Have started streaming again, so here’s my first new video using my new internet connection.
No Man’s Sky: Diary of a Star-Lit Wanderer.
The annual E3 gaming show is once again upon with it’s usual bombast, hype & leaks. I usually avoid most of the reporting around E3 related stuff because it tends to be your typical hype-train fuelled by pre-rendered cinematic trailers, short teasers & really really awkward presentations.
Yet something happened with this year’s expo, where each company listened to the complaints of their consumers & gave live demonstrations of their games to much rapturous applause (for some demos at least).
I tend not to care for most company’s announcement but I tend to like what Nintendo does.
This year it appears that they broke all expectations when they showed this. The gameplay trailer for the long awaited Zelda Wii U game.
This is a whole new direction for the long running franchise, that gives the player almost absolute freedom to explore -which includes being able to climb the landscape & monsters. It also introduces the ability to sneak up upon both prey & enemies. From the trailer & hands on from various gaming websites it appears that Link (for once actually coming pre-named) has to hunt & eat to regain health & get status boosts.
The freedom to explore leads to being able to tackle which ever dungeon you want when you can access -which appears to be through a magical book. This new gimmick also extends to using the book to create blocks to climb upon so you can solve puzzles as well as create objects to drop on enemies to reduce their number before ambushing.
Being a Wii U title, it comes with Amiibo connections, which goes back to the Wolf Link figure that was released with Twilight Princess. As seen in the video below.
The game is still set to be released next year & supposedly will also be the launch title for Nintendo’s mystery new console, currently referred to as the NX.
How this will impact the end product & it’s reception is al for speculation.
In my very unhumble opinion Nintendo should release the game in time for Christmas & give the Wii U one last great hurrah.
Regardless of which system it will be dominant on, the game remains utterly beautiful to look upon. It’s vast living landscapes & reactive AI might reinvigorate many Sandbox games but, again, it’s only speculation of a very, very invested fan.
Nothing really more to say except that I wanted to show the trailer & make a quick post before the next article goes up.
After dealing with the useless parcel delivery contractor not bothering to walk up the stairs to my front door & having to walk 4 kilometres to the post office & back, I finally got my hands on my new 1TB PlayStation 4.
I finally bit the bullet on moving up to a current “current gen” console after Target Australia had an unbeatable 25% eBay only sale last week. Meaning that a new model 1TB PS4 with the Uncharted Collection (Uncharted 1-3 remastered for the PS4 with free Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta) only cost me $412AUSD. But I’ll be trading in that game for Fallout 4 next week because I have absolutely zero interested in the Uncharted franchise.
Naturally, I expected the PlayStation 4 to have to go through the usual rigmarole of updating data & patching the games that I had already brought (Metal Gear Solid 5 & Dragon Age: Inquisition) but I was genuinely surprised at how smooth a process it all was when compared to the PlayStation 3.
The major system update took less than half an hour & the individual game updates could be done in the background as you played the games. It seems like Sony borrowed another idea from Nintendo’s playbook but it is very much a welcome one as it means that you don’t have to waste time when you’re trying to waste time.
The interface is a lot smoother for the PS4 as well, with the downloads, notifications & other info tucked up into a top bar. The entire things is a galactic level of speed over the early model PS3s, with even the troublesome PlayStation Store being easier to navigate. Which is handy because of how the PS4 is now so reliant on apps to run small programmes.
The controller also feels very much different from the PS3 movel (which was almost exactly like the PS2 model but wireless). It has a lot more heft & body to it, feeling solid in your grip -missing that breakable sensation that the PS3 controller carried with it. The new buttons & touchpad are confusing at first but work well. The lack of the traditional “start” & “select” buttons is still off putting but the sunken nature of the “options” & “share” buttons means that you’re not catching your nails on them. The touch pad feels like a gimmick but having it as a clickable button is integrated well into the two games that I played.
Overall, the latest model of the PS4 is a welcome step up from the PS3 (which I still enjoy playing) but it’s lack of backwards compatibility will become an issue if anything happens to my PS3. Still, I think with the slowly growing catalogue of exclusive titles that Sony is gathering means that I climbed aboard at the right time. I’ll wait a little before getting an XBone though.
Now, it’s the streaming feature that I’m big on & so I recorded nearly an hour of gameplay from Dragon Age: Inquisition onto Twitch before exporting it to YouTube.
Now, I do want to get more into streaming, so I’d like people to follow me on Twitch but I still need support on my Patreon in order to buy more games, upgrade my headset to one with a better mic & eventually buy a PS4 camera.
Let us know what you think of the video.
Started a Twitch streaming account in preparation for the arrival of my PlayStation 4 next week (hands on critique of that also coming) but also so I can stream lectures & discussions on various Pop Culture things.
To follow me, simply go to : http://www.twitch.tv/andthegeekshall/
Would also like recommendations for people to follow as well as your own Twitch page so I can follow you back.
I won’t be streaming many PC games because of crappiness of laptop but might do some streams of classic games as well as record some Let’s Play stuff for the hell of it. But have to see if I can get things to stream from GOG (no idea how to set it all up yet).
Was meant to have written this a while back but back have been busy with more than a few things of late. Oh, well. Such is life.
Because Nintendo view me as a hyper-consumer of their products, they selected me (& a few thousand others) to test & brag about their demo for their forcoming (re)releases Pokemon Ruby Omega & Sapphire Alpha.
Since there isn’t honestly much to the demos, I’ll take a moment to about the Big N‘s strategy with releasing unlimited demos & special promotions (such as Halloween themes) to their heavily invested consumers before releasing limited versions to the general public through their eShop system.
The main idea in doing this is so those individuals who are already rapid fans of Nintendo & their various products are both kept engaged & are ready to be zealots for the Big N’s cause. Nintendo lose nothing from sending out demos & free bonuses to Nintendo Club members or randomly selected consumers. In fact, they have everything to gain because it is these individuals who are most like to have ways & means (such as I with this blog) to promote these special promos & get other consumers who aren’t as devoted to become jealous &/or intrigued by they aren’t afforded the same deals. That is when, after much internet metaphorical (unless you have a Nintendo logo tattooed on it) dick-waving, Nintendo release a limited use demo for everyone else -such as they did with the recent Super Smash Bros. 3DS demo.
This sort of trickle release in the Age of the Hyper-Engaged consumer means people are always aware of what they are potentially missing out on, so are more able (& eager) to demand their share too (deserved or not).
What people have been neglecting to notice is that Nintendo has been the quiet achiever of the current Console War of sales of the 3DS in Asia & the increase of Wii U sales due to a steady flow of new release games over the past year. Whilst people focus on the current home console battle between Sony (PS4) & Microsoft (XBone) (in which the XBone is being smashed by the PS4) & how rapid the fans get there, almost everyone has a Nintendo platform of some variety (usually a DS or 3DS). Nintendo are the constant of the video game industry, having beaten Atari, Sega & a myriad of other companies (apart from PC game makers), so no matter your current allegiances, the majority of gamers have played or owned a Nintendo console at some point.
Further to this, as previous written about in my Pokemon article, the biggest driven force for Nintendo still remains as the Pokemon franchise. With consumers demanding both new & reimagined games. Which brings us to the crux (it’s pronounced, crue, the X is silent because it is French) of this rambling article: the demo for the forthcoming remakes of Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire.
The demo is extremely limited. Your character is pre-named as Orlando (you can’t customise appearance even in full game, unlike X/Y) & you can only explore Mossdeep Town as well as a few enclosed dungeons (forests, caves & islands), a few battle areas & one semi-proper quest. You interaction with only a few characters, mainly the Pokemon League Champion Steven but cameos from other major characters (gym leaders) appear too. This is all to get you a taste of the new game, showing off the improved graphics (improved even from X/Y in some cases).
The best example of the improvement in graphics is fly mode with Steven on the back of Latios or Latias. From the back of those Pokemon, you can see the entire Hoenn region in 3D (the 3D effect automatically turns off when out of battle & cut scenes). There are heaps of other little graphical details added, such as grass rustling in the breeze & the way the long grass moves as well.
The other much hyped new feature in the demo is the ability to sneak up on Pokemon who are poking up out of the long grass (in the full game these are meant to be harder to catch monsters or ones with different move sets from the normal ones). It’s done like sneaking in pretty much any game: slightly moving the circle pad in a direct so you move slowly. I thought that this would also lessen encounters in the long grass but didn’t find that to be the case.
Unfortunately, you can’t catch any of these long grass Pokemon. In fact, the only one that you can catch is in the only proper mission, where you have to save a Mega Evolving Pokemon from both Team Magma & Team Aqua lieutenants. I was given a Glali but some people were meant to have been able to have captured a Steelix. You can Mega Evolve the Glali into a neckbearded bit of weirdness but isn’t all that great. You also fight with the top evolutions of the 3 Starters, each with the ability to be Mega Evolved as well. You can also transfer Glali into the full game, once you purchase, along with some other bonuses that you can unlock through repetitive plays (though haven’t found any other Pokemon that you can capture & transfer).
I’ve played the demo through about a dozen times now, playing missions that only take a few minutes each (mainly missions to flush a Shroomish out of some long grass without battling it). There isn’t anything special to do or great challenge, mainly just battle several basic trainers or one more special one.
In the end, the OS/RA is just to whet the appetites of eager fans & silence nay-sayers that it’s just X/Y set back in Hoenn. Which does make it kind of pointless because people have been waiting for it for so long now, they’ll already have it pre-ordered or pick it up the moment that it’s out (it won’t break street date though, the Big N is very very strict on that these days). It’s something that I already plan to get but having stuff to transfer into it upon purchase is just a nice bit of spice to an already decent meal.
With not much left to say about it, I await any flaming on providing incorrect info on the Console Wars as well as the general haters having a go (before they are deleted) as I try to conquer my Pile of Shame.
Title: Super Smash Bros. 3DS (Super Smash Bros. 4)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 4, 2014
Studio/Developers: Sora Ltd., Bandai Namco Games
I had previously written about the special demo of Super Smash Bros. 3DS & the limitations that provided. Now that I have the full game, I can gladly report that it doesn’t have those issues of controls that I lamented in the demo. It does still have other niggling minor issues, but they shall be addressed in a few paragraphs.
Like with the relatively recently released Mario Kart 8 [reviewed here] & The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds [reviewed here], SSB3DS doesn’t attempt to reinvent the franchise, rather just tweak previous issues. This seems to be Nintendo’s mantra of late. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Fine tuning is good enough”. & this is something that I agree with, for the most part.
For whatever reason, someone at Nintendo said that it’s better to incrementally fix things then to reinvent an entire franchise. Other critiques (well, mainly Yahtzee Croshaw) say that is a decisive failing for the Big N (as many -well, me at least- call Nintendo) & is often seen in the Super Mario Bros. franchise, where little changes are made & often the games just seem to be rehashes of previous ones. In my view, that is ignoring that many new games aren’t really aimed at non-invested Nintendo fans. What they are aimed towards is engaging new fans to become invested fans & players who have new tried a franchise before to enter at the latest title & step backwards from there by refining the system rather than building it all again from scratch. That was one reason for the popularity of Mario Kart 8 & the continued popularity of the Zelda franchise & it will be why Super Smash Bros. 4 on both the 3DS & Wii U will sell well.
The core of SSB3DS remains based around fast frenetic fighting. It is the epitome of the button-masher with strategic depth. Where you can wail on the controls until you win or you can think actively plan how to beat your opponent (if you can). The game’s graded AI difficulty plays a lot more into this; because the high the number (ranked from 1 to 9) the more the computer controlled characters (up to 3) take advantage of items, chase the smash ball & exploit the system to knock you about as much as they can. You can wail on them but if you aren’t smart about your timing, the AI can overcome you with a shield dodge & knock you out with a perfect Smash Attack.
Unfortunately, the 3DS isn’t the best system for such frantic controls. Unlike the afore-reviewed demo, you can customise the controls, ridding yourself of the annoying Up to jump & so forth. Unfortunately, the Circle Pad isn’t a very precise method of playing. It feels slippery at times & hard to make the game know the difference between a tap & a hold. I’d honestly would have preferred having the option to be able to use the D-Pad but that’s something Nintendo might be able to amend with a software update. Fortunately, you can completely customise all of the buttons. So you can choose which is best for you. I switched the X & Y buttons from Jump to Attack & Special Attack, making it feel more like a modern Platformer, which is more natural to me as a player. Despite even with this, the nature of the 3DS unit isn’t the most comfort for long term gaming session. So you often end up with some nasty hand cramps if you spend too much time playing, which will cripple many users’ sex lives.
I’ll quickly note two other annoyances/negatives before I get back to the good.
The main annoyance is the format itself. The tiny screen on the 3DS means that when the action is zoomed out it becomes really difficult to see where you character is, especially versing 3 other opponents. There are options to let you see things a little better, such as thicker lines around the characters if you choose that option in the menu & a target box if you tap a character icon on the Touch Screen. Unfortunately, these options aren’t explained or easy to find. Also, even with them on, if the action is zoomed well out it can be hard to spot your character in the midst of particle effects & shifting backgrounds. More so if you have an item, like an Assist Trophy such as the Puppy from Nintendogs, hogging up the entire screen.
The other issue that I had was how unintuitive the menus are. There is no way to know where the things you are after actually are. Take the options menu for example: you have to crawl through several sub-menus to find it rather than having it on the very first page. Same with some of the other game modes & side games. Again: I feel that this is something that could be fixed with a software update. Maybe even putting a few menus on the touch screen as favoured short cuts so you can have instant access. It’s not a deal breaker in any fashion but is a tad vexing when you first start up or forget where things are.
Which unfortunately plays into the Trophy selection & purchase system. Like previous games, Trophies are just a pretty little thing to collect & there are several ways to do this. You can collect them in fights, as rewards for beating challenges or doing achievement unlocks. They don’t factor into the game play but reward you with cool information about them -more so if they are Assist Trophies in game. They are then explained what they do & how they affect the game play, which is handy with some of the new ones found in the game.
Despite the limitations of the screen, the game play remains insanely fun & even challenging if you put the AI’s level up. Being handheld, you are prone to playing short matches on Smash Mode, which you can have as fully customisable rule sets, including or excluding various factors or focussing on your personally customised characters. These customisation aren’t just aesthetic but also factor in modified moves that you collect in Smash Run & other side games; completely transforming how a character plays from tweaks to moves, weight (the ability to be knocked out of the arena or turned into a Cannonball by your opponent) & other little factors. You can also transfer your specially customised characters to other people’s consoles & to the Wii U edition via the soon to be released Amiibo figures. They work through a NFC chip & are supposedly meant for some games outside of the two SSB releases (such as Mario Kart 8) but they seem like a bit of an expensive investment so far.
The game also boasts the biggest roster to date, which is 48 characters (not including the 3 customisable Mii classes of Brawler, Gunner & Bladesman). Unfortunately, some of these are very much clone characters -like Pit & Dark Pit. The most disappointing is Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening who is a move for move clone of Marth, who is already included in the game. I found this a tad disappointing because I loved her as a character in her Fire Emblem appearance.
The character who’s become my go to fighter is female variant of Robin, the Tactician from the aforementioned Fire Emblem: Awakening. She has a great combination of ranged & close attacks not to mention good speed; making for an excellently balanced fighter. More so with her health draining close range attack, Nosferatu. I just wish that I could import the character model that I have in my version of Fire Emblem: Awakening rather then relying on the default Twin Tails appearance that SSB3DS provides.
When playing Smash mode, I tend just to go for random select options, so that I get a good feel for every character. Although there are some real stand outs for me. Such as Bowser Jr, who has varied attacks & alternate forms based upon the Koopalings; or the Duck Hunt Duo, that pairs up a Dog & Duck for some pretty unique attacks & very retro references.
Unlocking the characters is a lot easier in this game too. You can just grind away in Smash Mode, where you encounter an unlock every 10 battles & if that unlock beats you (which can happen easily), you just fight them again after your next battle. You can also unlock them by meeting various conditions in the Quest mode game but just grinding for them is the much easier option.
The arenas in the 3Ds version are all nicely varied, with some console exclusive ones -such as the Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks one. Where you fight on top of Link’s train from that game (where Toon Link drives it, unless you play as that character, then Alfonzo is the driver), making the stage constantly move. Some stages are more fun than others but everyone will find one that suits them. Despite that, Rainbow Road from the Mario Kart series and the retro F-Zero SNES stages are very annoying to be on because of how they constantly shift & have things move onto the battle stage all of the time. I ended up loving the every changing Fire Emblem: Awakening Fenox Arena stage, because of how it wouldn’t stay in one form but also doesn’t try to throw you off like other stages.
The music is also to due for! Mixing up some classic Smash Bros. tune with originals & retro remixes. Plus there are plenty of hidden tracks for many of the stages (triggers by hitting a certain button on Stage Select screen). If you can find it, you can access all of the unlocked tracks in the Records area & play them instead of the default these, as well as fav’ing them. No idea what that does but it’s a good option to have.
I’ve even tried my hand at Online Play; choosing the For Fun option over the For Glory hardcore player mode. Despite the lag from my own net connection, I won my first match in a Sudden Death bout. So, like every other online victory I have, it was more a pure fluke then any skill on my part. I personally don’t see online mode as something I’ll stick with, for various reasons, but Nintendo still manage to make a close system very fun to play. Their matchmaking algorithm seems to work well, so you aren’t played with the 3l33test of the 3l33t but you aren’t placed with the scrubs whom you can mow over either. It seems balanced so far but, most importantly, it feels fun. You don’t go in fearing you get some ubergamer waiting to show off his Wang Size in replacement of any other life skills. You get similar players with similar skills & you get the most out of the hectic battles. The lag still bothered me but, again, that’s more to do with crappy Australian net services & a terrible wifi router than system itself.
Being on a handheld console, Super Smash Bros. 3DS isn’t really made for long gaming session but that doesn’t detract from the fun. Short burst whilst travelling or waiting are good enough. You can do more dedicated sessions if you want, no one’s stopping you really, but the limitations on the current 3DS battery (to be changed with the New 3DS release in Oz in November & next year in the rest of the world) can be a bit of a hindrance on the go. Speaking of “on the go”, the Street Pass system allows you to play an Air Hockey like knock out game, that rewards you with Coins & Trophies if you beat the computer controlled tokens of people who you’ve passed on the street. It’s fun but not demanding. A lazy way to unlock things in a way but you get ranking for each battle you win, supposedly making your icon a target for more serious players but that depends on the likelihood passing another console owner with the game.
In the end, despite the limitations of the tiny screen & the vexation of the menu system, Nintendo has refined Super Smash Bros. 3DS into a superb fighting game. What it lacks in general refinement against such franchises as King of Fighters, Tekken or the granddaddy of them all, Street Fighter, SSB3DS more than makes up for in being utterly chaotic fun. It’s not a serious game for seriously competitive players but what it is more than compensates for that quality. Despite not being able to test the wireless battle mode, basically all the game modes stand up. Some you’ll play once & forget about, others you may return to (such as Smash Run) for all the unlocks & bonuses. Am still waiting to see what special unlocks connecting it with the Wii U version unleash (apart from being able to use the 3DS & game as a separate controller for mutliplayer), as well as possible future DLC. It shall more than likely be a game that I return to again & again for brief bouts of bout fun.
For months now, people have watched the Nintendo Hype Train pulling into the station whilst the PS4 and XBone still lumber down the tracks (especially the poor poor XBone) but the Big N has put a heavy Hype Boot in with the release of demo codes of the 3DS version of the latest game in the Super Smash Bros. franchise.
Basically, it was release to limited numbers of Nintendo Club members (4 codes per Golden Ticket), causing people to lose their mother fucking minds of it. Selling & demanding them for hefty prices but is it worth the hysterics?
I got my codes (all gone now, so don’t demand) whilst I was away, so couldn’t download until this past Sunday.
Unlike the free demos that you used to get with old PC magazines (which were basically the entire games), Super Smash Bros. 3DS is an exceptionally stripped affair. you only get 2 game modes -vs CPU & verses 3 other plays via wireless mode- 5 characters (Mario, Adult Link, Villager [Animal Crossing], Pikachu & Mega Man) and a single stage with 2 modes (one with platforms, one without). You also don’t get any configure options, so you can’t change the tricky controls (more on that later). You can get different character appearances by pressing X over the character icon (including getting a Female Villager) but that’s it for customisation in the demo.
As for proving the greatest of the game, I don’t think the demo really does that.
As mentioned before: the default controls are pretty painful to use.
The Y & X buttons are set to jump, which makes it clumsy after decades of having B or A used as jump buttons. To add to complications, UP on the Circle Pad also makes you jump but is needed to do certain types of attacks.
The attack buttons are also confusing, because it’s hard to tell at a glance if you are doing a normal or special attack & if you hit the wrong direction whilst pressing either button, you get an entirely different attack.
Supposedly, according to import hands on, you can completely customise the controls in the full game. I hope so, because the default is very confusing & SSM3DS is such a fucking frenetic game.
Which leads into the other issue: playing on the tiny 3DS screen.
When you have 2 other player who all look very similar you can easily make a mistake. More than once I was looking at the wrong character trapped in a blast of flashing light effects thinking that it was mine, only to have my character fall off the ledge because couldn’t see where he was.
That was also a general problem when playing Super Smash Bros. Wii on an old analogue TV but the compact nature of the 3DS screen does mean that you have to really pay attention.
I haven’t tried it in 3D mode yet. I don’t often use it, so tend to forget that it’s even there. According to others whom I’v3 spoken with, the 3D helps you see things a little better, especially dodging moves & background but the game can still easily be played in 2D mode (for those who got the 2DS wedge).
I have no idea how the work on the New 3DS with its Wii U GamePad like button set up but don’t think it will impact much.
So, what is good about the game?
Well, despite the control & screen issues, it’s still very very fun.
the Smash Bros. has always been a Beat’em Up light style of game. You can casually play without hassle or get hardcore into it, learning all the little tricks. The game caters for both style of plays & so does the demo.
All the move sets for the characters are unlocked, including their Final Smashes (super moves trigged by acquiring the right item). As are all the items that pop into the battle. There are so new interesting ones so far, especially Pokeball related assists. There are also a ton of Assist Trophies too. I found that the best one was Isabelle from Animal Crossing: New Leaf because she cheers for you & drops healing items (food). You can also get near one hit smash items (knocks opponents out of the arena) but they take a while to wind up, so it balances out. The towards screen smash do look awesome on the 3DS, even if they block gameplay for a moment.
The demo also allows you unlock Smash Coins, which are the in game currency. These coins carry over to the full game once you buy it (similar to the Bravely Default items in that game’s demo), allowing for you to purchase unlockables (not to be confuse with DLC micro-transaction, they only use in game stuff).
All matches are limited 3 minutes. Any more than that & you’d probably have a heart attack trying from all the Hype.
In the end: the demo is but the tiniest, inciest taste to get you hooked on the full thing. Making the Big N your typical high end drugdealer. The lack of control customisation is vexing but can be dealt with. I’m not sure that you truly get enough to get you salivating over the full experience but it’s enough t make your mouth moist.
Supposedly the full game will be able to be hooked up to the Wii U version, so you can play it with your customised characters & use your 3DS as a controller on the big screen. That’s a function I’ve been waiting for in Nintendo consoles since the Wii was meant to hook up to the DS for certain games.
With only a few weeks until the full game is available, Nintendo have done a lot to get the Hype Train up to full steam before the pre-Xmas glut of games. They themselves have at least a dozen things coming out in a short space of time, so they need to get people prioritising their purchases (doesn’t help that they are doing sales in their console stores that offer download discounts on related game franchises).
So, whose ready to claim aboard the Hype Train already?
I don’t tend to frame myself as a fanboy of things because I just don’t have that level of obsession or energy to argue that pathetically about something. Although, to be fair, I can get passionate over various preferences that I have but not to the drooling psychotic levels that others do that is lacking both Rhyme & Reason.
Console fanboys are pretty particular to this.
Zealously defending that which does not need to be defended whilst it sucks their wallets dry -like some hideous electronic leech.
Personally, when it comes to the more recent console releases, I tend to -if & when I have the money- either buy the two paragon systems to get the greater range of games (because of all the cross-platform releases) or, in the case of the previous generation when I had a staff discount from a big retail chain- I brought all 3 major releases.
Although, to be honest, that wasn’t all at once.
I got the Wii 1st, then the 360 after the Red Ring of Death issue had been solved & the PS3 after I’d broken up with my then fiancee & brought a big LCD TV with the money I was going to spend on a holiday together, so needed to upgrade things so could watch my DVDs on the larger screen.
That brings us to the current gen -which is still called “Next Gen” for some reason.
A console generation that I haven’t really bothered to get excited about because of my experiences with the previous/current gen console releases.
That being: lack of interesting games, no ability to actually take advantage of the hardware’s capabilities & high prices.
That being said: I did make a single exception for a release day purchase & that was Nintendo’s Wii U.
Nintendo consoles are the only ones that I get really interested in. Something I think stems from being denied an NES when I was a kid & being made by my father to call up every retailer in town to find a SNES just after it was released in Australia (finally managing to snag the last one that David Jones in Belconnen had after 3 days of phone calls to every retailer in the city). My younger brother & I also shared an original Gameboy from the days when you needed to play them under a lamp to see anything & they took so many bloody batteries! So, so many.
At any rate, that all pretty much cemented my preference for Nintendo consoles & games & I have owned every major home release every since (& most of the handhelds other than the Gameboy Advance). To this day I maintain that the GameCube was a thoroughly underrated system that had the most comfy controller ever made!
Yet, at the same time I was indulging in my Nintendo preferences, I always had other systems to compare it to.
I played games on the old Apple Macintosh at home as well classic PC games at my next door neighbour’s house.
At the same time I had my SNES, my best friend (who is still my best friend to this day) flitted between owning a SNES of his own & a Sega Mega Drive (known as a Genesis in the US). He also purchased a Mega-CD but that some massively awful FMV games outside of the (then) amazing Sonic CD. He also later got a Playstation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation when I had a Nintendo 64, so I always had a balance with games. I also owned a GameCube & Playstation 2 simultaneously, because of the exclusive titles that both systems had.
Anyway, bring on 2013 & the release of the much touted Wii U.
I was a Day 1 Adopter, which was brought down by 2 factors.
1: the mandatory update that took several hours to complete but could be done with the TV turned off due to the unique GamePad controller.
& 2: a massive screw-up at my local JB HiFi where a good chunk of the staff weren’t there, so all consoles & games were stuck out back for ages (though the staff who were there did their best to get things sorted as quick as they could, so no blame on the good ones who did more than their job’s worth).
But one HUGE bonus for being at Day 1 Adopter was that every game was only $40 for me. This was due to a screw up with JB head office where they offered all Wii U games for $40 with console purchase but then changed it to selected titles. Despite that, they never rescinded the original offer, leaving it open to staff, so: exploit achieved. Plus they ended up price matching with a rival store, which saved me about $100 on the console. Big score on that on too.
I picked up New Super Mario Bros Wii U, ZombiU, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 & Assassin’s Creed 3 -the bonus mini-game compilation that game packed with the console Nintendo Land. Would’ve gotten a couple more but didn’t have the cash on me at the time & nothing interested me in what they had (some games were delayed due to shipping errors nation wide). Did order Tekken Tag 2 online when I had the cash but that arrived a while later.
So, with two cross platform games & two exclusive titles (not including the mini game compilation), will do a quick review of each.
New Super Mario Bros Wii U: not much can be said for this other then is your basic Mario Bros. Side-scrolling platformer but based more upon the Super Mario World vein. It’s fun & challenging but nothing really new if you played the 2 previous New Super Mario Bros. games. Still haven’t finished it because got a bit miffed by the sudden difficulty spike & having other titles across all my platforms to play.
ZombiU: a 1st person zombie survival game with perma-death, meaning that if your character dies, they get turned into a zombie & you have to hunt them down to get back all the stuff you’ve collected. Still haven’t played much of it because not really my sort of game, just got it for something to play really. Will get back to is sometime soon.
COD: BLOPs 2: Mein Gott!! This is one of the worst games I’ve ever played! Nothing to do with the Wii U version (also had a go on the 360 one & pretty much the same). This game is the reason why I avoid the whole military shooter genre (or Spunk-gargle-wee-wee to give it its proper title). The only reason I got it was because it was cheap. Finished it in a couple of hours, without doing the annoying side missions (which turns out you have to do to get the good ending). The game’s story was pretty much stupid Americans fucking over poor countries with a team of white weaponised Übermensch; with only two non-white heroes, one of which gets killed, the other wounded. All other non-whites betray or attempt to murder our Übermensch protagonist. Funnelled, frustrating gunfights & completely shitty plot. Pretty much the perfect game for Seppo paranoid gun-wank enthusiasts.
AssCreed 3: Honestly don’t know why I bothered with this game. Was boring, frustrating, tediously long with terrible controls & worse characters. Not to mention the shitty missions. I almost broke the GamePad because of the last mission, where you have to chase the last Templar down but if you make the slightest mistake or get knocked back or distracted by an enemy, it’s an automatic fail. I wasn’t invested in the AssCreed franchise much after the frustration of the 1st game & the bad, cut ending of the 2nd (got both because were very cheap & never bothered with 2.5 or 2.75) but AssCreed 3 pretty much killed any chance of me playing the rest of the franchise -despite the praises that the 4th title has received.
Anyway, that’s enough waxing lyric on the early days of the Wii U & my personally gaming history, onto why I think it should be defended & why it’s worth the investment of your time & money.
Here is where many other self-appointed internet critics & pundits would go all fanboi over Nintendo or rant about how the company is basically dead & producing the same thing over & over again.
Which side you fall on has pretty much been decided by which consoles & companies raised you as a child. I grew up with Nintendo, so my Cognitive Bias sides more with them but is mitigated marginally by the fact I’ve pretty much played ever console ever released in my country (apart from the Atari Jaguar but, let’s be honest: no one really played that system).
To start with: The Wii U isn’t a processing or graphical powerhouse like the Xbone or PS4 but does have better graphics then the PS3 & 360. Nintendo have a history of being able to produce exceptionally pretty games, which Mario Kart 8 (as reviewed here) has proved. I personally haven’t seen anything as spectacular on the new rival consoles, despite being early days & the boosts of power that both Sony * Microsoft throw about.
Also, despite what the many uber-fans of the other companies/consoles claim, Nintendo is still the market paradigm when it comes to home & handheld consoles. What they do, the other two companies are soon to try to copy. Whereas before it was the motion control of the Wii, now it’s the touch capacity of the GamePad. The instant that Nintendo announced that it would be making a system with an inbuilt touchscreen, the other Big 2 rushed out their versions. Being Xbox Glass & the PSVita remote play function -neither of which really worked due to the lack of 3rd party support or titles with which to use them with.
Which does lead into Nintendo’s biggest failing: the lack of high end 3rd Party support from the big companies like Ubisoft, Capcom & EA. The former & the later have already stated that they won’t be producing more exclusives for the Wii U or porting other cross-platform titles. The main claim is that it is because of lack of sales of the system but it’s more to do with designing or altering something for the GamePad & its built-in screen.
Bringing us to the Wii U’s biggest feature, draw back & selling point: the GamePad with touchscreen.
FINALLY: we have a controller bigger & chunkier than the Dreamcast’s one.
The entire controller is about the size of an iPad but the screen itself is only 15.7 cm (diagonally across) & made from the same material as the DS/3DS touchscreens (about the same size as a DSi XL unit as well). So no Gorilla Glass or multi-gesture on it yet it still manages to produce a high quality image (nowhere near 1080p or even 720p unfortunately). The controller also features twin sticks which sit up high on the unit -which can be a little vexing for some games but feels natural with others. There are also 6 buttons: 4 configured like the SNES on the front & 4 shoulders buttons. Even with the spread of buttons & the width of the controller, it’s still fairly comfortable to hold & you don’t have to mess around much fiddling with the various buttons (unless, like me, you often get shit mixed up when doing Quick Time Events). The GamePad also features a NFC zone, which is & will be used with collectable figurines that unlock in game bonuses (more on that later), pseudo-surround sound (which actually does sound impressive) & a front facing camera used for the chat app (which I’m yet to use). There is also a DS-like stylus hidden in the top of the unit, each to get out one-handed when you need it for some games.
The GamePad is lighter than you expect but also feels cheap & fragile at times. The buttons tend to make plastic clicking noises. There is also a rattle when you shake it but that might be mine. Still, the lightness of the controller makes it surprisingly easy to use & you can play some games with it resting in its two cradles (the charging one or the display only one) or lie it flat on a table without any hassle. This is no GameCube controller mind (although an adaptor for them will be available with the release of Super Smash Bros. Wii U), so it does crick your wrists & fingers after a while. More so with how stiff the buttons can be; their lack of give hurting your thumb after too much use.
The other major drawback of it is how quickly it chews through battery life but you can leave it plugged in without hassle because the charger cable is very long. You can also rest it in the charging cradle if you go for the Premium pack (which is black, means bigger. . . internal memory); which is handy if you are watching cut scene heavy games. You can also play some games with a Wii U Pro Controller, which looks like a 360 one, or your old Wiimote+ if you managed to keep hold of your Wii.
The real strength & selling point of the GamePad is its ability for what Nintendo calls “Off-TV Play”. That is: the ability to play a full game on the controller rather than use the TV (if other family members are using it is the most touted example as to why it exists). Unfortunately, games like New Mario Bros. leaves this function on all the time, which becomes fairly distracting but games such as Rayman Legends use the touchscreen & remote play exceptionally well for some puzzles & levels. I also find the remote play function handy because my TV is pretty dodgy at the moment, so easier to play on the GamePad as I wait for the TV to come good. Best games for this so far have been Mario Kart 8, Wind Waker HD & Lego Batman 2 but it’s also great for the Virtual Console games that get over-pixilated on a screen as big as mine (46 inches of goodness, baby!). The distance that the remote play can go is pretty far as well; I could go to the kitchen in my old house without losing the signal but have heard tell of people who take it into the toilet like they did their old Gameboys.
The OS is similar to the Wii & 3DS ones, with a tile/window based menu. Upon launch it was slow as fuck! Taking up to a minute to start up some titles but subsequent updates have seen that time cut down to under 20 seconds. The latest update brought a quick start function, which loads the game as the system boots, which saves a heap of time fiddling through the menus when you want to play your favourite titles ASAP. The menu is also divide across the GamePad & the TV; with the controller usually having the menu options & the TV projecting the current discourses within the Miiverse around popular games & apps.
The Miiverse, which is Nintendo’s version of a combined social network, information system & promotional hub, is frankly one of the greatest things on the Wii U. It’s limited & highly monitored in what it can be posted (no rude or threatening language, et cetera) but has produced some amazing jokes as well as art. Because you can use the touchscreen to free hand message, so people use them to produce amazing little black & white artworks. You can also use it to capture in-game screenshots to ask the community for help (hidden behind spoiler posts). Games like Wind Waker HD also integrate it into the game, by allowing you to pick up bottles filled with random messages & pictographs taken by other players. It’s also very handy for Virtual Console games, where you find random silly things or get stuck because you’re too young to have played a game that doesn’t hold your hand for you all of the time.
Like the Miiverse, you also control the eShop & options from the touchscreen, which is handy because it means that you can browse & buy titles without having to turn on the TV. Nintendo are releasing a lot of their SNES & GB Advance range on the system but the Australia eShop is sadly lacking many great SNES titles that other countries have -such as The Secret of Mana– but they have some good unexpected releases, like Breath of Fire II (a massive underrated & basically forgotten RPG from Capcom). Unfortunate all titles are subject to the dreaded Australia tax. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why! As an Aussie gamer, it’s something I should be used to be still annoys me monstrously. You can also store downloads on approved high capacity SD cards or external hard drives but it’s not something I’ve needed to do yet.
The highlight of the Nintendo eShop has to be the release of the cult SNES J-RPG classic EarthBound. This never saw an official PAL region release, so it quickly became the most purchased title on the eShop. I got it as soon as I was able, after playing it on an Emulator years ago but screwed up, so have to start again. Which is the problem with old titles but also part of their charm -in that they can be as hard as a paedo near a preschool. Nintendo acknowledged this & included the official walkthrough with the game & online -all for free.
The other biggest current drawback with the Wii U is the lack of titles at the moment; both 1st & 3rd party. There are some excellent games out, such as Lego City Undercover (which I enjoyed more than GTA V in certain aspects), Donkey Kong Tropic Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Rayman Legends & the previously reviewed Mario Kart 8 to name a few.
Unfortunately all the long awaited titles are either due later this year, like Super Smash Bros. Wii U, or next year with the new Legend of Zelda game -which is set to be more of a Skyrim style open world. You also have duel-company developed like Hyrule Warriors, which is made by Team Ninja, so expect massively amounts of hypersexualisation & copious jiggle-physics in all the female characters. There is also an entirely new IP called Splatoon, which is an online multiplayer shooter where players have to splatter as much of the map in goop as they can to win -so follows Nintendo’s limited violence ideology. Which is countered by the uber-hypersexualised release of Bayonetta 2, which brings a whole new level to the fetishisation of female characters within a video game; they’re also releasing it with the original game bundled in, so double the perversion. At least this is countered by Yoshi’s Woolly World, which I want because AWMYFUCKINGAWDITSOKOOOOOOOOOOTE!!!! There are more exclusive titles due but will talk about them in a later article.
Unfortunately no news on any new Wii U only Pokémon titles, that you can use with your 3DS, because that is the long awaited dream. Either an open world MMORPG or another tournament style battle game where you can use your own pokémon on your own 3DS system. Fans have been chewing walls waiting for such a game & it could really move so many consoles in a tiny amount of time -especially with how Nintendo allow free online multiplayer on all their games.
One interesting future release that Nintendo announced via their Direct video is their new line of amiibo figure which work with the NFC system in the GamePad to allow for the transfer of data as well as a limited form of DLC. They work in a similar way to Activision’s Skylanders game, where you buy figures to bring new characters into games. The amiibo are set to work as customisable fighters in Super Smash Bros. Wii U but Nintendo have hinted that it will bring non-Mario franchise characters (like Link or Samus) into games like Mario Kart 8 (which was a desire expressed in my Mario Kart 8 review; I wonder if Nintendo read it?). If they integrate it into a new Pokémon game or other such franchise & they’ll become a licence to print money. When Nintendo reveals what they’ll be used for, how & the cost, I’ll probably end up collecting a few of them because they do look really cool. Perfect design, if the promo versions are anything to go by.
It’s truly unfortunately that Nintendo has taken so long to release so many top tier & highly demanded games but seems to be the trend with development cycles of late; always several steps behind rushed releases.
At any rate, the brand recognition games from Nintendo as well as their bevy of exclusive titles will be on shelves before Sony & Microsoft’s ones; plus the Big N doesn’t have to worry about the cross-platform glut as much as the other two (with some exceptions on franchises such as the Lego games, which come out on EVERY console, home & handheld).
Whether or not you decide to buy a Wii U &/or support Nintendo is ultimately up to you. There are some good deals going on with them & the price is sure to drop in the near future. You can afford to wait if you do want one & aren’t so much interested in the other new-current systems.
It all falls into the glut of gaming that we currently suffer, more so if you factor in all the more Indie PC games & mods out there. Yet I find again & again that my gaming time is spent more & more with Nintendo’s two current flagship consoles -the Wii U & 3DS- because they have the games that I want & the gimmicks that I prefer. You can spin it off as another example of Cognitive Bias but I am not preaching that the Wii U is in anyway the superior system. It is just the most preferable for me at the moment & it may become your’s if you give it half a chance.
Title: Mario Kart 8
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: 31st of May 2014
Studio/Developers: Nintendo EAD Group No. 1
It’s been roughly 20 years since I started playing the Mario Kart series, beginning all the way back with the first Mode 7 game on the SNES. I do count myself a veteran of the franchise, despite not playing MK Double Dash!! on the GameCube or Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS. The former because was more into F-Zero GX on the GameCube & the latter because of the still outrageous prices on 3DS games.
At any rate, I’m still well versed in many of the mechanics of the series, having played an extensive amount of Mario Kart Wii a few years ago.
Like so many other games that Nintendo makes these days, Mario Kart 8 doesn’t revolutionise the franchise but it does refine it in the most perfect manner.
If we were to turn this into a more mechanical metaphor, it is as though Nintendo have fine tuned the engine to enrich performance at the same time they trimmed down all the useless weight and refined the handling whilst leaving it feel familiar.
If you played Mario Kart Wii or Mario Kart 7, you know what you are getting into -especially with the MK7 additions of hang gliders & underwater levels- but the new items as well as vehicles help to enliven the gameplay from the previous games.
Most notably is the improved AI in the opponents, making even the easiest difficulty (50cc) a challenge at times, with AI controlled opponents using shortcuts, boosts & items more cleverly. Yet best of all is the lack of blue shell spammage when you are in 1st place (you still get it but not as much) as well as the Horn item that allows you to prevent blue & other shells from hitting you. The AI gets smarter the higher the difficulty but I never once (so far) felt as though the AI was using exploits to win. Pretty much all non-1st place results for me have been my fault; drifting at the wrong time or accidentally hitting myself with a rebounding green shell.
These refinement coupled with the seriously impressive 1080p 60f/ps graphics makes Mario Kart 8 one of the prettiest current gen games out there.
Another nice tweak is that all the new tracks have branching paths, so you can choose which way to go. Some offer speed boosts, others have items, whilst many just offer a pretty alternative way to go. The older (read: reused) tracks from previous games have also been altered a little but offer nothing new but they fit within the new gimmick that the game offers.
That is the much touted ability to hover & have invented, looped tracks. This pretty much turns it into a cartoonie version of F-Zero GX, which makes me scream out for another game in that near forgotten franchise. Yet the anti-gravity sections of the track do add their own little mechanics & challenges, such as getting speed boosts from hitting your opponents not to mention the added risk of falling off (or being knocked) the edges of the track -making Rainbow Road even more frustrating in this incarnation as any previous (if you don’t come to it with the right mindset that is).
The lack of overall tracks is a bit disappointing. Only 16 new tracks (4 for each 4 cups) with another 16 reused tracks but they all flash by so quickly when you’re racing that it all seems so little in the scheme of things.
This is honestly one game from Nintendo that I’d welcome DLC for but only if it offered entirely new tracks & power-ups for a decent price (not to mention the dreaded Australia Tax that we will probably have to suffer on any possible DLC).
I do like how it drip feeds you unlocks, such as a randomly picked new character for every cup that you finish & a new part for every X amount of coins that you gather in any of the racing modes (supposedly including all the coins collected in online/offline multiplayer races).
Unfortunately, as of time of writing, I am yet to try to online functions, due to dodgy internet connection in my house but reports from friends is that it a solid experience, with the game still running at 1080p 60 frames per second every with 15 other opponents on screen. I don’t think any Xbone or Ps4 game can come close to claiming that (or even being able to play anything in 1080p as of yet).
Of course, the game has already generated a ton of memes but the most popular so far seems to be the Luigi Death Stare. Once again highlighting how nerds get obsessed over the tiniest, inconsequential detail in things (something I’ll hopefully write about soon).
Another great thing about this game, at least at time of writing, was Nintendo offering a free high end game download with purchase. Basically, sign into the Nintendo club, register MK8 & wait 48 hours for a link to pop up sending you to the free game collection screen. This offer does run out on the 31st of July & not sure how many games of new consoles it will push out doors but if you’re paying a high price for full games it is an exceptionally good offer. I went with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD because basicaly played all the other games on offer & wanted to play Wind Waker again in shiny new graphics.
In the end, Mario Kart 8 does nothing to shake up the bedrock of the franchise or the kart racing genre in general but it still does everything exceptionally well. With an unbelievable level of polish & challenge (prepared to get slaughtered when you jump up to 100cc mode) that levels any pretender Mascot racer games in the dust!
One thing I would want though if/when they continue the franchise is for them to turn it more Super Smash Bros. & make it more a general Nintendo mascot racer. So add characters from The Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Animal Crossing & Metroid. Not sure how you’d be able to get Pokémon involved but sure some fan out there has already thought of a way.
But, basically, if you have a Wii U: get it!
If you are yet to get a Wii U: buy the MK8 premium pack (with bonus Mario Kart Wii steering wheel) & claim the free game so you have two games to play whilst you wait for friends to buy their console so you can mutliplayer it up!
I’ll be waiting.