Just a friendly reminder that I am also writing for Gambitcon.com and have been posting there during and after last week’s E3 convention. I will return here with some more long-form pieces, but for now, please head over to Gambitcon.com and have a read.
The crazy thing about the news and hype swirling around Fallout 4 is that even though Bethesda had pulled the curtain back on a very detailed trailer less than two weeks ago, they still managed to surprise. The words I am about to write don’t really hold a lot of weight on the millions of fans who are salivating to get back into the wasteland, but Fallout 4 encapsulates so much of what Bethesda does well.
It’s not just the open world brilliance or the clever collector’s edition Pip-Boy. It’s the fact that they have been hard at work on this game since they wrapped Fallout 3. Keep in mind that they churned out a bonafide all-time great game in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in the midst of their development cycle. Everything that they learned through breathing new life into the Fallout franchise in Fallout 3, in what Obsidian accomplished with the surprisingly stellar spin-off Fallout: New Vegas and refining their signature world building in Skyrim appears to be melding beautifully in Fallout 4.
Set in the Commonwealth, a post apocalyptic Boston, Fallout 4 takes the framework of Fallout 3’s Capitol Wasteland and expands it with true to life landmarks, fleshed out neighborhoods and a much larger variety of environments compared to its predecessor. The color palette, already a noted improvement from the drab greenish grey of Fallout 3 or the burnt tans of New Vegas, is lush and thoughtful, from the bright colors of the pre-war era, to the golden dome of the State House. It is far and away the most vibrant Fallout game to date.
Fallout certainly starts with the world that they build around it, but the story is the focused core. We already know a ton about the experiments that were conducted in the vaults after Fallout 3. So where does Vault 111 fit into this? How are you the only survivor of the vault? Why are you only emerging now, 200 years after the bombs originally fell.
And there it is, the element that will set Fallout 4 apart from the series. You aren’t a vault member tasked with saving a vault. You’re not the chosen one sent out to save a village. You are not the lone wanderer, exiled from your only home on a quest to find your father. You aren’t a courier, delivering a package, and taking over a corrupted city in the process. So who are you? You are the survivor. A link to the world of Fallout before the vaults, before the radiation. It is a dynamic that will bring a new addition to the Fallout universe, a sense of direction beyond the framework of the overarching quest. You have a story to tell, a mystery to unravel.
Where Fallout 3 relied heavily on NPCs as the storytelling crutch, adding vocal work to the protagonist is a big deal for a franchise known for its silent heroes. The voice is as important as the gameplay supporting this entry. From the return of VATS to the ever expanding customization options. Not only can you customize your entire arsenal and armor load out, you can build entire towns for you to thrive in. By allowing town building, it creates a new dynamic by which is genuinely Fallout at its core. All the inhabitants of the wasteland are survivors. Survivors that needed to work with each other to survive.
Everything that Bethesda has laid out before them, in the framework of all of their games. Is the idea of building towards a purpose. Fallout 4 truly captures that mentality and focus as we get ready to return to the wasteland.
To say that Japanese game development has been a letdown would be underselling it. The once bastion of brilliant original games had become lost in mediocrity, reliving exhausted tropes and dated mechanics. Games stuck in development purgatory as they never seemed to fully grasp how to actually build a game in a world filled with ballooning budgets, massive sales expectations and technology that managed to make the once thoughtful and artistic look dull and boring.
Rather than take risks, Japan became a nation filled with companies who were afraid to gamble, afraid to put themselves out there to recapture the illustrious magic that brought us all into gaming in the first place. With smart phones and tablets threatening to kill the home console we have seen names like Capcom teeter on the brink of oblivion, Konami give up on console development and Square Enix look west.
But then a trend developed. Brave developers soldiered on without their companies. Keiji Inafune brought Comcept to the forefront with Mighty No. 9. Koji Igarashi smashed through crowd-funding ceilings with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. And Sony brought life to the classics that made Japan the Mecca of gaming.
Three vastly unique games, each with their own story of development turmoil. One mired in mystery and cryptic messages, with many wondering if it would ever see the light of day. Another a standout classic of one of the most famed franchises of all time. And the last the concluding chapter to a game that the entire world had written off.
It was a simple, calculated move that ended up being a perfect storm for Sony. One that Microsoft never saw coming.
The tone was set early today with Microsoft’s frenetic whirlwind of a E3 presentation that had many feeling invigorated by their renewed focus on core gaming. They hit as hard as they could with refined peripherals, backwards compatibility, not to mention a pair of Xbox standards in Halo 5 and Gears 4.
But Sony didn’t even blink. They managed to trot out the games that everybody knew about in No Man’s Sky and Uncharted 4. They turned a few heads with Horizon: Zero Dawn. But by recommitting to Japanese development, they are going back to what made the PS2 a standout purchase.
We are still a ways off to see how these investments pay off with The Last Guardian due next year and no solid date for the Final Fantasy VII remake. Shenmue III, while a glorious undertaking, will need to pass the public barometer of Kickstarter (a place where it is currently blowing past records) and is projected to release no earlier than 2017.
But the proof is out there that Sony is supporting these projects openly. The Last Guardian is an in-house exclusive. Final Fantasy VII will arrive first on the PlayStation 4, as will Shenmue III when its development finally concludes. Pair Sony’s bombshell announcements with their support of Street Fighter V and the pending releases of Metal Gear Solid V, Final Fantasy XV, the Kickstarter projects of Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained and all of the work Nintendo is doing, it appears that Japan has finally recaptured the magic .
Super Smash Bros. is getting another pair of combatants in the form of Ryu from Street Fighter and Roy from Fire Emblem. The news of the pairs addition had been leaked yesterday after the update was mistakenly made available and introduction videos were mined out of the information. This also stands in line with a leak in April after theme songs were found in a 3DS update to Super Smash Bros. Ryu and Roy are available now in the form of DLC for both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game.
Nintendo made the announcement as part of a Super Smash Bros. related video that they uploaded as part of their constant stream of E3 related coverage. Ryu is making his Smash debut while Roy is returning after his lone appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Ryu’s moveset will be updated to the more simplistic Smash controls and he will surely have his Hadoken and Shoryuken in his arsenal. Roy’s flame sword will return as he joins the crowded sword-based fighters of the Fire Emblem series.
Ryu will also be receiving a Smash remixed version of his classic Suzaku Castle stage along with remixed music based on his theme as well as the theme of his lifelong friend and rival Ken.
The update also includes a slew of costumes to the customizable Mii Fighters including Mega Man, Isabelle from Animal Crossing, Splatoon’s Inklings and Heihachi Mishima from Tekken.
Roy and the previously announced Lucas are available now for $3.99 each or for $4.99 each for versions on both the Wii U and 3DS. Ryu will be packaged with his Suzaku Castle stage and will be priced at $5.99 for a single version or $6.99 for both versions.
The next entry in the cult favorite first person parkour inspired action series Mirror’s Edge will be named Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and will not be a sequel to the 2008 original. Confirmed by an announcement made by Electronic Arts following the leaked trademark filing for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, DICE producer Sara Jannson confirmed the title and the relation of the 2016 game to its predecessor.
“This is not a sequel, this is not Mirror’s Edge 2. We have landed on a vision that honors the first game — pushing the boundaries of first person movement and diving deeper into the story behind our heroine Faith — but also brings a lot of great new, interesting gameplay and features to the experience for our players.” – Sara Jannson, Producer, DICE
The use of the subtitle Catalyst confirms much of the speculation that this Mirror’s Edge game would be a prequel, especially based on the E3 2013 trailer that showed series protagonist Faith getting her trademark digital tattoos on her arm along with developer statements focusing the game on the building blocks that made Faith. I think that a prequel is the right way to go because of the way that the original Mirror’s Edge unfolded, especially with the fairly open ending that had Faith and her sister Kate on the run from the government’s Project Icarus.
While we know where Faith ended up and are curious about her next chapter, explaining her origin is just as interesting. Faith, as a character was one of the more beloved identities of last generation, despite only appearing in one game where not much is known about her background. The idea of her becoming a runner, to becoming a part of the counter culture that essentially rebelled against the government’s constant surveillance is a story that can bring new audiences up to speed with the world and potentially set the tone for a true follow up to Mirror’s Edge.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has been targeted for an early 2016 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Rumor has it that Sony’s Japan Studio will they/won’t they project The Last Guardian will be making an appearance at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo according to a report issued by The Guardian.
I’m going to stop the actual reporting there because, honestly, there is nothing to report here. The Last Guardian’s tumultuous history is incredibly well documented, so much so that Sony had let the trademark of the game lapse twice. Trademark deadline mishaps aside, while many want Japan Studio’s follow up to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to be an amazing fantasy epic, they are unfortunately at the mercy of rumors and leaks. They may want to take their time in developing a game that could be amazing, but keep in mind the conceptual work of The Last Guardian began in the PlayStation 2 era.
We are well beyond the point in time that Japan Studio can ignore the outside noise and remain hidden in the dark on The Last Guardian. All we really know is that the game was supposed to come out on the PlayStation 3, it has a boy, it has a griffin, it is kinda shiny. Or maybe those statements are all “was” statements.
I guess we’ll find out in a week.
Nathan Drake will be making his PlayStation 4 debut on October 9, just not in Uncharted 4. Naughty Dog Studios is putting together a 1080p remastered collection of the original three Uncharted titles in a collection dubbed Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. It will contain Full-HD remasters of the PlayStation 3 entries of Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception. Purchasing the Nathan Drake Collection also provides access to the Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta.
Leaked in part to an internal error that had a listing appear on the PlayStation Store, Uncharted was probably the most likely candidate for an HD remaster, especially after the strong reception of Naughty Dog’s last game and subsequent remaster, The Last Of Us.
Uncharted was a powerhouse of a game visually, that managed to combine great animation and set pieces amongst terrific action directing. While the gameplay left a little to be desired with rooms full of swarming enemies, Uncharted was the definitive game of the PlayStation 3 and one of my personal favorites of last generation. A graphical fidelity upgrade from 720p to 1080p will certainly be welcome but it will be interesting to see if some of the mechanics are ironed out when they work on fine tuning the game. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune certainly has aged the poorest of the three with clumsy shooting controls and awkward pacing at times.
The delay of Uncharted 4 into 2016 was one of the things that has kept me from purchasing a PS4 to this point. Maybe the idea of playing the first three titles again is enough to stave off Sony fans that are hungry for a solid console exclusive.
I’m trying not to read too much into the way that they are naming this collection as well. Titling the trio of games the Nathan Drake Collection is eyebrow raising with many wondering if A Thief’s End will permanently shut the door on Nathan Drake and introduce a new protagonist/antagonist. To me the Uncharted franchise ties into the charisma of Nathan Drake’s character, so moving away from Drake as the lead is hard for me to see past.