Spring just arrived recently and winter has finally come to a close. So far in 2017 we’ve already seen quite a few great releases, the most recent being the Legend of Zelda machine, the Nintendo Switch, and the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda. As much as I’ve enjoyed Nintendo’s past offerings and felt the nostalgic pull of Zelda and since I’ve never actually played a Mass Effect game, they just weren’t on my list of upcoming things I’m looking forward to. However, on my list are other games, tech, events, and some are just random nerdiness.
In no real particular order, as they say, let’s get some 2017 HYPE!!
I love me a good piece of tech. Who doesn’t really? In my tech arsenal, among other things, I have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop PC. My smartphone I use all the time and my PC handles everything my smartphone can’t. The tablet and laptop though, I find gather quite a bit of dust. The tablet I only bring out when there’s an app that I would just like on a little bigger screen than my smartphone, and the laptop only when my main PC is down and I still need to perform desktop-like tasks. Those times are far and few between and every time I turn them on they have hundreds of updates waiting.
This is where the Sentio Superbook comes in. Using an Android app that turns the Android OS more desktop-friendly, the Superbook is essentially a laptop shell that uses your smartphone for the processing power. According to the Kickstarter, the Superbook “provides a large screen, keyboard and multi-touch trackpad, 8+ hours of battery, and phone charging capabilities”. Always up to date, and never falls behind your Android’s tech. This I can see completely replacing my tablet, fitting usefully between my phone and desktop.
Release: Pushed back from February until June for initial Kickstarter orders.
Fun fact: I’m an original card-carrying member of the MST3K fan club. I remember having Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house, eating myself silly, and then relaxing watching the Turkey Day marathon. I didn’t have cable growing up, which is how I’m easily able to live without cable today, but MST3K was a treat. When they announced they were Kickstarting a new season, I legit threw money at my screen. Got myself the t-shirt to match my older MST3K t-shirt, a couple nice prints, a keychain (I think… don’t tell me I’ve already lost it…), and the satisfaction that I’ll be able to watch brand new episodes. To answer your burning question, I think Joel was better than Mike. Fight me.
Release: April 14th, 2017! So close I can taste the movie sign.
I’d like to think that when I game on PC, the games I play are complex and deep. However, I’ve never wanted that complexity on my phone. For mobile gaming I like keeping it light and in small increments, hence why the Switch was never a draw. Cook, Serve, Delicious is quite possibly one of the best mobile games I have ever played. It’s light, tricky, takes a bit of skill, never felt like the phone hardware ever got in the way, and had entertaining graphics to match. You don’t have to play it on mobile, you can play it on other systems, but it shines on mobile. So when they announced CSD 2 at the end of 2016, I was giddy. Giddy.
Release: “Available on Steam and PS4 in 2017“. Not specific, and no mention of mobile, but their alpha trailer was released in Dec 2016, so hopefully soon.
CBS announced in November 2015 that following the 50th anniversary of the original series of Star Trek, and 12 years after the last official Star Trek: Enterprise episode aired, they would be opening a new chapter in the Star Trek Prime universe. Yes, the Kelvin timeline exists, and while I personally really enjoyed Beyond and what the reboot has brought to the series, it’s no Prime Universe goodness.
Set 10 years before Captain Kirk started his famous 5 year mission, they’ve announced the main protagonist will be Lieutenant Commander Rainsford, played by Sonequa Martin-Green, and referenced in the show as “Number One”. Star Trek: Discovery will revolve around the USS Discovery, although they’ve announced casting decisions for a second ship, the Shenzhou, and a number of Klingons. This, and other rumors, hints that the plot may revolve around the Klingon-Federation scrap-up at Donatu V, mentioned in the episode The Trouble with Tribbles which led to a Cold War between the two factions.
The show will initially air in the US on CBS, after with episodes airing on CBS All-Access shortly after. Outside of the US, episodes will air on Netflix. I personally don’t care how they air it, I’m just psyched for new Star Trek!
Release: As of this writing, it appears to have been pushed back until late summer/early fall, with possibilities of being pushed back further. Blech.
If you haven’t yet played Life Is Strange by DontNod Entertainment, by god what are you waiting for?! Go play one of the most fresh and stunning games you’ve ever played! If you have played it, then you probably understand why Vampyr, another game in production by DontNod Entertainment, has me so excited. Action-oriented with a sort of Assassin’s Creed meets the episodic genre vibe, set in 1918 London? Sign me up. I don’t play brand new games often, but with this setting and story potential, I’ll play.
Release: This site is suggesting Q4 2017, maybe just in time for Halloween?
I’m a Disney World nerd. What can I say, I’ve visited the parks quite a few times and each time have had some amazing experiences. Nothing beats having fun all day with family and friends, seeing all the sights, riding the rides, and sitting down for one of the best meals you’ve ever had in your life. Cap it all off with a phenomenal show and fireworks every night you’re there! I wasn’t so much a fan before I met my wife, but now that she has shown me what I was missing, I’m a big fan.
So when Disney makes changes to their parks, which happens all the time, it just makes me excited for the next time that we’ll visit. At this point, it may be a few years before the next trip, but by then hopefully the big EPCOT changes announced at the D23 Expo last November will have come to fruition. When the Chairman, Bob Chapek, tells the Imagineers to “dream big” and to expect a “major transformation,” I’ll lap up any news like I’m dying of thirst. I mean, shoot, they’re adding hanging gondolas to their transportation roster. Gondolas! How cool is that?!
Release: Changes won’t happen for a few years, but hopefully we’ll hear what they will be at the next D23 Expo July 14th-16th 2017.
All the way back in May of 2013, one of computer gaming’s legends, Richard Garriott, started a Kickstarter campaign with his company Portalarium to bring back a “spiritual successor” to one of the most influential game series of all time, Ultima, called Shroud of the Avatar. Since I’m a huge fan of the Ultima games to this day, I backed it to a non-ridiculous degree. To say that it’s been a long journey since the Kickstarter launch is quite an understatement. Like most Kickstarted projects, the feature creep has been quite extreme, to the point that the game still hasn’t been completed yet in full. Posing primarily as an MMO, the features they want to add are story mode with content delivered in episodes, written by Garriott and Tracy Hickman, a single player offline mode, different multiplayer modes, a vast classless character system, PvP, player housing, a crafting-based economy, full guild systems, player owned towns, and all the other accoutrements one would expect with MMOs these days.
As of right now, Shroud of the Avatar is still in a beta state and they stopped issuing character wipes in July of 2016, but still has not officially “launched.” I’m not one to play incomplete games though, so if they don’t consider the first big chapter complete yet, I have no issues waiting. I’ll finally jump in once they start officially calling it “launched.”
Release: 2017, or so the FAQ says.
Near the end of last year, I took the plunge into home automation and bought a Google Home while it was on sale. To say the least, my wife and I have been enjoying it quite thoroughly. I quickly discovered that home automation is a deep rabbit hole, with Google Home itself being the gateway drug. It started with one Google Home, then a second, and then a Chromecast Audio to sync all of the speakers together to form a whole-house audio system. A Philips Hue starter kit later and we had voice-controllable lights. Ten more bulbs later and we rarely touch our lightswitches anymore.
We bought it early on in its development because we expected more functionality to come, and so far they haven’t disappointed. More, though… we want more.
Release: Ongoing, since Google Home has already been released in 2016.
If you’ve never heard of the quirky podcast Welcome to Night Vale, you are sorely missing out. Based around the community radio station of a fictional, and quite strange, desert town located somewhere in the southwestern US, Welcome to Night Vale has been chronicling the town’s oft-bizarre happenings since June of 2012.
In 2015, WTNV’s creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor released their first novel, Welcome to Night Vale, based on the town. More heartfelt and personal than I was expecting, I enjoyed it, so I was excited when during the episode “After 3327,” they announced a second novel! Finally, around mid-March they announced the title and a release date of October 17th, 2017.
Finally, the last thing I’m excited about for 2017 is the “relaunch” of the MMO The Secret World, a personal favorite game of mine. The news of Funcom’s plans to relaunch it’s 5-year-old title came as a bit of a surprise, having been “announced” on Funcom’s 4th Quarter 2016 financial reports. Boasting changes from a redesigned new player experience, a “major improvement” to gameplay and combat, new player retention systems, and changes to the game’s business model, a lot of players are simultaneously nervous and excited for the upcoming changes. Funcom’s community team has been silent on the subject, focusing first on PAX East and Conan Exiles before making any big announcements about The Secret World.
Release: We’ll most likely hear more about the relaunch by the end of March, and see some changes before the end of June.
If a tree falls in a forest, and a mythological gigantic ape picks it up to use it as a weapon, does it make a sound? Yes, that sound is me in the theater audibly uttering “wow” through a giddy smile. This is the true test Kong: Skull Island has to pass or fail. Could it not only entertain but “wow” audiences with its spectacle? Fortunately, it unquestionably amazes with its stunningly-crafted CG and scale, but it’s at the expense of smooth dialogue and strong characters.
In the latest Kong retelling, the story is as thin as you’d expect, since the emphasis is on the origins of these monsters. As the Vietnam war comes to an end, a group of determined scientists implores the government to send a military escort with them to an undiscovered island. Along the way, said scientists hire a tracker (Tom Hiddleston). Separately, a photographer tags along (Brie Larson). The plot broken down in a sentence is essentially “some dummies go to Kong’s island to study things.” I’m never a fan of being reductive, but a film isn’t supposed to make it so easy to do. Regardless, I suppose that’s not why we eagerly watch these types of popcorn blockbusters.
Commendably, Warner Bros. Pictures employs one of the strongest ensemble casts you’ll see in a movie all year. Hiddleston, recent Oscar winner Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, and Jing Tian star, to name a few. The film also features a Straight Outta Compton reunion with cast members Jason Mitchell (Easy E) and Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre). The casting aspect alone held so much promise on paper, but this potential felt largely squandered.
Sam Jackson and John C. Reilly are clearly taking liberties and enjoying it in their respective roles, but everyone else is strikingly forgettable. There’s attempted interplay between a couple of the marines that ultimately falls flat. Heavy-hitting actors Hiddleston and Larson are simply present to be a conduit of plot details for us, the audience. Most of what they do while on camera is react with the best surprised expression they can muster. Sure, the two have distinct occupations but it’s merely an excuse to carry them into this dangerous adventure. Not to mention, Hiddleston’s James Conrad did very little tracking at all. As far as definitive personality traits, I didn’t notice any from Hiddleston, Larson, or the many other expendable individuals.
As I touched on, Reilly and Jackson are a blast to watch as they chew up their scenery. Whether improvised or purposefully written, the jokes never seem to land pre-Reilly. Like he does in his prior comedic work, he has a natural delivery and general presence that inspires laughter. Jackson as Colonel Packard recited some insane lines in the vein of a cheesy ’90s action villain with such hilarious conviction. The duo was nothing short of a joy to see perform.
We have to praise the real star of the show: Kong. Everything about him in Skull Island exceeded my expectations. If your primary complaint of 2014’s Godzilla was “where’d that enlarged lizard thing go?,” prepare to be satisfied. Kong appears in the first 3 minutes, and they don’t hold back as a means to build tension (which I personally appreciated in the latest Godzilla effort). At times, he’s spotted merely walking around the island, and every frame he occupies feels majestic. Terry Notary put forth a tremendous motion-capture effort that added a surprising amount of nuanced personality to the familiar beast. More than that, Kong is written with a layer of ingenuity. In his several oversized-creature battles, he uses his surroundings and tools he might spot at random to their full potential to aid him in bringing down his enemies. Kong himself should satisfy the majority of moviegoers.
Another facet I appreciated from the picture was director Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ work behind the camera. There are plenty of carefully constructed frames with a remarkable colorful concoctions. After the movie rushes past certain crudely-written scenes with one-dimensional supporting characters, Vogt-Roberts squeezes in intricately vibrant set pieces. Whether it’s a fast-paced action sequence involving an abundance of fire or Kong purely looking at a sunrise, he shows off his knack for capturing the beautiful production design in a visually-palpable way. Unfortunately, he’s not given many opportunities to display these skills on more than a couple occasions.
I may have levied quite a few criticisms against this flick. Nevertheless, a visit to the theater to see Kong: Skull Island on the silver screen is a good investment. If you expected occasional astounding visuals and fantastic monster fights, then Skull Island will distribute that in spades. Anticipating tangible character development and dialogue that doesn’t make you cringe is simply too much to ask. While we always prefer a satisfying mixture of both, Kong is still an enjoyable (literal) giant blockbuster. Also, don’t forget to remain seated for a post-credits tease. You’ll start to see how the larger Warner Bros. MonsterVerse starts to connect, and it’s very exciting.
The Nintendo Switch has had a successful launch and is definitely the real deal but Nintendo’s newest console is not without it’s issues. Skepticism is healthy and it comes very easy to people who have yet to actually try the system out for themselves, but for those of us who have had a little more hands on experience it can be hard to see past the hype. It is important to point out that this new hardware is amazing in the many things it sets out to do while at the same time being grounded in the reality that nothing is perfect at launch. Here are some of the more prominent issues to look out for before you decide if you want to sink north of $300 into the newest gaming trend.
Battery Life is Laughable
For what is being touted as a hybrid system, your total time on the go will add up to 2.5 – 3.5 hours. That barely gets you anywhere when playing The Legend Zelda: Breath of the Wild, just trust that your Switch can and will die on you. Even on medium brightness! The controllers thankfully have such a long battery life that I have yet to find myself with a live system, and dead sticks. Make sure you are carrying around the charger if you leave with your Switch.
You Will Need a Screen Protector!
The Switch’s dock will scratch up the screen of your Switch if you are not careful with sliding it in. Now this is mostly user error, as if you do sloppily put in the Switch, the screen will scratch. How to combat this? Treat it like your cell phone or expensive handheld device. Buy a screen protector and be sure to place the Switch into its dock very carefully every time. Ya know, treat your expensive hardware correctly! All screens on all devices, be they plastic or glass, are not immune to damage. It may be common sense, but its in need of pointing out.
Limited On Board Memory
If you plan to download a lot of games and extras on your Nintendo Switch, it is in your best interest to grab a SD Micro Card! 32 gigs of space with over 5 uses on the Operating System leaves you with very little extra room. I’d suggest spending the extra money to get more memory!
Lack of Release Titles
I currently have 3 games on my Switch. A racing game called Fast RMX, an old game called Shovel Knight, and the main event of course being The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While Zelda may be a solid contender for one of the greatest games of all time (seriously, I’ve put over 20 hours into it and there is nothing like it), it still only is ONE game. The other two titles work well as pallet cleansers, but beyond these there just are not a lot of offerings currently.
Reported Dead Pixels
If you have a Switch that is suffering from dead pixels, take it back to the store and make them return it. These things happen in all products and while Nintendo is saying “it is not their issue,” you can certainly still return it to the store you bought it at. Make sure you do a good inspection before keeping the system for too long. Dead pixels will be pretty obvious pretty quickly.
Joy-Cons Can’t Charge Without Being Docked
Now this is just a classic Nintendo maneuver. This just screams of, “Hey this is okay, just buy our 30 dollar proprietary peripheral to place your Joy-Cons in to charge your controllers while you play!” To add more insult to injury, this purchasable peripheral looks exactly like the controller cradle that comes with the system – except it is unable to charge, which seems like a standard feature. This may be among this most frustrating things about the system and accessories.
Controller Syncing Issues
Though they are meant to be used together, the Joy-Cons themselves are standalone controllers and there have been multiple reports of the left Joy-Con un-syncing. It seems many things are interfering with the signal and there is talk of a possible a firmware update to fix this, however it is still an unacceptable issue to have at launch.
No Virtual Console
This is a subjective issue but many were anticipating virtual console, so I imagine its absence currently is a deal breaker for some. This addition could have padded out the Nintendo Switch’s, launch but they were unable to deliver. This service is coming, but for now it is not present and no idea when it will become available.
No Party Chat
Party Chat currently does not exist – and when it does, you will need a phone app to use it. Um what? I will reserve any more judgment until this feature comes out and I get hands on time with it. Because that’s what you do, use something before forming an opinion on it.
Friend Codes Are Back
The friend codes are still used to find friends online. This is old, archaic, and there has to be better ways to do this by now. But I quickly got over it as I filled out my friends lists with help from previous Nintendo apps to help find people I have interacted with, or putting in your 75 (not a real number) digit arbitrary code to find somebody specific.
The Nintendo Switch kickstand is flimsy and it feels like the console is always on the verge of tipping over. I suggest some sort of case that props it up if you plan to play it on the go and upright.
Game Saves Locked to System
Unlike other consoles, the save data for your games is currently locked to the system. Now this seems like it will be something that is addressed in a firmware update but for the moment I hope you are not planning on continuing your gaming adventures on a friend’s console. It is a traveling system, though, so there should be little to no need for save data transfers outside of upgrading to a new system or extracting data off of a broken one. Here’s to hoping this is fixed soon!
No Ethernet Port
What is this the 90s? Sure I get everything is wireless now but for online gaming, internet speed is paramount and Wi-fi does not always cut it! How much cost was cut from excluding this? its a big omission but thankfully I have had zero issues with the wi-fi, connecting online, or being unable to update my games or get into a quick race in Fast RMX.
Some of these issues with the Nintendo Switch will be deal breakers to some while not even being a blip on the radar for others. For now if I had to impart advice to anybody who is on the fence, I would say that all early adopters for any piece of hardware are basically glorified beta testers. There will be kinks, there will be issues, and oversights in the first batch of these systems, but that is not exclusive to this product.
My take on it? Wait for a few months. Watch the catalog of games grow, watch some of the issues be addressed, and when it feels right for you, pull the trigger, because there is nothing in the world like never having to stop playing. There is something so novel about grabbing the system and continuing your session at work, on the bus, or on vacation, while never feeling like the limitations of playing cell phone game or handheld device. This is true hardcore, triple A gaming on the go which was the mantra of the Nintendo Switch. In that regard, they nailed what they set out to do.
I hate to dwell on the negatives, but being objective about the shortcomings of a new product is important! Stay tuned to a future feature about all the things I loved about the system, and strap yourself in because there is A LOT to love!