Original Diablo Coming to Diablo 3

At BlizzCon 2016, Blizzard announced that the original Diablo will be recreated in Diablo 3. The original game is considered a classic — one of the most popular, critically acclaimed, and influential role-playing games of all time. It’s fantastic that 20 years after its release, Diablo will get to be enjoyed and appreciated by a whole new generation of gamers. For those that were around for the original, the reimagined version is certain to be a glorious stroll down memory lane. Whether you’re a veteran of the series or a newcomer, this is a fitting tribute to a legendary game.

Here’s some of what Blizzard has promised for the upcoming remake.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake Trailer (FFVII Remake)

Sony has released a trailer for the Final Fantasy VII Remake (FFVII Remake) for PlayStation 4. It’s a mix of cutscenes and gameplay footage. Many gamers swear that the original is the best role-playing game (RPG) of all time, while others feel that it’s immensely overrated. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, there’s not denying that the original was highly influential and that the FFVII Remake will be a huge deal.

The FFVII Remake trailer shows an early portion of the game that fans of the original will certainly know. It’s the intro mission, featuring protagonist Cloud Strife, supporting character Barret Wallace, and a bunch of AVALANCHE scrubs. As someone that played the original multiple times, I found it cool to see the scene recreated with modern PlayStation 4 graphics. As someone that loves the FFVII universe (thanks to Crisis Core and Advent Children), it was awesome seeing a modern version of Cloud. The voice sounds like Steve Burton, the voice actor that did a great job with the character in Advent Children.

While it’s hard to know what gameplay will be like without knowing the underlying system that fuels the action, the FFVII Remake trailer left me with a better-than-expected feeling. I feared that the game would have modern action-RPG gameplay, which is to say too much action and not enough RPG elements (for nerds that were weened on turn-based action RPGs). In some ways, the fight scenes reminded me of Final Fantasy XIII (which I liked) and in other ways they reminded me of Crisis Core (one of my all-time favorite games). I’m hoping, perhaps foolishly, that the final gameplay system will be similar to a spruced up Crisis Core. Though I admit that I have no idea if younger gamers would enjoy that (also, get off my lawn!).

Anyway, I’m going to watch the FFVII Remake trailer a dozen more times. When you have a chance, please check it out and let me know what you think of it.

Guitar Hero Live Preview

Once one of the biggest franchises in videogames, Activision’s Guitar Hero series has been dormant since 2010. That’s going to change on October 20, 2015 with the release of Guitar Hero Live. With a reimagined guitar controller, a revamped visual style, and an all-new GHTV mode, Activision hopes that Guitar Hero Live will appeal to a new generation of gamers and longtime fans of the series.

The biggest and most obvious change to Guitar Hero Live is the controller. Instead of a single row of five buttons, the new controller features two rows of three buttons. In normal and harder difficulties, the new button arrangement is pleasantly challenging; you’ll often have to hit multiple buttons in multiple rows. For newcomers and those that enjoy music games but aren’t very good, the easier modes allow for single-row play.

It took me several songs to get used to the new controller and even then I didn’t have enough time with it. I enjoyed being challenged by the different permutations of button presses. The dual-row “chords” make the game more interesting and difficult (in a good way). While some claim that Guitar Hero Live approximates power chords, I disagree. The game is certainly more fun with the new controller, but still a far cry from playing an actual guitar. I don’t see that as a fault at all (go play Rocksmith for that) — just disagreeing with some game writers.

The first three Guitar Hero Live songs I played were a mess due to a combination of the new controller and songs I was completely unfamiliar with. I recall butchering a song by The Black Keys, murdering a Fallout Boy song, and demolishing two songs by two bands I never heard of (I fail at modern music, fyi). After getting accustomed to the new controller and switching to a different kiosk that had songs I knew, the game was easier. Part of it was simply spending time with the controller, while part of it was my deep love of Warrant and Faith No More.

Guitar Hero Live adds some significant visual changes too. Instead of cartoon-like graphics, the game uses live concert footage from the perspective of the guitar player. You’ll see your bandmates and the crowd as you play. The visuals change depending on your performance. I’ve never paid too much attention to the graphics in previous Guitar Hero games and the new graphics were mostly lost on me in the bit of Guitar Hero Live I played. I’m so focused on the notes that I block out most of the visuals. That said, it was cool to watch other people play and there are plenty of gamers that watch the whole screen while they play music games.

In addition to the main “Live” mode, Guitar Hero Live features GHTV mode. This mode features different channels of music, allowing constant access to a variety of new songs and different genres. Songs in GHTV mode feature music videos from the associated acts, as opposed to concert footage in Live mode. While you can play along with a GHTV song as it’s streaming, replays require a microtransaction purchase. It’s an interesting approach compared to traditional scheduled downloads, but I’m not sold on it just yet. I need to experience GHTV when it’s full functional and accessible to millions of players before making any judgements.

If you’re interested in the developer of Guitar Hero Live (and I hope you’re interested in all creators of the games you play) then check out FreeStyleGames. Acquired by Activision in 2008, the company has experience with music games, including B-Boy, DJ Hero, and Sing Party.

For the most part, I enjoyed the brief time I spent playing Guitar Hero Live and am excited to play more. Part of it is that I haven’t touched a music game in years and part of it is because the new controller is lots of fun. I’m confident that fans of the old Guitar Hero games will enjoy Guitar Hero Live and curious to see if it will appeal to younger games (i.e. those pesky Snapchat kids).

Guitar Hero Live will be available on October 20, 2015 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Coffee Talk #656: Random Thoughts on E3 2015

Another E3 Expo is in the books! Since we’re a few years removed from console launches, E3 2015 was gloriously software heavy. That said, virtual reality hardware was huge at this year’s show and generated lots of excitement. There were tons of great games on the show floor and behind closed doors. Special thanks to old friends and new friends that let me cut lines and sneak into demos that I didn’t have appointments for. Now here are some random thoughts on E3 2015.

Console Press Conferences: Sony crushed it. The company had lots of great original content and showed off juicy timed exclusives. The Shenmue 3 and Final Fantasy VII announcements won the hearts of millions of old-school gamers. Sony has come a long way with presentation too (remember those old Kaz Hirai PowerPoint slides?), largely because Microsoft raised the bar for E3 press conference theatricality. Microsoft put on a good show, but I found Sony’s press conference far more exciting. As for Nintendo’s latest direct-to-video presentation, the company had lots of games that I’m excited for…but the Nintendo executive muppets will haunt my dreams for the next few months (the Satoru Iwata muppet is terrifying).

Nintendo Muppets E3 2015

Publisher Press Conferences: I’m probably in the minority here, but I was more impressed with Square Enix’s presser than EA’s or Ubisoft’s. While Square Enix’s presentation was flat and the company didn’t have the celebrity star power its competitors flaunted, the games were excellent. Square Enix simply had more games that I wanted to play. While many of my friends loved Ubisoft’s lineup, it didn’t do much for me, save for South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Ubisoft gets bonus points for Aisha Tyler hosting and for Angela Bassett’s appearance. As for EA, it had frickin’ Pele — one of the coolest and most legendary single-name celebrities ever. EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst had me amped, but not as much Kingdom Hearts 3, World of Final Fantasy, Life is Strange, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy VII (more on that in a bit).

Virtual Reality: I played a bunch of VR games/demos and totally understand why so many people are excited about this type of gaming. It feels fresh and exciting. When VR works, it’s amazing and makes you feel like you’re playing a game from the future. When the frame rates are clunky, VR games give you a headache. What I’m unsure about is the business model. From what several people told me, making a VR game is very expensive. Gamers will need expensive hardware for the best VR experience. From the (admittedly limited) information I gathered, Valve has the best plans for making VR accessible for developers and consumers. I’m curious to see what the other VR companies will do to help make VR affordable for creators and gamers alike.

Wattam: Going into the show, I was certain that I’d be charmed by Funomena’s Wattam. The creation of Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Robin Hunicke (Journey), Wattam is wonderfully creative — a game that’s simple, but with complexity that makes it difficult to describe. Some people are calling it a puzzle game, while others feel it’s adventure, and some are calling it a platformer. Check out the trailer below and see for yourself. Whatever category you think Wattam fits in, there’s no denying that the graphics are cute, the gameplay is creative, and the sound design is adorable. I love that Sony publishes atypically delightful games like Wattam.

Final Fantasy VII: Some gamers feel that FFVII is the best game in the series. Others feel that it’s the most overrated. Either way, it’s a huge deal that the game is being remade and coming to PlayStation 4 (initially). While I enjoyed the original game, it’s not in my top five for the Final Fantasy series. Having said that, I’m a big fan of FFVII world, since Crisis Core and Advent Children helped make sense of everything. I’m going to dedicate a full topic to this column next week. No matter how good or bad the FFVII remake ends up being, I’m excited to watch the process and listen to the debates. I expect full fanboy fury over FFVII and gamers better not disappoint me.

Mario Tennis: I “accidentally” spent more than hour playing Mario Tennis Ultra Smash at Nintendo’s booth. I’m a longtime fan of the Mario Tennis games, both on home and handheld consoles. Even though the game is early and there were only two playable characters, I had a blast with Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. The core gameplay is tight, while the addition of power-ups gives it a wackier feel that make sense in the context of the Mario universe. I’ll give this one a full preview in a bit.

Sword Coast Legends: As a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I was really looking forward to learning more about Sword Coast Legends. After getting a demo and playing the game, my expectations were exceeded. It will surely satisfy fans of the isometric PC RPGs that I mentioned, but should also satisfy fans of pen-and-paper RPGs. The dungeon master features look awesome, powerful, and fun. While most of the game will have professional voice acting, I was delighted to learn that there will be opportunities for live action role-playing. I vow to make a character based on Azrael Abyss from Saturday Night Live and annoy the hell out of anyone foolish enough to let me be a dungeon master. I’ll be giving Sword Coast Legends a full preview too.

Your Take: Naturally, I didn’t get to play or see everything I wanted to. This is where you come in! I’d love to get your take on E3 2015. How did it play from home? What games are you excited for? Who do you think “won” the press conferences? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.

Rocket League Preview (PS4, PC)

Rocket League has a premise that’s so preposterous that is must be fun — cars playing soccer. If that’s not enough to get your attention then how about ridiculously acrobatic cars playing a physics-enhanced death-match version of soccer? Okay, fine then. Let’s add Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal to the mix! That dude brings an absurd amount of fun to any party he’s invited to and he aims to amp up this game. From the brief time I spent checking out Rocket League, I found it to be a game that’s pure fun, whether you’re playing it alone (good) or playing it as a party game (better).

Let’s get some of the official particulars out of the way. Rocket League is being developed by Psyonix, a company known for creating Unreal Tournament 2004, ARC Squadron, and Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (Rocket League’s forerunner). The game will be available for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on July 7, 2015. In addition to playing against Rocket League’s AI, the game supports up to four players in split-screen mode and up to eight players in online mode, with drop-in drop-out gameplay.

After a quick demo and some gameplay, the aspect of Rocket League that I enjoyed the most was its feel. The game is flat-out fun. I loved the silly premise of cars playing soccer. Rocket League’s physics are extremely enjoyable, so much so that driving around and seeing what the cars could do was as much fun as competing in a match. I would say that the physics are accurate, but I have no idea of what the physics of driving up walls and on arena ceilings is actually like (I’ve lived a limited life, sorry). Where I think the game will really excel is as a party game; sure, solo and online play should be lots of fun, but I can easily picture having a blast playing Rocket League with several buddies on a couch.

Driving in Rocket League is much more than crashing into a giant ball and trying to get it into a net. The game’s cars are capable of outlandish maneuvers that will have you soaring through the air and performing acrobatic stunts. The cars can drive on walls, execute bicycle kicks, double jump, perform wicked power brake moves, and more. In the time I spent playing Rocket League, I found the driving to be insanely fun.

As you play Rocket League, you’ll unlock features. The developers were keen on going heavy with unlockables, so as to keep players coming back for more. I was told that Rocket League is loaded with Easter eggs, to the point that players should discover something new every time they play the game.

When playing against AI-controlled characters in Rocket League, Psyonix hopes to offer an experience that’s lifelike. From what I was told, the AI shouldn’t fall into predictable patterns. Sometimes the game will go at you aggressively and other times the game will emphasize defense. Psyonix’s goal for the Rocket League AI is to make it feel like you’re competing against an actual person.

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Like many car-based games, Rocket League offers lots of customizability. Players can choose from up to ten body styles — buggies, trucks, a Batmobile-like vehicle, RC cars, sports cars, and muscle cars. Paint color, paint type, wheels, tires, decals, exhaust trail colors, and more can be customized. I was shown some cool customizations, like sparkle exhausts and rainbow exhausts. I was told that other exhaust types include money and grass, while various paint types like glossy and metallic will be included.

Of course if you want to go with a pre-made vehicle, Rocket League should have some cars you’ll immediately recognize. Sweet Tooth of Twisted Metal fame will be exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version of Rocket League. You can see Sweet Tooth in action in the video embedded below and check out several screens of the iconic ice cream truck in the screenshot gallery above.

Other Rocket League features include extensive stat tracking, a robust replay editor that takes advantage of PlayStation Share Play, season mode, and (for your trophy whores out there) platinum trophies. At a glance, Rocket League appears to be a complete game. While I’m fairly sure that it will be entertaining as a multiplayer game, I haven’t seen enough to say if the single-player mode will have much longevity. Details on the game’s season mode will be revealed at E3 2015, so hopefully that’ll give me more of an idea of the single-player fun. For now, check out the Rocket League media in this story and kindly let me know what you think of the game in the comments section.

Coffee Talk #644: Hajime Tabata Has Me Excited For Final Fantasy XV

Millions of Square Enix fans were dazzled by the Final Fantasy XV trailer shown at Tokyo Game Show (TGS) 2014 (embedded below). Many longtime fans of the series were disappointed in the last few FF games and believe that Final Fantasy XV will return the franchise to glory. Gamers loved the brilliant graphics and modern gameplay shown in the TGS 2014 trailer, so it’s easy to understand why so many people are excited. I’m quite excited for Final Fantasy XV too, but for a different reason — Hajime Tabata.

Mr. Tabata was the director of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. As I mentioned in Coffee Talk #286, Crisis Core was the last game I loved. The storytelling, gameplay, graphics, and music delighted me completely. For the type of videogame experience I adore, Crisis Core was just about perfect. When Mr. Tabata was installed as the new director of Final Fantasy XV roughly two years ago, my interest in the game went from “excited” to “OMG can’t wait!!!” With all due respect to former FFXV director Tetsuya Nomura, who has had a legendary videogame career himself, I’m way more excited about a Final Fantasy game with Mr. Tabata in charge.

There are other incredibly talented people working on Final Fantasy XV too. Kazushige Nojima is the game’s main writer. His scenario credits include Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Composer Yoko Shimomura is writing the game’s music. Her awesome tracks can be heard in Street Fighter II, numerous Kingdom Hearts games, several Mario & Luigi titles, and more. I’m hoping that all these talented people come together to form an unforgettable videogame.

While I enjoyed the Final Fantasy XIII games more than most, they certainly didn’t entertain me as much as FFX, FFVI, FFV, FIV, and FFVII (probably in that order). Loads of gamers have blasted the FFXIII games, going as far as saying that the titles tarnished the series’ reputation. Many of these gamers loved what they saw in the TGS 2014 trailer and are dreaming about Final Fantasy XV reestablishing the franchise as the king of RPGs. As for me, I’m just dreaming about a Tabata-directed Final Fantasy game. Hopefully it won’t turn out like Final Fantasy XII; originally directed by one of my all-time favorite developers — Yasumi Matsuno — the game’s creation was a disaster and the end product…wasn’t the best.

Anyway, check out the Final Fantasy XV trailer below and let me know what you think. Do you like what you see? Do you think the game will be a triumphant return for the series? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).


Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, cherishing Derek Jeter’s last days as a professional baseball player, your favorite Fappening photos, or being threatened with “swatting,” Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Fenix Rage Preview Interview With Ted Lange

If you’re looking for an old-school hardcore platformer then you should definitely check out Fenix Rage. The game is being developed by Green Lava Studios and published by Reverb Triple XP. Fenix Rage is a relentlessly difficult platform game that’s extremely addictive and has lots of replay value. Some gamers that have watched videos of the game believe that it’s the next Super Meat Boy.

In addition to the brutally challenging main game, there are a few things that help Fenix Rage stand out. If you get tired of dying, you can take a break with the game’s arcade mode. This mode contains a number of diversions that use the same game mechanics and controls of the main game, but without the supremely challenging difficulty. If you want an under-the-hood view of Fenix Rage then you’ll definitely want to check out the “Fenix Box” levels. These levels give you a stripped down look of the game, showing off its tight controls and precise hit detection. Lastly, Fenix Rage makes outstanding use of cookies. Confections are collected in the game and play a part in the story. Actual cookie recipes and baking instructions can be unlocked in the game. One of the developer’s sisters is an avid baker and contributed her recipes to the game.

Check out the interview above with Reverb Triple XP executive producer Ted Lange. He provides copious details on Fenix Rage. For additional info on the game, be sure to check out the Fenix Rage coverage on PaulSemel.com.

A nifty side note about the game — some of its character and level designs were influenced by SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron. I totally forgot about that cartoon until Ted mentioned it. Good times.

Fenix Rage will hit Steam and other PC digital distribution platforms on September 24, 2014. The game will hit the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles in early 2015.

Fenix Rage logo

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