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Messages - John Rairdin

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Podcast Discussion / Episode 380: Nintendo Announces Princess Peach... again
« on: September 15, 2023, 04:38:55 PM »

And we enter the Paper Mario discourse.

John and Alex react to the September 2023 Nintendo Direct. John tries to find nice things to say about Paper Mario.

TalkBack / Paper Mario Thousand Year Door Switch Remaster First Impressions
« on: September 14, 2023, 01:40:14 PM »

Framerate, Resolution, and More

The remaster of Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door makes some big visual upgrades, but at what cost? John takes an early look at the technical performance of the updated Gamecube classic.

TalkBack / New Switch OLED Announced
« on: August 31, 2023, 06:24:00 AM »

It looks Wonderful

During today's Nintendo Direct, a new Switch variant was shown off. The new OLED model features a red mario theme including some images of Mario and coins throughout the system and dock. The Mario Red Edition Switch OLED is planned to launch on October 6, two weeks before the launch of Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

TalkBack / 3rd Party 64 Episode 2 - Buck Bumble
« on: August 22, 2023, 05:47:41 AM »

The game behind the theme song.

Behind that catchy theme song is a unique flight combat game from the developer behind one of Nintendo's most iconic IPs. Join John as he delves into the history and gameplay of one of the strangest games on the Nintendo 64.

TalkBack / 3rd Party 64 Episode 1 - Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs
« on: August 17, 2023, 08:51:31 AM »

The Most Ambitious N64 Game You've Never Played

Every time I speak with someone about the Nintendo 64 library, I’m generally met with the view that almost every good game on the system was made by Nintendo. And while it is true that the high cost of cartridges as compared to the discs Sony was using on the PlayStation drove many third parties away, those that stayed were willing to invest. In my opinion this has resulted in a small but generally high-quality library of third-party games. Welcome to Third Party 64, where we’ll explore the often unsung third-party library of the Nintendo 64. The rules are simple, we’ll only cover games that were not developed, published, or contracted by Nintendo. With that, let’s get to today’s game.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 376: The Alex and John D&D Show
« on: August 11, 2023, 06:00:03 AM »

It's just all Baldur's Gate.

John and Alex recently discovered that they were both playing Baldur's Gate 3. They both really like it. Like game of the year level of like it. So in this episode they talk about it a bunch.

TalkBack / The Master's Pupil (Switch) Review Mini
« on: July 28, 2023, 05:25:13 AM »

A unique journey through the eye of the beholder.

The Master’s Pupil is a straightforward, puzzle-platformer that places a strong focus on its visual design. The entire game is composed of hand-painted elements by designer Pat Naoum that intertwine with the work of classical artist Claude Monet. It forgoes complex shaders to instead provide a crisp, clean, and uncomplicated presentation.

The experience plays out as a 2D platformer, with the player’s only agency being movement and jumping. Select items can be pushed by running into them, but the platforming never gets more complex than that. Instead, The Master’s Pupil presents challenge in puzzles. Most of these revolve around bringing a colored object to a blockade of the same color. This object could be a small ball that must be rolled through hazards, or even you yourself by mixing colors onto your character. For example, to get through a blue barrier you may need to coat yourself in a spout that sprays the color blue, without accidentally passing through another spraying red, lest you wind up purple. The diversity of challenging puzzles pulled from a relatively limited set of variables is truly impressive, and I never got bored with the puzzles or felt like I was repeating the same one.

As you play, the story of Monet’s life is told entirely through subtext. The player is literally traversing the pupil of Monet’s eye, as he slowly loses his eyesight to the very barriers you’re desperately trying to circumvent. Some of The Master’s Pupil’s best moments are when by solving a puzzle, you are literally doing something to complete one of Monet’s paintings, through which you’ll traverse as you proceed through the game. At one point, I guided a large ball through a stage only to find at the very end that it had been the sun in one of Monet’s paintings.

When The Master’s Pupil lands just right, it's remarkable. That being said, you’ll spend a lot of time in very similar environments. It makes sense given the context of the story being told, but it can make progress feel a bit less substantial. I also encountered several puzzles where I was able to move into an essentially unwinnable position, forcing me to restart the puzzle from the menu. Nonetheless, it is hard not to fall in love with what feels like an interactive, biographical art gallery. The ways in which Monet’s paintings are intertwined into levels only gets better as the game goes on, resulting in a simple but unique adventure.

TalkBack / Witcher 3 Update 4.0 Arrives on Nintendo Switch
« on: July 19, 2023, 05:28:41 AM »

News quests and lots of quality of life changes!

The long awaited 4.0 update for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, has arrived on Nintendo Switch along with last generation consoles. The update had previously released on PC, Xbox Series X, and Playstation 5, and included graphical enhancements for those platforms. The Switch version obviously will not be recieving the full raytracing visual overhaul, but it does receive the new content and gameplay changes found in the 4.0 update. Below are the full, Switch specific patch notes.

Patch Notes


Added a cross-progression feature between platforms which replaces the previous save file integration introduced in patch 3.6 for the Nintendo Switch. Your latest saves will be automatically uploaded to the cloud so you can easily pick up where you left off on other platforms. Cross-progression provides the latest save for every save type. This feature becomes available after you log into your account. Please note that it requires a GOG account regardless of your platform.


  • Added a new side quest, In The Eternal Fire's Shadow, in Velen. Rewards are inspired by Neftlix's The Witcher series.
  • Added an alternative appearance for Dandelion inspired by Netflix's The Witcher series.
  • Added an alternative Nilfgaardian Armor set inspired by Netflix's The Witcher series.
  • Added Chinese and Korean voice-overs. Availability varies by region and version.


  • Added a Quick Sign Casting option. It allows signs to be switched and cast without opening the radial menu. You can find it in Options → Gameplay.
  • Adjusted the minimum height for fall damage, allowing the player to survive falls from higher heights.
  • Herbs can now be instantly looted with a single interaction – without the additional loot window.
  • Added options that dynamically hide the minimap and quest objectives when not in combat or using Witcher senses. You can find it in Options → Video → HUD Configuration → Hide minimap during Exploration and Hide objectives during Exploration.
  • Added the option to slow walk when playing with a controller. You can now slow walk by lightly pushing the left stick forward.
  • Added an alternative sprint mode option when playing with a controller. It's activated by tapping the left stick. You can find it in Options → Control Settings.
  • Added an option to make target-lock unnaffected by camera inversion. You can find it in Options → Control Settings.
  • Improved the radial menu so bombs, bolts and pocket items can now be switched dynamically without opening the inventory.
  • Added the option to scale the font size for subtitles, NPC chatter and dialogue choices. You can find it in Options → Video → HUD Configuration.
  • Added various other small fixes, tweaks, and quality-of-life changes, including a few secrets to be discovered by players.
  • Added an option to switch potions and apply oils from the radial menu.
  • Added an option to auto-apply oils in combat.
  • New default map filter. The new default filter hides some icons such as "?" and boat icons in order to reduce the icon flood. These icons can be turned back on with the “All” map mode toggle.


  • Added the mod Full Combat Rebalance 3 by Flash_in_the_flesh which includes balance changes and various fixes to gameplay. We took a curated approach to this mod, with some elements further tweaked from what you’ll find in the mod by default, while other elements were omitted.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Wolf School Gear - Fixed an issue where the chest at the Signal Tower couldn't be opened.
  • From Ofier's Distant Shores - Fixed an issue where the diagram in the chest at the bandit's hideout could be missing.
  • Hard Times - Fixed an issue where Geralt couldn't talk or give the letter to the blacksmith.
  • Echoes of the Past - Fixed an issue where, after defeating the foglets, the quest could get stuck and it wouldn't be possible to talk to Yennefer.
  • Wine Wars- Fixed an issue where the quest couldn't be completed if the player destroyed one of the required monster nests during exploration.
  • Fixed an issue where the Grandmaster Wolven Set wouldn't require Mastercrafted items.
  • Various small fixes to quests and cutscenes.

TalkBack / Pikmin 4 Early Tech Analysis
« on: June 30, 2023, 07:03:47 AM »

FPS and Resolution Breakdown

Thanks to the new demo for Pikmin 4, we can get our first in-depth look at Nintendo's latest Unreal Engine powered title. John goes over the graphical feature-set, framerate, and resolution to see how this fresh new look for Pikmin holds up.

TalkBack / The Last Hero of Nostalgaia (Switch) Review
« on: June 28, 2023, 12:20:45 PM »

It's like if Dark Souls became self-aware.

I picked up Last Hero of Nostalgaia last year when it was released on Xbox Series X. I wound up listing it as one of my favorite games of the year. Its endearing art style, witty humor, and brilliant satirization of modern game development landed perfectly for me. On top of that, it was also one of the best Souls-like games I’d ever played in terms of replicating exactly what makes the Dark Souls series so fun.  Now that it has left console exclusivity on Xbox and come to both Switch and Playstation, I finally have an excuse to go more in depth with Last Hero of Nostalgaia.

Calling this a Souls-like is somewhat of an understatement. It is, after all, an intentional parody of the Dark Souls series. But unlike many games that have aped From Software’s flagship roguelite, Last Hero of Nostalgaia seems to grasp the flow and feel of Dark Souls better than most indie attempts. The speed of your attacks, the hitbox and attack patterns of enemies, and the invincibility frames found in a well timed roll: they’re all dead on. And yet despite this, it manages to feel a bit more accessible. Mechanics are more clearly explained and the initial incline in difficulty isn’t as sharp as most Souls-likes.

You play as a nameless hero, composed of nothing but a few pixelated lines, who is summoned to save the world of Nostalgaia as it slowly plummets backwards through the history of video game graphics. One early area takes clear inspiration from Super Nintendo-era RPG towns, complete with 16-bit style texture work across its structures. Other areas feel older still, with even simpler art. In some areas, a lantern may be a low-polygon 3D model, while in another it will be represented by a flat sprite that pops to different perspectives as you move around it. As you activate checkpoints, you’ll restore small patches of modern graphics, which transition in real time before your eyes. The whole game is stylistically beautiful and the visual makeup feels essentially uncompromised on Switch. You’re not getting the 4K image quality of the Xbox version of course, but the image is sharp, with no discernable evidence of dynamic scaling.

As you progress you’ll find weapons and gear that are also affected by the same pixelization that is affecting the world. Each of these comes with a bit of lore that will describe a specific event and place held in the memory of the object. If you find that spot in the world, you can cause the object to remember, which restores it to its original form and upgrades its stats. This makes for an interesting play on the Dark Souls trope of hiding all the lore within item descriptions. In Last Hero of Nostalgaia, that lore actually matters, and every player will want to engage with it, not just those looking to decipher the plot.

Performance is a bit more mixed. Last Hero of Nostalgaia features a completely seamless world with absolutely no loading screens. Most of the game is able to deliver very smoothly, but when the frame-rate runs into trouble, it tends to really come crashing down. This generally seems to center around streaming in assets. When moving into an area with a distinctly different visual style, you’ll hit against a borderline slideshow until the engine can load in the new area and unload the old. Luckily, most of these transition areas tend to be devoid of enemies so while the stutter is annoying, it won’t directly affect gameplay. However, now and then one of these bottlenecks will hit while moving through a room full of enemies and that can become a problem. It seems like these situations crop up when there is a short period where the game has two areas loaded into memory at once, until you make it farther into one or the other. That being said, the degree to which you’ll feel these issues will depend on your performance settings. By default Last Hero of Nostalgaia implements a 30fps cap on Nintendo Switch. For most of the game, it has no trouble hitting this target. You can also disable this cap along with v-sync to get performance up to 60fps. Surprisingly many areas can actually hit that level as well, but it makes the performance drops all the more obvious.

Last Hero of Nostalgaia is one of the better Souls-likes I’ve ever played. It understands exactly what makes the genre compelling, and manages to spin a delightful world around it, without getting too caught up in trying to reinvent the wheel. The Switch port mostly delivers on this, but at times world streaming does cause real issues. While the perfect storm of performance struggles and combat rarely overlap, when they do it can be legitimately frustrating. Still, the customization of performance options offered is appreciated, even if it doesn’t eliminate the issue. Your mileage with the Switch port will depend on your individual tolerance for asset streaming stutter. For those looking for a smoother experience, the Xbox version (and presumably the Playstation port) can offer that. But the Switch provides a flawed though still highly enjoyable time overall.


Nintendo looks ahead at 2024.

Two new Mario universe games were announced today, though both focus on characters other than Mario himself. The 3DS game Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon is getting an HD remaster and Princess peach will be staring in a brand-new game that has yet to receive an official title. Both of these games are planned for release next year.

TalkBack / Super Mario Bros. Wonder Announced for Switch
« on: June 21, 2023, 07:03:28 AM »

The newest 2D Mario drops the "New" moniker.

Mario returns to his 2D roots in his first original 2D platformer in over a decade. Super Mario Bros Wonder was announced at today's Nintendo Direct with a release date of October 20, 2023. The trailer showed off several playable characters including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Toad, and Yoshi. New power ups were also shown such as the titular Wonder Flower which transforms the landscape in strange new ways, and a new animal power up which transform mario into an elephant.

TalkBack / Super Mario RPG Remastered for Nintendo Switch
« on: June 21, 2023, 06:51:43 AM »

Geno still isn't in Smash and he never will be.

The Super Nintendo classic role-playing-game, Super Mario PRG is headed to Switch via a brand-new remake. Announced during today's Nintendo Direct, Super Mario RPG will be coming to Nintendo Switch on November 17, 2023. The remake features the same isometric perspective as the original but with brand new, real-time, 3D graphics to replace the pre-rendered 3D of the original. Some high quality pre-rendered cutscenes were also shown off.

TalkBack / Pikmin 4 to Feature Custom Characters
« on: June 06, 2023, 05:15:24 AM »

New trailer reveals new character creation details.

A short new trailer for Pikmin 4 has revealed that this time around you'll be playing as your own custom character. We got a quick look at some of the customization options including skin color, eye shape, head shape, hair style, and more.

Pikmin 4 releases for Nintendo Switch next month, on July 21.


And more Zelda talk.

Answering the call of his ancestral people, Neal returns to the mountains to undergo the sacred trials. Meanwhile, John asked Alex and Matt if they want to talk about video games. Matt has been watching new episodes of Pokémon that haven't even made it to the west yet, and everyone has been playing a lot of Zelda.

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!


one upping a masterpiece.

Throughout the lead-up to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, I marveled at its long development time of six years. Given its apparent re-use of many assets from its predecessor much like Majora’s Mask or the Oracle duology, many expected a quick turnaround. But as I watched the credits roll by after spending about 80 hours with Tears of the Kingdom, I had a realization. Six years was far too conservative an estimate. Tears of the Kingdom is the direct result of twelve years of continuous development. More so than any other Zelda game or honestly any other sequel, Tears of the Kingdom picks up the torch left by Breath of the Wild and just keeps running. The result is a sequel to one of the most celebrated games of all time that makes that much lauded predecessor look like an early beta by comparison.

Tears of the Kingdom picks up a few years after the conclusion of Breath of the Wild. Back in 2017 I felt that Breath of the Wild’s ending, even with its unlockable post credits scene, was extremely abrupt. Rejoining Link and Zelda as Hyrule begins to rebuild not only serves as an excellent cold open for Tears of the Kingdom, but provided some long delayed satisfaction for what Link accomplished in Breath of the Wild. We find that the people of Hyrule have begun to grow sick, due to a strange gloom rising from the depths beneath the castle. As Link and Zelda go to investigate, they uncover ruins beneath the castle, pointing back to the long-dead race, the Zonai. The Zonai themselves were set up in Breath of the Wild, as a powerful ancient civilization from Hyrule’s distant past. Proceeding forward Link and Zelda eventually stumble upon a tomb, containing the body of one of The Legend of Zelda’s most iconic villains, Ganondorf, though perhaps not quite as we’ve seen him before. All of this happens within the opening 10 minutes of Tears of the Kingdom. That’s where I’ll leave the story specifics to avoid any actual spoilers.

Tears of the Kingdom’s most obvious gameplay shift in relation to Breath of the Wild, is in Link’s new abilities. Gone is the Sheikah Slate and in its place are four new skills offered by the new arm that has been grafted onto Link. Some of these feel inspired by abilities in Breath of the Wild, while others are entirely new. Ultrahand and Recall bring to mind Magnesis and Stasis respectively, but their applications are wildly different. Ultrahand can pick up any non-living, dynamic object in the environment and freely manipulate it in 3D space. Objects can be rotated in 45 degree increments along static X and Y axes. These can then be connected to any other dynamic object to create everything from bridges, to vehicles. Add in the powered Zonai objects such as wheels, fans, rockets, and more, and the sheer volume of options Tears of the Kingdom offers you, feel like they're daring you to break the game. In fact that seems as if it was the mantra behind all of these abilities. Recal, allows you to rewind the motion of any non-living dynamic object such as falling rocks or a log floating down a river. Fuse allows you to combine any weapon or shield in your inventory with, you guessed it, any non-living dynamic object. Want to put a spear on the end of your spear to make a ridiculously long spear, do it! Want to attach a bomb flower to your shield? That seems like a bad idea but nobody is going to stop you. Finally ascend allows Link to shoot straight up through any object that provides a flat surface. Can you use this to break the rules in dungeons and wind up in a boss room too early? Of course it does and I did!

Unlike Breath of the Wild, which provided you with a large sandbox but restricted the unique mechanics of the game when engaging with Divine Beasts, Tears of the Kingdom never says “no you can’t do that here”. There’s a spot in one dungeon that I’m still not sure how I was supposed to reach, but I’m guessing it wasn’t by climbing up a wall to a small ledge, ascending through another small ledge, then sneaking may way around the wall until I found an opening to the room. Did the game care that I did that? Not a bit. Tears of the Kingdom is a game that always offers you a “correct” solution but is perfectly happy to see you come up with new ideas. What's incredible is that nothing I ever did seemed to catch the game off guard. I never had a moment of realizing “oh the game doesn’t want me to be here” or had an event fail to activate because I had skipped some trigger. I firmly believe this is only possible in a game where the world and mechanics have had 12 years to mature. Tears of the Kingdom can’t exist without Breath of the Wild because Breath of the Wild is just Tears of the Kingdom six years ago. It feels ridiculous to expound on what seems like nothing more than the definition of a sequel but this is a sequel designed in a way that I’ve never seen before. It’s going to sound absolutely ridiculous until after you play both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom but when you do I think you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

But beyond these core mechanics, Tears of the Kingdom also improves on virtually everything else. As already alluded to, dungeons, while by no means the strongest in the series, feel more in line with what you’d expect out of a Zelda dungeon. Regional theming, unique hooks, and boss fights that are full of fun spectacle. Most importantly they don’t restrict your ability to climb or use your abilities. This does have the side effect of dungeons being inherently nonlinear which I felt prevented them from having any sort of arch. Some of the best dungeons in the series such as the Ancient Cistern from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, almost tell a story as you work your way through them. Dungeons in Tears of the Kingdom are more like a series of several challenges that can be approached in any order which inevitably unlocks a large door behind which you’ll fight a boss.

But perhaps the most unique element of these dungeons is that Link does not take them on alone. In each one Link will team up with another character. These characters each have their own unique ability which will be leveraged heavily in their dungeon. Upon completion of a dungeon these characters can then join Link as he continues on his adventure. As you progress through the story you’ll quickly find yourself with what essentially amounts to a full party of characters, lending you their unique abilities and participating in combat. It changes the feel of combat significantly as they can help with crowd control, or even draw the attention of large boss characters away from you as you move into a more advantageous position. My one issue with the majority of the dungeons and key story beats, is that they closely mirror what was present in Breath of the Wild. As you pick up your first four objective markers at the start of the game you’ll immediately recognize them as being the same as Breath of the Wild. This alleviates somewhat in the back half of the game, but I couldn’t help but feel that Tears of the Kingdom’s story was extremely subservient to what had been done before. Rather than making use of unique, underutilized locations such as Akkala Citadel or the colosseum, Link will instead revisit the Rito, Gerudo, Zora, and Goron just like last time.

The world itself is far more expanded than pre-launch marketing would lead you to believe. While the bones of Hyrule are re-used from Breath of the Wild, the landscape feels very different thanks to events that occur early on in the story. But beyond that, the explorable area of Hyrule has more than doubled in size. The sky islands make up a small chunk of this, offering some small puzzles and challenges, but the real meat of the new content is found deep beneath Hyrule, in the new area called The Depths. This is a pitch black region that spans the entire overworld map. The Depths are endlessly fun to explore and often deeply unsettling. Here, you’ll seek out Light Roots which serve as fast travel points and light sources. As you explore you’ll find ancient and haunting Zonai ruins lurking in the darkness, along with a few other surprises. Unique monsters and the aforementioned gloom are everywhere and when damaged by either, Link will not only lose a heart’s worth of health, but that heart will not be able to be refilled until Link returns to sunlight or consumes specific foods.

One of my few complaints about Breath of the Wild was in its music. While it absolutely had moments of brilliance, this was largely relegated to towns. While I know some, including our own Neal Ronaghan who reviewed Breath of the Wild, quite enjoyed it, I found it underwhelming, and full of dissonant and short musical loops that grew repetitive without an interesting hook to make them endearing. Tears of the Kingdom is a noticeable improvement in this regard though not a complete success. The overworld still largely uses the exact same music as Breath of the Wild, but new locations such as the dungeons are excellent. These employ the same strategy as Hyrule Castle did in Breath of the Wild in that their composition naturally evolves as you progress through them, building to a grand face off. Some returning songs, such as the basic field combat music do get some nice re-arrangements as well.

Technical performance is impressive if far from perfect. This is a massive, open world, physics driven, immersive sim that is running on a handheld game system from 2017 built on a chipset from 2014. Tears of the Kingdom is an absolute feat of engineering that manages to deliver solid image quality and generally solid performance about 90% of the time. As covered in our pre-launch technical analysis, docked mode targets, and largely maintains 900p, upsampled reasonably well to 1080p. Handheld meanwhile aims for 720p and similarly manages to maintain it the vast majority of the time. It targets 30 frames per second and during general exploration this is maintained without real issue. Naturally however, due to the incredibly fluid nature of Tears of the Kingdom’s gameplay, dips will occur as things get more complex. Lots of enemies or physics calculations on screen will drop the frame rate straight down to 20 frames per second. It is a very noticeable hitch that, while not abundantly common, is extremely obvious when it does occur. That being said, while I can’t act like that sort of drop isn’t impactful, we also have to keep in mind exactly what Tears of the Kingdom is doing. It isn’t ideal but it's also extremely understandable.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is, in most ways, a pure improvement over Breath of the Wild. Beyond what I’ve mentioned here are countless small quality of life improvements and features that could easily turn this review into a multi-hour long analysis. All that being said, while it is on almost every level a success, there are a few areas in which Tears of the Kingdom feels terrified to deviate too far from the runaway success that was Breath of the Wild. The story is largely predictable. Yes there are a few interesting twists, but it by no means hits the highs of the stories in Skyward Sword or Majora’s Mask. The dungeons are themselves a massive improvement over the previous title but would still rank lowly compared to the rest of the series. But here’s the thing, that’s fine. For any minor faults, Tears of the Kingdom is still a game that manages to dwarf what many would consider one of the best games ever made. In that sense the only criticism of Tears of the Kingdom I can really offer is that in a few nitpicky areas it is still only as good as one of history's most celebrated games. And beyond those few things, is a game that invites the player to engage with it to a degree I’ve never seen before. This is a game that revels in you outsmarting it. This is a game that shows the value of a game being given time to cook and of a studio that has supported a consistent group of developers working on the same series for decades. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is not a game anyone else could make. This is why you bought your Switch, even if you didn’t know it at the time.

TalkBack / The Story of Ganondorf - Legends of Hyrule Part 4
« on: May 10, 2023, 07:28:12 AM »

What you need to know before The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The story of how a Gerudo, born into an era of civil war, became the victim of an ancient curse.


Potential spoilers ahead.

In an interview posted today with several key members of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom's development team, series producer Eiji Aonuma let slip a key detail that may finally cement the game's place in the Zelda timeline. While speaking on the game's theming around the concept of hands Aonuma made the following comment.

"Well, simply put, "hands" expresses the idea of "connecting." This applies to the story too, which connects to Hyrule's past. It also talks about a major struggle called "The Imprisoning War," which until now was considered a myth even in Hyrule."

The Imprisoning War is an event which, according to the official Zelda timeline, takes place at the start of the Fallen Hero Timeline. In this timeline, Link fails to prevent Ganondorf's rise to power in Ocarina of Time. As a result, the seven sages have to gather an army and fight to finally seal Ganondorf in the sacred realm.

It has long been theorized that Breath of the Wild, and by extension Tears of the Kingdom, take place in either the Fallen Hero Timeline or the Child Timeline. Others have postulated a joined timeline, but this was largely based on a poorly translated Japanese website for Breath of the Wild.

TalkBack / Legends of Hyrule Part 3 - The Descendants
« on: May 04, 2023, 08:35:07 AM »

The lore to know before The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

In the aftermath of the calamity, new heroes arise to help Link fight against Ganondorf. Join us as we explore the background of this new generation of champions.

TalkBack / Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed (Switch) Review
« on: April 30, 2023, 06:48:29 AM »

Resolution for the endless now

Before we dive into Xenoblade 3: Future Redeemed, I want to provide a general spoiler warning for the content in this review, and the game in general. Future Redeemed, more so than any other Xenoblade, assumes you’ve completed the rest of the series. For example if I refer to Xenoblade 1, 2, and 3, as the Klaus trilogy and you don’t know what that means, maybe hold off on playing Future Redeemed. Likewise my review may in a few places reference things from previous games that are absolutely spoilers if you’ve not already played through them (I’m going to straight up talk about the ending of Xenoblade 3). That being said, I will of course not have anything in this review that I feel is a substantial spoiler for Future Redeemed itself.

When I reviewed Xenoblade 3 last year, I gushed about almost everything about the game. It took everything that worked about Xenoblade 1 and 2 and mercilessly threw out what didn’t. It even went and grabbed the Follow Ball and elements of the class system from Xenoblade X. It was an incredibly refined game and easily one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. That being said, I also noted that the ending fumbles hard in the final moments. Noah is left on a vague cutscene that provides no closure whatsoever for his relationship with Mio. Mio herself and the entire rest of the party are essentially left out entirely of the final moments of the game. Z, our primary antagonist, is never more clearly defined than being “people’s fear” and his motivation to preserve the endless now is vague at best. Outside of a glimpse of the Monado and a photo of Rex and his harem, the stories of Xenoblade 1, and 2 only serve to provide a starting point for the end of the trilogy, not a resolution. I initially held out hope that the DLC story would follow up on the end of the base game and provide a real ending for the trilogy as a whole, but it seemed pretty obvious that the city’s founders would be the natural fit for a prequel story in the vein of Torna ~ The Golden Country. When Future Redeemed was indeed announced as a prequel I feared that my dreams of actual closure for this incredible trilogy were dashed.

I was wrong.

Future Redeemed sees you taking on the role of Matthew, the great-grandson of Noah and Mio before Noah was consumed by loss and became N. Matthew is accompanied by a woman named A after the city (the first one) is destroyed by Mobius. His motivation at the outset is to seek out and help survivors from the city, and to locate his missing sister, Na’el. Matthew is an interesting departure for Xenoblade protagonists as he serves what fans would normally identify as the brutish best friend role. Matthew feels more like Lanz or Reyn than he does like Noah, Shulk, or Rex. This struck me as odd at first but given that you quickly gain Shulk and Rex themselves as party members, Matthew not being that same character type ultimately plays nicely. Shulk and Rex themselves, while I won’t go deep into their role, are excellently realized. Rex has changed a lot. He’s grown from being a youthful child in Xenoblade 2. Future Redeemed does an excellent job of maturing him, and not just making him Rex-but-bigger. Shulk feels more or less consistent with where he was when we last saw him in Future Connected. Wise beyond his years, a man who killed a god and had the self control to turn down the role himself. Watching Rex and Shulk play off each other is delightful and the quiet tragedy of the circumstances you’ll come to realize they’re placed in lands effortlessly.

Future Reedemed’s key deviation from the base game (and the rest of the series) is how it handles character growth. Rather than move, accessory, gem, and ability slots opening up as you level, these things all need to be manually unlocked via items found throughout the world. Want additional moves for fusion arts? You’ll have to make room for them by unlocking slots with art unlocks. These items are scattered in containers and out of the way portions of the world encouraging the player to explore, not just grind, to become more powerful. It's a concept I remember praising in the very first Xenoblade that exploration earns experience points. Here that idea of growing through exploration is spelled out even more plainly. It is also entirely up to you who you give these items to and how aggressively you seek them out. I managed to finish the game without ever unlocking the last move slot on any member of my party. I also carefully prioritized who got new upgrades first. In my case I favored my healers, a tactic that has served me well throughout the series.

The world of Future Redeemed is contained within a single loading zone. It comes off as quite labyrinthian early on but winds up being surprisingly expansive. Future Redeemed doesn’t share any of its map with the base game, so exploring it is an entirely new experience. That being said, it does share several locations with previous Xenoblade titles. It seems to favor the world of the original Xenoblade over Xenoblade 2. Several key locations from the original game appear almost in their entirety, sprinkled with elements of Xenoblade 2 and smashed together in unexpected ways.

Speaking of unexpected, what Future Redeemed does best is recontextualize the ending of Xenoblade 3. Without going into details on Future Redeemed’s late game, it shifts the player’s perception somewhat of what they accomplished in the base game. Shulk and Rex’s direct involvement in the story creates an arc that covers the entire series in a feeling of continuity. This is also the first of the Xenoblade side stories to cause me to pause the game and process story events much like I’d have to do in the mainline numbered entries. In fact I did this multiple times throughout my 18-hour playthrough. More so than Future Connected or Torna ~ The Golden Country, Future Redeemed feels like required reading. This isn’t just a side story to establish some character growth for Melia like Future Connected was, or a backstory for existing characters as Torna ~ The Golden Country was. Future Redeemed feels like a final piece to a story more than a decade in the making. It re-unites old friends, reminds you that N is still one of the best villains the series has ever come up with, and reignites that feeling you had when the original Xenoblade suddenly cut to a space station and your perception of the game permanently shifted. If Takahashi decides to revisit this universe in the future, I’ll happily join in, but if this truely does mark the end for the Klaus trilogy, I leave happy.

TalkBack / Tin Hearts (Switch) Review
« on: April 27, 2023, 09:33:48 AM »

A unique take on some classic puzzling.

Tin Hearts combines a first-person narrative adventure with elements of navigation-puzzle games like Lemmings. It's a fascinating combination that requires you to both solve puzzles on a micro level while exploring on a macro level. The result is a relaxed, though adequately challenging, game that easily sails past most of its rough spots.

Much like Lemmings, a game the developers have specifically cited as an influence on Tin Hearts, you do not directly control any of the tiny tin soldiers. Rather they march relentlessly forward and your goal is to manipulate their path to lead them to a predetermined goal point. You do this by possessing objects found throughout the fully 3D environment. The most unique element of Tin Hearts is that it isn’t just about solving a puzzle; you need to explore the space around you and find what tools you have available. As you progress you’ll find unlockable chests that contain new abilities allowing you to possess new objects. At first you’ll control blocks with holes for a peg in them that can only be placed in specific spots. Later you’ll get blocks that can be freely rotated and placed anywhere. You’ll also gain the ability to control canons and redirect drums used as trampolines. You can even pause, fast forward, and rewind time, allowing you to quickly try things and correct them if they don’t work. Oddly, mechanics like rewinding time and walking around the room are locked for the first several stages, preventing the game from showcasing its most interesting mechanics during its first impression.

The story slowly plays out during and between levels via ghostlike characters that appear within the space. Over the course of the game you’ll get to know a toymaker and his family. I won’t go into detail on the content of the story, but it's well executed. Characters are reasonably well animated and portrayed and are immediately interesting. While my focus was certainly on the puzzles themselves, I always stopped what I was doing to watch them unfold. The auditory presentation is also very strong with a relaxed symphonic soundtrack throughout.

Tin Hearts largely runs well, save for some very rare frame rate issues in specific stages. Even then, this is a slow-moving puzzle game, so a bit of rare slowdown didn’t affect my enjoyment in the slightest. I did, however, find that the tin soldiers could be very difficult to see when playing handheld, and would love the option to have them appear highlighted in some way. There is a zoom function, but depending on the scenario it isn’t always helpful. Possessing some objects also caused issues with losing camera control that required me to set them back down and literally come at the situation from a different angle.

Tin Hearts is a delightfully charming puzzle game, the likes of which I’ve not played in a long time. The story is effortlessly engaging and the puzzle mechanics demand you play just one more level. They’re not unfairly obtuse while also still offering a solid challenge. The opening stages don’t show the game in its best light right away, but once things get moving Tin Hearts is difficult to put down. A few minor technical and user interface issues caused some brief stumbling but rarely put a damper on my enjoyment.

TalkBack / Legends of Hyrule Part 2 - The Sheikah and the Yiga
« on: April 27, 2023, 06:08:03 AM »

The lore you need to know before Tears of the Kingdom.

What caused the most loyal protectors of the royal family to turn against them? In this episode we explore the history of the Sheikah and the formation of their extremist sect, the Yiga Clan.


Frame rate and resolution tested.

We take an early look at the technical makeup of Tears of the Kingdom thanks to some pristine capture from our friends at Good Vibes Gaming.

TalkBack / Legends of Hyrule Part 1 - The Zonai
« on: April 18, 2023, 06:20:00 AM »

What You Need To Know Before The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Zonai are one of the greatest mysteries in the Zelda universe, so before Tears of the Kingdom brings them into the light, get caught up on everything we know (and theorize) so far.


Our pleas for Nintendo to "hire this man" have been answered.

After receiving a series of confidential leaks from contacts near Nintendo, we’ve been able to confirm that Nintendo themselves have in fact hired this man (pictured here), to remaster Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo Switch. Known only as CelestialFox93, this man has spent the last several months working on what he calls a “cinematic remaster” of Rare’s classic Nintendo 64 game Diddy Kong Racing. This led many of his fans to demand that Nintendo should “hire this man”. Evidently word made it back to Nintendo President Shigeru Miyamoto who ultimately took the matter into his own hands.

“I looked at what CelestialFox93 was doing, applying photo-real textures to the original N64 geometry and I knew, there was no way any of us could match that level of artistry, so I figured, f*** it, you know?”

We’ve reached out to CelestialFox93 for comment on this news.

“I’m glad Nintendo made the right decision”

CelestialFox93 initially began his remaster almost a year ago under the Twitter username @KongRemastered with a tease of Jungle Falls and a multiplayer map.

Since that time CelestialFox93 has posted regular updates to his twitter account with incredible comparisons between the original and his remastered version.

CelestialFox93 seems very confident in his ability to complete the remaster of Diddy Kong Racing that fans are expecting. We asked him about his process for recreating the classic gameplay feel of the iconic Nintendo 64 game.

“Well, I haven’t so much started on that part yet. As anyone in game design will tell you, the first thing to finish is the graphics, so naturally with a remaster of this high fidelity I’m working hard on that. I’m actually a little ahead of schedule as I’ve already completed the next step as well and have final cover art.”

Diddy Kong Racing Deluxe is set to release on Switch and Xbox Gamepass in early 2025.

UPDATE: Nintendo has now confirmed the autenticity of this leak via a tweet.

UPDATE 2: Nintendo has posted a new, extended look at several of the game's levels.

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