with the world around them to create their own stories in the present, they should do the same to piece together Hyrule’s history.

If Breath of the Wild proves to be as popular as its impressive showing at E3 indicates, it could be the first Zelda game many people play. When they encounter a Goron or step into the Water Temple, it will be for the first time. They’ll be forming their own vision of Hyrulean lore with each new discovery, hopefully without too much exposition about events from games they haven’t played. While I can’t hope for that same completely fresh experience (unless Link’s amnesia somehow transfers to me through the game), Nintendo can still make every discovery a mystery for veteran players.

Every time I come across a new temple, village, or Hyrulean race, I want it to be up to me to learn from the environment and create my own history of Hyrule. Can I find clues linking this Kakariko Village to the one in A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time, or does it predate all of them? Did the Koroks succeed in their quest to create a new land, or did some calamity cause them to evolve for entirely different reasons on a timeline where the Great Flood never happened? Was that the Bridge of Eldin I just crossed?

These are the kinds of questions that are best left up to the players to answer for themselves. The Zelda timeline is a complicated and often convoluted web of history, and any attempt to wedge Breath of the Wild into it will require some elaborate explanations to avoid (further) contradictions. So don’t tell us, Nintendo. Design a world that compels us to search every corner of Hyrule for answers, and let us tell our own legends to fill in the cracks.


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Nintendo Didn’t Appreciate Zelda: Majora’s Mask Enough to Give it the 3D Remake it Deserved

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is widely considered one of gaming’s all-time classics. Sales peaked at 7.6 million copies while Metacritic boasts an average review score of 99%. Its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, however, didn’t receive quite the same level of acclaim. It was, at most, a cult-classic, with bolstered popularity in recent years from online communities. The game went on to sell 3.36 million copies and still pulled a strong Metacritic score of 95%.

When it came time to breathe new life into Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask with 3DS remakes, Nintendo took polar opposite approaches to developing each game. Nintendo and Grezzo held Ocarina of Time up as a masterpiece in need of a simple update. Majora’s Mask, on the other hand, was treated like an inherently-flawed train wreck that needed to be salvaged. One has to wonder how such a negative development approach impacted the final product.

It was never a question of whether or not to remake
Ocarina of Time; it was simply a question of when. Legend of Zelda series creator Shigeru Miyamoto affirmed the late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata’s prompting that he had “always wanted to remakeOcarina of Time, adding that “we couldn’t release them too soon.” The remake came in 2011; Miyamoto said it could appeal to “a new generation” who “[didn’t] know a thing about Ocarina of Time.” His biggest motivating factor was “to see the majestic scenery in stereoscopic 3D,” but also to implement gyro-controls and the smoother framerate of the Nintendo 3DS.

A
Majora’s Mask remake was never quite so certain. Zelda Producer Eiji Aonuma said Ocarina of Time had a natural “outpour of emotions” in support of a remake, so they developed it. With Majora’s Mask, he had to provoke that “output of emotion and clamor from fans” by saying “it wouldn’t be an utter impossibility.” A small teaser was also put into A Link Between Worlds, where the titular mask could be found hanging in Link’s house. Aonuma wouldn’t commit to a remake, though: “at some point in the future hopefully, maybe, we’ll be able to do something.”

It was a stern order from Miyamoto that led to
Majora’s Mask 3D beginning development, despite Aonuma’s resistance. He spoke in an Iwata Asks interview about how he “didn’t want to open that lid again.” He went on to say that he “didn’t want to work on another iteration,” and even that he wished he could “pretend it didn’t happen.” Aonuma was not proud of Majora’s Mask, considering it a personal failure. From there, Aonuma says his mentor Miyamoto pressured him to scrutinize “every aspect of the game” and “ask myself if everything was all right the way it was.”

This led to him creating what became known as the “what in the world list,” basically a list of aspects wrong with the game that would need fixing. The list was further added to by others throughout Nintendo and Grezzo, reaching a “sheer amount” that Aonuma deemed “astounding.” Following these comments, Nintendo Software Planning and Development’s Tomohiro Yamamura gestured to the list’s length; the interview transcript read that he “spread hands widely top to bottom, as if holding a big batch of paper.”

Ocarina of Time 3D was a chance to correct some issues in the original game and address some regrets. In Aonuma’s words, “we set some priorities and tried to fix things that should be fixed.” For him that was the Water Temple, and especially having to pause to change into the iron boots: “what I’d like to do is lay this evil shame I have to rest by implementing the touch screen in such a way that it makes it very natural and smooth and easy to put those iron boots on.”

Majora’s Mask was the regret itself. Throughout the “what in the world listAonuma wrote comments such as “I’m sorry that this comes from the one that made it this way.” At other times Aonuma even wrote that, at the time of developing Majora’s Mask in the 1990s, “I think there was something wrong with me.”

The original Majora’s Mask was developed in a strict one-year time constraint, while the 3D remake spanned over three years. Development beganalmost immediately afterOcarina of Time 3D‘s release in mid-2011, but the game wasn’t revealed until November 2014 and subsequently released in February 2015.

Aonuma explained in a Miiverse post: “although we’ve been working on the game for quite some time, we didn’t want to say it was being developed until we were at a point where we could proudly say that this is not going to be just another remake and that it’s going to be worth your time.” If we read between the lines, it seems they weren’t sure whether they could salvage the original game to make it worth releasing. Put in the words of Satoru Iwata, remaking Majora’s Mask with the guidance of the “what in the world list” was “cleaning up after someone’s mess.”

Majora’s Mask 3D was developed with the belief that the original wasn’t good enough for players to finish. Aonuma believes that while Miyamoto felt there were enjoyable aspects to be found in the game, “people aren’t able to see them because they weren’t able to get there.” Aonuma specifically addressed this group of people in his Miiverse post, writing to “those of you that played it and gave up mid-way through.” Even Tomomi Sano, liaison between Nintendo and Grezzo, admits shewas one of those that lost the challenge!

The many changes made to Majora’s Mask 3D make a bold statement from Aonuma: the source material wasn’t just full of flaws, but was itself a flaw. The frame of mind of second guessing every aspect of the original made every aspect malleable, whereas Ocarina of Time had been considered sacred and mostly untouchable. The Water Temple was simply fixed with some subtle navigational marks on the walls and a change to equipping the iron boots for its 3DS iteration.

Majora’s Mask‘s iron boot equivalent was the saving system, which Majora’s Mask 3D amended, but they need not have taken it much further. Some of the changes were no doubt welcome, for instance: subtle clues pointing players in the right direction, having a place to note the Bomber’s secret passcode from the get-go, as well as a better explained and implemented Song of Time.

Conversely, other changes served only as attempts to overcorrect what the developers perceived as wrong. For example, completely redeveloping the boss battles, altering the location of stray fairies, creating a Bomber’s Notebook that endlessly intrudes on the experience, restricting Zora Link’s swimming controls, and moving the locations of the Stone and Giant’s masks; these where all changes born out of this perceived need to fix aspects that weren’t actually wrong.

Majora’s Mask 3D became the most altered Legend of Zelda remake to date. The Wind Waker HD‘s biggest change was the simplifying of the quest to obtain the Triforce shards. Twilight Princess HD barely saw any drastic changes at all and was mostly characterised by new additions: stamps, the Poe Lantern, and the Cave of Shadows. While Ocarina of Time 3D was characterized by the new Boss Rush mode and the inclusion of a mirrored Master Quest, Majora’s Mask 3D‘s only addition was two fishing holes; minor expansions of the mini-game from Ocarina of Time.

Nintendo and Grezzo took their time with
Majora’s Mask 3D, but too much time! Semantic saturation is a phenomenon that occurs when you hear or read the same phrase repetitively until it becomes meaningless, and there’s a similar occurrence—also common during proofreading—where after repetitively reading or writing a word you become convinced that it isn’t spelled quite right, a sort of linguistic-fatigue. Majora’s Mask 3D suffered from both development oversaturation and development fatigue.

Ocarina of Time 3D‘s sales have surpassed 4.3 million, while Majora’s Mask 3D has just slipped by 2 million copies. Metacritic reports strong satisfaction towards Ocarina of Time 3D with a score of 94%, but Majora’s Mask 3D saw a drop down to 89%. Ocarina of Time 3D became the definitive version of a classic, while Majora’s Mask 3D is even more divisive than the original. In the words of gaming commentator Alex Plant, Majora’s Mask 3D turned out as “a compromise between the game fans adore, and the one critics couldn’t quite wrap their heads around 15 years ago.”


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Daily Delib: What Nintendo Franchise Has Impacted Your Life the Most?

Nintendo is celebrating 127 years in business today, and over all of those decades (and especially the last three), they’ve left an incredible mark on the world. Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong are household names, and the company’s vast catalog of memorable and innovative games have touched millions of lives, bringing joy to children of all ages around the world. Of all of Nintendo’s franchises, which one has had the biggest impact on your life?

For me, the obvious and easy choice is The Legend of Zelda. The long-running series has been my favorite for as long as I can remember, stretching all the way back to my days playing A Link to the Past as a small child. All these years later, I’m still excitedly (perhaps more than ever before) and eagerly anticipating the release of the next new Zelda game, Breath of the Wild.

Aside from the joy of playing the games themselves, Zelda has played a huge role in my career. Long before I was part of Gamnesia, I got my start doing volunteer work as an editorial writer and forum moderator at a variety of Zelda fansites. While working with Zelda Dungeon sister site GenGAME, I even had the opportunity to interview Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma, who was quite surprised to learn that I, as an American, did not hate Tingle.

The Legend of Zelda has been a huge part of my life for many years now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What Nintendo franchises have impacted you? Share your stories in the comments below!

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How Gaming Can Both Help and Hurt People Struggling with Mental Illness

Society loves a scapegoat, and all too often it’s gaming that cops the blame. The violent nature of video games comes under scrutiny in the wake of tragic shootings, while the rise in mental health issues is, at times, attributed to the increased prevalence of gaming. The concern is for an alleged generation of isolated and introverted youth, lacking in social development due to hours spent in virtual worlds.

Some argue that in many cases gaming is responsible for common mental health conditions including social anxiety and depression, born out of dissatisfaction with the real world in comparison to the virtual space. A similar phenomenon, termed “Pandoran Depression,” followed the immensely popular James Cameron film Avatar in 2009, when mundane daily life fell short of how viewers perceived the idyllic fantasy world of the film.

As a means to see how gaming and mental illness correlate in reality, I spoke with four self-professed “gamers” who have also been diagnosed with mental health disorders. Despite their fears of stigma, Lucy, David, Paul, and Erin* bravely opened up to me about how gaming has impacted their struggle with mental illness, for better and for worse.

Lucy

Now a young woman, Lucy has struggled with social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder since her teenage years. Her life is drastically limited by her apprehension of social encounters and her fear of crowds. Over the past few months, however, the worldwide craze of Pokémon GO has had a big impact on her social life.

Other than work I don’t really go out much and I definitely don’t speak to people unless I have to. At first I started playing Pokémon Go just along the creek by my house, and at a nature reserve. But it wasn’t long before I started going to more crowded PokéStops or Gyms. Without even thinking about it, let alone stressing about it, I found myself in conversation with a complete stranger, laughing like we were old buddies as we showed each other our Pokédexes and gave advice on where to find ones the other hadn’t found yet.”

When I told Lucy that I hoped her newfound friendship lasted beyond having her iPhone in-hand, she smiled: “I’ve gotten a phone number and we’ve organised to go catch Pokémon together on the weekend … That said, the whole ‘Gotta catch ’em all’ thing hasn’t been good for my OCD. Or Pokémon GO-C-D, I should say.” Lucy left with a laugh.

David

David struggles with a relatively unknown, although dangerously under-diagnosed, condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Similarly to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, where slim people believe they are overweight, BDD is a distortion of body-image where people who appear normal to others believe that some aspect of their appearance, like a freckle or thinning hairline, is disfiguringly ugly and causes them much distress, coupled with obsessive mirror-checking behaviour.

“I’m a big fan of The Legend of Zelda, so, of course, I got Tri Force Heroes back when it came out. Understand, I was in a pretty bad frame of mind at the time. I was too disgusted by myself to even leave my house at all. I was suicidal, you know, pretty serious. When I got Tri Force Heroes, it left me in tears! It was like they were mocking me. Like they were trivialising my struggle, undermining it and turning it into one big joke.”

In Tri Force Heroes Link travels to the fashion obsessed Kingdom of Hytopia, where Princess Styla is cursed by Lady Maud to wear an irremovable plain brown jumpsuit. Distraught and in tears, Styla locks herself in her room and doesn’t leave until Link frees her from the ugly garb. To most players, the narrative of Tri Force Heroes is little more than a ridiculous afterthought woven around the core three-player gameplay concept. To David, it was emotionally disturbing.

“I know that it’s not like they made the game with malicious intent, but a little less carelessness and more thought in the story would’ve been nice! . . . Once I was over that though, then I had to keep being reminded I was ultimately playing a three-player game all by myself [sigh].”

Paul

Akin to David, Paul had been going through a rough patch of mental health, and had lost any semblance of a social circle. Gaming became Paul’s way to take his mind “off all the s**t and just get through the day,” he said. “Getting home to play Mario Kart was sometimes all I had in my life, but, it got me through.” For Paul, what became increasingly frustrating to him was just how social gaming had become, emphasizing how isolated he was.

“I was playing Bravely Default, and every time I’d boot it up there was this screen, ‘everything’s better with friends’ or something like that, promoting all the StreetPass stuff. To me it was like a daily reminder: ‘you’re a loner!’ I was like, ‘Thanks, I knew that, can I just do some grinding now in peace?'”

Yet even Paul’s story has a silver lining.

“There was a while there when I was so angry, because all these games have voice-chat or Miiverse, or some social network feature you can’t escape. I just wanted to be alone… In a twist of events though, seen I couldn’t avoid the social stuff, I eventually embraced Miiverse, and you know what, I did feel a bit better once I was talking to people online instead of avoiding everyone. It was a step forward.”

Erin

Erin is a 17-year-old student who, in recent years, has found herself feeling overwhelmingly apprehensive, fearing teachers might ask her to answer questions in class, or even worse, to give an oral report in front of everyone. “I just like blending into the background, you know? … Sometimes I’ve even pretended to be sick so I don’t have to go to school.” It’s thanks to playing the recent Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE that Erin has been able to address her social anxiety.

“I honestly didn’t know anything about anxiety or depression before playing the game. It’s not something that’s talked about. I compared myself to my friends and other people and just thought I was weird for being so shy and nervous, anti-social even. Then, in the game, there’s Tsubasa freaking out over having to shake-hands at a meet-and-great, because she had a thing called ‘social anxiety’. It was a ‘huzzuh’ moment, like ‘wow, this is actually a thing that people go through.’ I wasn’t alone.”

In Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, there’s a side-story where the protagonist Itsuki helps his friend Tsubasa overcome her social anxiety by encouraging her to approach strangers on the street and give them a flyer which invites them to attend her meet-and-greet event. This is what’s known as immersion therapy, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), where one faces the situation that causes them distress until they acclimate to it, realizing their feelings of excessive worry are unfounded, and over time they become increasingly less apprehensive.

“Seeing all of this in a game, like, the next time I was at my local doctor for something, I mentioned that I thought I might have anxiety, and from there I’ve been able to get help!”

Because of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Erin not only learned about mental health, but was diagnosed with anxiety and introduced to the therapy techniques used to combat it.


While certain aspects of Tri Force Heroes and Bravely Default were harmful blows to David and Paul’s vulnerable emotional states, the social aspects of gaming also helped Paul get back on his feet and Lucy overcome her perpetual social phobia. Without video games, Erin would likely still be suffering in silence, thinking her anxiety was just her “weirdness,” and Paul might not have had a release to take his mind off his woes.

What the stories of these four individuals reveal clearest is that nothing is as simple as black or white. There is no straight-forward correlation where situation ‘X’ always causes outcome ‘Y’, but rather, a whole plethora of biological and environmental facets in everyone’s life feeding into the state of their mental health. Gaming is merely a medium, one that can be both social and solitary, just as it can both cause harm or be a great deal of help, depending on your circumstances.


*Please note that the people interviewed for this article elected to remain anonymous and so pseudonyms were used. All stories were published with permission. Thank you again to all contributors for sharing your experiences.

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The Top Five Greatest Zelda Games

The Legend of Zelda is one of the most iconic video game franchises of all time, and it has been my personal favorite series for as long as I can remember. From NES to Wii U, Link’s adventures in Hyrule and beyond have always been some of my most memorable games on each console. Naturally, when I saw “#Top5ZeldaGames” lighting up Twitter, I had to get in on the fun. Narrowing the Zelda series down to just five entries is no easy task (the games number in the double digits if you include spin-off titles), but I’ve put together a list of five games that have a special place in my heart. 

5: The Wind Waker

The Wind Waker‘s beautiful cell-shaded visuals (which have aged much better than many other games from the same era), entrancing music, and colorful cast of charming and bizarre characters make it a joy to experience. The GameCube title features clever dungeon design, fluid combat, and an interesting story with a surprisingly nuanced take on Ganondorf. Sailing the Great Sea can be a bit of a bore at times (thank the Goddesses for the Swift Sail in the game’s HD remake), but it was a bold change of pace from Hyrule Field, giving Wind Waker‘s world a unique place in the Zelda series.

4: A Link Between Worlds

I was initially disappointed when I learned that the first major 3DS
Zelda title seemed to lack in originality, but A Link Between Worlds managed to capitalize on my nostalgia in a major way while also adding some fresh elements into the formula. An increased focus on freedom of exploration (something that has been notably absent in recent Zelda releases) brought me back to some of my earliest memories of the series, exploring every inch of Hyrule to uncover its secrets.

A Link Between Worlds largely re-uses the same world as A Link to the Past, but its wall-merging mechanic adds new depth to it. Blending exploration and puzzle-solving together, A Link Between Worlds challenges you to think in both 2D and 3D, and the result is some of my favorite dungeon design in the whole series. It’s a little too easy and derivative, but it’s still an incredibly fun and rewarding experience.

3: Ocarina of Time

Heralded by many as the greatest video game of all time,
Ocarina of Time is almost inarguably the definitive 3D Zelda experience. Link’s journey through time to awaken the Sages, defeat Ganon, and return the land of Hyrule to peace is one of the most iconic tales in all of gaming. The introduction of new races like the Gorons and the Kokiri (as well as the expanded role of the Zoras) helped make Ocarina of Time‘s Hyrule feel more alive than any previous entry, and its characters and songs are some of the best in the series. Aside from A Link to the Past (sorry, spoilers), I’ve found myself returning to Ocarina of Time for another quest far more than any other game in the series.

2: Majora’s Mask

Majora’s Mask recycled the game engine and character models from Ocarina of Time, but that allowed the development team to focus their development efforts on creating a fresh and interesting new world… and let me tell you, they succeeded! The world of Termina is easily my favorite setting in the entire series, and it amazes me to this day that it can feel so unique despite borrowing most of its assets from the previous game. The game’s atmosphere is persistently mysterious and tragic, and the ever-increasing threat of the moon looming overhead is a constant reminder that this is not your typical Zelda game.

Character interactions are deeper than in any other
Zelda title, and nearly everyone in Termina has a story tell. Majora’s Mask may only feature four dungeons, but it by no means has to be a short experience. Thanks to the game’s time-traveling mechanic, you can see characters’ lives unfold in different ways based on the actions you take, encouraging you to dig deeper into the lives of Termina’s citizens and explore every possible outcome.

1: A Link to the Past

I’ve always believed that the four most important elements in the Zelda experience are exploration, combat, story-telling, and puzzle-solving. More than any other
Zelda title, I believe that A Link to the Past has these four elements in near-perfect balance.

With two world maps (Hyrule and the Dark World),
A Link to the Past offers players an expansive world to explore, and doing so is immensely rewarding. The Super Nintendo’s take on Hyrule is packed with secrets, including many completely optional items, weapons, and upgrades. Dungeons (which are generally well-designed) can be played in any order after the first three have been completed, giving players the freedom to create their own experience.

A Link to the Past built on the top-down 2D combat of the original Zelda, greatly expanding the variety of enemies and improving the AI. It features one of the largest and most diverse arsenals of weapons and items in the series, and plenty of bosses to test them out on. Of all the 2D Zelda titles, I feel it has the best level of difficulty.

A Link to the Past‘s story introduced some of the most important elements from the series, including the legendary Master Sword, the Sacred Realm/Dark World, the Seven Sages, and Ganon’s humanoid origins as Ganondorf. The story set the stage for many future games, and it did so without inhibiting gameplay.

A Link to the Past was the first Zelda game to utilize puzzles as a major mechanic, but it doesn’t rely nearly as heavy on them as later titles, such as Spirit Tracks. This makes puzzle-solving an excellent companion to combat in dungeons, rather than making them the focus, and it’s a wonderful blend. Puzzle-solving plays a role in exploring the overworld too, as players will need to use their heads to figure out pathways between Hyrule and the Dark World to uncover all of the game’s secrets.

That’s my list, but I’d love to see yours. Leave your top five Zelda games in the comments below!

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Pokémon Sun and Moon’s Director Explains the Inspiration Behind the Games’ Names

Pokémon Sun and Moon‘s website recently updated, and with it came a few interesting comments from the games’ director, Shigeru Ohmori. Among those, he talked about how our sun and moon inspired the naming of the games, and how he thinks about life on earth.

“We live on a planet overflowing with life. This earth of ours revolves around the sun, and in turn, the moon revolves around the earth. When you look at the sun and the moon from Earth, they appear to be traveling through the sky in similar orbits, but when you change your perspective, you come to realize that their orbits are completely different. Yet the Earth and the sun and moon are all tied to one another, and life grows and flourishes as they work their influence upon one another.

“Humans also interact with people of all different kinds. They influence one another, and in turn, are influenced by others. It is only through this miraculous balance that we can live here as we do.

“In these titles, what I wanted to express is the brilliance of life and of the relationships between humans and Pokémon as they influence one another. That is why I chose to name them after the sun and moon, which have so much influence over our own Earth.”
— Shigeru Ohmori

It’s an interesting way to name the games, that’s for sure, and it might hint at one of the themes of the games, seeing as Zygarde makes a return in Alola. Zygarde embodies balance, especially between life and death, which might be embodied by the Aether Foundation and Team Skull respectively.

What do you think? Share in the comments!

Source: Official Pokémon Sun & Moon Website

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An Angry Look at the Current State of the Metroid Series

Just as relevant now as five years ago. Image credits paperfiasco

The Metroid series just celebrated its 30th anniversary this weekend, and if you’re like me, you were probably caught off guard. Unlike certain other critically and commercially successful franchises Nintendo has been milking every possible dollar out of, there hasn’t been a new Metroid game in six years. It’s been even longer since we’ve had an installment that really focused on exploration – once the hallmark characteristic of the series. And barring the upcoming Federation Force spinoff, there’s nothing else on the horizon. Why is this? How did we end up here? Why did Samus get relegated to red-headed stepchild status despite having a fanbase that’s turned almost every one of her adventures into a million copy seller?

Like the opening to many Metroid games, it’s like we’ve ended up in a strange new world. Time to step back and explore.

Now, I understand not every franchise is gonna get the same anniversary treatment that we’ve come to expect from say, Mario or Zelda or Sonic. There’s a lot of good ones out there, and if we started celebrating every major anniversary, our calendars would be filled with remakes and ports and nobody would ever get on with their lives. Metroid’s neglect by its owners goes deeper, however. The last time we really had something close to its roots of exploration was Prime 2 and Zero Mission in 2004. The closest thing fans of the “traditional” games have gotten in the void was an impressive fan remake of Metroid II. In fact, it was recently released in Version 1.0 status on Metroid’s big 3-0, only for Nintendo to predictably serve the developers a DMCA notice this week more than a decade and a half after Nintendo teased and cancelled such an idea. Happy birthday, Samus!

Now, I’m far from one of those types that’s against trying new things, but think of it this way: If Zelda was regularly outsourced and reduced to “new ideas” like Link’s Crossbow Training and Hyrule Warriors without any of the more traditional titles, people would be screaming for blood. Games like Axiom Verge didn’t become critically acclaimed hits just because of nostalgia, but because the gameplay style is legitimately fun and nobody is filling that niche.

Given the track record of the series, it doesn’t make sense to me as a business decision to let things stray this far for this long. It’s not like Nintendo is above putting themselves where the market is, considering how much of their business strategy relies on re-releases and nostalgia. Having access to the older games on eShop and Virtual Console? Great. Spinoffs and multiplayer shooters? Sure, why not. But where is the series I grew up with? What ever happened to the gritty sci-fi Metroid where you’re dumped on a strange alien world, looking for clues on where to go next, scavenging for tools that will let you dig deeper, and generally figuring things out on your own?

Is it the “family friendly” image thing? Nobody thought Nintendo traded in its “family friendly” cred when the three Prime games or Eternal Darkness came out. Content-conscious parents aren’t suddenly going to buy their kids an Xbox just because something mildly violent got released on a Nintendo platform. Or does Nintendo think the audience isn’t there to warrant the investment? I can see the reluctance to invest money into a dark sci-fi shooter on the Wii U, given the abysmal sales numbers of the platform and the demographics of its installed userbase. However, I guarantee you that a properly developed and fleshed out original 2D Metroid game would easily sell a million copies on the 3DS. It’s been twelve years. Is Nintendo really so absolutely clueless to what fans of one of its most popular franchises have been waiting for? Do we really have to go through the Operation Moonfall nonsense again just to get them to toss out a return to form like they do for Mario and Zelda fans? Are we really at the point where annoying fans to the point they have to drum up publicity themselves is considered a Good PR Technique?

I’d hope not, but nothing would surprise me given the amount of trainwreck decisions Nintendo has pushed out over the years. It seems every decade I’ve watched at least one Nintendo console die a prolonged and agonizingly slow death as third parties and veteran gamers abandon ship in droves as the company struggles to make it to the next generation. It’s a shame, because it seems like only yesterday I was a broke freshman resorting to selling my ADHD medication to pillheads in my high school to finance a Gamecube purchase when the first Metroid Prime came out – A title that accurately captured the magic of one of my absolute favorite SNES games to the point it warranted doing something highly illegal to acquire it. Spinoffs and new ideas are nice, but where is the next traditional iteration in the series, like their other popular franchises?

Assuming it ever happens, I worry it may end up being too little, too late.

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What’s Special About Zelda: Breath of the Wild is That Every Player Creates Their Own Story

My experience with
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at E3 wasn’t very epic or heroic. Most of my time was spent orienting myself within the game’s environment. I dashed through some trees and climbed a few rocks, scouring for food and killing Moblins here and there. After one of the booth workers introduced me to fast travel, I teleported to a tower and promptly ran off it and died. Twice. All of this while Link only wore a pair of underwear.

But though my
Breath of the Wild story mainly consists of accidental suicides and aimless meandering, it is still my story. Others roasted apples, some climbed mountains, and a lucky few even stumbled upon bosses. No demo was like the other; each player’s adventure was uniquely their own. Everybody had their own story to tell after playing the E3 demo. Strike that. Those fortunate enough to land a spot in the game’s seven-hour line had their own story to tell. The allure of a singular experience is what made The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the breakout title of E3 2016, and it has also reinvigorated my adoration for this fabled franchise.

The sweeping landscapes in the game are certainly a key factor to its ecstatic response. Even though we’ve only seen a fraction of the game in action,
Breath of the Wild has already produced an iconic moment that will stick with franchise fans for years to come: stepping out of the Shrine of Resurrection as the camera pans up to the distant horizon. It’s a distinctly cinematic sequence, complete with the game’s title fading in at the bottom-right corner as if to say “Welcome to Breath of the Wild.” The glimpses of Hyrule Castle and Death Mountain beyond the expanse of plains emphasize the grandeur of the overworld, and the gently stirring music cue adds to the serenity of the view. It’s momentous, a grand introduction to the game and one that many players at E3 swooned over.

And yet, while I cannot deny that I got goosebumps when I first stepped into the world of
Breath of the Wild, it’s far from the highlight of my time with the game. The theatricality of the introduction is stirring, but it is merely a teaser, a promise of the adventure to come. Once the logo fades away and the camera returns to Link, the world is free to explore. Forget branching paths, or even paths in general. You can set off in any direction, even right off the cliff. That’s where the genius of Breath of the Wild truly lies. Though there’s plenty to love about logo fade-ins and camera pans, the game’s personality is rooted in its moment-to-moment gameplay.

Nintendo seems to understand where the title’s true strength lies as well, as the company spent most of its E3 showcasing the variety of experiences available in
Breath of the Wild. Stealth! Shrines! Swashbuckling! But throughout all of the livestreaming, there was nary a peep about the plot. The developer has already announced that players can complete the game without even experiencing the story, a telling sign that it is putting less emphasis behind narrative drive, shifting its focus from the synopsis to the setting.

And, my, what a setting! The fact that Nintendo could woo the crowds by spending the better part of three days talking about a single video game speaks to the insane diversity within
Breath of the Wild. There is an incalculable number of activities in this game, from shield snowboarding to hang gliding, but the gargantuan world is ultimately characterized by the smallest of details, natural mechanics that add to one’s immersion in the moment. Gamnesia editor Alex Plant was attacked as he aimed a bomb arrow, and the explosive blew up and killed him. Shooting fire arrows at fish instantly cooks them. Wild animals flee for their lives when Link even makes a peep. And of course, there’s this…

That right there is a game mechanic that isn’t explicitly taught to the player, discovered naturally through continuous play.
Breath of the Wild is littered with little mind-blowing nuggets like that, sprinkling amusing revelations across the span of a grand epic. Every player at E3 had a story to tell, but within that story was an anecdote about a small discovery or a happy accident. It’s the little things that make Breath of the Wild what it is, and what it is will vary from player to player depending on their experience.

Breath of the Wild encourages experimentation by pouring character into the world and adding tweaks and ticks to its smallest features. That attention to detail enthralled me while playing the game at E3, but it didn’t become apparent to me until I listened to other people tell their own stories. Considering the likely possibility that the game’s entire world will be jam-packed with little details, then this is shaping up to be a Zelda adventure unlike any other. Everybody had their own story to tell at E3, but we only played a twenty-minute demo. Imagine the individual odysseys that a thirty or forty hour plus game can produce. It’s not just Zelda’s legend anymore. It’s all of ours, too.


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Daily Delib: How Important Are World Map Sizes?

When the first-person shooter craze died down, it was inevitable that some genre would rise up and take its place. That is indeed what happened as open-world games—the ones in the vein of Assassin’s Creed, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Watch Dogs—burst on the gaming scene, and developers rapidly took notice. Even the Zelda franchise received the open-world treatment during E3, much to the delight of fans worldwide (though it may be argued that the open-world convention of Breath of the Wild is merely a return to traditions past).

The consequence is that one metric of apparent quality has risen just as fast: how large is the game’s map?
Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 were heavily scrutinized based on the sizes of the in-game worlds, gameplay and design choices notwithstanding. Likewise, people have speculated far and wide concerning the world size of the hotly anticipated Breath of the Wild, with some claiming it’s as large as 170 square miles. However, this beckons the question: just how important are map sizes?

A good sandbox game needs quite a lot of the proverbial sand (in this case, content). Offering a large game world with scenic vistas, dungeons, and so on helps encourage the player to explore; games like
Skyrim provide this in plenty, and seemingly every corner in the in-game world hides a secret waiting to be uncovered. Simply put, a bigger map means more stuff.

However, there’s a twist. It can be argued that the striving for massive game worlds leaves a lot of them barren; the upcoming Final Fantasy XV is speculated to have an almost comically large world map that utterly humbles and humiliates the likes of Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V, with the world map speculated to be 780 square miles. One must ask, how on earth are the developers planning on filling that massive game world with meaningful content?

As far as I’m concerned, the craze for massive maps is starting to get dull. Just imagine how much of the developers’ time and energy is spent on building and crafting these huge worlds: resources that could be spent adding more gameplay elements. We’ve seen this happen with games like
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, where what can only be an extraordinary amount of resources devoted to creating an open-world map that could be navigable with parkour movements, but the game suffered from a myriad of smaller issues, leading to an underwhelming Metacritic score.

Where do you stand? Do you appreciate large game worlds, even if it might come at the expense of other game features? The metaphorical podium is all yours.

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Articles Columns Features Nintendo Switch Wii U

Paper Mario: Color Splash is an Enormous Mistake, But it Still Looks Like an Incredible Game

Many Nintendo fans were delighted to hear in January that Intelligent Systems, the team behind
Paper Mario, was working on a new game in the beloved series for Wii U. But when it was formally revealed under the name Paper Mario: Color Splash, that joy turned to disappointment for some and outrage for others.

The first two games in the series—Paper Mario for Nintendo 64 and GameCube’s Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door—are where many of its fans began. They were traditional RPGs with an inventive battle system and interesting story elements, all topped off by a unique kicker: everything in the world was made of paper.

The third game,
Super Paper Mario, took the series’ gameplay in a different direction, and while it performed well critically and commercially, the popular sentiment among Nintendo fans was that the next game should return to the formula its predecessors had established. Paper Mario: Sticker Star seemed like that exciting return when it was first unveiled, but it too ultimately left fans unsatisfied—the RPG mechanics had been watered down and the story elements Paper Mario fans expected had been stripped away.

Super Paper Mario was an oddity, but Sticker Star is where the issue truly began.

Understanding Sticker Star

What hurt fans is that
Sticker Star shared only two things in common with the older games: the paper and the Mario. What were once delightful NPCs with interesting designs and stories became indistinguishable Toads with nothing to say. What was once an entire cast of endearing companion characters (and half the battle system, to boot) became nothing more than a single floating crown with eyeballs following you around, and with little gameplay function beyond its Zelda-like companion role. What was once a rich experience-based progression system became individual power-ups strewn about the world. What were once essential battle commands became resources found in the overworld, somehow simultaneously far too often and not nearly often enough. And the story was suddenly so negligible that everything between the first and last cutscenes is condensed to a single sentence on Wikipedia.

When
Sticker Star launched I was just getting my toes in the water writing about games at Zelda Informer, where I shared my thoughts in miniature progress updates, each awarding the game a tentative score at the end. At first I criticized the game for many of these reasons—it felt completely disrespectful of the Paper Mario name that had until then meant something so specific and so dear to me. This was nothing like past Paper Mario games. I was upset.

To my surprise, fellow Paper Mario fans came rushing to tell me how wrong and unfair my article was, and how little it respected Sticker Star as the game it is, as opposed to the game I wished it were.

So I took a step back. I divorced my history with the
Paper Mario series from the game that was in my hands, and in so doing I found something delightful.

The gameplay was fresh and unique—not terribly deep, but possibly the most addicting in the series’ history nonetheless. The visuals were gorgeous, and the variety of environments all constructed from paper made the stereoscopic 3D more believable than ever. The music was bouncy, happy, crisp, and fun. All of a sudden, I was having a blast.

It wasn’t the immersive world and intricate mechanics I came to expect from
Paper Mario, but it turned out Sticker Star is one of the best games you can find to deliver twenty hours of stupid, carefree, happy-go-lucky fun.

The Community Tears

Unfortunately it seems few fans were able to forgive
Sticker Star so quickly. On my final verdict, readers now expressed anger and disappointment about the game. Unfortunately the original set of comments has long since been lost, but new ones have since trickled in to the same effect. One said, “I hate this game. I regret buying it.” They were upset, and they had the right to be.

If Nintendo makes a turn-based RPG that looks like
Paper Mario and plays (at least somewhat) like Paper Mario, and then calls it “Paper Mario,” they’re sending a crystal-clear message: if you like the Paper Mario games, you should buy this one.

Whether Nintendo realized it or not, that message was totally wrong.

The previous Paper Mario games are traditional RPGs with long stories, a deep battle system, and elaborate worlds. Players could immerse themselves in the environment, the lore, the locales, and the battle tactics. These games were cheerful, optimistic, and often silly, but they had a dramatic backbone driving the player forward.

Sticker Star is a goofy romp through several isolated paper dioramas filled with coins, collectible stickers, and silliness for its own sake, topped with a sprinkle of RPG mechanics. Players could enjoy fighting dancing Shy Guys in mariachi outfits, squishing colossal toy goats flat, and a host of other paper zaniness. It’s cheerful, optimistic, and silly to the point of a frantic schizophrenia—but that’s its whole identity.

Sticker Star took the attitude that once colored Paper Mario in and made it the new author. It’s a delightful game in its own right, but for almost none of the same reasons. Fans who loved Paper Mario and trusted Nintendo’s message found themselves having paid money for something that was neither what they wanted nor what they thought they were promised. It wasn’t just a disappointment. It was a betrayal.

Herein lies Nintendo’s saddest mistake: they made a terrific game that nevertheless failed to satisfy its players.

How Nintendo Got Here

Four years later, many of those same fans eagerly await the series’ return to its roots, now that
Sticker Star can be called a thing of the past. But replace stickers with a combination of paint and playing cards, and you’ve got the upcoming Paper Mario: Color Splash for Wii U.

Business-wise, this game gets no defending from me. On YouTube alone its trailers have been met with
overwhelming “dislike” ratios and long rants of anger, sadness, and defeat from commenters and video creators alike. Sticker Star‘s backlash was predictable, at least in hindsight if nothing else. But they’ve had four years of hindsight to help them with Color Splash—this game simply shouldn’t have happened this way.

It’s one of the last exclusive titles on a platform only the most die-hard Nintendo fans own; the past year on Wii U has already been littered with bad spinoffs at worst and headlined by rushed B-listers at best, and now the console’s only other Nintendo-made game is being positioned as more of a herald for their next system than a swan song for their current one.

The message Wii U owners need to hear right now is Nintendo’s “thanks for bearing with us—we appreciate you,” but Color Splash instead embodies both Nintendo’s disregard for the way they upset their fans in the past, and fans’ total uncertainty that Nintendo will learn from that mistake and do right by Paper Mario in the future.

We’re right to feel uncertain, as the series has strayed so far away from its origin and Nintendo has demonstrated a failure to understand
Paper Mario fans in a streak that’s now three games running.

During
Sticker Star‘s development they surveyed fans about the story in Super Paper Mario through their Club Nintendo rewards program to determine story’s importance in Sticker Star. Ultimately, less than 1% of respondents said they enjoyed Super Paper Mario‘s story, and so the decision was made that Paper Mario can do without a narrative.

But this sample is flawed. By gathering responses this way, they not only limited their sample to a very small number of fans who made a habit of checking Club Nintendo for surveys, but there’s no way to tell which respondents took the time to answer thoughtfully and which respondents haphazardly checked boxes as fast as possible in order to collect rewards points. And
Super Paper Mario, being what Nintendo calls an “action adventure game,” doesn’t represent the story structure of an RPG like the original Paper Mario games, or even Sticker Star, in the first place.

In the face of this faulty data, the series’ roots in dramatic storytelling should really speak for themselves. The original game wasn’t even called “Paper Mario” in Japan, but rather “Mario Story.” It and its sequel both wore their dramatic streak (irreverent as it may be) on their sleeves by setting their battle sequences on an actual performance stage. It’s near impossible to reason, then, that a whopping 99% of Paper Mario players enjoyed the games in spite of the story elements, and not, at least in part, because of them.

But as
Color Splash makes evident, Nintendo hasn’t thought twice about Paper Mario‘s pivot away from its more traditional RPG roots, at least not in time to make a difference on Wii U. In fact, the game’s Director seemed astounded by the very idea that someone would enjoy the first two Paper Mario games enough to buy HD-remastered versions of them when it was mentioned to her in an interview just two weeks ago. Just minutes earlier she explained that the team views Nintendo’s handheld Mario & Luigi series as the traditional Mario RPG and Paper Mario as an open book for experimental gameplay—this, too, is confounding, considering Paper Mario quite literally began its life as “Super Mario RPG 2,” and the Mario & Luigi series is getting just as messy, if not more so, as the Paper Mario series.

Is Hope Left? Is Hope Right?

So if Nintendo really still hasn’t gotten the hint, what now?

Would it help to simply ignore Color Splash? Maybe. But it’s possible Nintendo might see that instead as a natural symptom of Wii U’s decline and think nothing of it—after all, they only expect to sell 800,000 units all year. Or worse, they may see it as a sign that Paper Mario itself is a lost cause, as they warned with Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash.

Would it help to positively push for an HD remake of either of the first two games? It certainly couldn’t hurt. Both games
would be utterly gorgeous remade with Color Splash‘s sense of aesthetic style, and if they go on to sell well it would certainly send a more positive message to Nintendo.

But now’s a better time than ever to remember that when you divorce yourself from your history with the Paper Mario series, Sticker Star, despite all its directional follies, is a terrific game; and Color Splash, despite folly-turned-lunacy, looks like it’s shaping up to be an incredible improvement thereof.

No amount of ranting or tweeting or YouTube-disliking will turn the game in our hands into the game we wish it were—at least not after what’s already been displayed. We can make it loud and clear that we want a back-to-roots
Paper Mario game next, but that’s positive energy to channel at Nintendo, not negative energy to sling at Color Splash.

Right now is the time to recognize that Nintendo is creating a
Paper Mario title with a radically different vision than the one fans have. It’s one of the first lessons I learned in my career. A floating paint can with eyes isn’t supposed to be the next Goombella. Shy Guys drinking color out of living creatures through a straw isn’t supposed to be the next Shadow Queen.

What it’s supposed to be is zany. It’s silliness for its own sake. It’s stupid, carefree, happy-go-lucky fun. And on those terms,
Color Splash actually looks pretty incredible.


Take it from me. I gave
Sticker Star 4/5 Reggies.


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Articles Columns Features News PC PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality Xbox One

Resident Evil VII Shows That Capcom is Finally Prioritizing Horror Over Huge Sales

Resident Evil and survival-horror were once virtually synonymous, but Capcom’s beloved franchise saw a distinct shift in gameplay with Resident Evil 4, and each main series entry since has been more and more action-focused. While this helped popularize the series and attract new fans, it also left many veteran players feeling alienated. Capcom took note of fan frustration when Resident Evil 6 received lukewarm reviews and undersold expectations, and they promised to do more to appeal to their core base.

As such, I was intrigued (but skeptical) when a reliable source leaked that
a horror-focused Resident Evil VII would appear at E3 this year. While I trusted the source, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of Capcom truly taking the series back to its horror roots. I fully expected Capcom to take a half-measure, scaling the action back to the level of Resident Evil 4 or perhaps Resident Evil: Revelations, but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Based on what we’ve seen so far, Capcom is making a real effort to welcome in horror fans with open arms.

The game’s reveal trailer at E3 was simple, but effective, focusing largely on nameless characters as they explored a creepy and mysterious house. Up until the title flashed across the screen, many viewers didn’t even realize they were watching a Resident Evil trailer. Contrast that with the reveal trailer for Resident Evil 6, which was packed with machine gun fire, impressive displays of melee prowess, explosions aplenty, and a heaping helping of key plot points.

From a marketing standpoint, Capcom’s approach to
Resident Evil VII is drastically different from Resident Evil 6. E3 is one of the biggest stages in gaming (even if its popularity took a bit of a hit this year), which makes such a huge marketing shift a risky move on Capcom’s part.

Playing the demo, you’ll immediately notice a major change from previous
Resident Evil titles: the entire game is in first-person perspective. The classic Resident Evil games used a system of fixed camera angles to emulator horror movies, but the more action-fueled style of Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 required Capcom to rework the camera and controls, shifting instead to an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective. With Resident Evil VII, Capcom is aiming for an immersive horror experience, and that means changing up the camera to compliment the new gameplay once again.

“The final game is also entirely in first-person perspective. This is driven by the concept of Resident Evil 7, which is a return to horror. At this particular time in games, it was determined that first-person was the most advantageous way to present horror to the player. When confronting the enemy, there’s no barrier between you and the enemy. This also applies to exploration and gimmicks and traps and things like that. They felt that it really gets you up close and personal with everything, which adds to that horror element.”
— Producer Masachika Kawata

This, too, was a risk on Capcom’s part. Rather than simply catering to their existing fan base, the developers focused on finding the best way to present horror to the player. Creating a main series entry with a first-person perspective is a bold move that could turn off some existing fans, but it’s also a big step towards courting horror fans who have either long since stopped playing
Resident Evil or never played it in the first place. It’s easy to see how fans of cancelled projects like the immensely popular Silent Hills or Allison Road could view Resident Evil VII as a potential replacement. Making the entire game compatible with PlayStation VR adds further immersion and gives Capcom the chance to establish itself as a leader in virtual reality horror, which is sure to be a hot market.

The actual gameplay of the demo is centered around exploration and mystery (and fans are still desperately attempting to figure out some of its secrets), reminding players of the series’ roots in the original game while still feeling fresh. We know that the content available in the demo won’t actually be in the final game, but it was designed to introduce players to the atmosphere of
Resident Evil VII and to give them a similar feeling to the full game. Capcom intentionally left combat out of the demo altogether (another risky move), and Producer Masachika Kawata even downplayed its prominence (and especially the prominence of guns) when asked about the role of combat in the finished game.

“One of the main gameplay elements that is not in [the demo] is, as you stated, combat. In the final game, of course, there will be many types of game mechanics including combat, perhaps some gun-play. One of the things I would like to emphasize about this is that it’s not always about going in guns blazing. It might actually be to your advantage to try to run away from combat at certain times, or use items against your enemies in a different way. This is to say that trying to survive the horror, the survival horror, is a key element to Resident Evil 7.”
— Producer Masachika Kawata

While some players are concerned that the demo doesn’t represent the kind of gameplay we’ll see in the final game (it wouldn’t be the first time a promising
demo turned into something disappointing), creating a separate teaser experience allowed Capcom to keep the game’s story entirely under wraps. Players had a pretty good idea of what to expect heading into Resident Evil 6, and they also had the comfort of powerhouse characters like Leon and Chris to give them a sense of familiarity and empowerment. With Resident Evil VII, Capcom wants players to set aside the story and characters they know and love, entering the game with a clean slate.

Setting aside fan favorite characters for a new, less powerful protagonist is yet another sign that Capcom is prioritizing quality horror gameplay over sales potential. As Kawata explained to GameSpot, “If you don’t know what’s going to happen to you, or the person you’re taking the role of in the game, it’s much scarier than if you’re an iconic character who you know is eventually going to make it through the day.”

Frankly, it’s hard to fear a game when you’re playing as a muscular, machine gun-wielding,
boulder-punching special ops agent who has already survived several zombie apocalypses. Capcom’s even doing away with its ever-controversial quick time events, which were often used to showcase the action of its star characters in a cinematic fashion.

We can’t really say for sure what
Resident Evil VII holds until we get a good look at true gameplay, but Capcom’s approach to the game’s unveiling is cause for significant optimism. For the first time in a long time, every move from Capcom looks like a legitimate attempt to cater to horror fans instead of treating them like an afterthought.


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Our Team’s Favorite Indie Games from E3 2016

Every E3 comes and goes making huge waves with some of gamers’ most anticipated titles, but if there’s one scene in gaming flourishing brighter than ever before, it’s independent game development. This year several of us from Gamnesia had the opportunity to play a wide variety of indie games on the show floor, and four of us decided to come together to highlight our personal favorite games from E3 2016. Head inside to read all about them!

Theo Schultz: Below

Below is a challenging, no hand-holding top-down exploration game with minimal to no direction. Not unlike the original Legend of Zelda, you start off into a world with no explanation of who you are or what you’re supposed to do, just that have a trusty sword in hand and there’s a cliff-side and a cave to scale or dive into as you choose. Regardless of the route you choose, the call of the unknown beckons, with items, creatures, and secrets to be discovered around every turn.

Outside of the reward of delving further and further into the depths of
Below, the game has a simple yet fun crafting system to put to use all the collectibles you find along the way. As with many games, there are only a finite number of item slots, so finding combinations of common items can yield much more useful items such as torches and bandages. And you’ll find that you will need them, as there are many ways to die in Below. Not only does one need to watch their overall health, but you can just as easily die of starvation, dehydration, or bleeding to death unless you can figure out a solution.

The challenge combined the allure of the unknown and the beautiful and simple art style make
Below a very memorable title from both E3 2015 and 2016. Below launches on PC and Xbox One as a limited-time console exclusive later this summer, 2016.

Colin McIsaac: Chambara

Chambara is a high-contrast action game which pits up to four players against one another for short bouts of stealthy, close-range combat. Inspired by the eponymous category of black-and-white samurai films, Chambara primarily features harsh black-and-white tones. It’s a design choice that makes players completely disappear when viewed from some angles, yet leaves them totally conspicuous from others.

In
Chambara you control samurai birds, who can then don various kinds of silly hats and swords to create a goofy and unique look. The fun customization is then capped off by the choice between stars, feathers, cartoon whales (the logo of developer “team ok”), and more, which your character explodes into upon each death and remain as colorful battlefield decorations until the end of the match.

I spent about thirty minutes playing several matches of
Chambara against a number of opponents on the show floor, and though I found the combat slightly confusing at first, it only took a few games for everything to click—and then it was hard to pull myself away. It’s rare to see a game whose art design plays such an influential role in the dynamics of its gameplay, but Chambara is a fun and fascinating fusion of sophisticated aesthetics and sheer bird-on-bird violence that will give you and your friends hours of multiplayer fun.

Chambara launches on July 26th for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Jackson Murphy: Linelight

Forget the two-dimensional platformer you know. Forget about jumps, environments, characters, and short cuts. Hell, forget about platforms.
Linelight strips the genre of those expected features, placing players in the role of a bright white line and setting them on a fixed pathway with limited mobility. And, just like that, it becomes a puzzle game.

Created by a one-man team,
Linelight represents a break-out moment for developer Brett Taylor, both formally and professionally. It features many of the hallmarks of a first solo project: an unassuming style, an estimated amount of content under ten hours, and a somewhat saccharine soundtrack. But even though Taylor sets limits for himself with the game’s minimalistic presentation, he sticks to the confines of his formula and mines surprising complexity from it.

The game introduces new mechanics, such as red enemy lines and multiple keys, with a gentle guiding hand. Most of the puzzles can be solved within seconds if the player knows what they are doing, but the game is anything but easy. While playing the demo, I became stumped multiple times and had to fiddle around for a few minutes before I cracked a smile as everything clicked into place. From moment to moment,
Linelight is a fountain of Eureka moments. The psychological rush of sudden understanding is the quintessential component of the puzzle genre. Brett Taylor has seemingly constructed a game that is entirely focused on that rush. What it lacks in intricacy, it more than makes up for in elemental perfection.

Marcin Gulik: Inversus

One indie title that caught my attention was a little minimalist action-strategy shooter called
Inversus. You play as a domino-like block and your movements are constrained to the opposite colors of a black and white grid. Your tiny block shoots lasers that can flips your opponent’s tiles in order to trap and obliterate them from the face of the map.

I played
Inversus near the end of the second day of E3 with fellow Gamnesia writer Jackson Murphy, and we both agreed that it was fun and addicting. We mainly played the 2 v 2 mode against some fellow exhausted E3-goers, and the game immediately sucks you in to its simplistic yet addictive gameplay. Matches are fast-paced and could end in the blink of an eye, and we ended up playing a total of 15 rounds before we called it quits. Inversus has a bunch of maps that you can choose from after the match ends, and each grid delivers a unique challenge to avoid getting evaporated by your opponent. Inversus is scheduled to be released on Steam and PS4 this year, and I’ll definitely be downloading it on day one.

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The Developers Behind The Witcher III Think Nintendo’s NX “Will be Fantastic”

You may have heard of development studio CD Projekt Red for their work on the open-world The Witcher series. Taking many game of the year awards, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt was released on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and received an astounding amount of positive reception. Now the developer is taking an interest in Nintendo’s newest system, code named NX.

In an interview with Rocket Beans TV, Fabian Mario Döehla, CD Projekt Red’s communications director, said that the NX “will be fantastic” and that everybody at the studio is excited to work on it. He later expressed on Twitter that while this stream was full of jokes, he is indeed “convinced” the system will be fantastic.

While, Döehla recounts, many European devs took their time falling for Nintendo’s Wii console, “what you hear [of the developers] about NX is all very positive.” Even though the NX probably won’t match the power of Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, as he believes devs might not want to make games for a more powerful and less affordable Nintendo system, Döehla reiterated that he is excited for the NX, once again saying, “it will be spectacular.”

Source: Rocket Beans TV (via NintenGen)

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Columns News Retro Wii U

Jakks Pacific is Making More Nintendo Figures, Including KK Slider, Splatoon’s Inklings, and More

Jakks Pacific has produced toys for Nintendo for a while, and their recent announcement extends the toy line into the rest of 2016. Currently there are three installments, one coming this summer, another in September, and a third during the winter. The figures include characters from the Super Mario, Pikmin, Metroid, Animal Crossing, and Splatoon franchises. This current schedule is only for the 2.5 inch figures, so it’s possible we may see different figures released in the upcoming months. Some are currently available at smaller toy retailers; although, it’s expected they will arrive at big-box stores in the near future.

Below is a list of all currently scheduled Nintendo 2.5″ figurines.

  • Tanooki Mario
  • Villager
  • Cat Luigi
  • Camus
  • Chain Chomp
  • Red Pikmin
  • Goomba
  • Shy Guy
  • Metroid
  • White Tanooki Mario
  • Bob-omb
  • Toom Nook
  • Orange Squid (Splatoon)
  • Red Yoshi
  • Ice Mario
  • Fire Luigi
  • Green Squid (Splatoon)
  • KK Slider
  • Gesso
  • Toad
  • Bone Pirana Plant

Source: Siliconera

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3DS Articles Columns DS Features Nintendo Podcast Retro Videos Wii Wii U

Fifteen of the Most Timeless Virtual Console Classics That Any Nintendo Fan Should Play

Nintendo’s Virtual Console platforms are an incredible solution for longtime gamers who want to relive their beloved memories as well as younger gamers or would like to go back and see the games that started some of today’s most beloved series. The latter, in fact, is exactly what we got from a listener question in a recent episode of Nintendo Week, our Nintendo-themed podcast here at Gamnesia. “Say I could only play five Virtual Console games on Wii U or 3DS,” Caleb Villa asks, “which ones should I play?”

Each of the three of us answered with our own personal five essentials to ultimately reach a list of over fifteen must-have Virtual Console games for any Nintendo fan—though of course we still couldn’t help but namedrop a few more! Caleb also specified that he’s already played
Metroid and Super Mario Bros. 3, and would love to include digitally-released Wii games in the Virtual Console lists. Check out the discussion video above for our full discussions about these (and more) incredible titles and why you should play each one, or keep reading for our short lists!

Colin McIsaac, Editor-In-Chief

  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Donkey Kong Country 2
  • Paper Mario
  • Mega Man 2 (or Mega Man X)
  • Kirby & The Amazing Mirror

Ben Lamoreux, Managing Edior

  • Super Mario World
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • EarthBound
  • Metroid Fusion
  • Pokémon Yellow Version

Alex Plant, Senior Editor

  • Pokémon Red (or Blue) Version
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

If you’d like to hear more of our thoughts fully-fleshed out, be sure to check out the full episode of this week’s podcast, embedded below. If you like this video, you can
subscribe to Nintendo Week on iTunes, where we release new episodes every Wednesday, or you could check out the full episode. If you don’t like long-form podcasts, you can subscribe to us on YouTube, where our discussion segments are uploaded on Thursdays, and these select snippets from the rest of the podcast—which we call NWC—are uploaded throughout the week. If you like what you hear, we’d love it if you leave us a review on iTunes, where you can find episodes covering tons of other subjects, or send us your feedback! We’d love to know what you think of the show, and how you think we can improve it.

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Gamnesia Endorses Donald Trump For President

Update: Happy April Fools, everyone!

Being a former president of the United States of America gives you a lot of insight that most people don’t have. This is, after all, why I am Gamnesia’s go-to guy when it comes to politics and national affairs. We don’t talk about politics here often, but they do affect all of us, whether we want to pay attention to them or not. Things like regulations and judicial processes affect the day-to-day operations of every game developer and publisher in a myriad of ways, and the people we put in elected office are the ones that write and enforce laws. So, naturally, it stands that even a humble gaming blog like Gamnesia would have a stake in the upcoming presidential election.

With that aside, I would like to take this opportunity to present my endorsement for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is no stranger to the video game industry.
Donald Trump’s Real Estate Tycoon hit the shelves in 2002, bringing the awe-inspiring Donald Trump brand to the PC gaming master race. And in how fitting a way! What could be a more appropriate way to introduce gamers to the mentality of how The Donald operates, than with a god game where gamers can profit off property in hyper-expensive and thoroughly gentrified cities? A game where crime is seen as what it really is: not as a by-product of what happens when a broken society drives people to insane points of desperation, but rather as a mere nuisance that can potentially affect property values. It happens sometimes, you just gotta factor it in as an expected long-term expense in your business. Liberal blowhards would say we should go after the source of problems, but that’s unrealistic and also entirely not our problem. Donald Trump’s Real Estate Tycoon was not just a mere god game, but a message to gamers in itself on how the real world works—we’re here to win the game by making the most money and driving our opponents into bankruptcy. Everything else is just an obstacle to winning. It’s a message so simple, yet so poignant. And it’s a concept Trump knows better than anyone, which is why I feel comfortable trusting him with one of the biggest positions of power in the free world.

Gaming is a business kiddos, and Trump’s expertise at running businesses has given him years of experience in knowing what they need to become successful. Under a Trump Administration, I’m convinced that
he will do all he can to leverage the power of the government to help businesses be more profitable, and that includes all our favorite publishers. How many more times do we need to see Atari go through bankruptcy? How many more precious gaming brands must be lost in development hell as studios struggle to remain open? The future of our industry is bleak, but President Trump can fix that, by bridging business interests with government priorities. Donald Trump will make gaming great again.

Are you tired of the boring old way America works?
Imagine it being run like a game. Donald Trump has hosted 14 seasons of the real-world game The Apprentice. A show where dozens of wealthy people all competed to be the one who got to be a little bit more wealthy than the others in the end. Imagine if the rest of America was like these people. Under the life-is-a-game modus operandi of a President Trump regime, we’d see even more people climbing over each other to be the best they can be. Doesn’t that inspire you? It inspires me, and I’m sure it will inspire the artists in the video game industry to make even better games.

Now lets be honest with ourselves—a lot of us play video games as a form of escapism. There is no shame in this. When life is rough, when you feel abused, or when you feel trapped, it’s seriously a refreshing thing to take off to a new world and deal with the easier problems there. This common truth has united me with many of my fellow gamers, even if I’m a bit old for it all these days. Sometimes games can even inspire us to make some kind of positive change in the world around us. Some of us are like the old man in the very first
Zelda, giving the young player a sword. “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” He knows. He’s been through worse than you even know right now, but all that he’s asking is that you trust his sagely advice and take the sword, because it will most certainly save your ass. Electing Donald Trump as our next President will most certainly save our collective ass.

Ronald Reagan served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981 through 1989, is an avid Castlevania fan, and has never once fallen off of the Ghost Valley track in Super Mario Kart. He is currently working on the launch of our future sister site, Pod Six.

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