Circle of Life

Earlier this year, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live action remake wowed audiences. The Lion King and Aladdin will be quick to follow as Disney continues its trend for using modern technology to update their iconic stories. Disney Infinity is over and Kingdom Hearts 3 is still in development – leaving a mouse shaped hole in the games industry. This got me thinking; which Disney properties would transfer to common game styles? Could game remakes be as popular as the live action renaissance? To be clear, these wouldn’t be tie-ins but a ‘Disney Video Game Universe’ if you will.

Beauty and the Beast

Taking the structure of Majora’s Mask, you – Belle – have 3 days to stop the final rose petal from falling. In order to discover the secrets of the castle – and meet your destiny of freeing the denizens from their curse – Belle must interact with characters and get to know their routines etc. Perhaps Belle could even have a time travel mechanic to return to the first day as Link does in Nintendo’s dark time-themed N64 game if things go a bit…beastly?

Snow White

Set in a Grand Theft Auto 5 style open world, you play as the Seven Dwarves who can be insta-switched between on the fly. Need a medic? Zap to Doc. You get the idea. Utilising each character’s abilities would lend itself to LEGO game style puzzle solving. Add in some branching dialogue choices and we’ve got a game!

101 Dalmatians 

Throughout this fantastic tale, Pongo and co travel from London to a rural farm setting and back again. What we’re proposing are all 101 Dalmatians on screen at once Pikmin style. Narratively this would have to be show-horned in but stick with me here. Maybe it takes 5 pups to open doors or 10 to make a ladder to scale walls. Other animals join in helping too which would add variety to later levels. It could be a thing! And did somebody say bonus level stealth sections?

Darkwing Duck

Better watch out you bad boys because everyone’s (yes, everyone’s…) favourite duck based superhero could have his own Arkham inspired 3rd person action game. Integrate Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system, a gritty art style and Gizmoduck and we’re there! This may actually fall into the next category…

Too obvious honourable mentions: 

Aladdin

Already a classic video game (Megadrive/Genesis version) and a context which has much crossover with modern games such as Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider and Assassins Creed, Aladdin is too obvious. 

Hercules

God of War re-skinned. Next!

Which Disney properties would genuinely add value to the games industry? Or are we destined for a lifetime of sometimes okay tie-ins? 

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The Top 10 Games 2017

Back in the N64 era, I noticed my games collection was slightly imbalanced. The vast majority of games on my shelf were football titles. My teenage self set the target of addressing the balance and making sure I had – in loose terms – one of each genre. What resulted was a mini-golden age of gaming. I could only have one shooter (obviously Goldeneye), one football game etc etc and through trading in and careful curation I made sure I only had the cream of the crop. I have 188 games on my PlayStation 4 through carried over purchases from PlayStation 3 and Vita, PlayStation Plus and hoarding in flash sales. In the download era it would be impossible to purge these games from my account but it got me thinking; what are the best games to play today? Top ten/hundred lists usually start getting predictable near the top, dominated by the likes of Mario 64. So, we are aiming to do something different. What are the best games to play in 2017? Nostalgic feelings and historical impact (we’ve got another list for that) on the industry are not applicable. Yes, San Andreas was important in 2004 but we’ve come a long way since then. Genres are defined by pennilessdads and we’ve also ignored sports titles as we felt that was too broad a heading. We aim to update this list at least 3 times a year. Some genres are unrepresented – sorry in advance!

2D era inspired game – Shovel Knight

The last ten years has seen a resurgence of 2D games and the tip of the spear is Shovel Knight. Riffing on sooo many games of yesteryear, this polished platform – which now has 3 campaigns – is great value. We await to see if August’s Sonic Mania can challenge Shovel Knight’s title. 

First person shooter – Destiny

Since 2014, the question I have asked when playing every game with a hand and a gun is: does it feel like Destiny? This is testament to the quality of Bungie’s epic online playground. As the journey of the original Destiny comes to an end, there’s one last chance to experience this great, genre defining experience. Will Destiny 2 overthrow it?

Racing – Mario Kart 8

Once upon a time, racing games like SEGA Rally, Daytona, Gran Turismo and Ridge Racer were tentpoles of console line ups. These days ‘serious’ racers are no longer at the forefront. The Forza series is arguably the best of these but the Switch’s recent deluxe version of Mario Kart 8 conquers all.

Story based action game – The Last of Us Remastered

There are so many games which could feature here. However, The Last of Us is a standout title and perhaps the game which elevated Naughty Dog to the highest tier of games designers – keeping company with the creme de la creme of games developers.  

3D collectathon platformer – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Following last gen’s trend of semi-sequels, an uncharacteristic Nintendo sequel to the fantastic Super Mario Galaxy is a varied collection of creative challenges which will change the way you think of a Mario game. Yes, Super Mario Odyssey will probably knock Galaxy 2 off its perch but we’ll have to wait until October for that. 

Crafting game – Fallout 4

Controversy! Minecraft inspired this element in many, many games but Fallout 4 has a – much maligned- base crafting feature which gives a nice change of pace with the rest of the game. Every settlement in Fallout 4 I come across now has a much refined plan to create an armoured, impervious foretress (concrete block the perimeter, guns intermittently around, robot protectors). A great aside to a great game which has unfair criticism in my humble opinion. 

High fantasy adventure – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It was a three horse race between this, Skyrim and Witcher 3. BotW changes everything. This is as close to a perfect game as there has ever been. The end. 

Puzzle – Puyo Puyo Tetris

Harking back to the Gameboy game which catapulted tetrominoes into popular culture, this quirky crossover has a great array of modes and a manic story mode. Multiplayer puzzling has never been as much fun. An honourable mention would be The Witness. 

Turn based role playing – Persona 5

Final Fantasy 13 ushered in a lapse in quality of Square Enix’s epic series. Persona saw the gap at the top and grasped the opportunity. The latest Persona has caught public opinion dominating conversations in and around various games podcasts. Style and substance combined make this the current pinnacle of JRPGs. 

Horror – Until Dawn

The 32bit era sewed the seeds of survival horror with Resident Evil, refining it the point of (then) perfection in the fourth iteration in the next generation. Between 2005 and 2015 though, the genre suffered as the balance between action and scares became more one than the other (clue: it’s not horror). 

Enter Until Dawn. Recently available on PS Plus as one of the free games on PS4, this seemingly by the numbers teen horror movie matters so much more when you’re calling the shots. Within five minutes of starting, you’re already wishing one of the douchebags dead. A great twist on the Telltale style experience and great for couch co-op. 

Mike drop…

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Top 5 Ways Nintendo Should Use Amiibo

We shouldn’t be surprised really that Nintendo would stand to be the (likely) survivor of the toys to life boom. The vanishing act of more sophisticated NFC toys/games like Disney Infinity disappointed many including us here at pennilessdads. Despite their endurance, Nintendo’s amiibo have been integrated quite passively. Their initial features linked to Smash Bros – training a character and saving to the figure – seem to be a high point. Subsequent games have not gone beyond cosmetic features. One criticism of Nintendo has been the rumours surrounding the Metroid 2 remake on 3DS; pay-walling a hard mode behind amiibo. 

On one hand, amiibo are great figures with fun yet forgettable in-game features whereas on the other, they are lumps of plastic bumping the price of downloadable expansions up. How could Nintendo moving forward integrate amiibo more effectively and make them more attractive to consumers? 

1. Super Mario 64 DS HD Remake

Anyone remember what set this apart from the N64 original? You start the game as Yoshi but you eventually unlock Wario, Luigi and – of course Mario – to explore the castle. Each character had slight variations in power, speed and abilities etc. Your Mario series amiibo could drop the character into the game and give you a fresh perspective on a game which has been explored to the nth degree. Perhaps new challenges could be added for each of the compatible amiibo.

2. Pokemon Stadium Switch Edition

There are already specific Pokemon amiibo but a figure for all however-many-hundred there are is unrealistic to purchase (“challenge accepted!”). Cards could be an option but what we’re interested in is a simple Pokeball or Pokemon trainer amiibo. Train your squad up in the base game, write to the amiibo from it or Pokemon Bank then load up to Stadium on Switch. High pitched “I choose you!” battle cries are optional.

3. Hyrule Warriors 2

Breath of the Wild has changed everything. The next Zelda game is going to have a lot of weight to carry. Why not sidestep the main series and release a follow up to the (excellent) Wii U and (fairly stuttery) 3DS game? Simple concept; when your chosen hero falls in battle, tap an amiibo to replace them. The original game already features multiple Links and a wide supporting cast. The RPG and weapon customisation elements could also be saved to the toy. 

4. Amiitopia

During the 3DS’ unexpected stay of execution, a flurry of games have turned the event into a party instead of a funeral. Miitopia, Metroid and new Pokemon sequels should keep Nintendo’s highly successful console alive for a bit longer. Miitopia – demo available on eshop btw – casts your long forgotten Miis in traditional RPG character types. Simply swap out the eclectic cast of Miis to amiibo. Need a Mage character? <taps Yarn Yoshi amiibo> There we go! Need an evil Overlord? <taps Luigi amiibo> You get the picture! 

5. Nintendoland 2

Instead of a Mario or Toad imitating Mii, tap your amiibo and Chase Mii (Chase Amiibo?) becomes a bit more interesting. Yes, the asymmetrical gameplay of the Wii U version would be compromised but I’m sure Nintendo could find a workaround – like the ‘essential’ second screen in Splatoon. Let every character tap a different amiibo character and off they go. Imagine how much life could be in this game if Bayonetta, Cloud Strife and a Bokoblin were chasing Shovel Knight…Add in new worlds based on the likes of Splatoon and Pokemon etc and a forgotten celebration of Nintendo could return to life.

Honourable mention:

Any multiplayer game needs to have F-Zero GX/AX style functionality. In 2003 – 14 years ago – you could unlock customisable parts for your ship, save your amazing, bespoke creation to a GCN memory card then upload it to an arcade cabinet. Arms, Splatoon and Mario Kart all need this feature as standard.

To conclude, Nintendo has sold nearly 5 million Switch consoles. Amiibo sales in the same time are less than 2 million. Availability has been an issue but the useful-ness of these figures is perhaps are more pressing one. Will amiibo evolve or will they follow LEGO Dimensions and Disney Infinity to the bargain bin? 

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Transformers: The Last Chance?

In 1999, I remember playing the Gerudo Hideout in Ocarina of Time on N64 (spoilers ahead!) and having an epiphany. There’s a part of that (awesome) section of the (awesome) game where Link is thrown into jail and has to hook-shot out. For some reason after escaping for the first time I spent the next ten minutes hook-shot-gliding around. At this late stage of the game, I had already spent about 15 hours in possession of said hook-shot and the novelty had worn off. As I darted about avoiding Gerudo guards a nugget of hope entered my brain; what if someone made a Batman game like this. Fast forward ten years and Rocksteady Games (cue Hallelujah music and bright lights fall on their name) did – to great success. The silent predator sections of the Arkham games’ origins can be followed back to Link’s adventures in Gerudo Valley. Anyway, to the point. Over the years, I’ve had this kind of feeling a few times about different games but with Transformers. The High Moon Studios games a few years ago were a glimmer of hope yet resulted in our darkest hour (Rise of the Dark Spark). Who would we like to see do our favourite robots from 1984 justice? What kind of games would we like to see? 

Transformers: A Telltale Game Series

Obviously developed by Telltale. One of the reasons recent games have failed to feel like ancient, gigantic robots battling has been the limitations of their usual style; 3rd person shooters. Think of the epic forest battle in Revenge of the Fallen or the battle of Autobot City in Transformers the Movie (1986)! That kind of action can only been fully realised if in set pieces and quick time events. Imagine as well, the kind of choices you could face in a Transformers adventure game. Who do you give the Matrix to; Ultra Magnus, Hot Rod or Grimlock? How do you plead; guilty or innocent? There’s plenty of scope for games like this and with acres of source material to draw from, an original or existing tale could be told effectively through Telltale’s extremely popular style of games. 

Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers

Arkham Asylum and its sequels were inspired – among many influences – by Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel. Although the plot and tone is distanced from it, the spine of both stories is the same; the Joker sends Batman through the crucible of a night in Arkham. 

IDW’s recent, fantastic run of Transformers comics could be suitable inspiration for an Arkham-esque adventure. Recent storylines have seen Rodimus and half the transformers leaving their homeland in search of the Knights of Cybertron, Starscream ascending to leader of the planet after the Great War ends and even Deadpool-like breaking of the fourth wall as a certain Autobot experiments with suspect weapon technology. One day of the most revered IDW stories is Last Stand of the Wreckers. Similar to Arkham, a band of hardcore Autobot soldiers must infiltrate an overrun prison fortress with maximum security. 

Throughout the graphic novel, there are revelations which test the Decepticon’s loyalty to the cause, make the reader question how far the Autobots can legally go to eliminate their foes as well as what the notion of right and wrong is in a world where a species has been at civil war for millions of years. High Moon’s original game (War for Cybertron) dipped its toes into this – especially with some creative environmental storytelling – yet the later games (Fall of Cybertron and so on) lost their way. Platinum Games’ G1 inspired Devastation was another interesting false dawn. If a third person action/shooter is going to work, this would be the way to do it. 

Transformers: You Cannot Deny DESTINY

It was actually playing Halo 3 that a Bungie created Transformers game crossed my mind. Although decent games, the Halo lore and narrative has never grasped me. Enter Destiny. The mix of game modes would be an ideal fit for a franchise which has always struggled with an identity crisis. The story mode would be a standard run and gun adventure punctuated by sparrow/alt mode hopping in between. Expand to the meat of Destiny’s services and it gets a bit more interesting. 

Firstly, Patrol’s radiant quests would be an ideal fit for pop in/out gameplay taking out pockets of opposing Autobots/Decepticons. Imagine jointing two other comrades to take down Strike bosses (“it’s Starscream!”) or even a raid mode. I refer you back to the possibilities mentioned previously; Autobot City or Last Stand of the Wreckers. It would be an ideal opportunity to blend familiar Transformers settings like Earth and Cybertron with fan-favourites like Junk, Quintessa, Nebulos or Athena. That’s before we even get to PvP options – one of the more fondly remembered features of High Moon Studios’ series. 

Transformers: TITANmaster FALL

In the eighties the (quite quick actually) rise and fall of Transformers ended with an increasing number of ‘master’ gimmicks. One of these were ‘Headmasters’. The G1 cartoon’s fourth season – only 3 episodes long – introduced of smaller aliens/people controlling/working with larger Transformer avatars. Galvatron quite rightly chastised his Decepticons for allowing their bodies to be changed like this. 

Thankfully the Japanese version of Season 4 retconned this so the Headmasters were smaller Cybertronians outcast on the planet Master. Anyhoo, the Headmasters – recently rebranded in a new toy line by Hasbro as ‘Titan Masters’ have got huge scope for a multi-scale adventure. It would be awesome to take on larger transformers in your titan-sized transector avatars before going in for smaller, different (possibly puzzle, stealth, exploration?) gameplay sections as a Titan Master. Why on Earth not? 

And finally…

Transformers: Dimensions of Infinity

I’ll admit it; sadly, toys to life is dead. Although profitable and well, fun, they do not seem to have earns the likes of LEGO and Disney enough £££. Sales of Skylanders are dropping off too. Hasbro has seen great growth with their resurgent Transformers brand over the last ten years however the recent movie Transformers: The Last Knight has shown signs the boom is too tailing off. A romantic view would be Transformers could swoop in an save toys to life though admittedly unlikely. A Marvel Heroes Omega style character collection game would be an ideal fit. There have been softer, mobile-centric Transformers/toys to life integration but nothing which could be described as a killer app. Surely there is some way of marrying the two.

Where would you like to see Transformers go? Any of these? Somewhere different? Or is it time for them to head to the scrapyard? 

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