Xbox Mini?

Nostalgia for past consoles appear to be at an all time high with Nintendo’s licence to print money: the SNES Classic. Coming a year after the NES Classic, the recently released 16 bit bundle of goodness has flown off shelves. A like minded Gameboy Classic or PlayStation Classic should be expected over the next few years; but what about Xbox?

Entering the console space near the start of the millennium, Microsoft doesn’t quite have the rich history its competitors do. What they do have though is the roadmap for what the next generation of consoles will look like. The iterative Xbox One X will either be the true beginning of the end of distinctive console generations akin to mobile phone updates or it will be the Xbox One 32X: repeating SEGA’s expensive mistake it the 90s. What Microsoft do offer – to a greater extent than Sony or Nintendo – is choice: the vanilla Xbox One, Xbox One S and the X. With production of the original console ending, a new third pillar should be expected. Could this be Microsoft’s answer to a ‘classic’ or ‘mini’ console? Let me explain…

Since the 360 days, there have been rumblings of a discless Xbox. This may finally be a reality. Imagine if you will, a smaller, streamlined Xbox One: HD – no 4k, 500gb hard drive and packaged with some classic games. The Xbox One will soon be compatible with the full lineage of Xbox games from the original Xbox 1 to the modern Xbox One. This would enable the One family to be its own retro machine – if you want it to be. One of the biggest criticisms of the Nintendo classics has been the lack of expansion: further downloadable titles would have been another money maker for Nintendo. 

Xbox One C? Xbox One Mini? Xbox One TV? Whatever it would be called, a cheaper (£150?) Xbox One might just be the best of both worlds. For now, Sony and Microsoft are ignoring the home/handheld hybrid market (don’t quite believe that…) but the mini market may just be about to explode. We can expect at least one more retro console from Nintendo; time will tell if Microsoft can exploit their unique position and marry the past, present and future together. 

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FIFA 18 Switch Review

Version reviewed: Switch/Xbox One

*Update*

Several weeks post FIFA18’s launch, a strange phenomenon has occurred: I’ve played more FIFA then ever! Destiny 2’s weekly milestones and events are where the bulk of my game-time’s been spent but having FIFA on Switch has enabled me to play in the pockets of time in and amongst other things. For example, when the kids have their daily cartoon slot (5PM-6PM) it’s there to grind away a few games in career mode whilst still being able to sit with them. The settling in period which comes with all new football games is over and the gameplay feels comfortable – not PS4/X1 FIFA 18 – but better than the PS Vita and Wii U ‘efforts’. The control issues identified in the original article have mellowed as familiarity has grown. I’ve played the game predominantly in handheld mode; FIFA is and always will be about Career Mode for me and the Switch version is perfect for this. I dropped £49.99 for this game at the expense of some of the amazing downloadable titles a-buzz on Switch at the moment and it was definitely money well spent!

Original Article: 

Having held off pre-ordering any version of FIFA 18, I went into this week hoping for a nugget of analysis on the elusive Switch version of the game. With EA Access on Xbox One, I was able to spend some time with ‘full’ console version of FIFA 18; therefore this review will also touch on the Xbox version as well as the Switch one – just in case the sub-line is confusing! Time for kick off!

There’s a lot to unpack in a discussion regarding FIFA on Switch but we’ll start with what everyone wants to know: it plays good! The core gameplay is FIFA. In comparison to FIFA 17 and 18 the physics feel a bit more limited – especially compared to 18 on Xbox One which seems to have more frequent mis-kicks and random moments of the ball coming off your shin. Edit mode – as well as the full assortment of options are available. If – like me – you are still clinging on to Legacy Defending, there option to switch (click!) between modes is there. Whilst playing in handheld mode, the camera zooms in which can easily be tweaked in the options. However, a quality of life feature which would have been welcome is to have different option profiles for docked or handheld modes. You can do this for control set ups but the camera remained constant unless manually changed. 

Tent pole modes like career and Ultimate Team play as you would expect them to. Having played the ‘dynamic’ transfer negotiations on Xbox One, the Switch version’s traditional email system was actually a welcome return. By my third transfer negotiation on Xbox One the novelty had warn off. Everything else in career mode such as training, scouting and contract negotiations play exactly as they did in 16 and 17. 

Now for the tricky bit: is this a viable alternative to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One FIFA? Clearly, this is the best portable FIFA. It is a light years ahead of the much-maligned 3DS, Vita or even Wii U versions. My purchase is justified as I think of the weekends away, train journeys and spontaneous multiplayer matches ahead. Despite the lack of Journey or online friend matchmaking, taking my career on the road is what I wanted. The one area that sets it below the ‘full’ versions is one I did not anticipate: the biggest limitation is the Switch itself.

In comparison to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers, the Joy-Con pale in comparison. The smaller analogue sticks make turns and flicks that little bit more clunky. The action buttons require a split second longer press to result in the desired player pass or shot. It is noticeable. 

However, I am still happy with the purchase purely for the portability. It will interesting to see if the control issue mellows over time with adaptability; a Pro Controller would alleviate it at the expense of full handheld mode. If you can guarantee FIFA domination on the television for the next 12 months, there is no reason to look beyond the ‘full’ versions. If you have a FIFA widow or widower restlessly hinting it’s their turn, FIFA 18 on Switch is a great option to end the war of the television. 

Hopefully we won’t see the spat of ‘Legacy’ editions with simply updated rosters each year and this solid – if imperfect- first season can be built upon for next year.

Verdict: Recommend!

Destiny 2: Trials of Parenting

Listening to the Kinda Funny crew this week, they discussed an interesting topic: an article about Destiny 2 and parenting. The full article from Kotaku’s Keza MacDonald can be found here: Kotaku. So here’s our take on this hot topic…

Firstly, parenting is a wonderful, dreadful challenge which subconsciously and consciously challenges you for the rest of your life. Every decision you make is influenced by the fact you are now a parent revealing a new layer of feeling under your existing psyche and mentality.

Point in reference: the death of the Wayne’s in Batman. I’ve watched this hundreds of times pre-children but it was watching it again in Batman Begins when my nerve failed to hold. I could feel my eyes welling up and my mind wandered; what would my children do if a Joe Chill was lurking outside the local cinema? How would this impact their lives beyond the obvious? So, with all this in mind, let’s return to Destiny. 

Andrea Rene made a great observation at Kinda Funny: the distinction between being a ‘new’ parent and being a parent. It does get easier over time as you learn to deal with another human’s day to day problems as well as your own but all stops on the parenting timeline offer unique opportunities to experience games and I’d like to share some.

A month after my first born arrived, I bought a PlayStation 4. This was in 2014. A sleep deprived wreck, I quickly realised something in between the 2am and 6am feeds: warming a bottle, waking our daughter and feeding took roughly the same amount of time as a game of FIFA. Cue Vince McMahon excitement meme. When she settled into a more regular routine, our daughter slept for about two hours each morning and afternoon as well as 12 hours at night. This allowed me to settle back into more regular gaming patterns. This coincided with the release of Destiny 1. Over the next months, Destiny became comfort food – like FIFA – jumping into a strike for 15 minutes. I didn’t need to think or try to remember where I left off; it was just there waiting for me. This is what excites me now for Destiny 2.

Within a week of launch, Destiny 2’s campaign was over and I’m steadily climbing the light ladder. My fireteam – who are not yet parents – are Raid-ready and are deeper into the end game content like the Nightfall Strikes. However, when I jump on, we still find common ground. There is always something the we can do which is productive in pushing those stats up. If I do get chance to do the raid, like any extended event in my life, I’ll have to consider the kids first. If you want to do it there’s always a way. Like Keza though, I’ll always be one step behind my responsibility-free guardian friends. At least for now, but this may change.

My kids are three and one and we have a great thing at the moment: playing games together. We play games like Yooka-Laylee and they pretend to be the titular characters; sometimes it’s one of the LEGO games or – a great game for anyone – Slime Rancher. It’s still a bit early to put them into Destiny but I’m looking forward to the day we can. Take IGN general manager Peer Schneider’s examples of hooking four PlayStation 4 consoles up to play multiplayer together or roaming the battles of Splatoon 2 as a family. Parenthood closes one chapter on our gaming lives; I’ll probably never spend 14 hours straight playing Fallout 3 like I did in 2009 but parenthood also opens another door: one which is perhaps most of us thirty-somethings can relate to.

If – like me – you were brought up with Nintendo and SEGA viewed as ‘kids toys’ which would inevitably end up at a car boot sale with He-Man and Thundercats, we now have the opportunity to usher in a new age for computer games. The shift to popular culture and an acceptable pastime began with the PlayStation in 1994 but now the way we interact with our children and games births the opportunity to fully realise this. For the time being, playing great games and sharing thirty years of wonderful experiences – both digital and real life – with my kids is amazing. At the end of a hard day, I know a cheeky half an hour on Destiny 2 is a great way to pass the time. 

Royale Revolution?

Which games should have Battle Royale modes?

The newest in-thing in games is the ‘Battle Royale’ genre; is it a game mode or a feature which should be exclusive to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)? The premise is a 100 player death match on an island with an increasingly shrinking playing area – a bit like a digital Hunger Games. Fortnite has been one of the first ‘fast followers’ to the Battle Royale party and has been met with friction from PUBG. The term is here to stay – like Metroidvania or Roguelike – as Alanah Pearce wrote for IGN recently (http://m.uk.ign.com/articles/2017/09/22/pubg-publicly-shaming-fortnite-is-a-terrible-pr-move). But which other games would make for awesome Battle Royals modes?

Destiny 2: Trials Royale

Could you imagine this? The carnage would be incredible: especially if you could drop in as a fireteam. The weapon collecting system from PUBG would be redundant to a certain extent though placing vehicles and/or limited use weapons could make it even more interesting. Destiny 2’s open world style world maps would be ideal for a 100 player fight to the death mode. 

The Legend of Zelda: Battle of the Wild

Unlikely yet simultaneously logical. Drop 100 Links on a region of the map with nothing Eventide Island style and procure weapons on site. Throw a few Lynels in for good measure too. No, wait – let one person be the Lynel…No amiibo!

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain of Battling Royale 

This game has sat on my shelf for two years now since completion; the mechanically-perfect masterpiece is perhaps the most likely candidate for a Battle Royale shooter. Clearly the blend of stealth and bombastic, Bay-esque firepower would be an excellent template to unleash 100 Infants Terrible upon each other. 

Pokemon: Battlemon Tournament

Hear me out. Choose a starting Pokemon and acquire 5 Pokeballs. Drop 100 Pokemon trainers onto an open, full world map such as Kanto and slowly narrow the map area. Aside from your starter, all Pokemon are caught in the game world and there are no Pokemon Centres. Revives and Potions etc are procedurally dropped around the world. This is the best bit: just like in the core-game RPGs, any trainers making eye contact must battle. Once all Pokemon in your party faint, it’s game over. Only the very best – like no one ever was – will win! 

Mario Kart 8: Royale Dash

100 drivers. 3 balloons each.  Wuhu Island. Done. 

Banjo-Kazooie: Nutz N Battlez

Banjo and Kazooie’s last outing – nearly 10 years ago – suffered from not being what their fan base wanted. The construction tools in this game are simple to understand yet have amazing depth. Drop bear and bird into the battlefield and scour for new parts. Don’t be caught in the menu screens though; budding engineers need to assemble new parts quickly and efficiently. The other 99 players are made up of Banjo’s supporting cast like Bottles as well as long forgotten platform heros like Cool Spot, Zool and Earthworm Jim. Last 90s mascot standing wins. Yooka and Laylee available as paid dlc. 

Which games do you think should take inspiration from PUBG? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @pennilessdads

Destiny’s Halo?

Destiny 2: the new benchmark for games-as-service, is here. Now, seems a funny time to discuss this but a convergence of events in the last week have brought me to a simple conclusion about life, light and the preservation of games such as this. The fact of the matter is simple; Destiny 1 will inevitably be shut down soon. 

Back in 2014, always online was a strange new concept for many. Now it is almost mandatory. Destiny for all its faults was amazing (note the past tense). Over the last three years I’ve had an on/off romance with it which is rekindled with Destiny 2. Always online brings with it unavoidable problems. The other night – after a long day at work – I booted up D2 only to be met with a disappointing ‘network down’ message as Bungie delivered (planned) maintenance. No Destiny porn for me then. This began the mind-wander towards a depressing question; how much of D1 will be playable when the plug is pulled? 

Logic dictates the obvious; none of it. Likeminded online focused games have drifted off to that digital farm all of our virtual pets were sent to and Destiny will probably be no different. Except – what if there were a workaround?

Always online enabled all Destiny players to exist within the various worlds alongside others. There really was nothing like jumping into a Strike playlist; finding two random, silent Guardians then carrying out your mission with surgical precision. However, the primary purpose of all our Destiny saves – for both games – is to avoid cheats and exploits. No one can manipulate game saves etc when we don’t physically have them on our hard drives. Should this still apply to D1 though? The hardcore have jumped sparrow to D2, leaving the original Tower et al conspicuously lonely. Having just clocked D2’s great campaign, a return play through of D1 – which I haven’t done since 2014 and the vanilla days – might not be a bad idea. It is currently a vague memory wrapped up in subsequent dlc and never ending grinding. I wouldn’t be doing it for engrams or gear or shards but for something more: enjoyment. This led me to my conclusion.

If Bungie – against all form and precedent – switched D1 to local saves, allowing the player to play solo (offline), a renaissance of D1 could be upon us. The core game would be preserved; you could even patch in bots for the raid. This offers up a tantalising prospect; Destiny could work on Nintendo Switch. Destiny 2, with its complex infrastructure, may be too much but a local based Destiny 1 would surely not. Three Guardians playing in handheld mode locally. It sounds logical doesn’t it? For all the improvements D2 has brought, wouldn’t it be great to take the original with you anywhere? It’s just a thought; a wish upon a star. One day, the original Destiny will be in darkness. Perhaps we can find a way of leaving the light on…

Destiny 2 Review

Version: Xbox One

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

Update 1: Without blitzing the campaign, I’ve been taking my time to do what many Destiny players forget: enjoy the game. After about ten hours, my battle-hardened Guardian has maxed out to level 20 and the familiar end game is upon him. It feels as though Destiny 1 was one huge Beta test in preparation for the sequel. The journey to level 20 and the subsequent push to raise my ‘Power’ feels much like the original’s in 2014. D1 learnt that endless grinding of materials was a fruitless labour with the vanilla original quickly being updated to a modified progression system. When the focus drifts to raising stats Destiny becomes addictive yet some of the fun is drawn out. Playing the campaign reminded me how much enjoyment I had in 2014 – in the opening weeks of release – before raids and expansions. 

Destiny 2’s campaign is entertaining; giving you more of fan favourite characters like Cayde 6.The Destiny team at Bungie clearly know their sci-fi with the casting of Firefly alums Gina Torres and Nathan Fillion. In a later campaign mission, the developers show their sense of humour with the ensemble cast. I was tasked with destroying a Cabal spaceship, preventing its escape by destroying shield generators a la Empire Strikes Back. Any notion of happy coincidences are swashed when immediately after you seal the deal by sending a missile along the fuel pipes just like a certain rebel pilot did in 1977. Destiny 2 is filled with memorable writing and set pieces which will provide many water cooler conversation opportunities over the coming weeks and years. It truly stands out compared to competent shooters such as Titanfall 2; it excels at amusing in amongst the gunplay.

Above all, Destiny 2 is the pinnacle of shooting mechanics. Everything is perfectly balanced and – at the risk of sounding like Goldilocks – feels just right. D2, which is still less than a week old, is the new benchmark for shooters: the way the enemy heads pop in an explosion of numbers; sliding into a band of alien scum before face-palming them into the void or seamlessly switching between your arsenal of oddly named weaponry. Shooting is better in Destiny than any other game. At £42 delivered, this purchase is recommended and leaves me with a lingering question…

Will D2 tire by October 27th and Super Mario Odyssey? Or is Nintendo’s flagship character destined (shnarff!) to be ignored. At the moment, it is difficult to see how any other game could come close to distracting from Destiny 2 in the months ahead. More than recommend. 

Original: So far, so good. Destiny 2 – as we have known for some time – smacks the reset button before the end of the 1st mission. With your light removed lost along with all hope, it is up to you to salvage the remains of everything which was built in the original. Eyes up guardian! Or perhaps that should be ‘boots on the ground’ as the initial missions remove even the most basic of guardian powers such as double jumping. Either way it’s good to be home.

Whilst keeping the original as a template: social hub; interstellar adventures and loot hunting all present, Destiny 2 expands the final build of its predecessor. Immediately, it feels like Destiny’s Rise of Iron. Menus and gear harp back to the final days of OG Destiny albeit with some significant improvements. 
Firstly, missions take a more open world, fluid structure; no more jumping to orbit to launch into games. Destiny 2’s initial offering of story and new ‘Adventure’ missions offer plenty of early content. Each world has a friendly vendor who act similarly to the likes of factions such as Dead Orbit et al. Obviously the dash to be raid ready is important for some players but we enjoyed the fleshing out of Destiny 2’s campaign, steadily climbing the light ladder. On the note of content – in stark contrast with the previous game – in each world we found ourselves falling over Public Events. They’re everywhere! Added to this, a map system allowing missions/events/vendors to be tagged made traversing the level to find them much, much more intuitive. The usual Bungie epic-ness is present and correct during the campaign along with some witty dialogue between Ghost and the new and existing characters. 
Later on in the campaign, a wider range of game modes are unlocked including Strikes before fully opening up the end-game. Much like the original (again) the first 15 hours or so see you cycling through gear and weapons almost every mission to push your stats up before slowing towards the end. There are so many similarities to the first game but this is no criticism. This should be exactly the game fans of Destiny 1 wanted. 
So far, since launch it has been a daily dip in to forge through the campaign. 2017 will be remembered as a tale of two games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in the first half; Destiny 2 in the latter. Whatever comes next for Bungie and Activision’s behemoth shooter – and despite what problems and controversies it will surely face – based on what we’ve seen so far this is an essential game. Considering the value D1 offered pound for pound we’re excited for what the next 500 hours will bring. 

Console Stories: Super Nintendo

Retrospective on the SNES

Welcome to a new feature on pennilessdads where we reminisce about consoles previously or currently owned. What memories are connected to this hardware and why is – or isn’t – it a significant chapter in the world of games? We start in the early-to-mid-nineties with the Super Nintendo.

Up until 1994, it had all been about SEGA and Sonic. That changed when I watched someone playing Super Mario World and Super Mario Kart. Those two games introduced me to the Mushroom Kingdom and from then on a lifetime of saving princesses from turtles. I actually have two previous memories of Nintendo. The first was watching (did a lot of watching back then it seems – if only streaming was a thing) some kid play Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt on a busted NES. Then at the SNES launch demoing Pilotwings. Neither of those experiences hooked me like this. So very early on I put a SNES on my birthday wishlist. Then something cool happened.

While retailers are careful in this day and age to cover their backs in the fine print, there was a bit more exploitation to be had back then. My mum had found a deal at a shop which had a great deal on a SNES bundled with Super Mario Allstars. She told me she planned to get the deal on the last day it was on to give her chance to save up. When this magical day arrived, a retail miracle occurred. Another deal on the console activated – stacking with the previous one. This meant we got the Super Scope and the six game pack in bundled in. My eight year old self did not note the price but I remember it was a bargain. Looking back it was later in the console’s life and should be expected. Little me thought all his Christmases had come at once. 

So, the age of Nintendo had begun for our family. The Mario Allstars compilation saw many, many hours of play whilst – after an initial flurry of excitement – the scope collected dust. Two more games over the next year or so would capture my imagination. 

After dragging me towards Nintendo initially, I finally got my hands on Super Mario World. I remember seeing it for about £14 at the second hand market in our town centre. It was unboxed but this was nuts. All games were £40 and preowned games hadn’t reached us yet. I gambled and unpacked every inch of that game. Nintendo was now a company I would keep tabs on and follow. This led me to find out about a game called Donkey Kong Country.

On television there was a show about games called Bad Influence. It was very 90s but was the primary way I could find out about new games. The PlayStation and Saturn were shown off, blowing away the likes of me. This was my first experience of ‘next gen’ and I almost lost focus onto them. However, the beauty of Donkey Kong Country kept me hooked on my SNES for a while longer. The game looked amazing and brimmed with authority and confidence from the moment you clicked the power switch on. Opening with a majestic fanfare before literally blasting OG Donkey Kong (and its theme song) out of the window. That was my Christmas present that year and I can’t remember turning it off. 

A few other memories stick out, I used to have a friend with a SNES and we would play games like Power Rangers and Star Fox. It was towards the end of the 16 bit generation though and the CD-based consoles were looming. Towards the SNES’ twilight a late flurry of great games bookended its lifetime. Yoshi’s Island, Diddy Kong’s Quest and Killer Instinct all entertained before Nintendo had to adjust its role in the console hierarchy as a certain Sony console entered the market. 

It was a console I kept hold of though. Many of the next generation’s would be bought and sold but the SNES found a way of staying around. After the launch of Nintendo 64, I for some reason picked up the SNES Mario Kart and gave the console a renaissance. Friday nights became competitive marathons of the game which are still referenced in my friendship circle today. With the new consoles out I found myself picking up more and more of the SNES back catalogue: Street Racer (which includes a proto-Rocket League mode), Mortal Kombat, Mario Paint and Sparkster. The SNES eventually gave up the ghost. We tried to switch it on somewhere towards the end of the 20th Century but it had packed in. Every game we had on it was amazing to play – something subsequent Nintendo consoles haven’t consistently achieved.