Marcus Stewart

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About Marcus Stewart

  • Rank
    Advanced Member
  • Birthday 11/09/1987

Extra Life

  • Hospital
    Choose A Hospital

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location:
    Port Saint Lucie, FL
  • Interests
    Video Games, Writing, Pro Wrestling, Movies, Books, Comics.

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  • Twitter
    @MarcusStewart7

Game IDs

  • Gamertag
    SundanceKid1967
  • PSN ID
    Lygerdark
  • Steam
    sundancekid1987
  1. What Remains of Edith Finch injects refreshing amounts of interactivity and imagination into the successful (and polarizing) narrative adventure sub-genre. As the teenage titular character, players embark on a quest to learn about an ancestry defined by a series of unfortunate events. Each of Edith’s relatives have perished under strange, often freak, circumstances. Is the Finch family cursed? Why was Edith shielded from the details of her family history throughout her life? Similar games would have players solve these mysteries by reading notes, listening to a narration, or watching a cinematic. What Remains of Edith Finch differs by dropping players into a collection of creatively designed gameplay sequences that beautifully chronicle the Finch’s accounts and ensure players remain captivated until the credits roll. From the get go, the game grabs your attention with its distinct narrative presentation. Edith’s thoughts are conveyed in physical words that not only appear in the world, but can be interacted with. Stepping through paragraphs bends sentences until they shatter into ethereal alphabet soup. This may seem like a small, stylistic, touch, but I found that it did a great job in keeping me actively engaged in the story. Instead of passively heeding a narrator, I actively read along with Edith and occasionally needed to look around to see where her text would materialize next. Similar to games like Gone Home, players search areas for points of interests that propel the narrative forward. The abandoned Finch house and the surrounding property carry several decades’ worth of history from the generations of Finch’s that have resided there. The immaculately detailed home is a delight to wander around in. Giant Sparrow did a great job of making the house feel not only lived-in, but making players feel the presence of its former occupants. Movie posters of a child actress proudly litter one hallway. A bedroom split between military and space aesthetics paint the tales of two disparate twins. Stranger sights such as a dilapidated playground slide fashioned after a dragon further suggests an eclectic household. I got a great sense of the Finch’s individual personalities and was eager to learn about their curious history. Examining the sealed-off bedrooms of each family member reveals a playable memory sequence providing a glimpse into their lives–including their demise. Gameplay, and even the entire presentation, alters dramatically during these segments. The story of a hungry child transports players into the deadly minds of various carnivores who must hunt down prey. A troubled teenager’s over-the-top power fantasy comes to life as a top-down style adventure game. One of the most vivid and inspired sequences details the attempted comeback of the aforementioned former actress that I won’t spoil. Although not every activity is necessarily deep, these moments make Edith Finch an unpredictable and exciting journey. I remained consistently eager to discover the next story and see what fresh scenario I’d encounter next. More importantly, they prevented the game from falling into one-note territory. Before the act of strolling around the house lost its luster, a new type of memory sequence emerged to liven things up. Games of this ilk tend to waive substantial interaction in favor of delivering a pure narrative experience, which can turn off players who require more than a good story to stay invested. What Remains of Edith Finch regularly commands attention with frequent surprises and varied mechanics. Every Finch tale ends in tragedy, and I like how some of the family members’ fates are left up to interpretation. A few deaths are explained relatively plainly (such as a hunting trip gone sadly awry) but others are expressed using clever allegories and context clues. In a way, drawing my own conclusions made the endings sadder because my imagination was allowed to run wild. Despite the often whimsical and light-hearted forms these stories take, reenacting some scenes feels appropriately painful, particularly for the younger Finch relatives. With a large family tree to get through, the game’s message does begin to feel overly hammered in towards the end: life is fleeting and should be cherished. Thankfully, the touching and bittersweet finale provides an unexpected twist that sends the game off on a high note. Be prepared to gain a greater appreciation for every breath you take after playing. Conclusion What Remains of Edith Finch could be the narrative adventure game for genre detractors. Boasting imaginative and varied gameplay, players engage in a lot more than just walking around and observing objects. Gameplay always presents a new twist or angel. At times, even dexterity is challenged, which rarely occurs in this style of game. The wonderfully told Finch stories bolster the intriguing premise and some tales will likely stick with players long after they’ve put the controller down. These merits make What Remains to Edith Finch the easiest “walking simulator” to recommend to newcomers and naysayers. Enthusiasts of the style should absolutely spend a night pondering life and death within the Finch household. What Remains of Edith Finch was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is available for PC and Mac. View full article
  2. What Remains of Edith Finch injects refreshing amounts of interactivity and imagination into the successful (and polarizing) narrative adventure sub-genre. As the teenage titular character, players embark on a quest to learn about an ancestry defined by a series of unfortunate events. Each of Edith’s relatives have perished under strange, often freak, circumstances. Is the Finch family cursed? Why was Edith shielded from the details of her family history throughout her life? Similar games would have players solve these mysteries by reading notes, listening to a narration, or watching a cinematic. What Remains of Edith Finch differs by dropping players into a collection of creatively designed gameplay sequences that beautifully chronicle the Finch’s accounts and ensure players remain captivated until the credits roll. From the get go, the game grabs your attention with its distinct narrative presentation. Edith’s thoughts are conveyed in physical words that not only appear in the world, but can be interacted with. Stepping through paragraphs bends sentences until they shatter into ethereal alphabet soup. This may seem like a small, stylistic, touch, but I found that it did a great job in keeping me actively engaged in the story. Instead of passively heeding a narrator, I actively read along with Edith and occasionally needed to look around to see where her text would materialize next. Similar to games like Gone Home, players search areas for points of interests that propel the narrative forward. The abandoned Finch house and the surrounding property carry several decades’ worth of history from the generations of Finch’s that have resided there. The immaculately detailed home is a delight to wander around in. Giant Sparrow did a great job of making the house feel not only lived-in, but making players feel the presence of its former occupants. Movie posters of a child actress proudly litter one hallway. A bedroom split between military and space aesthetics paint the tales of two disparate twins. Stranger sights such as a dilapidated playground slide fashioned after a dragon further suggests an eclectic household. I got a great sense of the Finch’s individual personalities and was eager to learn about their curious history. Examining the sealed-off bedrooms of each family member reveals a playable memory sequence providing a glimpse into their lives–including their demise. Gameplay, and even the entire presentation, alters dramatically during these segments. The story of a hungry child transports players into the deadly minds of various carnivores who must hunt down prey. A troubled teenager’s over-the-top power fantasy comes to life as a top-down style adventure game. One of the most vivid and inspired sequences details the attempted comeback of the aforementioned former actress that I won’t spoil. Although not every activity is necessarily deep, these moments make Edith Finch an unpredictable and exciting journey. I remained consistently eager to discover the next story and see what fresh scenario I’d encounter next. More importantly, they prevented the game from falling into one-note territory. Before the act of strolling around the house lost its luster, a new type of memory sequence emerged to liven things up. Games of this ilk tend to waive substantial interaction in favor of delivering a pure narrative experience, which can turn off players who require more than a good story to stay invested. What Remains of Edith Finch regularly commands attention with frequent surprises and varied mechanics. Every Finch tale ends in tragedy, and I like how some of the family members’ fates are left up to interpretation. A few deaths are explained relatively plainly (such as a hunting trip gone sadly awry) but others are expressed using clever allegories and context clues. In a way, drawing my own conclusions made the endings sadder because my imagination was allowed to run wild. Despite the often whimsical and light-hearted forms these stories take, reenacting some scenes feels appropriately painful, particularly for the younger Finch relatives. With a large family tree to get through, the game’s message does begin to feel overly hammered in towards the end: life is fleeting and should be cherished. Thankfully, the touching and bittersweet finale provides an unexpected twist that sends the game off on a high note. Be prepared to gain a greater appreciation for every breath you take after playing. Conclusion What Remains of Edith Finch could be the narrative adventure game for genre detractors. Boasting imaginative and varied gameplay, players engage in a lot more than just walking around and observing objects. Gameplay always presents a new twist or angel. At times, even dexterity is challenged, which rarely occurs in this style of game. The wonderfully told Finch stories bolster the intriguing premise and some tales will likely stick with players long after they’ve put the controller down. These merits make What Remains to Edith Finch the easiest “walking simulator” to recommend to newcomers and naysayers. Enthusiasts of the style should absolutely spend a night pondering life and death within the Finch household. What Remains of Edith Finch was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is available for PC and Mac.
  3. Rime has been a long time coming. Developer Tequila Works began work on the project nearly four years ago. Originally slated as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, the game is now coming to multiple platforms. Rime centers around a young boy who, after getting shipwrecked during a storm, awakens on a mysterious, uninhabited island. A giant tower at the center of the island beckons the boy. With the help and guidance of a small fox and equipped with a strange, magical voice, the boy must reach the tower and uncover the island’s secrets. At this year’s PAX South, I sat down with Tequila Works Creative Director Raul Rubio and picked his brain about Rime’s development. During our talk, I uncovered several intriguing, lesser known facts about the highly-anticipated puzzle-platformer. Zelda and Ico Were Not Direct Influences “Ico meets Wind Waker” has been one of Rime’s go-to descriptors since the game debuted. Though an understandable comparison, Link’s seafaring adventure had zero impact on Rime’s conception. “I'm disappointed to say no, we didn't look into the Wind Waker.” Rubio confirmed. Tequila Works drew inspiration elsewhere, including films such as the animated works of Studio Ghibli. Raul stated one of the team’s main starting points was Journey. “Not the gameplay of Journey–the experience of Journey. In the sense that in Journey, the important thing was the journey.” Another, more surprising, influence has been the Jak & Daxter series. “In Jak & Daxter 2, you have this combination of platforming, open-world exploration, and, more importantly, you have this relationship between Jak and Daxter.” Rubio explained. “So in this game you have a relationship with the fox and he's your companion, your guide.” The Witness Connection While discussing Rime’s influences, I remarked about how Rime’s color palette and island setting reminded me more of The Witness than of Wind Waker. To my surprise, Raul revealed a relationship between the development of Rime and The Witness dating back to the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference. Both games had presentations at the event centered on their respective art styles: “And the thing is we both attended the other's talks because we were curious, and they found the same challenges we found, sometimes [similar] solutions, but other times we took totally different paths because we have different goals.” Rubio recalled. “And I remember that Jonathan Blow, they asked him literally this: ‘Oh have you seen Rime? Did they take inspirations from The Witness?’ I believe he said ‘Well, you should ask them.’ So now we can say, no, we didn't take inspiration [from] The Witness.” Raul said that until just a couple of months ago, he and his team hadn’t played The Witness. The reason? An employee rule to not play any other puzzle games during Rime’s development. Raul stated this was done to prevent Rime’s puzzle design from becoming “contaminated” by existing ideas and trends. Tequila Works could follow their unique vision rather than fall into the creative trap of only catering to player expectations. Legit Animation Chops One of Rime’s smaller but impressive elements is the boy’s animations. Subtle mannerisms and a satisfying sense of weight when jumping and climbing made me assume motion-capture was responsible. Raul revealed the boy was entirely hand-animated by a three-person team led by veteran animator Sandra Christensen. Prior to Rime, Christensen’s animation credits include LucasArts titles including the Star Wars: Force Unleashed games and Monkey Island, as well as other titles such as Psychonauts. She also had a tenure at Pixar, having worked on A Bug’s Life. A Blend of Cultural and Artistic Influences Creating a game that meshes aspects of different cultures is important to Tequila Works. The small team consists of a melting pot of nationalities, religious backgrounds, and artistic tastes. Rime’s aesthetic blends the individual artistic tastes and influences of the team members into a cohesive package. Raul explained, “Our art director was obsessed with The Master of Light, who is a 20th century Spanish painter. For other people it was Giorgio de Chirico who is the Italian architectural surrealist artist who inspired Team Ico. For other people, it was more like the surrealism of Dali and the negative space that he created. So in the end everything is mixed together.” The architecture and color palette of the Mediterranean coast heavily influenced Rime’s presentation. “It's like going on holiday to Spain or Greece” said Rubio. While such sights are relatively common for the Madrid-based studio, Raul revealed that he hopes Rime will make what seems relatively ordinary to him and the team extraordinary to the rest of the world. Childhood Experiences Drive Everything Rime stars an adolescent boy, and Tequila Works is committed to capturing the whimsy that comes from experiencing life from the perspective of a child. Raul stated that one thing every person has in common is that we were all kids at one point. “So the key to understand Rime is trying to see the world with the eyes of a kid.” Rubio explained. “And you are a child again, you can do things that you did very naturally when you were a child that you forgot when you became an adult.” Raul said he believes that one of those forgotten traits is the ability to be amazed by your surroundings without overanalyzing them the way an adult likely would. Capturing that same sense of wonder when players explore the remnants of the island’s ancient civilization has been one of the team’s key goals. To help realize that vision, Tequila Works studied videos of children playing in parks as a reference for how kids boldly attempt new challenges (especially when adults aren’t watching). Raul elaborated “You try to climb a tree now [you think], ‘Well if I try, I'm going to fall and [I’m] probably going to harm my hip, etc.’ But when you're a kid, you were not aware of the dangers of the world, right? Climbing a tree was something fun, not dangerous. That's the kind of inspiration for us.” Nearly every visible area in Rime can be reached by platforming, so Raul said he hopes that players channel that same child-like boldness when romping around the island. Rime’s controls and animation has been influenced by the protagonist’s young age as well. Raul explained that the balance of making the boy feel “fragile, but not literally helpless” was a balance the animation team was challenged to pull off. Every action needed to feel the way an 8-year old would, which Raul described as being “simple and complicated at the same time." I took Rime for a spin in a hands-on session and came away itching to play more. The puzzles I encountered, which involved using the boy’s voice to activate statues, were enjoyable and fairly inventive. Tequila Works promised increasingly diverse and complex conundrums throughout the experience. Platforming felt great and offers an enjoyable physical challenge on top of the mental aspect. Most of all, Rime’s ambient soundtrack and calm atmosphere make it a genuinely relaxing journey. By the time I finished, I wanted nothing more than to melt away and continue knocking out puzzles at my leisure. If the full experience continues to evolve in exciting ways, Rime has the potential to be one of the year’s premier titles. Rime launches this May for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. View full article
  4. Rime has been a long time coming. Developer Tequila Works began work on the project nearly four years ago. Originally slated as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, the game is now coming to multiple platforms. Rime centers around a young boy who, after getting shipwrecked during a storm, awakens on a mysterious, uninhabited island. A giant tower at the center of the island beckons the boy. With the help and guidance of a small fox and equipped with a strange, magical voice, the boy must reach the tower and uncover the island’s secrets. At this year’s PAX South, I sat down with Tequila Works Creative Director Raul Rubio and picked his brain about Rime’s development. During our talk, I uncovered several intriguing, lesser known facts about the highly-anticipated puzzle-platformer. Zelda and Ico Were Not Direct Influences “Ico meets Wind Waker” has been one of Rime’s go-to descriptors since the game debuted. Though an understandable comparison, Link’s seafaring adventure had zero impact on Rime’s conception. “I'm disappointed to say no, we didn't look into the Wind Waker.” Rubio confirmed. Tequila Works drew inspiration elsewhere, including films such as the animated works of Studio Ghibli. Raul stated one of the team’s main starting points was Journey. “Not the gameplay of Journey–the experience of Journey. In the sense that in Journey, the important thing was the journey.” Another, more surprising, influence has been the Jak & Daxter series. “In Jak & Daxter 2, you have this combination of platforming, open-world exploration, and, more importantly, you have this relationship between Jak and Daxter.” Rubio explained. “So in this game you have a relationship with the fox and he's your companion, your guide.” The Witness Connection While discussing Rime’s influences, I remarked about how Rime’s color palette and island setting reminded me more of The Witness than of Wind Waker. To my surprise, Raul revealed a relationship between the development of Rime and The Witness dating back to the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference. Both games had presentations at the event centered on their respective art styles: “And the thing is we both attended the other's talks because we were curious, and they found the same challenges we found, sometimes [similar] solutions, but other times we took totally different paths because we have different goals.” Rubio recalled. “And I remember that Jonathan Blow, they asked him literally this: ‘Oh have you seen Rime? Did they take inspirations from The Witness?’ I believe he said ‘Well, you should ask them.’ So now we can say, no, we didn't take inspiration [from] The Witness.” Raul said that until just a couple of months ago, he and his team hadn’t played The Witness. The reason? An employee rule to not play any other puzzle games during Rime’s development. Raul stated this was done to prevent Rime’s puzzle design from becoming “contaminated” by existing ideas and trends. Tequila Works could follow their unique vision rather than fall into the creative trap of only catering to player expectations. Legit Animation Chops One of Rime’s smaller but impressive elements is the boy’s animations. Subtle mannerisms and a satisfying sense of weight when jumping and climbing made me assume motion-capture was responsible. Raul revealed the boy was entirely hand-animated by a three-person team led by veteran animator Sandra Christensen. Prior to Rime, Christensen’s animation credits include LucasArts titles including the Star Wars: Force Unleashed games and Monkey Island, as well as other titles such as Psychonauts. She also had a tenure at Pixar, having worked on A Bug’s Life. A Blend of Cultural and Artistic Influences Creating a game that meshes aspects of different cultures is important to Tequila Works. The small team consists of a melting pot of nationalities, religious backgrounds, and artistic tastes. Rime’s aesthetic blends the individual artistic tastes and influences of the team members into a cohesive package. Raul explained, “Our art director was obsessed with The Master of Light, who is a 20th century Spanish painter. For other people it was Giorgio de Chirico who is the Italian architectural surrealist artist who inspired Team Ico. For other people, it was more like the surrealism of Dali and the negative space that he created. So in the end everything is mixed together.” The architecture and color palette of the Mediterranean coast heavily influenced Rime’s presentation. “It's like going on holiday to Spain or Greece” said Rubio. While such sights are relatively common for the Madrid-based studio, Raul revealed that he hopes Rime will make what seems relatively ordinary to him and the team extraordinary to the rest of the world. Childhood Experiences Drive Everything Rime stars an adolescent boy, and Tequila Works is committed to capturing the whimsy that comes from experiencing life from the perspective of a child. Raul stated that one thing every person has in common is that we were all kids at one point. “So the key to understand Rime is trying to see the world with the eyes of a kid.” Rubio explained. “And you are a child again, you can do things that you did very naturally when you were a child that you forgot when you became an adult.” Raul said he believes that one of those forgotten traits is the ability to be amazed by your surroundings without overanalyzing them the way an adult likely would. Capturing that same sense of wonder when players explore the remnants of the island’s ancient civilization has been one of the team’s key goals. To help realize that vision, Tequila Works studied videos of children playing in parks as a reference for how kids boldly attempt new challenges (especially when adults aren’t watching). Raul elaborated “You try to climb a tree now [you think], ‘Well if I try, I'm going to fall and [I’m] probably going to harm my hip, etc.’ But when you're a kid, you were not aware of the dangers of the world, right? Climbing a tree was something fun, not dangerous. That's the kind of inspiration for us.” Nearly every visible area in Rime can be reached by platforming, so Raul said he hopes that players channel that same child-like boldness when romping around the island. Rime’s controls and animation has been influenced by the protagonist’s young age as well. Raul explained that the balance of making the boy feel “fragile, but not literally helpless” was a balance the animation team was challenged to pull off. Every action needed to feel the way an 8-year old would, which Raul described as being “simple and complicated at the same time." I took Rime for a spin in a hands-on session and came away itching to play more. The puzzles I encountered, which involved using the boy’s voice to activate statues, were enjoyable and fairly inventive. Tequila Works promised increasingly diverse and complex conundrums throughout the experience. Platforming felt great and offers an enjoyable physical challenge on top of the mental aspect. Most of all, Rime’s ambient soundtrack and calm atmosphere make it a genuinely relaxing journey. By the time I finished, I wanted nothing more than to melt away and continue knocking out puzzles at my leisure. If the full experience continues to evolve in exciting ways, Rime has the potential to be one of the year’s premier titles. Rime launches this May for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
  5. A mariachi band that plays video game music? That’s not something you hear every day. A plethora of bands cover game soundtracks, but Mariachi Entertainment System stands out as the only traditional mariachi troupe that transforms 8/16-bit tunes into colorful Spanish melodies. After achieving renown on YouTube, the group steadily made a name for itself among gamers and video game music enthusiasts. The band was founded by trumpet player David Ortiz (AKA "Dr. Ortiz"). A life-long gamer, his affinity for video games – and specifically video game music – began with the Nintendo Entertainment System and Mario. From there, the soundtracks of other iconic titles would influence his appreciation for the sounds of play. “I was a gamer and music affected me very, very early,” Ortiz remembered, “I think Mega Man was probably the one game that I just loved those beats and I loved those melodies. Eventually once the consoles, the technology, progressed, games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy really, really sparked that like ‘What is this? It's making me feel weird!’ So those were parts of my influences growing up in gaming and music.” At around 11 years old, David took his first foray into music by joining a band – much to his chagrin at the time. “My mom forced me. She absolutely forced me, and I didn't want to do it. So I said, ‘Well, I'll just play the free instrument because my mom can't afford it.’ I thought we were poor,” Ortiz explained, “I went upstairs with the teacher to learn the trombone - he scared me to death. And I said that I can't do it. So she bought me a trumpet, and she was like ‘Well go downstairs with the other teacher, he's nice.’ And that's how I started playing trumpet.” The trumpet has since become David’s primary instrument, but over time he picked up the piano and guitar as well. He continued to hone his skills in the following years until the call to mariachi arrived out of necessity. As a 23-year-old college student, David needed an avenue to make money, and an opportunity to use his musical talents to earn a living presented itself. Ortiz described how his friend recruited him into the mariachi life: “This buddy of mine was like, ‘You should play mariachi with my group.’ He told me, ‘because I saw you play the piano and I need Mexicans.’ So he gave me a harp, and I had no idea what the hell that was. And he paid me to learn how to play the harp. I suck at it. But I had to learn the language too; I wasn't Spanish speaking. And so I just kind of started learning the repertoire, started learning the instrument, and it's like a fever man, it just catches you. And I learned a lot of repertoire and then eventually I was like I need to play on my instrument. Started playing trumpet, started taking gigs, started making money, and then it became a way of life. And now I can't think of anything else. It's just mariachi to me – it’s what's in me now.” But what exactly defines mariachi music? The genre has a long history, but here’s the briefest of summaries. Mariachi was born hundreds of years ago, formed from a blend of indigenous Mexican sounds and European instruments (such as the violin and harp) introduced by the Spanish arrival in the 16th century. Modern mariachi as we know it is generally believed to have been taken shape in the Mexican state of Jalisco in the 19th century. Bands originally consisted of roughly four members and a small ensemble of string instruments before growing in size and scope. “And eventually instruments were added and augmented into the ensemble that you see today. Traditionally a stage mariachi is six violins, three trumpets, four rhythm, a harp, and that kind of thing. So it has gone through a really long evolution,” Ortiz clarified. The style’s rural roots soon expanded into urban areas before migrating into the southwestern US in the 1950’s and 60’s. Since then, mariachi has maintained a foothold in the region. Mariachi Entertainment System is based in San Antonio, Texas. Mariachi forms a significant part of the city’s cultural DNA, dating back to when the city hosted the first International Mariachi Conference in 1979. Numerous bands call the city home, and thus the area hosts an extremely competitive musical landscape. “It’s a brutal scene” said Ortiz. “There are a lot of players. There's a lot of great players.” To stand out amid the crowded genre, David needed to do something unique. GETTING THE BAND TOGETHER The idea of Mariachi Entertainment System spawned from the genre’s inherent tendency to cover other styles of music. “If there's one thing that I can say about mariachi is that it is the epitome of covering because all mariachi music is just a cover of some other style,” Ortiz explained. “Every mariachi in the world has a dream of playing some other genre of music with a mariachi [style]. That's all you do. You sit around, you know when you're off, and you're listening to Kool & the Gang and you go ‘This would sound really good with a mariachi [band].’ Every mariachi does this with every kind of music. So I was no different.” David decided that video game music would mesh great with the style. Not only that, but in doing so may cause listeners unfamiliar with the style to become aware and, hopefully, appreciate mariachi as a musical genre on its own. Associating mariachi with video games, which lies at forefront of modern “coolness,” means that it becomes elevated in the public eye as a result. It’s a necessary mission, as the genre, in David’s eyes, has long stagnated in terms of musical advancement and social relevancy. “When you look at mariachi on television or in movies when they come [on screen], it's always a joke,” David asserted. “It's always, like, five guys in the back all out of tune, fat, drunk. There's this big joke and I hate that.” David believes mariachi has suffered from a public stigma solidified by decades of largely disreputable depictions in spaghetti westerns and similar films. To help improve that reputation, David stated that bringing class to the style is part of mariachi Entertainment System’s goal. “Yeah, we're going to play video game music and yes, we're trying to make it cool, but we want to execute well.” Ortiz explained, “We want to play our music well. We want to execute at a high level and show you - show people - that we're classy at the same time.” The fact that both mariachi and video game music suffer the same lack of widespread recognition among the general public offered another satisfying incentive for an enthusiast of both. “There's a whole other group of people who don't take video game music seriously,” Ortiz claimed, “so we do them both with class, with execution.” YouTube offered a prime platform for David’s musical venture. Initially, though, a lack of confidence deterred him until his wife encouraged David to give it a shot. “She pushed me,” David said. “[She] was like, ‘You're very good. People respect you. Just do it.’ And so I did it with the idea that she would watch the video and I would watch and my mother-in-law would watch and that would kind of be it. I never imagined anything would come of it at all.” To make that video experiment a reality, David needed to assemble a band of his own. By reaching out to friends and colleagues, David connected with players in the area. Not only did he need musicians that could perform at a high level, but they also needed to be into games and on board with the idea of covering video game music. “There's a very small group of people: mariachis who can read music, play their instruments, and who like games. I think I have them all in my group right [now]. That's all of them.” The current lineup consists of Jesus "Chuy" Guerra (trumpet), D00MSDAY (vihuela, flute), Adrian The Mexican Viking (guitarrón), Gilberto Martinez (vihuela, guitar), Ms. Wednesday Urbano (flute), Lotus Blossom (violin), Roberto "Sabor" (violin), Eric "El Chicles" Cervera (violin), and Carlton Galvez (violin). Mariachi Entertainment System formed from this gathering of talent. With the band behind him, choosing which songs to cover became the next step–a decision process David claimed to have a stranglehold over due to his limits as an arranger. “I'm not a very good arranger, despite what people might think.” Ortiz admitted. “If I can do it well where I feel confident, then we'll do it. And if it's a great song [and] I'm just that ambitious, we'll put it on the table for a while and kind of wait. But basically it's just like a matter of like what can work well right now. If I hear it and it sounds like we could, then we'll do it. But otherwise, I'm always really scared. I'm always terrified.” Tackling beloved video game tracks like Ocarina of Time’s Gerudo Valley or Castlevania II’s Bloody Tears can be a nerve-wracking undertaking. If an arranger deviates too much, people may be turned off completely, but take it too safe and some will complain that it was too straight a rendition. David made this clear saying, “there's a very fine line there. God only knows where it is. I don't.” Mariachi Entertainment System primarily covers 8/16-bit tunes due to the artistic challenge of working with limited yet melodic sounds. “We're not going to end up going too modern just because the more modern soundtracks have gotten a little ambient” Ortiz explained. “They can have a whole 100-piece orchestra in their soundtracks in video games these days. And that kind of freedom I think is counter-productive to the creative process.” While that may sound like a criticism, David very much enjoys the sounds of contemporary games. “I love the modern video game soundtracks.” Ortiz clarified. “I love The Last of Us. Great music. Gustavo Santoalalla - beautiful composer. I couldn't hum to you most of that soundtrack. I can't remember it off [my head], but that's not to say it isn't good. It's just… it's ambient. It's just different.” SUCCESS AND THE FUTURE Mariachi Entertainment System has achieved success and recognition from not only gamers, but a few developers as well. David remembered how Konami once praised the group’s rendition of Castlevania’s classic Bloody Tears on their official Facebook page. Now that MES has begun to attract the attention of developers, David hopes to expand the band’s reach by working with the very creators of the games he loves. “I'm a case manager by day, and I'm now I'm thinking like, well wait a minute, why don't I talk to some of the indie developers here in San Antonio? Let me see if they'll let me do a soundtrack! You know? We could work together. So now I'm thinking hey, this is something cool I'd like to work on.” In terms of future soundtracks to cover, David singled out one game he’d like to tackle. “I'd love to cover Undertale. I'm pretty sure Toby Fox- I could reach out to him and it would be cool.” When MES first began, David paid his players out of pocket. He later turned to crowdfunding platform Patreon to secure additional funding from his audience. David said he believes crowdfunding helped give the band the financial jumpstart needed to get the wheels turning. “Now that we have kind of a little enterprise, we're putting that money into making records and buying and selling merch and getting better equipment and things like that. So it has helped us to evolve.” Currently, MES is recording their second album, funded by a Kickstarter campaign. David remains grateful for the support that crowdfunding has given the band and tries to do right by his audience. “We try to treat our fans very well and give them all the resources that we can and give them free stuff. It’s cool.” Mariachi Entertainment System has several projects on the horizon. Ranking high among those goals is one particular song David said he hopes to cover one day, but only once he possesses the skills necessary to do the track justice. The reason for his apprehension? It’s David’s favorite piece of video game music of all time. “Chrono Trigger, Secret of the Forest. The most glorious, beautiful video game tune ever written” Ortiz gushed. “That's my white whale. One day when I'm old and grey and other old and grey people are watching YouTube like "Oh, what are the Mariachis up to?" We're going to do it when I'm a master finally.” To hear music from Mariachi Entertainment System, check out the band's YouTube channel.
  6. A mariachi band that plays video game music? That’s not something you hear every day. A plethora of bands cover game soundtracks, but Mariachi Entertainment System stands out as the only traditional mariachi troupe that transforms 8/16-bit tunes into colorful Spanish melodies. After achieving renown on YouTube, the group steadily made a name for itself among gamers and video game music enthusiasts. The band was founded by trumpet player David Ortiz (AKA "Dr. Ortiz"). A life-long gamer, his affinity for video games – and specifically video game music – began with the Nintendo Entertainment System and Mario. From there, the soundtracks of other iconic titles would influence his appreciation for the sounds of play. “I was a gamer and music affected me very, very early,” Ortiz remembered, “I think Mega Man was probably the one game that I just loved those beats and I loved those melodies. Eventually once the consoles, the technology, progressed, games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy really, really sparked that like ‘What is this? It's making me feel weird!’ So those were parts of my influences growing up in gaming and music.” At around 11 years old, David took his first foray into music by joining a band – much to his chagrin at the time. “My mom forced me. She absolutely forced me, and I didn't want to do it. So I said, ‘Well, I'll just play the free instrument because my mom can't afford it.’ I thought we were poor,” Ortiz explained, “I went upstairs with the teacher to learn the trombone - he scared me to death. And I said that I can't do it. So she bought me a trumpet, and she was like ‘Well go downstairs with the other teacher, he's nice.’ And that's how I started playing trumpet.” The trumpet has since become David’s primary instrument, but over time he picked up the piano and guitar as well. He continued to hone his skills in the following years until the call to mariachi arrived out of necessity. As a 23-year-old college student, David needed an avenue to make money, and an opportunity to use his musical talents to earn a living presented itself. Ortiz described how his friend recruited him into the mariachi life: “This buddy of mine was like, ‘You should play mariachi with my group.’ He told me, ‘because I saw you play the piano and I need Mexicans.’ So he gave me a harp, and I had no idea what the hell that was. And he paid me to learn how to play the harp. I suck at it. But I had to learn the language too; I wasn't Spanish speaking. And so I just kind of started learning the repertoire, started learning the instrument, and it's like a fever man, it just catches you. And I learned a lot of repertoire and then eventually I was like I need to play on my instrument. Started playing trumpet, started taking gigs, started making money, and then it became a way of life. And now I can't think of anything else. It's just mariachi to me – it’s what's in me now.” But what exactly defines mariachi music? The genre has a long history, but here’s the briefest of summaries. Mariachi was born hundreds of years ago, formed from a blend of indigenous Mexican sounds and European instruments (such as the violin and harp) introduced by the Spanish arrival in the 16th century. Modern mariachi as we know it is generally believed to have been taken shape in the Mexican state of Jalisco in the 19th century. Bands originally consisted of roughly four members and a small ensemble of string instruments before growing in size and scope. “And eventually instruments were added and augmented into the ensemble that you see today. Traditionally a stage mariachi is six violins, three trumpets, four rhythm, a harp, and that kind of thing. So it has gone through a really long evolution,” Ortiz clarified. The style’s rural roots soon expanded into urban areas before migrating into the southwestern US in the 1950’s and 60’s. Since then, mariachi has maintained a foothold in the region. Mariachi Entertainment System is based in San Antonio, Texas. Mariachi forms a significant part of the city’s cultural DNA, dating back to when the city hosted the first International Mariachi Conference in 1979. Numerous bands call the city home, and thus the area hosts an extremely competitive musical landscape. “It’s a brutal scene” said Ortiz. “There are a lot of players. There's a lot of great players.” To stand out amid the crowded genre, David needed to do something unique. GETTING THE BAND TOGETHER The idea of Mariachi Entertainment System spawned from the genre’s inherent tendency to cover other styles of music. “If there's one thing that I can say about mariachi is that it is the epitome of covering because all mariachi music is just a cover of some other style,” Ortiz explained. “Every mariachi in the world has a dream of playing some other genre of music with a mariachi [style]. That's all you do. You sit around, you know when you're off, and you're listening to Kool & the Gang and you go ‘This would sound really good with a mariachi [band].’ Every mariachi does this with every kind of music. So I was no different.” David decided that video game music would mesh great with the style. Not only that, but in doing so may cause listeners unfamiliar with the style to become aware and, hopefully, appreciate mariachi as a musical genre on its own. Associating mariachi with video games, which lies at forefront of modern “coolness,” means that it becomes elevated in the public eye as a result. It’s a necessary mission, as the genre, in David’s eyes, has long stagnated in terms of musical advancement and social relevancy. “When you look at mariachi on television or in movies when they come [on screen], it's always a joke,” David asserted. “It's always, like, five guys in the back all out of tune, fat, drunk. There's this big joke and I hate that.” David believes mariachi has suffered from a public stigma solidified by decades of largely disreputable depictions in spaghetti westerns and similar films. To help improve that reputation, David stated that bringing class to the style is part of mariachi Entertainment System’s goal. “Yeah, we're going to play video game music and yes, we're trying to make it cool, but we want to execute well.” Ortiz explained, “We want to play our music well. We want to execute at a high level and show you - show people - that we're classy at the same time.” The fact that both mariachi and video game music suffer the same lack of widespread recognition among the general public offered another satisfying incentive for an enthusiast of both. “There's a whole other group of people who don't take video game music seriously,” Ortiz claimed, “so we do them both with class, with execution.” YouTube offered a prime platform for David’s musical venture. Initially, though, a lack of confidence deterred him until his wife encouraged David to give it a shot. “She pushed me,” David said. “[She] was like, ‘You're very good. People respect you. Just do it.’ And so I did it with the idea that she would watch the video and I would watch and my mother-in-law would watch and that would kind of be it. I never imagined anything would come of it at all.” To make that video experiment a reality, David needed to assemble a band of his own. By reaching out to friends and colleagues, David connected with players in the area. Not only did he need musicians that could perform at a high level, but they also needed to be into games and on board with the idea of covering video game music. “There's a very small group of people: mariachis who can read music, play their instruments, and who like games. I think I have them all in my group right [now]. That's all of them.” The current lineup consists of Jesus "Chuy" Guerra (trumpet), D00MSDAY (vihuela, flute), Adrian The Mexican Viking (guitarrón), Gilberto Martinez (vihuela, guitar), Ms. Wednesday Urbano (flute), Lotus Blossom (violin), Roberto "Sabor" (violin), Eric "El Chicles" Cervera (violin), and Carlton Galvez (violin). Mariachi Entertainment System formed from this gathering of talent. With the band behind him, choosing which songs to cover became the next step–a decision process David claimed to have a stranglehold over due to his limits as an arranger. “I'm not a very good arranger, despite what people might think.” Ortiz admitted. “If I can do it well where I feel confident, then we'll do it. And if it's a great song [and] I'm just that ambitious, we'll put it on the table for a while and kind of wait. But basically it's just like a matter of like what can work well right now. If I hear it and it sounds like we could, then we'll do it. But otherwise, I'm always really scared. I'm always terrified.” Tackling beloved video game tracks like Ocarina of Time’s Gerudo Valley or Castlevania II’s Bloody Tears can be a nerve-wracking undertaking. If an arranger deviates too much, people may be turned off completely, but take it too safe and some will complain that it was too straight a rendition. David made this clear saying, “there's a very fine line there. God only knows where it is. I don't.” Mariachi Entertainment System primarily covers 8/16-bit tunes due to the artistic challenge of working with limited yet melodic sounds. “We're not going to end up going too modern just because the more modern soundtracks have gotten a little ambient” Ortiz explained. “They can have a whole 100-piece orchestra in their soundtracks in video games these days. And that kind of freedom I think is counter-productive to the creative process.” While that may sound like a criticism, David very much enjoys the sounds of contemporary games. “I love the modern video game soundtracks.” Ortiz clarified. “I love The Last of Us. Great music. Gustavo Santoalalla - beautiful composer. I couldn't hum to you most of that soundtrack. I can't remember it off [my head], but that's not to say it isn't good. It's just… it's ambient. It's just different.” SUCCESS AND THE FUTURE Mariachi Entertainment System has achieved success and recognition from not only gamers, but a few developers as well. David remembered how Konami once praised the group’s rendition of Castlevania’s classic Bloody Tears on their official Facebook page. Now that MES has begun to attract the attention of developers, David hopes to expand the band’s reach by working with the very creators of the games he loves. “I'm a case manager by day, and I'm now I'm thinking like, well wait a minute, why don't I talk to some of the indie developers here in San Antonio? Let me see if they'll let me do a soundtrack! You know? We could work together. So now I'm thinking hey, this is something cool I'd like to work on.” In terms of future soundtracks to cover, David singled out one game he’d like to tackle. “I'd love to cover Undertale. I'm pretty sure Toby Fox- I could reach out to him and it would be cool.” When MES first began, David paid his players out of pocket. He later turned to crowdfunding platform Patreon to secure additional funding from his audience. David said he believes crowdfunding helped give the band the financial jumpstart needed to get the wheels turning. “Now that we have kind of a little enterprise, we're putting that money into making records and buying and selling merch and getting better equipment and things like that. So it has helped us to evolve.” Currently, MES is recording their second album, funded by a Kickstarter campaign. David remains grateful for the support that crowdfunding has given the band and tries to do right by his audience. “We try to treat our fans very well and give them all the resources that we can and give them free stuff. It’s cool.” Mariachi Entertainment System has several projects on the horizon. Ranking high among those goals is one particular song David said he hopes to cover one day, but only once he possesses the skills necessary to do the track justice. The reason for his apprehension? It’s David’s favorite piece of video game music of all time. “Chrono Trigger, Secret of the Forest. The most glorious, beautiful video game tune ever written” Ortiz gushed. “That's my white whale. One day when I'm old and grey and other old and grey people are watching YouTube like "Oh, what are the Mariachis up to?" We're going to do it when I'm a master finally.” To hear music from Mariachi Entertainment System, check out the band's YouTube channel. View full article
  7. PAX South 2017 showcased its share of highly-anticipated titles. But for every Rime or Dreadnought, there were promising, less prolific titles that made a big impression. I tried out as many games as I could get my hand on and compiled a list of lesser-known games worth keeping any eye on. Light Fall (Platforms: PC, Mac - Release Date: TBA) Bishop Games’ unique platformer challenges players to not only traverse obstacles but to conjure and manipulate their own platforms. Your character can spawn a single box used to catch your fall or help bridge large gaps. This forms a fun and challenging rhythm of jumping and box-summoning during intense platforming segments. Beyond platforms, boxes can also be hurled through barriers and fit into gears to activate mechanisms. One tricky segment on a boat tasked players with using the box as a rudder to propel the vessel while, as the hero, simultaneously dodging leaping swordfish and other hazards. Light Fall still needs some polish, but I had fun leaping and box-spawning and look forward to seeing how the finished version performs. Minit (Platforms: PC - Release Date: 2017) Imagine if The Legend of Zelda if it only lasted 60 seconds. That sums up Minit in a nutshell. Cursed to die every one minute, Minit tasks players to explore and solve puzzles under the strictest of deadlines. Locating and collecting key items (such as a sword to cut obstructing grass) is vital as once it’s yours, it’s yours for good. Subsequent runs are quicker and easier with each item gained, creating a nice sense of reward. Minit reminded me of managing time in the first Pikmin, in that it’s strangely satisfying figuring out how to best maximize each run. An instant suicide button allows players to restart anew if they feel their minute is going badly. A deliberately slow attack forces players to consider each battle. One hilarious and intentional roadblock I encountered was a slow-talking, long-winded old man who forces players to read slow-moving text in order to learn valuable information – but doing so basically costs an entire life. Embers of Mirrim (Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC - Release Date: Spring 2017) Side-scrolling platformer Embers of Mirrim features dual protagonists: two beasts, known as Embers, who each channel the powers of Light and Darkness. In the demo I played, I took turns using each Ember separately to romp around fairly standard side-scrolling sections. The Embers’ ability to transform into light energy spiced things up, as I used it to phase through designated obstacles, typically in mid leap. Embers of Mirrim’s gameplay picked up dramatically once the opposing beasts met and merged into a single entity. At that point, I could split myself into both light and dark energy, which controlled similar to a twin-stick shooter. More complex challenges surfaced as a result; I often had to simultaneously steer both energies through tricky areas. The light powers used in conjunction with platforming formed an entertaining test of reflexes and dexterity that I hope the full game expands on come release. Sundered (Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux - Release Date: July 2017) Like developer Thunder Lotus’ previous title, the Viking adventure Jotun, Sundered is a beautifully hand-drawn adventure inspired by the animation of the 1980’s. Described as a “horrifying fight for survival and sanity”, players take the role of the wanderer Eshe, who must battle his way through a hellish world teeming with horrors. Sundered’s level design borrows straight from the Metroidvania playbook, boasting labyrinthine, “ever-changing” areas. Once the wow factor of Sundered’s presentation passed, its stylish combat and brutal challenge grabbed me next. At one point, I was swamped by a seemingly unending sea of monstrosities. Though I was overwhelmed at first, cutting the horde down to size proved to be an entertaining trial of my combat prowess. Sundered’s development is currently being crowdfunded through an already successful Kickstarter campaign and is targeting a summer release. Kona (Platform: PC - Release Date: Spring 2017) This intriguing first-person adventure game puts players in the shoes of a detective exploring a surreal mystery in the wilds of 1970’s Canada. Sent to investigate a case, things go awry when a car accident leaves him unconscious. Upon awakening, Kona’s survival elements immediately come into play. I had to start a fire to prevent myself from freezing to death while also seeking out items to repair my vehicle. From there, I drove to various outposts (reminiscent of Alan Wake’s driving sequences) to piece together clues. One pivotal moment came when I followed a trail of wolf tracks that led to a horrifically frozen man. At this point, Kona’s otherworldly element revealed itself in a dream-like sequence where I watched a spectral reenactment of the wolf attack, thus revealing the cause of the man’s death. There are clearly bigger, more sinister forces at play. Kona’s style shines through a charismatic narrator who not only guides the adventure, but regularly interjects his own personal thoughts on the situation at hand, sometimes to humorous effect. If you fancy yourself an adventure game aficionado, you can take Kona for a spin now in Steam Early Access.
  8. PAX South 2017 showcased its share of highly-anticipated titles. But for every Rime or Dreadnought, there were promising, less prolific titles that made a big impression. I tried out as many games as I could get my hand on and compiled a list of lesser-known games worth keeping any eye on. Light Fall (Platforms: PC, Mac - Release Date: TBA) Bishop Games’ unique platformer challenges players to not only traverse obstacles but to conjure and manipulate their own platforms. Your character can spawn a single box used to catch your fall or help bridge large gaps. This forms a fun and challenging rhythm of jumping and box-summoning during intense platforming segments. Beyond platforms, boxes can also be hurled through barriers and fit into gears to activate mechanisms. One tricky segment on a boat tasked players with using the box as a rudder to propel the vessel while, as the hero, simultaneously dodging leaping swordfish and other hazards. Light Fall still needs some polish, but I had fun leaping and box-spawning and look forward to seeing how the finished version performs. Minit (Platforms: PC - Release Date: 2017) Imagine if The Legend of Zelda if it only lasted 60 seconds. That sums up Minit in a nutshell. Cursed to die every one minute, Minit tasks players to explore and solve puzzles under the strictest of deadlines. Locating and collecting key items (such as a sword to cut obstructing grass) is vital as once it’s yours, it’s yours for good. Subsequent runs are quicker and easier with each item gained, creating a nice sense of reward. Minit reminded me of managing time in the first Pikmin, in that it’s strangely satisfying figuring out how to best maximize each run. An instant suicide button allows players to restart anew if they feel their minute is going badly. A deliberately slow attack forces players to consider each battle. One hilarious and intentional roadblock I encountered was a slow-talking, long-winded old man who forces players to read slow-moving text in order to learn valuable information – but doing so basically costs an entire life. Embers of Mirrim (Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC - Release Date: Spring 2017) Side-scrolling platformer Embers of Mirrim features dual protagonists: two beasts, known as Embers, who each channel the powers of Light and Darkness. In the demo I played, I took turns using each Ember separately to romp around fairly standard side-scrolling sections. The Embers’ ability to transform into light energy spiced things up, as I used it to phase through designated obstacles, typically in mid leap. Embers of Mirrim’s gameplay picked up dramatically once the opposing beasts met and merged into a single entity. At that point, I could split myself into both light and dark energy, which controlled similar to a twin-stick shooter. More complex challenges surfaced as a result; I often had to simultaneously steer both energies through tricky areas. The light powers used in conjunction with platforming formed an entertaining test of reflexes and dexterity that I hope the full game expands on come release. Sundered (Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux - Release Date: July 2017) Like developer Thunder Lotus’ previous title, the Viking adventure Jotun, Sundered is a beautifully hand-drawn adventure inspired by the animation of the 1980’s. Described as a “horrifying fight for survival and sanity”, players take the role of the wanderer Eshe, who must battle his way through a hellish world teeming with horrors. Sundered’s level design borrows straight from the Metroidvania playbook, boasting labyrinthine, “ever-changing” areas. Once the wow factor of Sundered’s presentation passed, its stylish combat and brutal challenge grabbed me next. At one point, I was swamped by a seemingly unending sea of monstrosities. Though I was overwhelmed at first, cutting the horde down to size proved to be an entertaining trial of my combat prowess. Sundered’s development is currently being crowdfunded through an already successful Kickstarter campaign and is targeting a summer release. Kona (Platform: PC - Release Date: Spring 2017) This intriguing first-person adventure game puts players in the shoes of a detective exploring a surreal mystery in the wilds of 1970’s Canada. Sent to investigate a case, things go awry when a car accident leaves him unconscious. Upon awakening, Kona’s survival elements immediately come into play. I had to start a fire to prevent myself from freezing to death while also seeking out items to repair my vehicle. From there, I drove to various outposts (reminiscent of Alan Wake’s driving sequences) to piece together clues. One pivotal moment came when I followed a trail of wolf tracks that led to a horrifically frozen man. At this point, Kona’s otherworldly element revealed itself in a dream-like sequence where I watched a spectral reenactment of the wolf attack, thus revealing the cause of the man’s death. There are clearly bigger, more sinister forces at play. Kona’s style shines through a charismatic narrator who not only guides the adventure, but regularly interjects his own personal thoughts on the situation at hand, sometimes to humorous effect. If you fancy yourself an adventure game aficionado, you can take Kona for a spin now in Steam Early Access. View full article
  9. Arms has stood out to me since its unveiling as the Switch title with the most hidden promise. Punch-Out!! for Wii proved that motion-controlled boxing can be a ton of fun. Arms puts a spin on that successful template with wacky, extendable limbs, the freedom to mix and match zany weapons, and a Saturday morning cartoon presentation. But does it perform as well it looks? I went a few rounds with Arms at PAX South to find out. The first hurdle was acclimating myself to the controls. Playing Arms requires holding a JoyCon each hand with thumbs on the respective shoulder buttons. Instead of using the analog sticks to move, players tilt both controllers to get around. Tilting to the side, forwards, and back positions the boxer accordingly. Throwing a punch in real-life causes the same to occur in-game. Holding down the left shoulder button performs a dash while the right shoulder jumps. Finally, pressing both Z buttons activates your special maneuver once the corresponding gauge has been filled. If that sounds like a lot, it kind of is - I didn’t even touch on blocking and grapples. Putting all of that into practice took more than a little work against my CPU opponents. Leaving the safe confines of the tutorial proved to be a jarring wake-up call. As the A.I. unleashed hell upon me, I struggled to competently combine movement, jumping, dashing, and punching into a coherent strategy and kept mixing up the controls. Still, I managed to win primarily by keeping my distance and performing grapple moves. The pieces began falling in place a bit better by the next round. I started timing my punches better and learned to read my opponent's movements. I even managed to block a few incoming shots and get off a few tricky combos. My bouts still devolved into chaotic, mindless punch parties where I probably looked like raging madman, but I was having some degree of fun. Close-quarter skirmishes are fast-paced affairs, but throwing punches from a distance felt comparable to launching a missile. I took aim and watched my fist hurtle across the screen in hopes it would its mark, and it felt genuinely satisfying when it did. The Switch’s much-touted HD rumble simulates the feel of the arms extending and retracting–a neat, but minor, touch. Button inputs felt exceptional, but tilting the JoyCons for movement didn’t feel natural to me. The entire time I just wished I could move with the sticks, so I’m thankful Arms supports traditional controls as well. The motion controls pick up movements a majority of the time but there were several spots where my inputs didn’t seem to register. It wasn’t egregiously bad, but the occasional misread was noticeable enough to cause some mild frustration. I found a surprising depth to playing Arms. Outfitting your fists with three separate gadgets, such as propeller blades or a missile launcher, before bouts made me consider what combinations would work best. Environmental hazards like a trampoline around an arena’s perimeter can be used to render opponents open to attack or used to evade incoming blows. Even the act of punching shouldn’t be taken lightly. Since characters’ arms extend long distances, every strike leaves the corresponding side of their bodies exposed for a second or two. That means a punch that eats air leaves a fighter vulnerable to retaliation. I’ve heard some predict Arms to become the Switch’s Splatoon. I ultimately found Arms to be entertaining enough, but I don’t think it has the novelty, personality, or shelf life to become a phenomenon the caliber of the Nintendo’s breakout shooter. Still, that doesn’t mean Arms can’t exist as a perfectly respectable and colorful fighter for Switch owners to goof around with. Arms releases this spring on the Nintendo Switch.
  10. Arms has stood out to me since its unveiling as the Switch title with the most hidden promise. Punch-Out!! for Wii proved that motion-controlled boxing can be a ton of fun. Arms puts a spin on that successful template with wacky, extendable limbs, the freedom to mix and match zany weapons, and a Saturday morning cartoon presentation. But does it perform as well it looks? I went a few rounds with Arms at PAX South to find out. The first hurdle was acclimating myself to the controls. Playing Arms requires holding a JoyCon each hand with thumbs on the respective shoulder buttons. Instead of using the analog sticks to move, players tilt both controllers to get around. Tilting to the side, forwards, and back positions the boxer accordingly. Throwing a punch in real-life causes the same to occur in-game. Holding down the left shoulder button performs a dash while the right shoulder jumps. Finally, pressing both Z buttons activates your special maneuver once the corresponding gauge has been filled. If that sounds like a lot, it kind of is - I didn’t even touch on blocking and grapples. Putting all of that into practice took more than a little work against my CPU opponents. Leaving the safe confines of the tutorial proved to be a jarring wake-up call. As the A.I. unleashed hell upon me, I struggled to competently combine movement, jumping, dashing, and punching into a coherent strategy and kept mixing up the controls. Still, I managed to win primarily by keeping my distance and performing grapple moves. The pieces began falling in place a bit better by the next round. I started timing my punches better and learned to read my opponent's movements. I even managed to block a few incoming shots and get off a few tricky combos. My bouts still devolved into chaotic, mindless punch parties where I probably looked like raging madman, but I was having some degree of fun. Close-quarter skirmishes are fast-paced affairs, but throwing punches from a distance felt comparable to launching a missile. I took aim and watched my fist hurtle across the screen in hopes it would its mark, and it felt genuinely satisfying when it did. The Switch’s much-touted HD rumble simulates the feel of the arms extending and retracting–a neat, but minor, touch. Button inputs felt exceptional, but tilting the JoyCons for movement didn’t feel natural to me. The entire time I just wished I could move with the sticks, so I’m thankful Arms supports traditional controls as well. The motion controls pick up movements a majority of the time but there were several spots where my inputs didn’t seem to register. It wasn’t egregiously bad, but the occasional misread was noticeable enough to cause some mild frustration. I found a surprising depth to playing Arms. Outfitting your fists with three separate gadgets, such as propeller blades or a missile launcher, before bouts made me consider what combinations would work best. Environmental hazards like a trampoline around an arena’s perimeter can be used to render opponents open to attack or used to evade incoming blows. Even the act of punching shouldn’t be taken lightly. Since characters’ arms extend long distances, every strike leaves the corresponding side of their bodies exposed for a second or two. That means a punch that eats air leaves a fighter vulnerable to retaliation. I’ve heard some predict Arms to become the Switch’s Splatoon. I ultimately found Arms to be entertaining enough, but I don’t think it has the novelty, personality, or shelf life to become a phenomenon the caliber of the Nintendo’s breakout shooter. Still, that doesn’t mean Arms can’t exist as a perfectly respectable and colorful fighter for Switch owners to goof around with. Arms releases this spring on the Nintendo Switch. View full article
  11. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild towers as the Nintendo Switch’s most anticipated title for good reason. In addition to being a new Zelda, thus being a big deal by default, the latest entry in the long-running franchise expands on the series’ formula by featuring a vast open world for players to explore freely. After much anticipation, I had the opportunity to spend roughly 20 minutes of hands-on time with Breath of the Wild. It felt like a fraction of that time because I was completely enamored with Hyrule’s wealth of possibilities. From what I understand, the demo I played was identical to last year’s E3 demo, so the opening events are likely familiar if you’ve read impressions for that version. Link awakens within an ancient temple, beckoned by a mysterious voice. After being bestowed with the magical Sheikah Slate, a multipurpose tool that serves as Link’s map, among other functions, I found and equipped basic clothing. Breath of the Wild’s vibrant world welcomed me with open arms as I exited the structure. There was only one question: Where do I head first? I could have immediately veered off on my own path, but I opted to follow a mysterious hooded man. After catching up with him and absorbing some sage tutorial advice, I embarked on my journey. My first order of business was to climb everything. Link can scale virtually any surface, his actions dictated by a stamina meter ala Skyward Sword. The ability to climbing vastly opens up exploration options. Instead of seeking out a main path, I just scampered up cliffs and improvised my way through areas. Link’s stamina drained rather quickly in the demo to the point of becoming a mild nuisance. Hopefully, it won’t take too long to for players to build up his strength in the full release. I quickly procured my first weapon: a branch. Not quite the Master Sword, but I had to start somewhere. It was a fortunate discovery, since I immediately encountered my first adversary in a lone moblin. Combat itself felt largely identical to previous Zelda games. I slashed, rolled, and leapt in and out of engagement with my foe. The controls felt smooth and responsive as we clashed. The presence of weapon degradation was the most prominent new wrinkle, as it forced me to monitor the state of items. Unfortunately, my branch splintered into pieces before I could finish my adversary, forcing me into a hasty retreat. In an unexpected and humorous moment, the persistent moblin gave chase for several yards. It even followed me down a sheer cliff drop. Even the Nintendo representative guiding me through the demo was taken aback at the beast’s determination. After a lengthy pursuit, the moblin finally decided I wasn’t worth the effort and backed off. That wasn’t the end of my troubles. I turned to discover that I’d accidentally stumbled upon a camp teeming with moblins–and I was completely defenseless. In a stroke of intentionally designed luck, though, I noticed a bow and quiver of arrows laying by a log nearby. There were also a few more branches. Now that I had a larger arsenal, I messed around with Breath of the Wild’s inventory system. Players can quick select weapons in-game on the fly by entering a separate menu. Additionally, hot key options also streamlined selection. I adapted to this new system swiftly, swapping items with ease. Before I tackled the enemy base, my Nintendo rep instructed me to slide the Switch out of its dock and continue playing in handheld mode. The transition from big to small screen was as quick and seamless as advertised. Best of all, the performance didn’t skip a beat and looked great on the smaller display. With my new bow, I took aim and sniped distant enemies, drawing their attention. As the now-alert moblins hurtled towards me, I spotted a nearby shield and quickly equipped it. With my beat-down stick and shield ready, I fought my way through the remaining horde, rolling and collecting additional arrows and sticks mid-fight. Once the last moblin fell, I began collecting the spoils. Among the loot was an actual sword. Hooray, no more branches! That sense of improvement defined much of Breath of the Wild’s experience. Every time I nabbed a new item, I eagerly compared it stats to my existing inventory and wanted to continue searching in hopes of finding greater riches. That’s a fun and necessary incentive to achieve in an open world game. After clearing the area of its riches, I decided to continue towards the main story objective. The waypoint led to a small ruin with a plate to insert the Shiekah Slate. I placed the relic, which triggered a scene where a massive tower emerged from the Earth. Interestingly, the Nintendo Rep pointed out that during this cinematic, moblins are typically present since the structure sprouts near their base. However, since I wiped out the camp before summoning the tower, the moblins were absent. I always appreciate little touches of continuity like that. I’ll have to wait for the full release of Breath of the Wild to see what follows after that tower arose from the ruins as my demo wrapped up shortly thereafter. Although I barely scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg, I left the demo anxious and excited to get my hands on the full experience. Roaming the open world, discovering items and locations with little to no guidance felt like playing a big-budget remake of the NES Legend of Zelda. It’s a freedom that’s been lacking in the last few console entries, and the next logical leap after A Link Between Worlds (a personal fave) began the shift towards a less linear direction. Breakable weapons largely irritate me in most games, but Zelda tempers that annoyance by sprinkling items all over the place. I was always picking up new equipment, and even though most of them were fragile branches, I had a supply of them to rely on until I found something better. Most importantly, Breath of the Wild was just plain fun. Combat works fine, the picturesque world was a joy to run around in, and the loop of exploration and loot has its hooks. If the gameplay continues to evolve in positive ways, and if they story is up to snuff, Breath of the Wild could be a Zelda game for the ages. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launches for Switch and Wii U March 3. View full article
  12. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild towers as the Nintendo Switch’s most anticipated title for good reason. In addition to being a new Zelda, thus being a big deal by default, the latest entry in the long-running franchise expands on the series’ formula by featuring a vast open world for players to explore freely. After much anticipation, I had the opportunity to spend roughly 20 minutes of hands-on time with Breath of the Wild. It felt like a fraction of that time because I was completely enamored with Hyrule’s wealth of possibilities. From what I understand, the demo I played was identical to last year’s E3 demo, so the opening events are likely familiar if you’ve read impressions for that version. Link awakens within an ancient temple, beckoned by a mysterious voice. After being bestowed with the magical Sheikah Slate, a multipurpose tool that serves as Link’s map, among other functions, I found and equipped basic clothing. Breath of the Wild’s vibrant world welcomed me with open arms as I exited the structure. There was only one question: Where do I head first? I could have immediately veered off on my own path, but I opted to follow a mysterious hooded man. After catching up with him and absorbing some sage tutorial advice, I embarked on my journey. My first order of business was to climb everything. Link can scale virtually any surface, his actions dictated by a stamina meter ala Skyward Sword. The ability to climbing vastly opens up exploration options. Instead of seeking out a main path, I just scampered up cliffs and improvised my way through areas. Link’s stamina drained rather quickly in the demo to the point of becoming a mild nuisance. Hopefully, it won’t take too long to for players to build up his strength in the full release. I quickly procured my first weapon: a branch. Not quite the Master Sword, but I had to start somewhere. It was a fortunate discovery, since I immediately encountered my first adversary in a lone moblin. Combat itself felt largely identical to previous Zelda games. I slashed, rolled, and leapt in and out of engagement with my foe. The controls felt smooth and responsive as we clashed. The presence of weapon degradation was the most prominent new wrinkle, as it forced me to monitor the state of items. Unfortunately, my branch splintered into pieces before I could finish my adversary, forcing me into a hasty retreat. In an unexpected and humorous moment, the persistent moblin gave chase for several yards. It even followed me down a sheer cliff drop. Even the Nintendo representative guiding me through the demo was taken aback at the beast’s determination. After a lengthy pursuit, the moblin finally decided I wasn’t worth the effort and backed off. That wasn’t the end of my troubles. I turned to discover that I’d accidentally stumbled upon a camp teeming with moblins–and I was completely defenseless. In a stroke of intentionally designed luck, though, I noticed a bow and quiver of arrows laying by a log nearby. There were also a few more branches. Now that I had a larger arsenal, I messed around with Breath of the Wild’s inventory system. Players can quick select weapons in-game on the fly by entering a separate menu. Additionally, hot key options also streamlined selection. I adapted to this new system swiftly, swapping items with ease. Before I tackled the enemy base, my Nintendo rep instructed me to slide the Switch out of its dock and continue playing in handheld mode. The transition from big to small screen was as quick and seamless as advertised. Best of all, the performance didn’t skip a beat and looked great on the smaller display. With my new bow, I took aim and sniped distant enemies, drawing their attention. As the now-alert moblins hurtled towards me, I spotted a nearby shield and quickly equipped it. With my beat-down stick and shield ready, I fought my way through the remaining horde, rolling and collecting additional arrows and sticks mid-fight. Once the last moblin fell, I began collecting the spoils. Among the loot was an actual sword. Hooray, no more branches! That sense of improvement defined much of Breath of the Wild’s experience. Every time I nabbed a new item, I eagerly compared it stats to my existing inventory and wanted to continue searching in hopes of finding greater riches. That’s a fun and necessary incentive to achieve in an open world game. After clearing the area of its riches, I decided to continue towards the main story objective. The waypoint led to a small ruin with a plate to insert the Shiekah Slate. I placed the relic, which triggered a scene where a massive tower emerged from the Earth. Interestingly, the Nintendo Rep pointed out that during this cinematic, moblins are typically present since the structure sprouts near their base. However, since I wiped out the camp before summoning the tower, the moblins were absent. I always appreciate little touches of continuity like that. I’ll have to wait for the full release of Breath of the Wild to see what follows after that tower arose from the ruins as my demo wrapped up shortly thereafter. Although I barely scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg, I left the demo anxious and excited to get my hands on the full experience. Roaming the open world, discovering items and locations with little to no guidance felt like playing a big-budget remake of the NES Legend of Zelda. It’s a freedom that’s been lacking in the last few console entries, and the next logical leap after A Link Between Worlds (a personal fave) began the shift towards a less linear direction. Breakable weapons largely irritate me in most games, but Zelda tempers that annoyance by sprinkling items all over the place. I was always picking up new equipment, and even though most of them were fragile branches, I had a supply of them to rely on until I found something better. Most importantly, Breath of the Wild was just plain fun. Combat works fine, the picturesque world was a joy to run around in, and the loop of exploration and loot has its hooks. If the gameplay continues to evolve in positive ways, and if they story is up to snuff, Breath of the Wild could be a Zelda game for the ages. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launches for Switch and Wii U March 3.
  13. Prior to PAX South 2017, I never expected a game about cutting apart sentient shapes to sell me on the Nintendo Switch more effectively than Splatoon 2 or Arms. But after getting my hands on Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together!, I came away charmed and eager to play more of the Nintendo’s ingenious puzzler. Not only does the title perform well as a puzzle game, it effectively sells the enjoyment of mobile, cooperative gaming that Nintendo has been angling the Switch to promote. I’m a sucker for cooperative puzzle games so I took to Snipperclips almost immediately. Two players, each using one JoyCon controller, command a pair of cute paper characters to solve riddles in tandem. At its simplest, puzzles may require players to fill the outline of a shape, like a heart, by positioning inside of it in the correct manner. Seems relatively easy, right? Gameplay takes a turn for the interesting with the unique cutting mechanic. By overlapping characters, players can a piece out of each other to create new shapes. It’s a neat and intuitive mechanic that promotes creative thinking and constant communication. How can I slice you so you’ll fit into that narrow hole? What’s the best shape for transporting this tire across the track? Players will need to work together to effectively address these questions and solve levels. The straightforward puzzles presented challenge and fun by providing me and my partner methods to solve them. As long as the end goal is achieved, execution can be whatever the players dream up. One level tasked the two of us to shoot a basketball into a hoop. Our solution was to cut a hole into my character for the ball to rest in, then have me jump atop my buddy’s head. Next, a synchronized jump launched the ball through the bottom of the hoop, causing it to fall back through from above. To our surprise and delight, our improvised scheme worked. I love puzzles games that allow freedom and flexibility in resolution, and Snipperclips certainly seems to be one of those games. The bite-sized riddles are enjoyable to crack and can be knocked out relatively quickly, making them ideal for quick sessions with a friend. If the final package features a robust set of puzzles or receives support in the form of new levels post-launch, I could see myself returning to it regularly. My only complaint stems from the hardware itself. Playing with a sideways JoyCon isn’t the most comfortable set-up in the world and could hamper extended sessions. But with an inventive mechanic and boatloads of charm, Snipperclips cuts a place for itself as my favorite Switch title not named The Legend of Zelda. Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together! releases sometime in March 2017 after the Nintendo Switch hits the market on March 3. View full article
  14. Prior to PAX South 2017, I never expected a game about cutting apart sentient shapes to sell me on the Nintendo Switch more effectively than Splatoon 2 or Arms. But after getting my hands on Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together!, I came away charmed and eager to play more of the Nintendo’s ingenious puzzler. Not only does the title perform well as a puzzle game, it effectively sells the enjoyment of mobile, cooperative gaming that Nintendo has been angling the Switch to promote. I’m a sucker for cooperative puzzle games so I took to Snipperclips almost immediately. Two players, each using one JoyCon controller, command a pair of cute paper characters to solve riddles in tandem. At its simplest, puzzles may require players to fill the outline of a shape, like a heart, by positioning inside of it in the correct manner. Seems relatively easy, right? Gameplay takes a turn for the interesting with the unique cutting mechanic. By overlapping characters, players can a piece out of each other to create new shapes. It’s a neat and intuitive mechanic that promotes creative thinking and constant communication. How can I slice you so you’ll fit into that narrow hole? What’s the best shape for transporting this tire across the track? Players will need to work together to effectively address these questions and solve levels. The straightforward puzzles presented challenge and fun by providing me and my partner methods to solve them. As long as the end goal is achieved, execution can be whatever the players dream up. One level tasked the two of us to shoot a basketball into a hoop. Our solution was to cut a hole into my character for the ball to rest in, then have me jump atop my buddy’s head. Next, a synchronized jump launched the ball through the bottom of the hoop, causing it to fall back through from above. To our surprise and delight, our improvised scheme worked. I love puzzles games that allow freedom and flexibility in resolution, and Snipperclips certainly seems to be one of those games. The bite-sized riddles are enjoyable to crack and can be knocked out relatively quickly, making them ideal for quick sessions with a friend. If the final package features a robust set of puzzles or receives support in the form of new levels post-launch, I could see myself returning to it regularly. My only complaint stems from the hardware itself. Playing with a sideways JoyCon isn’t the most comfortable set-up in the world and could hamper extended sessions. But with an inventive mechanic and boatloads of charm, Snipperclips cuts a place for itself as my favorite Switch title not named The Legend of Zelda. Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together! releases sometime in March 2017 after the Nintendo Switch hits the market on March 3.
  15. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not Mario Kart 9, nor is it meant to be – and that’s okay. The original Mario Kart 8 was a blast (and my personal favorite entry in the popular series), making this beefed up version for the Nintendo Switch more of the same, but with some added twists. I had the opportunity to grab some hands-on time with the upcoming Switch title at PAX South last week. I played a demo using the handheld, Vita-esque Switch set up with the JoyCons locked alongside the screen. Impressively, the game looked and performed identically to its big screen counterpart. There’s an undeniable cool factor in seeing something that vibrant and fast-paced running smoothly on a mobile device. While the game controls fine overall, holding down the Switch’s tiny face buttons–which appear to be slightly smaller than the 3DS’ buttons–to accelerate caused discomfort on my thumb after just one race. That’s a concern for those possessing even average-sized digits. Battle Mode, a glaring omission in the original Mario Kart 8, makes a welcome return in Deluxe. I played a couple of rounds in Splatoon’s Urchin Underpass arena. While the core premise of lobbing weapons at opponents to pop their balloons isn’t dramatically different, the mode remains as fun as it always has been. Perhaps more importantly, Battle Mode provides another worthwhile destination in an already solid offering. Not content with touting Deluxe as a straight port with Battle Mode tacked on, Nintendo has tweaked the gameplay and added a number of new tracks and characters. Deluxe players can carry two power-ups at a time, a feature I found added a new wrinkle of strategy to races. New faces like Splatoon’s Inkling Girl/Boy and King Boo join the fray. Fresh tracks and karts (mostly based on Splatoon) offer an expanded assortment of options for experienced racers. Mario Kart 8’s entire package, including all released DLC, is present and accounted for. Mario Kart 8 isn't the next big leap for the series, but for a super-charged version, it's firing on all cylinders. The revved up racer releases on April 28 for the Nintendo Switch.