Sega Europe going old school on PC packaging – and it’s recyclable!

Sega Total War Rome 2

I remember when software boxes were cardboard, and Windows NT 3.1 came on 22 floppy disks!

Yep, I am that old :p

I remember when I would buy any software, it would come in a thin cardboard box. Games tended to be in slightly thicker cardboard, and I had some until I moved to Cairns a few years ago. Still, I must have destroyed about 20 Lotus 123 boxes installing them at different companies. Not intentionally, but if you squeezed just that little bit too much it flattened the box! Ah, the memories :p

What bought on this little trip down memory lane? Last week, Sega announced that they were committed to continuing an earlier packaging experiment. The experiment? 100% recycled and recyclable packaging. Even the shrink wrap can be recycled safely.

What’s the big deal? You can recycle plastic already. Sega is just cheap.

Yes, plastic can be recycled, but only a certain number of times. Then it pretty much sits in its most toxic form in landfill or floating somewhere.

And while cardboard can be seen as cheap, it isn’t. It really isn’t. Because most packaging is plastic, most factories are producing it. Because fewer people want these packages, fewer people offer to make it. Cardboard packaging is actually more expensive than the plastic cases! We see this in board gaming as well. I have seen lots of people complain about the ‘cheap’ wooden pieces in games when they can cost double their plastic counterparts in terms of production costs.

There are other benefits to the cardboard packaging as well, though. Cardboard packaging is lighter and cheaper to transport. Lighter loads help reduce the carbon footprint of shipping large numbers of games even further. Sega is using water and vegetable-based dye to print on their covers. Why is this important? Because it ensures that the cardboard can be recycled with the least amount of waste (if any).

Sega Total War Rome 2
Keep the lot, or safely keep the disc sleeves and recycle the packaging. Your call.

Plastic boxes last longer, but that is part of the problem. Large numbers of plastic cases are thrown away each year. Hopefully, other companies follow Sega’s example.

But there is also something puzzling about the change.

This only applies to PC releases. PC gaming is great, but physical sales of PC games haven’t exactly been booming for a decade at least. Across the board, downloading your games rather than playing the physical release has been increasing more and more.

I have bought around 45 physical games in the last two years. Most were PS4 and Switch. Two were for PC, and only because they were ridiculously cheap on sale at EB. Both of these PC games required I download the new versions anyway, so the physical part was not needed, except for my shelf. Those two games? Starcraft 2 collection and Diablo 3.

That means with my highly accurate testing group of 1, the number of physical PC games I purchased borders on insignificant. The boxes were also cardboard as well, but with metallic embossing and the like the probably made some of the cardboard unable to be recycled. This is what Sega is improving, but how many will see the benefit?

If you go to any gaming store with physical games, consoles dominate the shelf space. It’s just the way things have gone and will continue as digital storefronts continue to dominate sales.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Dual Edition
Buy the dual pack? Get a special case to hold both games, plus both retail packages! What a waste!

So it’s just a publicity stunt?

I don’t think so. While I remember the old cardboard boxes with a sense of nostalgia, for Sega this is a significant change in ‘standard’ production. Dipping their toe into the waters makes financial and business sense. My issue is I don’t see how this small a market can make a big enough dent to understand the economic, market and environmental benefits though.

So while commendable, I say Sega Europe should go one step further. They can convert the packaging of all of their physical media in the new packaging, not just PC. Maybe just for an individual title/titles as a trial – converting everything at once would likely be too costly for the company to absorb. But trying with a broader market at the very least would allow better scrutiny of the ‘success or failure’ of the project.

Also, I would like to see Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo follow suit. Not including collectors editions, most games are a single disc that can be well protected in a cardboard sleeve. Worse, some games are just plastic covers for a download code printed on cardboard. Even if the new packaging was trialled on these download only retail releases, that would be a huge impact.

The more people that do this, the more the cost goes down. Here is hoping Sega can get the ball rolling with other companies.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

More Final Fantasy VII Remake info coming June

It looks like it is coming along nicely!

Last week, Sony had its second State of Play event. It’s still essentially a Nintendo Direct rip-off inspired presentation, but they seem to be finding their feet with the format reasonably well.

I still haven’t had a chance to go into everything they showed in full depth, but the new teaser for the Final Fantasy VII Remake looks amazing!

I don’t quite get a lot of the negatives I hear around this remake.

Is Final Fantasy VII a beloved game? Yes.  For many players around my age, this was their first Final Fantasy game.  That is nostalgia gold right there.

Was it a perfect game?  Nope.  Not by a long shot.  A great game sure, and one I still love playing today, but not perfect by any means.  So why just bring out the identical game again?

So Square is remaking it.  Not HD Remastering, a full-blown remake.  Gameplay that was set because of old limitations can be overhauled, not just the graphics.  Look how well Resident Evil 2 remake has been received – this can be done very, very right.

Personally, I am looking forward to Final Fantasy VII Remake. It may crash and burn horribly, but I want to see what happens before making any judgements!

I am hoping the news coming in June at the ‘Not E3’ Conference will finally include a release date.

What about you?  Is this something you are looking forward to?  What is your favourite Final Fantasy so far?  Let me know on Twitter @JohnHQLD or drop me a line on Facebook!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Review

20190102 AstroBot
20190102 AstroBot
Released 2018
Platform PlayStation 4
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment (Website)
Developer Japan Studio (Website)
Homepage PlayStation.com (Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality
Platformer
Collectables

The little bot that could

One of the first ‘games’ you get (or should get) with PlayStation VR is called The Playroom VR.  Essentially a few mini-games showing off the VR tech, The Playroom VR is a great introduction to different nuances of VR gaming.

One of these mini-games is Japan Studio’s Rescue Robots.  The idea is simple – you control a single robot through a 3D world and try to find all your missing friends through the level.

The catch – you are actively in the game.  Your avatar is a (relatively) huge vacuum looking robot that floats through the level on a set path.  Your controller is visible on the screen at all times, as it is part of the game.  You can shoot out a rope and grappling hooks to create tightropes and pull down walls.

It was a very immersive experience and a highlight of the package.

Robots Rescue PlayRoom VR
Rescue Robots was definitely one of the most popular Playroom VR mini games

And now Rescue Robots is all grown up

Now, Rescue Robots has evolved into its own game – Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

The basic gameplay is almost identical, but a bit of polishing has happened.  On starting a new game, you get to see the Bots and their sentient mothership attacked by an alien.  The ship is ripped apart, and the alien makes off with the ships PSVR visor.

So you control Astro, captain of the ship, and set off to explore five different worlds and find your friends.

Story-wise, this will never win awards.  It’s all a thin premise to get you where you need to be for the platforming, and that is where Astro Bot Rescue Mission shines.

On the surface, it’s a very straightforward platformer.  Control Astro and explore the stages, collecting coins and finding your missing crewmates.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Opening
The more of your crewmates you save, the more greet you on the opening screen

Some crew are out in the open, some are hidden in various ways.  The great sound of the game lets you hear the bots cry out for help, and the 3D sound makes it easy to home in on where you should be looking.

What it doesn’t do is home in on how you should be looking – and that is a great element of Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

If you think of yourself as a camera moving around on a dolly, that would be fairly correct.  But you aren’t fixed in your seat.  There will be times you will want to stand and look ahead or behind you for secrets and hidden paths that your initial view hid with perspective.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Exploring the World
So the little guy looking up is Astro, the guy up inm the air is one of your crewmates, and the big huge thing in the screen is you!

And that’s just part of it.  Some of the bots are hidden, but not all of them are calling out for help.  Some are quietly lazing around, minding their own business until you knock something or turn around to see them.

This kind of thinking is slowly introduced through the levels of the game.  In the first level, the fact that a bot in it that is lazing next to an enemy subtly teaches you that just because enemies came from there, doesn’t mean that a crew member can’t be around.

Then you get into the environmental controller bonuses.  Some levels give you different ways of interacting with the world directly.

The first tool is the grappling line, similar to Rescue Robots.  Create tightropes or pull down walls to make Astro new paths.  Shurikens are another bonus, allowing you to embed them in certain walls to make platforms.  Another is a water hose, letting you grow plants and vines as paths in the Garden levels, or cool lava to make a path in Volcano levels.

And of course, there is the old fashioned mini-gun ball launcher, to knock over everything in your way 🙂

Astro Bot Rescue Mission New Item Unlocked
Trouble from above? Mini ball blaster unlocked! You have to play yourself, it's not all on Astro!

But it’s not just the gameplay

Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a great traditional platformer with not so traditional twists.  And as I have said, the story isn’t going to win any real prizes.

But the characters.  Initially, you think ‘Oh cute’.  But I actually started caring about not only the Bots but the ‘enemies’ stopping me and the others that help you along the way.

Having Astro look at you and wave as it makes its way around the level was fun, and a few times I actually found myself waving back!  This is a world that you don’t think about when you start playing, but truly pulls you in completely.

The cutesy graphics style may make Astro Bot Rescue Mission look like a kids game, but don’t let that fool you.  There is a lot happening here, and the simpler graphics not only establish the world but let it play smoothly on the PlayStation hardware.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Cute little game
There is no way you can say the characters don't have personality

On the whole, the controls worked great.  There were a few times that I would go ‘out of field’ with the headset, but just moving back fixed that and it never happened at a critical moment, only when I was physically walking around exploring.

Once you put the PSVR on, you are in the world of Astro Bot Rescue Mission, and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

So what’s wrong with it?

Honestly – not much.  The controls have a little bit of a learning curve, as the direction you push to send Astro is relative to where you are looking.

The biggest complaint I would have is the game length, and even that is a relative complaint.

There are five game worlds, each with four levels and a boss.  Once these are cleared, there is one ‘final’ boss – the alien from the start.  This is a pretty short game to get to the end overall.

But there is a lot more to do.  Each level has a chameleon you have to find, and finding these unlock challenges.  This adds 26 extra levels to the game, adding a couple of hours overall.  It’s a welcome addition and requires skill and practice, but unfortunately, it also feels a little like padding.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Challenge Levels
Just when you thought you were done...

There is also a ‘grabber’ mini-game where you spend your coins.  This lets you rebuild levels inside the mothership to play and explore in.

Grab a bomb, waste some coins.  Levels can be replayed to farm coins, so it’s not a massive issue, but the mini-game is more for novelty than gameplay value.

That said, I have put Astro Bot Rescue Mission on the ‘I am going to Platinum this’ list for 2019 – and hopefully before the end of January!

Astro Bot Rescue Mission In The Mothership
When you get the grabber items, you get pieces for fun mini levels in the Mother ship. Ride an abducted cow anyone?

Even though the game is relatively short (a dedicated day to finish everything is my guess), it is a lot of fun to play and well worth the price of admission.

As long as it’s on sale.  AUD$55 is a bit much I think for the amount of game you get, but the AUD$31 until 19/01/2019 is pretty much spot on.

But there really is no better way to understand Astro Bot than by playing it yourself.  And while it’s not as good as having the controller in your hands, below is my first video of 2019 – finishing the first level of Astro Bot Rescue Mission with all the secrets!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Astro Bot Rescue Mission

Final Thoughts

It’s fun, immersive, and has that ‘one more go’ factor that makes great games great.

In small doses, Astro Bot Rescue Mission might even be a good trainer for getting your ‘VR legs’ if you experience motion sickness in VR.  Either way, a heap of fun and another great game from Japan Studio.

MORE PLEASE!!!

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  Lots of fun
  •  Great use of VR systems
  •  Great start to a potential new franchise
  •  Friendly learning curve

Cons

  •  Can cause Motion Sickness
  •  Relatively Short

PlayStation Classic coming this December!

PlayStation Classic in hand

Because apparently, I am a retro geek sucker

When Nintendo announced the NES Classic, I jumped onboard.  I was a Sega lad on the whole, and the mini console let me play a whole bunch of games I knew I had missed.

Same with the SNES Classic.  Not as many games I really wanted to play, but enough to make it worthwhile.  The C64 Mini was a no-brainer – it was essentially my first computer, and I was ready for that trip down nostalgia lane.

And then last night, this happened.

Final Fantasy VII, with the original no-stick controllers.  The memories are flooding back like crazy, and that is from just one title.

This was when I took console gaming ‘seriously’.  Sure, I had the Master System and a couple of handhelds, but until the PlayStation, if the game wasn’t on PC it just wasn’t worth buying.

We know the console will have 20 games preloaded in total, with only Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms confirmed.

PlayStation Classic in hand
Another retro console is about to join my shelf. Well, I am pretty sure it will.

The other 15 games will be revealed over the coming weeks, but I am really enjoying the quick turnaround between the announcement and on the shelf.

Looking for a retro gift for an older player?  Maybe you aren’t old enough to have tried the original console?  This is a great gift idea for either!

Just like the Nintendo and C64 mini versions, everything will run via a USB micro a cable, but no power supply is included.  I know a lot of people complain about this, but honestly how many spare USB adaptors are in a house these days?

It also looks like Sony has gone with Standard USB ports for the controllers, so cable extenders and possibly Dual Shock controllers could be plugged in.  Wireless adaptors maybe?

Either way, with the current popularity of classics such as Crash and Spyro, the timing is great to get gamers back into retro PlayStation gaming.  And on a Sony Platform. *cough Switch envy much? cough*

PlayStation Classic Front and Back
The classic style, but with modern conveniences

If you only have a current gen console and don’t have access to PlayStation Now, this is a great way to play some classic games.  I have mine locked in.  I am going to have to build a mini-console shelf soon!

In Australia, the PlayStation Classic will set you back $150 and you can preorder from EB Games here.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD