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TalkBack / Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster (Switch) Review
« on: May 25, 2023, 06:43:13 PM »

The best Final Fantasy you likely haven’t played on a Nintendo platform comes back home.

It took a while for me to reach this point, but I love Final Fantasy V. If I were to break out my all-time Final Fantasy rankings, it’d sit right behind Final Fantasy VI, and the gap between the two is not as wide as you might think. However, the relative inaccessibility of Final Fantasy V in the west cut down on the lasting impact of this excellent game. Thanks to the console release of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters, this 1992 Super Famicom game is the most readily accessible it has ever been (legally). And for the most part, this is a fantastic version of an incredible game.

Final Fantasy V is most notable for its job system, which builds off of Final Fantasy III’s similar mechanic. You don’t have a vast party like the Super Nintendo games before and after, but you do have 22 different jobs to switch your primary party of four between over the course of the adventure. It deepens the complexity of strategy (and might remind modern players of similar systems in Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler) as your heroes Bartz, Lenna, Galuf, and Faris level up in the traditional sense and also earn ability points for whatever job they have equipped. Leveling up jobs opens up new abilities and options, most of which can then be used as a secondary option when they’re in a new job. There are definitely optimal job paths for different characters, with some more viable for mage roles than others, but the beauty of the job system is that it’s so flexible. Once you start getting jobs, the only limit is your ingenuity for breaking the system (and maybe grinding).

Thankfully if you do just want to play around with jobs, the Pixel Remaster includes a variety of boost options that let you earn up to four times the experience points and ability points so you can power-level without as much grinding. You can also turn off encounters at any moment. The malleability is glorious, as you can play it more or less like it was back in the day, or customize it to your preference.

While this release of Final Fantasy V includes a slew of enhancements, updates, and tweaks that all come from the Game Boy Advance, mobile, and PC releases over the years, it does not contain the Sealed Temple and the four new jobs from those releases. This is a recurring theme with the Pixel Remasters as virtually all six of these games have had novel additions in the 30+ years since they first came out, but not all of that is worked into these nearly definitive releases.

The story in Final Fantasy V is one that I enjoy and has its fair share of wonderful moments, it’s not quite at the level of Final Fantasy IV or VI. The music is naturally stellar, with delightful new arrangements as well as the superb original soundtrack. Like with every Pixel Remaster on console, the font issue from the PC and mobile releases is better but not truly fixed. It contributes to a recurring theme that this is so close to being the best version of a classic but it’s just not all the way there.

Still, if you’ve never played Final Fantasy V and have an affinity for RPGs, I suggest you drop everything and play this video game. I truly believe it stands tall among the best of the entire Final Fantasy series, carving its own distinct path with the refined job system. The Pixel Remaster is as close to a definitive release as we’ve had of Final Fantasy V in the west so far. I do wish I didn’t have to offer a handful of caveats, but this is still a good version of an all-time great.


And some Xbox talk.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is out and we've been playing it non-stop. But before we get to our initial thoughts on Link's latest adventure, we answer some listener mail regarding Xbox and the Playdate.

This episode is brought to you in part by Wongo Puzzles.Use our special link to save 10% at The discount will be applied at checkout!


Because absolutely nothing more significant has released... right?

In a desperate attempt to keep the backlog under control, John, Neal, and Alex flew through Xenoblade 3's Future Redeemed DLC. We start with some general (mostly spoiler-free) discussion of gameplay before diving into what the ending of Future Redeemed means for the rest of the series.


You can disagree with the three I put in the headline being the most important. Check the rest of the article for the full list.

EA Sports and Metalhead Software revealed a slew of new real-life pro baseball Legends that will be playable in Super Mega Baseball 4 when it launches on Switch on June 2.

The Legends will be playable in the classic league with other fictional characters as well as the specific Legends League that is made up of two conferences: New School and Old School. Of course each Legends conference has their own unique team names, like the Mammotanks and Empire in the New School and the Originators and the Joyriders in the Old School.

Beyond that, you can use the Legends almost however you want, whether it's just a straight Franchise run with them, or customizing the players across different teams. In the Franchise mode, for example, you can start a league with the original Super Mega Baseball squads and then have the Legends show up as free agents from season to season.

The online mode Pennant Race works the Legends into the game in an interesting way as well. Every season for the online mode will have four Legends replace four players from the original Super Mega Baseball teams. Who the Legends are and what teams they end up on will be based on a variety of factors, including the usage of teams in the mode or what teams have lost more frequently.

In addition to the cover athlete David Ortiz and the already confirmed Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Jose Bautista, here is the full list of newly confirmed Legends:

  • Vladimir Guerrero
  • Billy Wagner
  • Bartolo Colon
  • Mike Mussina
  • George Brett
  • Willie Mays
  • Rollie Fingers
  • Ozzie Smith
  • Mark Loretta
  • Ray Durham
  • Joe Mauer
  • Ryan Braun
  • Barry Larkin
  • Mike Napoli
  • Carl Crawford
  • Kyle Seager
  • Huston Street
  • Johnny Damon
  • Rick Ankiel
  • Fred McGriff
  • Latroy Hawkins
  • Joe Nathan
  • Brian Wilson
  • Ryan Dempster
  • Torii Hunter
  • Jamie Moyer
  • Bronson Arroyo

Fingers crossed Miguel Cairo is among the 240 Legends.


Part 6 of the 3D Zelda Game Club.

The 3D Zelda game club finally draws to a close (until next week). The panel is joined by special guest Lauren Ronaghan to discuss the game's place in history, its design, and its accessibility to a new group of fans.


EA Sports returns to console baseball with the help of Metalhead Software for the latest Super Mega Baseball game.

Super Mega Baseball 4 is coming to Nintendo Switch (among other platforms) on June 2. The first new entry in the series since 2020, this is also the first game developer Metalhead Software is releasing with their new owner, publisher EA Sports.

The fourth release in the sports series will be the first to feature any kind of real-life players, headlined by cover athlete David Ortiz. In total, Super Mega Baseball 4 will feature more than 200 "legendary baseball professionals" (they did not actually get the MLB license it seems) including Ortiz, Jose Bautista, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. The legends will be split up into teams by era and also can be put into the new Shuffle Draft mode where you can mix and match players from the pool of Legends and the classic Super Mega Baseball players like Hammer Longballo and Muffin Studwick.

Beyond the legends, Metalhead is promising a slew of other updates and upgrades, including expanded player traits, a new team chemistry system, automatic walks, two-way players, expanded bullpens, and much more. The visuals will also see a boost, though we cannot tell yet how much that will impact the Switch version since the provided screenshots appear to be based on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions. However, all versions of the game will feature cross-play.

TalkBack / Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster (Switch) Review
« on: May 01, 2023, 08:45:02 AM »

The best way to play a classic but not the best version of a classic.

I was young, but I have a clear memory of when I first played Final Fantasy on NES. At a friend’s house, I was sucked into the character creation, the grinding, and the music. It was one of my earliest experiences with turn-based RPGs and it rocked. More than 30 years later, it’s available on a Nintendo console (that isn’t a limited-run mini console) for the first time in the west in nearly 20 years. The Pixel Remaster release of the original Final Fantasy isn’t definitive, but it’s close enough, and the gameplay boosts provide an excellent entrypoint for players of all ages and skill levels to experience an important piece of gaming history.

Final Fantasy begins with picking a party of four characters from six different classes. From there, you journey across the world trying to restore the four elemental crystals and save the world. Along the way you explore towns and dungeons, level up and upgrade, and complete a slew of quests that slowly give you access to all of the expansive multi-continent land. While some of the direction in the game is obtuse at times, it moves briskly and rarely lingers on an area for too long. That pace is made even better thanks to the Pixel Remaster’s new gameplay boosts that let you turn off random encounters and also multiply the amount of experience and money you earn by up to four times (you can also cut it down to half if you want a sterner challenge).

The upgrade to the sprites is very nice, but the fact the backgrounds are upgraded has an impact on the way battles look. Bosses that once looked massive and daunting are now much smaller on the screen in a relative cavern of a background. It’s by no means a gamebreaker, but it’s one of the few reasons why this release does not feel like the definitive version of the NES classic. Another reason is that this does not contain the extra content found in the GBA release from 2004, including multiple new dungeons. It does take some aspects of that re-release, though, including a handful of gameplay tweaks and even the localization.

Having the ability to switch between the newly arranged soundtrack (which rocks) and the original one is nice, but the much ballyhooed font change is still not ideal. The new “classic font” is an improvement over the modernized style used in the mobile and PC releases of the Pixel Remasters, but it’s more of a bandage on a wound than an actual salve.

All that being said, Final Fantasy is still a great game even if it shows its age and this release isn’t the best it could be. I love traipsing around this world with my warriors of light. I love the music and the style. If you’ve never played the original Final Fantasy before, the experience and money boosts make it easy to experience without the grind. This is a good enough release of Final Fantasy and for that I recommend it, but I wish this could have been the slam-dunk definitive version.


With credits ranging from Secret of Mana to Xenoblade Chronicles, we got to ask the team behind Trinity Trigger about their influences and aspirations.

We had the chance to send over questions to some of the supergroup behind Trinity Trigger, the recent XSEED Games localization that is heavily inspired by the likes of Secret of Mana. If you didn’t know, some of the team has bonafides dating back to Xenoblade Chronicles’ character designs, Octopath Traveler’s story, and even Secret of Mana’s soundtrack. Check out the full interview below with responses from Director Takumi Isobe, Character Designer Raita Kazama (Xenoblade Chronicles), Scenario Writer Yura Kubota (Octopath Traveler, Bravely Default II), and Composter Hiroki Kikuta (Secret of Mana).

Nintendo World Report (NWR): Kazama-san, how did your experience on Xenoblade influence the design of the characters in Trinity Trigger?

Raita Kazama (Character Design): Looking back on when I designed the characters for Xenoblade, I was very young, lacking in both technical skill and perspective. As a result, I inconvenienced others quite a bit, and sometimes felt stuck at a dead end. However, that experience taught me the importance of facilitating good chemistry with my clients. Where I once shied away from asserting my opinions throughout the design process, I now have the confidence to clearly express myself and produce stronger work as a result.

I was able to put this experience to the test on Trinity Trigger, where my confidence came out in full during the character design process. Communication between client and designer is critical—after all, if my client can’t clearly understand my point of view, the players won’t either.

Since Trinity Trigger has a completely different style and atmosphere from Xenoblade, I strived to tailor my designs accordingly. I tried out ideas that wouldn’t have fit into Xenoblade and incorporated elements that I wanted to improve in my past work, all while reflecting deeply on my own personal growth. I hope that players can feel the passion and love I poured into these characters.

Also, while creating illustrations featuring the Triggers, which were based on wonderful original designs from other artists, I took painstaking care to keep their facial expressions and gestures true to their personalities. I always feel nervous when interpreting the designs of other artists, haha...

NWR: What was the inspiration behind the way the Trigger characters look? Were their designs informed by their function in the game (and why or why not)?

Takumi Isobe (Director): We first decided which elements the three Triggers would represent. After that, while considering how their silhouettes would look beside the main characters, we gave each Trigger a distinct body type (two-legged, four-legged, and flying). Atsuko Nishida, Megumi Mizutani, and Tomohiro Kitakaze all submitted very appealing designs for the Triggers, which we ended up using as the basis for our weapon designs.

NWR: Kubota-san, Octopath Traveler and Bravely Default II are filled with interesting side quests. How do you strike a balance between an engaging main story and narratively fulfilling optional content like side quests?

Yura Kubota (Scenario): The proper balance is usually decided by the director based on the game’s estimated playtime, factoring in the main scenario, side quests, and additional challenges. Side quests tend to be used for in-depth exploration of characters or supplementary worldbuilding that would be redundant if told in the main story.

NWR: Is there a character you enjoyed writing for the most in Trinity Trigger? If so, why?

Kubota: My favorite character to write was Lime, a Manafacturer who supports the heroes. Since her background isn’t quite as serious as the main characters’, I was able to relax and have fun writing her, haha. Initially, there were plans for a DLC storyline where players would be able to control Lime and explore dungeons, just like Cyan and his friends do. I would have liked to play that scenario as well.

NWR: What makes the main trio of Cyan, Elise, and Zantis stand out among other modern games?

Kubota: In the medium of games, our first impressions of a character are determined by how they look. Because of this, I think it’s especially important to make sure that a character's words, actions, and backstory do not differ too greatly from their visuals. Even so, we also wanted to give each of our protagonists another side for players to discover while progressing through the main scenario and side quests.

NWR: Kikuta-san, you have collaborated with a lot of Western indie studios lately (Tangledeep, YIIK, Indivisible, Earthlock). What made you want to work with such a variety of developers and projects?

Hiroki Kikuta (Music): Throughout the 2000s, I felt a constant desire to be involved in the development of more and more interesting projects, exploring new possibilities for game development. Whether I was producing, planning, designing, directing, or composing music, I wanted to work with sincere, passionate colleagues as much as I could. Fortunately, the rise of overseas indie studios since 2010 has provided me with plenty of opportunities and successes. I'm fortunate to have found the passion and sincerity I was seeking among indie developers who played Secret of Mana or Trials of Mana as children and became fans of Japanese games. It brings me great joy that 30 years after my work on the Mana series, these creators feel a need for my melodies in the games that they are creating today.

NWR: How does your work on Trinity Trigger separate itself from your best-known work on the Mana series? Were there any other influences that you focused on to make it stand out?

Kikuta: The more soul a game developer puts into their creation, the more unique the end result will become in its worldbuilding, sense of style, and expression. Consequently, the Mana series and Trinity Trigger both have their own distinct authorial styles and personalities. I bring value through my ability to interpret those unique stylistic elements into music that accompanies the worlds of those games.

I applied the same musical techniques that I developed during my time on the Mana series to bring the world of Trinity Trigger to life. In that sense, you might call Trinity Trigger a direct descendant of several Japanese RPGs from the 1990s. Although 30 long years have passed, I believe that the emotions, desires, and excitement that RPG players feel in their quest for adventure remain the same even today.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 365: Good Vibes of the Kingdom
« on: April 26, 2023, 08:02:26 AM »

Steve from Good Vibes Gaming played Zelda so we kidnapped him!

Steve Bowling of Good Vibes Gaming fame joins John and Neal to discuss his recent preview of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Don't forget to check out Steve's full preview.

TalkBack / Trinity Trigger (Switch) Review
« on: April 24, 2023, 10:00:00 AM »

Well, they made a new Mana game and called it something else.

Sometimes a game’s inspirations are easy to notice when you start playing it. In the case of Trinity Trigger - the latest RPG made by FuRyu and published in the west by XSEED - it is evident that Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana are core to the essence. The action RPG features a combat system that heavily evokes those vintage Mana games, complete with a pop-up ring to select weapons and items as well as three-player co-op. They even brought along Hiroki Kikuta, who composed the music for those Super Nintendo classics and has brought his A-game to this project. Other figureheads of the game’s staff have credits ranging from Octopath Traveler’s story to Xenoblade Chronicles’ character designs. The combined forces of the team have created an enjoyable nostalgic RPG that doesn’t overstay its welcome but might have benefited from some refinement along the way.

You initially control Cyan, a hero from a small village who just found out he is the Warrior of Chaos. You see, in this fantasy world, the gods of Order and Chaos have done battle for ages, and every generation features a warrior for each side who must do battle. Cyan quickly meets up with Elise and Zantis, and the trio tries to carve out a new path for their eternally warring world. They are also joined by Triggers on their journey, which are cute little magical critters that partner with a hero and can transform into a variety of weapons. Cyan partners with Flamme, a fire trigger, while Elise and Zantis have a water and lightning Trigger, respectively. Those elements factor into battle, though the more important aspects are the weapon types, including standard-issue arms like swords, bows, and spears.

The combat focuses on equipping different weapon types on different heroes to navigate weaknesses and challenges. You can’t button-mash because each weapon has a gauge that runs out as you do so. The optimal strategy is to chain combos, dodge away, recharge, and repeat. There are special abilities as well, such as a time-limited buff and a one-time special attack that both recharge over time. For the most part, the combat is a good time, especially as you’re navigating the visually pleasing overworlds and looking for secrets and landmarks. Where the combat starts to sour is with boss battles. Every boss has a shield gauge that has to be whittled down first. This gauge only depletes quickly when you attack with a weapon or element that the boss is weak to, so it can be a slog unless your team is very tricked out. The shield gauge also regenerates, so during the course of the average boss battle, you have to do the song and dance of depleting the shield gauge to get to their actual health gauge multiple times. As you get further in the story, sometimes bosses don’t have weaknesses, so these battles just become tedious wars of attrition. You can craft some accessories that speed up this process, but even still, it’s a sour note for an otherwise enjoyable combat system.

Those accessories are called Manatite, just in case you didn’t get the hint this game is inspired by Square Enix’s Mana series. You can earn these in many ways throughout, but one of the best is through crafting, which gets rather robust as you progress. That’s the way to get the best versions of the attack and defense augments. This is the only equipment upgrade that you run into, as there are no iterative weapons or armors to find. Your skill increases as you level up and then earn points that can be used to upgrade your Triggers for each weapon type. And then you use the Manatite to boost that further. It’s a relatively unique system that you can fiddle with a lot.

I’ll stress though that outside of some of those pesky bosses, I had a blast going through this world. The maps are varied enough in layout, filled with enough side quests and secrets that made exploration rewarding and fun. It’s also a great co-op experience, with relatively seamless drop-in/drop-out co-op play locally. This isn’t a terribly long game. An expedient playthrough can be done in under 10 hours and one more focused on side quests along the way can go to about 20. For this type of action-focused RPG, the generally shorter length is fine with me, but I definitely had a feeling of the endgame sneaking up on me. I felt like there was more you could build off of with this world and combat. While the story is presented well with good voice acting, I never grew too attached to the cast, especially because a lot of the driving force of the story happens because that’s just the direction that you haven’t gone yet.

Trinity Trigger still scratches a specific itch very well. This Mana-inspired game brings the three-player co-op fun back from the Super Nintendo era, but now without the need for a Multitap. This is a good romp for a single player, but it is best suited for a pair or a trio who want to traipse through a fantasy world slaying foes and finding treasure chests. This won’t rival the highs of action RPGs, but it’s an adventure well worth playing.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 364: N64 Games for REAL Fans
« on: April 14, 2023, 06:11:19 AM »

Is it a sports game?

When you think about the Nintendo 64 you probably think about Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and Star Fox 64 but those weren't the only games we were playing in the back half of the 90's. John and Neal explore the often-ignored world of third-party Nintendo 64 games. Contrary to popular opinion there were quite a few. And with the absence of Square/Enix, the Nintendo 64 got to have good games instead. (John wrote that last sentence).


Featuring Tetris and the Super Mario Bros Movie

John and Neal stumble into the podcast, covered in popcorn crumbs and ready to talk about movies. We hold off on the Mario spoilers until the end of the episode so join us for a discussion of the new animated film along with the car-chase filled Tetris movie.


Time will tell if this year's EA Sports soccer game be more than just another Legacy Edition on Nintendo Switch.

Back in 2017, FIFA was featured as a core part of Nintendo's initial Switch marketing campaign. You could play some footie on the road. It's portable soccer! But after a decent outing in 2017, EA Sports' notable soccer franchise stalled. After a few minor tweaks in 2018's FIFA 19, every ensuing year featured a "Legacy Edition" - essentially just the same game as the 2018 release but with new rosters. This was an annual disappointment.

EA Sports is shedding the FIFA label this year and in its stead comes a new name for their soccer game: EA Sports FC. Today, Nintendo of America tweeted the logo for the game (in Switch Red). It reads "Join The Club this July" with no other real details.

So what does this mean? Likely not much. The Switch is now more than six years old and it would be weird if EA put an effort now after not doing much of anything for nearly five years. There is hope, but outside of a new title screen and branding, I can't imagine that hope will amount to much more than the bones of FIFA 19 on Switch with a new hat.

The only trace of a mention of EA Sports FC 24 on Switch I found online is on the FIFA game series news site FIFAUTeam that proclaims that this version of the game will be another Legacy Edition. It's sad if true because EA Sports used to be a bigger presence on Nintendo systems, even if the Nintendo versions were always secondary. GameCube got nearly everything, even with some Punch-Out and Mario bonuses in Fight Night and NBA Street. Wii got distinct versions, focusing on motion controls and more cartoony characters. But after the Wii U and 3DS launches, which saw the likes of Madden and FIFA on the platforms, EA Sports took their ball and went home. For the sake of Wii U and 3DS, it might have made business sense, but the complete dismissal of the Switch on EA's behalf probably left success on the table. That first FIFA on Switch? It was pretty good. And while I'm a Madden junkie, I can imagine I'm not the only one who would play the snot out of a portable Madden on Switch. I played a lot of the horrific Steam version of Madden on my Steam Deck and that's an awful version of a game that is largely not regarded as a good entry in the franchise.

I had hoped this might be a more optimistic editorial, but I couldn't find any reason to have real hope that EA Sports FC will be more than a Legacy Edition. Prove me wrong, EA Sports. I want more sports games on Nintendo Switch. Sony is currently outdoing you on a console that isn't theirs.

TalkBack / The Best Super Mario Bros. Movie Toys
« on: April 04, 2023, 07:02:59 AM »

We checked out Jakks Pacific’s initial lineup of Mario movie toys.

With the Super Mario Bros. Movie on the cusp of wide release, the inevitable follow-up after a child watches this movie is going to involve toys (or video games - if you have questions on that, check the rest of the site because we have almost 25 years of Mario video game coverage). I had a chance to test drive a number of toymaker Jakks Pacific’s Super Mario Bros. Movie toys with my 4-year-old (and when appropriate, with my 1-year-old) and across the board, Jakks Pacific seems to have made some winners.

The most ridiculous one is assuredly the 7-inch Bowser figure that blows smoke out of his mouth. It requires some setup (3 AAA batteries and some drops of water), but after you fill up Bowser’s head with water, you can press a spike on his back and cackle as he blows water vapor out of his maw as it lights up red. This koopa king is poseable and should display nicely while also being a durable and entertaining toy for kids.

The first wave of 5-inch toys fit well with our friend vape smoke Bowser. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad all get well-sculpted toys that look to be a step ahead of Jakks Pacific’s World of Nintendo figures. Each hero comes with an accessory that may or may not have relevance in the movie. Mario has a plunger, which adds up since his plumbing background is going to be referenced. Luigi has a flashlight, evoking Luigi’s Mansion while also appearing to be something he uses in his path through the movie. Toad has a frying pan that I assume he uses to hit a goomba on the head or something. Lastly, Peach has a parasol that I assume she uses to hit a goomba on the head or something. Since Bowser and the heroes entered my house, both of my kids have played with them and I’m happy to report they’ve held up to wear and tear.

There are also vaguely Polly Pocket-ish playsets that I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. The biggest one is Peach’s Castle, which resembles the famous facade and opens up to reveal an obstacle course that looks like the training course we’ve seen in trailers (as well as looking like a level from Mario’s games). This set comes with a 1.25-inch Mario and Peach that can be used to hop around the blocks and piranha plants.

The other playset is based off of Mario and Luigi’s van. It can be used as a toy vehicle but it also opens up to reveal a series of pipes to different kingdoms. This set only comes with a 1.25-inch Mario. I understand the Mario movie toys should come with Mario, but it’s literally the same 1.25-inch Mario that comes with the Peach’s Castle set. There are other 1.25-inch figures ranging from Luigi to Kamek that are nice to have with these playsets, but if you just buy the sets by themselves, you’re saddled with two duplicates.

To complement the ample Mario Kart references in the movie, there are also pull-back cars that evoke the karts from the movie (and look like off-kilter versions of karts from the game itself). I’ve only had time to mess around with the Mario one, which comes with a 2.5-inch Mario figure and a standard kart. Other karts include ones that come with Toad, Peach, and Koopa Troopa.

More waves of toys could be on the horizon and who knows: maybe the Mario movie will expand into a whole Mario Cinematic Universe with movies about Donkey Kong and Luigi and a sequel that introduces Wario. Maybe we could call it the MCU?


Part 5 of the 3D Zelda Game Club.

The gang assembles to discuss the controversial title, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Is this the peak of what Link to the Past started? A dissaster that necessitated the soft reboot into Breath of the Wild? Some other sithian absolute? Find out in this episode of the 3D Zelda Game Club and don't forget to join us for our playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

TalkBack / MLB The Show 23 (Switch) Review
« on: March 28, 2023, 03:43:03 AM »

A respectable sophomore season after a surprisingly great rookie campaign.

The second season of the Sony-made baseball game on Nintendo Switch isn’t a huge upgrade over the rookie year, but when the initial salvo was so strong, more of the same (and updated rosters) isn’t a big detriment. MLB The Show 23 on Switch is still an impressive technical feat, taking essentially everything from the beautiful-looking PlayStation and Xbox versions and making it work without much playable compromise on an increasingly ancient hybrid device. The visuals might look rough at a glance, but everything runs smoothly in spite of the fact that finer details blur together and player faces look flat and dated. This might be the best this series can look on Nintendo Switch, but it’s an acceptable level of visual jank for such a strong portable experience that remains compatible with other platforms via crossplay and crossave.

As far as what is brand new for this iteration, the coolest addition is Storylines, which currently features what amounts to an interactive museum about the Negro Leagues. You can learn about eight different players from the era, filled with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick going over each one’s history, whether it’s Satchel Paige playing pro baseball at age 60 or Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in the MLB. Kendrick’s videos are interspersed with playable moments where you can play as those players in ways reflective of their fascinating histories. As most pro sports leagues are pushing well over 100 years of history at this point, I hope content like this comes out in every form it can. I haven’t been this delightfully surprised at a new mode in a sports game since I played Franchise mode in Madden for the first time more than two decades ago. Even better, more Storylines are coming in the future.

Beyond Storylines, the section that got a lot of fine-tuning and tweaking is the always-online Diamond Dynasty mode, where you collect baseball cards and make your own team of modern and classic players. While you can pay to win in a way here, I’m still struck by how the game directly tells you that you can just play the game and earn enough cards to be good without spending real money. The option is there, but it’s not the focus. I enjoyed seeing a lot more legends pop up in Diamond Dynasty, whether it’s the likes of Yankees legends like Derek Jeter, Babe Ruth, or Mariano Rivera, or Nintendo favorites like Ken Griffey Jr. It’s still a riot seeing Cy Young and Lefty Grove pitch in modern settings.

Diamond Dynasty also is more open to getting high-ranking players earlier on. In past years, it would be months before top-value players would be accessible. That’s no longer the case. Also, Mini-seasons are tweaked to offer up more variety, whether it’s 28-game seasons where you play three-inning games with just lefties on your roster or just players from a specific team. Diamond Dynasty continues to be an extremely good mode with a lot of longevity even if you don’t spend a dime.

Franchise Mode and the streamlined March to October have been adjusted and updated to better replicate the changes made to the MLB last year. It reflects the new playoff structure, the dual-position Ohtani Rule, and the universal DH. A lot of behind the scenes tweaks have overall made these a better experience, including improved logic for simulated aspects and computer-controlled teams. Also the draft in Franchise will no longer bizarrely feature 26-year-old players. It’ll be more reflective of the actual draft where players are in their late teens or early 20s.

Road to the Show is a mode that didn’t have a lot of updates. I still find it enjoyable and fresh as someone who hadn’t touched MLB The Show in a long time before its Switch debut, but I can start to see some of the wheels coming off as it’s very similar to last year’s mode. Here’s hoping Road to the Show gets some love in the next year or two. The ability to use the MLB The Show mobile app to take a picture of your face to use for your create-a-player is new this year too, but I could not manage to get it to work in game.

MLB The Show 23 continues to be an incredible baseball game if you’re looking for a flexible experience with real-life players. You can get deep into the details with hardcore simulation play, especially with the improved in-game UI that gives you a cleaner readout on the specifics of your pitch or swing. You can also flip the game to casual and just sit back and relax, ripping some dingers and striking some dudes out. Or you can toss out the idea of playing full games and just experience history in the incredible Negro League Storylines mode. Even if the visuals border on being potato quality, this game rocks on Switch.

TalkBack / Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe (Switch) Review
« on: March 16, 2023, 06:17:15 AM »

With its Deluxe additions, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land might be Kirby’s 2D best.

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land comes to Switch in a much different time than when it debuted on Wii. Originally launching in 2011, the Wii release was Kirby’s first non-yarn mainline foray into home consoles in a decade. Return to Dream Land Deluxe, on the other hand, comes on the heels of Kirby’s biggest hit of all time with 2022’s Kirby and the Forgotten Land. To level set, this is not the bold 3D reinvention of the Kirby formula that Forgotten Land was. Return to Dream Land Deluxe is simply the peak form of Kirby’s side-scrolling 2D adventures, retaining the quality and charm of the original Wii adventure while adding improved co-op, enjoyable party games, and an interesting epilogue.

The main game sees Kirby and friends come across a lost traveler named Magolor who has crash landed in Dream Land. The driving force is to help Magolor repair his ship so he can return home, along the way coming across both new and familiar Kirby foes. As per Kirby tradition, the story is breezy until a wild finale. It’s not quite at the level of Forgotten Land or Planet Robobot’s endings, but it’s satisfying and Magolor makes for one of the more memorable companions in Kirby games. The newly added epilogue (only available after you beat the main game) stars Magolor, adding a little bit more to the story while also providing a slightly new way to play new levels. Magolor initially starts off relatively powerless and as you progress, you can unlock more abilities. He winds up roughly controlling like Kirby, but it’s still a novel enough hook to make the epilogue well worth playing. Everything is playable in full co-op with elegant drop-in/drop-out.

I was struck by how much of the original game was tweaked as it was brought to Switch. Two new abilities, the world-dominating Mecha and the Leaf-like Sand, are the clearest examples, but there are a variety of subtle tweaks. Some copy abilities feature upgraded moves that first debuted in later games. Level layouts are largely the same but the placement of enemies and items is slightly tweaked. Best of all, unlike in the Wii original, four players can all play as Kirby in co-op. This was a bummer in the original because Kirby is the only one who can wield copy abilities and on Wii, the three other co-op players could only be Meta Knight, King Dedede, or Bandana Waddle Dee. You can still play as Kirby’s friends, but it’s much more fulfilling to have a full team of Kirbys. The excellent challenge stages, unlocked by collecting optional gears throughout levels, are still present, including two new main ones for Mecha and Sand.

Another sizable new addition to the Switch release is Merry Magoland, an alternate dimension theme park where one to four players can party up and compete in 10 different sub-games. The list of games pulls from the whole series along with some new ones, and while they might not be as deep as some sub-games in past games, the collection is fun and varied, especially with four players. It also consistently rewards you just for playing, letting you slowly unlock masks of other characters throughout the series that can be worn throughout all modes. The stand-out sub-games in my time were Booming Blasters, a brand new game that is a quick and intense top-down combative game, and the Kirby 64 sub-game Checkerboard Chase, which is frenetic and strategic. The depth here isn’t immense, but the whole mode is an excellent side dish to a delectable main course.

The visual upgrade is excellent, taking a standard-definition Wii game and making it sing on the Switch. Honestly if I didn’t know this was originally a Wii game, I’d just assume it was a brand new Kirby game. The difficulty is in line with most in the series, as it is initially very easy with the highest challenge coming from post-game modes. I did play through the majority of this with my 4-year-old and he consistently had an absolute blast playing through the game, kicking between the main game, the sub-games, and the challenge levels. Not everything was easy for him, but the new addition of the helper mode, where you get double health and Magolor saves you from falling into pits, made it so he was able to romp through the game.

I played Kirby’s Return to Dream Land on Wii at launch and over the years, it’s never been a high-ranking game on my personal list of Kirby games. After playing through it on Switch, that’s changed, though partially because of the smart updates and changes made in the new version. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is the best 2D Kirby I’ve ever played, combining a lot of the side-scrolling entries' best elements into a heck of a total package that works as both a single-player adventure and a delightful co-op journey.

TalkBack / Tents and Trees (Switch) Review
« on: March 14, 2023, 04:54:29 AM »

You know that new Picross-like game you're looking for? Well, listen to this.

I have reviewed a lot of Picross games over the years. I’d call it one of my favorite types of games or puzzles, with its thoughtful logical design and ability to be both relaxing and mentally taxing. I knew nothing about Tents and Trees going into playing this game on Switch. Apparently this is a type of puzzle I didn’t previously know about, but the basics of it evoke the nonogram stylings of Picross. It scratches a slightly different itch, though, and thanks to a delightful presentation and an incredible amount of puzzles, Tents and Trees is incredible.

Every puzzle is a grid, starting from 6-by-6 and going all the way up to 19-by-19 (and maybe beyond in daily puzzles). Trees are peppered throughout and your task is to place tents throughout the grid so every tent only touches one tree while the tent is not touching another tent. Like Picross, each row and column has a number that represents how many tents will go in each one. It took a little for me to wrap my head around the particulars, but once it clicked, I was engrossed. The puzzles are designed to only have one solution and if you hit any brick walls, a solid hint system can help you along. You can even save state your puzzles, both to come back to later and also revert to that save state if you make a huge mistake. My only tiny complaint is that the initial setup for every puzzle starts to get a little bit workmanlike as you figure out the tricks and intricacies of the puzzles. It gets a little rote over time to laboriously check off all the diagonals (this will make sense when you get into the game) to start off every puzzle. Especially since the game lets you auto-complete rows, part of me wishes they also automated more of the mechanical aspects of solving puzzles.

The chill presentation belies how deadly some of the later game puzzles can get, especially when you start introducing columns and rows missing numbers. The serene interface is made even better by both touch and button controls that work well and can be swapped on the fly. It’s hard to accurately communicate just how good everything about this feels to interact with. Different themes and music tracks unlock as you play puzzles, too. An achievement system and a handful of daily puzzles deepen the base game, which already has more than 500 puzzles to begin with. On top of all that, you can even mess around with solving puzzles communally thanks to a four-player local co-op mode.

If you’re looking for more Picross on Switch that’s more than just your standard issue Jupiter releases, Tents & Trees is amazing, making for a novel twist on a logic puzzle game staple. With the excellent style and the ample daily puzzles, this is one I’ll be revisiting for a long time.

TalkBack / Justice League: Cosmic Chaos (Switch) Review
« on: March 13, 2023, 05:40:53 AM »

Playful escapades and an excellent voice cast power this Diablo-lite DC Comics adventure.

Justice League Cosmic Chaos is the DC superhero I didn’t know I needed. The latest from publisher Outright Games continues to cement them as one of the best makers of kid-oriented licensed games. I can personally vouch from playing the likes of DC League of Super-Pets and My Friend Peppa Pig with my children that they shepherd developers to make friendly, approachable games that are fun to play at a variety of ages. However, PHL Collective, the developer of Cosmic Chaos who previously made the Star Fox-ish League of Super-Pets game (and also the rad eight-player local sports game Clusterpuck 99), have raised the bar with their take on Diablo-esque gameplay with Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. This colorful cartoony adventure is a blast, making it a bright spot in a comic book video game world shaded over by the lumbering future of Games-as-a-Service titles like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.

To start, the voice cast is incredible, with the playable trio being expertly voiced by Nolan North (who previously played Superman in LEGO content), Vanessa Marshall (who previously played Wonder Woman in the HBO Max show Harley Quinn), and Diedrich Bader (who previously played Batman in the underrated Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon among other reprisals). The delightful surprise for me was Dana Snyder (Master Shake in Aqua Teen Hunger Force) as Mr. Mxyzptlk, who brings the perfect energy for the goofy villain (note: the late Gilbert Gottfried was planned to reprise the character that he brought to life on Superman: The Animated Series, but he passed away before he could. The game is dedicated to his memory, as well as recently passed comic artists Neal Adams, Alan Grant, George Pérez, and Tim Sale). The story, which involves Mxy asserting himself as the mayor of Happy Harbor, is a breezy goofball of a romp. Other Justice League members get taken over by the mind-controlling Starro and it’s up to the team of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to save the day.

The main story is only available in single-player, as you swap between the three characters on the fly. They have a repeatable basic attack and dodge, as well as a variety of secondary and special abilities. The latter abilities are on timers that recharge after use, even when you’re not controlling the character. The combat is relatively simplistic hack-and-slash gameplay at face value, but more nuance lies underneath the hood. Swapping between characters constantly is the optimal way to go, unleashing their different powers as they recharge. Additionally, later on in the game elemental affinities come into play, so Superman’s heat vision can melt down ice foes quickly. On top of all that is a skill tree that unlocks as you level up and upgrades as you collect and use resources. Even beyond that, each hero can have three accessories that augment their power further. Oh and as you rescue members of the Justice League, you can summon them to assist you. It does get repetitive over time, especially because the enemy variety wears a little thin, but the game consistently offers you enough new twists on what you can do to keep it fresh.

Beyond Mxy’s machinations is a boatload of side quests featuring countless DC villains. Happy Harbor isn’t that big of an overworld, but more diversions are nestled there than I first expected. Generally you’ll find some access point that takes you to another location, sometimes just an underground base and other times you just get transported to Wonder Woman’s home of Themyscira. The references go deep, especially in the delightful unlockable costumes. Collecting comic books throughout lets you unlock the likes of a dopey Matches Malone Batman outfit or the trippy Batman Zur-En-Arrh costume.

While it’s a little disappointing that the main story is not multiplayer, Cosmic Chaos does have a really cool mode called Instant Action, where two players can just jump right into the fray. As someone who has long been frustrated by multiplayer games requiring a long lead up to actual multiplayer (here’s looking at you, Secret of Mana), this is a welcome addition. It also adds a little bit more longevity beyond the already sizable story mode. What might wear you out from playing all that there is here is the fact that the Switch version is not that visually impressive. It runs well enough, but if you’re coming here looking for a graphical showcase, you’ll leave disappointed. Thankfully the rest of the presentation is great, like the virtuoso voice-acting performances from a list of greats or the animated cutscenes that give you a glimpse of what this game could possibly look like on better hardware.

If you’re looking for a DC superhero game that relies more on arcadey gameplay, whimsical callbacks, and a playful atmosphere, Justice League Cosmic Chaos is incredible. I had a great time playing through this, both by myself roaming around Happy Harbor trying to save the day while getting distracted by side quests and in co-op with my kid in the smart Instant Action mode. With the bar raised for future games from Outright Games, here’s hoping that Cosmic Chaos is the start of a new era for kid-oriented licensed games.


Lightly used listener mail.

John and Neal take to listener mail once again to dig into the possibility of a major Gamecube Remaster. Keeping on that topic, the fellas explore their most desired remake from Nintendo 64 and Nintendo DS.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 359: Here's the Mail
« on: March 03, 2023, 11:06:16 AM »

And Neal finally buys Rebel Galaxy Outlaw.

After spending most of February on very specifically themed episodes, we've built up quite a bit of listener mail. Alex joins John and Neal to answer your burning questions about the eShop, Gamecube remasters, and so much more!

TalkBack / Meg's Monster (Switch) Review
« on: February 28, 2023, 07:15:45 AM »

An enjoyable narrative adventure with some clever RPG hooks.

Meg’s Monster is a peculiar game that might be billed as a JRPG but it’s more of an experimental, narrative adventure. You control Roy - the titular monster - as he stumbles upon a little human girl named Meg who, for some reason, has fallen into the underworld. When Meg starts to cry, she appears to trigger the early stages of the apocalypse so Roy makes it his mission to save her from harm and get her to safety.

The plot is charming, with a localization much better than Japanese developer Odencat’s previous Switch work Fishing Paradiso. The cast of characters in the underworld are sometimes hard to keep track of, but the focus is always on Roy and Meg. Their relationship drives things forward in a way that reminded me of Sully and Boo in the Pixar movie Monsters Inc. Everything builds to a tear-jerking finale that makes the handful of hours this linear adventure takes a rewarding experience.

The aspect of Meg’s Monster that caught my eye was how the turn-based combat works, as Roy has an absurd amount of hit points and is for the most indestructible. However, Meg hates seeing her new monster pal get hurt so battles become a balance of defeating the enemy while also making sure Meg is happy. It’s an excellent way to bring the story and gameplay together, but since the battles are all scripted, it never feels as engaging as I hoped it would be. A lot of fights rely on deus ex machina story contrivances and while occasionally some light strategy and puzzle solving is required, it felt more like an accessory to the story than a main driving force.

It’s a good thing the story of Meg’s Monster is engaging because even if the gameplay cleverly ties into the narrative, it doesn’t amount to much. As long as your expectations are managed and you’re expecting something closer to a visual novel than a JRPG, Meg’s Monster should be an enjoyable read as long you’re ready for some bittersweet emotion.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 358: The Star Fox 30th Anniversary Episode
« on: February 24, 2023, 05:34:17 AM »

Featuring Metroid

Fresh off the release of A Legacy in 3D: The Story of Star Fox, John and Neal sit down to discuss the understated importance of Star Fox to Nintendo as we know it. They quickly get sidetracked with Metroid Prime Remastered but its mostly about Star Fox!

TalkBack / A Legacy in 3D: The Story of Star Fox
« on: February 21, 2023, 06:00:00 AM »

30th anniversary documentary featuring the original developers.

30 years after it launched on Super Nintendo, Star Fox's impacts are still evident throughout Nintendo's 3D games. Join host John Rairdin for a journey through the making of Star Fox as told by its original developers, Dylan Cuthbert and Giles Goddard. Featuring an array of special guests and a never-before-seen glimpse into the development of X, the Game Boy title that inpired Star Fox. Produced in collaboration with the Video Game History Foundation.

TalkBack / Rudek and Ronaghan's Game Boy Advance NSO Picks
« on: February 23, 2023, 04:00:00 AM »

Two editors return to DISPUTE each other's top Game Boy Advance games on Switch.

As we did recently with the Game Boy games on NSO, Neal and Jordan are back once again to rank the six Game Boy Advance games currently available and share two of their most anticipated titles. Following the same debate-style format of the GB ranking, Neal’s going to critique Jordan’s list, and then Jordan will do the same back to Neal. *Nintendo Switch click*

Jordan Rudek's Top 6

6. Kuru Kuru Kururin

Neal’s Take: Bro - just go play Kuru Kuru Kururin. It’s really cool! I think it might be a little overrated just because of its spot as a game that never came to America, but it’s a very clever and unique spatial puzzle game of sorts where you maneuver a rotating stick through various obstacles.

5. Mario Kart Super Circuit

Neal’s Take: Properly rated. I have fond memories of playing this in multiplayer when it was new, but I’m never going back to this game. It does have some neat ideas, like being able to avoid a red shell if you just keep racing perfectly, but it’s soundly my least favorite Mario Kart.

4. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3

Neal’s Take: Put some respect on the e-Reader levels that are included in this package. Wacko naming scheme and unnecessary voiceovers aside, this is a peculiar portable version of a masterpiece with incredible extra levels that are only available on Nintendo Switch Online (and soon-to-be formerly Wii U and also if you have a bunch of cards you had to swipe into a Game Boy Advance accessory). This is not the definitive version of Super Mario Bros. 3, but this is a cool release.

3. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$

Neal’s Take: WarioWare is maybe the best Game Boy Advance game ever made and is so good that the only WarioWare game that topped it needed a big ridiculous cartridge to even come close to matching the simplistic brilliance of Nintendo’s first stab at microgames. Especially on the heels of the disappointing Switch entry in the series, playing through WarioWare GBA on Switch is a breath of fresh air…even if it’s 20 years old.

2. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

Neal’s Take: We’re not so different here. I don’t think Minish Cap is the best 2D Zelda (though maybe a hopeful replay on Switch will make it so), but it’s one of the best, made stronger by being so unique from a lot of the other 2D entries in the series. I don’t need Nintendo to give me Link to the Past 2 again; I need them to take me to some weird tiny village with kinstones - or whatever the unique equivalent of that is in 2023.

1. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Neal’s Take: I will be 100% honest: I only put Mario & Luigi 4th on my list for controversy. This game totally rules. It’s goofy and funny and the closest to an actual sequel to Super Mario RPG we will ever get. Though even still, I’d hesitate to place this in my own top spot because I think the rest of the series improved upon it and it’s very hard to go back to this early GBA RPG, especially when the 3DS remake is the same but way better.

Most Anticipated (Announced): Golden Sun

Most Anticipated (Unannounced): Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

Neal Ronaghan's Top 6

6. Mario Kart: Super Circuit

Jordan’s Take: I can’t disagree with this given Super Circuit’s position on my list. I remember being real disappointed when I brought this game home and realized how cumbersome it would be to play it in multiplayer. It’s probably the worst Mario Kart, and while that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game, per se, it’s deserving of the ranking here.

5. Kuru Kuru Kururin

Jordan’s Take: Taking a fairly simple concept and making a game out of it, Kuru Kuru Kururin is certainly charming and fun in spurts. It just doesn’t have the staying power of the other titles on this list. I completely agree with Neal that it’s well worth busting out to see if it hooks you.

4. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Jordan’s Take: Looking at the six games that Nintendo brought to NSO, it’s pretty hard to fault anyone for how they arrange the ones that Neal and I have in our top four. They’re all great and hold up quite well. Having not played the remake of Superstar Saga, I don’t have the same point of reference, but I do think the game should be higher here. It’s funny and full of heart, and it definitely helps to fill that void left in Super Mario RPG’s wake.

3. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3

Jordan’s Take: Awful naming convention aside, SMA4: SMB3 (ugh) is a wonderful addition to the line up, largely in part due to the e-Reader levels that Neal mentioned. The more than two dozen extra levels are clever and challenging, featuring collectables that encourage replayability. On top of that you’ve got an incredibly enjoyable game in Super Mario Bros. 3, even if NSO already has two other versions of it (Super Mario Bros. 3 on NES and Super Mario All-Stars on SNES).

2. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

Jordan’s Take: The only game on our lists that happens to fall into the same slot as runner-up, I fell in love with Minish Cap while sailing the high seas–on a large cruise ship with an extravagant buffet. When I wasn’t gorging myself there, I spent our sea days in my cabin playing through The Minish Cap and loving every minute of it. Owning it for the first time thanks to the 3DS Ambassador program, my first experience with the game was a memorable one. It isn’t spoken of with the same reverence as other 2D Zelda games, but it probably should be.

1. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$

Jordan’s Take: There’s no denying the absurdity and hilarity of WarioWare, but I’ve always had the most fun with Wario and his micro games in a larger multi-player setting, like with Smooth Moves on Wii or even Mega Party Game$! on GameCube. Mega Microgame$ is indeed awesome, but for me it doesn’t have the appeal of Superstar Saga and The Minish Cap. That said, it’s by far the best WarioWare game on Switch, so definitely play it for that reason.

Most Anticipated (Announced): Metroid Fusion

Most Anticipated (Unannounced): Mother 3

Whose top six list looks just like yours? Check out these Game Boy Advance titles now on Switch, and then let us know which games you’re hoping to see on the service in the future!

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