Tag Archives: DS

Pokemon Pearl & Diamond Review

pearlPokémon Diamond & Pearl (Available exclusively on Nintendo DS)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: April 22nd, 2007

The 4th generation of Pokémon games are my personal black sheep. They contain the only Pokémon games in the main series that I had never completed in the Pearl/Diamond/Platinum and HeartGold/SoulSilver versions. For one reason or another, I wasn’t in the mood for Pokémon gaming back then. I did buy Pearl when it came out and before I restarted a file, I had 10 hours invested into it so it’s not like I never gave it a chance. I’ve been watching a tremendous amount of ‘Let’s Play’ videos and documentaries on the history of the series lately and it’s gotten me in the mood for some more Pokémon. I thought there was no better excuse to go back and finally complete the last main entry in my favorite video game franchise, and so I did. Here’s my verdict.

The Great:

My god has Pokémon changed over the years…. and for the most part, the better. But there’s one complaint that always comes up when I talk about recent entries and that’s the difficulty level. Pokémon Pearl was the most challenging Pokémon game I’ve played since the original Red and Blue. Like any RPG out there, you can make it as easy as you want by grinding indefinitely, and if you choose that route, you’ll likely think I’m crazy, but I chose the complete opposite. I went from point A to B from start to finish without any grinding whatsoever. Once I had captured my team, I used repels during most of the adventure to accelerate things even more. And sure, that would make any game harder than it is, but you got to understand that I’m no beginner when it comes to Pokémon so I already have an advantage that most wouldn’t.

What truly makes the game challenging is the following factors. Leveling up takes a lot of time. Even defeating Pokémon five levels above yours doesn’t gain you that much experience. Another extremely important aspect of Pearl & Diamond is the fact that you’re going to face diverse teams. While most trainers will sport the series tradition of only having one type, most will surprise you by having two or more types in their party. And I’m talking about gym leaders and Elite 4 members here, you can’t just start with a water type and spawn Surf and expect an easy victory. Finally, Elite 4 members challenge you with five Pokémon each while the champion has six. Not only that, but these pocket monsters will be five to ten levels higher than your top Pokémon on your team. This forced me to finally cave in and evolve my Pikachu just before the final fight with the champion. Ash would be disappointed in me.

02The Good:

+ The very best batch of starters I’ve seen. While Infernape is kick ass, Fire/Fighting is not uncommon. After-all, Blaziken from Ruby & Sapphire sported that very same dual type, but then it gets pretty interesting. Not only is Empoleon’s design bad ass, but he might also be the only water/steel mixture in the entire game. Finally, you have Torterra who seems to have a freaking forest on his back with spikes thrown in for good measure. Being Grass/Ground doesn’t hurt either. We haven’t seen such unique starters before, or since.

+ I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the over-abundance of HM moves in Pearl/Diamond. For me it added to the challenge and made things more interesting. It also forces you to take mental notes of areas you’ll have to come back and visit later on.

+ Super visuals and audio presentation for the time. This game looks pretty nice on a DSi and the songs are some of the best I’ve heard in the series so far.

+ Post game content is excellent. Battle Tower is back from Pokémon Crystal, and there’s also tons of legendaries to catch after you’ve dealt with the Elite 4 including the odd, but fan favorite Regigigas.

+ All your Pokémon can be transferred all the way to Pokémon X & Y if you’d like too.

01The So-So:

+/- While you may no longer use the Nintendo DS Wi-Fi Connection to battle in the 4th and 5th gen games, this is where Pokémon finally made its online debut. It was a bit underwhelming to say the least with bare-bone features and connection issues all over the place. Still, this was a huge step for the franchise back in the day and one that has made Pokémon a stand out in the e-sport industry thanks to Pokémon X & Y.

03The Bad:

– Probably the worst storyline in the franchise after X & Y. It’s practically non-existent, and when you do get a truly epic moment in your final standoff with Team Galactic, it’s ruined when you face the leader of the gang, a truly evil guy, and realize you only have four Pokémon to worry about during the battle.

– For some reason, it takes forever for the health bar to lower during battles. Surfing on water is also extremely slow. I heard that these were all fixed with the Platinum version, but they’re indeed annoying.

04The Lowdown:

Never underestimate Pokémon is the feeling I’ve come back with after having completed Pearl for the first time. This is a series I’ve cherished since Red & Blue and every single entry in the series has been rock solid. While I’m not sure where it would rank in my personal favorites, it’s still a game I’d recommend any day to any portable gamer. Like the franchise itself, Pokémon Pearl might not be perfect, but it’s damn enjoyable. Fun from start to finish, you can’t go wrong with Pearl/Diamond. If like me, you’ve never experienced the DS classics, you might want to reconsider.

Final Score: 9.0/10

Mario Party: Island Tour Review

Mario Party Island TourMario Party: Island Tour (Available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Party
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nd Cube
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

Mario Party has been around since the early Nintendo 64 days. It’s a series known for its wackiness and great multiplayer, however this 3DS installment fails to recognize what makes the franchise so much fun. As such, this one should be left for only the most hardcore Mario Party addicts.

The Great:

Visually, the game looks beautiful with tons of bright, vibrant, and flashy colors, and all your favorite characters well illustrated. The mini-games are also a blast to play and use all of the 3DS’ functions perfectly.

The Good:

+ Bowser’s Tower is a unique twist to the series, challenging you to tackle mini-game after mini-game in order to reach the top of the dungeon. This is probably the mode you’ll spend the bulk of your time with.

+ Plenty of different maps for you to try on as well as unlockable characters and goodies to keep you playing.

+ Most sessions are set up so they can be completed in five, ten, or fifteen minutes, making them perfect for portable play.

Mario Party Island Tour3The Bad:

– Removing online play is a gutless and lazy move. Knowing that the name itself would easily sell the game and make Nintendo a reasonable profit, no investment whatsoever was made to keep this game true to its roots. Nobody plays Mario Party alone, it’s just boring to duke it out with computer controlled bots. You can play locally, but that requires multiple systems and that’s only going to be a practical option to a few. Adding an online mode would have cost more, but would have warranted this game’s existence because the core gameplay still works. I can see the problem that some players would eventually quit instead of finishing a game, but they could easily be replaced by an AI character when and if this scenario occurs. The rest of the game could then be completed. It’s baffling to see Nintendo pull this crap off left and right. I know some will say it’s beating a dead horse, but I don’t think we should stop pointing it out.

– I’m not a big fan of the new race mechanic. Instead of playing for a set number of turns and trying to earn as many stars as possible, every map is now a race to the finish. This makes the experience feel like you’re not getting the full Mario Party experience.

Mario Party Island Tour4The Lowdown:

No online play means no recommendation from me. This is only for the hardcore fans and even then, it won’t stay long in your 3DS.

Final Score: 5.0/10

Pokemon Black and White 2 Wi-Fi Battle: Puk vs. Stephane Pokebank Preview

I recently downloaded Pokemon Dream Radar on the eShop which allows you to capture the terrain forms of Landorus, Thornadus, and Thundurus and transfer them to your copy of Black and White 2. Got a bit nostalgic there and decided to see if I had any battles saved up in my game. This is the result.

Metal Slug 7 Review

Metal Slug 7Metal Slug 7 (Available exclusively on the Nintendo DS)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players 1
Genre: Shooter
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: SNK Playmore
Release Date: November 18th, 2008

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Metal Slug 7 T for teen because of blood and violence, and I think that about sums it up. This is a 2D sprite-based run and gun shooter in the vein of Contra. Enemies die in unique ways, from being blown up, stabbed, or just shot to death. Each death features a nice splattering of blood, so younger children should be kept away.

Plays Like: Have you played any other run and gun shooter before? If so you know what to expect. You move from left to right shooting everything that moves, and even a few things that don’t, all while dodging billions of incoming bullets.

Review Basis: Finished the game on Normal a while back, but upon revisiting the game for this review, Easy was the way to go. That’s right, I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Metal Slug is one of the best franchises in SNK’s robust library of titles. Originally released 17 (!) years ago in 1996 for the Neo Geo AES/MVS, it was an instant arcade hit. Pretty much anyone that grew up playing Contra immediately feel in love with Metal Slug. It was the extreme difficulty, the ridiculous humor, and the absolutely stunning audio visual presentation that put it on top of the run and gun shooters of the time. Fast forward to 2008 when SNK Playmore released Metal Slug 7 for the DS, and unsurprisingly the series hasn’t changed one iota. If it weren’t for the exclusion of one core feature, this could have easily been one of the best entries in the series, alas that’s not the case.

Metal Slug 7_3The Great:

For better or worse this is Metal Slug. It’s crazy hard, features insane humor, and has some of the most spot-on gameplay you will ever experience. Weapons are varied and fun to use, old and new Slugs (vehicles of mass destruction) are a blast…no pun intended, and the story is just nuts. This is actually a prequel to Metal Slug 4, but unless you’re hardcore you won’t know why, or even care so there’s little point in going into details. The classic graphics are extremely detailed and look wonderful on the DS’ screens. There are some truly amazing animations if you can spare a second to look at them that is.

As you make your way through each level, you can swap between your standard gun, and two upgrades, as well as lob grenades at incoming enemies. Hostages still need to be rescued, and it’s a must because of the awesome power-ups they award. Everything comes together just as you expect, except this time the insane action is on the DS.

Metal Slug 7_1The Good:

+ Bottom screen displays a map, and while that may not sound overly useful with a simple concept game like this, the fact is it can be helpful in locating where hostages are and for letting you know how much further you need to traverse to reach the stage’s exit. Outside that, the bottom screen isn’t used at all.

+ Sticking with what works. SNK could have easily slapped on some touch controls or something else, but they stuck to their guns and delivered a balls to the wall action game that uses buttons and the d-pad. Good on you SNK!

+ Six playable characters. Yeah I know, that’s a pro? Yes it is! Each character has their own personality and it shows by the way they use their weapons, pause to relax when they defeat a boss, etc. If that doesn’t do it for you, well six is better than one or two right?

+ Very portable friendly. The entire game can be completed in under an hour. It’s designed this way though, as it’s meant to be played over and over again. So even if you only have ten minutes and you have to repeat that first stage a few times, believe me, it’s well worth it in the long run.

Metal Slug 7_2The Bad:

– No multiplayer whatsoever. This is ultimately what destroys the entire package. How SNK could have overlooked this is beyond me. While I never expected a WiFi mode, which would have been awesome in its own right, at least a local multiplayer mode would have been sufficient. Instead we’re given nothing at all, and that’s not what Metal Slug, or even SNK, is about. These guys make awesome arcade games, games that are meant to be played with other people. Playing a run and gun shooter alone feels like having only one Twix in a Twix bar, complete lunacy!

Metal Slug 7_4The Lowdown:

Metal Slug 7 features so many awesome elements, from the excellent production values, to the fantastic gameplay, but is ultimately kept down by the lack of a multiplayer mode. Going back and playing this game in 2013 still makes me scratch my head. How is it that 1996’s Metal Slug for the AES/MVS holds up better than a game released in 2008? The answer is because even though this game is more advanced, not being able to experience the madness with a buddy is just criminal. As such, you’re much better off picking up Metal Slug XX which is available on the PSP via the PSN, and on Xbox Live, although be warned now that while they do feature multiplayer, they haven’t been optimized for those platforms at all. Graphics appear muddied, the game is played in a 4:3 aspect ratio, and virtually nothing new has been added to the overall package. OK so maybe this is the way to go after all.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Aliens: Infestation Review

Aliens Infestation Aliens: Infestation (Available exclusively on Nintendo DS)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Release Date: October 11th, 2011

Parent Talk: Aliens: Infestation is rated T for teen because of blood, mild language, partial nudity, and violence. Keep in mind this is a 2D action game, harkening back to the days of the SEGA Genesis and Super NES, so even though there is blood and gore, it’s entirely 2D sprite-based. That said, I still wouldn’t let my children play this because seeing an alien rip through someone’s chest cavity isn’t exactly pleasant, 2D sprite-based graphics or not.

Plays Like: One of the best aspects of Aliens is that it plays like a cross between a run and gun shooter like Contra, and an action platformer like Super Metroid, but also has traces of Clock Tower on the Super Famicom thrown in for good measure. That means there’s a lot of action, it’s extremely creepy at times, and you’re completely free to explore. Add all of these things together and you have yourself one of the best, and most under-looked and under-appreciated games in the DS’ massive library.

Review Basis: Finished the game in exactly four hours and 23 minutes. I’ve got skills baby!

I never would have played Aliens: Infestation if Steven didn’t buy it for me for my birthday. It’s the honest truth. While I enjoyed his video review of the game, it just seemed like it would end up being one of those “yeah I’ll play that…eventually” games, and it would never actually happen. So last week when the game arrived I gave it a whirl and didn’t really tell him anything about my experience. I wanted to save my thoughts for this very review. So here it is, my honest opinion on a game virtually no one has even heard of, much less actually played.

Aliens Infestation1The Great:

The feeling of isolation the game instils in the player is phenomenal. I actually jumped in this game, more than once I might add. The only other time that’s ever happened with a sprite-based game is with Clock Tower on the Super Famicom. So right there, that tells you something. You take on the role of one of four soldiers, trying to make their way through various mission objectives. I don’t want to give it away, but you do switch locations as the game progresses from the starting area spacecraft to…well…it’s a surprise. Regardless of where you happen to be though, you’re always alone. Sure you have three buddies with you, but they’re not on-screen. They’re there in case you die, and yes, you will indeed die. This sort of acts like three continues if you will. Save spots are few and far between, again making you feel as though you’re completely isolated on this mysterious ship (or wherever else you may be).

Once you find it, the motion detector will be your eyes and ears. Before entering a room, you’ll find yourself glancing at the motion detector to see if there’s something there. It’s the only way to survive. Even with the scanner, aliens don’t just hide in the open, no they come at you from the ceiling, from behind the background, from all over the place. It’s extremely pulse-pounding, which isn’t something you associate with 2D games. It’s just incredible how many times I found myself getting nervous before entering a new area where the map was no longer available.

Aliens Infestation4The Good:

+ The safe spots not only allow you to change characters, refill ammo, and save, but also allow you to strategize your next move. At any point you can move the bottom screen’s map in order to look around and try and figure out where to go next. Think Super Metroid, because this game has tons of hidden power-ups and other goodies lying just out of sight.

+ Weapons may not be too diverse, but they handle perfectly and some guns are much better suited to certain enemies than others. That said, you can only swap out weapons at the safe spot (storage locker). This adds a certain level of realism to the game, and is one of the key factor leading you to always be alert, just in case you’re equipped with the wrong weapon.

+ Always a challenge. Even though you can back-track and use newly acquired items in order to find weapon upgrades, the aliens also get stronger the further you progress, ensuring the game’s always there to kick your ass.

+ Even though you will surely die during your play-through, you can seek out new marines that will join your party to replace fallen members. That’s right folks, if your teammates die, they stay dead.

+ Boss battles are another highlight, and often appear impossible to surpass. Take the first boss as an example. You’re up against a Queen and several hatchlings. If you focus on the hatchlings alone the mama is going to take you down within a few hits. The trick is to lob a grenade, stunning her, and taking out a few of her eggs. Then switch to the grenade launcher and blast her in the head a few times. Repeat as needed. These battles force you to use your brain and not just your itchy trigger finger.

+ Audio visuals are top notch, yes even for it being 2D. First let’s talk about the sound samples, they’ve been taken right out of the Aliens movie, which is a really nice touch. Dialogue, while not spoken, also pays tribute to the movie. The music is kept to a minimum to highlight the creature and sound design, which elicits fear and dread in the player at almost every turn. The graphics are exactly as you’d imagine them, dark, gritty, and brutal.

Aliens Infestation2The Bad:

– The only negative thing to say about the game is that it is extremely short, even for players new to the genre. Veterans will easily finish it in under five hours, and there’s very little incentive to go back afterwards since there aren’t that many hidden secrets. There’s a short knife mini-game that’s nothing special, and hardly adds replay.

Aliens Infestation5The Lowdown:

Aliens: Infestation is an incredible game, that should be published on the 3DS’ eShop ASAP. It’s a game no one even gave a glance at upon release, and deserves to be played! Sure it’s a short game, even by 16-bit era standards, but it’s one of those games that you’ll revisit at least once a year just to experience the thrill again. You can buy a brand new copy on eBay right now for $7, so there’s really no excuse for not picking this up and giving it a chance. Steven said this was one of the DS’ hidden gems, I say this is one of the best games ever released on the system. Nuff said!

Final Score: 9.3/10

Project COE’s Top 5 Pokémon Battles

As part of COE’s continuous coverage of Pokémon in the anticipation of X & Y‘s release, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of my “famous” battle videos. I’ve compiled a list of my favorites below. Hope you enjoy!

Number 5.

My very first 6 on 6 battle. This opened the eyes of many fellow staff members, showing just how deep Pokémon actually is. I ended up learning a lot, and every week I had new Pokémon and new strategies. Still, all my videos are not even close to showing the true potential of the series. When you look at YouTube channels that feature actual champions, it’s just mind blowing. Anyhow, this battle ended up pretty good, and I got my first official 6 on 6 victory.

Number 4.

This is a classic. Mewto was such a beast in the old days, and I had not really seen him again since this fight. Bottom line, he kicked my ass. I usually battle people with pretty straightforward rules, only one legendary allowed. I now prefer battling without legendaries at all, as they can often dictate the entire result of a battle. Anyhow, it was the case here. I did manage to faint his Mewto at one point, but the damage was already done. Good all around entertaining bout.

Number 3.

This is the only video where I fought a real-life friend in a full 6 on 6 brawl. The battle was actually pretty tight, Stéphane could have probably won with a few simple changes to his strategy. He still lives in the 90’s, so retreat is never an option. Anyway, I hope that one day he finally gets around to raising his Pokémon White 2 team so we can have many other battles like this one.

Number 2.

This was my first test against someone who used Pokésav. Pokésav is actually a program that you can get on your PC which allows you to customize every single stat of your Pokémon. It also lets you create any Pokémon whatsoever, so you can basically build yourself a powerful team of six level 100 Pokémon with max stats. I personally am against it, but I understand that raising these creatures is quite consuming. Anyhow, I was surprised by the outcome of this. Even with a legit-raised team, I was actually able to compete against a custom created super team. I ended up losing at the end, but still able to make the fight entertaining and close right until the end.

Number 1.

My most memorable fight is definitely this one. This introduced me to V-Create, one the cheapest moves I’ve ever seen. It basically KO’s most pokes in one single hit. It does seriously hinder your stats afterwards, but a simple switch resets them. The fact that I was actually able to defeat this guy in the end makes for a Hollywood ending.

So there you go, hope you enjoyed these videos and I’d like to hear your thoughts on them. If you have other battles from other channels you’d like to discuss or share please do so in the comments below. In the mean time, keep it locked to Projectcoe.com for more Pokémon stories every week!

My First Pokémon Impressions

For anyone that’s been reading the site for any extended period of time, you know that I’ve never really given Pokémon a chance. You also know that Steven bought me a copy of Pokémon White Version 2, and that I’ve been slowly making my way through the game. I should put emphasis on slowly. Since he bought it for me I’ve put in about three and a half hours thus far. I would have played way more, but I’ve been extremely busy trying to make my way through BioShock: Infinite, Resident Evil 6, and trying to access the PC beta of Dragon Quest X. Needless to say, mixed with it being summer and me trying to enjoy my personal life, well time has been very hard to come by as of late.

So what are my initial impressions of the game, it’s crap, complete garbage. Can’t believe anyone can actually play this trash. It would be hilarious if those were my actual impressions hehe. The truth is that at first I thought OK, this is pretty standard fair. I moved my little guy around, who walked so slow it was insane, but before long I had my first Pokémon, a Tepig, which is a fire type. I spent the next hour or so going around capturing wild Pokémon, and leveling my Tepig. Before long I made my way to the first gym and defeated the gym leader. I was then tasked with going to another village to take on the second leader, but I haven’t had the chance to play again.

Fear the might of the Tepig!
Fear the might of the Tepig!

The first thing that surprised me was just how deep the game can get. At first it was really simple, my Pokémon only had a couple of moves, and my freedom was extremely limited, but I can see where this is going. I’d imagine in a few more hours, once I have my full team ready to go, and I’ve unlocked lots of different moves, this is going to get extremely complicated. I still have to learn all the different Pokémon types, and which ones are strong against others. I need to figure out which moves I should keep, and which I don’t need. I also need to get a better team because right now I feel underpowered. It’s funny because for years and years I thought this series was nothing more than a simple child’s game, but now I can see that’s not true at all.

Not everything is rosy though.  When the game told me to head online in order to gain access to both the multiplayer and gifts, I was unable to.  The DS was never updated to accept WPA wireless encryption, and as such I have no way of actually getting the game online.  Even though I’m playing on the 3DS, this is a DS game, and as such it is limited by the DS hardware.  It was rather annoying, and now I’m likely going to have to buy a wireless adapter for my PC in order to head online to try it out.  I’m a sucker for free gifts!

While these impressions are super basic, they should tide you over until I have more time to devote to the game. I’m excited to see what comes next, and I need to get cracking before I forget what it is I’m supposed to do :-P

Why a Wii U Price Drop Needs to Happen

Anyone that owns a Wii U can proclaim without a doubt that it’s a fantastic system. There are a few great games for it, an awesome (if underused) tablet-like controller, and the virtual console, which will always be one of Nintendo’s best kept exclusive feature. The problem is that the Wii U doesn’t get much love by the gaming world. Most view it as a inferior console. While it’s true that it’s specs are extremely outdated (especially compared to the newer consoles), the attractive price-point kind of made up for it at the time. However, things are about to change soon. The PlayStation 4 is about to release for a retail price of $399.99. Let’s face it, the basic Wii U model at $299.99 is not worth it. 4GB of memory is laughable. At $349.99, the deluxe model is only $50 cheaper than a brand spanking new PS4. There’s no way consumers are gonna opt for the Wii U when they can buy a powerful true next-gen machine for just a few more dollars.

The gamepad rocks but it doesn't seem to attract customers.
The GamePad rocks, but it doesn’t seem to attract customers.

Third party support is dropping left and right. Everyday you hear news of another company either cancelling it’s Wii U support, or dropping high profile exclusives on other systems. First it was Rayman Legends, one of the only big guns that was supposed to hit the Wii U in Q1, then Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut got the same treatment, a once Wii U exclusive now hitting every other system. EA doesn’t seem to have one single title in development while Square-Enix announced Kingdom Hearts 3 for everything but the Wii U. That’s another reason why the price needs to drop, Nintendo absolutely needs to sell more Wii U’s if they ever hope to gain support back.

While it’s absolutely true that the 3DS faced a similar situation at first, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Wii U will be a great comeback story as well. The 3DS got a truckload of quality titles and never let go since. The Wii U seems to be on the right track with Pikmin 3, Zelda HD, Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze all hitting before the end of the year. With Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Brothers Wii U also set for 2014 releases, the future seems bright. However, without third party support, you can be sure that we will see many more game droughts with next to no new releases like Wii U owners have been experiencing since launch.

Will 3D World have the same impact?
Will 3D World have the same impact?

The biggest issue Nintendo seems to be forgetting is the following. While Nintendo hopes that the Wii U’s upcoming triple A titles will help detonate sales like it did with the 3DS, they are negating one major fact. The 3DS also received an $80 price drop months before the quality titles started pouring in. Without a similar incentive, the Wii U seems doomed. Sure it will indeed move some units this holiday season. It has arguably the best lineup of games in the last quarter of 2013, but with a simple $50 drop, bringing both SKUs down to $249.99 and $299.99 respectively, Nintendo could make a much bigger impact. Not only would they have all the killer games that would sell systems, they would also draw in a large number of consumers with an attractive price point. This simply needs to happen!

However, it seems less likely every day that Nintendo will even consider a reduction of price. This worries me as Nintendo has never had so much trouble with a console before. Third party support is at an all time low, and the system’s sales are far from impressive (As of March 31, 3.45 million units were shipped worldwide, not sold). As a Wii U owner, I fully understand the potential of the system. The problem is, if things go on like this, the Wii U could be dead by early 2015. That’s why something drastic needs to be done in time for the holidays, and a price drop seems like the only logistic step.

Pokémon Black & White 2 Official Release Date Announced

Nintendo of America has announced both Pokémon Black and Pokémon White 2 will be released in North America on Sunday, October 7, 2012 exclusively for the original DS.   The European release will follow on Friday, October 12, 2012.  3DS owners will also want to download Pokémon Dream Radar from the eShop, as the augmented reality shooting game will be the only way to unlock ultra rare Pokémon from Black and White 2.  Not much else to say at this point, just make sure to mark these dates on your calendars.

Pokemon Black & White 2 Gets A 2nd Trailer

Nintendo showed off the first trailer for their upcoming Pokemon Black & White sequels last week, and here they are again with another fresh gameplay trailer for your viewing.

Pokemon Black & White 2 will hit in Japan on June 23rd and make their way to North American and European shores in time for the holiday season. I’ll be picking one version of the game up on launch day, so expect some coverage of the game then.

Mario Kart 7 Review

Mario Kart 7 (Available only on Nintendo 3DS)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-8
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo/Retro Studios, Inc.
Release Date: December 4, 2011

Parent Talk: Mario Kart 7 is perfect fun for all ages. Compared to Mario’s venerable platforming adventures, his Kart racing series is even more accessible.

Plays Like: Every previous Mario Kart, with a few tweaks and subtle differences.

Review Basis: Completed every Cup on every difficulty level and achieved first place. Unlocked all characters, played all mini-games, and raced against friends via local wireless and online.

The Great:

Another great entry in arguably the most fun and recognizable racing game series. The games are easy to play and bring charm that captivates all audiences. Every generation has seen a Mario Kart release and the 3DS’s doesn’t disappoint. This may even be the first MK for many young gamers. Mario Kart 7 delivers on simple mechanics, colorful characters and fun tracks.

The Good:

+ Track selection. There are eight cups, and some need to be unlocked. Four cups feature collections of previous games’ tracks, like the SNES original and the more recent MK Wii. The other four bring original MK7 tracks. They’re creative and unique, with a variety of colorful environments and perilous hazards. With the ability to glide through the air and dive underwater, new and challenging gameplay elements have been opened for races. The new Rainbow Road is long and intense, spanning colorful tracks, and even a bumpy moon surface. Other tracks shoot players off ramps and onto home rooftops, or have them dive underwater and navigate an undersea tube. It’s an excellent combination of nostalgia and surprise. The new cups are memorable.

+ Excellent presentation. The 3D effect makes tracks impressive, though it doesn’t mix well with gyroscopic steering. MK7 is one of the most attractive 3DS titles, outclassed only by a select few.

+ Old tracks. The classic tracks were updated slightly to fit with the new mechanics.

+ Impressive gyroscopic control. Though it doesn’t jive with the 3D, gyroscopic steering is surprisingly intuitive and fun. Switching between it and standard is an easy D-pad press. The gyroscopic option takes place in first-person, offering a much different perspective and sensation.

+ New items. The Tanuki Tail, an obvious nod to the same item’s return in Super Mario 3D Land, lets you whack nearby opponents. The Lucky 7 is a set of powerful tools that rotate around your cart like a barrier. The Fire Flower lets you toss fireballs at opponents for a limited time. Many of the classic items are still there, including the dreaded Blue Shell.

+ Cart customization. MK7 allows you to unlock and customize parts to design a unique racing machine. You can choose the wheel, body and glider parts to personalize your cart’s acceleration, top speed, handling, etc. You unlock the parts by collecting coins rather than winning races, which adds depth to competing.

+ Several Cup difficulties & Mirror Mode. Finishing the higher difficulties extends the life of an already-fun multiplayer racer. Mirror Mode also provides a challenge since the courses are flipped. Completing races on the higher difficulties unlocks new characters.

+ The 17-character roster. Full of unique faces, Metal Mario and Rosalina finally make their Kart debut.

+ Balloon Battle and Coin Runners. Fans should know about Balloon Battle. Some of its older tracks, like MK64’s Big Donut, even appear here. Coin Runners is a newer addition to the series, introduced in the Mario Kart Wii. The goal is to collect the most coins in the time limit.

+ Multiplayer. Local wireless and Wi-Fi modes are available. A Download Play option is too, enabling 3DS owners without the game to participate. The online portion is a superior effort for Nintendo and hopefully a sign of things to come. Players are assigned a rating to determine their appropriate skill-level bracket, making competing more fun and accessible. You can even create custom groups, and set specific rules or guidelines for races.

+ Street Pass/Spot Pass support. Tag other MK7 players to view their profile, stats, and race rating. You can even obtain ghost data via Street Pass and Spot Pass, which is especially cool.

The Bad:

– A limited character roster. Mario Kart Wii offered 25 characters. Though the expected mainstays still appear, it’s disappointing that characters like Waluigi were left out.

– No Mission Mode. Mario Kart DS had a lengthy side mode, which helps the game rank high on the series quality list. It’s sad that this feature has been absent for awhile.

– No bikes or extra cars. We’ve seen MK introduce more vehicle options before, but despite MK7 offering fun customization, there are fewer vehicle options even after unlocking parts.

The Ugly:

Still unbalanced. If you want a fair challenge, you won’t get one. (i.e. many, many Blue Shells will drop you from first place at a crucial moment).

The Lowdown:

Mario Kart 7, like every other MK, is fun and accessible for all. Diehards will probably nitpick the finer details and debate which game is truly “the best.” Some Double Dash!!’s balance, or MKDS’s Mission Mode and content, or perhaps even the classic SNES and N64 releases. However, every game without exception provides hours and hours of enjoyment. Do your 3DS a favor and pop in Mario Kart 7.

Score: 8.5/10