Zach Braff Produced Documentary – Video Games: The Movie

Video Games The Movie

Yes. That’s the official logo.

Looks like everyone’s favorite tv doctor (that’s not Dr. Who) / indie underdog went ahead and produced a documentary on the gaming medium. Zach Braff is the executive producer of the upcoming Video Games: The Movie. It is set to release on iTunes and various other on demand services on July 15th. It will feature interviews with creators Nolan Bushnell, Cliff Bleszinski, and Hideo Kojima just to name a few. It’s under a month away! You can find more info on the official page here: http://videogamesthemovie.com/

There’s even a trailer to tide you over until then:

Insert Geek’s Top 10 Video Game Tracks ♫

Nothing tickles a gamer’s nostalgic funny bone more than music. In an era of HD remasters and re-releases; even if the gameplay might not hold up we still look to the music and ask, “Did they get it right?”. From 8-bit MIDI to fully orchestrated scores, these are the ten tracks that make me look back fondly on the titles and do more to make me want to revisit those games than any gameplay video ever could.

#10

Castlevania Symphony of the Night – Prayer

The SOTN soundtrack has waves upon waves of amazing music. The thunderously foreboding “Dracula’s Castle” sets the pace at the beginning of the game and “Marble Gallery” combines elements of dance and jazz rifts that oddly enough find it’s place well in the soundtrack. The one track that always gets me is “Prayer”. I’ve always felt strongly about it because it’s at the Load menu, so I would hear it all the time. It’s wonderfully angelic and oddly soothing. Quite possibly the best music for a Memory Card Loading screen ever. Check out “Prayer” in the link below (as well as all the other tracks).

The Symphony of the Night Soundtrack is essential listening to any gamer looking for good music. Composer Michiru Yamane went on to work on several other Castlevania games after Symphony of the Night.

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#9

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Lost Woods

“Lost Woods” always stuck in my head after playing Ocarina. Probably because it’s the same 35 seconds recycled over and over again. But those 35 seconds are aggressively joyful and really push you along your journey. Have a listen, but don’t be surprised if it pops into your head later on in the day.

#8

Mega Man 2 – Dr. Wily’s Castle

I’m confident that this track is on every Top 10 list on the internet. There are several frenetic melodies that happen simultaneously that are always building on top of each other. The best moments are when they work together in unison to rip through your ear. There’s a galaxy of fantastic 8-bit music out there, but composer Takashi Tateishi just owns it with “Dr. Wily’s Castle”. Have a listen below.

#7

Ninja Gaiden Shadow – Stage 3

Not too many GameBoy games rocked it as hard as Ninja Gaiden Shadow. Although I tried looking, I couldn’t find a proper title for this track besides, “Stage 3”. Composer Hiroyuki Iwatsuki really pushed that lone GameBoy speaker. So much that it was the first GameBoy game I got stereo headphones for. Yes, stereo headphones for a mono speakered device. “Stage 3” is best described as a mythical rock track. You’re a ninja in a military base completely infested with cyborgs, spinning pinwheels of flames, and collapsing spiked ceilings. This is the kind of music that sells that level of peril.

#6

Final Fantasy VI – Terra’s Theme

Nobuo Uematsu is best known for his work in Final Fantasy. He is gifted with the ability to tell stories through music alone. Terra’s Theme named after the character Terra (duh), illustrated in my mind, an unknown beckoning the character was experiencing. It leads to stakes much more grandiose than she could every imagine, even if she would never recall it. All of the events of FFVI are masterfully foreshadowed in the game’s first track.

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#5

Super Street Fighter II: Turbo – Guile’s Theme

People will argue about this track’s right to be in this spot. Is it true that Guile’s Theme goes with everything? Yes. Is there anything more American than Guile’s Theme? No. Does it change how people play Street Fighter? Absolutely. As someone that loves and plays Street Fighter with others that love and play Street Fighter, Guile’s Theme will be the theme/level that will make even the most storied opponents play differently. Guile’s Theme makes you feel invincible, unstoppable even if you are not. As it crescendos you just want to stomp through your opponent. Soon, you’ll missing blocks and dropping combos because the music drives you to play foolishly. THAT’S how badass the track is. It just changes your game. Or maybe I just suck when it comes on? Regardless, Guile’s Theme is here to stay at #5.

#4

Silent Hill 2 – Theme of Laura

Akira Yamaoka has a ridiculously large musical palette. He brings a studio-style mindset to game music creation. Dabbing into rock, alternative, industrial and trip-hop, he melds multiple genres together for it to fit into the Silent Hill series. It’s not the mess one would expect and comes together nicely in the iconic Theme of Laura. Akira has gained so much attention that Konami included the full soundtrack of Silent Hill 3 with each copy of the game itself. Theme of Laura is a marriage of hard rock acoustics and R&B. Even as a violin makes it’s presence known towards the end, the blend always sounds appropriate; truly selling the melancholy themes of Silent Hill.

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#3

Metal Gear Solid – Encounter

Encounter is the track that defined Metal Gear for me. It slowly ratchets up the tension to the breaking point and lets it sit there. Encounter kicks in when you get discovered and grabs you by the throat. The enemy radio chatter is usually heard over this track as they try to zero in on you. It keeps your palms sweaty and heart beating. Not too many tracks convey the sort of palpable urgency Encounter does.

Metal_Gear_Solid_cover_art

#2

Final Fantasy VII – Mako Reactor

Lets get this out of the way now, I refuse to put One-Winged Angel on this list. Yes, it’s a very epic track, but it has seen it’s way onto too many Top 10 lists. It’s like the “Free Bird” or “Sandman” of the Final Fantasy series. Mako Reactor is an excellent track that thrusts players into the world of FFVII. It a very industrious track that sounds [well] put together and manufactured. Every time I hear this, I can just imagine Barret laying some heavy shit on me. Mako Reactor later on makes a return as the evil Shinra’s theme, almost solidifying the track as a character itself.

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#1

Super Mario Bros. – Underground Theme

Everybody knows this theme. Even if you don’t play games, you’ve heard it and know it. The main theme is way too easy of a pick and just as tiresome (timeless nonetheless). However, the Underground theme is just as recognizable. It is the quintessential 8-bit bass line. I love it because it makes me feel like a kid, no matter what age I hear it at. That is something no other piece of music can do for me.

SMBBoxart

Insert Geek’s Top 10 Games of 2013

2013 has probably seen one of the strangest years in gaming. Games were being kickstarted left and right, the indie scene continues it’s swelling resurgence, and big name publishers dropped the ball between console transitions. Nonetheless it was still a great year in gaming. This year forced me out of my comfort zone a bit (delightfully so, might I add). It gave me experiences I didn’t know I wanted. Also, with a console generation nearly a decade old, refinements to genres and franchises were ever more important to keep things fresh. A few titles hit their mark in this regard, while others missed completely. Here are the picks that made my personal cut for Top 10 in 2013.

#10

Dead Rising 3

Yes, it was buggy as shit. The framerate dipped consistently. It’s not exactly the “next-gen experience” that should come with a new console launch. Likely, you may already have played this before on the 360 and PS3. But man… was it a shitload of stupid fun. To me it was the most playable Dead Rising game in the series, and the best. Largely, you’re running errands for stranded survivors and killing any hostile psychopaths in the way. While the tasks the game asks of you is menial; it is the moments between the objectives that are memorable. Like gunning down an army of the undead with a teddy bear that’s armed to the teeth as you make tough fashion choices. Do I go with the leather chaps and chainmail armor? Or do I go with the string bikini only made complete with a lightsaber? Decisions… decisions…nonsensical decisions…

Dead Rising 3

#9

DMC: Devil May Cry

DMC released at the top of the year much like Bayonetta did just a few years ago. Even now at the end of the year, I still think back to Ninja Theory’s take on DMC. At first it was met with unforgiving skepticism since it wasn’t the eastern developed, anime-inspired action title normally served by Capcom. Ninja Theory pulled off the impossible and gave the Devil May Cry franchise the shot in the arm it needed. Ninja Theory’s signature storytelling style and strong mocap created the kind of DMC we didn’t know we wanted. Think of it as Christopher Nolan’s video game version of the Batman reboot. At first, you winced at it, but you tried it anyway and now you can’t get enough. Ninja Theory’s vision of the DMC franchise was much darker, cooler (yes, cooler), and above all else bolder. They kept the fighting mechanics fast and flashy as it has always been. The climactic and memorable finale has yet to leave me and I’m left crossing my fingers for a Ninja Theory sequel.

DMC

#8

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition

Whoa whoa whoa… Okay before everyone pulls out torches and pitchforks, I do realize that Minecraft has been around for awhile on the PC and that the 360 downloadable version was available since last year. However, I didn’t pick it up until the boxed retail version came out for the 360 on June 4th, 2013. Yeah, 2013. Just saying. I was familiar with the concept behind Minecraft, but never indulged in it until I brought home a disc-based version of it. My binges were bad, awful, sad, and pathetic. But I didn’t care. Fuck no. My buddy and I played it from sunrise to sunset. We needed more materials, we needed more food, we needed better armor, we needed stronger weapons, we needed robust livestock, we needed plentiful crops, we needed a subterranean network of tunnels, we needed a sky bridge that connected our castles together from continents apart. Wherever there was a need, there was a goal. When that goal was achieved we found ourselves a new one immediately. There was always a carrot at the end of the stick. My splitscreen partner and I both hold full-time jobs, but through an unspoken understanding, almost through osmosis, he came over my place as soon as we were done work. I would turn on the Xbox and we would play Minecraft with little in terms of spoken dialogue. I became a Craft addict in 2013. Sue me.

Minecraft

#7

Assasin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

With Watch Dogs delayed into sometime in 2014, I wasn’t left with too many games I wanted to buy with my PS4 besides Killzone: Shadowfall. I felt a bit dirty getting what can be considered a “current-gen” game on my shiny new PS4. After spending nearly a week straight playing AC4, I don’t regret one minute of it. Just as the Assassin’s Creed series was feeling stale (anything past Brotherhood in my opinion), Black Flag got enough of my attention to warrant a purchase. I still felt an undeniable reluctance at the main menu. The feeling quickly dissipated when I was in the game. For being a “cross-gen” game it looked great on the PS4 and at times defied any notion that it was also released on the 360 and PS3. It featured some of the best written characters this year. Edward Kenway was a flashy, opportunistic, and jovial pirate. Qualities that placed him in front of any other protagonist in the series. Behind his superficial greed, was a family man trying to do right by his family back home whether or not he knew he had one. His adventures and yours took you to the Caribbeans where you plundered treasure, engaged in explosive naval battles, went deep-sea diving, crafted armor, upgraded your ship, hunted, stalked, pick-pocketed and assassinated Templar leaders. The meta story took a bit of a backseat for the better since it served to highlight the story, not bring it to a halt. You spent more time “in the Animus”, playing a compelling character in the content-rich oceans of the Caribbeans. Also, best end credits crawl ever. This is the best Assassin’s Creed game in the series. Period. It will be the one for future installments to beat.

AC4

#6

Bioshock Infinite

The original Bioshock was a masterpiece and rightfully legendary. For Irrational to even come close was a monolithic task in itself. Bioshock Infinite stayed true to the Bioshock formula. The early 20th century aesthetic hangs heavily in the air (which I absolutely adore) and the kind of in-world storytelling that only Irrational can give us go a long way to making you forget you’re playing a video game. Your supporting co-star and companion, Elizabeth, is a game design decision that compliments the core combat and story simultaneously. She’s helpful in throwing you ammo, health packs, and creating “tears” that open up new gameplay possibilities. She has a presence about her that is always compelling and useful, not intrusive and annoying. The entire package is peppered with great gameplay and story-driven moments. Bioshock Infinite certainly isn’t flawless, but as soon as it gets a tad long in the tooth, the final few hours are unforgettable and undoubtedly worthy of your commitment.

Bioshock Infinite


#5

Metro: Last Light

It’s a shame that Metro: Last Light will fly under most gamer’s radars. It’s not just a solid shooter, but a fantastically gritty survival experience. You survive a post-fallout nuclear Russia as Artyom. The landscape is rife with radiation, mutants, Nazis, and… aliens? It sounds like every gaming cliche rolled into one, but it’s actually more cohesive than one would imagine. It’s not about getting through encounters by haphazardly unloading rounds in a virtual shooting gallery, but surviving them by being smart and conserving supplies. Players have to be mindful of ammo counts, because they may have enough for the next firefight, but quickly find themselves in a deficit for the one after because they decided to Rambo everything. The survival elements really hit home when players find themselves on the radiated surface. Gas masks need to be worn, air filters need to be scavenged and replaced, light is not always a readily available luxury, and health packs can be a checkpoint or two apart. The survival elements can be adjusted to be either accommodating or harsh. The presentation of the world is what brings Metro: Last Light to life. There’s still remaining political unrest from pre-nuclear life, light open-world exploration in some of Metro’s underground dusty cities yield unexpected (but welcome) adventures, and a dash of the supernatural make it one of the most unique shooters of the year (if not the generation). Metro is a genre-bending shooter that tells it’s story excessively well; enough for me to go out and read the books it is based off of. Gamers are always claiming to want something different, well here it is. I don’t know what else to tell you. Buy Metro: Last Light, play it, love it, thank me later.

Metro Last Light


#4

Battlefield 4

There aren’t too many shooters like Battlefield 4. Yes, it’s a modern military shooter, but few can duplicate that inexplicably fun and chaotic 64 player combat in the same fashion DICE does. Call of Duty has seen better days with the release of Ghost (it sucked) and the Battlefield series has only grown. The Battlefield series has outpaced Call of Duty with Battlefield 4. Even with rough and, at times, flat-out broken multiplayer suite, it still sits in my Xbox One disc tray. Not only does the progression system keep you coming back for more, but also the massive fever-pitched 64 player battles; unhindered by the last-gen’s console player cap. The frenzy running at a smooth 60fps. It looks phenomenal. Even when you find yourself on the losing team, it’s still stupid fun losing with 31 other players. Oh and the single-player campaign was alright (whatever). Battlefield 4 is the must-play multiplayer experience in 2013 if you have a PS4, Xbox One, or PC. The multiplayer suite is a bit rough yet, but whatever frustrations you may have are quickly forgotten when you’re base jumping off a crumbling (exploding) skyscraper. Think of it as that drunk gal that digs on you, she can be annoying at first, but actually has some pretty interesting things to say once she’s sober. Na mean?

BF4

#3

Grand Theft Auto 5

Truth be told, I don’t consider myself the biggest GTA fan. The series never really grabbed me until the GTA4, even then it wasn’t exactly the epiphany everyone made the series out to be. Although, Niko Bellic is one my favorite characters in gaming. GTA5 is the biggest leap forward for the open-world crime series. The three main character cast consisting of Michael, Trevor, and Franklin does a great job of injecting an unfathomable amount of mission variety and flavor into every moment in the game. The ludicrous list of supporting characters are rich in comedic relief and finely woven into the fabric of the main story our playable characters journey through. The city of Los Santos is finely embedded with stunning realism just as much as it is a mock portrait of American culture today. GTA5 is the devil on my shoulders. I feel a little dirty when I talk to non-gamers about enjoying GTA5 so much, but I cannot deny myself it’s boisterous parody on life as it stands. The witty dialogue and the actors that deliver them are fantastic ushers that present you with a crime drama that does not want to wake from it’s own comedic seizure. It’s just fun, funny, fucked up, and fantastic to play.

GTA5

#2

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I’ve never played anything quite like Brothers before. It is a puzzle-adventure game from Starbreeze. With that description alone, people will write it off. It is a game (and the word “game” is used loosely) that is a few hours long similar to Flower or Journey, but is much more of a “game” than those two. Players will control two brothers independently with each thumbstick and each trigger makes them interact with objects, people, and platforms. It’s simple at first, but soon enough the puzzles are a bit like rubbing your belly and tapping your head. The puzzles give you what you may call a “game”, but the events and story beats between the puzzles create some truly compelling moments, building to something greater than I anticipated. Without ruining too much, I can say that it starts in a village; where the game ends is something I will never ever forget. I beg you not to miss this. Brothers: A Tale of of Two Sons will be remembered as an important title.

Brothers

#1

The Last of Us

I went back and forth between The Last of Us and Brothers as my Game of the Year. It was tough, but I could not deny myself. The Last of Us is vicious and spellbinding. It’s story fills your heart with lead, the core combat forces you to tap into primal instincts you didn’t think you had, and that distinct Naughty Dog acting flair remains captivating as always. Joel and Ellie’s journey across the Cordyceps-laden America is relentlessly terrifying and heartbreaking. Their bond is an outline of a father-daughter relationship. They both give and take from each other as they travel the decaying landscape.The third-person gameplay is a mix of brutal melee combat, sweat-inducing stealth, cringe-worthy gunplay, and tense survival mechanics. The Last of Us is a series of tightly woven gameplay loops that never cannibalize each other. There are very few games (if any) where I will watch the cinematics in subsequent playthroughs, and I’ve been through it a handful of times already. Much like the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog imbues The Last of Us with breathtaking set pieces and gameplay moments. The Last of Us innately demands attention, drawing curiosity and thrills from anyone simply watching. The opening chapter sets the dark tone for the rest of the game and the expedition thereafter. It never stops and never forgives. It’s a game that disregards itself as such. The Last of Us is a title that you want to sit people in front of, or even better, have them play it. It is a gut-wrenching and strangely magnificent game that anyone with a PS3 should have no excuse not to own.

The Last of Us

My First 2 Hours with Day Z – Unrivaled White-Knuckle Tension

I followed what use to be the Arma 2 mod, Day Z, for about a year now. I kept hearing survival stories from those that have played it. Tales of hopelessness, scarce resources, the constant threat of the dead… and living. Living, breathing players that are equally capable of showing compassion or animosity. Of course I never had a copy of Arma 2 in order to experience Day Z. As a fan of all things zombie-related, I was forced to maintain a distant envy until the promised final product was released. Just last week Day Z shuffled it’s way onto Steam Early Access. I FINALLY got to experience what the fuss was all about first-hand. This is the story of my harrowing two-hour nightmare.

After arranging to meet with a buddy in-game, I booted up Day Z to find myself on the coast of Chernarus. The waves of the shore washing up behind me. My character was already stricken with thirst and I was armed with only a flashlight. Also, it was night time. Not a great start. After wrapping my head around the controls, I had some semblance of what Day Z was trying to communicate to me. Everything is very deliberate, crouching and going into the prone position takes some time. Even switching inventory items takes time as your in-game avatar equips items to have readily in hand.

Day Z Night Time

I could barely see anything in front of me without having to use my flashlight. Unlike other first-person experiences, you don’t just spawn in with your friends – you have to find them. I could either stumble around in the dark in search of my friend or use the flashlight and announce my presence to zombies or a hostile player. I decided on intermittent and highly discretionary use of my flashlight just as I received a Steam message from my buddy Shane. He tells me that the Moon is to his right and the ocean is to his left, I had the moon to my left and the ocean to my right. We decided to meet half-way since neither of us had maps. Not the best plan, but it was a start.

I was absolutely terrified as I made my way along the shore. The heavy howls of the wind and dense woods played with my head. A dimly lit cabin off in the distance provided little comfort. With only my bare fists to fight off any potential assailants, my options were non-existent. I had to check out the cabin. I armed my flashlight as I searched inside. The wallpaper was peeling and all the windows were shattered. I found myself a can of soda and a banana sitting on a dusty table. They weren’t weapons, but I counted my blessings. I had my character chug the cola in hopes that it would quench his thirst. I’d save the banana for later. As I lowered the can, I saw a flashlight cut through a building down the street. I messaged Shane, but he told me it wasn’t him. If there are better supplies down the street, I didn’t want to be without it. Even if I had to hide from any pursuers or worse, fight them off… with a banana.

Day Z Street

I crept out of the cabin and made my way towards a three-story building. I rationalized the more rooms a building has, the higher the possibilities of coming across either blunt weapons or more food. I’m certainly crossing my fingers for a weapon of some kind at this point. On my approach to the building a figure popped out from around the corner and startled me to the point of fumbling my mouse. Was it a zed-head? No, or else it would’ve been biting at my face by now. It was another player. He just stood their staring at me and all I could do was stare back. Was he about to pop me? Perhaps a fire-axe to my collar bone? “Do you have any food?”, he asks. “Don’t shoot! I’m unarmed” he promises. I assured him I wasn’t armed and tossed him my only banana. I inquired about the tall building behind him. He told me that he already checked it out, nothing. Just nothing. I felt naive as I thought about my previous assumptions. “We need to get off the streets, this area is crawling with them.” In other games, I’d laugh at this level of caution. Gamers have spent a majority of their pastime mowing down legions of the undead without batting an eye. Not in Day Z. Only a few are enough to kill you and all the progress you’ve made.

A single zombie in Day Z is a bad day.

A single zombie in Day Z is a bad day.

I followed my new friend into a small house. “I have canned food, but we won’t be able to eat without a can-opener” he mentions. Shane messages me to say he’s in a town called Komarovo. I peak through a broken window to see a sign reading “Komarovo 3 ==>” I sigh to myself and reported the distance to Shane.

He returns with ” :/ ” I heard some violent snarls just outside the house. My fellow stranded heard the same as he ducks out into the streets. I yell out to him over my mic. No response. Three figures blurred across the doorway I was near. After checking if my exit was clear, I ran out of the house in the opposite direction. I saw them chase my short-lived acquaintance down the street. Maybe he was leading them away from me? Maybe he abandoned me? Maybe I abandoned him? Who knows? I’m still alive. I followed the shore towards Shane, forcing my character in a continuous sprint. His raspy breathing took over my ear piece. Were the zeds chasing me? I wouldn’t dare look back even if they were. Suddenly, I see a flashlight in the grass attached to a man. “Yerp” Shane says. I’ve never been so relieved to see a friendly in a game. I look back where I ran from. Nothing. That’s a good sign.

Shane led me back to the town he came from. There I found an axe, a backpack, and helmet. It all seemed so advantageous, until my character’s stomach rumbled and thirst began to take a hold of me again. Shane told me his character hadn’t eaten at all. We snaked our way through nearby houses and sneaked our way around a handful of zombies, just several feet away from some, only to find a soda and an orange. Shane ate the orange as I cracked open the soda. This would not sustain us for long. I regretted giving away that banana I found earlier. Things would’ve been different. We decided to move away from the shore and head inland. As we come to a grassy clearing Shane tells me his character is seeing only black and white. We see a farm house just up the hill, our last beacon of hope. As we sprint towards it, Shane succumbs to malnourishment and death takes him. As I try to salvage equipment from my departed friend, a shriek rings off near me. A zombie is in full sprint towards me and it is shortly joined by another. I switch to the axe I found earlier. I backpedal and swing the axe at my assailants. I missed a few swings out of panic. Some solid methodical strikes drops the first and a little bit of luck dropped the second. I hadn’t realized I held my breath the entire encounter. I found myself with genuine, nearly unbearable anxiety as I stood there by myself in the dark. I decide to end my session there. Shane tells me he’s logging off, but I can tell he’s hungry for more.

So am I.

Day Z Zombie 2

Hands-on With the DualShock 4

With the PS4 making an appearance in homes across the world in just a couple of weeks, (I thought the day would never come), I thought it’d be a great time to talk about the DualShock 4. I think that it’s safe to make the argument that next-gen controllers themselves can be just as exciting, if not moreso, than the actual console itself. A console will always be some kind of box under your television. The controller is something that we will be interfacing with constantly throughout the console’s life cycle, so the controller plays a very intimate role in creating a relationship with our games. Think about it; I know a lot of people (including me) that hate the GameCube controller. But if you were to ask us if we wanted to throw down in some Smash Bros. Melee or Brawl, fuck yeah give us the GameCube controller. Any day.

Dualshock 4

Part of Sony’s challenge in making the DualShock 4 was to keep the nearly 2 decade-long heritage of the DualShock intact while readying it for the games of tomorrow. It’s tough to sculpt a controller that fits the needs of all genres. Once I got my hands around the DualShock 4, I had an inexplicable feeling that it can handle whatever developers threw at it. Here’s just a tiny glimpse.

Size Matters

Brown suede couch not included.

Brown suede couch not included.

What is immediately noticeable is that the DS4 is bigger. When I say “big” don’t take it as “bulky”. It’s a bit… say… huskier in the handles. This gives your hands a bit more room to move. I found that my pinky was resting comfortably next to my ring finger, instead of being pushed off the bottom edges.

DS4 Side View

The underside has a raised surface, so it feels like you’ve got a solid grip when your fingers collapse around the triggers. It no longer has that (literal) super slick feeling. Which is great because sweaty palms come with the territory. What you’ll also notice in the picture above are the triggers L2 and R2, they’re longer and feel like what they are: triggers! Where the DualShock 3’s triggers felt kind of mushy, the DualShock 4 has a better throw. It feels a lot like those awesome triggers the 360 has, which is a damn good thing.

Clackity Click, Buttons and Sticks

As I held the DS4, my index fingers naturally gravitated to the L1 and R1 positions. When I rested them, they actually landed between both sets of shoulder buttons. It feels a lot more comfortable to play shooters. The controllers itself felt confident to play shooters. While playing shooters on the PS3 was very much doable and competent, I intend on using the newly designed triggers proper for PS4 FPS’s going forward. No more cross-console shoulder confusion! The wider housing on the DS4 allowed for my index fingers to rest right on the shoulder button chassis, not over them.

DS4 Front View

Not displayed: DualShock 4’s Glowingness

In the picture above you’ll immediately notice the height of the thumbsticks has been shortened on the DS4. This will allow for quicker, more responsive stick inputs. Which sounds absurd, but will likely be more apparent when playing a game. It’s a bit difficult to tell from the picture because of the shadows from my camera phone (my apologies, I’m not a professional photographer), but the face buttons are a bit more shallow. The feedback from pushing down on the buttons is immediate and certain. Speaking of which, lets take a closer look at the face.

Face!

DS4 Top View

Man… my Dualshock 3 is really beat up… I call em nerd scars

You’ll see that the d-pad and face buttons are grouped closer together on the DualShock 4. It looks like Sony tightened up the button real estate to lessen “transit” time between buttons presses. Trust me, it sounds just as dumb for me to say/type that, but I don’t doubt it will make a world of difference during gameplay. The thumbsticks now have a concave surface which makes for better sustained grips, pushes, and pulls. Looks like this will cut down on that momentum-killing need to reset your thumbs in games that have you pushing forward constantly (Mirror’s Edge, Assassin’s Creed, every Call of Duty ever). Why Sony placed those handy-dandy arrows around the d-pad is beyond me…

1995 felt like a lifetime ago. They grow up so fast... *sniff*

1995 felt like a lifetime ago. They grow up so fast… *sniff*

There are a few other features I didn’t quite cover because… well… I just don’t have a PS4 to test them out on yet. The touchpad feels like a touchpad (duh) and clicks into the controller, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you about how those actions feel in-game quite yet. There’s an input at the bottom of the controller for the headset that is included with the system. I would imagine it works the same way it does on the 360, thank God. Besides that, it looks like the DualShock 4 addresses all the issues of the DualShock 3. Which is a pretty daunting task in itself since the DualShock is already a legendary controller that survived us across 3 generations. The other refinements to the DualShock 4 is considered a luxury at this point. The true test comes once people start playing games with it (I mean, no shit right?). Can the DualShock 4’s new additions and refinements elevate it to legendary status? A design to follow for the Sony platforms to come?

We’ll see. We’ll play.

Top 10 Game Boy Games That Defined My Childhood

The original Game Boy was something that seemed so unobtainable as a child. When I was in kindergarten, I felt this unexplainable magic, yes magic, when I tried wrapping my head around the idea of a portable gaming system. “Are you saying I can play video games where I damn well please? Naw… fuck off. No way! Black magic!”. My mother had just enough money to get me lunch everyday at school, but that was about it. Even asking for a Game Boy was out of the question. I scooped together as much dough as I could through raking leaves, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, delivering newspapers – hell, I even fed the neighbor’s cats when they weren’t home. Everything I could possibly do as a 5 year old to earn those bills. After a year I managed to save up a little over $100. I was a little short when we finally got to Caldor (yup, Caldor), thankfully my mom picked up the remaining tab and I finally walked away with my Golden Fleece. The Game Boy.

It's hard not to be captivated by the box art alone.

It’s hard not to be captivated by the box art alone.

#10 Kirby’s Pinball Land
Kirby's Pinball Land

I’m not the biggest fan of pinball, but Kirby’s Pinball Land would’ve been my gateway drug. If you wanted to get the high score for bragging rights it would let you do that. But if you wanted something more than that, Kirby’s Pinball Land gave players boss fights as well. Objective-oriented players could launch Nintendo’s little fluff of pink across three boards and a final boss board against King Dee Dee Dee.

#9 Tetris
Tetris Game Boy

Like most people, I got a copy of Tetris with my Game Boy. It features perhaps one of the most delightful soundtracks on the Game Boy, forever immortalized in my mind’s ear. Honestly, as a kid I didn’t “get” what Tetris was at first. It didn’t take long before I started ignoring the other games in my collection to visit Pajitnov’s masterpiece. Even my mom started borrowing my Game Boy solely for Tetris. Everyone I knew; gamers and non-gamers caught the fever.

#8 Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Ninja Gaiden Shadow Game Boy

It was one of the first action titles I got for my Game Boy. In terms of Ninja Gaiden difficulty, it might have been one of the more forgiving titles. Which was a good thing and prevented me from flinging the handheld unit against the wall. True to Ninja Gaiden heritage on the NES, NG Shadow had you slashing your way through armies of evil ninjas, robots, and beyond. What’s a ninja game without doing ninja-like stuff? Throwing fireballs, hanging from ledges, outrunning collapsing spiked ceilings, and platforming to escape overflowing lava are some of the scenarios that made Ninja Gaiden Shadow on of the best 2D Ninja Gaiden’s ever. Plus, it had a dope soundtrack. Check out a sample of it below!

#7 Metal Gear Solid
MGS Game Boy

Okay, technically it is a Game Boy Color title, so my list falls apart a bit here. But I absolutely have to include it. MGS on the Game Boy had nothing to do with the MGS on the original Playstation. While the game still included Solid Snake and Campbell, the story stood on it’s own. Maybe a more hardcore MGS fan could tell you precisely where the timeline falls with this, but not me. All I cared about was the fact that the Metal Gear formula held up in the palm of my hand. Codecs, box-related stealth, and creative boss fights gave MGS on the Game Boy a console-style feel. It had a wonderful collection of colorful cinematics that really gave it a Kojima-esque feel. I really wish this version made it’s way to the recently (re)released Metal Gear Legacy Collection. It truly deserves a spot amongst the other MGS titles. If you think I’m exaggerating, I will think you’re missing out.

#6 The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Link's Awakening Game Boy

Nintendo always took care of their fans. Even haters can’t deny that. Link’s Awakening was a true on-the-go Zelda experience. It didn’t take long for this Zelda title to start up like they usually do. After a really sweet opening, you find yourself on the beach, recover your sword, and you’re off to adventure as you damn well please. I got lost in this when I played with stereo headphones on. To this day, I still remember throwing the boomerang and then grabbing a chicken as the boomerang swirled around me killing enemies and digging up rupees. I felt so smart.

#5 Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land Game Boy

Super Mario Land was a strange title. Yes, it was a classic Mario platforming game for the Game Boy so I had to have it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Mario was stuck in someone else’s game. Everything starts out normally enough, you’ll jump on Koopas and Goombas. Then suddenly, you fight a fire-breathing Sphinx, pilot a submarine, or engage in aerial dogfights. Typical Mario right? Regardless, it was still a really fun game.

#4 Kirby’s Dream Land
Kirby's Dream Land

Kirby’s Dream Land had the cutest cast of characters I had ever seen. But who cares, they’re in they way of all the Warp Stars. The simple mechanics of flying, spitting projectiles that were formerly enemies, and eating spicy food was a gameplay loop that made Kirby so unique at the time. The only downside was that you could beat it in about 20 minutes or so. But it wasn’t like you weren’t gonna play it again after you had beaten it. After the ending credits I usually jumped right into the next playthrough, revisiting the varied levels and catchy soundtrack. Below is a piece of the soundtrack from the last boss fight!

#3 Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge
Mega Man Dr. Wily's Revenge

I felt like the coolest kid on the playground to be able to play Mega Man at will. Mega Man for the Game Boy still had the precise tough-as-nails action any fan of the series has come to expect. I was a tad disappointed when I was greeted with a boss/stage selection screen of only four bosses, but that quickly dissipated when I got stomped by Quick Man, one of three other hard ass bosses in Dr. Wily’s castle. Here’s a sampling of the soundtrack from later in the game. In case you haven’t noted the trend; I’m obsessed with MIDI music.

#2 Metroid II: Return of Samus
Metroid 2

One of Nintendo’s biggest properties and a sequel to the original NES hit released… on the Game Boy? Fuck yeah. The atmosphere (as usual in Metroid) is relentlessly creepy and isolating. The 2D map puzzle/action style was served up again on the Game Boy. Samus’ player model looked huge on the Game Boy’s screen, due to the upgraded Varia suit. A proper save function also lessened the frustration of writing down passwords constantly. Metroid II found Samus on a crusade to eliminate the last of the Metroids. While the Metroid types were recycled over and over, I still found myself immersed as I dug deeper and deeper into SR388. I still get chills when I think about this one. Play it with headphones.

#1 Pokemon
Pokemon Blue

I mean duh right? Pokemon moved Game Boy units. It moved Link cables. Pokemon was an overnight sensation that sold gang busters. It became the reason you stocked up on AA batteries, it was the reason you’re friends with that kid you weren’t friends with before, it was the reason you lost sleep, it was the reason your grades started slipping, it was PERFECT. Pokemon needs no introduction. This RPG classic is always thoroughly remembered by those who came into contact with it. Leveling up, battling, and trading Pokemon is a tried and true recipe for your addiction and Nintendo’s success. While newer additions to the series work hard to add in new hooks, the foundation still remains solid and proven. I’ve beaten it countless times as a kid and I can pick it up and go just as easily now. As soon as I get Surf and Fly, game over. Missing No. will give me all the Master Balls, Proteins, Carbos, and HP Ups I want. I’ll roid up my Pokemon and you’ll go down. That’s how I roll with my level 236 Blastoise. And yes, I know how to get a level 236 Blastoise without a cheat device. I practically bleed G1 Pokemon code.

Games From Each Generation that Defined Me as a Gamer Today (8-bit to 64-bit)

As the new consoles descend upon us next month, I find myself looking back more often than forward to the coming generation. Maybe it’s some dorky version of a mid-life crisis? With new hardware, games, online features, and controllers; it can be tough to let go of all those fond memories. When you think about it, gamers spend YEARS, several at that, interfacing with a specific controller for a specific system. This nerd-intimacy shouldn’t be underestimated. With that, here are a couple of games from the bygone years that shaped my taste in gaming today.

NES

3. Super Mario 3
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(Not explanation needed)

2. Contracontra_ok

This was perhaps one of the fewest titles ever that sold me on box art alone. Regardless of box art, I was glad it turned out to be a great game too. Contra really made me feel like an unstoppable commando. Throw in a millions explosions and swarms of aliens and you’ve got yourself an 8-bit action masterpiece. Many people have discussions about their favorite weapon, but for me it was the Spread gun or nothing. Screw that crappy Laser or the Corkscrew gun. I want either the Spread gun or the default white pellets. It’s the only way you can survive the game without using the Konami code.

1. Battletoads and Double Dragon

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In the early 90s, Battletoads Double Dragon was the ultimate crossover at the time. There are crossovers left and right now, but BTDD was the biggest piece of fan service for any side-scrolling beat-em up aficionado. There was no other. It did come out on the SNES and Genesis; but as a kid with only a NES at the time, the 8-bit graphics still held up very well. It had everything! Intergalactic fist-morphing toads, weapon elements from the Double Dragon series, the cycle sequences from Battletoads, side-scrolling shooting, on top of fighting your way to every boss from BOTH series!

SNES

3. Street Fighter II: Turbo

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My love of fighting games all started here. The SNES controller was perfect to the arcade configuration. Even to this day, whenever I play a Street Fighter game I maintain the buttons the same way I do on the SNES – Light and Medium on the face and Heavy on the shoulders. SF2T was the perfect arcade port for the perfect 2D fighting controller. This was my personal golden era of Street fighter.

2. Super Metroid
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Every room is a piece of exploration, every discovery a puzzle, every puzzle an action sequence. The precursor to the term “Metroidvania”, Super Metroid is one of the best 2D action platformers ever created. The world of Zebes was brought to life in colorful 16-bit glory. The sense of discovery I felt in my initial playthrough of Super Metroid has remained unmatched to this day. Nintendo constantly gave players a carrot at the end of the stick. The “level” design told the story through pure gameplay, new powerups, and a new suit kept me chipping away at my save file.

1. Final Fantasy VI
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I’m going to leave this here:

Genesis

3. Golden Axe
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Golden Axe was one of the first Genesis games I lost sleep over. Simultaneously, my grades in elementary school started taking a hit. It added a few new elements to the beat-em up genre, a spell system, mounted creatures with special attacks, and 3 characters that played somewhat differently. It used all of the Genesis’ 3 glorious buttons; attack, jump, and spell. That extra button really mixed things up.

2. Vectorman
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Vectorman was Sega’s answer to Mega Man. The spherical protagonist was one of the more graphically intense player models of the era. Every time something blew up the screen would shake absurdly. Boss fights sold games during the 16-bit era and Vectorman was no exception.  It had you shooting down fighter jets in the first level. It was totally rad. Yep, rad

1. Sonic & Knuckles
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Sonic and Knuckles was a game and concept all in one. You could play Sonic and Knuckles standalone, which was a great game in it’s own right. OR, you could connect previous Sonic titles onto the cartridge and play as the new title protagonist. It was an expansion and DLC on consoles years before it was taken to the degree it is at now. Not only that, but it was the best damn Sonic title yet.

Sega Saturn

3. Virtua Fightervirtua-fighter1

3D fighting games carried some form of mystique in the mid-90’s. We all knew where 3D was headed. To see 2 giant polygonal martial artists fighting on screen was nearly sensory overload. I didn’t understand the (now) common understanding of side-stepping – the idea of background AND foreground combat. As a hardcore Street Fighter fan, I had to admit I was a little jealous. Can’t beat em? Join em. I got a Saturn.

2. Panzer Dragoon Saga
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Addictive on-rails shooting, cinematic story-telling, RPG elements. You’re crazy Sega! They gave me what I didn’t know I wanted. I’ve never owned it, but I rented the hell out of this title from the local Blockbuster constantly. Currently, going for over $500 on ebay, it is clear that there is a passionate fan base surrounding the Panzer series. Panzer Dragoon Orta released on the original Xbox and Crimson Dragon is set to release on the Xbox One as a “spiritual successor”. They already have my money.

1. Virtua Cop421020-virtua_cop_cover

Virtua Cop cultivated my unhealthy obsession with light gun games. Yes, it was highly scripted. Yes, the visuals were kinda bland; even for it’s time. But if you had a light gun for your Saturn it was because of Virtua Cop. I use to go into 2 player mode holding both light guns like a proper badass.

Playstation

3. Resident Evil 2
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Zombies, zombies, zombies. I thought Resident Evil 2 was the pinnacle of the franchise. The memorable beginning set the tone for the rest of the game. It had a pitch-perfect sense of action and suspense. While ammo and supplies were scarce, it was never debilitating. It gave you head space to take down the undead hordes and it felt like the developers were taking care of you. RE1 was revolutionary and genre-defining, RE2 fine-tuned it’s previous masterpiece with better pacing and thrills. Plus, Claire and Leon were much more likeable than Jill and Chris.

2. Metal Gear Solid
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I remember the Volume 8 demo disc that came with my PS1. It had a little title called Metal Gear Solid on it. I recall trying it out and got something I wasn’t expecting. The initial sneaking point had credits popping up on screen as I continued my gameplay. This gave the game a more movie-like feel. At the time, it was strange having movie elements mix in with gameplay, but I was hooked ever since. As Liquid’s Hind took off and my Dualshock came to life, I knew I had to have it. Three console generations later I’m still awaiting the next title in the ongoing series.

1. Final Fantasy VII
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Everyone should play this game. 3 Discs to rule them all. I’ll leave it at that because this horse has been beaten to death.

N64

3. Star Fox 64
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I don’t normally like flight games and the original Star Fox didn’t strike my fancy (Mode 7 and all). But Star Fox 64’s included Rumble Pack really immersed me in the flight combat. Some levels were linear, but there were levels that opened up the battlefield to player freedom. The “All-Range” mode allowed players to navigate a 3D battlefield to take down other ace pilots. There was even a ballin’ cockpit view for the purists, one that I used in conjunction with the Rumble Pack to put myself in the pilot’s seat. I still take this title for a spin via the Virtual Console.

2. Super Smash Bros.
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It was the reason you bought more controllers than you normally would. It was the reason you walked around the neighborhood with N64 controllers hanging from your neck. You wanted to get together with 3 other friends and smash them into oblivion. At first, everyone was a little reluctant when it was known that Nintendo was making a fighting game. It didn’t take much convincing before everyone was on board with Nintendo’s grand gesture of fan service. The series has evolved since into a formidable competitive fighting space. I’m already looking forward to the next addition of Smash on the Wii U.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
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No other game on the N64 was held in higher regard. Zelda not only survived the jump from 2D to 3D, but helped define 3D action (dare I say RPGs?) as well. Z-targeting removed any clumsy sword wielding and surprisingly the “auto-jump” feature lessened a lot of frustration. The scope of the story spanned years that led to ongoing discussions concerning the Zelda series’ timeline. No other game on the N64 has created more of a conversation. Gold cartridge. Gold cartridge. Gold cartridge!