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!

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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

Final Fantasy spinoff Bravely Default scores US release date

If you’re craving an RPG that looks like Final Fantasy IX and plays like Final Fantasy V, then grab your 2014 calendar and circle February 7th. Bravely Default, a spiritual sequel to 2010’s Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, seeks to revive the days of crystal hunting and turn-based battling on the 3DS.

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Save up enough Brave Points and you can spray enemies with arrows.

Though I tend to be skeptical about gorgeous Square Enix games these days, Bravely Default won a lot of critical praise at the time of its Japanese release last year. The game’s battle system echoes that of classic RPGs: attack, magic, and building characters through a job system. However, it’s 2013–we need a twist, don’t we? Well, pay attention: Every action consumes a certain amount of “Brave Points,” which can be hoarded for the sake of combo barrages. How you manage your consumption of Brave Points determines the flow and success of battles, and you can even get excessive and final your point tally in the negatives. Check the second-half of the video below for some battle footage:

Bravely Default erupted over Japan’s sales charts last year, selling 140,000 copies in its first week. Our Asian friends are getting an updated version of the game on December 5th, which offers some gameplay tweaks and a significant cut-down on game length (a dip from fifty to thirty hours). In true class-RPG tradition, us English-speaking folk will receive this “easier” edition when the game hits the West in December (Europe/Australia) and February (US).

Top 5 Tuesday: PS3 Exclusives

It’s not time to embalm the PS3, but let’s face it: we’re three days away from PS3 passing the torch to a new generation of console gaming. But no need for tears and tissues: PS3 ain’t going anywhere, and there are still some rockin’ games in its future (Lords of Shadow 2, anyone?). So rather than celebrating the end, I’m celebrating the era and checking the rearview mirror for my five favorite games that were exclusive to PS3.

This is an awkward list because a lot of my favorite PS3 games are multi-platform. Arkham City and Fallou 3 would probably top a non-exclusive list… Just goes to show how picking the right console these days is more about the console itself than exclusive games.

5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

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Derailed train? Or largest ladder in the history of gaming? You decide.

You could make an argument about the various game franchises that defined PS1 and PS2, and your answers would boil down to Final Fantasy or Resident Evil for PS1 and either Grand Theft Auto or Metal Gear for Sony’s sequel system. But nothing defined PS3 like the Uncharted series, which initially seemed to come out of nowhere. The first game in the series was fun but raw, then Among Thieves took everything top shelf with a movie-like presentation, immersive action and climbing, and a witty cast of characters.

Uncharted for me has always felt like Resident Evil 4 on three cups of coffee. The third person shooting happens faster, and all the jumping and rolling picks up the pace. It also helps that the storytelling moves at a frantic pace and the game doesn’t get bogged down in weapon assembly/customization like a lot of shooters do these days.

Favorite moment: The snowy train ride, particularly the part where you have to shoot out the logs from beneath a burly, invulnerable soldier. That eureka moment when you realize you can shoot the strap is gold.

4. Tales of Graces f (2012)

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Graces is at its best when you’re slaying beasts. Now if only you could slay half the main cast…

Cliched storylines and cheesy characters are forgivable when you have one of the best JRPG battle systems at your disposal. Graces did the unthinkable and one-upped Symphonia’s masterful combat by incorporating a snappy block-and-dodge system and combo chains for extra strategy. Graces’ combat is so exhilarating that I’m not going to write two exhaustive paragraphs criticizing the obnoxiously obnoxious female cast or the overbeaten theme of friendship.

I swear. Watch. I’m moving on to #3…

3. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011)

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Things get shifty early on in Uncharted 3. Then it explodes off into gunplay and outrageous climbing puzzles.

Take Uncharted 2, improve the bland melee combat, provide another gripping storyline, juice up the multiplayer, and you have Drake’s Deception. Though the level design and plot get utterly ridiculous at times, it’s the most fun game in the series. The postmodern intro with Nate and Sully faking their deaths outside a bar remains one of my favorite intro scenes in recent memory. From there Naughty Dog lumped on 12 more hours of action and enough Nate/Sully banter to keep me grinning for days.

2. Ninja Gaiden Sigma (2007)

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Sure, it looks like Ryu’s kicking ass, but there are about two dozen Game Overs waiting to happen.

I’m cheating a little. Ninja Gaiden appeared twice on the original Xbox, but last I checked Sigma is a PS3 exclusive. Don’t like having a remake of a remake on this list? Fine, scroll back up to the top and ask for a refund.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma earns a high ranking for its poetic combat feel and brutal difficulty. Whereas Devil May Cry feels too clunky and God of War feels too chaotic, Ninja Gaiden nails combat with a blend of offense and defense that requires timing, memorization, and strategy. Oddly enough, I love playing defense in Ninja Gaiden almost as much as slicing and dicing. Hold down L1 and move the control stick to roll away from danger and set up anything from a flying decapitation to a wall jump combo. Relentless fun.

1. Valkyria Chronicles (2008)

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Though you can slip around a tank in most Strategy RPGs, VC will make you pay in it’s real-time segments.

I can’t name a more original JRPG from the past generation. Valkyria Chronicles somehow combines real-time strategy with turn-based strategy and manages to execute compelling, challenging gameplay with only four different character classes. The fusion of simplicity and complexity proves mindblowing, and the storyline contains one of the most genuinely gutwrenching moments of any RPG I’ve played. Oh, and the characters are likable–from the main cast all the way down to the army recruits who are loaded with as much personality as ammo.

If you own a PS3 and haven’t touched this one yet, do so. It’s like $15 on Amazon.

Marth returns to Smash Bros., stirs speculation on other potential Fire Emblem reps

Those of us who’ve built our Smash philosophy around speed and swords can breath a sigh of relief: Marth is back in all his blue-haired, head-banded glory. And judging from the early screenshots, so are his Dolphin Slash (Up + B), Shield Breaker (B), and Counter (Down + B) abilities. It remains to be seen if his Forward-Smash will remain the dominant move it once was, but I can’t imagine it any other way (then again, Sheik fought like a flu sufferer in Brawl, so I won’t get cocky).

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Nothing shakes up an intense match like Down + B.

The news comes following fan speculation about Fire Emblem: Awakening’s protagonist Chrom as a potential replacement for Marth. With that out of the way, the question now shifts toward Ike: is he safe? Will Ike remain the “power guy” among Fire Emblem reps?

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Though Chrom (right) is a swordsman by default, Nintendo would be foolish to ignore his game’s Class Change system.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marth, Ike, and Chrom all make it in. That makes for a forest of blue hair, but it’s not unreasonable to include a speedy swordsman, a powerhouse, and perhaps a variety-type character in Chrom. What do I mean by “variety-type”? Well, Fire Emblem: Awakening allows for each character to undergo numerous class changes. If we’re lucky, Chrom could serve as the Zelda/Sheik of the Wii U age.

Are you listening, Nintendo? A swordsman, mage, and archer all-in-one. Let’s do this.

Title Screen scores a Versatile Blogger Award

I must being doing something right.

DRAKULUS23 nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award, and I didn’t even have to beg or bribe. I’m a regular visitor of his blog Drakulus, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, hurry on over. He talks everything gaming, and though he prefers the PC at the moment, he still sticks his nose near consoles and handhelds. He’s also blogging at the rate of automatic fire these days, so it couldn’t hurt to hit Refresh once you get there.

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As for the rules of the Versatile Blogger Award, have at ’em below:

  • You must thank the person who gave it to you, and include a link to their blog.
  • You must then select fifteen blogs that you’ve recently discovered or regularly follow, and nominate them for the award.
  • Finally, you must tell the person who nominated you seven things about yourself.
I already showered Drakulus in gratitude, so here’s 15 other blogs worth a look, all of them gaming related:
  1. I’m currently writing a novel that’s up to 430 single-spaced pages of prewriting/drafting.
  2. I work two jobs: One as an over-the-phone vaccine rep, the other as a grocery stock boy. Keep it hush-hush, but I do all my blogging at my office job.
  3. Last week I tried playing PS3 while pedaling an exercise bike. Better idea in theory than in practice.
  4. I once met Kiefer Sutherland, aka Jack Bauer from the TV show 24.
  5. I have never broken a bone.
  6. I eat pancakes, bagels, and toast plain. No syrup, cream cheese, or butter–nothing.
  7. I turn 24 next month.
Again, thanks to Drakulus for the award, and congrats to those of you who I’m nom’d. Write on into the sunset, fellas.

Top 5 Tuesday: Games of 2003

Soul Calibur II HD Online is set to release in a few weeks, just three months following its ten-year anniversary. Ten years… I feel like a senior citizen looking back on it. If you missed out on SC2 because you were too young or just oblivious, download it later this month on PSN or Xbox Live. It’s both deep and casual-friendly, and the only major letdown is you won’t be able to play as Link (who was an exclusive fighter in the Gamecube version).

As for today’s Top 5, I’m jumping back a decade to recall my personal favorite from 2003. I’ll warn you now: the list is Gamecube-heavy, and unfortunately I missed out on some excellent releases, most notably Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and Beyond Good & Evil.

5. Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN)

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2003: The year of a boy, his talking boat, and an oversized ocean full of pirate romps.

Despite being the weakest of the 3D Zeldas, Wind Waker is still a Zelda experience littered with sharp puzzles, engrossing side quests, and slick swordplay. However, Wind Waker disappointed for two reasons: the monotonous sailing and the lack of gameplay originality beyond the sailing. Notice how I didn’t rip the cel-shaded visuals? Though they don’t suit the tone of Zelda, I’m okay with them if only because they broke the gaming trend of realism that’s been rampant for nearly two decades.

And as for the sailing, it was both good and bad. Good when you were looking for adventure or sidequests. Dreadful when you knew where you wanted to go and had to sit through five minutes of cartoon ocean. In the end we were left with a massive overworld with only a handful of dungeons. Epic final fight, though.

4. Fire Emblem (GBA)

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Oh, you bought Final Fantasy Tactics Advance instead? That’s cute.

I already praised Fire Emblem in a previous Top 5 list, but I’ll say this: Fire Emblem had the misfortune of releasing two months after the inferior Final Fantasy Tactics Advance back in 2003. This was back when Final Fantasy was a juggernaut in terms of sales and popularity. For a lot of gamers, Fire Emblem was an afterthought when it came to jotting down Christmas lists.

At least now we know better.

3. Soul Calibur II (PS2 / GCN / Xbox)

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Many gamers bought SCII solely for Link, only to discover that the game itself was excellent.

Soul Calibur II has the distinction of being the only fighting game I love that’s not named Super Smash Bros. Why the sappy crush? Because it was enjoyable no matter your skill level. You could pick it up on day one, have a blast button-mashing, then spin together some smooth combos by the end of the week. By the end of the month, you’d have a handle on some advanced techniques as well as some serious button combos.

And that’s just the core fighting. Soul Calibur II had a fun single-player mode that involved collecting weapons for each character, arcade modes, 8-character team battles, and more. And I haven’t even mentioned the vivid cast, diverse in both fighting styles and personalities.

And before you ask: my main was Nightmare.

2. Skies of Arcadia: Legends (GCN)

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Ship battles, codes of honor, glass eye-patches: what’s not to love?

I have yet to play an RPG with a better atmosphere than Skies of Arcadia. Sailing the skies with ships is every bit as engrossing as it sounds, and the towns, locales, customs, and myths of the game lend to a sense of place that is rivaled by very few games I’ve played. Though Skies offers an admittedly cliched story, the presentation is top notch, and the characters are infectious, particularly Vyse (He never gives up, dammit!).

Battles run lengthy, but the combat is a fresh take on turn-based, elemental fights. Certain ship battles end up feeling particularly grand due to the length and scope of the duels (some require you to chase down titan-like Gigas or set up a beast for a harpoon takedown). When you grow battle-weary, there’s always Suikoden-style recruiting to look forward to. If you’re going to save the most vivid world in JRPGs, you might as well stock an army for the job.

1. F-Zero GX (GCN)

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You vs. 29 other racers. Wouldn’t hurt to ram five or ten of them off the track…

Milliseconds.

That’s often the difference between 1st place and 6th in an F-Zero GX race. Nintendo’s best racer is intense, maddening, and delightfully masochistic, but the game shines due to its unrivaled blend of fun and difficulty. Track memorization is key, as one slip off the edge means game over. Oh? Think you can stay on board? Try doing it while ramming your booster, which juices your speed up at the expense of your vehicle’s damage threshold. Boost too much and you’re one wall-nick or driver collision away from breaking down. And you have to boost. A lot.

Not only is F-Zero GX intense, but the tracks weave, drop, and roll like poetry. If you haven’t driven Aeropolis – Multiplex or Lightning – Thunder Road, do yourself a favor an score a used copy of GX. It’s the best racer out there in this blogger’s humble opinion, not to mention my favorite game of ’03.