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Smith: Enjoying Sequelitis

Video Games

When it comes to sequels, gamers tend to be more forgiving than film critics.

In fact, some of the best games from the past 20 years have a sequel number behind them. A movie sequel has the unenviable task of recreating the feeling of the original while offering something new, both character and story wise. Video games, however, consist of multiple engines working together, and those engines are rarely perfected the first time around.

Here’s a few sequels I’m looking forward to this year.

“Red Dead Redemption 2” set for release Oct. 26

When it comes to quality, developer Rockstar Games doesn’t mind throwing money around.

It’s been nearly eight years since I awarded the original “Red Dead Redemption” my Game of the Year distinction, and I wasn’t alone in my gushing praise. An expansive western (a rarity for video games) built around “Grand Theft Auto’s” robust game engine, “Red Dead Redemption” felt like a spiritual sequel to Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 western “The Wild Bunch” — right down to the early 1900s setting that pits the rise of the automobile against horse transportation.

It’s gritty, it’s cynical, it’s beautiful, and the nihilistic ending that suggests the little guy will always be trampled on by men of power is unlike anything in video games.

In other words, expectations (and the accompanying pressure) for the sequel couldn’t be any higher.

“Far Cry 5” set for release on March 27.

This is the upcoming blockbuster I’m least excited about, but I still have hope. As much as I enjoyed “Far Cry 3” and “Far Cry 4,” developer Ubisoft’s open-world, cookie cutter template wore on me, and I didn’t even bother with the caveman themed “Far Cry: Primal.”

I can’t guarantee (or even hope) this latest iteration will be any different in terms of design, but the setting — northwest America — is quite intriguing. The game takes place in Hope County, Montana, where a preacher named Joseph Seed has risen to prominence. Seed believes he can protect Hope County from an “inevitable collapse,” establishing a congregation called Eden’s Gate — a thin guise for a militaristic doomsday cult.

With the recent release of the “Waco” TV series, the timing is certainly good. But in a politically charged atmosphere where gun rights, school shootings and the erosion of government is on everyone’s mind, it could prove to be too topical.

Either way, it should be interesting.

“Metroid Prime 4” set for release on the Nintendo Switch sometime this year

It’s been 15 years since I played the original “Metroid Prime” on my Nintendo GameCube, and I can still feel the creepy loneliness of its barren environments.

I didn’t get around to playing the “Metroid Prime” games that followed, but I can’t wait to play this one. A spin-off of the 2D Metroid games that started on the original Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid-1980s, the “Prime” series prides itself on unlikely first-person-platforming that actually works.

It’s not the platforming or shooting action the “Metroid” franchise is lauded for, though. It’s the exploration, which takes the player through twisty caves, pits of lava and weird alien compounds that defy description.

“God of War” set for release on April 20

Considering there’s been about half-a-dozen “God of War” games released since 2005, the lack of a sequel number behind the latest iteration is likely to be confusing to many gamers.

While this new “God of War” is far from a reboot (the game takes place years after “God of War II”), it is a fresh start for the series. The player still takes on the role of the half-god Kratos, but this time around, the story will ditch the Greek mythology in favor of Norse mythology.

Basically, it’s “God of War” in the snow. With a small boy, who may or may not be Kratos’ son.

The frantic hack-and-slash action of the prior games looks to be replaced with a slower, more deliberate combat model featuring a camera view that sits right behind Kratos’ shoulders. It reminds me of “Uncharted” or “The Last of Us,” but who knows how it will actually play.

“Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom” set for release on March 23

I don’t know the first thing about this sequel to one of my favorite games of 2013. And I’m such a fanboy for the fledgling series, I don’t want to know anything until I play it.

I do know the first game was a charming role-playing-game produced in part by Studio Ghibli — the same Japanese animation studio that produced so many of Hayao Miyazaki’s classic films such as “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away.” It looked like a playable cartoon.

That’s all I need to know. This is one of the few games of the year I’ll have no compunctions about pre-ordering.

Will Smith is a reporter for The Hawk Eye—a GateHouse Media Company—in Burlington, Iowa. His weekly column is printed in the Sunday edition of The Hawk Eye. 

Smith: Enjoying Sequelitis | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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