All Aboard The Battle Bus
  • (Author's Note: For all intents and purposes, this is to be treated as Massively Multiplayer: Gaming In The New Millennium. Massively Multiplayer has won its Turtledove, and this shouldn't be considered a new timeline for those purposes. We hit the 10,000 post limit and that's why this topic is going up, I'm just naming it something different because it sounds cooler than "Massively Multiplayer (Part 2)".)


    Welcome to Battle Royale: The Last Generation Of An SNES-CD Saga! This thread is a continuation of the previous stories, Player Two Start: An SNES-CD Timeline and Massively Multiplayer: Gaming In The New Millennium! Those can be found here:

    Player Two Start:
    Massively Multiplayer:

    This timeline is an attempt to answer the question: “What if Nintendo and Sony had decided to work together in the video game business?” The POD is in 1991, just before Nintendo was set to go behind Sony's back and strike another deal to create a CD-ROM console with Philips. This timeline is video game focused, but with ramifications for pop culture, sports, politics, business, and beyond.

    Player Two Start covered 1991 through 2000, Massively Multiplayer covered 2000 through 2012, and Battle Royale starts in 2012 and has a definitive end period: Spring 2021, just before E3 (assuming E3 still exists in TTL's 2021). At the current pace of updates, that should be right around when our timeline and this timeline meet, barring stoppages for major RL events.

    I'm not going to do a full recap for this topic like I did for Massively Multiplayer, but here's a quick "on the last episode"-type summary to remind readers where we're at.

    It's the fall of 2012. Google has just launched their first ever home gaming console with the help of Samsung, called the Google Nexus. Apple, which purchased Sega's gaming division in 2003, is planning to launch their eighth generation console, the Apple Virtua, in March 2013, while Nintendo (still collaborating with Sony on hardware production after two decades of working together) is set to launch the Reality later that year. The last few big seventh generation games are about to be released as the next generation is set to get underway. Apple and Nintendo have battled it out fiercely, with both of their seventh-generation consoles selling over 100 million units, while Google is hoping to succeed where Microsoft failed (though the Xbox line was successful for a time) by creating a true third competitor to the two companies' dominance over the gaming market.

    This thread will feature the same format as Massively Multiplayer: small updates, mostly focused on certain games, covering a three-month period at a time in chunks of 10-12 updates per quarter. The individual game updates may start to taper off as the timeline progresses, in favor of covering more general industry and pop culture news, but for the foreseeable future (2012-2014), I'll be continuing with the previous topic's format.


    November 7, 2012

    It was the day after the 2012 United States presidential election. Jon Huntsman, Jr. had won a second term in office, but Satoru Iwata, sitting in his office in Kyoto, Japan, cared little for that at the moment. He was instead reading the first sales reports to trickle out about Google's new gaming console, the Nexus. The Nexus had enjoyed a successful launch, with a million units sold worldwide in the first week. They would be a formidable competitor, though they weren't quite on the same level as Nintendo or Apple.

    "Google has created an interesting console," said Iwata to some of his colleagues, as they too studied the latest sales figures. "The Covenant is still a very popular game, and people seem to be having a lot of fun with Forza as well."

    "Those were two of the Xbox's most popular games, right?" asked one of Iwata's subordinates. Iwata nodded.

    "Google managed to convince Microsoft to give them exclusivity over certain select properties," said Iwata, who had been a bit disappointed that Microsoft hadn't at least offered Nintendo the right to put a Covenant game on the Reality, though he knew that the series wouldn't sell as well as many of Nintendo's most popular titles. "Actually, my favorite game on the Nexus is Combo Smashers. It's very fun, and I could see it pushing sales for them later on, especially among families. It's a puzzle game, a very bright and colorful one. It's not violent, and unlike a mobile puzzle game, one isn't required to make any additional purchases to play. Google was smart to make so many copies available for free."

    Iwata knew that Nintendo had its World Of Color series, though that franchise had faded from prominence in recent years, and was no longer a system seller as it had been during the late 90s and early 2000s. He knew of a World Of Color game in early development for the Reality that would likely be available in 2014, some time after the console's release, but it too would be unlikely to move consoles. He'd pondered ideas for puzzle games on his own, and had asked Gunpei Yokoi to help develop one for the Reality, though Yokoi had his own idea for what would be his last game, and Iwata didn't want to ask his old friend to develop something that he didn't feel truly passionate about.

    "We could try another Pokemon puzzle game," said another of Iwata's subordinates. "We could ask Game Freak if they're up for it, they may have extra time since that American company is helping them to develop the next game in the series."

    "No, I think any puzzle game we developed for the Reality would have to be an original one," said Iwata. "Remember, the best puzzle games are simple. Think about Tetris. Think about how fun it still is after all these years. Unless it's something that can challenge Tetris, it won't be something that will sell consoles."

    Iwata decided to change the subject. While Google's Nexus launch was a successful one, it wasn't big enough to be a serious challenge to Nintendo, at least right away, and if Google did prove to be a threat later on, Nintendo would need something more than a puzzle game to challenge it.

    "We need to focus on how we can best show off the strengths of the Reality. We have the right line-up of games to demonstrate its power, but showing off the virtual reality applications of the new console will be more difficult. Make sure our software partners are working toward making VR fun."

    Iwata knew that games didn't need virtual reality to be fun. After all, he himself had just said that Tetris was still a fun game to play, and it was one of the most simple games around. However, VR would separate Nintendo in a market that was rapidly changing. Iwata knew that making fun games should be good enough. He just didn't know if it would be.

    It was his job to make sure it would.


    Across the ocean, where it was still November 6, 2012, Steve Jobs was at a Silicon Valley party. Some of his colleagues were celebrating Huntsman's re-election, others were lamenting it, but Jobs himself knew it didn't make much difference who won, at least to him. Huntsman had put more money in his pocket, but Jobs had made plenty of money under 16 years of Democrats as well, and whoever had won, he planned to make a lot more.

    He too was well aware of Google's entry into the console wars and the moderately successful Nexus launch. His mentality about the Nexus was much more apathetic: "I've been competing against Google in just about everything else, why not in games too?" He saw Nintendo as the bigger threat, and knew that the Reality was a force to be reckoned with. Even without motion controls (yet), the idea of VR gaming was something that Jobs wanted to pioneer, though he knew the Virtua wasn't quite powerful enough to accomplish the kind of VR that Nintendo was pushing.

    He knew it wasn't. He'd tested it.

    The fact that the Reality was capable of VR gaming meant one of two things: either Nintendo was attempting to push out really shitty VR (something Steve Jobs knew was nearly impossible, in what reality would Nintendo ever willingly release a bad VR product?), or the Reality was more powerful than the Virtua (ding ding ding).

    He didn't mind the Reality being a more powerful console. The iTwin had been significantly less powerful than the Sapphire, and it had still managed to sell more units. It seemed, at least from early preview footage, that Apple had at least closed the gap somewhat, and the Virtua was at the very least more powerful than the Nexus (and $200 more expensive, which, again, Jobs didn't mind because he knew it would still sell).

    He did mind the Reality beating the Virtua to market in VR. He thought VR was ninth generation tech, not eighth. Had he known Nintendo was going to beat him to market on VR, he might well have delayed the Virtua until 2014. It was too late for that now, but Jobs was still fuming, though his colleagues didn't know whether that scowl on his face was because of something specific or just the same scowl Jobs seemed to carry on his face all the time.

    "Jesus, man, for somebody that beat pancreatic cancer, you sure are pissed off."

    Jobs looked up to see who was talking to him. It was Steve Wozniak, and Jobs couldn't help but give a small smirk at seeing his old friend trying to cheer him up.

    "You saw it, right? Nintendo's got VR."

    "Yeah, so? How good can it be early on?"

    "Looked pretty good from here," said Jobs, taking a sip from his drink. "You know Nintendo wouldn't bring shitty VR to market."

    "Maybe not shitty, but maybe not great either. Plus, they don't have full motion controls, they have these weird grip things, it's not like the Virtua with full range of motion."

    Jobs had been considering a solution for the Virtua similar to what he'd done with the iPod Play and the iPhone, with successive Virtua models released a couple of years apart from one another. However, it would be a tricky proposition for a console. He risked splitting the player base if he released a Virtua 2.0 with exclusive games. It worked for mobile devices, but trying it for consoles might risk an issue like Sega used to have with their old consoles: add-ons and expensive devices that certain games required. Nintendo had pulled it off with the SNES-CD, but only because the SNES-CD had supplanted the SNES completely. A "Virtua VR" console released in 2015 could work, or it could sink Apple in the next round of the console wars and let Nintendo or god forbid, Google get ahead.

    "Now when we do VR, it'll look like we copied Nintendo," said Jobs.

    "Great minds just think alike," said Wozniak, shrugging his shoulders. "Cheer up, you're still going to launch the Virtua first, by a few months at least. You'll have a head start again, and people are already excited for it. I know I am."

    "Think you'll be able to play the games?" asked Jobs.

    "Are you calling me old?"

    The two men shared a laugh, and continued to talk and drink together, enjoying the party even as Jobs kept thinking about Nintendo and their new console. Apple was still at the top of the gaming market, and between their game consoles, their computers, and the iPhone, the company that the two men had founded together was still the most important technology company in the world. They were beating Nintendo in gaming. They were beating Google in everything else, and now in gaming too.

    Steve Jobs had already won the fight of his life.

    He was ready for another.
    Fall 2012 (Part 2) - Mystic 2
  • Mystic 2

    Mystic 2 is a cinematic adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony exclusively for the Nintendo Sapphire. Like its predecessor, Mystic 2 is much like OTL's Uncharted series of games, with big, epic worlds and characters portrayed by actors in motion capture suits to create cinematic cutscenes. Coming just a little more than a year after Tales Of The Seven Seas: Horizon, Mystic 2 features a lower budget than that title and the original game. It was created in large part because of the original's success, and Naughty Dog didn't want to spend more money on Mystic 2 than was necessary, creating a game that has a slightly smaller scale, re-using some assets, and generally telling a more intimate story. Despite that, the title is still full of adventure, epic twists and turns, and emotional character moments, with many of the same elements that were so well received in the original. It takes place a few years after the events of the original game, with Oridae magic merged with ancient human technology to eliminate the blight that once threatened the Oridae civilization and allowing their race to expand out over the old Earth, creating new technology while utilizing the old. However, all of this new activity has stirred up a forgotten group of humans who somehow survived, un-evolved since the days of the old apocalypse, and now seeking to use their technology to retake what they have lost. At the same time, the game also features a number of other human evolutionary branches and lost civilizations, each looking to reclaim the world for themselves while protecting what they already have. While Luma and Lake return as playable protagonists, and numerous minor characters return, there are also many new characters, including a brand new protagonist named Keta (voiced and motion captured by young actor Avan Jogia). Keta is a wandering traveler unconnected to Luma and Lake, and his journey forms the main crux of the story, with Luma and Lake's adventures playing a more tertiary role. Keta's journey is considerably inspired by the classic novel Gulliver's Travels, and he and the other protagonists will experience similar trials to Gulliver's adventure, visiting four separate civilizations based heavily on the lands of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, and the Land of the Houyhnhnms, civilizations which exist in the shadow of the rapidly expanding Oridae. The gameplay of Mystic 2 is very similar to that of the original, with characters exhibiting realistic, Uncharted-like body movements (the Oridae, despite their plant fairy-esque appearance, are unmistakably humanoid). Characters can utilize both melee attacks and ranged weaponry, and all three protagonists have their own set of special powers (Luma's are obviously the most powerful, but each of the three specializes in their own different branch of powers). There are far less human-like enemies in Mystic 2 than in the original title, with more beast-like creatures and animals, including insect-like creatures and giant creatures resembling mammalian dinosaurs. There are also more humanoid enemies who possess special powers, making them especially dangerous and making humanoid enemies usually to be feared, rather than the waves of grunts in the previous game. Mystic 2, despite its shorter length and less epic feel, is a more "adventurous" game than the original Mystic, and strays even further from reality. Much of the team from the original Mystic have returned, including Amy Hennig, though Jane Espenson did not return (as she's been working on the TV show Once Upon A Time). Most of the original voice actors have returned as well, including Dante Basco as Lake and Esme Bianco as Luma. Mystic 2 features improved graphics from its predecessor, though the graphics aren't quite as highly detailed as those in Tales Of The Seven Seas: Horizon, due to the game's lower budget. Overall, while Mystic 2 has high production values when compared with most games on the market, it's clear that Naughty Dog didn't quite put their full might behind the game's development, instead choosing to focus on the Tales Of The Seven Seas series along with their next generation titles (indeed, even during the end of Mystic 2's development, the company has already been working on a third title in the series for the Reality).

    Mystic 2 begins by introducing the player to Keta, a wandering Oridae who lives amongst a group of semi-sentient creatures, occasionally visiting a nearly village to resupply and sell what he's found. He eventually comes across a massive, technological city, but as he attempts to explore, he is chased by strangely armored humanoids, and eventually falls into some kind of vortex, seemingly killed. We then switch to Luma and Lake, who, along with some of their friends, are exploring another, smaller technological city, though we soon learn that this city has actually been built recently by Oridae builders, and was abandoned after disturbing some type of ancient machine. This segment of the game eventually culminates in Luma and Lake fighting a large, fast, bull-like boss creature, and afterwards, they explore a cave that leads them to a mystical realm where small fairy creatures are flitting about. These creatures try to capture the two heroes, but they are able to avoid being captured, and end up following a group of these creatures to a clearing, where Keta has been captured. Luma and Lake convince the fairies to set Keta free, and the three learn of a war being fought between the fairies and insect-like creatures known as the Hynops. As Luma tries to hold off a Hynop invasion, Lake and Keta make their way to a river. The two bond a bit, but are eventually separated, and Keta finds himself pursuing a beautiful female Hynop to the queen's lair. Keta learns that this female Hynop wishes to marry one of the small fairy creatures, but does not wish to defy her queen. Meanwhile, Lake reunites with Luma and learns for the first time about a hidden colony of unevolved humans that may have been shielded from the magical event that created the Oridae. They explore for a bit, then we see Keta fight his way through a hive of insects. He is able to convince the queen to allow the Hynop and the fairy to be wed, only for the queen to be murdered by a bullet fired from an ancient-looking rifle, causing chaos in the fairy realm and forcing Keta to flee. He flees until he reaches a land of massive beasts, representing Brobdingnag. Meanwhile, Luma and Lake escape as well, and their story begins to parallel Keta's, with them learning more about the humans, while Keta embarks on his adventures in multiple realms. The next segment of Keta's quest involves the pacification of numerous beasts in an almost Shadow Of The Colossus-esque series of gameplay challenges. Eventually, Keta is able to climb up the back of an enormous creature to reach a kind of mysterious floating city, at the same time that Luma and Lake reach the city as well. The three reunite and adventure together for a while, meeting with the Oridae inhabitants of this city high above the clouds. The city is ruled by an Oridae princess named Leda (voiced and motion captured by Jennifer Paz) who has a mysterious relationship with Lake, and turns out to be his long-lost sister. The floating city is home to an enormous amount of ancient human media (we get another "Don't Know Why"-esque moment about halfway through this section, when Keta and Luma discover an old cache of Queen records). Indeed, the climax of this Laputa-esque segment is a battle between a flying army of pure humans and the Oridae floating city set to Queen's "Hammer To Fall", which ends with the city plunging to earth as Lake, Luma, Keta, and Leda are separated from one another. The four end up in separate parts of the world, with Lake falling directly into the same city that Keta explored at the beginning of the game, Luma falling into an ancient cave, Leda falling into a giant technological dumping ground that turns out to be the ruins of Tokyo, Japan, and Keta falling onto an island where he meets a race of sentient beasts (the game's equivalent of the Houyhnhnms) and also a race of violent humans whose manner of speech and technology resemble the humans of the early 21st century (the game's equivalent of the Yahoos). The next four chapters feature each protagonist exploring alone, with Lake eventually being captured, Luma finding a major clue to why pure humans still exist, Leda constructing a personal flying machine, and Keta learning that the beasts aren't opposed to the humans, but to the Oridae, who they believe are even worse and who have misused technology in worse manners than the ancient humans did. Keta is unable to get the beasts to help him, and eventually becomes suicidal until Leda shows up to save him on her flying machine (fighting off swarms of the Yahoo/Humans as she carries Keta away). Luma surfaces in the city, where Lake is about to be executed by the human techno-cult. She uses her powers to fend them off, but can't defeat all of them. Leda and Keta show up to save the day, and the four heroes battle their way to the core of the city, where they meet the game's primary antagonist, a human cult leader named Reiss (voiced and motion captured by Richard Brooks). A fair bit of exposition reveals that these humans have been secretly operating on the Earth for hundreds of years, dodging the Blight and taking what they could, while also capturing and experimenting on the Oridae to harness their power with little success thus far. The humans aren't portrayed as evil, per se, just doing what they believe they must to survive. Leda offers the humans a chance to co-exist peacefully with the Blight gone, but Reiss refuses, believing that it's just a trick. He and the other humans attack, and in the resulting battle, Leda is killed and Lake is badly wounded. While Luma fights off as many humans as she can, Keta fights his way to Reiss, who has armed himself with one of the few magical artifacts in the city and is using it as a cannon. Keta manages to defeat and kill Reiss, but is still consumed by guilt and is mourning Leda (who he was in love with). To make matters worse, Lake is dying, and Luma, protecting him with her shields, has decided to hold the humans off to allow Keta to escape. Keta barely makes it out, but Luma and Lake's fates are left uncertain. Meanwhile, humans all over the planet have received a message that Reiss left to transmit upon his death, telling them to emerge from hiding and claim what they can. Keta returns to an Oridae society that itself seems to be nearing civil war between different tribes. The post-credits scene ultimately reveals that Luma and Lake did survive, with Lake being treated by a group of human medics who turned against Reiss in the aftermath of the battle, while the other defected humans beg Luma to make the others see reason. Luma is uncertain about what to do as the game ends.

    Mystic 2 is released in October 2012 to a strong critical reception, albeit not as strong as the one received by the previous game. It's a beautiful and epic game, but not to the same degree as the original, and the plot in particular receives a lot more criticism, with Keta not seen as being as strong of a protagonist as Luma and Lake were, the villain seemingly emerging from nowhere, and the game being too short and poorly paced. Reviews average in the mid to high 8s, making the game a critical success but not a Game of the Year contender. Sales are also somewhat slower than those of the original game. The release, sandwiched between Super Mario Laboratory and Metroid Gravity, gets somewhat ignored despite the success of the original game, and ultimately Mystic 2 would sell only about half as many copies as the original. Despite all of the problems, though, it's still a very good game, and Naughty Dog gets a lot of praise for doing what they could on a relatively small budget. It's no Tales Of The Seven Seas: Horizon, but the series remains popular and the game left a LOT of sequel hooks for the inevitable Mystic 3, which becomes one of the Reality's most anticipated games.


    More Early Pokemon Gen 6 Details Released

    More details about the upcoming Pokemon game for the Nintendo Connect have emerged, including sketches of the game's world and its presumed main character. Though nothing official has been revealed about the new region, we're learning that it could be a region based on New England, with a "capital" city based on Boston. The region appears to have a large forested area bordering a coast with numerous towns and cities, and a "rich history" of events that the player will be encouraged to discover throughout the game. We've seen the Boston setting for games before, most notably for Grand Theft Auto II, but a Pokemon region based on New England could provide a wide variety of areas to explore and Pokemon to find (and we're hoping for some Stephen King/Lovecraft references in the area based on Maine!). The protagonist has also been revealed as being female (and there doesn't appear to be a male option), a young girl with brown hair tied into a ponytail, who seems a bit angrier than previous protagonists, scowling rather than smiling, though that could just be one piece of concept art and she'll be smiling more in the main game. She also appears to have a female friend/rival with darker skin, who appears to play a significant role in the story as she's seen with the protagonist in numerous sketches and concept drawings. The game is being developed as a collaboration between Game Freak and Naughty Dog, both studios owned by Sony. The unique mix of Eastern and Western game design philosophies could lend itself quite well to the newest Pokemon generation, and we'll be finding out more soon, as a special New Year's week celebration announcing the new game is planned in just a couple of months. We should have a definitive title for the new game then, and we should also find out more about the new region. We might even get starter reveals!

    -from an article on, posted on October 27, 2012
    Fall 2012 (Part 3)- Takahashi's Double Fantasy
  • Final Fantasy XIII

    Final Fantasy XIII is an open world JRPG developed by Squaresoft for the Nintendo Sapphire and Google Nexus. Like the previous game in the series, it's directed by Tetsuya Takahashi. Where TTL's Final Fantasy XII was structured much like OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles, Final Fantasy XIII takes a lot of gameplay and visual cues from OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X. However, as opposed to TTL's XII, which combined plot elements from OTL's Xenoblade and OTL's Final Fantasy XIII, TTL's Final Fantasy XIII tells an almost entirely original story, focused on the world of Letai and the struggle between a technologically advanced civilization of humans and an awakened race of giants known as the Espers. Thousands of years ago, humanity nearly went extinct, only to be saved by the Espers who were summoned forth by a group of powerful sorceresses. These Espers helped humanity survive and then went into a deep slumber. Now, humanity prospers, with a civilization more advanced than real-life Earth (comparable with the technological level of the civilization in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X). However, about eighteen years before the events of the game, Espers woke up and began rampaging across the planet, destroying large swaths of humanity and forcing the surviving humans into walled, gated cities for survival. Brave humans must venture out amongst the ruins to discover a method of stopping the Espers before they finish humanity off for good. Final Fantasy XIII features open world exploration and MMO-style combat taking place on the world map, much like Final Fantasy XII (both IOTL and ITTL). The player controls a character while the AI controls the other two. Unlike in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there's a defined main protagonist, rather than a player-created one. Characters can fight either on foot or in mechs known as Guardian Skells, much like the Skells in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X. Each character has their own specialty weapons and combat skills, with magic being replaced with Ether techniques that function much like magic but don't follow the typical Final Fantasy naming structure (with the exception of a few techniques on certain characters). Characters can also utilize weapons and weapons techniques, and like in Final Fantasy XII, enemies can be Staggered, Broken, Toppled, Launched, Pierced, and Bound, with similar effects as they had in that game. Enemies can also be Smashed (slammed down after being Launched for enormous damage) and Severed (enemies can lose limbs or body parts, crippling their offensive and defensive abilities and also doing massive damage). Characters level up much more simply than they did in Final Fantasy XII: the Soul Grid is gone, and characters simply level up themselves and their techs using XP and TP respectively. In place of the Soul Grid is a more complex system for the characters' Skell mechs, which have base frames and then many different parts that can be swapped and attached. These parts can effect a Skell's attack, defense, speed, the types of techniques they can use, or any number of other different parameters depending on the part. There are parts that grant special buffs, parts that debuff one aspect of a Skell while buffing it in another way, etc. There are several dozen types of Guardian Skells, most named after famous bosses such as Ultros, Gilgamesh, etc. or famous summons like Shiva, Ramuh, etc. (at least summon names that aren't being used for Espers). Some skell bodies are extremely rare, requiring long quests or lots of grinding to acquire. Like in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there are plenty of postgame challenges and some truly uber Skell builds to take them on with, though most players can get by in the main game just by using what they find along the way or buying the best stuff they can from the available shops. TTL's Skell mechanic operates mostly like OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X system, but also takes some inspiration from the Mechatos games. It features the Skell insurance system, which will replace a player's Skell if it's destroyed, but only a certain number of times, after which the player must rebuy their Skell (and it's not cheap). Final Fantasy XIII features plenty of optional side quests and diversions, with a big open world to explore right from the start of the game. Unlike in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there's no online mode, but there's a decent amount more for single players to do in terms of side quests and exploration.

    Final Fantasy XIII features a total of six playable characters, along with a few guests. Unlike OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there are no “hidden” or “recruitable” characters: all six join the group over the course of the main story, no matter what the player does. Those characters are:

    Gash: Gash is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII. A young soldier in the Syrbladian Army, he embarks on a quest of his own after meeting a mysterious girl and promising to protect her. Though he comes into conflict with the Syrbladians at times, he technically never defects from them, and remains a soldier throughout the game, even if his goals end up superseding theirs. He's young and idealistic, and wields a pistol in battle, though he can also wield a battle staff if the player chooses. He's voiced by Todd Haberkorn.

    Lune: The secondary protagonist of the game, Lune is a mysterious and shy young woman who has a special connection to the Espers, a connection the Syrbladians wish to exploit. She's also a talented Skell pilot with an innate fighting and healing ability, though she's reluctant to use her talents until she realizes the fate of the world is at stake. She plays primarily a healing and support role in battle but is capable of wielding a few powerful Ether attacks as well, and she uses a special energy bow. She's voiced by Liliana Mumy.

    Ilayna: Ilayna is a somewhat older captain in the Syrbladian Army (in her late 20s/early 30s). She's an extremely intelligent and talented fighter and a “perfect” soldier, though she becomes skeptical of the Syrbladians' aims after she learns that they've been secretly experimenting on her. Though she's cold and harsh at first, she has a deeply caring heart, and seeks only to do the right thing (she's comparable to Morag in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles 2). She wields both Ether magic and a laser rifle, and serves as a sort of “heavy hitting glass cannon” in battle. She's voiced by Laura Benanti.

    Hanto: Hanto begins the game as Gash's superior officer, but is more like a mentor/big brother to him, and is a lot more friendly than he is strict. He's brave and a bit of a jokester, and comes around quickly to Gash's point of view (unlike Ilayna, who fights him at first). Hanto wields a big katana into battle and is a bit of an old fashioned type of guy who loves old tech and exploring old ruins. He's voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch.

    Arthur: Arthur is a big, gruff, senior military official who starts out sending Gash on missions, but eventually decides to jump into the fray himself. He fights with powerful energy fists and serves as a sort of tank for the party, a slow but tough fighter who can soak up a lot of damage. He's comparable to Jack Vandham from OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, with similar character traits and mannerisms. He's voiced by S. Scott Bullock.

    Darcy: The only one of the playable characters not to be connected with the Syrbladian Authority in some way, Darcy is a thief from a village of scrappers. She's an antagonist at first and seen as an annoyance at best and a terrorist at worst, but she eventually comes around to the party's way of thinking after Gash and Luna prove themselves to her. She's a quick ninja-type character who specializes in debuffs and stealing, and with lots of good stuff to steal on enemies, she's a fairly essential character for players who want to rack up lots of loot. She's voiced by Minae Noji.

    Final Fantasy XIII has seen a decent level of graphical improvement over Final Fantasy XII, making the Sapphire version one of the best looking games on the system, while the Nexus version looks significantly better, with more detailed resolutions and character animation and an even farther draw distance. The game's music is mostly original TTL, though it does feature a few tracks from both OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X (including “NO. EX. 01”, used as the Esper fight theme), and from OTL's Final Fantasy XIII-2, including “New Bodhum”, “Village And Void”, and “Limit Break!” It features a wide array of atmospheric and symphonic themes that blend a futuristic, technological sound with a very sweeping and epic one, with a more sci-fi focus on the soundtrack theming than OTL's Final Fantasy XII's more fantasy-sounding score.

    Final Fantasy XIII begins with an early mission that sees Gash battling alongside Hanto against some monsters who are encroaching on the opening city. The opening city is large, but it's not the capital city, which is closed off to the player at the start of the game. However, once the opening missions are completed, Gash is able to explore a surprisingly large area, about 10% total of the game's entire world (which is divided into four main areas, Syrbladia, Enralia, Nocturna, and Obsidia), though if he explores too far from the starting area, he'll come across very highly leveled enemies. Eventually, Gash and Hanto separate, and Gash is sent on another mission, where he meets Lune for the first time. During this opening chapter, we learn about the Esper rampages, of which three are responsible for most of the damage, while the other three remain sealed on the other side of the world, and then there are rumored to be two more hidden away. The Esper rampages have also caused monsters to go feral, while there are also rebellions against the Syrbladian Authority now that the country's power is weakened. During this time, we also meet Ilayna for the first time, as a strict, highly-ranked soldier who is leading battles against rebels. Gash is tasked with taking Lune to a research lab, but she refuses to go. Rather than taking her against her will, Gash decides to get “creative” with his orders, running away with her but technically still following the letter of what he was told to do. This eventually causes a conflict and a boss fight with Ilayna, but after being defeated by Gash and Lune, Ilayna follows them and soon joins them to battle a larger threat: a mech hijacked by rebels. Gash convinces Ilayna that experimenting on Lune would be a bad idea, and Ilayna, who was experimented on herself, reluctantly agrees to accompany them on a mission to the capital city, where they can explain themselves. In the meantime, the group hears whispers of Esper activity, and gets sidetracked into fighting some monsters to defend a border town, where they meet up with Darcy for the first time (but she doesn't join right away). The group also reunites with Hanto and he rejoins them. About 25% of the way through the main story, the group is finally allowed into the capital for the first time. This kicks off a series of missions in and around the capital, where Arthur will join as a proper party member, and the group eventually gets the chance to pilot their first Skells. Soon after the group gets acclimated to their Skells, there's a climactic battle in which Ifrit, the first Esper to be fought, invades the city. This is a truly epic battle, with Ifrit being the size of a proper kaizo, dwarfing even the Skells, whose firepower is barely enough to take Ifrit down. The city survives, though with heavy damage, and upon defeating Ifrit, the group is allowed to conduct more of their own business, with the threat of experimentation no longer hanging over Lune's head. They're tasked with venturing to the Enralia area, where a border skirmisk is taking place between the Syrbladian military and a rebel alliance headquarted in Enralia. During this segment of the game, Nocturna also opens up for exploration. Nocturna is a vast and beautiful jungle, much like Noctilum in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X. It's Darcy's home, and a series of missions take place here in which she'll eventually be recruited. The heroes also learn more about the Espers and more about Lune and her heritage, as she is a descendent of the sorceresses who once summoned the Espers to the planet (which is why she has a connection to them). Ilayna also learns that she has a connection to the Espers as a result of the experiments conducted on her, and we also meet a character named Belen, who has essentially taken Ilayna's place as the Syrbladians' “super soldier” archetype, who assists the party and particularly Ilayna when they are attacked by the Esper Mateus, a powerful ice being. Eventually, the heroes reach the military city of Falkarel, and Ilayna parts ways from them to report to her superiors, while Darcy and Hanto also have their own business to conduct. The Falkarel segment of the game is the second major climax, coming about halfway through the main story. Numerous plot twists and major events happen here, including the characters receiving flying modifications for their Skells. Eventually, a plan is revealed to harness the power of the Esper Mateus, which has been captured by the Syrbladian military scientists. They plan to utilize Ilayna's ability to sync with Espers in order to control it, but the heroes learn to their horror that this was done against Ilayna's will, and that she's essentially a prisoner of Mateus now, which breaks loose and goes on a rampage through the city. The military mobilizes to take the Esper down, which would also kill Ilayna, but the heroes board their Skells and intercept the rampaging monster. This battle is a tricky one, requiring the player to avoid targeting Ilayna while dodging Mateus' powerful ice attacks. After some hairy moments, however, the heroes do rescue Ilayna, though she's somewhat traumatized and disillusioned from what happened to her, and leaves the party for a time. Arthur leaves as well, leaving Gash, Lune, Hanto, and Darcy to continue into the next portion of the game, a journey into Enralia.

    This segment of the game, in which the heroes discover a group devoted to protecting the Espers, is steeped in mystery and intrigue. At first, the heroes are attacked by the Enralians, but eventually, they come to earn their trust, especially with the help of Ilayna, who returns to the party after a few emotional missions. There's another fierce battle here between the peace-loving Enralians and a group of angry separatists who hijack a massive battle mech, with Arthur showing up to play hero and rejoining the group (making the party six strong for the first time, and for the remainder of the game). Eventually, the heroes are pointed toward a town called Kyril, once a powerful city but now a somewhat small and out of the way town. The heroes gain some crucial clues about the Espers here, but before they can find out the truth about Lune, the town is attacked by another Esper. This one is named after Thor, though it's not the fun and friendly Marvel Thor, it's a massive and angry thunder beast wielding a huge hammer that completely destroys Kyril even as the heroes use their Skells to defeat it. It's clear now that the threat from the Espers is poised to destroy all of humanity, and the heroes must venture into Obsidia, where the King of Espers, Bahamut, is said to dwell. At the same time, Syrbladia is becoming even more aggressive, and they hope to use Belen to control the Espers in a way that Ilayna could not (Ilayna herself believes she was too weak, and continues to have somewhat low confidence, though her bond with Lune eventually helps her to regain it). The heroes eventually reach a massive cave complex running between Nocturna and Obsidia, and inside this cave, they find the esper Titan, an enormous giant of earth causing earthquakes spanning the entire planet. Defeating Titan ends the immediate Esper threat, and also kicks off the last couple chapters of the game. A lot happens here: numerous major Syrbladian characters are killed in an epic battle between Bahamut and the Syrbladian army, and Belen eventually takes control of Bahamut, only to betray the Syrbladians by taking Bahamut for himself and using the Esper to wipe out nearly the entire army. The heroes must return to protect the capital city, and it's Ilayna who takes charge, leading the counter-strike that allows the heroes time to put up the ancient barrier wall to protect from Bahamut's attacks. Belen takes Bahamut back to Obsidia, where there's an ancient city said to rest deep beneath the earth. The heroes find this ancient city, and they meet the last sorceress, a woman who has lived for thousands of years. Her name is Mysidia, and she is Lune's mother, not her ancient ancestor. Mysidia tells Lune that the Espers once protected humanity, but that humanity believed it could steal the power of the Espers by creating soldiers to control them. Mysidia froze herself in time with her daughter still in her womb, intending to use Lune to pacify the Espers to form a bond between them and humanity. Mysidia woke up when the Espers did, giving birth to Lune and sending her to a village in Enralia to be raised by a human family and to form a bond with humanity. Shortly after these plot revelations, another Esper, Leviathan, awakens, and the heroes must battle it in their Skells. Then, Belen attacks with Bahamut, destroying the ancient city and striking down Mysidia, who sacrifices herself to protect the heroes. Lune tries to pacify Bahamut and almost succeeds, but Belen's will is too strong, and the heroes are forced to flee. After this, Belen ascends to the Tower of Obscuria, from where he plans to take control of the remaining Espers sleeping under the planet's surface in order to destroy humanity for its sins. The heroes ascend the tower, battling both Belen's loyalists and a succession of powerful monsters, before battling and subduing Bahamut, and then finally Belen. Belen attacks first in his Skell and then in his human form, but then uses his powers to transform himself into the Esper Apollyon, who then attacks the heroes in one final grand and epic battle. After Apollyon is defeated, the world begins to quake... every Esper remaining is beginning to wake up. Lune is able to pacify them using the ancient sorceress' power, while Gash, Ilayna, Hanto, and the other heroes work to convince humanity to reject the practices that caused the Espers to awaken in the first place. Lune is able to survive, but just barely, and Gash and the others take her back to the Syrbladian capital. Humanity survives as well, with most of its technology intact, but it's clear that things have changed in the wake of the Espers' rampages, and that humans will need to reach a harmony and equilibrium with the planet to prevent the Espers from stirring again. Even with the main quest cleared, there's a robust postgame, including two more Espers to find and defeat (Typhon and Eden) and plenty more powerful monsters to defeat as well. The game is also the first Final Fantasy title to receive paid DLC chapters, with a battle arena and two large side quests that can be purchased and downloaded.

    Final Fantasy XIII is released on October 25, 2012, which also happens to be the launch day for the Google Nexus. It not only proves to be one of the most popular launch titles for that console, but it's also extremely popular on the Sapphire as well, and despite the Nexus port being technologically superior, the game would sell the majority of its copies on the Sapphire. The game's critical reception is extremely positive, praising the game's combat system, extensive Skell customization mechanics, and vast open world, along with its six main characters (each of which have their own arcs in the main storyline and separate side quests as well that further expand upon their characters). While the game ultimately wouldn't receive quite the glowing reception that Final Fantasy XII got, it's still considered one of the year's best RPGs and a game of the year contender. Tetsuya Takahashi had developed three amazing Final Fantasy games, but after XIII, he announced that he'd be done with the Final Fantasy series and would go on to develop his own games, leaving a brand new team to take over for next generation's Final Fantasy XIV.
    Fall 2012 (Part 4) - The Seventh Generation's Last Haunts
  • Among The Dead

    Among The Dead is an action/horror game published by Electronic Arts and released on the Sapphire and the iTwin. The game puts the player right in the thick of a zombie outbreak, and in contrast with survival horror games, this game gives the player plenty of bullets and waves of enemies to kill, playing more like an arcade title than a traditional horror game. It's a third person shooter spanning several areas, with the player starting out in the middle of an office building infested with zombies and being forced to fight their way to the airport, with schools, shopping malls, and packed streets all along the way. The game starts the player out with a pistol, but has plenty more weapons for them to collect, with a weapon selection almost rivaling that of a Turok game. There are shotguns, automatic rifles, and even grenade launchers available to the player, and zombie limbs go flying with every shot, providing plenty of opportunities for blood and gore. The player isn't always fighting alone: sometimes, they'll have a companion, and two players can enjoy the game at once, either online or locally. The game also has lots of action setpieces, with fairly forgiving quicktime events scattered throughout, but also spectacular action shots like the player setting a huge explosion trap for zombies and then having to outrun the fireball, or a helicopter landing in the midst of zombies and chopping them up with its blades. It's not quite as over the top as a Dead Rising type of game, and despite some silly moments, it does take itself fairly seriously, with the zombie outbreak rarely played for laughs and the protagonist sometimes forced to kill friends who have been turned. It's not as serious as a Last Of Us type game though, and its plot is structured more like a traditional action movie (there are some parallels with games such as Dead City Beat, which Among The Dead takes some cues from). There are a few human baddies as well, though the player won't go around mowing down humans. It's always a big deal when a non-turned human ends up being an antagonist, and the protagonist is reluctant to kill them, even though some of the human villains do some fairly despicable things. In addition to picking up new and more powerful weapons, the player can also upgrade their weapons with parts and attachments to make them fire more rapidly, increase their clip size, or do more damage, with some attachments even changing the type of ammunition fired. Among The Dead is a mid-level budgeted game, with decent graphics but more of a focus on gameplay and smooth animation than on graphical detail. The game features a voice cast consisting mostly of voiceover veterans, with Josh Peck as the voice of the game's protagonist Arvin, and Lauren Landa as the voice of Arvin's love interest Michelle. The game's plot is straightforward, essentially involving Arvin attempting to survive as zombies take over his city. He eventually rescues his girlfriend Michelle from a horde of zombies about to kill her, then attempts to get the two of them to an airport, where his friend has a small plane that can evacuate them. On the way, they encounter a corrupt cop, an unscrupulous TV reporter, and finally, the scientist who set off the whole outbreak in the first place. They also encounter various survivors that they have to help, including Michelle's little sister at a school and a kindly old couple holed up in a shopping mall. They finally manage to make it to the airport, only for the plane to be swarmed and destroyed by a zombie horde. Eventually, Arvin, Michelle, and their few surviving allies manage to stumble their way onto the last boat leaving the city. As they leave, they look back to see fire and smoke rising over the buildings, with thousands of zombies still swarming.

    Among The Dead is released on October 12, 2012, to a strong critical reception. The game ends up being quite a fun and addictive sleeper hit, with lots of zombie mayhem and a plot that keeps the player riveted even if it isn't the best in its genre. The game also garners a bit of controversy for its heavy violence, but most players don't mind, and the controversy only raises awareness of the game, which boosts its sales. It wasn't intended to be a major hit for EA, but ends up being one of their biggest games of the year, and a sequel is moved quickly into production.


    Resident Evil 6

    Resident Evil 6 is an action/horror game exclusive to the Apple iTwin. It continues the story of the previous Resident Evil games and is a direct sequel to Resident Evil 5, which saw the deadly P-Virus, a variant of the T-Virus which mutates people into hideous plant creatures and also causes ordinary plants to mutate out of control, spread amongst several human populations. It also saw the death of Chris Redfield, who sacrificed himself to prevent a further infection. The game's protagonists are Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, who team up for the first time since Resident Evil 2. Leon seeks to save the world from Wesker, who has acquired a P-Virus sample and intends to spread it amongst the world population, while Claire seeks revenge on Shini Marakami, the scientist who allowed the P-Virus to escape the lab and who seeks to profit from the virus itself, though her motives are explored heavily in this story and aren't exactly what one might expect them to be. Resident Evil 6 plays much like its predecessor, focusing more on action-style gameplay, though there are some harrowing horror/stealth segments, and ammo is kept fairly limited except for certain segments of the game. The chemical mixing system from Resident Evil 5 is gone, replaced with an extensive item and weapon modification system that helps the player deal with the various advanced plant creatures they'll be forced to encounter. Leon and Claire generally spend more time together in this game, and co-op missions are introduced for the first time, allowing two players to team up either locally or online, and even allowing a single player to use the iTwin controllers to control both Leon and Claire simultaneously during certain segments of the game. Indeed, this game was designed with the iTwin in mind thanks to its exclusivity, and this allows for more motion control segments and unique control segments than ever before, though traditional controls can still be used. The game takes place heavily in urban areas, much like the action focus of OTL's Resident Evil 6, though this game sees buildings and plant mutations woven together in such a way that players will often find themselves wandering through a corridor, only to realize they're inside a giant tree or climbing a huge flower. The main element of horror in this game comes from a sort of "the plants are alive" theme, with the player never quite knowing which blade of grass or which flower will strike at them (there are shared elements between the plant horror in this game and the mission "There Stands The Grass" in Fallout New Vegas). The element of plant horror was seen in Phytogenesis and Resident Evil 5, but it's never been truly explored like it has in this game. In addition to the plant-themed creature horrors, there are plenty of human baddies to fight, including Wesker and several of his lieutenants. Shini is the second major antagonist, but she has her own agenda and seems to be one with the plants (indeed, she's one with them in more ways than one). Leon and Claire's characters are both heavily explored in this game: Leon is consumed by his sense of duty, seeing every failure to save a life as a personal failing. Claire is consumed by revenge and wants to kill Shini for what happened to her brother. There are other new protagonists introduced, including a young mayor's aide named Karen and a hired assassin named Bo. There's also the return of some familiar characters from earlier in the series, most importantly Sophie from Resident Evil 4, who is now 13 and who returns to play a major role in the game's second half. Resident Evil 6 features significantly improved graphics from its predecessor, though it doesn't look QUITE as good as the Sapphire and Xbox 2 versions of Resident Evil 5, due to being on a less powerful system. The game does feature some graphical tricks to approximate those games, and is one of the iTwin's best looking titles overall.

    The game starts right in the middle of some dramatic action, with Leon helping to evacuate some people from a crowded building. He's eventually cornered and about to be killed when Claire shows up and saves him, and the two stay together for a significant amount of time afterwards, fighting their way through a series of buildings and battles in order to find and reach Wesker. They eventually end up in a sewer overrun by plant mutants, and partly through, they are separated for a short while. Leon meets up with Karen, who is helping the mayor and his entourage to evacuate, while Claire is briefly captured but manages to break free, ending up hot on the trail of an assassin named Bo who is working for Wesker. Leon and Karen have some horrifying encounters in which the mayor's entire entourage is slaughtered and the mayor is mutated, but Leon manages to kill the mutated mayor and helps Karen evacuate to safety. He reunites with Claire, who lost Bo's trail, and the two make their way to an offshore facility where Wesker is said to be holed up. However, it's actually Shini, and she is keeping someone captive... Sophie, who seems to have lost all semblance of her powers from Resident Evil 4. Leon and Claire fight their way through the facility and manage to rescue Sophie, but in attempting to get revenge on Shini, Claire nearly gets all three of them killed, leading to a rift between Leon and Claire. Claire leaves on her own, while Leon and Sophie are evacuated by one of Karen's friends to another secure facility, this one in the middle of another large city. Claire eventually meets Bo again, but learns that Bo isn't actually working for Wesker. He's a double agent, working for the United States government, and the person he assassinated for Wesker was actually another agent who faked his own death to get Bo into Wesker's inner circle. Here, Claire learns the extent of Wesker's plans, then learns that she needs to reach a facility, the one where Leon and Sophie were headed. Sophie, it turns out, actually plays a major role in Wesker's plans. The facility (and the surrounding city) is besieged by Wesker's troops, who also manage to gas the facility with the P-Virus. Leon, Sophie, Karen, and a few others make it to a safe room, and Leon and Claire end up having to fight their way to each other. Meanwhile, Karen is attacked by a plant mutant, but Sophie manages to save her. As it turns out, Sophie is able to use the P-Virus to gain control over plants, not just infected plants, but all plants, and this is a power Wesker wants to take advantage of. Leon and Claire race to Wesker while Wesker's troops battle Bo's agents outside the facility, before Bo and his agents are attacked by plants. Wesker manages to capture Sophie, while Bo is the last survivor of his unit and is infected with the P-Virus. Leon and Claire battle an infected Bo, while Karen evacuates the facility, promising Leon she'll bring someone who can help put an end to all of this. Leon and Claire go to rescue Sophie from Wesker, who decides to allow Shini to conduct the experiments on her. Shini and Sophie seem to have a strange resonance with one another, and despite being a sociopathic villain, Shini seems to develop a protective instinct toward Sophie. Meanwhile, Leon and Claire reach Wesker's base. They split up briefly but spend most of the time exploring together, battling dangerous plant mutants all along the way. Wesker and Shini eventually come to blows over Sophie's fate, and Wesker seems to kill her, prompting Sophie to escape her cell and attack. Wesker tells Sophie that she has a special mutation that allows her to control abnormal cellular structures after coming into contact with certain viruses, speculating that Sophie herself could be a human/viral hybrid. Sophie attempts to attack Wesker, first with plants and then with her T-Virus mutations, but he repels her attacks, revealing that he's experimented on himself as well. He plans to extract her cells and inject them into his body, which would give him control over all plant life, and once he perfects the T-Virus, he speculates he can gain control over all animal life as well, including humans. Before Wesker can subdue Sophie, Leon shows up. Leon begins to battle Wesker, while Claire goes to confirm Shini is dead, only for there to be no one there. Claire follows a trail while Leon and Wesker engage in a spectacular boss battle. Eventually, Sophie wakes up and helps Leon, and Leon manages to finish Wesker off once and for all. Meanwhile, Claire follows Shini's trail to a lab where Shini appears to be experimenting again. Her wound is leaking blood, but the blood is dark green, and is more like chlorophyll than actual blood. Claire realizes that Shini is more plant than human, and has been ever since the events of Phytogenesis. Her unique brain chemistry allowed her to keep her human autonomy, but she is still influenced by the P-Virus cells, and acts as the virus' protector. Shini is a unique being: the first ever sentient plant. It also explains why she had an affection toward Sophie: Sophie was inadvertently controlling her. As Shini and Claire converse, Claire realizes that Shini's wound is healing, and tries to shoot her, but the second wound heals quicker than the first. Shini also tells Claire that she too is part plant, to a lesser extent, due to her own P-Virus exposure. The game's next boss battle begins, with Claire attempting to kill Shini, who is self-mutating into more plantlike forms. Claire finally lands a finishing blow, only for Shini to transform completely, turning into a huge plant monster somewhat like a miniature Biollante, with tentacle-like vines that crush everything in their path. Sophie arrives and attempts to control Shini, but Shini repels it with her own overwhelming power. Leon and Claire must team up to take down Shini, who continues to grow and mutate as the fight goes on. Eventually, Karen's help arrives in the form of some Apache helicopters, which rain fire from the skies down on Shini. Leon and Claire finish the job, and the plant monster collapses into a mass of destroyed plant matter, with Shini's body seemingly consumed within. Sophie, Leon, Claire, and Karen survey the destruction. The world is saved, and Chris Redfield is avenged. However, deep under the mass of destroyed plant matter, a human figure emerges. Shini is alive and seemingly human again, her plant cells seemingly having expelled themselves out when she transformed into the creature. She disappears into the chaos, though we see at the end that she touches something and it grows a single flower, indicating that some semblance of her plant abilities have remained.

    Resident Evil 6 is released on November 16, 2012, and receives immediate praise as one of the iTwin's best games of the year, with particular praise going to the game's atmosphere and combat. It's considered one of the scariest Resident Evil games in recent memory, and is also praised for wrapping up most of the ongoing storylines in satisfying fashion (though it does leave Shini, a fan favorite villain character, alive to wreak havoc in a future game). The game is praised for pushing the iTwin fairly close to its limits and utilizing its controls in a unique way. However, some Nintendo fans do criticize the game and bash Capcom for not porting their games over to the Sapphire, but this has been an ongoing point of controversy ever since Capcom began developing exclusively for Apple. The game sells a massive amount of copies, becoming the year's top selling new iTwin exclusive, with huge sales in both North America and Japan. It's considered a major Game of the Year contender and also potentially one of the best survival horror games of all time. Shortly after the game's release, Capcom confirms that Resident Evil will remain exclusive to Apple consoles going forward, and that a game is already in development for the Virtua.
    BONUS: Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade/The Last Great Supernova Game
  • (Authors' Note: This game was actually supposed to be posted in the last topic, as it came out in North America right around April 2012! It slipped my mind to post it, so I'll go ahead and post it here now.)

    (The following game summary was given to us by the user eldandythedoubter! The plot/gameplay information came from him, I added a bit of game details at the beginning and the commercial/critical performance information at the end.)


    Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade is a tactical RPG for the Game Boy Supernova. As IOTL, the series begins to shift to handhelds around this time, with this being the first major game in the series to be released exclusively on a handheld machine. Because of the game's epic scale, it's the first and only Supernova title to come on two discs instead of one.

    Jughart is the prince of the Desert Kingdom Yied. It is the second youngest kingdom of Jugdral and was founded by Lene and her husband Luchabra (for the sake of shipping, we might as well have the replaceable characters be canon in this verse). By the time of shadow dragon, Yied and all of Jugdral has been in a crop famine brought about by a lack of rain. As the people begin to riot, one island is rising to help alleviate the famine and rising to power: The Dragons of Orgahill. Orgahill is the youngest kingdom of Jugdral and for 10 years, they've have seen plentiful harvests on their land. This has been claimed to be done by the god of Orgahill: The Azure Dragon Qing Long.


    Common interpretation of Qing Long. The only difference is that the blue body feels like blue water. Normally, the followers of Qing Long are food missionaries to the mainland continent but they are regularly being attacked by bandits and soldiers of the other noble houses. So now they are escorted by the largest military force on Orgahill: The Leviathans. The game begins when a new alliance of Orgahill, Agustria, Verdane, and Hezul invade Granvale and manage to annex it, declaring the Azurian Empire. Their next target: Yied.

    Chapter 1: Innocence dies.
    We are introduced to Jughart, his Guardian Steward Wyvern Knight Joesph, and his little sister Claudia, who's a healer. These battles are as follows:
    battle 1: Rout the enemy bandits.
    battle 2: Reach the other side of the map
    battle 3: Hold off the enemy for 20 turns
    battle 4: Defeat the Enemy Commander, Dakam.

    Despite fighting well, Yiedhall falls, the king is captured and Joesph is killed covering Jughart and Claudia's retreat.

    Chapter 2: The Bandit Lord.
    It has been 3 years since the fall of Yied, and Jughart and Claudia are thieves in Silesia. While still very angry at the Empire for taking his home, Jughart only does his theft on officials in the empire. Innocents do not get hurt under his land. But with the growing number of resources being stolen, the Empire sends one of the Leviathans to rout out these bandits: Lady Toya: the bloodbender. This is a risky attempt. So along with Claudia, the mage Dove (Hawk and Patty's descendant), and the cavalier Hodor (he's not a descendant of anyone, I just want to throw in a ASOIAF reference) They begin a plan to take out Lady Toya:

    battle 5: a decoy squadron led by Hodor will fight the garrison. Survive for 15 turns.
    battle 6: Dove and her squadron will lure Toya's lieutenants: Ram (sage) and Rem (Hero) into 2 buildings filled with oil barrels. Lure your enemies into the appointed spots.
    battle 7: Jughart and Claudia infiltrate the garrison building to kill Toya. Rout the enemy.
    battle 8: The battle against Lady Toya begins: Defeat the enemy commander.

    This battle goes well but Jughart and Claudia falls short as Toya unleashes her special power as a leviathan: bending the blood in your body. The two only manage to kill her only thanks to Zephyr (Seliph and Julia's descendant), the last prince of Granvale.

    Chapter 3: Revelation of Granvale.

    Zephyr explains to Jughart and Claudia on how the Dragons came to take over his kingdom. After Seliph’s death, crops began to fail in Granvale. Zephyr’s father, Shem tried his hardest to keep the lands running but after a riot to take the next convoy of food to capital was quelled, he met a man named Nereid. He used his power to cause a week of rainfall in Granvale. Nereid would do this once a month to ensure that Granvale would have plentiful harvests for the rest of his days. Shem immediately converted to Azureism and raised Nereid to a position of high power in the kingdom. On the day of his fifteenth birthday, Zephyr discovered the conspiracy of Nereid and his fellow dragons to kill the rest of the royal family and replace his mother with one of their leviathans. This plan succeeded getting rid of Zephyr’s entire family and Shem taking Lady Payaha as his new wife. He’s been on the run ever since.

    With Toya dead, the garrison escapes Zubeck castle and are currently gathering forces at the capital Silesse castle. This leaves Zaxon, Thove, and Saliane weakened and vulnerable to attack.

    Battle 5: Approaching Zaxon castle. Get to the appointed area of the map.

    Battle 6: Zaxon siege. Dismantle the 4 magic barrier towers.

    Battle 7: The battle of Thove. Rout the enemy

    Battle 8: The battle of Saliane. Free the VIP Lady Lumina (Fee and Febail’s descendant.)

    Battle 9: The battle of Silesse. Defeat the enemy commanders: The Leviathan Garreth who can shoot lightning and King Falcon (Hawk’s descendant), who can shoot wind.

    With the two dead, Silesia is free from the Leviathans and Nereid has taken notice of them.

    Chapter 4: Invasion of Thracia

    With Silesia free, the dragon invasion force in Thracia is partially cut off and isolated in the forest of Manster. Jughart begins his capmaign to take out this force while sending Claudia and Zephyr to negotiate with Queen Rebecca to join the war. But standing in their way is the creator of the Manster forest: The Leviathan Hood, who can grow saplings while also being a good archer.

    Battle 10: Thracian assassination. Prevent the squad of assassins from killing Queen Rebecca. Rout the Enemy.

    Battle 11: Relief of Grutila. After saving the Queen, Claudia and Zephyr are sent to Grutila foretress to take out another squadron of dragons who had been split off from Miletos, now a territory of Granvale. There Zephyr and Claudia meet the General: Rebecca the lass. If you need a reference for how she is battle and in personality, just think of current day Becky Lynch on twitter.

    Battle 12: Cat & Mouse in Manster. Jughart and his forces reach the Manster forest, but now they must navigate the forest around Manster castle while dodging Hood’s merry men of tricksters. Rout the enemy while using the traps to your advantage.

    Battle 13: Manster Castle Siege. Occupy the gate of Manster castle.

    Battle 14: Manster Castle Interior. Defeat the commander Hood. He escapes after the battle to report back to Nereid. They plan to lay a trap at the next territory Jughart will attack: Miletos

    Chapter 5: A reversal of fortunes?

    With almost all of the eastern half of Jugdral liberated, Jughart and his allies begin their march to Miletos.

    Battle 15: Crossing the border. Break through the wall of stone created by the Leviathan, Craglodge.

    Battle 16: Chronos cathedral. Survive for 20 turns.

    Battle 17: MIletos castle. Defeat the enemy commanders in a duel. Here you fight Craglodge and Hood with only two members. After the battle, Nereid tries to take Jughart down with a lightning bold but Claudia pushes him out of the way. Disc 1 ends with her in a coma.

    Chapter 6: A cure for the curse.

    WIth Claudia now in a coma, Jughart and Zephyr head to Issach not to convince King Shannan to join their offensive to retake Yied and Granvale, but to find the oldest healer of their time, Lady Lana the Lifesaver.

    Battle 18: Sophara bandits. Rout the enemy with Jughart and Zephyr only. Lady Mareeta will assist you as an NPC but can only be recruited by Zephyr.

    Battle 19: Issach castle. Duel King Shannan and his son, Manta. Manta is the current wielder of the Balmung. Defeat the enemy commander.

    Battle 20: Vengeance for Riovough. Ren, illegitimate son of Galzus returns to bring vengance against Shannan against the heir of Granvale with the help of the Leviathan, Amru. Amru has the power to increase the intensity of the sun and will make the map slowly sap your hp every turn. Rout the enemy in 40 turns.

    While Ren can be saved at the end, it is only through the words of his sister Mareeta can he be recruited. They proceed to head to the border lands between Yied and Issach to find Lady Lana: The Desert Vale Mountians.

    Battle 21: Defeat the mountain clans.

    After defeating the clans, Lana reveals herself and Jughart begs her to save his sister. Lana agrees and they make their way back to Thracia.

    Chapter 7: The Siege

    While Jughart and Zephyr continued their journey to Issach, Rebecca must lead the bulk of her force to fight off the combined Dragon army.

    Battle 22: Survive the border siege for 30 turns.

    Battle 23: Escort the civilians to the safe haven.

    Battle 24: Disrupt the enemy supply route by taking the enemy supply town.

    Battle 25: Jughart and Zephyr return. Defeat the enemy commander, Betelgueze. He’s not a Leviathan, but he is a great knight with high resistance to magic and physical attack.

    After repellling the enemy, Jughart and Zephyr return to lady Lana who is currently working her magic on Claudia. It works and Claudia opens her eyes to see her brother and their allies in good health. But this moment of happiness is cut abruptly when the temprature drops to less than 30 degrees F and a portal opens. Everyone in the room finds themselves held down by their blood and coming out the portal is Dakam, who we thought defeated early in chapter 1, Toya, who we defintely killed in chapter 2 but is little more than a doll, and their master, High Priest Nereid. He looks over at Jughart and Zephyr and smirks, pulls out a knife and stabs Claudia straight in the gut, cuts out her heart, and then holds it up at their faces. Then he leaves the room. This is the end of Jughart the bandit prince and the beginning of Jughart, the Atheist King.

    Chapter 8: Retaking the homeland

    Nereid has taken Claudia and Lena’s corpses back to Orgahill and both Zephyr and Jughart have seen their war efforts take on a massive buildup to retake Granvale. But both of the leaders have ulterior motives as they head toward Bellhala castle.

    Battle 26: Siege the castle town of Midgurd. You must capture the 4 entrance points to the castle and its 4 exits out into the wilderness.

    Battle 27: Sneaking through the sewers. Just a simple rout the enemy mission.

    Battle 28: Defeat the King and Queen. We’ve reached our crux point. Shem and Pahaya are damn powerful in their own right, Shem being a Knight Lord who wields Tyrfing and Pahaya is a sage with the power to create ice and snow storms. Be very careful when approaching either of them because they essentially use the strategy of take a spot and tank any approaching units.

    With Pahaya dead on the floor, Shem holds her in his arms as Zephyr and Jughart stand over him. Zephyr wants to just capture Shem and have him devote their forces to stand against Orgahill. Jughart on the other hand, agrees and after making a public announcement doing so, Jughart still has Shem “executed” quietly for treason against Jugdral.

    Chapter 9: The Azure Dragon reveals itself

    It’s time to take back their homeland Yiedhall. But standing in their way is the very man that lead to the death of Jughart’s parents: Leviathan Dakam.

    Dakam:”So the prodigal son returns, only to die in the halls of his own home.”

    Jughart: “You. You took everything from me. You turned this desert into a frost bitten desert. You killed my parents and my most loyal vassal!!! AND FOR WHAT?!”

    Dakam: “I do as my god commands, heretic. To ensure that his order will not just spread throughout Jugdral, BUT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.”

    Jughart: “You would spread this misery upon every continent?! Famine and Plague upon the world unless they bow to YOUR MAD GOD!!!”

    Dakam: “All would bow to the strongest being on this world, and I will the human instrument of its will. But no more talk, COME FORTH TO YOUR END BANDIT PRINCE!”

    Battle 29: Defeat the enemy commander. The throne room of Yiedhall castle has only three entrances. 2 one row wide hallways on the side and one row that’s 5 columns wide. Enemy reinforcements can enter the central hall from the other 2 hallways, so try to keep one healer with whoever you’re going to choke those points off. Dakam can summon hailstorms and fog to slow your movements. So keep on your toes and make sure you can strike hard as much as possible.

    With Dakam defeated, Jughart lays the final blow by stabbing him in the chest with his sword. His forces move to the dungeon where they find King Rossert a literal husk of a man. He has bags under his eyes, his body is little more than a skeleton, and his hair was as white as stone. He looks upon his son and thinks he’s seeing an illusion of his son. When Jughart tells him he’s no illusion, Rossert smiles and tries to move his hand towards him but fails. Jughart moves closer towards his father and hears his final words: “Reclaim the Holy Weapon Deicide.”

    Endgame: DEICIDE!

    After finding a hidden passage in Rossert’s chamber, Jughart travels down the corridor to find a hidden armory. There he finds several scrolls speaking of how there is a 13th holy weapon: The Blade of Deicide. A sword that can absorb the life force of any divine dragon. This weapon was forged by a higher power as a fail safe in case any of the divine dragon tribe went mad or power hungry because while they are powerful, the divine dragons were never meant to be the Gods of their world but just the guardians of it. In order to claim the weapon, Jughart must go through the trials of humanity. Which is just 3 rounds of Jughart fighting through monsters. After claiming the sword and returning to his army, Jughart begins the plan to take Orgahill and deal with the Leviathans once and for all.

    Battle 33: Defeat Leviathan Nereid. This is no easy fight, Nereid not only has an army of 50 units on his side, flanking him is Toya, Lady Lena, and Claudia as his puppets. Both can use Fortify to heal their entire force while Toya can use her water abilities to throw down your units. Nereid can still use Lightning bolts while also being able to impede your progress to him by flooding certain parts of the map.

    Battle 34: The Azure Dragon Qing Long. Once Nereid is killed, the Azure dragon makes his entrance by riding in on a storm cloud. He looks down at Jughart and says:

    Qing Long: “Human, why do you fight against your God?”


    Qing Long: “It was necessary to bring order to your continent, I WILL NOT BE DENIED MY ASCENSION. NOT BY SOME FLIMSY MORTAL AND NOT BY... (sees the Blade of Deicide and feels the presence of Divine Dragon’s life force.) NOT BY SOME PUPPET OF NAGA!”

    Jughart: “Naga? I’m no God’s puppet, Dragon.”

    Qing Long: “Then why are you wielding a weapon filled to the brim with her life force? She sent that sword to kill me because she could never accept that I was her better and that we dragons are the GODS of your world. WE ARE POWERFUL AND THAT’S ENOUGH TO INSTILL OUR RULE OVER YOUR KIND!!!”

    Jughart: (he’s mad believeing that might makes right over his own superior.) No more words dragon just actions. I shall kill you and bring peace to this continent.

    Qing Long: “You will try.”

    This battle does not let up as not only do you have to take out a dragon with over 200 hp, the Pavise ability, every turn Qing Long can also use one of the Leviathan powers to pelt your units every time. The only way to begin hurting him is to slash him with Deicide. Every time Jughart gets a hit on him with Deicide, Qing Long will lose one of his abilities and he’ll be able to be harmed by your other units. Power through its fights and the dragon will fall. With Jughart’s final slash, Qing Long falls and his corpse begins to dissolve into the ground. But Jughart can feel Qing Long’s power while holding the hilt. Hearing a voice in his head, Jughart plunges the sword into the ground and grass begins to grow on the ground. Jughart turns to his units and raises the sword in triumph. His army bows in reverence.

    The game also has several story DLC packs that release over the remainder of 2012 and throughout the first half of 2013:

    Dlc #1: The Leviathan rises. Each map would see you play as Lady Toya, King So sweet, and Need it as they spread Azureism to the masses by any means necessary.
    Dlc #2: The Granvale exile. Zephyr's trials and tribulations prior to his introduction chapter.
    Dlc #3: The age of man. This one would see Jughart's two oldest children: Claudia and Christopher take the first trial of leadership to decide who will be the next emperor of Jugdral. Both succeed in the trial only to learn that their being sent to two foreign continents: Archanea and Valentia. Why? To learn of the people and to learn of their gods.

    Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade is released in late 2011 in Japan, and in April 2012 in North America. It's the last major Supernova game (a few small games would be released afterward, but none as significant or successful). It achieves the best review scores in the series to date, with critics praising the game's gorgeous visuals and epic scale, and is considered one of 2012's best RPGs overall. It's not only successful in Japan, but in North America as well, achieving decent sales despite the Connect having been out for nearly half a year up to this point. The series would continue on the Connect with at least one additional game, but the legacy of The Jugdral Crusade as a turning point for the series and an excellent sendoff for the Supernova can't be overstated.
    Fall 2012 (Part 5) - Gemini's Ruthless Aggression
  • Railstorm

    Railstorm is a futuristic FPS title developed exclusively for the Apple Gemini. The game's main distinguishing feature from other FPS games is its focus on guns that fire bullets at an extremely rapid rate. The protagonist's basic weapon is a minigun, and it goes up from there, with guns frequently able to fire thousands of rounds in a minute, and the player showered with ammo so they can fire quickly without worrying about running out. The protagonist is a supersoldier named Hotch, the subject of a military project designed to create an army of soldiers capable of showering bullets on anyone who stands in their way. After the project is sabotaged, Hotch is forced to go rogue with the project's main scientist, a woman named Elle, supplying him with weapons and funds. The project was sabotaged by a rival branch of the military specializing in cybertech warfare, who attempted to use Elle as their own main scientist, only for her to be rescued by Hotch and driven away. This military branch uses home grown clone soldiers in battle, these clones have been embedded with battle chips allowing them to be controlled from afar. They're heavily armed as well, but not as heavily armed as Hotch. At the same time, a group of space invaders have arrived as well, though the space invaders have human features and are implied to be from a galaxy where humankind also evolved, but indepedently from Earth's humans. The plot is fairly simplistic and is mostly just an excuse for Hotch to mow down thousands of enemy soldiers with his wide variety of guns. Despite the game's flimsy plot, enemy soldier AI is developed extremely well. Enemies will react realistically and will use strategy and tactics, conversing with one another and reacting to Hotch's actions, with one unit that might be coming under fire able to radio to other units to watch out. Hotch's supply of weapons range from miniguns and assault rifles to rapid fire grenade launchers and laser cannons, an old school gatling gun, and powerful handheld railguns capable of firing hundreds of rounds per second at relativistic speed, creating unimaginable carnage on the battlefield. Rather than firing single shots or even bursts of shots, the player is capable of firing constant bursts of high velocity fire, and there are plenty of destroyable environments as well. Soldiers tend to be heavily armored, but this just means that Hotch will need to concentrate more fire on certain units to finish them off. Normal grunts are rarely bullet sponges though, and Hotch's guns can usually take out regular soldiers with a great deal of ease. Enemies will also deploy soldiers in walking mechs, tanks, and helicopters, each of which can soak up a little more damage than a normal soldier. Hotch walks fairly slowly, but the player is able to stow their heavy weapon in order to run a bit faster, depending on what kind of weapon is used. Hotch is also capable of tearing off certain battlements such as stationary gatling guns and missile launchers and using them as weapons, though these can't be stowed and stashed like normal, they have to be set back down somewhere after being used. As expected, enemies have a tendency to die fairly spectacular deaths in the game, and this is one of the bloodier FPS titles to appear on a handheld (or pretty much anywhere), earning a strong M rating. Despite the carnage and the bloody nature of the game, Hotch isn't Rambo. He's quite intelligent and fairly soft-spoken, and isn't really aggressive or bloodthirsty, his preference for big, powerful guns mostly stems from the overwhelming odds he faces and the firepower of the enemy. When he confronts a friend or enemy off the battlefield, he's capable of conversing quite normally with them, in contrast to some of the more "edgy" FPS protagonists out there. The game's character development is one of the few strong things about the overall plot, with Hotch and Elle both getting quite a bit of character development, and the villains also having strong motivations and three-dimensional characters. The game develops most of its plot with mid-mission dialogue and short, well animated cutscenes, and features strong voice acting from a cast that includes Matt Mercer as the voice of Hotch, Tabitha St. Germain as the voice of Elle, and Greg Baldwin as the leader of the parallel human civilization that serves as the main villainous group of the game's second half (which sees the rogue military faction slowly come back over to Hotch's cause as they team up to take the invaders down). The game's graphics are the best ever seen in a handheld game, at least to date, and better looking than any iTwin game (save perhaps for Resident Evil 6). Railstorm also features an extensive multiplayer mode, which features online play and uses dedicated servers to avoid lag during some of the intense gun battles. The game's multiplayer mode includes arenas on land, in space, and even on the sea, with a special "battleship style" mode simulating World War II naval battles with futuristic weaponry. Railstorm is intense, violent, addictive, and fun, and a sleeper choice for the year's best FPS, even over the far more hyped Cyberwar 4. The game is released in November 2012, amidst a wave of much larger console releases. However, for Gemini owners, it's a must-buy, and it's also a game that leads many to consider buying the system during the holiday season, thanks to extremely strong reviews and word of mouth. It's a game that could never be done on the Nintendo Connect, and becomes one of the defining early games for the Apple Gemini, as well as a major catalyst for the handheld's success.


    Apple's Gemini handheld got off to a rocky start, but thanks to some timely releases this year, particularly Sonic The Hedgehog 6 back in August, the system has gained significant ground on the Nintendo Connect, both in North America and Japan. The most recent major release, Railstorm, is the third fastest selling Gemini game of the year, behind the aforementioned Sonic 6 and the highly successful 2-D fighter Virtua Fighter Infinity. Railstorm is driving Gemini sales at a time when the system needs them most, and despite its high asking price (still $299.99 in most locations) and its lack of a physical software medium, the Gemini is proving to be a capable rival to Nintendo's handheld. The Gemini has seen increased sales through August and September, and in October it sold around 75% of the units that Nintendo's Connect did on a worldwide basis, making October 2012 the third best month overall for the Gemini when compared with Nintendo's machine. We're also seeing Apple finally start to get aggressive with the Gemini's pricing. The system will have several Black Friday bundles, including bundles that include both Sonic The Hedgehog 6 and Virtua Fighter Infinity already downloaded to the machine, and will be priced at $249.99 rather than the normal $299.99 MSRP. We've also seen certain retailers carrying the base Gemini system without any games for $199.99, the same price as Nintendo's Connect. Though the Connect is expected to have another extremely successful Black Friday sales season, Apple's Gemini is expected to have its biggest month yet, thanks to its expanded game library and the aggressive sales. Some analysts even expect the Gemini to clear 10 million total units sold by the end of 2012, which would put it behind the iPod Play in terms of sales pace, but would be a stronger than expected year for Apple after slow Gemini sales out of the gate.

    Though fans have been skeptical of Apple's expensive machine, critics have showered the Gemini with praise, lauding its ability to provide console-quality visuals in a portable package. The Gemini, which has been pushed much harder as a dedicated gaming machine than the iPod Play, has also gotten strong reviews from those who have purchased it, with a slightly higher overall software attachment rate than Nintendo's Connect. The Gemini has seen several high profile releases and ports this year, and with Apple stating that the handheld will have streaming capabilities with the Apple Virtua, allowing players to take the next generation of Apple games on the go, it's expected to remain a viable gaming device for years to come.

    -from an article on Kotaku, posted on November 14, 2012
    Fall 2012 (Part 6) - Metroid Gravity
  • Metroid Gravity

    Metroid Gravity is an adventure/third person shooter title exclusive to the Nintendo Sapphire. It continues directly after the events of Metroid Starfall, with Samus Aran exploring a world in the shadow of a tremendous black hole. The black hole's presence causes mysterious gravitational phenomena to occur on this planet, and Samus must equip herself and adapt to the strange conditions as she attempts to survive while getting to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the planet. Meanwhile, she's being pursued by the mysterious Dark Samus, who wishes to harness the black hole's power for herself. Unlike Metroid Starfall, which regularly featured other human characters in frequent contact with Samus, this game presents a much more isolated and creepy aesthetic as Samus must explore the planet on her own. The planet is not only infested with mysterious creatures, but also has a small colony of Metroids, which it's speculated may have appeared there via the black hole itself. Metroid Gravity is more about puzzles and physics than previous games in the series, with the player needing to figure out how to manipulate and control gravity. Exploration has elements of OTL games like Super Mario Galaxy and Portal, with the player sometimes needing to try out a new perspective to get Samus where she needs to go. The game has a few of the classic Metroid items and weapons, but also has plenty of new items that give the player the ability to manipulate gravity and to survive in harsh gravitational conditions. The player will need to monitor Samus' suit weight, and if they equip her too heavily, she'll be overencumbered or even crushed in certain rooms, with the map blocking itself out depending on how much weight Samus is carrying. This mechanic adds even more puzzle elements to the game, forcing the player to carefully consider what they should do moving forward and what equipment they'll need to leave behind, at least temporarily. The Gravity Gun, which is acquired about 25% of the way through and can be upgraded/altered by numerous acquisitions Samus makes along the way, returns from Starfall, but it plays a much more important role in the game and the ability to acquire upgrades for the weapon is new to the series. This Gravity Gun can make things lighter or heavier, remove gravity from a space, add additional gravity, crush certain creature or objects, or even tear them apart under the right circumstances. There's also a Viscosity Gun capable of firing an ooze-like sticky subtance which can counteract certain gravitational effects. Samus can use the Electro Trap, capable of generating small electrical fields, and can also equip something called the Plant Suit, capable of transforming her suit into a cellulose-esque substance capable of resisting gravity's effects. A little more than half of the items in the game are entirely new, the most for any Metroid title to date. The game's graphics are fairly close to that of Starfall, upgraded slightly but not too heavily changed from those of that game. Anna Gunn returns as Samus' voice actress, though there's not much voice acting to speak of in the game considering the increased level of isolation from Starfall. Kenji Yamamoto once again returns to compose the game's score, and this time he works mostly alone, not collaborating with anyone as he did for the previous game.

    The game's story sees Samus venturing to the planet Kukore, in search of Dark Samus who continues to threaten the galaxy. Soon after she arrives, she realizes that the gravity from the black hole that Kukore is orbiting around is causing strange effects on the planet, blocking out all of her communications and leaving her alone to explore. As Samus pursues Dark Samus across the world, she encounters increasingly dangerous phenomena causing strange gravity across the planet. The first part of the game sees Samus venturing across a mostly intact plain, mopping up monsters and encountering little in the way of hazards. This section eventually culminates in Samus earning her Gravity Gun, and after that, all hell breaks loose. Samus is ejected from the planet by a gravitational burst and flies all the way up to Kukore's moon, which is already being ripped apart by the black hole. This strange section of the game forces Samus to learn a lot more about how to traverse between chunks of rock, as she explores shattered caves and bounces from one moon chunk to the next. She eventually learns that the breaking up of the moon has freed an ancient beast from inside it, and in order to return to Kukore itself, she'll need to battle this beast, an enormous flying space dragon that is part of one of the game's most iconic boss battles. She defeats the dragon and rides its falling corpse back to Kukore, which is now itself starting to break up due to tidal effects. Samus now explores deep within the planet, coming across Metroids for the first time and realizing that the black hole is artificial, a Federation experiment gone terribly wrong. The black hole was created as an attempt to harness gravity as a source of power, and much of Samus' upgrades were created from those experiments. Dark Samus is wearing a suit allowing her to absorb black hole particles, and Samus realizes that she's attempting to absorb the black hole itself, which would give her the power to destroy any solar system in the universe. Samus continues to battle her way through the shattered planet, defeating more monsters and Metroids and eventually confronting Dark Samus, who has started absorbing large parts of the black hole. In a gravity and physics-defying battle, Samus duals with Dark Samus across the surface of Kukore and within the planet. Samus realizes that in order to stop Dark Samus, she'll have to overload her suit and destroy the black hole, sacrificing herself but also saving the galaxy. She appears fully prepared to do this, but Dark Samus attacks her at the last moment, leading to the final phase of the final boss fight. Samus figures out a way to force Dark Samus to destroy the black hole, shattering Dark Samus' armor and ending her threat to the galaxy. However, the black hole refuses to be destroyed after consuming Dark Samus, and continues to devour Kukore. In a harrowing escape sequence, Samus must blast herself from giant rock to giant rock to catch up with her ship as it floats aimlessly through space. She boards the ship and is able to take off just as the last of Kukore is devoured by the black hole. With the galaxy saved, Samus contacts her companions and returns to Federation space to collect her bounty.

    Metroid Gravity is released on November 11, 2012. Critical reviews are mostly positive, but not quite at the same level as Metroid Starfall. The game's main criticisms are that it's too short of a game and that the weight/encumbrance system is tricky and frustrating to figure out, and that it prevents players from carrying the items they want when they want to use them. Indeed, the weight system is the aspect of the game most criticized by fans and online reviewers, with Zero Punctuation in particular delivering an extremely scathing review of the game (even by Yahtzee's standards). Sales are also slightly lower than expected, even with all the hype surrounding the big Metroid movie. Some of that can be attributed to the difference between the subject matter of the movie and the subject matter of the game, which doesn't feature Ridley or any of the classic Metroid villains (save for the Metroids themselves, which end up being a fairly small part of the game). Elements of the game that are praised include some of the puzzle segments and the atmosphere of the planet Kukore, which is spectacular despite the game's graphics not being as impressive as Starfall's were a few years back (the release of the Nexus has somewhat spoiled people on the Sapphire's graphics). Overall, the game is considered a success, but a bit of a downturn for the series, comparable to Metroid Prime 2's release IOTL. However, Nintendo is hard at work on a new Metroid for the Reality that's designed to take advantage of the system's advanced specs and VR features, with the main problem being that the game won't be out for several more years.
    Fall 2012 (Part 7) - A Coalition Of Military Shooters
  • U.S. Army Rangers: Never Leave A Man Behind

    The fourth Army Rangers game, Never Leave A Man Behind is released for the Sapphire, iTwin, and for the Google Nexus at launch. Like its predecessors, it's a military-based FPS with a realistic feel, following a squad of elite Army Rangers as they operate in enemy territory. This game has a focus on rescuing soldiers who have been injured or captured in battle, with an even heavier focus on squad-based gameplay than that of its predecessors, forcing the player to use teamwork to cover and protect their fellow soldiers, while at the same time taking advantage of the cover opportunities given by teammates. The game offers a large array of commands and cues to help players work with their squadmates with more synergy, pointing out opportunities for players to use cover and fire upon enemies from safe areas. It also forces players to remain aware for squadmates that are under fire or being captured, as allowing a squadmate to get killed or captured can lead to mission penalties or failures. The game also helps players to get more acquainted with their squadmates, with dialogue and backstory for many of them, making it easier to form attachments. The game takes place during a war in an unnamed Middle Eastern country that spills into Turkey, with the player's squad teaming up with a group of soldiers from an unnamed rebel faction (implied to be the Kurds) and helping them defeat a group of terrorists operating out of their native country. The game culminates in a spectacular battle in Istanbul between a faction of terrorists and a coalition of the player's squad, the Turkish army, and a group of rebel soldiers all working together to defeat the terrorist army once and for all. The mission also sees the player tasked with rescuing three captured American soldiers and one captured rebel soldier, and the ending depends on how many of these four are saved (you're required to save two of them, but the best ending requires all four). In addition to the single player campaign, the game features an extensive series of multiplayer modes and some of the best battle maps seen to date in an FPS title, making this one of the best team-based multiplayer titles of the year. The game looks and plays good on the iTwin and the Sapphire, but it's the Nexus version that's the best, with excellent next-gen graphics, exclusive missions, and numerous exclusive multiplayer maps (this extra Nexus content is eventually made available on the iTwin and Sapphire versions as paid DLC). Overall, the latest Army Rangers game is a fun and solid FPS and one of the best early Nexus ports. It averages a solid 8/10 and performs well in terms of sales, though it's not nearly as successful as the year's top FPS titles.


    Call Of Duty: Coalition

    Call Of Duty: Coalition is a military-based FPS and the latest game in the ultra popular Call Of Duty series of shooter games. It takes place sometime in the "near future", and focuses on a coalition of nations from around the world uniting to take on a rogue Middle Eastern nation that has come into possession of nuclear and chemical weapons. Later on, it's learned that one of the nations in the coalition has been supplying this country with weapons, creating tension amongst the members and threatening to draw the world into World War III. Call Of Duty: Coalition has a greater focus on squad-based gameplay than on other titles in the series, but also features a lot of big action set pieces in which players quickly have to adjust their tactics mid-battle to avoid a sudden hazard or ambush. Unlike Nightfall, which featured closed quarters gameplay at night, Coalition has mostly day missions, with more of them in open areas (though there are still plenty of urban missions or indoor missions that force players to fight in cramped quarters). As part of the game's "near future" feel, there are some weapons that are based on future tech, though not to the extent of games like OTL's Advanced Warfare. Indeed, the game has more different types of weapons than any other game in the series thus far, allowing players to employ a wide variety of strategies in both the single player campaign and the multiplayer. Each nation brings its own different types of weaponry to the table, forcing players to get skilled with several different types of weapons depending on the mission and the country that the player's squad is currently working with. Basic controls and gameplay are fairly unchanged from Call Of Duty: Nightfall, though there are some new graphical upgrades and quality of life improvements designed to make the game feel like a real progression in the series (and for the most part they succeed). Like it's predecessor, the game features an orchestrated score and an all-star lineup of voice actors, including a few celebrities (mostly TV B-listers, but still significantly more famous than typical voice artists). The game's Nexus version sees a slight upgrade in graphics over the last-gen versions, but not a truly huge one, considering it's a sort of "transitional" title. The Nexus also doesn't get any extra content. Coalition features an extensive multiplayer mode, with several modes that push cooperation and competition between players of different nations. "True Coalition" mode creates teams where every player is a different nationality, and "World War III" mode pits squads of different nations against each other in ranked competition. These are more side modes compared to the main deathmatch modes, but they do tend to be played quite a bit, with World War III mode proving to be especially popular.

    Coalition's campaign is divided into three main segments: an American segment, which takes up about half of the campaign, and British and Russian segments, which take up about 25 percent each. In each segment, you play as a different soldier, with the American segment featuring Pvt. First Class Ben Amos (voiced by Corey Hawkins). Amos' squad is tasked with leading a push into the nation of Jalistan, which has stockpiled nuclear weapons and is attempting to invade its neighboring countries. As Amos' squad completes missions, Amos is promoted to sergeant, and his squad learns of a conspiracy to sell arms to Jalistan, which may be how they acquired nuclear weapons. After a few more missions, the game switches over to the British segment, and a member of British intelligence named Paul Lonce, who's currently embedded within a squadron of special forces soldiers running a mission within Jalistan. Lonce and his team learn that Russia may be responsible for selling the nuclear weapons to Jalistan and is attempting to cover it up. Shortly after Amos' squad rendezvous with Lonce's, the two squads are caught up in a chemical weapon attack directly traced back to a Russian lab. Then, the player takes over for a female Russian soldier, Reya Saliskova (voiced by Stana Katic). While it initially looks like Reya is working with a group connected to covering up the chemical weapons, as it turns out, this group is being framed and that it's actually an American mercenary group who acquired and sold the weapons in Jalistan, in an attempt to justify their continued existence in the resulting world war. However, Reya is seemingly killed as she races to get this information to her superiors, and it's Lonce who discovers the charred evidence and some of Reya's squadmates. He has to try and decode the information, but comes under fire from a squad of Jalistani soldiers and is pinned down. Then, the player takes back over for Amos, who ends up working with the American mercenaries, and learning that they have captured someone responsible for passing weapons along to the Jalistanis. This turns out to be Reya, who wasn't killed and is instead being set up to take the fall, but she's able to escape and eventually presents Amos with proof of the mercenary squad's involvement, and she and Amos fight their way out of the mercenary base. This sets up the game's final chapter, in which the coalition advances on the Jalistani capital. They raid the presidential palace, only for another chemical weapon to be detonated. Lonce sacrifices himself to cover Amos and Reya's escape, while one more threat remains: the mercenary group plans to detonate a nuke in the Jalistani capital, not only scoring an easy American victory but also killing everyone with evidence of their involvement in the weapon leak. A small brigade made up of various squads from different nations is able to raid the mercenary compound, with Amos' squad leading the way and Reya laying down cover fire for them. Amos stops the nuke just in time, and the war ends, while the mercenary group's leaders are either killed or imprisoned. The game implies that Amos might be interested in a romance with Reya, but she chooses to return to Russia, and it's implied that while she had nothing to do with Jalistan's acquisition of nuclear weapons, that she is a spy working for Russia and that she was able to get valuable information from the mercenary compound before it was destroyed.

    Call Of Duty: Coalition is released on November 16, 2012. While the game's reviews aren't quite on the level of Nightfall, averaging in the low to mid 8s, the game itself is a massive commercial hit and quickly becomes the year's best selling game about a couple weeks after its release. Its sales are strong on all three consoles it's released on, though it would ultimately see heavy competition from Cyberwar 4, its main contender for FPS of the year. The game's release shows the continued strength of Call Of Duty games and the FPS genre in general, and hype for 2013's game begins as soon as this one is released.
    Fall 2012 (Part 8) - Cyberwar 4
  • Cyberwar 4

    Cyberwar 4 is a futuristic FPS title developed by Psygnosis. It's the fifth game in the Cyberwar series, taking place two years after the events of Cyberwar 3 and Cyberwar: Netizen X. The game features elements of both FPS titles and hacking/social engineering games, with dual protagonists who both take a different approach to fighting a new world war that's spilled almost entirely into cyberspace. The corporation known as the Power Corps, which began as a mercenary branch of the United States government, but has since become its own extranational government through its control over cyberspace and its ability to influence millions of people throughout the world, has launched a series of strikes in an attempt to cripple the abilities of the world's governments to resist them. Fighting against the Power Corps are a group of hackers spread across the world who have aligned themselves with soldiers and rebels to battle the Power Corps' private army. The game's two primary protagonists are Toma Alvarez, a hacker and defector from the Power Corps, and Lucy Brunstein (AKA Netizen X), a 17-year-old girl who happens to be the most skilled hacker in the world, and also the most influential influencer of all time, with millions of followers of her own, giving her a private army almost rivaling that of the Power Corps (with the difference being that the Power Corps is armed with guns and WMDs, and Lucy's army has whatever they can acquire, plus hacking skills). Tomas controls like a typical FPS hero, using guns in most situations, but also able to use hacking and stealth, making his style of play somewhat comparable to that of Joanna Dark: a skilled fighter with an array of technological tools at his disposal. Meanwhile, Lucy fights from the comforts of her room, and when playing as Lucy, the player will take control of a robotic fighter that Lucy has hacked. Lucy has the ability to "jump" from vessel to vessel, utilizing the robots she hacks, each of which have their own separate stats and weapon loadout. The game's narrative is a fairly strict one, meaning that for the most part, the player is not able to choose between Tomas and Lucy, and the switching between them is usually fairly unexpected, triggered by a cutscene or an event flag. However, the game itself (especially Lucy's segments) is quite non-linear, especially for an FPS title. The player is encouraged to explore and hack what they can. Both Tomas and Lucy can build up levels as they progress through the game and accomplish various tasks, with Tomas able to gain the ability to shoot straighter or take cover more easily, while Lucy can improve her hacking skills and give herself more time to find a new vessel once her old one takes too much damage. The game features highly contextual dialogue between the player characters and various NPCs, and also between Tomas and Lucy themselves. Lucy also likes to talk to herself sometimes, and will say various things depending on what's going on in the game. Like in other open world games, the player is able to find out more about the game's world by hacking and exploring as much as possible. Lucy is able to hack into civilians' phones in order to see their contacts and recent texts, and at greater hacker levels, is able to interfere more with the operations of the city and with the Power Corps soldiers. When Lucy and Tomas are working together, Lucy can help Tomas clear barricades and lure people into traps, while Tomas is able to clear a path for Lucy to navigate her robots. Cyberwar 4 features great graphics on the Nintendo Sapphire (pushing the system almost to its limits), but looks especially good on the Google Nexus, with Psygnosis taking the time to make it a true next generation title. As far as voice acting goes, Zachary Quinto and AJ Michalka both reprise their roles as Tomas and Lucy respectively, while other famous actors also voice various major and minor characters in the game, giving Cyberwar 4 one of the year's most talented and high profile voice casts. The game's high production values make it one of the most expensive titles of the year, putting a significant strain on the finances of the newly independent Psygnosis and making it pretty much a make or break game for the company.

    Cyberwar 4's main campaign picks up right where Cyberwar 3 left off, and shows how Tomas Alvarez escaped the prison that he trapped himself and Sara Marzandre in. It confirms that she indeed turned the gun she had on herself and didn't shoot Tomas with it, and then the player is given control of Tomas and after a somewhat complicated series of actions, he escapes his confinement. However, Power Corps troops are descending on the building, and he has to fight his way out. He's wounded, and we're left with a cliffhanger, and then a fairly long sequence of Netizen X missions begin, two years later in 2046. The game shows how the Power Corps has slowly taken over the world, using proxy armies in various nations, starting (and usually winning) civil wars all over the world, while subtly manipulating the American government into surrendering more and more power. Netizen X and her band of rebel hackers, which include Julie Skalzeny (but notably not Samuel Redd, at least yet), along with some new characters (the organization is somewhat like Dedsec from OTL's Watch Dogs 2, though perhaps a bit more serious in nature) are the only thing standing between the Power Corps and total world domination. The player is able to get a feel for Lucy's abilities and do some true open-world hacking and exploration during this part, which sees Netizen X "liberating" the city of Compton from some Power Corps mercenaries and mechs. However, the greater Los Angeles area is still heavily controlled by the Power Corps, with much of the city damaged and in chaos. Netizen X's missions eventually lead to Tomas getting a "ping" about a strange hacker. Two years after the incident at the Power Corps HQ, Tomas is a freedom fighter, hitting Power Corps sites all over the world. However, he sees Netizen X's activities not as a help, but as a hindrance to what he and his own allies are attempting to accomplish. He doesn't know that the ping leads to Netizen X, and also doesn't know about her true nature, all he knows is that whoever this hacker is they could potentially be working for the Power Corps. He makes his way to Netizen X's headquarters, an old underground mall in Los Angeles that's been converted into a resistance base. He ambushes Lucy and grabs her, but she's able to turn her security mechs on Tomas, leading to an impasse that's quickly resolved when Lucy determines that Tomas wouldn't kill a child, and uses her mechs to stun him. Now with the upper hand, but also knowing everything about Tomas, Lucy playfully "interrogates" him before revealing that she's been waiting for him to show up and that she's been tracking him for some time. An uneasy alliance is formed, but the two agree to work together, and this leads into the main action of the game, in which Lucy and Tomas coordinate on operations to stop the Power Corps (at this point, the campaign is about a third of the way over). Tomas can begin learning some of Lucy's social engineering skills, while Lucy begins to level up her combat (though she herself is unable to fight at this point in the game). The dynamic between them is sort of like an even more dysfunctional Joel and Ellie from OTL's The Last Of Us, with Tomas eventually seeing himself as a kind of father figure for Lucy, while Lucy sees him as the dad she always wishes she had (but who also annoys the hell out of her). The game's main villain is revealed at this point: a soldier who once worked with Tomas in his squad named Eldon Barker (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal one of the bigger A-list voice acting "gets" for a video game to this date),. Barker, like Tomas, is a brilliant hacker, and like Lucy, is brilliant at socially manipulating people. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Power Corps with his technical abilities, and once he learned how to manipulate top government officials to the Power Corps' whims, he was able to seize power at an accelerated rate. He IS sort of reminiscent of Mysterio from the OTL Far From Home movie, though without the illusions and theatrics, and more of a deadly serious edge to him. He's not the leader of the Power Corps themselves, but is their top-rated "neo-mercenary", a sort of cybersoldier with the ability to fight in both cyberspace and realspace. As Tomas and Lucy's activities get more and more troublesome for the Power Corps, Barker gets closer and closer to taking them down.

    The game's second half begins with a mission to find Samuel Redd (who savvy players will remember was the protagonist from Netizen X). Tomas finds him, and he's been convalescing for most of the last two years. Tomas eventually finds out some troubling information from him: Lucy has been manipulatng him into giving up vital information and tech, and she indeed might be communicating with Barker himself. Indeed, the next Netizen X mission confirms that Lucy is working with Barker on some level. Tomas is reluctant to go after Lucy, but is told by Redd that her activities are doing more harm than good, and that she has to be taken down. This leads to a harrowing "boss fight" in which the player controls both Lucy and Tomas in alternating segments of a fight against each other, as Tomas tries to break into her base and eventually kill her, and Lucy tries everything she can to stop him. This leads to a sequence in which Lucy is forced to shoot Tomas in self-defense, and flees out of her hideout, giving the player direct control over Lucy for the first time in the game. During this segment, she has limited hacking abilities, and is not able to attack anyone, but she's eventually forced to defend herself again after one of Barker's mercs comes after her, and she eventually kills him. Though she has killed people before with her hacks (reluctantly), this is the first time she's truly killed anyone with her own hands, and it causes her to break down. Meanwhile, Barker captures the wounded Tomas, but doesn't hurt him at first. Instead, we get a lot of information about the two's background as former friends. Eventually, however, Barker does begin torturing Tomas, and Tomas eventually relents and asks Barker to help him take down Netizen X, as she's a threat to the stability of the world. Lucy manages to make her way into a hacker lab, and begins transmitting a message out to every electronic device in the world that the war cannot go on and that the Power Corps must give up their power. She is attacked by more mercs, but manages to fight her way out with a combination of hacking and bullets. Exhausted and terrified, she wants to find Tomas but believes he's probably dead. She manages to transmit a message to him just before passing out. Tomas begins to set a trap for Lucy, but realizes the error he's made just in time, and fights his way to Lucy, saving her life. The two reconcile, and with their remaining allies, they're able to form a new group to take the fight to the Power Corps. The next mission is a climactic one in which Tomas battles his way to Barker while Lucy uses her hacking skills to clear the way for him. Eventually, she's forced out of her hiding place and ventures back out on her own (though with a much better weapon this time). Tomas gets help from both Julie and Redd to help him reach Barker, and after an emotional fight, Barker is defeated. However, Lucy doesn't think it's quite that simple, and even as Power Corps troops flee Los Angeles, Lucy realizes how difficult and brutal the fight will be. She decides that she's going to take another option... using Sara Marzandre's design, she's reconstructed the logic bomb, and she detonates it, cutting off power to the entire continental United States. This also severely cripples the Power Corps, allowing the United States military to overrun them in a series of harrowing nighttime battles. However, it's not that clean and simple. Tomas is taken prisoner by the US military, who take him to a blacksite for interrogation. Lucy decides to rescue him on her own, without her hacking abilities. This is where much of the combat knowledge and leveling that Lucy did pays off, as she fights her way into the blacksite and manages to reach Tomas. However, more soldiers arrive, and Tomas and Lucy have no way out. Tomas tells Lucy that he's proud of her for ending the war, but Lucy, despite her bravery, is terrified to die. Just when it looks hopeless for them, literally hundreds of thousands of Netizen X supporters show up, surrounding the blacksite (think the Area 51 raid if it went exactly how the planners thought it would go). They threaten to overrun the facility and kill everyone inside if Tomas and Lucy aren't released, and reluctantly, the site commander allows the two to walk out unharmed. Tomas and Lucy walk out through a crowd of cheering supporters, but though Lucy is relieved that she didn't die, she's also terrified of the world that she has made. The United States has been crippled by the logic bomb, with damage that will take years to repair and tech set back a long time. The Power Corps is defeated in the United States, but is regrouping elsewhere. Technology has literally become so dangerous that Lucy doesn't know if she wants the grid to be repaired or not. The game ends on a bittersweet and worrisome note, with an injured Tomas and an emotionally broken Lucy not knowing what direction the world will go now.

    The game also features an extensive multiplayer mode, perhaps the most detailed and feature-packed in the series to date. The main new mode, a game style called Cyber City which is sort of a combination between OTL Fortnite and OTL Watch Dogs, in which 12 players are placed randomly across a large map and must kill each other, utilizing hacking and social engineering to disrupt, manipulate, and find the other players. It's one of the most strategically dense and amusingly addictive gameplay modes ever in an FPS title, lending itself to fierce fights and hilarious moments, with matches becoming instant social media sensations. Cyber City is the main attraction, but Cyberwar 4's myriad of deathmatch and other modes, both team and individual, make it one of the most fun FPS titles ever for competitive play and an instant hit amongst players who have gotten tired of Call Of Duty. It's the multiplayer that has made Cyberwar as big of a franchise as it is, and that's no exception here, with the game quickly shooting to the top of the player count leaderboards on both Sapphire and Nexus. The game, which releases on November 20, 2012, is an instant hit upon its release, smashing first week sales records in North America on the Nintendo Sapphire and quickly surpassing The Covenant 5 as the best selling Nexus title as well. It even outsells Call Of Duty: Coalition, despite being released on less systems overall. Cyberwar 3 was the best selling game ever released on the Xbox 2, and Cyberwar 4 will eventually come to surpass its total sales on the Sapphire alone, not even factoring in Nexus sales. Reviews are also extremely good, with only Super Mario Laboratory getting higher overall scores. Cyberwar 4 would come to be Super Mario Laboratory's biggest challenger for 2012's Game of the Year, and fanboys would begin fighting over which of the two games was better almost immediately after the first reviews were released. Cyberwar, which began its life as an Xbox exclusive, has gained new life on both Nintendo and Google's systems, and Cyberwar 4 would eventually be released on Apple's Virtua system as well, selling at least a million titles there.
    The Blockbusters Of 2012
  • The Top 25 Highest Grossing Films Of 2012 (North American domestic gross only):
    (Authors' Note: G.I. Joe, Spiderman: Venom, Harley Quinn, The Avengers, Invincible, and Green Lantern Corps were all given to us by the reader Pyro.)


    1. As Gods: Awakening ($578.4 million) (Note: The sequel to Roland Emmerich's epic superhero action/drama film ramps up the stakes and the action, with more powerful villains, new trials and tribulations for the heroes, and a few characters who go from good to evil and vice versa. Scores great reviews, on par with the first film, and is a massive, MASSIVE box office hit, making $2 billion worldwide to become the second biggest film of all time after Star Wars Episode VII.)

    2. Spider-Man: Venom ($458.7 million)

    3. The Avengers ($420.7 million) (Note: Though this film has nowhere near the hype as OTL's Avengers film, and also isn't as good, it's still hugely hyped and becomes a major box office success.)

    4. Goldilocks ($403.7 million) (Note: A 3-D animated Disney musical with songs composed by Alan Menken, this is essentially OTL's Tangled and Frozen rolled up into one in terms of how the audience reacts to it. A radically expanded version of the classic fairytale about a girl who sneaks into a house where bears are living, this gives Goldilocks a compelling reason to be in the house, gives the bear family plenty of personality, and adds a wide variety of new characters to the story. It's full of incredible music, and is proceeded by a lot of hype beforehand that hypes up the film as the one that will restore the classic magic to Disney. It does all that and then some, becoming their most successful film since The Lion King and bringing about a new Disney Renaissance.)

    5. Sprout ($378.5 million) (Note: A Pixar film about a family of sentient plants, one of whom must go on a journey, this film is beautiful and heartwrenching, like all good Pixar films should be. In what might be the best year for animated movies ever, this one stands out, and becomes a Best Picture contender.)

    6. Metroid ($310.2 million)

    7. The Hobbit: Part 1 ($286.4 million) (Note: TTL's Hobbit series consists of two films rather than three. This one is about as well received as OTL's Unexpected Journey.)

    8. Green Lantern Corps ($280.4 million)

    9. Inheritance ($270.5 million) (Note: The fourth and final film of the Eragon series, it's a decent conclusion to the franchise. Notably, they don't try to split the final book into two parts.)

    10. Celestial ($232.7 million) (Note: A J.J. Abrams film that combines elements of OTL's Cloverfield with a superheroine that's essentially a realistic Sailor Moon, a 17 year old high school girl who develops superpowers in the midst of a giant scary monster smashing a city. The TTL starmaking role for a previously unknown Margot Robbie, it gets mixed-to-decent reviews, and is the first film in a franchise.)

    11. Rise Of The Guardians ($228.4 million) (Note: A much bigger hit than OTL's Rise Of The Guardians, sees slightly better reviews than OTL's film and features some musical elements. It's popular, but not as much as Disney and Pixar's efforts.)

    12. Zero Day ($224.7 million) (Note: The last James Bond film to star Sam Worthington in the titular role. This is a solid Bond film, focusing heavily on computer hacking with a villain who seems to be somewhat based on Steve Jobs, but it's not as good or as memorable as OTL's Skyfall. After this film, there would be somewhat of a Bond hiatus as producers scramble to recast Bond and retool the series.)

    13. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero ($218.0 million) (Note: The film that kicks off the Hasbroverse, though it doesn't connect to Transformers until the very end during a credits scene. It stars Chris Evans as Duke, Karen Gillian as Scarlett, Terry Crews as Roadblock, Benedict Cumberbatch as Cobra Commander, and Liv Tyler as Baroness, and is significantly better received than the OTL film, becoming a moderate hit.

    14. Rainbow: The Prism Alliance ($209.4 million)

    15. Lincoln ($187.5 million)

    16. Django Unchained ($186.9 million)

    17. Harley Quinn ($174.3 million)

    18. The Forge: Earth Smasher ($165.2 million)

    19. Waxing ($151.8 million) (Note: A tearjerker romance starring Amanda Seyfried as a woman dying of cancer and Chris Evans as her husband, this movie is a bit too schlocky to win any Oscars, but it does bring women out in droves, leading to a big Valentine's Day weekend opening and lots of money at the domestic box office.)

    20. 21 Jump Street ($145.0 million)

    21. Argo ($137.4 million)

    22. Hotel Transylvania ($130.6 million)

    23. The General ($129.7 million) (Note: A biopic of Dwight Eisenhower, covering the last two years of his presidency. Ends up dueling with Lincoln in a sort of “battle of the presidents” for Oscars and awards, with Lincoln generally coming out ahead.)

    24. Magic Mike ($127.3 million)

    25. Invincible ($122.8 million) (Note: Based on the Image Comics series.)


    Jem Cast Revealed, But What Role Will It Play In The Hasbroverse?

    Jem, the exciting new film based on the classic 80s cartoon series featuring a band of teenage girls who go on incredible adventures (and do it in style), will be released sometime next year, and it's confirmed that it will continue the Hasbroverse which also includes Transformers and G.I. Joe. With the action inclinations of those two shows, fans have wondered what will connect a group of musicians to the wider Hasbroverse of giant robots and elite soldiers. The film's director, Maurissa Tancharoen, won't reveal any secrets, but one of the producers of the Hasbroverse films has announced that Jem's connection, at least at first, will be more "tangential".

    "We won't be seeing Jem and her friends picking up guns and shooting at Megatron," said the producer, "but there's a chance the girls could get involved in the action in their own special way. You'll just have to watch the films to find out!"

    The actors playing the Holograms and their rivals the Misfits have been announced, and according to Tanchareon, they were cast "both on their ability to act and their ability to sing, and we're going to have some great songs in this movie!"

    The cast is as follows:

    Jem/Jerrica Benton: Melissa Benoist
    Kimber Benton: Meaghan Jette Martin
    Shana Elmsford: Zoe Kravitz
    Aja Leith: Kimiko Glenn
    Carmen 'Raya' Alonso: Aimee Carrero

    Pizzazz: Kesha
    Roxy: Leven Rambin
    Stormer: Demi Lovato
    Jetta: Scarlett Byrne

    Most of the cast consists of relative newcomers. Meaghan Jette Martin is best known for her continuing role as Betty Cooper on Welcome To Riverdale, Zoe Kravitz has performed in a number of indie films and is the daughter of music legend Lenny Kravitz, and Scarlett Byrne played Pansy Parkinson in the later Harry Potter films. Of course, perhaps the best known actress in the film is Kesha, who's performed a number of pop hits over the past few years. This is her first acting role (apart from cameos and guest appearances in different TV shows), but there's already a good amount of buzz over her performance, and is expected to play a major role in the film. Jem is set to be released in the spring, and is one of the more hyped films of the first half of 2013.

    -from an article on Tubehound, posted on December 4, 2012
    Fall 2012 (Part 9) - The Rest Of The Games
  • (Here are the rest of the notable games from October 2012 to December 2012!)


    Nintendo Sapphire-

    SOCOM 6

    The latest of Sony's squad-based FPS shooters, and the last game in the series for the Nintendo Sapphire, SOCOM 6 features some more experimental gameplay than previous titles in the series, with squads frequently broken up into individual soldiers and forced to work together. The game practically requires the use of a headset and microphone, since coordination between teammates across distances is a must, but the single player campaign does have a sophisticated AI and set of commands and communication macros for players to use. Because of the short turnaround between this game and SOCOM 5, the developers intentionally limited the scope of the campaign, with smaller areas and shorter missions, but used this an an opportunity to work on features that would be more fully fleshed out in future games. For this reason, SOCOM 6 has a “strange” feel to it which turns off some longtime players but which also makes the game rather unique when compared with its predecessors. The campaign tasks players with hunting down a human trafficking ring, conducting investigative missions and search and rescue missions, which sparing drawn out firefights until the second half of the game. It's a title that gets mixed reviews, with some fans greatly enjoying it and others disliking it, and the game would see reduced sales compared to SOCOM 5, becoming a sort of “forgotten” title in the series.

    Apple iTwin-

    Knuckles Darkside

    A fully 3-D platformer, Knuckles Darkside continues the story of Knuckles, the anti-hero of the Sonic crew, with a game that was developed by a different team than the one from the mainline series. Darkside features a lot of combat and stealth, and less in the way of open platforming compared to other titles in the series, while also being rather heavy on plot compared to previous games. Its only playable protagonist is Knuckles, with two major NPCs: Corona the Butterfly and Ariadne the Spider. Corona remains a headstrong freedom fighter and a romantic interest to Knuckles, while Ariadne is more morally conflicted, tempting Knuckles to the dark side with her words and actions. The game also introduces a brand new melee combat system unlike anything seen in the Sonic series before, with Knuckles able to learn some fierce new combos and moves, purchasing them with rings found in the world or earned through various deeds (curiously, morally ambiguous deeds earn a lot more rings than morally good ones). Large enemies and bosses have their own life meter, turning the game at times into a sort of beat 'em up title. Corona and Ariadne can both serve as support characters during various fights, and the player is encouraged to work with them to deplete the enemy's lifebar quickly. As for the game's plot, it sees Knuckles leading another revolt against a race of robots known as the Chromar. At first, it seems like a straight up “rebellion against the empire” type of plot, with Ariadne helping Knuckles to overthrow the robots and take over. However, Knuckles begins to learn that there's more to the Chromar than meets the eye, and that Ariadne, unlike Corona, has no sense of restraint or mercy. The Chromar, as it turns out, are protecting their homeland from an ancient evil, and once they're overthrown, that evil is released. While Ariadne herself isn't evil or in league with this new villain, she's reckless and doesn't care about the results of her actions. Eventually, her cruelty leads to her corruption, and Knuckles is forced to take her down in the game's final battle. Ariadne survives, and leaves in anger and disgrace, promising revenge on Knuckles in the future. However, Knuckles himself has taken some actions that he can't walk back, and Corona leaves him as well, leaving him alone to contemplate his future in a bittersweet ending. Knuckles Darkside receives quite positive reviews, becoming one of the iTwin's best exclusives of the year. While it doesn't sell nearly as much as Super Mario Laboratory or Sonic The Hedgehog 6, it's still a good game and a financial success.

    Phantasy Star Millennium

    Phantasy Star Millennium is an enhanced remake of Phantasy Star IV. It essentially upgrades the entire game into full 3-D, adding quality of life improvements and expanding somewhat on the plot of the original, playing very much like a modern RPG. It's the last of the four “classic” Phantasy Star games to be remade, and with Apple's decision not to continue with Phantasy Star V in lieu of focusing on the new online game and future mainline titles, it would be the last of the next generation remakes. It's the most well received of the remakes by critics, and also performs the best financially, becoming one of the iTwin's last great games and a must-play for fans of classic RPGs.

    Nintendo Connect-

    Justicar 3

    A third-person shooter/RPG for the Nintendo Connect, Justicar 3 is the first game in the series on Nintendo's new handheld, and brings with it a significant graphical upgrade, in some ways even comparable to the Xbox 2 Covenant titles thanks to shader tricks and clever use of scale. The gameplay has been significantly revamped as well: It's still a third person shooter with excellent controls and realistic AI, but now sees RPG elements added, including the ability to level up and upgrade the protagonist Damon, as well as the ability to see damage numbers over enemies and target their weaknesses. Interactive dialogue trees are also present, including during battle, in which Damon can reason with, trick, or intimidate certain enemies during battle. The plot is a fairly straightforward mystery in which one of Damon's longtime friends is murdered and he learns of a traitor within the ranks, working with a rival colony to subvert and destroy the order. The plot has some twists and turns, involving a star-crossed romance and an armada of giant underground robots, but in the end, the traitor is uncovered and defeated, and Damon remains with the order. It's an exciting and fun game, albeit a bit clunky compared to the first two titles, which causes it to receive slightly lower reviews (in the mid 8s). Sales are also a bit slow, though they pick up later on once the game goes on sale. Justicar remains one of the more popular exclusive Nintendo handheld franchises, and the series will continue to see releases over the next few years.

    Rise A Knight: Renaissance

    Published by THQ for the Nintendo Connect, this game is an exclusive spinoff in the Rise A Knight series, taking place in a time much like our real-world Renaissance Era. Its protagonist is a young woman named Quivia, who revolts against her corrupt and decadent brother in order to start a new kingdom and becomes a sort of Joan of Arc figure in the process. Like previous games in the series, Rise A Knight: Renaissance is a complex WRPG with lots of open world exploration and plenty of opportunities to befriend new characters, complete side quests, and raise one's aptitude in a variety of skills and disciplines. A few compromises had to be made to fit such a big game on the Connect, but THQ pulls it off fairly well, with a world that's only slightly smaller than the worlds featured in the mainline Rise A Knight games. The combat system is fairly fast paced, and the player is allowed to choose between a variety of fighting skills for Quivia to use. Like previous games in the series, there are a number of different endings, with six main ending threads that can be affected by dozens of different variables and fates for various characters. While the game isn't as big or as complex as Rise A Knight III, it contains much of the same gameplay systems, and players who liked that game will have a lot to enjoy about this one. The game achieves good review scores and good initial sales, becoming one of the holiday season's best selling Connect games.

    The Eternal Path II

    The latest in Nihon Falcom's Kiseki series, The Eternal Path II (known in Japan as The Legend Of Heroes: The Trail That Leads To War), continues directly where the original game left off, though it initially presents a new party of heroes who then gradually meets most of the old player characters and recruits them throughout the game. The Eternal Path II takes place across a continent embroiled in war between Floret and Accro, which are now led by two mighty generals who see war as the only solution to the problems of their nations. The heroes, joined later by Seth and Centuria, must find and destroy a glowing red stone that seems to be fueling the battle lust of the two generals. They later learn that this stone is one of four stones that control the fate of the world, and destroying the red stone doesn't end the problems, but only compounds them. Though the generals are both defeated and the world is saved from destruction, it's clear that as long as the other three stones remain, the world will be in danger, and the ending sets up for the heroes to find the three remaining stones and destroy them once and for all. The Eternal Path II is praised highly in Japan but meets with a mixed reaction in the States. It's a bit on the short side, and the graphics, while improved over those of the last game, are fairly pedestrian for the Connect. However, the series has plenty of hardcore fans in the West, and they buy more than enough copies to justify localizing the third title in the series eventually.

    Apple Gemini-

    Skies Of Vermilion

    An epic RPG for the Apple Gemini intended to show off the system's capabilities, Skies Of Vermilion borrows gameplay elements from Skies Of Arcadia and plot elements from Sword Of Vermilion to create a fusion of both games in the form of a sky-trotting action RPG with epic scale. The protagonist, a descendant of the legendary King Erik VI, is tasked with scouring the world to find sixteen powerful rings before they can be gathered up by the forces of evil. These forces include a band of vicious sky pirates, a powerful rival king, an ancient evil wizard, a mysterious sorceress, and a mighty dragon. Along the way, the hero is able to recruit up to fifteen allies to their cause, with five mandatory story characters and ten characters who are totally optional. Right from the start of the game, the player is given an airship and allowed to explore the skybound archipelago that comprises the game world. Though they're limited to about 25 percent of the world at first, that's still a huge area, giving the player some immediate options on how they choose to proceed. Though the game can be finished somewhat sooner, most players will take between 40-60 hours to beat the game, making it one of the longest and biggest RPG titles to appear on a handheld up to this point. The gameplay itself includes both airship combat and real-time combat (a sort of hybrid of the systems in the Tale games and the Mana games), and also includes sequences in which airships can start out battling each other and then the player is able to board one airship from another (it's also possible for the enemy to do this). Though the game gets some criticism for its somewhat confusing quest progression, along with some characterization and plot issues, it's a grand RPG and one of the best handheld RPGs of the year. Reviews are quite good, especially in Japan, and it does decent sales in both Japan and North America.


    Skulls: Black Tempest

    The third game in the rebooted Skulls series, this title sees the protagonist Lupe take to the high seas in an effort to find an ancient treasure, only to accidentally revive the ghost of a vengeful pirate who now targets her and the ones she loves. This game is a fairly dark entry in the series, the villain is a particularly vicious one and Lupe herself has a darker mood in this game than she does in previous titles. There are also some genuinely scary enemies and some new and rather violent skills to add to Lupe's repertoire (nothing more than typical cartoon violence, but enough to earn the game a Teen rating). Lupe also seriously angsts about her powers, particularly after her best friend is nearly killed during a mid-game mission. Despite the shift in tone, the gameplay hasn't changed much at all: There's still lots of platforming and some fun combat, plenty of exploration, and even some new puzzle solving mechanics that turn the game into almost a Zelda-like adventure with platforming. The voice acting is top notch as well, though this game would be Aimee Carrero's last stint as the voice of Lupe (after this, she becomes a bit too famous to voice for games anymore). Skulls: Black Tempest is released to the Sapphire, iTwin, and Nexus (skipping the handhelds this time around), and does decently well on all three, though it achieves its best sales on the iTwin.

    Super Trixie

    A run and gun type game that takes place in numerous 2-D platforming levels, this game basically involves charging your super meter enough to activate a special super form and then going nuts on the enemies. It's possible to acquire up to twelve different transformations over the course of the game, and though some are more powerful than others, it's possible for a player with a particular favorite to use any of the forms and still achieve victory. A popular digital indie title, it doesn't achieve blockbuster status but it sells well and wins a few awards.

    Thrillseekers: Winter Challenge 2

    The latest game in the popular extreme sports series and the second to focus primarily on winter sports, Winter Challenge 2 features eight different winter sports: snowboarding, skiing, luge, bobsledding, and snowmobiling, along with three new sports: speed skating, ice speedway, and finally, figure skating, which is also the featured sport in the game. Speed skating takes elements from the roller derby featured in Thrillseekers: Roller Derby, also taking ice physics into account, while ice speedway functions much like the biking in Thrillseekers Motocross, but with the added elements of tricks and terrain to mix things up. Finally, there's figure skating, the sport that would receive more controversy than any other sport in the entire series. Figure skating operates essentially like skateboarding in a Tony Hawk game, with players able to score more points for more complex tricks (and dispensing with traditional judge-style figure skating scoring). Though the gameplay has been tailor-made to fit in with the other extreme sports present in the game, and though the activity itself has been given somewhat of an “extreme” twist, it's still figure skating, and has a lot of the trappings of real world figure skating, with each of the main characters getting appropriate outfits (yes, that means a beautiful shimmering sparkling sequined dress on characters like Alex Levesque and Vivian Martinez). Figure skating can be performed in either singles or doubles, with each mode having its own set of tricks. The game's plotline focuses heavily on figure skating, with Kirsten's older sister Marie needing a partner to compete in a world championship and asking Kirsten to help her. This results in the girls all participating in the Winter World Championship, a sort of cross between the Winter Olympics and the Winter X-Games. Kirsten enjoys the chance to bond with her sister, but also feels awful for dragging her friends into events like figure skating. However, through some trials and tribulations (one of the shorter and less dramatic campaigns in the series, but still a chance to have fun with the familiar characters and some exciting new ones), Kirsten and Marie win the doubles figure skating competition while Alex discovers that she doesn't mind figure skating so much (especially if she gets to do it with Stacy). The campaign ends on a happy note, and gives the player a great crash course on the game's eight sports. Like previous games, Thrillseekers: Winter Challenge contains the requisite online modes and unlockables, and also has a decent amount of DLC, including costumes and courses, but also a short mini-campaign focused on Kirsten and Alex. Thrillseekers: Winter Challenge 2 scores good reviews, but is probably the worst received game in the series to date, and achieves some of the lowest sales of the series thus far, leading many fans to believe that Thrillseekers is finally starting to run its course, much like the Tony Hawk series did. A lot will hinge on the next game, the long-awaited aerial-focused game that will feature Elissa for the first time.

    Shift: 24/7 Racing

    From Vin Diesel's development studio comes a racing game with an open-world, progressive skill based format in which players roam one of several locales, acquiring cars and challenging people to race. In addition to its single player mode, which is sort of designed to be like a Fast And The Furious RPG (without all the crime and combat), it has an extensive online mode in which players can collect cars and compete to be at the top of the leaderboard. The best thing about the game's online mode is that it's completely free of paid DLC (though there's plenty of free DLC released intermittently in the years after the game's release). Designed to ease the player into more difficult racing, it's one of the most accessible and fun racing titles of its generation. It doesn't quite score as high as Gran Turismo 5 or Forza Horizon, but it's still one of the best racing games of the year and another success from Diesel's studio, which goes back to focusing its efforts on a future RPG.


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

    October 2012:

    1. The Covenant 5 (Google Nexus)
    2. Final Fantasy XIII (Nintendo Sapphire)
    3. Mystic 2 (Nintendo Sapphire)
    4. Among The Dead (Nintendo Sapphire)
    5. Among The Dead (Apple iTwin)

    November 2012:

    1. Cyberwar 4 (Nintendo Sapphire)
    2. Call Of Duty: Coalition (Nintendo Sapphire)
    3. Call Of Duty: Coalition (Apple iTwin)
    4. Cyberwar 4 (Google Nexus)
    5. Call Of Duty: Coalition (Google Nexus)

    December 2012:

    1. Shift: 24/7 Racing (Nintendo Sapphire)
    2. Shift: 24/7 Racing (Apple iTwin)
    3. Shift: 24/7 Racing (Google Nexus)
    4. Phantasy Star Millennium (Apple Gemini)
    5. The Eternal Path II (Nintendo Connect)
    2012 In Review
  • Gemini, Nexus Winners Of A Slow Holiday Season

    2012's holiday sales season saw depressed sales compared to 2011's much stronger season, which is likely due to the impending release of new consoles from Nintendo and Apple. Both the Sapphire and the iTwin saw sharp sales declines when compared with last year, with the Sapphire outselling the iTwin by a factor of 2 to 1, but not moving quite enough units to overtake the iTwin in total lifetime sales. Meanwhile, Google's Nexus saw continued decent sales over the holiday period, with hardware sales that outpaced the Sapphire by a slight margin in North America and Europe. The newness of the Nexus, and the strength of games such as The Covenant 5 and Cyberwar 4, moved more than a million Nexus units in December, and the system's total worldwide sales as of the end of 2012 now stand at just over three million, with more than half of those sales coming in North America. The true test for the Nexus will be whether it can maintain those sales numbers once Apple's Virtua and Nintendo's Reality are released, but the Nexus' continued strong sales are a good indicator that Google and Samsung's new console is here to stay, especially if upcoming exclusives like Miraculous Ladybug are able to sell well.

    On the handheld front, Apple's Gemini saw an especially strong holiday season, pulling nearly even with Nintendo's Connect in terms of month to month sales. Though the Connect still has a big lead in terms of lifetime sales, the Gemini looks poised to begin closing that gap as well. Sales and bundles for the Gemini helped the console enjoy its biggest month ever in November, and it continued the strong momentum into December, along with seeing excellent software sales for both Sonic The Hedgehog 6 and Railstorm. Even Virtua Fighter Infinity, which came out all the way back in January, is selling well, and is one of the year's best selling handheld games, both in North America and Japan. The Nintendo Connect was no slouch either, seeing slightly stronger sales than it enjoyed last year over the same period. The new handhelds are really hitting their stride, and with blockbuster games expected next year for both the Connect and Gemini, they should continue to see strong sales throughout 2013.

    -from a article, posted on January 21, 2013


    Top 25 Best Selling Games Of The Year:

    (Note: Multiplatform sales are combined. Only console games are included. Includes pack-in and bundle sales. Includes all North American software sales between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.)

    1. Cyberwar 4
    2. Call Of Duty: Coalition
    3. Super Mario Laboratory
    4. Madden NFL 13
    5. Call Of Duty: Nightfall
    6. Grand Theft Auto II
    7. Pixelworld
    8. Sonic The Hedgehog 6
    9. Assassin's Creed III
    10. Gran Turismo 5
    11. Star Wars: A New Order
    12. Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall
    13. Valdoza
    14. Mariokart Crown
    15. Resident Evil 6
    16. Pokemon Rise And Fall
    17. The Covenant 5
    18. Snap!
    19. Super Smash Bros. Unleashed
    20. Hazardous
    21. Virtua Fighter Infinity
    22. Deus Ex: Oblivion
    23. NBA Elite 13
    24. Tales Of The Seven Seas: Horizon
    25. Dragonwar


    MTV Video Game Awards 2012:

    Game Of The Year:

    The Covenant 5
    Cyberwar 4
    Deus Ex: Oblivion
    Resident Evil 6
    Super Mario Laboratory

    Handheld/Mobile Game Of The Year:

    Boats Of War
    Resident Evil: Revelations
    Virtua Fighter Infinity

    Indie Game Of The Year:

    Battle Mob
    Terror Trip
    Thomas Was Alone
    Undine Across The Water

    Action/Adventure Game Of The Year:

    Assassin's Creed III
    Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall
    Mystic 2
    Resident Evil 6
    Super Mario Laboratory

    Epic Game Of The Year:

    Diablo III
    Final Fantasy XIII
    Guild Wars 2
    Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    Panzer Dragoon Phanta

    Sports Game Of The Year:

    Gran Turismo 5
    Madden NFL 2013
    MLB 13
    NASCAR 2K12
    NBA Elite 13

    Shooter Of The Year:

    Call Of Duty: Coalition
    The Covenant 5
    Cyberwar 4

    Best Graphics:

    Assassin's Creed III
    The Covenant 5
    Gran Turismo 5
    Under The Surface

    Best Soundtrack:

    Final Fantasy XIII
    Forza Horizon
    Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall
    Mixolydia Surround

    Best Storyline:

    Cyberwar 4
    Deus Ex: Oblivion
    Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall
    Resident Evil 6
    Terror Trip

    Best Original Game

    Ithiel: Fighting Fate
    Terror Trip
    Under The Surface

    Best Licensed Game

    The Addams Family
    Naruto Revenge
    Star Wars: A New Order

    Best Competitive Online Game

    Call Of Duty: Coalition
    Cyberwar 4
    Madden NFL 2013
    Shining Force: The Collectible Card Game

    Best MMO:

    Armed And Ready
    Guild Wars 2

    Best DLC:

    Embermire (Fidelius)
    Heart Of The City (Hazardous)
    Leviathan (Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade)
    Workers' Revolution (Valdoza)
    World Leaders #1 (Sid Meier's Civilization V)

    Best New Character:

    Ben Amos (Call Of Duty: Coalition)
    Eldon Barker (Cyberwar 4)
    Julia (Deus Ex: Oblivion)
    Midia (Midia And The Gift Of Aqua)
    Shadow The Hedgehog (Sonic The Hedgehog 6)

    Most Improved Sequel:

    The Abnormals 3
    Forza Horizon
    Guild Wars 2
    Turok: The Last War
    Twisted Metal Liquid 2

    Best Voice Performance:

    Donald Sutherland as Big Boss (Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall)
    Jake Gyllenhaal as Eldon Barker (Cyberwar 4)
    Stana Katic as Reya Saliskova (Call Of Duty: Coalition)
    Tara Strong as Juliet (Lollipop Chainsaw)
    Zachary Quinto as Tomas Alvarez (Cyberwar 4)

    Game Company Of The Year:


    Most Anticipated Game:

    Destined 2
    F-Zero: Firestorm
    Half-Life 3
    Virtua Rally
    Watch Dogs


    As usual, the MTV Video Game Awards played host to a wide variety of previews for upcoming games. While some of the previews were for games we've already seen before, we also got some exclusive reveals, and one of those reveals was for a brand new Nexus exclusive called Bounty, a game developed by Bioware (who also announced that they're hard at work on Necrocracy 3, a game we could see a preview for as early as this year's E3). Bounty, which focuses on a bounty hunter named Tommy Corona, takes place in a space colony in the 23rd century, and essentially plays like how Metroid would play if Samus actually spent her time chasing down bounties and not crash landing on deserted planets. The trailer showed off lots of interesting characters, most of them wanted criminals that Tommy may end up trying to catch. The game seems to let the player decide which bounties to pursue and which ones to let go, allowing him to team up with them (or in the case of a particularly beautiful woman in the trailer, romance them). We're a bit sad to see this as a Nexus exclusive, as Nintendo and Apple fans will be missing out on a game that would probably look great on the Reality or the Virtua, but it got more buzz than just about any other reveal at the show, and also demonstrates that the Nexus has plenty of adult-themed exclusives (rather than just pushing the kid-friendly Miraculous Ladybug all year). Bounty has been announced as an August release, or about six months from now, and we'll definitely be seeing plenty more about this game in the coming months, as it's likely to be a huge part of Google's E3 presentation.

    -from an article posted on Kotaku on February 19, 2013


    The announcement of Bounty surprised many who believed that Bioware was focusing all its resources on the third Necrocracy game. In fact, according to lead developer and director Casey Hudson, Bioware has actually been working on three projects. Bounty, which is nearly complete, Necrocracy 3, which we expect to be formally announced soon, and a third project that has been in the works since 2009.

    We've been working on a game that will be exclusive to PC,” said Hudson, “and though we can't reveal any details just yet, we can tell you that online multiplayer will be a major component.”

    The reveal that Bioware is working on a PC title isn't too surprising, considering the company's reputation for creating excellent titles such as the Baldur's Gate series. However, it is surprising to hear just how many projects the company is developing simultaneously, and Hudson understands the skepticism.

    It's definitely been a lot for us to take on. Since Necrocracy came out back in 2007, we've really been able to expand what we've been doing and bring in more people. We've also been able to remain independent, which is good considering how many risks we've been taking. It's much more healthy from a creative standpoint. We can pretty much do what we want with these games, which makes them more fun to work on.”

    Necrocracy and its sequel have certainly benefited from Bioware's continued independence. The two games have presented some of the most unique environments and characters in modern gaming, and also provide a gameplay experience that distinguishes them from other RPGs on the market. Hudson says that the company will continue to develop its games with this uniqueness in mind, and tells fans to expect Necrocracy 3 and the mystery PC game to be much different from the other Bioware games they've played.

    We're keeping what works, but defying expectations at the same time. I'm so excited to show off this new game. Hopefully we'll have it far enough along that we'll be able to reveal it soon.”

    -from an interview in the April 2013 issue of PCGamer


    Games Over Matter Awards 2012:

    Game Of The Year:

    1. Super Mario Laboratory
    2. Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall
    3. Cyberwar 4
    4. FTL: Faster Than Light
    5. Final Fantasy XIII

    Best Graphics:

    1. Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    2. Under The Surface
    3. The Covenant 5
    4. Forza Horizon
    5. Gran Turismo 5

    Best Sound:

    1. Forza Horizon
    2. Under The Surface
    3. Cyberwar 4
    4. Mixolydia Surround
    5. Resident Evil 6

    Best Gameplay:

    1. Super Mario Laboratory
    2. Cyberwar 4
    3. Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    4. FTL: Faster Than Light
    5. Railstorm

    Best Thematics:

    1. Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall
    2. Under The Surface
    3. Final Fantasy XIII
    4. Cyberwar 4
    5. Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade

    Most Innovative:

    1. FTL: Faster Than Light
    2. Cyberwar 4
    3. Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    4. Terror Trip
    5. Fez

    Best Multiplayer:

    1. Cyberwar 4
    2. The Covenant 5
    3. Vajra
    4. NASCAR 2K12
    5. Lethalball

    Best New Character:

    1. Midia (Midia And The Gift Of Aqua)
    2. Jughart (Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade)
    3. Julia (Deus Ex: Oblivion)
    4. Regurge (Under The Surface)
    5. Ithiel (Ithiel: Fighting Fate)


    Other Awards:

    IGN (Editor Top 10):

    1. Super Mario Laboratory
    2. Resident Evil 6
    3. Under The Surface
    4. Cyberwar 4
    5. Forza Horizon
    6. Hazardous
    7. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    8. FTL: Faster Than Light
    9. Deus Ex: Oblivion
    10. Railstorm

    Joystiq (Editor Top 10):

    1. Cyberwar 4
    2. Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    3. Super Mario Laboratory
    4. Deus Ex: Oblivion
    5. Final Fantasy XIII
    6. Sonic The Hedgehog 6
    7. Ithiel: Fighting Fate
    8. Terror Trip
    9. Resident Evil 6
    10. Quintessence


    Game Of The Year: Cyberwar 4
    Runner-Up: The Covenant 5
    Finalists: Super Mario Laboratory, Deus Ex: Oblivion, Midia And The Gift Of Aqua, Resident Evil 6, Tikal: The Artifact Dealer, Under The Surface, Railstorm, Sonic The Hedgehog 6, Mixolydia Surround, Railstorm, Mystic 2, Metroid Gravity, Ithiel: Fighting Fate, Undine Across The Water, Gran Turismo 5, Forza Horizon, Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade


    Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Action Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Adventure Game Of The Year: Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    Shooter Of The Year: Cyberwar 4
    Sports Game Of The Year: NASCAR 2K12
    RPG Of The Year: Final Fantasy XIII

    Gaming Age

    Game Of The Year: Cyberwar 4
    Runner-Up: Resident Evil 6
    Nintendo Sapphire Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    iTwin Game Of The Year: Resident Evil 6
    Gemini Game Of The Year: Virtua Fighter Infinity
    Connect Game Of The Year: Rise A Knight: Renaissance
    PC Game Of The Year: Under The Surface
    Mobile Game Of The Year: Boats Of War


    Game Of The Year: Resident Evil 6
    Finalists: Super Mario Laboratory, Under The Surface, Metroid Gravity, Forza Horizon


    Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Runners Up: Sonic The Hedgehog 6, Resident Evil 6
    Most Unexpectedly Good Game: Among The Dead


    Game Of The Year: Final Fantasy XIII
    Runners Up: Ithiel: Fighting Fate, Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade
    WRPG Of The Year: Guild Wars 2

    Gamers' Blog Alliance

    Game Of The Year (160 blogs polled):

    Super Mario Laboratory: 57
    Cyberwar 4: 31
    The Covenant 5: 10
    Deus Ex: Oblivion: 8
    Under The Surface: 7
    Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall: 7
    FTL: Faster Than Light: 5
    Sonic The Hedgehog 6: 4
    Resident Evil 6: 4
    Railstorm: 4
    Midia And The Gift Of Aqua: 4
    Tikal: The Artifact Dealer: 4
    Hazardous: 3
    Terror Trip: 2
    Call Of Duty: Coalition: 2
    Forza Horizon: 2
    Ithiel: Fighting Fate: 1
    Metroid Gravity: 1
    Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade: 1
    Among The Dead: 1
    Gran Turismo 5: 1
    NASCAR 2K12: 1

    Australian Gamer (Editor Top 10)

    Game Of The Year

    1. Cyberwar 4
    2. Super Mario Laboratory
    3. Railstorm
    4. Guild Wars 2
    5. Forza Horizon
    6. Deus Ex: Oblivion
    7. Resident Evil 6
    8. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    9. Diablo III
    10. Mystic 2

    ScrewAttack (Top 10 Games Of 2012):

    1. Super Mario Laboratory
    2. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    3. Resident Evil 6
    4. Mystic 2
    5. Gran Turismo 5
    6. Assassin's Creed III
    7. Cyberwar 4
    8. Hazardous
    9. Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade
    10. Terror Trip

    Edge (Game Of The Year- Editors' Choice):

    Super Mario Laboratory

    Famitsu (Game Of The Year- Readers' Choice):

    Winner: Super Mario Laboratory
    Runner-up: Final Fantasy XIII

    X-Play (Editors' Choice):

    Cyberwar 4

    Sylph (Editors' Choice Top 5 Games Of 2012):

    1. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    2. Final Fantasy XIII
    3. Star Siren SSS
    4. Super Mario Laboratory
    5. Resident Evil 6

    Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Runners Up: Deus Ex: Oblivion, Forza Horizon
    Most Innovative Game: FTL: Faster Than Light
    Worst Game Of The Year: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder Rising

    Destructoid (Top 10 Games Of 2012):

    1. Super Mario Laboratory
    2. Under The Surface
    3. Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    4. Ithiel: Fighting Fate
    5. Cyberwar 4
    6. Deus Ex: Oblivion
    7. Diablo III
    8. Hazardous
    9. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    10. Resident Evil 6

    KidGamers (Game Of The Year 2012):

    Super Mario Laboratory

    PowerGamer (Top 5 Of 2012):

    1. Resident Evil 6
    2. Super Mario Laboratory
    3. Under The Surface
    4. Cyberwar 4
    5. Mystic 2

    New Game Network:

    Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Runner-up: Cyberwar 4
    Best PC Game: Diablo III
    Best Presentation: Cyberwar 4
    Best Gameplay: Super Mario Laboratory
    Best Performance: AJ Michalka as Lucy/Netizen X in Cyberwar 4
    Best Multiplayer: Cyberwar 4

    Eurogamer (Game Of The Year 2012):

    Cyberwar 4


    Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    #2 Game Of The Year: Under The Surface
    #3 Game Of The Year: Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    Best Sleeper Hit: Terror Trip
    Best Experience: Midia And The Gift Of Aqua

    Ars Technica (Top 20 Of 2012):

    1. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    2. Deus Ex: Oblivion
    3. Super Mario Laboratory
    4. Cyberwar 4
    5. Metroid Gravity
    6. Sonic The Hedgehog 6
    7. Quintessence
    8. Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    9. NASCAR 2K12
    10. Under The Surface
    11. Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade
    12. Guild Wars 2
    13. Terror Trip
    14. Call Of Duty: Coalition
    15. The Covenant 5
    16. Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall
    17. Gran Turismo 5
    18. Ithiel: Fighting Fate
    19. Mega Man Final
    20. Undine Across The Water


    Brief Nintendo Direct Reveals Reality Price, Launch Date

    A surprise Nintendo Direct announced just a day before its stream revealed further details about the upcoming Nintendo Reality system. This presentation was fairly short, about 12 minutes in length, and didn't reveal any new games, though it did show off some gameplay footage of a few select titles such as F-Zero Firestorm, Wipeout Reality, Pilotwings: Freeflight, and the new Super Mario RPG, also showing some ways in which the Reality's VR applications could be put to use. The most important info: the price and the launch date for the system. The Nintendo Reality will come in two versions: a $399 base version with just the system and a controller, and a $499 version with the Reality VR goggles included. Neither version will come packaged with a game, so you'll have to pick and choose which of the system's launch titles you'll want to buy. The launch date for the system is June 10th, which falls on a Monday and conveniently coincides with this year's E3. In fact, Nintendo's E3 presentation this year is heavily expected to tie into the Reality launch, though no details about this have been revealed as of yet. The Nintendo Reality will be the last of the three major next generation game consoles to launch, though it's important to note that the gap between console launches has shortened: Nintendo's Sapphire launched a year after the Apple iTwin, and the Wave launched two years after the original Sega Katana.

    -from a January 8, 2013 article on Games Over Matter


    (Authors' Note: The idea for Pokemon Order and Chaos and the two villain teams was given to us by the reader HonestAbe1809!)
    Pokemon Order And Chaos Revealed! Protagonists, Rival, Starters, New Region!

    In a CoroCoro exclusive article published in the February 2013 issue, we got the formal reveal of a brand new Pokemon game taking place in an all new region. The next generation games will be called Pokemon Order and Pokemon Chaos, and will take place in the Arbon region, a region consisting of a large forested area and a huge bay lined all up and down with numerous towns and cities. The new region is based on the real world region of New England, and will play host to dozens of brand new Pokemon of all shapes and sizes. The new protagonist of the game is a girl with the default name of Ellie (though the player can name her anything they want), and she's a bit more serious than the typical Pokemon protagonist. She'll also be voice acted, a first for the series. The game will also have a brand new role for the traditional “rival” character, who will be more of a companion to Ellie on her journey. Her default name is Riley (though again, she can be renamed), and she actually spends a lot of time traveling with Ellie, though circumstances will force the two of them apart at times. Ellie and Riley will have to contend with two villainous teams, one representing order and the other representing chaos, with the “order” team seeking to impose a strong central authority on the Ardor region, and the “chaos” team operating almost like terrorists, conducting random attacks on people and places throughout the region.

    The three starters have also been revealed:

    Burngle: A beagle-like puppy with the Fire type.
    Dripin: A baby lobster with the Water type.
    Turfkey: A turkey Pokemon with the Grass type.

    The game has already been announced to have a slightly more dramatic storyline than typical Pokemon games, though Naughty Dog has also confirmed that the game will remain family friendly and fun for players of all ages despite the more serious subject matter. A release date hasn't been announced yet for Order and Chaos, but we can expect to see them sometime around the end of the year.

    -from a January 31, 2013 article on


    Interactive Entertainment Awards 2012:

    Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Console Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Computer Game Of The Year: Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    Action/Adventure Game Of The Year: Super Mario Laboratory
    Family Game Of The Year: Bombastic
    Massively Multiplayer Game Of The Year: Guild Wars 2
    Handheld Game Of The Year: Virtua Fighter Infinity
    Racing Game Of The Year: Forza Horizon
    Role Playing Game Of The Year: Ithiel: Fighting Fate
    Shooter Game Of The Year: Cyberwar 4
    Strategy/Simulation Game Of The Year: FTL: Faster Than Light
    Sports Game Of The Year: NBA Elite 13
    Fighting Game Of The Year: Life And Death
    Outstanding Art Direction: Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    Outstanding Vocal Performance: Rami Malek as Ciaran Singh in Hazardous (Male), Laura Fraser as Julia in Deus Ex: Oblivion (Female)
    Outstanding Animation: Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    Outstanding Game Design: Super Mario Laboratory
    Outstanding Gameplay Engineering: FTL: Faster Than Light
    Outstanding Innovation: Tikal: The Artifact Dealer
    Outstanding Online Gameplay: Adenark
    Outstanding Original Music: Super Mario Laboratory
    Outstanding Sound Design: Under The Surface
    Outstanding Story: Midia And The Gift Of Aqua
    Outstanding Visual Engineering: Forza Horizon


    GameFAQs Best Of 2012 Polls:

    Best Of 2012: Best Sapphire Game

    Super Mario Laboratory: 43.84%
    Deus Ex: Oblivion: 20.38%
    Hazardous: 10.26%
    Midia And The Gift Of Aqua: 8.80%
    Metroid Gravity: 6.04%
    Mystic 2: 3.18%
    Gran Turismo 5: 2.63%
    Yoshi And The Mysterious Lake: 1.95%
    Air Of Mystery: 1.77%
    SOCOM 6: 1.15%

    Best Of 2012: Best Connect Game:

    Quintessence: 16.14%
    Rise A Knight: Renaissance: 14.46%
    Spider-Man: 13.08%
    SaGa Frontier 3: 12.71%
    Undine Across The Water: 10.70%
    Kirby And The Princesses Of Popstar: 8.13%
    Twisted Metal Liquid 2: 7.52%
    Fez: 6.33%
    Justicar 3: 6.07%
    Soul Sacrifice: 4.86%

    Best Of 2012: Best PC Game

    Diablo III: 25.77%
    Under The Surface: 20.29%
    FTL: Faster Than Light: 15.48%
    Tikal: The Artifact Dealer: 13.16%
    Guild Wars 2: 8.82%
    Sewer: 6.96%
    The Scouring Of Endless Fjord: 4.81%
    Football Manager 2013: 1.75%
    Legend Of Grimrock: 1.62%
    Velveteen: 1.34%

    Best Of 2012: Best Gemini Game

    Sonic The Hedgehog 6: 37.57%
    Virtua Fighter Infinity: 29.66%
    Resident Evil: Revelations: 8.93%
    Ace Attorney: Wrighting Wrongs: 7.53%
    Railstorm: 5.45%
    Star Wars: The Forgotten Order: 4.35%
    Orpheus: 1.82%
    Mixolydia Surround: 1.75%
    Skies Of Vermillion: 1.50%
    Deva Station Icosa: 1.44%

    Best Of 2012: Best iTwin Game

    Resident Evil 6: 35.74%
    Mega Man Final: 13.64%
    Phantasy Star Millennium: 11.33%
    Panzer Dragoon Phanta: 8.46%
    Dragonwar: 7.05%
    Genji: An Old Man's Story: 5.91%
    Knuckles Darkside: 5.80%
    Ninkata: 4.78%
    Asura's Wrath: 4.77%
    Battle Mob: 2.52%

    Best Of 2012: Best Nexus Game

    The Covenant 5: 53.78%
    Forza Horizon: 22.94%
    Zombi: 13.75%
    Wakfu: 7.22%
    Lethalball: 2.31%

    Best Of 2012: Best Mobile Game

    The Covenant: Dropzone: 21.35%
    War Of Boats: 17.54%
    Virtua Sports Challenge: 13.86%
    Wakfu: The Legendary Quest: 12.35%
    Arcane Legends: 9.30%
    Shining Force: The Trading Card Game: 7.55%
    Draw Something: 6.47%
    Super Hexagon: 6.43%
    Exohedron: 4.17%
    Diamond Dust: 0.98%

    Best Of 2012: Best Multiplatform Game

    Final Fantasy XIII: 28.38%
    Cyberwar 4: 25.31%
    Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall: 17.35%
    Assassin's Creed III: 9.56%
    Call Of Duty: Coalition: 5.54%
    Star Wars: A New Order: 4.73%
    Among The Dead: 3.96%
    Sindolin: 1.97%
    Scavenger Of The Slums: 1.84%
    Ithiel: Fighting Fate: 1.36%

    Best Of 2012: Game Of The Year:

    Super Mario Laboratory: 24.52%
    Final Fantasy XIII: 16.34%
    Sonic The Hedgehog 6: 13.45%
    Cyberwar 4: 12.27%
    The Covenant 5: 8.15%
    Diablo III: 7.93%
    Resident Evil 6: 6.85%
    Virtua Fighter Infinity: 6.22%
    The Covenant: Dropzone: 2.96%
    Quintessence: 1.31%

    Best Of 2012: Game Of The Year (Final):

    Super Mario Laboratory: 40.72%
    Final Fantasy XIII: 31.61%
    Sonic The Hedgehog 6: 27.67%


    Ubisoft To Acquire All Konami Video Game IPs In Massive Deal

    In an announcement that's been rumored for the past few weeks, Ubisoft has announced that it's acquired all of Konami's gaming IPs and will be the sole publisher of the former Konami properties in the future. This comes after an announcement from Konami that the company would be leaving the gaming software industry in order to focus on its casino and mobile gaming properties. The deal is much like the one that Apple made to acquire Sega's gaming IPs nearly a decade ago, with Konami remaining its own separate company and retaining the use of its properties for purposes of casino and mobile game development, but selling off the rights to create gaming software to Ubisoft. Ubisoft announced the deal at a press conference, where the company also announced that it had several new properties in the works that would see crossovers between Ubisoft and Konami properties. These include a platform action title called Rayman And Goemon, starring the popular Michel Ancel-developed mascot character and the young ninja based on classic Japanese lore. Also announced was Just Dance Revolution, a new rhythm game that has just begun development and will combine game mechanics from Ubisoft's popular motion control dancing game with Konami's popular arcade dancing title. All current Konami games under development will continue under Ubisoft, including new titles in the Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid franchises. Hideo Kojima appeared at the presser, where he himself announced that development of his franchises would continue, and that he looked forward to “new opportunities” to develop games with Ubisoft's creative team. Most intriguingly, he hinted at a potential future crossover game between the Blackheart and Metal Gear Solid franchises, though nothing was officially announced to that end.

    No financial details were given, but it's been reported that Ubisoft paid “at least $2 billion” to acquire the rights to Konami's franchises, and that Nintendo and Apple were both briefly involved in a bidding war for the properties as well.

    -from an article on Games Over Matter, posted on January 1, 2013


    GameRankings Top 25 Games Of 2012

    1. Super Mario Laboratory: 96.52%
    2. Cyberwar 4: 94.41%
    3. Sonic The Hedgehog 6: 93.27%
    4. Railstorm: 93.07%
    5. Tikal: The Artifact Dealer: 92.97%
    6. Midia And The Gift Of Aqua: 92.80%
    7. Metal Gear Solid III: Angels Fall: 92.77%
    8. Final Fantasy XIII: 92.74%
    9. Deus Ex: Oblivion: 92.29%
    10. Virtua Fighter Infinity: 92.27%
    11. Hazardous: 91.80%
    12. Danielle's Deception: 91.50%
    13. Forza Horizon: 91.32%
    14. Fez: 91.01%
    14. Fire Emblem: The Jugdral Crusade: 91.01%
    16. Assassin's Creed III: 90.94%
    17. Genji: An Old Man's Story: 90.82%
    18. Resident Evil 6: 90.50%
    19. Under The Surface: 90.41%
    20. Quintessence: 90.25%
    21. Bloom: 90.17%
    22. Panzer Dragoon Phanta: 89.00%
    23. Diablo III: 88.92%
    24. Ninkata: 88.90%
    25. Combo Smashers: 88.82%


    January 1, 2013

    @oohlookitslyssa: So Ubisoft just bought Konami, huh? Does this mean we'll get to see Jade show up in the new Silent Hill? @HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN make it happen!

    It was around 4:00 PM in Los Angeles when Lyssa Fielding fired off the tweet, her first reaction to hearing that Ubisoft had just acquired Konami's gaming IPs. Though her acting career had kept her increasingly busy, she still had plenty of time to play and enjoy lots of video games, and was mostly excited for the news of the merger, particularly that Just Dance Revolution announcement. She loved both games, and was looking forward to seeing how the developers would merge them both together.

    2012 had been one of the best years of Lyssa's life. She'd finally gotten to star in her own live-action stand-alone Harley Quinn movie (and had become close friends with her co-star, Jessica Chastain), her TV show was doing great in the ratings, and she'd been able to take advantage of a number of other professional opportunities that had taken her acting career to new heights. She hoped 2013 would be even better.

    She especially hoped it would be better for her best friend Brittany, who'd continued to struggle with her cancer battle. The cancer had gone into remission, only to return about halfway through the year, forcing her into another round of chemo that thankfully hadn't been as rough as the first. Brittany had been feeling better by the end of the year, and the two talked on the phone almost every day (when they weren't talking to each other over the mic during a gaming session). Lyssa hoped she'd be able to start a family just like Brittany's someday. She hadn't met the right person, but there was still time, and she had enough friends to keep any loneliness at bay.

    “Now what to do...” mused Lyssa to herself, clutching her forehead. “Another round of Shift, or do I go back to bed and try to shake off the rest of this New Years' hangover?”

    Lyssa decided that she'd be better off trying to enjoy her day despite the occasional throbbing in her head, and she fired up her Google Nexus for another race, hoping she could make enough money to acquire an upgrade for her favorite car. As she was cycling through the menus, her cell phone rang. She picked it up and briefly checked the number.

    “Brittany,” said Lyssa to herself with a smile. “You're lucky I'm not in the middle of a race, girl.”

    Lyssa answered the phone.

    “Happy New Year, again,” said Lyssa. “Wait, did I say that to you last night? It's a bit of a blur.”

    “You did, and thanks,” Brittany replied. “Just called to ask if you were feeling okay enough for some Cyberwar.”

    “Actually, I just fired up Shift,” said Lyssa. “But we could play Cyberwar...”

    “Nah, it's okay, I'll race you for a while.”

    “You sure?”

    “Yeah, if we were playing Cyberwar I'd just end up carrying your ass for an hour anyway.”

    “Don't make me wreck you!”

    Lyssa waited until Brittany had time to set up her Nexus and her game, then started a private voice chat in the game so that the two could continue their conversation.

    “So,” asked Brittany, as she and Lyssa got ready to race against each other and 18 other online players. “You think the Nexus is going to succeed?”

    “Probably not,” replied Lyssa. “Once Nintendo and Apple get their new consoles out, I think the Nexus is going to look pretty backward.”

    “It's cheaper.”

    “Yeah, but a lot of gamers don't care.”

    The race began, and Lyssa quickly raced out to second place, behind an extremely skilled player with a souped up sports car. Brittany found herself in a dual for fourth, attempting to draft behind Lyssa's car in order to pull away. Lyssa just laughed and sped off.

    “Sorry Brittany, but this isn't NASCAR and you're not my teammate. I've got a leader to catch up with!”

    “Oh, now I'm gonna wreck you!”

    “Damn, this guy is good,” said Lyssa to herself, struggling to keep up with the leader as Brittany jostled for third place in her rearview mirror. “Anyway, I think the Apple Virtua is going to win the next gen. That motion control tech looks awesome, it's gonna be perfect for rhythm games. I imagine you're backing Nintendo?”

    “Well, I think it'll be between them and Google,” said Brittany. “The second screen tech is awesome, I'm using it as a rearview mirror right now.”

    “Good luck seeing me in that thing,” laughed Lyssa.

    “But if I had to guess, I'd say Nintendo.”

    “The VR doesn't look at that great to me,” said Lyssa. “I guess it could improve over time, but I'm not really confident in it. Besides, you know Apple's gonna come up right behind them with something just like it, and combined with the motion controls, it's gonna kick ass.”

    “You just wanna play Just Dance Revolution with it.”

    “Hell yeah I wanna play Just Dance Revolution.”

    The race continued, and Lyssa and Brittany were soon side by side for second, with a bunch of cars behind them. The leader had pulled away, and his lead increased to the point where he was even lapping the last place cars.

    “Wish I had as much time to play as that guy does,” groaned Lyssa.

    “Yeah, but you wouldn't be playing this game all day if you did,” Brittany replied, suddenly surging ahead of her friend.

    “You don't know- what the hell?!”

    Brittany laughed and sped ahead, not only passing Lyssa but making up some ground on the leader.

    “You don't even play as much as I do! Come on!”

    Brittany made a serious push for the lead on the last lap, but the leader was too far ahead and won by several seconds. Lyssa finished a respectable third, but was still surprised that Brittany had managed to pass her. The two laughed and joked about it for a short while before entering into a new race, where Lyssa hoped she could even the score and that there wouldn't be any super high rated players to beat them both this time around.

    “I'm really looking forward to what they're gonna do this generation,” said Lyssa.

    “Me too,” replied Brittany. “Especially that new Squad Four game.”

    “You got any new games coming out?” Lyssa asked.

    “Besides Thrillseekers?”



    Lyssa sighed. Brittany had been teasing her about her new game project for more than a year now and hadn't revealed what it was.

    “I swear I'll be able to tell you after E3,” said Brittany. “I think.”

    “So it's coming out this year?”


    The race began. Lyssa took an early lead, with Brittany just behind.

    “I love you,” said Lyssa affectionately.

    “Love you too,” Brittany replied, just before tapping the back of Lyssa's car and sending her straight into the wall.

    “What the fuck?!”


    Lyssa could only watch as Brittany sped off, followed by several other cars. By the time Lyssa had recovered, she was in the back of the pack.

    Here's to another awesome new year, thought Lyssa, smiling and shaking her head as she tried to catch back up.
    The Amazing Race, Season 22
  • The Amazing Race: Season 22: Expressly twice.

    This season was, for many, a bit of a mixed bag. But I'll get into that at the end. The one change that needs to be mentioned is that the team who wins first place in the first leg gets two Express Passes: one they keep, the other they have to give away before the end of the fifth leg.

    This season was filmed between mid-November to early December 2012.

    The Cast

    Dave and Conner: Father and son cancer survivors. Honestly, they are an ok team.

    Joey and Meghan: YouTube hosts. These two are extremely annoying.

    Bates and Anthony: Hockey brothers. Goofiest team this season.

    Caroline and Jennifer: Friends and Country singers. Caroline is a direct descendant of Daniel Boone and Jennifer is John Wayne's granddaughter.

    Max and Katie: Newlyweds. Good people if a little over bearing, even for a villain team.

    Jessica and John: Dating. John is a little too overconfident, which nearly costs them the race.

    Chuck and Wynona: Married couple. They are alright.

    Pam and Winnie: Best Friends. Smart people and funny.

    Idries and Jamil: Twin doctors. Make too many mistakes on the show.

    Mona and Beth: Roller Derby moms. They are athletic enough for the show.

    Matt and Daniel: Firefighters. Another team competing for their families.

    The Race

    Leg #1: "Business in front, party in back."

    Original Air Date: February 17, 2013.

    Starting at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, teams get $200 and instructions (via a recorded message in their Ford Fusions) to fly to Bora-Bora, French Polynesia. On arrival, teams are immediately confronted by a Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to sign up for one of six helicopter flights, each with enough room for two racers. Once they get to 10,000 ft they will tandem skydive with an instructor, back to their partner on the ground in Anau.

    Teams then make their way to Eden Beach, where they find a second Roadblock. In this Roadblock, the team member who didn't do the first Roadblock has to dig through 400 sandcastles for their next clue. If the sandcastle doesn't have a clue they have to rebuild the sandcastle. Then teams have to build an outrigger canoe and paddle to the Pit Stop: Motu Cafe.

    1. Jessica and John 9:52 A.M. Won two Express Passes.

    2. Dave and Connor 9:58 A.M.

    3. Bates and Anthony 10:04 A.M.

    4. Caroline and Jennifer 10:22 A.M.

    5. Pam and Winnie 10:43 A.M.

    6. Mona and Beth 11:11 A.M.

    7. Joey and Meghan 11:34 A.M.

    8. Chuck and Wynona 12:00 P.M.

    9. Max and Katie 12:15 P.M.

    10. Idries and Jamil 12:36 P.M.

    11. Matt and Daniel 1:01 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #2: "Just between us."

    Original Air Date: February 24, 2013.

    Getting $150, teams are told to search the immediate area for a Polynesian priest who will bless them then give them their next clue. Teams then go to Povaie Bay for the Detour: Pick a Pearl or Take a Trunk. In both Detour options, team have to take a snorkel and mask. In Pick a Pearl, teams have to go to a point a half mile off shore and dive to get at a line of pearl oysters. Then they have to shuck them until they find two red pearls. In Take a Table, teams have to wear diving helmets, dive underwater and then take a trunk and unpack a table and set it up at an underwater umbrella.

    Teams then got back to shore, gat a personal water craft and get to Motu Tapu. This is where the Roadblock is. In this Roadblock, one team member has to use a pair of stilts to walk down the beach while kicking a coconut for 35 yards. If they fell off they have to go to the starting line again. Then teams can walk to the nearby Pit Stop.

    1. Dave and Connor 10:15 A.M. Won a trip for two to London.

    2. Bates and Anthony 10:35 A.M.

    3. Meghan and Joey 11:01 A.M.

    4. Caroline and Jennifer 11:13 A.M.

    5. Mona and Beth 11:33 A.M.

    6. Jessica and John 11:34 A.M.

    7. Chuck and Wynona 11:45 A.M.

    8. Pam and Winnie 12:03 P.M.

    9. Max and Katie 12:16 P.M.

    10. Idries and Jamal 12:43 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #3: "James Bond all over again!"

    Original Air Date: March 3, 2013.

    Getting $190, teams have to fly to Christchurch, New Zealand (which looks great. Of course, this was filmed before the earthquake that effected the area happened). Once there, teams have to pick a Ford Focus and drive to Rakaia River Gorge and spend the night there. The next morning teams have to cross the river and get the Detour: Rev It Up or Reel It In. In both Detour options, teams have to get there by ATV. In Rev It Up, teams have to drive a modified vintage car through a set of cones under 83 seconds, combined. In Reel It In, teams have to use a rod and reel to fish for a 12 inch long fish. For this one, if one team member catches the fish the task is complete.

    Teams then go to Mount Hutt Station, where the Roadblock is. In this Roadblock, one team member has to complete an obstacle course known as a Shemozzle. The team member has to dress in gum boots, a pair of stubbies shorts and a burlap sack, then with a farmer and a sheep dog, run the course where they are cover in molasses and feathers, climb over hay bales then rode an inner tube into a pile of manure all while collecting chicken eggs. If they put 12 unbroken chicken eggs into the basket at the end of the course they get the clue to the Pit Stop: Terrance Downs, where they are told to keep going.

    1. Jessica and John 10:43 A.M. Won a trip for two to Bangkok.

    2. Dave and Connor 10:49 A.M.

    3. Pam and Winnie 11:02 A.M.

    4. Bates and Anthony 11:10 A.M.

    5. Caroline and Jennifer 11:35 A.M.

    6. Joey and Meghan 11:56 A.M.

    7. Mona and Beth 12:05 P.M.

    8. Max and Katie 12:34 P.M.

    9. Chuck and Wynona 12:58 P.M.

    Leg #4: "I love monkeys!"

    Original Air Date: March 10, 2013.

    Getting $200, teams have to fly to Bali, Indonesia. On arrival, teams, after a brief unaired stop at Kenanga Terracotta Restaurant, teams go to Ubud Monkey Forest. Here teams put a coconut where a monkey can get to it and they open it to get teams the Detour: Sandy Bottom or Fruity Top. In Sandy Bottom, teams have to dredge the bottom of the Ayung River for volcanic sand and then drag it 200 yards up hill to fill a container to a certain line. In Fruity Top, teams have to dress in sarongs and then prepare an offering called a gebogan carry it in a procession to the Pura Desa Puseh Temple in Batuan and put it on the altar.

    Teams then go to Uluwatu Beach and find Ketut's Surf Shop. There they find the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to search through the surf boards for one with an image of a Tahitian priest on it. Then they find their partners and head to the Pit Stop: Pura Luhur Uluwatu Cliff. If they're right, they can check in.

    1. Pam and Winnie 3:03 P.M. Won $5,000 each.

    2. Dave and Connor 3:15 P.M.

    3. Caroline and Jennifer 3:45 P.M.

    4. Max and Katie 4:02 P.M.

    5. Mona and Beth 4:16 P.M.

    6. Joey and Meghan 4:34 P.M.

    7. Bates and Anthony 5:01 P.M.

    8. Jessica and John 5:13 P.M

    9. Chuck and Wynona 5:44 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #5: "That's a pretty cool tan."

    Original Air Date: March 17, 2013.

    Getting $250, teams fly to Hanoi, Vietnam. Once there, teams have to make their way to the Rap Cong nhan Theatre Gallery 42, where they find the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to watch a performance of a patriotic Vietnamese song and at the end memorize a phrase that translates to Glory to our young generation in English. Then they have to search outside the theatre for the right propaganda poster with that phrase on it, amongst several wrong ones, without taking notes, in five minutes. If they are wrong, or run out of time, they have to sit through the performance again. Teams then go to Cong vien Thong Nhat and participate in a traditional bamboo dance called mua sap to get the Detour: Make You Move or Make Your Meal.

    In Make Your Move, teams have to get to the Temple of Literature and put human Chinese chess pieces, with matching symbols on them, into place according to a nearby diagram. In Make Your Meal, teams have to pick up the ingredients for pho and then take them to Ngoc Son Temple and prepare two bowls of it. Teams then go to a Vietnam War Memorial: a downed American B-52 for the U-Turn. The memorial caused a minor bit of controversy, along with the song that was performed for the Roadblock, among conservative groups as well as various veteran's groups, which the show did apologize for. Anyways, no one U-Turns anybody and teams go to the Pit Stop: The National Museum of Vietnamese History.

    1. Pam and Winnie 10:15 A.M. Won a trip for two to Whistler, B.C.

    2. Dave and Connor 10:34 A.M.

    3. Jessica and John 11:01 A.M.

    4. Caroline and Jennifer 11:03 A.M.

    5. Bates and Anthony 11:19 A.M.

    6. Max and Katie 11:45 A.M.

    7. Joey and Meghan 12:12 P.M.

    8. Mona and Beth 12:23 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #6: "The scorpion master!"

    Original Air Date: March 24, 2013.

    Receiving $210, teams go to the Hair of the Dog Bar for an unaired task involving dancing. No idea of the specifics. Teams then fly to Maun, Botswana where they have to sign up for a charter flight to the Xhumaga Airstrip in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Once there they have to pick a Bushman who will accompany them for the rest of the leg. Teams then go to one part of Old Xhumaga Road where they run into the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to follow a Bushman to a hole where they are taught how to dig up a scorpion and place it safely in a jar.

    Teams then have to go to another part of the Road with their Bushman where they run into the Detour: Fire or Fowl. In Fire, teams have to create a fire using two sticks, some zebra manure and grass. In Fowl, teams have to set up a trap for a guinea fowl and, once it's properly set, imitate the call of the guinea fowl to catch one. Teams then go to the Pit Stop: Meno A Kwena Safari Camp.

    1. Jessica and John 1:21 P.M. Won a trip for two to Phuket, Thailand.

    2. Bates and Anthony 1:23 P.M.

    3. Dave and Connor 1:43 P.M.

    4. Pam and Winnie 2:13 P.M.

    5. Caroline and Jennifer 2:27 P.M.

    6. Joey and Meghan 2:56 P.M.

    7. Max and Katie 3:07 P.M. NOT ELIMINATED/SPEEDBUMPED.

    Leg #7: "Please don't hit anything."

    Original Air Date: March 31, 2013.

    Getting $250, teams travel to Makoro Poling Station in Boro Village. Here Max and Katie get their Speedbump. In this Speedbump, Max and Katie have to complete a traditional beaded skirt and wear it during a ceremonial seduction dance. The Fast Forward is here too. In this Fast Forward, teams have to water ski for over a mile in the Okavango Delta through crocodile infested waters. Bates and Anthony get it. Teams also did the Roadblock here. In this Roadblock, one team member had to punt their teammate and two goats to a delivery point down river and then return to the start once the goats were dropped off.

    Teams then head to, and cross using "Safari Taxis", the Thamalakane River to the Royal Tree Lodge Game Preserve where they find the Detour: Brains or Brawn. In Brains, teams have to go on a horseback safari and spot ten wooden cutouts of animals: zebra, African buffalo, kudu, giraffe, meerkat, boomslang snake, leopard, warthog, ostrich and hippopotamus with a heron. Then they have to get to a nearby campsite where they have to arrange a set of tiles in the order that they saw the animals (with many animals they didn't see, no tile for the hippopotamus but one for the heron). If they don't arrange the tiles in the right order they have to do it all over again. In Brawn, teams have to fill a traditional sand sledge with fire wood, then use a carrot to lure the donkey pulling it to a camp 1/2 a mile away. Then teams have to search the Preserve for the Pit Stop.

    1. Bates and Anthony 10:10 A.M. Won $7,500 each.

    2. Dave and Conner 12:36 P.M.

    3. Caroline and Jennifer 12:54 P.M.

    4. Jessica and John 1:06 P.M.

    5. Pam and Winnie 1:22 P.M.

    6. Joey and Meghan 1:43 P.M.

    7. Max and Katie 2:13 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #8: "My cheese is out of control."

    Original Air Date: April 14, 2013.

    Receiving $270, teams fly to Zurich, Switzerland. Once there, teams have to search the airport of a conductor in a red hat. He gives them the clue to go to Grindelwald by train and wait at the Kirche Grindelwald for a shepherd. The clue he gives them tells them to get to Kleine Scheidegg by train and go to the Hotel Bellesvue des Alpes and get a rescue dog. They must take the dog by train (I know a lot of train travel in this one) to Jungfraujoch and give it to a handler. Then they must search the Sphinx Observatory for the next clue.

    Teams then head by train to the Eiger Mountain and head up it to get to the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to put on a safety harness climb out onto the ledge on the north face of the mountain and pick up a Travelocity Roaming Gnome and bring it back in. No Detour this leg. Teams then head to Grund where they cross a bridge and listen to an Alpine horn to get to perform a Switchback task. In this Switchback, teams have to bring four 50 pound wheels of cheese from the top to the bottom of a hill using the provided sleds. They may not roll the cheese at any time. Teams then head to the Pit Stop: Bodmi Snowboard and Ski School.

    1. Bates and Anthony 2:01 P.M. Won a trip for two to Bora-Bora.

    2. Pam and Winnie 2:15 P.M.

    3. Dave and Connor 2:16 P.M.

    4. Jessica and John 3:24 P.M.

    5. Caroline and Jennifer 3:49 P.M.

    6. Joey and Meghan 4:59 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #9: "This is crazy, man."

    Original Air Date: April 21, 2013.

    On getting $200, teams have to go by train from Interlaken to Basel, Switzerland then fly to Dresden, Germany. On arrival, teams have to go to the Saxony Ministry of Finance and pick up a 2013 Ford Fusion. Their next clue comes in the form of three questions: 1. Who said "Tear down this wall?" 2. Who did he say it to? and 3. Where did he say it? The answers are: Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Brandenburg Gate. At the Gate, teams are told to go to Park Inn Berlin, where they BASE jump from its roof. Then teams get the Detour: Train Trials or Font Follies.

    In Train Trials, teams go to the Deutsches Technikmuseum and put together a model train track using all the pieces to complete the circuit. After the train completes a circuit without falling apart, derailing or hitting the scenery, they get the next clue. In Font Follies, teams have to go to Alexanderplatz, pick up two large neon letters and deliver them, on foot, to the Bundestabenmuseum, without damaging them. Then teams go to the Salon Zur Wilden Renate for the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to answer the question "who said 'Ich bin ein Berliner'?" and then enter an indoor labyrinth beneath the night club and look for their clue. Teams then go to the Pit Stop: Joachimsthaler Platz.

    1. Pam and Winnie 3:12 P.M. Won a 2013 Ford Fusion each.

    2. Jessica and John 3:45 P.M.

    3. Caroline and Jennifer 4:03 P.M.

    4. Dave and Connor 4:36 P.M.

    5. Bates and Anthony 5:13 P.M. NOT ELIMINATED/SPEEDBUMPED.

    Leg #10: "Working our barrels off."

    Original Air Date: April 28, 2013.

    Getting $120, teams have to fly to Edinburgh, Scotland. Once there, teams have to pick up a Ford Fiesta and drive to Gosford House, where they find the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to dress in the uniform of the Royal Scots Regiment and learn how to play a drone on the bagpipes. Then they have to hold the drone for two minutes while walking around Gosford House's Marble Hall. Teams then have to head to Craigmiller Castle where Bates and Anthony hit their Speedbump.

    In this Speedbump, Bates and Anthony have to play a British version of 10 pin bowling called skittles. Once they both hit a strike, they can search the Castle fireplaces with the other teams for the Detour: Tasty Puddin' or Whisky Rollin'. In Tasty Puddin', teams have to go to the Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston and make four portions of haggis, while a Robert Burns impersonator recites Address to a Haggis to them. After they eat a bit of haggis, they get the next clue. In Whisky Rollin', teams have to roll eight barrels of whisky up a slope to a party. Teams then head to Duddingston Kirk where the Double U-Turn is. Bates and Anthony U-Turn Jessica and John. No one U-Turns anyone else. Then teams head to the Pit Stop: Niddry Street South.

    1. Pam and Winnie 3:14 P.M. Won $10,000 each.

    2. Dave and Connor 3:56 P.M.

    3. Bates and Anthony 4:39 P.M.

    4. Caroline and Jennifer 4:44 P.M.

    5. Jessica and John 5:03 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #11: "Beacon of Hope." Part I

    Original Air Date: May 5, 2013.

    Receiving $150, teams go by train and ferry to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Once there they have to go to Peatlands Park where they find the Roadblock. In this Roadblock, one team member has to go Bog Snorkeling. After putting on full snorkel gear, have to swim through a bog for a 100 yard lap in under four minutes. Teams then have to find the "Thing with the Ring" and have to figure out it's the Beacon of Hope. There teams find the Detour: Tray it or Spray It.

    In Tray It, teams have to go to the dry-dock in the Titanic Quarter and prepare and serve a five course meal, using a period menu and a seating chart (though the seats themselves are unmarked in practice). In Spray It, teams go to the T13 Skatepark and, using a photo, complete a graffiti painting. Then teams head to the Pit Stop: Ulster Hall.

    1. Bates and Anthony 2:22 P.M. Won a trip for two to the Dominican Republic

    2. Dave and Connor 3:10 P.M.

    3. Pam and Winnie 3:31 P.M

    4. Caroline and Jennifer 4:02 P.M. ELIMINATED.

    Leg #12: "Beacon of Hope." Part II

    Original Air Date: May 5, 2013.

    Getting $200, teams go by ferry to Liverpool, England. Then they travel by train to London's Euston Station. Teams then have to go to the Euston Tap, where they drink a pint before going to their final destination city: Washington D.C. On arrival, teams have to go to the place where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech: the Lincoln Memorial. There they find a man standing where Dr. King stood who will give them their next clue. Teams now have to go to 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue where a "Secret Service agent" will take them to get a picture taken with President Huntsman. In reality, their photo is superimposed onto someone meeting with President Huntsman. Teams then have to go to the Tidal Basin, where they have to search for limo and knock on the rear window three times to get a briefcase and their next clue. It's the Roadblock.

    In this Roadblock, one team member has to search the surrounding area for one of 50 spies who will use a code phrase in response to their code phrase (Pam and Winnie: "Where can I get a Half-smoke with chili?"/"I know a great place on U Street."; Bates and Anthony: "I did not dress warm enough for this weather."/"Perhaps you would like to borrow my gloves."; Dave and Connor: "The cherry blossoms are beautiful in April."/"I'll bring my mother next spring."). Once they do that, teams have to open the briefcase with the numbers of their positions in the third, fourth and fifth legs. Teams then have to go to Nationals Park. Here, in what I think was half a Detour that was never fully aired, one team member has to ride a zipline while throwing a baseball to their partner on the ground who has to catch it while wearing one of the mascot costumes of the team. Teams then go to Hains Point, where they search a ball pit for the globes with names of the countries they went to on them. Only one member of each team can go in at a time. Once they put them in order they can go to the finish line: Mount Vernon.

    1. Dave and Connor WIN

    2. Pam and Winnie PLACE

    3. Bates and Anthony SHOW.

    The Review

    This season was only notable for Joey and Meghan and maybe Caroline and Jennifer. The tasks were average, the course, while great to look at, was places the show has done before. It's my number 23 season. Still the show did see a small uptick in the ratings, especially in Canada. Speaking of, from now on we will be alternating between the Canadian version of the show and the American version. Starting next week. See you then.

    -Globetrotting: An Amazing Race Blog for the website Reality Rewind, January 30, 2017.
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    Grammy/Oscar 2013
  • 2013 Grammy Nominees (winners in bold):

    Best New Artist-

    Alabama Shakes
    Donnie Glass
    Ely Spira
    The Lumineers
    Sons Of The Future

    (Note: This year's Best New Artist category was full of critically beloved but relatively unknown artists, with The Lumineers probably being the favorite in this category going in. However, British newcomer Ely Spira surprised everyone with her melancholy album about romance and loss, and despite the album not being overwhelmingly popular with fans, and despite Ely herself not being nearly as visible as most popular singers, she ended up taking home the award in one of the night's biggest upsets, though it wouldn't be the biggest...)

    Song Of The Year-

    “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran
    Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye ft. Chloe Wang
    “To Hell With Heartbreak” by Rihanna and Taylor Swift
    “West Side” by Nathan Benz ft. Janelle Monae
    “Zackaree” by Ely Spira

    Record Of The Year-

    “Artificial Heart” by Garth Brooks
    Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye ft. Chloe Wang
    “To Hell With Heartbreak” by Rihanna and Taylor Swift
    “Trademark” by Donnie Glass
    “You Get Me Worked Up” by Pitbull ft. CharStarr

    (Note: "Somebody That I Used To Know" ends up being even more dominant ITTL than it was IOTL, winning both Song and Record of the Year going away over its competition. "To Hell With Heartbreak" was probably its closest competition in both categories, with Garth Brooks' "Artificial Heart" being somewhat of a sentimental choice in the Record of the Year category, but in the end, Gotye's song proved a winner. It was the second most popular song of 2012 behind "Gangnam Style", which was NOT going to be nominated in these categories, and the voters felt fairly comfortable awarding it both times even though it was a fairly boring choice.)

    Album Of The Year-

    Babel by Mumford And Sons
    Life On Fire by Sons Of The Future
    Petrol by Ely Spira
    Snow Covered Barn by Garth Brooks
    Songs To Survive For by Pitbull

    (Note: Ely Spira took down her four rivals to win this award in one of the biggest Album of the Year upsets ever. Going in, Petrol was dead last in betting odds to win the award, with Babel and Snow Covered Barn in a close race for first and Songs To Survive For a close third behind them. However, as mentioned before, critics loved Petrol, comparing it to Come Away With Me by Norah Jones, which dominated the Grammys nearly a decade ago. Overall, it was a fairly weak year at the Grammys. Most of the heavy hitters didn't release an album, and the Asian pop boom was fizzling out, leaving an opening for an upset winner. That wouldn't be the case for next year, but Ely seized her moment and took home some major awards, launching her career into the stratosphere into the process.)


    2013 Oscar Nominees (winners in bold):

    Best Picture-

    Spilled Across The Page
    Violent End

    (Note: This year's Best Picture category was as much about controversy as it was about the actual nominees. We finally had a bit of a popular blowup in reaction to fan favorites like Sprout getting shut out of the awards, similar to the 2008 Dark Knight/Wall-E controversy from IOTL. This would be the last year of strictly five Best Picture nominees, as 2014 would see this category expand as IOTL. The biggest controversy was over the film Livermore, a fairly boring romantic drama that wasn't especially loved by fans or critics, but which somehow managed to sneak a Best Picture nomination. Lincoln beat out The General for a nomination, while Argo was actually seen as a slight underdog. Crime drama Violent End was a popular dark horse pick, while fans also loved the dramedy Spilled Across The Page, a 1970s period drama about a woman attempting to break into the surprisingly competitive world of Harlequin romance novel writing. In the end, Argo won the Oscar ITTL, mirroring its IOTL success, though not without some detractors.)

    Best Director-

    Ben Affleck for Argo
    Matthew Vaughn for 30 Seconds
    Sofia Coppola for Spilled Across The Page
    Steven Soderbergh for Violent End
    Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

    (Note: With Life Of Pi butterflied, this race was wide open. Affleck, Coppola, Soderbergh, and Spielberg were all seen as having a decent chance to win, and in the end, it was Steven Spielberg for his Abraham Lincoln biopic. Meanwhile, Matthew Vaughn's nomination for the frenetic and over-the-top action crime drama 30 Seconds was seen as a bit of a surprise. The film was beloved and revolutionary, but a lot of Hollywood insiders never imagined he'd be nominated, especially over Quentin Tarantino, who was snubbed for Django Unchained. In the end, it didn't matter: Spielberg won yet another Oscar.)

    Best Actor-

    Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
    Ed Harris for The General
    Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
    Jonathan Brandis for Violent End
    Will Smith for Django Unchained

    (Note: It was thought that Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln and Ed Harris' portrayal of Eisenhower might split the votes, allowing Joaquin Phoenix to take home his second straight Oscar. Jonathan Brandis' surprising turn as an amnesiac murdered in Violent End was seen as being a bit too niche to win, while Will Smith's nomination for Django Unchained was seen as a major surprise. Smith almost didn't take the role, but was convinced to do it after a conversation with Samuel L. Jackson, and ended up getting lots of critical praise. However, Daniel Day-Lewis absolutely disappeared into the role of Lincoln, and took home the Oscar, just as he did IOTL.)

    Best Actress-

    Alison Pill for My Dragon
    Elizabeth Banks for Spilled Across The Page
    Famke Janssen for Precision
    Naomie Harris for All For Nothing
    Noreile Stratford for Care Comes Sparingly

    (Note: Elizabeth Banks was the odds-on favorite to win, and she didn't disappoint. She beat out Alison Pill's performance as a starving sculptor, Famke Janssen's performance as a Cold War-era sniper, Naomie Harris' performance as a recovering drug addict in All For Nothing, and newcomer Noreile Stratford's performance as a disillusioned home caretaker in Care Comes Sparingly. While all four of the losing performances were praised, Elizabeth Banks absolutely carried Spilled Across The Page, and charmed audiences and critics alike to take home the award.)

    Best Supporting Actor-

    Charlie Day for Spilled Across The Page
    Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
    Colin Firth for 30 Seconds
    Jeff Bridges for No Skills
    Phillip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

    (Note: Phillip Seymour Hoffman's incredible performance in The Master lost to Cristoph Waltz IOTL, but the voters saw it differently this time around, giving him a narrow win. Jeff Bridges got plenty of commendation as a jaded hiring director in No Skills, but he couldn't beat out Hoffman, and it wasn't a surprise when he won the Oscar.)

    Best Supporting Actress-

    Charlotte Gainsbourg for Violent End
    Frances McDormand for Spilled Across The Page
    Mandy Moore for Last Call
    Sylvia Hoeks for Spilled Across The Page
    Tessa Thompson for Hatchtown

    (Note: Young Mandy Moore and Tessa Thompson both impressed in their performances, with Mandy Moore excelling as a down on her luck bar singer in the depressing Last Call, and Tessa Thompson scoring accolades as a young mother in Hatchtown. However, Frances McDormand won yet another Oscar on the strength of her performance as a publisher in Spilled Across The Page, with her character and Elizabeth Banks' character playing off of one another perfectly. This award was never really in doubt.)
    2012-13 NFL Season
  • The 2012-13 NFL season saw several surprise teams rise quickly through the ranks of the league to have big seasons and achieve high seeds in the playoffs. These included the two New York teams, the Jets and the Giants, who rode young stars to 12-4 finishes and division titles.

    In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans reigned supreme. The Titans, behind the outstanding quarterback play of Philip Rivers (acquired in a trade from the Falcons several years back) emerged as the class of the AFC South, trouncing their other rivals, including the Indianapolis Colts, who fell way back to 7-9. Meanwhile, the New York Jets and their surprising rushing attack took first place in an extremely competitive AFC East, beating the Patriots by a single game and also knocking last year's conference champs, the Miami Dolphins, out of contention. The Bengals were back to respectability, going 11-5 to win an exceptionally competitive AFC North just barely over the 10-6 Steelers. The AFC was a tough conference in 2012, and whoever emerged from the playoff gauntlet would be battle tested indeed.

    In the NFC, there were several big stories, including the excellent quarterback play of rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Andrew Luck led the 49ers to an 8-8 record, not good enough for the playoffs but good enough to be considered a team back on the rise, and with a much better relationship with the team and his coach. Meanwhile, RG3 had to fill in for Tim Couch a few times throughout the season, and though the Eagles struggled in a tough division, they ended up 10-6 and took the last playoff spot, losing a razor thin tiebreaker to the division rival Dallas Cowboys, with both teams losing to the Giants who went 12-4. The Chicago Bears remained the class of the conference, and looked to repeat their winning ways, hoping to make it back to the Super Bowl.


    NFL Playoffs 2012-13:

    Wildcard Round

    (3) San Diego Chargers over (6) Pittsburgh Steelers, 17 to 3

    The San Diego Chargers were another surprise team that emerged from the season with a decent 11-5 record, though many said they had a fairly soft division with the Broncos, Raiders, and Chargers all regressing. However, they proved that they weren't a team to take lightly, thanks to their effective defense trouncing the Steelers. Aaron Rodgers, who'd struggled with injuries all year, found himself picked off three times and looking more human than he has in a long time. The Chargers would advance to the divisional round, looking to score an upset against the tough Jets in what looked to be a defensive struggle.

    (4) Cincinnati Bengals over (5) New England Patriots, 29 to 13

    Though the Bengals had gone only 11-5, this was largely due to a fierce strength of schedule, and many people saw them as potentially the best team in the league. They dispatched the Patriots fairly easy, with McNabb really showing his age in this one. Indeed, this game would see some questions about his retirement begin to loom, and 2013's season would see McNabb grooming backup Colin Kaepernick to take over after one last campaign. In the meantime, the Bengals, led by Matt Ryan, had no problem advancing to a showdown with the Titans.

    (3) St. Louis Rams over (6) Philadelphia Eagles, 23 to 20 (OT)

    The best game of the weekend saw the Eagles and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III jump out to a 20-6 lead at the end of the third quarter, only for the Rams to storm back thanks to some clutch passing plays and a timely fumble recovery. The Rams would get the ball to start the overtime period and would march down for an easy field goal. This would be the game that would ultimately result in the NFL's OTL overtime rule that a team can't win overtime on the first possession with a field goal being implemented ITTL. Quarterback Tim Couch would retire after this season, handing over the reins to RG3 permanently. He'd shown promise in this game, and would only get better as time went on.

    (5) Dallas Cowboys over (4) New Orleans Saints, 21 to 7

    The Saints struggled this year behind a rough campaign from Peyton Manning, who was also starting to feel the ravages of time. Meanwhile, Tim Tebow, though inconsistent, was a highlight machine, and he was no different in this game, scoring two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown while the Dallas defense kept Peyton stymied. This game would raise some serious questions about Peyton Manning's future, and he hoped to make a comeback the following year.

    Divisional Round-

    (1) Tennessee Titans over (4) Cincinnati Bengals, 38 to 35 (2OT)

    The Titans and Bengals, considered to be two of the three best teams in the league (along with the Bears), didn't disappoint, and this was an instant classic that many people considered the best NFL playoff game in a very long time. It was a back and forth shootout with neither team ever going behind by more than a possession, and in the end, overtime really was the only way these two teams could settle it. However, the teams were gassed in the extra period, and neither one was able to score, though the Bengals did consider attempting a 59 yard field goal before deciding to punt late in the first overtime. It would go to a second overtime, and eleven minutes would pass before Tennessee finally got close enough to be confident about a field goal, a 41 yarder for the win to advance to the AFC Championship.

    (2) New York Jets over (3) San Diego Chargers, 30 to 0

    In a game that was expected to be a defensive struggle, the only team that struggled was the Chargers, who couldn't put up a single point against the mighty Jets defense. Meanwhile, Jamaal Charles gashed his way to a 190 yard, two touchdown day, and the Jets completely ran over the hapless Chargers, who'd stopped McNabb but couldn't stop the run. The Jets suddenly looked quite good going into the conference championship, and hoped to take advantage of a gassed Titans team.

    (1) Chicago Bears over (5) Dallas Cowboys, 27 to 10

    Another year, another Bears-Cowboys meeting in the playoffs. This had emerged as perhaps the biggest rivalry in the league over the past decade, even moreso than the Steelers and Patriots, and once again, the Bears got the better of the Cowboys, making Tim Tebow look positively pedestrian as he threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. The rabid Bears crowd cheered their team to victory, with Big Ben securing a huge win for his team and taking them once more to the conference finals.

    (3) St. Louis Rams over (2) New York Giants, 10 to 9

    In a defensive dogfight between two surprise teams, the Rams emerged victorious, holding the Giants to only field goals despite several promising drives. The game was frustrating for both teams, with a crucial turnover by each team, the Rams in the first half and the Giants in the second half both losing the ball in the red zone. At one point, it seemed like neither team wanted to win, but in the end, the Rams wanted it just a little bit more, and advanced to face the Bears as heavy underdogs.

    Conference Championships-

    (1) Tennessee Titans over (2) New York Jets, 17 to 10

    The Jets certainly came to play, holding the Titans scoreless for almost the entire first half, while they put the game's first touchdown on the board. The Titans were able to string together a long touchdown drive toward the end of the first half to tie up the score, then came back with a quick score in the third to make it 14-7. The Jets eventually got a field goal to end the quarter, then had the ball with a chance to put the go ahead touchdown on the board with just over six minutes to go. They ended up turning the ball over on downs, and the Titans were able to get a field goal with just over three minutes left. The Jets had time to tie the game, but weren't able to score, and the Titans won a hard fought battle to advance to the Super Bowl.

    (1) Chicago Bears over (3) St. Louis Rams, 34 to 14

    Once again, “Da Bears” came up big when it counted, taking home their second conference championship in three years. They ran all over the Rams, scoring in the air and on the ground, while the Rams weren't able to string together much on offense. They put together a couple of decent touchdown drives, one in the second quarter and one early in the fourth that made it 27-14, but that was about as close as they got in the second half, as the Bears put together one last long touchdown drive to seal the deal. The Bears had become the best team in the NFC, even moreso than the Saints, and they'd have a chance to bring home yet another Lombardi Trophy.

    Super Bowl XLVII:

    Tennessee Titans over Chicago Bears, 24 to 21

    Super Bowl XLVII took place in Miami, and saw the league's two best teams facing off in a highly anticipated game. The Bears were looking to take home yet another Super Bowl, while the Titans were hoping to win their second Super Bowl ever. The two teams would play a fairly close game throughout, trading touchdowns early on and heading into halftime with the Titans ahead, 10 to 7. The halftime show was headlined by Pitbull, who brought numerous guests onto the stage to perform with him in a halftime show that was considered fairly mediocre and not as good as Elton John's the previous year. The real fireworks began in the second half, when the Bears went ahead with a quick score, 14-10, and nearly went ahead even more after picking off an errant Philip Rivers pass. A near disaster was averted when Rivers himself managed a shoestring tackle to prevent a pick-6, and then the Titans managed to make a three and out stop. They would retake the lead early in the fourth, only for the Bears to immediately score, putting themselves up 21-17 with a bit more than eight minutes to go. The Titans would be forced to punt, and once again, the Bears looked poised to go up by two possessions, but another crucial defensive stop, followed by a missed 50 yard field goal, put the Titans in prime position to score, and they would do so with 48 seconds remaining. The Bears couldn't get back into field goal range for a tying opportunity, and the Titans ended up winning a nailbiter, with Rivers taking home the MVP award.


    2013 NFL Draft-

    The 2013 NFL Draft was a fairly ho-hum affair that saw a glut of talent at the offensive line position. The San Francisco 49ers were looking for a lineman to protect Andrew Luck, but most of the top talent went far above their 16th pick. However, the Niners did manage to acquire Kyle Long at guard, where he would help protect Luck and also establish the Niners' ground game. The Detroit Lions had the first pick, and they took Eric Fisher, considered to be the draft's best player. The Seattle Seahawks selected Manti Te'o with the second pick. Also of note were the Cleveland Browns, who had a first round pick for the first time since the Michael Vick scandal. They were quietly building a decent team around quarterback Russell Wilson, and after finishing 6-10, had the ninth pick. They ended up trading down, where they collected a pair of wide receivers early in the second round: DeAndre Hopkins and Justin Hunter, then used their own second round pick to select Le'Veon Bell.
    Winter 2013 (Part 1) - Year Of The Bat?
  • Batman: Dark Legend

    An adventure/brawler game published by THQ for the Nexus (and later for the Virtua and Reality), Batman: Dark Legend is the sequel to Batman: Gotham Stories, and features dual protagonists Batman and Nightwing as they battle crime in Gotham while attempting to work together as partners to stop a dangerous enemy. Like its predecessor, the game plays more like a straight-up brawler than the OTL Arkham games, but does include more stealth and detective elements than Gotham Stories, particularly during the Batman segments. The game is also designed from the ground-up for next generation consoles, with a larger city to explore, much smoother animation, and more realistic looking buildings and characters. Batman and Nightwing both have their own unique skill trees and sets of gadgets, with Batman's gadgets focusing more on mobility and subterfuge, and Nightwing's gadgets focusing more on aggression and technology. The two do share gadgets between them as well, with both having the basic grappling hook/Batarang type equipment, with more specialization happening later on. Dark Legend also avoids breaking its action up into multiple individual stories, and instead has one flowing narrative. Batman and Nightwing each have their own parts in that narrative, which converges and then splits at least once over the course of the story, but the individual stories and character chapters of Gotham Stories are gone. There's also less of an open world feel to this game. Batman and Nightwing are both able to explore Gotham relatively freely, but the story is largely confined to certain areas, and there's not much in the way of side quests, with the game instead electing to tell a more unified and rigid story. The two also have their own brawling styles: Batman is a heavy puncher and a bit slower, while Nightwing is faster and works more kicks into his attack style, but is also a bit weaker in terms of absolute damage. The two characters each have their own distinct style, but rather than be asked to pick a favorite, the player will need to master both in order to progress through the game. Both also have their own ways of dealing with non-combatants. Batman uses his familiar fear-based approach and hiding in the shadows, while Nightwing is more direct and impulsive. The two do have a lot of similarities, but also plenty of differences, which cause them to clash at times throughout the game's story. As implied by the game's title, the tone of the game is somewhat darker than Gotham Stories, which was already a fairly dark game to begin with. The game's rating is a very strict Teen, with decent amounts of violence and blood (though there's not a lot of strong language). The game goes for a tone that somewhat combines the classic animated series with some of the more darker stories from the comics, creating a type of game that wouldn't be out of place among the contemporary animated films. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as the voice of Batman, and Kevin Michael Richardson, Cat Taber, and Grey Delisle reprise their roles as Joker, Batgirl, and Catwoman respectively. Harley Quinn appears in this game in a prominent role, voiced by Lyssa Fielding, while Will Friedle appears as Nightwing, replacing Mitchell Musso and making his first appearance in something Batman-related since his role as Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond.

    The game begins with a quick brawl segment in Bludhaven that serves as a tutorial for Nightwing. Then, after a few more scenes, Nightwing comes to Gotham, and the game begins. The main antagonist of Dark Legend is the Joker, with Harley Quinn as the secondary antagonist and several other members of Batman's rogues gallery playing somewhat minor roles. There are a few original villains and characters to speak of, and a couple returning characters from Gotham Stories, but for the most part, the game revolves around Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Joker, and Harley. Joker is no longer as feared as he once was, with several powerful crime bosses having taken hold of Gotham (emboldened by Joker's failure to kill all of them in Gotham Stories). Meanwhile, Harley Quinn, though still devoted to him, is slipping increasingly out of his orbit, and he feels he needs to bring her back to him by making himself one to be feared again. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon have been dating for several months now, something that both Batman and Commissioner Gordon oppose. There's still a rift between Batman and Nightwing, a rift that Joker would attempt to exploit as the game progresses (indeed, he feels that turning Nightwing against Batman would be the "ultimate joke", and becomes obsessed with this, putting all of his other plans aside). Harley believes that Joker is capable of destroying Gotham, and wants to see him achieve this goal, and while her plans are surprisingly pragmatic, Joker rejects them all, and eventually tries to control Harley through increasingly violent means. Though the main driving action of the game is Batman and Nightwing teaming up to take down a mob boss who happens to be an old enemy of Gordon's and who has exerted influence on a number of Batman's enemies, including Poison Ivy and Killer Croc (probably the two most prominent non-Joker or Harley villains in the game, with Poison Ivy trying to get revenge on a corporation responsible for killing a rare species of tree while also trying to save Harley from Joker, and Killer Croc playing a morally conflicted tough), the Joker's scheming plays into everything. Meanwhile, Catwoman, becoming increasingly disillusioned with her life of crime and trying to protect Batman, attempts to get close to him through Batgirl, and the two almost have a conflicted mentor-student relationship that develops in numerous story segments. This complex web of relationships and conflicts plays out across a tightly crafted nine chapter story, with four chapters seeing the player control Nightwing and four chapters seeing them control Batman, before having the player alternate between both of them for the final story segment. The first three chapters focus on Batman and Nightwing going after the mob boss but also forced to deal with an increasingly unpredictable Harley. The next three chapters see open war break out between the Joker and the mob boss, with Batman catching the Joker just after the mob boss is brutally murdered at Harley's hands (though Harley would come to regret this, with chapter seven featuring a harrowing sequence in which Nightwing and Batgirl chase Harley down, Poison Ivy and Catwoman both getting involved, and the chapter ending with Catwoman shot and feared dead, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy captured, and Nightwing embracing a tearful Batgirl, who nearly killed Harley before being talked down). Chapter eight sees Joker executing a convoluted plan to escape police custody, but not before we see a very dark side of Batman. The chapter ends with Batman engaging in a brutal hand to hand fight with Killer Croc, who was forced to fight Batman by the Joker. Meanwhile, the Joker is able to abduct Batgirl, setting up the abduction to make it look like Batman was to blame. Chapter nine borrows somewhat from The Killing Joke, with the Joker attempting to drive Nightwing to madness and direct his anger at Batman. However, Batgirl throws a wrench in his plan by fighting back and preventing the Joker from crippling her, but she isn't able to reach Nightwing in time before Nightwing attacks Batman. Nightwing nearly kills Batman in anger, but Batman is able to disarm him, and the two work together to defeat the Joker. The game ends with the Bat-Family somewhat broken: Nightwing and Batgirl leave Gotham together, both of them somewhat traumatized by their experiences. However, there is a bright spot, as Harley renounces the Joker forever from her prison cell (and it's implied that she and Ivy have an escape plan). Batman has lost his companion (for now), but so has the Joker, while Gotham is saved for at least another day.

    Batman: Dark Legend is released on February 5, 2013, and is originally a Nexus exclusive, though it would be released for both the Virtua and Reality at their respective launches in March and June. The game's detailed graphics, revamped fight system, and strong characterization are all highly praised, but its linearity and lack of scenario variety are both criticized, and the game would ultimately see reviews averaging right around 8/10, the same as Gotham Stories. Batman still doesn't have that Arkham-type game that made it one of the top OTL game franchises of its time, and it may never get it, but the Caped Crusader is still highly respected amongst gamers, and sales for all three versions of the game are fairly solid, with the Nexus version selling just over 150,000 units in its first week.


    Batman Revenger Ad Scores Strong Reviews During Super Bowl

    Among commercials for several upcoming blockbusters that aired during the Super Bowl last night was the ad for Batman Revenger, the sequel to Batman Crusader, which was the most lucrative Batman film in several years. The upcoming film showed Batman locked in an escalating war with Two-Face, a villain who was once the heroic district attorney Harvey Dent, one of Bruce Wayne's best friends. Two-Face has murdered someone quite close to Bruce Wayne, while blaming Bruce Wayne for the accident that transformed him into a monster (and also for the death of his young daughter). The ad showed just how personal the struggle between Batman and Two-Face will become over the course of the film, and has the question of whether or not the Batman will break his "no killing" rule hanging over it. Batman Revenger is expected to be one of the year's most successful films, building heavily off the reception to Crusader and continuing the story of one of DC's most popular cinematic heroes. The film will release during a 2013 that many are calling the "Year Of The Bat", a year that will see not only the release of Batman Crusader, but also several video games and animated film spinoffs, and at least one DC feature film that will see Batman making a cameo. Batman is still having an incredible decade, and a number of projects featuring Batman and his various supporting characters are still expected to be announced before the end of the year.

    -from an article on Tubehound, posted on February 4, 2013


    Be A Batman Villain, Only On Mobile (and Google Nexus)

    Batman: Rogues releases this week for iOS and Android devices, and allows players to create their own unique member of Batman's iconic rogues' gallery. Customize your character's appearance, from their face and body to what kind of clothes they wear and weapons they use, give them a variety of skills, and give them a motivation for taking down the Batman. Then, battle it out with other rogues in a miniaturized Gotham City! Gameplay consists of completing various missions in the game's overhead perspective, which can range from setting up traps to robbing banks, or you can also choose to challenge other players for turf. It plays somewhat like a hybrid of a tower defense game and an RPG, and features in-app purchases that players can use to improve their character (with the game itself being free to play). It's fairly well crafted, and thankfully doesn't rely on the tiresome "energy" mechanic that some apps use to force players to pony up cash just to play. Players can complete a set number of missions per day regardless of whether or not they pay to do so, and the only things available for purchase are clearly defense upgrades and wearable cosmetics. It's also possible to earn points toward upgrades by completing missions, beating other players, or winning turf wars, and the graphics, while fairly simple, invoke classic Batman motifs and characters quite well, with guest appearances from classic heroes and villains from the animated shows and comics alike. Batman: Rogues is one of the year's most anticipated mobile games, and it's available for play on iOS and Android enabled devices (including the Nexus).

    -from an article on Kotaku, posted on February 13, 2013


    Barbara Gordon Becomes Batman In Limited Comic Series

    Bruce Wayne has gone missing, but Batman still stalks the streets of Gotham... because the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, has taken up the cape and cowl in this offshoot from the main Batman comic series. As many readers will recall, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed in the classic graphical novel The Killing Joke, a condition which carried over to the comics, making her the Oracle. That condition has become somewhat ambiguous in recent years, with Barbara disappearing entirely from the comics in recent months, rumored to be coming back as the Batgirl after a possible recovery. This new Batman comic series also takes place after the incident in The Killing Joke, but with Bruce Wayne gone, Barbara was forced to turn to "certain means" (the comic hasn't yet revealed how, but it's rumored that either Lex Luthor or magic was involved) to gain her mobility back so that she could keep Batman alive. Keeping Batman around is seemingly the only way to keep an as of yet unseen villain at bay, who would rage out of control if Batman were out of the picture. Barbara doesn't resort to physical transformation to make herself look the part (though the suit she uses has armor that resembles Bruce's musculature and hides her figure), she instead resorts to subterfuge, shadows, and a voice modulator to make villains see her as the Batman they fear. It's an incredibly clever take on the Batman mythos, and also an amazing exploration of Barbara's character, as she's forced to fight and act in ways she sometimes disagrees with for the greater good of keeping this mysterious evil at bay. Meanwhile, she also has to keep her father, an aging and nearly retired Commissioner Gordon, out of the loop. The series is expected to run for 16 issues, and we've seen three so far, with Barbara engaging in heated battles with Catwoman, Two-Face, and in the latest issue, a somewhat skeptical Harley Quinn. The comic is enjoying some of the best sales that DC has seen in the past several years, just behind sales of the main Batman comic series.

    -from an article posted on the Comics Collected blog on March 1, 2013
    Winter 2013 (Part 2) - Ubisoft's RPGs Of Light And Dark
  • Child Of Light

    Child Of Light is an RPG developed by Ubisoft Montreal as a digital exclusive title. Similar to OTL's game, Child Of Light depicts a young princess named Aurora who is seemingly killed before being transported to a magical world from which she must find her way back home. The game features an art style similar to that of OTL's game, with a 2-D aesthetic that heavily resembles a storybook. The game's development timescale is accelerated from OTL's. OTL's Child Of Light was released in 2014, the game's earlier release ITTL is due to more fiscal support given to the game by Ubisoft, which has more RPG developers on staff due to the existence of the series The Darkest (indeed, many of the programmers and writers from that team also worked on Child Of Light, with more similarities drawn between the two games). The gameplay has some resemblance with platformer and Metroidvania games, with Aurora able to find treasures and explore outside of battle, and she encounters enemies on the world map rather than randomly. The gameplay and combat system are almost identical to OTL's title, utilizing an active time-style sequence order for combat, and focusing heavily on the use of status effects and buffs during battles, with the player encouraged to weaken enemies before inflicting damage upon them. There are some special attacks that allow the player to cast from their HP to use especially powerful effects (similar to how the original Darkest games had players casting spells from their HP rather than from MP). The game's plot is also fairly similar, though there are some major differences regarding certain characters, including Aurora herself. The game's original plan to have Aurora age up from 5 to 20 (which was scrapped IOTL) is utilized here, with Aurora spending the very start of the game as a five year old, spending most of the first half as a 10 year old, spending most of the second half as a 15 year old, and then powering up in the game's climax and becoming a 20 year old as she leads her team to defeat the evil queen Umbra. Another of the game's significant changes addresses the character of Norah/Nox. In the original game, Nox was defeated and killed by Aurora after betraying her, but in TTL's game, Nox can be saved and can become Norah again if the player fulfills a certain number of gameplay objectives, and if so, Norah will rejoin the player for the final dungeon. The overall game itself is a bit shorter than OTL's game, though the ending dungeon itself is longer. Child Of Light, like OTL's game, is a charming digital RPG that gives the player a big adventure for a budget price. It's released to all of the next-gen systems (Reality, Virtua, Nexus, Connect, and Gemini) as well as the Nintendo Sapphire, and if the player purchases The Darkest (which is released a couple of weeks after Child Of Light), they get a code to download the Sapphire version of Child Of Light for free (a $20 value at the time of the game's release). The brand synergy between the two Ubisoft RPGs helps to raise awareness of Child Of Light, with more than 100,000 people taking advantage of the offer. Of course, the game, which achieves strong review scores, does well on other systems too, even if there's no free game offer on those platforms, becoming one of the Nexus' biggest digital exclusives at the time of its release.


    The Darkest

    The Darkest is an action-RPG developed by Ubisoft San Francisco (in conjunction with Ubisoft Montreal, sharing programmers and resources between them). It's the fourth game in the RPG series The Darkest, which tells the story of demonic incursions into our world brought about by normal human beings dabbling with magic. The game's primary protagonist is Kris, a demon hunter and sorceress in her 30s who is now the leader of a small army of sorcerers in training who battle demons all across the world. Kris' followers can also be utilized in combat, and the player is able to control them as well, but for the most part they'll be controlling Kris, who can sling spells and physical attacks with incredible precision and skill. The game's format is significantly different from the previous three games, which were turn-based RPGs. The Darkest is an action-RPG that takes most of its gameplay ideas from titles like Bayonetta and Full Metal Alchemist: spell-slinging in real time, with brawler-esque combat. It's essentially Full Metal Alchemist's gameplay without the Law of Equivalent Exchange: Kris can cast spells for free (materially, at least, she does need to spend from her regenerating Ritual Point pool in order to cast them). Kris has also evolved quite a bit as a character, having gone from a somewhat grumpy and melancholy teenager to a confident and brash adult, with a personality somewhere between Bayonetta and Gogo Tomago. Instead of protecting a town (as was the case in the case in the first two games) or a small city (as was the case in The Darkest 3), Kris and her disciples travel the world wherever demons are sighted, battling them and using magic to seal up the portals from which they came. As Kris and her disciples defeat demons and complete missions, they'll gain experience points and UC (Underworld Currency), which can be used to buy new weapons and spells and power themselves up. Kris can take up to three disciples into battle with her (out of a total of eight), each of whom have their own quirks and battle skills, so depending on the player's style, they'll be able to mix and match Kris' companions to their liking. Kris herself can develop her magic in one of several disciplines, though instead of being related to the elements as they are in most RPGs, the magic disciplines are related to the magic's function: Slashing, Sealing, Scouring, Searing, Synergizing, and Submerging. Slashing spells can cause direct damage quickly and easily and can also sever enemies' limbs, Sealing spells weaken enemies and can also crush them, Scouring spells tend to be more explosive and can also melt certain enemies, Searing spells tend to cause burns of various types, Synergizing spells bring out more power from the magic of Kris' disciples and can also be combined, and Submerging spells tend to trap enemies or suffocate them. Each discipline of magic has its own style and uses, and again, it's mostly according to player preference how to power up and use Kris' magic. The Darkest features very good graphics for a Sapphire game. It's not one of Ubisoft's biggest budgeted games, but for a JRPG-style game it's had quite a lot of money and work put into it, and the backgrounds and character animations look gorgeous. Amy Lee returns as the voice of Kris, though the remainder of the voice cast isn't quite as high-profile as the cast of The Darkest 3, with a mix of Los Angeles and Toronto-based voice actors performing the roles of the other major characters in the game.

    The Darkest takes place in a world around 15 years after the events of the original The Darkest Ritual, and five years after the events of The Darkest 3. Kris has now gotten fully over her friend Etienne's death and now confidently commands a group of demon hunting sorcerers in a world increasingly overrun by demonic incursions. The first half of the game introduces the player to this new, dangerous world, as well as Kris' eight disciples. The player begins with three and recruits the remaining five over the course of the game, four of which include characters from previous games (Kris' two companions from the second half of The Darkest Night, along with Caleb and Starr from The Darkest 3). The four new characters are teenagers, and they sometimes clash with Kris over her leadership, which reminds her of her own time learning magic as a teenager and also leads to some fun generation gap moments where the writers get to make fun of the differences between Generation X and Millennials. The game is fairly light-hearted in tone (especially when compared to The Darkest Night), though the game's villains can be quite nasty, especially the primary antagonist, who turns out to be a Lovecraftian-type demonic entity created from the malevolent hatred of humanity (basically, every time a spell was ever cast with malicious intent, it fed into this creature's power). Called Maliphage, the creature can shift forms between a horrific demon creature and a human, and is sometimes portrayed as a human corporate executive commanding his own army of sorcerers (who can shapeshift into horrible creatures as well). Kris and her disciples respond to a series of increasingly deadly attacks, only to realize about halfway through the game that they're actually making the demons stronger by fighting them. Kris then realizes that she needs to find a weapon that can sever the link between negative human emotions and the demon world, which would cut Maliphage off from his source of power. In order to do this, Kris needs to find a series of relics known as the Heavenly Runes, which have been scattered throughout the world and are being sought after by Maliphage's demon army. Kris and her disciples fight a series of battles to retrieve these artifacts, but Kris is unable to wield them due to her own corruption caused by her dark deeds (the weapon she needs to use burns her hands when she tries to use it). In order to use the weapon, she needs to visit heaven and be purged of her demonic energy. In a late-game sequence, Kris and her disciples figure out how to induce temporary death in Kris so that she can visit heaven, and there's a touching sequence where she briefly meets with Etienne, with the two discussing what it's like in heaven (Etienne is happy, but she's also bored). Etienne is able to purge Kris of her demonic energy long enough for Kris to wield the weapon and sever humanity's ties to Maliphage, which then opens him up to be defeated in a final climactic battle that takes place in a city very much resembling New York. Maliphage is beaten and the demonic threat to humanity is ended. Kris becomes a very reluctant hero, and decides to retreat back into obscurity, but promises to meet with her friends in secret to continue their magical training. The Darkest ends on a note of finality, with most of the developers believing that this game will be the last in the series.

    The Darkest is released for the Sapphire in early 2013 as one of the last significant exclusives for the system. Reviews are decent, averaging in the mid to high 7s, but are still considered the worst in the series, with criticism toward the game's somewhat repetitive combat and Kris' characterization being the most prominent (many longtime fans think she's “too happy” in this game). Ubisoft hypes the game enough for it to see fairly strong early sales, but sales trail off somewhat quickly, as the game is being released on what many now consider a “dying” system. However, interest in the series remains, especially after Ubisoft begins porting the older titles to other systems like the Nexus and the Reality. Because of this, the hope for one last installment remains alive, and the game's writing team begins quietly brainstorming ideas, in hopes that they'll be given a chance to send the series off with a bang. Meanwhile, Ubisoft, thanks to the moderate success of games like Child Of Light and The Darkest, see the potential in JRPG-style games going forward. There won't be any Final Fantasy-style epics coming from the company, but digital and indie titles could be more likely to see the light of day going forward...
    Winter 2013 (Part 3) - A Universe Of Animated Hits
  • The current state of the major kids' cable networks as of early 2013:

    Cartoon Network: Cartoon Network enjoyed a major hit throughout 2012 with The Legend Of Korra, but the show was created to last only one season, and unlike IOTL, the show wasn't brought back for more (despite being a big hit in the ratings). Instead, the network agreed to commission another project from Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, and in the meantime, gave the spotlight to a bright crop of young creators to put their next generation of cartoons together. Hero Quest, created by Pendleton Ward, has proved to be a hit (though not quite on the level of OTL's Adventure Time), and has become the most popular show on the network. In addition, 2013 will see the launch of two more shows: Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, and Acrotopia, created by Siena Avrodopolous (an original TTL creator). Steven Universe is quite similar to OTL's show, starring a young boy who fights evil alongside his caretakers, three magical space aliens known as the Crystal Gems. The show has a very positive message and features plenty of singing and emotion, and is expected to be somewhat of a contrast to the more combat focused Hero Quest. Then, there's Acrotopia, set in a sort of wacky version of ancient Greece and starring a young Athenian girl named Nora who goes on adventures and befriends the gods. It's a slightly more serious show than Steven Universe and is sort of a different take on the classic Greek myths, with a bit of modern world sensibilities thrown in. The two shows will be debuting in a block together in the fall, and the network will begin hyping them up throughout the spring and summer. However, the news from Cartoon Network isn't all bright and sunny. The "Brit Block" anchored by Thomas The Tank Engine petered out somewhat, as none of the shows apart from Thomas were able to score big in the rankings. Thomas itself is also seeing a slight ratings decline, though it's still the most popular preschool show on TV. As for Toonami and the network's DC-based shows, they've also seen somewhat of a decline in ratings and popularity. Even during the Year of the Bat, the network's superhero shows are struggling, and Toonami may see a revamp (or disappear all together) if things don't turn around. Cartoon Network does have one big project up its sleeve: The Iron Giant: The Animated Series is expected to debut in 2014. It's the network's biggest budgeted TV show to date, taking place after the events of the second movie and further expanding on the universe and lore. Brad Bird will helm the series, and it will introduce new characters alongside Hogarth (now a teenager) and his friends.

    Nickelodeon: Nickelodeon continues to decline somewhat, though it continues to have hits in the form of Fifteen and Shibuya, both of which continue to pull down more than three million viewers an episode. It's also had some form of success with its Goosebumps anthology series, and there's talk that the network may actually do a sort of "crossover" with its classic horror series Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, bringing elements of the two shows together for a Halloween horror special later this year. Nickelodeon's lack of serialized fare has started to hurt the network, with Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Fox Family all airing serialized kids' shows at this time, while Nickelodeon continues to air episodic programming that isn't catching viewers' long-term interest. The network has also shied away from live action comedies for the most part, with Fifteen unique amongst their programming. Nickelodeon continues to leverage licensed properties, but with DC tied up in licensing with Cartoon Network, Fox Family having a monopoly on Marvel, and Dark Horse in an exclusive deal with Adult Swim for the time being, Nickelodeon is seeking out companies such as Image to create content for them, but with most of Image's properties intended for older readers, negotiations with that company have hit a number of snags. The company is now looking to create game shows and variety shows to try and bring in viewers, with 2013 seeing the introduction of three new game shows (including a Legends Of The Hidden Temple reboot) and two new variety shows. Nickelodeon is still in a tricky time of transition, and will need to find another major hit to avoid sinking to last place in the ratings.

    The Disney Channel: Still in fourth place but nipping at Nickelodeon's heels, The Disney Channel is "back" and on the rise, with several new hits. Gamer Girl continues to be a massive success, and has recently overtaken Welcome To Riverdale as the top "kidcom" on cable, while Mickey Mouse And Friends also proved to be a major hit, anchoring the network's Animagic block alongside fellow rookie animated hit Rick And Morty. The latter show, a whacked-out science adventure series about a mad scientist and his young companion, majorly pushes the edges of what the network's standards will allow (It's a Y10 show pushing TV-PG), but has also pushed to the top of the network's animated ratings charts, and is starting to be a major merchandise driver as well. There's also The Magician, a show about a young magician who starts out doing regular tricks until he learns that magic is actually real and that he's part of a special order of magicians. It's the most successful of the network's new "dramedy" shows, serialized shows combining comedy and drama, and is starting to gain a major following. Disney Channel, for the most part, has recovered completely from the Smart Squad tragedy and is now poised to be the #1 kids' TV network, assuming it can continue to pump out new hits.

    Fox Family: Fox Family has plateaued. While it's now the #1 kids' network on cable, its overall ratings have declined a bit, largely thanks to the relatively disappointing performance of its new slate of animated comedies, which haven't quite lived up to the hype generated by the network's animated action shows. The network's Marvel shows have done well, with Guardians Of The Galaxy proving to be the highest rated of the bunch, but the end of Spider-Man Evolved has left the network with a hole that it still hasn't managed to fill. Welcome To Riverdale has also plateaued a bit, though it's still the #2 kids' show on cable. All in all, Fox Family is mostly doing fine, save for a few hiccups with its 2011 and 2012 debut shows. Now that the network is mostly done debuting Marvel content, it's on to video games. Rayman debuted in the fall of 2012 and is doing decently well, and a new cartoon based on Mega Man is set to debut in 2013. Rather than the somewhat silly 1995 Ruby-Spears show, this is a more serious take on the Blue Bomber and will incorporate characters and situations from the original timeline, the X series, and the Next series. It's also a test for whether Capcom-based animated shows can succeed in the West. If they can, series based on Street Fighter and other Capcom properties will likely be headed to Fox Family in a show of corporate synergy between the two companies (Apple is also watching, and may debut shows from their own properties on the network as well). Fox Family is likely to be an action-focused animation network in the future, along with more mature live action shows aimed at teenagers. The network has always skewed slightly older than its competition, but it's been a winning strategy so far.


    Wendy Halpers: You mentioned video games as being one of your big influences in creating Steven Universe. What sorts of games were most influential to you?

    Rebecca Sugar: Obviously the old school mascot games, Mario and Sonic, were really big influences, both in the design of their worlds and also just the general atmosphere, the characters and the music. I was so fortunate to find musicians familiar with the style of music in those games who would be able to adapt it to the series. And then there are games like Squad Four and Andrekah, really big adventures, and in the case of Andrekah, a lot of magical elements that I could incorporate as well. Andrekah was this old SNES-CD game with this cute flying witch protagonist who used all sorts of fun little magic on the bad guys, it was a really cute game and I paid homage to some of that game's design elements in Steven Universe, especially some of the earlier episodes. Fairytale was a big influence as well, especially thematically.

    Halpers: With games being such a big influence on your design philosophy for Steven Universe, why not just make a game? There are a lot of creatives who are going into game writing and game development these days, and it is somewhat refreshing to see a lot of creative people making animated shows, but at the same time, with so many people going into games, what kept you in cartoons?

    Sugar: I love the medium of animation, you can convey so much emotion and beauty through animation. You can do the same thing with games, but not to the same extent. I would like to maybe do a Steven Universe game someday, but that's only going to happen if the show is successful.

    Halpers: What other influence did video games have on the development of the show?

    Sugar: There were a few casting choices influenced by video games, or at least games raised awareness of some of the actors we brought in. Deedee Magno Hall, for example, who voices Pearl, she also plays Rebecca in the Squad Four games. Rebecca is one of my favorite video game characters of all time, she's this incredibly strong hearted person who's a member of this team of space heroes, and she's also a serious badass, and Pearl shares a lot of those traits. She's a different kind of character, but Deedee brings that same level of strength and I'm really looking forward to people getting to hear her. Then there's Amethyst, who... originally we actually cast Brittany Saldita as Amethyst, because I really wanted to cast her in something. She was the only woman host on GameTV for a long time before Lyssa came in, and she was this huge role model for so many girls in my generation, and getting to bring her in and hearing her voice Amethyst was just incredible, she had this real kind of laid back, very defiant kind of performance that fit Amethyst so perfectly, but then she got the cancer diagnosis and she had to back out of the role. We did find Michaela Dietz soon after, and she was... well, she has this amazing rasp to her voice that I felt fit Amethyst even better. As well as Brittany played Amethyst, her voice is really smooth and so Michaela brought in this sort of raw energy... but Brittany understood completely, I let Brittany hear Michaela's performance and we both agreed that Michaela fit the role even better. But I'd still love to bring in Brittany down the road. I told her that she's free to audition for any character that comes along, and so hopefully she is able to get better and we are able to find a place for her because I'd really love to have her voicing a character.

    Halpers: On a more personal note, a lot of people know I'm not a huge fan of games because I just don't like the physical conflict aspect that a lot of games have, and I was just wondering because your show seems a lot more emotional than physical, do you think video games are going in that direction as well?

    Sugar: I actually hope so, because games should be about more than just fighting and punching stuff. I do love a lot of fighting and brawling games for sure, but as the medium has evolved, I think games have gotten more focused on emotion rather than on combat and conflict. There's a game coming up this year that I'm really looking forward to, and that's Miraculous Ladybug, it's a brawling type game but the combat isn't the point, the creator of the game, who actually used to work on animation, has emphasized that the game's focus is on healing people and making friendships, and so the combat is designed to protect and help people and not to hurt the bad guy, which I think if they pull it off will be amazing. It could change the entire game, so to speak. I hope Steven Universe does the same thing for cartoons!

    -from an interview posted on the Cressida Lane website on February 27, 2013


    Here are the ten most popular currently running kids' shows as of March 2013. This isn't in terms of absolute ratings, but a combination of ratings, reviews, and cultural relevance:

    1. Gamer Girl
    2. Welcome To Riverdale
    3. Rick And Morty
    4. Hero Quest
    5. Mickey Mouse And Friends
    6. Fifteen
    7. Thomas The Tank Engine
    8. Shibuya
    9. Guardians Of The Galaxy
    10. The Magician
    Winter 2013 (Part 4) - Come Fly With Me
  • Nexus Flight

    Nexus Flight is a flight simulator game developed by Microsoft exclusively for the Google Nexus. The game is in some ways an enhanced port of Microsoft Flight Simulator X, though in other ways (mostly graphically and in terms of content detail) the game isn't as technologically advanced. The game allows players to control a wide variety of aircraft and fly to and from dozens of American cities, utilizing realistic controls in a simulated fashion. One of the earliest "simulation" titles of the eighth generation, it's somewhat of an experimental game, developed by Microsoft as a way to test out the capabilities of Google's console, and also to experiment with the second screen controls, which play a major part in the game. The game controls much like OTL's Flight Simulator X, and gives the player a variety of options, including the default controls which utilize the second screen Nexus Companion and the Nexus Grip, a set of simpler controls which just use a normal controller, and then an option to use flight stick controls with an optional accessory, alongside the Nexus Companion. If using the Nexus Companion, much of the plane's functionality will be displayed on the Companion, and the player can use a single control panel screen or they have the option to use touch controls to move back and forth to view a simulated instrument panel. The player also has the ability to use the Nexus Companion as an altitude meter, a second camera, or an in-flight navigation computer by tapping a button on the screen. Nexus Flight also includes a "Tablet Mode", an option to use an Android tablet and display an even larger control panel. This Tablet Mode is best utilized with flight sticks, and the player can even set up a table in front of them, put the flight sticks on it and put the tablet between them, and enjoy a realistic flight control setup. Nexus Flight receives continuous updates that tweak settings, add new cities and planes, and also add more functionality and control options. All of these updates come entirely free, at least at first, with paid DLC coming about a year later (but only to add new planes and cities, with functionality updates remaining free). Nexus Flight is, graphically, perhaps the best looking game on the Nexus thus far, even if its graphics pale in comparison to Flight Simulator X running on high-end rigs. The planes and cities look realistic and beautiful, and the game runs at an extremely smooth framerate at almost all times, showing off the Nexus' capabilities. It's released on March 12, 2013, to strong reviews from critics who praise the game's realism and skill at porting over a popular PC flight sim program and its versatility of control schemes, perhaps the most versatility ever for a console game. The game's initial sales are fairly strong considering its genre, with more than 50,000 units sold in the first week, and sales remain strong throughout the rest of the year and beyond, thanks not only to the updates that the game receives, but also videos of people playing the game. There's even video of people setting up a flight stick controller and a tablet in public places, streaming from their Nexus at home, and playing the game on their tablet, which looks incredibly impressive considering the game's level of tech. Nexus Flight is an early success story for the Nexus not just in terms of sales, but also in showing the possibilities and potential that the console affords.


    "Nexus Flight proves that Google's Nexus console might just be the best ever for simulator games. The second screen allows for an unprecedented amount of control flexibility, allowing developers to put all kinds of things on the Nexus Companion. Some just use it as a second controller, but it can also be used as an instrument display panel, a rear view window, a camera screen, a navigation deck, and more. The Nexus Companion's built in GPS makes it perfect for simulation titles as well, allowing it to use the maps that GPS provides as settings for games. Nexus Flight uses it to a small extent, with more functionality set to come later on through DLC and updates, but future titles such as a racing simulator could allow players to race through their hometowns, and perhaps even take road trips without leaving the comfort of their couch. Simulator titles are a somewhat obscure genre, and apart from Maxis' slate of Sim titles, have never sold all that well, but the Nexus could change all of that. Steam is seeing a wave of simulator games coming to the PC platform, and porting from the PC to the Nexus is fairly simple, especially simulator titles that are less graphically intense than their action and RPG genre counterparts. If Nexus Flight continues to sell well, expect more PC simulator ports in the future, one of which could well be the next killer app that could help give Google's console what it needs to take down the Nintendo and Apple juggernauts."
    -from an article on Destructoid, posted on March 29, 2013
    Winter 2013 (Part 5) - Mariokart Excel
  • Mariokart Excel

    Mariokart Excel is a kart racing game exclusive to the Nintendo Connect. Designed to be quite similar to 2010's Mariokart Crown from a graphical and gameplay perspective, Excel differs from Crown in one significant way: it trades in some of Crown's hardcore difficulty for a focus on speed, and introduces hovercarts to the series for the first time, in the same way that Mariokart 8 (the OTL game Excel is most similar to) introduced them IOTL. The game is a 3-D racer featuring a total of 40 tracks, with 20 new to the series and 20 retro tracks, and keeps the 16 kart races from Crown. The graphics are a small step down from those of Crown, but not a major one, and the game looks significantly better than the 3DS' Mariokart 7 from OTL. Kart customization returns from Crown as well, though the game's items, both the returning and new items, have been adjusted to not call for skill as much as they did in Crown. This game introduces items such as the Missile Shell, a shell with a rocket attached to it that can move at a high rate of speed and has a high blast radius, but must be aimed carefully, and also introduces the Switcher Boost, which can be fired ahead of the player and alternates between boosting a kart and making the person that drives over it spin out. Typically, the person who fired it will be able to use it, and perhaps one person close behind, but after that it turns into a road hazard.

    Mariokart Excel includes five circuits of four tracks each, similar to Crown. These include the Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special Cups, as well as the Excel Cup. The Excel Cup must be unlocked, but the requirements aren't nearly as strict as they are in Crown: simply winning all four circuits at the corresponding difficulty will unlock Excel for that difficulty and all the ones below. Unlike in Mariokart: Road Trip, these tracks aren't based on anything from the real world, returning to the series' wacky Mario themes for most of the courses.

    Mushroom Cup:

    Mario Zipway: A speed-themed basic course.
    Goomba Grasslands: A grassy course where Goombas frequently cross the track.
    Boulder Bounce: A hilly, rocky course with lots of bumps.
    Wario Blusterland: An amusement park themed on Wario, with colorful scenery and tricky hazards.

    Flower Cup:

    Dire, Dire Ducks: A partially submerged track with lots of ponds.
    DK's Barrel Roll: A thrilling course in which players must drive from barrel to barrel.
    Cool Circuit: An ice-themed speedway, fairly simple but with slippery segments.
    Toad Town: A suburban-themed course.

    Star Cup:

    Luigi's Accelerator: A fast-paced speedway with some sudden turns.
    Boo's House Of Horrors: A ghost house themed course with some fast segments.
    Piranha Pipe Paradise: A pipe-themed course with lots of hazards and falls.
    Mall Of Mirrors: A mall-themed course that has some deceptive tricks.

    Special Cup:

    Peach's Cloudy Dreamscape: A ride through a puffy cloud paradise.
    Thunder Valley: A ride through a hazardous canyon with lightning.
    Bulbous Branchway: A plant-themed course with lots of vines and thorns.
    Bowser's Castle: A straight-up, lava filled Bowser castle stage with incredible perils.

    Excel Cup:

    Wild Ride: An extremely fast course full of speed boosts and jumps.
    Yoshi's Island: A ride around a track shaped like two Yoshis.
    Future Runner: Another F-Zero styled course, this one isn't quite as dangerous as Crown's Zero Field, but can still be quite tricky.
    Rainbow Road: Loaded with speed boosts and sick turns, this Rainbow Road is the fastest one yet.

    Mariokart Excel also has an Adventure Mode, but it's significantly shorter and easier than the one in Crown, and isn't required to unlock anything (though it is possible to unlock kart parts by playing it). It's much simpler but still teaches players the basics of the game, and is more of a side attraction than anything. Excel also has online play, and allows 16 people to play locally as well via the Connect's local connection capabilities. Developed to take advantage of the Connect's software, Mariokart Excel is a beautiful looking Mariokart game, with the biggest criticism being that it doesn't change enough from Mariokart Crown. Despite this, it's a very well reviewed game, averaging in the high 8/low 9 range and becoming one of the Connect's best reviewed titles of 2013. The game is released on March 19th, amidst a strong amount of hype and a major marketing campaign from Nintendo. It's released at a time that the Connect's sales are lagging somewhat, and it immediately helps those sales pick back up, giving the Connect its strongest non-holiday sales since early 2012. It becomes the fastest selling Connect game to date, with more than two million copies sold worldwide in the first week, and sales remaining extremely strong in the weeks afterward, even as the attention of the gaming community largely shifts to the launch of the Apple Virtua. It continues the success of the Mariokart series, gives the Connect a major victory over the Gemini (which remains strong and will have a big push around the launch of the Virtua), and also sets the bar high for the Reality's Mariokart game, which is expected to be released in 2014 or 2015.