Monday, September 8, 2014

Silver Bit @ Fan Expo 2014

On Friday, August 29th, yours truly made the trek down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the heart of Canada's largest city for this year's Fan Expo Canada.  Fan Expo Canada is a multi-day event annually held at the very August.  Originally the convention was made to bring together fans of multiple genres, mainly comic books, science fiction, fantasy and film, Fan Expo has gone on to include a vast range of popular media such as video games, anime, manga and horror.  Over the years, the convention has grown to fill four whole days with panels, workshops, special screenings, tournaments, meet and greets, after parties, signings and photo ops among a plethora of other attractions.  Fan Expo Canada is easily the largest convention in all of Canada as it fills both buildings of the Toronto Convention Centre to capacity.

It has been four long years since I last went to Fan Expo Canada and a whole lot has changed since then.  I was astounded on how the convention has grown in size especially video game portion of the convention.  Back in 2010, the entire convention was held in the North Building of the Toronto Convention Centre with less than five percent of that space being dedicated to video games.  This year, the video game portion of the convention took up a whole quarter of the South Building and a large area of the North Building.  The video game industry was more than well represented at Fan Expo 2014 and a lot of the thanks has to go to EB Games Canada and their Gamer Zone.  EB Games Canada brought in the likes of Ubisoft, Sony, Microsoft, Bethesda, Disney, WB Games and 2K Games to demo some of the most anticipated games coming out in the next year.  There were well over 30 games on the show floor to demo including Evolve, Destiny, Far Cry 4, Sunset Overdrive, The Evil Within, Mortal Kombat X and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.  Personally, I spent the majority of my time in this section playing all the upcoming games I could get my hands on.  Considering I went for the one day, I only got to play about a third of the games available, but it was well worth all the kilometres traveled and the time spent waiting in lines.  I look forward to sharing my impressions on the demos I played in the coming weeks.  So stay tuned.

I did not spend my entire Friday in the video game section of Fan Expo.  There were tons of vendors selling video games, comics, art books, t-shirts, framed artwork, action figures, plush toys and anything you can think of.  Out of thousands of items available to buy, I picked up two Official Nintendo Legend of Zelda shirts for 40 dollars.  A lot of time outside of the games section was spent taking pictures of all the incredible statues set up on the floor such as giant Lego statues of the Shedder and Lord Business, and life-sized models of Prowl from Transfromers G1 and the Batmobile from Batman: Arkham Knight.  I also got to watch the very first episode of Star Wars: Rebels, the new Star Wars animated TV show set between Episodes III and IV, in the John Bassett Theatre with tons of excited fans both young and old.  It was a completely different experience watching a show with hundreds of other people as you got to hear live reactions from everybody in the audience, not just yourself.  While Rebels is geared towards a young audience, I found it to be very enjoyable for Star Wars fans of all ages.  It will definitely worth a viewing when it premieres on Disney XD this October.

Last but not least, I got to meet the cast of Reviews on the Run and Electric Playground along with famous video game composer and founder of Video Games Live, Tommy Tallarico.  Even though I met most of these gaming celebrities before, I was incredibly starstruck in front of all of them.  Some people idolize athletes, film stars or musicians, I idolize people in the video games industry including the developers, journalists and game analysts.  While I may have awkwardly stumbled over my words while talking to them, they all made me feel welcomed and appreciated.  I would like to thank Victor Lucas, Ben Silverman, Jose Sanchez, Marissa Roberto, Steve Tilley, Raju Mudhar and Tommy Tallarico for making a great Fan Expo even more special for me.  It was an excellent day and I cannot wait to go again next year.

Friday, September 5, 2014

First Byte: New Nintendo 3DS

Just over a year ago, Nintendo surprised everyone with the reveal of the 2DS, a value-priced model of the 3DS without the system's signature glasses-less 3D feature.  While the opinions on the 2DS were polarizing upon its initial announcement, the system has by no means been the flop like many suggested.  In fact, the 2DS has sold well over two million units since its launch back in October of last year.  Seeing the success of the 2DS must of inspired the decision makers at Nintendo announce yet another model of the 3DS before the end of August because the Big N is at it again.

In the wee hours of the morning last Friday, Nintendo announced the New Nintendo 3DS during a Japan-only Nintendo Direct.  The New Nintendo 3DS is very similar in design to past models, but there a significant amount of additions to the hardware that justify the title of "New".  The most noticeable features of the New 3DS are the additions of a small analog nub referred to as the C-Stick, the ZL and ZR shoulder buttons, coloured face buttons and a volume slider located on the top screen.  The other features of the New 3DS include built-in NFC functionality in the touch screen for use with Amiibo, facial tracking via the inner camera to improve the line of sight for the glasses-less 3D effect, the use of Micro SD cards instead of SD cards for storage and more processing power to improve download speeds and graphics capability.  With the additional processing power, Nintendo has confirmed there will be exclusive games, such as an enhanced port of Xenoblade Chronicles, coming to the New 3DS.  Sadly, these games will not be compatible with previous versions of the system.  The New 3DS is currently set to release in both standard and XL versions on October 10th in Japan with no official announcement on worldwide release at this time.

The announcement of a brand new system, be it console or handheld, is suppose to bring excitement and joy for the next advancements in video game software and technology.  When I saw the announcement for the New 3DS, I was stunned and not in a good way.  In all honesty, I love Nintendo and the 3DS XL is one of the best designed handheld systems on the market today, but I do not understand Nintendo's incessant need to annualize the release of 3DS hardware especially when it alienates owners of previous versions.  Video game handhelds are in a completely different beast than smartphones and tablets because people look for a dedicated system to take the quality gaming experiences on the go rather than a multipurpose machine where gaming is not much of a focus.  Due to these opposing mindsets, there is no need to adapt the practice of updating hardware (no matter how minor) annually that is so prevalent in the smartphone and tablet market into Nintendo's handheld strategy.

Although I do fear Nintendo is looking at smartphones and tablets as influence more than they should, my main problem with the New 3DS stems from the exclusive games for the device.  In no way has Nintendo officially confirmed if the New 3DS is their next generation handheld, which leaves the system feeling like it is caught between the current handheld generation and whatever Nintendo creates next.  Considering the New 3DS sits amidst two handheld generations, it begs the question: why should someone buy a New 3DS when the next generation of handhelds is maybe two to three years away?  The exclusive games seems like Nintendo's way to elicit people to ignore that question, yet the install-base of the New 3DS will never reach a point where it is more viable sales-wise to release large portable franchises like Pokemon exclusively on it.  With that thought in mind, I do not see the New 3DS's exclusive games being more than Nintendo-published ports like Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, and experimental titles such as WarioWare.  In my opinion, the whole exclusive games conundrum will cause more division between the 3DS consumer base than unity because there will be two groups of gamers with systems that are compatible in some ways and incompatible in others.  Much like Nintendo's missteps with DSiWare during the DS era, it is a short-sighted move by Nintendo to coerce people into buying a New 3DS with exclusive games.

While the New Nintendo 3DS adds some highly requested features like a second analog stick and improved stereoscopic 3D, it is not needed at this point in time.  The 3DS is the most successful console on the market today.  There is no need to change up the formula or make significant changes to this system to ensure success other than continuing to release compelling software for the 3DS on a regular basis.  Gamers would rather see a remake for Majora's Mask or a new 2D Metroid over a brand new 3DS with the processing power of the Wii.  I may sound like a broken record, but Nintendo needs to focus on improving the sales of the Wii U over anything else.  The poor sales of the Wii U is the main cause of Nintendo's current financial woes, so it is better to right that ship than meddle with the one that is raking in all the money.  The final verdict on the New 3DS will have to wait until it reaches North American shores sometime in 2015.  Right now, I am no where near convinced that the New 3DS is worth my hard-earned cash especially after buying a 3DS XL earlier in this year.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Launch Station: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

In the last couple of years, crossovers have become more common on Nintendo consoles.  From full-on retail releases such as Pokemon Conquest, Project X Zone and the upcoming Hyrule Warriors to smaller experimental pieces of downloadable content like Nintendo character costumes in Monster Hunter 4 and Bayonetta 2, or special Yoshi's Story and Legend of Zelda stages for Sonic Lost World, crossovers are seeing much more attention in the video game industry now than in generations past especially here in North America.  Continuing this large surge of video game crossovers is Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, a brand new 3DS adventure that brings together two franchises that made their names on past Nintendo handhelds.

Transported to the medieval city of Labyrinthia, Professor Layton, Phoenix Wright and company are tasked with solving puzzles and winning court battles in order to help Espella Cantabella, a girl who is wrongly accused of being a witch, prove her innocence and find a way back to their respective universes.  Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is divided into two distinct sections that coincide with each franchises respective gameplay.  The Adventure section of the game will be awfully familiar to Professor Layton fans as you are searching environments for clues and interacting with characters.  Through your interactions with the environments and characters, you open up a multitude of thought-provoking puzzles which earn Picarats, the currency from the Professor Layton games used for unlocking extra puzzles and buying hints, and advance the story.  The other section of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is the Witch Trial.  This is the section where Phoenix Wright and the gameplay from the Ace Attorney series takes centre stage.  Using the clues from the Adventure section, Phoenix must cross-examine witnesses and find contradictions in their testimonies in order to pull out the not guilty verdict for Espella.  Although finding contradictions involves the standard pressing for information and presenting of evidence that the Ace Attorney faithful are accustomed to, there are a couple twists to the standard Ace Attorney formula which spice up the proceedings quite a bit.  These twists are the ability to cross-examine multiple witnesses at a time and the addition of presenting magic spells as evidence. After completing the main game, there is additional content such as special episodes and art galleries available for players to download for Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney via the Nintendo Network.

When crossing over two completely different franchises, you always wonder how their signature elements such as gameplay, audio and art style will co-exist.  In the careful hands of both Capcom and Level 5, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney looks to strike a careful balance between the unique gameplay, art styles and designs of each franchise in a way that truly compliments one another.  Although it took four long years since its initial announcement to reach North America, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney should be a quality third-party title to keep 3DS owners satisfied until major titles like Pokemon and Super Smash Bros. release this fall.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bit by Bit: August 2014

As the weeks pass, we continue to inch ever so closer to the end of the summer.  For most including yours truly, the end of summer means the beginning of school.  With a new school year, I move from the craziness of managing two jobs, this blog and life to insanity of managing four university courses, a volunteer position at the university newspaper and a co-op job search on top of everything else mentioned above.  Before all that awesomeness becomes reality, there are two more weeks to relax and make the most of the summer.  Among the large list of things to do in these two weeks, I am going to Fan Expo Canada this coming Friday, August 29th.  It has been four long years since I last went to this event and things have really changed especially on the video game side of things.  Expect plenty of impressions on Fan Expo and all the games I get a chance to demo at the event in the weeks to come.  While all that amazing content is going to coming to Silver Bit in the near future, it is that time again to take our monthly trip down memory lane in Bit by Bit.

Game of the Month
License games do not have the best reputation among gamers.  Most of these projects do a poor job in translating the properties they represent to the video game medium that many have soured to license games altogether.  Every once and awhile, there comes a diamond in the rough to show us the great potential of coupling a huge license, be it a movie, comic or television show, with this interactive medium.  The latest diamond comes from the fusion of Broforce, a side-scrolling action game made by Free Lives that honours and parodies 80s action films and unabashed American patriotism, and the Expendables, Sylvester Stallone's action movie franchise that plays with nostalgia for a bygone age of blockbuster action movies and their larger than life stars.  From this match made in heaven came the Expendabros.

Expendabros is a free standalone expansion to Broforce which gives players a taste of Broforce's hectic gameplay with bro-ified versions of the Expendables 3 cast.  To describe Expendabros' gameplay as anything short of insane would not do the game justice.  Destructible environments, bombastic weapons, buckets of pixelated blood and enough explosions to bring a tear to Michael Bay's eyes kept a grin firmly planted on my face throughout my time with the game.  As much fun as I had with with the Expendabros, I did run into a good amount of slowdown especially when there were lots of explosions on screen and while loading new levels or cutscenes that took away from my experience.  While Expendabros has a few problems, the game has put Broforce on my radar of games I need to play and I highly recommend those who own a PC to give this free game a try because it is loads of fun.

Most Anticipated Game of the Month
I try not to have many repeats for Most Anticipated Game of the Month, but Azure Striker Gunvolt is the exception especially considering the game is less than a week away from release.  Comcept and Inti Creates' spiritual successor to Mega Man Zero will be available to download from the Nintendo eShop this coming Friday, August 29th for 15 dollars.  Those who purchase Azure Striker Gunvolt within the first three months of its launch will receive Mighty Gunvolt, an 8-bit side-scrolling crossover between Gunvolt, Mighty No. 9 and Gal Gun, free of charge.  From the brief gameplay trailer, Mighty Gunvolt looks to be modeled after the NES era Mega Man games with some new gameplay twists such as character specific abilities.  Seeing as Capcom will be sitting on Mega Man aside from re-releasing past games on new platforms for the foreseeable future, I am glad that Keiji Inafune, Comcept and Inti Creates are taking it upon themselves to fill the void with quality successors to the Mega Man name.  I cannot wait to get my hands on the fruition of their hard work later this week.

Video of the Month
When was the last time a game legitimately scared you?  For me, it was BioShock.  The dark, unsettling setting of Rapture combined with its disturbing residents caused me to debate whether or not to venture further into the level or shudder over the haunting screams that echoed through those halls many times.

While I personally hate horror movies due to their predictable plots and over reliance on blood and gore, I find survival horror games and games with significant horror elements very engaging because I am directly involved in the horrific events rather than a passive observer.  With the drop in quality among survival horror games (Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark) and the need to give players an overabundance of firepower and strength in action games with horror elements (BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us), games that truly scare are few and far between.

Konami looks to change that situation with its new additions of Silent Hill, which will be developed by Kojima Productions with the help of horror movie aficionado Guillermo del Toro and starring The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus.  With a lot of big names behind these projects, it seems like Konami is finally taking the Silent Hill franchise serious once again, but that is not all Konami did.  To show the new direction for these Silent Hills, Konami released P.T. (Playable Teaser) as a free download on PS4.  The one-two punch of the announcement trailer and playable teaser has generated an incredible amount of excitement for these new installments in the Silent Hill franchise.  I strongly encourage everybody to try out the unique yet incredibly scary P.T. for themselves or watch a walkthrough online if you do not own a PS4.  While P.T. may be more of an interactive experience than a game, it is something that all gamers mature enough should take the time to experience.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Byte: Destiny

Unless you were living under a rock sometime during the end of July, a beta for a little game called Destiny was released to the masses.  While Bungie did give a small taste of Destiny through the PS4 exclusive alpha back in June, the beta marked the first time gamers got a substantial piece of the game to play.  Available from July 17th to 27th on Sony consoles (PS3 and PS4) and July 23rd to 27th on Microsoft consoles (Xbox 360 and Xbox One), the Destiny beta gave players five story missions and one strike co-op mission to complete, the Old Russia wastelands and Guardian Tower to explore and the Control PvP match-type to compete in along with some addition content such as a new story mission and PvP match-type only opened for brief periods throughout the beta.  With the financial backing of publishing powerhouse Activision and the unstained reputation of developer Bungie, Destiny has easily become the most anticipated game of 2014 well before people ever got their hands on the game.  This beta marked a chance for millions of gamers the world over to try this major title without dropping 70 dollars to buy it or spending hundreds to play it at a gaming convention.  The Destiny beta was an unprecedented event, but that leaves one question: did it succeed in convincing those skeptical to buy the game and reinforcing the beliefs of those already excited for the game?  Although the true answer to that question will only be revealed on September 9th when Destiny is released to the public, I will be sharing my initial opinions on Destiny and recap my experience with the beta in this edition of First Byte.

Before launching right into the game, the Destiny beta starts off in a character creation screen.  In this screen, players choose their class (titan, warlock or hunter), sex (male or female), race (Human, Exo or Awoken) and other physical features.  As I am not the most adverse at character creators, I only spent a few minutes creating my unique Exo warlock.  Those interested in tweaking every little feature of their character to perfection might be disappointed in Destiny's focus on using preset features and colours for character creation; however it does keep players from spending an unnecessary amount of time in these menus and moves them into the action right away.

After finishing the character creation, the first cutscene plays setting up the conflict between the Traveler and the Darkness and the players' need to bear arms against the threat of the Darkness.  The first mission starts as my character is resurrected by a Ghost (your character's robot companion played by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage) and it plays out much like your standard fare tutorial introducing the core mechanics of the game.  Considering you gain one level every mission in the early stages of Destiny, the four other introductory missions are very similar as each one introduces a new element of the game such as special moves, vehicles, public events and new enemy races.  Once you complete the first mission, you are given access to the Tower, Destiny's social and non-combat hub.  While at the Tower, players are able to view messages, buy new weapons, armour and ship upgrades, decode encrypted items, store items in vaults, take on single and multiplayer bounties and interact with fellow guardians.  Exploring the Tower offers players a peaceful distraction outside the intense firefights of missions and multiplayer matches.  The Tower is not the only place guardians are able to roam as players can explore each major setting of the game at their leisure.  In these "explore" areas are loot caches to find, enemies to fight, secret areas to discover and side missions that come in the form of beacons to complete.  Considering I did not get a chance to play the multiplayer portion of the beta, Destiny's open world areas are where I spent most of my time and I spent most of my time exploring Destiny's open world areas and they were a fun way to kill some time.

Although I am not a huge fan of first-person shooters, Destiny got its hooks in me.  Even with the limited selection of missions and activities to do, I kept on coming back every chance I had and I believe it had to do with Destiny's excellent hybridization of expertly polished FPS gameplay with the empowering abilities and skills found in many RPGs.  The gun play is very reminiscent of Bungie's entries into the Halo series as each gun has its own strengths and weaknesses in effectively dealing with different situations from long distance shootouts to up close and personal brawls.  The RPG elements are excellently implemented as players gain levels independent of learning new skills such as hovering, draining health when using your melee or supercharged special moves.  Gaining levels never feels like a grind because there are plenty of opportunities to earn experience through missions, explore mode, multiplayer matches and public events.  Another impressive element of Destiny comes from the enemy AI.  It floors me how well the enemies react to your tactics by moving from cover to cover, flanking when you are busy fighting another enemy or swarming when you make a mistake.  Destiny's enemies are unlike the regular FPS grunts as they offer a considerable yet satisfying challenge for players of any skill level.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Destiny, there are still a few issues I ran into during the beta.  The most prevalent issues came with the side missions and public events in explore mode as I ran into far too many missions and events with the exact same objectives.  The randomized nature of these activities is definitely a factor in this repetition, but Bungie should make a large enough pool of side missions and public events in order to avoid repetition of missions and events altogether.  The other issues I found were more graphical glitches like a enemy teleporting through objects, errant collision boxes the level designers forgot to remove or stuttering during loading screens, which are not that serious.  Hopefully, the beta helped the programmers and designers at Bungie find all the bugs and balancing issues needed to make Destiny a better game come launch.

Skepticism best describes my opinion of Destiny before taking part in the beta.  Due to the incredible marketing might Activistion is putting behind it, there is no doubt that Destiny will be a success upon its release, but would it actually be live up to the hype is whole other question.  The excellent quality of the Destiny beta has completely changed my opinion on the game.  In a year with a significant lack of triple A titles, Destiny will shine brighter than any game on the market this holiday season, possibly challenging Call of Duty in sales.  We will only know come September 9th if Destiny is the revolution in console MMOs that it is being hyped to be, but I do believe we are on the cusp of something special regardless.

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014: Year of the Delay

Delays are a natural part of any industry.  Nothing ever goes exactly to plan as issues and problems can occur at anytime during production to negatively affect the estimated time of arrival.  In the video game industry, delays come about regularly as developers run into game-breaking bugs that need additional time to receive the necessary attention or publishers search for the perfect release date for their game to succeed.  While there are quite a few games that slip past their original release date each year, 2014 has seen a large amount of major releases delayed until 2015.  So many delays, in fact, each one seems to make 2014 feel more like a barren wasteland for major releases.

The whole of 2013 was solely focused on launching two brand new systems in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the heralds of the next generation of video games.  With those brand new consoles, the promise of games to justify their cost and hype was not too far behind.  After experiencing many console launches, a drought of games immediately following the release of these systems was to be expected, but to have this lack of major releases extend the majority of 2014 cannot be overlooked.  Although the good amount of downloadable releases may satisfy the most dedicated gamers between major releases, the vast majority does not scour the PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace or Nintendo eShop regularly for games to buy.  Sadly that vast majority focuses on the larger retail titles such as Call of Duty, The Last of Us and Watch Dogs over downloadable games like Child of Light, Shovel Knight and Transistor.  The games being delayed until 2015 (Batman: Arkham Knight, Evolve, The Division and Witcher III) are the system sellers for these next generation consoles and delaying these games until following year will cause more people to hold out on buying a PS4 or Xbox One for the time being.  Each time a major release is delayed, it adds more fuel to the argument that the next generation came a year before it was actually ready.

Despite all the negativity surrounding game delays, they are necessary and beneficial part of the video game industry.  Delays offer developers more time to fix bugs, polish mechanics, balance features and refine a game's content, which all result in making a better product.  Rushing a game to market, especially in an unfinished state, to meet a deadline can do a lot of damage to a company's image than actual good.  While the extra time benefits a game, there are some current trends involving delays that can have an averse effect on a game.  These trends include delaying a game just a few weeks before its release (Rayman Legends), over-hyping a game before its delay to go completely silent on it afterwards (Watch Dogs) and setting a release date for a game in order to push pre-orders before delaying it (Batman: Arkham Knight).  These trends alienate the loyal fans that look to support these games through pre-orders, buying collector's editions and paying for season passes by literally pulling the rug out from under them.  Playing with the emotions of the most passionate fans is an easy way to sour their opinions towards a certain game or game company.  Developers and publishers need to let delays be for the betterment of the games and learn to keep their audience's emotions in mind when announcing and handling these crucial situations.

Although it may be a tough pill to swallow, delays are an inevitable part of the video game industry.  They are needed to handle the unpredictable nature of game development, but gamers, publishers and developers all need to find better ways of dealing with them especially as development costs rise and the ability to connect with one another becomes more available.  As a gamer, it is disappointing to see the list of major releases in 2014 dwindle every month as many get pushed to 2015, but all hope is not lost.  There are many other options for gamers to spend their valuable time with than just the larger triple A titles including a wide selection of value-priced downloadable games or a vast backlog of games missed out on from previous years.  While 2014 may be a soft year for major game releases, best use the extra time to discover brand new experiences or rediscover those you missed out on from years past.  The games we are all excited about will eventually see the light of day; we just have to be a little more patient.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bit by Bit: July 2014

July has been an incredibly busy month.  Funny enough, it has been busy for every reason except gaming.  Once the final article for E3 2014 went up at the end of June, my life has consisted of endlessly working on a large report for an online course, picking up numerous shifts at my two jobs and volunteering for the university newspaper.  The little free time I had was spent away from the keyboard and either with friends trying to make the most of the summer or in front of a television re-watching Gundam Wing (one of my favourite animes) in its entirety.  To sum things up, Silver Bit has been the least of worries for the past month, but those priorities change now as I have a lot planned for August in order to end this summer as strong as it started.  Stay tuned to Silver Bit as the best is yet to come, I promise.  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let us look back at the month that was July 2014.

Game of the Month
When I snuck in some time to play games, there was one game which dominated my time.  If you paid attention to Silver Bit at all during July, you would have seen the review of said game posted a couple weeks ago.  Yes, Shovel Knight is the Game of the Month and rightfully so, the game is phenomenal.  Even after completing the game on Normal, I return to play a few levels in New Game+, search for hidden music sheets and maximize my treasure count.  I can rant and rave about Shovel Knight for hours on end, but I highly recommend reading the review to get my full opinion on the game.  If you are already enjoying Shovel Knight especially the music, the soundtrack and arranged album for the game are both available on composer Jake Kaufman's Bandcamp for any price you would like to pay.  Both albums work as excellent accompanying pieces to Shovel Knight and are highly recommended to anyone who enjoys video game music.  With that all said and done, I cannot stress how wonderful Shovel Knight is.  It is a game that needs to be experienced and at the low price of 15 dollars, there is no excuse to miss out on this adventure.

Most Anticipated Game of the Month
July 17th marked the start of the most anticipated beta in years, the Destiny beta.  The last time a beta was so highly anticipated was way back in 2007 with the Halo 3 beta and coincidentally the Destiny beta comes from the studio that originally created Halo-- Bungie.  A mere pre-order for Destiny gave you full access to the beta upon its release.  Even with that extremely low barrier of entry, those already in the beta received two addition beta codes in order to encourage others to play the beta and gain access to all the content in the beta including the cooperative strike mission (Destiny's equivalent to raids found in other massively multiplayer online games).  If you owned any Microsoft or Sony console, there was no reason not to play the Destiny beta during the last two weeks of July.  While I will be going into much further detail in an upcoming edition of First Byte, I want to share some of my initial thoughts on Destiny here.  Considering my youngest brother hogged the PS4 almost day and night to play the beta, I enjoyed the limited time with Destiny I snuck in between his long sessions.  It blends the expertly polished gameplay of Bungie's entries in the Halo series with the unique RPG elements of Borderlands to great success.  Nowadays, the FPS genre is full of shallow experiences that aim to imitate the latest Michael Bay action movie rather than create a compelling game with actual depth that Destiny feels so refreshing.  While I do not have a high opinion on the current direction of the genre, Destiny stands out as a first-person shooter that I am actually excited for and in all honesty that does not happen often.  I cannot wait to spend some quality time with Destiny come September unless my brother decides to commit every waking moment to playing the game.

Video of the Month
Another month, another Smash Bros. reveal.  This time around we did not get just one new addition to the roster, Nintendo dropped three.  Newcomers Robin and Lucina from Fire Emblem Awakening join the returning Captain Falcon as the newest members of the Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U roster.  The reveal trailer blends the anime-style graphics of Awakening's cutscenes with gameplay footage from the new Smash Bros. in a way that makes both art styles compliment one another.  Much like the other reveal trailers, the video speaks for itself.  So sit back, relax and let Mr. Sakurai take you for a ride.