Tag Archives: Nintendo

REVIEW: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Hey folks, I’m a bit late on this one. I meant to get this post published a few days ago, but I’ve been swamped with the beginning of a new semester, as well as the usual day-to-day tasks that have to be taken care of. I’m hoping to get my next review out sooner. Anyway, here’s my thoughts on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Nintendo Switch.

mario + rabbids walk

It’s difficult for me to write my thoughts on a new Mario game, because I’ve spent nearly my entire life playing these games. I’ve been playing Mario Bros. video games since I received my first gaming system, the Gameboy Color. On that system alone there were a number of games featuring Mario as the protagonist (Super Mario Land 1 and 2) or as a side character (Game and Watch Collection 3). Our favorite Italian and former-plumber in video games has had some wacky trips, such as those times he went to space, or grabbed an extraordinarily large turtle by the tail and threw him off of a circular platform three times; apparently, those adventures weren’t enough. His clash with the rabbids in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle may be his strangest game yet.

mario + rabbids rabbid mario

As a big fan of the Mario franchise but very little interest nor knowledge of the Rabbids series, the beginning of Mario + Rabbids was a lot for me to stomach. The Rabbids arrive in a young inventor’s room through the use of a time-traveling washing machine, and that inventor’s room happens to house a set of virtual reality goggles that can manipulate two items to become one, so one of the Rabbids decides to steal it and combine the Mario and Rabbids worlds into one world, which causes total chaos within the Mushroom Kingdom to break loose, causing many Mario enemies and decor to fuse themselves with wacky inventions the Rabbids have created. That was a long sentence, eh? Well, the beginning of this game is exactly how it’s described above. It’s a wacky, odd introduction that is completely different than what we expect from a Mario game. Learning that the production of this game was handled by Ubisoft Paris and Ubisoft Milan helped me understand the bizarre introduction sequence a bit easier, and it helps explain later antics the Mario + Rabbids crew find themselves in.

mario + rabbids luigi

The story isn’t too deep, but there are a couple of plot threads and interesting ideas sprinkled throughout that kept me wanting to play more. I won’t spoil them here, but there are a couple of character introductions that genuinely made me laugh. It’s a Mario game, so we don’t necessarily expect a complex narrative, and here, it works well enough to keep things moving. Speaking of character introductions, I think this is something that I (and many others) were worried about before the game’s release – how well would the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom mesh with the Rabbids? Well, I’m pleasantly surprised to admit that the formula works well. The Rabbids are constantly messing around in the Mushroom Kingdom, and most of its citizens like Mario, Luigi, and Peach all give off looks that tell us, “Yes, this is exactly as weird as it looks. Just go with it.” And I really do think that this combination works. Rabbid Peach was the first character of the game to develop a large amount of scrutiny, perhaps thanks to her frequent usage of her phone to take selfies. In practice, she doesn’t actually take selfies too often, and when she did, I found it somewhat endearing because it wasn’t as forced as I initially expected it to be. Plus, the battle tactics she brings to the table are useful for many situations. Rabbid Luigi, another ally you partner up with early on, also offers a unique advantage on the battlefield, thanks to his ability to lower enemy damage output. I went into this game expecting to never want to partner up with any of the rabbids, but Ubisoft did a great job giving each rabbid its own unique traits and abilities. Plus, they restrict the player from selecting more than two Mushroom Kingdom citizens to bring into battle at once, oddly enough, so you always have a Rabbid by your side in combat.

mario + rabbids battle

Many news outlets have jokingly described Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle as an XCOM spin-off title, and while this sentiment is obviously not true, some of the gameplay systems from recent XCOM titles can be found in Mario + Rabbids. The game is a turn-based tactical RPG that incorporates hit percentages and damage numbers, where character and enemy placement is crucial to success. Also, it features guns, which means Mario fires a gun at Rabbid foes. That part is pretty great, and speaking of which, I really enjoyed buying new weaponry for each of the characters you run across. Collecting coins is crucial throughout the experience because new weapons provide higher damage and unique elemental effects on a successful roll. Some of these elemental effects are wholly superior to others (stone beats out honey in every way) but the variety is good to see. Battles play out well enough, with an appropriate number of enemies lining up to fight in the early stages. After a few battles, when you’ve gained more of your character abilities, the game offers a lot more potential than what is initially shown. It turned from basic, perhaps too easy combat, into a decent challenge that required me to restart certain battles a few times.

mario + rabbids rabbid kong

Boss battles are easily the most difficult part of Mario + Rabbids, featuring large enemies and solutions to a puzzle that is unique to that boss. I wish I could say that every boss is a home-run, but they are not. There are four main bosses, one for each world, and a couple of mid-bosses in each. Two of the main bosses are exceptional fights, one is fair, and the last one is downright boring. I found world one’s boss, Rabbid Kong, as the most fun and interesting (listen to that soundtrack! It’s awesome!) with world three’s boss at a close second place. Both of them had some interesting ideas at play, where the other two bosses don’t have similarly engaging solutions to the problem. Unfortunately, I did suffer a game crash during the first boss fight, and it was about halfway through the battle, but it was only a minor setback. That’s really the only glitch that I encountered during my playthrough.

mario + rabbids peach

Before I cap off this review, I wanted to mention the great score composed by Grant Kirkhope. Once again, this man delivers on the musical beat. There’s a few tracks that stood out especially strong, such as Rabbid Kong’s boss track, but everything from the battle music to overworld themes is strong and feels right at home in a Mario + Rabbids universe. The only time I felt disappointed by the music was during certain sections of roaming around World 3; the music matches the environment on display, but felt too slow at times, causing some drowsiness. Overall, Kirkhope and team have done a great job at bringing two different musical styles together in a way that feels just right. Mario and Rabbids are two very different properties, but the music in the game feels like a great fit.

 

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a game that should not work. It’s a concept that is crazy enough to never have a chance of success – and yet, Ubisoft and Nintendo have proven us wrong. When the game’s title and art were leaked earlier this year, I was among the many skeptics that questioned Nintendo’s decision to partner with Ubisoft. They worked together to create a game that combined many people’s favorite gaming hero, Mario, with.. Many people’s least favorite gaming heroes, the Rabbids. By the end of this game, I actually enjoy the Rabbid’s on-screen appearance in this game. I hope Nintendo and Ubisoft take note of the lessons learned during this production, and continue to trust strong third parties with their brands; I’d especially like to see more of Nintendo’s franchises take interesting, unexpected turns like this one.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my review. Right now I’m playing Destiny 2 on PS4, as well as Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS. I almost can’t believe a brand-new Metroid game starring Samus released a few days ago; I didn’t think I’d see it happen in my lifetime. All kidding aside, both of these games are pretty great so far. I’ll probably write up something for Metroid. Anyway, hope you all have a wonderful week!

 

  • Matt
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REVIEW: Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania Wallpaper

Hey everyone, I’m back from vacation! I spent a week away from home by the shore, which gave me ample time to relax on the beach; and of course, dive into Sonic Mania, thanks to the portability of the Nintendo Switch. I’m not shilling for Nintendo, I swear! I just love this system. Being away from home right after the release of Sonic Mania was also a great opportunity to play it on the go. Anyway, let’s get on with the review. As someone that has only played a handful of Sonic games, what do I think of the blue blur’s latest adventure? Important note: I’ve never played the original Sonic games from the Genesis. I’ve only played bits of Sonic Advance for the Gameboy Advance, the entirety of Sonic Rush for the Nintendo DS, and a few of the home console 3D adventures. However, I’ve watched an entire run of Sonic 2, and seen parts of Sonic 3.

Sonic Mania Circle

To put it simply, Sonic Mania is awesome. The game is a celebration of the best parts of Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, and 3 (& Knuckles) remaining true to the original trilogy while providing fun new levels and boss fights. The controls for all three characters (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles) is tight and exactly as expected; not nearly on the level of responsiveness as classic Mario platforming, but precise enough as not to feel annoying.

 

A cool new addition for Sonic is his ability to spin dash while in mid-air, allowing for a speed boost upon hitting the ground. This gives better opportunities for gaining faster speed, which is especially useful in the game’s time trials for each of the game’s thirteen zones. Each of these zones is separated into two acts, excluding the final zone. A few of my favorites include the classic Green Hill Zone, Oil Ocean Zone, Lava Reef Zone, and Studiopolis Zone, but each one brings fun diversity to the fast-focused gameplay. For example, Hydrocity Zone has players navigating levels both above water and submerged in it. Finding shortcuts and avoiding large falls rewards players with the higher ground, allowing them to bypass some underwater sections. I never found the underwater sections to be particularly frustrating, mostly because of how short they are. There are a couple of forced underwater sections in certain levels, but the frequent air bubble pockets made these parts less stressful than I remember them being in previous Sonic games.

Sonic Mania Knuckles

The level design in Sonic Mania is great, offering many speed opportunities as well as precise platforming challenges within each act. It is very difficult to explore every nook and cranny of a level during a single playthrough, and once this fact is accepted, it’s fun discovering the many secrets and power-ups that lie in wait throughout each level. I’m a bit of a completionist, often feeling compelled to 100% finish a game if I especially enjoy it, but I have accepted that there is no way to do this in Sonic Mania unless you play through the game multiple times as each character. Thankfully, each character offers unique abilities that enrich the levels they occupy, but that also means Sonic won’t be able to reach a certain high ledge that only Tails can fly toward, or one which Knuckles can reach using his wall-climb. Even after finishing the game as all three heroes, I still mostly enjoy playing as Sonic, but Knuckles isn’t far behind, his wall-climbing ability and glide offering surprising maneuverability across each act’s sprawling landscape.

Sonic Mania UFO

The two bonus games offered in Sonic Mania range from decent to fantastic. To access the first bonus game, players will have to collect at least 25 rings and pass a checkpoint marker, from which they can enter an isometric, top-down view of Sonic as he runs along blue orbs attempting to hit them all, avoiding red orbs in the process. I think this bonus game is a fun diversion, but I did not feel inclined to play it at every chance I got. However, the second bonus game, hidden in certain secret spots within each zone, is a ton of fun. This bonus game finds players controlling Sonic behind his back, akin to modern 3D titles, chasing after a UFO carrying a chaos emerald. Sonic’s movement in this bonus game is a bit slippery, especially as he gains speed, but I always felt in control of his movements despite this. As you pick up speed by collecting blue orbs, the bonus stage music ramps up, driving you to try your hardest to avoid falling off course before catching the UFO. Finding the entrances to this bonus game encourages exploration, as they are often well hidden in each level away from the main path. Collecting all of the chaos emeralds grants an extra zone to tackle, but I won’t spoil the results of that encounter here. It’s a challenge collecting all of the emeralds, but boy is it worth it!

Sonic Mania Boss

As expected from a Sonic game, there are boss fights aplenty. Presented at the end of each act, most of these battles are executed well, some sticking with the tried-and-true design of jumping into Eggman’s robotic ship at least eight times. The most interesting of these battles offer a unique spin on the formula. I found a few in particular to be especially interesting, but I won’t spoil them here; I’ll simply mention which zone they take place in. First off, Chemical Plant Zone, Act 2 is stellar because of its unexpected nature, which felt right at home in the game (especially considering there is already a Sonic game with which they ripped this boss fight straight out of). Flying Battery Zone, Act 2 is great, offering a familiar method of attack with different means of hurting the boss. And finally, the boss fight in Act 2 of Metallic Madness Zone is a lot of fun, especially because it incorporates a mechanic from the entirety of the level itself into the fight. Overall, I’d say the boss battles in Sonic Mania are a success. A few of them harken back to the original trilogy for inspiration, while others offer a different look at the formula. In my eyes, the only stinker of a boss fight would be the final confrontation in Act 2 of Oil Ocean. Trudging through slimy goop during a high-stakes battle isn’t fun, especially when certain sections of the fight force away all of the solid ground of which to stand on. I found myself dying to this particular boss more times than I could count, but they were eventually defeated by exercising a lot of patience. To me, it felt a bit cold in an otherwise great zone.

Sonic Mania Logo

Sonic Mania feels like a love letter to fans of Sonic’s side-scrolling roots. Even though recent 3D Sonic titles have incorporated side-scrolling and precision platforming elements into the mix, none of them brought nearly as many interesting ideas to the table as Sonic Mania does. The entirety of this game oozes with personality and care; I encountered zero bugs in my extensive time with the game, save for one graphical error at the end of Green Hill Zone, Act 2. This game has made me understand the gaming community’s love for the original Sonic titles, and has me more excited than ever to see the future of Sonic the Hedgehog.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! Next, I’ll be writing my review of either Rise of the Tomb Raider or Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. I finished Tomb Raider a week ago, and I’m going through Uncharted right now, so I’ll soon see which one I’m more interested in writing about.

 

Have a great week, everyone.

 

  • Matt

REVIEW: Splatoon 2

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Well, this review took me a lot longer to write than I expected. After completing the single-player portion of Splatoon 2 and leveling up my character past level ten, I was hoping to write my review soon after… But it took me longer than I expected to finish the single-player sections in this game. I ended up spending way more time on turf war and ranked matches, as these game modes are where Splatoon 2 shines, and they are very fun. As of this review, I’m level 23, with a decent number of hours logged in both the competitive game modes as well as salmon run, Splatoon 2’s brand new player versus A.I. game mode. With that said, I’ll now share my thoughts on the overall package that is contained in Splatoon 2. Enjoy!

splatoon 2 weapons

Splatoon 2 is a wonderful game to play, featuring enough maps and weapons to keep players hooked for months to come. The core gameplay loop is the same as it was in the first game; players control ‘inklings’ that utilize a vast array of weaponry to cover the map in their team’s ink. This involves inklings shooting at the floors as well as each other in order to prevent the enemy team from inking the map with their own color, but the focus is still firmly placed on covering the map with your own ink. It may just be me, but the maps in Splatoon 2 feel smaller than those found in the first game. This causes firefights to break out more frequently and matches to end closer than before. It’s a change that I wasn’t expecting, but is welcome. In addition to this, most of the weaponry available in the first game is now available in the sequel. This is in stark contrast to the launch of Splatoon 1, where only a few weapons were available from the start, new blasters and brushes becoming available in the months following the game’s release. This gives Splatoon 2 stronger legs to stand up as a complete package, as opposed to the lack of launch-day content that was found in the first game. Nintendo has said they will be providing free updates to the game over time, similar to the way ARMS is handling it, but even if there were no upcoming updates aside from splatfests (the game’s monthly competition between two teams) I’d still be happy with the overall package.

splatoon 2 salmon run

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest new game mode coming to Splatoon 2 is known as salmon run, and after playing many hours of it, I’m convinced that it’s a blast. In most video games, I prefer player versus A.I. matches as opposed to competitive multiplayer, and to see Splatoon 2 receive this treatment is extremely welcome. Overall, it’s a fun game mode that is marred by a few issues. The most obvious of these issues is the widely reported complaint that many players have; online salmon run is only available during specific days and hours of the week, locking entry from those wanting to play outside of the allotted time slots. It’s a real bummer that Nintendo took this approach, as salmon run is a great way to unlock specific loot, and is very fun to boot. Perhaps they will hear fan criticism and respond to this issue, but as of this writing, there are many people that are upset by the decision to lock salmon run gameplay behind specific days of the week, myself included.

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Salmon run features a simple premise of surviving and collecting stage pickups, masked beneath a layer of surprisingly deep complexity as to how players tackle their foes. There are a number of unique boss characters that must be defeated within each round, and the strategy on how to defeat each one differs from one another. The game’s tutorial teaches the basics on how to take down each boss, but I definitely recommend some outside research, because there are more ways to tackle your foes outside of what the game shares. Players will only be able to survive by combining their efforts and communicating on the battlefield, as each person fulfills a specific role each round, depending on which weapon is given to them.

splatoon 2 logo

This is my first gripe with salmon run. I understand the push to give players pre-selected weaponry, but having a poor set of four weapons makes each round more difficult than I think is necessary. I feel like before a round starts, players should have a choice of which weapon they wish to use during that round, so that nobody has to end up using the splat roller or the ink rifle unless they desire it. However, I understand this is a balance decision that makes sense in the game’s surprisingly high difficulty curve. I just don’t enjoy using the splat roller, ink sniper rifle, or any of the brushes for salmon run! I would appreciate a way to avoid using these weapons.

splatoon 2 salmon run boss

Another issue I would like to touch upon is the abundance of bosses that show up during each round. The last thirty seconds of each round in salmon run is often the most hectic, due to the game ramping up the number of on-screen enemies that pelt ink your way to stop you. I feel that the number of enemies present at one time far exceeds a number that are capable of being dealt with, resulting in many frustrating deaths when the entire team is wiped out. My brain’s first response to this thought is simply “well, get good” but in a majority of the games I have played, it seems as if every player on my team had a great deal of difficulty in simply staying alive against the frankly ridiculous number of enemies that flooded the game mode’s rather small survival arena. Some deaths feel a bit unfair, such as when you are killed by a sudden ink airstrike pelted from above. Combined with the other boss attacks, it is often difficult to survive a round without going down at least one time, which I feel is a bit unbalanced in the game’s favor. Despite these issues, I will keep coming back to play more salmon run, because the frustration I’ve felt for these issues pales in comparison to the satisfaction of surviving a game, collecting as many pick-ups as possible and defeating the enemies swarming a team of inklings.

splatoon 2 roly poly

I admit that I don’t have a whole lot to say about Splatoon 2’s competitive multiplayer portion. As a fan of the first Splatoon, each of the game modes in the sequel offer fun gameplay with a satisfying unlock system of receiving experience and currency, used to purchase new weapons and gear. If you were a fan of the first game, the sequel probably will not disappoint; likewise, if you did not enjoy the first game, the sequel doesn’t do a substantial amount to differ itself from the first game. However, there are a few big points that I would like to mention. The special abilities offered to players are much more satisfying this time around, rewarding timing and skill to pull off. Whereas in the first Splatoon the special skills on display felt a bit all over the place, some being extremely useful while others were lackluster, every special ability in Splatoon 2 has a meaningful use in battle. The tenta rockets are a favorite of mine, especially when playing splat zones, and the drop attack special ability is satisfying every time. The all-new maps are great, although I wish more of the elements featured in the single player portion of the game were also available in online multiplayer. The speed ramps and grind rails feel like they’d make a fine addition to the hectic online battles, but these exciting new interactive objects only make an appearance outside of multiplayer. This feels like a missed opportunity, especially when comparing the differences between Splatoon 1 and 2’s multiplayer. Despite this, online matches are a fun time, and searching for other players is usually a fast process. The lack of an exit button in the matchmaking menu is a bit bizarre, as is the inability to switch weapons and gear in between matches, but the core gameplay loop of inking enemy turf while taking down your foes is just as satisfying as it was in the first game.

splatoon 2 grind rail

Now that I’m finished giving my thoughts on the multiplayer portion of Splatoon 2, I’ll dive right into why I’m slightly disappointed with the single player sections in this game. Overall, the single player levels are better than most campaigns found in other first and third person shooters on the market. Most levels are memorable, each featuring fun and unique interactive objects while providing satisfying shooting and platforming action. The story is rather light, but this is similar to how it was told in the first game, and is not all that surprising. Most of the boss fights are great fun, especially world four’s boss fight, which takes advantage of the game’s smart implementation of vertical space. After the simply awesome final boss battle in the first Splatoon, I was expecting an equally exciting final battle in the sequel; unfortunately I was left disappointed, as the last fight features an all too familiar strategy to beating the game’s boss, similar to the first Splatoon’s final boss. The single player also doesn’t introduce any new supporting characters, like the first Splatoon’s Captain Cuttlefish, instead relying on Marie and Sheldon to tell the story. Each of the new characters are instead featured in Splatoon 2’s plaza, where the player goes to purchase new gear and access the game’s various playable modes. The ending of the single player is still satisfying, if totally unsurprising, and rewarding online multiplayer rewards for completing the single player is a great incentive for playing through it.

 

Splatoon 2 is a great game, complete with a satisfying single player story mode, cooperative survival matches, and the same great online multiplayer action that fans have come to expect from the series. It feels like Nintendo played it a bit safe for this sequel, but the same tight action and some fantastic new music is on offer for a fresh experience. The inclusion of “miiverse 2” also known as the in-game user drawings found in the main plaza is also a great inclusion, providing many laughs and some impressive art (I’ll share a couple of my favorites down below). New abilities and weaponry introduced in the future ensure I’ll be playing Splatoon 2 for many months to come! 

splatoon 2 speeding ticketsplatoon 2 closed mall

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Hey, all. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my review. If there’s anything in this write-up that you think could use improvement, please feel welcome to share your thoughts! I’m always looking to improve my writing. Have a great week!

 

  • Matt

Extended Thoughts – GONNER

Gonner banner

Hi everyone! Yesterday, I went back to read my early impressions of Gonner for the Nintendo Switch, and I did not like the piece that I published. It felt rather rushed and didn’t really provide a compelling argument for why I enjoy the game. Here I’ll attempt to give a more thorough understanding as to what Gonner does right and wrong, and why I’m still hooked on this game. If you want an understanding of the basic premise and mechanics within Gonner, feel free to check out my first post about the game from about a week ago.

 

Every time I start playing Gonner, I can’t put the game down for at least a solid thirty minutes, if not longer. Every run through this rogue-lite is exciting, and as you progress further in each run of the game, more combat and maneuverability options become available to the player. Certain collectible skulls offer increased or decreased health, depending on the other perks they offer. Jumping, shooting, wall-hopping, and bouncing on enemies’ heads all feels great to do, featuring a sharp level of control while still giving the player a tiny sense of floatiness to their actions. I do feel like the player should be capable of shooting straight upward, as oftentimes there are enemies that fly straight down making it difficult to dodge them in a way that made these fights feel unfair. However, these scenarios are usually avoidable by being especially careful around flying foes. Eventually the player will learn the battle patterns that each enemy possesses and how best to counter their attacks.

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Not all weapon and ability combinations work well together, and the player will have to do plenty of experimentation to figure out their preferred play style. An interesting (if sometimes frustrating) mechanic in Gonner is when the player is hurt by an enemy attack, they have to manually pick up their skull, weapon, and ability item back up from the ground. Until they pick these items back up, the player can no longer use their items. This leaves the player at a major disadvantage, and they will quickly learn to anticipate where their items may fall if they take a hit.

Gonner shot

A merchant opens up their shop before every boss fight, and gearing up for each battle provides health replenishment and weapon changes at the cost of the in-game currency. That in-game currency is earned in a satisfying manner; not just by killing enemies, but by killing enemies in rapid succession. Every five enemies downed rewards a purple block, and these are used to revive the player and also as shop currency. Remember in my previous post when I said that Gonner teaches very little to the player, besides the basic controls? No? Well, that’s what I briefly mentioned, and it took me several hours of playing to discover that the in-game currency is earned this way. This lack of explanation may perhaps be frustrating to some, but I enjoy discovering game mechanics on my own, so it was fun exploring my options and figuring out how to survive.

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I think the biggest praise I can give to Gonner is that its art style is absolutely gorgeous. The game goes for a minimalistic look, with many walls and floors forming around the player as they progress through each area. Enemies, for the most part, appear far ahead to the player’s vision, so they do not often appear instantly and hurt the player, feeling unfair. Each set of levels, after every 3 levels or so, features a certain color pallette, changing to a very different look upon progressing to the next set of levels. With this in mind, I think the art style serves the game quite well. As the player’s kill combo reaches higher from defeating enemies, the in-game music rapidly picks up speed, encouraging even faster progression for the reward of more purple blocks. For new players, they will probably want to focus more on survival than speed, but once I got a feeling for the first few stages, it felt great to fly through and kill as many enemies in quick succession as possible.

 

Sound and music design is also solid, featuring an abstract tune for each set of levels, fitting the style of play and colors on display. Each shot fired from the player’s ranged weapon gives a satisfying pop, and enemies are blasted away in a smattering of red paste. Combat feels good, and the sound effects from both the weapons and enemies keeps me coming back for more. I do wish that enemies pushed off of ledges into bottomless pits counted toward the score multiplier; as it is now, they simply disappear, offering no extra points for you throwing them off the edge.

Gonner title

If anything that I wrote here sounded intriguing, definitely give this game a look. As of this writing it is available for Nintendo Switch, Windows, and Mac, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t make its way over to PS4 or Xbox One at some point. I’ve only reached the fourth set of levels, but I plan to keep playing and see what the end of the game has to offer.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Please feel free to provide any criticism, constructive or otherwise, to my writing. I’m always looking to improve. Have a great week!

 

  • Matt

Review: ARMS – A Powerful First Punch For Nintendo

arms wallpaper

Hey folks, Matt here with a new review. As you could probably tell from the title, I’ll be writing my thoughts on the recently-released ARMS for Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s latest attempt at capitalizing on the eSports craze. Does it provide a fun and much-needed addition to the Switch’s growing catalogue of games, or will it be forgotten upon Splatoon 2’s release next month? Well, I am hoping to answer these questions in the following paragraph. Enjoy.

 

Yeah, it’s a fun game. You should play it if you enjoy fighting games. Thanks for reading!

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Anyway, on to the real review.

 

ARMS was an unexpected reveal back in January during the very first live presentation for the Nintendo Switch. The game was revealed alongside a short snippet of gameplay that showed off its premise, and at first, I was not sold. Fighting games are fun, sure, but Nintendo’s history in the genre is not so diverse. The most prolific, exclusive fighting game series that has come from Nintendo is Super Smash Brothers, and… What else? I suppose you can include Pokken Tournament and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in that list, but these still amount to a rather small catalogue for the genre on Nintendo platforms. These games are mostly well-regarded by fans as great titles. Back in January, seeing a first-party developed fighting game made exclusively for a Nintendo console was exciting, and I was keen to see more on the company’s latest effort. After completing the game’s main single-player mode on multiple difficulties with the ten available fighters, and engaging in at least 10+ hours of the online multiplayer madness, I believe I can provide a fleshed-out piece on my opinion of the game.

arms byte and barq

The level of polish on display in ARMS is simply wonderful. Combat has been a smooth journey, with only a few hiccups along the way. These issues were found entirely in the online multiplayer department; I’ve only had one disconnected game during my time with ARMS, and only one online game with a noticeable level of lag present. Besides these two instances, I have found every match I played online and offline to be a silky-smooth and precise battle between up to four combatants on-screen at a given time. My worries about the game’s motion controls have been mostly alleviated, as I’ve only had a couple of instances where I threw out a punch when I meant to block, but these mistakes were made only a small handful of times. Coming to grips with the game’s unique control scheme takes some getting used to, but I found the game to be an enjoyable experience using either the motion controls or standard controls. Both options offer a similar level of precision when fighting opponents, and I can now say I’m comfortable playing with either control scheme. Despite this, Nintendo’s heavy marketing toward using the game’s motion controls swayed me to attempt playing ARMS using the ‘thumbs-up grip’ as described by the big N, and I’m glad I gave it a shot, as this method of playing offers a precise level of play on-par with the traditional method of using a Switch pro controller.

thumbs up grip

Well, perhaps the word ‘precise’ may be a bit generous when talking about ARMS’ 2v2 game modes. As has been documented by other players, the 2v2 battles can be rather hectic due to the great number of arms flying across the screen at any given time. When a player is thrown by a grab, their teammate is also thrown by that same grab, causing some confusing scenarios where you aren’t aware your teammate is being thrown across the screen, only for yourself to be punished by that attack as well. I find the 2v2 game modes to be the least enjoyable among the game’s ‘party mode’, where players can engage in a solid variety of game types mostly revolving around punching one another.

 

Speaking of punching fighters, did you know that there’s a *spoiler* boss character who uses six arms to fight you? Yep, that’s right, the boss character known as Hedlok makes an appearance in the game’s Grand Prix mode as the player’s final combatant. Utilizing six arms, this hulking metal monstrosity is, to put it bluntly, broken. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s break down the classic fighting game logic of rock, paper, and scissors.

hedlok

A traditional fighting game often features three main ways of attacking. In very simplified terms, there is on-foot combat, mid-air combat, and grabs. The on-foot attacks are often a player’s primary method of attack, but can be negated by a guard block from their opposition. A guard block can be interrupted by a player’s grab, causing damage from the opponent’s throw. Finally, mid-air attacks can be a good way to surprise the enemy, but can be interrupted by an opponent’s anti-air attack if the mid-air attack is too often relied upon.

 

ARMS takes advantage of this traditional rock, paper, and scissors formula, incorporating on-foot punches, mid-air punches, and grabs into the mix. Unlike other fighting games, ARMS allows grabs to be thrown from a large distance, as well as in mid-air, a feature that I’m surprisingly okay with, as it feels well-balanced in most fighter match-ups (barring Ninjara, of course. I think he’s a little too fast for my liking). These punches and grabs are all able to be deflected by a player’s own punches, as long as the appropriate arms are selected for the deflection.

Arms mechanica

This is where the fault in Hedlok’s design comes into play. When Hedlok attacks, he throws out a series of three punches from each side, as opposed to a normal attack from other fighters consisting of one punch. These punches come in fast succession of one another, and are often difficult to deflect by the player’s own punches, and so dodging is always preferred over deflecting these attacks. This would be okay in its own right, however, the cooldown time for Hedlok to throw out another set of punches from that same set of arms is way too short. He is able to dish out a second series of punches right upon the first of the three arms being pulled back in (I know this is difficult to visualize, and perhaps I’m doing a terrible job of explaining this event, but bear with me!) In this regard, I find the fight to feel rather one-sided in favor of Hedlok. Maybe he is not quite as broken in difficulty as Shao-Khan was in Mortal Kombat for the PS3 and Xbox 360, but the battle still feels unfair in more ways than one. Inputs from my punches felt like they were instantly being read by the enemy AI, and super attacks that appeared to have connected with the enemy were dodged and countered with the enemy’s own super-charged attack.

 

Despite these balancing issues, I find the game to be enjoyable, as I stated earlier. On the surface, the game appears to have little content, and I think this claim is justified when you compare it to the likes of juggernauts of in-game content such as Tekken 7 and Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. However, the accessibility of each of the ten fighters and different pairings of arms for each one of them offers hundreds of possibilities for battle, and I think it works in the game’s favor. Would ARMS be an even better game with some more fighters and stages to battle on? Sure, that would be a great addition. Thankfully, Nintendo will be doing just that in the coming months, all of it as free game updates, similar to the way Splatoon was handled on the Wii U.

Arms party

 

I’m sure I missed some other points I wanted to bring up, but overall I’m finding my time with ARMS to be fun and engaging. The motion controls work well, the fighter designs are fantastic offering great variety, and despite an arguably broken final boss fight, the single player and multiplayer game modes are a satisfying venture into Nintendo’s newest IP. If this is the start of Nintendo entering the fighting game space outside of Smash Bros., I’m excited to see where they take the game next.

Thank you for reading! Take care, all.

  • Matt

E3 2017 Impressions – Super Mario Odyssey

mario odyssey

Happy week of E3, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the new game announcements and demo reels. It’s easy to be cynical about today’s video games, especially during E3 week (arguably) the industry’s biggest event each year, but I still find the multiple days of press conferences and game reveals to be exciting every time. I thought it’d be fun to take a moment to write here about a few of the games that impressed me the most so far from E3 2017, starting with the latest adventure from Nintendo’s biggest mascot.

mario hat buddy

 

  • SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY

 

Yeah, I don’t think anyone is surprised to see this game listed here among my most anticipated. I’ve been a Mario fan for most of my life, and the plumber’s latest adventure looks better every time I see it. The latest trailer showed off the game’s “capture” mechanic, where Mario tosses his cap (see what they did there?) at an enemy to temporarily take control of them. If the goomba mask in Super Mario 3D World was a sign of things to come, then fully controlling goombas in Super Mario Odyssey is the next great step in Mario’s bid for complete control of the mushroom kingdom.

goomba mario

The possibilities to gameplay that the capture feature offers has me even more excited to play the game, especially now that it’s confirmed that Mario can take control of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. If that isn’t a solid way to sell a game, then I don’t know what is. Filling out a list of enemies, objects, and NPC’s that Mario can control in the final game should be a fun diversion from the expected platforming challenges.  

Mario Dinosaur

In an unexpected move, Nintendo appears to have removed the “lives” system that has been present in every 3D Mario platformer up until this point. From what I could gather watching the E3 gameplay demonstration, the coins collected during Mario’s adventure are tallied up across levels and spent on customization items. When the player dies, they lose a set number of coins as a result. The number of lives that Mario had in his 3D platforming games always felt like a redundant feature, so it is good to see Nintendo finally putting coins toward a better use.

 

It appears that Super Mario Odyssey is pretty much feature-complete at this point. When the confirmed release date for October 27, 2017 popped up during Nintendo’s stream, I was not surprised but still very pleased. It follows Nintendo’s previous claims of the game releasing by holiday 2017, and while things can always change at the last minute, I have little doubt that the game will make it to store shelves on time. I’ll be there day one for Mario’s next big adventure! I cannot wait to explore new worlds, stomp on new enemies, and selfishly take over animals in Mario’s desperate bid for Peach’s hand in marriage. Man, the premise gets weirder every time I think about it. And now there are evil bunnies? Sure, why not.

mario odyssey rabbits.jpg

The tune that played during the E3 trailer is amazing and deserves every bit of attention. I’ve listened to this at least five times now, it’s extremely light-hearted and uplifting. Give it a listen! Also, the woman that is singing that song is totally Pauline from the original Donkey Kong, as hinted by the mentions to Mayor Pauline in the E3 gameplay coverage. It’s been literal decades since we’ve seen her in a Mario game, aside from some referential nods as a collectible trophy in Super Smash Bros. titles. I’m excited to see how Mayor Pauline will contribute to Odyssey’s story, if she does at all. The spotlight will most likely be placed squarely on Bowser and Princess Peach, as it always has, but I hope we see a cameo from Donkey Kong and Pauline, as neither have shown up in any previous single-player 3D Mario adventure. 

bowser and peach wedding

That’s all I’ve got for now. Feel free to share what your favorite E3 2017 games are, or how I could improve my writing. I’m always looking to improve. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading!

 

  • Matt

THOUGHTS ON: ARMS ‘Test Punch’

 

Arms global testpunchI just finished playing my second suite of matches in ARMS, Nintendo’s brand new fighting game that is slated to release for the Switch next month on June 16th. I wrote a previous blog post here stating why I was excited to play ARMS, and after battling a myriad of foes during the game’s ‘Test Punch’ as Nintendo has called it (essentially a free, online-only demo of the game’s mechanics) I can confirm that my excitement was well justified, and I’ll tell you why.

 

The ‘Test Punch’ that Nintendo has released for ARMS began yesterday in multiple time zones across the globe, and I patiently waited to play the game at 8PM EST last night. Hey, I didn’t have any plans on Friday night, I figured why not give the latest Nintendo game a shot? I have a Switch, after all. Don’t make fun of me!

 

Anyway, to say that I performed poorly during my first few matches of ARMS would be selling it short. In a word, I was dreadful when I began playing. I started my playtime using the two separated joy-con controllers to try out the game’s oft-advertised motion control scheme that critics have been praising, and initially found it to be disappointing. The motion controls felt somewhat precise, sure, but my lack of full understanding in the game’s mechanics meant that I lost way more games than I won. I also felt somewhat tired by the end of my session (to clarify – I later realized I swung my punches way too hard and more forceful than necessary) and this diminished my enjoyment with the game. During this first session, I did not think of giving the Switch Pro controller a go, considering the game’s marketing has so far centered solely on using the motion controls within the joy-con controllers.

arms fight

Earlier today, I corrected that mistake. I started up my second session with ARMS by utilizing the Switch Pro controller, and I found myself landing hits and throwing out grabs at my opponents more easily than before. The controller mapping took some getting used to, despite the game’s surprisingly low amount of required button presses. Seriously, if you’re playing ARMS using a standard Pro controller, the game doesn’t require all of the controller’s buttons to play; certain attacks and combos are mapped to multiple buttons on the controller.

mechanica

The game’s complexity is not at first noticeable. There are a wide variety of weapons (or arms) to choose from, but within the Test Punch, each of the seven fighters only has access to three. This gives you a good idea of the different playstyles that each fighter can utilize, and what their abilities and body types have on offer. For example, the heavier characters Master Mummy and Mechanica can take multiple hits without flinching but are slow, while smaller characters like Ninjara and Ribbon Girl can nimbly dash around the battlefield but take bigger hits of damage from attacks. The level of variety with just the seven fighters on offer made each match I played feel different each time, and forced me to think of a strategy to effectively take out the opponent. I found myself gravitating toward Mechanica, with her large health bar and jump-jets appealing to me. 

 

The Test Punch offers a few different game modes. 1v1, 2v2, 1v1v1, and volleyball are the game modes present. They are all pretty self-explanatory, but as expected, I found the 1v1 battles the most enjoyable. The 1v1v1 battles are a pain in the butt, because the game does not tell you how to cycle between opponents during targeting. When playing with the upright separated joy-con controllers, opponents can be cycled through by clicking the ABXY buttons on the right joy-con, or the directional buttons on the left joy-con. This made the three-player as well as four-player battles much easier to manage amidst the flurry of punches being thrown across the battlefield.

Min min

Despite this oversight of not explaining how to cycle through targets, the game does a decent job of explaining its mechanics to new players. It took me two different play sessions, but I eventually found myself zipping through the air and across the ground, capable of performing the correct punches and grabs that I wished to do.

 

ARMS is a very unique fighting game with a great premise. If this first Test Punch is a sign of the game’s online multiplayer quality, I am satisfied with the result. I experienced zero perceivable lag throughout my playtime, and suffered no disconnects. There were a few opponents of mine that dropped from the match, and it cannot be said if they were forcefully disconnected or left of their own will, but my own online experience worked flawlessly. I hope (and expect) in the final release of the game that we will be able to tailor our online gameplay experience in the ways that we enjoy most, instead of being forced to play all of the Test Punches available modes, despite how fun they can sometimes be. This first free experience of ARMS leaves me wanting more, and I think I’ll be there for day one of the game’s release.

arms logo

Did you have the chance to play the Test Punch? Have any thoughts after playing ARMS, or are you waiting until the game’s full release to play? Or, do you have little interest in the game? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and thank you for reading. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

 

  • Matt