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Super Bomberman R Review

Super Bomberman R (Available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action Puzzle
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami & HexaDrive
Release Date: March 3, 2017

Parent Talk: Super Bomberman R has been rated E10+ for everyone ten and up.  The only notes the ESRB makes is that the game features cartoon violence, and that’s exactly right.  For a name like Bomberman one could expect the worst, but in reality, this is a very light-hearted game that children of all ages will absolutely love.

Plays Like: This is one of those instances where I feel confident in saying, if you’ve played one Bomberman you’ve played them all.  You move around a grid trying to complete a variety of missions from blowing up all the enemies, to locating keys and switches, to surviving for a set amount of time.  There are boss fights, and five great worlds for you to explore, made up of eight stages each and two boss fights per world.  After that there are two final boss fights and that’s all she wrote.  The thing is there are lots of multiplayer options, and that’s where fans will spend hours upon hours having an absolute blast.

Review Basis: I played through the game in a handful of hours, tried the harder difficulty settings and went online to test the stability of the network.

Bomberman is back, and what a huge surprise.  Being an old-school Bomberman fan since the TurboGrafx-16 days, it was nice to see this game grace the Switch’s launch.  Konami has been dead to the gaming industry for some time now, so this really came as a huge shock to me to see them back in action, and with a game I never expected to see again.  While the game doesn’t break from the classic formula in any way, the fact the Switch is so diverse is ultimately what makes the game that much more compelling than previous entries.  Be warned though, the entry price is a bit steep.

The Great:

Bomberman at home, Bomberman on the go, Bomberman everywhere!  The absolute best feature of Super Bomberman R is the fact you can play it everywhere, in any of the three available modes the Switch offers.  At home, you can have up to eight players go to town, in tabletop mode up to four players can share the small screen, and in portable mode you can either play by yourself or you locally connect to eight other systems or head online where up to eight can play.  One note to make is that for all the online matches I played while in console or portable mode, I couldn’t get matches larger than four unless the other players had partners at home.  Whether this is required or not I’m not sure.

The online and local multiplayer are literally a blast.  As with every Bomberman game, you need to experience it with other players.  At first my online sessions were a bit sluggish, however that quickly improved over time.  The more matches I played, the better the connections became.  If you’re unlucky and are stuck with some poor connections, believe me, you’ll feel it.  It makes playing extremely challenging.  Konami has already released a fix to improve the connection issues, and I expect more in the coming weeks.

Multiplayer plays very much like the classic Bomberman of yesterday where you try and be the last man standing.  What’s fun here is that when you’re defeated you can hang out at the border of the arena and lob bombs at the surviving players.  If you manage to blow one up, you take their place and are back in the game.  During the last minute of battle the players who were defeated are kicked out, and the arena starts to fill with spikes, which forces the remaining players to get closer to each other.  It’s an absolute riot, and great fun.

There’s a league match, which is ranked, and then a free play which allows you to customize the match as you see fit.  You can even buy stages with the game’s in-game currency, but be warned the coins you need are not easy to attain.  You get some from winning online matches, and by completing the campaign, but it’ll take quite a few rounds before you can afford anything, and if you decide to want to play the campaign on the harder difficulty settings, be prepared to spend a small fortune to continue.

The Good:

  • Considering the way Nintendo built the Switch, everyone who buys a copy of Bomberman automatically has access to local two-player multiplayer, which is awesome.  The downside is that the Joy-Con are not the best controllers to use for people with larger hands like I have.  I can use them perfectly when they’re docked to the system, but once apart they’re just too tiny for me.  That said, the fact that you have access to multiplayer without having to spend any additional money is fantastic.
  • I mentioned the in-game currency can be used to purchase stages, but you can even unlock addition characters and headgear to really customize your avatar.  There are eight Bombermen by default, but the fact you can really make one character your own is fantastic.
  • The campaign is surprisingly excellent.  Yes it’s a tad short, featuring five worlds made up of eight classic stages and then two boss fights per world, but it’s great fun.  You select from one of the eight Bombermen whose mission is to stop the Evil Emperor Buggler from destroying the universe.  The cutscenes are extremely cute and humorous, which is precisely what you’d expect from a Bomberman game.  Each world has a unique theme, and each stage has different winning conditions.  The majority of the stages require you to defeat all the enemies, but others will require you to find a set number of keys, activate a number of switches, survive for a certain amount of time, and more.   This diversity helps keep things fresh.
  • The level design is also excellent, with certain blocks allowing you to jump to other levels, ice patches that prevent you from standing in one spot, and much, much more.

  • The boss battles are very fun, if not overly original.  The first of the two boss battles is always a one-on-one race battle.  These are extremely challenging as your opponent always knows precisely where to stand to avoid getting blown up, which forces you to try and pin them to defeat them or sacrifice yourself to take them down as well.  The second boss battles are all the same, the boss jump into a mech and tries to take you down.  These boss battles play out the same across all the different worlds, you damage the mech and then inflict damage to the boss.  These are extremely fun throughout the campaign.

  • The graphics look great, even if they aren’t using the Switch hardware to its fullest.  Everything is colorful and bright, which is shocking to see for a game released in 2017.  Where’s all the brown and gray? The audio is also really catchy and fits the game perfectly.

The So-So:

+/- One problem I have with the new isometric camera angle is that it can make it hard to pinpoint your exact location.  I can’t tell you how many times I planted a bomb in one lane and move to the next only to realize I wasn’t full in the next lane, and BOOM there goes a life.  This can also make the elevated areas a bit tough to see, and don’t even get me started on some of those mech boss fights as the buggers will move in such a way that obstructs your view so you can’t tell where you are, and you usually end up dead as a result.

+/- The controls are another area that take some getting used to, much like the camera.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but having 360-degree control over your character feels a bit strange at first.  This is evident when you head online, but after a while you should manage to adjust.

The Bad:

  • The price is a bit hard to justify.  In Canada the game goes for $64.99, which is the same price as Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 & 1.5 Remix on the PlayStation 4.  That game lasts for dozens and dozens of hours, whereas this can be beaten in a handful of hours.  Yes the multiplayer is great, but that’s a lot of money and given the content featured it’s really hard to justify that price point.

The Lowdown:

Super Bomberman R is a game I would recommend to anyone, if it were just a bit cheaper.  I know people have discussed this to death by now, but it deserves repeating.  The asking price gives people certain expectations, and I’ll admit I was surprised by the amount of content when I played through the game.  I kept telling myself, at this price I could have gotten some much meatier experiences, although you’d be hard pressed to find a better party game on the Switch as of right now.

Final Score: 7.5/10

 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Available on Wii U, and Nintendo Switch)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: March 3rd, 2017

Parent Talk: Breath of the Wild has been rated E10+ by the ESRB for everyone ten years and up.  The disclaimer lists Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, and the Use of Alcohol.  All of the Zelda games fit this criteria, however this one feels slightly more mature than most Zelda games because it deals with death, failure, and an impending doom.  That said, the story is also extremely minimalistic, more so than almost any other game in the franchise.  The violence is about up to par with the rest of the series, and most children will be perfectly fine with the game.

Plays Like:  I could very easily say Breath of the Wild plays just like any other Zelda game, but that would be a flat out lie.  Certain elements play like the older games in the series, but for the most part, the game that this plays the most like is the original Legend of Zelda, and that’s shocking!  Players are free to do as they please from the moment they leave the starting area.  So about thirty to forty minute in, and you can do literally anything you want.  Want to fight Ganon, go for it, want to traverse the world, you can do that too, how about spending the next 90 hours cooking, yes, that’s also possible.

Review Basis: I invested over 90 hours into Breath of the Wild.  That includes finding and completing all 120 shrines, countless side quests, and all of the Divine Beasts.  I explored absolutely every inch of the world map, and tried to do everything I could with the game.  I’m certain there are still tons of elements I know nothing about, but for the most part, I would say now I’m ready to review the latest game in my favorite series.  Full disclosure, I’ve been playing this series since 1987 and am a diehard fan, so you can expect a fan’s perspective with this review.

This review will be completely different than all the other reviews I’ve ever done.  Typically I race to get out the quickest reviews possible, and sometimes, especially in the case of the Zelda series, I get sucked into the hype and come back many years later to question why I reviewed said game the way I did.  With Breath of the Wild I really wanted to invest the time necessary to see what worked, what didn’t work, and what could be improved upon.  Overall The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredible game, and a game-changing one for the Zelda series.  Nintendo hasn’t been this bold since The Wind Waker was released on the GameCube back in 2002.  That game was a huge risk for Nintendo because of the graphical direction Nintendo took the series in, but with A Link Between Worlds Nintendo started to change the core gameplay.  They expressed interested early on in trying to take the series in a brand new direction with Breath of the Wild, and they’ve certainly succeeded in doing that.  The question now is whether or not the countless perfect scores media outlets have given the game are justified or has everyone fallen into the hype trap?  Let’s dig in and find out!

Let’s start off with a variety of elements I loved.

  • A true open world. The sense of freedom is unmatched in any other game.  By now you’ve all heard of just how massive Hyrule is in Breath of the Wild.  The size and scale is incredible, but that’s not what makes this impressive.  What is so shockingly impressive is the fact that you’re left pretty much to your own devices.  Unlike Skyward Sword where you were handheld for what felt like an eternity, here after the opening section you can do anything you want.  You can head directly to Ganon, or you could go in the exact opposite direction.  The game points you to Kakariko Village, but the choice is yours whether or not you actually want to do that.  In total I believe there are only around 10 main quests in the game, one for each of the Divine Beasts, one for Ganon, and a few others pointing you to your next destination once you trigger the larger quest event.  Not since the original Legend of Zelda did I ever feel this much free from a Zelda  When I was a kid I recall going off in any direction, with the only limiting factor being key items I required, or the level of difficulty from enemies.  Here you have all the items you need right at the beginning of the game, so the only thing stopping you is your courage.  Yes the game is broken up in such a way so as to help funnel you to different areas through enemy difficulty, but you still have the choice to ignore all of that and veer off in any direction you want, and that is such a welcome change for the series.
  • I just said that enemy difficulty plays a key part in this game, and that’s absolutely true. Right away you feel underpowered to the earliest encounters the game has to offer.  The reason why, you’re literally naked.  Without any defensive gear you’re left at the mercy of every enemy you encounter.  There are a few ways you can fix this.  You can scour the land and try and find gear, or you can master the combat system, which is simple enough that you can actually race straight to Ganon and actually beat him if you’re extremely well-versed in the combat system.  For the average gamer that’s not going to be an option, you’ll have to play through the game as Nintendo intended.  The thing is, having this incredible difficulty is something us long-time fans have been asking for, for years now.  Zelda games have become all too easy over the past three decades, and having this one kick my butt right at the on-set was a welcome treat.  I loved not being hand-held, and having to stumble onto new tactics to defeat each new enemy I encountered.
  • Every enemy encounter is slightly different. While the combat system as a whole is rather simplistic, the way you actually face enemies is always different.  For example, you might see a group of enemies sleeping, so do you just run in and fight them all just like that?  Maybe, or maybe you sneak past all the enemies and steal their weapon stash which makes them defenseless, or maybe you shoot some fire arrows at the pieces of wood that happen to be holding large boulders that will then fall and crush all the enemies.  This may sound exaggerated, but almost every enemy encounter has between three and four obvious ways to tackle the encounter, and countless others you don’t immediately think about.
  • I’ve said the combat system was simplistic, and while that’s true, when you couple it with how many combat options you have available, it never feels stale. For the most part you have the ability to slash at foes by pressing the Y button.  If you use the ZL button, depending on your held weapon you can deflect incoming projectiles with your shield.  Where things get interesting is that if you time it correctly, you can parry an incoming projectile directly back at an enemy by pressing the A button at the precise time.  This is how it’s entirely possible to storm Hyrule Castle right away and take on Ganon, because the full extent of the combat system is unlocked right away.  You have to have perfect timing though, so don’t expect this to be a breeze.  You can also perform charged attacks and more.  Each weapon has a distinct ability when charged, a giant club will allow you to perform a circular spinning attack, whereas a sword will allow you to charge your attack to perform a one-time classic spin attack.
  • Charge attacks are based on the stamina system, which controls so many different aspects of the game. Stamina is what dictates how long you can glide, how long you can climb up surfaces, how far you can swim, and how long you can perform your devastating attacks.  Since Link has the ability to climb up just about every surface in the game, the stamina wheel acts a nice control of sorts.  As you complete shrines, you can also upgrade your stamina wheel to a maximum of three stamina wheels.  With that much stamina there’s no place you won’t be able to reach.
  • Perhaps the biggest addition made to the Zelda series outside the open world is the newly introduced gravity system. Virtually all of the gameplay mechanics are wrapped around gravity.  My previous example for how you could approach an enemy encounter also mentioned gravity indirectly.  When you set fire to certain obstacles, gravity can take over causing objects to fall.  So you can imagine all the possibilities not only in terms of combat, but also in terms of puzzle solving.  The shrines are mostly made up of puzzles that revolve around using magnetic abilities, bombs, freezing time, or creating ice blocks, but each of these is wrapped around gravity.  So you might stop an object, smack it a few times with your sword, and the power will build up in it that when time resumes, it will fly off in a certain directly at warp speed, almost ignoring gravity.  Sometimes a well-placed bomb will causes debris to fall and crush enemies, and there are so many examples where you need to use gravity to your advantage in order to move an orb into position to trigger a door to open.  That doesn’t even being to mention how gravity affects your arrows, which is to say, a lot.  You always have to aim slightly over a target because you have to factor in gravity pulling the arrow down.  It’s absolutely fantastic, and a great new inclusion to the series that I want to see in all future Zelda
  • The Legend of Zelda series has been known to house some fun and distractive mini-games, but there’s one sort of mini-game here that takes the cake, literally. The cooking system, while not perfect which I’ll touch in later on, is highly addictive.  The way it works is simple, you can grab up to five ingredients from your materials inventory and mix them together in a cooking pot to create something magical.  From cold-resistant elixirs to meat skewers that replace 10+ hearts, there’s no limit to what you can cook.  The real fun part is when you start to explore Hyrule and realize there are secret hidden recipes all over the place, some of which will show you how to make incredibly strong potions that can grant you a series of new heart containers, or even up your attack power.  The catchy little jingle is what makes it even better.  In terms of other mini-games, there are some returning favorites like horseback archery, as well as new ones like snow bowling.
  • Traveling the world trying to find everything Hyrule has to offer may seem daunting at first, and while there are a wide assortment of travel options available, I always found climbing up a mountain and gliding to the next point of interest the best mode of transportation, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the other ways you can travel around. If you want to traverse the sea, why not take a raft and a Korok Leaf to send wind at the raft sail and sail away to wherever you want.  Naturally you can try and mount a horse, calm it down, and then register it at a stable if you want to keep said horse.  This is rather common, but did you know you can also find and ride bears, deer, and maybe even skeleton horses?  Yes, there’s no shortage of ways to get around.  The most useful is fast-traveling from one destination to another, which you can do once you unlock a shrine.  This is why I spent dozens of hours unlocking all of the game’s shrines, because they allowed me to move from one area to the next with ease.
  • Speaking of shrines, they take the place of dungeons. I’ll say this right away, they’re not substitute for a classic Zelda dungeon, but they are indeed fun.  Completing a shrine rewards Link with a spirit orb, which he can use four of them to upgrade one of his heart containers or a piece of a new stamina wheel.  I loved the quick-paced nature of the shrines, but after about 80 of them they start to get very repetitive.  Essentially there are two types, combat trials where you fight the same enemy, just different versions of it, and then there are the puzzle-based shrines.  These are usually made up of two or three rooms with a single puzzle in each.  Occasionally there will be more complex shrines, but not often.  They really put your understanding of the game’s Sheikh Slate abilities to the test, which is why I enjoyed them as much as I did.
  • There are several core abilities that the Sheikah Slate has: Bombs, Magnesis, Stasis, camera, and Amiibo. It can be used to locate shrines, or you can take pictures of items and then switch the sensor to search the world for said items.  The sensor can be upgraded, which grants additional abilities, such as that camera scanning feature.  What’s so unique is that you get the main abilities before you leave the Great Plateau, or the starting area.  That means you’re armed to tackle absolutely all of the puzzle-based shrines from the moment you’re able to explore the world, and that’s extremely unique.
  • Amiibo support gave players an early advantage in terms of materials to use for cooking as well as weapons, shields, and bows they could make use of. The biggest gameplay change-up with Amiibo support was the inclusion of Wolf Link from Twilight Princess  Wolf Link can fight beside Link and can be repeatedly used if he falls in battle, by triggering the Amiibo again, whereas the other ones can only be used once per day.  Only the Zelda-based character trigger special drops, all the other Amiibo figures simply drop a few resources.  If you own Twilight Princess on the Wii U, you can even max our Wolf Link’s hearts to 20.
  • One element that I’ve heard a lot of players dislike is the weapon durability system. The truth is that in past Zelda games most players will stick to about five or six weapons in their inventory, and the others they’d use out of necessity to complete a dungeon or some special boss.  What I like with this new system is that it almost forces you to try everything, at least once.  You can try boomerangs, two-handed weapons, wands, swords, and every bow imaginable.  I really liked that.  Yes it’s unfortunate that there aren’t any weapons that last forever, yes even the Master Sword will need to recharge after prolonged use, and the Hylian Shield can and will break over time.  Still, the fact I played with so many different weapons was an interesting idea.  I think what could have made this just a bit better would have been if one of the great fairies could have upgraded weapons besides just upgrading armor.  That way towards the end of the game players could have kept the weapons they liked the best.
  • As I just mentioned, great fairies are back and they can upgrade your gear from collected materials you find all over Hyrule. This is important as it really gives you a reason to explore, and fight each new enemy you encounter.  From mystical dragons to the dreaded Lynel there are always materials you can put to good use at some point.  I spent many hours trying to harvest all of the materials for my favorite armor sets, and doing so pays off, not only in defensive strength, but also in set bonuses.  Some armor sets allow you to be almost invisible while walking, while others prevent you from catching fire, freezing, or being electrocuted.  Believe me when I say, upgrading your gear can turn the tables on your enemies and make you a force to be reckoned with.
  • Hyrule is populated with an incredible cast of characters. I would go so far as to say the generic NPC you see walking around is actually more interesting than the champions you’re supposed to learn more about from 100 years ago.  The reason why is because they share so many similarities with Majora’s Mask.  People in Hyrule live their life.  They all have daily routines, and when it starts to rain, they take shelter and do something else.  This is so fascinating to watch, and depending on what you’re wearing at the time, from nothing to special armor sets I don’t want to spoil, their animations and even dialogue changes.  It’s absolutely incredible.
  • The story takes a backseat in this latest Zelda which was a bit surprising. When I finished off the game and the credit were rolling I realized just how little story there actually was in the game, but then I recalled all the little elements that the NPCs had added to the tale.  You see yes the main storyline isn’t all that deep.  There are a series of hidden memories you can activate which help flesh things out, but it’s actually old journals, and certain NPCs that really add to the storyline and help make the world feel more cohesive.  What’s really interesting is the support and lack of support for where the game fits in the now infamous Zelda Timeline.  We know the game takes place after Ocarina of Time, but that’s all Nintendo is saying at this point.  There are hints it could take place after Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, or fit within the ‘failed hero’ timeline.  That doesn’t help, as each one of those are branches of all three timelines.  I looked high and low for clues, and ultimately I can make an argument for all three, although personally I’m leaning towards the failed hero timeline because of the placement of the Master Sword, as well as all the nods to the original games, but hey, that’s just me.   Where do you think the game takes place in the timeline?
  • Finally, it’s time to talk about the audio visuals. As a Switch launch title, or a Wii U swansong, the game looks fantastic.  This marks the first brand new Zelda game created on an HD console.  That’s staggering that it took until 2017 to get a native HD Zelda, but here it is.  Before anyone says anything, I’m excluding the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess remakes as those were HD-upgraded ports of Wii games.  Breath of the Wild is a completely original Zelda game that was created from the ground up with high-def in mind, and as you can imagine, it looks spectacular.  From the great animation in enemies and Link himself, to all the wonderful weather effects, the game is a standout on both platforms.  In particular the rain effects look phenomenal when you see small lakes starting to form because of the non-stop rain for past a day.  Little touches like that are amazing.  The audio is much more subdued this time around, with ambient noise playing a more integral part of the experience.  As such you don’t really have those classic sweeping melodies from each new dungeon you enter.  Piano is used extensively throughout the soundtrack, and what music is here is extremely well composed and fitting.  I just wish there were more themes.

Now comes the time where I will highlight elements I thought could be improved.  This is where I expect to see some pitchforks and riots breaking out in the streets.  Do keep in mind that the commentary I’m offering here is in hopes of Nintendo taking things to the next level for the eventual follow-up to Breath of the Wild.

  • Rain, rain go away. Come again another day.  If there is one element in Breath of the Wild that annoyed me more than anything else, it happens to be the weather system.  At first it’s absolutely great, seeing beautiful crystal clear days, and then suddenly the sky darkens and a thunderstorm begins.  It’s breathtaking and truly a sight to behold.  What’s annoying and ultimately frustrating, is that rain seems to happen at the most inopportune times.  I can’t even begin to mention how many times I would be gliding to a nearby mountain to see the clouds darken and the rain start just as I was about to hit the face of the mountain.  This is problematic because you can’t climb anything while the surface is wet.  So what ends up happening is I start to slide down the mountain, eventually all the way down to the bottom.  Then I have to fast teleport back to the starting point, if that’s even an option as sometimes it isn’t, create a fire, and progress time until the rain stops.  Its ok when this happens once or twice, but when it happens over and over again, it starts to get very annoying.  A super simple fix would have been the Song of Storms, to clear out that horrible weather.
  • I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was to hear voice acting in a Zelda Not some garbled chatter, but real honest-to-goodness voice acting.  I had already heard Zelda speak in several commercials for the game, and it was wonderful.  I loved her dialogue, even if it was a bit stilted at times.  What I didn’t expect though, was for the rest of the main cast to be so lifeless.  The voice acting is stiff and comes across as amateurish compared to Zelda and all other AAA open-world RPGs out there.  While I commend Nintendo on what they did with Breath of the Wild, this is one element I hope they spend more time on moving forward.
  • Cooking is one of the best elements of the game, as I mentioned above. I just loved it.  What I didn’t love was the extremely limited way Link can cook.  For example if I wanted to make a meat skewer containing five raw meats, that was fine and worked perfectly.  The thing is, what if I wanted to make 15 of them?  This is where I would have really preferred some sort of automatic system where I could have selected from a list of previously made recipes and had the option to make more than one at a time.  As it is here, making the same meal over and over again gets boring.  Even that sweet jingle can’t save it.
  • In total there are 120 shrines, which naturally limits the amount of variation one can expect from these micro-dungeons. I would say about 30 of them are combat shrines, but that number is just from the top of my head so it could be more.  Each combat shrine works exactly the same, you enter the arena, and take on a Guardian Scout.  Once you learn how to fight one, the battles are exactly the same for all four different versions of the Scout, except the Scout has one or two additional weapons.  I felt this was an arbitrary way of extending the length of the game by having so many similar-themed shrines.  The puzzle-based shrines are the exact opposite and felt like they contained some of the very best puzzles ever created in a Zelda game, thanks in no small part to the great gravity system in place.
  • I missed some of the core Zelda While the four divine beast ‘dungeons’ were fun, they weren’t anything like traditional dungeons.  I’ve always adored the dungeons in Zelda games because of how creative they were.  That’s not to say these weren’t creative, just that they weren’t as fleshed out as the ones from past games.  Remember the Fire Temple, Ganon’s Tower, or Turtle Rock?  Yeah, well there’s nothing even close to those dungeons in this game, and I really missed having those experiences.  I also missed weapons such as the hookshot, and felt that could have added another layer to the puzzles as well as the open-world exploration.
  • Having destructible weapons and shields was an interesting gameplay mechanic, and one I didn’t really have any problem with, however I did have one nitpick. Whenever your weapon or bow breaks, it isn’t automatically replaced by the next one in line.  This forces you to have to open the quick menu to select another weapon.  It’s not game breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have been a nice feature to have instead of always having to go through a menu of some sort.
  • Wii U features are missing in action. Of all the things this game did right, this is the one element that really sticks out as a glaring omission.  It’s clear from the various gameplay mechanics that Nintendo originally had a quick menu system on the Wii U GamePad to change items such as your armor.  It’s likely why there are so many different armor sets that are ideal in different situations.  With a touch of your finger you could change Link’s gear from the Zora set to the fire preventing Flame breaker armor set.  It’s obvious this was implemented from the get-go, but alas when the Switch version was announced this was cut from the Wii U version.  Naturally this is just speculation on my part, but it’s if the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time is any indicator, Nintendo likely had this in mind when they started making the game.  As it is now, you spend an incredible amount of time in your inventory menu switching back and forth between armor sets.
  • Boss fights were very lackluster and uninspired. I really would have loved to have seen something different done with the bosses, but I understand the limitations given the scale and freedom offered.  Bosses can easily be defeated with the most basic combat strategies, and this was done because they had to be designed in such a way as to be downed with an arrow, bombs, magnetic powers, stasis, etc.  Without having a boss created where you use the newly acquired dungeon weapon, there was only so much the developers could do.  That said, I think they could have done more.  Even the very last boss battle didn’t invoke the same feeling of badass-ness that just about all the other past Zelda game did.
  • A huge missed opportunity with Breath of the Wild is with the lack of built-in social features. I can’t stress this enough, this game was made for an achievement system and built-in Twitter and Facebook functionality.  The camera function is absolutely awesome, and yet it’s limited to in-game use.  Nintendo could have easily made it so you could send pictures directly through Twitter and Facebook for all the world to see.  The Wii U version has Miiverse, where you can share different pics, and the Switch version has the nifty capture button that you can then use to share pics to social media, but neither of these feels completely cohesive, they feel more like workarounds.  At least Miiverse has a thriving community, while it lasts.  As for achievements, neither version has a built-in reward system; which is a shame as I can only imagine how creative some of the achievements for this game could have been.
  • The very last thing to mention relates back to something I mentioned way earlier, the graphics. While they do indeed look incredible, the game takes a beating on the hardware its being played on.  Whether it’s on the Wii U or the Switch, the framerate can dip down to a standstill for a few seconds before the game resumes.  That’s very unfortunate, and some areas are extremely bad where it feels as though the game is chugging along to keep up with what’s being displayed onscreen.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game, but it also has a few hiccups along the way.  Some will call these genuine problems, others will call them nitpicks, but in the end the pros far outweigh the cons.  Coming from a developer like Nintendo, this is a bold and brash move.  They’ve taken one of their most popular franchises and tried something new, and for that I commend them.  Will this game reach the heights set by A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, for that only time will tell.  Right now it’s an absolute must-buy game for anyone who likes playing videogames.  I can’t wait to return to this game in five years or so to see if I feel the same way as I do right now, once the hype has died down.

Final Score Switch Version: 9.8/10
Final Score Wii U Version: 10/10 

Street Fighter V Review

SF5Street Fighter V (Available on PC and PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Dimps & Capcom
Release Date: February 16th, 2016

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Street Fighter V T for teens because of suggestive themes, violence, and mild language. The series has its own unique art style, and isn’t overly realistic in its depictions of violence and everything is over the top. The suggestive themes are mainly because of the scantily clad female fighters, but that too isn’t as far reaching as some other fighters out there. Honestly if you’re old enough to understand how to play fighting games, you’re old enough for Street Fighter V.

Plays Like: I’d hate to say that if you’ve played one Street Fighter you’ve played them all because that would be a flat out lie, but the core gameplay mechanics and structure have remained largely the same since the original Street Fighter II. Yes the series has greatly evolved since then to introduce advanced combos, parrying, and so many other concepts, but those original gameplay mechanics like best of three rounds, unique joystick motions to pull off special moves, and more are still featured here. Street Fighter V is a wonderfully compelling game that will take hours upon hours of your time to get competent at, and will takes years to master.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review copy to play in advance of the official release date. I played through the entire story mode, I played a bunch of versus matches locally, and got destroyed online.

It has been since the Super Nintendo that a Street Fighter was exclusive to a home console. That sure didn’t last long back then before the series hit the Genesis, and every other platform known to man shortly afterwards, but for a short period of time Street Fighter II was only available on the SNES, and that changed the landscape of the console wars forever considering how big of a success Street Fighter II was in the arcades.

Today Capcom and Sony have partnered up to bring Street Fighter V exclusively to the PlayStation 4. Yes it’s also getting released on PC at the same time, but having console exclusivity is a really big deal. Whether or not it helps further the divide between the PS4 and Xbox One is up for debate, but the fact that the PS4 will now become the de facto fighting game system of choice for fighting game fans the world over speaks volumes.

Having sat out Street Fighter IV for most of its existence means I’m reviewing this game having stepped away from the series after the Street Fighter II, III, and the Alpha series. Those series were incredibly influential in my understanding and enjoyment of fighting games. So does V have enough special to make me want to devote time, effort, and energy into the latest Capcom fighter? Let’s find out together!

SF5_5The Great:

The complete package. That’s the first thing I think of when I think of Street Fighter V. There were four different versions of Street Fighter IV, the original release also known as vanilla Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, and Ultra Street Fighter IV. Each of these games added new characters, costumes, backgrounds, and gameplay tweaks. The problem was, and one of the key reasons why I stayed away from that game for so long, is that if you missed out on the original release, you always felt like you were playing catch up. If you wanted the complete experience, it always felt like it was just out of reach.

With Street Fighter V, it’s clear that Capcom designed the game from the ground up to be upgradable. Capcom has built a game that will allow players to constantly add new characters, new costumes, new gameplay tweaks, and even new gameplay modes, without forcing the player to purchase an entirely new game. New gameplay features will be free to everyone via downloadable patches. Characters, costumes, and stages will be purchasable DLC, however you can use the in-game currency, Fight Money, to purchase these goods. Yes you can purchase the goods via the Season Pass, or real-world money (Zenny), but the fact the option is there to use an in-game currency makes all the difference in the world.

At launch Street Fighter V has 16 playable characters, with a nice roster of new characters and returning favorites from previous games in the series dating back all the way to the original Street Fighter. The line-up includes Ryu, Chun-Li, Nash, M. Bison, Cammy, Birdie, Ken, Necalli, Vega, R. Mika, Rashid, Karin, Zangief, Laura, Dhalsim, and F.A.N.G. First year DLC characters have been confirmed to include Alex, Guile, Balrog, Ibuki, Juri, and Urien. That’s quite a nice roster if I do say so myself, and who knows how this will play out in the years ahead.

The current gameplay modes include a Story Mode, Versus, Survival, Challenges, Training, Ranked Match, and Casual Match, but as I said before, there’s room for additional gameplay modes in the future. Capcom has already confirmed a Cinematic Story expansion will hit in June for free to all players. It’s what’s available right now, plus the promise of future support that ultimately makes this an exceptional fighter. The future looks exceptionally bright for this one.

SF5_4The Good:

  • Interesting story mode. Unlike traditional story modes where you fight through a lengthy roster of characters, here you battle your way through three or four opponents and that’s it. Each character has a very detailed, almost comic-book style infused cutscene-based storyline that details some part of their past leading up to the current events of the game. The overall storyline will be fleshed out in an update coming out this June, but it does act as a nice starter. The artwork is also fantastic, and will tickle the nostalgia bone of long-time fans of the series.
  • Online play is very responsive and the net code is great. Playing this prior to launch I had very little problems connecting to online matches, and there wasn’t any noticeable lag. I played through a bunch of matches and they all went off without a hitch.
  • The Capcom Fighters Network is awesome! It highlights where battles are happening all over the world, you can view player profiles, match statistics, designate rivals which allows you to keep an eye on their performance, register your friends and follow your favorite players. You can even find out about the latest tournament news, watch replays, and best of all, send battle invites out. Overall, this is a phenomenal way to keep everyone connected and up-to-date, which is crucial considering this is supposed to be the only version of Street Fighter V ever released. With this system, Capcom has created a key way of allowing them to update everyone in a nice, clean, and elegant manner. Hardcore fighting game fans are going to absolutely love this.
  • Combat is smooth, with good weight to the various characters, and the fighting feels tight and responsive. Classic Street Fighter moves are present throughout, however the new aspect to this iteration is the Variable or V-system. Each character has a V-Trigger, a V-Skill, and a V-Reversal. The V-Skill is completely different based on the character, some perform an offensive, defensive, or mobility enhancing move. V-Reversals are very similar to Alpha Counters in the Street Fighter Alpha series and allow a player to counter an incoming attack. They take some time to master, but can allow you a chance to start up a wicked combo. The V-Trigger works like Ultras from Street Fighter IV in that they’re designed to allow one player to turn the tide on the other. Once triggered they unlock a character’s true potential. They can make standard moves more powerful, and they can turn a super special move into an ultra-move. Take Ryu for example, if you have full V-stock and EX stock, you can trigger a Denjin Hadouken, by far his most powerful singular move. You may have noticed I said EX stock, and that’s right, you can keep stock of EX as well, which allow for more powerful version of standard special moves. Overall the system is fairly easy to get into, and robust enough that when coupled with the deep combo system, players should be able to spend countless hours seeing what’s possible.
  • The audio visual presentation is excellent. You can really tell they put the Unreal Engine 4.0 to good use here, and yes it’s true there’s a distinct style to the game that doesn’t go for realistic fighters, this is still the prettiest Street Fighter ever made. The backgrounds in particular look great, and the comic book-style cutscenes in the story mode are just great. The most important part, the entire game is running at 60 frames-per-second in wonderful 1080p resolution. The soundtrack is fantastic, and the new renditions of some of the classic tunes sound wonderful. Even the voice acting is pretty good, which really surprised me. Overall, it’s Street Fighter you know and love, but in glorious next-gen HD.
  • PS3 arcade sticks work! That may not be a big deal to some, but considering professional sticks are often around $150 and up, I can tell you many people will be extremely pleased with this aspect of the game.

SF5_3The So-So:

+/- The training mode is your basic training mode, where you can set some features like move displays, frame boxes, command inputs, etc. What it lacks is what made the training mode in Killer Instinct so exceptional on the Xbox One, it fails to teach you how to string combos together, or how to understand the fundamentals of the game. This won’t even be a blip on the radar of series veterans, but it is an important element missing for brand new players to the genre. Understanding the basics before getting online is crucial.

SF5_2The Bad:

  • While the game does offer a lot of options for fighting game fans, it feels a bit barebones at launch. The roster is nice, the backgrounds are great, however the story mode is over in a flash, and there’s not much else here except for online combat, the survival mode, or local versus multiplayer. Sure the future promises to increase the content dramatically, but for now, there’s nothing to unlock, and thus very little else to chew into outside online play. Mortal Kombat X felt much richer in terms of sheer content at launch.

SF5_1The Lowdown:

I have to admit that it was really nice being able to sit down, whip out the old arcade stick, and just lose myself to a fantastic Street Fighter. It feels like I haven’t done that in far too long, and that’s the truth. This is one I want to devote more time, effort, and energy on because it feels like it deserves it. This is an absolutely excellent game that is well worth the price of admission, and with the promise of no new Street Fighter V releases, and loads future content delivered directly through this one game, fans of the series may have just found the ultimate Street Fighter experience. If you like fighting games, honestly, this one’s a no-brainer and is likely already on your pre-order list.

Final Score: 9/10

Nintendo Announces Big Pokémon News

Are you a Pokémon fan like Steven, well if so, Nintendo has some pretty awesome news for you. During today’s special Pokémon Direct, three big pieces of news broke. The first was that the limited edition blue and red 3DS XLs will be released in North America, Europe, and Japan on September 27th. That’s two weeks before the official release of the game, leading everyone to agree that these systems won’t come with the game pre-installed.

3DSThe next piece of news was the announcement of the Pokémon Bank. For years players have been asking for something like this, a permanent home for their Pokémon. The Pokémon Bank allows players to store up to 3,000 Pokémon for use in future Pokémon games, as well as X & Y. There is a small catch though, and that’s the fact this new service requires an annual fee to access. While we don’t know the official North America and European pricing at this time, the service will only cost 500 Yen (about $5) a year in Japan, so we assume it will be priced accordingly here. Nintendo also revealed the Pokémon Teleporter app, which will allow owners of Black & White and Black & White 2 to transfer their Pokémon to the Pokémon Bank. Nintendo said there will be a trial basis before the fee kicks in, but we don’t know how limited the features will be at launch.

Pokemon BankThe last bit of news will likely be even more exciting to long-time Pokémon fans. It was revealed that Professor Sycamore will not be the one offering Chespin, Fennekin, or Froakie as your starter Pokémon. Instead those will be offered from a friend. The Professor will instead offer players Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle, as a nice throw-back to the original Pokémon games. That means you can now have two starter Pokémon! These classic Pokémon will also have the ability to eventually reach their Mega Evolutions, although players will need to locate a special item called the Mega Ring, and also acquire a Mega Stone in order to trigger the Mega Evolution while in battle.

That’s pretty much all she wrote on today’s special event, but it should be more than enough to get Pokémon fans excited. So are you?

Warner Bros. Interactive Reveals Dying Light

Are you looking for a next-gen open world zombie game? If you said yes, Warner Bros. Interactive and Techland have you covered. The game is currently in development for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PS4, and Xbox 360. We currently don’t have very much information to go on except for some really nice looking screenshots and the following details.

During the day, players will traverse an expansive urban environment overrun by a vicious outbreak, scavenging the world for supplies and crafting weapons to defend against the growing infected population. At night, the hunter becomes the hunted, as the infected become aggressive and more dangerous. Most frightening are the predators which only appear after sundown. Players must use everything in their power to survive until the morning’s first light.

“We are excited to partner with Techland on Dying Light, which is an original gaming experience for next-generation consoles,” said Kevin Kebodeaux, Senior Vice President, Sales and Operations, Americas, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “The partnership with Techland allows us to combine their successful development capabilities with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s one-of-a-kind publishing expertise to deliver on this title.”

“The next-gen technology allows us to create a truly dynamic open world that features a game-changing day-night cycle,” said Paweł Marchewka, CEO of Techland. “Inventive free running mechanics also allow for nearly unrestricted exploration and weapon-crafting to further enhance the action survival experience.”

I know it’s not much to go on, but take a look at the screenshots below.

Dying Light7 Dying Light1 Dying Light2 Dying Light3 Dying Light4 Dying Light5 Dying Light6

Looks pretty nice no?  We’ll have more details once E3 hits, but what do you think of what you’ve seen thus far?

Here’s The Mighty Morphin 3DS XL Circle Pad Pro

That’s right folks, Nintendo has just revealed the new Circle Pad Pro for the 3DS XL, and it combines the powers of nature to increase your XL to XXL mode!

That must be an absolute beast to hold.  That’s pretty much all I’ve got for you as Nintendo has yet to announce an official release date, pricing details, etc.  More when I have it.

First Pics of New PS3 Surface

All credit goes out to Technoblog for breaking this story.  The Brazilian website noticed some rather incredible findings with the Brazilian Agency of Telecommunications (which works like the FCC).  Not only did the agency have the new model numbers that broke last week, but also included specific details on the size of the HDD in each new version of the console, 250GB, 500GB, and a smaller Xbox 360 Arcade-like version coming in at 16GB.  Keep in mind these pics look a little rough, and we have no way to confirm if they are in indeed legit, but based on the design it looks almost guaranteed at this point.

If Sony can release a PS3 around the same dimensions as the Slim PS2 I think that would make a lot of people really take notice.  Currently the 160GB Slim PS3 sells for $250 in North America, so it’s not out of the question to believe a small price drop could be in order to go along with the new design.  Sony has also confirmed they will be taking part in Gamescom running from August 15th to the 19th so if you like to bet, the good money is on Sony making this announcement there.

What do you guys think of this third redesign for the PlayStation 3?

Biggest News of the Century – Halo 4 Box Art Revealed

There’s virtually no story to report on here.  You want to see the official Halo 4 box art, and I’m more than pleased to show it to you.  So here it is…

Amazing, no?  Yeah I didn’t think so either.  Wait a sec, that looks like a hack job.  That can’t be right.  Perhaps this is it…

What do you think?

Insomniac’s Next Game is for…Facebook?!?

You read the headline correct Insomniacs.  After being with Sony for so many years, it may come as a surprise to learn that Insomniac, famed created of Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance, has now become a true independent third party.  We’ve already taken a look at their new multi-platform action game,  Overstrike, but before that arrives the developer plans to release an action adventure game for…Facebook.  Yeah, none of us saw that coming either.  We’ve got the first trailer for Outernauts right here.

Ted Price, President and Founder of Insomniac Games had the following to say about the new game.

We see a huge opportunity to reach an entirely different audience of gamers through Facebook.  As we have demonstrated for nearly twenty years in the console games space, we’re confident we can help evolve the definition of a game experience on Facebook. With Outernauts, we are delivering a deep story with real RPG strategy, coupled with Insomniac’s signature sense of humor.

The press release EA sent over does a really good job of pitching the game to the masses, so here goes.

Outernauts is an adventure role-playing game that casts players as members of United Earth’s elite Outernaut force. The Outernauts are charged with capturing and training exotic alien beasts as they uncover the riddle behind mysterious “ancients” while battling pirates and evil corporations seeking to control the galaxy. Players will explore planets, harvest loot, and fight asynchronously alongside or against friends to master a wild, untamed universe.

I’m not going to leave you with just that.  Instead here are the first screenshots that go along with the trailer.

I suppose the only thing left to say is, what do you guys think of this?

Beyond Good & Evil 2 Confirmed For Next-Gen

Computerandvideogames has links to a video interview Michel Ancel gave, where he is quoted as saying…

“We are in an active creation stage and at this moment we are only focusing on the game and making it the best game that we can.”

When questioned about which platform the game might hit, Ancel said:

“That decision would just distract us from that objective. I can say that it’s a very ambitious game and we need some tech to achieve that ambition.  We focus on the game. We create it first, then we’ll see what can run it. We don’t say 2013 because we don’t know when it will come. We’re working to create a great game and it needs more tech.”

Ancel continued:

“We had this concept even before Mirror’s Edge launched. And we have a different approach to the first person perspective that Mirror’s Edge has. Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed are closer to what we have in mind with the control of the character in a third person perspective.  We use a very dynamic camera that shakes a lot during the action to add life to the camera, giving the impression of an action news cover team following Jade. Maybe that could be similar to Mirror’s Edge but the game itself is very different.”

One screenshot showing the new engine is action has also been released, so be sure to check it out below.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but this is perhaps the most exciting news I’ve heard in months.  I can’t wait!

Huge “Nintendo Direct” Announcements Made

Tim already reported on the big New Super Mario Bros. 2 news, which will hit the 3DS in Japan and North America this August!  As you can tell from the screenshots below, the racoon tail is making a return, and the old P meter.

Nintendo also announced Kirby Anthology for the Wii, which will be released sometime this year featuring your favorite Kirby games all on one Wii disc.

Animal Crossing 3DS will be released this Fall in Japan, but Nintendo didn’t reveal anything new whatsoever.  All they did was release a few screenshots you see below.

There’s also a new 3DS firmware update being released on April 25th, which will allow users to create folders for their games, where up to 60 icons can be saved per folder.  This should make navigating the interface much more user friendly, and finally allow us to store all our Virtual Console downloads in the same place.  The new firmware will also allow patches to be downloaded directly from the eShop.

We’re not even at E3 and already there’s so much exciting news.  Just imagine what the big show will reveal!

 

Some Info on Project X Zone

Project X Zone is a crossover that bears a striking resemblance to the (unfortunately unreleased-in-the-West) Namco X Capcom). Details are scarce for the time being, but information has slowly been trickling out. Other than the fact it is a collaborative effort between Japanese gaming giants CAPCOM, Sega, and Namco, little has been known until now. Famitsuhas recently posted screenshots of some of the characters featured in the game. Here’s what we know so far:

  • The game is a 2D sprite-based strategy role-playing game featuring characters from all three companies.
  • A trailer for the game is supposedly on the way.
  • CAPCOM characters: Ryu and Ken (Street Fighter 0), Mega Man X and Zero (Mega Man X), Demitri and Dante (Darkstalkers and Devil May Cry, respectively), and Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine (Resident Evil).
  • Sega characters: Shinguji Sakura and Ogami Ichiro (Sakura Wars), Pai and Akira (Virtua Fighter), Kurt and Riela (Valkyria Chronicles), Ulala and Touma (Space Channel 5 and Shining Force EXA, respectively).
  • Namco Bandai characters: Sanger Somvold (Super Robot Wars), Jin and Ling Xiaoyu (Tekken), Kos-Mos and T-elos (Xenosaga), Yurie and Estel (Tales of Vesperia), Kaito and Black Rose (Dot Hack).
Information courtesy of Adriasang. You can visit the game’s official website here. The main website will update with new information on April 17th, 2012.

How to Get Kicked Out of PAX: Get Your Sexy On Like This Girl and Guy

You know what the Penny Arcade Expo is lacking in? Booth babes and pant-less men. But apparently, neither has a place at the gaming-oriented exposition according to the boys and girls in charge of the event. Potentially NSFW pictures and additional details inside.

 

The weekend’s scandalous tale goes a little like this…

 

Jessica Nigri as Juliet Starling in Lollipop Chainsaw

 

Jessica Nigri was hired to cosplay as the lead character from the upcoming Grasshopper Manufacture game, Lollipop Chainsaw. As such, on Day 2 of the convention she donned a pink jumpsuit, and a revealing one at that. Jessica has done a lot of other cosplay at conventions in the past, but this may be the most memorable in terms of the attention it received. Although her costume accurately represented game character Juliet Starling, PAX has a policy pertaining to hired booth promoters: don’t reveal too much skin. It’s a far cry from conventions like E3, where you can expect to see half-naked women dressed as nurses slapping stickers on people below the belt. The reasoning behind PAX’s policy? To keep the focus on the games. Fair enough.

 

On the other side of the gender divide was Nathan Barnatt (aka Keith Apicary in his video game related adventures), a guy who runs a feature called Talking Classics over at Screwattack.com and a comedian who loves to take it to the extreme at video game conventions. He took it to the extreme again at this year’s PAX by walking into Rooster Teeth’s Red vs. Blue panel, jumping onto the mediator’s chair and tearing off his pants, then dancing. He received a lifetime ban from PAX.

 

Instead of looking at a picture, you should watch the video for the full effect. 11:10 is when Keith comes on stage.

 

While Keith’s hilarious outburst probably merited being kicked out of at least this year’s PAX, Jessica Nigri’s situation was a bit different since she was simply doing her job, not to mention she didn’t leap onto the table at someone’s panel and go nuts. She was, according to Destructoid, simply told that her exceptionally low-cut costume was not appropriate for the event, and to leave until she’d changed. So, she reverted to the outfit she’d worn on Day 1 of the conference. However, although it was acceptable on the first day, oddly enough the same costume didn’t fly on Day 2, likely because of the attention she’d garnered from staff for her more revealing attire. She was asked to change again, but fortunately allowed to come back for Day 3. Here is a picture of the transformation, as posted on Jessica’s blog:

 

The outfit on the left from Day 1 apparently wasn’t suitable as a back-up on Day 2.

 

Keith was not as lucky as he’d previously signed an agreement with Penny Arcade top business honcho Robert Khoo that granted him admission to PAX as long as he didn’t pull off any ridiculous antics. Jumping around half-naked and uninvited on the stage of another presenter was deemed a ridiculous antic. Accordingly, he received the aforementioned lifetime ban. It’s a shame, because he brings a lot of fun to these events. We can only hope he’ll be back in the future.

 

Don’t do this at PAX.

 

It’s good to see PAX actually enforcing what the event managers believe in with the games-over-skimpy-clothing focus, and the disciplinary action taken towards Nathan Barnatt/Keith Apicary was admittedly warranted given the agreement he’d signed. However, I can’t help thinking that Ms. Nigri’s situation is a bit harder to judge seeing as her costume was actually quite relevant to the game’s source material. Regardless, rules are rules and they’re keeping it classy at PAX.

 

Does this mean I can’t show up in just a turtle neck and my Harvest Moon skivvies next year?