Chapter Select: Season 1, Episode 3 – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

It feels like it has been 1,000 years since Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door came out for the Nintendo GameCube; mostly because there hasn’t been a game like it since. Max, Logan, and special guest Scott White return to the seedy town of Rogueport to see if The Thousand-Year Door is a grand, epic stage production or a sloppy side show in the series.

Game Info

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Metacritic – 87/100

Links

Episode Cover Art by Max Roberts

This episode was originally recorded on May 5, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

Scott’s Twitter

Sony PlayStation Revisited, Japan – DF Retro

DF Retro: Sony PlayStation Revisited – Every Launch Game Tested – Part One: Japan by Digital Foundry on YouTube

It’s DF Retro’s BIGGEST episode yet – split into three parts running in consecutive weeks. John Linneman and Audi Sorlie revisit the launch of the Sony PlayStation from its origins in Japan to its eventual rollout across the globe – and in the process, assess every single launch title in all three territories, stacking them up against other versions on other systems.

This is a rich, in-depth look at the launch of the PlayStation. While I may have been alive, I was not there for the consoles launch. This is the exact coverage we’d expect today between a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, but between the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Super Nintendo, and the arcade. Oh to go back in time for these launches.

Behind the Pixel – Danny O’Dwyer’s Journey to Making Video Game Documentaries

Part of creating The Max Frequency Podcast was to restore all the episodes of Behind the Pixel, an interview show I did in 2017 for seven episodes. These will be mixed into this feed so that the show can live on podcast services once more. Below are the original show notes, with some light editing. I hope you enjoy.
 

Continue reading “Behind the Pixel – Danny O’Dwyer’s Journey to Making Video Game Documentaries”

Episode 10: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year with Jerrad Wyche

Jerrad Wyche celebrates the most wonderful time of the year with me. We chat about E3’s return in 2021 with a focus on Nintendo and Xbox. Metroid lives and Starfield has a release date before Halo Infinite. Like I said, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Welcome

Overall E3 2021 Impressions

Ubisoft’s Avatar and Star Wars

Death Stranding Director’s Cut

The Sequel to Breath of the Wild

  • Note: I did remember that Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks used the same assets, as well as A Link Between Worlds and Triforce Heroes. This is the first time for a major 3D Zelda release though, since Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

Metroid Dread

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

Starfield

Somerville

Wrap-Up

Chapter Select: Season 1, Episode 2 – Paper Mario: The Origami King

20 Years after the series started, Paper Mario: The Origami King was quickly revealed and then released in Summer 2020. Max and Logan examine the creases and folds that lead to Paper Mario being represented on the Nintendo Switch in this way. Has much really changed from the N64 game?

Game Info

Paper Mario: The Origami King

Metacritic – 80/100

Links

Episode Cover Art by Max Roberts

This episode was originally recorded on March 24, 2021.

Max’s Twitter

Logan’s Twitter

xCloud is Coming to Xbox One

Xbox Unveils its Biggest Exclusive Games Lineup Ever by Will Tuttle for Xbox Wire via Tom Warren at The Verge

For the millions of people who play on Xbox One consoles today, we are looking forward to sharing more about how we will bring many of these next-gen games, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, to your console through Xbox Cloud Gaming, just like we do with mobile devices, tablets, and browsers.

Yours truly with my own 2021 predictions:

I think Microsoft will announce that an xCloud app will come to Xbox One consoles. Most likely the One S and One X, since they both can output 4K video. If my phone can “run” The Master Chief Collection, I think the One S and One X can stream some games. Not only would this technically mean that you can play these games on your older hardware, but it also helps bolster Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions, which is what Microsoft and Xbox really want their customers to sign up for.

And while talking about the cross-generation bottleneck in September 2020:

Xbox could and probably will back out of this two year promise with some games. It’s already had questions pop up around it. Frankly, I think Xbox needs to cut ties with hardware support for Xbox One and somehow transition those consoles (Xbox One S and One X specifically) to xCloud boxes. Then, their hardware cap is mostly removed freeing up developers.

Also in July 2020, when Phil Spencer said you were the future of gaming:

Speaking of xCloud, an official public launch window has finally been given. I wonder if older Xbox One consoles will support xCloud streaming. Say you own an OG Xbox One (like I do) and Halo Infinite runs below 1080p when natively installed. What if you could stream the 1080p version via xCloud? I know that the Xbox One S has 4K video output capabilities. Why not allow users to stream the native 4K version of Halo Infinite to their Xbox One S? Microsoft may lose the initial sale of the shiny new box, but they could be gaining a new monthly subscriber to Game Pass Ultimate. At $15 a month, that may seem like the more appealing choice to folks hesitant to upgrading their box, especially if it can run the newer games through streaming.

I do love it when I am right.

Metroid Dread Announced

Metroid Dread Nearing Completion by Matt Casamassina for IGN on August 27, 2007

In 2005, IGN got hold of an official internal Nintendo software list that revealed a number of key DS games set to be announced in the future. All of the games on the list, including titles like Super Princess Peach, were eventually announced and released. All, that is, except for one — a project known simply as Metroid Dread. To this day, Metroid Dread, thought to be a traditional 2D sequel in the Metroid franchise designed specifically for Nintendo’s dual-screen handheld, has never publicly been acknowledged by the mega-publisher. But an unofficial nod to the project has been found hidden within the 20-hour adventure of fantastic Wii first-person adventure Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, developed by Retro Studios.

Players who journey deep enough into Samus Aran’s Wii quest can use Aran’s scan visor to read lore and lob enemies and objects. Doing just that on one mid-game world, we stumbled upon a panel with the following message, quoted verbatim below:

“Experiment status report update: Metroid project ‘Dread’ is nearing the final stages of completion.”

16 years later, Nintendo has finally revived the Metroid Dread name, launching on Nintendo Switch October 8, 2021.

Ironically (and thankfully), I decided to record my reaction to the Direct for the first time ever. I happily lost it when Nintendo acknowledged my favorite bounty hunter.

Arlo’s reaction is also very fun.

Playdate Details Revealed

✨ Playdate Update — 6/8/2021 on YouTube

Oooooo baby! The Playdate has been on my radar since its initial announcement. I think I have signed up for notifications across three different email addresses, just by accident. I have loved seeing little teases from Panic and devs that have their hands on one, like davemakes from Mixolumia! No more teases though, as Panic just put out a Nintendo Direct-style video revealing all sorts of goodness. 

Season 1 Has Doubled

A unique part of Playdate is that the games for it are being released weekly as a part of Season 1, which is included with the Playdate. The games are yours to keep, no subscription here for the first season. That quantity of games has doubled from 12 to 24! Devs I recognized were Zach Gage, Bennett Foddy, and davemakes. Lucas Pope, creator of Return of the Obra Dinn and Papers, Please is also making a game for it too!

There’s a Dock/Speaker/Pen Holder

I want this on my desk ASAP.

Poolsuite FM is gonna be there

Yes. Give me.

Pre-orders Start in July

Sounds like Panic is making an initial order of 20,000 Playdates and selling them for $179. No word on the cost of the Dock. Panic will give everyone a week’s notice to the pre-order date. First come, first serve, with a goal to start shipping later this year. Orders won’t shut down though, if the initial order is sold through. Panic is keeping orders open!

The Created a Game Making App too

Playdate Pulp is a web-browser based game maker. People can whip up games for their Playdate and put them right on the console! It’s very cute and reminds me a lot of Mario Maker and Mario Paint

As Panic’s first foray into hardware, it really looks like they are hitting the nail on the head. Wholly unique in a refreshing way. I am really eager to get my hands on this console and that sweet, sweet crank. 

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Review: The Best PS5 Game So Far – Logan Moore’s Review

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Review: The Best PS5 Game So Far by Logan Moore for Comicbook.com

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is easily the best game that the PlayStation 5 now has to offer. From top to bottom, it offers an experience that is practically faultless and keeps you from ever wanting to put the controller down. Not only is Rift Apart itself superb, but as a showcase for what the PS5 is capable of, it’s likely the best example we have seen so far and continues to verify that Insomniac Games is one of the best studios in the world.

This is the only review I planned on reading for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Mostly because I have been avoiding spoilers for the past month and haven’t seen anything beyond the initial trailer. I just want to be surprised and delighted by the new game. Logan is one of my best friends though and I always read his reviews. It is just great to see him get a new PlayStation game so far in advance to be able to review. It makes it even more special that it sounds like the game is a grand slam. Color me even more jazzed for Friday!

Forgive Me Uematsu, For I Have Sinned – Final Fantasy VI by Sebastian Deken and Boss Fight Books

When I saw this book, I was excited. Coming into 2021, I wanted to challenge myself as a writer. So earlier in the year, I reviewed Boss Fight Book’s Silent Hill 2 by Mike Drucker. I never reviewed a book before or even played a Silent Hill game. I saw this Final Fantasy VI book as an great opportunity. I was actively playing the subject matter this time before I read the book. I could understand where the author was coming from in a better way. I was jazzed. Then I quit Final Fantasy VI.

I played Final Fantasy VI (although my cartridge says “Final Fantasy III”) for the very first time this year. Actually, right at the very beginning of the year on January 1, 2021 (ironically, around the same time I was reading and reviewing the Silent Hill 2 book!). I had a tumultuous journey with my own Super Nintendo, a tale I documented in my review of the Analogue Super NT. When I decided to save up for this fancy FPGA Super Nintendo, I only bought one game before I had the console – Final Fantasy III. I bought it in May 2019.

Over the next few weeks, I played the front half of the game, meeting heroes and villains my friends and peers met in their youth. I always heard that FFVI was one of, if not the, best Final Fantasy game ever made. Having only dabbled previously, I wanted to see what I had been missing.

Just over 14 hours into FFIII (which I guess is FFVI, but my cartridge says III!). As my first FF game, it’s neat. Apparently, time-wise, I’m only half way done. Sheesh. – January 11, 2021

But I slowly became frustrated with both the game and the less-than-stellar guide I printed off of GameFAQs (I was going for an authentic experience here).

The more I play FFVI, the less I’m enjoying it? I kinda just wish it was a book. Maybe it is because I’m using a crappy guide. Maybe it’s because 16 hours in I just found out how to run from fights.

Not sure if I want to keep trucking along. Maybe I’m just not a FF person. – January 16, 2021

That’s quite the five day turn around. I made it right up to the floating continent and the fight before Kefka could plummet the earth back down to bring on the end of the world. I couldn’t beat the giant dog-looking Esper things and gave up in frustration.

So why would I review a book about Final Fantasy VI?

It came back to my challenge. I wanted to see what I was missing about Final Fantasy VI. It seemed like an interesting angle.

Then I read Sebastian Deken’s book.

Really, what came next is what I deserve. I didn’t read the synopsis/back material this time. I saw “BOSS FIGHT BOOKS” and “FINAL FANTASY VI” on the same page and was sold. It’d be about what I missed in the game, why I should return and finish this beloved classic.

Instead, Deken showed me the wonder that is Nobuo Uematsu and his music.

Never really playing a Final Fantasy game outside of a couple hours of XV and every Kingdom Hearts game, I just had no idea who Uematsu was. I know, I know. In my time of playing Final Fantasy VI, I was hearing Uematsu’s music. It was good stuff! But I wasn’t always paying attention to it and the game. Like I said, I was using a GameFAQs walkthrough that I printed out. I’d play in the morning before work, rushing to finish the next chunk. The game didn’t have my undivided attention, the music even less so. Please forgive me.

Deken took me places I never expected. I had context for the front half of the game, but no clue what happens after the apocalypse. Deken’s breakdown and exploration of the character’s musical themes weaving into the narrative, other themes, and emotional cues opened my eyes to what potential lied beneath and blow the floating chunk of earth. I kept thinking to myself “I stopped playing this?!”

To me, Shadow was a character I desperately wanted in my party. Not because I knew where his story was going, but because he was a sweet ninja assassin that had a lot of attack power. I had no clue that his life’s story wove back into others in the party. I didn’t even know you face a critical decision after fighting Kefka on the floating continent. 

And sure, I could have looked all those narrative bits online. Deken took me in deeper by explaining the music and how it is actually built. Thankfully, Square Enix has the soundtrack for Final Fantasy VI available on Apple Music and Spotify. I was pulling up tracks and listening to the cues that Deken was pointing out. Even my untrained ear was picking up on the notes and ties between songs. Even the “lit” intro du duuuuuuun from the organ when the game starts up, has a depth I never would have found or explored. What was just “good” or “cool” music now has richness and purpose thanks to Deken’s analysis and explanation.

I’d probably get in trouble for not mentioning the opera. It is an iconic scene in the game and also inspires the cover of this book. My knowledge of opera doesn’t go much further than Bugs Bunny and Ethan Hunt. Deken knows this. Guess what? There is a style and structure to opera! Deken peels back the curtain on opera and its dramatic structure. Watching the opera play out (and playing the actual game during the opera), it’s fair to say that most players feel something. The tension of pulling off a bait and switch. The surprise and rush when a rival, albeit a goofy rival, appears to cause trouble. The drama of forbidden romance. It’s not all happenstance. In fact, it’s actually quite meta for how it ties into the the current and future events of Final Fantasy VI and opera in real life. I was blissfully ignorant to all of this. Now I am aware of context and structure that makes me long to see this all again with fresh eyes and ears. I didn’t appreciate what was going on. I felt something in my heart, but missed why because I was flipping walkthrough pages to see what I needed to do next. Maybe most kids in the 90s did the same thing: Not Deken though. I am thankful that scene stuck with him, so much that he’d end up studying music and opera. 

Deken’s writing style is, frankly, what I aspire to have. His analogies, word usage, and candor struck a chord with me. I was soaking up this book beyond musical analysis. I was taking notes to become a better writer. Not just here on my blog, but in my professional work as a technical writer as well. Deken’s ability to distill complicated and/or foreign music theories and structures to a guy that can only play the opening notes of The Imperial March (thanks piano lessons), enraptured me. Just look at the opening paragraphs of the first chapter. Thirty or so years of  history of video games through two paragraphs describing sound — Absolutely delightful.

It started in the late 50s, with the buzz of an oscilloscope, the breath of a cooling fan, the clicking of relays. Then came the beeps: simple and spare in the 60s, more common and complicated as the 70s marched on. Usually tuneless and shapeless, usually only indications of what happens on screen: a blip when the dot representing a ping pong ball hits the line representing the paddle, a staticky crash when your triangular spaceship blows up. Rarely would a familiar melody glint from the deep.

Unless you’re a John Cage-type, you probably wouldn’t consider this music—just stimulus and response. But isn’t music noise organized intentionally? That’s what those early arcade sounds were, however scant. Not artful, not great, but technically qualified. A Jamaican bobsled team of sound.

But by the early 80s, video game sound—music or static—had begun to glimmer enough to be recognized as art.

There was one more lesson I walked away with. This book really captures the spirit of Boss Fight Books. These aren’t really run-of-the-mill game history or analysis books. They are unique perspectives that enrich their subject matter, no matter how far from their initial release. They are insightful and human. I can’t speak to every single book under their umbrella (only Silent Hill 2 and Shovel Knight), but I do feel confident in speaking for their mission. Boss Fight Books connect their readers to video games in insightful, surprising, and delightful ways through authors that bring truly unique perspectives.

Bravo Boss Fight Books and Sebastian Deken. Bravo.

WWDC 2021 Predictions

Nothing like a last minute prediction post. With the initial keynote kicking off in just three hours, I wanted to get five predictions out in the open before Tim Cook walks on stage/outside/etc. to either crush my dreams or send them soaring.

  1. Apple’s Home Strategy is clarified. homeOS announced.
  2. iOS and iPadOS gain clearer, more accessible user customization (a la the great widget boom of 2020).
  3. New Apple Hardware and Silicon are not announced.
  4. iPadOS lacks redesigned external display support.
  5. iMessage gets wild.

Some slight elaboration and thoughts on my predictions.

Apple’s home strategy is scrambled. The HomePod is dead; long live the HomePod Mini. The new Apple TV 4k and HomePod Mini have thread radios, which seem to be the future of home device connectivity. The Home app is messy, if not convoluted. Apple’s home plans need to be refocused and executed and I think that can start with software, before announcing any new or substantial hardware.

The widget customization boom last year took everyone by surprise, I think. I have non-tech friends that have stellarly designed Home Screens. I think Apple ought to and will lean into giving developers and customers better, clearer tools for leveraging that customization.

The M1 is truly exciting. Whatever is next, that can drum up its own fervor at a different event. If Apple announces new hardware, specifically a new chip, that will be the dominate topic coming out of WWDC, not the software. This is a developer’s conference. I say Apple lets the software shine and let the hardware talk later.

I simply think new and proper external display support will be a mid-iPadOS 15 upgrade, like cursor support was for iPadOS 14.

By wild I just mean better features and more customization. iMessage (in)famously helps lock people into the platform. Give people more incentive to keep their conversations there instead of WhatsApp, GroupMe, Facebook Messenger, etc. Tout security and privacy alongside colorful backgrounds, better group messaging, and personality.

No matter what happens in a few hours, WWDC is always a great kickoff to summer. With E3 next week, it is definitely the most wonderful time of the year.

Episode 9: My Sweet, Sweet Baby Nintendo with Logan Moore

Logan Moore reunites with Max Roberts for the time-honored tradition of predicting E3. Before that, they chat about Logan’s new job at Comicbook.com and just why he loves the Dark Souls game so much.

Welcome

Chapter Select

Working in Video Game Journalism

What’s the Deal with Dark Souls?

Cross-Generational PlayStation Games

E3 2021 – PlayStation Predictions

  • Logan’s PlayStation Predictions
    • Spider-Man 2 is Revealed, Black Suit Spidey confirmed
    • BioShock 4 is revealed for the first time, no gameplay shown but the trailer reveals the location at the least
    • Half-Life: Alyx is announced for PSVR 2
    • Ghost of Tsushima 2 confirmed to be in development but it’s very, very far away
    • Konami IP appears, coming to PlayStation as an exclusive
  • Max’s PlayStation E3 Predictions
    • Sunset Overdrive comes to PS5
    • A mascot character returns
    • No new Horizon Forbidden West footage
    • Metal Gear Solid / Snake is in the showcase
    • Final Fantasy XVI gameplay and date

E3 2021 – Xbox Predictions

  • Logan’s Xbox Predictions
    • Halo Infinite multiplayer will be primarily highlighted, alpha/beta date revealed
    • A new Banjo game will finally be announced, being worked on by second party company
    • Battlefield 6 announced to release on Game Pass at launch
    • Wolfenstein 3 is teased, logo shown and that’s it 
    • Psychonauts 2 release date set for August 20th
  • Max’s Xbox E3 Predictions
    • Halo Infinite Beta – Today
    • Starfield only gets a trailer. No gameplay
    • Perfect Dark gameplay and release window announced
    • Bethesda shows off Indiana Jones gameplay
    • Microsoft announces an exclusive from a prominent Japanese developer

E3 2021 – Nintendo Predictions

  • Logan’s Nintendo Predictions
    • Switch Pro isn’t appearing at E3, at least not as a reveal
    • Breath of the Wild sequel will be shown but no release window given
    • Two Smash characters will be announced; Waluigi and Master Chief
    • New Metroid game is announced and Nintendo also comments on Metroid Prime 4’s development.
    • Bayonetta 3 is absolutely showing up
  • Max’s Nintendo Predictions
    • Breath of the Wild sequel shown off with no date
    • Doug Bowser and Bowser, The Koopa King appear on screen together
    • Mario Kart 9 is announced. Holiday 2021
    • New Metroid games do not make an appearance in the Direct
    • The GameCube makes an appearance.
    • 3D Donkey Kong returns

Cross-Generation Games are like Movies at the Theater

It’s vital Sony maintains its PlayStation 4 support | Opinion by Christopher Dring for GamesIndustry.biz

In reality, people will want the best version of these games. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is more popular on PS5 than PS4, and that will be true of Horizon: Frozen West, Gran Turismo 7 and God of War. It’s the difference between watching the new Marvel movie at the cinema compared to getting it on Disney Plus. The hardcore fans will want the big screen experience. But as the film industry also discovered during the pandemic, there’s a huge opportunity in the TV space.

I like this analogy. Movies have totally shifted in the last year, bringing the direct-to-digital future to living rooms sooner than big theater chains ever wanted. I certainly rented my fair share in the last year. Heck, Warner Bros. bringing their movies to HBO Max on day one made me keep my subscription.

And Dring is right about people wanting the best versions. Movie theaters are opening back up. People will buy the PS5 version of Spider-Man or God of War, if they can. They may even opt to wait until they get a PS5 to buy those games (or, as I’m sure Sony hopes, double dip).

I’ve always agreed that cross-generation support makes sense, as a business, especially with an install base of 120+ million PS4 consoles.

In the bloody confusing aftermath of the PlayStation 5 stream, Sony confirmed that Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Horizon Forbidden West are also launching on PS4. After believing in generations it seems that Sony also believes in its PS4 install base.

It’s no secret that I have voiced concerns about Xbox’s own public promise to support cross generational support for its Xbox consoles. The wider the range of supported hardware, the more work it is for the developers and the more it can limit the upward potential of the game. Now Sony has promised three major first party titles are cross generational.

This is great (just like it is for Xbox) for those consumers that don’y want to or can’t upgrade to the next gen consoles. You aren’t left behind. Nintendo has done this before with popular Zelda titles. It is definitely a win for consumers.

I guess they should have just confirmed Gran Turismo 7 and God of War were cross-gen too.

My stance is firmly rooted in limited development potential. With such technological strides in next-gen with the SSDs, native 4K, and so on, developing games for nearly decade old hardware has to cut off forward progress and new, previously impossible ideas.

Colin Moriarty pointed out yesterday that the only first-party PS5 exclusive we know about is Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and that is out in one week. Hopefully, E3 2021 changes that soon, but man that is weird for Sony to have all these games close to the chest after the open-book that was the PS4 catalog.

I’m starting to get a little whiplash from Sony talking out of both sides of their mouth. They need to communicate a clear message. If that message is “We are supporting PS4 and PS5,” then they ought to embrace it, clearly share which games will do that, and incentivize the upgrade to PS5 beyond being new and shiny. Eventually, first-party development will leave PS4 behind and wholly focus on PS5. Sony needs to be better about communicating when that change will happen.