Post Game Wrap-up: Yooka-Laylee

In 2002, Nintendo shocked the gaming world by selling their stake in Rare Limited to Microsoft. Rare had, for quite some time, been a powerhouse second party for Nintendo, developing beloved titles such as Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye 007, and Pefect Dark. In the years that followed, Rare experienced a bit of a fall from grace, developing titles that were generally received with a “meh,” excepting the popular game, Viva Pinata, while original founders and employees left the company. In 2012, a group of these former employees began to come together with the goal of creating a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. In 2017, that goal became a reality with the release of Yooka-Laylee.

The Set-up:

You are Yooka, a chameleon, and Laylee, a bat, enjoying a quite life in Shipwreck Creek when, one day, Laylee’s book is mysteriously sucked away by the nefarious Hivory Towers Corporation, run by the malicious Capital B and his sidekick, Dr. Quack. Suffice it to say, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fortunately, as the book is being booknapped (?), it’s pages escape and hide themselves throughout Hivory Towers, and the worlds you’ll encounter therein.

The Story:

The book in question is actually the “One Book,” which has the power to rewrite the universe. As Yooka & Laylee (hereafter Y&L) explore Hivory Towers, which serves as the hub world, they will find the missing pages, or pagies, hidden in Hivory Towers, as well as within five other worlds, each accessible via open books found as you explore more of Hivory Towers. Along the way, they’ll also be taunted by Capital B in much the same way Gruntilda taunted Banjo & Kazooie. Aside from Capital B, Y&L will meet an array of characters that offer upgrades, challenges, and quests for our pair to undertake. Including a seemingly lost knight armed with a gardening tool.

I’m glad they never break the fourth wall.

Yes, I realize this section is a very short synopsis, but the story is what it is. It’s not deep. It’s not compelling, but it does get the job done for the game. And, in all fairness, this game isn’t about a deep story. Yooka-Laylee is all about…

The Gameplay:

If you’ve played Banjo-Kazooie or its sequel, you can almost skip this section. Yooka-Laylee was billed as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, and it does not miss that mark. Right from the beginning, the game feels familiar to Banjo-Kazooie veterans, as you undertake 3-D platforming searching for a list of collectables. In addition to finding the Pagies, you’ll be collecting Quills, Ghost Writers, Life & Stamina upgrades, and Gaming Tokens. The platforming itself, the crux of the game, is very tight. I can’t really recall any instance in which I felt the game was working against me in this regard. The controls were very responsive, and the new moves you learn (see below) are integrated into the game seamlessly. Even the camera was very responsive, only on rare occasions seeming to refuse to give me the viewpoint I needed.

In regards to the collectables, other than the Ghost Writers, literal ghosts that each have a special technique used to capture, and whom serve no other purpose than to be captured, each collectable has a use. Quills are used to purchase new moves from Trowzer, a snake wound thru a pair of shorts (admittedly, naming a character after Trowser Snake made me laugh out loud when playing the game). The moves you’ll purchase (along with a few that are gifted to you) will allow you to explore more areas and access new locations in previous areas. These include the ability for Laylee to ride a rolling Yooka, a ground pound, and eventually the ability to fly. As I stated above, these are integrated very well, and are very useful throughout the game, as opposed to being a gimmick that is used once, then forgotten. The Life & Stamina upgrades need no explanation.

The Gaming Token you find in each level is given to Rextro Sixtyfourus (yep), a low-resolution Tyrannosaurus Rex that enjoys creating retro games for you to play thru. These range from mildly enjoyable to simply irritating. With each game, you’ll be awarded two pagies. One for completing the game and one form beating Rextro’s high score. You cannot get these at the same time, so you’ll need to play each game twice. The first three of these were…okay. The weren’t fun enough to revisit for any reason, but were okay for what they were (the one that was an imitation of RC Pro-Am was my personal favorite, but that’s very mild praise). The last two offered no joy whatsoever, in my opinion at least. Both are overly long and very unforgiving. I finished the game nine Pagies short of collecting them all, and four of those are from these two games. After a few tries with each, I came to the conclusion that neither were worth the time or frustration they were giving me.

If he played his own games, he wouldn’t look so happy.

Adding some variety to the standard platforming fare, is Dr. Puzz, a former scientist employed by Capital B. After finding her Mollycool in each level, she will offer a transformation for Yooka-Laylee. These are quite varied, including a potted plant and a helicopter. They are limited to one level, meaning you can’t exit the level as the transformation, but you can play as the transformation for as long as you like within the level. Of these, I’d only consider one a bit of a throwaway, meaning it’s only used in a sparse manner. Generally, these transformations are essential to finding at least a few Pagies and collecting Quills. One boss fight is undertaken while transformed, and is quite a bit of fun because of it.

The last wrinkle to the traditional platforming are sections with Kartos, a sentient mine cart (just accept that everything in this game is sentient). You’ll ride in Kartos, avoiding obstacles while trying to collect a minimum number of jewels to be awarded a Pagie. Kartos can jump, speed up, slow down, and shoot a cannon ball, because why not? These sections get progressively harder, and I found them to be less enjoyable as I went on. In one particular world, I had to make at least 10 attempts before I could collect the minimum number of jewels. I appreciate not being handed something in a game, but I don’t particularly like when challenge crosses the line into annoying, and I think that Kartos did that at least a couple of times, which is an issue when there are only five of these sections.

On a last note, the worlds themselves have an interesting aspect that I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered before. When you unlock a world, a task that requires a minimum number of Pagies, you haven’t actually unlocked the entire world. You actually have to exit the world and offer up more Pagies to expand the world. If you’re a completionist, which I am, you can do this right away for the last couple of worlds, but in the first three, you probably won’t have enough right away. This is a neat feature that makes reentering worlds have more variety, and offers an incentive to collect more than just the bare minimum of Pagies to open the next world.

Conclusions:

Ultimately, Yooka-Laylee is a bit of a mixed bag, but in my time with it, I found it to be more good than bad. If you accept that it is a collectathon, based on games that were most popular 20 years ago, you’ll be fine with this game. Yes, there are some frustrating elements to be found, the Rextro arcade games and Kartos sections being of particular note, but it is possible to completely skip those and finish the game. Also, some of the bosses were difficult for the wrong reasons. One particular boss had a move that I simply could not avoid. I don’t believe that I was doing anything wrong, it was just an attack that, regardless of what I tried, hit me every time. Also, it was sometimes annoying to see a Pagie, spend time trying to get it, give up, then realize later that an ability you didn’t yet have was needed. I don’t mind backtracking at all (the Metroid series is my personal favorite, so yeah), but I believe this could have been made a bit clearer in game.

All that said, this is still a very fun game. The platforming is well done, the controls are spot on, and the writing is consistently quite humorous. It absolutely captures the spirit of the Nintendo 64 platformers perfectly. Yes, there are some hiccups within the game, but there’s still so much fun to be had that it is ultimately forgivable. As I stated earlier, I came within 9 Pagies of collecting them all. You don’t get that close to completing a game at 100% if you didn’t have a good time with it. I also tracked down all the Quills and Ghost Writers in the game. Again, not something you do with a game that is frustrating you around every turn.

Yooka-Laylee isn’t for everyone. It is a game that really is from another era. But, if you grew up during that era, as I did, it’s a refreshing dose of nostalgia. A reminder of games that, sadly, we don’t see all that often any more. Here’s hoping that we haven’t seen the last of Yooka and Laylee.

I realize graphics shouldn’t matter, but this is a very pretty game.
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Thoughts on Metroid Prime 4

First of all, I want you all to know that I ADORE the Metroid series. My favorite game ever switches between Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, depending upon what color socks I’m wearing. When I was much younger than I am now, I drew maps of Metroid 2: Return of Samus in an attempt to not get lost in the sprawling landscape of SR388 (it didn’t work). I’ve even played through Metroid: Other M twice, though, admittedly, the second time was to see if it was really as bad as I remembered (it was a little worse). I love Metroid.

I’ve had few gamer highs as high as seeing the Metroid Prime 4 tease during the E3 2017 Nintendo Direct. This was the first Metroid news since Other M launched, and I really didn’t know how anxious Nintendo was to revisit the series after it completely flopped. I didn’t even need more info. Just knowing that it was in process was enough.

That said, I’ve felt few gamer lows as low as finding out that the development of Prime 4 had been scrapped, meaning it was going to be starting over from scratch. Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad news, but there is the bad.

Metroid, while held in high esteem, is not among Nintendo’s biggest sellers. The games are almost all reviewed wonderfully (excepting the aforementioned Other M), but for whatever reason, a Metroid just isn’t going to inspire the same type of sales as a new Zelda or Mario or Smash Brothers or Pokemon etc… The best-selling Metroid game is Prime at 2.75 copies sold, and only has around 17 million games sold as a franchise (my numbers are from 2018, so add an “-ish” to everything). By comparison, the Kirby series has sold over 35 million copies (though there are just a few more games in the Kirby series). 17 million is hardly bad, and I’m not saying it is, I’m just wanting to point out that Metroid, for reasons I can’t understand, doesn’t have the same name value as some of Nintendo’s other franchises.

I point this out because, with the Switch selling the way it is, Metroid Prime 4 was poised to cash in on that success, especially with a holiday 2019 or early 2020 release (I’m obviously speculating here). For a series that has struggled to find it’s place beyond it’s own dedicated fanbase, being pushed back years is a pretty big setback. It could end up being launched on the Switch at the same time that Sony and Microsoft are about launch the PS5 and the XBox Godonlyknows. This is not an enviable position for any game, much less one in a series that needs some extra push behind it.

All that said, all is not doom and gloom. With the announcement of the delay, Nintendo also let us know that Retro Studios is once again taking the helm of the Prime series. If you’ve only recently arrived on the gaming scene, Retro developed the previous Prime games to great acclaim, as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, also to great acclaim. Retro has proven themselves, and they made the Prime series, so in that regard, I feel very comfortable. I was less than happy that Nintendo was having another developer handle Prime 4 (Namco, rumor has it), so hearing that it was returning to Retro did take some of the sting out of knowing Prime 4 was starting from scratch.

The big question now is, when will we get Prime 4. If development is truly starting completely over, you have to think it’ll be at least 2021, and that’s probably optimistic, and assumes Nintendo is going to put more resources into the development. Xenoblade Chronicles was made in 3 years, and it’s a massive game, so squeezing Prime 4 in by late 2021 is possible, I guess (though this may just be me having a case of wishful thinking).

Fortunately, for those of us that are diehard Metroid fans, rumor has it that other Metroid projects are in the works (someone speculated on Samus Returns being ported to the Switch, which would be awesome, though there’s nothing to back that up). There’s also a rumor afoot that a Metroid Prime Trilogy HD for the Switch is done and is only awaiting announcement. Yes, I will buy it again. This wold all be great because it would keep Metroid in the minds of the game playing public and give people that never played the Prime series a chance to give it a go.

Ultimately, this stinks, but at least Prime 4 is still out there, and will be seen one day. I think that Shigeru Miyamoto said it best: “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.”

Rebooting

On January 16, 2017, I published my last blog on this site. Since that time, my blog has been dormant as the demands of work and parenting have taken priority. My interest in doing this hasn’t waned, but the time needed to actually sit down and do it justice just has not been there.

As we roll into 2019, I’ve found that my work has levelled out, giving me back my evenings and nights, and as my daughter ages, the requirement of watching her 24/7 eases a bit to about 22/7, so that’s something. As such, I’ve decided now is the time to give this blog a fresh start.

A couple of things:

– When I say fresh start, I don’t mean that there will be drastic changes, only that I’m rededicating myself to keeping this updated with fresh posts. They won’t be as numerous as they once were, hopefully about one per week. When I first started this blog, I forced myself to do three post per week. I know now that this led to some burnout on my part, and meant that I burned thru many topics without giving them the attention they deserved. That’s not going to happen anymore. I’m doing this because I enjoy it and I want you guys reading it to enjoy it as well. That means taking more time per post, crafting it to be the best post I can make it. If you’re taking your time to read something I’m writing, I owe it to you to make it worth that time.

– If you’ve previously followed me on Twitter, I’m now @JAVGB2. My previous account (@JAVGB1) has been deactivated. I had quite a few followers, and followed quite a few myself, but I found that many of the people I enjoyed interacting with had either left the site, or had turned their attention to political posts. I don’t mind this, everyone has the right to post about what is important to them, but I’m on Twitter to discuss gaming. I don’t want the negativity that a political discussion on social media too often brings. It tends to get me into trouble because sometimes I forget myself and chime in, even though I know better. Hence, I removed it. Still, I like Twitter, so I figured the best solution was to start fresh. I’d be very happy to have you follow me if you wish, but just be aware that I’ve become very selective in whom I follow, based on what they tweet about often. Again, I would never chide someone for what they post, but I have made the conscious decision to avoid it if at all possible.

– I’m giving very, very serious consideration to starting a Podcast. I’m laying the groundwork now. Much like this blog, it’s something I find exciting and believe I would enjoy doing. It may never happen, but if it does, I’ll link those here and would be extraordinarily grateful if any of you chose to give me your time in listening to anything I may post.

That’s about it. I’m glad to be back on here. I hope that you guys will comment profusely because as much as I like writing these posts, I love the discussions they sometimes bring about far more. Again, thanks for taking a few minutes to read my meanderings. I’m not owed any views, so I’m extremely grateful for any I get. Thanks!

Post Game Wrap-up: Rayman Legends

rayman-legends

Other than a few levels with my son in Rayman Origins, I’d never played a Rayman game. When I got Legends for Christmas (my brother did good), it seemed like the perfect game to test drive my PSVita on…considering that I also got the Vita for Christmas (my wife did good).

The Set-up:
You are Rayman, among other characters. You and your pals have been asleep for a while, but have been awoken by Murfy as the Bubble Dreamers Nightmares have grown in intensity. The magician from Rayman Origins is also back, and has split into five dark Teensies.

The Story:
Heck if I know. Frankly, I had to pull most of the synopsis above from Wikipedia.

The Gameplay:
Rayman Legends is a sidescrolling platformer, so it lives and dies by level design. Luckily, for those of us that have played it, it lives far more often than it dies.

Levels come in one of four different types:

  • Standard platforming levels are much what you’d expect from a sidescroller. You advance from point A to point B, overcoming obstacles along the way. This isn’t meant to diminish these levels. They are extremely well designed, even rivaling Nintendo in quality.
  • Levels involving touch screen control (on the WiiU and PSVita) in which you control Murfy as he manipulates enemies and obstacles allowing Globox to advance. Globox is CPU controlled, and it can be annoying sometimes when he doesn’t seem to want to do what you need him to do to pick up collectables or discover secrets.
  • Rhythm levels that are still platforming levels, but your every move can generally be timed to the music of the level, including jumps and attacks. The songs used are fairly well known. My personal favorite remains Black Betty in the level Castle Rock.
  • Invasion levels, which are levels that you have finished, but need to revisit as they’ve been invaded. These are timed levels and, the longer you take, the fewer Teensies you’ll save at the end of the level. After completing the game, some Invasion levels include a Dark/Shadow Rayman that mimics your every move on 2 or 3 second delay. Touch him, and you die. Obviously, these levels require you to sometimes double back, forcing you to avoid Dark/Shadow Rayman.

Legends also has plenty of collectables for you to find in each level. Most standard levels have at least two hidden sections with Teensies, along with eight more to find scattered throughout the level. You will also need to pick up Lums, the number of which will determine your trophy at the end of the level. Teensies can be hidden very well, and can many times be easy to miss, meaning that completionists will need to revisit levels from time to time. Legends is so well designed though, that revisiting a level is rarely a hardship and is oftentimes just a chance to have more fun.

rayman-legends-gameplay-murf
Tilting the PSVita was a nice touch to a couple of the Murfy levels.

Complementing the new stages in Legends are about 40 levels from Rayman Origins. These are unlocked by obtaining Lucky Tickets that you scratch off. This sounds like a chore, but I had all the Origin Levels opened up when I decided to start playing through them. So long as you collect a decent number of Lums per level, unlocking the Origin levels is a breeze.

Replayability in Legends is addressed as well, with the game featuring weekly challenges. These range from time trials to infinite levels that challenge you to see how far you can progress. Online leader boards let you see how you stack up against other players. It’s a minor addition, but one that spices the game up and continuously adds new tweaks. It is also a reminder of just how mediocre you really are against more dedicated players …moving on.

rayman-legends-gameplay-1
I thought I was pretty good…

Conclusions:
Rayman Legends is, honestly, one of the best platformers I’ve ever played. It easily stands among the giants such as Mario and Donkey Kong Country. There are levels that feel a little unbalanced, and a few deaths that are almost unavoidable your first time in a level, and that is annoying and detracts from the fun, but never enough so to make you quit the game or to put you off. And seriously, there are only a handful of games that don’t have an annoying portion here or there. At the end of the day, Rayman Legends is a ton of fun and leaves you wanting more. We can only hope that Ubisoft’s next Rayman title can come close to the quality that Legends delivered.

Nintendo Switch Presentation – Recap

nintendo-switch

On 1/12/2017, Nintendo finally pulled back the curtain on what is coming to the Nintendo Switch.

The Switch launches on 3/3/2017 at a price point of $299.99. It appears that there is only one bundle, and no game will be included (though you can get a bundle with the red/blue Joy-Con Controllers at the same price as one without the colors).

Hardware/System Info

  • Online System
    • Free initially, but will be a subscription service sometime in the Fall
  • Screenshot/Video Capture
    • Shareable over Social Media
  • Battery Life is 2.5 – 6.5 Hours, depending upon the game
    • The system can charge while being played
  • Features touchscreen
  • Local 8 person multiplayer
  • Console and games will be Region Free

Controller Info

  • Blue/Red color variations (on Joy-Con Controllers)
  • Detect distance and differentiate between shapes
  • L/R buttons
  • HD Rumble
  • Strap attachment

Featured Developers

  • Sega, Bethesda, Grasshopper (Suda51), and EA appeared to praise the system and promise future support
    • Travis Touchdown will be featured in a game on the Switch
    • FIFA is coming to the Switch

The Games

  • 1 2 Switch
    • Very similar to a Warioware title
    • Play 1 on 1
    • Play is apparently based on looking at your opponent (not the screen)
    • Launches 3/3/2017
  • Arms
    • Spring-armed boxing/fighting game
    • Will feature online matches as well as local splitscreen
    • Launches Spring, 2017
  • Splatoon 2
    • New weapons (dual wielding) and special attacks
    • Gyro aiming (optional)
    • My son is the Splatoon player in the house, so I’m sure I missed more that is new about this sequel
    • Launches Summer, 2017
  • Super Mario Odyssey
    • Takes place outside the Mushroom Kingdom (featuring real world locations)
    • Mario’s hat may be sentient, and is used to attack as well as platform
    • Sandbox game (noted as the first since Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine)
    • One portion of the preview showed Mario carrying a vegetable similar to SMB2 while another showed him riding an animal (or a statue of an animal)
    • Many new enemies were shown, with Bowser still being the Big Bad
    • Launches Holiday, 2017
  • Xenoblade (Chronicles) 2
    • World appeared to be massive, including beasts that eclipse those featured in the previous two Xenoblade titles
    • A quick shot showed a character riding an animal
    • Air ships made an appearance
    • This game alone is worth purchasing a Switch for
  • Fire Emblem Warriors
  • Misc.
    • Dragon Quest 10 & 11
    • Dragon Quest Heroes I & II
    • Shin Megami Tensei
    • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    • Project Octopath Traveler (Square Enix)
    • Quick video at the end showed clips of: Rayman, Minecraft, Lego City Undercover, Mario Kart 8, Street Fighter, and Bomberman (among a few I didn’t catch)
      • Some of these may have been meant to show that a Virtual Console/e-Shop would be present
    • A racing game resembling F-Zero was shown, but this could be a port of Fast Racing Neo
  • Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
    • Launches 3/3/2017
    • New trailer was shown

Thoughts

  • Both the price and lack of a bundled game (or a premium bundle with a game) surprises me. I was expecting $249.99, with a $299.99 bundle including Zelda.
  • Nintendo is clearly working to get third party support, boasting that 80 games were currently in development. How many of those reach completion remains to be seen.
  • Nintendo is clearly still working to pull in non-traditional gamers with titles such as 1 2 Switch and Arms.
  • The holiday launch for Mario is surprising, but makes some sense, as it will definitely be a system seller.
  • My biggest surprise is actually what we didn’t see: Beyond Good & Evil 2, Smash Brothers, Pokemon Stars, WiiU Ports, more info on the Mario Kart title, Internal Storage

At the end of the day, I’m not sure how this system is going to be received. Nintendo is clearly working hard to put out a steady stream of games, but with Zelda being the only confirmed big name launch title, it will be interesting to see how it sells out of the gate. I want one, but I’m a confirmed Nintendo fanboy, and need that Zelda title in my life. What matters is how the more casual gamer responds, and I’m not sure about that yet. I hope the Switch succeeds because a competitive Nintendo is better for the market as a whole. In two months, we’ll begin to see if that’s going to happen.

 

In Memoriam of Instruction Booklets

booklets

I came across something on Twitter a couple of days ago that made me stop and think. Someone had posted a picture of some Wii games they had picked up and stated that they enjoyed collecting Wii games because those still came with Instruction Booklets. This was the second time that the lack of Instruction Booklets in recent console generations had come to my attention over the past few weeks.

The first time was in regards to a few Christmas gifts I got. My wife got me a PSVita along with Ys: Memories of Celceta. To go along with it, my son got me Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate and my brother, Rayman Legends. As I opened each one, I was surprised each time to find no booklet at all inside the case. There was a game cartridge, and nothing else.

For the kids that grew up with the PlayStation, N64, and subsequent consoles, this is not a big deal. Most games come with built in tutorials, and those that don’t often give you tips on the fly that teach you the game while you’re playing it. Heck, the first three chapters of the masterpiece that is Xenoblade Chronicles X are essentially training missions. This is the natural evolution of the digital age. Instruction Booklets aren’t needed anymore and, if we’re being honest, most people that missed the NES/SNES/Genesis generation probably never read the booklets that came with PS/N64/PS2 games anyway. For those of us that came of age in the 80’s and early 90’s though, those booklets were essential reading. They were almost as important as having the game itself.

First of all, our games weren’t digital (definitely not knocking digital copies of games, I downloaded three over Christmas myself). You had to pick them up in the store and take them home. Maybe I’m isolated here, but I would have the game open in the car to study the Instruction Booklet. What was the story? What items were in the game? What did the characters look like, did they have names, etc… Part of the excitement of getting a new game was to read about the game before you played it. It set up what you were doing, why, and how you were going to do it. But why did the Booklet have to set this all up? That’s my second point.

booklet-contra
How would I have possibly known if I was Lance or Bill???

NES games (as well as Super NES & Genesis games to some extent) could not waste space on telling an elaborate story in-game. All available space in that cartridge needed to be applied to the game itself. Of course, there are exceptions, but even in those games that had the story included (Zelda 2, for example), the booklet gave you far more details than the game was able to. In the same vein, many times the booklet also gave you artwork for the characters in the game, both friends and foes. Again, the NES was limited. You had to use your imagination sometimes. Hyrule looks deserted in The Legend of Zelda, but the picture of Link kneeling on a rise overlooking the countryside inside the booklet showed you that it was so much more. That was important to me then. It actually enhanced the game in my mind, if not on the screen.

booklet-zelda

Finally, NES games did not have tutorials. Sure, there are only two buttons, but developers did a whole lot with those two buttons, and there are times that you would be missing out on how to accomplish certain things in-game if you hadn’t read about the controls beforehand. When I was 9 or 10, I used my allowance to pick up Milon’s Secret Castle at a local rental store (it was in their for sale box of used games, I picked it over Q-bert, I still think it was the right decision). I really liked the game, but I was stuck on the first level of the castle and felt like I was missing something, and there was no booklet included for me to read. The next time we were in different rental store that we frequented (honestly, I miss those) that had it for rent, I asked the person at the register if I could just read the manual. They were cool with it, and it helped that I was a kid. After reading through it, I found out that there were some actions I was unaware of. I immediately put my newfound knowledge to use when we got home and got further than I’d been able to before. That Instruction Booklet was make or break for me on that game, and I’m sure that would have been true on other games I played (most of mine came with the booklet). On a sidenote, I’ve gotten quite far in Milon’s Secret Castle, but have yet to beat that game. It is freaking hard. Another great example of this is Startropics. Included with that game is a letter that you have to use to get a code that is needed in the game itself. Startropics was breaking the fourth wall long before Psycho Mantis was on the scene. Seriously, how cool is it to have to do some real world action to progress in your NES game? That’s genius.

I admit to having a yearning for my childhood. I have a ton of nostalgia towards older games, partially because they are a lot of fun and I still enjoy them, but also because they represent a simpler time for me, before the realities of adulthood and responsibilities set in and the innocence I had (and all kids have) was gone. Flipping through Instruction Booklets is a part of that as well. I’m sure this seems like I’m making a huge deal over a few pages in a video game box, but it’s not that. It’s just something that I always loved that has changed over time. Rest assured, I’m not shedding any tears over this, no matter how this sounds. Still though, even now, on the occasions that a new game does come with an older style Instruction Booklet, I do still pull it out and flip through it. Even after all these years, there’s still some magic there for me.

booklet-zelda-2booklet-zelda-2-2booklet-zelda-2-3booklet-zelda-2-4booklet-zelda-2-5booklet-smbbooklet-smb3booklet-metroidbooklet-mega-manbooklet-kirbybooklet-kid-icarusbooklet-blaster-master

My Top 8 Upcoming Games of 2017

top-8-2017I’d considered doing a post about the best games of 2016, but honestly, not much grabbed my attention in 2016. As a matter of fact, I have played exactly zero of the games on Metacritic’s Top 100 of 2016. That said, 2017 already has a handful of games I’m pumped for. This is my personal Top 8 so far, with the only caveat being that there has to be firm information available about a game for it to have made this list.

injustice-28. Capcom versus Marvel Infinite / Injustice 2
I’m not a fan of fighting games, but both of these titles have caught my eye. Admittedly, it’s almost solely due to the rosters that are likely to be included in these games, but both are sequels to games that have been generally well received and, should I pick up a fighting game this year, it will be one of these two titles. I’ve also long wished I could really get into a fighting game, so maybe the time is right with one of these two.

prey7. Prey
Of the games on my list, this is the one that we know the least about. Still, what little we do know has me very excited. I’m quite the fan of games that give you an open world, limited only by the abilities you’ve acquired, which is exactly how the developers have described this title. I also like the promise of a strong narrative with some horror elements. I’ll admit to never having played the original Prey, but it doesn’t seem like this is a direct sequel. This game could work its way off my list as more info is made available but, for the moment, I choose to remain positive.

nioh6. Nioh
Nioh has a few aspects that appeal to me. I’m always a sucker for a good hack’n slash game, and that’s exactly how Nioh has been described. I’m also drawn to the idea of a dark fantasy version of 1600 Japan. The fact that this title includes some RPG elements doesn’t hurt it either. Much like Prey, I could still waffle on this title, but for the time being, if I have some extra funds in the early part of the year, I may very well be picking this game up.

re-vii5. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
RE4, in my opinion, is the high bar for the RE series to date. RE5 kept the play style of RE4, but wanted to be more of an action game. It was so mediocre that I’ve avoided RE6 to date. RE7 has my hopes high though. What has been shown of the game looks creepy. RE creepy. The first person perspective, a perspective I’m normally critical of, looks to work extremely well with the environment/setting of RE7, a dilapidated plantation in LA (I live in the south and still find that disturbing). I’m really, really hopeful that RE7, with a new cast and storyline, will bring back what made the Resident Evil franchise so well known and popular for so long.

yooka-laylee4. Yooka-Laylee
A game inspired by and considered a spiritual sequel to games such as Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo-Kazooie/Banjo-Tooie that has even been developed by former employees of Rare that worked on these past games. Really, I shouldn’t even have to write anything else here. So-called collectathons have fallen out of style, but were very common (and much loved) during the N64/PS1 era. They appeal to my personality type, so I could never get enough of them. Also, to this day, DK64 and B-K are a couple of my favorite games. Picking up a game that plays like those, but updated for this era is a no-brainer.

horizon-zero-dawn3. Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn simply looks beautiful. I want to play it just to wander around the game world. The fact that there’s a story, large mechanical dinosaurs, and side-quests are gravy. HZD is an Action RPG, which is my absolute favorite genre of video games (JRPGs are a close second), set in a post-apocalyptic world that finds you essentially on your own against monstrous machines, with multiple ways in which to defeat them. I don’t often take risks on new games, but this is one title I’ll be pre-ordering very soon. It looks that good.

zelda-botw2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Zelda games seldom disappoint, but after Skyward Sword, there were growing cries for the Zelda formula to be shaken up. Enter Breath of the Wild. This looks like a Zelda game that would have been designed by Monolith Soft or Bethesda. It is an open world title that lets you tackle it in any way you see fit. Hyrule is in ruins. Link has been asleep for quite some time. Calamity Ganon has decimated the land, and is now sealed in Hyrule castle as he could not be defeated, yet his power continues to grow. That’s your story, and how you progress is entirely up to you. How you complete the game is so arbitrary that Eiji Aonuma (producer) has stated that you can complete the game without actually playing through the story. Nintendo has made some missteps with their console development, but their ability to develop excellent games has never been called into question. Breath of the Wild looks to be yet another jewel in Nintendo’s game development crown.

nier-automata1. NieR: Automata
Yes, that’s right. If given a choice right now between Breath of the Wild and Automata, I would take NieR. Understand, I adored the first Nier. I completed it four times to see all of the narrative the title had to offer. I never expected to see a sequel, even a non-direct sequel, so the announcement of NieR: Automata caught me completely by surprise, and my excitement for it has only grown since that announcement, and has now reached a fervor since I played through the demo this morning. Playing much like the original Nier, with the added bonus of having Platinum Games on board handling the combat, Automata takes place much later in the same world as Nier. Machines have driven mankind to the moon, and androids have been sent to do battle with the machines. It is these androids that you will control (with “2B” apparently being the primary character). In regards to the narrative, Nier (and Drakengard, from which it originates) are noted for dark storylines, and I expect nothing less from Automata. It is the story that hooked me on Nier so completely. It may not always be happy, but it is deep and engrossing, and I will happily take a deep, dark story over a shallow, happy one anyday. It’s going to be a long wait until 3/7/2017.

Nintendo Switch

 

nintendo-switch

Boys and Girls, the Nintendo NX has been unveiled:

 

On Thursday (10/20), Nintendo released the above 3 minute trailer for the newly minted Nintendo Switch.

What we know so far:

  • It serves as both a home console and handheld (as rumors had previously stated), and the systems can communicate with one another, apparently
  • It will have detachable controllers that can function together as one controller as independently for (at least) a few multiplayer games
  • A pro controller will be available
  • Amiibos will work with the system
  • A Mario and Splatoon title will be available at some point
  • It launches in March
  • It uses cartridges
  • Um….it’s made by Nintendo

What we don’t know:

  • Games other than Mario and Splatoon that will be available in the launch window
  • Specs
  • Price
  • Battery life
  • Third party support
  • Essentially, anything not listed in my first list

Guys, I’m a Nintendo fan, and I like what I’ve seen so far, but we really do know so little that it’s hard to even form a true opinion on the Switch. I genuinely like the idea behind it. It’s just so…Nintendo. By which I mean it’s unique and odd and bizarre and wonderful and exciting. Since the end of the Gamecube era, it seems that Nintendo has decided that they’re just going to do what they feel like doing, and maybe some of us will come along for the ride. It worked with the Wii, not so much for the WiiU, but Nintendo just doesn’t play it safe anymore, so now we have the Switch. And darned if it doesn’t seem kind of cool. Keep in mind though, this is coming for a self-professed, but somewhat grounded, Nintendo fanboy. My bias may be showing.

As I’ve written before (in a post I’m going to contradict a bit now), Nintendo excels in the handheld market, and this system appears to be their effort to merge that market with the home console market. The question this creates is, will Nintendo begin replacing both the WiiU and 3DS with the Switch? I’m certain that we’ll hear how this isn’t replacing the 3DS, and while that still may be true (after all, the 3DS is still very popular), we heard the same thing about the GBA when the 3DS launched. How did that work out?

The point here being, if Nintendo does attempt to market this as a handheld, they will be their own most prominent competitor with the 3DS. That would be a tough balancing act to keep up. It’s also hard to imagine them actually stopping support of the 3DS given its success.

If I had to make a guess here, I would say that they’ll market this as their next home console, which just happens to be portable. Focusing solely on the Switch at the expense of the 3DS would be put all of Nintendo’s eggs into one system, and that would be a dangerous gamble. What if the Switch stumbled as the WiiU has? They would have no backup system in another market segment to sustain such a misstep. Not that Nintendo would cease to exist or anything like that, but it would be a major blow.

The popularity of the 3DS also means that Nintendo can allow it be kept afloat with third party support, letting their in-house developers concentrate on beefing up the Switch during the launch window, and the first year thereafter, avoiding the game drought that the WiiU experienced soon after launch, and worked towards its ultimate demise. This is a pretty big deal, and a situation Nintendo hasn’t been in since the launch of the original GameBoy (over 25 years ago). The WiiU may have stumbled, but no one questions Nintendo’s game development abilities, first or second party. They simply make, far more often than not, fantastic games. Focusing those abilities like a laser on one system would be a boon, should that actually happen.

switch-third-party
There is some reason for optimism regarding game development outside of Nintendo’s in-house developers

Still, this is all speculation at this point. Nintendo has already stated that no more info will be released this year. We’ll probably get a full Nintendo Direct in January. To wait much longer almost seems like madness. Actually, waiting that long almost seems like madness, but Nintendo is quirky like that, a quality I think many of us both love and hate about them. At the moment, I’m excited, but ultimately, games will make or break this system, and on that front, like it or not, we’re still in a wait and see limbo. I’m just going to hope for the best. A video game market with a vibrant Nintendo pushing the envelope is a win for all of us.

The NX Could be Brilliant

 

nx-patent

I’ve been bearish on Nintendo for a while now, regarding their handling of the WiiU and their next console, codenamed NX. Even as a Nintendo fan, and someone that thinks the WiiU actually does have some great games on it, the realistic part of me is already finding fault with the rumors of what the NX exactly is. That said, in recent days, I’ve found myself wondering if maybe, just maybe, Nintendo has learned from the WiiU, and is on the verge of launching an incredibly popular system.

All rumors point to the NX being both a Console and a Handheld. My criticisms of the NX, or what we know if the NX, are as follows:

  • It is launching mid-generation, much like the WiiU, throwing out of the console cycle.
  • It is reported to be on par with the PS4, at best, meaning that, in terms of power, it could find itself behind almost from its launch as the PS4 and Xbox One are upgraded.
  • It has yet to be revealed, in spite of launching in March of 2017, so all hype is built only on rumors.
  • If my second point is true, will third parties ignore it instead of downgrading their games for it (which they stopped doing for the Wii, and essentially never did for the WiiU)?

There are other points, but you get the idea. I guess, once a company has experienced a stumble on the level that Nintendo has experience with the WiiU, you want to hope for the best while expecting the worst with their next venture. That’s the stance I’ve been taking with the NX. I hope it’s good, but wouldn’t be surprised if it’s met with tepid sales and lackluster fandom.

wiiu
The little console that…never really did.

But…but there is a market that Nintendo knows, and has never stumbled in. Nintendo knows the handheld market. Nintendo has been challenged multiple times (Game Gear, NeoGeo, PSP) and has always come out on top. Even with the WiiU floundering, the 3DS is still chugging along, practically embarrassing the Vita (which begs the question, why does Falcom insist on sticking the new Ys games on the Vita, forcing me to consider getting one in the very near future???).

Now, this brings me back to the NX. It is almost certainly going to be a console/handheld hybrid. There are simply too many rumors from reputable sources for this not to be true. What if Nintendo markets the NX the same way they’ve marketed the 3DS, DS, GBA, etc…? What it Nintendo treats the NX as a handheld with television features? Yes, it’s their next console, but it’s also their next handheld, and Nintendo knows handhelds. It occurred to me, if this is the path Nintendo is truly committing to, the NX could be amazing.

For one, it destroys the stigma of launching mid-generation. Handhelds aren’t held to the same standard as consoles in regards to when they’re launched. If it’s even close to the PS4, it’ll be viewed as extremely powerful if you take it on the go (and while I have my concerns, having a console at that level is hardly a bad thing). Also, if it’s a handheld even part of the time, why would third parties not port to it. That’s an entirely different market for them.

3ds-games
The 3DS has done okay for itself.

Finally, I think the most important development to come out of this is that for the first time since around 1990, Nintendo won’t be developing games for both a handheld and a console simultaneously. For the first time in 25 years, game development will be focused on one machine, and I don’t think the importance of that can be overstated. If you disagree, think of it this way. Years ago, I stated that if Nintendo wanted to shift a few million WiiU consoles, simply release a mainstream Pokemon title to the system. Pokemon sells. Period. A Pokemon game, by itself, would bring sales. I believed it them, I believe it now. Guess what. It’s happening with the NX. Granted, we don’t know what it will be yet, but rumors are that it is a remake of Pokemon Red/Blue. If true, that would be huge. And it’s possible now because Game Freak (after Sun/Moon) can shift their focus to Nintendo’s next handheld, which just happens to be their next console.

Okay, this is all speculation on my part. The 3DS definitely still has life in it, so if continues to sell well, it will remain supported, and that could muddy the waters. There’s also the chance that I’m reading Nintendo’s intentions all wrong here. I don’t have an inside line or anything, I’m just making assumptions based on the rumors we have to work with. But I’m an eternal optimist, and I love Nintendo, so I’m doing all I can to see this in the best possible light, and I truly believe there’s a path for Nintendo to have a massive success with the the NX.

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