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Google Maps Put Us in a Pokémon World April 13, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Since the release of inFAMOUS: Second Son and the great RPG deluge of Spring 2014, there wasn’t much gaming news going on to report on.  It was one day from April 1st, and if previous experience was any indication, most of the news that would be coming out that day would be outright false, and I wouldn’t have much to report on.  Unless I’m doing an April Fools Prank of my own, I don’t like posting up fake news or false information on this site, so I was ready to just put work on the site on hold for the day.  By the time the clock hit 7PM local time, I was just burnt out.  So I was nursing my wounds on Twitter when a Tweet from The Pokémon Company crossed my eye.  Google was looking for a Pokémon Master to join their company.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll let the video explain it for you.

That’s right, Pokémon were in Google Maps and Google, with the blessing of The Pokémon Company, was daring us to catch ’em all.  I fired up my Google Maps app, which, in my opinion, is the best GPS available on a SmartPhone, and tapped the search bar.  Normally I would see a record of all the previous locations I had searched for, but this time was different.  The words “Press Start”, comprised of blue letters, appeared in the search menu.  I tapped the words and the app changed, hurling my present location to the west coast of the United States.  A pixelated building was superimposed on top of the map’s present location, baring a very similar appearance to a Pokémon Center.  A few tiny, pixelated icons resembling Pokémon surrounded the building, and the city the building was in.  I couldn’t believe it, I was mapping the Pokémon World.

In my opinion, the reason why Pokémon has worked so well as an enduring franchise for so long, is that it copies just enough of the real-world to appeal to a wide audience.  In fact, the exotic lands that Pokémon games have taken place in closely resemble real world locations, and the game’s developers have stated on several occasions that this is no coincidence.  The blurring of the line between the real world and fictional events that take place in the real world to promote the latest media release is something that marketing partners have been doing for at least ten years now.  I’m sure that many people remember the I Love Bees alternate-reality game designed to promote the release of Halo 2 in 2004, but it wasn’t the first ARG ever done, and there have been many others since.  For April Fools 2014, Nintendo was stepping into that territory, and for a short time the line between reality and game was going to get even blurrier.

The first thing I noticed was just how detailed the promotion was.  Google did a great job with updating the Maps interface for this event.  They didn’t just have Pokémon icons all over the maps that you could highlight and “capture”, the app’s interface kept track of all the Pokémon you currently possessed, kind of like a rudimentary Pokedex.  Also, just like a Pokedex, you unlocked character bios and statistics for any Pokémon you had captured, and you could go back and review that information as much as you needed to as you continued your search!  The Pokedex informed me that there were only 150 Pokémon to find, a number reminiscent of the first generation Pokémon games.  After combing through all the wild Pokémon surrounding the starting Pokémon Center, I was off searching the world for new Pokémon to capture.

I traveled across the map, searching far and wide.  As I searched, so did the rest of the world.  The internet was abuzz with other Pokémon Trainers swapping notes on where to find difficult Pokémon all over the world.  There was a Pidgey on the top of the CM Tower in Toronto, Canada.  Several Pokémon were hiding throughout Manhattan.  The Galpagos Islands were practically brimming with all kinds of life, and not just the real kind.   Within a few hours I had found what I thought was all one hundred and fifty Pokémon and called it a night.

April 2nd passed, and I was fairly certain that my Pokémon journey had come to an end.  The joke was over and I had what I thought were all 150 Pokémon captured.  Little did I know that there was in fact one more to find.  When the first Pokémon games were released, Nintendo coded in a 151st Pokémon which could not be obtained through normal gameplay.  Their plan was to offer it to players who participated in official Nintendo sanctioned Pokémon events, kind of like the DLC that you get with preordering a game today.  The 151st Pokémon was Mew, and Nintendo built an entire legend around this one, culminating with the story of the first Pokémon motion picture.

It turned out that Mew could also be found in Google Maps as the 151st Pokémon, but he wouldn’t be easy to find.  After doing a little research on him I discovered that Mew could only be found by Pokémon Trainers who had already located all 150 Pokémon, which is why he never showed up on any of my previous sweeps, and he could only be found in one location out of a pretty hefty list of possible locations.  It sounded like he would be difficult to find, but I searched and searched, and eventually I did find him.

I have to remark on one major thing I don’t think has been reported on by the rest of the media, and that is the educational benefits of this promotion.  By choosing to do this event through Google Maps and hiding Pokémon all across the world’s map specifically, anyone who participated could have walked away with a little bit more experience in geography.  I’ve been hearing concerns for many years now that young people have difficulty finding the location of some pretty important countries, or the locations of certain major cities on the world map.  Since the whole point of the Pokémon Challenge involved using the world map for a giant Pokémon safari, anyone who participated in the event could have walked away with a better understanding of geography.  You really had to search the maps closely to find where Google hid all the Pokémon, and even if you simply breezed through location to location, seeing the names of cities, towns and landmarks would make anyone exploring a location in the world they were unfamiliar with more familiar to them.  Even if you specifically gave Google Maps the exact location specific Pokémon could be found, an animation would move the globe from your current displayed position to the location you told it, giving anyone who searched for the location a pretty quick understanding about where in the world the location was relative to where they were searching.  Educators are always trying to make the subjects they’re dealing with relevant to their students, how about doing a Pokémon search in your classroom?

While this was certainly designed for current Pokémon fans and for the nostalgic like me who remember the height of Pokémon fever, I’m really happy that Google and Nintendo were able to do this.  I hope that something like this comes our way again, and if it does, you can be sure I’ll write about it.  Happy April Fools everybody!


The Last of Us Remastered Announcement Trailer April 11, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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It was announced just a day ago, but Sony already has the first trailer up for the updated PS4 version of the 2013 Game of the Year hit, The Last of Us.  For me to simply say that this game will natively support 1080p HD is not enough.  You need to see it for yourselves.

The Last of Us Remastered is coming Summer 2014 to the Playstation 4.

The Last of Us Remastered Confirmed on PS4 April 10, 2014

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There is little doubt that The Last of Us was Sony’s best exclusive title last year.  Developed by Naughty Dog, the same studio which brought the PS3 exclusive Uncharted series, The Last of Us was less of an action adventure and more of a dramatic character story.

Now it looks like Sony plans to rerelease this game on the Playstation 4, and this new PS4 edition of the game will be called The Last of Us Remastered. As one would expect from a next generation port of a previous generation game, it will include all of the game’s DLC, native 1080p support (the original game was in 720p) and improved graphics. However, it will also include a feature we have not seen before. The Remastered game will include a commentary track for all of the game’s cutscenes featuring guys from Naughty Dog and the lead actors!

No word on a definite release date has been provided, but Sony says we can expect the game to be rereleased this summer. Fans of retail establishments will also be happy to know that the Remastered Edition will get a retail release as well as a digital one. Anyone who preorders the game through a participating retailer will get a whole set of XP perks and exclusive clothing for single player.

Seriously this really was a great game and I would recommend it to any PS4 owner who never had the chance to play it on the PS3. If you want to know just how intense this game’s development actually was, check out the official documentary on the making of the game, Grounded.

Super Smash Bros Direct April 9, 2014

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In honor of the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS next month, Nintendo has devoted their most recent Nintendo Direct video entirely to the new Super Smash Bros games.  Some new characters get premiered, some old favorites make a return, and some great technical information is spilled about the Nintendo 3DS version.  If there was anything you still wanted to know about either game, give this video a watch.

Super Smash Bros is coming to Wii U and 3DS.

What GBA Games Should Come to the Wii U Virtual Console April 8, 2014

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Last week, the first Game Boy Advance games were released on the Nintendo Wii U, offering gamers the chance to play an entire generation of classic handheld titles for the first time in ten years. With games like Metroid: Fusion, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and Advance Wars among the first games released through the service, Nintendo is stepping up their game convincing people to buy the Wii U by offering more of the best games from their back catalog on a platform they desperately need people to adopt.

So what games from the GBA’s strong back catalog should Nintendo release next for the Wii U? Here are some of my ideas. Metroid: Fusion and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga have already gotten released through the service so I’m not going to include them on the list. Rest assured, if they had not already been announced and released, they would be on this list. I also won’t include the GBA version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, as the SNES version of that game has already been released through the Wii U VC, and it’s exclusive multiplayer expansion Legend of Zelda: Four Swords was already ported to the Nintendo 3DS and released as a free download some time ago. I’m also not going to include straight up remakes or ports on the GBA, as Nintendo can just as easily port the original games to the Wii U.

Without further ado, here are some GBA games I would like to see on the Wii U.

Pokémon Emerald – The third game in the same generation that included Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire, Pokémon Emerald is considered to be the perfect game of the third generation Pokémon games. With a new story, new protagonist, and the power of the GBA behind it, the Pokémon world looked better than we had ever seen it before. In fact, the game’s graphics looked so good, Nintendo used the game’s engine to remake the first generation games, but I’ll get to them in a bit.

Metroid: Zero Mission – Nintendo’s handheld remake of the first Metroid game was ironically the final game made by the team who created the original Metroid.  It was a very successful release, with a lot of critics praising the updated graphics and new locations, while still retaining the original feel of Metroid.  The original Metroid (NES) has always been a staple of Nintendo’s Virtual Console platforms.  As far as I know, Nintendo has released it on every platform with a Virtual Console to date, but Zero Mission’s enhanced graphics and gameplay makes the original game much more accessible.

Mother 3 – The long awaited sequel to the SNES cult classic EarthBound was released to a Japanese only audience on the Game Boy Advance.  For years, gamers have clamored and petitioned Nintendo head honchos to translate this game and bring it to the United States.  Sadly, the game launched in Japan shortly before the GBA was replaced by the Nintendo DS, and in my opinion, Nintendo probably decided that the time and money to properly translate the game for a western audience would not be worth it with the Nintendo DS launch on the horizon.  In defiance, a group of hackers released an entire translation script for the game, and implored everyone to import the game and use it.  Now with the GBA Virtual Console on the Wii U, there’s a real chance this game could get released here.  Perhaps with the incredible sales of Bravely Default, Japanese game developers are starting to take notice that there is an incredible market here in the States for their games.  The hackers who translated the original game are offering their entire script to Nintendo to use completely free of charge.

Pokémon FireRed & Pokémon LeafGreen – Around the same time Nintendo was developing Pokémon Emerald on the GBA, Nintendo also remade their original Generation 1 Pokémon games, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green, using the Generation 3 Pokémon engine.  When the Pokémon games launched on the GBA, the Pokémon World had never looked better.  All the classic gameplay from the original two games were brought back, along with some new bug filled game areas.  The graphics were crisp, the art style was vibrant, and all the original 150 Pokémon were ready to be caught and traded to help you complete your Generation 3 game’s Pokedex.

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap – Ever wondered how Link got his hat?  Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap not only set the story for the Four Swords Saga, but it was also an origin story for the entire Legend of Zelda universe…well, that is up until The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was released.  Seriously though, who doesn’t want to play a new Legend of Zelda game on their Wii U controller?

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance – The Final Fantasy Tactics series is probably most known for having one of the most sought after games on the original Playstation, but there was a Final Fantasy Tactics game released on the GBA, and many critics consider it to be one of the best games on the system.  I mean what’s not to like?  The game’s developers were able to bring over the gameplay which made the original PS1 title so much fun, and it would be a great addition to the Wii U Virtual Console.

So that’s my list, but I want to hear what you guys have to say! Post a comment and tell me which GBA games you want to see on the Wii U Virtual Console.

Now please being in a GameCube Virtual Console!

The Wolf Among Us Episode 3 Release Dates April 3, 2014

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The Official Telltale Forums have confirmed the release dates for the third episode of their highly successful episodic series The Wolf Among Us.  The episode will get released to PC and North American PS3 first on April 8th.  All Xbox 360 and International PS3 users will be able to download the episode on April 9th.  The iOS version doesn’t have an exact release date just yet, but users should expect it next week as well.

You can check out the trailer for the third episode right here, just be aware it will contain spoilers for the first two episodes.  Trust me, give the first two episodes a try, they’re great.

The Wolf Among Us is available for PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and iOS.

God of War: Ascension One Year Anniversary DLC Release Announced April 3, 2014

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Anyone who participated in the God of War: Ascension One Year Anniversary Forum Thread with the intention to receive download codes for two exclusive items for their multiplayer champion, can expect download codes for the content in their e-mails soon.  Sony Santa Monica was overwhelmed by the response by players who wanted to get their hands on this content, and because of that, it has taken a bit more time then they were expecting to give the content to everyone who participated in the forum thread.

Everyone who did participate in the forum thread should expect download codes e-mailed to them by this weekend, or early next week at the very latest.  Sony Santa Monica does confirm this content is exclusive only to people who participated in this event and will not be offered on the Playstation Store.

Mario Kart 8 New Courses and Items Trailer April 3, 2014

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Mario Kart 8 is coming, and not only are they bringing new playable characters but we’re getting entirely new and reimagined courses to drive on, as well as entirely new powerups which have never been seen before in a Mario Kart game.  Take a look for yourselves.

Mario Kart 8 is coming May 30th, 2014 exclusive to the Wii U.

Hitman: Absolution Free With Games With Gold April 2, 2014

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It’s a new month, and Microsoft is offering another free game to download for all current Xbox Live Gold subscribers.  Starting yesterday, all Xbox Live subscribers with a valid Gold account can download a digital copy of Hitman: Absolution for free through Microsoft’s Games with Gold promotion.

Hitman: Absolution will be free to download until the fifteenth of April.  After that, the Xbox Live Arcade game Deadlight will become free.  Any game redeemed through Games With Gold will remain on your Xbox Live account forever, and you will not lose it if your subscription ever expires.

The Wolf Among Us Episode 3 Trailer April 2, 2014

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I have been following Telltale Games ever since they released the first season of Sam and Max, and with the incredible word of mouth that I’ve been hearing about one of their latest game series currently in development, The Wolf Among Us, I had to give the series a look.  Needless to say, the positive word of mouth was incredibly deserving, and I discovered an enriching game with an engrossing story that is still unfolding.

This week, Telltale has released the first trailer for The Wolf Among Us Episode 3, providing the first tidbits for what we can expect with this newest episode.  Just be aware, this trailer will contain spoilers for the first two episodes, so if you haven’t played them yet, look away now.

The Wolf Among Us is in episodic development for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.