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10 thoughts on how to play Mario Kart 7 online 19/02/2012

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Mario Kart 7 cover

Rev up those thumbs because Mario Kart is back to help Nintendo pull ahead in the tight portable console race against the new Sony kid on the block. With a new stereoscopic paint lick but a largely unchanged chassis, all eyes are set on Mario Kart 7′s online multiplayer to determine whether it will give the 3DS an easy lead or leave it lagging behind. Has Nintendo learnt from their noob mistakes of previous online experiences? Is the game still fun, infuriating, or a bit of both? Here are 10 things you will learn about life, yourself and Mario Kart 7 when you play it online.

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Super Mario 3D Land review – Out of the box 19/01/2012

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Super Mario 3D Land game cover

A Nintendo system without a Mario game is like a Meryl Streep film without a crying close-up: a lot of things going for it but essentially incomplete. This is why Nintendo’s latest hardware offering, the intriguing 3DS, had been feeling a lot more River Wild than Sophie’s Choice in its first eight months of shelf life. However, November finally saw the release of the awkwardly yet fittingly titled new Mario game Super Mario 3D Land. Forget Mii-infested Pilotwings and rehashes of old legends: it’s been a long and complicated birth but the real launch title of the N3DS is at last with us.

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Tetsuya Mizuguchi Profile: The real Child of Eden (II) 02/08/2011

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In the second part of this Tetsuya Mizuguchi profile, we have a look at his most relevant games published under Q Entertainment, including some of his external collaborations and his latest masterpiece Child of Eden.

Q Entertainment logo

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Tetsuya Mizuguchi Profile – The real Child of Eden (I) 01/07/2011

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With his latest game Child of Eden out this month on Xbox 360, Tetsuya Mizuguchi is back after a few years away from the headlines. Auteur extraordinaire, Mizuguchi belongs to the pantheon of Japanese game designers with an uncanny ability for tapping into the avant-garde whilst still producing accessible gaming experiences.

Tetsuya Mizuguchi

His games often borrow from existing, validated concepts (like Tetris or Space Harrier), but his genius provides them with a sensorial overload that completely transforms them into organic experiences. In other words, his creations are a total trip – it has become a running joke in the industry that Mizuguchi’s games come from (and are meant to be played in) an, ahem, altered state of mind.

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Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together Review: Safety in Numbers 20/06/2011

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Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, the eldest and often overlooked sibling of the Tactics RPG family, finally made it to European shores last February without much funfare. Harking back to a time where terms like “quicksave” and “difficulty spikes” hadn’t even been coined, Tactics Ogre is a slow-burning experience for gamers with an acquired taste in chess and arithmetics. But is it possible to find sentiment in the anorak joy of accuracy percentages and critical hit ratios?

Tactics Ogre Jobs

A perfect circle

Square-Enix, notoriously shameless when it comes to reawakening and repackaging dead relics from their illustrious pantheon (the irony of them now owning the Tomb Raider license!), surprised everyone last year by announcing that a so-called ‘reinvention’ of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was in the making for the PSP, and that they had intentions to distribute it worldwide. The game, a tactical RPG originally developed for the SNES by indie developer Quest with Yasumi Matsuno at helm, had only made it to North America via a PSX port, with Europe missing it altogether. Such an under-the-radar title only found fame retrospectively, mainly after the success of its spiritual follow-up Final Fantasty Tactics in the United States. The very few copies available of Tactics Ogre soon shot up in value and the game ascended to cult limbo, accessible only to a few Westerners. Until now.

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A Question of Time: Best Videogame Countdowns (the 3D years) 13/06/2011

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Countdown

With the arrival of high performance graphics cards for PC’s and 32-bit consoles in the mid 90′s, the videogame industry started to step up their game: polygonal models and 3D environments became de rigueur, music compositions using orchestras seeped into soundtracks and game scenarios became more ambitious, allowing for some cinematic mannerisms to be incorporated into scripts to heighten the drama – and what could be more thrilling than a heart-in-mouth countdown, now that hardware allowed for all sorts of sturm und drang? Here’s a look at some of the most memorable ones, in chronological order.

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Nintendo E3 2011 Conference: Live blogging (with a hint of Dark Coffee) 07/06/2011

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Of all videogame companies, Nintendo is by far the one that inspires the most heated debates. Loved with the same intensity as it is criticised by others, the only thing you can’t say Nintendo doesn’t do is leave anyone indifferent.

Iwata onstage

Wii U? Non Mii? WTF?

With E3 2011 unofficially kicking off with their keynote, and considering previous sections of their past presentations have become the stuff of legend on the Internet, let’s have a look at some of the highlights of their 2011 conference (times are GMT throughout, 5pm = 9am Pacific Time):

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A Question of Time: Best Videogame Countdowns (the 2D years) 24/05/2011

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…only when the clock stops does time come to life.  ~William Faulkner

Castlevania Clock Tower

Time. You can’t anticipate it, freeze it or bring it back, but you can certainly waste it. For such an abstract concept, time oversees most of the decisions we make in life, both in the short term (like the cinema listings for tonight) or in the long run (the realisation that you’ve spent ten years in the same job). Because of its inescapable and ruthless nature, humankind has always had a long fascination with time, or rather with the names and conventions created to frame it: calendars, the ticking of the clocks, birthdays and anniversaries, even to the point of creating numeric representations to tally up its passing and add a sense of importance to our menial existence.

It’s precisely because of this that many videogames, specially those with a need to tell a STORY, deal with issues such as growing up, growing old and the passing of time, or advance their plot by using flashbacks or flashforwards, very much in the style of other mediums like cinema or literature. One of videogame’s most memorable flashbacks involves a certain platinum-haired egomaniac burning down a whole town in a bout of controlled rage (and if you are not sure what I am talking about here, maybe you have reached the wrong website). Role-playing games, with their need to pad out a story to reach a dizzying number of hours of gameplay, are in fact the masters of giving the player a sense of journey, from humble beginnings to masters of the universe in exchange for the time invested in front of the screen.

Other genres, like racers and some platformers, choose to make time their raison d’être, not just as a plot device but as a determining element in gameplay, meaning it’s game over if the countdown reaches zero. Some games are built on a constant necessity of reaching the next checkpoint, others bring out the clock  at specific moments to tighten the screws of lethargic gamers. Let’s have a look, in chronological order, at some of the GREATEST VIDEOGAME COUNTDOWNS:

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Donkey Kong Country Returns – Nintendo’s banana skin moment 04/05/2011

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14 years after his last outing, Nintendo has surprised everyone by bringing Donkey Kong back to one of his most famous territories, the Donkey Kong Country famed by British developers Rareware. Magnificently quirky experiments aside (DK Jungle Beat), Donkey Kong and friends had been filling their spare time since their 90′s heyday cameoing in the usual Nintendo-rostered games (Mario Kart and Smash Bros) or headlining portable fare with some solid successes (the Mario VS DK series for the GBA and DS) and some fillers (King of Swing). Donkey Kong Country Returns picks up where we left the simian gang around the time of Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble, the third game in the original Country trilogy, hoping to recreate the magic and accompanying sales of the Super Nintendo classics. Shame that what these monkeys need in 2010 is something Nintendo just cannot give them: a trip in space and time to Rare’s offices in Twycross, Leicestershire circa 1995.

Chimps
Monkey cryogenics

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Last Window: The Secret of Cape West Review – A Room with No View 13/04/2011

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Cing’s swansong adventure for the Nintendo DS starts as a study in the sublimation of idleness, with a protagonist haunted by introspection and plenty of wandering around empty corridors unraveling an improbable mystery. But is Cing trying to send out an S.O.S. or deliberately boring everyone, including themselves, to death?

Last Window snoozefest
This is how it always ends

Cing is a small Japanese studio founded in 1999 who, after publishing a handful of mobile games in their homeland, gained international notoriety with the release of the adventure game Another Code: Two Memories for the Nintendo DS in 2005. Another Code was a minor hit worldwide, and although it had an interesting premise and enough aplomb to pull off a story about dysfunctional parenthood in a +7 rated game, it sold well mainly because the DS catalogue was in its infancy back then. If ever a game was deserving of the cult hit tag, Another Code was it. Their follow up, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 didn’t exactly fight hard to dismiss this tag: a slow-burning interactive novel with a convoluted plot but a striking style (hand drawn visuals and jazzy codas), unlike anything else on the console.

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West is a sequel to Hotel Dusk and was released in early 2010 in Japan and in autumn of the same year in Europe. It also happens to be Cing’s last ever release, as the company filed for bankruptcy in March 2010. The game follows in the steps of Hotel Dusk, with the same artistic direction, the same interface (holding the DS book-style, with the touchscreen acting as a 2D navigational map and a shoddy 3D environment in the other screen), the same protagonist (Kyle Hyde, a retired cop with more skeletons in the closet than Montgomery Clift) and a very similar premise (an enclosed set with a buried secret).

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