Nintendo at E3 2017

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Another year, another E3, and that means another blog post from me. As with previous years, I went into the whole thing, not just Nintendo’s part, with few expectations. While I found some of the releases from Sony/Microsoft/Ubisoft intriguing if a bit unsurprising (though, hey, “Beyond Good & Evil 2” is actually coming), my heart was set on Nintendo like always. This year, I had the strong feeling going in that their main focus would be on the Switch, and I was quickly proven right by their Spotlight/Direct. I won’t be reviewing that in the traditional sense, as I’ve already made my stance on preferring the Treehouse segments to the initial presentation, but I was still a little surprised that it focused solely on the Switch and excluded 3DS games and indie titles.

Speaking of the Switch, while I don’t own one yet, my fiance and I fully intend to pick one up. I already want to play “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and a lot of what I saw at this year’s E3 was just as enticing. The biggest one was, of course, “Super Mario Odyssey” which looks like a blast to play and full of goodies to collect. I loved the emphasis on exploration and the lush environments, but it was the possession ability that sealed the deal for me. Besides that, I knew immediately that I’d want to play both the new Kirby and Yoshi games coming out next year. They’re so adorable, colorful, and I can see myself enjoying them whether playing alone or with others. But the biggest surprise for me in terms of something I wasn’t sure about before E3 was “Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.” I’m one of those people who don’t mind the Rabbids, even though Rayman is far better, but what I was immediately drawn to was the core idea behind this game. Matching the usual Mario exploration with tactical-style battles sounded bizarre at first, but seeing it in action was awesome. It’s just such a cool, fresh concept to attach the Mario franchise to.

Now, if I had to make complaints, I do feel a quick blip of gameplay or CG trailer for “Metroid Prime 4” and the unnamed Switch Pokemon game would’ve been nice. I also would’ve liked to see some titles for both eshops, even though I’m currently low on funds. My biggest gripe, however, was the lack of 3DS games. I know the system is old now and it’s hard to say how much longer it’ll last, but I would’ve loved to see that extra bit of support for it. Aside from Nintendo showing some additional gameplay for “Ever Oasis”, which comes out next week, we only got four new 3DS titles. “Sushi Striker: Way of the Sushi” is a quirky puzzle/matching game due out next year. I liked how cartoon-y and fast-paced it was, though I can’t see myself playing it. Still, it was a brand new title and was at least different from the usual Nintendo fare. There was also the Mii-centric RPG “Miitopia”, which came out in Japan already and is coming here this summer. I tried the demo but felt it was better off as either a Mii Plaza game or something to be bought cheap.

The other two games were remakes, with “Metroid: Samus Returns” being one for the Gameboy “Metroid II” and a revamped version of “Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga” from the Gameboy Advance. I don’t have plans to get “Mario & Luigi” as my fiance and I own the whole series in its original form, but it had updated graphics like those in “Dream Team” and an additional game mode called Minion Quest. As for “Metroid: Samus Returns”, I was actually pretty impressed by it. I haven’t attempted to play a Metroid game since the original on NES and still have to try my copy of “Metroid Prime” (the first one). But what I like about this remake is how it cuts down on a lot of the backtracking these games are famous for. You can mark out locations that you’ll need to revisit once you have better abilities/equipment, and, even better, a teleport system to fast travel around maps. These elements combined with the pretty slick graphics and gameplay I saw actually has me considering picking up the game this September.

So, overall, this year’s E3 was alright. Despite a disappointing lack of 3DS support and no new eshop reveals, the games they DID show have me wanting a Switch more than when it launched. Like last year, I also enjoyed perusing the Treehouse’s demonstrations and hearing each developer excitedly delve into their games. And, as a nice treat for both Ubisoft and Nintendo fans, it was great to see Miyamoto having a blast on an E3 stage for once. So farewell for now, E3. It’ll be fun to see what you’ll offer up next year.

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For the Love of Zelda

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Recently, I’ve gotten the urge to revisit (and download) a good chunk of Brentalfloss‘ music. For the uninitiated, Brentalfloss (aka Brent Black) is a musician whose claim to fame is the “With Lyrics” series on YouTube, where he adds lyrics to popular video game tunes. I’ve been subscribed to him for ages now and first found out about him through his “Legend of Zelda With Lyrics” video. Anyway, as I’ve been going through his library of work, I rediscovered my love for his “Ocarina of Time With Lyrics” duet with DemonTomatoDave. The song is basically an overblown argument between a fanboy and anti-fanboy over why “Ocarina” is great/sucks. It’s a brilliant, funny song and easily one of my personal favorites. It also got me thinking again about how I ultimately became a Zelda fan, which I touched upon in this blog.

On the topic of “Ocarina”, I played the N64 version a couple times a few years after it was released, first by renting it and later by receiving it as a Christmas gift. I know now that it doesn’t hold up quite as well as it did then (not helped by the 3DS remake being technologically better by comparison). However, my nostalgia with the game isn’t quite the same as it is for others. Many people who played the Zelda games prior to it loved “Ocarina”, and the innovative 3D at the time was something to marvel at. But as someone who played SOME of the previous Zelda games and didn’t care for them, “Ocarina” is what I consider my true entry into the series and how I came to understand the appeal of it.

By that, I mean the adventure/quest aspect. Being able to go around a big overworld fighting baddies, solving puzzles, and traversing towns and dungeons never felt so good to me as it did playing “Ocarina.” Now, of course, other games prior to it had the same aspects, so why didn’t I like them? Well, to start off, I never had many SNES or Gameboy games growing up, so I basically missed out on “A Link to the Past” and “Link’s Awakening” (I played both well after “Ocarina”). As for the NES games, “The Legend of Zelda” and “Zelda II: The Adventures of Link”… I could never get into them. For a kid like me, they just felt too hard. Sure, exploring was fun, but I never liked how easily I died. Prior to trying the first game, I’d only played a lot of Atari fare and “Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt”. Having this big adventure to go on in “Zelda” was cool at first, but I just found it frustrating to get far in a dungeon only to get a game over and have to start the game all over again. Basically, 2D Zelda games didn’t make me appreciate the series. It was only when I experienced “Ocarina” that I finally saw what was so great about it.

Ever since then, I’ve played nearly every Zelda game to date (though I have yet to tackle those first two games again). While many have issues with the series sometimes seeming linear or repetitive, I love it mainly for the adventure-like atmosphere each game gives me. So, yes, “Ocarina” was never about the then-innovative leap in graphics or nostalgic love of Zelda for me. Whether I still consider it my favorite or not (“Majora’s Mask” and “A Link Between Worlds” are definitely up there), I still love and respect “Ocarina” for the simple reason that it’s what got me into and helped me appreciate the Zelda franchise, newer and older games alike.

20 Years of Pokemon

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Yesterday marked the official anniversary of the Pokemon series. While I was a slightly late bloomer to the now 20 year-long franchise (I got into it after Gen 2 was released on Gameboy Color), I’ve enjoyed it ever since. I’ve mentioned before how I’m mostly a fan of the games in particular, though I did miss out on both the Gameboy Advance and earlier DS games (somewhat fixed since ORAS was released). And soon, later this year, a new generation of games titled “Pokemon Sun” and “Pokemon Moon” will be in my hands.

Instead of looking back on the series, however, I want to talk about the future. Great strides have been made so far, such as finally making the jump to 3D, better Internet connectivity for trading and battling, more opportunities to nab rare Pokemon outside of always traveling to the nearest Gamestop, etc. But there’s still one complaint out there that persists even today: “The formula is basically still the same.” Now, personally, I prefer the adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (as long as the formula is fun). Adding innovations is sometimes all I need, and I highly enjoyed ORAS for their DexNav feature and Latios/Latias travel in particular. I’m also hopeful that Friend Safaris will return, because they felt sorely missed (to me, anyway) in ORAS. However, there are still a few things I’d like to see from the series going forward.

I spoke with some friends recently on the idea of an eventual game, maybe even a console one, incorporating some or all of the regions into one grand adventure. During that topic, I brought up my (and many others) annoyance with HM moves still being a required feature. I realize changing this might also change how badges work, but an idea I had was why not have a 7th slot for an extra Pokemon? That way, for those people who like to use an HM ‘mon, the option is there without sacrificing a team slot. It could even be designated specifically for a ‘mon that wouldn’t take part in battles.

Another feature I’d like to see is something brought up by a content creator I like, Lewis “Linkara” Lovhaug. He mentioned how neat it would be to use both the customized Pokeball animation system from Gen 4 and combine it with the ability to deck out the Pokeball’s design. I think, given the established character creation in X/Y, this could be possible. Speaking of that, while I realize these recent games are packed full of hardware space, I’d love to see more options for character creation. I had fun having my own avatar-ish character in place of the usual default ones, and I know more could be done with it.

There are many features I could dream up, but the final one I’ll mention is a game having a Dark type gym already. Ever since the type debuted in Gen 2, Dark types have only ever been used in the main games for the villains and Elite Four. Fairy type only debuted in the current generation and it already has had a gym, so why not Dark? On top of this, I’d like to see a little more balance between the gym and Elite Four teams. I feel a gradual build-up in levels is a given, but I think this should also apply for the number of Pokemon each member has. For example, I think the Elite Four should definitely have a full team. The last two generations in particular only gave each member four Pokemon as opposed to the Champion’s six. My thought is that once you reach that point, you’re guaranteed to have a full team of six AND be leveled enough to tackle them. Four Pokemon each just seems pathetic, especially when compared to the gym leaders.

So, while there is still plenty of room for the series to improve, I still think it’s a blast to play. Pokemon has endured longer than I think anyone expected it to, and each generation that pops up is tailor-made to ease new players into the series. While I consider myself an old-school Pokemon fan, the newer games have reaffirmed my love for these simple but entertaining RPGs. I can’t wait to see what “Pokemon Sun” and “Pokemon Moon” have in store.

RPG-Mania

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Having finally beaten “Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door” not long ago and after finishing “Earthbound” last night (seriously, what a gem of a game), my thoughts have turned to the next game I’m aiming to play, “Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.” Of course, I’m partially into that one for the Paper Mario aesthetics, but I also wanna give the Mario & Luigi series another shot. I only ever tried “Partners in Time”, but back then I was less tolerant of grinding and thus was severely underleveled for most of the boss fights. I’ve learned my lesson since then and have gotten my fiance into that series in the meantime, but this may be my chance to jump back into it as well.

I don’t think I’ve ever played two RPGs back to back, let alone three as I have within the past couple months. This got me thinking about how I’ve mostly ignored the genre as a whole. Aside from the Pokemon series, the first “Paper Mario” and dabbling in “Final Fantasy VII” one time, I never played many of them as a kid or into my teenage years. I always found grinding way too tedious and those with turn-based combat a bit slow (ironic, seeing as I now consider those my fave type of RPG). But this year, I feel like it’s time I gave more of them a chance.

Of course, the three games I’ve mentioned ended up on my to-do list, but I’ve been looking into others as well. I’ve decided I’m going to finally tackle “Super Mario RPG”, a game I’ve contemplated playing ever since I got the hang of the Paper Mario games and saw a Let’s Play of it as well. It’s known for being an amazing game, so I figure since I enjoyed the RPGs that came after it (yes, despite my lack of grinding and not completing it, I did like “Partners in Time”), why not go to the one that basically started them all? On top of that, since I REALLY enjoyed “Earthbound,” I’m definitely going to try the English-translated version of “Mother 3”. I may add more classic RPGs to the list, but I’m not planning to spend all of 2016 playing nothing but RPGs either.

As for newer games, aside from “Paper Jam”, I’m re-thinking my decision to ignore the upcoming “Fire Emblem Fates” games. I’m sure hardcore FE fans will diss me for this, but being new to the strategy genre, I played through “FE: Awakening” on Casual/Normal mode. I wasn’t very good at the good in some areas, but my main takeaway was that I had a lot of fun without the pressures of perma-death or Hard mode getting in the way. I may revisit that game some day to try both, but going back to “FE Fates”, I’m now thinking of picking up the Birthright edition. I do like some of the character designs of the Nohr edition (still undecided about getting the third DLC edition), but with it being more for FE veterans plus apparently having a few more defense missions (which I despise in any game), Birthright is looking more up my alley. It helps that Birthright is being considered on par if not slightly harder than Awakening was, though I’ll probably still play through it on Casual to get a feel for everything first.

I’ve still got plenty of non-RPG games to enjoy, but I’m taking advantage of this newfound urge to play RPGs while I can. Like I said, I’m not going to play them all year round, mainly because I know I’d reach burnout on them eventually. However, I figure as long as I stick to a few series I’ve enjoyed first, that may pave the way for me to keep exploring the genre from here on out. After all, the only way to know if you’ll like something is to give it a try.

My Two Cents on Nintendo @ E3

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E3 (aka the Electronic Entertainment Expo) is far from over yet, but I’d like to share my thoughts in light of the company conferences wrapping up yesterday. More specifically, my thoughts on Nintendo. Now, that’s not to say that Microsoft, Sony or the others had showings not worth mentioning, but in my personal case, I only currently own Nintendo products (with my fiance picking up my slack by having Microsoft and Sony). Even worse, I STILL don’t own a Wii U, so my attention was mainly focused on what 3DS offerings were available. But despite all of this, I’d like to go over my personal pros and cons of their conference and overall presentation thus far.

PROS:

  • Nintendo’s Direct started off strongly with the long-awaited Star Fox game for Wii U, “Star Fox Zero.” I’m not into it myself, but it looked pretty good and it’s always nice to hear Miyamoto explain his creative process. That man is a treasure and I’d still love to meet him one day.
  • While most of the games weren’t surprises, there was one that caught me off-guard and made me instantly want it: “Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.” Not only is it a new entry in the Mario & Luigi series, but it crosses over with my personal favorite Mario spin-off series, “Paper Mario.” I’m super excited for both it as well as the full roster that will be incorporated in the 3DS version of “Hyrule Warriors”, dubbed “Hyrule Warriors Legends.”
  • The livestream of the Treehouse is easily the best part of Nintendo’s E3 stuff, barring actually being there to try the games for yourself (I wish!). Not only do the hosts speak with the developers while playing through live demos of each game, but this also allows more gameplay and information to be revealed than what is shown in the Direct. While E3 is over after tomorrow, I still find myself tuning into the Treehouse to get the most out of the games I’m interested in, and even hear cool behind-the-scenes info about the making of them.
  • Nintendo’s Directs have gotten more goofy over the last couple or so years, and this year was no exception. Instead of “Robot Chicken” antics, however, this year utilized Muppet versions of Reggie, Miyamoto, and Iwata before launching into “Star Fox Zero”. It was silly but awesome, and I really hope Nintendo continues having these fun interludes next year.

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CONS:

  • This one is my main complaint of Nintendo’s E3 showing: the Direct itself was a bit disappointing. Granted, I knew a lot of the games would get focused on through the Treehouse, so that helped alleviate things. But given the lack of games people didn’t already know about or games people wanted to know about (looking at you, Zelda Wii U), it was a let down. And I hate to say it, but even initially seeing the Samus-less “Metroid Prime: Federation Force” and the utter tease that was “Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival” (a party game rather than an actual sequel) caused me to cringe just knowing the amount of backlash both would receive. This E3 Direct just felt extremely meh compared to what it could have been and overall didn’t have much wow factor.
  • Since I only started catching E3 livestreams within the past 2-3 years, I only knew secondhand that Nintendo used to do conferences at E3 like the other companies still do. I really wish they would go back to that even for one year, if only because I know they have what it takes to make it engaging and bombastic. Nintendo’s always been about games first and I’d love to see the likes of Reggie, Iwata and Miyamoto live on stage presenting upcoming Nintendo games. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Treehouse in-depth livestreams, but Nintendo really could use a big push to sell their titles beyond a standard Direct. We see those throughout the year, so something on a grander scale would grab people’s attention immediately.
  • Finally, it may be minor, but as interested as I am in “Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer,” I’m becoming convinced that it’s going to cost more money than it’s worth for me. I’m not the type of fan who bought every version of AC, barring the Gamecube and 3DS ones, but I always liked the decorating aspect. And even though it looks cute and has intriguing elements (getting to build/design buildings for the town as well as homes), I can’t help but worry that it’ll get…boring after a while. One thing AC does best is give you a decent variety of things to do daily/yearly as well as allow you to set goals for yourself. With “Happy Home Designer” focusing on ONE aspect of that, I’m not sure it’ll have much longevity. But my biggest concern is with the amiibo cards part. I still wanna know if that’s a necessary component to get the most from the game, because if it in fact IS, I just know it’ll cost a ton of money for the game, cards and card reader. Like I said, I’m just not sure yet if I’ll personally want to invest in it.

So, these are my personal pros/cons of Nintendo’s E3 presentation. Feel free to agree or disagree with me. Despite my gripes, I really am excited to play some of the upcoming Nintendo games (although I REALLY need a Wii U, because “Yoshi’s Woolly World” looks adorable) and can’t wait for what they offer throughout 2016.

A Smashing Good Time & Puzzling Time Lord Adventures

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With it being less than 2 weeks away from Super Smash Bros. for 3DS being released, I figured I’d take the time to talk about the demo that came out yesterday. It’s already become one of two gaming addictions I’ve had this week, and I can only imagine that won’t go away when the game comes out.

For those who don’t know, the demo allows you to play on the Battlefield stage with one of 5 characters: Mario, Link, Villager, Megaman and Pikachu. Having played all the previous Smash games, Mario/Link/Pikachu were easy for me to get back into as their movesets haven’t changed too dramatically. That said, I really liked the movesets of Villager and especially Megaman. There’s just so much variety and quirkiness there that’s fun to play with.

The demo is pretty bare, only allowing you to play Solo sessions with a 2-minute timer and having no multiplayer outside of local play. For me, that makes it even more bare as I live out in the country with very few people around me. Another thing that took some getting used to at first was the button set-up. This will probably be something you can alter, but I found using the control stick to both move and jump felt a lot more comfortable than jumping with the X and Y buttons. Your typical attacks are attached to A and B, and the closeness of these buttons tended to cause me to jump by accident. But, as I played a few rounds, the controls were pretty easy to get used to.

Given that you can only play on the Battlefield stage either with or sans platforms, I wish there had been at least one other one to choose from for variety. Despite that, they do liven both options up by having the non-platforms Battlefield be item-less and the platforms Battlefield consist of random items, including Final Smash balls. This allowed me to test out each character’s Final Smash, specifically the new ones from Villager and Megaman. Megaman’s was awesome and covered a ton of the screen to hit opponents. Villager’s didn’t impress me at first as I couldn’t seem to pull it off right. However, by unleashing it close to an opponent, you trap them in a house and the resulting attack can ricochet at everyone else. It was really cool to see it in action.

I can already see how the coin system will work, which unfortunately couldn’t be used as the unlockable trophies and such were blocked. However, I think it’s safe to say that I’m uberly excited for the game. It runs at a good pace, is easily one of the best-looking 3DS games to date, and it feels like it was made to be portable. I feel comforted that it plays much like its console predecessors and I just can’t wait for October to roll around.

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The other game, this one full-fledged, that I’ve gotten addicted to this week is one for Android, iPhone and Facebook called Doctor Who: Legacy. I’ve been playing the Facebook version, and if I had to describe it, I’d say think of a mix between Bejeweled/Candy Crush and an RPG. Yes, this is a Doctor Who-themed puzzle game with a story attached. I’ll admit I’ve been bad and skipped most of it while I’ve played, but the gist is that the Sontarans are messing around with time, and it’s your job as the Doctor to fix the various paradoxes they create.

You get to unlock and choose your version of the Doctor (I naturally stuck with Eleven, the default choice) and, along with Vastra, are tasked with matching up 3 or more colored pieces to defeat enemies. These enemies range from Daleks to Cybermen to Weeping Angels and more. Along the way, in several “episodes,” you can unlock companions from the show that represent different colored pieces. If you have more than one for a color, such as River Song and Jenny representing orange, they’ll both do damage when you match orange pieces. Along with the Doctor, you can have a team of up to 5 companions.

Now, when I say episodes, I really do mean it. You start in Series 7 and work through episodes from that series, like “The Angels Take Manhattan” or “Nightmare in Silver.” Series 5 and 6 are unlockable once you complete it (which I haven’t), and there’s now a Series 8 for hardcore players (those with characters leveled up past 20). Yes, you can level up characters in this game, which is done when you defeat waves of enemies within the episodes. Sometimes it may be as few as 3 waves, and other times it might be as many as 6. You can also gain collectible symbols if you do well enough, and these are used to up the rank of the companions and the Doctor, allowing them to continue leveling up.

Like many games these days, you have the option to pay actual money to give yourself a leg-up via buying crystals. Crystals allow you to unlock characters at random, gain rare perks (which are basically multipliers for health, attack, defense, etc.), and also act as continues if you lose all your health during a wave. I would never pay up for them as you can randomly get them in-game, but it’s a decent incentive. Oh, and speaking of continues, if you run out of crystals before completing all the waves of an episode, you have to start that episode from the beginning the next time you play. It’s irritating, but you can replay levels to help gain experience for your team.

Overall, having not played a game like this in ages, I really enjoy it. It’s fun, fast-paced, has some good artwork, tons of collectibles and incentives, and it easily can appeal to any Doctor Who fan with both nostalgic and current references throughout. The additional RPG-like elements also make it extra addicting, so play with caution if these games tend to suck you in easily. Definitely give it a try if you’re looking for a casual Doctor Who game.