The new update can’t salvage the sinking ship that is Pokemon Go

Feature, Game reviews, Uncategorized

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Pokemon Go’s festive holiday title screen 


Despite its recent update, it is too little too late for Pokemon Go. There. I said it.

Yes the game now boasts new content, but month after month of pointless updates with no significant change/additions means Pokemon Go is simply no longer appealing to its core demographic.

Flashback to summer when generation 2 couldn’t possibly have come out soon enough. Fans were aching for Gold & Silver generation Pokemon at the peak of the game’s craze in July and August. September would’ve been ok even. But December? Your audience is too far gone Niantic. Catching the same Pokemon over and over has gotten incredibly stale in the months following the game’s release in July. Gotta Catch ‘Em All, but then what?

On December 7 Niantic released a new update with meaningful content. Only the update doesn’t give players generation 2, yet. Fans are instead treated to baby Pokemon—who really serve no purpose other than filling up a Pokedex and look cute—and for a limited time only, a novelty Santa hat-wearing Pikachu.

But what exactly are baby Pokemon? They are essentially devolved forms of existing creatures as introduced circa Pokemon Gold & Silver. For instance Elekid becomes Electabuzz and Pichu evolves into Pikachu. The update gifts us 7 of these baby Pokemon: Igglypuff, Magby, Elekid, Cleffa, Pichu, Smoochum and Togepi.

Here’s the catch: the new Pokemon need to be found as eggs at Pokestops and then hatched.

Although walking 5 or 10 km to hatch an egg in winter conditions doesn’t sound too appealing does it? Unless you live warm climate, of course.

 

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One of the biggest additions is the game’s tracking system which now had been updated to show players exactly where Pokemon are located.

Oh, and players can now transfer multiple Pokemon to Dr. Willow. Convenient, but it’s nothing to get excited about, at least not in December.

Generation 2 Pokemon will rolled out over the upcoming months, so says Niantic. The hype surrounding the game’s latest update had many believing we would get the next generation of pocket monsters. No word on those legendaries either.

Trading remains non-existent. Battling between two players is still not possible. This is a far cry from the game Niantic displayed in their advertisement, an echo of promises never materialized.

After the Halloween and Thanksgiving celebration events, fans can expect or rather are demanding a Christmas update with increased XP and bonuses. It’s still early and an announcement should be coming sooner than later. Events like these won’t necessarily have fans rushing back to the app but its better than nothing.

Admittedly, Niantic’s Pokemon journey was bound to have a short shelf-life from the start. As fun as Pokemon Go was initially—and in warm weather—the game was clearly not made to last. A novel concept, it was truly a flash in the pan. Now that Pokemon Sun and Moon are out, those who still hang onto Pokemon Go are few and far between.

It was the app of summer 2016 hands down, no contest. Kids were playing, your neighbour and your grandma were seeking rare and elusive creatures like Dragonite and Lapras. Pokemon Go has gone from being a worldwide phenomenon to “you still play that game?” almost overnight.

Even if Niantic somehow manages to come up with a massive update it will still be too late. Understandably, Niantic operates under a small crew but it’s becoming harder and harder to defend the game.

At this point, it’s hard to believe anything could salvage the rapidly sinking ship that is Pokemon Go.

Sega vs Nintendo a.k.a Console Wars

Book reviews, Game reviews, Uncategorized

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Console Wars, Blake J. Harris, Dey Street Books, 2014.

Coke vs Pepsi. Nike vs Adidas. Jordan vs LeBron. Nintendo vs Sega. Some of the greatest philosophical debates of our time —at least in the context of popular-culture.

I’m not going to take sides on the whole Sega versus Nintendo argument. I enjoyed and played Nintendo and Sega equally as much in the 1990s. That said, gamers of today have Sega to thank for the delightfully violent and blood-filled games that sit on their shelves. Sega targeted a different audience than Nintendo, a cooler, more mature one. Someone’s older teenaged brother perhaps. Looking back, Sega seems to be focused towards feeding the hardcore gamer crowd. They were edgy and something about them was cool in a way Nintendo wasn’t. I was too young to comprehend the whole console wars as it was happening in the ’90s but my fascination with this era of gaming remained. Why all the Sega talk? Because Console Wars focuses on Sega.

Soon to be a motion picture, Blake J. Harris’ Console Wars is largely told from the perspective of former Sega CEO Tom Kalinske. This choice will perhaps raise gamer’s eyebrows but it makes perfect sense. How can a book on a pivotal moment in video game history be seen from one point of view? The short answer is somehow, strangely, it works. Telling the story through Kalinske’s eyes—at least for the most part—creates narrtive and an emotional connection with the reader. Harris could have chosen just as well to tell it from a faceless, corporate point of view or that of an obsessive and enthusiastic fan. Instead, having someone whom the reader can actively live the console wars through works to maximum effect.

To this aspect, a lot of names are thrown and mentioned. Many are recurring and given importance, others get a mention here and there. That’s not to say readers will remember everyone who was mentioned in the book and played a part in the war, they won’t.

The book portrays Sega as an underdog and rightfully so. Even if one isn’t a fan of The company or overtly prefers Nintendo, its hard not to root for Sega with each page turned and newly arising conflict. Most serious gamers already know how the console war ends (as well as the eventual downfall of Sega as a hardware manufacturer). It’s a long road to get there and Console Wars does an admirable job of helping the reader relive these moments. From the creation of the blue blur, Sonic the Hedgehog, and his rivalry versus Mario and Nintendo, to the internal struggles at Sega, it’s a journey.

Truth is while the book centers on the console wars, a large part of the book comes down to strategy, advertising and marketing. In that sense, its very good business book. Console Wars delves into tactics, resources used by Nintendo and especially Sega. Some tactics are fairly ridiculous and over-the-top and on occasion, downright slander. How appealing that will be to someone who enjoys video games might vary, unless they enjoy the history of games that is.

In retrospect, it is fascinating to read about Sega’s imminent implosion. In this case the manufacturer tried to push too many different products at once effectively cancelling some of its own revenue and marketing. Too much, too fast, too soon.

Most of Sega’s troubles were caused by… Sega. They stuck it to Nintendo and gained the bigger share of the market only to effectively dismantle its own success through internal conflicts. Therefore Sega’s biggest competition may have very well been itself. For instance, it’s almost comical that Sega of America was given the task of finishing Sega of Japan’s 32X concept, a console SoA didn’t want on the market, in order to let their subsidiary concentrate on the Sega Saturn. It’s interesting how Tom Kalinske wanted to prolong the life of Genesis—a system who was dominating the video game market—only to be met with opposition from his Japanese.

I found a few issues with Console Wars. The book focuses almost entirely on Sega. While Harris really delves into Sega it feels like Nintendo is either ignored or overlooked most of the time unless they are mentioned in the context of rivalry. The book takes a look at the history of Nintendo, it’s relationships with third-party publishers such as EA Sports and Rare, it’s grip on the gaming industry and the development of the Nintendo Power publication. There is Nintendo content. Yet I still can’t help but feel the book is extremely one-sided. Nintendo’s coverage is minimal compared to Sega’s. There are a few recurring names from the Nintendo camp, but it’s only a fraction of the amount devoted Sega employees. Same with promotions, games and events. As such, Console Wars might’ve benefited from an alternate title —one preferably using the words “Tom Kalinske” and “Sega”.

Harris tells the reader in the introduction that he had to recreate dialogue for the story to take shape. The problem is that we’re left with dialogue that is not 100% accurate and some of the quotes and sentences are overemphasized and exaggerated for dramatic effect. The author adds dramatic effects and colourful adjectives that, although movie-ready, are out-of-place. I also wasn’t a fan of the occasional two-page chapters, I felt they took away from continuity.

There are great lessons in Console Wars. A lot of what caused Sega’s eventual fall was due to what happened on the inside. The divisions between Sega of America (SOA) and Sega of Japan (SOJ) most notably. It is clear that a company split into parts without clear focus on one singular goal cannot succeed.

Console Wars looses steam towards the end where it feels slightly rushed at some point after the launch of Sonic 3. Reading transcripts of a Nintendo conference and a play performed by Nintendo employees is about as thrilling as it sounds. There is no definitive ending to the war as we know it in the book: Donkey Kong Country came out for the SNES and sold 7.5 million copies, the Saturn came out and Tom Kalinske leaves Sega. It could’ve benefited from more reflection and insight.

The foreword by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg is both amusing and engaging. They are clearly video game fans and I was surprised to see their names in the book and delighted at how their personalities shone through their words.

Is it worth reading? Yes. It’s insightful and offers a worthwhile look at the events that shook the video game industry between 1990-95. Fans of video games will no doubt find great content but it doesn’t delve as deep into the games as they might hope from this type of book. As previously mentioned, it is very business-oriented. I really enjoyed Console Wars and liked that the book was told from Tom Kalinske’s perspective. It is well researched and provides good information. With the issues I’ve addressed, it lacked a certain closure, was too focused on Sega and the recreated dialogue wasn’t always on point.

Some key/interesting points:

*Tom Kalinske’s career pre-Sega, how he came to be at Sega, his decisions, marketing strategies, advertising, etc.

*Nintendo making life difficult for software publishers, stores carrying their products and video rental stores.

*Sega taking advantage of Nintendo’s difficult relationships with the above. Making deals with Electronic Arts, publishers and retailers.

*Nintendo essentially shrugging their shoulders at how bad the Super Mario Bros. movie was.

*Sega’s use of marketing and advertising to brand itself as a hip, edgy alternative to Nintendo.

*Sega gaining the lead in the war only to repeatedly shoot itself in the foot.

*Sega of Japan’s constant insistence on wanting to be in charge, going as far as deliberately sabotaging Sega of America’s efforts.

*Nintendo’s stubborn ways, effectively being labelled as a bully by many game publishers. Console Wars almost pushed the notion of Nintendo as a villain in the video game industry.

*Nintendo’s early relationship with Sony leading to the development of Sony’s Playstation.

*Relationships of Sony with Nintendo and Sega and entry into the world of video games.

Beautiful photography, nice sampler

Book reviews, Game reviews, Uncategorized

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Before Mario, Voskuil Erik, Omake books, 2014.

 

Nintendo is best-known for it’s iconic Italian plumber mascot. I’m talking of course about the red cap, blue pants-wearing Mario.

What many don’t know is that Nintendo has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s selling play cards before expanding to toys, arcades and video games in the 20th century. Erik Voskuil’s Before Mario examines some of the toys produced by Nintendo between 1965 and 1983.

Before Mario takes a look at 52 toys made by Nintendo prior to the introduction of their famed mascot ). Each toy is accompanied by one or many photograph along with text describing it’s use and tracing its origin, history and other facts. In short, it’s a really nice flip-through book that showcases Nintendo’s innovative spirit long before they ventured into video games and became the established company they are today.

It’s a coffee table book that’s a bit on the smaller side, more wide than it is long. It’s a nice looking book fit for the devout Nintendo fan, video game collector or toy enthusiast. Some of these toys are very creative displaying some interesting ideas and concepts.

The best part of Before Mario is without a doubt the beautiful, high quality photography that graces its glossy pages. The photos are excellent and simplistic with the toys commanding attention with every little detail of their fabric. The toys all come from Erik Voskuil’s collection who claims to own the biggest personal collection of Nintendo products prior to their foray into the world of video games.

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Example of the format with price, release date, picture and history : us gamer.net

The main problem with Before Mario is its content is already available online on the author’s blog along, usually with more detailed information, toys and collectibles. What the consumer is left with are very nice photographs of toys, a foreword by Satoru Okada known for his work with Nintendo and a conversation- starter piece.

Voskuil’s blog beforemario.com is highly worth visiting to discover a little-known part of Nintendo history. His collection of Nintendo artifacts will be the source of envy and admiration from many. Perhaps one day he will release a more complete book with more items from his massive collection.

As such, it is really up to the consumer to decide if he desires such a book when all of this information is already available and expanded with more toys on the author’s blog. For the photography, content and novelty l’m rating Before Mario 3/5 stars.

Nintendo is best-known for it’s Italian plumber mascot. I’m talking of course about the red cap, blue pants-wearing Mario. What many don’t know is that Nintendo has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s selling play cards before expanding to toys, arcades and video games in the 20th century. Erik Voskuil’s Before Mario examines some of the toys produced by Nintendo between 1965 and 1983.

Before Mario takes a look at 52 toys made by Nintendo prior to the introduction of their famed mascot ). Each toy is accompanied by one or many photograph along with text describing it’s use and tracing its origin, history and other facts. In short, it’s a really nice flip-through book that showcases Nintendo’s innovative spirit long before they ventured into video games and became the established company they are today.

It’s a coffee table book that’s a bit on the smaller side, more wide than it is long. It’s a nice looking book fit for the devout Nintendo fan, video game collector or toy enthusiast. Some of these toys are very creative displaying some interesting ideas and concepts.

The best part of Before Mario is without a doubt the beautiful, high quality photography that graces its glossy pages. The photos are excellent and simplistic with the toys commanding attention with every little detail of their fabric. The toys all come from Erik Voskuil’s collection who claims to own the biggest personal collection of Nintendo products prior to their foray into the world of video games.

The main problem with Before Mario is its content is already available online on the author’s blog along, usually with more detailed information, toys and collectibles. What the consumer is left with are very nice photographs of toys, a foreword by Satoru Okada known for his work with Nintendo and a conversation- starter piece.

Voskuil’s blog is highly worth visiting to discover a little-known part of Nintendo history. His collection of Nintendo artifacts will be the source of envy and admiration from many. Perhaps one day he will release a more complete book with more items from his massive collection.

As such, it is really up to the consumer to decide if he desires such a book when all of this information is already available and expanded with more toys on the author’s blog. For the photography, content and novelty l’m rating Before Mario 3/5 stars.

highly worth visiting to discover a little-known part of Nintendo history. His collection of Nintendo artifacts will be the source of envy and admiration from many. Perhaps one day he will release a more complete book with more items from his massive collection.

As such, it is really up to the consumer to decide if he desires such a book when all of this information is already available and expanded with more toys on the author’s blog. For the photography, content and novelty I’m rating Before Mario 3/5 stars.

Paper Mario meets… stickers?

Game reviews

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Paper Mario Sticker Star, 3DS, Nintendo, 2012.

 

Paper Mario, one of the most beloved Mario franchises in Nintendo history, made it’s way to the 3DS- albeit in it’s own, unique way.

At first glance Paper Mario Sticker Star looks like your average Paper Mario RPG-style game, but appearances can be misleading. Nintendo has kept the cartoonesque feel and clever jokes and mass appeal of the franchise, but it’s also noticeable early on that they went for a different approach this time around.

What does this mean? Well, there is significantly less of an RPG feeling in Sticker Star. You still battle and the general for Paper Mario idea remains the same, but it’s not an open world anymore. Instead you have worlds with levels much like the classic Super Mario Bros and you beat one to get to the next. It’s done rather well in that sense and for the most part they have the Paper Mario feeling.

However, what made the Paper Mario games so great to me was how you roamed freely with no levels which was different for a Mario. Now we’re back to levels, a step backward if you ask me. The levels work and they are fun but l can’t help but think they messed with an already proven and successful formula.

The presentation aspect is fantastic, Paper Mario on the 3DS looks amazing and it looks right at home. The 3D works very well mixed the 2D graphics for a unique presentation. The way the characters talk, move and interact is just charming and perfect. The paper, pop-up look definitely translates nicely on the 3DS.

The story goes as follow: Bowser steals a royal sticker and gives pieces of it to his people which gives them superpowers. A shiny crown follows Mario who has to go find the stickers and save princess Peach, of course. The crown helps you along the way with it’s powers and serves Mario (much like Navi does for Link in Ocarina of Time).

You travel through these worlds with a binder that stores the stickers you find. Now here’s where Sticker Star get it’s mixed reviews from. You use stickers you collect along the way to battle. It’s not the traditional combat mode which is disappointing at first, but becomes interesting. Pretty simple, different and it works well.

Sometimes you’ll collect real life items like scissors that you can turn into a sticker. Those special items stickers are much bigger and powerful than the average sticker and take up more place in your binder-you only have so much room. You constantly need to replinish the album- If you’re out of stickers, you’re out of luck!

The battles are a crucial point when it comes to discussing this game. Now you use stickers you collect to fight enemies. You’ll use a jump sticker if you want to stomp a goomba for instance. Some of them have very clever and fun cut scenes and I thought there were some good ideas like the Fireball sticker turns you into Fireball Mario for an attack. The fight system may seem odd or unappealing on paper but translates well on the screen.

Personally I thought there is nothing wrong with the new fight system. The problem I do have is that the battles are essentially useless to the point that if you can avoid them you should. That’s the main downside to an otherwise good game.

The EXP points and stats are completely gone so there’s no reason to fight unless its part of a scene, a boss or to get rid of some of the less useful stickers you possess. At least stats would have been useful to indicate how strong the stickers are, instead of remembering them on your own.

The game is clever in that its tricky and not necessarily easy to figure things out. It demands more from the gamer than the average Mario game which Paper Mario has always been known for. The boss battles are that way as well, seeing as you have to have an idea what stickers to use and when to use the special item stickers you collect.

I miss going around freely, you wanted to talk to characters in previous games, the EX points and stats plus the side quests were always fun adventures. All of that is gone. Basically they took a game that was in a free roaming RPG style based and put a bunch of restrictions that didn’t enhance or improve the product in any way whatsoever. Having a sidekick was nice as well, now that’s gone and you have the shiny crown to talk to.

Overall, Sticker Star is not a bad game. It retains the uniqueness of Paper Mario and looks and feels very nice on the 3DS. However, due to the lack of more traditional RPG elements, the hardcore Paper Mario fan will be left with a bad taste in their mouth. My Mario RPG cravings weren’t totally satisfied as a fan of the three previous entries.

I feel with this game Nintendo tried to appeal more to the younger and casual audiences who weren’t necessarily fans of the franchise. There’s a lot of fun to be had and it’s enjoyable in it’s own way, but I expected a little more and it didn’t deliver in the way I hoped it would. I think this shows that a true RPG Paper Mario game like Thousand Year Door could be portable and work on the 3DS. 3.25/5 stars

Cute, charming and addictive!

Game reviews

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Animal Crossing New Leaf, 3DS, Nintendo, 2013.

Animal Crossing was what I’d describe as a sleeper hit when it first came out on the Gamecube. The game warranted enough attention to have sequels on the Wii and Wii U and portable with the DS and 3DS. The cute characters and childlike graphics would have you thinking this game is for children when it’s really accessible to all ages. There’s a real innocence quality to Animal Crossing, but make no mistake it isn’t quite child’s play.

In New Leaf you move into a new town as the only human around anthropomorphic animals. When you arrive everyone mistakes you for the new mayor and decide that surely you must be the mayor. The citizens trust you to serve them and with handling day to day town activities. You’re given shelter and a mortgage, let your new life begin!

You’ll be doing plenty of fishing, catching bugs, searching for fossils and fruits. These activities occupy a lot of your time, it’s by doing them that money (bells) will come. You’ll then be able to pay off your mortgage and move into another, bigger, better house— with a heftier mortgage, of course. The mayoral part of the game is fun as well, if not challenging. Conducting ordinances, expanding, developing, building, creating, and maintaining citizen satisfaction is easier said than done. How much or little time you devote to these activities is completely up to you.

The translation from home console to portable was already well executed with Animal Crossing Wild World for the Nintendo DS. If you ask me, New Leafs builds on what it’s DS counterpart does and exceeds it in every way. The 3DS version is beautifully simplistic with that trademark bright coloured Nintendo-style graphics. The portable experience is massively satisfying and provides most of what the home console versions do. I somehow always end up curled up with my 3DS and New Leaf.

It wasn’t made with hardcore gamers in mind, but it’s very addictive. Rather, Animal Crossing is a game that you play at your leisure. You find yourself constantly wanting to upgrade your house, the stores, developing your town. It all takes time and patience. For these reasons, Animal Crossing won’t be for everybody (especially if one lacks patience). It is best played casually, here and there everyday than in large chunks of time otherwise it might get a little redundant.

Animal Crossing deviates from the norm by being a game focused on normal, everyday activities and interactions instead of shooters and sci-fi-inspired titles that are all the rage today.

One of my favourite aspects of New Leaf is the customization. From the way you look and dress to how you decorate your house and the items you can purchase, the customization opportunities are ever present. Naming your town, nicknames, putting items up for sale on the flea market, building bridges and infrastructures around town… It goes on and on. Going for a new haircut, shopping for clothes and new furniture sounds tame, but believe me when l say these little things are exciting and part of the experience of Animal Crossing.

The habitants will always differ from city to city. Perhaps your friend will have a dragon living in his town and you’ll have a horse instead. Even when you start over and begin a new town or get a new habitant in your town, it really is the luck of the draw. It keeps it interesting and fresh. There are also different types of characters with their own quirks and behaviors which adds to the fun. They often want you to get them fruit or do tasks such as deliveries which can sometimes get a little repetitive. I wish the habitants offered a wider range of tasks and challenges.

You can also catch a boat to Tortimer lsland which is a lot of fun. The island has different species of fish and bugs, that are all the more valuable. With these, you can complete the museum’s collection. The museum? Yep, there’s more to the game than you realize. Buying from and selling items to Re-Tail and Nook’s Junction for instance. It’s fairly easy to understand the game, pick it up amd plag right away whether you’re a veteran or a newbie.

Animal Crossing mirrors real life. If it’s winter, there will be snow. Likewise if it’s 10:30 A.M. where you live, it will also be the time in New Leaf. The stores have day hours and will close after a certain hour, adding a touch of reality to the game. If it’s night in realtime, it will also be night in the game.

I played the original Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Gamecube and loved it. It’s with confidence that l say it remains every bit the enjoyable experience it ever was. I’ve had New Leaf for almost 3 years and l keep going back to it. Every so often l’ll restart my town and rebuild my town from scratch. It’s always fun to try to achieve your perfect town. New Leaf is incredibly satisfying if you have an itch for a portable Animal Crossing or if it’s your first time playing. Fun or children and adult alike and at the risk of repeating myself—addictive!

“Do a barrel-roll!”

Game reviews

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Starfox Zero, Nintendo, Wii U, 2016.

We were long overdue for a new Star Fox game.

It’s been 10 years since we last saw a new Star Fox title in the franchise (Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS), and 11 since the last home console release (Assault for the Gamecube). At last, Star Fox makes it’s debut on the Wii U. Assuming you’ve played Star Fox 64, the game feels familiar from the first mission. From it’s visual appearance to enemies to your colleagues’s voices and commands, it feels like the Star Fox I love and missed.

Star Fox Zero sees the franchise step right back where it belongs. It never gets old to fire at targets, zoom in on enemies, perform barrel-rolls and summersaults for your own entertainment or drop bombs. It’s good to see the crew together once more: Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare and Slippy Toad as they tackle Andross and old foes once more. I love hearing the dialogue between the characters, after all, Starfox was know to have great one-liners. There are however, some obstacles that hinder it’s enjoyment.

The controls are the reason I suspect this game won’t be every gamer’s cup of tea. In theory, playing with gamepad doesn’t sound all that bad. Yet it makes for a confusing experiences at times. Looking at two screens is easier said than done, especially in a fast-paced environment such as Star Fox Zero. The TV shows a third person perspective view much like previous Star Fox experiences. The gamepad offers a first person cockpit view. They combine as one but ultimately operate differently. Confused yet?

Mastering the controls while learning to utilize the gamepad and alternating screens is a learning process. Playing the game requires you to use the TV and gamepad screens in conjunction. The gamepad’s screen plays from a cockpit point of view and shows enemies and targets out of range on the big screen.

Learning can be a frustrating process, but it’s ultimately rewarding when one realize all the control that Star Fox Zero offers it’s player. Once you’ve got it down, the controls start to become a little more fun.

There’s still that part of me that doesn’t like the controls. In theory, it sounds like an interesting gaming experience and sometimes it is, but sometimes the game had me rolling my eyes. Holding the gamepad is OK. When it comes to what is essentially swinging the device around and tilting to impossible angles, I’m not fond of them. At best, the controls are fun. At worst, they take away from the enjoyment of Star Fox Zero. In this regard, it might be better to play with a pro-controller which seems more suitable to the experience.

The graphics are sometimes brilliant and effective making the most of the Wii U’s capabilities. Then there are instances where they can look dated, almost as if they belong to a past generation of gaming consoles. For the most part they’re very good but Nintendo didn’t “wow” me, at least not this time. They recaptured the appearance of Star Fox 64 and brought it up to more modern standards, but it doesn’t impress.

Campaign isn’t all that long. 2-3 hours maybe, but then again Star Fox games are usually not terribly long. The multiplayer aspect of the game has many intrigued, with good reason. Two players co-operating to operate and maneuver a plane is an interesting concept. If the aforementioned controls seems puzzling and complex to you, rest assured, multiplayer breaks down the duties and mechanics between two players. Player one controls the air-wing while player two aims at targets.

It feels and plays like a Star Fox game, but it plays it’s cards a little too close to it’s chest at times. That is to say that it’s not daring enough, although it does adds some creative ideas the game isn’t all that different from Star Fox 64. You can almost call it Star Fox 64 II Wii U and it would fit. I’m not sure it’s what Nintendo was specifically aiming for, but Star Fox Zero looks and feels like a remake or an updated reboot of the franchise. It’s not a necessarily a bad thing. The N64 Star Fox is a beloved classic from my childhood. Zero offers an updated version of the concept with updated controls and mechanics complete with a facelift.

Starfox Zero is the game fans wanted and should have gotten a few years ago on the Wii or even the Gamecube. It’s also the best Star Fox since Star Fox 64. Once you master the controls the game is quite fun and offers a good challenge. I like that there are different vehicles to master such as the tank, it adds diversity to the game. On the downside, .

I don’t see much replayability (although you might want to revisit levels once you’ve hold a better grasp on the controls) and it isn’t that far off from the N64. I miss the secret exits and bonus levels as they were a fun part of the N64 title. There are exits but they’re just given to you. Besides, you can replay any levels as you wish at any given time which takes away the challenge aspect. I’m not mind-blown over Zero, but l’m definitely enjoying the game despite its flaws. It’s a fun title that packs a blast from the past, but it’s a little too short with gimmicky controls For these reasons, I’ll rate Zero 3/5 stars.

On a side note, retail copies of Star Fox Zero also include a bonus game, Star Fox Guard. In Guard you essentially play protect the tower. You don’t see the whole field however. Instead, there are twelve smaller screens and you can only operate from those viewpoints with add more challenge to the game. Guard is not incredible, but it’s a fun addition to Zero. It’s a tactical defence-oriented title that adds good entertainment and value to Star Fox Zero.

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A modern re-tooling of Super Mario 64

Game reviews

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Super Mario 3D World, Wii U, 2013, Nintendo. Nintendo Selects, 2016.

I was a late adopter of the Wii U. Lately, I’ve been going back through the console’s library of games and stumbled upon Super Mario 3D World. I had watched videos and read reviews upon it’s release in 2013 when it was hailed as the Wii U’s first triumph. 3 years later l finally had a chance to discover Super Mario 3D World, and to no one’s surprise, it is still an excellent game that makes clever use of the Wii U’s gamepad.

Earlier this year Nintendo brought us Nintendo Selects, discounted titles for a great price and this game happens to be one of them. Super Mario 3D World was already on my list of must-haves, but with the price drop it only validated my purchase.

Super Mario 3D World is the true successor to Super Mario 64. In that sense it’s not an exceedingly original game, but it adds a few twists, puzzles and new that makes it another highly enjoyable Mario title. Everything from the music to the physics, right down to the way you jump into maps is reminiscent of or taken straight from Super Mario 64.

While it may not be the most original approach it’s not necessarily a bad thing, Super Mario 64 is a great came to be compared with. Yet it’s no the exact same game, Nintendo clearly wanted to make a modern SM64 with 3D World and create a game that would appeal to new and older gamers alike. I believe they achieved their goal with this game.

The game uses the Wii U’s Gamepad for various effects. Tapping on the screen to jump on certain surfaces or blowing in the gamepad mic so as to make a platform move are wonderful examples. To me it only adds to the game’s value that the gamepad is used to capacity. It adds a creative touch that elevates the game to the next level.

The environments are rich and complex leaving you with plenty to explore. From a visual standpoint some of the levels are impressive to marvel upon. For instance, one particular stage makes creative use of shadows to navigate characters through. Chances are you’ll want to do some of these levels over to collect stars you may have missed or simply to enjoy the scenery once more.

New addition includes clear tubes that suck you in, the cloud tube, the cat suit and the intuitive gamepad play. One of the game’s best items was the cherry. Picking a cherry lets you create a clone yourself, picking a second cherry creates another and so on. Playing with 2-3 Marios is more fun than one! Super Mario 3D World is full of surprises.

I like that you can play as other characters than Mario. In what is perhaps a nod to Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad are all playable. Each character plays a little differently and has it’s own quirks that makes it unique. As an example, Princess Peach can hover for a few seconds due to her dress. It makes playing with each character a different experience. It’s also perk that a second can join the action at any given time, making for some fun multiplayer action.

There are different suits that give you powers. The cat suit for instance, allows you to climb walls and claw at enemies. Then there are your classic mushrooms, fireballs, Tanoiki and white Tanoiki suit. Ever wondered what Peach or Toad would look like in a Fireball or Tanoiki suit? The game offers you that wonderful opportunity.

Nintendo’s trademark bright colour palette looks fantastic in Super Mario 3D world and the game brings the best out of the Wii U. That makes it one of the best Mario titles in recent years. It may be reminiscent of Super Mario 64, but it stands on it’s own so as to not be Super Mario 64. It’s a fun, classic-style Mario game that much like it’s title implies, sees our main protagonist delve into an open 3D World. It offers a few new additions and unexpected twists that makes it stand solid ground on it’s own. The fine folks at Nintendo did us well with Super Mario 3D World and at this price it’s definitely worth it. 4.5/5 stars.

Fun RPG elements, game would have benefited from better flow

Game reviews, Uncategorized

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Mario & Luigi Dream Team, Nintendo 3DS,  2013, Nintendo.

Full disclore here,

I’ll admit I’ve haven’t played the first Mario & Luigi instalments on the GBA and Nintendo DS. Dream Team for the 3DS seemed to be a good place for me to start.

I had heard wonderful things about the series, it’s humour and how it’s in some ways the successor of the cult classic Super Mario RPG Legend of the 7 stars for SNES. I was pleased to discover that it really is an rpg based game and that it also keeps element of Mario games and the Mushroom Kingdom intact.

The 3DS doesn’t have a plethora of RPGs, Mario & Luigi Dream Tram is one of the few. The attacks are turn-based and the animation while not incredible suits the RPG mold and gives it a cool obscure game feel. The battles are a lot of fun and probably the best part of the game. It’s not terribly unique as an RPG in case you’re wondering, but it’s simultaneously unique to the Mario library and carries the torch for Super Mario RPG. In Dream Team you deal with XP points and level ups, buying clothes that provide stronger levels or armour, and learning new attacks.

Dream Team doesn’t have your traditional levels typically found in a Mario game. Instead, it’s a free-roaming environment where you often get drawn into the dream world which is where the levels occur. You engage in battles with magical and otherworld beings as well, but in the dream world the goal is to free trapped innocent creatures.

You get to dream world whenever you encounter a pillow. Every time you do, Luigi goes to sleep and becomes “Dream Luigi” where he had superpowers that help Mario, well mostly just his moustache. This works to comical effects and is good for a few chuckles. Sometimes the dream are demanding and demand some critical thinking and problem solving (as is the case throughout most of the gams), sometimes it’s very short and relatively easy.

One of the problems I have is there is SO MUCH TEXT! It’s hard to follow everything and quite frankly some of it is unnecessary and it gets tiring and boring to be honest. You can’t skip text either, although you can accelerate it. Tutorials are abundant as well, you can’t escape them. The game also can’t remind you enough that you control Mario and Luigi jointly and are responsible to control them both.These things to me, level down the game. It feels aimed more at children for those reasons than longtime fans.

The main issue with Mario & Luigi Dream Team is there is strong conpetition from other Mario titles for the 3DS. This one doesn’t stand out and it doesn’t compete all that well. If you want something similar with some RPG elements that offers a better experience, try Paper Mario Sticker Star or another RPG title. I feel if the game had less text/tutorials and offered slightly more Dream Team could’ve gone from being a good title that’s slightly annoying to a great one. It it was faster and had a better flow my rating would’ve been that much higher.

As it stands, I think it’s a fun game, I love the RPG elements. Obviously the concept worked well enough to warrant three sequels. It’s charming, it’s funny, it has adventure and it offers something different for a Mario game which is wonderful. Nintendo just needs to get to the drawing board and do better with the next Mario & Luigi game. 3/5 stars.

You might want to skip this party…

Game reviews

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Mario Party 10, Nintendo, 2015.

 

Mario Party has been a staple of Nintendo’s since the late ’90s. Each console beginning with the N64 saw Mario throw Multiple party’s, some more effective than others but most of them tons of fun. From the N64, to the Gamecube, the Wii and now the Wii U, Mario Party is a tradition. Except the tradition is not fun anymore.

I have to address the elephant in the room. I’m not sure where Nintendo got the idea that kids would have too hard of a time with Mario Party being the way it was. I mean the franchise had the same format for the first 8 games. I was 8 years old when l played the first Mario Party in 1999 and me and friends figured it out it certainly wasn’t too complicated or difficult to grasp even at that age.

in Mario Party 10, the idea is that “everyone is a winner”. Everyone gets participation medals is nice if you have very young children and are looking for a family-oriented game. If you’re a fan of the franchise however, you know it’s the hearty competition that made the games so enjoyable to begin with. There was nothing wrong with the original formula if they were able to prolong the series to 8 games under it’s concept.

Mario Party 10 is one more attempt from Nintendo to attract a young audience while ignoring the legions of die-hards who have grown up with Mario Party.

At the very least there should be the option of the new and classic styles of board play. It appears Nintendo got lazy and took the easy way with Mario Party 10. The game is a little too much like Mario Party 9 and probably should have been titled Mario Party 9 Part 2.

Even playing as Bowser in mode is not as exciting as it sounds. It’s initially promising and different only to get old and rather tame quickly. I like that it uses the gamepad, which makes it a little different but it doesn’t offer enough.

An amiibo mode requires you to (yep, you’ve guessed it) use amiibos. So if you don’t own any amiibos an entire game mode is closed to you.

Simply put, Mario Party 10 is not worth the retail price. They took everything fun about Mario Party and tossed it aside. The magic is gone. Some of the mini-games are fun but without the competitive aspect it’s worthless. It’s like Mario Party 9 but even worse in that aspect. Not worth full price and l’m not sure l’d be worth it even it was used. I don’t recommend it. I hope if there’s a Mario Party 11 that the series returns to the classic formula. 2/5 stars.

Mediocre, best to avoid this party altogether

Game reviews

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Mario Party Island Tour, Nintendo, 2013. Nintendo Selects, 2016.

 

Mario Party has always been one of my favourite and beloved Nintendo franchise and Mario titles.

As a child l’d spend hours playing the games alone or with friends. First on the Nintendo 64 and later on for the Gamecube (Mario Party 4 was the first game I purchased for the Gamecube). I even followed it loyally on the DS and the Wii later on.

The board-games style of play required planning and strategy. The Mario Party titles were  fun and featured all the Mario characters we have all come to love. One thing that set it apart form any other Mario title and that’s the mini-games.

Alas it truly brings me no pleasure to write this review today. I have been a Mario Party fan since inception and I don’t make it a point of giving negative just for the fun of it. I’m not stuck in 1999 either, I really wanted, tried, to like Mario Party Island Tour for the Nintendo 3DS, but not to avail.

That’s the sad part. Initially I had mild expectations for Mario Party lsland tour. I wasn’t demanding much, simply a Mario Party game with boards, mini-games in that classic, familiar style that l could play on the go.

Mario Party DS did an excellent job bringing the party to the portable consoles l thought. I assumed perhaps we’d get something similar. Not even close. It turns out all the negative reviews you read are in fact very much true. I so wanted to believe that they were wrong and that l’d be right. I was wrong.

The main problem lies in the game’s boards. There are 7 boards total. Great right? Sounds like the usual amount, give or take. Nope. I soon discovered the boards are not the traditional ones.

There are very brief board games that can last ten minutes, twenty or a little more. Nintendo puts an approximate play length for every board, but I find they constantly exaggerate. The most I’ve gotten is probably a half hour, but it was more painful than decent.

The boards are so small and there’s hardly anything interesting or remotely fun about them. They feel like child games. Maybe that’s what Nintendo was going for here, aiming this game at children. Sadly I don’t think children would get much of a kick out of this game either, they’d probably be as bored as I was.

The goal for most boards to arrive first to the finish line. Unlike the past, it’s no longer about how much stars or money you accumulate. In Island Tour, everything is a race and VERY brief ones at that.

You can gain power ups from winning mini-games which add an extra dice to your roll count, or multiply your dice roll, or make you move a specific number of spots. That’s most of Island Tour right there.

You have to unlock boards as you go which is fine. Until you get to the last board. The seventh and final board can only be played multiplayer. That’s right you need other people to be able to play it. If you ask me that’s wrong. Now if it was a bonus extra, 8th map l’d be okay with that. But what Nintendo is doing is putting a plate of cookie in front of you that you can’t eat. What’s the point? Not that I care that much at this point since I hardly  enjoyed any aspect of the title.

Even Bowser’s tower is repetitive and dreadful. It’s not so bad to begin at least. All you do is climb a tower of 30 floors, on each floor you face Bowser’s henchmen in a mini-game battle. All you have to do is win the game to get to the next floor. But then it turns out you get to the top of the tower basically for nothing and have to do it all over again. It’s pointless because I feel no enjoyment, why do it again? You do unlock mini-games and other unlockables that don’t serve any purpose (crystal balls with characters, events or map in them. Gee thanks l’m gonna stare at that a lot).

I feel obligated to mention the controls. It makes good use of the 3DS stylus and particularly it’s joystick. The main flaw is the mini-games that require you to tilt the console for directions, aiming and such. It’s painful to deal with and it does not function well at all. It’s problem that they clearly didn’t bother to deal with or maybe thought gamers wouldn’t care.

Now the one good thing (yes it’s not all bad folks) about Island Tour is the mini-games. They’re not bad at all and most of them are really fun and can compete with any Mario Party title out there. It’s just sad that the rest of the game makes it almost torture to play them. Some of the mini-games are actually very similar to previous MP games and some seem directly inspired or taken from them. It’s a good mix of familiarity and freshness, l actually enjoyed quite a few of them. Yet mini-games aren’t enough to redeem the rest of the game and sadly it doesn’t take long to get all of them.

My advice is to skip this one altogether (unless you’re like me and have to find out for yourself, and if you do, please buy used) and pick up Mario Party for the regular DS. That’s still the best portable Mario Party and it kept the spirit and fun of the N64 and Gamecube titles.

Island Tour seems aimed more towards children and those who might not have played a MP game previously. Whatever the case may be, I feel Nintendo missed an opportunity here. Island Tour ends up being a very restricted and forgettable tour which is sad because both Mario Party and the 3DS deserved better. Certainly not worth full price. Avoid. 2/5 stars.