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What Original Xbox Games Should Come to Xbox One? July 5, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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At E3 2017, Microsoft announced that they would do the unthinkable and offer backwards compatibility with original Xbox games on the Xbox One. While the feature is still in development (and there’s a lot we still don’t know about it), we thought the time was right for us to give our thoughts about which original Xbox games we would like to play on the Xbox One.

Just a note before we get started, we just want to make it clear that we have no insider information about upcoming Xbox plans, and so this list is purely speculation and wishful thinking. Second, you’re free to disagree with this list and if you have a title you think we should have included feel free to post a comment below. Also, Crimson Skies is not included on this list since it has already been confirmed that game will be backwards compatible by Microsoft.

Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 – This one should be no surprise.  These two games put the original Xbox on the map and without them it is highly unlikely that the Xbox platform would have been as successful as it was. I know that both of these games have already been included in the Xbox One compilation game Halo: The Master Chief Collection, but I cannot neglect the fact that many players prefer the original Xbox versions of the game over the Xbox One remaster.  The games just run better on their original platforms, and fans prefer the feel of the game running on its original code over the “enhancements” Microsoft made over the years.  Hopefully if the original games become playable on Xbox One that feel won’t be lost.

Run Like HellRun Like Hell (RLH for short) was a huge predecessor for games like Dead Space.  In it, you play as a space station’s security officer. The writing and voice acting are great with a cast including Kate Mulgrew, Clancy Brown and Lance Henriksen. The space station is also filled with Bawls vending machines, which is something I can totally get behind.  While most people consider this game a flop, I enjoyed it’s story, voice acting, gameplay and art style.  I don’t know why, the game just had a special charm that resonated with me and I would love to play it on the Xbox One.

Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 4Silent Hill 2 is considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time. Silent Hill 4 is not as critically acclaimed as its earlier titles but I feel it has been given a re-evaluation and over the last few years it has gotten a cult following.  If you are curious why these games are so great, I recommend checking out Dena Natali’s reviews of the games on YouTube.  In case you’re wondering why Silent Hill 3 isn’t on this list, as far as I know the original version of Silent Hill 3 was only released on the PC and PS2, and never got ported to the original Xbox. Still, it would be nice to see some of the Silent Hill games on the original Xbox playable on the Xbox One.

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel – The only Fallout game released exclusively on consoles, most players consider this game to be no longer canon to the Fallout universe. Well, that and the fact most people think it’s terrible, with no links to Fallout’s themes or gameplay style.  Still, I really want the chance to play it. This request may be a bit too wishful on my part as the rights to it and its licensed soundtrack may currently be in dispute.

Unreal Championship 2 – The original Unreal Championship was mostly a port of the second Unreal Tournament PC game, but its sequel was an all new title made specifically for the Xbox.  I just want to say that as a fan of the Unreal Tournament series I freaking loved Unreal Championship 2.  The game fleshed out UT’s regular characters, and provided a decent story using prerendered cutscenes. While I understand that its controls and gameplay wouldn’t translate well to the PC, I wish Epic could have ported it anyway. Until that happens, it would be nice to play it again on the Xbox One.

Max Payne 1 and Max Payne 2 – Undoubtably two of the best titles of that generation and while they were released on multiple platforms (including the PC), the Xbox version is considered to be the superior console experience.  These games changed my life by showing me the best of video games were capable of.  The story was adult, the graphics were the best of its time, and the gameplay was fluid, well polished and exciting with the best use of Bullet-Time (tm) to date.  It would be great to play those games on the Xbox One.

Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit) – This was the only video game directed by David Cage to get released on the Xbox platform and everyone should play it at least once.  To me, this game was the right mix of the real and the supernatural, and the plot kept me guessing what would come next each time.  I first played this game on the PC after checking out its demo, and I have not missed a David Cage directed video game ever since.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords – The original Knights of the Old Republic is considered by many to be not only the best game on the Xbox platform, but also the greatest Star Wars game of all time. While I don’t personally agree with those sentiments I still think it’s an incredible game worthy of that kind of praise.  The sequel is not considered to be as good as the original, (I personally didn’t like it) although it has gotten a re-evaluation in the past few years.  Still, both games are great additions to the Star Wars expanded universe, have solid gameplay and should be ported to the Xbox One.

Jade Empire – Another Bioware game, Jade Empire felt like it laid the groundwork for games like Mass Effect.  I picked up this game solely because I enjoyed Knights of the Old Republic, and found its story to be deeply engrossing. This was a real-time fighting RPG, with solid gameplay accessible to non-RPG players.  While it would later get re-released on the PC (through platforms like Origin), I personally preferred playing it with the Xbox controller and I would love to play it on to Xbox One.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 1-3 – After Halo, the second major game to bring popularity to the Xbox console back in the day was Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.  Seen by many to be some of the best stealth action games of all time, people love this game…at least up to the third one. Personally I felt the franchise kind of jumped the shark after the fourth game, even though many players prefer the Xbox version of the fourth game over the Xbox 360 version. Regardless of which version of the fourth game you prefer, the first three Splinter Cell games still remain some of my favorite Xbox games of all time, and it would be great to play them on the Xbox One.

So those are just a few games for the original Xbox that I think would be great on the Xbox One. By no means is this a complete list and if I get a lot of comments on this article I may write another one. Be sure to stay tuned to this website for the latest Xbox One Backwards Compatibility news.

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Xbox One Update Will Add Original Xbox Game Compatibility – What We Know and What We Don’t Know June 16, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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The second major announcement from the Microsoft E3 2017 Press Event was the revelation that the Xbox One will receive a free update to add compatibility for the games made for the original Xbox!

This feature is something Xbox enthusiasts have been requesting after Microsoft added support for Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One, and I am very happy Microsoft followed up on it. Currently there’s a lot we still don’t know about how this feature is going to work but I will try my best to include the information we have while inquiring about the information we don’t have.

First up, only one original Xbox game was specifically confirmed to support the One, and that was the fan-favorite Crimson Skies.  That’s a really good game, and I’m happy it has been added to the list.  I actually have a copy of it and for the life of me I can’t understand why Microsoft hasn’t released a sequel for it yet.  Other popular games like Halo 2 may get supported, but that’s just speculation on my part.

We know that backwards compatibility will work with original Xbox game discs, so if you still have your discs you’ll be able to play your game by inserting it into the Xbox One’s Blu-Ray Drive. It is also possible that original Xbox games will be sold on the Xbox One Marketplace, so you may need to dust off your wallet if you want to buy some online.  Original Xbox games that support System Link (LAN) multiplayer will be able to play against other consoles playing the same game regardless of the console they are being played on.

Those are some pretty clear knowns, so now it’s time for us to talk about the unknowns.  First off, Microsoft discontinued Xbox Live support for all original Xbox games back in 2010, so unless Microsoft turns that service back on or establishes some kind of software workaround, you won’t be able to play these games online. 

Another unknown is the issue of DLC and patches. Crimson Skies had a lot of free DLC back in the day, and with Xbox Live no longer functioning for original Xbox games, downloading essential patches and DLC to make the games compatible for multiplayer is impossible.  My guess is Microsoft could port those DLC patches and updates into Xbox One downloads, but I wasn’t able to confirm if that was possible.

However limited our information about this feature is, I applaud Microsoft for doing it. The original Xbox featured some fantastic games, many of which were sadly overlooked. I can’t wait to try it out!  Who wouldn’t want to play on Blood Gulch against your friends one more time?

Supplies to Buy For New Dungeons and Dragons Players May 31, 2017

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We’ve been talking about the ins and outs of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition on this website for the past few weeks, but up until this point I haven’t specifically offered any advice for regular supplies and materials players can use to get the most out of their experience playing. Today, we will rectify that.

Before we get started I just want to make it clear that this guide focuses on everyday items anyone can get to help them play D&D, it does not include any 5th Edition books, so if you don’t already have them you will be able to find the Player’s Manual, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual at your local bookstore, hobby shop or online. We’re also not going to be talking about D&D specific items and accessories like dice or figurines, which can be found at your local gaming store or online.

So what basic supplies do you need to help you make the most out of your Dungeons & Dragons game, and where can you find them?   Writing aside, I was never much of an artist growing up so I had little need for things like crayons, markers, posterboard or colored pencils and I always resented getting assigned school projects that required them. I realize the irony that since learning how to play D&D I’ve made more trips to my local office supply store than I did during all the years I spent in college and now you can reap the benefits!

You’ll be able to find a lot of these supplies at any office supply store, but I’ll make a special note of any harder to find supplies when applicable.

  • Plain Printer Paper – Most material available on official D&D websites can also be printed, including Modules, Handbook Eratta, or Character Sheets. Its always handy to keep that material with you when you play, so you may want a lot of paper to have a physical copy of anything you need. If you want to be more eco-friendly, I recommend printing your documents in double-sided mode or stay tuned for a later tip.
  • Graph Paper – Dungeon Masters and Players alike may prefer to have a supply of graph paper to help them map out dungeons, caverns or whatever other locations they can imagine.  The grid pattern on the sheets make marking rooms much easier.
  • 3-Hole Puncher – You may find some of the modules or manuals you print out are too big to staple, but if you three-hole punch them, you can bind them together much easier.  The margins on most 5th Ed printed manuals allow space for 3-hole punches, but not the eratta.  If your office doesnt have a 3-hole punch already, you can buy a new one for like $20-30 US.
  • 3-Ring Binders – Perfect for storing and protecting any large stacks of material you’ve printed and 3-hole punched.  Some binders can also include side pockets perfect for keeping character sheets or errata safe.  Cost can vary on the price of 3-ring binders depending on size and quality.  Unless you’re bringing these binders to school every day you’re not going to need to buy expensive heavy-duty ones, and in some cases it can be more cost efficient to buy several smaller binders than one large one. Buy a few, they can range in price from $1-$5 US.
  • 20-Gague Vinyl – Special thanks to Nate from WASD20 for this tip. This material, when you put it over something, instantly turns any grid or graph paper into a reusable surface. You’ll only need enough to cover a table surface.  This material may be harder to find in a common office supply store or hobby store, but I have seen it for sale at fabric stores, where it can be easily cut to your length needs.  Thinner vinyl will cost less but you could probably find 20-gauge at a price of about $10 a yard.
  • Wet-Erase Markers – If you’re planning to use a reusable gaming surface, you’ll need Wet-Erase markers.  Permanent felt-tip markers may write fine on vinyl or graph paper, but true to their name…they can’t be erased.  For some reason, I had trouble finding these markers at my local office supply store, but you could probably find a pack of five at your local Walmart for about $8 US.
  • Pencils with Erasers – You can never have too many of these.  You’ll be adding and subtracting a lot of information to your character sheets as you play, so make sure to use pencils that can be easily erased!

These tips assume you already have access to a printer, since material can be printed or copied.  If you don’t have a printer, I recommend checking out your local print shop, since not only will you be able to print any material you need from there, you will probably find a lot of the items on this list there as well.

I know what you’re saying, this is the year 2017, can’t any of this stuff be modernized?  The answer is yes if you have the money for it.  If you prefer more of a digital edge on your pen-and-paper reference material, your tablet computer is a great tool for storing manuals, no paper or three-hole punch needed.  Websites like DND Beyond offer reference material you can access from your tablet.  I’ve also heard of cases where more high-tech Dungeon Masters prefer to project their dungeon maps on either an interactive surface or screen, but that can also be very expensive, as it would require a computer and either a projector or a rather large HDTV screen to replicate the gaming surface.

However you choose to play, I hope these tips are useful to you!  If you feel like I’ve missed anything, feel free to post a comment below!

Our Favorite Funny Dungeons and Dragons Videos May 7, 2017

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We’re not going to have a Gaming History You Should Know article today because we wanted to follow up on something we talked about in a previous article. When learning the rules of Dungeons & Dragons, Maniac discovered there was an abundance of hilarious D&D inspired videos online.  We’ve already talked about the history of Eric and the Dread Gazebo but that was just the tip of the humor iceberg.  Here are some of my other favorite Dungeons & Dragons inspired videos.

First up, I have to highlight this 8-Bit animation of a Dead Alewives sketch.  Let’s take a look at what happens when the characters from Final Fantasy play their weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. Where’s the Mountain Dew?

If you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, you’re probably wondering what is an average game of D&D like. The guys at ReloadLastSave did this silly little sketch to highlight what an average game of D&D looks like…with a silly twist.

Next I want to highlight some of the great work done by Rolling High.  I became familiar with their work after their channel was highlighted in Dragon+ Magazine.  They created a six-part online series following the story of several office workers playing a game of D&D that got a little too true to life. Here’s a look at the first episode.

If you liked the first episode of Rolling High you can check out the rest of the episodes of that season for free on their YouTube Channel.

Moving on, If you want to talk about Dungeons & Dragons humor you can’t forget the work of Saving Throw.  Here’s a look at some of the people you’ll meet at a Dungeons & Dragons game.

And here’s a look at what would happen if RPG characters were honest.  I like this one because it works as a way to poke fun at video game and pen-and-paper RPG cliches.

Now it’s time to highlight College Humor, a website with a wealth of nerdy comedy sketches. Today, we’re going to find out what happens when a search for a new Dungeon Master gets gets misinterpreted.

I think I know someone who would want to turn this into a full-time business.

That wraps up our list for today. I’m sure there were some videos I missed and I want to hear some of your thoughts. Post a comment below with some of your favorite D&D videos and we might feature them in a future article.

My History With Star Wars Games May 5, 2017

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May the Fourth be with you all. This year, to celebrate Star Wars Day, I’ve been sharing some very personal stories about the beginning of my love for this iconic franchise.  I’ve already told you about my first exposure to the franchise in the form of the Star Tours ride and the first time I watched the films, so let’s talk about the first time I played the video games.

I got my first real computer as an early Christmas present in 1996 and I was able to get the most out of it almost immediately.  My friends recommended I check out games like Quake, 3D action titles that really took advantage of a computer’s hardware.  A year later, my dad was in the process of doing some Christmas shopping and new PC games were at the top of my wish list. While shopping he happened to come across a boxed set of Star Wars PC games called the Lucasarts Archives Volume 4.  He knew I was into Star Wars and thought I would like the gift.  He was not wrong.

Christmas morning, I opened my presents to find a boxed set of some of the finest games Lucasarts ever produced. The bundle included games like Dark Forces, X-Wing, Tie-Fighter, Yoda Stories, and a whole lot more.  I installed all of the games to my Windows 95 PC and played them as much as I could.

I completed every single permutation of Yoda Stories the game could generate for me, and I enjoyed it so much I wish Lucasarts would have released a patch for it so it could have been played on Windows XP and later machines.  As for the flight sims, I could never beat the first mission in X-Wing, but I was able to make it through most of Tie-Fighter.  Dark Forces had great graphics that reminded me of DOOM, but navigating the levels without a walkthrough or map was nearly impossible past the game’s second level.

The archive also included some detailed demos for the most recent Star Wars games at the time. My father mistakenly believed they were not demos when he bought them, but given the low price he paid for the archive I couldn’t blame him for being mistaken.  The archive included a demo for the multiplayer game X-Wing Vs Tie-Fighter, a limited look at the Star Wars Behind the Magic interactive reference, and 2 CD-ROMs including the first three levels of Jedi Knight and its expansion pack Mysteries of the Sith.

If you asked me, nothing could compare to Jedi Knight.  While the special demo only included the first three levels of the game, it included everything from those three levels including the first three FMV sequences.  I can still remember the night I played the hell out of that demo, waiting by the edge of my seat to see what happened to Kyle as he followed in his father’s footsteps to find an ancient Jedi burial ground. When I completed level three, I felt like I only had seen the first part of an epic story, and I had to know how it ended.  I ended up ordering a bundled version of the game with its expansion pack for my birthday the next year.  While the first three levels of Jedi Knight gave players no access to Force powers, the full version of the game gave the player access to The Force gradually, which actually made the game feel more realistic. I know a lot of fans watched Star Wars and wished to become a Jedi, Jedi Knight felt like the first game that actually granted that wish.  To this day it remains one of my favorite games of all time.

Great things don’t last forever and I’m sad to say that the Episode I titles were some of the last games Lucasarts produced directly for the PC.  As the early 2000s ticked away, most of Lucasarts’s game development shifted to games for the home consoles including PS2, GameCube and Xbox.  Sometimes Lucasarts would be forward thinking enough to offer some of their more popular titles on PC, but there was no guarantee of that happening.  Obi-Wan would be released exclusively on the Xbox, even thought it was initially announced as a PC title.  Games like Jedi Starfighter would also never get a release on the PC, despite the popularity of the original Starfighter.

At E3, Lucasarts announced Raven Software, developers of the incredible Star Trek: Elite Force, would be taking one of the best graphic engines available, the Quake III Arena Engine, and making a sequel to my favorite Star Wars game, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.  When it finally released, Jedi Outcast became my favorite Star Wars game of all time. The graphics were beautiful, the gameplay was solid and fluid, and the story continued the incredible tale that began with Jedi Knight. It had a satisfying conclusion that didn’t need a sequel but could merit one if possible.  It’s sequel, Jedi Academy, was a decent game with fun new mechanics like the double-bladed and dual-wielding lightsaber. However, the fact you can’t play as Kyle Katarn made it feel like more of an expansion pack than a true sequel. Sadly we would never have any more adventures with Kyle, but I’m grateful for all the time we did get to spend with him.

The last great Star Wars game I enjoyed on the PC would have to be Knights of the Old Republic by Bioware.  I know a lot of people consider KOTOR to be the greatest Star Wars game…ever, but I still feel stronger about Jedi Outcast.  I enjoyed KOTOR a lot on the Xbox and on the PC, but its sequel was a massive disappointment.  I remember spending seven hours a day over the course of four consecutive days with the hope the game would tell me anything about what happened to the characters from the last game.  Sadly, KOTOR II‘s abrupt ending would not fulfill that wish.

After the release of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, The Force Unleashed became the last major Star Wars game I considered a disappointment. The game was planned to be a major expansion of the Star Wars expanded universe just like Shadows of the Empire was in the mid-90s, and while it had a fantastic story, its gameplay was buggy and frustrating.  The Force Unleashed II felt like the exact opposite.  It had very polished gameplay, but its incomplete story and abrupt ending upset me, and sadly that short-sighted decision to release the game without a complete story brought a premature end to the once promising franchise expansion.

With the purchase of Lucasfilm came the end of Lucasarts, and with it the cancellation of some extremely anticipated games like Star Wars 1313.  I felt it was the end of an era, because in its heyday, Lucasarts was one of the best PC game publishers in the world. It was truly sad to see it gone.

Hope you all had a wonderful May the Fourth, and we will have all new content for you soon!

Ten Ways to Celebrate Star Wars Day on May The Fourth May 4, 2017

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May the Fourth be with you all!  In honor of Star Wars Day, we will be offering some great tips on how to best celebrate your fandom!

  1. Watch all of the Star Wars movies in any order you like. I’m sure everyone below will comment on what they feel will be the best way to do it, but I prefer to watch them in the order they were released in theaters.
  2. If you can’t get through all the episodes, try watching the movies with a Rifftrax audio commentary track!
  3. Play your favorite Star Wars video game. I could devote an entire article to my history with the Star Wars games…in fact I think I just might do that…
  4. Rewatch this awesome interview with George Lucas and the cast of Star Wars at Celebration 2017 in Orlando.
  5. Create your own fanfilm with friends. I have no idea if Disney is going to continue allowing them now that they have the rights to Star Wars but the old rules were you could only make a serious film with original characters, but parody/comedy films could use familiar characters.
  6. If you can’t make a fanfilm, you could always watch some!  Here’s a link to some of our favorites!
  7. Watch Tony Goldmark’s Some Jerk with a Camera reviews!  He’s reviewed several different versions of Star Tours as well as other classic theme park rides, and everyone should give them a watch!
  8. Watch the GameTrailers Retrospective on the history of Star Wars video games.
  9. Read my early history of Star Wars article!
  10. Share the film with a friend who never saw it before!

My Early History With Star Wars May 4, 2017

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May the Fourth be with you all!  As you may know, today is traditionally known as Star Wars Day!  To celebrate today, we prepared a whole bunch of original articles which we will be publishing over the course of the day. To kick things off, I thought it was time to talk about my first experience with Star Wars and the start of my love of this incredible franchise.

The year was 1994 and I was an honor student at my local elementary school.  I grew up with an interest in science and was always a fan of science-fiction movies like Jurassic Park and Back to the Future.  I was familiar with the original Star Wars Trilogy due to its incredible impact in popular culture but I wasn’t entirely familiar with all of its details.  You have to understand that this was early 1994, the last Star Wars film was released over a decade earlier and while it was groundbreaking for its time, Star Wars had faded a bit from the mainstream. Heck, we didn’t even have decent quality VHS releases of the original trilogy yet.  In short, I knew Star Wars was a thing, but until 1994, I knew nothing about it.

In Spring 1994, my family took me on the first trip to Walt Disney World that I could remember.  One of the parks we visited during that trip was the brand-new Disney/MGM Studios (now called the Disney Hollywood Studios).  At the time, it was my favorite of the Disney parks.  I loved movies and while the Tower of Terror was still a year away from completion, there were plenty of cutting-edge rides and attractions at the park that I absolutely loved.

In fact, one of my favorite rides at the park was the original version of Star Tours.  The ride was great, and the effects held up beautifully even to this day.  If you weren’t able to check it out before it was upgraded in the late 2000s, I recommend checking out Tony Goldmark’s review of the original ride.  He did a great job with his hilarious video review and it really brought me back to help me remember how I felt about it the first time I rode it.

However, while the ride was great, at the time I understood Star Tours as an exciting thrill ride, but I didn’t have a deep connection with it.  I had never seen any of the Star Wars films that the ride was based on and so a lot of concepts the ride featured went right over my head. That would all change later on that year.

Sometime in late 1994, the USA Network decided to host a special three-night event. Over the course of three nights, USA aired all three films in the original, uncut Star Wars trilogy. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow my remote found the channel just as the original Star Wars began its broadcast.  Something about the movie just called out to me to watch it, and watch it I did.  For the next two hours I remained glued to my seat as I was introduced to Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2.

After watching Star Wars for the first time I thought the film was a masterpiece well worthy of its impact on popular culture.  I loved the characters, the world they lived in, the effects, but most of all I loved the film’s story.  After getting my first taste of Star Wars I knew I wanted to see more and luckily I wouldn’t have to wait long.

The next night, I made sure to tune in early to catch the broadcast of The Empire Strikes Back.  How much did this movie have an impact on me?  I think I was one of the last people on the planet to be surprised at the big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker (*spoilers*) he was in fact Luke’s father.

I remember agonizing over Episode V‘s cliffhanger, and after watching the end of Empire, who could blame me?  Han Solo was in danger, Luke was still recovering from his first battle with Darth Vader, and I had no idea if there was any truth to what Vader told Luke.  How the heck could people stand waiting three years for Episode VI back in the day?  I couldn’t stand waiting 24 hours!

Nothing was going to stop me from watching Return of the Jedi on the third night. I don’t want to repeat the plot point for point but needless to say I loved the movie with all my heart and at the time I never could have imagined a more fulfilling ending to the Star Wars saga.

Conveniently, 20th Century Fox re-released the original unedited Star Wars Trilogy on VHS with THX remaster just before Christmas 1994.  I got my first look at the THX remaster of the film while my dad was buying a new TV for his bedroom that year. I saw the store had set up a computer display to play the original Star Wars, and I think I ended up watching nearly the entire film on one of the monitors as he went shopping.  I thought the THX remaster of the film looked great and I wished I had my own copy.

My parents got me the Star Wars VHS boxed set for Christmas and I can remember it was one of the best Christmases of my life.  I must have rewatched those movies hundreds of times, either alone or with my friends.  I would even watch the ten-minute interview included at the beginning of each tape where Leonard Maltin would interview George Lucas about each of the films. In the years before DVD would offer countless special features, I considered the inclusion of this interview a prototype for that.  I also paid extra special attention to an off the cuff comment Lucas made to Maltin about new movies he was working on.

The next year I went back to Disney World and rode Star Tours again, only this time it would be as a fan.  Re-riding it as a fan was like a whole-new experience.  A year later I rode it again at Disneyland because I was not going to pass up the chance to ride Star Tours and it didn’t matter which coast it was going to be on!  I was happy to find the ride experiences were pretty much identical.

In 1997 I got my first computer and with it, I finally had access to play a cavalcade of incredible Star Wars video games. By this point, Star Wars was back in a big way. The Star Wars Special Editions were getting released in theaters that year and George Lucas had announced there were going to be all-new prequel films starting in 1999…but that’s a story for another time!

Thanks for reading, everyone!  We’ve got more original content on the way to celebrate May 4th, so stay tuned!  Special thanks to Tony Goldmark, who the internet knows better as Some Jerk With a Camera for being nice enough to let me feature his review of Star Tours on this article. If you haven’t seen his work, you should check it out on YouTube.

Thank You for Taking Over Pokemon: The Animated Series, Disney XD December 7, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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The views expressed in the following editorial is protected under the First Amendment.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the US rights to broadcast Pokémon: The Animated Series have shifted from the basic cable channel Cartoon Network to the digital cable channel Disney X D as of Monday.  This is hardly an unprecidented move, as Cartoon Network wasn’t even the first channel to have the US rights to animated Pokémon either, that honor goes to the now-defunct WB Network and their KidsWB programming block.  Since Disney X D started broadcasting the newest animated Pokémon content, they have already proven themselves to be better stewards of Pokémon animated content than Cartoon Network has been in the last three years.  I know what you’re thinking, “How can I comfortably say that after just a few days?”  Well I do have some very good reasons why I can say that, so keep reading to find out what they are.

I have to admit I really like the Disney X D Network. I am a fan of a few of their original shows, and I greatly enjoyed their coverage of the 2015 Nintendo World Championships last year. To me, Pokémon seems like a perfect fit for the Disney X D network, and because of that I had a lot of optimism going into the transition. However, the reason I believe Disney X D is a better home for Pokémon is simply this, Disney X D knows how to organize their programming schedule better than Cartoon Network ever did!

I know that harsh statement is going to require specifics before some people will accept it so I’ll produce my evidence right here. First, take a look at Cartoon Network’s current programming schedule. It doesn’t matter what day you look at, but let’s not count anything between 10PM-6AM because that’s considered Adult Swim’s time. The odds are you’ll be finding regular marathons for the show Teen Titans GO, and not much else. I actually liked Teen Titans GO when it first started to air, but even I have to admit that the show has just gotten stale, and the fact that it’s almost always on doesn’t help.  Heck, most fans of the original Teen Titans show don’t even like GO.  With that show dominating their entire schedule, and the entire nighttime broadcast hours dedicated to Adult Swim content, there isn’t much room on the schedule for Pokémon. In fact, Cartoon Network’s dedicated programming slot for Pokémon had been relegated to 7AM, a time that was far too early for younger fans to be able to watch, and far too late for their older fans to enjoy before they’ll have to go to school or work.

So that’s how they would schedule the TV show, but what about brand-new animated Pokémon feature films?  Cartoon Network would usually broadcast new Pokémon movies mid-day on a Saturday.  The film would be broadcast exactly once and never be reaired until around a year later when it would get scheduled in the time slot just before the next new film premiered.

So how did Disney X D schedule their first Pokémon programming?  They started strong by broadcasting an all-new feature film, Volcanion and the Mythical Marvel and following it up with two all-new episodes of the new series, Pokémon Sun and Moon.  The movie and the new series were broadcast starting at around 5PM on Monday, a perfect time. Younger fans would be home from school, and adults would just be getting home from work by that time.  Back in the day, KidsWB saw fit to broadcast new Pokémon episodes in their after-school programming block, and if they hadn’t picked that timeslot I may never have grown up to become a Pokémon Trainer.

However, picking a great time slot for a major broadcast isn’t the only great thing Disney X D did,  they also added the film to their Video On-Demand (VOD) service and rebroadcasted the event a day after it premiered!  Cartoon Network never replayed a new Pokémon film so recently after it first premiered, nor did they ever add them to their VOD service. If you didn’t have a DVR, and you couldn’t watch the film during its initial broadcast, you would not have a guaranteed chance of seeing it again on the Cartoon Network channel.  What a shame.

So I hope I made it clear to whoever is reading this that while Cartoon Network had the rights to Pokémon, despite the property’s recent resurgence of popularity they barely did anything with it.  Disney X D meanwhile has already proven themselves willing to throw their weight behind this beloved property.  Farewell Cartoon Network, Pokémon will be happier elsewhere.

Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive Part 3 – After The Release October 24, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive.
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The following is the third of a three-part series detailing the announcement, marketing and release of the Xbox One game Sunset Overdrive.  You can read part one here and you can read part two here.

Sunset Overdrive was one of the biggest exclusive titles released on the Xbox One in October 2014. Microsoft had sunk millions of dollars into marketing the new property, but after it launched it unfortunately just wasn’t selling.  As I said in the previous part, slightly over one hundred thousand copies of the game sold at retail in its first week, and the few stores who chose to host midnight releases for the game found their events overwhelmingly underattended.

Press for the game during its development was quite positive, early reviews were mostly positive and Insomniac Games has a decent following of loyal supporters, so why wasn’t the game selling better?  Was the game’s premise just that unappealing to the majority of the gaming public or was something else going on?

I mentioned earlier in this series that the install base of the Xbox One platform was in second place behind the PS4 at this time, but that’s not enough information to paint a full picture about the state of gaming in 2014. The truth is, the Xbox One was in second place because gamers were very angry at Microsoft.  They still resented the Kinect as an expensive gimmick, despite the fact it was no longer being bundled with every new console.  They were also resentful Microsoft was buying so many third-party exclusive games that they preferred would get released on the PS4.  In short, Sunset Overdrive was released on the Xbox One at the worst possible time.

With so much negativity still directed towards the Xbox One platform, if Sunset Overdrive was going to sell, they needed to make it appeal to current Xbox One owners. So what could Microsoft do to convince Xbox gamers to buy Sunset Overdrive?  If the game was getting good reviews, could giving players the chance to play the game for themselves bring up sales?  Unfortunately that was a bit of an issue since Sunset Overdrive had no demo and without a demo, there wasn’t an easy way to get a small piece of the game into gamers’ hands.

Microsoft would need to come up with a new idea to get gamers to try the game and they did.  One month after it was released, Microsoft made the decision to offer Sunset Overdrive as part of an Xbox One Free Weekend.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with an Xbox One Free Weekend, it basically works like a free rental.  During an Xbox One Free Weekend, Microsoft allows anyone with an Xbox One and an internet connection the chance to play a promoted game for a limited time. While this time limit may sound restrictive, there are no restrictions on gameplay and as long as the game was played during the free promotion period you could earn achievements in it.  Heck, once the Free Weekend ends, your savegame could be brought into the full game if you decided to buy it.

The Free Weekend was a moderate success, not only for Sunset Overdrive, but for the Xbox One’s image.  In fact I remember buying the full retail version of the game shortly after the Free Weekend promotion wrapped up.

Insomniac Games continued support for the game throughout the first half of 2015.  These free updates included not only bug fixes and optimizations, they also added entirely new achievements players could unlock without paying for any new content.  On the paid side, they were working on two new DLC expansion packs which would be offered to anyone who bought the game’s Season Pass.  One of the first pieces of content offered with the game’s Season Pass was an exclusive set of four weapons.

The weapons were a lot of fun to mess around with, but they didn’t add that much to the game’s universe. Players hoping to see new single-player game content wouldn’t have to wait much longer. The first DLC expansion was released just in time for Christmas called The Mystery of the Mooil Rig.

The Mystery of the Mooil Rig was a great expansion I recommend playing immediately after completing the game’s main story, although it could be played at any point once it is installed.  It included a huge expansion to the game’s open world environment, all new side missions, and a hilarious story.

The second Sunset Overdrive DLC mission was titled Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines and it added an all-new environment that was teased throughout the main game, the Fizzco Robot Factory.

Shortly after the release of the second DLC expansion pack, Sunset TV wrapped up its production.

The final two-part episode was pretty funny, although if you ask me the series got the best possible sendoff in Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines‘s finale.

A month or two after the release of Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines, Microsoft did something really nice for the game’s players, they gave away download codes for the game’s Loyalty Pack to anyone who had played the game before that time.  The Loyalty Pack included costume pieces that were previously only available through retail and digital preorders.  It was a really nice gesture for players, and it convinced me to pick up the game’s Season Pass.

As someone who has played through the game, I thought it was great and I’m shocked Sunset Overdrive isn’t better remembered over a year since it was released. It was addictive as hell to explore the game’s environment searching for collectibles and completing missions. It had a hilarious sense of humor and an art style that set itself apart from every other game on the market.  In short, it is totally worth picking up.

Sunset Overdrive is out now exclusively on the Xbox One.

Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive Part 2 – The Road to Release October 14, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive.
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This is the second of a three-part article discussing the marketing and release of the game Sunset Overdrive. If you missed part one, you can read it here.

It was early 2014 and it was clear to gamers and publishers that the Xbox One was not selling anywhere near the numbers it should have been. Even with solid hardware and tons of great exclusive launch games, the PS4 was outselling the Xbox One by huge numbers.  However, Microsoft was in for the long game and they still had some new cards to play. About a month before E3 2014, they released this preview for Sunset Overdrive.

If any Xbox One exclusive games had a chance to sell, Microsoft needed to rethink their strategy to increase their console sales. Two things were clear to anyone with a passing familiarity with the new console war, the Xbox One was $100 more expensive than the better selling PS4, and it came with a peripheral that a majority of consumers just didn’t want.  At E3 2014, without notifying their Xbox One developers in advance, Microsoft announced they were no longer bundling the Kinect sensor with all Xbox One consoles. That meant that new Xbox One consoles unbundled with Kinect sensors would sell at the same price as the PlayStation 4, and while gamers would still be able to buy the Kinect separately, many gamers just didn’t want to due to privacy concerns.

But just hardware and price changes aren’t enough to sell a console, you need to show great games and Microsoft was ready to do that.  Ted Price’s Sunset Overdrive gameplay demo would later be reported as one of the highlights of E3 2014.

Microsoft rarely throws advertisement money behind a new intellectual property if they don’t own it, but Sunset Overdrive was going to get their full support. I mean, just look at what Microsoft did to promote the game at E3.

After E3 concluded, the hype train for Sunset Overdrive officially kicked off.  Things were looking better for Microsoft. They re-priced their hardware to better compete in the console war and they had a unique exclusive game that was getting ready for release the holiday season.  Tons of plans were being discussed on how to promote the new IP.  Everything from T-Shirts, a viral marketing campaign, branded energy drinks, to a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were being discussed.

Meanwhile, Insomniac started their weekly Sunset TV webseries.  Like their Full Moon Show Podcast, Sunset TV would keep players up to date with the latest Sunset Overdrive news and updates. In fact, new episodes of Sunset TV could be broadcast in-game.

As the months passed, Sunset Overdrive was gearing up for release and Microsoft was putting a lot of money into promotion for this game.  Just take a look at this live-action commercial.  You can see the high production values on it from a mile away.

That’s not even my favorite trailer for the game. After discovering they couldn’t get a balloon in the Thanksgiving Parade, they invited gamers to pretend it was.

This kind of interactive marketing really works for me, and Sunset Overdrive was certainly on my radar as the game lead up to launch.

By October 2014 the game was ramping up for launch.  There was even going to be a coveted Day One edition of the game, offering exclusive DLC to anyone who got one of the first copies.  Here’s the game’s official launch trailer:

Sunset Overdrive launched at midnight on October 28th, 2014 and things were not looking well at first. Only five Microsoft stores across the US participated in the Sunset Overdrive midnight release and based on the reports I’ve heard, the ones who had were mostly empty.  Initial retail sales estimates for the game’s first week range at about 138K in the US.

Was Sunset Overdrive destined to fall into obscurity after being such a promising new title?  Was the Xbox One’s low sales to blame?  Could Sunset Overdrive come back?  This story isn’t over, so stay tuned for Part 3 where we will discuss the game’s postlaunch promotions, its DLC expansions, and the unique content it inspired.

Sunset Overdrive is out now exclusively on Xbox One.