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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 Movie Review

Let me get this out of the way – the movie wasn’t necessarily bad. It was just short and competent enough to be passable. The turtle fight-scenes, when they happened, were enjoyable. They did ninja things with nice mo-capped martial arts. But the main problem is the use of the IP – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since I got the good out of the way, let me get into the nerdy, fan-boy bad.

The Turtles Look Like Monsters

I guess they were going for realistic or wanting convincing facial expressions – as anything physically fake wouldn’t fit in with modern CGI-fests that movies are. Because of this, there is no connection to these ‘turtles’. Yes, they are mutants, but even with the original comics, they were definitely turtles. Because of this new look, we lose the connection that they are cute animals. Think about it – you could (and I did back in the day) visit a costumed ninja turtle at a theme park. But these 2014 movie turtles? Way too over-designed and ugly to be as convincing in real-life. Sure, people aren’t really going to be conversing with costumed ninja turtles on a daily-basis, but there is connection between what you can physical see and touch, with what is obviously headed toward the domain of the uncanny valley. So, we lose the ‘character’ factor.

Shredder is no Longer the Villain – But This White Guy is?

So, it did seem weird that this great actor, William Fictner, played a rather one-dimensional bad guy when we have the popular and already established Shredder. In the movie, shredder gets very little time and we get this forced subplot about Eric Sacks knowing April’s dad and that he’s friends with Shredder. It was very out of place – I mean, Shredder’s name is Oroku Saki, and this new villain is Eric Sakcs – so similar. The rumor is that the Shredder we see in the movies was added in later. Eric Sacks was supposed to be in the armor the whole time and April’s father. Reshoots were done to change the story around – which explains the forced and oddly explained subplot. I mean, if that doesn’t confirm they don’t know what the hell they are doing, you’re just as mindless as the rest of them. Let’s not get into the wasted potential of Karai…Shredder’s daughter. I guess if Eric Sacks was originally Shredder, then they never really had a story to tell there in the first place.

April is the Star of the Film

The turtles are secondary characters. We don’t see them as much as April, and Will Arnett’s character has more lines than any of the turtles. That’s just wrong. The movie is only an hour and a half, the budget isn’t as big as a typical Michael Bay film – which means profit was the primary concern here. Spend as little money as possible on post-production CGI work in order to make bank. Whether that was the intent of the production company, studio, or director, who knows. But a TMNT movie should be about the turtles. And don’t get me started on Splinter – him and Shredder never met before, so their fight was as anti-climatic as you can get. Such disservice.

So far, the movie is making good money. Maybe they’ll spend more time on making a better second film? I hope. The options are either this movie bombs and the turtles take a different approach in the future, or we get a sequel that may have potential. I’m partial to the former. See this movie if you just want an excuse to go to the movies – and there’s nothing wrong with renting it down the road. Keep your expectations in check.

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Long-term and Short-term Goals of Video Game Publishers – Where They Fail

This really applies to any company. Any company that wants to maximize profits and grab the largest user-base possible. But, as we’ve seen, the video game industry tends to tell signs first of any change. Activision cuts back to only releasing Call of Duty games and a few IP-based games. Wii U doesn’t hit anywhere near sales target. Xbox One fails to meet PS4 sales. THQ closes. EA also cancels games. This is happening because companies focus so much on short-term gains. It’s great for stock holders. But what about consumers? Life-long employees? Or even the most important, the future?

Sierra Entertainment’s website suddenly appears. This guys were closed by Activision long ago. You know, one of the largest video game publishers ever? Who knows why Sierra is resurfacing (under Activision) – but my guess is Activision wants a long term plan. What would win over a section of the market to keep long term? How about gamers that are gamers for life. It may not bring in the most money, but it will be long-term. World of Warcraft subscriptions are down, and Activision doesn’t put out anything unless it makes a lot of money. So, maybe connecting with old fans using Sierra is the answer? The original Wii was supposed to flop – but it didn’t, as a new market that wasn’t considered bought into the waggle. Nintendo rode that success into the design of the Wii U, but the maximizing of profit, the idea of holding on the the largest market, fell flat. Now the Wii U is dying – and in recent times Nintendo has been bringing out more core titles to win back gamers.

Microsoft’s Xbox One didn’t over-take the PS4 like they expected to. They marketed to a larger audience by promoting TV shows, Football apps, Kinect crap, etc, etc. That didn’t work, so they reshuffled management with most leaving, putting Phil Spencer in charge. Since then, they’ve shuttered the entertainment studio, no longer require kinect, and pretty much did a 180. This is a sign that when losing short-term gains, you need to go back to the people loyal to you. As much as companies want to make the most money possible, if you want it to last, you need to be honest with your market. Sure, you may not care and want a quick buck. That will always exist. But as long as social media is a requirement for companies to communicate with their market, they will also have to be as transparent as social media demands.

I’m just make my living off being a social media specialist. Not a financial adviser or business owner – but a consumer that wants a real product.

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NeverDead – A Game You Never Played

I’m sure you never played this for a few reasons. When announced for 360 and PS3, it looked odd. What was it? It was made by British developer Rebellion, directed by Japanese game designers, to be published by Konami. That’s a strange combo. And it released during the peak of the fall of the industry in terms of AAA games. No one knew what they wanted, or what this game was. But I know what it is – it’s damn good. As Japanese-crazy as it is, it’s not by Suda51 or Itagaki, so it kinda loses out on the celebrity-developer factor. And does Konami market anything outside of Metal Gear?

NeverDead is about a demon hunter who never dies. The gameplay consists of losing body parts as you take damage, and are required to attach yourself back together in order to be fit for combat. At anytime you can pull off limbs for strategic purposes – but that’s just one of many gameplay elements this game provides. Right and left triggers shoot weapons from your left and right hands. Shotguns, handguns, assault rifles – you can mix it up. Or, you can pull out your sword and use the right-stick to swing while blocking with the left trigger. You can upgrade your limbs to be explosive and throw them at enemies. Even remove your head to get to hard to reach places. The environment is even near-totally destructible. Shoot out walls, pillars, fixtures,etc, etc – catch yourself on fire or use electricity for maximum damage. On top of all this, there’s an upgrade system which includes perks to buy with XP and equip in a limited number of slots. There is a lot to do here and the game allows you to play it however you want.

Each mission is pretty long consisting of you going from Point A to Point B, killing demons which require you to use your different skills. Some levels have more open-ended areas with a lot of destruction. There are hidden items, red wings to pick up which hold XP, and always end with a crazy boss fight. The scale is quite large and the designs are amazing. Speaking of designs, pretty much every enemy has an awesome and detailed design to it. the CG cutscenes really show this off and it looks fantastic. The stages are detailed too, but do kinda feel the same as the game trucks along.

The graphics are as good as you can get for a cross-platfrom game that was surely budgeted less than the standard AAA title. This would have made for a great PC title in order to have high resolutions. Outside areas were probably some of the best, but in all honestly, the unique and intricate gameplay keeps you from dwelling on anything else other than fun. The music is nice too – a bit of rock and upbeat for the type of gameplay. The voice acting is awesome too – it’s really the whole package.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I really believe there were many factors that held this back from being widely regarded as a fun game. I read reviews which trashed the game and I found it to be incredibly uncalled for. This is a Japanese game and we don’t get many of these – Konami outsourcing to save on cash still made a competent game, but is that enough? Did they need more marketing behind it? PC release? If you are a gamer, this game needs to be played.

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Sniper Elite 3 Review

I haven’t played Sniper Elite 1 or 2. But, I did play the offshoot “Nazi Zombie Army” which I think is incredible! Shortly after the release of 3, I decided I might as well check it out since the developers at Rebellion have never really steered me wrong. I decided to get it for the PS4, as it has been claimed that it is superior to the PC version (!) and I had to see that with my own eyes.

For starters, Sniper Elite 3 plays like a mix of Hitman, Ground Zeroes, and Splinter cell with standard CoD style controls that most action games use nowadays. What’s interesting here though is since the controls are standard it’s not built around stealth, you just have to use the environment to be stealthy. It’s a lot more organic that way. Each level takes place in a giant open-world area just like the single place in Ground Zeroes. You have a loadout which consists of a sniper rifle, sub-machine gun, and side-arm. You have very limited ammo, so a run-and-gun approach isn’t ideal here. Though, there are a bunch of different difficulties and you can even customize aspects of them, making play-throughs a lot different. Some difficulties focus on projectile trajectory – just a lot of variations. I went with the normal setting.

Being an open-world game, there really is a ton of ways you can complete a mission. You can go around a map before you decide on something. There are secrets to find and hidden secondary objectives. Just a whole lot to do. And even though you can stay away from danger and snipe from a distance, if you fire your rifle the enemy will hear and look for you. There are car engines, generators, jet fighter fly-bys, and other things that can mask your shot. This adds a lot of strategy. I laid a mine down to blow up a tank, and with that explosion I was able to mask my shots to take out enemies at the other end of the map. There’s really just too much for me to explain.

The graphics are good enough. Not amazing, but they look nice. There are a few bugs, like enemies getting stuck and awkward animations, but nothing that stopped the game from being enjoyable. The game is known for its X-Ray kills, and they are fun to watch. Sometimes I’ll skip them, but they are a fun addition that you can turn off if needed. The sound works very well, and this is another area the PS4 version excels: the controller’s speaker does reloading and alerts. This adds another depth to the atmosphere.

There were a few multiplayer options but I didn’t get into it – I really want to though! With the huge open-worlds, unlocks, hidden stuff, and multiplayer, this game is worth buying. PS4 version delivered on PC visuals.

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Shovel Knight Review

Shovel Knight started as a Kickstarter project by ex-WayForward devs. WayForward makes amazing games – Duck Tales Remastered is incredible, as was Double Dragon Neon. These games were very inspirational to me in terms of style and music. This new team, Yacht Club Games, while not comprising of the entire WayForward team, was still able to get music from Jake Kaufman! All that aside, what made Shovel Knight appealing was the 8-bit ‘NES’ graphics and what looked to be Duck Tales gameplay. Instead of a cane, you have a shovel – the Kickstarter sold me. I backed that s**t up.

Shovel Knight looks and plays like an old-school NES game. As I mentioned, it borrows heavily from Duck Tales, but it doesn’t stop there. You’ve got parts Mario 3, Castlevania, Zelda II, Mega Man, among other games. It doesn’t out-right copy them (expect for shovel-pogo being a large part of the games dynamics), but does a great job being its own game. You attack enemies with a shovel, navigate dangerous platforming sections, just to get to the end of the stage and defeat the boss. There’s tons of loot through gems and coins (ala Duck Tales), with lots of hidden areas and secrets strewn about. With this loot you can purchase upgrades and new weapons. You don’t need these upgrades to finish the game, but it’s good to have them for completing “feats” and finding secrets.

Here’s some gameplay:

At times it’s tough but this is offset by your money counting as life. When you die, you lose some of your money which you can then try to get back. I’ve never died enough to run out of money though, but I have died more than 3 to 5 times in a single level, meaning I would have had to restart. Once I completed the game, I started the New Game+ mode which is a lot harder. Your health depletes much faster. Even with all the upgrades from your original game, this is much more of a challenge. I would have preferred a ‘lives’ system. Five deaths into a stage and I have to restart – this would add much more tension. I know WayForwards Duck Tales got knocked in reviews because of this difficulty, so I can see why Yacht Club Games opted for an alternate approach.

The music is incredible, once again done by the amazing Jake Kaufman. It sounds like something straight out of a Nintendo game. If I were to perhaps make a single gripe, it would be that it became too much about being chip tune music and not enough trying to be its own thing within the limits of the musical style. Does that make sense? Maybe I’m just being picky, but it’s something to think about.

In the end, this game is worth the entry fee of $15. I’d say more. There’s some promised DLC along the way to add new modes and characters, furthering the life of the game. Even in my first play through I didn’t find everything, so I can see more time being put into this. This review was based on the PC version – it’s also available on Wii U and 3DS with extra features.

buy

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Homemade GameCube Component Cables Exist – How Can You Get One?

With the release of the Nintendo GameCube, or GCN, Nintendo did indeed have a digital out. The only way to get the component cables for that is through Nintendo themselves. These were made in extremely limited quantities and nowadays go for $150+ if you were to try to snag one now. The reason for this is because of a chip inside the cable itself that is required to allow the 480p output. I used to have one. Sold it in 2007 since I had the Wii, not realizing I lost the ability to use the Gameboy Player in 480p. And that is the argument:

Why do you need GameCube Component cables when the Wii can play GameCube games in 480p? Because of the Gameboy Player. That right there is a big deal.

So, I did a lot of research. For starters, the GameCube’s digital out port is literally a digital out port. Why am I emphasizing this? Well, the component cables display an analog signal, and that chip inside is a converter from digital to analog. The chip is manufactured by Macronix, and neither them nor Nintendo has released information on how to achieve the required operations with a homemade design. The digital out also does digital audio. There are available mods to also get that out of the GameCube. There is a Japanese Terminal-D cable that uses signal from both ports, and there is a way to modify the RGB cable to work as a component cable. It’s all rather complicated (link – do all that backwards) and will still cost you around $100 – not to mention that cable is also hard to come by.

An Iron Maiden fan from Texas (which we seem to have a lot in common) that goes by megalomaniac, seems to have created a 480p cable on his own. Thread here on the GC Forever forums:

With this successful initial testing, i now know i could potentially build these cables with audio and offer for sale. If i can keep costs down, we should be looking at a cost of about 45$ – 50$. Less than the typical going rate on ebay.

Eventually megalomaniac had stopped making these, as I’m sure it took a lot of time. Later in the thread was a message from another forum member, OzOnE:

Hi, all,

Thanks to the help of a VERY generous gc-forever member, we’ll be releasing a new PCB in the next few weeks. :)
(The parts for the two prototypes have just been ordered.)

It’s basically an HDMI output board atm, but we’ll look at adding analog RGB / Component output as well on the final version.
It also has some other extra features, which I can talk about just yet, but will be of interested to people doing portable mods. ;)

It will work for the Gamecube and N64 at first, but should apply to many other consoles where their digital video signals can be accessed.

Consoles like the Dreamcast / Xbox 1 / Wii will be tricky to hook up to, as their DAC pins are quite close together.
It may be possible to solder to them easier with a custom flex cable though (“modchip” style).

OzOnE.

So, it sounds like the idea was to move into a total, modern HDMI-style setup. I can see the need for that – pure digital. This started a new thread based on the new design.

The board is designed to go inside the console, Diminuendo.

It will use a direct digital connection to the DAC chip / Digital AV port to give a pixel-perfect image.

It’s not just a standard Composite / S-Video / Component / RGB to HDMI converter. ;)

I can’t give many more details as yet.
I maybe shouldn’t have said anything this early into testing, so I kind of put my foot in it a bit. :(

Let’s just say that coding / testing will be in progress over the next few weeks, and I’ll post a new thread when we have big news.

That is all.

OzOnE.

This moves away from the homemade cable and into full-on mod territory. That would take more time and money for all parties involved, so is that what it takes? If so, you may be better off forking over for the official GameCube component cable.

Since then, there hasn’t been much said on the forum. No cables for sale or progress on projects. That’s fine – this is a hobbyist sort of deal, and unless someone’s got the free time and money, they can’t necessarily devote their time to it. Other members would step up with ideas or questions and instead of any progress, it seems megalomaniac will fire-back in a stand-offish manner. Kinda hard to read or get any answers.

Then, from megalomaniac:

this thread is temporary locked for OzOnE.

please do not create new threads about this topic or request information since no further information is available at this time.
development will continue and updates will be posted here.

thanks

It looks like the community was getting somewhere with a homemade GameCube component cable and it sort of stopped. I’m sure there are other members willing to work together for this.

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Mario Kart 8 and Watch Dogs Impressions

I rented Watch Dogs for the PS4. I wasn’t entirely sold on the game and didn’t want to pay full-price on PC. It’s ok for me. Sometimes open-world games are just way too tedious for me, and I did just recently finish Second Son. I just wasn’t ready for another. My brother got it on PC and even recently unlocked the hidden E3 2012 graphics – it looks so much better. Why on earth was that stuff left out? Not optimized enough? Who knows – but I will eventually get it on PC.

As for Mario Kart 8, it’s Mario Kart. Better than the Wii version, but not as fun as the DS version (never played 3DS version). It’s polished and nice, but missing something. It seems this was pushed out at the last minute for the Wii U, as it’s just missing little details we expect. Very barren options and modes. The Battle mode has no arenas. I can usually play one cup, then I need to stop due to boredom. I think this was a “quickie” entry to help the Wii U before E3 and not a fully-realized version. It does have online multiplay with a steady network, but it’s just not enough for me.

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My Thoughts on E3 2014 and the Changing Landscape of the Industry

E3 came and gone, yet my hype was not met.

Microsoft: They did what they could. Phil Spencer hasn’t been boss long enough to show off what he wants to do with the xbox platform. He has great intentions and has been good on his word so far. But he needs more time. Perhaps Gamescom or TGS we will see more. There was nothing shocking or unexpected. The Conker pack for Project Spark was more of a slap in the face, if anything. We want a game – not assests for a DLC-ridden game maker. Though, Volgarr on XB1 is incredible.

Sony: Anything announced was already known. Nothing amazing – but there was a lot. Sony sure does have a lot of games and that’s always a good thing. But why not a lot of major, larger-than-life, AAA titles? I’ll get to that.

Nintendo: No amazing game announcements – sure. But, the atmosphere of the direct was so fun. The Robot Chicken sketches and humor was perfect/ The idea of a new Zelda is definitely exciting, but only a little was revealed. And that Star Fox teaser…just not enough. Nintendo really needs to churn out games at a higher rate and really not worry about 3rd party. I don’t have Nintendo consoles for 3rd party multi-platform releases anyway. I was really hoping for another main-line Mario or Metroid, but there are hints we’ll see it soon.

UbiSoft: Just more of the same from their IPs. Safe stuff.

EA: Who gives a f*** anymore.

The biggest take-away here, that I’ve been writing about for the best 5 years, and is more obvious than ever, is the AAA decline. Any AAA game being released by these big publishers will be from milked IPs. Rarely will we see new IPs and reusing old ones – if we do, the budgets may be smaller and the games may not exactly look ‘next-gen’. There’s a balance here that needs to be figured out, and is by some, namely Deep Silver. Get some great developers and really focus on a game for gamers. E3 may not be as exciting anymore because of the reliance on AAA games. Even media outlets only want to report on them for some reason and have only recently been covering ‘indie’ games as a norm.

Even with the bleak outlook this post may have, the gaming scene in general is as awesome as ever, with tons of cool and new games coming out. It’s nice to see Nintendo just sticking with it despite the doom and gloom.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

It really felt great playing a AAA, large-scale FPS based on an old IP. Wolfenstein: The New Order takes classic shooting gameplay and blends it with what gamers expect from modern games – narrative, looting, upgrades, and awesome gibbing physics. I can say easily that this is the best game of 2014 so far. It succeeds in graphics, gameplay, sound, and story. The New Order was developed by MachineGames, who consist of staff from Starbreeze Studios – the guys who revolutionized the FPS genre with Riddick and the Darkness. I wouldn’t say Wolfenstein is as revolutionary, but it makes up for it with being so much fun.

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The game is quite long with about 15 chapters. Levels tend to have multiple paths and slight back tracking. It looks more like a non-linear map from the classic Wolfenstein, but still a bit linear for the sake of moving the game along. The environments are completely varied – from the ocean to castles, to prisons, and much more. There is ‘loot’ around for pickup, mainly health, ammo, armor, collectibles, etc, all picked up by hitting a button. That’s how I discern loot from being just ammo and health you run over. As you play, you can get upgrades for health and weapons, and also unlock perks for how you play the game. This is similar to challenges in Call of Duty and can make firefights interesting if you are trying to clear a room with assault rifles akimbo without letting go of the trigger.

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The story is pretty interesting; an alternate time where the Nazis have taken control of the world. You still play as B.J. Blazkowicz but are introduced to many other characters to help move the story along. It gets strong in some parts, interesting in others, but there’s so much to playing the game that it would have needed to ramp up on the story line to keep me interested. Not saying it was bad though, as the mocap and voice acting is great. The music is surprisingly satisfying. I remember thinking at certain parts that the music is good. That doesn’t happen with me much when it comes western-style FPSs.

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It was a wild-ride that took me maybe 12-15 hours. There’s so much more I could do and collect. A choice early on in the game splits the timeline, making an alternate play through optional. Though, for as much content as I consumed, I’ll need a break before I get back to it again. If you’re looking for a good action game with a lot of content, Wolfenstein: The New Order is working asking price. I played this on the PS4, which I’m afraid to admit, but compared to the PC is was good enough. Nary a skipped from or screen tear.

buy

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Wolfenstein: The New Order Impressions

This is perfect. You take the first FPS (though, could be argued) and make it modern day. They tend to reboot Wolfenstein every time a new game in the series comes out, but this one actually sticks true to its roots. So far, it works. Yes, you even eat dog food. Due to the nature of this site being ‘for fun’, I acquired a PS4 copy through GameFly, though I would prefer to be playing on PC – it’s just cheaper that way. But, I will say the PS4 version looks great…for id Tech5.

I’ve only played through the first level or so, but map layout is similar to the original – slightly like a maze. It’s intense, it’s bloody, and dual-wielding makes me feel like Ah-nold in Commando. They’ve really nailed it so far. Somestimes id Tech5 shows through, and the textures can be a little bland. Here’s a look at the first level, played by yours truly:

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