Netflix

Castlevania the (albeit brief) Netflix series is fantastic. My interest in the franchise has been tepid to put a label on it but last weekend I took a leap of faith (drops breadcrumb) and decided to watch episode 1. This is the kind of thoughtful, takes-itself-seriously video content that games have been crying out for. So, which other games are crying out for streaming serialisation; either animated or live action?

Bioshock – Already a movie project which mirrors Rapture and Columbia’s descent into chaos – Bioshock as a franchise has so much potential. “There’s always a man and there’s always a city” we learn at the end of the appropriately named Bioshock Infinite. Those familiar with Once Upon a Time may see the analogue in a character like Emma with Booker – both fish out of water trying to grasp the rules of the new worlds they find theirselves in. Undoubtably this would have to be an animated production due to the fantastical settings but if nothing else it might give us chance for a new Bioshock game. 

Fallout – A post apocalyptic setting would too demand animation over live action and there is lots of scope for an engaging, mature story. The standard ‘man out of time’ would also be relevent here as the viewer would learn about the world along with the character. Although it would definitely need to be for grown ups only. The series could follow the same structure of the Pokemon anime; loosely tracing the journey in the games. Flashbacks optional.

Metal Gear – Despite cricism by some fans, The Phantom Pain did the right thing by reducing the focus on story. The convoluted, complicated storyline of Metal Gear requires research and note taking to even scratch the surface. Perhaps it is time to collate these and produce it as a coherent (as much as possible) narrative. 

For many, the series truly began with the PS1 classic Metal Gear Solid however this game had many, many callbacks, nods and winks to the original 8bit games. The relationship between the ‘modern’ Metal Gear storyline and the era Big Boss was more prominent lends itself to an Arrow style structure. Season 1 could be Solid Snake on Shadow Moses with flashbacks to Zanzibar – showing how the lessons he learned in the latter impact on the former. Potentially – due to the slower paced story telling – this could be live action. All you would need is an abandoned industrial plant of some kind, a bandana and a gimp mask…

The Legend of Zelda – Recently rumoured to be in existence, this series is ripe for an adaptation. Since the so-90s-it-hurt Super Mario Bros movie, Nintendo has been reluctant to outsource its AAA characters – especially in other forms of media. The recent masterpiece Breath of the Wild is perfect for this with much more story content than previous Zelda games. Time travel is an interesting concept retconned into the series and the multiple timelines would be a unique rabbit warren to tumble down later in the series. Perhaps ‘our’ Link and Zelda could end up in different Hyrules; meeting their counterparts. This could lead to some Toy Story style Buzz meets Buzz shenanigans. Yes, Link may have to speak (note: he does actually speak in most of the games but you just don’t hear it). Either live action or animation is possible too. Hopefully the success of as well as respect shown to Castlevania will give Nintendo the confidence to give us what we want.

Speaking of leaps of faith (picks up breadcrumb), an Assassin’s Creed series is on the way in addition to Season 2 (which is longer!) of Castlevania. The games-to-series trend has started strongly. Let’s see it done justice now! 

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…

If you disagree, correct us in the comments on the site or on Twitter @pennilessdads

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? 

Follow us on Twitter @pennilessdads

Mario Allstars 2017

How awesome would a Mario collection be? In lieu of Virtual Console, how about sticking everything on one cart? Or as AllStar-style collections?

Super Mario Allstars Vol 1

  1. Mario Bros
  2. Super Mario Bros
  3. Super Mario Bros. Lost Levels
  4. Super Mario Bros 2
  5. Super Mario Bros 3 
  6. Super Mario World
  7. Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2
  8. Super Mario Land
  9. Super Mario Land 2
  10. Super Mario RPG

Super Mario Allstars Vol 2

  1. New Super Mario Bros
  2. New Super Mario Bros 2
  3. New Super Mario Bros Wii
  4. New Super Mario Bros U
  5. Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga
  6. Mario and Luigi Partners in Time
  7. Mario and Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story
  8. Mario and Luigi Dream Team

Super Mario Allstars Vol 3

  1. Paper Mario
  2. Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door
  3. Super Paper Mario
  4. Paper Mario Sticker Star
  5. Paper Mario Colour Splash

Super Mario Allstars Vol 4

  1. Super Mario 64
  2. Super Mario Sunshine
  3. Super Mario Galaxy
  4. Super Mario Galaxy 2
  5. Super Mario 3D Land
  6. Super Mario 3D World

Each game in HD with leaderboard, online multiplayer (when applicable) please! 

Speeding Towards Adventure

First of all, kudos if you get the article title. 2017 is amongst other things the return of the mascot platformer/collect-a-thon. Yooka-Laylee, Crash Bandicoot and Mario Odyssey make up a holy trinity of games which hark back to the foggy days of PS1, Dreamcast and N64. In between these releases comes a double-edged spike ball of fury (furry?); Sonic. Could this finally be the return to glory for one of gaming’s original trend setters?

In the 90s, 2D Sonic arguably peaked with Sonic 3 & Knuckles – the ‘complete’ version of Sonic 3. The game refined power ups and level variety whilst having the best balance of furry sidekicks which would in later games get out of hand. The transition to 3D was as awkward as a human-hedgehog romantic relationship. Sonic Adventure wasn’t Mario 64 quality and is difficult to play in 2017 due to some extremely clunky 3D work. However, it was fun and had some memorable, iconic moments. The 3D games got progressively worse – always trying to shoehorn in alternate mechanics which were at odds with Sonic’s simplicity. No wonder Knuckles always loses the Master Emerald if all he has is that annoying blinking radar thing. 

Over in 2D Sonic world, there has been more consistent content. Sonic Advance and its sequels were good and were followed up with strong Nintendo DS games. However, monstrosities like Sonic 4 (both episodes) and the first Sonic Boom smart like spring jumping straight into a Buzz Bomber. 

Back in 3D land, things got weirder. Sonic became a werewolf, went to Camelot and vastly expanded his band of forgettable sidekicks. For the record, the Chaotix crew is where the line should be. Shadow, Silver and any other X the Z diluted the already diminished quality of the series. False dawns like Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 rubbed salt in the wounds of SEGA fans who had already begun to accept the seemingly inevitable. Occasionally a game gave a speck of hope. Sonic and the Secret Rings on Wii begun the ‘rollercoaster’ style game style and was built on in Colors and Sonic Unleashed. An uneasy balance was finally found in Sonic Generations which reimagined stages from all eras of Sonic, mixing 2D and 3D gameplay. It was great fun and most importantly wasn’t a chore to play. All non-Sonic shenanigans were optional. This all brings us to 2017’s offerings…

By the year’s end, we should have 2D retro-inspired sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles; Sonic Mania as well as Generations-esque Sonic Forces. Between the two games there looks to be something for everyone and – hopefully – games which finally restore the honour to Sonic’s name. Like Mario, it was once a symbol of quality and you knew exactly what you were going to get. The faux 16-bit graphics of Mania will draw the attention of lapsed gamer 30-somethings who will instantly recognise the blue blur. Plus for a sub-£20 price tag it is a no brainier purchase. Sonic Forces aims to build on Generations’ more consistent 3D environments and deliver a 2017 Sonic adventure. Interestingly the ‘build your own sidekick’ feature seems like a master stroke. No one can moan of the suspect supporting cast if they are user created. It gives big kids like us the chance to recreate great characters like those from the UK’s now defunct Sonic the Comic or more recent fan-favourites like Big the Cat. 

We wait with bated breath to see if these two Sonics can deliver after 20 years of false starts. As the Sonic Adventure theme says: 

‘Gotta open your heart!

Can’t hold on much longer!

But I will never let go!

I know it’s a one way track!

Tell me now how long this’ll last!

I’m not gonna think this way!

Nor will I count on others!

Close my eyes and feel it burn!

Now I see what I gotta do!

Open your heart, it’s gonna be alright! Yeah!’

We hope! 

N64 Classic?

Wow! A flurry of trademarks this week has resulted in soft-to-firm evidence of Nintendo’s follow up to the as-yet unreleased SNES Classic; the N64 Classic. Despite popular opinion the next venture would be a Gameboy Classic, the sole, mainstream 64-bit console (Jaguar 64 ignored) looks like it is next to appear in reduced numbers and inflated prices on eBay. But what will we get in the box?

Launching last holiday season, the NES Classic launched with 30 preloaded games and the imminent SNES Classic will have 30% less. Let’s apply that formula to the potential N64 Classic. 30% less games would – when rounded up – give us 15 N64 games. Here we go:

  1. Super Mario 64
  2. Mario Kart 64
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
  5. 1080 Snowboarding
  6. Wave Race 64
  7. F-Zero X
  8. Mario Party
  9. Mario Tennis
  10. Mario Golf
  11. Pokemon Snap
  12. Star Fox/Layla’s Wars 64
  13. Smash Bros
  14. Donkey Kong 64
  15. Paper Mario

Honourable mentions:

  • Doom 64
  • Beetle Adventure Racing
  • Turok 1&2
  • Pokemon Stadium
  • Pokemon Puzzle League
  • Pilotwings 64
  • Yoshi’s Story

A huge issue with this console is a large chunk of its AAA quality back-catalogue was made by Rare – now owned by Microsoft. Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and Blast Corps have already been retro-bundled in Rare Replay on Xbox One. So all those games are out. There are also a number of games in limbo like Goldeneye or Diddy Kong Racing. DKR was ported – by Nintendo to DS but ripped out Rare’s characters. Surely they wouldn’t do the same to the original? 

Wishful thinking:

  • Banjo-Kazooie 
  • Banjo-Tooie
  • DKR
  • Goldeneye
  • Perfect Dark
  • Jet Force Gemini
  • Blast Corps
  • Killer Instinct Gold

Outside bets:

  • Quake 2
  • Star Wars Episode 1: Racer
  • Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
  • Body Harvest
  • Earthworm Jim 64
  • Mortal Kombat 4
  • Snowboard Kids
  • Top Gear Overdrive
  • Superman 64…

The one nugget of hope here is Star Fox 2 on the SNES Classic. If that game can see the light of day then Goldeneye etc may have a chance. 

Out with the old…

2016-17 has seen an increasing number of ‘retro’ boxes released or announced; Atari’s mysterious machine, NES/SNES Classic and SEGA’s new Megadrive/Genesis. What this draws attention to – among other things – is how far the industry has travelled in a relatively short space of time. With this thought in mind, it has become apparent that much of our lexicon has become outdated. Similar to plastic guitar periphals, motion controls and Bubsy the Bobcat, certain words and phrases used everyday in gaming forums (literal and figurative) are archaic and in need of updating. 

Adventure – Once confined to 90’s PCs, ‘adventure’ games (inclusive of point and click) have enjoyed a recent resurgence. Grim Fandango along with several other Lucasarts titles have been pointed, clicked and dragged into the 21st Century. Obtuse gameplay with one linear yet baffling pathway usually defined these games – requiring the player to put together the random assortment of paraphernalia to trigger the next part of the adventure in question. The term ‘adventure’ encompasses more than these though. The spiritual successor to these games are surely the Telltale Games series which apes the point and click mechanic albeit with more choice over the story elements. Perhaps these games are more greatly defined by their slow-burning, intricate stories and the term ‘adventure’ is in lieu of saying so. Yet the label ‘adventure’ is not always indicative of this as exemplified by Sonic Adventure (cheap shot I know – love it really!). So what is an adventure game? What should we call games like Discworld, Minecraft Story Mode or Life is Strange? ‘Walking simulator’ doesn’t seem to cut it…

Arcade – This is a place we went to in our youths to pay money to play games. It is not – I repeat, not – a genre. A common tag line of certain games is it boasts ‘arcade’ style gameplay. Highly doubtful as the last game I played like this – Fast Racing RMX – didn’t create the urge to ram 50p into my Switch or make a rude username to appear in the lap time records. Perhaps this though is the spirit of the term: chasing high scores. Playing through bite size chunks of gameplay and repeating until one refined the experience. Should then, the term be ‘high-score-a-thon’? ‘Arcade’ covers too much to encompass all it consumes at present; racing, fighters, sports…the list goes on. 

dlc – The worst offender on the list. I’m not going to talk about horse armour but just think how silly this sounds. My PS4, Xbox One and Switch are crammed with fully fledged retail games which were downloaded. Fallout 4, Destiny and Mario Kart 8 all sit shackled to my consoles yet free from the constraints of physical media – safe in the knowledge they can never be traded in. They are all downloaded content. So why is an expansion referred to as ‘dlc’? Why have we not got a more elegant name for a term which – in addition – has got some quite negative connotations? Then there’s cloud based games like PlayStation Now which has games advertised with ‘all dlc included’ yet you never download the game or the additional material. Think about it. 

Indie – Taking root in the now defunct Xbox Live Arcade era and blossoming through last gen and now, smaller games (or downloadable content…) seem to be tagged with the term ‘indie’. This happens in music too. ‘Indie’ is an abbreviation of ‘independent’ meaning the band – or game – is being created sans a record label or publisher. An accurate example of an ‘indie’ game would be Thomas was Alone or Super Meat Boy. However, larger studios have got in on the act challenging the notion that all games must be £45 upon entry. These include Child of Light or Journey. They are not independent, rather the opposite. What they have in common with many ‘indies’ is the smaller game size. 

Platformer – Sonic and Mario are different. You can almost see the design meeting SEGA had when establishing their mascot. Sonic is fast and Mario is slow in comparison. Mario is red with blue clothes so Sonic is blue with red clothes (sneakers). Mario is the anti-hero, the everyman thrust into danger to save the girl, whereas Sonic is bold with an attitude. It doesn’t matter who or what he’s saving he just does it – like a Nike advert. In fact, the original Sonic 1 instruction booklet translated the back story incorrectly. Japanese players thought the Green Hill Zone took place on Earth yet in the West we believed it to be the fictional world of Mobius. I digress. The thing they have in common, is jumping on platforms. Fast forward twenty years though and the worlds – whatever they are – they inhabit are hard pushed to be described as ‘platformers’. A term which has been coined to describe the 3D iterations of these games has been ‘collect-a-thon’. In Super Mario 64 you had to collect the stars to restore power to the castle which unlocked more doors so you could unlock more stars to find more doors which led to Bowser. In Banjo-Kazooie you found Jiggies which were the missing pieces in paintings which when complete allowed you to enter said world and find more Jiggies in order to…you get the idea. In 3D Sonic games you collect Sonic Emblems just because. Anyway, the platforming elements of these games have fallen by the wayside – especially in 3D Sonic which would be better classified as ‘rollercoaster’. 2D platformer sits fine but what do we call the 3D ones: adventure games? 

RPG – ‘Role Playing Game’ encompasses everything. When I picked up a Pong paddle, I was playing a role. When I play Virtua Tennis, I’m playing a role. To be more specific, the ‘role playing’ part is generally attributed to the development of skills and powers throughout the game. This is why many games are described as having ‘RPG elements’; open world stealth with RPG elements or sports simulation with RPG elements. So what then is an RPG if most games these days could be classified as having features of them? Skyrim: Elf simulation with RPG elements? The term has transitioned from a genre to a mechanic. What is it which defines a game with RPG mechanics – like Darksiders 2 – from a RPG like Final Fantasy 15? What is Zelda: Breath of the Wild? 
Which games-related terms would you like to see changed? What will we be describing, classifying and labelling games in 10 years time? Who decides them? Who watches the deciders?