Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Messages - NWR_Neal

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 221

A plan 10 years in the making is still catching everyone off guard.

John and Neal provide the NWR podcast update on the Xbox Business Update. Ultimately it's pretty much all exactly in line with what Xbox (and John and Neal) have been saying they would do for the past decade.

TalkBack / More Xbox Games Might Be Coming to Nintendo Switch
« on: February 07, 2024, 05:15:03 AM »

What Does it Mean for Xbox & Nintendo?

John Rairdin and Neal Ronaghan discuss the effects of Xbox releasing more games on more platforms. Is this a change of direction for Xbox? What does it mean for Nintendo?


The Mushroom Kingdom brought to life, if life involved mobs of people at every turn.

I recently made the trip to California to go to Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood. I was prepared for crowds and obsessively researched the best tactics to make sure the trip for me, my wife, and our two kids (age 2 and 5) had the best time. Even with preparation, I wasn’t totally prepared for the magnitude of people crammed into a small area. I figured I’d impart some of my learned wisdom to anyone curious about Super Nintendo World in California, as well as sharing some weird quirks I came across.

Avoid Holidays and Weekends If You Can

I went on Thursday November 9 and Friday November 10. It was the way my trip overall worked out, but if I could turn back time, I’d avoid that Friday like the plague. That was the observed holiday for Veteran’s Day, so it was likely a busier than usual Friday in November to begin with. In comparison, Thursday was downright heavenly, even if it still was a little bit crowded. You might be in a spot like me where your trip might necessitate a holiday or a weekend. If that’s the case and you have limited options, consider splurging on either/or the Universal Express pass that gets you on a shorter line for every ride once (except Mario Kart) or the Super Nintendo World Early Access ticket that lets you get into just the Nintendo area an hour before the official park opening. It’s pricey, but on busy days you might risk not being able to do much of anything. On a Friday in November, the Mario Kart had waits of up to three hours, and overall there were long stretches where no ride at the park had less than a 30-minute wait.

Yoshi’s Island Had More Representation Than Expected

The first area of the lengthy queue for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge has a lot of Yoshi’s Island pastels, complete with Yoshi popping up on a screen while you wait. It was adorable and somewhat unexpected. I was prepared for the Bowser’s Castle elements, packed with a lot of finer details referencing the Koopalings, but Yoshi’s Island getting some love was a surprise.

Get The Super Nintendo World Early Access

Just do it. It might be $20-30 per ticket, but if you’re going to Super Nintendo World in the near future, just do it. Get there early. Be ready to wait on a variety of lines. It will be worth it. My math that led me to have an extremely good morning.

The night before, we bought Power Bands at the Super Nintendo World store in Universal CityWalk (you have to pay for parking but it’s otherwise free to access). That allowed us to easily set up the Power Bands within the Universal Studios mobile app without a time crunch. If your trip does not permit you to swing by the night before, you do have opportunities to buy Power Bands while waiting in the morning or right as you access Super Nintendo World.

The day we were there, the early access began at 9 a.m. We arrived to park around 7:30 a.m. We parked in General Parking, which necessitated walking through CityWalk. If you’re running late or want to minimize walking, use Preferred or Front Gate Parking (both at an added cost). We got through security around 8 a.m. and waited in line at the front gate until a little after 8:30 a.m., where they let us in to then go wait inside of the park at another rope. After that, they led us down the four escalators (!!!) to the Lower Lot of the theme park, where they scanned our Early Access tickets. From there, it was the slow march into Super Nintendo World. It’s worth noting you can’t bring a stroller into Super Nintendo World, but there is the equivalent of a stroller parking lot outside of it.

While walking inside, there is a QR code to scan to get into the booking system for the Toadstool Cafe. It goes live when the park opens and if you want to eat in the cafe, you need to book ASAP. When I was there, it was fully booked shortly after the general park opening. Keep in mind that even after you get a time slot, you still have to wait in line to order. Lines, lines, lines.

Going With Kids? Take Advantage of Child Swap and Single Rider Lines

My 5-year-old could basically go on any ride (except Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the Return of the Mummy) but my 2-year-old was just shy of being able to hit the coveted 40” height minimum for 80% of the rides. Universal Studios Hollywood offers Child Swap for every ride, whether your kid is too small or just scared. Most rides function like this: you all wait in the line together and at a certain point before boarding, the non-rider and a companion go to a separate area (either a specific room or the end of the ride) and are given a slip that essentially operates like a Universal Express pass for a rider and a guest. In an ideal world, my 2-year-old would have been tall enough to do everything, but this actually worked out great. My 5-year-old was able to ride Mario Kart and Jurassic World twice that way. With Mario Kart, we went there first thing during the early access period and basically walked on. And then my wife went with him a few hours later (and waited about 30 minutes even with the pass). For Jurassic World, we did it back-to-back, waiting only a few minutes in between.

Single-rider lines were very helpful for my wife and I both quickly riding the Harry Potter ride, but we were thwarted because the single rider line was closed for Return of the Mummy midday on Friday. There was no clear way this was signposted unless you were right in front of the ride, which was frustrating.

Super Nintendo World Technically Has One Ride But The Power Band Challenges Add A Lot

Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge is the showcase in Super Nintendo World, being the first place people rush into while also being a fascinating augmented reality dark ride experience. In Universal Studios Hollywood, it is the only ride, but there is much more to do, as long as you have one of the $40 Power Bands.

Yes, it’s another added cost, but if you’re going to Super Nintendo World, you’re not getting the full experience unless you have one of these wristbands. There are five primary games in Super Nintendo World where you need a Power Band. Three of them are visible out in the courtyard. There’s the Goomba crank, where you need to rapidly turn a crank to make a Goomba fall down. A Koopa Troopa one where you need to time hitting a POW Block to knock a shell into a block. My favorite of these three is the sleeping Piranha Plant one where you have to play a frantic game of whack-a-mole to not piss off a Piranha Plant. Nestled inside a cave is a Thwomp challenge where you have to frantically flip the colors of blocks in a time limit. Other ways to earn keys include finding a secret area in the park and hitting every block and finding all the 8-bit characters.

Earning three keys with any member of your party will let you challenge Bowser Jr. This is truly the most video game thing in the park where your silhouette is shown on a big screen (with up to 12 people total). You have to duck under Bullet Bills, swat away Bob-Ombs, and comically jump up to get power-ups. It’s a crazy amount of fun, even when your 2-year-old wanders over to you mid-game and you have to hold him as you duck, swat, and jump. My 5-year-old’s favorite thing in Super Nintendo World was the Bowser Jr. fight. It’s a good time.

Secret Upstairs Area Can Be An Oasis

So I mentioned the secret area and maybe I shouldn’t be saying this because that secret area wound up being a beautiful place in the shade that was chill to hang out during the peak of the day. My recommendation is keep an eye out for stairs. The stairs might take you to a magical place with more blocks to hit and nice views.

Aside from giving you a nice high-ground look at the whole park, this secret area also has a viewfinder that lets you look out at the grounds with some neat little AR additions. At first, I thought it was just a cool little touch, but I realized that it actually factored into all the fun Power Band stuff. The viewfinder assumes you have your Power Band on your wrist, so it automatically tracks that you’re engaging with it. In addition, there are different sparkles that randomly (I think) pop up on the screen. Zoom in on those and you can find secret views, such as Rosalina’s Observatory. This all ties into the 100+ stamps you can find by completing a variety of tasks and goals within the Super Nintendo World section of the Universal Studios Hollywood mobile app. It’s wild how much this helps to encourage repeat visitation and further exploration. I hope some amount of this also carries over to Universal Studios Florida and other Super Nintendo World locations, though my early guess is it might not (I don’t believe it does for Japan and Hollywood).

All in all, Super Nintendo World is incredible, though the current size of the area and the layout of Universal Studios Hollywood can make traversing the world a crowded pain. I do not expect to make the cross-country trip to go to Universal Studios again, especially when Super Nintendo World is slated to come to Orlando in 2025 with a bigger footprint and more room for expansion. When the park isn’t overcrowded, the hype is indeed very real. It blows my mind how cool this place is and I look forward to seeing how it develops and expands over the next decade.

TalkBack / Nintendo's 2024 Lineup Will Be Fine
« on: January 29, 2024, 05:32:18 AM »

Sure we only know about some ports, remakes, and a Peach game, but this is year 8 of a console and a new one is coming. Right?

This time last year, we only knew about five video games confirmed to be coming out from Nintendo on the Switch in 2023. Those comprised four games in the first five months and an unidentified Pikmin release. We had all sorts of chatter back then about nothing of importance hitting the Switch after the May release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Now that we’ve made it through 2023, we now know those concerns were absolute malarkey.

Beyond those five confirmed for 2023 games, we had around 10 more come out throughout the year. We had the shadowdrops of Metroid Prime Remastered, Pikmin 1+2, and F-Zero 99. We had the surprise Mario games in Super Mario Bros. Wonder and Super Mario RPG. We had a new WarioWare, the long-awaited Detective Pikachu sequel, and a 1-2-Switch sequel no one asked for. It was, by most accounts, a really solid year for Nintendo in what will likely be the waning days of the Switch.

And now we’re in 2024, looking ahead to a year that has similar unknowns. Much like 2023, we only know about five games that are publicly confirmed for 2024. Three of them have release dates, with Another Code Recollection in January, Mario vs. Donkey Kong in February, and Princess Peach: Showtime in March. Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door are currently slated for release sometime this year, likely in spring and summer respectively. Beyond that, we have a lot of unknowns and some DLC in the form of Splatoon 3’s expansion. Metroid Prime 4 is still a specter, hanging out ominously in the background.

It is noticeable that of the five games known for 2024, four of them are ports and remakes, with Princess Peach’s latest adventure being the only wholly brand new game. Also, we are about to enter the Switch’s eighth year, so this is frankly just an unprecedented territory for Nintendo. But this year might be different because Nintendo might have a new console launch. So let’s dig into some past precedents to see if we can use those to divine what we might expect from 2024.

So for the Switch, we first officially found out about the system in October 2016 - five months before the system came out. We got the official rollout of launch date and details in January 2017 - less than two months before. As far as the official reveal of a system, the Switch was a wildly quick turnaround. The 3DS was known for nine months before launch. The Wii U was officially known for nearly 18 months before launch. But in both cases, the rollout of launch date and details was similar to the Switch, with the Wii U and 3DS getting their launch lineups confirmed about two months prior to launch.

Using that, we can reasonably assume that Nintendo will give us a launch date and lineup about two months before a Switch’s successor’s release. They’ve been remarkably consistent about that for the past 20 years. I won’t quite call it a guarantee but I would be surprised if that doesn’t hold true.

But when will Nintendo officially acknowledge the existence of a new platform? I’d personally say as early as February, as that’s when Nintendo is next scheduled to address shareholders during their earnings release for the third quarter of this current fiscal year. Though more realistically we might not hear about anything until the spring or even summer. From there, it depends when this new platform comes out, as frankly Nintendo can pattern the release similarly to the Switch.

Using that as the guideline, let’s paint some potential reveal timelines.

Here’s what I’d say is the most likely: Nintendo formally announces the new console in June 2024, following that up with an exact release date and details in September in line for a November launch.

Of course there’s also the pessimistic view of something almost directly mapping to the Switch’s playbook. Maybe the new console doesn’t get the full reveal until October, lining up for a January 2025 launch date confirmation and a March 2025 release. Hey - it worked for the Switch!

But there’s also a more aggressive and dare I say exciting option. Nintendo could formally announce this sucker in April 2024, leading to a summer launch date details drop and a September or October launch. I’d favor that slightly more because Nintendo has been favoring putting out their marquee games earlier in the holidays than ever before. Nintendo’s biggest holiday title of 2023 came out in October in the form of Super Mario Wonder. You could even argue Tears of the Kingdom was Nintendo’s biggest 2023 holiday title and that was released months before the holiday season. In 2022, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet were November releases but The Pokemon Company sometimes marches to the beat of their own drum. Purely from Nintendo, Splatoon 3 was the biggest holiday title and that hit in September. 2021 was a similar story, with Pokemon’s Diamond and Pearl remakes taking the previously prime November period while Mario Party Superstars and Metroid Dread were both released in October, even if you could easily claim Mario Party and Metroid aren’t major releases.

At this point, it feels like October has taken over November for the highest concentration of marquee games. It extends beyond Nintendo, as Sony and Microsoft are releasing their major holiday games in September and October. Even your Ubisofts and EAs are putting out their biggest games in October instead. Call of Duty and Pokemon seem like the only two mainstays that hit consistently in November, and Call of Duty has had the occasional October release. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X both came out in November in 2020, but 2020 is also a unicorn year and I’m not sure how much we can divine from peak COVID entertainment launches.

To summarize, Nintendo’s 2024 will be fine, likely dominated by remakes and ports before we get closer to a new console launch. We still definitely have more games on Switch to look forward to, even if some of them might be cross-gen. Beyond that, we should probably find out about the next system by the summer. And also there’s probably a new Pokemon game in November. That just seems to happen every year unless there’s DLC, and we just had DLC in 2023’s holiday season.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 394: Games Take a While to Make
« on: January 26, 2024, 05:05:57 AM »

Unless of course you rip all your assets from Pokemon.

Some listener mail leads us down a discussion of the development of Metroid Prime 4 before turning our attention to some recent Microsoft news (We recorded this before they laid off 1.9k staff). Finally Neal revisits a classic Pokemon game and John expresses his thoughts on the recent Palworld controversy (We recorded this before the Pokemon Company put out a statement).


Made with 50% real Nintendo games.

Neal returns to join John for a countdown of the personal game of the year lists. But first, the fellas turn to some listener mail to discuss one of 2024's most mysterious upcoming games.

TalkBack / Super Mario RPG (Switch) Review
« on: December 18, 2023, 05:44:34 AM »

Mario's first RPG gets a loving remake.

I owe a lot to why I’m here at Nintendo World Report to Super Mario RPG. It was the game that took me from an average child interested in video games to an obsessed weirdo venturing out onto the internet to track Japan-only games, upcoming release dates, out-there theories, and Nintendo enthusiast websites. The game holds a special place in my heart and I used to replay it about once a year through the early 2000s. Since then, while Super Mario RPG has remained important to me, I’ve accepted it as a relic of its time with its awkward isometric platforming and modernly rough visuals. I never fathomed that nearly 30 years after release, Super Mario RPG would get a fresh coat of paint and cement itself once again as one of my personal favorite games of all time after a few years of doubt.

While the remake of Super Mario RPG on Nintendo Switch won’t convert everyone, it’s a fantastic update to a Super Nintendo classic. All of the off-brand weirdness and quirky characters are still present. The memorable moments and quotes are still there, even if some names have changed. Every little detail appears to be carried over from the original, often with a wink and a nod. If you’re new to the world of Super Mario RPG, this is a relatively basic traditional RPG originally made by Square Enix in the mid-1990s around the same time the company also made the likes of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. In a way, it’s more of a spiritual follow-up to the “My First RPG” ideas found in Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (even featuring some of the staff of that game) but laid out in a much more compelling and engaging way. It successfully marries classic turn-based combat with Mario elements, most commonly found in the action-oriented battles that feature timed button presses to do more or take less damage. Mario’s platforming also comes into play, but due to the isometric viewpoint, jumping with Mario does not lend itself to precision challenges. Those are few and far between here, but precise jumps are required just enough to make the isometric platforming frustrating. One of the troubles with being such a faithful remake.

In general, the challenge skews easy, though a first-timer might have some trouble with some tricky boss battles, especially if they aren’t experts at timed button presses. An easier difficulty is offered, which is perfect for the younger crowd. I can vouch it was very good for my 5-year-old. As someone who has played this game a whole lot, I lament the lack of a harder difficulty option. However, in lieu of that, the remake adds a sizable and charming post-game where you travel around to fight harder versions of bosses. These battles were a sheer delight with each focused on mastering a specific aspect of the combat.

In addition to the post-game, the remake tweaks some other aspects along the way, most notably in combat. Perfectly timed basic attacks now do splash damage to every enemy, quickening the pace of battles. Additionally, successfully completing timed button presses builds up a meter that, when full, can be spent to unleash a powerful attack or boost special to your three-person party. This deepens your bag of tricks in battle and like the splash damage, makes the game move a little bit faster. It’s wild how much faster the game plays on Switch compared to the original. I was finished with the entirety of the post game in around 12 hours whereas the SNES version generally hovers around the 15-20 hour range.

The visuals retain the feel of the original game but no longer have the dated pre-rendered muck of the ‘90s. The presentation perfectly nails the feeling of being what you remembered Super Mario RPG to look like, and even sounds like as it retained the original's memorable sound effectsl. The music features the original soundtrack from Yoko Shimomura as well as a fully remastered soundtrack also handled by Shimomura. You can switch between either during the game. I primarily stuck with the new soundtrack so I could continually be blown away by how Shimomura took her immaculate work from 1996 and made it even better today.

While the general simplicity might hold back some, Super Mario RPG still excels at what it intends to do: wax nostalgia and provide a gentle RPG experience. It’s a gorgeous adventure with tons of personality and a combat system that is often imitated but never fully duplicated. Even with Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi succeeding this game, they truly don’t make them like this wacky, bizarre game anymore. The playful vibe fits so well with the slightly off-brand Mario world that makes this game, with the grimy Wario-like Booster, goofy Axem Rangers, and evil wedding cake, unforgettable. Your mileage may vary with how much the straightforward adventure and unique brand of basic RPG works for you, but I walked away from this remake feeling like Super Mario RPG is solidly one of my favorite games ever.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 390: Words Mean Things Geoff
« on: December 07, 2023, 10:27:31 AM »

Cyberpunk is an indie game.

In this raw unedited episode, John and Neal give their predictions for the show that drives God ever further from His children, otherwise known as the Game Awards. But first, listener mail!

TalkBack / A Highland Song (Switch) Review
« on: December 04, 2023, 07:01:00 PM »

A narrative wonder filled with contemplative mountain climbing.

Developer inkle has a track record for making experimental narrative-focused games dripping with vibes, including the sky-faring 80 Days, the reverse murder mystery Overboard, and the language-translating Heaven’s Vault. Their latest game is the enigmatic mountain-climbing narrative adventure A Highland Song. Set in the Scottish Highlands, you control the young girl Moira who runs away from home in a mad dash to reach her uncle’s lighthouse and see the sea. The basic plot is relatively straightforward as your end goal is laid out right away, but through a few dynamic replays, impactful revelations and a wealth of tantalizing narrative threads add a gripping emotional weight to the whole experience.

A Highland Song tells a story that can only be told in games because the way it unfolds is all related to your play, building as you uncover new paths and figure out different connections. Moira initially has two maps that show off two different mountain peaks with hidden paths nearby. Matching the map to the right peak will give you the inclination of where the hidden path is and once you find the path, you can move to a new area, find a new map, and seek out more peaks and paths. It’s difficult to parse out the full scale and scope of the world, but that’s part of the overall point. You and Moira are desperately piecing together the right way to the sea and sometimes that can be disorienting.

Climbing and moving around the hills and mountains is straightforward, featuring a lot of context sensitive inputs that allow Moira to ascend, descend, run, and jump. Figuring out the right way to climb to a new height or safely get down to a new path in a valley requires planning and timing. Or you can just say “eff it” and jump down and incur some amount of fall damage (or lose all your health and fail). A day/night cycle and weather also factors into your maneuvering, so you need to keep an eye out on shelters to wait out storms and rest.

The flow of the game is glorious, and once I got a hang of it I was mesmerized exploring the gorgeous countryside, picking up intriguing clues and learning bits of wider lore that, at least in my time with the game, led to some gratifying and heartbreaking payoffs. This is a beautiful game with watercolor-esque backgrounds, impressive lighting, and gorgeous animation. The music complements the visuals with beautiful Scottish folk music (from acclaimed bands Talisk and Fourth Moon). I love the music, but I didn’t love the recurring rhythm game segments that highlighted the music. Especially in handheld mode, it was difficult to read the differences between buttons as you moved across the ground, tapping the right button as Moira ran over it. There are a lot of options to change the difficulty of different aspects of the game, including the rhythm game parts, but I generally like rhythm games and I was disappointed to have an issue with it.

Even with my relatively minor issues, A Highland Song is a powerful game filled with a distinct mystique. The overall goal requires playing through it a few times, but with each playthrough, you have more peaks and paths accessible right from the get-go. This is a game that is about optimizing your way through the mountains but also grapples with the reality that that level of optimization isn’t feasible. That ethereal otherworldliness lingers throughout every engrossing hour, beckoning you to find the most efficient path to the lighthouse while also tying up every loose end. This is a beautiful, gorgeous game that shouldn’t be missed.

TalkBack / Bluey: The Videogame (Switch) Review
« on: November 24, 2023, 02:03:34 PM »

A playful game ideal for Bluey’s target audience of preschoolers and grade schoolers.

The announcement of a Bluey video game felt like the logical next step for the Australian cartoon show that debuted in 2018 and exploded worldwide once BBC Studios gained the international distribution rights, leading to Bluey’s American success on Disney Jr. and Disney+. As a parent of young children, Bluey became a staple in my house, expanding culturally to the point where Bluey is more or less everywhere, showing up significantly more than I expected this past Halloween. It’s definitely a phenomenon, and now it has a video game to add to the saturation. Published by British games company Outright Games and developed by Spanish studio Artax Games (notably not an Australian studio, which is disappointing though BBC Studios holding the merchandising rights explains why), Bluey the Videogame is a neat little kid-centric sandbox trip through Bluey’s world, complete with full voice-acting, flexible four-player gameplay, and easy-to-understand controls.

Up to four players can join in, with the core family of Bluey, Bingo, Bandit, and Chili available to choose from. Regardless of whether or not you have four players, the unselected characters will still be around, leading you on to the next objective or just milling about. The structured meat of the game is found in four episodes that come complete with their own title card like the show itself. The writing here doesn’t rival the quality the cartoon reaches at times, but it does a good enough job of capturing the spirit as the kids put together an old treasure map from Bandit’s past. The episodes play out as very light point-to-point adventures where you solve simple puzzles and take on extremely light challenges. The lack of complexity makes it great for children, especially since I’ve seen an anecdotal surge in Bluey interest among parents of toddlers.

The episodic structure is neat, but it’s also over in about the same length as four episodes of the show (ETA 30 minutes). Beyond that, you can explore different locales from the show, most notably the Heeler house. In each area, you have a handful of collectibles to find. When all is said and done, there is probably about an hour or so of distinct content in this game, but the joy of this game is found in just messing around in the world even if playing Keepy-Uppy is disappointing in execution.

The reality is, for better or worse, as a game for adults, this is light, frivolous, and boring. But Bluey is aimed at an audience of children. To that end, it’s ideal. Full voice-acting means the game is approachable for a kid who can’t read yet (or well). The multiplayer gameplay allows for parents to play with their kids, made even better by how the game usually just needs one player to complete an objective, so you’re not spending all your time coaching the 2-year-old to succeed in Floor is Lava (I say this from experience). Bluey the Videogame feels like the developer actually put some thought into how to make a video game for the young children that this show is made for. It’s a success in that regard and it’s hard for me as a parent and a player to be frustrated at a game that works so well for my 5-year-old.

On Switch, the visuals are passable though not outstanding. In some moments, it mimics the show’s style perfectly. In others, it’s janky and stiff. My kids weaseled their way into some situations that necessitated rebooting the game, which is more of an illumination on the fact that kids play games in weird ways and they likely broke the game in a unique manner.

Bluey the Videogame’s worst aspect is how short it is. What’s there is enjoyable for its audience, even if it’s over so quickly. It does a good enough job of capturing the look and feel of the animated series, and even after completing the four episodes, my kids keep going back to mess around in the world. There’s a framework here that could make for some electric little kid gaming experiences and I hope to see the world of Bluey in video game form expand beyond this opening salvo. Bluey the Videogame is the kind of game Bandit would roll his eyes about but begrudgingly play with Bluey and Bingo anyway, and that’s okay, because Bandit’s the kind of dad that recognizes not everything is meant for him.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 389: A Game in the Life
« on: November 24, 2023, 05:20:57 AM »

Not currently available at your local grocery store.

NWR Reviews Editor, Jordan Rudek joins John and Neal to discuss his new book A Game in the Life. You can find store links where you can purchase A Game In The Life here. Next, Jordan and Neal dive deep into Super Mario RPG while John takes a nap. The boys wrap things up with a discussion of media bias and of course, a little Zelda talk.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 388: Neal's Trials in the Desert
« on: November 17, 2023, 08:46:41 AM »

Journey to Super Nintendo World

Neal returns from a successful expedition to Super Nintendo World to give his impressions of Universal's Nintendo themed park. Afterwards John puts his claim of being able to separate art and artist to the test and visits the wizarding world (while flipping off its original creator) to discuss Hogwarts Legacy on Nintendo Switch. Finally, we reply to your thoughts on the Legend of Zelda movie with some listener mail.

TalkBack / Star Ocean: The Second Story R (Switch) Review
« on: November 01, 2023, 05:23:30 AM »

A full remake in hand is worth two ports in the bush.

The Square Enix RPG series Star Ocean has been around for nearly 30 years but only recently made the leap to Nintendo platforms in the west. The Super Famicom original came to Switch (in PSP remake port form) in 2019 and now a fully remade version of the PlayStation sequel is hitting Nintendo Switch in the form of Star Ocean: The Second Story R. Unlike its predecessor, Second Story R is not an upgraded port of a PSP version. Instead, Square Enix and developer Gemdrops took the foundation and put together a modern remake with a gorgeous art style and presentation and refined combat and gameplay mechanics. It is a marked improvement from First Departure R that allows the quality of the ‘90s RPG to be easier to see in 2023.

Set 20 years after the events of the first Star Ocean, Second Story R kicks off by giving you the choice between two protagonists: Claude or Rena. Regardless of your choice, the pair will quickly team up and set off on an adventure to find out what’s up with the Sorcery Globe, a meteorite that landed on Rena’s home planet Expel and has brought about monsters and destruction. Your choices and decisions matter in the grand scheme of the plot and combat. Claude and Rena are locked in as playable characters, but the rest of your eight-person party can be filled out with a number of others, which can alter aspects of the story, leading to different endings. Similar to First Departure R, some of the finer details of party-building feel like they aren’t conveyed as clearly in the game itself, but it’s less obfuscated in this sequel.

Beyond the characters themselves, a robust skills and specialities system deepens them beyond the story. Skills all funnel into the action RPG battle system, where you upgrade special attacks and abilities to fine-tune your different party members using points accrued in battle. Separate from that are specialities, that factor into more than just battle. You use a different bucket of points earned from battle to do things like increase character’s blacksmith or writing ability. Some of the abilities unlocked fall in line with RPG tropes, like being able to cook healing items, while others are weird, like a book-making skill that lets your team publish a book and collect royalties on it. The full breadth is daunting, but if you figure it out, you can do some wild game-breaking things like be able to pickpocket the world and vastly improve your experience points by upgrading the training skill.

The action RPG combat is quick and snappy, in spite of the slightly too long load times on Switch. In the same vein as the Tales series, you run into a battle on the overworld and go into another screen where you actively attack, defend, and use abilities. The remake adds a lot of flourishes to the combat to make it better and more engaging, including the “break” system where you can stun enemies and Assault Action, where you can call in secondary characters (generally from other Star Ocean games) to help you out in battle. It’s a fine combat system and the new twists keep it from feeling stale. A few difficulty spikes would occasionally slow my progress, but that makes the inclusion of three difficulty levels all the more helpful.

The visual presentation might be the overall highlight for Second Story R, as it takes the original’s late ‘90s PlayStation art and modernizes it in a 2.5D blend spectacularly. All characters are sprite-based, rotating in the full 3D environments. Running around the overworld is often stunning, especially as the updated Motoi Sakuraba soundtrack blasts in the background. Those snazzy visuals help to paper over some of the slower pace in the opening hours of the 40-hour-long journey. It’s worth sticking around because the story opens up and gets more interesting in the back half. And honestly the slower pace is just because the game shows its Enix roots by having a lot of Dragon Quest-style vignettes in towns.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a great remake of a less heralded PlayStation RPG. Unlike First Departure R and some of the other ports and remasters out there, this is a smart, modern upgrade to a decades-old adventure. It’s an enjoyable action RPG with a wealth of player choice and a lot of charming quirky aspects. If you’ve ever been curious about Star Ocean and have an affinity for old-school action RPGs, this is a must-play. Even beyond that, the beautiful presentation might be worth the price of admission by itself.


Bookended by segues.

The 2D Mario Game Club squad plus Alex assemble to to discuss the very good new Mario game. They of course also get distracted by other stuff.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 385: Super Sonicstars
« on: October 20, 2023, 10:09:41 AM »

Stars Supersonic

Noted Sonic fan John Rairdin gives his initial impressions of Sonic Superstars. Surely this time he'll like Sonic. Meanwhile Microsoft completes their purchase of Activision, Blizzard, King, and most importantly, our hearts. Finally we round things off with some follow up thoughts on the New Super Mario series in the moments before we start Mario Wonder.

TalkBack / Subpar Pool (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 19, 2023, 07:53:33 AM »

Mini-golf blends with billiards for your new mobile obsession.

A good mobile game can be hard to find, which made my past discovery of Holedown a pleasant revelation. This snazzy twist on Breakout and Peggle initially came out in 2018 on mobile (with a Switch release later). If you haven’t played Holedown, it’s worth checking out on your phone or your Switch. My affinity for Holedown was rekindled because developer grapefrukt games just released Subpar Pool - a spiritual followup to their previous work. Combining elements of billiards and golf, this excellent slice of arcade brilliance continually iterates into more absurdity and complexity.

It starts off relatively simple. Shoot your cue ball into other balls, hurtling them into pockets within a certain number of shots. Complete a few boards and you’ll complete a run. As you play, you unlock more themes and modifiers. The themes change the type of board you’re on entirely, including ones with teleporting walls and rotating conveyor belts. The modifiers make the game more ridiculous and/or difficult. “Fixed start” doesn’t let you place your cue ball at the start of a level, while the simply named “more balls” fills the board with more balls. On top of all this, you also unlock different ball types. You’ve got big ol’ Chonkers that are harder to move and you also have delicate Crystals that can shatter after they’re hit too much.

Unlocking all this variety happens as you complete different challenges that ask you to execute certain goals. Some are as simple as completing a run on a theme, while others ask you to bounce a ball into another ball and then into a pocket, or go back and forth through a teleporting wall multiple times. It just keeps going, always giving you some new twist that demands you tweak your strategy and play a different style.

All of this allows every run to feel wildly different so Subpar Pool stays fresh over time, making it an ideal mobile game. On Switch, it’s still super fun, but it truthfully isn’t the ideal system for this game. I, for one, am now playing it on my phone after playing it on Switch. Not to say it’s a bad experience on Switch, just that Subpar Pool is best made for cranking out a round or two on your phone as opposed to sitting down and spending hours at your TV. Subpar Pool absolutely rocks no matter where you play it, though.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 384: The New Super Mario Quadrilogy
« on: October 13, 2023, 07:57:24 AM »

Part 3 of the 2D Mario Game Club

In the final part of our 2D Mario Game Club leading up to Super Mario Bros Wonder, we discuss the New Super Mario Bros series. And also for some reason Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate. Were these games good? How do they compare to the rest of the series? Can they inform our expecations for Wonder? Is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate better than anything Arzest has ever made? Let's find out!

TalkBack / Wild Card Football (Switch) Review
« on: October 10, 2023, 04:00:00 AM »

Baffling play calls in a second-half collapse keep this from being a first ballot Hall of Famer.

The last time a Nintendo platform had an NFL football game, current reigning league MVP and Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes was a 17-year-old high-schooler. Hundreds of NFL players had their careers begin and end without ever appearing on a game for a Nintendo system. Even if Saber Interactive’s Wild Card Football only has the NFL Player’s Association license (so it has real players and no real teams or stadiums), this is an important release on Nintendo Switch as it’s the first time America’s most popular sport has appeared on America’s most popular gaming platform. It might not be the simulation-heavy experience that a Madden provides, but it’s a fun stab at bringing football to a Nintendo system after all these years, even if it doesn’t totally stick the landing.

First and foremost, this is purebred arcade sports, with 7-on-7 games in lieu of football’s traditional 11-on-11. Players are cartoony and impossibly bulky. Playbooks and mechanics are simplified. Quarters are two minutes long. At times, it feels NFL Blitz-esque, with over-the-top bomb passing plays and vicious tackles. The big twist is the “wild card” part of the game. In most games, you have a deck of game-changing cards that can speed up your players, make your opponents more susceptible to drops, or do even wilder stuff like push the opposing team back five yards or make them lose a down. Some of them even unleash player abilities, like making the ball carrier invisible or have them turn into a giant for a few seconds. It adds a high-key chaotic aspect to the proceedings, layering in a good dose of strategy as you and your opponent both have cards that you can use to try to cancel out the other one’s hand.

With how fun the card manipulation can be at times, it’s a shame the actual football it supports doesn’t land. I enjoy the passing part of the game, as it does a good job of taking the tried-and-true controls of football games through time and distills them into a pleasant arcade form. Timing passing routes and trying to outsmart defenders is good. Unfortunately the running game boils down to a timing-based button press. Land it, and you’ll bust through the crowd. Miss it, and you’re more or less doomed to lose yards. It’s especially maddening because in my experience, the CPU - even on lower difficulties - seems to nail the timing every time. Also the AI for the CPU seems busted overall, making baffling decisions with regularity, ranging from not calling timeouts near the end of a half to not going for two when down by two.

Beyond the gameplay, there just isn’t a whole hell of a lot to do in Wild Card Football. Offline, a basic season mode with the built-in teams (collected by their real-life teams but named for their starting quarterback) is the only non-multiplayer experience. Two player local matches are enjoyable, though at this point, I can’t fully vouch for the longevity. The meat is found online in the Dream Squad mode, which is Wild Card Football’s Ultimate Team mode. You unlock packs of cards to build up your custom team of NFL players, taking them to compete online against other humans or the computer. The full breadth of the online competition and micro-transaction elements aren’t accessible yet, but I have spent a lot of time in the Tour mode, which allows you to unlock new cards by playing the CPU. This isn’t a mode I would play much of if it weren’t for the fact there is almost literally nothing else to do, but I’ll admit it’s been fun. The Tour mode puts you into different game variants, whether it’s with or without Wild Cards or even a race to a specific score total.

The pressure put on Wild Card Football to be the one single NFL game on Nintendo Switch might be undue, but regardless, this opening kickoff for a potential sports franchise fades down the stretch after a promising start. Parts of the game are good, making for a decent multiplayer game and a lacking solo experience due to limited modes, a borderline worthless running game, and janky computer-controlled opponents. If you’re hard up for playing as your favorite NFL players on your favorite Nintendo platform, this is an acceptable placebo, but here’s hoping Nintendo gets a high first-round draft pick for their next console so they can pick a more well-rounded football game.

TalkBack / Talking Cozy Dino Farming with Paleo Pines Developers
« on: October 09, 2023, 11:26:48 AM »

Paleo Pines brings real-life dino science into an adorable farm setting.

If you have followed Nintendo World Report over the years, you might know we have a dinosaur guy in the form of longtime staffer Zach Miller. Naturally when a dinosaur game hits Nintendo systems, we unearth Zach's fossils and see what we can do. We sent over some questions to the team behind Paleo Pines, a new Nintendo Switch game that combines the likes of farming sims with ample dinosaurs. It was a pleasant surprise when we found out that the developers at Italic Pig took into account actual dino science into their largely cartoony and colorful game. So here's some questions and answers with Executive Producer Aimee Beimers (and a guest appearance by Animator Yazz Herron).

Nintendo World Report (NWR): What led you to make Paleo Pines? Were dinosaurs always the focus? When did the idea of linking dinos and farming come into play?

Aimee Beimers (AB): The concept originally came to life out of a Game Jam in 2019 from its original creator, Jordan Bradley.  The concepts struck a chord with so many people and within the Italic Pig studio that the game as we know it today began to take shape in those early days of development.  It was in the summer of 2020 that we really hit upon the core vision for the game beyond befriending dinos:  as a whole it is a love-letter to childhood, and those long breezy summers we all remember. This vision helped tie everything together – mechanically, visually, and in the audio too. Paleo Pines as we know it now was born.

NWR: I see a lot of different gameplay "types" in here, from Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley to Fantasy Life and Jurassic World: Evolution. How do they all feed into each other? What is the player trying to accomplish each day?

AB: These games have a lot in common, even if they don’t look like it at first! Within each, you generally start out as a new member of a community- an island, a town, a city or anywhere and begin to figure out what you need to do.

Paleo Pines makes good use of the trope with a fun blend of the usual standards; you’re new to the valley but you’re fixing up an old property. You don’t know anyone, but you’re throwing yourself into the community as soon as you can! You’re immediately given clues as to your quests and can get stuck in right away.  

The similarities to Jurassic World are clear - finding dinos, building pens, and caring for them - but in Paleo Pines, we live by the rule that it is Survival of the Kindest.  Our dinos don’t attack one another and live in harmony on your ranch.  

As with games like Slime Rancher and Pokémon, Paleo Pines hugely appeals to the collectors.  Even with farming and exploration being huge parts of the gameplay, befriending a wide range of dinos seems to have the most appeal with our players! What we’ve discovered is that Paleo Pines goes beyond this simple mechanic and our players form real bonds with the dinos they befriend - a joyful experience that should be credited to our dev team for putting so much personality into each dino!

Another aspect of Paleo Pines that we were keen to ensure was in the game is the idea of passive game interaction - we wanted a world where you have jobs to do and areas to explore, but other things you don’t ALWAYS have to be doing. We have players that simply have a hard day at work and have told us they sit on a bench in the game and just soak in a herd of dinos playing in the valley for 20 minutes as a way to relax.  

We’ve tried to ensure that a player’s day can be what they make of it - they can explore, follow on with a quest, venture out to befriend more dinos, farm on their ranch, seek out townsfolk… they day is full, but without stress - unless the ultra-rare dino you’ve discovered doesn’t like the treat you give them, of course!  There’s something in Paleo Pines to appeal to everyone who enjoys farming, creature collector and exploration games.  

NWR: I'm absolutely tickled by the list of genera in the game. Carnotaurus is my favorite dinosaur! I'm also impressed that you have some notable (and relatively obscure) non-dinosaurs in the game, like Desmatosuchus! Was it tough to pare down your list? Were there any critters that didn't make the cut that you were sad to see go?

AB: It was very tough to pare down our list! Our decision on which to include was based on the dinos that we knew would offer the most gameplay for players in the regions we have launched with. The Spino is definitely a fan favorite that we want to get into Paleo Pines eventually!

NWR: Similarly, I'm very appreciative of your attention to detail with these animals. Despite the very cartoony aesthetic, I'm surprised by how recognizable they are. How did you match the art style with the real design and look of the dinosaurs?

AB: We were lucky enough to have the input of a real-life paleontologist to turn to when our modelers and animators had questions!  Natalia Jagielska was brilliant in allowing our team to reach out throughout the production and has even done an analysis for us of several of our dinos to evaluate how close to known scientific fact they are.  It was this knowledge that we layered over the wholesome style originally created by Jordan Bradley.  

NWR: What are the different "classes" or "jobs" that the dinosaurs have?

AB: Every dinosaur in the game will have two skills - one farming and one wild skill. Farming skills can be tilling the soil, harvesting, planting seeds and watering crops. They make handling your daily farming chores so much easier! When exploring the world of Paleo Pines, dinosaurs can also assist by smashing rocks, stomping logs, slashing bushes and sprinting - meaning you can discover new and hidden areas! It's not so straightforward, though. Before a dino will do any work for you on the ranch and beyond, you first need to befriend them and earn their trust!

NWR: How do you find and befriend new dinos?

AB: Dinosaurs can be found all over; some roam in herds across rolling hills, others lurk alone in waterfall clearings. It's your job to get out and discover them all! If you decide to try and take one home, you will need to befriend them. Mari will take you through the process of feeding treats and soothing creatures until they are ready for the secret ingredient - a delicious poppin in their favorite flavor! If the dino takes the treat and likes it, you have made yourself a new friend and can seal the deal with a little pat on the head or boop on the nose. After the befriending process, you can begin to work on building the trust of your new best friend until they trust you enough to allow you to saddle them up!

NWR: How large is the game world? Is exploration a big part of the gameplay?

AB: Paleo Pines is an expansive island with three different biomes holding two marketplaces and a bunch of NPC homes! From the forested Dapplewood to the sandy Ariacotta Canyon, there are tons of areas populated with 38 different dinosaur species - some of which you'll need to look extra hard for or even enlist a dino's help to unblock! Of course, everyone plays differently, and there are certainly people who get so distracted by cute Styracosaurus’ that they haven't even begun to explore, but your main goal for coming to the island was to help your best friend Lucky find other dinos like her, and to do this you will need to fully explore Paleo Pines!

NWR: Launching a game on multiple platforms is always a challenge. What was the process for making this game for Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC?

AB: For most of the development we worked exclusively on PC, not knowing which consoles we'd eventually be asked to support. However we'd always expected to port it in general, so we had a framework in place to abstract important platform features like save data, achievements and so on. When the time came, we had to write implementations of that for each platform, then deal with features unique to particular platforms (e.g. PS5 activities). We also had to optimize for each platform without disrupting the others.

Switch was a special case, so we had a partner to help us port the game, and in particular to optimize - it started out very beautiful, but running at what felt like 2 FPS. We had to duplicate all our levels in order to make the necessary changes for Switch without affecting the other platforms.

Our approach to porting to different platforms is probably very similar to other developers, but the biggest challenge for us was ensuring that the visual experience on the Switch was comparable to the PC version - or at least as close as it’s possible, given the nature of the Switch console.  This was a very high bar to meet and we’re very pleased with the result.  

NWR: What are your favorite dinosaurs and did that lead to any biases during development as far as how different dinos were used and implemented?AB: The people closest on our team to the dinos are the animators so we put this question to Yazz, who was responsible for animating many of the dinos in the game.

Yazz Herron:  As an animator, it's always easy to start to find favorites among the herd. Archaeoptryx, for example, was so fun to animate that he quickly came into my top three! Although every dinosaur got the same amount of love and attention, there may just be some secret animations that belong to a few favorites of mine! Have you ever put a picnic table in your gallimimus pen?

NWR: What is a fun dinosaur fact you uncovered during development that stood out to you?

AB: The one that’s stood out to us time and time again is the two ‘dinos that aren’t dinos’ in our game - Postosuchus and Dimetrodon are in the game but aren’t scientifically dinos.  We get a lot of reminders of this!

TalkBack / Pizza Possum (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 09, 2023, 07:12:34 AM »


The tension that emerges when you’re chased is foundational to modern video games. Pac-Man in its maze glory is built around that notion. Collect the dots and avoid the ghosts. Don’t get caught. That simple premise has been expanded upon all over the place, whether it’s the memorable stealth of a Metal Gear Solid or the underrated brilliance of the Silent Realm in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Pizza Possum, a new game developer Cosy Computer, takes that concept and builds the whole game around it. You control a pizza-loving possum on a quest to snatch a giant pizza from a bunch of dogs. It’s simple and effective.

This bite-sized game tasks you with eating food to unlock doors that progressively lead you to the large pizza at the end of the quest. You also need to avoid patrolling enemies so you don’t get caught. The arcade focus makes it a high-score chase, as you earn more points the longer you survive, but even if you fail, you start off at your last checkpoint and continue to make your march for your big meal. It blends the thrill of the hunt that fueled Pac-Man’s arcade glory with a friendlier structure that will make it more possible for gamers of all skill levels to make it through. True completion requires multiple successful runs and you also unlock different items and gear as you complete runs.

A co-op mode, where the second player controls a raccoon, amps up the comedy as well. It makes the proceedings far more chaotic, but Pizza Possum thrives in chaos. Initially, I was very careful about every move I made, but at a certain point, I realized just embracing the nonsense was the way to go. So my possum wound up hurtling past guards, gobbling all food nearby as I made use of items and hiding places to ward off the chasing dog cops. In those moments, Pizza Possum is electric.

This game might not last long, but it almost seems aware of its limitations. Pizza Possum invites you to stop by, enjoy the bedlam and pandemonium with or without a friend, and then leave satisfied and fulfilled, like you yourself gobbled down that giant pizza the titular possum craves. This snack is incredibly enjoyable.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 383: Alex and Neal Embrace Their Inner Pupa
« on: October 06, 2023, 09:34:41 AM »

And John gets a new air conditioner.

Neal and Alex enjoy what may be a surprise late contender for Game of the Year in Cocoon. John meanwhile has mostly been playing with his new thermostat which can likely run Doom.

TalkBack / Paw Patrol World (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 05, 2023, 11:45:41 AM »

All dogs are barking.

As the parent of two children right in the middle of the prime Paw Patrol demographic, I looked at the new video game Paw Patrol World with curiosity. I’ve plodded my way through some mediocre licensed games with my kids already, but the concept of an open-world kids game seemed interesting. Could this be the right gateway towards the onslaught of open-world games across all video games? For the most part, it’s successful. Publisher Outright Games and developer 3DClouds essentially made Grand Theft Auto for preschoolers. It’s not much more than that, but that’s exactly what Paw Patrol World should be.

The setup is simple and approachable. You are the Paw Patrol. Here’s the city of Adventure Bay. Go save people and collect dog treats. Few barriers exist to let your kid engage with the likes of Chase, Rubble, and Tracker. You toggle between the core gang of pups at the press of a button. You can opt to drive around in their vehicle or just walk around. The primary quests involve you just following around an always-on icon for the Paw Patrol’s boy leader Ryder. He gives you repetitive quests that typically involve picking the right dog for the job and then rapidly pressing a button. It’s fluff, but it’s fluff that my 5-year-old was really into, especially as more notable series locales start popping up along the way.

I was handed a controller a few times and can clearly say that adults do not need to play through Paw Patrol World on their own. And that’s fine because this game isn’t for adults. An argument can be made that good games should transcend age, don’t dumb down games for kids, and so on and so forth, but very rarely is a game truly for all ages. Even some of Nintendo’s greatest generation-spanning triumphs aren’t all ages. My kids adore Kirby games but I’m not expecting a 3-year-old to take down the final boss in Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Paw Patrol World is a game that my kids can romp through all on their own.

It doesn’t need to purely be a solo journey though. After a brief tutorial, you can drop in at any time and active co-op. The screen is split and each player can select a pup (they can be the same pup if desired). You can go do your own stuff, but you can also automatically warp near the other one at the press of a button. It’s exactly the kind of co-op you’d want in a kid-centric open-world game.

Paw Patrol World is a smartly made entry-level open-world video game that does a good job of capturing the appeal of Paw Patrol in video game form. It’s primarily for the younger sect, but it does that by being a playground to explore as opposed to a steep challenge. You play in the world of the TV show in a way that makes this a gateway to the wider world of (mostly quality) video games. As a parent I sometimes need to make compromises. If my kids want to play the cop dog game instead of Roblox, I’ll chalk it up as a win.

TalkBack / PictoPull (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 03, 2023, 08:23:08 AM »


An indie dev made a Pushmo game and it’s out on Switch now. If you miss Pushmo, you should check it out.

That’s basically all you need to know, but if you want some more details, let’s start where it all began: the 3DS eShop. You see, back in those days of yore, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems made a brilliant downloadable puzzle game called Pushmo. They followed it up with two sequels on 3DS in Crashmo and Stretchmo as well as a Wii U game called Pushmo World. Those games were all soundly great, but as of early 2023, none of them are available to buy. Like clockwork, developer Screen Smith Studios released PictoPull on PC following the Wii U and 3DS eShop closures. Several months later, it’s now coming to Nintendo Switch. This is the RC Cola of Pushmo, but it’s more fulfilling than the average off-brand soda.

150 puzzles split across a number of worlds are playable here and while I had some early doubts with the puzzle design, they follow an enjoyable difficulty curve that throws in enough twists to keep it enjoyable. While it doesn’t have the polish of Pushmo, it feels close enough to scratch the itch that Nintendo removed from the public world. I fought with the platforming a little too much, especially when trying to pull off diagonal jumps, but thankfully you can easily rewind a puzzle if you flub a jump and fall all the way back down.

The later puzzles get very complex in a way that reminded me of some of the complicated excess of the original Pushmo. Even with the ability to glance at the full puzzle at the press of a button, it’s still easy to get lost in a giant mural. The Steam version offers a level editor that isn’t found in the Switch version. That’s disappointing, but for the price of this game, it’s not a major loss.

PictoPull isn’t quite as good as its inspiration, but it does the job. It was nice to play this style of puzzle again. PictoPull will do as we wait for Pushmo to have its Crashmo 99 renaissance.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 382: Sports Talk With John
« on: September 29, 2023, 08:09:09 AM »

We recorded this AFTER the Xbox leak.

We got a review copy of the new NOT FIFA game FC 24. John played it like the massive sports person that he is. Meanwhile Neal was playing things John is well known for not liking, such as F-Zero. It's a weird start to the episode. The fellas then turn to some listener mail and a quick discussion of the recent Xbox leaks from the FTC hearing.

TalkBack / EA Sports FC 24 (Switch) Review
« on: September 28, 2023, 05:29:36 AM »

Turns out when you put effort into a Switch port, it’s pretty good.

The legacy of EA Sports on Nintendo consoles has been murky at best in the past decade. The company’s two popular mainstays have either been largely absent (Madden) or half-assed (FIFA) since the dawn of the Wii U. FIFA on Switch debuted in 2017 and while the game itself was relatively good, it was built on a custom version of EA’s Ignite engine (as opposed to EA’s Frostbite engine that powered other versions) that led to the game being a limited version of the long-running soccer experience. After that 2017 debut, every subsequent FIFA release on Switch was merely a “Legacy Edition,” as in it was almost identical to that 2017 release outside of roster updates. Finally, more than 2400 days since the Switch launched, EA Sports is putting in some honest effort into the Nintendo Switch version of their soccer game, now called EA Sports FC due to a licensing disagreement with FIFA. The results are fantastic with a few caveats, as this game stacks up favorably to all other releases of EA Sports FC across other platforms and even includes some neat Switch-exclusive touches.

If you’ve only played EA soccer games on Nintendo platforms, then EA Sports FC has a boatload of modes you never knew existed. You can hop into the action quickly with the Kick Off mode, letting you set up a match with custom rules easily. You can even share the joy and play against a friend with each of you just using one Joy-Con. In addition to the soccer games themselves, a variety of offline and online modes let you fiddle with the sport in almost any way you want. Two different Career Modes exist, one where you control a manager and one where you control a player. Controlling a manager is akin to your typical franchise mode in other sports games and while I had fun with that, I really enjoyed my time in the player-focused career. I made myself a preposterous-looking man and controlled just them in games, which was far more compelling than I expected.

Beyond Career Mode, the full scope of the microtransaction-laden Ultimate Team is playable on Switch for the first time. While every sports game now has a mode like this, I still don’t enjoy it all that much, but generally speaking you can play around with this card-based competitive mode without dropping tons of money. You generally just have to grind for resources. Say what you will about the concept of Ultimate Team, but it’s nice that Switch owners actually have the agency to decide whether or not they want to engage with it.

Ultimate Team is a mode you can only play online, which does make that element a challenge for the hybrid Switch system. I have so far been relatively impressed with how seamless reconnecting back to EA’s servers has been. When you come out of sleep mode, all you have to do is click in the right stick and connecting back online happens relatively unobtrusively. As a comparison, this is a better experience than I’ve had playing EA Sports’ latest Madden on PlayStation 5, which has been way more frustrating to connect back to EA’s servers when I boot up the game from rest mode.

Thankfully, even if a lot of modes have online functionality, you can still do a lot in this game without being online. Seasons and tournaments have a mixture of offline and online functionality while also letting you toy around with all kinds of teams and rosters, including a wealth of women’s soccer teams. One of the biggest additions to EA’s soccer games in recent years is the Volta Football mode. After making an avatar, you then play shorter arcade-y games primarily against others online, unlocking new gear and stat points along the way. It’s a cool mode that is very dependent on the Switch EA Sports FC community to be populated. That’s the same story for the Clubs mode, where you use that same avatar to play in games with your online club that you can create with friends. That leads to one of the major downsides of this Switch release: it has no crossplay. All the other releases have some form of crossplay with another console, so Xbox players can play with PlayStation players. The Switch stands alone though. Likely there’s some technical reasoning behind it, but it’s still a big disappointment that might cut the longevity of this game off at the knees. Truth be told, given EA’s history, they shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt with their Nintendo support.

Still, the Switch version of EA Sports FC retains some Switch-specific options. The Local Seasons mode (which was a bullet point in the 2017 FIFA game) allows you to play 1-on-1 games against another Switch owner with the game over a local wireless connection. In handheld play, you can also use the touchscreen to zoom in on the action. That’s neat even if a tad impractical mid-match.

FC24 is only the second ever appearance of EA’s Frostbite engine on the Nintendo Switch, so we were extremely interested to see how it would scale down. The overall results manage to impress despite some caveats. Perhaps the most surprising feature is that both docked and handheld mode output the maximum resolution possible in either of those configurations. Docked turns in a full 1080p and handheld hits the Switch screen’s native 720p. No evidence of dynamic scaling in any of the shots I counted across both cutscenes and gameplay. That being said both of these do run with no anti-aliasing whatsoever, so you’re getting a very raw image that will show obvious stairstep artifacts on straight diagonal lines. Still, getting maximum resolution on a third-party late generation Switch game isn’t common. Obviously the visual details have been cutback to hit that goal and some players don’t hold up as well in closeups, but during gameplay everything looks quite nice.

The biggest concession to make this happen is a shift to 30fps. Prior legacy versions of FIFA on Nintendo Switch did hit 60fps but of course those were unique versions of the game, not running the same engine as the more powerful consoles. It is an unfortunate change, but in a game like this where the action is viewed from far away, prioritizing resolution is in my opinion the right choice. It is also worth noting that this frame rate is rock solid during gameplay. The only time we can see drops is during replays and cutscenes. This is likely caused by the lower camera angle showing more geometry and the depth of field effect used for these sequences. I did also test out the pro camera angle setting, as that features a lower angle than the default camera, and found that the frame rate stayed locked there as well.

EA Sports FC is a tremendous leap in the right direction for soccer games on Switch. It still isn’t on the same level as other versions, but this is the narrowest the gap has been in more than a decade. If you’re looking for a way to play a great soccer game on a portable system with a few compromises, this will get the job done. Hopefully this is the start of EA Sports putting out more of their library on Nintendo platforms, because I’m heartened by how EA Sports FC turned out.

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 221