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
1
TalkBack / Space Commander: War and Trade (Switch) Review
« on: May 13, 2021, 04:38:26 AM »

An inventive Space RPG with some extra baggage.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/57126/space-commander-war-and-trade-switch-review

Space Commander: War and Trade makes the jump from a free-to-play mobile game to a traditionally priced eShop title. We’ve seen a few previously mobile space sims make their way to Switch over the last few years with varying degrees of success. However Space Commander brings along a fair amount of actual innovation that may help it stand out from the crowd.  

Space Commander is a 3D Space shooter with a strong focus on economy, trade, and building your own personal squadron of fighters. At the outset you’ll be given a very basic fighter, and be tasked with a few different quest types to get a hang of the gameplay loop. The world is broken up into bespoke 3D environments which are traveled between using a map. Some of these are deep space, while others are on the surface of planets. The majority of selectable areas on the map will also include a station where you can repair your ship, buy and sell various goods, refuel, and pick up jobs. Flying anywhere uses up fuel. You can fly slower and use up less fuel, but plotting a course that will take you longer than fifteen hours will increase your chances of being intercepted by pirates, who you’ll have to fight off before you can move on. Unless you come out of this fight perfectly unscathed, you’ll wind up needing to repair your ship at the next stop in addition to refueling it.

The biggest issue facing Space Commander is its economy. It is, simply, too harsh. Just taking a little damage on your ships will often negate whatever payoff you get from completing the job. Heaven forbid you actually lose a ship or two or need to fill up your missiles, then you may find yourself in debt to a repair shop, which will require you to pay double. Space Commander’s economy feels like it was designed to be a pay to win game, because it was. Most of the time I notice this when a game overcorrects its economy and gives you too much money. In Space Commander’s case it feels like they took away the option to buy my way out with real world money but didn’t replace it with an in-game option. Ultimately this left me relying on the most boring part of the game, simply buying and selling goods from one station to another to make a profit that hopefully outweighed my fuel cost. It makes taking on contracts from the job board an actively bad idea.

On the flip side, if you can scrounge up enough spare change, Space Commanders most interesting and unique mechanic is the way it handles owning multiple ships. Where in other space sims, buying a new ship either swaps out your old one or puts your old one in a garage, in Space Commander your new ship is just added to your squadron. You can have up to four ships actively in your squadron and switch between them freely during combat. When you’re not directly in control of a ship it will be piloted automatically and can even be given basic orders to prioritize certain targets and use certain weapons. Building up and upgrading your squadron is by far the best part of the experience. It takes space combat and gives you a party to control a bit like an action RPG.

Combat itself is passable if somewhat simple. This isn’t a full 6-degrees of movement style space sim like Rebel Galaxy Outlaw or Everspace, think instead of all range mode in Star Fox. You can move in all directions but you can’t pull up to the point of flying inverted in the opposite direction. When close enough to any enemy you can lock onto them which automatically pilots your ship to tail them. This almost feels unfair as the enemy AI isn’t good enough to shake you or even accelerate and come back around straight at you. Unless they have a tail gun you’re pretty safe and can take your time shooting them down. Enemy capital ships are a bit more interesting and the lock allows you to target various points across the larger ships. Combat overall isn’t bad but after a few hours it starts to feel very repetitive with only the large capital ships posing much of a challenge.

Outside of the economy, the various mechanics that make up Space Commander range from passable to genuinely inventive. All the pieces are here for an excellent entry level space sim but the horrible economy just drags the entire experience to a halt and makes it feel like much more of a grind than it ought to be. With some very small changes Space Commander could be excellent. As is, it will have some appeal to enthusiasts like myself, but for most there will be other space sims on Switch that will scratch the same itch much better.


2
TalkBack / Subnautica Graphics Comparison
« on: May 11, 2021, 08:33:37 AM »

Switch VS Xbox One

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/video/57121/subnautica-graphics-comparison

How well does this huge survival game hold up on Switch?


3
TalkBack / Subnautica (Switch) Review
« on: May 11, 2021, 08:15:42 AM »

The terror of the ocean can follow you wherever you go.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/57120/subnautica-switch-review

Despite only being a few years old, having officially left various early access programs in 2018, Subnautica has already proven a hugely influential game in the survival genre. Its blend of crafting, survival, a vast laberythian open world, freeform progression, and gripping story truly outdid anything that came before. On its journey, it has also proven difficult to run on powerful consoles and even PCs simply due to the scale and complexity of its world. Given the lackluster incarnation of similar games on Switch, such as ARK Survival Evolved, Subnautica seems an imposing port. Luckily it arrives on Switch better than one might have expected.

Subnautica opens with a crash landing on an uncharted, ocean planet. The reason for the crash and the nature of this world are, at the outset, totally unknown. From the moment you open the hatch of your lifepod the world is open to you. Ocean stretches as far as the eye can see but as long as you have clean water and food, there’s really nothing stopping you from setting off in whatever direction you choose. And while there are some mysteries to uncover on the surface, the vast majority of Subnautica’s gameplay lies waiting beneath your kicking legs. The only thing stopping you is breathable air, and your own bravery. Many, myself included, will find the world of Subnautica a blend of serene beauty and ever-lurking horror. There is a constant feeling that below you, far into the dark, more and more terrifying creatures lurk. Beyond the ocean floor lie deep tunnels that may span the entire map, and dig ever closer to the core of this world. What lies beyond the darkness is the source of Subnautica’s intrigue.

Upon starting a new game, you’ll be able to choose from four different difficulties. The default in which you’ll manage air, food, and water, a simpler mode that removes the food and water meters, a survival mode with only one life, and a creative mode which disables the story but lets you build and explore freely with no oxygen limits at all. I found the option to remove the food and water meters a particularly nice addition as it makes the experience more approachable to players not as familiar with survival games, without negatively impacting the experience.

The core of Subnautica’s gameplay loop lies in crafting. You’ll dive beneath the ocean’s surface and harvest materials from the seafloor. At first your oxygen won’t last long, so you’ll need to stick to the shallow reefs near your lifepod. You can return to your lifepod in order to craft supplies, materials, and equipment. Eventually you’ll find ways to extend your oxygen supply, to swim faster, even build a base on the ocean floor. While Subnautica almost never tells you exactly what to do, it does constantly urge you to push deeper. Signals from other lifepods will draw you out farther from your own where you’ll find information and blueprints to be crafted. The crafting menu itself is one of the best implementations I’ve seen on a console. Rather than a giant grid, craftable items are separated into a few simple categories. Within each of these are a couple subcategories, and within these can be found individual items to be crafted. It is quick, intuitive, and easy to use. It makes what can so often be a cumbersome experience to navigate with a controller a simple non-intimidating part of the experience.

The Switch version itself arrives mostly unscathed. Compromises are of course present, but most of the experience translates smoothly. Textures and materials in general take a significant downgrade. Pop in, which in all honesty was never Subnautica’s strongpoint, occurs very close to the camera at times. Fog also seems thicker. It isn’t a huge difference but it does make exploring certain areas slightly more difficult. All that being said, the image it presents is clean and reasonably sharp. Especially in handheld mode, Subnautica looks excellent. The water itself, which is probably one of the most visually striking elements of Subnautica’s presentation, is preserved remarkably well on Switch. The light rays present on other platforms are missing here, but otherwise the water looks beautiful. It is clear that this was a priority, which makes sense. The sound design is also excellently translated and an entirely engrossing experience especially with headphones in handheld mode. Subnautica features an excellent soundtrack that reminds me of the Metroid Prime series, and haunting soundscapes that can go from soothing to bone chilling in an instant. You almost always hear a creature looming in the depths before you see it and the effect is incredible. I did notice pretty regular hitches whenever a new segment of the map loaded in, there were also some prolonged framerate drops in some areas that I won’t talk about too much for spoiler reasons. That being said they were areas where I was never in any danger so it didn’t damage the experience too much.

Because of Subnautica’s incredibly freeform gameplay, it is hard to go too deep in without running into something that someone might consider a spoiler. What I found in my first 20 minutes may not be seen by another player for three hours. At the same time I think that’s what makes Subnautica so compelling: every discovery feels real, not some scripted event. Players will unravel the story in an entirely different order and as a result, find their own twists as revelations hit. Subnautica is a survival and narrative experience that stands as a benchmark for the genre. The Switch version itself certainly has its drawbacks, but not enough to weigh down the experience too much. Some of them do admittedly affect gameplay mildly, but the strength of Subnautica still pushes through.


4
TalkBack / New Pokémon Snap (Switch) Review
« on: April 28, 2021, 05:00:00 AM »

Exactly what you asked for.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/57017/new-pokemon-snap-switch-review

When questioned about sequels to many of their dormant franchises, the various voices at Nintendo have often been quoted saying something to the extent of not revisiting a game until they have a fresh new idea for it. Fans often respond saying they’d be perfectly happy with merely an updated version of what they already love. No major innovations, just new content that feels like the game they already enjoy. With New Pokemon Snap, releasing over two decades after the original, Nintendo is trying exactly that. New Pokemon Snap is successful at being more Pokemon Snap. Whatever personal inferences you derive from that statement are more than likely true, for better and for worse.

You arrive in the Lental region, fresh, young, parentless, and ready to pledge your life to the first Pokemon-related scientist you can find. You encounter Professor Mirror (which is definitely a real name and not an alias) who you’re pleasantly surprised to find has already taken in another like-minded orphan. Here you’ll join up with the team at the Laboratory of Ecology and Natural Sciences to help them research Pokemon through the magic of photography and fruit-based animal abuse. With camera in hand you set off to catalogue the islands of Lental.

At its core, New Pokemon Snap is a 360-degree rail-shooter. The player rides along a set course snapping pictures of Pokemon in their natural habitat. Courses are explored both during day and night and often have hidden alternate routes that can be found and traversed. More courses unlock as you progress, totalling a number that significantly outdoes that of the original game. You’ll also level up each course as you turn in more and more pictures. Playing the same course at a higher level changes up the patterns of Pokemon and allows the environment within a level to evolve somewhat. One early level sees Bidoofs building a dam which gradually works its way to completion as you play the stage at progressively higher levels. It adds some nice variety to replays, though I’d still love to see a few more random elements introduced rather than largely seeing the same scripted events play out the same every time.

Each course is beautifully rendered. New Pokemon Snap is, by a monumental margin, the best looking Pokemon game to be released. The world is excellently realized with wonderful attention to detail. A low resolution texture can be spotted in cutscenes now and then, which will no doubt have a certain corner of the fanbase comparing various trees again, but the overall presentation is excellent. The coastal and underwater stages are easily my favorite. Whether playing on the television or handheld, New Pokemon Snap is a showpiece for the system.

At the end of each course you’ll turn in one photograph of each Pokemon you snapped a picture of. These pictures are given a score and also separated into four tiers. The goal of the course is to fill your Photodex with not only every Pokemon in the region, but with a photo from each tier of every Pokemon in the region. Given that you can only turn in one photo of each Pokemon per run, this means you’ll be replaying each stage a lot. Progression through your Photodex and leveling up in each stage also factor into unlocking new stages and nighttime variants, though it's usually not clear exactly what you need to do in order to unlock the next stage. So you just keep playing. This is not a game you can play quickly, and I don’t mean that it's a particularly long game, merely that it’s slow moving. The average playthrough will last around nine hours, give or take depending on your playstyle. But a lot of that time will be spent sitting through photo ratings, and replaying the same stages. It is very similar to the original in this regard, but the experience feels very padded out despite the comparatively larger amount of content as compared to the first game. This is also a highly tutorialized game, so you’ll spend an obnoxiously long time being taught how to press a button to throw fruit.

In terms of elements that make New Pokemon Snap feel legitimately new, the pickings are rather slim. Fans of the original will recognize the fruit that you’re more likely to accidentally pelt Pokemon with than gently lure them with. You can also play a little tune that wakes up some Pokemon and causes others to dance. The Illumina Orbs are a new addition, but they largely just serve to get new actions out of Pokemon who are stationed near enough to specific crystals hidden throughout each stage. Arguably the largest change comes in the form of a scanner. The scanner can be used to highlight Pokemon, but will also point out investigation points. Searching these points can lead to clues about achieving a rare Pokemon sighting or even unlock an alternate route through the course. An icon appears on screen when there is something important to scan, making it pretty obvious when you should do it, but it does add some variety to each course and keeps you on your toes. Motion controls are also available this time around, which are particularly appropriate when playing handheld. They allow you to use your Switch like an actual camera, moving it around you to take pictures. It is a natural addition and one that works perfectly. It also allows you to move much faster than even the max turn speed available with traditional controls.

New Pokemon Snap is exactly what the name implies. It is a new Pokemon Snap and that’s it. It doesn’t reinvent the gameplay, nor does it add to it or even clean it up. Quality of life issues that were present in 1999 stand proudly untouched in 2021. That being said, if you just wanted another Pokemon Snap, this is exactly that. It is significantly bigger than the original, and photo editing options in combination with Twitter and Facebook integration make it a somewhat more social experience. While it is easy to say this is the definitive Pokemon Snap experience, I can’t help but find myself wanting something that truly feels new rather than simply more. New Pokemon Snap is a loyal-to-a-fault sequel, that hopefully harkens to something a bit more adventurous down the line.


5
TalkBack / Breathedge (Switch) Review
« on: April 27, 2021, 05:13:00 AM »

A charming parody that struggles to stand on its own.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/57013/breathedge-switch-review

Breathedge strives to be that ideal form of parody in that it pokes fun at a genre, whilst existing as a solid entry in the genre itself. Taking heavy influence from titles like Subnautica, Breathedge tasks a player with surviving alone after their ship explodes in deep space. But is a shattered fourth wall enough to bring freshness into this increasingly populated genre?

As you find yourself alone aboard a mostly destroyed ship, you’ll have only an AI companion to help you survive. While the small surviving area of the ship is pressurized and has breathable air, you’ll need to venture into the cold dark of space to gather resources. At the outset you’ll be heavily restricted to the area immediately around your ship. However as you progress you’ll find a myriad of ways to extend your oxygen supply, but you’ll ultimately still be on a timer. This is the biggest difference between Breathedge and Subnautica, its most obvious inspiration. Where in Subnautica one can surface anywhere to get more oxygen, Breathedge is built around set points. As such exploration feels much more repetitive as, while you’ll gradually be able to go farther, you’re constantly retreading the same territory on each trip. Base building and faster travel options as the game progresses helps to break things up, but the underlying repetitive travel is still present.

As you explore you’ll find materials. Some are simply floating in space ready for harvest, while others will require a specific tool to acquire. Each material can be crafted at your base into other things such as tools, equipment, and sustenance. It is worth noting that the food and water meters feel entirely superfluous here and more a result of accurate parody than an understanding of the mechanic. Since lack of oxygen will always force you back to your base, food and water don't really affect the player other than being two more bars to fill. They are there simply because the genre demands it. On the bright side the materials for food and water are ample and even at the outset, it's never a problem staying fed.

The story plays out primarily through exploration and input from your AI companion. The writing is genuinely funny with plenty of self aware references. The fourth wall might as well not exist for all the time Breathedge spends breaking it.  The story is Breathedge’s strongest feature and does quite a bit to keep you moving forward through the repetitive, slow gameplay. It is also worth noting that a wide variety of play modes are supported ranging from hardcore survival down to pretty much just cruising through the story. Breathedge’s commitment to accessibility is commendable in this regard.

Based on the original PC release, the Switch port itself is largely quite good with one exception. The initial loading time to get into the game is extremely long. With well over a minute of waiting and no animation on screen, I managed to convince myself that the system had frozen everytime I started the game. Luckily reloading from death is very quick, so you only need to sit through it once per play session. The resolution is a little low but Breathedge still turns in a strong visual presentation and runs smoothly. The excellent and somewhat chunky art design helps with this and natural translates well to a lower resolution.

Breathedge doesn’t quite hit that Galaxy Quest level of parody that is on par with its subject, but it is still reasonably entertaining. Unfortunately the gameplay itself suffers from a few serious pacing and mechanical issues, but the story may be funny enough to push you through. Ultimately Breathedge is, at best, a mediocre survival game with a pretty good story. While I wouldn’t suggest this as your first survival game, if you’re a fan of the genre, specifically Subnautica, you’ll likely find some things to enjoy here.


6
TalkBack / Skate City Grinds Onto Switch This May
« on: April 15, 2021, 08:46:26 AM »

Apple Arcade exclusive makes the jump to Switch!

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/news/56913/skate-city-grinds-onto-switch-this-may

2.5D skateboarding game, Skate City will arrive on Switch (and other major platforms) on May 6. Skate City is the most recent title to leave Apple Arcade exclusivity.

Originally released on Apple Arcade at the end of 2019, Skate City has received positive reviews. Skate City features three playable cities with over 100 different challenges to complete. An Endless Skate mode is also included along with customization and upgrades for your gear and character.


7
TalkBack / Interview with Whisker Squadron Developer Aaron San Filippo
« on: April 08, 2021, 07:00:17 AM »

Ushering in a future if indie Star Fox.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/interview/56792/interview-with-whisker-squadron-developer-aaron-san-filippo

Whisker Squadron is, in a nutshell a procedural take on the classic SNES Star Fox formula. Developed by Flippfly, the creators of Race the Sun and Evergarden, Whisker Squadron is currently drawing a lot of attention via its Kickstarter campaign.

I've been following Whisker Squadron since before it was called Whisker Squadron. It has been fascinating to watch it go from small experiment to Kickstarter darling. Along the way I've enjoyed chatting with Aaron and now finally we've had a chance to record one of these chats. Join us as Aaron gives some insights into the behind the scenes of Whisker Squadron's development, the indie Star Fox scene, and more. If you like what you see consider supporting Whisker Squadron on Kickstarter.


8
TalkBack / Star Wars Republic Commando (Switch) Review
« on: April 06, 2021, 07:35:00 AM »

The original Bad Batch is Back.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/56780/star-wars-republic-commando-switch-review

Star Wars: Republic Commando is one of the best, and most influential, titles in the pantheon of Star Wars games. It was originally released in 2005 for both Windows and the original Xbox. Its dark, gritty view of the Clone Wars reinvented the franchise, and undoubtedly served as a major inspiration for Dave Filoni’s Clone Wars and Bad Batch series. Even the term “clankers” for droids came from Republic Commando. Delta Squad themselves even made a brief appearance years later in the Clone Wars TV series. All this to say that Republic Commando, at its core, is a very good game. Now it arrives on Switch with a few more compromises than one would hope, but can that underlying quality shine through?

Republic Commando is a squad-based, tactical, first-person-shooter. It takes heavy influence from the Tom Clancy games of the era, along with mega hits like Halo. You command Delta Squadron, a group of highly trained commandos in the Republic army. Each member of your four man squad has an individual specialty. They can be given specific commands but are also capable of making intelligent decisions on their own. Revisiting Republic Commando sixteen years after its initial release, I was impressed with how well the AI of Delta Squad holds up. This is good, as Republic Commando pulls no punches. Even at standard difficulty, it presents a stiff challenge. You and your squad can revive each other, but poor choices will quickly result in a full squad wipe.

The entirety of Republic Commando only covers three missions, but each of these missions spans multiple interlinked levels and span several years across the entirety of the Clone Wars. Each environment is entirely unique though you’ll admittedly spend a long time in each one. That being said they all look great, and hold up well despite their age. Strangely the Switch version is missing a lot of the visual features and materials that made this game such a visual standout, but more on this later. Environments range from large outdoor environments to cramped, dark spaceship corridors. Missions will at times require your team to split up, making your own personal tactics more important than ever. Typical of the era, your health doesn’t recharge automatically, but will need to be refilled at bacta stations. Ammo is also somewhat scarce, and you’ll often find yourself with just enough to make it through a firefight. This forces you to make use of your full arsenal as having enough ammo to force your way through with the standard assault rifle is rarely the case. When with your squad, the choices you make in the heat of battle can be the difference between victory and defeat. Will you breach a door with charges or quietly hack your way in? Will you provide cover fire for a squadmate as they a slice a computer terminal or will you do it yourself? Learning how you and your squad can be most effective is a huge factor is the appeal of Republic Commando.

The Switch version itself is where your personal mileage will vary significantly. While the Switch does provide a significant resolution boost over the original Xbox version, performance is very rough at points. The frame rate is comparable to the original version with intense firefights dragging things down. Additionally when background loading is occurring it can cause the game to lock up entirely for a moment. These issues usually come in waves and while it's arguably similar to its performance in 2005, the fact that the Switch can’t turn in a solid performance is upsetting. In addition to this is the fact that the Switch version, outside of resolution, is largely a downgrade from the Xbox version. Likely due to the fact that this version is built from the PC version, the optimisations present in the Xbox version to run advanced lighting and material effects are not present, or significantly pared back here. This results in a version of Republic Commando that while just as playable as it was 16 years ago, feels light on improvements.

As I said at the outset, Star Wars: Republic Commando is one of the single greatest Star Wars games ever made. While that largely holds true on Switch, it is unfortunate that it doesn’t really provide a definitive experience. At best you get a higher resolution but with pared back visuals and rough performance, it's somewhat difficult to justify outside of handheld mode against the original version. It is a shame that simply loading the original Xbox version disc into a Xbox Series X produces a better remaster than this official remaster. This is still an excellent game, and the Switch version doesn’t take that away, but issues present here significantly dull what ought to be a gleaming jewel.


9
TalkBack / Balan Wonderworld (Switch) Review
« on: March 31, 2021, 05:25:44 AM »

There are many things that I would like to say to you but I don't know how.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/56722/balan-wonderworld-switch-review

After many hours, Balan Wonderworld remains a mystery to me. It clearly has modern influences—most obviously Super Mario Odyssey in its ability swapping mechanics—and yet it either wildly misunderstands them or simply takes glee in ignoring key elements. It’s backed by the monolithic Square Enix and yet the Switch version in particular feels like a poorly funded indie title that is overstretching a lone developer. At times you’ll catch a glimpse of what seems remarkably close to a vision for the game, yet equally common is the nagging feeling you’ve fallen victim to a scam. The more I played the more I began to think the latter was the case.

Balan Wonderworld is a 3D platformer that has a plot of some sort. The opening cutscene reveals a child who is sad. They meet the titular Balan who is a strange, often-floating, top-hat-wearing, person. Together they set off on a quest that is occasionally theater themed and might be a musical. Balan gives you access to what I assume are the subconsciouses of people who have either been possessed by evil, murdered by a dolphin, or are just generally bummed. Across two levels and a boss fight you’ll save this person. As the game went on my wife and I began to suspect that the people you were rescuing were in fact dead, and Balan was some sort of guardian of Limbo. Your actions were then obviously intended to help these people move on. The girl who was murdered by her possessed dolphin is the most obvious evidence of this being the plot. When her dolphin murders her, it knocks off her scuba diving gear, thus the death. When you complete her levels you see her swimming under the ocean with the dolphin again but now she no longer needs a breathing apparatus, because she’s already dead. I dare anyone to tell me this isn’t the plot of Balan Wonderworld.

The primary hook (or harpoon, or whatever is the most threatening sharp device you don’t want to be hit by) of Balan Wonderworld is the costume system. Across each stage you’ll encounter costumes sealed in boxes that require a key to open. Each costume has an ability; and only one ability. Outside of pausing and switching costumes, every button on the controller does the same thing, whatever action is associated with your current costume. For some of them it may involve jumping; for others it will be something that super isn’t jumping. Occasionally you’ll find yourself in a position where you need to jump to move forward or back but have managed to be in possession of no costumes that can jump. Whoops, I guess you’d better go die. If you’re lucky you’ll be within range of a checkpoint where if you stand very still for a long time you’ll be given the option to switch to any of your other extra costumes. You’re never told you can do this however, and are most likely to find it as you take a moment standing on a checkpoint to weep softly as you question your life choices.

With a pedigree rich in Sega and Sonic the Hedgehog lineage, Balan Wonderworld does at least carry with it some of that 90’s Sega-style charm. Levels are varied thanks to the different costumes native to each and can visually be quite endearing. The music—outside of the fever dream musical numbers when you rescue a character—is quite good, and probably a highlight of the entire experience. Most of the level design itself is perfectly passable. The presentation might normally allow me to gloss over some otherwise rough edges, but unfortunately the Switch manages to run precisely none of it. Every time you switch costumes the frame rate stutters, and every time enemies spawn it freezes up entirely for a second or two. Just moving through the level can cause debilitating performance drops that have caused me to completely lose control of my character on multiple occasions.

Each level contains eight Balan statues. You’ll be able to get to a few on your first run through, but most require revisiting the stage with costumes from other stages. These aren’t open levels in the vein of 3D Mario either, but rather a linear point A to point B with statues hidden along the way. When you hit the point in the stage to get a statue, you need to already be fully equipped. At this point you’d better hope you’ve stumbled into the costume swap on checkpoints, otherwise some of these are borderline impossible to reach. But here’s the thing; even if you know exactly which costume you need and you have that costume unlocked, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to use it. In order to switch to a costume you need to have extras of it in your stockpile. For that to happen, the costume needs to get knocked off your list of up to three costumes that can be in your inventory at once by finding a new costume, sending it into your stockpile. If you don't already have the costumes you need stockpiled, then you literally have to grind for costumes. This requires you to go to a stage that contains the costume you want, get a key, unlock the costume box with the key, go back to the key, wait for the key to respawn, then take the key back to the box, wait for the box to respawn, and continue until you feel you have enough.

Across each level are various colored gems. After completing a level you bring these back to the Chao Garden esque hub world. Here you can use the colored gems to build up the Tower of Tims. What’s a Tim? I’m so glad you asked, and I wish I knew! Tims eat the gems, then go to the place where gems are turned in and deposit them for you. Oh you thought you could deposit the gems yourself? No, that would be ridiculous! You need to feed the Tims your gems from specific locations in the hub world that are all as far from the deposit point as possible. Each color of gem has specific points it can be fed to the Tims from, and if you thought you could just drop them and go you’d be wrong. The Tims take a long time to eat all the gems and if there are too many gems and not enough Tims then the gems will despawn, meaning you won’t be able to unlock another section of the Tower of Tims, and that would be a disaster! So you’ll need to wait at each drop off point, carefully monitoring the consumption of gems, picking back up any that are about to despawn, then putting them back out when the Tims are ready, before finally moving on to the next color.

Balan Wonderworld will leave you with a sense of wonder. A nagging sort of wonder. The kind of wonder that makes you wonder. Wonder how a game could so masterfully miss literally every opportunity to treat its players with a modicum of respect. Wonder how a very well known publisher could stomach having it in their library. Wonder what in the world happened with the Switch version. Wonder where your $60 went.


10
TalkBack / Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (Switch)
« on: March 15, 2021, 08:02:57 AM »

A relic of a simpler time.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/56567/kingdoms-of-amalur-re-reckoning-switch

Game design is an ever evolving art form. The pinnacle of a genre may a few years later become a quaint display of outdated philosophies. Perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in the realm of open-worlds, where a benchmark like Skyrim can so instantaneously be pushed aside by Breath of the Wild. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, the latest victim of THQ Nordic’s questionable remaster naming conventions, is perhaps the greatest example I’ve seen of this concept in a very long time. It is simultaneously a fantastic, open-world western RPG, whilst also displaying some of the most frustratingly dated game design the 7th generation has to offer.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, a remaster of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, originally released on Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2012. With an all star cast of designers, Kingdoms of Amalur was one of many titles that went into development in the aftermath of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s reinvention of the genre. It offered an expansive world which would ultimately grow further with DLC, colorful visuals saturated with bloom typical of this generation, hack and slash style combat to draw in action fans, and more lore than most players would ever bother diving into. It launched to favorable reviews and was set to spawn a franchise before the development studio ultimately shut down due to bankruptcy and the rights passed to the taxpayers of Rhode Island. Listen, there’s a whole story there to dig into, but I’m trying to keep this concise. In 2018, THQ Nordic purchased the rights and released Kingdoms of Amalur Re-Reckoning on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2020. Now a year later, this version arrives on Switch.

You play as a mysterious hero, resurrected from the dead with no knowledge of your past. As someone who has already died, our hero is found to be able to modify the threads of fate and is the only hope the world has of holding back the evil Tuatha, a group of rogue elves bent on world domination. The plot is dense with lots of confusing names you’ll likely have trouble keeping track of. Luckily the bad guys wear black armor and glow red, so it's usually pretty obvious who needs a good stabbing. The general progression could be compared to the work of BioWare, with multiple dialogue options, and a dialogue wheel that's hard not to compare to Mass Effect.

Kingdoms of Amalur is somewhat open-world. The map opens up in multiple large regions, and once a region opens up you are free to explore it as you wish. Towns, dungeons, and sidequests are littered throughout each area. A huge amount of the content available in Kingdoms of Amalur is entirely optional. Pushing your way through the primary quest line will leave you missing most of it. Unfortunately, despite being a very late 7th generation game, the world is by no means seamless. Loading screens occur between each area, dungeon, and building. When held against something like Skyrim which originally released just a few months prior, Kingdoms of Amalur’s world feels restrained by comparison. That being said, the regions on offer are diverse, ranging from overgrown forests, to vast fields, and deserts.

Combat was one of Kingdoms of Amalur’s widest departures from genre norms at the time. Combat encounters feel more like a hack-and-slash brawler, rather than a traditional RPG. The design in general isn’t too far off from a modern action RPG. At any time you can equip two weapons, which will each be assigned to a different button. Weapon types range from multiple sword styles, to bows, knives, and magical staves. Changing weapons types has a huge effect on gameplay. Likewise, as you level up you’ll be able to unlock skills to increase your proficiency with various weapons and abilities. Spells can also be unlocked that can either add variety to combat, or be developed to the point of rendering weapons mostly useless. Character development in terms of combat is incredibly freeform. The only hitch in the combat is one that really can’t be chalked up to age, as it had been established two generations earlier. Kingdoms of Amalur doesn’t let you target an enemy. Instead, you constantly fight with the camera to keep your opponents in view as it seemingly intentionally swings around to face in the wrong direction. This wasn’t a new concept in 2012, and the absence of a targeting system is baffling. It also would have made an incredibly helpful addition to this remastered version.

The Re-Reckoning version of Kingdoms of Amalur was developed by Kaiko, who also created the Warmastered version of the first Darksiders game, and the Re-Mars-tered edition of Red Faction Guerrilla, both of which have excellent Switch versions. Kingdoms of Amalur on Switch appears to run at or near a full 1080x1920 docked and likely a native 720x1280 when handheld. Image quality in both configurations is outstanding, barring the occasional pre-rendered cutscene carried over from the original release. Performance is generally good when playing handheld though when playing docked I did have a few instances of prolonged frame rate drops. Unfortunately, unlike the above-mentioned Kaiko-developed remasters, Kingdoms of Amalur does not include both a graphics and performance mode on Switch. An option to drop the docked resolution in favor of a more stable performance would have been a great addition to this version of the game. As is, it’s entirely playable and looks great, but performance while docked does leave something to be desired. Similarly, sound quality is very highly compressed, which becomes very evident when playing on a TV with decent speakers. This is a shame as Grant Kirkhope’s excellent score deserves to be heard in its full glory as it’s honestly some of his best work.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning on Nintendo Switch is a decent remastering effort of a game that, while largely excellent for its time, hasn’t aged flawlessly. Some of this is the unavoidable battering of time, but other things, such as the lack of a target lock, feel like improvements that could have, and should have, been implemented. Approaching Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning from an entirely modern perspective, therefore, will likely lead to some frustration. However, if you can put yourself in the necessary headspace, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is an enthralling, though flawed, adventure that perfectly encapsulates a very specific era in game design history.


11
TalkBack / Mail Mole (Switch) Review
« on: March 03, 2021, 04:29:42 AM »

Like if 3D World had a Monty Mole mode.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/56462/mail-mole-switch-review

If you’ve ever sat around playing a 3D Mario game, thinking to yourself, “I sure do wish Monty Mole had his own game,” then Mail Mole might be for you. Mail Mole is a 3D platformer in much the same vein as Super Mario 3D World. We’ve seen a resurgence of 3D platformers of late featuring all manner of creatures and characters jumping from place to place. The big difference for Mail Mole is that playing as a mole has a real tangible effect on gameplay.

At a glance, Mail Mole may look fairly generic. Its bland, flat, art design doesn’t exactly draw the eye. But Mail Mole makes one important change to traditional 3D platforming that has a surprisingly large ripple across its gameplay. As a mole, Molty (the protagonist) spends most of the game underground. And I don’t mean in underground levels, I mean he’s literally burrowing around the level rather than running around on top. The only way you know where Molty is, is via the dirt he kicks up as he moves. This impacts the game in two ways: Molty’s freedom of movement and his jumping mechanics.

Because Molty is underground, he can very easily slip through small gaps. While it doesn’t seem like something you’d have trouble adjusting to, the level design regularly enjoys pointing it out by allowing Molty to slip into areas that wouldn’t be accessible were he to be standing above ground. Molty’s jumps take even more getting used to. Rather than simply pressing a button to jump and perhaps holding it longer to jump higher, Molty only jumps when you release the jump button. Keeping the button held down for longer allows a jump to charge up. Once again, this doesn’t seem like it would be a huge adjustment, until you realize that it means all significant jumps need to be planned. A quick tap of the jump button will barely cause Molty to leave the ground. This makes for a more thoughtful platforming experience than one commonly sees.

Outside of these mechanics, the basic structure of Mail Mole is very traditional. Worlds are accessed from a central hub with each world including four stages. Upon completion of all stages in a world, a race will be unlocked through one of those stages. I was a little worried at first as the early stages are painfully easy, but there is a nice slope up the difficulty curve once you make it a couple worlds in. The races at the end of each world in particular, generally offer a very real challenge. Every once in a while, a turtle pirate in a UFO will attack and you’ll need to fight him off. These boss fights do grow gradually more complicated, but it was a little disappointing to essentially see the exact same concept used over and over again with only mildly more complex layouts.

The one area of Mail Mole I struggled to get into was its visual design. Molty himself looks quite charming, but the world itself and the other characters don’t feel like they have the same amount of thought put into them. Now and then a stage would come along with a more ambitious visual identity; some of the ruins stages come to mind. However, overall Mail Mole is very plain on the visual front. On the bright side, it does run quite well and looks sharp both docked and handheld. The music is also fun and fits the tone well.

Mail Mole is a very interesting concept that is largely executed well. It forces the player to adjust their brain to a new kind of 3D platforming in a way few games do. Its only real failing is that these ideas could benefit from being pushed further. Repeated concepts with only minimal iteration can make the mid game a bit slow. That being said it still represents a surprisingly original 3D platformer whose concepts I’d love to see taken even further.


12
TalkBack / Override 2: Super Mech League (Switch) Review
« on: March 01, 2021, 02:07:00 PM »

Not quite as super as one would hope

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/56456/override-2-super-mech-league-switch-review

When I first saw Override and by extension its sequel, Override 2, I was immediately interested. At a glance I saw something that looked like Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters but with some mech flair. Other great arena fighters like Custom Robo and Power Stone came to mind as well. This is a genre that, when done right, has provided me endless hours of fun, so I was excited to give Override 2 a shot.

Override 2 is a mech brawler featuring an assortment of diverse mechs, each with their own moveset. You’ll work your way through more and more difficult battles either offline or online in a variety of game modes. Fights range from one on one, all the way to four fighters in both free for all and team configurations. It is clear that the ideal way to play is online; however, in my playtime I never successfully found an online game and wound up playing exclusively against AI.

What makes Override 2 unique is its attack controls. Mechs are controlled using the triggers and bumpers of your controller. L and R control your mech’s left and right arms, respectively. Likewise ZL and ZR control the legs. This gives you specific control over each limb when it comes to combat. To be clear, movement is still handled with the left stick as one would expect. It is an interesting concept which does give the player a feeling of direct control over the mech. It feels a bit more like you’re actually piloting your giant robot rather than simply playing a fighting game. That being said, it is ultimately little more than a gimmick: charming but with little effect on gameplay. That is Override 2’s greatest flaw; while it's strong on charm, it doesn’t have much in the way of a unique hook. In the end it results in a distinctly average arena fighter. The gameplay is by no means bad, but if you’ve played any other arena fighter you know what you’re getting here.

Looking at Override 2 gameplay on other platforms, it is clear that it can look quite nice. Unfortunately, the Switch version goes beyond graphical downgrade and into the range of just being somewhat ugly. The art itself is very good, but the Switch version just doesn’t deliver it at a level that does justice to that art. As well, the performance in general is a little rough. Granted this isn’t an extremely fast-paced fighter to begin with given its kaiju inspirations, but the performance dips just add to the lackluster presentation.

As a game viewed independently from platform, Override 2 is a functional if not exceptional arena fighter that is brimming with charm and strong visual design. As a Switch game, it has a few too many rough edges to strongly recommend. It isn’t downright bad; this version just doesn’t carry with it any of Override 2’s strengths, leaving you with an ugly arena fighter that struggles to find originality or unique mechanics.


14
TalkBack / Panzer Dragoon II Zwei Remake Coming Later This Year
« on: February 26, 2021, 02:01:15 PM »

Apparently

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/news/56418/panzer-dragoon-ii-zwei-remake-coming-later-this-year

In a somewhat odd move, Forever Entertainment's official Panzer Dragoon twitter account seems to have confirmed a release window for Panzer Dragoon II Zwei Remake in the replies of another tweet. The reply confirms that the game is aiming for a release sometime this year.

The original Panzer Dragoon Remake released as a timed exclusive on Nintendo Switch last year, and has since come to other platforms. No platforms have currently been confirmed for the sequel. Panzer Dragoon II Zwei was originally released for the Sega Saturn and featured more diverse gameplay and significantly improved performance over the original game.


15
TalkBack / No More Heroes III Gets Long Awaited Release Date
« on: February 17, 2021, 01:13:00 PM »

And it's not too far away!

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/news/56282/no-more-heroes-iii-gets-long-awaited-release-date

Switch owners will be able to check out the long awaited No More Heroes III later this year. Today's Nintendo Direct revealed that No More Heroes III will release on August 27th.


16

Don't worry, you don't have to use motion controls while riding the bus... but you could.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/news/56281/the-legend-of-zelda-skyward-sword-hd-coming-to-switch-with-new-control-options

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is on its way to Switch via The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. Beyond being upped to high defenition, Skyward Sword HD also features new control options. Two Joy Cons can be used to emulated the original Wii motion controls. A new motion free control setup is also available. In this mode the player can use the right stick to manipulate Link's sword and other motion based items.

In addition to the game itself are a set of Skyward Sword Joy Cons designed to match the Master Sword and Link's wooden shield in Skyward Sword. These will launch alongside the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is set to released July 16th.


17
TalkBack / Halloween Forever (Switch) Review
« on: February 16, 2021, 08:26:41 AM »

Forever includes February.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/56261/halloween-forever-switch-review

After releasing on PC way back in 2016, Halloween Forever arrives on Switch just in time for the spookiest holiday of the year, Valentines Day. Halloween Forever is a retro-inspired, 2D platformer that seems to take strong influence from the likes of Ghosts n’ Goblins. But it isn’t just the theme that alludes to NES classics, but its difficulty as well.

In Halloween Forever you play as the aptly named Pumpkin Man on a quest to defeat an evil sorcerer. Pumpkin Man can shoot (vomit?) candy corn from his mouth to attack enemies and that’s it. He’ll need to run, jump, and spew his way through five very challenging level and in classic style he’ll do this all in three lives. Movement feels very tight and as a platformer Halloween Forever handles very well. I did notice a few moments of questionable collision with platforms but never in any crucial areas. Boss fights likewise are all unique and challenging. I did find that the difficulty curve on bosses seemed a bit off, with some mid game bosses being incredibly easy compared to those before or after. However all were interesting and fun to fight, not to mention they feature the best sprite work of anything in the game. The area in which Halloween Forever struggles is in its camera placement relative to danger. Thwomp-like enemies constantly drop from off screen and jumps often involve blind leaps to surfaces mostly covered in spikes that instantly kill our pumpkin headed hero. Combined with the harsh checkpoint and limited lives these elements can quickly move from challenging to downright unfair. That being said, there are ways to mitigate the issue thanks to Halloween Forever’s difficulty options.

Halloween Forever’s approach to difficulty is interesting in that it defaults to a very authentic NES style experience. Pumpkin Man has three lives and checkpoints are extremely sparse. However, tucked away in the options menu are toggles for both more lives, 99 to be exact, and more regular checkpoints. While some will certainly see it as cheating, given the aforementioned reliance on trial and error, these options do make the game significantly more player friendly without actually affecting the difficulty of the level design. That being said, trial and error gameplay is entirely accurate to much of the game design being emulated here, so for some that more authentic presentation may be desired. It is also worth noting that Halloween forever doesn’t have a save system. It is only five stages long but those stages are not short.

While Halloween Forever doesn’t have the lavish pixel art of something like Shovel Knight, its simple art accomplishes its goal quite well. I especially appreciated that spots on characters that ought to be black are left blank meaning that in an instance of passing over a non-black section of the background you can see right through the sprite. Its an accurate and often-ignored quirk of the era. The color pallet used is appropriately garish with lots of oranges and bright greens. The color pallet actually brought to mind the strange visuals present in ZX spectrum games and I found it quite endearing. Music struggles a bit more than the visuals. While the compositions themselves are all fine, some of the sounds used are extremely grating. The music in the first level in particular grew quickly to feel like an insult for getting a game over.

Halloween Forever is a fun retro platformer that struggles a bit with some unfair difficulty spikes due to level layout in combination with the in-game camera. That being said multiple options are available for those who aren’t eager to return to the brutality of 80’s gaming. Boss fights are a highlight, and Pumpkin Man handles excellently. Some rough music doesn’t take away too much from the overall presentation which is otherwise very strong. Halloween Forever is a solid retro platformer for those looking for some authentic NES style challenge is running, jumping, and barfing.


18
TalkBack / Redout: Space Assault (Switch) Review
« on: January 29, 2021, 04:19:48 AM »

The strangest genre swap since we realized F-Zero was a prequel to Star Fox.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/56094/redout-space-assault-switch-review

When a PR email hit my inbox about a Redout prequel, I opened it expecting to see a futuristic racing game. Instead I was greeted with Redout: Space Assault, a rail line shooter that seemed to bear little resemblance to the 2016 racer. After releasing on Apple Arcade in 2019, Redout: Space Assault now lands on Nintendo Switch. So how does this Space Harrier and Star Fox style, arcade adventure fare outside the realm of mobile gaming?

Redout: Space Assault takes place during a period of political upheaval. The governments of Earth, in a bid to maintain limited resources, have begun forcibly relocating citizens to the Moon. The plot deals with some interesting concepts and makes an honest attempt to be compelling. Unfortunately the moment to moment dialogue isn’t always enough to convey what’s going on or how much time is passing between missions. There are moments when the story is genuinely interesting, but more often I found myself zoning out.

In terms of gameplay, Redout: Space Assault places a heavy focus on locking multiple missiles on enemies rather than a traditional point-and-click fire mode. By default, your standard laser weapon fires automatically when your crosshair passes over an enemy. Initially I switched this over to manual, figuring it was a leftover from the title’s days on Apple Arcade. However, as I played it became clear that I was intended to let my standard weapons operate on their own while I managed missile locks. As you progress, you’ll unlock additional weapons to equip on your ship, and even the ability to have multiple attachments at the same time. This makes it even more practical to let the autofire do its thing.

Among Nintendo fans, Redout: Space Assault seems an easy comparison to Star Fox. And while, yes, they both occupy the same genre, Redout: Space Assault bears more in common with Sega’s sprite-scaling games like Space Harrier and Galaxy Force. It employs the same cylindrical play space and player movement that those games feature, rather than the conical structure of the Star Fox series. In other words, your ship always faces the same direction and aims down a tube rather than being able to turn slightly to hit targets on the far edges of the screen. This means that you can’t always hit enemies as soon as they come on screen or as they’re leaving. While it's clearly an intentional choice, it has always struck me as frustrating to see enemies, and occasionally power-ups, drift by outside my range of movement.

Added to rail line missions are a few free flight segments. Here, you’ll have full range of movement and generally be tasked with exploring space around you to find specific mission objectives. These segments are rare but they break up the gameplay nicely. My only issue with them is that objectives were sometimes unclear, causing me to wander the vastness of space, until I stumbled into the right spot. Certain boss fights also use an interesting orbiting mechanic. Here, your movement controls will cause you to orbit a target, challenging you to take shots at it while dodging incoming fire. It can be a little awkward at times as your ship will occasionally quickly flip between multiple targets, but overall it made for a nice addition to the traditional formula that I hadn’t really seen elsewhere.

Redout: Space Assault features over 40 missions and is very substantial in terms of content. Each mission has a primary and two secondary objectives. Additional objectives can be completed to earn extra credits to spend on upgrading your hull, shields, weapons, and missiles. This is where my only real complaint about Redout: Space Assault comes into play. As missions progress, enemies become more and more effective bullet sponges, forcing you to upgrade your ship in order to proceed. This results in having to return to old levels to pick up missed objectives or simply grind out credits. It breaks the story to have to continuously rewind to previous sections before you can proceed. It’s artificial padding and makes the game more about grinding out upgrades rather than your skill as a pilot, which somewhat goes against the arcade style Redout: Space Assault otherwise proudly flaunts.

Visually Redout: Space Assault looks quite nice on Switch, especially in handheld mode where it looks to run at or very near the Switch’s native 1280x720. It looks especially good when compared to the previous Redout game on Switch, which suffers from a very low resolution and visual downgrade compared to other platforms. Likely due to its Apple Arcade roots, Redout: Space Assault makes the transition quite gracefully.

Redout: Space Assault, while a generally fun game, seems to miss out on a few of the concepts that make the genre work. Arcade style games like this should be based on skill, with missions that continually pit the player against more complex piloting and shooting challenges. While this almost gets there, it falls back on artificial padding based on grinding out upgrades for your ship. That being said, when it does hit its stride, Redout: Space Assault has some truly thrilling moments. Racing pirates through the canyons of asteroids, or getting a multi-lock on a huge swarm of enemies as you dodge incoming fire is just as exciting as it should be. Redout: Space Assault gets very close to being something truly special. I would say I look forward to seeing them nail it with the next entry, but based on the series thus far, Redout 3 is likely to be a puzzle game or maybe a first-person shooter.


19
TalkBack / Bowser's Fury Blends Odyssey and Sunshine in a Bold New Way
« on: January 27, 2021, 04:11:09 AM »

Bowser may be furious but we certainly aren’t.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/preview/56088/bowsers-fury-blends-odyssey-and-sunshine-in-a-bold-new-way

I wasn’t expecting much from Bowser’s Fury going in. While I certainly enjoy Super Mario 3D World as I do all the other 3D Marios, it is without a doubt on the lower end of my 3D Mario list. With that in mind, I questioned how much a bonus spin off could really offer me and how far it could deviate from the base game. The answer I found was that Bowser’s Fury is not only good, it might just be a glimpse at the future of 3D Mario. It takes some key mechanics of 3D World, much of the design philosophy of Odyssey, and a few core elements of Mario Sunshine, and what results is, in a word, fantastic.

The basic premise of Bowser’s Fury is that as Mario you need to collect Cat Shines, which will eventually allow you to power up and face down a giant kaiju Bowser, who’s been corrupted by some very familiar looking black sludge. To do this you’ll traverse a giant lake full of stages, each housing a few shines. On paper, it seems not too different from the classic 3D Mario structure started with Mario 64; however, Bowser’s Fury does something no previous 3D Mario has done: it presents an entirely unified world. There is no menu or hub world separating each stage; they’re simply laid out across a large map. And at the center, is the looming threat of Bowser, occasionally rising to wreak havoc across the entire map.

What results is a game that feels a bit like a giant map in Mario Odyssey but with individual, bespoke micro-levels rather than a constant smattering of moons. It solves my few complaints with Mario Odyssey without overloading every inch with macguffins. Each shine feels like it matters, and part of that ultimately feeds back into the way Bowser’s Fury presents its goal.

As previously mentioned, your goal is to defeat a giant kaiju-ed up Bowser. However unlike other 3D Marios where Bowser is presumably waiting at the end of a set level or beyond the collection of a specific number of Stars, Shines, or Moons, in Bowser’s Fury he is always present. He is a looming threat. He can become active at any time and drastically alter how you proceed. He may randomly strike during a platforming challenge and as a result make things infinitely more difficult, but his destructive nature may also inadvertently clear you a path. Even when he’s inactive, the constant presence of Bowser in the stage helps convey a feeling of purpose. Every shine you acquire is progress towards dealing with a very real threat that at any time is lingering in the background.

As I explored, I was for some reason reminded of Mario Sunshine, and it wasn’t just the aquatic theming of the game, or the presence of Baby Bowser’s paint brush. Finally it clicked that Bowser’s Fury is the realization of a concept that had first been explored in that game. In Mario Sunshine, a darkness covers Isle Delfino. Collecting shines fights back that darkness and allows you to clear up goop to access new areas, exactly how progress functions in Bowser’s Fury. But on a deeper level Sunshine was the first instance of the sense of place in relation to your goal that Bowser’s Fury executes on so well. Sunshine was unique in that rather than traveling from a hub world to arbitrary environments, you were traveling to other areas of the same island. In most cases, this meant that you could always look back and see a giant shine above Delfino Plaza, and the looming threat of Corona Mountain. Like Bowser’s Fury, your goal was constantly visible and that gives the player a sense of purpose. It's an element that no other Mario game has explored until now. In Mario 64, you vaguely knew that you needed to get to Bowser at the top of the castle; in the Galaxy Games and Odyssey, you were on a quest to reach Bowser who was somewhere far away. But in Sunshine and Bowser’s Fury, you know exactly where Bowser is at all times, and that provides worthwhile motivation to the player.

Bowser’s Fury may just be a bonus mode for Super Mario 3D World, but at the same time it may very well represent the future of the series. Bowser’s Fury implements classic 3D Mario ideas in bold new ways and in some respects is a more interesting evolution of these mechanics than even Mario Odyssey. Of course we can’t say too much just yet, but we’ll be exploring more of what Bowser’s Fury could mean for the future of the series in another feature once we’re clear of embargoes and able to explore the entirety of Bowser’s Fury. We’ll have a full review of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury soon, so keep an eye out for more as we draw closer to release.


20
TalkBack / Vote on the NWR 2021 Hype Meter
« on: December 29, 2020, 09:57:43 AM »

We want to know what your most anticipated games of 2021 are!

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/feature/55878/vote-on-the-nwr-2021-hype-meter

The NWR Hype Meter is back!

For those who may have missed it in the past, the feature is called the the NWR Hype Meter. It's meant to bring back those feelings many of us used to get when looking over Nintendo Power's most wanted games list. Like Nintendo Power, we need your help in figuring out what Nintendo games are the most wanted. This edition of the Hype Meter will also help serve as a preview for what's to come (hopefully) in 2021.

So what do you need to do? Fill out this form with your most wanted Nintendo things. This can include both first and third party games. You can also include games, such as indie titles, that haven't officially been announced for Switch but are likely to come to the platform. The list should be between five and ten titles in length with your most hyped game being ranked one, and the least hyped at ten.

You will have until January 7th to send in your list.


21
TalkBack / Doom Eternal (Switch) Review
« on: December 14, 2020, 02:05:24 PM »

"Nothing's impossible, Mario. Improbable, Unlikely, but never impossible." - Luigi on Doom ports

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/55776/doom-eternal-switch-review

After an extended delay that led many to question its existence, Doom Eternal has arrived on Switch. For the gaming community as a whole, Doom Eternal was up against tough competition as the sequel to one of the best shooters of all time in Doom 2016. For Switch owners in particular though, Doom Eternal carries with it extra significance. It is not just a follow up to Doom 2016 but to the original impossible Switch port. Panic Button’s Doom 2016 port catapulted the studio to instant recognition among Nintendo fans, and opened the way for more seemingly impossible ports. However, Doom Eternal is an entirely new beast, featuring a new engine built with next generation hardware in mind, the Switch is up against stiffer competition than ever before. And of course beyond all of that, how does Doom Eternal stand against the pantheon of legendary games that is the Doom franchise?

Doom Eternal picks up where the last game left off. Demons let loose by the occult UAC organization on Mars have spread to Earth and made very short work of taking it over. You, the Doom Slayer, arrive in your flying space church to save your people from Hell’s onslaught and impart some double-barreled justice on an assortment of mortally challenged individuals. That’s about as much of the story as you need to know, but there’s a lot more dense lore in Doom Eternal than in the previous entry. In fact, the story as a whole is a much stronger focus and an area in which it struggles. I, and many others, praised Doom 2016’s very intentional disregard for long cutscenes and deep storytelling. Plenty of lore was there if you wanted to dig, but it was entirely optional to understand the plot. Doom Eternal places a greater focus on cutscenes, particularly in an effort to flesh out the Doom Slayer himself. However, just watching those cutscenes left me very confused as to what exactly was going on. I found that I needed to dig into codex entries and read up on characters to understand their relevance as the cutscenes never really tell you. It is as if Doom Eternal is caught in a struggle between wanting to tell a more compelling story while also understanding that the simplicity of its story is part of what made the previous game so endearing. All that being said, if you take the time to delve deep, there is a very cool story being told. However, if all you do is watch the cutscenes as they’re presented, you’ll find yourself more than a little lost at multiple points. Then again if you’re just here for the ripping and tearing, there is a handy skip button for those cutscenes.

The bread and butter of Doom Eternal’s gameplay is largely the same as Doom 2016. You move fast, you never reload, and you need to get in close to regain health. No hiding behind cover waiting for health to recharge. It is just as brilliant now as it was back in 2016. It forces an aggressive gameplay style out of the most timid player and forcibly aligns your actions with the mentality of the Doom Slayer. Rarely has a game’s design manipulated the psyche of the player with this degree of success, and it is what makes the modern Doom titles stand out from other shooters. New to Doom Eternal is a grapple system that allows the Slayer to swing, dash, and climb around the environment. It is a more freeform style of gameplay that works excellently in combat. It heightens the verticality of combat encounters providing both a means of escape when things go south, and a fresh avenue of attack on unsuspecting demons. These mechanics also come into play in general world exploration. Because of this, Doom Eternal features a heavier focus on platforming challenges than the previous entry or most first-person shooters in general. Overall, this works quite well, though I did find that movement when climbing is very stiff, and spotting the various grappling points when playing in handheld can be a little difficult due to the resolution.

Between each level, you return to the USS Spooky Church in orbit around earth. Here you can spend power cells hidden throughout levels to unlock more and more of the ship. The rooms unlocked generally lead to weapon or armor upgrades or even cosmetic changes for your armor. For myself, I set aside all other cosmetics once I saw the room containing the armor from the very first Doom. You can also unlock the first two Doom games from here which run hilariously poorly compared to the ports already available on Switch. Somebody tell the Doom Slayer to get an Nintendo 64. Overall, it is an implementation similar to what we saw in Wolfenstein 2. However its presence in Doom Eternal largely serves to slow down pacing with little of significance taking place. It often just felt like an extra loading screen to get through and I wished I could simply opt to skip it in favor of moving on with the game.

While I disagree with certain changes made to the single-player experience, the end result remains a fantastic game. For every change that flies in the face of the original game design, there is another that heightens it. While the net shift in quality is minor, it is already working from a place of excellence, meaning Doom Eternal’s game design is different but still incredible.

Multiplayer doesn’t fare quite as well. Gone are the multiple game modes of the original which brought a Quake-like experience to the franchise. Instead, a single game mode is present, in which two players take control of demons that can spawn additional demons to try and take down another player who controls the Doom Slayer. It is asymmetric for the sake of being asymmetric and ultimately serves as a sad replacement for the original’s excellent multiplayer. The mode itself makes for a fine distraction, but I can’t see myself putting the same amount of time into it that I did into Doom 2016’s multiplayer.

But of course the moment of truth for all of this comes down to the port itself. Doom Eternal is a much more expansive, visually impressive, and technically demanding game than the prior entry. Environments are more varied, more open, and traveled faster than anything in the original. Remarkably, to my eyes the Doom Eternal port on Switch actually runs better than the original despite this, and certainly well beyond Wolfenstein 2. Our old friend variable resolution is here of course, but performance is remarkably steady. I never noticed the more significant slow down that was visible in the original. I also never felt like the handheld resolution dropped as low as Wolfenstein 2, which was at times debilitating. Yes, the resolution is lower, and yes the framerate is capped at 30 frames per second, but what results might just be Panic Button’s finest work to date. It also includes gyro controls at launch unlike the original which did not receive them until later. This is without a doubt the way to play and works great in both handheld and portable modes. It is unfortunate that this release is relegated to being digital only as I believe it is truly the most impressive port I’ve ever played from Panic Button.

As a solo experience, Doom Eternal is simultaneously better and worse than its predecessor. It makes a lot of small changes that generally work, but also speak to a misunderstanding of the original. While changes to movement via the grapple system are largely excellent and improve the already fantastic combat system, changes to progression and story presentation just slow down what had previously been an incredibly fast-paced thrill ride. When Doom Eternal gets past its secondary elements and just allows itself to be Doom, it outdoes Doom 2016 without question. Multiplayer is, however, a significant disappointment for anyone like me who greatly enjoyed the original’s implementation. All that being said, from a port perspective, Doom Eternal is a downright miracle. It somehow presents a much more complex game even better than it presented the original.


22
TalkBack / Chronos: Before the Ashes (Switch) Review
« on: December 08, 2020, 08:06:00 AM »

A souls-like for those afraid of souls-likes?

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/55731/chronos-before-the-ashes-switch-review

I was interested in Chronos: Before the Ashes for two reasons. Firstly, it is an award winning VR game turned more traditional third-person adventure game. Secondly, it was developed by Gunfire Games, a studio consisting of many of the old Darksiders developers and who developed Darksiders III. That being said, I had no idea what to expect going in. I knew of Chronos and its sequel Remnant: From the Ashes but had not played either. While it took a moment to get its claws in, once they were, I stayed hooked.

Chronos tells the story of a young hero who makes use of an object called a World Stone. This mysterious crystal-like object allows them to leave their post apocalyptic home and travel into a world of medieval fantasy. Their ultimate goal is to hunt down a legendary dragon responsible for the desolation of their home. The juxtaposition is a little jarring at first. The ragged though still recognizably modern clothing of the hero stands out somewhat against their more traditional sword and shield. I quickly became accustomed, however, and while Chronos: Before the Ashes isn’t the most visually impressive game on Switch, the solid chunky art design that Gunfire is known for gives the game their distinctive flavor.

Chronos: Before the Ashes is in simplest terms, a Souls-like: A roguelite that takes heavy influence from the work of From Software’s Souls series. This isn’t in itself surprising as Gunfire’s own Darksiders III also takes on this format. What makes Chronos special is the way it takes arguably the most famously daunting genre in gaming and makes it accessible. This is not to say Chronos is easy, but the way in which it focuses its difficulty creates a much more tuned experience than I’ve previously had in this genre. Adding to this is a unique aging mechanic that turns death itself into a tangible though somewhat ominous sense of progress.

As you weave your way through the labyrinthian, interconnected world, you’ll encounter a wide variety of monsters and characters across its different realms. Every so often, you’ll come across new World Stones that serve as both checkpoints and fast travel points once activated. If you fall in battle, you’ll be returned to the last World Stone you passed. Unlike in many other games of this type, you cannot rest at a checkpoint to regain health in exchange for all enemies respawning. Healing items are also limited to a set amount per life, and while you can find opportunities to expand the number of them you carry, you cannot refill them in any way other than dying. Outside of leveling up or using one of these finite healing items, your health cannot be replenished. This means that you are always working your way slowly towards death and will eventually run out of ways to stave it off. When you respawn you’ll not only return to the last checkpoint, but your character will have aged one year. As they age their attributes will slowly change. The agility of youth will gradually make way for a knowledge of arcane magic gained over the years. Leveling up by defeating enemies will also grant you skill points that can be put into different categories. Some of these will become unavailable once you get beyond a certain age while others will open up. It is in this way that dying represents a unique form of progress.

As mentioned prior, Chronos: Before the Ashes is a more focused experience than many of its type. It accomplishes this by cutting down significantly on the loot and armor systems one would usually expect to find. Rather than picking up individual weapons, armor, and items, enemies instead will occasionally drop shards used to upgrade your weapons. Weapons are only found in specific locations or by completing certain quests; there are no random drops. While at first this may sound like a simplification of the formula, I found myself very quickly drawn in by it. So often in similar games I arrive at a boss only to find that they’re not weak to the specific way I’ve built up my character, or I’ve missed out on a weapon because I didn’t get that random loot drop. In Chronos, I could focus on my weapons and that’s it. Each weapon feels different, and any of them can be upgraded to continue to be viable weapons even into the late game. Chronos: Before the Ashes also has a stronger focus on puzzle solving than most games of this type. Throughout the journey you’ll pick up key items and come across clues to solve varied and interesting puzzles. In fact this is the first game of its ilk where I can remember getting stuck on a puzzle more often than a tough enemy.

All of this is great, and I thoroughly enjoyed most of my time with Chronos, but unfortunately, performance and some underlying bugginess dull what ought to be quite a solid experience. Docked mode holds up quite well, actually. Once again this isn’t the most visually impressive game on any platform so the Switch version is passable. Handheld mode, conversely, runs into very real framerate issues even when only fighting a single enemy. Given how much combat relies on careful timing this can become a serious problem. It is also incredibly dark when playing portably, regardless of environmental conditions. That being said if you plan to play on the TV, these issues shouldn’t affect you as much. What will, though, is some occasionally strange collision detection between your character and the environment and a rough camera. At multiple points, I found my character stuck on what appeared to be an ornamental detail on the floor. It was clear that this wasn’t supposed to stop my character from moving, but for some reason it was reading as a collision. Pair this with a camera that too easily loses its lock on an enemy or gets trapped in scene geometry and specific encounters can get frustrating. Given that the original presentation of Chronos was as a VR game with a camera placed in fixed position, it makes sense that the dynamic camera may still have some issues to work out.  

I’ve been tempted to describe Chronos: Before the Ashes as “baby’s first souls-like” but that would imply an easiness that isn’t there. Combat is brutal, and the puzzles demand you fully explore the world around you. However, it does all this in a way that is much more player friendly than one might expect. Its simplification of the loot and character customization systems does wonders for approachability. Add to this a genuinely unique aging mechanic and Chronos: Before the Ashes manages to stand out from the crowd in a genre that seems bent on enraging its player base. While I wish the Switch version, particularly handheld mode, was more robust, I still greatly enjoyed my time with it. There is a very satisfying adventure here, but on Switch you may need to dig a little deeper to find it.


23
TalkBack / The History of Wing Commander and Nintendo
« on: November 02, 2020, 05:21:01 AM »

Ambitious ports and a lost game.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/video/55423/the-history-of-wing-commander-and-nintendo

Wing Commander and Nintendo aren't exactly synonymous but the two do share a fascinating history. From ambitious ports spanning two systems and a finished game that was never released, join us to explore the history of this relationship.


24
TalkBack / Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm (Switch) Review
« on: October 28, 2020, 08:00:00 AM »

An RPG for Zelda fans or a Zelda game for RPG fans?

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/55343/oceanhorn-2-knights-of-the-lost-realm-switch-review

Fresh off its exclusivity to Apple Arcade, Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm, has arrived on Nintendo Switch. It is equal parts classic JRPG and The Legend of Zelda, landing not too far off from something like the Mana series. But can this expansive indie adventure live up to the titles it has been compared to?

While I don’t usually start my reviews with graphics and technical performance, I myself was caught off guard by them so immediately, they need to be given a moment here at the beginning. Oceanhorn 2, whether playing docked or handheld, is incredibly good looking. In fact I’d feel perfectly comfortable calling it one of the best looking games I’ve played on Switch all year. Add to that its very short loading times and you have a game that is set to stun right from the get go.

Oceanhorn 2 sees you playing as a nameless hero. After retrieving a mysterious lockbox and completing your training as a knight, you quickly find yourself on an epic quest against a mysterious evil force. Along the way you’ll pick up a tropey though charming cast of party members including a princess who refuses to act like a princess and wants to fight, along with a robot who seems technologically more advanced than the world around him. This is where we immediately see a contrast between the clearly Zelda influenced progression and more JRPG inspired elements. This is essentially a 3D Zelda game that you play with a party. This opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for dungeons and puzzle solving. Depending on a party member's weapons they’ll have different uses throughout the adventure. For example a ranged party member may be able to flip a distant, unreachable switch. But more realistically you’ll be using them to do the jobs of heavy rocks and hold down buttons. They also serve to smooth over one of Oceanhorn 2’s greater failings, the combat.

Combat in Oceanhorn 2 fluctuates between, “I can live with this,” and “why oh Lord hast thou forsaken me?” On the surface it looks to operate much like modern 3D Zelda. You have an attack button, a dodge roll, and a shield. Hitting the shield at the right time will even parry and knock the enemy off balance. The problem is there is no targeting system unless you are actively blocking, which prevents you from using other abilities. On top of this there is a degree of input latency between pressing the block and when your character actually performs the action, making nailing the timing of blocks very difficult. As you build up your party they’ll help take some of the pressure off you which makes things a bit more manageable. New abilities and items you find along the way also help to give you options that work a bit better. Regardless, combat is easily the weakest part of Oceanhorn 2.

The rest of the experience fares much better. The world itself is a joy to explore. While not entirely open right away, the world opens up in stages. The progression of the story is quite linear but you’re regularly given opportunities to stray from the primary storyline and explore optional areas. I even found instances where I was able to get a key item a little earlier than it was required. I appreciated that despite some minor sequence breaking it didn’t seem to trip up the game design. In fact I was able to immediately interact with things I was likely intended to have returned for later. When you dive into a cave expecting some extra cash and come out with a grappling hook, you know you’re in for a good day. I did find that some of the secondary uses of various items were a little vague and unexplained. For example, an electricity spell can be used to bridge electrical connections between various points. I was able to find some text that told me I could do that but nothing to tell me how. Frustratingly, charges on these spells have to be built up by gathering materials in the environment, so every time I’d try and fail I’d have to gather resources before I could try again. For the record I had to hold down the aim button, fire the spell, continue to hold down the aim button, and remain looking at the target until the spell had hit. Then while still holding down the aim button I could look around to drag the electric current to another point. Look away too soon or pull your hand off the aim button and the charge will dissipate. Maybe I simply missed a tutorial somewhere but it was a lot to figure out through trial and error. This was however the greatest offender, and other abilities were much clearer. I appreciated that each could be used both in puzzles and in combat.

As you progress you’ll gain experience points that will strengthen your character. You’ll also find shards that can be slotted into any of your items to enhance them. It is up to you what you upgrade and when. You can also remove upgrades at any point allowing for some experimentation. Overall I enjoyed the simplicity of Oceanhorn 2’s RPG elements. They open the door for greater customization of the player character than one would expect to find in a Zelda like, without being overwhelming. As a result I can’t help but think that Oceanhorn 2 could make a great gateway RPG for Zelda fans whose experience with the genre is minimal.

Oceanhorn 2 has one or two glaring weaknesses. I certainly had moments of real frustration, but upon overcoming them I’d once again be presented with a world I couldn’t help but explore. The story is fun, if a little predictable. Dungeons and puzzles in the world are varied and just the right degree of challenging. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that it is a gorgeous game that holds its own as one of the prettier on Switch. The genre blending mechanics that Oceanhorn 2 brings to the table help to elevate it above the failings it has. Some bumps along the way can’t prevent this from being a journey worth taking.


25
TalkBack / Supraland (Switch) Review
« on: October 25, 2020, 11:27:29 AM »

A gorgeous world to stumble through.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/55286/supraland-switch-review

Supraland is built from a lot of pieces I enjoy. It is a sandbox, both figuratively and literally. It allows you to play in a real world environment on a micro scale. It gives the player freedom and is constantly evolving. On top of that it looks great too. Unfortunately Supraland too often trips on its own ambition, and the result is oftentimes confusing games.

Supraland’s story set up is quite simple. Your village of little red guys has been attacked by the village of little blue guys, and you’re on a quest to find out why. Oh, and the entire thing takes place in a child’s sandbox. Gameplay takes place across an ever growing open world. Areas of the world are separated by gates and challenges. Exploring an area yields abilities and upgrades that will allow you to explore more areas, get more upgrades, and so on. This would all be well and good as this is essentially 3D Metroid, unfortunately the world is frustrating to explore. There is no map in Supraland, which becomes more and more of a problem as the often samey looking environment opens up more and more. It can also be unclear exactly where you are and aren’t supposed to go. You can regularly cheese your way up cliff faces and reach areas early. Alternatively I’d find myself struggling to climb to a spot I was sure must be important, only to come to the realization that the designers had never intended for me to reach it in the first place. I spent an incredible amount of my time with Supraland wandering aimlessly hoping I wandered into the right corner of the map to find the ability I needed to push the story forward. Occasionally everything would click. I’d get that classic metroidvania surge of excitement as I realized an ability could open an area I’d passed earlier. But these moments were rare and ultimately decayed back into the same old monotony.

Supraland controls reasonably well. This is good as puzzles often require adept first-person platforming. Combat early on is entirely melee based and relatively easy. You can essentially spam the attack button as quickly as possible and become an unstoppable death machine. A little later on you’ll get a gun. It opens up a lot of nice possibilities for puzzle solving and exploration, but the aim isn’t quite fine enough to make it particularly effective in combat.  

If nothing else Supraland carries with it a fair amount of charm. Visually it looks quite impressive, and character dialogue is often quite funny. I especially enjoyed the religious zealots who are convinced you’re living in a sandbox, much to the confusion of everyone around them. I’ve long been a fan of exploring the world on a small scale. Supraland pulls this off very well with most of the environment being made of recognizable objects that appear huge to your tiny hero. The characters themselves don’t quite pull this off as well. The red and blue people look more like gummy restroom signs than any recognizable toys. Likewise the enemies just seem like cartoony fantasy enemies rather than something one might find in a sandbox.

Supraland is an eye-catching game with some great ideas behind it. Unfortunately its world design flounders so incredibly that it manages to drag everything else down with it. If you’re patient enough, there are fun moments to be had here. But they’re constantly bookended by confused wandering through what ought to be a much more interesting world.


Pages: [1] 2 3 4