The Collectionary: A new haven for game collectors

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If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been AWOL for a good chunk of the past month. Well, like it or not, I’m back. And you can thank one of the moderators from The Collectionary for giving me a reason to reboot Title Screen.

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Want a dead sexy Majora’s Mask-skinned N64? They got it.

The Collectionary is a nifty little site that enables gamers to buy or sell games and keep track of their collections. The site’s video game section is still young, and they’re currently looking for moderators who are willing to help build “the dictionary of every Video Games collectible ever made.” If you’re feeling ambitious, look into joining forces with them.

And Merry Christmas from Title Screen!

First Impressions: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Uh oh. It’s hybrid-spinoff time in the Metal Gear universe. Add one cup Ninja Gaiden, one cup Metal Gear, stir, add loads of Raiden, and you’re left with Metal Gear Rising. And believe it or not, it tastes pretty damn good. Even if there are some empty calories.

Here’s the deal with Rising. If you come in hoping for Ninja Gaiden’s rewarding difficulty and fluid, meticulous combat, you’ll be disappointed. That’s not say the gameplay isn’t fun–I’m having a blast, thanks–but it’s much more button-mashy than what I’ve come to expect from action games. Combat mostly consists of weak and strong sword attacks (the button-mashy parts), but you also have “Blade Mode” which enables you to slow time and slice maniacally at an enemy once you’ve saved up enough “Electrolytes” from battle (bring some Gatorade, kids). Slice up a weakened enemy and you’ll garner his energy core, which will restore your health and set you up for another run through Blade Mode. Blade Mode felt a bit clumsy at first, but soon the gameplay quirk of slicing up enemies and chaining combos uplifted the combat experience above mere hack-n-slash.

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Ripping out enemy cores restores your health and lets you chain Blade Mode combos.

If you’re surrendering gameplay depth, at least you get a solid story in return. Rising’s storyline is intriguing from the moment you press Start and the pacing is downright relentless. Although the cast of villains isn’t as memorable or developed as previous terrorist gangs from the series, Rising carries the authentic feel of a Metal Gear game. Despite being of an entirely different genre, it stays true to the franchise. Codec calls, stealth kills, and cardboard boxes all exist on the intricate level we came to expect in MGS1-3. I’d even go as far as saying that Rising is more of a Metal Gear game than MGS4. Seriously.

As of now I’m roughly seven hours into MGR and loving Hard mode (if you happen to pick this one up, play it on Hard–the game is forgiving with it’s checkpoints). Though I can’t quite recommend it to the Ninja Gaiden crowd, if you’re a Metal Gear buff or a casual action game fan, go out and grab this one.

Cheapest Black Friday Video Game Deals

Tomorrow marks a day for food, family, and an onslaught of deals on video games. Even if you plan on staying home, you can score online deals from Best Buy, Amazon, and a few other major websites.

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-Assassin’s Creed IV:
$35 Microsoft, Best Buy, Walmart (guaranteed in-stock 6-7 Thursday)
$40 Gamestop-Batman: Arkham Origins
$30 Best Buy
$35 Target, Walmart (guaranteed in-stock Thursday 6-7)-Battlefield 4:
$25 gamestop (Friday only), Walmart
$35 Best Buy, Target
$38.99 Microsoft

-Beyond: Two Souls:
$25 Walmart
$35 Best Buy
$40 Gamestop (Friday Only)

-Call of Duty: Black Ops II:
$25 Target, Walmart (Walmart says Game of the Year edition)
$29.99 Best Buy

-Call of Duty: Ghosts:
$39.96 Microsoft, Walmart (guaranteed in-stock Thursday 6-7)
$44.99 Best Buy, Gamestop

-Deadpool
$20 Gamestop (Friday Only)

-Diablo III
$40 Frys.com

-Dragon Crown (PS3)
$25 Frys.com (Vita too)
$30 Gamestop

-Dishonored (GOTY)
$25 Gamestop

-Far Cry 3
$15 Best Buy, Walmart

-Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PS3)
$20 Gamestop

-FIFA 14:
$25 Microsoft, Walmart
$35 Best Buy, Target
$40 Gamestop

-GTA V:
$34 Microsoft, Walmart (guaranteed in-stock Thursday 6-7)
$33.99 at Amazon as of 11/27

-Just Dance 3
$10 Walmart

-Just Dance 2014
$15 GameStop

-Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix
$20 Gamestop

-The Last of Us (PS3)
$25 Walmart
$35 Best Buy

-The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
$30 K-Mart
-The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)
$40 K-Mart
 
-LEGO: Lord of the Rings
$10 Walmart (if you miss Amazon’s deal)
-Madden 25:
$25 Microsoft, Walmart
$35 Best Buy, Target
$40 Gamestop-LEGO: Marvel
$25 Walmart-NBA 2K14
$40 Frys.com

-NCAA 14:
$25 Walmart
$40 Gamestop

-NHL 14:
$40 Gamestop

-Playstation All Stars: Battle Royale (PS3/Vita combo)
$10 Gamestop (Friday only)

-Rayman Legends:
$25 GameStop

-Saints Row IV:
$25 Walmart
$30 Best Buy, GameStop

-Shin Megami Tensei IV
$25 Frys.com

-Skylanders: Swapforce (Black Edition)
$80 Gamestop
-Skyrim:
$15 Best Buy, Walmart

-Skyrim Legendary Edition (all DLC):
$30 Gamestop

-Sly Cooper 4: Thieves in Time (ps3/vita combo)
$10 Walmart

-Splinter Cell Blacklist:
$25 Gamestop, Target, Walmart
$30 Best Buy

-Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
$50 K-Mart
-Tales of Xillia
$20 Gamestop-Twisted Metal ps3
$10 Walmart-The Bureau XCOM Declassified
$30 Frys.com

-WWE 2K14
$40 Frys.com

Top 5 Tuesday: Zelda Gimmicks

I’m going to spontaneously combust if I don’t play A Link Between Worlds soon. Seriously. My hair’s melting off my scalp and my skin won’t stop turning to ash. And all because the K-Mart pre-Black Friday deal that I hyped didn’t include videogames. Yep. I’m the one who jinxed it. Please send all hate mail to my About page. I’ll see to your death threats soon as I get a some free time.

Anyway, in honor of Link’s newest ability to transform into a cave painting, I’m rocking out a Zelda-themed list of my favorite gimmicks in the series. “Gimmick” may not be the best word, but it’s the best catch-all I can think of for things such as…

5. The Four Swordsmen (Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures)

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Two guys putting their lives on the line and another two doing absolutely nothing? Sounds like Four Swords to me!

The latest Wii U Mario game is getting a ton of praise for it’s four-player scrambling and puzzle-solving, but it’s been done before. Over a decade ago, actually. If you and your buddies owned a GBA copy of Zelda: A Link to the Past (and those cumbersome link cables), you had your ticket to the world of four-player puzzle-solving. You also had a lot of yelling and leadership struggles, but where’s the fun in contentment?

4. Time Travel (Ocarina of Time)

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Back so soon? He’s got a well to drain.

It may seem straightforward compared to the three-day time cycle in Majora’s Mask, but Ocarina’s back-and-forth time travel opened up a world of story and gameplay wrinkles from the moment Link yanked the Master Sword from it’s pedestal. Who could forget their first steps into the ruined, ReDead-infested Hyrule Market as an adult? And just when you thought the trip to the future was a one-way deal, the Well and Spirit Temple beckoned for Link in his youth.

3. Sword Motion Controls (Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword)

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The Lightsaber duel of your dreams. Sort of.

I don’t care how limited the sword controls were in Twilight Princess–they were a dream come true. Indisputable magic if you’re a Zelda fan. And then Skyward Sword took it to a more comprehensive level with Wii Motion Plus Controls. Not only did this make for a fuller range of slashes, but it made for a few unforgettable sword duels with Ghirahim. Fake high, slice low.

2. Mask Collecting/Transformation (Majora’s Mask)

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Who’s saying no to that face?

Arguably the greatest sidequest in all of gaming, the mask collecting in Majora’s Mask was punctuated by the three transformation masks that catalyzed a Zelda gameplay experience like no other. It was enthralling enough to roll around as a Goron and swim at stingray pace as a Zora, but utilizing Link’s transformations for the sake of puzzle-solving took it to a higher echelon.

1. Dawn of the First Day: 72 Hours Remain (Majora’s Mask)

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That’s not the face of a moon who’s second-guessing Armageddon.

A lot of games involve ticking clocks and time travel. A lot of games involve living worlds full of NPCs with daily plans and paths. But no game quite combines the two like Majora’s Mask, where you have to be somewhere at some time… all of time. And even if you blew off the sidequests in favor of the main game, you still had that angry-ass moon to worry about. Three days is all you’re getting, but let’s not forget this is Link we’re dealing with. Slow down time, jump ahead, and reboot the whole thing when Armageddon approaches.

Afterthoughts: Radiant Historia

Radiant Historia is a wonder. It’s like and unlike every JRPG from the SNES/PS1 eras, and just when you think the story and gameplay are growing trite, the game’s dual-universe concept takes over. That’s the only way to describe it: taking over. The game erupts once you realize how you can jump between standard and alternate history, pushing through the main story and chasing sidequests. Whereas this may have been a so-so RPG with a fresh battle system, Radiant Historia will go down as memorable in my mind for the dual-history concept and all the engrossment that arises from it.

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Time forks right from the start, but the split history concept really takes off at about the midway point of game.

When I said RH was familiar, I meant it. From a story standpoint, it’s like every other RPG from the 90s: War, magic, good kings, evil queens, world domination, romantic tension that goes nowhere… you’ve been here before. But where you likely haven’t been is jumping between one version of time and another. Friends in Standard history may not even cross your path in Alternate History; powerful enemies in one timeline may be lackeys in the other; and saving an ally’s life may depend on going back in time or learning a technique in another timeline. It’s both fun and thought-provoking, and there’s also a little philosophical meat to it in terms of fatalism.

If all the time-jumping complicated, it shouldn’t. RH makes temporal travel smooth by giving you a map with two dotted lines for Standard and Alternate history. Click any blue point–past or present–and you’re there. Then you can tweak history, save lives, foil plots, and reclaim lost items. It’s engrossing. It’s compelling. It’s simple. Most of all, it’s what distinguishes RH as one of the better handheld RPGs out there.

The odd thing about Radiant Historia is that even though it immediately introduces the two alternate timelines in the game’s opening scene, the concept doesn’t exactly take off until about 15 hours in. It’s kind of like the Wedding of Cana–you know, the Bible story where the reception runs out of cheap wine, then Jesus miraculously provides an abundance of better booze. With Radiant Historia, just when I thought I’d had my fill, the second half of the game went down like a cold slurp of rejuvenation.

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You start fighting Thaumachines near the end of the game. The trick to beating them? Plant an electric mine and knock the metal titan into it.

Along with the story and quests, the battle system also jacks up the intensity around the midway point of the game. As I discussed in my First Impressions post, RH’s battle system challenges players to knock enemies around a 3-by-3 grid, setting up two-birds-with-one-stone style attacks. In the forty hours I spent with RH, the battle system never went stale, although it was too easy for the longest time. A welcome jump in difficulty comes around the midway point, with tougher baddies and a couple new wrinkles, like shields and power strips. Much as I loved the battle system for it’s freshness, I’d have loved to see it evolve more over the course of the game.

I’m not sure if I’ll have time to write a review of Radiant Historia, so this might be the closest thing to it. If you want a score, how’s 8/10 sound? Great game, brilliant concept… I just would’ve liked to see a more comprehensive battle system and a deeper supporting cast. Other than those gripes, it’s mostly praise for the ages. Both of them.

K-Mart Black Friday deals start this Sunday at 1AM EST (Zelda 3DS for $30 and more)

If you haven’t already picked up Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, then 1AM on Sunday is the time to do it. K-Mart is kicking off Black Friday five days early, and they’re offering some solid prices and free shipping on a few dozen games (listed below). Zelda won’t dip below $30 this holiday season–believe me, I’ve checked–so if you’re itching for it or any other gaming deal, here’s what to do:

  1. Sign up for K-Mart’s membership program (don’t worry, it’s FREE)
  2. Get your cheap ass over to K-Mart.com at 1AM Eastern Standard Time
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Who’s saying no to a brand new Zelda at $30?

That’s all you need to do to have early access to K-Marts Black Friday deals. As for what else is on sale, check below. Note that $25 is the cheapest I’ve seen Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate (3DS).

 

Consoles

:wiiu: Mario and Luigi Bundle – $299.99 (plus $20 in points for members)

:ps3: 250GB Holiday Bundle w/ The Last of Us and Batman: Arkham Origins – $199.99

:3ds: 2DS Electric Blue or Crimson Red – $119.99

 

Games

:3ds: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – $24.99

:3ds: Animal Crossing: New Leaf – $29.99

:3ds: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D – $29.99

:3ds: Pokemon X – $34.99

:3ds: Mario & Luigi: Dream Team – $34.99

:3ds: Mario Kart 7 – $34.99

:3ds: New Super Mario Bros. 2 – $34.99

:3ds: Batman: Blackgate – $24.99

:wiiu: Nintendo Land – $19.99

:wiiu: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD – $39.99

:wiiu: Just Dance Kids 2014 – $39.99

:wiiu: New Super Mario Bros. U – $44.99

:wiiu: Super Mario 3D Land – $49.99

:wiiu: Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack – $49.99

:wiiu: Disney Infinity Starter Pack – $59.99

:ps3: Ratchet and Clank Nexus – $19.99

:ps3: Beyond: Two Souls – $39.99

:ps3: Dead Space 3 – $39.99

:ps3: Disney Infinity Starter Pack – $59.99

:360: Just Dance Kids 2014 (Kinect) – $19.99

:360: Dead Space 3 – $39.99

:360: Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack – $49.99

:360: Disney Infinity Starter Pack – $59.99

:wii: Just Dance Kids 2014 – $19.99

:wii: Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack – $49.99

:wii: Disney Infinity Starter Pack – $59.99

Sakurai not aiming for complete balance in new Smash Bros.

Smash Bros creator Masahiro Sakurai is slugging through twelve-hour shifts and taking up residence within walking distance from Super Smash Bros. 4’s development studio. He’s playing four-player matches on his lunch and inputting damage rates and hit boxes all by his lonesome. If the latest Smash installment disappoints, it won’t be for lack of effort on its creator’s part.

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Sakurai is personally ensuring that all these hits, slashes, and headbutts register.

Polygon covered Sakurai’s most recent interview with Famitsu, in which Sakurai described everything from his daily schedule to the finer points of tweaking character motions. It’s a great read if you have time; if you don’t, consider this one nugget that stuck out:

[...] we have to work to keep things dynamic and not over-fine-tune the balance. If we aim for complete fairness, there won’t be any personality to it.

It’s an interesting take, as fighting game fans everywhere often lust over the idea of a perfectly balanced game. Back in Melee’s glory years, my friends and I itched for a Smash Bros. game where smack-dummies like Bowser could hang with Fox, Marth, and Sheik. Now it seems that not only is perfect balance unattainable, but the series creator himself wants nothing to do with it.

And you know what? I’m a-okay with it.

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How’s another five years of ass-kickings sound, Bowser?

Isn’t the whole point of fighting games to weed through the roster and find the three or four characters you’re most comfortable with? If those particular character happen to be technically better than others, so be it.

Now, Smash Bros. complicates the situation with dozens of gaming icons. And when you have icons, you have fans who get riled when their favorite character(s) end up on the low-tier. But there’s a huge difference between an unbalanced game and a broken one.