Shacknews - Jason Faulkner

Nintendo once had plans for a very different second GameCube The Legend of Zelda game. Instead of the dark, more realistic tones of Twilight Princess, they envisioned a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker set on dry land.

The tentatively titled "The Wind Waker 2," went as far as to be included in an official Zelda Franchise history presented at GDC 2004. However, early public reaction, market trends, and design issues would have Nintendo switch from the cel-shaded style of The Wind Waker to the dark tones of Twilight Princess.

In the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts (already out in Japan and translated by Nintendo Everything), series artist Satoru Takizawa discussed plans for The Wind Waker sequel. Satoru explained that Wind Waker 2 would have taken place in a land-based setting, rather than the sea, and Link would have once again been given a horse to traverse the countryside. However, there were issues with Toon Link's proportions that made this difficult. He was too short, which made placing him on a horse awkward. Additionally, Satoru thought that with the art-style an adult Toon Link didn't seem to be a good solution either.

Public perception of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker upon release were very divisive as well. Although it's now a fan-favorite, the switch to cel-shaded graphics was a turn off for many who had come to love the series while playing the more realistic Ocarina of Time. At the time of Wind Waker's release, there was also a dominant force in cinema with The Lord of the Rings films that made gritty and dark the "in" style for fantasy.

Taking all these things into consideration, Satoru decided early in development for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker 2 to take a different approach. Satoru brought Yusuke Nakano onboard, and it would be Yusuke that would form the artistic basis for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

I find myself wishing that they would have gone with The Wind Waker 2 ideas. Twilight Princess seemed to be lacking some of the formulae that made The Legend of Zelda series so vital feeling. After the bright, fluid world of The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess just seemed dull.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Dead Rising has always been a better playground than storyteller. The zombie series began as a blatant homage to Dawn of the Dead, and that afforded it a certain camp value that made mowing down countless undead feel right at home. After two departures, one even more cartoonish and the other oddly straight-faced, Dead Rising 4 gets back to its roots. It's another starring role for Frank West, another visit to the sleepy town of Willamette, and even another shopping mall. And like the original, it works best when it's functioning as a pulp-inspired toy.

Born a Shamblin' Man

To that end, Dead Rising 4 is a giant sandbox made up of smaller, more carefully constructed sandboxes. The campaign spends only a short time inside the mall proper, and quickly whisks you to the larger Willamette area. The area feels sprawling for one that is so littered with objects to pick up and combine into zombie-smashing weaponry. It was surprising how much area I traversed, because stopping in any one location felt well-crafted and individualized.

You won't have much time to appreciate the vistas, though, since almost every square inch of the map is crawling with the undead. This is where Dead Rising 4 shines, giving a wide array of weaponry to tear through zombies like wet tissue paper. The weapon crafting is ingenious as always, making blueprints the most valuable collectibles in the game. It can get tiring to slowly swipe your way through a horde with a mere sledgehammer, but freezing them in a wide arc with an ice sword never gets old. Similarly enjoyable is the vehicle mayhem, which punctuates the travel between most missions. As long as you can find a car with the lights blinking, you can drive to your next location in style with a row of ragdoll zombies flying in your wake. 

Getting Buried

The combat falters somewhat when the game begins introducing tougher enemies. The human soldiers and occasional Maniac bosses work well enough, and split up the pacing nicely. One late-game zombie form takes many more hits to defeat, though, and this isn't a combat system built for longer encounters with a single enemy. It feels dull and tedious to swing your melee weapon or fire endless bullets into a single undead, which makes the last hour or so a lot more challenging at the expense of some of the fun.

Some human enemies use Exo-Suits, powerful armor that gives them much more endurance as well. These are problematic or all the same reasons, though the addition of it as a game mechanic also naturally means Frank can equip the Exo-Suits as well. Those moments are perfectly empowering and the various elemental-based power-ups for the suit make it that much easier to take down swaths of zombies.

All those toys in this playground makes for some awkward mission design from time to time. I learned to resent missions that asked me to find a path, because the waypointing wasn't always immediately clear and I didn't want to fight off zombies while also trying to find my way. Sidequests are fairly repetitive–you can only clear out identical-looking emergency shelters so many times–but they work well enough as excuses to wreak havoc on the formerly living citizens of Willamette.

The open world shows its seams from time to time when zombies move erratically around a piece of the environment or one gets stuck inside some tight geometry. I found one zombie stuck inside a bunk bed, shaking as the A.I. apparently tried to find a path for it to walk.

Covering Wars

If one element helps the jankiness feel at home, it's the writing. Frank West has become something of an icon for the series, and this new and improved Frank is ever more the lovable idiot-jerk this story needs. The story is absolutely rote, but the humor and wit had me chuckling throughout the entire experience. Somehow it's just easier to forgive broken open world elements when the game is clearly not taking itself too seriously. The one poor turn is a dramatic story beat near the end, which feels out of place in a game that's otherwise so self-aware and goofy. 

If the main campaign is a guided tour, the multiplayer is much more of the sandbox experience. Though it features some loose story wrapped around simple goals, the main point is survival and mayhem. It peppers in mini objectives to keep the experience competitive and cooperative at once, and with the right combination of crew it captures the bloody antics at the heart of Dead Rising.

A Bloody Mess

It's fitting, somehow, that a game series so lovingly modeled after a famous B-movie would itself result in a B-tier game. Dead Rising 4 is uneven and less polished than many other games this fall. It's the kind of light, airy game I would have expected earlier in the year, when it wouldn't risk being swallowed up by the holiday season. At its core it's a pulp adventure, with winking witticisms and bloody messes strewn throughout. That makes it, if not entirely memorable, at least a bloody good time that understands the ephemeral nature of camp.


This review is based on an Xbox One code provided by the publisher. Dead Rising 4 will be available in retail and digital stores on December 6, for $59.99. The game is rated M.

Shacknews - Asif Khan

The Wild West when combined with first-person shooters can be pretty fun, but VR takes it to a whole new level. Dead and Buried features both single and multiplayer modes, Dead and Buried lets you warm up in the shooting gallery or go head-to-head as either a lawman or outlaw. Check out this gameplay footage of Dead and Buried on Oculus Rift. Dead and Buried is free for anyone who purchases Oculus Touch.

For more great videos, be sure to subscribe to Shacknews on YouTube.

Shacknews - Cassidee Moser

Hideo Kojima's defining trait is his penchant for creating the bizarre. He’s known for creating strange, absurdist game worlds, using cryptic clues and ideas to communicate themes in his work, and borrowing ideas and styles from other directors and creators as inspiration for his own designs.

Now on his first excursion in game development not backed by Konami, he’s back with an even more twisted creation than before. Death Stranding, the mysterious game seen earlier this year at E3 2016 via a trailer starring Norman Reedus, a baby, and a beach covered in dead animals.

People were quick to jump on Death Stranding as a way to connect it with the now-defunct Silent Hills Kojima was working on in conjunction with Guillermo Del Toro prior to his departure from Konami. But with the latest trailer from The Game Awards 2016, we’re getting a sense that Death Stranding goes a bit deeper thematically than we may have thought.

As it is wont to do, the internet is alive with theories, speculation, and explanation attempts to help make sense of the cryptic madness unleashed in these trailers. Here are what we consider to be the most likely.

What Is Death Stranding?

Hints at what exactly Death Stranding is are hidden right in the game’s title. Images of decay, rot, and darkness making up the world suggest it will explore themes of death, loss, isolation, and possibly even rebirth.

But there’s also the Stranding, made evident by the literal snakelike strands connecting everything--alive or inanimate--to something else.

On the Kojima Productions Twitter account, we’ve seen several messages delivering cryptic clues as to what we can expect from this eventual project. One of them spoke of the importance of a “continue” option in coin-operated games and the way it punished death, but allowed for a new beginning. According to this same post, “death is about to have a new meaning.”

Both the themes of interconnectivity and death are interesting, because they are simultaneously in conjunction and opposition. Death is thought to be final, infinite. Interconnectivity in its most realized state can continue forever in an endless cycle. But what if they were able to meet in the middle? What if death is just a new beginning, a launch into something entirely different?

It remains unclear exactly what Death Stranding is; is it a shooter, an action game, a narrative-driven experience? With so few concrete clues to go on, we’re instead left speculating about its themes more than its mechanical nature.

However, there are some who think Death Stranding might be a multiplayer experience, a shared adventure in which players will have to work together. There are two major clues to this possibility: first are the handcuffs worn by both Guillermo Del Toro and Norman Reedus’ characters, which are on opposite hands of each other and possibly suggesting the two had, at one point, been connected to each other’s company. The second involves the strange baby Reedus caresses and Del Toro carries around in a weird tank he’s able to hook into. In the first trailer, Reedus picks the baby up and tearfully embraces it, but not before it vanishes and leaves him with nothing more than handfuls of the thick, dark muck that permeates the world.

In the second trailer, Del Toro is clearly in distress and makes a rushed decision to link up to the fetus. When they do, there appears to be a conscious connection between the two, and this has led to some speculation of whether or not Del Toro’s action caused Reedus’ baby friend to disappear.  

Thus, there’s the possibility that players could be working cooperatively in different sections of the game, sharing resources but having to be careful about who uses them and how. Information is still incredibly limited, but the thought of players working together on a massive level like that is something that screams Kojima’s name.

Welcome to the Afterlife

Obvious signs of death aside, there’s a lot going on in these Death Stranding trailers to suggest the characters we see are stuck in some sort of purgatory or afterlife. Both Del Toro and Reedus’ characters have suffered some sort of physical trauma--Reedus has a massive intersecting scar on his abdomen, Del Toro has a large scar running the length of his forehead--and that trauma could have been what ended their mortal life and placed them in this world.

The beached animals are also a big indicator, since animals (particularly whales) that wind up dead on beaches often get there because they  are lost or ill and stumble in. The idea they’re “lost” is especially appealing for this theory; ideas of Purgatory and the afterlife itself are rooted in souls being “stuck” in one place while awaiting judgement to go into another. Add to that the strong imagery of dead, skeletal soldiers stalking the streets, and you’re staring at a group of the dead, marching in step toward their own forsaken eternity.

Even the five mysterious figures floating in the sky have a sort of deity-like quality to them, hovering above the world and looking down upon it. Are they the ones who oversee this place, who govern its people? Why are they there?

The world around them is dying as well, leaking fluid and developing more and more of a gray, lifeless pallor. Even the beached animals suggest a world in distress, as the environment cannot support the seeming throngs of creatures that once populated its surface. The world of Death Stranding is bleak, and it doesn’t appear that anyone is able to easily leave.

Time Travel/Parallel Dimensions

Another theory is that Death Stranding is a game in which characters travel through alternate moments in time and across different dimensions on a journey to right wrongs made in previous attempts.

One of the biggest suggestions of this theory come from the pin on Del Toro’s lapel. Featuring a map of the United States connected by a vast network of webs (or ‘strands’), the pin has the name “Bridges” written across the top. Is this a secret group Del Toro works for, bent on traveling within multiple dimensions to right wrongs and attempt to connect with their alternate selves?

The disparate use of  technology also within the trailer suggests perhaps there’s also a time travel element in Death Stranding. In Reedus’ scene, he’s naked on a beach that could possibly predate mankind, whereas Del Toro carries around complex future technology capable of keeping a baby alive in a tank tucked under his arm while walking beneath a World War II-era tank and battalion of skeleton soldiers dressed up in fatigues from the same time march overhead. Older fighter planes soar by in the sky, trailing their own strands behind. Consider this tech mixed with Del Toro’s baby tank and high-tech, blue-glowing handcuffs, plus Mads Mikkelson’s night vision goggles and modern-day skeleton soldiers, and there’s a strange mix of time and tech going on.

This could also support the Purgatory theory, though. If Purgatory is where everyone goes first when they  die, it would naturally be a bizarre mix of people and times from throughout human history. And perhaps the more otherworldly elements could be explained away as part of the purgatorial setup as well.

Everything is Connected

The strands in Death Stranding are definitely significant. Many of them seem to hook into people’s bodies via the belly button, as we see with Del Toro’s weird baby tank linkup, Mikkelsen’s multiple skeleton soldier tethers, and Norman Reedus’ massive abdominal scar taking up the space where his belly button should be.

In one moment, Del Toro and the baby appear to share a moment of consciousness, where they both look blankly into the camera in a similar way. Not long after, Mikkelsen's character communicates to his soldiers via hand signals, which sends them running and detaches the link cables between himself and the skeletons.

Even the poem seen at the start of the original trailer suggests the theory that all things are connected to each other and all things share significance, lending more credibility to the idea that Death Stranding is a game about shared connectivity.

This might also suggest why Reedus is seen in distress at the start of the first trailer. His scar suggests perhaps he isn’t connected to anything, or that he has lost his ability to connect to something outside of himself. Thus, he is literally disconnected and longing to find his way back.

There’s still so much to understand and learn more of. What is the significance of the babies and adults sharing the same space? What exactly is that thick, black substance leaking everywhere? Do the strands have a deeper meaning or purpose than we’re aware of?

There’s still no release date for Death Stranding, but it’s likely we’ll learn more about it from reveal trailers in the coming months. Until then, check out some neat fan theories we’ve discovered in other video games.

 

Shacknews - Steve Tyminski

Ys Origin’s release date was revealed as February 21 2017 for the PlayStation 4 and the Vita. Originally released in 2006, the updated version brings new features to the table as well as soundtrack the original was known for.

Shacknews - Steve Tyminski

At this year’s PlayStation Experience, Knack 2, the sequel to the popular franchise, was revealed and has brought plenty of excitement with it.  Knack 2 brings new gameplay features as well as co-op mode. Players will be able to play with new attacks/moves into the mix.

Shacknews - Steve Tyminski

Yakuza Kiwami is a “from the ground up” remake of the original Yakuza game for the PlayStation 2. In Kiwami there are new cut scenes as well as the aforementioned PS4 graphics. In addition, there is a fastpaced combat system that will take some time to master. It will be interesting to see what else has been added to Yakuza Kiwami so it doesn’t feel like a remake.

It was also revealed during PSX that Yakuza 6 would be getting an American release in early 2018 so fans will have to patient for that. 

Shacknews - Jason Faulkner

Edith Finch is alone in the world, everyone in her family has passed away. What Remains of Edith Finch follows Edith as she explores the history of her family in an attempt to find closure.

In the game you'll experience the lives and deaths of Edith's family members from a first-person perspective. The game comes from Giant Sparrow whose other works include The Unfinished Swan, another surrealistic first-person game.

The trailer at PlayStation Experience 2016 makes What Remains of Edith Finch look attractive. It seems like it's going to be one of those games you just have to play to know whether it's for you or not though really.

You can get What Remains of Edith Finch in Spring 2017 on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Knights of the Eternal Throne, the latest expansion for BioWare's free-to-play Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, is available now.

According to BioWare, Eternal Throne gives fans the opportunity to do something new to Star Wars games: become the ruler of the galaxy.

"This year, it’s even more personal. We’ve raised the stakes for the player as they fight to seize control of the Eternal Throne and rule the galaxy,” said Producer Ben Irving. “But that’s not the end of your story. In fact, it’s just the beginning. You must be prepared to make difficult choices along the way to not only take the throne, but also fight to keep it."

Conquering the Eternal Throne opens up the Galactic Command progression system. Predicated on combat, the progression system lets you play modes such as Uprising, where you and three allies battle enemy factions attempting to usurp their command.

Every battle asks players to choose between Light and Dark sides, and battles will break out across the galaxy in a domino-like effect.

Shacknews - Jason Faulkner

Absolver by Slocap and Devolver Digital aims to bring fluid martial arts fighting into the world of Action RPGs. You'll be able to build your own custom combinations of strikes, parries, and feints with a card-based "combat deck" system.

So far the animations look great, and I'm hoping for something a little like The Mark of the Kri with a little Jade Empire thrown on for good measure. The main attraction to Absolver seems to be the development of one's own personal martial art styles through the combat decks. It looks to add a new twist to the standard action role-playing formula, and if the trailer shown at PlayStation Experience 2016 is any indicator, it might be a good one.

You can get your hands on Absolver for PlayStation 4 (with exclusive content) and Microsoft Windows sometime in 2017.

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