Late to Space Games Part 3: Frontier Elite II

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Part 1
Part 2

Frontier: Elite II is one of the most mind-blowing games I’ve ever played, purely on a technical scale. Unlike the first Elite, I’m not just impressed with Frontier just became it came out 21 years ago. It really might be the most technically incredible open-world I’ve ever seen in a video game. It’s also further improved my perspective on what people hope No Man’s Sky will be.

Like the original, Frontier is a free download these days so I really suggest you at least take a look at it. There’s even a high-resolution widescreen version at that link. All that said, I can definitely understand why basically nobody else repeated the absolutely insane scale of Frontier. Its main identifying design decisions really set it up as more of a speculative simulation of space travel than a fun game. Continue reading

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Late to Space Games Part 2: Modern Elite Conversions

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Choosing the NES version of the original Elite seems to have greatly impacted my opinion of the game overall, as it makes a few small but crucial design decisions that actually make it a very unique edition. I learned this after trying out some of Elite’s more modern conversions. Compared to the hardcore simulator Elite is supposed to be, the NES version feels much more accessible.

Specifically I tried out Elite: The New Kind — a Windows port released earlier this year, the open-source PC fan remake Oolite, and the iOS clone Unknown. What took me by surprise with the modern PC conversions is how faithful they are to the original game, in more ways than I’d like to be honest. Continue reading

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Late to Space Games Part 1: Elite (1984)

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One game genre that’s mystified me over the years has been space flight simulators. The buzz surrounding No Man’s Sky convinced me to finally plan to investigate them this year. Part of the reason people are so mystified with the game is because it’s part of a genre that almost doesn’t exist on consoles. So, for a while you might see a lot of posts on this blog about space games. I decided to start off with one of the first and probably the most influential — the original 1984 Elite, well, a version of it at least.

On one hand I was always intimidated by how complex the flying mechanics of Wing Commander or X-Wing look. On the other hand I wondered how games about trading goods like Freelancer could ever be fun, even if it is in space. Even the title “Freelancer” sounds like some kind of economics job description that’s anti-fun. It’s one more area that makes PC gaming look much more intimidating than it actually is. I think I made the right decision in starting my trek through this genre basically from the beginning. Continue reading

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On Its Anniversary, Just What Does PlayStation Mean Today?

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Maybe this should have been my response last week about the 20th anniversary of PlayStation, but Sony and other people still seem to be celebrating it all season long. For some reason the whole event has fallen kind of flat on me. Last week I suggested it was because I never got into Sony hardware until 2005, but I think the real reason is what the PlayStation brand looks and feels like today.

I’ve noted it in previous blog posts about console exclusives, but I kind of feel like PlayStation doesn’t have as much of an identity today as it did 15 or 10 years ago. I feel like the 20th anniversary celebrations are more a celebration of the past than of what PlayStation is right now. In the past PlayStation was a unique library of entertainment. Today I feel like it’s just another box. I actually don’t think this is a bad thing, but I do think it’s a sign of where console gaming is going, because Xbox is no less susceptible to the change. Continue reading

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Indie Game Radar: Deadnaut And The Games That Make PC Gaming

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Deadnaut might be the most interesting, fully-formed, and slick game I’ve seen come out in recent memory that absolutely no one has talked about. Usually when I stumble upon one of these unknown indie games it’s because someone at Kotaku or Rock Paper Shotgun posted a blurb about it, or I caught the developer’s post on some obscure forum. Deadnaut just showed up in the midst of Steam’s new release calendar without a peep from really any publications, save for a developer blog on Kotaku Australia. It looks like far too good a game with too much work put into it to get buried and forgotten… if I can just wrap my head around its gameplay. Continue reading

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The Lingering Mysteries of No Man’s Sky

As usual The Game Awards, despite the re-branding, was really just another event for game trailers to try to hold up an awards show. I don’t actually know what games won what awards or what they did to celebrate 2014 gaming but we did get a great preview of what’s going on for the first half of 2015.

The most ambitious and in some ways divisive game shown there and at PSX was probably No Man’s Sky. It’s easy to be skeptical of a game that promises a galaxy with literally billions of life-sized planets to explore. Another source of skepticism however has been the content of the trailers. Many people still aren’t sure exactly what the game is or what you do in it. Continue reading

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Third Party N64 Games That Didn’t Suck Volume 2: Winback

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Man y’know what? Forget PlayStation today.

The 20th anniversary of PlayStation has everyone going through their memories with the original console and I’m pretty much “whatever” on the whole thing because I never actually owned the original PlayStation. I begrudgingly got my first piece of Sony hardware — a PS2, towards the end of 2005, after the Xbox 360 had launched.

My old PlayStation memories are pretty much of just being on the outside looking in as people played Wipeout, Final Fantasy, and Metal Gear while I stuck with my N64, the typical Nintendo classics, and the third party games I talk about in this series. The next one up is Winback: Covert Operations. Once again, this is a re-edit of a post from 1up way back in 2009. Continue reading

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Hypothetical HD Remasters: EA Edition

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While I was thinking about the other big Japanese publishers in this discussion I suddenly realized how seldom Electronic Arts has done HD remasters. It’s released basically two: Medal of Honor Frontline HD, and the PS3 version of Dead Space Extraction. There are at least several more that either I or enough other people would probably find worth buying.

Maybe EA just doesn’t believe in the idea of HD remasters. I’m kind of surprised a company like EA isn’t at least trying to pump them out to bilk more cash from consumers. Let’s say they actually did try to do this though. There’s certainly no shortage of games and franchises they could re-release, improved by modern hardware. Continue reading

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Plausible HD Remasters and PC Ports I’d Want From Namco

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A little under a month ago I covered a list of PC ports I’d like to see from Capcom that I thought actually had a chance of happening. I might end up just going down through all the major Japanese publishers on this subject. Right now it’s Namco’s turn.

With Namco however I won’t just talk about PC ports. Namco’s actually released a few games on Steam already. What we haven’t seen much of from Namco are HD remasters of any sort. They’ve released the first couple Soul Calibur games and Tekken Tag Tournament in HD on PS3 and 360, and that’s it, along with a PS3 version of Tales of Symphonia (oh, and Tales of Graces f if you count that). I don’t know if Tales is any indication of Namco moving forward with these plans — Namco did indicate HD releases of the Xenosaga games are possible, but there’s still a lot from them that I’d love to play in updated forms. Continue reading

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Holiday 2014 Local Multiplayer Checkup

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“I do think that consoles trying to concentrate on online rather than local multiplayer will be remembered as a huge mistake.”

– Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation in a VICE interview

I’m pretty sure Thanksgiving and holiday family gatherings played a role in Nintendo’s planning the release date for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Last year I talked about how these new consoles stack up when it comes to local multiplayer at a time when it might be most prevalent. I’m gonna take just a little bit of time this year to check in on this again along with local multiplayer on PC, which is a steadily rising thing. Continue reading

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