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

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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.

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.

PS4 launch titles misfiring till 2014

The theme for next-gen news over the past few days has been “next-year.” On Tuesday Ubisoft announced that their stealth-action game Watch Dogs wouldn’t reach gamers till Spring 2014–a huge letdown considering it was among the most hyped PS4 launch titles. Today, the PS4-exclusive racer Driveclub saw its own release pushed back to February.

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Amazon and GameStop had to provide alternatives for those who pre-ordered the PS4 Watch Dogs bundle.

For most, the loss of Watch Dogs is the tragic news, but the biggest losers are the PS4 and Xbox One. Let’s be honest: system launch days have been embarrassing in recent years. Aside from Halo back in 2001, can you name any other launch game that set the world afire? Zelda: Twilight Princess was technically a Gamecube title, so don’t get cute, Wii fans. That leaves you with Perfect Dark Zero for 360, Resistance for PS3, and all of last year’s ports for Wii U. If you want to go portable, take your pick from 3DS’s opening day hodgepodge or Uncharted: Golden Abyss on Vita. Have a favorite yet? Yeah, me neither.

Launch day has become misfire day ever since the glory years when you could pick up Super Mario World or Super Mario 64 on day one. The problem–at least in my view–is that focus has shifted from software to hardware. Gone are the days when you bought a Nintendo system to play the new Mario. Instead, consumers and media members can’t stop talking about PS4 and XBONE–the systems themselves. E3 2013 generated more headlines about used-game policies and online capabilities than anything else. Whether gamers were defending or urinating on Microsoft, their opinions targeted XBONE, not its games. To be fair, homogenized 3rd-party lineups have diminished exclusive software as a selling point, but still–why don’t we care about the games anymore?

m64

N64 released with only two games, but no one cared since Super Mario 64 was one of them.

No one could blame Sony and Microsoft for releasing their next-gen consoles right before the holidays, but their launch lineups are a bit undignified. I suppose if you crave Killzone or Battlefield, there’s a case for purchasing a PS4, but with all the hot PS3 and 360 titles on the way, waiting is the wise man’s move. That is, if you’re wise enough to value software over hardware.

Batman DLC promoted weeks before the game’s release–Why do I even bother?

Remember when game add-ons and patches and DLC sounded like a good thing? Internet connections were once like an all-healing, benevolent messiah that could iron out a game’s technical issues, then shower us with bonus content of all flavors and sizes.

Then game companies got greedy.

As a lifelong Bat-fan, I’m itching to play the latest Batman game installment, Arkham City Origins. Trouble is, I’d feel like a dope buying it on day one. Or even year one.

bat2

Oh wow! For just an extra twenty bucks I can complete the game I already paid full-price for. Total steal!

A little over a week ago it was announced that a DLC package entitled “Initiation” was already in the works. The gist of Initiation is that you’ll play through Bruce Wayne’s pre-Batman ninja days. Anyone who has seen Batman Begins knows that Bruce embraced his physical skills and abilities through ninja training. The Initiation DLC won’t deal with Ra’s al Ghul or the League of Shadows, but it will provide some nifty narrative backstory… For a fee, of course.

Obviously, DLC and bonus charges are nothing new, but it’s ridiculous that Origins’ producer is touting upcoming DLC when the game itself hasn’t hit a store shelf yet. And don’t give me that “Just buy a Season Pass” nonsense either. The issue here is that game companies have abused a system that was meant to benefit gamers. We welcomed the idea of downloading updates to fix a bug or two. We loved the idea of having access to bonus content; even when companies slapped a price tag on it, we welcomed having the option.

But now, I feel that new releases aren’t games anymore. They’re subscriptions. And the $60 that loyal fans lay on the sales counter is just the start.

bat

Instead of bat symbol, why not just be frank and make it a dollar sign?

I’m on the fence about buying Arkham Origins this year. I’d love to play the game, but spending $60 on it seems wasteful and foolish, especially when (Spoiler alert!) the inevitable Game of the Year Edition is due in 2014. And once the GOTY version hits the market, it’s price will plummet, just like Arkham City’s GOTY edition, which can be had on Amazon for fifteen bucks.

Top 5 Tuesday: Ways of Improving Zelda

Last week I broke down the news of Zelda 3DS’s nonlinear dungeon approach, and while I respect Nintendo for shaking the dice with their most revered franchise, I feel there’s a better way to work freedom into future entries. And since it’s Top 5 Tuesday, you’re getting four bonus ideas for powering up Nintendo’s strongest series.

Now, you’re probably thinking I’m batshit insane to suggest that there’s plenty room for improvement in arguably the best series in gaming. I feel you. Believe me, I’ve played and loved the vast majority of the series, and every serious entry is at worst a great game.

But let’s be honest for a second. For as phenomenal as Zelda games are, they’re getting a bit too formulaic. We can always bank on trekking through about eight dungeons, battling an entity of pure evil, and saving the world with a green-skirted young man who can’t conjugate a sentence. We love it, but we know it’s coming.

So here’s five ideas to shake up and improve the Zelda series:

5. Humanize Ganondorf

gan

Would it kill the King of Evil to desire something other than power?

A mature Zelda storyline shouldn’t involve blood, Elven hookers, or Hylian cuss words. Rather, it’s all about giving characters compelling motivations and showing that good people have flaws and that rotten guys have bright spots. I’m fine with the classic Good vs. Evil theme, but let’s remember than Link and Ganondorf are human despite their moral affinities.

Now, Ganondorf has always been hellbent on attaining power and dominating the world. He’s a ruthless badass, but at the same time he’s pretty one dimensional. I would let this slide if he were Pig Ganon, but Ganondorf is the human incarnation of Ganon. With that in mind, why not make him feel and act human?

Here’s a thought. In Ocarina of Time we learn that Ganondorf is the first male born of the Gerudo race in 100 years. Why not push this further? Give us a gray-haired, 100+ year old Ganondorf who has just fathered the next male in his race. Perhaps Link can set out to kill the child (very un-Nintendo, I know, but bear with me), while Ganondorf struggles to protect his son, not to mention his evil bloodline. We can finally see Ganondorf in a different light, one that illuminates his character and makes him more than just the final boss waiting at the the end of the game.

4. Integrate dungeons into the world of Hyrule

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Hyrule Castle in Twilight Princess barely felt like a dungeon thanks to its immersion with the overworld.

Remember the last dungeon in Twilight Princess, the captured Hyrule Castle? While it wasn’t the best dungeon, it caught me off guard because I wasn’t expecting it to be a dungeon at all–the place simply felt like part of Hyrule, not some enclosed puzzle-factory.

For all the detail and charm that Nintendo pumps into every incarnation of Hyrule, they rarely bother to integrate dungeons into the overworld. Think about it: the Water Temple is just a puzzle-factory beneath Lake Hylia; the Stone Tower Temple is just a puzzle-factory atop rock tower; and so on.

sship

Though the Sandship in Skyward Sword is technically a standalone dungeon, it still felt like an authentic extension of the overworld.

My issue with this is how disjointed the dungeons feel from the world of Hyrule. Why does Link need to walk through a doorway to enter a dungeon that feels remote and exclusive from the vivid world he just left? Instead of sticking the Water Temple at bottom of Lake Hylia, why not make Lake Hylia itself the dungeon? Imagine Link equipping his Iron Boots and sinking below, landing right on top of the first puzzle. Maybe he needs destroy a tough coral reef or something that impedes him from reaching the lake’s bottom. There can still be locked rooms and small keys, but now Link would search the true depths and nooks of Hyrule rather than arbitrary temples and caves.

3. Give Fierce Deity Link his own spinoff

fdl

Who’s saying no to a game starring this guy? Have Fierce Deity chase Majora across a re-envisioned Termina, and you’ve got some serious potential.

Every Majora’s Mask fan dreams of this. And what better way to freshen up a series than to give it a brand new protagonist? Take Fierce Deity Link, give him a backstory, something to prove, and a villain to vanquish.

The obvious baddie choice is Majora, who happens to bestow the Fierce Deity Mask on Link prior to their final duel in Majora’s Mask. While it may seem odd for a insane, diabolical creature like Majora just hand over godlike power to his greatest enemy, remember that Majora always “wants to play.” Fun, insanity, turmoil, chaos… doesn’t that sound like The Joker? I’d welcome a game where Fierce Deity plays the Batman role as Majora terrorizes Termina as an agent of chaos.

Details on Fierce Deity Link are scant, so the best we can do is speculate on potential storylines and gameplay options. Regardless, there are armies of fans who want to see more of Majora’s Mask’s mystery man.

2. Nonlinear dungeon order, but in sets of three

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Imagine a Zelda where you can play the first three dungeons in any order–and at various difficulties.

Last week I half-praised and half-ripped the new nonlinear dungeon order in A Link Between Worlds. My major concern was dungeons losing their “item identity”–which means that having all items readily available from the start would take away from the puzzles and the overall arc of each dungeon.

The difference between me and other naysayers is that I have a solution. Rather than giving players the option to tackle all eight or nine dungeons in any order, let them liberate Hyrule in nonlinear sets of three. For instance, play them 2-1-3, 6-5-4, and 7-8-9 (or whatever you please). You still have flexibility, but by limiting the freedom to sets of three, you can still maintain the dungeons’ item identities.

But wait, you say. How, can you have nonlinearity AND exclusive dungeon items? 

Well, here’s where it gets clever. Let’s say that each dungeon has three possible paths: an easy path, a medium path, and a hard one. Depending on which items you have, your trip through each dungeon will range from relatively easy to intensely challenging. If you start with Dungeon #3, you’ll have to solve puzzles and reach areas without Dungeon #1 and #2’s items. Maybe you’ll have to find a creative way to reach a ledge that can easily be accessed with the Hookshot (Dungeon #1’s item). Then later you have to find an alternate way around a bombable wall because the Bomb Bag is hidden in Dungeon #2. Once you complete #3 and move onto #2 or #1, your options will open up, and you can access easy routes or spot the difficult ones. Crazy, eh?

Not only does this idea permit a nonlinear approach to the game, but it intensifies the replay value (imagine beating the game several times to get the feel of each dungeon at each difficulty) and allows players to choose their own difficulty (if you want it easy, nab the items from all three dungeons before completing one of them; if you crave a challenge, try beating each dungeon with only its exclusive item). Imagine the gameplay possibilities if Nintendo were to execute this to perfection.

1. Make Link more than just a glorified avatar

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Link’s immortal words… at least until Nintendo gives him working vocal cords.

You knew it was coming. For years Link has been limited to head bobs and trivial dialogue choices when it comes to self-expression. How much longer before the Hero of Time has a persona all his own?

I understand that fans will complain that Link’s vow of silence is tradition, but hasn’t it been established time and again that (almost) every Link is a different one? If every Link is unique, there’s no harm in having one who can speak, one who can tell a joke, or one who can hit on a farm girl. We could have a well-spoken noble Link in one game, a gritty slum rat in the next, and everything in between. And if the Zelda series is to improve from a dramatic standpoint, so too must its protagonist.

Indie game “The Fall” jumpstarts the Metroid fan in me

I normally don’t pay much attention to the Indie game scene, but say the word “Metroid” around me and it’s like waving raw meat in front of a starved canine. And starvation only begins to describe the state of the Metroid franchise. Can you believe it’s been nearly ten years since the last 2D Metroid? Ten. And that decade of disappearance makes this gloomy upcoming project “The Fall” all the more appetizing.

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The Fall draws its design influences from Metroid.  Then it dyes its hair jet black.

The Fall is a one-man project set to strike a balance between the atmosphere, action, and gameplay of franchises like Metroid and Secret of Monkey Island. Instead of Metroid’s run-and-gun exploration, The Fall imposes a heavier influence on investigation and puzzle-solving.

And, wow… is it dark. The Fall reminds me of playing Super Metroid with sunglasses on. Locales include abandoned caves and robot-infested factories–most of which are soaked in shadows.

Not only do the dark visuals cook up a lonely, confining atmosphere, but they also give rise to flashlight-based searching, a la Silent Hill. In addition to illuminating the game’s locales, the flashlight scans objects and enables puzzle-solving. The light’s cone echoes the X-Ray visor from Super Metroid, and it provides readouts of various objects and environments. As far as I can tell, you can’t Power-Bomb the area, so expect plenty of detective work.

The Fall’s take on combat is classic yet modern. While the main character ARID blasts away at enemies, he must take cover when facing enemy fire. Survival depends on patience and timing moreso than mashing the shoot button. Check the video below to get a feel for it:

Finally, there’s a compelling storyline in the works:

“The Fall is a story about ARID, a virtual intelligence integrated into an armoured combat suit, who’s activated when the human pilot inside the suit is rendered unconscious.  ARID awakes in a half-initialized state, with very little control over the suit and its functions. Somehow however, it must find a way to help its human pilot, even though it can barely help its self.”

While I’m not expecting the game to go all-out in terms of presentation, the plotline has piqued my interest. I’m hoping the developer, John Warner, takes advantage of the story concept and explores either the dependency of humans on computers or the benefits of bridging humans and computers. We might have a thinking man’s sci-fi tale on our hands, here. Then again, maybe I’m just an English-Lit graduate hunting for deeper meaning. 

As it stands now, The Fall has raised $33,200 CAD and will appear on PC, Mac, Linux, and Wii U. Another $4,800 and the game will garner some serious upgrades including a larger world and improved combat. There are still two days left to help with funding, so check out The Fall’s Kickstarter page if you want to throw a few bones toward the project.