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Archive for April 2012

Rayman 2: The Great Escape (Ubisoft)

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Four years after the release of the original Rayman and plenty of celebrated success, Ubisoft released a sequel that changed the concept of the series entirely.  Unlike the original cartoon-like platformer that was tough as nails, we were greeted with a dark, 3D rendered platformer.  While the jump to 3D was hit or miss for various gaming staples, Rayman found a welcome home with Rayman 2: Great Escape, touted by many (myself included) as one of the best 3D platformers ever developed.

If I mention a cutesy 3D platformer that stars evil robots and pirates it would be hard to tell if I was talking about a Ratchet & Clank, Rayman, or even Conker because the idea is so recycled.  While the plot may remain the same, that’s where the comparisons end.  Instead of the aggressive worlds that had one goal – to kill you – of the original, we are now given fully rendered open environments that crave exploration.  For the most part you are tasked with going from the beginning of any level to the end, but along the way you also collect the glowing lums from the original.  For the lums that are on your path and along the way this is no big deal and it will surely get you to end of the game, but if you want to unlock everything you will have to find all 1,000 lums.  That is where the game goes from a simple level-to-level game and becomes a test of platforming abilities and risky gameplay.  It felt a lot like the convention we saw in Super Mario Galaxy, where the game can literally be as hard or as easy as you like, but back in 1999 this was a new concept.  Rayman 2 is also much easier as a whole, which allows you to appreciate the game and environment instead of threatening to destroy your controller with every new turn.  It’s just a fun ride with enough levels to secure a 6-10 hour campaign.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Is the Wii Really a Toy?

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Yesterday it was announced by Beamdog’s co-founder Trent Oster that the anticipated Balder’s Gate: Enhanced Edition would not be making a trip to the Wii or Wii U.  Some thought that because of Beamdog’s decent port of MDK2 on WiiWare that they might also bring the newest project to Nintendo’s next console.  Oster went on a bit of a tweeting rant to Eurogamer that included the following statements: “We don’t do Nintendo development.  Our previous experience with Nintendo was enough to ensure there will not be another.”  Many assumed that this was in response to the experience Beamdog’s Overhaul Games had with MDK2 that was further backed by his continued statements: “My problems with Nintendo are: requiring 6000 unit sales before payment, a certification process that took 9 months and a 40 mb limit.”  This is nothing new, Nintendo has historically been known to screw over 3rd party developers and include rules and business practices that net no risk to Nintendo while also reaping the benefits of successful titles.  I may discuss that more in a future article but what struck me was Oster’s final statement, “[Wii] is a toy, not a console.”

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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Rayman (Ubisoft)

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Rayman wants to be a strong classic platformer, and it’s really a shame that the steep difficulty curve will turn off even the most determined of contemporary gamers, because from an aesthetic and game design perspective this game should be appreciated.  Alas Rayman has been ported to console after console and seen commercial success, but I wonder how many people have actually experienced most of what this title has to offer.

During the mid 90s there was no shortage of consoles – both the 16-bit generation and 32-bit generation were coming to be, not to mention CD consoles –  and Rayman was caught right in the thick of it.  Not only that, but thanks to Mario and Sonic, platformers were among the highest in popularity behind fighting games.  The title began life as a brainchild of Ubisoft creative director Michel Ancel (who is also responsible for cult favorite Beyond Good & Evil) and the then struggling developer/publisher bet the house on his creation and won.  Rayman started life on the Super NES as a two-player title based on various cultural fairy tales and eventually it was decided that the game would receive a cartoon makeover with better animation and subsequent move to the Playstation CD add-on for the SNES (read that story here).  When Nintendo announced the cancellation of both the Playstation and Phillips CD projects Ubisoft wanted to move to the Jaguar thanks to its specs and eventually chose the Sony Playstation as the lead console.  As you can see, the game was already bouncing from console to console.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Shmup Podcast

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Derek from the Playground podcast joins us to talk about the wonderful world of the shoot ’em up (aka “shmup”) and the amazing games that owned his soul over the years.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 4, 2012 at 11:00 am

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April Fools: Best Video Game Industry Pranks

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April Fools Day.  This was probably my favorite holiday growing up because you could be truly cruel and no one would call you on it because you were still a young buck.  Well, as much as we in the video game industry (this includes fans) try to fight the fact that our hobby is seen as child’s play, there’s no reason to believe we wouldn’t run with it.  Here are some of the best (and most cruel) April Fools Day pranks played over the years (and yes, I’m aware they’re all EGM pranks, sue me):

1992 – Sheng Long
It was probably the first or second year that Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) began doing the April Fools Pranks that they introduced the legendary character Sheng Long in Street Fighter II.  The way it came about dealt with the English localization of the arcade game, which changed Ryu’s message after a win from “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch you cannot win!” to “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance!”  See, Ryu’s Dragon Punch is “sheng long” in Chinese and the translators mistook the converted name of the attack for a person.  Since Ryu was supposedly trained by a great karate master, we were to assume that was who Sheng Long was.  Capcom even corrected the mistake in the SNES version, changing the phrase from “Sheng Long” to “Dragon Punch” but the instruction manual explained Sheng Long to be the master of Ken and Ryu.  After that it was only one quick clever plan and EGM had people believing he could be unlocked!  According to the article, you would have to beat all 11 fighters without taking a hit and get 9 draws against M. Bison and you could fight Sheng Long.  Let this be a lesson, if it seems impossible, it is.  It was even funnier when the April Fools Contest appeared just under the article.  Ironically there is speculation that character Akuma was created based on the prank and Capcom has admitted that Gouken from Street Fighter IV is a spiritual version of Sheng Long.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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