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Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have already given their press conferences at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) this year, and, as any self-respecting gamer should do, I’m going to reflect on all three of them.

Microsoft 

Microsoft was the first to take the stage, early Monday morning. Well, early in California; I had time to hit the snooze button seven times, roll out of bed, make some coffee, browse the internet and leisurely mosey over to the IGN streaming site before noon hit, Eastern time.

Microsoft started out with an epic, ten minute demo of Modern Warfare 3 running on the Xbox 360 console (not without “proving” that it was in game due to a controller connection interruption). It showed some pretty cool cinematic, though it did seem that the game was reusing quite a few assets used in Modern Warfare 2. Regardless, the game is sure to be the same, action packed romp that it always is.

Then came the new Tomb Raider reboot, which had the new, less-but-also-somehow-more sexually attractive Laura Croft getting stabbed, beaten, bruised, punched, and battered all to hell as she made her way out of what looked like a sacrificial cave. It looked quite exciting, and this will be the first Tomb Raider game that I’m actually looking forward to, let alone feel excited for.

Cliff Bleszinski, later, came on stage, and, together with the help of Ice-T, beat a enthralling single player mission on Gears of War 3, taking place on a ship that was actively being eaten by a giant squid-octopus hybrid thing. Looks to be pretty fun and over the top, as is expected out of Gears of War games.

Then Microsoft started shoving Kinect shit games down our throats. 85% of the entire press conference was glitchy, buggy, boring and unintuitive Kinect games that didn’t interest me in the slightest. Come on, Microsoft, Kinect doesn’t work; quit trying to sell it like it does.

Of course, they also announced the Halo 1 remake, which is a completely remade and high-definition of the original game, single player and all. It will have online co-op and online multiplayer with the original maps and some new, updated ones. I didn’t get super excited about that, but hey, Halo is fun, and fun is good.

At the very end of the conference, Microsoft showed us a Halo 4 trailer that left of right where Halo 3 did; with Master Chief floating away in a space ship. It looks like it could be cool, but I worry about the series without Bungie behind the helm.

Overall, Microsoft showed off some cool, multiplatform games that were interesting, but the majority of the gamers were flat, cardboard Kinect games, and that just doesn’t interest me.

Grade: C-

Sony

Sony started off with something they really needed to do: an apology. And while that was a nice enough gesture, they didn’t really phrase it in a way that made much sense. Instead of “Hey, look, we’re sorry about everything”, the phrasing made it seem like “We’re sorry you couldn’t enjoy everything that we know you love and is awesome on the PSN”, which is sorta the same, but it comes off like an advertisement more than an apology.

Then we got to the real stuff. Uncharted 3, duh, looks awesome. And by awesome, I mean FUUUUUUUU insane. This is a series that gets worlds better every iteration, and considering the first one was a very good game, that speaks wonders about the quality of the stuff Naughty Dog puts out.

Resistance 3… is another Resistance, which is to say, “yawn”.

Then Sony went into something that I hold very dear to my heart; HD remakes of older games. I’m oh-so pumped for the Shadow of the Colossus and ICO remakes, but ovbiously I’m going to buy the Metal Gear Solid remakes as well.

The press conference was littered with games that supported the Move controller. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Move shows so much more promise than Kinect, but so far, I still haven’t seen anything that makes it a must own peripheral (which is why I don’t have one), and E3 didn’t do much to rectify that. Try again, Sony.

The new Sly Cooper game looks very nice. Having never played his games before, I’m tempted to go back and explore the older games to get ready for the new one.

But easily the biggest surprise of all of E3 (surprise, and nothing more) was the Playstation Vita. Weird, new age-y name aside, Sony showed quite a bit of games running on the console, all of which looked like console ports. I guess that’s not a bad thing, but at some point, you have to ask yourself “Wouldn’t I rather be playing this on my actual PS3 and my HDTV?” I think that is the main problem that the Vita is going to come across, but I digress, that is not the exciting news I was referring to. No, the biggest surprise out of E3 2011 was that the PS Vita would retail in America for 250$. 250$!!! People had been guestimating at over 300$ and into the 400$ range, and for Sony to pull a “Yeah, we’re the same price as Nintendo” just blew me away. I’m still having problems believing it. Nintendo has got some work cut out for them.

Overall, Sony was interesting, if not terribly exciting. The PS Vita was easily the best part of the show, but still, it just wasn’t all that fun.

Grade: B-

Nintendo

Nintendo started off their press conference with a real orchestra playing Zelda music at Miyamoto’s request. I mean really, how can anything top that? They can’t… they just can’t.

After some quick footage of Skyward sword and some announcements about more Zelda games coming to the Wii, 3DS and DSi, Nintendo moved right onto their newest console, the Wii U. And this is where things started moving downhill.

They announced the name. Then they showed us a controller with a screen. Then, as the audience scratched their heads, they started showing games using this new controller. There was no announcement of a new console, no pictures of any sort of new hardware. It was just this controller. No one could figure out what exactly it was. Was it an extension of the Wii? Was it a portal gaming console that connected with the Wii? It wasn’t until minutes passed that it finally clicked for a lot of people: There was a new console, but Nintendo wanted to focus on the controller as the new expereince. Well, cool, Nintendo, except you confused everyone watching and I’m sure there are still some people confused as to what the crap was going on.

So yeah. Wii 2. HD graphics. About as powerful as the current generation (2006 technology. Woo) with another gimmicky controller that no one will take full advantage of. Sure sounds like Nintendo!

Then they moved onto 3DS stuff, and as a game deprived 3DS owner, was a good change of pace. The showed us some gameplay of the new Mario game, the new Mario Kart, the remake of Star Fox 64 and some Ocarina of Time 3D footage. The coolest surprise was the return of Luigi’s Mansion, and boy did it look nice! That’s easily become my most anticipated 3DS game (aside from Ocarina, which comes out soon!).

And… that’s about it for Nintendo. Their 3DS showing was all nice and dandy, but I just had a problem with the way they presented the Wii U (WEEEEUUUUU). But still, they put on a much better show than Sony and Microsoft.

Grade: B

Steam, Valve digital online platform, is incredibly popular. No, really, at almost any given time, there are over a million gamers playing some sort of game, and it’s usually much higher. There are so many things to love about Steam, whether it be the convenience of having your games available to you whenever you need them, having your saved games follow you around, or simply making it easier to keep in contact with your gamer friends!

This, however, is NOT the best thing about Steam. No sir, people flock to Steam like the i on Apple products because of the deals that you can get on games.

Steam is known for dropping prices on games to insanely low prices. Every weekend, there is a weekend deal that usually knocks off 50% to 75% off of a range of games. In the middle of the week, they have a feature called “Midweek Madness”, which does another 50% to 75% of a single game. Just recently, they’ve introduced daily deals, which, as you can imagine, cuts the price of a game daily. And this isn’t even counting holidays, where Steam sales just get ludicrous, with hundreds of games on sale for dirt cheap.

Digital downloads are becoming more and more popular as the internet speeds increase and as more and more devices can hold tons of games. I, myself, own over a hundred games on Steam (which is probably a bad thing), so whether we like it or not, and regardless of if it’s going to erase physical distribution, digital distribution is here to stay.

There is one problem though: Steam is the only one who is doing it correctly.

No, no, there are plenty of good places to download games. Xbox Live has a very nice collection of downloadable content and games on demand, as does the Playstation Network, Amazon, Direct2Drive and a large number of other online distributors. However, none of them have the insane deals that Steam does, and this is the main problem. Content on other platforms is almost always more expensive than it would be to just buy the physical game used or otherwise. Xbox Live is the worst with this; their games on demand are SO much more expensive than walking into Gamestop and picking a used copy up, but Microsoft will never drop the price because they don’t want the user to feel like they’re getting a steal. And this is pretty common for most downloadable services; physical copies are less costly than digital ones, and that completely defeats the purpose of a digital copy, which is convenience.

And yes, before you say anything, a lot of companies are following Steam by making deals as well, however, it’s just not enough. Digital content (specifically of older games) should not cost 100% more than their physical counterparts, yet that’s still where we are at. Until every digital distribution company hits the same stride that Steam has, I don’t see them succeeding well enough to eliminate physical content whatsoever.

Me and some of my friends are trying to start up a podcast and our first episode is up and running! You can check our official blog for the podcast here, where you can also enjoy the first episode as well! If you like what you hear, please, check back bi-weekly as that’s our tentative schedule for recording!

UPDATED after spending more time with the console: 3/28/11 (Updated sections are marked with a red ***)

***Fighting a broken bike, freezing rain and a dark city, at 11:30pm on Saturday the 26th, I rode myself down to my local Walmart to pick myself up Nintendo’s newest console, the 3DS. I’ve had my eye on the console for quite a while now, and after hearing of the games coming soon for the little device, I knew I had to have it. And boy, am I glad I do have it.

WHAT I LIKED:

The. 3D. Works: No, seriously. This is not a gimmick. The Nintendo 3DS shows 3D nearly on par with a giant IMAX theater (if an IMAX theater only had a 2 inch screen). The main menu alone is proof enough that the 3D really does work; browsing through the apps that come pre-installed, you can see little Miis and pictures that seem to magically float in and out of space itself without the help of a giant pair of two hundred dollar glasses. When you get in game, it takes a little bit of adjusting to find exactly what works best for you (I had problems focusing when the 3D slider was all the way up), but once you do, it’s just magical. The depth is pretty cool, however, it’s when things get up in your face when minds really start to blow. Flying a plane in Pilot Wings and having the jet stream slap you in your face is just an experience unlike any other. This is real 3D without glasses. Believe it. *** I’ve also, now, had the chance to try out Street Fighter IV 3D on the 3DS. The 3D is hands down better than anything in Pilot Wings. Even on full 3D, my eyes never hurt and it was a perfect combination of background images, foreground images and everything in between. If you have to get a game with your 3DS, GET STREET FIGHTER.

The Look: When I pulled the 3DS out of its packaging, I was expecting a LOT more console. What I got was a very sleek, layered look that wasn’t too big or too small. The lights everywhere feel somewhat cool, even if a little unnecessary, and the addition of a dedicated Wi-Fi button is very welcome. The analog nub is worlds above what the PSP has; it actually feels like a controller worthy of a console game instead of a dumbed down handheld version. Over all, the 3DS looks and feels incredibly nice. (However, when you’re using the 3D, you notice EVERY SINGLE LITTLE PIECE OF DUST on the top screen).

The Built In Games: The 3DS comes preloaded with all sorts of goodies. The augmented reality cards are just completely mind blowing, and the Street Pass feature sounds like it could be interesting if it catches on. There are some nice features like taking 3D photos and the same music software that was on the DSi. Basically, even without a game, a person could survive for a good, long while on just preloaded apps.

The Promises: Nintendo has promised a lot with the 3DS; Ocarina of Time, a new Mario game, Game Boy virtual console games and 3D Netflix are just a few of the bigger announcements. A lot of these promises are not in sight yet, but just the fact that they’re there makes me feel a lot better about owning this console now.

The Dock: Plop; my 3DS is charging. No plugging anything in or reaching for cables that have fallen behind the desk ever again.

***Street Pass: Walking through Target today to pick up a new game (actually, my mother was inside and I had to go in to use the restroom), I flipped open my 3DS after a couple of minutes to find that the little green Street Pass light was blinking. Excitedly, I opened the 3DS up to see that I had encountered another 3DS owner! Her name was Gabby, and her little Mii popped up on screen and said “Hi there!” While it wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it was pretty cool to think that as I walked through this store with the 3DS closed and in my pocket, it picked up another 3DS closed, and in someone elses pocked and communicated with it. Creepy? Maybe a little. Fun at the same time? Completely.

***The Pedometer: As dumb as this might sound, it’s interesting to see all the steps you’ve taken tallied out onto graphs that you can compare to previous days. You can see specifically when I get up in the morning and when I switch classes during the day just how far I walked (in steps). Small feature, pretty fun.

***The Friends List: While completely lacking right now, Nintendo has created the frame work for an amazing friends list feature. You can add friends just like on the 360 which are listed in a nice flowing chart. The system gives their status (whether or not they’re online and what game they’re playing) along with their favorite game. You can even access all this without leaving game (just press the home button, sending your current game into a frozen state, then you can access your entire home screen). However, right now, besides the “now playing” part, there is no interaction between friends; no messaging of any kind (besides a 16 character limit “phrase). Nintendo is sure to fix this, and when they do, it’s going to be awesome. For now though, it’s completely underwhelming.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

Ouch: After playing for about four hours on and off again, my eyes are very soar. This may be because it’s not 8am and I haven’t slept yet, but my eyes never hurt this bad, even at this late an hour. Granted, I was playing with the 3D slider more than I would have had I not just picked the console up for the first time, but still, I don’t feel like I could play a game in 3D for very long before really feeling the pain. *** After playing with the 3D effects more and more, I’ve realized that because of how big of an area Pilot Wings has, and how much strain it caused on my eyes sliding the 3D slider back and forth, my eyes were obviously going to hurt. Playing two hours of Street Fighter didn’t hurt my eyes in the slightest, and I was playing in a moving van in the dark. I suppose it still depends on the game and on the users eyes, but so far, after that first initial eye strain, it’s not been NEARLY as bad.

The Games: Oh, the games. Quite frankly, this is one of the weaker console launches I’ve ever seen in my lifetime (No, the Gizmondo doesn’t count). No game in the entire line up is a “must have” game, period. You would think Nintendo would start off the life of this brilliant console with a Mario or Zelda or something. But no; we got Nintendogs + Cats. However, like I said, Nintendo is making promises like crazy. Fingers crossed? *** Get Super Street Fighter IV.

The Battery: I got the 3DS at midnight. It’s 8am. I’ve charged it twice already. NOT. COOL. *** However, I just spend the entire day out and about with the 3DS, playing games (both 3D and non), using Street Pass and showing people the augmented reality cards. When I sat down back at my desk this evening, it was just about dead. Think about it: how often are you going to be blasting 3D and wi-fi on your 3DS when you’re outside a place where a charger is handily available? Walking around, you’ll probably have wi-fi on, but the 3D off (it’s hard to walk and use the 3D at all), which adds hours to the battery life. The more I think about it, the more I’m realizing that the battery might not be all that bad after all.

The 3DS really has impressed me. The 3D effects are just effing amazing considering every human who’s ever seen 3D has had to wear those stupid glasses. And yet, right before our eyes, we’re seeing 3D… without looking like dorks. That, to me, is enough of a justification to own this console. Any game that takes advantage of that is just icing on the cake.

Game reviews coming in the future for both Super Street Fighter IV and Pilot Wings, so stay tuned!

***This review was written with little to no sleep at 8am. I am not responsible for weird typos or incomplete thoughts.

Apple has been known in the iPod and iPhone industry to release a new, “better” version of their devices every year. This is something that fans have grown accustom to. Year after year, Apple fans will sell their old iPod and cut up their contract for their old iPhones just to get in on the newest and best that Apple has to offer.

Nintendo, on the other hand, sees things slightly different. Back when the Game Boy was released in 1989, it was the biggest thing to happen to games for years. It basically created the idea of “portable gaming” and it stayed on the market for many years, not being replaced until the release of the Game Boy Color in 1998 (there was the Game Boy: Light and Pocket, in 1998 and 1996. They were upgrades, about two years apart, though not a replacement to the original Game Boy) . That’s almost a ten year jump! From there, the Game Boy Advanced was released in 2001, and then the “special edition” Game Boy Advanced, the SP came out in 2003. Finally, the last Game Boy, the Micro, came out in 2005. The average length between a major Game Boy release was about four or five years.

Then Nintendo released the Nintendo DS, a revolution of sorts in the hand held industry. It first came out at the end of 2004. The DS basically printed money, and it had a run of about two and a half years before Nintendo released an updated version of the device in the summer of 2006, called the DS Lite. It wasn’t a new console, per say, more of an upgrade. That was the same with the DSi, released in 2009, which was mostly a recreation of the DS Lite with more features added.

However, only one year later, mere days after the announcement of the 3DS, Nintendo released the DSi XL, a bigger version of the DSi. The fact that Nintendo released the handheld so soon after releasing  the DSi and so soon after announcing the 3DS has people worried that Nintendo is going to fall into the Apple way of doing things; a new upgrade every year.

I think that’s bogus. Nintendo, in all their years of releasing hand held consoles, on average released, their handhelds at years three or four years apart. The DSi XL was the only time that they had ever released two handhelds one year after another, and I think it was a one time thing.

The 3DS will have a better, more awesome version come out eventually; that’s a given. However, I think us early adopters are safe in thinking that we’re going to have the best of the best for at least two years, maybe even more.

I love it, glitches and all.

It seems like I’m always ranting about how much I love the Half-Life games. I could talk all day about the certain aspects of the game that I love, and I could turn any non-believer into a fan.

But, more recently, it seems I’m always ranting about how Valve is leaving us out in the snow when it comes to Half-Life 2: Episode 3. In the snow, naked. Yes, naked. We’re all in the snow, naked, Valve. You hear me? NAKED.

Every single day that I don’t hear anything about Episode 3 is another day where I lose faith in my all time favorite game company. It’s been nearly three years since Episode 2 was released and we’ve seen nothing from the final “episode” in the Half-Life 2 series besides a single concept art. That’s outrageous! I can give them the development time; hell, I don’t mind that they are taking this long. In my eyes, three or four years is a perfectly acceptable amount of time for a AAA game to be released (nevermind the fact that Episode 3 is, you know, an episode, not a full game). It’s the LACK OF INFORMATION that is really making me angry. Because Valve is so incredibly secretive about their games, Episode 3 is turning into vapor-ware.

Yes, I said it. In my mind, Episode 3 is vapor-ware. Like, pre-PAX Duke Nukem vapor-ware.  Three years and not so much as a screen shot? Do they have it half completed? Is the story-board written? Have they even started the damn thing!? What kind of developer ends a game on such a cliff hanger as Episode 2 ended and then just drops the game off the freaking radar? You don’t see TV producers ending season 1 on a cliff hanger and then waiting 4 years to revel what happens in season 2 (well, unless it gets canceled).

I have no doubt that Episode 3 will eventually come out, but making us wait with no information is just punishment. What did we do to Valve that they are punishing us like this?

Newel, I love you and your company. You guys do great things and I always look forward to your games. But enough is enough. Give us something, anything, about Episode 3. Please. You’re losing faithful customers every second you continue to neglect Episode 3. Put down Left4Dead and put down Portal and finish what you started.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Will anyone else send a message to Valve that we want something, ANYTHING, about the vapor-ware-Esq Episode 3?

Both Sony and Microsoft are pushing forward into new waters this holiday season. Sony is trying to improve on the Wii with their Move controllers and Microsoft is going controller-free with Kinect. Both of the new technology has been shown off in many ways, and a large amount of people have had a chance to test them out. And, of course, it’s too early to judge either one, right?

Well, maybe not.

When someone tests out either Move or Kinect, and they find that something doesn’t work, both Sony and Microsoft still have time to work out the bugs and make their controllers work better. But now, even this early in the race, Sony already has an advantage. And it’s not a preference advantage; it’s not a biased advantage. It’s simple fact: Sony already has more games compatible with Move.

Sony has showed off both Heavy Rain, Killzone 3, Resident Evil 5 and many more that are 100% compatible with Move. What has Microsoft showed off with Kinect? Nothing but new, mini-orientated games. Yes, there are some good looking games that are due for release around the time Kinect comes out (albeit, not many), but there hasn’t been any sort of announcement that any previously released games will be compatible with Kinect, or at least, if there has been, they’ve been so under the radar that I certainly can’t think of any.

There has already been many complaints about Kinect. People complain that it doesn’t work with more than just a handful of people. They’ve complained that it’s too hard to control something that doesn’t have any force feedback. But this is all biased preferences. The cold, hard fact is: Kinect doesn’t have nearly the game library set up that Sony has for Move.

Could Kinect go the way of the Gamecube: death by terrible 3rd party support? Could it be dead even before it comes out? All reports look towards: yes.

This post, I ain’t going to lie, is directed mostly at a friend of mine. This certain friend has shunned me due to my love for certain first person shooter video games. These games, he thinks, are nothing more than testosterone injected, grey, bland, blood fests, and every time I even say the word “shooter” around him, it’s 20 minutes of how the first person shooter genre is killing video games and how he misses the old days of when games were good.

Then, after the ranting against shooters comes the ranting for JRPG’s, which he swears by and is currently on a very, I will admit, noble fight to get even more brought over to America.

I consider myself very varied in the games I play. Yes, I play the dark, grim Gears of War, and I bought into the Modern Warfare 2 hype. But I also play other games, such as Mursama: Demon Blade, God of War, 3D Dot Game Heroes and Super Mario Galaxy. I don’t confine myself into one genre. Sure, I like shooters a lot, but I also enjoy RPGs, music games, platformers and fighters as well. Hell, my favorite game of all time is a platformer; doesn’t that say something?

Now, I’m not pointing fingers, but it seems my friend here is not pointing out the problem, he’s becoming the problem. Games are games. Can we all agree on that at least? We all play games for different reasons, but 99% of the time, even if there is competition or prizes involved, it’s for fun, correct? So, when I’m playing my shooter and my friend is playing his RPG, why should there be any arguing? Why do people who dislike other genres feel the need to hate against those genres that other people enjoy? When my friend is playing his JRPG, you will never hear me say “Darn-blasted Japanese games are interfering with my shooter genre. Get em’ out o’ my country!”. Even if I thought that, which I don’t, I would still let my friend enjoy his game while I play mine. As gamers, have we divided ourselves into these sub-categories depending on what type of game we like? Used to be, a gamer was a gamer, and we all could relate to that. It seems now that only the shooter fans can hang out with the other shooter fans while the American RPG fans can only hang out with their own kind.

I call bull crap. We’re all gamers. ALL OF US. Sure, the shooter genre has a lot of fans, and with the large population, you’re going to get some douche bags playing the game (which is something a lot of people don’t really understand, and instead of blaming the world we live in, they’re stupid and blame the game… like the game can really control who plays it…); that’s called the world we live in. But must we hate on the popular genre? Can’t we all enjoy our favorites and accept everyone else, even if we may think badly about the certain genre?

Now, I know that most of the time my when my friend talks badly about shooters, he’s being tongue-in-cheek. But I know that he believes what he is saying, even if it’s hidden behind humor. I just hope this wall of text helps him, and maybe others, become a little more open minded.

Wait, wait, please, don’t get angry!

I loved God of War 3. The entire game was incredibly engaging, exciting and very very well made. Everything from the gameplay to the cut scenes to the acting was staggeringly perfect and I don’t really have a single complaint about the game.

Except for one thing, hence, the title; as much as I really did love the game, I think that it was completely unnecessary.

Lets look at God of War 2. The ending was a epic fight with Zeus, the God of Olympus. After the fight, Kratos, along with the Titans, are climbing up Mount Olympus. Awesome, right?

WRONG. THE END! Wait for part three!

This, to many gamers, including myself, was sort of a slap in the face, not to mention unbelievably anticlimactic. They end the game on the fight vs the main bad guy? Who’s stupid idea was that? The same person who made the ending to Halo 2 and Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship, I guess.

And, at the time, it made us all wonder how there was going to be a whole games worth of story in God of War 3.

So, skip ahead a couple of years, and God of War 3 comes out. We begin the game right where we left off all those years ago (but now we’re in HD!). Kratos and the Titans are fighting their way up Mount Olympus. The battle is intense and gripping, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking “How can this make a whole game? Aren’t I just about to kill Zues!?”

And then it happens. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, Kratos falls off the mountain. Falls off the bloody mountain.

And just like that, the developers figured out a way to create a whole ‘nother game. Creative, guys. Very creative.

They could have saved everyone the trouble by just ending the game at God of War 2. Another hour added onto the game would have had Kratos getting to the top of the mountain and squashing Zues into fine powder. Why was there even a need for a sequel? Why did we have to go through and kill all the other gods? As fun as it was, did we really have to cause the end of the world?

It doesn’t make sense.

I really can’t get too angry at God of War 3 because it’s so freaking fun, and the story having problems is very forgivable considering how much I liked it. But it still bugs me that the developers squeezed another game out of the simple fact that Kratos fell off the mountain.

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