Battle Royale: The Last Generation Of An SNES-CD Saga

I know Adventure Time was unfortunately butterflied ITTL but what has Pendleton Ward been up to. Just curious, me and the wife been binging the series once again in preparation for the upcoming special we just found out about.
 
I know Adventure Time was unfortunately butterflied ITTL but what has Pendleton Ward been up to. Just curious, me and the wife been binging the series once again in preparation for the upcoming special we just found out about.
He's doing a cartoon called Hero Quest which has some similarities but isn't nearly as wacky (most of the main characters are human and more down to earth, though the series is still a comedy).
 
He's doing a cartoon called Hero Quest which has some similarities but isn't nearly as wacky (most of the main characters are human and more down to earth, though the series is still a comedy).
So, it kinda resembles the later seasons of Adventure Time, what with it being a mixture of reality and comedy?
 
Spring 2013 (Part 7) - The Rest Of The Games
(Here are the rest of the notable games from April 2013 to June 2013!)
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Apple Virtua:

Dead Midnight: Resurrection

Capcom actually released an Apple-exclusive Dead Midnight game before, in the form of 2011's Dead Midnight: Double Shot, which focused on Damien and Alix and mixed up the series somewhat. It was a commercial disappointment, but critics received it well, and the company immediately decided to try again on the Virtua, this time with a game focused on Raya Mystic, the legendary agent who was killed in a previous title. The game is much the same as Double Shot, with dual wielding third person shooter controls and less of an emphasis on stealth, but with a new coat of graphical polish and a more streamlined main campaign. The game is a prequel (so Raya isn't actually brought back to life in canon), and focused on a mission where she finds herself behind enemy lines, forced to extract a double agent whose loyalty she's unsure of. She eventually finds and rescues him, and falls in love with him, but he betrays her, forcing her to fight her way back to a friendly base. This game features some of the smoothest controls of any Dead Midnight game, and since it's a stand alone title, it isn't caught up in any of the series' convoluted lore. Though it's not a blockbuster like the series used to be, it's a fairly well received game upon its release in June 2013, becoming one of the biggest early hits for the Virtua, with sales significantly exceeding those of Double Shot, and critical reviews in the mid 8s. Dead Midnight continues to slowly crawl its way back to respectability, and Capcom wants to do something with the series, but may need to outsource it to a different studio...

Google Nexus:

Shadowrun Tactics

A sort of compliment to Shadowrun: Archaica released at a budget price on the Nexus, Shadowrun Tactics features the characters and settings of the popular sci-fi series in the frame of an SRPG, comparable to games like the XCOM series. Filled with lore and references to previous works in the franchise, including books, tabletop games, and other video games, Shadowrun Tactics is considered one of the best SRPGs of the year, and at a price of just $19.99 at launch, it's considered a must buy for fans of the franchise, even moreso than Archaica. The biggest disappointment about Shadowrun Tactics is that it's a Nexus exclusive, but it does eventually become playable on any Android device for just $9.99.

Imaginary Friend

A fully 3-D action adventure for the Google Nexus, Imaginary Friend tells the story of a young boy named Jacob who befriends a young girl. Only Jacob can see or hear the girl, whose name is Bethany, and though he's not at all convinced she's real, her arrival coincides with his acquisition of strange powers and some pretty momentous events in Jacob's life. The game's animation technique is a sort of hand-drawn 3-D that gives the game a sort of dream-like feel, making even the mundane seem extraordinary, and it's a technique the game receives heavy praise for. As Jacob explores his town, he opens doors to mysterious realms that the girl guides him through, while events from those realms spill into real world spaces in his school, his town, and his home. His powers include the ability to shoot out energy balls, to switch lights on and off, and a form of limited telekinesis and telepathy. As the game plays out, we learn Jacob and Bethany's life stories, and how interwoven they are with one another. Eventually, Jacob battles a cruel person who has similar powers but stronger, and learns that this person is also talking to a mysterious friend that only he can see or hear. We also learn that Bethany is indeed completely imaginary, and is the result of Jacob's brain trying to cope with his new powers. He manages to defeat the cruel man and dispels all the dangerous and weird things in his town, and finally realizes that he has to let Bethany go in a bittersweet ending. Jacob has managed to make some new friends and improve things with his family, so even though Bethany is gone, she still had a profound effect on Jacob's life. Imaginary Friend is considered one of the year's best Nexus exclusives, praised for its unique story and simple but strong gameplay, and it manages to score excellent sales, both at launch and later on after word of mouth spreads.

Fated To Awaken

The third and final game in the Fated trilogy of action adventure titles comes exclusively to the Google Nexus in 2013. While featuring much of the same action-adventure inspired gameplay as its predecessors, including the use of different weapons and elements in battle and the use of context sensitive attacks in combat, much of the elements of Fated To Fall, including the Metroidvania-style gameplay and the QTEs that seemed to define the previous game are gone. Fated To Awaken is a more linear quest, taking Fate and his friends from world to world, one step behind the galactic conquests of Evincar. The game is slightly less grimdark than its predecessor as well: it starts out fairly dark, but as Fate and his friends rally more of the galaxy to their side, it transforms into a more hopeful, optimistic adventure. The game has received a graphical overhaul, with improved graphics despite the lower budget, thanks to the Nexus' capabilities and the game's more limited scope. There are more boss fights (18 in all) than Fated To Fall, and a more action oriented style of gameplay, with less RPG elements and more beat 'em up elements. The game's voice cast has gotten an overhaul as well. Andrew Garfield, who voiced Fate in the previous game, is now too famous and expensive to hire, and Drake Bell was brought back to voice Fate a second time (he previously voiced him in Fated To Rise). Mae Whitman replaces Susan Chesler as Karina (who does indeed return) while Jason Isaacs returns to voice Evincar. The game itself sees Fate and his surviving friends launching an attack on Evincar and the New Sanctia forces as they try to conquer a new world. They fail to stop the conquest, but gain a valuable new ally in the process in the form of Chana, a soldier who once fought for Evincar but now seeks to join Fate's rebellion, disgusted with her master's actions. From there, Fate and friends continue to fight Evincar across the galaxy, learning that his ultimate goal is to unlock the Sleeping Star at the center of the universe, which grants its holder the power of a god. The only way to stop him, Fate eventually learns, is to restore Karina's essence, as she is still the holder of the Wheel of Destiny, which can seal off the Star. At first, Fate doesn't want to believe he can save Karina, thinking he'll just lose her again, but he eventually regains hope. The game briefly tries to trick the player into thinking that Karina won't be brought back after all, but in the end, Fate uses his own life force to restore Karina to life, and she uses the Wheel of Destiny to keep him alive as well. The two unite with their old and new friends to stop Evincar from getting the Sleeping Star, which instead lends its power to Fate and Karina for the final battle. They defeat Evincar, saving the galaxy at last, and while New Sanctia is destroyed, its people are able to find a new home on a new world crafted for them from the Sleeping Star's power, with Fate and Karina ruling as the benevolent king and queen. Fated To Awaken gets mostly good reviews, though they're worse than those for the last two games, averaging in the low 8s rather than the low 9s. It's criticized for its more linear and simplistic quest progression, but longtime fans enjoy the game and all the fanservice. Sales of Fated To Awaken are fairly disappointing, less than a million overall, but the game manages to make a small profit, and the trilogy itself is fondly remembered by its loyal fans.

Nintendo Connect:

SOCOM: No Easy Day

A squad-based first person shooter for the Connect, SOCOM: No Easy Day is essentially just a SOCOM game optimized for handhelds, with a set of new missions for players to complete either in single-player mode or with friends online. It sees a team of Navy SEALs deployed to four different locations around the world, battling warlords and terrorists and rescuing hostages. It doesn't innovate much from previous games in the series, though it's quite visually impressive for a handheld game, and apart from the single player campaign being a bit short, doesn't do anything truly wrong per se. It's just a solid handheld shooter, and has a decent online community, being one of the games that popularizes the Connect's voice chat client (the Connect has a built in microphone, enabling players to enjoy the voice chat without a headset, though they can certainly use one and that's probably the optimal way to play). Sales are solid, as are reviews, and more handheld SOCOM titles will find their way to the Connect in the next few years.

Forever War

A tactical RPG title mixing elements of games like Valkyria Chronicles, Fire Emblem, and Advance Wars, Forever War is a sort of spiritual successor to the latter (made by the same company) with a more realistic twist and a neat “connectivity” element which allows the player to build armies by connecting the game to different electronic devices. The game is meant for online competitive play but has a robust “career” campaign mode in which the player is able to build up an army by acquiring points and territory in single player missions. Forever War is a very well reviewed game and an excellent new IP launch, eventually selling three million copies across its lifespan.

Apple Gemini:

Mega Man Battle

A sort of Smash Brothers-like game in which various Mega Man characters battle it out in massive, hazard-filled arenas, Mega Man Battle features over 50 different characters from across the franchise, each bringing their own unique weapons and skills to the table. Mega Man and Mega Man X appear, as do characters like Roll, Protoman, Sigma, Cognus, Melody, Vile, Zero, and Bass, and of course there are lots of Mavericks and Robot Masters from across the series, with Capcom picking not just fan favorites but obscure ones as well. The combat is a bit simpler than that of Smash Bros., and not quite as over the top wacky, but the game has its own unique charm, and also includes an extensive single player adventure mode. There's also DLC released later on that will bring 18 new characters to the game, with 6 of them coming free and the remaining twelve released across four different packs with three each. Mega Man Battle is good, simple fun and an homage to the series' history, and most Mega Man fans agree that it's a must buy, making it one of the most popular Gemini titles of the year.

Valkyria Chronicles III

Valkyria Chronicles III comes to the Gemini as an exclusive, being released in Japan in 2012 and getting a Western localization in 2013. It continues somewhat the story of the previous game, taking place a generation after the devastating war that ravaged the continent in Valkyria Chronicles II, and though it mostly features new playable characters, many characters from the last game return, either as NPCs in high ranking positions or as veteran soldiers. Much of the same gameplay systems from the previous game return, and the graphics are pretty much identical to the last game (as the Gemini and iTwin are quite similar in power). However, there are a few new gameplay mechanics present, including the ability to command aerial units in certain situations, the ability to customize weaponry, and a more detailed love/friendship simulation system for characters outside battle, which directly impacts their combat abilities and growth. The game's plot sees the continent recovered from the war, but the old political grudges and loose ends from that war returning with a vengeance to spark a new, more destructive war. General Loxar remains alive and imprisoned, and one army's quest to free him is a major point of conflict for the first two-thirds of the game. Eventually, Loxar is freed by the enemy army, only to be executed by the new villainous commander, Strategus. Strategus, who served as an infantry soldier in the previous war and was badly injured, now holds a grudge against the world for causing his personal pain, and he hopes to use the fires of war to purify those he deems unworthy of life. He eventually manages to conjure up an ancient evil force to amplify his army, making him a threat to the entire world and forcing the allied nations to defeat him. He is eventually defeated and killed in battle, and though some of his former soldiers idolize him, most of the world is glad to see him gone. Valkyria Chronicles III seems to tie up all the loose ends from previous games, and it's implied that the series' plotlines will start fresh in the next game. Reviews and sales for Valkyria Chronicles III are excellent, though the game sells the vast majority of copies in Japan, with North American sales merely decent. The series remains one of Apple's most successful and popular exclusive RPG franchises, and the series is poised to continue on the Gemini, though a possible Virtua installment also can't be ruled out.

Multiplatform:

Profoundly Mystified
(Authors' Note: The following idea was sent to us by the reader Goldwind2!)

Profoundly Mystified is a comedy/satire RPG developed for the Connect and Gemini, with a somewhat similar tone to games such as OTL's Citizens Of Earth. Its protagonist is a gardener who serves a family of snooty nobles to help pay his sister's way through sorcery school. One day, he notices a group of druids trampling his prized plants, and decides to pursue them, hoping to beat them up and turn them in to the authorities. However, the gardener isn't too bright, and is aided in his quest by the son of the snooty noble family and his sorceress sister, along with a few other comedy relief characters who join the quest later on. As the group ventures around the world, they see the druid dancers trampling more plants with their dancing, and become even more determined to stop them, even while getting into other adventures along the way. Eventually, they learn that these dances are actually cult rituals aimed at summoning forth a powerful demon, and the gardener's quest for revenge becomes a quest to save the world (though only the sorceress sister is fully aware of the cultists' plans, with nearly every other playable hero being somewhat dimwitted and oblivious). The game's art style is somewhat of a throwback to classic 16-bit games, though it utilizes full voice acting (from a cast of mostly obscure unknowns and anime dub specialists) and its combat system is fairly modern, a turn-based combat system combining timed hits and combo attacks. It's a very well received game in terms of reviews, averaging solid mid 8s, though sales are fairly low and it's more of a cult classic than anything else. It's still considered one of the best handheld games of the year, pushing out about three times as many copies on the Connect as it does on the Gemini.

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Top Selling New Console Games In North America (in terms of sales over the first four weeks of release):

April 2013:

1. The Avengers (Nintendo Connect)
2. MLB 13 (Google Nexus)
3. MLB 13 (Apple Virtua)
4. SOCOM: No Easy Day (Nintendo Connect)
5. Mega Man Battle (Apple Gemini)

May 2013

1. Prince Of Persia: Parallel Legends (Apple Virtua)
2. Prince Of Persia: Parallel Legends (Google Nexus)
3. Imaginary Friend (Google Nexus)
4. Forever War (Nintendo Connect)
5. Shin Megami Tensei: Lucid (Apple iTwin)

June 2013

1. F-Zero: FIRESTORM (Nintendo Reality)
2. A Song Of Ice And Fire (Google Nexus)
3. Crime Stories: The Written Tragedy (Nintendo Sapphire)
4. Crime Stories: The Written Tragedy (Apple iTwin)
5. Remember Me (Google Nexus)
 
is Make Love, Not Warcraft still made ITTL
Yes.

I should note that WoW is not gonna have a "good end" wrt to my plans for WoW in this timeline. A lot of issues that killed it OTL isn't present TTL and the lore is somewhat more cohersive. However they will make a couple of decisions(the dual expansions thing, starting to do more cliffhangers lore-wise after alt-MoP) that I believe eventually gets milked to death with terrible consequences.
 
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Yes.

I should note that WoW is not gonna have a "good end" wrt to my plans for WoW in this timeline. A lot of issues that killed it OTL isn't present TTL and the lore is somewhat more cohersive. However they will make a couple of decisions(the dual expansions thing, starting to do more cliffhangers lore-wise after alt-MoP) that I believe eventually gets milked to death with terrible consequences.
even a MMORPG the size of WoW a downsizing and loss of subscribers is inevitable, but seems you will do 'thing different but eerie similar' specially i can see blizzard still doing some of their OTL Sins
 
Andrew Garfield, who voiced Fate in the previous game, is now too famous and expensive to hire, and Drake Bell was brought back to voice Fate a second time (he previously voiced him in Fated To Rise). Mae Whitman replaces Susan Chesler as Karina (who does indeed return) while Jason Isaacs returns to voice Evincar.
Wait.......how is Andrew "I only got to play Spider-Man twice before being rebooted" Garfield more expensive than Jason "I can stare down a crazy pissed-off Mel Gibson and still be the evil one" Isaacs????
 
Summer 2013 (Part 1) - Acclaim's Next Phase
Destined 2

Destined 2 is an action/adventure title published by Acclaim for the next-generation consoles. It continues the story established in 2010's hit franchise starting superhero title, and also includes and continues plot elements from the comic books and television series that have been released over the last two years. Like its predecessor, the game puts the player in control of a superhero team who must fight to protect the populace in a world full of turmoil and danger. Destined 2 features similar beat 'em up gameplay to its predecessor, but features a more complex fighting system with more of an emphasis on team battles, with players needing to utilize their NPC teammates in battle to defeat tougher foes. The game also has a wider focus than its predecessor, which spent most of its plot introducing each individual character. Destined 2 has eight chapters, with only two of them used to introduce characters (the game features four new heroes, and the first two chapters introduce two heroes each), with the last six chapters bringing the ten heroes together against a series of dangerous new foes. Destined 2 gives the player considerably more choice about which hero they get to control, and almost expects players to have played the previous game, with much of the skills learned in this game building off the skills available in the previous game. Like Destined, players won't get to upgrade their characters' skills, though they do learn skills when the story calls for it. This is a game defined by its story, though it gives players a bit more freedom than the last game, with certain routing depending on the character chosen. The game is a bit less combat-centric than the original, with characters often needing to infiltrate narrower areas. Stealth is important, but also optional, with players able to eschew stealth if they wish and confront enemies head on (this works best with certain heroes). Destined 2 sees a significant graphical upgrade over its predecessor, though it keeps somewhat of a comic-esque visual style, adding more smoothness and detail to the characters, animations, and backgrounds. It's definitely the best looking game Acclaim has produced to date, especially on the Reality and the Virtua, with the unique visual style noted heavily by critics and fans alike as one of the game's strongest points. The voice cast from the original game, for the most part, returns for this title, with only Nathalie Kelley as Jillian departing from the main cast (she's replaced by Melissa Fumero). There are numerous other prominent voice actors in the game's cast, with David Strathairn voicing Lucent, the government agent in charge of the Superpowered Humans Program and the game's primary antagonist, while the game's four new heroes are also voiced by decently known actors.

Destined 2 takes place three years after the original game. Matt, Sarah, Brazer, Canopa, Jillian, and Arty are now working for the government under the auspices of the Superpowered Humans Program, saving the world from dangerous threats. For the most part, it's an amicable arrangement. The government has so far avoided using superheroes for its own personal business, and treats the heroes under its employ quite well. However, tensions are starting to brew, with numerous superpowered humans rejecting government oversight and going rogue. The six heroes used to meet in secret and train together in case they had to revolt against the government themselves, but stopped doing that after an incident in an issue of the comic, which is referred to numerous times in the game. The first two chapters introduce some of this backstory, but mostly focus on four new superpowered individuals: Vargas (voiced by Max Arciniega), a hotheaded brawler with the ability to form and control metal, Krista (voiced by Tara Strong), a ghostlike girl who can phase in and out of matter but has trouble controlling it, Shadow (voiced by Jason Momoa), a man who can control darkness itself, and Astrid (voiced by Sarah-Nicole Robles), a hyperactive gamer girl who can transform parts of her body into stringy cables. When the game begins, Vargas is a wanted man attempting to free Krista from a government facility, a mission covered in chapter 1 of the game, and after Vargas succeeds, causes the government to crack down heavily on superpowered individuals, no longer seeking to recruit them voluntarily, but to capture them. Shadow and Astrid are two of the people targeted by this program, and their escape is chronicled in chapter 2, in which the two run headlong into the previous game's heroes, leading to somewhat of a brawl. Chapter 3 sees the six original heroes tasked with hunting down Vargas and Krista, a mission they're reluctant about completing. Jillian encounters Krista and befriends her (the two having somewhat similar powers), while Vargas meets Arty and the two end up fighting government agents together, while Astrid joins Matt, Sarah, Brazer, and Canopa on a mission, and despite her overeagerness, manages to succeed and convince the government that she should be allowed to join the team. However, tensions continue to rise, especially after a team of five rogue heroes (the leader of whom, an earth-manipulating superhuman named Marika, is an old girlfriend of Vargas') causes death and destruction at a large gathering of civilians. This leads to another crackdown on superpowered individuals, and after a brawl between Matt's team and Marika's team at the end of chapter four in which three of Marika's friends are killed and she is captured, the government puts all superheroes out of commission except for a select group of them who are tasked with hunting and killing rogue heroes. Matt's team refuses this order, and they become fugitives themselves. Chapter five mostly concerns the team freeing Marika from a government prison, but Marika is too far gone in her hatred of humans and immediately begins killing people as soon as she's freed, leading to more tensions that cause Matt's team to fracture. Chapter six is about a three way war between the government, Marika's faction, and the rogue heroes who want to protect humans but also want to keep their freedom. Chapter seven sees Marika finally defeated, dying in Vargas' arms, while chapter eight has the rogue heroes clashing with Lucent and his augmented superhero mercenaries (who we later find out have had their free will taken away by Lucent and his government scientists' experimentations). The final battle leads to an enormous disaster that Matt and his team have to stop after Lucent is defeated. They save the day and keep the loss of civilian life to a minimum, but after everything that's happened, the people no longer trust superhumans, and Matt and his fellow heroes have to go into exile, though they continue to protect the world from the shadows despite the hatred they get from most people.

Released in early August 2013 for the Nexus, Virtua, and Reality, Destined 2 is the culmination of several years of ancillary material, including DLC for the original Destined game, a full comic series (plus a couple of spinoffs), and a television show still airing on Adult Swim (and will continue to air there until last 2014). It's Acclaim's biggest media franchise by this point, even moreso than Mortal Kombat, and is extremely successful, arguably the most successful multimedia franchise in all of gaming (Thrillseekers' popularity was at its nadir during this time, while Destined's was at its peak). The game itself, though praised for its graphics and storytelling, sees some criticism of its gameplay and pacing. Despite improvements to the combat system, critics and players decry the sometimes repetitive battles, especially a lack of really unique boss fights save for the fights in the last couple chapters. Destined 2 is certainly a flawed game, but not a bad one, and thanks to the popularity of the franchise itself, is still a major financial success and probably one of the biggest games of the year. It comes at a time when Acclaim has been lagging a bit, with Turok on hiatus indefinitely and Mortal Kombat not quite having found the success in its new generation than it did IOTL. Acclaim is also still paying back some of the money it borrowed to acquire its various multimedia franchises, so while Destined 2's success is welcome and helpful, it doesn't completely turn Acclaim's current struggles around, and the company will need more hits if it is to remain one of the most popular gaming companies in the industry.

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Acclaim has enjoyed a big boost this year thanks to the successful release of Destined 2, and on the games front, 2014 looks to be quite strong indeed, with titles such as Acclaimed Champions and the massively hyped Sepulchre on the horizon. Now, rumors are swirling that the company is looking to acquire or merge with another game company, potentially one that could compliment its growing stable of franchised properties and help the company to achieve success in a genre it has yet to explore. Four possible companies have been cited as potential merger targets for Acclaim, and we'll briefly discuss the pros and cons of each one.

Bethesda: Acclaim has been rumored as a potential buyer for Bethesda, primarily known for its Elder Scrolls series of games. The company has been hard at work on a new PC title, Aura Of Authenticity, coming next year, and despite being a fairly small studio, might be a bit too expensive for Acclaim to acquire at this time. However, bringing Elder Scrolls into its fold could give Acclaim a strong RPG franchise, something it's been lacking, and could potentially contribute to the Sepulchre IP should next year's game succeed.

Bioware: Bioware has been fending off acquisitions for years now, and the company has found stable footing with its enormously successful Necrocracy series. However, a potential merger between Bioware and Acclaim has actually been bandied about before, around the time of the release of Necrocracy 2. Instead, Acclaim acquired Dark Horse to expand its multimedia footprint, but acquiring Bioware or merging with them could accomplish for Acclaim several of the goals it could accomplish by gobbling up Bethesda, and with arguably a much more popular franchise.

Eidos: Acclaim and Eidos is perhaps the most likely merger of the four rumored ones to take place, as Acclaim and Eidos have worked together before on a series of Tomb Raider comics published by what was once Dark Horse. There's also the rumors swirling about Lara Croft showing up in Acclaimed Champions... could the announcement of an Acclaim/Eidos merger be accompanied by the announcement that Lara Croft is coming to Acclaim's 2014 crossover fighting fest? Acclaim and Eidos seem like they'd be a match made in heaven, and we could see this one announced by the end of the year.

Psygnosis: Psygnosis is PROBABLY too big for Acclaim to acquire at this time (Microsoft recently had to jettison them to recover money after the Xbox 2's failure), but a 50/50 merger between the companies isn't out of the question. Psygnosis' coffers are flush with all that Cyberwar money, and the company appears to be majorly on the rise, announcing several new IPs for the next few years. Seeing Cyberwar crossover with other Acclaim properties would be a real treat, and we'd love to see some Netizen X comics. There's also the rumor of a potential three-way merger between Acclaim/Eidos/Psygnosis to form a massive gaming conglomerate, but we doubt something like that would happen, and if it did, it would likely mean the selling off or burial of a lot of low-performing IPs, something no self respecting gaming should want.

Acclaim's fortunes are on a bit of a downward slope at the moment, but it's not a very steep slope, and with the success of Destined 2, the company is likely to rebound by next year. A risky merger may be something Acclaim wants to avoid, but if it would prove advantageous in the long run, we could see the company take on a drastically new identity in the next few years. Though there's a bit of truth to the Eidos rumors, any whispers of Acclaim acquiring any other company, at least at this time, are just that, rumors. In the meantime, as much as we love crossovers, we also like to see lots of competition in the game industry. Ubisoft's acquisition of Konami's gaming IPs generated big headlines, but also saw the end of an iconic gaming company as we know it, and another big merger would just shrink the number of game companies even further. For now, let's hope that all five of these companies stay independent and all of them continue to make great games for the systems we love to play.

-from an article on Games Over Matter, posted on September 2, 2013
 
Summer 2013 (Part 2) - Super Mario RPG: Visions Of The Psychic Prince
Super Mario RPG: Visions Of The Psychic Prince
(Authors' Note: The idea for the Prince Cream character was given to us by the reader Andrew Boyd!)

Super Mario RPG: Visions Of The Psychic Prince is a turn-based RPG for the Nintendo Reality. The game has a somewhat strange development team: it's developed by Camelot, the team behind the last console-based Mario RPG title (The Mysterious Machine) along with Super Peach RPG, but with contributions from an offshoot team from Squaresoft, which collaborated with Nintendo on certain aspects of the game. It's the first proper console Mario RPG title in seven years, originally conceived for the Sapphire but then brought to the Reality, which allowed the team to widen the scope of the game and polish up the unique storybook graphical style. The game features gameplay that's quite similar to the original Super Mario RPG, with action commands, combo attacks, and timed hits and defense in battle. This time, the playable party expands to four characters, out of a total of eight playable characters in the game, which include Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Wario, and Geno, along with two new original characters: Talana, a bodyguard who serves Prince Cream, who joins the party to atone for his abduction, and Wuggles, a friendly Wiggler who will eventually turn into a butterfly. Mario and Luigi are sort of the jack of all trades characters, decent at attack, with Mario being bulkier and Luigi having more speed, and the two having the best combos in the game. Peach is a healer, while Daisy utilizes a mix of physical attacks and offensive magic. Wario is big, bulky, and slow, Geno is good at both attacks and stat buffs, Talana is a fast physical attacker who's somewhat frail, and Wuggles utilizes a mix of monster specials and offensive magic. The titular Prince Cream plays an important role in the game's plot and also in combat. Though he doesn't fight, he's able to predict the future and use ESP attacks on enemies that can help set up combos, and using Prince Cream to the fullest is the key to winning tough battles. Cream can grant multiple timed hits, enhance spell attacks, and even help dodge big attacks. After he's kidnapped, he's still able to provide limited outside support to Mario and friends, helping them find treasures and secrets, and eventually he's even able to help out in battle again as well. Though Cream spends much of the game in captivity, he remains in communication with Mario and friends most of the time, and his backstory and powers are critical to understanding the game's primary quest and also critical to getting the most out of the game's characters. Mario and his friends traverse the world via a map screen much like the one in the original Super Mario RPG, with a map divided into eight zones, and towns, dungeons, and points of interest located on the map and able to be selected as they're opened up and explored. The game also has elements of platforming, with Mario able to run and jump within areas much like he can in a classic Mario game. There's even a few minigames, and some of those use the VR functions of the Reality, which otherwise don't see any use in the game. Though Super Mario RPG: Visions Of The Psychic Prince is a traditional JRPG, the Reality's advanced graphics make it one of the best looking console games to date thanks to its timeless graphical style. Characters and backgrounds pop in full 3-D visuals, with cartoony animations and vivid special effects. Every character in the game, save for Mario, Luigi, and Bowser, is fully voiced, though the game doesn't feature a huge amount of spoken dialogue compared to other RPGs. Charles Martinet voices Mario, Luigi, and Wario (with Mario and Luigi having some spoken lines but mostly their traditional grunts and yells) and Wario having a decent amount of dialogue. Most of the game's other voice actors come from the Los Angeles area, but Nintendo casts mostly obscure actors rather than voiceover regulars. Yoko Shimamura returns to compose the game's score, which is mostly original but does include some Mario and Final Fantasy throwbacks.

The game is divided into eight chapters, much like Super Peach RPG. The primary antagonist of the game is Bowser and his powerful Koopa Army, aided by the wizard Kamek. However, a wrench is thrown into things beginning in chapter two, with the attack of the Starchasers, a mysterious organization of spacefarers who come to the Mushroom Kingdom seeking Prince Cream, whose powers are said to be extremely dangerous. The Starchasers consists of seven warriors, each corresponding to a different color: Starchaser Red, Starchaser Orange, Starchaser Yellow, Starchaser Green, Starchaser Violet, Starchaser Silver, and Starchaser Gold. We later learn that Geno was once Starchaser Blue, and Starchaser Indigo was tragically killed in an incident sometime after the events of the original Super Mario RPG but before the events of this game. Six of the Starchasers are male, while three (Violet, Silver, and Indigo) are women. The game begins with Mario and Luigi, along with Peach and Daisy, enjoying a picnic together, only for Bowser to once again attempt to kidnap Peach. However, the kidnapping is prevented by a mysterious vision from an unknown person (who later turns out to be Prince Cream), and though Peach and Daisy are separated from Mario and Luigi, the kidnapping is averted. Mario and Luigi eventually meet Prince Cream, a boy who looks a lot like Kid Link, with a button nose, strawberry blonde hair, and a royal blue outfit which features blue trousers, a sash along Cream's right shoulder, with a silver, spade-shaped emblem with an emerald in the middle. Cream (along with his bodyguard Talana) introduces himself to Mario and Luigi and says that a great evil is coming, and he's able to help them find Peach, who is trapped in a maze with a dangerous giant Monty Mole who ends up teaming with Kamek to be the final boss of chapter one. Mario and Luigi reunite with Peach, and the three team up to stop Bowser's invading army as Cream helps them out. The plot thickens in Chapter Two, which sees the arrival of the mysterious Starchasers, as well as Geno, who teams up with Mario, Luigi, and Peach, while the three of them also get to know Cream better. The final battle of chapter two is against Starchaser Yellow, who manages to slightly wound Cream in an attempt to assassinate him. In the chaos of the battle, Cream is abducted by Kamek, forcing the Mario Brothers and their allies to go after him. Chapter three sees Peach and Daisy reunite, and Talana joins the party as well after a battle against Mario and friends (blaming them for Cream's abduction). Bowser and his minions force Cream to use his powers to aid them, but Cream is also able to aid Mario and friends in a few small ways. Chapter three also sees the Starchasers Red and Violet temporarily aid Mario and friends in their quest. However, in chapter four, we meet Starchaser Gold, who is much more hostile, and Starchaser Silver, whose loyalties are conflicted. Chapter four primarily takes place in a big forest, and sees Wuggles join up with the team. Starchaser Green battles the team near the end of this chapter, while Cream manages to escape Bowser's clutches. Cream escapes to a big factory city, in which much of chapter five's action takes place. Chapter five sees Mario clashing with Wario, who also wants to use Cream's powers (mostly to predict the results of sporting events so he can bet on them), while Starchasers Green and Violet try to catch Cream as well. Wario eventually joins with Mario, and the final battle of this chapter is a fight against Starchasers Green and Violet, one of the toughest boss fights in the game so far. Lots of things happen in chapter six, including the revelation that Cream is Peach's long lost younger brother, while we learn of Geno's troubled past with the Starchasers and that he and Indigo were once an item, while we also learn that Starchaser Silver harbors a crush on Geno. Wuggles transforms into a butterfly toward the end of this chapter, while Kamek calls forth an ancient monster to do battle with the heroes in a massive multi-part boss fight. In the end, Cream returns to Bowser to save his sister from being zapped by Kamek. Chapter seven is somewhat less eventful in terms of story, and mostly features a series of battles between the Starchasers and Bowser's army across Star Road, while Mario and friends traverse dungeons in an effort to find Cream. We get more Geno/Silver/Gold backstory here, and the final battle of this chapter is a clash between the team and Starchaser Red, which sees Geno recover his full memories. To kick off Chapter Eight, we get a cutscene in which Cream is forcefully placed inside a giant power armor suit driven by Bowser, which Bowser then uses to launch his final assault on the Mushroom Kingdom. Starchaser Silver turns on Gold to help the heroes, and we learn that the Starchasers are in pursuit of Cream because Cream's powers directly led to Starchaser Indigo being killed after one of Cream's predictions turned out to be false. Gold believes that Cream is using his powers to benefit only himself, and that he's a menace to the universe because of this, while Silver believes that Cream made a mistake because he's a child and because he was afraid. Silver also believes that Gold might intend to use Cream's powers for himself. She promises to help Mario and friends stop Bowser, but first they must go through Kamek, who is commanding Bowser's entire army. They fight across Bowser's Battlefield and defeat Kamek, then pursue Bowser to the top of his castle. Along the way, however, Silver decides to kill Cream, both to stop Gold's plans and to stop Bowser, and Peach and Silver get into a fierce one on one fight before Silver taps into her Starchaser powers and beats Peach back, forcing the rest of the heroes to intervene in a bittersweet boss fight. Silver declares her love for Geno before dying, and finally, Mario and friends make it to the final battle against Bowser. The first phase of the fight sees Bowser utilizing Cream's help to attack the heroes, but Peach is able to shatter the mechanism containing Cream after Bowser takes a set amount of damage. Bowser seems thwarted, only for Kamek to return and give him a magical boost, amping him up with a super magic wand for the second phase of the fight. Once the heroes finally defeat Bowser, Cream panics, as Starchaser Gold is about to level the castle with a weapon from space. Bowser's castle is nuked from orbit, but thanks to Cream's prediction and Geno's powers, everyone makes a full escape. Then, they head up to Starchaser Gold's orbital base and confront him for the final battle, which also takes on two phases: first, a straight up fight against Starchaser Gold himself, then a fight against Starchaser Omega, what Gold becomes after he absorbs the essences of his fallen companions. Starchaser Omega is defeated, ending the threat to the Mushroom Kingdom once and for all. After the fight, Bowser laments his destroyed castle, promising to rebuild and vowing revenge on the Mario Brothers. Peach and the others say their goodbyes to Prince Cream, who decides to head back to his own kingdom with Talana, but promises to visit again. Wario tries to kidnap Prince Cream for himself, but is beaten up by Talana before he can do so. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Daisy finally enjoy some relaxation time. Geno returns to his world, but not before paying a solemn tribute to his fallen comrades, even Starchaser Gold.

Super Mario RPG: Visions Of The Psychic Prince is released worldwide in September 2013 for the Nintendo Reality. The game achieves some of the best reviews ever for a Super Mario RPG game, averaging in the low to mid 9s. Critics praise the game's epic scale, its beautiful graphic style, its battle gameplay, and its thematic strength, and the game is considered to be an instant classic and probably the second best game on the Reality thus far behind F-Zero: FIRESTORM. It achieves strong sales as well, far outstripping sales of The Mysterious Machine and ultimately achieving the best sales of any Super Mario RPG title ever, even more than the original SNES-CD game. Though it's not a full fledged platformer, it does satisfy the appetites of many hoping to play a Mario game on the Reality, and also satisfies RPG fans who likely won't be able to play a Final Fantasy game on the system until Final Fantasy Online II launches. As for Prince Cream, he becomes a popular character almost immediately, and would begin appearing in spinoff titles like Mario Party and the various Mario sports games, but it would be some time (if ever) before he'd appear in another RPG or a proper Mario platformer, with the game's developers calling him a "one off". Fan outcry, however, might change that in the future...
 
By the way, I was thinking I'd say a few things for those who remember and liked my Norfolk Southern Steam ideas. Specifically, I was thinking what I would have changed if I found the TL earlier.

Of anyone cares to hear them here, I can share what I would have done differently if I started contributing during the Player Two Start era.
 
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