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 - John Rairdin

Pages: [1] 2 3 4
TalkBack / Pikmin 4 to Feature Custom Characters
« on: Yesterday at 05:15:24 AM »

New trailer reveals new character creation details.

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

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


And more Zelda talk.

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

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


one upping a masterpiece.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Potential spoilers ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resolution for the endless now

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

A unique take on some classic puzzling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Frame rate and resolution tested.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“I’m glad Nintendo made the right decision”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TalkBack / Gameplay Analysis: The Legend of Zelda Tears Of The Kingdom
« on: March 28, 2023, 05:19:50 PM »

Everything you wanted to know about the Ultrahand (but were afraid to ask).

Today's live gameplay of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom needed a full breakdown, and we aimed to deliver. From the arrows that home to the Zonai, check out our analysis:

Podcast Discussion / Episode 361: Xenologue Chronicles
« on: March 24, 2023, 05:33:24 AM »

Return of the Matt.

With Neal out this week, Matt Zawodniak joins John to talk about some not-so-recent releases, Fire Emblem DLC both old and new, and The Last of Us (a show neither of them actually watched).

TalkBack / FUR Squadron (Switch) Review Mini
« on: March 16, 2023, 06:14:00 AM »

A compelling bite-sized rail shooter.

FUR Squadron is an unapologetic love letter to Star Fox and Star Fox 64. Gameplay, level design, and even dialogue regularly pay homage to those classic shooters. While the content on offer is somewhat limited, there is a lot of charm and solid mechanics beneath this bite-sized rail-shooter.

FUR Squadron takes place entirely inside of a training simulation. The world is represented as bright, colorful, wireframe graphics that look particularly striking when playing on the OLED Nintendo Switch. When something goes wrong in the simulation, the two pilots trapped inside, along with their technician on the outside, will need to find a way out, all while surviving a simulation that is desperate to shoot them down. Your ship is equipped with a standard laser which can be upgraded via pickups to increase its attack power. Your laser can also be charged and locked onto enemies. Missiles can be picked up throughout stages for stronger area-of-effect attacks. And of course, you can barrel roll with the R button. The default sensitivity on ship movement is a bit stiff for my taste, but the controls are easily customizable in the settings menu.

Levels are strictly rail-line and for the most part, don’t put up much of a fight on the standard difficulty, though additional difficulties can be unlocked upon completion. The stages do a nice job of shaking up environmental settings and by extension stage hazards. The strict visual style does, however, tend to lend all levels a very similar appearance. That being said, within that style they’re all very well realized. Each one strikes a satisfying balance between shooting down enemies and needing to dodge around environmental hazards. Stages generally end with a boss fight, which varies from extremely straightforward to genuinely interesting. The music and overall sound design is also excellent. Characters speak in gibberish except for specific words, and the soundtrack is wonderfully synchronized to the action on screen.

Where FUR Squadron struggles is in its content. A playthrough only lasts around twenty-five minutes. With no alternate paths to take on future playthroughs, replay value is entirely based on clearing the game at higher difficulties. It may be enough to keep genre enthusiasts engaged for an hour or two, but it lacks the diverse number of permutations, so loved by high score seekers, that can be found in its inspiration. FUR Squadron is a reasonably well executed love letter to Star Fox and rail shooters in general, and it is clear that the potential is there for this developer to pull off something of a much larger scale. It is short and simple, but a fun diversion for genre fans if only for an afternoon.


The future remains cloudy.

Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, announced this morning that Microsoft have signed a ten year partnership with Ubitus to stream Xbox PC games. This deal would also include Activision Blizzard titles, pending the approval of Microsoft's acquisition. The acquisition is currently held up in courts, but Microsoft is confident the deal will go through.

Ubitus is a cloud-based gaming service who currently provides streaming support for the Nintendo Switch's cloud-based library of games. Neither Microsoft nor Ubitus have made any comment as to whether this cloud agreement relates to the company's relationship with Nintendo. Microsoft has previously signed a similar agreement with Nintendo themselves to bring feature complete versions of Call of Duty to Nintendo platforms for the next ten years.

TalkBack / Squad 51 vs The Flying Saucers (Switch) Review
« on: March 15, 2023, 06:00:37 AM »

1950's science fiction meets FMV infused shooter.

Squad 51 VS The Flying Saucers is one of those games that takes a simple premise and then executes on it near flawlessly. On a basic level, it is a horizontally scrolling 2D shoot-em-up (shmup), but with the added twist of visually and thematically emulating science fiction films and serials of the 1950s. The combo works out wonderfully and even with a few small technical complaints, it results in one of the most engaging 2D shmups I’ve ever played.

After deceptively friendly aliens land on earth, they quietly take control of the population in the name of technological advancement. You play as a pilot in Squadron 51, a ragtag group of resistance fighters dedicated to freeing the planet from extra terrestrial control. The story is told through live action cutscenes and near constant banter from pilots during missions. The live action cutscenes are largely filmed against blue screen but do an excellent job of digitally recreating the look of 1950’s science fiction. Aliens are presented as actors in prosthetics, UFOs wobble back and forth as they spin through the air, and your own airplane regularly has visible strings holding it up in cutscenes. During gameplay, the backgrounds are expansive and lively with enemies and friendlies weaving across your flight path. Lasers and aircraft alike display a sort of glow around them that not only helps them stand out in a monochrome environment, but emulates the look of early compositing matte errors. The only spot in which the visual ambition can run into slight problems is in the resolution of the effect used for this glow and dynamic shadows. Some of the interior environments have very visibly chunky shadows that jerk distractingly across the screen as the light source moves along with your plane. It is a minor complaint but is extremely noticeable when it does crop up.

Actual gameplay can be taken on either single or multiplayer, with a seamless drop in option for player 2. Your aircraft can be equipped with a variety of upgrades; some of these are secondary weapons while others will affect things like your resistance to enemy fire, the size of your hitbox, or even the number of lives you start a stage with. As you earn points from shooting down enemies, you’ll unlock additional upgrades along with extra upgrade slots for equipping them. If you’re shot down, the points you gained will still go towards those unlocks so even if you fail a level, you’ll regularly go back in better equipped than when you left. It gives even difficult stages a nice sense of progression even if you find yourself dying repeatedly. Extra difficulty options also exist such as the ability to give yourself infinite lives, if you’re just here for the story. The only downside to restarting a stage is the loading times, which are lengthy. Upon death, you don’t get the option to hop right back in, but rather you’ll wait for the entire stage to load again from scratch. Depending on the level these loading screens tend to take around twenty seconds after every death. It slows down the momentum and tends to make retrying a stage more frustrating than it should be.

What Squad 51 VS The Flying Saucers lacks in technical perfection is more than made up for by its overall presentation and player friendly take on the 2D shmup genre. I was not just having fun; I was invested in the cheesy over the top story. After every level I eagerly loaded up the next one excited to see more of this wonderfully realized world. Yes, the seams are sometimes more visible than one would hope, and loading times to restart a level are legitimately frustrating, but the net result is easily one of my personal favorite shumps of all time.


And some bug fixes.

A new update has been announced for space exploration game, No Man's Sky which released on Nintendo Switch last year. The Fractal update will bring Nexus missions to the Switch version for the first time. Previously this feature was only partially available on Switch preventing users from completing some story missions and earning unique gear. In addition to Nexus missions, motion controls have also been added as an optional control scheme for the Switch version.

All Switch specific patch notes can be found below, full patch notes link here:

  • Nintendo Switch and PlayStation players can now enable motion-sensor based gyro controls.
  • Fixed a visual glitch with tornado rendering on Nintendo Switch.
  • Fixed an issue that could occur when cancelling the discovery naming process on Switch.
  • Fixed a number of Switch-specific issues that could block progress or cause incorrect mission selection near the end of some expeditions.
  • All Nexus missions, including Quicksilver rewards, are now available to Nintendo Switch players.
  • The “Trace of Metal” mission chain is now available to Nintendo Switch players. This story-driven mission has a number of unique rewards, including a drone companion and Sentinel-related customization options for the Minotaur.

TalkBack / Metroid Prime Remastered (Switch) Review
« on: February 12, 2023, 06:20:19 AM »

With a side of tech analysis.

When the original Metroid Prime released on Gamecube, it was one of the most immersive and realistic games I’d ever played. And I don’t necessarily mean realistic in the sense of being photoreal. I mean realistic in the sense that the world felt tangible. Entering the abandoned Space Pirate frigate, I was terrified. It wasn’t just because it was dark, it was because everything about the atmosphere was convincing. A giant creature laying in the middle of the room that you simply had to hope was dead. Sparks flying from damaged machinery. The bodies of Space Pirates, each scannable to determine cause of death as you pieced together the mystery of what happened here. As you descended to the surface of Tallon IV rain splashed off Samus’s gun and collected on her visor. Metroid Prime presented its intricate puzzle box with a degree of micro-detail none of us had seen before. Because of this it's generally considered one of the games of that era that has aged the best. For this reason, it would have been easy to remaster it with a simple texture update and a bump to 1080p, much like Tantalus has done with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. Instead, Retro Studios, with the help of an onslaught of support studios, has rebuilt everything in Metroid Prime to modern standards. Calling this a remaster, as the title screen so humbly does, vastly undersells the visual overhaul Metroid Prime has received.

But before digging into the technical details, it is important to address how Metroid Prime itself holds up in terms of game design decades after its original release. Given Metroid Dread’s position as the best selling game in the series (a title it took from Prime itself) I suspect many who were introduced to the series with Dread will be playing Prime for the first time via this remaster. Metroid Prime takes Super Metroid (the most recent Metroid at the time of its release) and brings it into 3D by adapting the sidescrolling Metroidvania format into a first-person perspective. The change in perspective grants it a feeling not dissimilar from classic first-person adventure games like Myst or Riven. Yes there is certainly combat, but calling Metroid Prime a first-person-shooter both undersells its scope, while also setting up an expectation that won’t be met by its combat.

Samus’s role in the Prime series (more-so than it is in any of the mainline Metroid titles) is that of an investigator. By making use of her scan visor, Samus is able to catalog flora and fauna, in addition to structural and environmental elements of her surroundings. It allows her to download data from computer terminals, while also translating archeological findings. Some of this information will be vital to solving puzzles. For example the material composition of a structure may prove weak to a certain weapon which can clue you in to solving a room or indicate that you’ll need to come back later with the appropriate tools. While the color coded doors indicative of the entire franchise are indeed here in full force, progress more often feels naturally gated by legitimate environmental conditions. And circumventing these obstacles requires Samus to investigate and use her knowledge of her own abilities rather than simply match the color of the gun to the door. As you progress other visors will also become available. These generally have multiple applications as well, both in combat and in exploration. For example the thermal visor can help detect the heat coming from conduits behind walls. When paired with the electrically charged wave beam, the thermal visor can then be used to identify and charge these conduits. Because it doesn’t rely on visible light, it is also helpful for navigating pitch black areas, and will highlight enemies (assuming of course that they give off heat).

Combat meanwhile, while it may look like a traditional first-person-shooter, is less about running and gunning than it is about correctly applying the right weapon to the situation. Enemies can almost all be locked onto, removing the focus on precision aiming. While locked on you can still move freely, making it easier to quickly dash out of the way of incoming fire. Since its original release, the new controls provided by both this remaster and the Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii, have allowed Metroid Prime to be played more like a traditional first-person-shooter, but it's combat is at its best when you’re using the lock-on and focusing more on position and weapon selection.

But speaking of those control changes, they’re one of the biggest quality of life changes this remaster brings to the table. Metroid Prime Remastered includes a brand new dual-analogue setup, similar to any modern first-person-shooter. It also offers modes to mimic the controls of both the original Gamecube game, and the Wii version of the trilogy. A new hybrid mode is also available which allows you to use the dual-analogue setup while activating motion controls any time by holding down R or ZR. The new controls make exploring Tallon IV much smoother. Samus feels a bit less like the tank she did in the original release, and both platforming and many boss encounters are improved significantly by this update.

As for the visual updates, it is honestly hard to know where to begin. Virtually every element of Metroid Prime’s visual makeup appears to have been entirely rebuilt. Brand new geometry covers every surface. I’d often step into a room I’d visited countless times in previous versions only to be caught completely off guard by how incredible it looks. The snow covered land of Phendrana Drifts looks legitimately jaw dropping. Complex shaders fill out every material allowing the world to realistically react to light sources. Select lights also project visible volumetric light into the environment. A reliance on bre-baked lighting means there is a lack of real time dynamic lighting in the environment so things like swaying foliage don’t cast accurate shadows, but the baked lighting is of high enough detail that it rarely proves to be an issue.The reflection of Samus in her visor is more animated and responsive. It is hard to find anything that gives away Metroid Prime's roots on the Gamecube. All at an incredibly constant 60 frames-per-second. In the two hours of footage I tested I was never able to pick up on a single dip in performance. Even when alpha effects fill the screen Metroid Prime Remastered pushes forward flawlessly. Image quality is sharp both docked and handheld. Docked turns in a resolution count of 900p while handheld mode lands just shy of native resolution at about 600p. Given the overall graphical quality of the game as a whole, these resolutions are pretty impressive. While the image is often somewhat raw, it's only in select high contrast situations that pixel crawl will stand out along edges. Luckily in most instances aliacing is kept to a minimum thanks to the inherently subdued color pallet of the art style.

If I had any concerns about how Metroid Prime would stand up in a modern lens, they were instantly dispelled by this remaster. This is legitimately one of the best looking and best playing games on the platform. It will make you look at your Switch and scream “You could do this the whole time?”. Metroid Prime Remastered is the most impressive remaster Nintendo has ever produced. It is loyal to the original in its re-working of its art, yet unafraid to push the absolute boundaries of those original designs. The underlying brilliance of Retro’s original masterpiece shines forth from this new shell, pristine as ever. This is the definitive release of one of the greatest video games ever made, and an incredible glimpse into the future of the Prime series.

TalkBack / PixelJunk Scrappers Deluxe Coming Soon to Nintendo Switch
« on: February 09, 2023, 07:00:00 AM »

Another Apple Arcade exclusive comes to Switch!

Having previously released as an Apple Arcade exclusive in 2020, PixelJunk Scrappers will be making its way to Nintendo Switch as PixelJunk Scrappers Delux later this year. Players take on the role of a team of trash collectors in a near-future, sci-fi setting. The Switch release will feature local and online multiplayer, as well as cross-play with other versions of the game (coming to PC, PS4, and PS5). PixelJunk Scrappers is one of the most recent entries in the PixelJunk series produced by Q-Games. The studio is also known by Nintendo fans for their work on the Star Fox series (Star Fox Command and Star Fox 64 3D) in addition to their extensive DSiWare library. They've previously released PixelJunk Monsters 2 and PixelJunk Eden 2 on Nintendo Switch.

Q-Games founder Dylan Cuthbert, also teased more news for PixelJunk in the near future:

"PixelJunk recently celebrated its 15th anniversary and I’m thrilled to be announcing a brand newexperience for players on PC, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. We’ve got big plans for 2023and intend to celebrate the 15 year anniversary in style. There’s more PixelJunk news to comeand we can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on.”

TalkBack / Advance Wars Remake Finally Gets Release Date
« on: February 08, 2023, 01:22:43 PM »

Assuming nothing happens... something will probably happen.

After being delayed due to thematic similarities with the Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Advance Wars 1+2 Reboot Camp will arrive on Nintendo Switch on April 21. The game includes fully remade versions of the first two Advance Wars games. It was originally slated to release on April 8 of 2022.

TalkBack / New Character and Story DLC Tease for Xenoblade 3
« on: February 08, 2023, 01:05:25 PM »

Wait, is he the baddy?

During today's Nintendo Direct we got our first look at the next character being added as a hero to Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Masha will arrive in just a week on February 15th. Masha can use ore to craft accessories that grant special effects to other characters. Roguelike battles are also being added in which the player will take on waves of enemies with a single character. As they win they'll add aditional characters to their party. Additional costumes can be unlocked via this mode as well.

In addition Wave 4 was teased which seamed to show a conflict between aged versions of Shulk, Rex, and Noah against Alvis. A section of the Bionis was also clearly visible. Wave 4 will be the final DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and was simply announced as featuring a new story scenario, similar to Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country. It is scheduled to release before the end of the year.

TalkBack / SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake (Switch) Review
« on: January 30, 2023, 06:06:00 AM »

A new title in the weirdly proud lineage of SpongeBob platformers.

As odd as it is to think about now, there was a time in which Nickelodeon's absorbent, yellow, and porous SpongeBob SquarePants managed to make a bit of a name for himself in the 3D platformer genre. Most famously, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, which itself received a remaster on all major platforms back in 2020. Three years later, developer Purple Lamp takes their experience remastering Battle for Bikini Bottom and turns their focus to creating a brand new SpongeBob 3D platformer. But is this an attempt to maximize on nostalgia, or can SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake prove itself beyond its branding?

While visiting Glove World, Spongebob and Patrick come into possession of a magic bubble soap capable of granting any wish they care to make. As one would expect, the duo’s inherently zany nature fractures the world into a variety of dimensions. Bikini Bottom and its inhabitants are torn across these worlds and it's up to SpongeBob and Patrick to save the day. Also Patrick is a balloon now, but that’s not important. The story is told with a surprisingly high level of production value. Cutscenes are excellently animated, characters are expressive, and everything feels very on brand with the classic show. Presentation on the whole is a strength for Cosmic Shake. Even the Switch port turns in a generally sharp image, though it does sometimes come at a cost. But more on that later.

The adventure takes place across seven worlds and a hub area set in Bikini Bottom proper. Each world takes on a unique theme: western, pirates, halloween, etc. These worlds unlock one after the other and while almost entirely linear, they are extremely expansive. A reasonably collectible-minded player will have no trouble spending an hour or more in most worlds. Each world puts forth a variety of story-based objectives as you progress through it. They may require SpongeBob to locate a certain number of a given item, reach a hard to reach area, or simply defeat tough enemies.

The actual platforming feels excellent and is the predominant focus of the design. Each world introduces some new element that allows SpongeBob to interact with the environment in a new way. Early on you’ll earn a karate kick that, outside of combat, allows you to zip to certain targets. Later a grapple hook allows you to swing off specific points. These abilities are then excellently combined into more complex platforming challenges requiring you to mix and match your different options. While the platforming never got particularly difficult, I found myself deeply enjoying almost every moment of it.

Combat, the secondary focus of most levels, is significantly less interesting by comparison. It is functional, and never caused a problem, but it lacks the creativity and constant sense of evolution that the platforming naturally carries. Most fights amount to using SpongeBob’s net to hit enemies who rarely pose much of a threat. A few specific enemies do require you to make use of unlocked platforming abilities, but the majority simply require that you run up to them and hit them once or twice.

As you complete worlds and bring stranded characters back to Bikini Bottom you’ll unlock subquests. These objectives oftentimes offer up an incentive to return to completed levels and complete additional goals. Unfortunately due to the linear nature of each world, they’re not particularly conducive to freely exploring. You can zip between checkpoints but unless you already know exactly where you’re going, you’ll more often simply wind up playing the entire level again. I enjoyed each level once, but their structure made them less interesting to revisit.

As alluded to earlier, the Switch turns in a sharp, good looking rendition of Cosmic Shake. While resolution is dynamic, the average image quality is significantly above what I’ve come to expect from modern multi-platform releases on the system. Most levels also turn in a pretty stable level of performance at most times, though the primary hub struggles significantly more as you fill it by completing more and more worlds. That being said, while most areas run well, the transitional segments of levels are littered with hitches and pauses. Oftentimes you’ll be shot across a map to access a new area, or you’ll ride a seahorse across a large area. In these instances, the engine seems to struggle to stream in new assets fast enough and the game will occasionally pause for several seconds before resuming. It is this feeling of general instability anytime you get moving too fast that causes the game to feel like it's just barely holding together. The resolution clearly isn’t a problem, so the game generally looks great, but delivering these massive levels is evidently an issue.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, is a surprisingly endearing 3D platformer. The evolution of your traversal options is excellently paced and synthesizes naturally into constant, new challenges. The combat, while uninspired, is functional. The drive to push for 100% completion may be asking a bit too much given the structure of the worlds, but the levels themselves are fun to explore. The Switch version turns in crisp visuals, and generally stable performance, outside of a few specific areas. That being said, when the engine does come under stress it grinds the game to a halt. While it may not often affect actual playability, it's hard to ignore when the image simply freezes for five seconds. Perhaps appropriately, this feels like a lost licensed platformer of the early 2000s. That comes with the good and the bad, but there is certainly a lot to like here, even if it's a bit rough around the edges.

TalkBack / Onion Assault (Switch) Review Mini
« on: January 26, 2023, 04:16:55 AM »

It's new Super Mario Bros 2 but with more onions.

If you’ve ever wished for a combination of Nintendo indie darling Gunman Clive with Super Mario Bros 2 (USA), then Onion Assault may just be your dream game. It presents a gauntlet of challenging levels, giant bosses, and plenty of onions, all with developer Bertil Hörberg’s signature polish. Progression is separated into four worlds, each containing four individual levels. The last of these is capped off with an impressive boss battle.

Mechanically, Onion Assault is extremely simple. Your move set consists of a run button, a jump button, and the ability to pluck items from beneath you. This can be used both to dig items out of the ground (usually onions), or to pick up enemies while perched on their head. As levels progress, the variety of items you’ll dig up as well as the application of them develops somewhat. You may need to toss an onion into a canon to fire it at a breakable wall, or at a switch beyond your reach. You may dig up a bomb that can clear an obstacle or tough enemy but will also explode shortly if not quickly made use of.

On a technical front, Onion Assault is essentially flawless. Image quality is clear and crisp regardless of playing docked or in handheld mode. Likewise I never witnessed the frame rate straying from its 60fps target. The fact that this game was developed specifically for Switch is evident. The art design seems intentionally clean and often parodies the rhythmic dancing of the New Super Mario Bros series. Enemies, coins, and chunks of the environment move in perfect sync with the music in every stage. The worst I can say about the art is that there are certain level themes that wind up looking a little bland, while others look excellently fleshed out.

Where Onion Assault is at its best, and where it separates itself from its obvious Super Mario Bros 2 inspiration, is in its boss fights. Bosses are generally large mechs. Some you’ll need to climb on top of in order to pick them up and toss them to do damage. Others will require you to grab items from the environment to fight them with. Each one is unique and genuinely fun to engage. That being said, they aren’t easy. Onion Assault in general is a very challenging game, and it sometimes feels like that challenge doesn’t always come in a smooth curve. Arbitrary levels from the first couple worlds were often more difficult than levels near the end of the game. Difficulty spikes abound, and the less than generous checkpoint system may cause frustration for those not looking for a tough 2D platformer. But for those who are, Onion Assault will make for an excellent few hours of platforming challenge.

TalkBack / GoldenEye 007 Gets Switch Release Date
« on: January 25, 2023, 04:32:21 AM »

The promise of last year's September direct finally realized.

The Rare developed, Nintendo 64 classic, GoldenEye 007 will be coming to the Nintendo Switch Online service on January 27th. The title was previously announced in Nintendo's September 2022 Nintendo Direct. The release is part of a deal between Microsoft and Nintendo to make the game available on both the Nintendo Switch in addition to Xbox One and Xbox Series systems. It will also be available via Microsoft's Game Pass service.

The new trailer for the Nintendo Switch version highlights widescreen support and the option to play online with friends via the Nintendo Switch Online built in multiplayer options for classic games. It is worth noting that the ability to play online is, thus far, exclusive to the Switch version.

Pages: [1] 2 3 4