Gamestop Expo 2013 Post-Expo News and Opinions

While all of the mainstream kids were at PAX Prime, us cool cats in Vegas were checking out Gamestop’s annual Expo, featuring everything at PAX and then some. From next-gen consoles to Sonic in a Mario display, almost anything imaginable was there (except for a hands-on Watch Dogs demo).SonicMarioDisplay

First off, good news. Current generation games that were on display are looking great, such as Batman: Arkham Origins, Sonic Lost World and Titanfall (yes Xbox One fanboys, it’s coming to 360 and PC as well!).

The Arkham Origins demo was great fun, but some of Batman’s new gadgets made him extremely overpowered in the demo (remote batclaw, anyone?). Hopefully the full game still manages to challenge players.

Sonic Lost World was fun too, but primarily on the 3DS. My earlier analysis of the boring Wii U trailers was, in fact, correct, as Sonic doesn’t feel fast and/or exciting on Nintendo’s quirky console. Luckily, Sonic retains his trademark speed and FUN on the 3DS version, featuring faster paced levels and better Wisp usage. In short, if you own a 3DS you might just be getting the best version of the game.

Titanfall was the biggest surprise, as up until Gamescon a few weeks ago no one had gotten a chance to play it hands-on. Well, it’s flipping amazing. There was an hour+ long line to get into the multiplayer demo, but it was well worth it. Two teams of six rocket booted and quick-scoped their way around the map in what I assume would be Iron Man’s version of Call of Duty, but that all changed with the Titans. Once the giant robots got involved, conventional FPS mechanics hit the fan and the game really showed its true colors (which were amazing amber and f*cking awesome indigo). Even better, everyone got a Titan at one point or another, meaning that no one was left out of the Gundam robot fun.

Two of Ubisoft’s biggest and most anticipated games, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and Watch Dogs, were present but not hands-on. There was a special screening for each, showing content not currently on the internet. While it was cute, there should’ve been a hands-on demo this close to both games’ launches, and the Watch Dogs demo sparked some serious concerns over the PS4 version being better than current gen versions graphically, but more on that later.

Microsoft’s massive set up at the Expo included demos for Ryse, Kinect Sports Rivals and even a photo-op with Dead Rising 3’s zombies. My verdict on the new Kinect is that it’s still a door stopper, although it IS better than the current Kinect. Not by much, however, as it still reads movements relatively slowly and still can’t process overlapping body parts, such as putting one arm over your chest. Kinect Sports Rivals wouldn’t have been much fun had the Kinect worked better, however, as the game was boring and felt like a poor imitation of Wii Sports Resort.

Ryse looked really boring, even though expo-ees weren’t allowed to even play the Kinect version. There was a one-on-one showroom where you could watch a Microsoft employee play a demo up close and personal, but that was as close as you got to Ryse: Son of Rome’s Kinect functionality.

Sony had demos of their new PS4 racing game Drive Club and Warframe’s PS4 port, but everything else was PS3 content (Beyond: Two Souls and The Puppeteer). Nothing was impressive and while Sony’s booth was big, it lacked impact.Vegas 2013 021Vegas 2013 020

The one big issue worth mentioning with what gamers saw of the Xbox One and PS4 was that the visuals weren’t impressive, far from it. If anything, most next gen games on demonstration looked just barely on par with some current PS3 titles, and a tad better than current 360 titles. The Watch Dogs PS4 demo looked bleh, and anyone who’s pre-ordered a next gen console would be wise to listen to myself and Adam Sessler and cancel that pre-order as soon as possible. Fanboys will be fanboys, but smart consumers should hold off, as these machines don’t seem to be living up to the hype they’ve generated whatsoever.

Those were the biggest highlights and disappointments of Gamestop Expo 2013, give or take a couple of games (such as Super Mario 3D Land and Bayonetta 2 on Wii U, which both had great demos, and a couple of less pressing games like Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Elder Scrolls Online). It was well worth the $35 admission price, and I highly recommend avid gamers to go to next year’s expo, as it’s as enlightening as it is fun.

Review of Super Mario 3D Land for Nintendo 3DS

I finally got Super Mario 3D Land! But is a Mario platformer just as good in 3D as it is in classic 2D? Read on to find out!

Story: Princess Peach gets captured by Bowser, for the millionth time. Cliche`, but if it isn’t broke Nintendo isn’t going to fix it.

Sound: Jaunty and Super Mario-y as ever. Quirky sound effects and tunes are littered about in every nook and cranny of the levels, and the music is on par with even that of the great Super Mario Galaxy’s. Sound: 8.5/10

Presentation: Definitely a contender for best looking 3DS game. Not just in the 3D (which is superb when used correctly in certain levels) but just in the plain graphics, which easily rival that of the Wii’s. The 3D is good in certain places, but overall just doesn’t really fit the scheme of Super Mario. Presentation: 9/10

Gameplay: It feels identical to the already mentioned Super Mario Galaxy, being a 3D and 2D platformer. At first it feels sort of awkward due to the small screen, but eventually you adjust and everything feels just like it should. Before I get too in-depth, I just want to say the 3D (not 3D as in three dimensional, but as in pop-out visuals) isn’t mandatory for the game, but somehow if you’re not using it Nintendo trolls you. It’s black magic, no doubt about it. Anyway, at its root it is the same tried and true formula that has made Mario a video game superstar, what with the goomba-stomping, platform hopping and wall jumping action. But if that weren’t enough, a plethora of new suits have been added to Mario’s array, including the boomerang bros. suit and the revitalization of the Tanooki suit. These power ups are surprisingly important and key if you intend on beating this game. Really, this game is surprisingly difficult and definitely one of the most challenging handheld titles I’ve ever played, due to it’s demand for sheer platforming skill. Gameplay: 9/10

The game looks even better in person!

Multiplayer: N/A

Length: While the first eight worlds only take about six hours to blaze through, the hundreds of star coins and eight special worlds (that’s seven more than most Mario games) will keep you busy for quite a long time. Length: 10/10

Overall: This is no pathetic handheld game. This is an amazing Super Mario game that easily earns its 9.1 Tanooki suits out of 10.

Review of Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games for Nintendo 3DS

That is a long title. But does this game live up to that long title, being a Mario and Sonic outing of olympic proportions, or is it not even worthy of a bronze medal? Read on to find out!

Sound: The music in this game is sort of lacking, and the most overused song is the main theme. Not much to say for voice acting, because characters only make a few grunts throughout an entire event. One thing I think belongs in the sound category, is that during one of the events you’re required to yell into the 3DS. And you feel like a complete idiot while doing it. Sound: 4.5/10

Presentation: The visuals aren’t as pixelly as I expected, actually being mistakable for the Wii’s M&S graphics. I’m not sure if that’s dissing the Wii but it’s definitely complimenting the 3DS. The 3D of the 3DS works really well in this game, the best event for it being trampoline where your character hurls towards you through the screen. I think the story mode is part of the game’s presentation as well, so I’m going to mention this game has a pretty well presented story mode that doesn’t feel like a cheap toss-in but more of a giant cutscene related movie with a few events thrown in. And there are actual cutscenes, not that two characters and a speech box $&%# from Sonic Generations for the 3DS. Presentation: 8.5/10

Gameplay: Throughout all of the events, the gameplay is extremely diverse. Almost too diverse, because simple games like badminton are played one way, but ping pong is played a completely different way! Speed running involves the stylus, but the next running event involves five different buttons! It’s just a hassle to constantly retrain yourself for a single event. Even worse, some of the controls for these games are just awkward. Other than the already mentioned weightlifting game (where you yell into the 3DS) I actually found most of the motion-controlled, microphone enabled events to be really fun and my main issues were with the button-using events. Some of them are just horrible or require you to button mash like your life depended on it. With all of those complaints out of the way, there are over fifty events so if you really dislike a few there are always other options, and of course medley mode where you can pit all of your favorite events in a string (although after making one you can’t edit it at all… strange), but my issue with all of these events is that none of them are truly addicting! I couldn’t find a single one that caught my interest for more than thirty minutes, and the fact that you can’t even choose from more than four characters per event doesn’t help. Gameplay: 5/10

Mutliplayer: No online?! That sets this game back ages in my book. Local multiplayer and download play is cool, but not enough to even consider this game for its multiplayer. Multiplayer: 5.5/10

Length: With over fifty five events, a lengthy story mode (mainly because of the cutscenes) and medley match options, this game can easily keep you busy for six to seven hours. But after that, the game solely relies on the hope that you’ll find some of the events addicting and come back to play more. Sadly, that just doesn’t work for this game. Length: 6.5/10

Overall: Mario and Sonic’s first Olympic 3DS outing gets a 6/10. An okay collection of minigames, but not enough to warrant a full $40 price tag.

Mario Kart 7 Tip Guide

This’ll be a small tip guide for MK7 on the 3DS!

Unlockable character tip: Clear every cup (on either 50, 100 or 150cc) to unlock your Mii as a playable character.

In-Game tip: If you collect ten coins during a single race, you’ll get a small speed boost!

Review of Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo 3DS

With a lull in good console games, I decided to pick up a 3DS title. So is this handheld kart racer as good as its other Mario Kart brethren? Read on to find out!

Sound: Lots of classic Mario soundtracks and even some new are all compiled into the game, so the nostalgia factor is high. Sound effects are great too, making you sweat when you hear that blue turtle shell closing in… Sound: 9/10

Presentation: At first glance, the graphics don’t look like anything special. But play long enough, and you’ll start to see that these visuals rival quite a few Wii titles. On top of the impressive graphics, the 3D looks great. Not so great that it’ll be worth using enough to make you sick (read my Nintendo 3DS review for the full scoop) but good enough that it’s worth turning on once in a while. Presentation: 9/10

Gameplay: The gameplay of Mario Kart is identical to its past games, easy to play, hard to master. The controls are basic as can be, but that simplicity adds up to a lot of fun when you throw in the dangerous items and new underwater/sky gameplay elements. The hang glider is a fun new addition that adds a new level of depth to each track, and the underwater segments are always some of the best and most original parts of each course. New items have been added so that things are even more unpredictable during races, and there’s a fair amount of unlockable characters and kart customizations to get. My only gripe with this is that it takes forever to get new customizations/characters, so gameplay becomes a little stale before new unlockables are obtained. Gameplay: 8/10

Multiplayer: Coin battle and balloon battle are just as frantic as ever, especially on the new eight player online multiplayer. I encountered no lag and everything worked perfectly, my only real problem being how long the matchmaking took. But other than that, a great online experience that shows what MK7 is all about. Multiplayer: 8/10

Length: If you’re into grand prix mode, this game will keep you busy for a few hours. The online is great too, being the most addicting part of the package. If you don’t have an internet connection and don’t get a lot of fun out of versing AI through four-track competitions though, this game will be over within the first two hours. Length: 7/10

Overall: Mario Kart 7 gets 8.4 coins out of 10! A great installment to the series, and is a must-buy for any racing fanatics who own a 3DS.

Review of Sonic Generations for Nintendo 3DS

If the console version was great, the handheld version should be too… right? Read on to find out!

Sound: Well, there is almost no voice acting aside from a few sound clips. In terms of music, the 3DS version just got recycled music. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I honestly didn’t hear a remixed track for either classic OR modern. The original music is cool too, but seriously the originality-ometer is low. Sound: 5.5/10

Presentation: The pictures and gameplay videos of this game don’t do it justice. The only way you can really enjoy its stunning 2D graphics are in person. With that said, the 3D visuals are amazing as well, really simulating the whole three dimensions thing whenever Sonic hits a loop-de-loop or has a pseudo 3D gameplay moment. Presentation: 9/10

Gameplay: Bringing a whole slew of new levels that the console versions didn’t have, the variety is plenty. Actual level design is sort of lacking though, with cheap instant deaths, bad level layouts and annoying gimmicks (Like the forced-upon Classic Sonic homing attack. Ugh.). Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay is fun most of the time, but Modern Sonic only has two 3D gameplay moments in the entire game!! I also think they could’ve used a lot more handheld Sonic game stages, instead of just one from Sonic Rush. Seriously this game is about Sonic’s history and yet some of the levels in this version he’s never even been through (like Radical Highway)! But with all of its many flaws, there is still a little Sonic Rush reminiscent fun to be had with Modern Sonic (because in this version Classic Sonic has the utmost worst level design and controls). Gameplay: 6/10

Multiplayer: I commend this game for at least having a multiplayer mode, unlike its console counterpart. All the multiplayer is is a race against someone else, but it has a really cool point system and gets really addicting really fast. There’s also a nifty profile card section where you can upgrade your profile card based on how many matches you’ve won, so the world can see your stylized customized Sonic I.D. Multiplayer: 7.5/10

Length: About two hours, and that is only if you’re bad at the game. If you’re good and used to the play style, you can zoom through in just under an hour and a half. Online adds a good hour or two on to that, but the bonus missions are just not enough to keep me coming back past the three hour mark. Length: 4/10

Overall: Sonic’s 3DS 20th anniversary outing gets a 6.4/10. I reviewed this game based on an average gamer’s viewpoint, being critical of its many flaws and stating you should only get it if its discounted, but if you’re a Sonic fan you should definitely pick this up just for the nostalgia factor.

Review of Nintendo 3DS

A new console from Nintendo? WITH a 3D gimmick? Now this I gotta review!

Sound: It’s Nintendo, people. Quirky sound effects and annoying bleeps/bloops whenever you access a menu. ‘Nuff said. In terms of  actual in-game sound quality, it’s not always completely synced but for the most part good. Sound: 7/10

Presentation: This thing has the graphical equivalent of a Wii, no joke. It’s ridiculous how great the visuals are for such a small handheld, one the same size of the original DS Lite. Aside from crisp and clean visuals, the 3D gimmick also does its job impressively. The 3D actually works! Now, it is definitely shown off better in some games (Sonic Generations 3D is a lot better than Super Mario 3D Land, ironically) but the 3D effect is there and really feels movie-theatre quality. Now, minor gripes with the 3D are that A.) You need to be in a certain position to see the effect (otherwise you’ll just see double images) and B.) It makes you sick to your stomach. No joke. I don’t know why, but after about fifteen minutes of solid 3D playtime I’m feeling queezy. Turn that fifteen min. into an hour and I’m ready to vomit. Now, this is a big problem considering the system’s title is also demonstrating its most sickening (literally) flaw. But again, the 3D is awesome in small dosages and the 2D visuals are downright stunning on their own. Presentation: 7/10

Gameplay: A Gyroscope and a new thumbstick (D-Pad)? Nintendo, I like your style. The new D-Pad works like a charm and is no doubt the best portable one I’ve ever used. The gyroscope is a cool addition, with the only major problem being that when you use it you lose the 3D effect if you have it activated. Other than those two things, the gameplay is relatively similar to the original DS. The handful of things I think the original did better are the layout of buttons, the hinge strength and the stylus location. The current button layout is a little awkward, the hinges on the 3DS are definitely not as strong as the original, and the stylus location is now obnoxiously in the back of the system by where you put the games in, terrible for when you need it on the fly. But other than those mostly minor gripes, the system is a fairly large improvement on its predecessor. Oh, and it even has a pedometer. Gameplay: 8/10

Multiplayer: Since this is a hardware review, I’m going to talk about the online features here. There is local multiplayer options (for specific games) and the 3DS still retains the ability to copy multiplayer data from someone else’s handheld so you both can play a game without both owning it. It’s also got the Nintendo Shop channel from the Wii, which has a much smaller library than the Wii’s and is much less impressive (at least for the moment). Other than that, the 3DS really doesn’t have much online going for it, but in its defense that’s not what the machine is primarily for, either. Want premium online content and gameplay? Go play your Xbox 360. Multiplayer: 6.5/10

Length: The 3DS comes packaged with some Augmented Reality games which pretty much demonstrate the system’s capabilities, but you’ll spend ten minutes on that, max. Now, in terms of games, the lineup of titles isn’t looking very strong, with only a handful of big names coming up (Kid Icarus, for example) but it’s that sort of first-party stuff that you should be expecting for the 3DS. I think there’s a lot of games to come, but currently it won’t last you very long. Length: 6/10

Overall: Nintendo’s latest flashy handheld gets a 6.9/10! Not the greatest new console out there, and with the upcoming release of the PSP Vita Nintendo’s success is looking iffy. But when more games start coming out for this visually entrancing handheld, that’s when it’ll become more than a time-killer and definitely worth a purchase.