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Messages - John Rairdin

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TalkBack / Roundup: Indie World Showcase 11/14/2023
« on: November 14, 2023, 09:30:20 AM »

It's like reading the showcase but faster.

If you missed today's Indie World Showcase, here is everything that was revealed in a quick roundup.

Shantae Advance: Risky Revolution- 2024 - Long lost follow up to the original Shantae releasing after twenty years. Completed by its original developers

Outer Wilds: Archaeologist Edition - December 7, 2023 - Open-world, time looping, space adventure.

On Your Tail - 2024 (timed exclusive) - You're a crime solving cat person.

A Highland Song - December 5, 2023 - Narrative platformer based on the landscapes of Scottland.

Backpack Hero - Available Today - Deckbuilding roguelike with backpack management.

Howl - Available Today - Turn-based, tactical folktale about a plague that spreads via sound.

Blade Chimera - Spring 2024 (timed exclusive) - 2D, pixel art, action-platformer.

Death Trick: Double Blind - 2024 - Non-linear, detective, visual novel.

The Star Named EOS - Spring 2024 - First person puzzle adventure with lots of photography.

Moonstone Island - Spring 2024 (timed exclusive) - Procedural crafting, collecting, and deck-building game.

Core Keeper - Summer 2024 - Cooperative dungeon crawling life sim.

Planet of Lana - Spring 2024 - Cinematic puzzle platformer.

Enjoy the Diner - Available Today - Point and click, narrative adventure.

The Gecko Gods - Spring 2024 - Gecko based platformer.

Passpartout 2: The Lost Artist - Available Today - Painting based adventure game.

Braid: Anniversary Edition - April 30, 2024 - It's Braid.

Urban Myth Dissolution Center - 2024 - Mystery game about investigating urban myths.

Heavenly Bodies - February 2024 - Physics based puzzle game in space.

TalkBack / Outer Wilds Gets Switch Release Date
« on: November 14, 2023, 07:35:00 AM »

A long overdue arrival.

Having been announced way back in February 2021, the Switch port of Outer Wilds finally has a release date on Switch. The critically acclaimed indie title will launch on Switch on December 7, 2024. The Switch release will also include the Echoes of the Eye expansion. A physical version was also announced 2024. No specific date was given on the physical version.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 387: Average Tuesday Night Zelda Announcement
« on: November 10, 2023, 09:55:59 AM »

How'd you like to make a quick morbillion?

Neal is lost in the desert and chaos has broken loose. Matt's talking about Fortnite, John is playing JRPGs, Link is a real boy, and Alex... well Alex played Shadow of the Colossus which is honestly pretty great.

TalkBack / Legend of Zelda Movie Discussion
« on: November 09, 2023, 03:56:51 AM »

Can Live Action Zelda Work?

In this segment from the NWR Connectivity podcast, John Rairdin, Matt Zawodniak, and Alex De Freitas sit down to discuss the recent news of a live action Legend of Zelda movie. Is live action the right choice for Zelda? When lessons can Nintendo learn from the MCU. Will it make a morbillion dollars?

TalkBack / Air Twister (Switch) Review Mini
« on: November 06, 2023, 04:16:29 AM »

It's a prog-rock rail shooter from the Shenmue guy? Sure okay.

I went into Air Twister fairly blind. Despite its release last year on Apple Arcade, all I knew was that it was a rail shooter from game designer Yu Suzuki. That alone was enough to garner some interest. Suzuki’s Space Harrier is generally regarded as one of the early progenitors of the third person rail shooter genre. Once I actually booted up Air Twister, I was hit with surprise after surprise. While it stumbles plenty along the way, I couldn’t help but enjoy the bizarre insanity it presents at every turn.

At its core, Air Twister very much feels like a spiritual sequel to Space Harrier. You play as an inexplicably floating woman with a laser blasting crossbow. Holding down the A button allows you to lock onto multiple enemies before firing a series of homing shots with ZR, while a quick press of the ZR button will fire a single unguided shot straight ahead. If you’ve played classic Sega sprite-scaling rail shooters you’ll feel right at home here. The flying and shooting both feel good, if extremely basic. That’s probably the greatest knock against Air Twister. From a purely gameplay focused perspective, it doesn’t evolve much beyond its inspirations.

This doesn’t mean Air Twister is completely devoid of any depth, it is just found outside of the primary gameplay experience. After your first game over you’ll be kicked back to a menu jam packed with content. The most crucial thing on this menu is the Adventure Map which acts as a sort of skill tree. Here you’ll spend points earned from downing enemies to increase your maximum hit points, unlock special perks, and fill out your wardrobe for customizing the protagonist. To be clear, you don’t need to upgrade your character to finish the game. This is a true arcade rail shooter at its core, not an RPG, so skill is king. That being said, exploring this truly massive upgrade tree does make even a failed run feel like progress. Beyond the upgrades are also a variety of other bonus modes, detailed lore entries, and more. What you won't find is a level select or continue option should you fall in battle. A game over means starting over from stage one, granted you’ll have any new upgrades you’ve bought in the interim. By modern standards I suppose you could call it a roguelite.

Oh and I suppose I should mention that Air Twister has the soundtrack of a prog-rock-opera. It caught me a little off guard as I started the first level only to be met with an original soundtrack by Dutch prog-rock artist Valensia. It takes some getting used to but Air Twister just commits to this strange vibe that feels very old school Sega. The only downside is that several of the songs get used multiple times, which lessens the impact of the otherwise constantly changing stage variety, and gives the game a somewhat deceptive feeling of repetition.

At the end of the day, Air Twister is not a particularly long or difficult rail shooter. It took me three runs to reach the end of its 12 stages. The upgrade system does make replaying through old stages easier and easier with each attempt. Still I felt as though I ran out of game long before I’d unlocked even half of the upgrades. It is almost as if Air Twister has a lot of secondary depth in its systems that isn’t really supported by its short simple campaign. That being said, even while being highly aware of these flaws I still had a really good time playing through it. Everything about Air Twister is bizarre and often flawed, but I can’t say it isn’t fun.

TalkBack / Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Switch) Review
« on: November 02, 2023, 05:28:32 AM »

Let the past die, kill it if you have to.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder represents a major shift in Nintendo’s approach to 2D Mario. For nearly two decades, 2D Mario has been developed with a goal of living up to what came before. The entirety of the New Super Mario Bros. series which spanned from 2006 to 2012 (barring a Switch port of the final game in 2019) spent its entire run desperately clawing its way to the level of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. While that branch of 2D Mario certainly improved over its four games, I’d argue that it never really did hit that goal. Throughout all of this, each game struggled to find its own identity. The New Super Mario Bros. series existed entirely as an echo of what had come before, rarely branching out with new ideas. So why does all this matter? Because what Super Mario Bros. Wonder does that makes it so much better than anything in the last twenty years of 2D Mario, isn’t to be more like Super Mario World, but rather to stop trying.

The first thing you’ll notice about Super Mario Bros. Wonder is an increased focus on narrative. This isn’t to say that Wonder is full of long cutscenes, but rather that it is constantly providing the player with motivation beyond the initial call to action of Bowser causing a problem. Each world you explore will generally feature a somewhat self contained narrative arc. For example when you arrive in a desert area, it isn’t simply a question of playing through all the levels on the way to a castle, rather an inhabitant of this area explains that Bowser Jr. has stolen their water supply and they need you to defeat him and get it back. Then after traveling the desert and arriving at Bowser Jr's castle, you find him swimming in a giant pool of water, the only water you’ll encounter in any of these levels. Other worlds may not even have a final boss in any traditional sense. Rather levels will simply play out in a way that satisfies the narrative hook of that area. While I don’t expect most of us are playing 2D Mario for the plot, this is a change that alters the player perspective of the gauntlet of levels presented to them. Entering a world isn’t just a question of playing levels with a new theme, it's a new story that will play out across the next series of stages. It makes the entire game feel like a consistently evolving adventure. It is a concept that calls to mind the more NPC filled worlds of the 3D Mario series that have been absent from the 2D franchise all along.

When starting a game you’ll be able to choose from twelve characters. Of these twelve, the four Yoshis and Nabbit are all invulnerable to damage but cannot pick up powerups. It is a great option, especially for younger or inexperienced players to have, but much like its implementation in New Super Mario Bros U, or Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze I’m disappointed that this feature remains locked to specific characters rather than simply being a toggle. Watching my nephews disappointedly switch back to Yoshi because a level is too hard for them to play as the character they actually want is disheartening. The worst part is other games like Yoshi’s Crafted World had already solved this with their Mellow Mode option. On the bright side, players no longer have collisions with each other when in multiplayer. That means you can spend more time focusing on playing the level, and less time accidentally bouncing off each other. The camera only following one player without offering propper split-screen is still a problem, especially for those playing with younger children, but it is overall still an improved experience over the New Super Mario Bros. games. The game does also offer an online mode in which you can see ghost images of other players, but in my opinion this added little to the game other than visual clutter, and ultimately took away from the experience of exploring a level. Still the option is there for those who want a more social experience.

As you play you will encounter a few new power-ups in addition to the new badge system. The elephant power-up turns Mario (or whichever playable character you’re using) into an elephant twice Mario’s usual size. While in this form Mario can use his trunk to smash blocks and enemies horizontally, a bit like the cape spin from Super Mario World but with a lot more power. This form can also take in water which can be used to feed dying plants, or cool flaming objects. Drill Mario evolves on an idea first seen in the Super Mario Galaxy series allowing Mario to drill down into the floor or ceiling. This allows him to circumvent certain obstacles and defeat otherwise armored enemies. Finally, Bubble Mario is largely useless in most situations. The real meat and potatoes of Mario’s new powers however, come in the form of badges. Badges grant Mario a permanent ability, regardless of his form. Only one badge can be worn at a time, so you’ll have to choose your preferred ability carefully. For myself, an early favorite was a badge that allowed for an extra vertical wall jump. Another that I picked up in one of the later worlds replaced this, but I won’t spoil that for those who haven’t found it yet.

The biggest weak point in what is largely an excellent game, is its boss battles. There are only three bosses throughout the entire game, and you’ll fight two of them over and over again. Each fight includes only minor variations to the environment and no changes to enemy attack patterns. It is a step back from New Super Mario Bros. U which featured thirteen unique boss fights, or even Super Mario World which featured six plus some variants. The last Mario game to have this few boss types was actually Super Mario 3D Land.

However, speaking of Super Mario 3D Land, while I think Wonder may have inherited its worst element in its boss variety, it also inherited its creativity. That expands beyond 3D Land as well and into 3D Mario in general. The entire time I was playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder I couldn’t help but feel less reminded of any 2D Mario and more reminded of Super Mario 3D Land, or 3D World. The non-linear approach to level order, the progression based on collectibles, even just the visual design of the overworld, all of these call to mind Mario’s 3D adventures. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the first 2D Mario game to feel like it is looking forward from 1990 rather than back. A quick look at the credits reveals that Koichi Hayashida, who was the director of Super Mario 3D World and worked on every 3D Mario game since Mario Sunshine, just so happened to serve as a game designer on Wonder. The influence of the lessons learned from decades of 3D Mario are felt everywhere in Wonder, and are a huge part of why this feels like the first truly new 2D Mario experience since the early 90’s.

It is hard not to be absolutely blown away by Super Mario Bros. Wonder. It is easily the best 2D Mario in over thirty years. It does this by not trying so hard to match the past, and instead focus on new ideas and learn from how Mario has evolved in other dimensions since then. That being said, it does make the areas where Wonder gets tripped up feel all the more egregious. Not because there are issues to be solved, but because none of them are inherent to any of the new ideas. Gating difficulty options behind certain characters, the locked-in multiplayer camera, and the extreme lack of boss variety are all issues that have been with Mario for years. It is one thing when bold new design brings up new challenges, but these are just old complaints that don’t really have an excuse for not being fixed by now. Of course that doesn’t take away from the excellence of this title, but they do stand out. However, even with these blemishes, at the end of the day Super Mario Bros. Wonder is an incredible breath of fresh air overall. It has reaffirmed that 2D Mario has the potential to be more than just good, it can be incredible. It sweeps away any concerns I had that my love of the best games in the series isn’t just nostalgia and that a truly original 2D Mario absolutely has the potential to stand alongside Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World. While Super Mario Bros. Wonder isn’t quite perfect, it is a gleaming star we can hopefully follow into a new era for 2D Mario.

TalkBack / Song of Nunu (Switch) Review Mini
« on: October 30, 2023, 05:50:23 AM »

I have no idea who these people are but I like them.

Song of Nunu is the latest in a series of spinoffs from the highly successful League of Legends. Like the rest, the goal is to expand the world and characters while also appealing to an entirely new audience. As part of that new audience, I can say that’s working pretty well. Song of Nunu caught my attention due to its developer, Tequila Works, who also developed a personal favorite of mine, Rime.

Song of Nunu is very much in the same vein as Rime, though with a more straightforward story. This is a narrative driven, adventure game sprinkled with light platforming, puzzle solving, and combat. You play as a young boy named Nunu who is joined by a large friendly yeti named Willump. Together you’ll travel a frozen and beautiful landscape in search of Nunu’s mother. Along the way you’ll stumble into a threat from a mysterious dark ice that is slowly covering and infecting the world. The relationship between Nunu and Willump is really the star of the show. They constantly chatter back and forth with each other cracking jokes and helping each other out. You’ll seamlessly move from controlling Nunu to Willump as he picks up Nunu to navigate through more platforming focused areas of the environment.

As you progress you’ll encounter a variety of puzzles. These are generally solved by either throwing snowballs at various environmental weak points, or through the use of Nunu’s flute. The latter of these factors into some of the most interesting elements of Song of Nunu’s gameplay. While using the flute, the L, R, ZL, and ZR buttons each play a different note. Combining two buttons results in even more notes. Across the world you’ll find markings that indicate different notes and will quickly learn to sight read entire pieces of music without difficulty. Playing different songs or individual notes will then cause different elements of the environment to react. It's a bit like an entire puzzle mechanic built around the Ocarina from The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.

Combat is Song of Nunu’s weakest element. It isn’t bad, it's merely bland. Combat amounts to very basic brawler encounters between Willump and a very limited selection of enemy types. Luckily these are by far the least common of the primary gameplay sections. The majority of the game is happy to let you explore, platform, and puzzle solve, which all feel great.

For the most part the Switch version runs quite well. You can definitely feel that the Switch was the primary target console during development as Song of Nunu is releasing as a Switch console exclusive. Image quality isn’t a full 1080p, but it remains sharp and good looking throughout the adventure. The frame rate also holds up most of the time. There are some harsh drops when transitioning from one large area to another, but in my experience these never cropped up while I was doing anything other than just walking from one point to another. They never interfered with combat or complex platforming. It's also worth noting that it runs significantly better than Rime did when it first launched on the Switch.

Song of Nunu is a cozy, charming, and endearing adventure game that by no means needs to be limited to fans of League of Legends. It is a largely smooth experience on Switch with great puzzles that are fun to solve, while not being overly challenging. The flute playing mechanics are legitimately unique and feel like something out of a lost Zelda game. If you like straightforward adventure games like Rime, Song of Nunu is an easy recommendation.


Definitely not a cloud version, we can say that.

Hogwarts Legacy releases on Nintendo Switch this November after successfull launches on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series systems. It is a graphically demanding game so the Switch version has always been a bit of a question mark. Today, thanks to a new pre-order page on the eShop, we have our first look at the Switch version of the game. Take a look at the screenshots below.

TalkBack / Dementium: The Ward (Switch) Review
« on: October 11, 2023, 05:10:45 AM »

A DS classic returns but at what cost?

Dementium: The Ward is making its way to Nintendo Switch sixteen years after its initial release on Nintendo DS. That DS game is a somewhat iconic release for fans of the platform. It was the first game from developer Renegade Kid (now known as Atooi), and pulled off on DS what was usually limited to big first-party releases. Dementium was a fully 3D, first-person, survival horror game that ran at a buttery 60fps. It was a technical masterpiece on the DS and I myself quite enjoyed it. Its actual gameplay mechanics aren’t horribly deep, but it delivered an experience one couldn’t really find elsewhere on the system. Eight years later, a remastered version was released on 3DS. It made some great quality of life adjustments, updated the visuals to the level of the 3DS, and was overall a very solid remastering effort, especially for a small indie studio.

Now we come to the Switch version. It keeps all the quality of life changes from the 3DS remaster while removing the need for stylus controlled aiming or a Circle Pad Pro. Unfortunately, the move to Switch isn’t perfect and comes with some odd limitations and omissions.

Dementium sees you playing as a patient who wakes up in a deranged and horror-filled mental hospital. Strange zombie-like creatures roam the halls, giant leeches crawl from the ductwork, and powerful bosses lurk in the darkness. As you wake up in your room, you’ll quickly stumble into the first issue with this version of Dementium. In both previous versions, you could use the touch screen to scribble notes. This allowed you to track things like door codes, or hints for puzzles. The Switch version doesn’t let you do this, but for some reason you can still see the notebook in your inventory; it just doesn’t do anything. Yes, you can work around it by taking screenshots on the Switch instead, but it's a bizarre omission and I kept double checking to make sure I hadn’t simply missed a button, given that I could see the notebook sitting right there.

As you explore the hospital, you’ll find a flashlight, and slowly start acquiring weapons to fight off monsters. All of these handle much better in a traditional dual-stick setting than they ever did with stylus controls. It isn’t hard to argue that this is probably the best controlling version of Dementium. I actually found it made the entire experience feel significantly easier and decided to bump up the difficulty (another nice addition brought forward from the 3DS version).

When it comes to brand new features, the Switch version really only has one. The game now allows you to swap between two video modes; Retro and Retro CRT. I found the absence of a third mode called Modern to be a little strange. I’d assumed from trailers that this would essentially be an HD port of the 3DS version, but that isn’t the case. From a graphical perspective, this is almost exactly the 3DS version. The game renders at a resolution of 426x240. That’s the same vertical resolution as the 3DS and only a horizontal boost of 26 pixels, owing to the difference in aspect ratio between the Switch and a 3DS. There is a pass of anti-aliasing (specifically FXAA), but at this resolution it does nothing to hide the underlying output. One can make the argument that this is an aesthetic choice, but I still find it extremely disappointing given that Dementium was a technical showpiece on DS and the 3DS version continued that trend. Seeing the Switch version simply be the 3DS version with a broken notebook and a CRT filter seems antithetical to the legacy of this game. I have to hammer home that texture resolution appears unchanged; there are no new graphical effects such as shadows from your flashlight, and rain outside windows is still just an animated texture right on the surface of the window that updates at quarter rate. All this with a shop listing that claims it was "Built from the ground up for Nintendo Switch." Even just running the exact copy of the game that I received as a review copy on 3DS back in 2015 on an emulator at a meager 900p, reveals a significantly better looking game.

I’m extremely disheartened by the evident lack of care that went into this Switch release. Even the most basic Switch conversions of classic games have included a resolution bump if not a full overhaul. Nintendo’s own N64 library on NSO, which also has its roots in 240p, manages to run at 720p on Switch. Add to that a broken element of the game's basic features and this version becomes much harder to justify. I like Dementium a lot. This and Renegade Kid’s next DS release Moon were staples of this era for me. While I appreciate that I can access it on a new platform, seeing it dumped here so unceremoniously without even an adjustment to the internal resolution is very disappointing.

TalkBack / Wartales (Switch) Review Mini
« on: September 26, 2023, 06:04:43 AM »

An impressive game, but can the Switch run it?

Wartales is an open-world, tactical RPG. In it, you’ll take control of a custom-built party of adventurers. At the start, you’ll select your party’s background, the class of each of your four characters, and do some light visual customization. From there you are dropped into an expansive world without really being told what your goal is. On the one hand I enjoy the complete freedom that Wartales offers its players, however, many complex systems are simply not explained. Rather, it is up to the player to stumble through their first hour or two figuring out systems through trial and error. A familiarity with tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons is certainly helpful, as several mechanics borrow heavily from it.

All that being said, once you do overcome that entry barrier, Wartales has a lot to offer. As you explore the world, you’ll slowly come to understand its various political and social issues. Most encounters can be solved in multiple ways as you align yourself with one side or another. Or you can simply kill everyone. Early on I encountered two men who were planning an attack on a group of passing refugees. I could fight them, join them, or give them some alcohol from my inventory and get them too drunk to remember what they were doing.

Combat will be fairly straightforward to tactical or tabletop RPG fans. Each unit has a set distance they can move based on their stats and the terrain. Once per turn a unit can use their basic attack, with additional bonus actions being available at the cost of valor points. These points come from a shared pool and can be regained by meeting specific conditions in battle, and by resting at an inn. There is a strong focus on drawing enemy attention with one unit then attacking from behind with another to do bonus damage. You’ll want to pay attention to which enemies you engage with, as disengaging and attacking a second enemy while the first still lives, can trigger an opportunity attack. It is a fun combat system that borrows just enough from other sources while putting its own spin on many mechanics.

On paper, I like Wartales a lot. It scratches that freeform western RPG itch and brings a lot of original ideas to the table. Unfortunately, the Switch really struggles to deliver on that ambition. I’ve experienced several crashes back to the Switch home screen, and a few softlocks that required me to exit the game and restart it. This is following some updates which aim to improve stability. Luckily the autosave has at worst made me repeat a single combat encounter. While exploring or in combat, the frame rate is constantly stuttering. This makes just wandering around the overworld feel awkward and unstable. The initial load into a save file is multiple minutes long and even just entering or exiting combat incurs a long wait on a black screen.

Wartales is a game that I very much want to like, and suspect I would, were I playing it on PC or presumably a more powerful console. I have plenty of positive things to say about it but at the end of the day, it just doesn’t run well on Switch. Wartales is a very interesting game, but between poor tutorialization and awful performance on Switch, it may be buried a bit too deep to be worth playing on this platform.

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.

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