Metroid: Ocarina of Timing

In the wake of E3, we now know that a 3DS side scrolling Metroid game is coming as well as a (further away) Switch first person Prime game. Nintendo has given fans everything they want. However, is it now time to admit a scary truth…

After Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, fans were clamouring for the same again on GameCube. The infamous demos of Mario 128 and Link v Ganondorf battle teasing Project Dolphin whet the appetite for the next generation of Nintendo’s heavyweight franchises. What we got though were Wind Waker and Mario Sunshine. Both games scored highly but had a lukewarm reception. Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess were more in line with fan expectations. Fast forward a few years though and Wind Waker – remade in HD on Wii U- is considered many fans’ favourite Zelda game. Of all Mario’s past adventures, Sunshine is the one the majority are hoping sees the light of day on Virtual Console. In other words, after getting the ‘vanilla’ version of these classic series, perhaps it is time to embrace when they come in more exotic flavours – like Breath of the Wild or Odyssey. 

In a very roundabout way, what I’m getting at is this; should we give Metroid Prime Federation Force another chance? Now that we know ‘proper’ games are heading our way, can we enjoy this game for what it is and not what we want it to be? Perhaps the biggest mistep Nintendo has made in this story -again like Sunshine and Wind Waker – is timing. If Federation Force had been held to 2017 and released now – on Switch – the reception would be huge. “WE HAVE PRIME ON THE WAY FOR SWITCH, METROID 2 ON 3DS BEFORE XMAS AND ONE LAST THING; FEDERATION FORCE ON SWITCH TO KEEP YOU GOING! IT’S OUT NOW!” Releasing a game which has co-op at its heart on a co-op centric console? Pop the Joy-cons off and dive into the football mode? Win, win. 

As with many things in life it’s about timing. We’ll have to wait and see if Nintendo’s has improved in this console generation. 

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Top 10 3DS games to port to Switch

The rules are:

1) Second screen functionality ripped out and it still works

2) They’re good!

3) Ports don’t count

Here we go:

1) Zelda: Link between worlds

2) New Super Mario Bros 2

3) Mario Kart 7

4) Pokemon Sun/Moon

5) Luigi’s Mansion 2

6) Sonic Geneations

7) Sonic Boom 2

8) Pilotwings

9) Super Mario 3D Land

10) Pokemon XY or Ruby/Sapphire

Unpopular opinion; I’m not a huge fan of Mario 3D Land…

The Lost Games of this Generation

This E3 has come with a stark revelation; we are heading towards the end of the current console generation. Perhaps the scalable nature of recent technology (henceforth known as the Switch -Xbox One X scale) will prolong it but the standard 5 years is almost over. E3 2019 will likely announce new consoles across the board for a holiday release Armageddon. With us so far in though, there are a few games which have surprisingly absconded from the current generation.

Bioshock

Nope. HD re-releases do not count. Bioshock Infinite, whose studio Irrational  had a troubled development and post launch, is long gone. The story lines of Rapture and Columbia have been sewn up but in a Legend of Zelda kinda way the ending (SPOILERS) of Infinite allowed for – no pun intended – infinite sequels; ‘there’s always a man and there’s always a city’. Bioshock 2 – outsourced from Ken Levine’s studio – was unfairly knocked and arguably shipped a deeper game than the original or sequel. Therefore another developer assigned by 2K Games would not be out of the question. No logo, leaked art (we know Ubisoft aren’t involved then…) or anything have been shown. If this game exists, could/should it be coming to Ps5, Xbox One X2 or Switch 2.0?

Banjo-Kazooie

Having been on hiatus since Nutz and Boltz on 360 (a creative marrying of Diddy Kong Racing and the original games), Banjo and his breegull companion are due a return. Although well received, N&B was a huge departure from the N64 games’ template. It suffers from what we call the GameCube effect. Mario Sunshine, Wind Waker and this game would all have benefitted from being the game AFTER a standard entry in the series. If they had followed Mario 64 2, Ocarina of Time 2 (Twilight Princess?) and Banjo 3 – closely sticking to the original formula- they would all have been welcomed in open arms. A word of warning though; look at Yooka-Laylee. The game straddles the collectathon template whilst attempting to tap into the grand openness of the current era. Banjo and Kazooie need to tread carefully in order to avoid becoming Microsoft’s Sonic; meandering confused across 3D planes. 

Castlevania

This is the generation the ‘Souls’ genre really took off. Dark Souls 2+3, Bloodborne and Nioh can all take credit for that. There have been a vast number of ‘Metroidvania’ 2D, smaller titles too like Guacamelee. Yet, despite reinvigorating the brand in the previous era, there has been no Castlevania. Either a 3D game akin to a ‘Souls’ game or a full, HD side-scrolling adventure are conspicuous by their absence – like Metroid was prior to E3. With the upcoming Netflix series I wonder if Capcom is ready to let Dracula out to feast again?

Half-Life

Maybe Half-Life is destined to be video games’ Firefly; left incomplete and sought after year upon year. Maybe Half-Life 3 is actually a Steam Sale meta-game. Maybe Valve know they can’t ever make a game which matches the hype and hopes attached to the series. The original was a benchmark for PC shooters in the 90s and kept the momentum going with a sequel, episodic expansions and engine spin offs like Team Fortress. Gordon Freeman – like Banjo – is in danger of becoming irrelevant to modern audiences unless the next game makes an appearance. At this stage though, it seems as unlikely as ever. 

Honourable mentions:

  • Pokemon Snap
  • Wario 
  • Spyro the Dragon (not including Skylanders)
  • SEGA’s Virtua series
  • Knights of the Old Republic
  • Advance Wars

Which long forgotten series would you like to see before the generation is out? 

Nintendo Classics Part 1

If Nintendo were to release past games on a ‘virtual console’ type service – unchanged and just a ROM – on Switch; which games would we need updating? Although many games of yesteryear can be described as timeless, there are those which do not. Here’s some of the games we feel would benefit from an update:

1. Super Mario World/Super Mario Bros 3/Super Mario Bros

Blasphemy! Let me quanitify this a bit. Imagine all three games available in their original form etc etc. Now, imagine the Mario Maker tech of switching between art styles at the touch of a button (or switch- narf!). This would be a major positive for those of us who have bought these games in their raw form at least 10 times already. 

2. Super Mario Sunshine

Should have happened already. FLUDD would have been sooo much better to use with a Wii pointer, however, that’s a rant for another day. The Xbox/PS2/NGC era doesn’t hold up as well as the 16-bit era as 3D game design has become much more slick in the last 15 years. HD, widescreen plus perhaps a few Wind Waker HD efficiencies would elevate this to essential!

3. The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past

File. Save as. Linkbetweenworldsartstyle. 

4. Pokemon Stadium

A game series lost to the dust of time. Firstly, the Gameboy transfer pak compatibility would be out. If updated, Pokemon Stadium could include all mini-games from the two N64 games and the rental-mon for tournament play. Or – y’know-we could just get a fully blown sequel with all current Pokemon and full HD. Or a Pokemon Classic Console (Pikachu N64 one!) with all the games on in their raw form with Gameboy roms. Either way.

5. Super Smash Bros Melee 

Widescreen, HD and online. Internet melts down and Switch sells 70 million units in a day. This would be such an easy win for Nintendo but has yet to materialise in any updated form. The pro’s Smash of choice, this early GameCube release should at least be available to download in 2017, hopefully updated. 

6. Super Mario 64

Have you played Mario 64 recently? In a post-Mario Galaxy world this game has started to feel, well, clunky! The archaic camera – once heralded as the benchmark for 3D – has to be torn around the screen. Coaxing that eel out of the pirate ship feels like solving a rubix cube underwater whilst blindfolded. Answer: remake it in HD in the Mario Galaxy engine. Add in the – albeit weaker- DS content and we’d have a Mario game which once again could once again be described as the best game of all time. 

Which do you feel need updating? 

Xbox One Xbox 1 Compatibility

Last night, Microsoft announced Xbox One X – and made everyone wear silly t-shirts. Clearly, the current generation of consoles will be iterative possibly extending their lifespan as the suffixed names/letters stack (Will Xbox One Z be next? PS4 Pro Evo?).

Among the announcements was the seemingly consumer friendly move to allow original generation Xbox games to work on the Xbox One family. This means the array of quirky games (as yet unconfirmed which will work) from the relatively short lived console life span can be popped into your Xbox One and party like it’s 2002!

The question is: do we want to? In 2015, the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility announcement got Microsoft a lot of goodwill back and was a huge win on their scorecard. There are two reasons why the original gen Xbox games are less of a big deal though.

Number 1: Digital Purchases

Last gen, our Xbox 360s quickly became havens for downloadable games and horse armour. The initial Xbox Live Arcade soon spread to full, retail release downloads. There were ten years worth of digital purchases stocked up on my 360 when I bought my Xbox One. Just like my idevices, it was great to have tons of games and content from the moment I logged in. When my PS3 died a few years ago it wasn’t too bad because I could sell my boxed games but what sucked was I had seemingly lost my digital games. Luckily, I later picked up a cheap PS3 and could access all my digital content. On the original Xbox there were no fully fledged digital purchases so those ties are not there. I enjoyed loads of amazing games yet those are all since long gone and the lack of a digital ecosystem does not draw me in; despite the superb games released in this era.

Number 2: That’s sooo 2002

It’s a long time since the PS2/Xbox/GameCube generation. The world has changed a lot since then. Firstly, features we expect in all games in 2017 were not always present back then. These include voice chat, achievements and auto-save. That is before gameplay mechanics changed by genre defining games. The original Xbox lived in a pre-Resident Evil 4, pre-Fallout 3, pre-Gears of War world. Over the shoulder 3rd person shooters, popping to cover and dialogue choices were not as refined as they are in 2017. What I’m saying is: would these games be better remastered as opposed to straining Xbox One to pretend it’s older than it is; like a teenager trying to buy alcohol under-age. 

Among the games I’d love to replay are:

  • Panzer Dragoon Orta
  • Shenmue 2 
  • Conker: Live and Reloaded
  • Tiger Woods 2004 (best.golf.game.ever)
  • KOTOR

What would we rather have? Free, compromised original Xbox experiences or premium, modernised remasters? Let us know in the comments. 

E3 Predictions Part 3: Microsoft

“I would love if we owned an IP as strong as Lara Croft and Tomb Raider, that we had a base in that genre, but we don’t have that right now” – Phil Spencer – then of Microsoft (Source: Kotaku.co.uk).

Back in 2014, Microsoft ‘bought’ Square-Enix’s Rise of the Tomb Raider as they did not have a game of that calibre to go toe to toe with Uncharted 4. With a seemingly barren release schedule of Xbox exclusives to battle with Playstation’s backlog of dream announcements from previous conferences and Switch, we speculate what Microsoft can do to gain ground on their rivals. Obviously Scorpio will take centre stage but what exactly will we see Microsoft do a la Rise of the Tomb Raider to attempt to match Sony and Nintendo’s lineups?

Not all of these games are expected to have a great presence at E3 but we know they are coming. Some of the predictions are a little far fetched…

  • Nintendo: Mario Odyssey 
  • Microsoft: Banjo-Kazooie 3

Nothing sours the memories of childhood quite like Rare’s fall from grace. Once the pillar which kept the N64 tent up, Rare is just a spectre of their former glory. Rare Replay came along and reminded us why they are special. This love note to their glory days showed us this studio is capable of something special. Banjo-Kazooie: Nutz and Boltz was Rare’s Mario Sunshine; an innovative spin on the genre albeit at the expensive of giving us a true expansive sequel. It is time – with Yooka-Laylee receiving lukewarm reviews- for Banjo to steal Mario’s thunder once again! With Kinect dead, Rare must surely be at a loose end…

  • Sony: Days Gone
  • Microsoft: L3ft for Dead or Half-life 3

Either of these would be a mike-drop moment for Microsoft. Half-life is perhaps the last of the long lost games. Sony has announced the rest! This one could blow anything either competitor has to offer. It would also take any negative press away from Scorpio’s price etc. It comes up in predictions every year but with Sony showing their hand, all of the surprises are there for the others to seize. Left for Dead 3 or even a current gen update would steal Sony’s zombie game’s limelight.

  • Nintendo: Zelda: Breath of the Wild dlc
  • Microsoft: Crackdown 3

Zelda’s true open world has already led to some calling it game of the year. However, Crackdown may muscle in on that argument. A bright light of the early 360 days, Crackdown was a great playground to drive, run, jump and blast around. Crackdown 2 disappointed but the third instalment – a reimagining- has been dark for a suspiciously long time. Clever money says it is a Scorpio launch title. If Crackdown matches Zelda’s freedom – which it could – the game of the year conversations might be a bit more difficult.

  • Sony: Death Stranding
  • Microsoft: Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes HD

Death Stranding, Kojima’s first independent game and a PlayStation exclusive, won’t be at E3 this year but we know it exists. Reigniting his much-covered-by-media spat with Konami could be Microsoft getting into bed with the lapsed Japanese powerhouse. Konami without Kojima don’t seem in any rush to make true, epic Metal Gear games (no, that zombie one doesn’t count) with money being the clear reason why. Could Microsoft’s coffers be the answer? When I say Twin Snakes HD, I mean a full remake with reimagined mechanics etc. Imagine Shadow Moses in the Fox Engine…

  • Sony: Shenmue 3
  • Microsoft: Panzer Dragoon Saga HD

Sony’s fantastical announcements of yesteryear have proved to be just that so far – with only Last Guardian actually being released so far. Shenmue 3 – delayed to next year and completely unseen – won’t be at E3. Therefore Microsoft can steal a march with the ever-shrinking ranks of SEGA-ites by delving further back than Shenmue. Panzer Dragoon Saga is a game few have played (played it!) and would excite the crowds at E3. Commercially it may not be the biggest hitter but neither was backwards compatibility!

  • Sony: Spider-Man 
  • Microsoft: Rocksteady’s rumoured new superhero game

Between 2013 and now, something has happened to WB Games’ Suicide Squad – teased at the end of Arkham Origins. The game has not been released. Since then Arkham Knight has come and gone so…what exactly have they been up to? No doubt the much acclaimed Arkham series was inspiration for this serious attempt to make a good superhero game. Arkham 5 would unlikely be exclusive but perhaps a dlc deal could be in the cards?

  • Nintendo: Smash Bros for Switch
  • Microsoft: Fusion Frenzy

Just because. 

E3 Predictions Part 2: Sony

Sony has arguably ‘won’ the last several E3s with a combination of a focus on games (“this is for the players”) as well as pushing through announcements for games which have lingered on many fantasy wish lists (Final Fantasy 7, Shenmue 3, Last Guardian etc etc). In a change from our Nintendo Predictions, we’re going for a must, should, could approach to what we might see from the industry leaders…

Must: games. With a slew of long since announced games, Sony needs to start getting some out of the stable door. We know Kojima’s Death Stranding along with Last of Us 2 are some ways away so don’t expect to see much of them other than perhaps a teaser. Spider-Man, God of War and Days Gone look like the most likely 2017 into early 2018 games. Having previously announced them, Sony would be best to start delivering on their previous promises or may sour the excitement generated in the past. 

Should: support PS VR. Unlikely yet a move Sony should feel obliged to make. The initial 8 months of PS VR’s release has seen many missed opportunities. The most fun we had with the (now sold) machine were smaller, supplementary experiences such as Star Wars: Battlefront and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Unfortunately these experiences seem to have dried up and the wider multimedia possibilities of the headset have been largely ignored. Where is E3 in full 360 video? How about up scaling some of the less powerful VR games on mobile? Unfortunately, the trajectory for this machine is following that of PS3’s brief affair with stereoscopic 3D; one which may soon be over before it gets started.

Could: Sony is stuck between a rock and a hard place with Scorpio. No doubt, the brute strength of whatever Microsoft has cooked up has caught Sony off-guard; thinking PS4 Pro would be enough to rival the new Xbox. If Sony sticks with Pro and Slim, they risk standing still and being overtaken again by Microsoft. A true Scorpio competitor would take time to develop properly and would not be a great consumer-centric move; instantly causing bad feeling for recent PS4 Pro owners. So, what is the answer?

Switch. The early success of this console will not have gone unnoticed by either of Sony or Microsoft. A move which could a) compete with the space occupied by Switch b) steal Scorpio’s thunder and c) extend the life of PS4 is to release a hybrid home/handheld PS4. Let’s speculate for a minute…

Apeing the Switch set up, the hybrid (PS4 Go?) would have detachable joycon style controllers either side of a touch screen display. Completely download only, there is no BD drive – just internal memory and standard SD cards. The interface is 100% that of a home PS4. As well as using the detachable controllers, a Dualshock 4 can be synced when used in tabletop or docked mode. All of your existing downloadable PS4 games are available as well as streaming of PS Now. If you want to play a disc based game, you can remote play through your home based PS4. The console docks into a HDMI connected unit – similar to Switch – instantly transitioning between TV and handheld play. In addition, the introduction of PS One games available to download would be announced – ideal for on the go retro sessions. 

The probability of Sony announcing the above gets slimmer as we get further through the article. However, a hybrid home/portable console is the one thing they can do which will blow Scorpio out of the water as well as steal Nintendo’s unique selling point. It isn’t long until we find out!