On Duolingo (And Other Free Online Language Education Tools)

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For nearly a year now I’ve been using the popular language-learning program Duolingo, and since it technically treats itself as a game, I thought I should go ahead and put a few words about it down here. For anyone curious, I don’t think Duolingo on its own can replace entire language courses, but it still makes for a very good first step and individual part to a larger experience. It’s also not the only decent free online language-learning tool. Continue reading

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The Faithfulness And Artistry of The “Shadow of the Colossus” Remake

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Shadow of the Colossus is one of my top games of all time. It’s my “desert island game.” I’ve probably completed it close to 20 times and closely examined its art over the decade plus since its original release. So of course I had the special edition of the PlayStation 4 remake pre-ordered, but I was also one of the people more anxious about how faithful a different art and development team would be to the original 2005 PlayStation 2 version.

Many video games get remakes because of the inherently technical nature of the medium and industry. Most people think that with most games simply tossing in more silicon, adding finer details, and implementing more realistic lighting will always improve the experience. Colossus in particular is known as a game that was let down by the hardware of its time. The PS2 version runs sluggishly, and it fakes a lot of visual effects that aren’t suppose do be possible on the PS2. Arguably it’s exactly the kind of game that needs a remake.

Colossus however is also mostly known for its art direction and atmosphere. It was distinct in 2005 and remains distinct today. It’s a very delicate thing that wouldn’t be easy for an entirely different group of people to maintain while adding details with a system two hardware generations and a decade removed from the original version.

There are even a few articles out bringing up some good points about the act of even trying to add detail to a game like Colossus: One from USGamer alleges that the PS4 version looks too much like other video games now. Another from Eurogamer (same parent company) alleges that adding a bunch of detail turns the PS4 version into an inherently different experience that can’t erase the original.

Before my PS4 copy arrived from Amazon I went back through the PS2 version for the first time in years (on a standard definition CRT in fact). After a single run through the PS4 game, I think I half agree with the aforementioned articles. There is a push and pull between the two versions, but the PS4 version makes some significant achievements even as its own game. Continue reading

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The Problem of Side Quests in Open-World Games

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Open-world games really need to stop doing that thing where dozens of side quests and collectibles pop up as soon as you open the map. This is a well-discussed issue, but all the games I’ve been playing recently really highlight the differences between how some open-world games handle side content, and what the main problems with these games are.

I’ve been playing Yakuza 5 for a while, I recently started getting further into Horizon: Zero Dawn, I finished the main story of Assassin’s Creed Unity recently, and I started a new game in The Witcher 3. I guess I’ve also been playing the extra difficulty mode in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on and off. In Horizon I’m pretty much just blazing through the main quest, as I did in Unity, but in all the other games I’m getting pulled into the side quests. Continue reading

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Xbox Game Pass, The Business of AAA Games, And Singleplayer Games

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The big news this week seems to be that Microsoft’s future first party video games will be included in its Xbox Game Pass service right when they launch. People immediately took this to mean Microsoft is going full Netflix. One long-running Austrian retailer has even gone so far as to de-list Xbox One consoles for fear of the platform eventually going completely digital. I don’t know about that last part, but everything else here makes perfect sense for Microsoft. It’s just another solution to the current problems facing AAA games. Continue reading

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Nintendo Labo Looks Like The Next Wii Sports And Wii Play

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Nintendo’s new Labo thing pretty much looks like another attempt to get back on the motion control horse. It’ll be interesting to see how developers and users respond to it on the Switch compared to the Wii and Wii U. Continue reading

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The Nintendo Switch Is Mostly Getting Ports. That’s Ok.

This week’s slyly teased Nintendo Direct tells us 2018, like last year, will see the Switch’s software library bolstered by ports of already-released games from the Wii U and other systems. Normally this is a sign that a platform isn’t getting the latest games or any exclusive third party developer support, but these ports are being welcomed on the Switch which says a lot about the platform itself. Continue reading

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Video Game Anniversaries That Will Occur in 2018

2018 is going to be a pretty big year for anniversaries in video games because it’s the 20th anniversary of 1998, often considered the greatest year of video games sever.

Unlike other years people may point out (like 2001 or 2007), 1998 saw the release of a lot of genre-defining games as well as the first entries in major franchises people still play today. It was arguably the most influential year in terms of what people are playing right now.

It’s hard to say what any of the publishers of these games will do to commemorate the anniversaries. Capcom is already giving us multiple impressive anthologies of its classic games this year. Maybe some anniversaries will be observed with “anniversary packs” of items for modern service-driven games. Continue reading

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Why I Couldn’t Make A Game Of The Year List This Year (It’s Really Just Zelda)

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The simple truth is, I finished way too few games that came out in 2017.

As of writing this I just finished Resident Evil 7 and never even touched YakuzaNierGravity RushNiohCuphead, and probably a lot else I can’t think of right now. I played a few hours of Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, and might get started on Evil Within 2 right after I finish typing.

I did play through some good games in 2017. Overall I think this year was another good one to follow up 2015 and 2016. Games — particularly big-budget games and console games, are in the middle of a stride right now after what I saw as a sort of slump between 2012 and 2014. Very notable has been the comeback of Japanese third party console games — the ones I just said I hadn’t played, after people had been wondering where they’d gone since around 2005. That many of these games are only for PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 and PC, has also brought upon nostalgia for the era when people bought the original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2 for all their Japanese exclusives.

Nintendo’s first party output for the Switch in 2017 was a whirlwind. Putting such strong first party support into the Wii U which few people even bought allowed it to pump the Switch’s first year with ports from the Wii U which to most people were effectively new games. Really though, despite how great the games I played this year were (which I’ll get to further down), nothing came close to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for me.

I didn’t want to bother with ranking everything I played this year because when I thought about my favorite games of 2017, I asked myself “What 2017 game would I play right now, ignoring everything else like my backlog?” Zelda is pretty much the only answer I have. Continue reading

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The Nintendo Switch And The Future Of The Handheld Market

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Many people are positioning the Nintendo Switch as the big winner in gaming this year. I think it’s already passed or is nearing the Wii U’s lifetime sales with less than a year on the market, and it already has a thick lineup of games. On my last post though I linked an article from Gamesindustry.biz taking a slightly alternate look at the Switch’s success. Basically, it asks if the Switch can ever live up to the 3DS. Continue reading

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The PlayStation Games I’d Re-Buy On Xbox, If They Were Added To Backwards Compatibility

On the week’s events: A lot happened this week, especially on Thursday. I got nothin’ personally, just more links you’ll see at the bottom of this blog post to articles I think you should read. Meanwhile, this post is something I’ve had in the tank for a while.

Also: I posted a review of AER: Memories of Old on Steam. http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561197983276232/recommended/331870

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Microsoft’s recent shifts towards a policy of backwards compatibility — emulating Xbox 360 and original Xbox games on the Xbox One, letting you use original discs, and even improving those games for free, are setting a precedent in my view against Sony’s treatment of legacy software on PlayStation. This has reached the point where there are games I bought on PlayStation which I’ve thought about re-buying for Xbox because of Microsoft’s policies if they ever become backwards compatible. Continue reading

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