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Stephen Duetzmann

E3 (The Electronic Entertainment Expo) is one of the biggest opportunities each year for game developers and publishers to make surprise announcements to help build interest in their games.

As a result, there is often wild speculation as to what we will see by the end of the week. The wildest speculation, however, is aimed directly at the five major press events at the beginning of the week.

All the big guys have posted their predictions already, but we here at Engaged Family Gaming would be remiss if we didn’t publish our own thoughts. We put our heads together and came up with three very solid predictions.

 

1. Nintendo will announce a Super Mario Galaxy HD Collection

The WiiU just isn’t moving units right now, but the system itself isn’t the entire problem. Instead, players are faced with a severe lack of games to play on the hardware. Third party publishers are not bringing major games to the console and Nintendo has been slow to release its own titles. There have literally been entire MONTHS without a major WiiU release. This is a significant problem because it devalues the experience.

Nintendo has a chance to alleviate some of this problem by releasing remastered versions of their successful Wii games. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are perfect examples of games that would be well received by fans and would help fill that gap.

This collection would be a day one purchase in my house and would be a great way for younger children to experience one of the best Mario games in history.

 

2. The hardware manufacturer’s will cut the prices for last generation consoles.

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are selling well, but they don’t even come close to having the massive install bases of their predecessors. Many companies are still making what are called “cross-gen” games meaning that they are produced for both current and previous generation consoles. As a result, there is value in capitalizing on the old tech with late adopters.

We predict that at least two of the three hardware manufacturers will drop prices.

 

3. The Last Guardian will finally be shown… again.

The Last Guardian, a PlayStation exclusive title being developed by Team ICO, has been in development for the better part of a decade. But, it has only been shown at E3 once (2009!) The previous games released by Team ICO were some of the most artful games every made so virtually the entire gaming world has been hungry for The Last Guardian since it was shown off.

You might be asking yourself…. Why is Engaged Family Gaming making a prediction about a game that hasn’t been shown off since 2009? Why do we even really care?

Good question. The last game developed by Team ICO was Shadows of the Colossus. This game was transformative for the video games industry because it clearly demonstrated that emotion and story could be conveyed through the game mechanics themselves. If they could do that in 2005, then one can only imagine what they have managed to pull off since then.

We predict that The Last Guardian will be shown off and that we will see a release date somewhere in 2015. (Although we would be more than happy to see a 2014 release date.)

 

 

What about you? Do you have any predictions you would like to share with us? Post them in the comments and we can circle back after the show and see how we all did!

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E3 2014 (The Electronic Entertainment Expo) is taking place next week in Los Angeles, CA. This is a major trade show sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association wherein major publishers and developers gather to show off their work.

This event is closed to the public, but fortunately the press will be there in force. Every major outlet, and some small ones, will be there in force to help spread the word. The bigger publishers and hardware manufacturers like Sony, Nintendo, and Electronic Arts all hold their own major press briefings that are streamed online. (Sony will even be streaming their event in some movie theatres across the country!)

It should be apparent by now that this coming week is a big deal in the gaming industry. Savvy parents also turn their attention to the games that come out of E3 because many of them will end up on wish lists for birthdays and other holidays.

We’ll be spending a lot of time over the next week (and likely the weeks beyond) talking about the games families will be interested in. So make sure to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and bookmark this page to make sure you get all the news you can handle!

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Engaged Family Gaming Logo

I’m just going to be honest here. Getting my hands of Mario Kart 8 has be hungry for the classic Nintendo art style in the same glorious high definition. I spent the entirety of the Wii’s life cycle claiming that HD wasn’t important. I was convinced that I would be happy with what I had. At the time I was, but I have now seen the light and I want more!

Nintendo has a massive catalog of games that could be updated to HD without a “huge” amount of effort. These HD remakes would help fill the drought while we wait for new games to arrive.

Here are some of the games on my personal wish list. I would love to here you’re suggestions in the comments!

Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy II

This is the most obvious pick of anything on this list. The Mario Galaxy series contains two fo the best Mario games ever made. They brought Mario back to 3D in an inventive way and with a playful art style that would look glorious with an update.

If Nintendo is even thinking about doing more HD remakes beyond Windwaker then these should be at the very top of that list.

Metroid Prime Trilogy

A fresh coat of HD paint would work wonders here. These are three great games that were already bundled together once with great success.

The Metroid Prime Trilogy isn’t universally loved, but they are amazing sci-fi shooters that could help fill a gap for parents looking to give their shooter-curious children something to play until they are ready for Call of Duty or Battlefield.

Legend of Zelda:Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess

Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD was a great idea. It stands to reason that these next two games in the series would be work out well also.

Fans have been hungry for the next Zelda installment for WiiU since it was teased at E3. One, or both, of these titles remasted in HD would be a great way to give Zelda fans something to play in the meantime.

It is also worth noting that the best version of Twilight Princess was on the Gamecube where it did not have motion controls. This would give players another chance to play through the game as it was originally designed.

Luigi’s Mansion

My wife made me put this here (because it is her favorite game). The more I think about an HD remake the more I like it. Luigi’s Mansion was a unique concept that was our first real opportunity to play as Luigi.

This is an underrated title and a fresh coat of paint would make it a welcome addition to the WiiU lineup even if the year of Luigi is over.

Xenoblade Chronicles

Monolith Software crafted a masterpiece, but the one thing holding it back were its antiquated visuals. The game “felt” like it should have been produced in HD. We know that Monolith is already working on a new game that they are calling “X.” But, is it too much to ask that they farm the HD remaster out to another company so we can have something to fill our time until then?

 

What about you? What HD remasters do you think Nintendo needs to put out? Sound off in the comments!

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Pushmo World for WiiU

Pushmo and Crashmo have been huge successes on the Nintendo eShop on 3DS. So much so that a release on the Wii U was inevitable. Pushmo World will launch on June 19th exclusively on the Nintendo eShop on Wii U at a price of $9.99.

Pushmo World is a game designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages. Mallo and Papa Blox are adorable characters that are designed to appeal to kids. The puzzle-based game play will be attaractive to long time gamers looking to for new challenges.

Players are given the task of solving three-dimensional puzzles by pushing blocks around on a 3d plane and climbing to the top. The challenge increases over time by introducing larger puzzles with more moving pieces. But, fear not! If players get overwhelmed by a puzzle they can skip ahead to the next one.

Pushmo World will also feature “almost endless replay value by letting players create their own puzzles!” Once a player completes (and solves) their puzzle they can then share it using a built-in QR code generator or through the World Pushmo Fair.

Pushmo World looks like a great puzzle game for the whole family and a whole lot of game for $10! Keep your eyes here at Engaged Family Gaming for more news and a review as we get closer to the release!

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Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, TT Games and The LEGO Group have announced LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. It will release during the fall of 2014for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo 3DS, and PC.

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is the next installment in the LEGO series of games that has sold more than 100 million units worldwide. Simply put: These games are HUGE and there is no sign that they will slow down.

LEGO Batman 3 looks like it will build off the momentum from last year’s Smash hit LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. This time around we will see the massive cast of characters from the DC universe jump into the action! TTgames has confirmed that the adventure will include over 150 member of the DCU cast including members of the Justice League and several LEGO big figures like Killer Croc and Solomon Grundy!

We will obviously hear more as the release comes closer. Keep your eyes here at Engaged Family Gaming for all your LEGO game news!

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Pokemon Art Academy
Togepi drawing

Togepi, a Pokemon, will look adorable when drawn by your child!

In the game players enroll at the Pokemon Art Academy and learn how to draw all of their favorite Pokemon! The game play is built around step-by-step lessons that help provide instructions using the 3DS Touch Screen and stylus. Players will even be able to share their creations via the MiiVerse, the SpotPass feature, and local wireless. They will even be able to save their word to an SD card and print it out! (I think I need to increase my budget for printer ink and paper now…)

This is an exciting product for Pokemon fans (young and old). The world needs a new batch of artists and animators and sometimes all it takes is a little nudge in that direction. This game could be that nudge. (Do you have a budding artist in your home? Sound off in the comments and let us know if you think they will be interested!)

This is a great opportunity for young and enthusiastic artists to start to learn the techniques that they can carry with them to art class. Keep your eyes here at Engaged Family Gaming as more details emerge!

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 The News in Brief

The Federal Communications Commission ruled (3-2) last week in favor of “net neutrality” rules that may allow for internet service providers to charge a premium for data “fast lanes.” This would potentially allow them to improve their service speed for those web providers and customers with the deepest pockets while leaving the rest of us behind. The FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has denied that this is the intention, but the passed regulations do not specifically ban these so-called “fast lanes” so it is safe to assume that internet service providers will take advantage of this option as a means to increase revenue.

Opponents are calling this type of “pay for priority” system dangerous. They feel that by dividing the internet into the fast and the slow the “rest of us” will be relegated to the slow lane and the providers will have no real incentive to increase that speed. This could have a significant impact on smaller websites (like ours) that don’t have the deep pockets necessary to deliver content at the higher speed.

Why Should Parents Care?

 We are ushering our children into a digital age. Their interactions with school, each other, and the rest of the world are becoming more and more dependent on their internet connection. Any potential restrictions on internet usage will have a significant impact on them. Many of the potential outcomes of these rulings might not come into play for years which will make adapting to these changes more difficult for them as they develop habits as children. Frankly, even if there are no real restrictions the potential increase in costs for web based services are something to worry about.

These types of potential restrictions could also put a stranglehold on innovation across the internet. Think about all of the web services that you use right now: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc. These sorts of services have come to dominate our lives, but these new rules run the risk of strangling these types of innovations in the face of bigger spending from existing competition.

To their credit the FCC has left the rules open for comment for the next 120 days. This gives each of us the chance to do just that. The Electronic Freedom Foundation has set up a website called DearFCC.org where you can complete their form and submit it.

Head on over to their site and then share this with other parents who might need some “encouragement!”

 

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The Demo for Mario Kart 8 is now available for play at GameStop locations across the country. This is a great chance for anyone who is on the fence about purchasing the title to get some hands-on time.

I brought my eight year old son to our local store over the weekend and we were lucky enough to be able to spend some uninterrupted time playing it. Below are some of our impressions:

1. WHOA!!

This is easily the best looking Nintendo game I have ever played. The colors were vibrant. The animations were smooth. The lighting effects were superb too. I couldn’t find even the smallest nit to pick with the visuals. What was best about Mario Kart 8 is that it didn’t just impress me. It made me hungry for another 3D Mario game. (Ahem. Nintendo. Super Mario Galaxy U please! Thanks!)

2. The Racers

This was everything I could have wanted in a Mario Kart game: a wide range of racers and huge pile of Kart customization options. If there is any complaint that one could have about the racers it is that there are a LOT of babies.

3. The Tracks

There is a ton of racetrack diversity. I was amazed with the number of tracks we could race on and how different they all were and we were just playing the demo! This game is going to be heavily played for a long time. My personal favorite was Sunshine Airport. It forced me to choose between multiple paths, and seeing massive planes take off and land throughout the race was a sight to see!

4. The Anti-Gravity Effect

My biggest concern going in to Mario Kart 8 was that the Anti-Gravity effect would be difficult to adjust to. It turns out that there was nothing to be concerned about at all. It is clear that Nintendo put a lot of effort into making sure that the signature effect in the game was done right. The camera rotates along with you as your kart climbs walls and rides ceilings. There were times that I didn’t even realize I was upside down until I took a sharp turn and started crashing downwards towards the ground!

At the end of the day, this was just a demo, but it gave me and my son a lot to look forward to!

 

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The News

Microsoft has announced a new version of its newest console, the Xbox One, that will not include the Kinect sensor. It will be available on June 9, 2014 and will retail for $399. Pre-orders are available now at GameStop, Best Buy, and Amazon.

There is plenty of room to question the decision to unbundle the Kinect. Considering the amount of time that Microsoft had spent pre-launch talking about how essential the Kinect was to the Xbox experience but, it all becomes clearer when you look at the sales figures.

Earlier this year Sony reported that it sold 7 million units to consumers, whereas Microsoft confirmed that they had shipped 5 million units. The distinction between shipped and sold  is important because it does not guarantee that all 5 million of those units have been purchased by consumers. Some of those consoles could be languishing on retail shelves, waiting to be taken home. The sales gap is even more significant when you consider that Microsoft had gathered a huge amount of momentum on the back of the spectacular Xbox 360.

This decision is not all sunshine and dollar bills, though. It does run the risk of alienating early adopters who paid a premium for a “required” Kinect sensor when it is no longer mandatory. Also, it hazards the frustration of developers who were going to (or currently are) developing Kinect-enabled or Kinect-only games. Only time will truly tell what the future holds for Microsoft.

Why should families care?

There are two reasons why this is relevant to families.

First, families will pretty much always take note anytime a console becomes less costly to purchase. This new version brings the Xbox One in line with the PlayStation 4 price wise. The change will simplify the decision-making process for some people, while complicating it for others, as it will become a battle of software.

Secondly, the Kinect sensor was one of the most significant ways that the Xbox One differentiated itself from the PlayStation 4. This decision homogenizes the playing field for these two units.

Obviously, families can still opt for the Xbox One edition that includes the Kinect sensor (at the original $499 price).They can also opt to buy a separate sensor at a later time, but it is difficult to know at this stage, exactly what the best value will be.

What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments!

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Nintendo
ESRB – E for everyone
Reviewed on 3DS

Overall Review:

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was released on the SNES and is regarded by many as one of the best games in the franchise. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (LBW) is a 3DS sequel that is so similar to the original that it almost feels like putting on a good pair of running shoes. Link even swings his sword with the same sweeping arc. This game just “feels” good.

LBW isn’t just a great source of nostalgia though, it is just short of a work of art. The animation is beautiful despite its simplicity and the score is top notch. I have a tendency to play a lot of 3DS games with the sound turned all the way down. That is simply not an option here. The orchestral soundtrack is one to be enjoyed and stands up to some of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. Trust me parents when I say that you will NOT grow tired of this music as you might think you will. It is just that good.

I may be a sucker for bringing my favorite games into the modern era, but Nintendo made a number of adjustments to LBW to help make it more accessible to a newer audience. They accomplished this by removing most of the rigidity found in other Zelda titles, abandoning  the standard dungeon formula that players had grown used to over the last few decades. Instead, players are allowed to tackle dungeons in virtually any order that they choose. This is aided by the ability to rent all of the different items and weapons early on. It results in a brilliant change that encourages experimentation and exploration early on in the experience

Family Gaming Assessment:

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a sword and sorcery themed adventure along the lines of the Lord of The Rings. As such, players take on the role of Link, a young hero, and use a sword, bow and arrow, bombs, and other weapons to defeat fantasy creatures that range from skeletons to sentient slimes.

The conflict in this game is resolves almost purely through combat. But, despite all of that, there is very little to be concerned about. Link’s enemies are very rarely human and they all vanish in puffs of smoke when defeated.

The art style of the game sports a playful and childish aesthetic that helps drive home how harmless the combat is in this title.

Playability Assessment:

This is a very challenging game. Players are asked to explore a large open map to locate dungeons that are essentially puzzle-filled mazes. Link is provided with multiple weapons that double as tools to help solve the various puzzles he encounters. The true challenge comes from balancing all of these tools to solve puzzles while monsters are hunting you down!

There are multiple sources of information available to help solve the various puzzles within the game so they shouldn’t be a deal breaker on their own. But, if your child is easily frustrated or dislikes puzzles and puzzle game play, then this is a hard game to recommend.

Conclusion:

This is a must own for just about any 3DS owner.

 

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