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Topics - Phil

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ARE YOU CHAOS? / Today is my 9-year anniversary on NWR.
« on: June 09, 2021, 08:52:41 PM »
I don't really have a punchline, unless you consider my insanely short time writing for NWR one. Hey-oooooo!

Hello! Trying to use this as my new avatar, but I can't get it to work.

When I use a URL and link to that, when I click update, it doesn't show an avatar.

I am no good at computers!  :-[
What am I doing wrong, gang? Thanks, everybody!

NWR Feedback / Never mind!
« on: May 24, 2021, 08:09:45 PM »

Nintendo Gaming / Super Mario Maker 2 - Did anyone here get it?
« on: July 06, 2019, 12:47:16 AM »
Hello! I've been a creatin' fool in Super Mario Maker 2. Have 17 levels so far, so I'd like to get some feedback if anyone else has the game, and I'd like to play your levels, too.

I hope that's not too big. :/

ARE YOU CHAOS? / My oral laxative just kicked in!
« on: May 23, 2019, 04:59:43 PM »
Right in the middle of a traffic jam. Gotta play it cool.  8)

General Gaming / Team Sonic Racing - Did anyone pick it up?
« on: May 21, 2019, 09:29:37 PM »
If you did pick it up, hopefully you didn't literally drop it, as the game is really good. I'm playing the PS4 version, but the Switch port is apparently nice, too--though running at 30 FPS instead of 60 FPS--but I only got the PS4 version for the pretty colors and the trophies. ha

I'm having a great deal of fun with it, whether it's playing the Grand Prix mode with my brother, tackling Team Adventure (essentially a story mode combined with the missions from Transformed's main single player mode), or just customizing my vehicles with random grab bag loot earned from spending in-game currency. I adore the track design, and the music is fantastic. I hope to purchase the soundtrack when it's available on iTunes next week.

Anyone else play Team Sonic Racing yet? What are your impressions?

Nintendo Gaming / Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
« on: December 15, 2018, 03:46:54 PM »
Does anyone want to play online? I have yet to try online, but it seems the new patch helped it immensely!

Hey all. Sorry I've been on a hiatus without any notice!

Anyway, I have returned! *cricket chirping*

For a long time, Mario Tennis Aces has been my most anticipated game of the summer. Just confused as to how folks are reviewing the game with a grade/score when there's supposedly no online functionality until the day one patch!

Still, I loved the online stress test to the servers, and would love to play with some NWR friends!

Nintendo Gaming / Mario Tennis Open
« on: June 20, 2018, 09:49:17 AM »
Would anyone like to play some matches?
I keep getting paired up with a guy named Mike, and are matches lag when he's losing. :/

We know that Super Mario Odyssey comes out this Friday, especially as this person is excited and made a topic ahead of time for the game. However, there's also another, but less pronounced 3D platformer releasing for Switch this week, too: Poi: Explorer Edition. It's a collect-a-thon platformer that originally released on PC a bit ago (as Poi), and was going to come to Wii U before the team shifted development to the Switch so it'd be out on a platform that people actually would still care about. It got some relatively decent reviews (Destructoid's Jed Whitaker gave it an 8/10 in his review, for instance). I'm a sucker for 3D platformers of quality, and I think this one will be good. Just not awesome like Odyssey, for obvious reasons. That said, the original Poi launched at $15 digitally, and the Switch game gets a Switch tax at $30 for a physical version. Not sure if I'll bite that quickly on the game or jump in.

Regardless, here's some links for all.

Poi official game site
Poi Steam page
A recent interview with the dev on the Switch version

ARE YOU CHAOS? / We have two new posters on the forums?
« on: October 22, 2017, 06:04:55 AM »
Coolness! Welcome, Ravio and Mipha!

PLEASE don't scare them away, everyone.


Q. What are spoilers?

Unknown kingdoms, boss fights, endgame stuff -- man, I don't even want to know what the main character's name is!


Seriously, though! YAHOO! Super Mario Odyssey returns the 3D Mario series to a sandbox formula first introduced in the genre-defining Super Mario 64. The game comes out for Nintendo Switch this Friday, so let's have a hype topic and post our impressions of the in-store demo at various stores selling games (GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc.) as well as impressions once the game actually releases!

The game was but revealed a year ago during the Nintendo Switch reveal trailer, and its official unveiling at this past January's Switch presentation, so while it hasn't had as much time to generate hype like Breath of the Wild did, I'm still extremely excited and hyped for the game.

ARE YOU CHAOS? / By God, we are being invaded.
« on: August 04, 2017, 02:35:03 AM »
Bye-bye, Kong Kollective. It's the Riaks Regime's site now!  :-[


My favorite fightin' anime series! Yay!

Reader Reviews / Mighty Gunvolt Burst (Switch, 3DS)
« on: June 30, 2017, 06:17:26 PM »

If you like my reviews, please check them out on my site. It's 9-years-young now and has over 750 reviews! :O

The whole sordid saga with Mighty No. 9 and its Kickstarter really soured and disappointed a huge legion of fans who were promised something great from Keiji Inafune, a designer partly behind the creation of Mega Man. Instead, Mighty No. 9 ended up being delayed multiple times, the marketing was out of touch at best, the campaign was poorly managed, and the end game was average at best.

However, the development team at Inti Creates worked on a smaller game in preparation for the release of Mighty No. 9 in the meantime, a Nintendo 3DS eShop and Steam release known as Mighty Gunvolt. This game combined the styles of Inti Creates' own IP, Azure Striker Gunvolt, with Mighty No. 9, creating its own unique Mega Man-styled mashup. Now, we see a sequel, exclusive to Nintendo Switch and soon Nintendo 3DS with Mighty Gunvolt Burst. The irony here is that for all the millions of dollars backed into Mighty No. 9, this budget project in Mighty Gunvolt Burst is clearly the superior product in this reviewer's eyes.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst allows you the choice between playing as Mighty No. 9's Beck or Azure Striker Gunvolt's Gunvolt, each with slight gameplay differences that grow as you acquire new customization parts. More on those later. The game is set up like a traditional Mega Man game complete with a tutorial intro stage, eight "Robot Master" stages that can be chosen from in any order, and a trio of final levels that ramp up the difficulty and feature some cool level gimmicks.

The "Robot Masters" of Mega Man in Mighty Gunvolt Burst come in the form of the "Mighty Numbers." They are all the same eight bosses from Mighty No. 9 but with new attack patterns that change as their health edges closer to being fully depleted. Bosses are generally tough to crack at first because they possess so much health, which is a bit draining, but being able to acquire fruit that serves as health refills makes fights easier to adjust to. You can learn their moves, when to dodge, when to attack, and even if you die after using all of your collection of fruit, they return to you based on the fruit you had at gate before the boss.

Stages are themed similar to those in Mighty No. 9, save for the final levels which go in a totally different direction. Places like Countershade's museum stage has a familiar museum with equally familiar enemy types to Mighty No. 9 vets, but the layout, obstacles, and setup are all different. No need to annoyingly chase Countershade through multiple looping hallways where one death means you have to begin the pursuit all over again. Instead, you just have to follow one of three paths to unlock security panels leading to the encounter with Countershade. The level design in Mighty Gunvolt Burst is more like a standard Mega Man game rather than the obnoxious designs of Mighty No. 9. There are quite a few Azure Striker Gunvolt elements in the level design as well, which makes total sense, of course, due to the material, after all.

The levels in Mighty Gunvolt Burst are a blast to play through, and that's exceptional due to the optional ability to replay them. If you're a completionist or just want to get the most out of your purchase, then you'll most likely want to do so, as the rewards are beneficial. Each stage houses multiple secret chips that unlock abilities for either Beck or Gunvolt. Some are out in plain sight, but in difficult to access locations, while others are housed behind destructible walls that have no clear appearance that they can be destroyed. Thankfully, one of the abilities available to Beck and Gunvolt is one called "dowsing", which causes a rumble in the Nintendo Switch controller that gets more forceful as you near the wall in question. Outside of chips to collect (some are only available through multiple completions of a stage), there are 20+ challenges to complete, offering rewards for finishing them off.

It's great you can get chips, but what do you do with them exactly, you ask? You can create load-outs for Beck or Gunvolt that alters an exhaustive and ever-growing list of abilities. By consuming CP (which I assume means Command Points), you can equip better variations to your base weaponry, defense, and abilities. At the beginning of a play-through, your character shoots pea-sized bullets without much strength. As you find and acquire new chips, you can shoot larger bullets, raise their attack power, raise your defense, make it so you don't get knocked back by attacks, learn to jump multiple times in the air as Gunvolt or dash several times in midair as Beck, and so much more. Each ability altered or equipped takes up CP, and there's a limit of what you can hold at once -- though this is helped through collecting CP chips that add to your maximum amount available. Thus, there is a good deal of strategy involved, lots of room for experimenting, and a tremendous level of customization on offer here, which can be a bit overwhelming at times.

With Mighty No. 9, Beck could shoot a bunch of bullets to bring a foe's guard down before dashing into them to take them down and score points. In Mighty Gunvolt Burst, the mechanic to stylishly defeat enemies is different. Instead, you need to be in close proximity to a foe when defeating them to earn a Burst bonus that awards extra points and improves your score. Through earning a continued combo of Bursts by defeating enemies without being too far away from them, your score increases to high amounts. Unfortunately, this mechanic is at direct odds with Beck and Gunvolt's method of long-range attacks and shots. It makes the whole Burst mechanic seem like a last minute addition or at least one that wasn't put under rigorous testing enough to make sure it fit the game.

The story of Mighty Gunvolt Burst sees both Beck and Gunvolt trapped within a virtual reality world. While it may be a false reality, so to speak, the danger to them is very real. At first the two are completely apart from one another, and eventually they meet up in unfriendly terms. You can probably guess what happens by the end of the game (spoiler: they decide to be friends and team up against the big bad), but it's sufficient enough of a story all the same. Mighty No. 9 suffered from too much story bloat when I just wanted to get into the game. Mighty Gunvolt Burst alleviates that problem while still presenting a capable story reason to battle through the game's stages.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst is modern retro with hints of NES styling but more leaning towards SNES goodness regarding what the game actually does with its visuals. They're vibrant, colorful, seldom dull, and feature a notable amount of environmental detail for a game modeled after the classics. The music features chiptune variations of themes from Mighty No. 9, though that game wasn't well known by me for its musical qualities outside of the boss theme, which is represented in Mighty Gunvolt Burst. Overall, I was pleased with what I saw and heard out of Mighty Gunvolt Burst, and was also ecstatic not to encounter significant episodes of waning frame-rate.

If anything, all of the trifles, troubles, and disappointment resulting from Mighty No. 9 had one positive come from it, and that's the birth of this game. Sure, Mighty Gunvolt Burst might have existed in an alternate timeline where Mighty No. 9 didn't exist, just under a different skin and franchise, but overall, Mighty Gunvolt Burst is a challenging and satisfying game to play. Just goes to show that out of a negative can indeed come something positive. Though, that three million dollars backed by fans wanting Mighty No. 9 shouldn't have been the price, now that I think about it...

That is such an overused joke, and I apologize for it. But I hope you will still opt to play a round or some with me!

Reader Reviews / Blaster Master Zero (Switch)
« on: June 18, 2017, 04:43:02 PM »

Support my writing by just giving a view to my original review!

Blaster Master was a 1988 Sunsoft-published NES game that featured gameplay that really showed why that era of gaming was considered the golden age for many gamers. Now, it returns with the help of Mega Man Zero/Azure Striker Gunvolt developer Inti Creates, with Blaster Master Zero. Sporting a new scenario, gameplay updates, and additional content, this blast ( master) from the past is certainly worth feeling the aftershocks of.

Blaster Master Zero has two major gameplay types featured prominently throughout its 5-8 hours run time. The first takes place in a 2D space, offering Metroid-like exploration with either the Sophia III tank itself or Jason in his suit. You're much more limited in mobility as Jason by himself, but he can also get through places that the tank cannot. These are things like places with narrow ceilings. Likewise, most places Jason cannot get to at all, much less survive. Any fall of decent height will kill him, and even relatively small falls will injure his health.

The second type of gameplay type takes place in top-down Zelda-like maps. Of course, here there's little to no puzzle solving to be found. The focus here is on pure combat and a little exploration, too. Many areas in the 2D sections of Blaster Master Zero feature caves that only Jason can enter. These bring him to said top-down maps. Usually at the end of these multi-room spaces of varying lengths and labyrinthine qualities there lies a boss of some type. These can be as simple as enemy horde rooms where you shoot as many foes as possible as you try to survive or actual encounters with big bosses with their own attack patterns to learn and avoid, all the while blasting their weak points in a war of attrition.

The rewards for vanquishing such foes are new abilities both mandatory and optional. These can be things like new weapons for either Sophia III or Jason himself, abilities like diving and boosting for the tank, and other upgrades. This allows for the Metroid part of Blaster Master Zero to intervene. New parts and abilities offer new exploration possibilities. Normally the game shows where you need to go next, so you're never at a loss for what your next objective is, which is nice for a modern take on a Metroid-type game.

That said, there is a lot of backtracking to be found in Blaster Master Zero, and it becomes a bit annoying and tedious. Metroid-style games are no stranger to this, but some do it better than others. All of the areas in Blaster Master Zero are interconnected-- that's true of many Metroid-likes. The difference between the fun exploration of those and Blaster Master Zero is that each area in the game is connected one after the other in a linear pattern. No one area connects to two different areas, for instance. This means if you're at the end of the game at Area 8, and you need to travel to Area 1, you have a good deal of distance to cross with little in the way of shortcuts.

Merely beating the game is an easy task, but when you want to backtrack to pick up missing upgrades (such as helpful health ones), find and battle bosses that you haven't beaten yet, or anything else, it becomes a bit of a slog, and a tedious one at that.

Still, Blaster Master Zero sports engaging combat and bosses whether in the Sophia III tank or just moving around levels and areas as Jason. There are some truly stunning and behemoth-sized bosses to tackle which make up the most impressive spectacles of the game, while exploration, other than the aforementioned backtracking (required or not), is generally a lot of fun to do. The abilities you earn as both Sophia III and Jason are enjoyable, allowing for new ways to tackle old areas.

Blaster Master Zero nails its 8-bit era aesthetic. It takes liberties with the technical limitations of the era, of course, but no one said Inti Creates had to limit themselves to the late '80s and early '90s realm of NES power. The visuals are crisp and suitably colorful and at times dynamic, and the audio delivers old school chiptune goodness. It's just a satisfying package presentation-wise all around.

Inti Creates continues to be one of those developers that delights me with its output. First, it was the action-packed awesomeness of its Mega Man Zero games. Then, it was Azure Striker Gunvolt. Now, its take on Sunsoft's Blaster Master with Blaster Master Zero had me loving a lot of what I played. Blaster Master Zero takes a lot of the good and some of the bad of the Metroidvania game, and overall it reaffirms to me Inti Creates position as a terrific indie developer. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the code. Blaster Master Zero gets a recommendation.

I'm very excited to get Ever Oasis, and I'm hoping I can when it launches this Friday. Tomorrow UPS should return my repaired New 3DS XL to me, so that kicks monster butt! What a perfect occasion to play with it than a new game! For those uninitiated, here's an overview trailer for Ever Oasis, developed by Grezzo of Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora's Mask 3D fame:

And Nintendo Treehouse's demo of the game at E3 2017:

Anyone else yearning to pick this up, or are there too many other games you'd rather get? Or are you just done with the 3DS in general?

General Chat / Yay to all college and high school graduates!
« on: May 25, 2017, 05:10:06 PM »
After 12.5 years since starting college, I became an official graduate and walked across the aisle in a beautiful outdoor series of ceremonies! This was a few weeks ago, but who cares! It's graduation season, all!

Did you or anyone you know recently graduate from high school or college/university? If so, yay to them as well!

Reader Reviews / LEGO City Undercover (Switch)
« on: April 19, 2017, 02:25:11 PM »

Full review here:

LEGO City Undercover originally released in 2013 for the Wii U. Playing through the funny story, witnessing the sharp writing, and discovering secrets in LEGO City itself made it my personal favorite LEGO game. Now it's 2017 and finally the game gets a chance for even more exposure with a port on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and the most recent of hardware releases, the Nintendo Switch (though it lacks the Nintendo references of the Wii U version). Despite all of its problems from its transition between a Wii U exclusive and a multi-platform game, LEGO City Undercover retains a lot of what I enjoyed from back in 2013.

LEGO City Undercover sees hero Chase McCain get less than a hero's welcome when he returns to LEGO City. However, crime is in season, and Rex Fury has escaped from Albatross Island. Rejoining the LEGO City Police Department and having a big fan in the hilarious (no, really-- no sarcasm there!) Frank Honey, Chase McCain is back on the case, but with a great deal to prove. The story shows Chase entering the underbelly and underworld of crime of LEGO City by going undercover. Not just to make up for the mistake that saw him shipped out of LEGO City in the first place, but to make it up for a special someone.

While there are several elements of LEGO City Undercover that are lessened from the Wii U version when compared to these ports, the first thing that doesn't get a hint of degradation quality-wise is the hilarious writing. The characters have sharp dialogue, provide funny slapstick humor and sight gags, and would be enjoyed by folks beyond the usual LEGO game audience. In fact, many of the references in particular to various movies would be lost on kids. From a character named Blue who can "get" things for our hero when he ventures inside Albatross Island as an ode to Shawshank Redemption (complete with "not knowing what that Italian lady was singing about that day" and without the more adult scenarios) to a construction yard foreman who looks and sounds suspiciously similar to a former governator of California. It's quite weird how he slips movie names from that actor's career into his spoken dialogue.

In most LEGO games, you get an assortment of characters to switch between, each with different powers and abilities used to solve puzzles and platforming challenges. LEGO City Undercover takes the concept of different powers and abilities but splits them between the various disguises that Chase can wear. Each disguise is earned from playing through the story normally, generally in the game's missions, and each has its own uses. The robber disguise, for instance, is the only one that can crack safes and pry locked doors open, while the miner is the only disguise of Chase's that can pick up dynamite to be used to blow up silver structures and doors.

Speaking of the missions in LEGO City Undercover, there are the typical LEGO game missions that take place in closed off areas where the goal is to basically punch everything in sight, build objects from the destroyed LEGOs in a sometimes set order, and solve simplistic puzzles this way. Other times in LEGO City Undercover you're doing stuff outside the confines of traditional LEGO game levels, stealing a vehicle and trying to get to another part of the map in one piece, saving someone from the rooftop of a burning hospital building by doing some jumping, climbing, and parkour-like maneuvers (this is while taking out baddies along the way), and other miscellaneous mission types.

Failure in combat or in a level never results in a hefty price. If Chase takes too much damage, falls into an out-of-bounds area, and such, he merely gets brought back to life with a soft LEGO stud penalty (the currency used to buy things in the LEGO series). Failing a mission at any time merely means you start over from that current segment. So if you crashed your vehicle by flipping it upside-down-- which is something that is very possible due to the jerky driving and handling involved-- you don't have to curse much as you'll just restart from the beginning of the road trip.

LEGO City is a sprawling metropolis with multiple regions and areas to it. You have its Cherry Tree Hills that is reminiscent of San Francisco with its streetcar, houses on hilly streets, and its own version of the city's famous Lombard Street (the super-curvy road with a multitude of hairpins). Then, there's its Bright Lights Plaza, obviously modeled after New York City's Times Square. LEGO City doesn't just stick with United States of America cities either, as one east coast part of town is an ode to Venice in the form of Fresco.

It's really best to wait to explore the insides and outsides of LEGO City until you have beaten the game's 10-15 hour campaign. That way you have all of Chase's disguises available to him. There's no greater annoyance in an open-world LEGO game than making your way from street level all the way to a building's rooftop only to find that you don't have the necessary disguise needed to complete a given extra side task.

And LEGO City is filled to the brim with these extra side tasks. There are activities that are related to the various disguises, such as putting out specific fires as the fireman, watering specially marked plant boxes as the farmer, planting a flag atop a building as the astronaut, and so forth. However, there are also other side tasks that don't involve a specific disguise. These range from discovering criminals in the act with Chase's scanner (no longer needing a separate screen to utilize like with the Wii U version using its system's GamePad) to getting in a particular vehicle to begin a time trial, where the goal is to go through marker to marker before time runs out.

It can seem a bit overwhelming as there is a LOT of collecting to do. When I say collecting, I mean collecting gold bricks (one is given for each side task completed in a given LEGO City region), red bricks (which unlock cheats), character tokens, vehicle tokens, and super bricks that are the currency used to build impressive feats of construction with Super Builds. There are 450 gold bricks in total to collect for 100% completion, so even when you beat the initial campaign, you can easily double the 10-15 hours of play time considerably, perhaps even triple it.

Unfortunately, LEGO City Undercover on Nintendo Switch seems to be a bit of a cheaply done port, if the tagline of this review didn't reveal that already. Game crashes have happened on three occasions, where an error message presented itself and sent me back to the Switch main menu. Thankfully, after every side task completed, special item collected, or story segment completed, the game automatically saves, so seldom did I lose much progress or any at all. Less annoying but still obnoxious are the times when the main audio just gave out. Neither voices nor music would play, and subtitles were sped up during these problematic occurrences as well. The only solution was to close the software and load the game back up. I recall freezing and hard crashes being issues in the Wii U original, so it's disappointing these haven't been rectified in the Switch re-release. I don't, however, remember the music and voices cutting out the way they do in this port.

In the Wii U version, the map of LEGO City was located on the GamePad screen. In these updated ports of LEGO City Undercover, the map is located in the bottom left corner of the [obviously TV] screen. There are two problems here: 1) Sometimes the map doesn't center on where Chase currently is, focusing on something entirely different, and 2) The game does not pause when you bring up the map with the Select/Minus button. You can see this while driving and bringing up the map. Chase's vehicle will slow to a stop.

Finally, if these bundles of joy that are the technical problems of LEGO City Undercover's new gen ports aren't delivering enough fun for you, the loading times from the Wii U version are better, but only slightly so. That said, it's much more entertaining to read tips from Frank Honey and Chief Dunby than stare at a progress bar (no matter how funky the music that played during these loading screens were).

For the Nintendo Switch version specifically, there is quite a bit of slowdown and frame-rate chugging in handheld mode. Docked is much more stable, though also having occasional issues in performance. Things like draw distance of buildings and such in the background is good, but people and vehicles materialize in and out. Audio wise, the music is as stellar as ever, offering a '70s cop show-like score, and the voice work is wonderful and delightful. The only real issue is in scanning mode and how picked up conversations sound incredibly loud compared to everything else.

Overall, I had an enjoyable second trip to LEGO City (well, third technically because of the 3DS prequel). It says a lot that even with all of the problems of these ports (both new in these versions and ones that weren't really fixed from the Wii U original) that I found myself having fun exploring the city, following along with the story, and losing dozens of hours to the game. It's just a total shame that this feels, looks, and plays like a quick and dirty port when LEGO City Undercover deserves so much more.

Reader Reviews / The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
« on: April 09, 2017, 08:27:09 PM »

Original review here

A new Nintendo home console is here, and with it is one of the biggest games to ever come out for a Nintendo system launch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yes, it's also on the Wii U, but as that system has had its life support pulled out, most gamers have moved on to the Switch. A new Zelda hasn't really been a gaming event for a long time. Now, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, not only is a gaming event, but the game is one of the best Zelda games in the series 30+ year history and one of the most amazing open world games of all time. Am I spewing hyperbole here? Read on and see why I think I'm not.

Breath of the Wild begins with Link waking up in a dank and dark chamber from a deep slumber. A familiar voice calls to him, urging him to wake up and move forward through the chamber. There, Link acquires the Sheikah Slate, a tool that will allow him a vast number of different abilities as the beginning of the game progresses.

From there, the cave door opens and the world of Breath of the Wild reveals itself in all of its splendor. Despite being an open world game, you as the player are limited to where you can go at the start. The game begins at the Great Plateau, and without a means to get down from there safely, you're temporarily stuck there. Nonetheless, the plateau is large and is bigger than many overworlds of past Zelda games such as the openness of Ocarina of Time's Hyrule Field or the large but segmented overworld of Twilight Princess, so there is plenty to explore.

However, the main goal at the start of the game is to talk with a mysterious old man, which has a direct feel to the very first Zelda game. This is a common theme throughout Breath of the Wild, a feeling of familiarity with a tremendous feeling of newness. The hooded old man eventually tells you about climbing a tower and activating it with Link's Sheikah Slate. In doing so, towers all around the world, far beyond the reach of the Great Plateau rise up from the ground, as do many shrines, the first four (the only ones in the Great Plateau), the old man asks you to recover treasure from in exchange for a paraglider. This paraglider will allow Link to travel to areas beyond the plateau.

My best description of a shrine is a miniature dungeon that has the same blue aesthetic as every other shrine in the game (of which there are over 100) that you must solve one large puzzle or a series of puzzles in order to reach the end. At the end, you're rewarded with a Spirit Orb that, when four have been collected, can be traded at various spots in Breath of the Wild for additions to Link's health or stamina gauge.

The first four shrines in Breath of the Wild not only give Link the requirements needed to trade the old man for his paraglider, but they also give Link all of the necessary functions of the Sheikah Slate to solve the puzzles and challenges of other shrines. From remote bombs in both round and cubed form to the ability to use Magnesis to move steel objects around, the Sheikah Slate is Link's one stop shop for useful abilities instead of having different abilities associated with different items like past Zelda games. The other abilities of the Sheikah Slate that Link earns include the ability Cryonis, used to make frozen pillars rise from liquids like water and oil as a means to cross rivers, and Stasis, used to temporarily freeze objects in place. Many of the abilities have multiple uses, too. You can use Stasis to freeze a platform to have a ball roll down it instead of having the ball weigh the platform down so much that the ball falls. Likewise, you can freeze a barrel and then attack it multiple times with your sword. Each strike will make the barrel fly farther when the stasis period ends.

It's absolutely amazing how many different ways each power from Link's Sheikah Stone can be utilized, and it's with great applause I give to the developers for coming up with so many puzzles built off a handful of powers (though the gyro-based tilt puzzles do more harm than good). Many of the shrine puzzles have multiple ways of solving them as well. A particular electric-based shrine had me moving metallic barrels and boxes to serve as a conduit, creating a charge from one central location to various other locations with each one opening up a different door. However, instead of just using the available barrels and boxes, I was also able to just drop metallic weapons in a line to create a flow of electrical energy from the central conduit to another location, opening a doorway that way. Experimentation is very much encouraged in the world of Breath of the Wild.

Speaking of which, I haven't even gotten into speaking about the world itself. It's immense and massive in scope, but that wouldn't mean diddly squat if it wasn't interesting enough to explore. Not only does it not suffer from being uninteresting, the world of Breath of the Wild is a delight and pleasure to explore. It's also extremely open ended. Once you get the paraglider and are told what your major mission is, you can either opt to head straight to the final boss and beat the game, or you can go the recommended way of following the story. The former is nigh impossible with Link's current amount of hearts, weaponry, and armor, but it IS possible (if you can even make it there alive). Doing the latter allows Link to accumulate and amass a collection of stronger armor, weapons, and build both his health and stamina. Even if you follow the story, you can decide to face the final boss at any time, and after the initial trip to a certain village, your mission story-wise opens up to have you go to anyone of four locations. Through completing the major objective at one of the four given locations, the final boss's power weakens. Doing all four weakens the final boss considerably to take him on and give Link a fighting chance.

With the world in Breath of the Wild, producer Eiji Aonuma stated that if you see a mountain, you can go there. That is most definitely true in the final product. In most open world games, when you are pitted against a mountain, you're stuck with either going around it or looking like a fool trying to jump up it (usually futilely as well). In Breath of the Wild, Link can climb basically anything, as long as the wall, whether a mountain, cliff, building, etc. isn't too steep and isn't too wet and slippery from rainfall. Of course, not only does the topography matter, but so does Link's stamina. Like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link has a stamina gauge that depletes when he runs or climbs. When climbing, if the gauge empties, Link loses his grip and falls. When running and it empties, Link slows down to a saunter and needs time to recover his gauge. Finally, when swimming and the gauge depletes, Link drowns, losing a bit of health when he's transported to a nearby shore.

Ubisoft has led a bad example with its open world design in many of its games. Usually when one thinks of the word "tower" in an open world title, the thoughts aren't usually positive. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's towers are handled well. Many of them are puzzles in themselves as to how to successfully climb them. Some require a good deal of stamina from Link to reach the top, others require some thought on how to reach them. I recall one such tower being surrounded by painful thorns. I then thought, "Okay. How do I reach this baby safely?" I had two options (at least in my mind at the time): 1) I could light the thorns ablaze with a fire arrow, or 2) I could find a higher elevation and use the paraglider to float down over the thorns and grab onto the tower. Since I lacked fire arrows since I was early in play-through, I did option #2. Finding a nearby hill that overlooked the tower was pretty easy due to the ability to press in the right stick to use the Sheikah Slate's scope. There, I could press the A button to set down a pillar of light as my destination (something that is extremely helpful whenever you see a suspicious or noteworthy place in Hyrule that you want to reach or want to go to later). I then headed to the hill, leaped from it, and glided my way to the tower.

Activating a tower reveals all of the geography in that given region, including all area names, such as nearby forests, rivers, lakes, and other points of interest. It helps you get a lay of the land. You still have to do the exploring for shrines, notable areas, and the like.

In my tower anecdote I talked about using the Sheikah Slate as a scope and a means to mark interesting locations I saw with a point of light. You can do this while looking through the scope, or you can bring up the map and directly place markers on the map. Different icons like stars, skulls, treasure chests, and more can be placed to help you remember where they were for if you didn't have the necessary equipment at the time or just to want to investigate later.

Traversing Breath of the Wild is a lot of fun, and there are a multitude of ways in which to do so. Obviously there's on-foot through running, climbing, and such, but there are also other ways. A notable one is gliding across the world by using the paraglider from a tall height and then gliding along the sky, slowly to the ground.

If Link's got a case of acrophobia, he can stick to the ground and sneak up slowly and stealthily (emphasis on slowly and stealthily) on various ride-able animals like horses, moose, or rams and jump on them. You'll need to calm them down as, you know, normally animals don't take it too calmly when someone out of the blue jumps on their backs and rides them. Trust me. By soothing them, you'll eventually get them to settle down, and with improvement in how you ride them, they'll learn to trust you more and more. At various stables sprinkled around Hyrule, you can register horses, so when Link whistles, you can call on your faithful, trusty steed instead of walking. Additionally, in hilly areas of Hyrule, Link can hang ten and jump on shield. Yes, you read that right. Link can shield surf down grassy hills and snowy slopes. Cowabunga, Link, you crazy mother...

Exploration is key in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Beyond simple pleasures like coming across ore that you can mine and sell or finding a treasure chest, there are many hidden shrines in the environment. You're given a shrine indicator early in Link's adventure that pulsates when you close in on a shrine. Many are in some rather tricky locations while others are in plain sight. Some require the discovery of an NPC to start a quest that eventually reveals the shrine after solving some form of environmental puzzle or simply fulfilling that NPC's needs. Other NPCs have desires as well, whether they sit in established towns, of which there are plenty in Breath of the Wild, or are out in the wilderness. These side quests have some nice rewards as well. Even if they didn't, so many of the characters you meet across Link's quest are a charming and endearing as any in past Zelda games. They provide a great deal of character to the game world.

Furthermore, there are glowing spots throughout Hyrule that when interacted with by Link will reveal some of his memories and encounters with characters from his past. Obviously there's the big one, which most series fans should know (and those who can read the title of the franchise), but there are also other characters that Link interacted with so many years ago. These story sequences bring some back story to Link's adventure, and they're quite welcome.

Finally, the world of Hyrule sports 900 Koroks throughout its expanse and immense stretches. While it's totally unnecessary (or even worth it) to find them all, in finding some you'll get some very beneficial rewards. Many are found from interacting with suspicious elements in the environment, such as seeing a ring of rocks that is missing one, find a nearby rock, and putting it in the missing space to have a Korok appear and give you one of its seeds. Alternatively, you can pass over a twirling flower and have it spawn a flying target. Popping it with an arrow with have a Korok appear as well. There are many other ways Koroks appear in the world, and getting their seeds is massively helpful.

Although there are friendly faces like the various people of Hyrule and the Koroks around, the world in Breath of the Wild is a dangerous place. Enemies thrive in Hyrule and roam the land in both small and large forms. Enemy goblins often set up camps throughout the land, and if Link isn't careful, they'll take him out with a few swipes of their clubs or shots from their bows. (And some enemies will even take Link out in one shot. That's the world Link inhabits.) You can sneak up on enemy camps, taking a bow and attempting to pick off some foes from far away before the melee attackers get wind of you, or you can perform my early tactic of running from foes, dropping bombs behind you and detonating them as the enemy chases you.

When all else fails, close quarters combat is an option, though a really silly one if you're just starting off. As I stated, many enemies can take Link out with one hit, especially with the paltry three hearts that Link starts the game with. Melee combat, whether with swords, clubs, spears, or whatnot, has been fine turned compared to past 3D Zelda games. There is still the ability to target a foe and try to circle around them, but this time, other enemies won't just stand there and let you take out their comrades. Enemies are smart in Breath of the Wild and will crowd around you if need be to take you out. Enemies you have a lock on will also move around you, too, as well as leap back to avoid your sword strikes, spear thrusts, club swings, and any other melee weapon you attempt to attack them with.

Combat is more than just wildly thrashing at foes with a weapon. In a move to make players use lots of weapons, weapons break in Breath of the Wild, something that can be annoying at times. You're encouraged to pick up weapons, and weapons are readily available so you'll never be needing to actively search for one when you're all out. That isn't really ever a worry. Instead it's the opposite. You'll usually have so many weapons that you won't have room to pick any more up. This is the major annoyance I have with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. So many times I'll be in the world or in a shrine or dungeon, come across a treasure chest, open it, find a sword or whatever, and have to put the weapon back in the chest because I have too many. Then, I go to the inventory screen (something many players will be seeing constantly) and have to decide which one of my weaker weapons to drop in order to open the chest again to pick up that new weapon. Thankfully, I talked about finding Koroks, which are the way to add new inventory slots for weapons, bows, and shields. However, playing with the inventory screen was a big part of my Breath of the Wild experience in the early going regardless.

Nevertheless, monsters are smart, so you and Link need to be smart, too. Like in Ocarina of Time and other games where you can lock on to enemies, you can jump to the side to avoid attacks. This is made more important in Breath of the Wild, as if you time your dodge or evasion (either to the side or by jumping back), you get the opportunity to unleash a flurry of attacks on your foe. This not only saves your weapon from degrading as much as by just button mashing, but it takes enemies down faster. You can also catch a foe while your shield is out so when an enemy attacks and you press the button right when the attack connects, you can stun the foe, also allowing for some time to attack them.

As stated, Breath of the Wild's version of Hyrule isn't the friendliest place around. Not only can monsters take you out rather easily, but so can the elements. For the weather, storms can rage in an instant, meaning if you're wearing any metal equipment, you better take it off, 'else you'll find yourself shocked to death by a lightning bolt. Different regions of Hyrule have different temperatures as well. Areas to the north and high up in the sky are positively frigid while sun-soaked deserts and volcano areas are absolutely hot to a dangerous level. This requires Link to dress and drink for the occasion. Various armor have effects that assist in not only defense from enemies, but the elements as well. In addition to different armor, Link can eat and drink a variety of dishes and elixirs to provide him with cold or heat resistance.

Cooking is a big aspect of Breath of the Wild. Link can find ingredients all over Hyrule, whether it's apples from trees, flowers from the ground, meat from animals, objects from fallen enemies, bugs and insects, and more. At various cooking pots around the land, Link can combine up to five ingredients to create a smorgasbord of helpful dishes and elixirs. Many have a great variation of effects, such as restoring lost hearts (and adding temporary yellow ones to Link's health), raising his attack, defense, or stealth, as well as making him less vulnerable to heat or the cold, or even electricity.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a huge game, but it somehow manages to not be overwhelming. Sure, there's over 100 hours easily that you can get lost in the expanses of Hyrule, but the menus keep track of everything-- shrines, quests (story-related, shrine-related, and side-related), as well as main dungeons completed, regions filled out, Koroks found, et cetera, et cetera. If you forget where you need to go for a specific quest or its details, you can just go to the menu, hit the quest you're concerned about, and get everything you need to know, including the whereabouts about the quest-giver (as the time of day effects where NPCs are). So even when you have a place you want to go in mind and you get constantly side-tracked like me by going, "Ooh! That place looks interesting. I think I might go there for a few moments... [this turns into two hours getting distracted from that place to another place, to another, to another, etc.]" you won't lose your mind.

Breath of the Wild is a visually pleasing game, offering a style that is a mix that is part cartoon-y like The Wind Waker and something more realistic like Twilight Princess. The mix is an art style that is absolutely stunning most of the time, showcasing how even non-powerhouse hardware can deliver exhilarating beauty. Being able to stand atop an extraordinarily high mountain and see miles upon miles in the distance is nothing short of amazing to me. The postcard and picture perfect moments in Breath of the Wild are some of not just Nintendo's best, but gaming's best. Style over power indeed.

Unfortunately, Breath of the Wild isn't perfect performance-wise. There are some frame-rate drops that can be slight in some cases while severe in others. For a brief second, Breath of the Wild offered moments where I thought the game had completely froze before returning to normal. This usually was brought about by a big enemy being felled into a ragdoll situation such as Moblins.

On the sound side of the game, the latest Zelda is much more subdued than the bombastic scores players of the series are most likely used to. Subtle piano harmonies are mostly heard throughout the game when exploring while battles, towns, and events in the game have specific melodies with much more to offer. The music isn't in-your-face as much as past Zelda games, but it's delightful all the same and a good approach for Breath of the Wild overall.

While certain things like weapon degradation, limited inventory, and tilt-centric shrines do more harm than good for the game, overall The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild successfully reinvents a series with amazing results. It doesn't just make The Legend of Zelda franchise noteworthy again; it makes The Legend of Zelda franchise important enough that game developers will be taking notes on and being inspired by this game much like they did with the original Zelda on the NES, A Link to the Past, and finally Ocarina of Time. Zelda is fresh again. Zelda is new again. And while Zelda as a series seldom failed to be awesome, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is what gamers and critics will look back on as one of the genre and industry-defining games of our time.

Reader Reviews / Mario Sports Superstars (3DS)
« on: March 29, 2017, 04:28:17 PM »
I hope you like this review as well! I thought it'd be scummy to do something like have the first paragraph and then go "check out the rest of the review here!" or something like that. So the full body of the review is as always below!

Click here if you want to see it on the site with full pics and witty captions!

Mario Sports Superstars is an interesting case. You'd expect a game with Mario and the gang attached to it to be wacky, arcade-like in gameplay and tone. Instead, what you get with Mario Sports Superstars is a game that sticks rather closely to the idea of realism. Well, as realistic as plumbers and giant walking turtles hammering home runs can possibly be. Regardless, I'm focusing more on realism towards how the sports play. Outside of some special shots that set the ball ablaze when kicked, this collection of five sports in Mario Sports Superstars play it pretty straight and safe.

Mario Sports Superstars comes with five unique sports; soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, and the odd one of the bunch, horse racing. I only say "odd one" because when you think of typical sports, "horse racing" generally isn't one of them. Instead, I would think of hockey or basketball or something. Anyway, the five sports each have a basic set of features. Each gives you a basic tutorial on the controls of the game once you first enter that sport. Afterwards you can select to play a given sport with some customization in a free play style mode against the AI, or take on AI ranks in a tournament style mode. This has you going through the Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Champion's Cups, competing against more difficult AI players as you go along.

After the Star Cup is beaten, you earn a new character (a lame one and only for that particular sport), and after the Champion's Cup is completed, you earn the star version of the character or characters you played as (a version with beefier stats of your character). This is rather lame as well as you only earn the star version of the character for that sport. You must play the other sports and win the Champion's Cup in those to earn the star character in each. Alternatively, you can opt to buy Amiibo card packs to hope you get lucky to nab the cards to unlock the character you want to get a better version of.

Alongside free play and tournament modes, there is one bonus mode per each sport that has three difficulties each. Passing the final difficulty means unlocking the other secret character in that particular sport, and it's another uninspired pick.

There is also multiplayer available for all sports. All players require a copy of the game and a system in order to enjoy local play. Otherwise your only option to play with humans is online either with friends of with strangers. The problem with the latter is that players can disconnect from matches and there are no consequences for them and no reward for you. This makes the longer sports to complete a session in the game like soccer and golf especially annoying when you're about to win after having invested a good chunk of time, only to have the losing player intentionally disconnect. This robs of you both the win and your time.

Moving on from the feature list of each sport and their multiplayer, let's talk about the actual sports. Players who have tried Mario Tennis Open and Mario Golf: World Tour will be familiar with both the tennis and golf gameplay of Mario Sports Superstars. In fact, it's basically unchanged, save for the Mushroom Kingdom-styled features like wacky courts and courses and fun items. Like I said before, pretty much all of these sports are played straight. Tennis does, however, have the chance shots of Mario Tennis Open, which is enjoyable to play. (There's even an option to turn chance shots off in free play matches for a more grounded experience.) Meanwhile, golf possesses four courses of nine holes each, but these have no personality to them whatsoever. What's been done with both tennis and golf essentially is that the gameplay has been ripped directly from Mario Tennis Open and Mario Golf: World Tour but none of the charm has.

Baseball isn't complex like your traditional sports sim despite possessing the realism of the sport without the wackiness of a game like Mario Superstar Baseball on the GameCube or Mario Super Sluggers on the Wii. On offense, you have the choice between swinging with B, a typical swing, or A, a power shot. Knowing when to use which and keeping the ball in your targeting box means all the difference between getting on base and getting an out against your team. Defense is limited, especially against the AI, as you can only pick one of a few pitches and move left to right as to where you wish to aim. The AI on higher difficulties will seldom, if ever, swing at a ball outside the strike zone, so you're left throwing balls that they can hit-- which they usually do. It's infuriating at best to see your lead dwindle to nothing because of the AI, which is a problem with other sports as well.

Soccer is accessible in its tutorial, but it also offers a lot more depth in its gameplay if you wish to search for it (as seen in the Pro Tips section that each sport has). Passing, shooting, goal kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, and the like are as realistic as you'd expect. It's even 11-on-11, which I've read is common for the sport (I'm an ignorant American here). The only "out there" addition to soccer is how the soccer ball slowly charges with energy. When it's at maximum capacity, a team captain or co-captain can harness the energy to unleash a special shot. For Mario, the ball is set ablaze and does an upward arc over the goalie and into the net. For Bowser, if he charges his shot up, the ball with slam into the goalie, taking the goalie and the ball and blasting it into the net.

Finally, there's horse racing. Regardless of my confusion with its addition, it's good it's here as it's a great deal of fun. The four cups in horse racing offer three unique tracks each. Rather than separate yourself from the pack, it's best to use another horse's slipstream, as if you were a NASCAR rider (sorry for the totally American analogy here-- I'm ignorant towards horse racing as well which I know there is the Kentucky Derby, but still). By using another horse's slipstream and then having smart use of boosts and special dashes known as Star Dashes, then winning becomes natural.

Despite lacking the charm and wackiness of typical Mario sports games, I found some enjoyment from Mario Sports Superstars. For a system lacking traditional sports sims and more realistic sports experiences, Superstars is a nice overall package. Sure, the AI becomes infuriatingly cheap in later cups in baseball and soccer in particular, character and star character unlocks are lame, and the online multiplayer's answer to disconnects is nonexistent, Mario Sports Superstars offers a good package of sports (with enough depth to them) for a solid price.

Reader Reviews / Super Bomberman R (Switch)
« on: March 26, 2017, 05:01:56 AM »
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Bomberman has been in hibernation for quite some time. I took for granted how much I enjoyed the series when it was common for games starring old Bomby to release seemingly every other month. It is indeed true what they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Now, Konami has brought Bomberman back and just in time for the Switch launch. Nonetheless, perhaps it being "just in time for the Switch launch" has made it a game that isn't as big of a blast as it could have been.

Super Bomberman R's story mode begins with an absolutely adorable scene that seems ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon with its cheesiness. It's intentionally campy, and it works in this regard. The voice acting is suitably campy as well, making for scenes throughout the game that you can't help but at least eek out a grin at.

The actual campaign of story mode can be played by one's lonesome or locally with a friend. Though this can be more harmful than helpful; when you have two players each dropping bombs, sometimes even blowing one another up, especially in boss battles. Nonetheless, it's a nice option to be able to blow enemies to smithereens with somebody as long as you're not worried about having to continue, which costs a certain amount of money, the currency used to buy items in the in-game shop such as hats and characters to use in multiplayer as well as new arenas.

The campaign tasks you with completing five planets of ten levels each. The first eight levels in each themed world contains various mission types, but most of the time it's simply to destroy all enemies, usually by trapping them with bombs. Other mission types include surviving an onslaught of enemies for a limited amount of time, stepping on a series of switches, gathering a specific amount of keys, and rounding up NPCs and bringing them to a goal area.

The ninth and tenth levels in a world pits you against a two part boss, one of Buggler's Dastardly Bombers. The first of two battles puts you in an arena against a Dastardly Bomber, trying to outwit the boss. This is no easy task, as it seems the boss AI reads your control inputs and acts accordingly, something that makes multiplayer with AI an annoyance (more on that later). Still, I found it relatively easy to survive these encounters as I tried not to go all kamikaze on bosses. Instead, I picked my shots and tried to take each Dastardly Bomber out using the same strategy. When they dropped a bomb, I tried to drop a bomb a space away from that one, trying to trap the Bomber between the two bombs, thus resulting in them getting caught and trapped in the ensuing explosion. As you can imagine, with a co-op buddy, this becomes much trickier to do.

The battle after, the tenth level, has the Dastardly Bomber transforming or entering some kind of machinery for a different kind of boss battle where learning patterns, picking one's shots, and discovering when a boss is vulnerable to attack are key to emerging victorious while losing the least amount of lives. One boss is a crab-like creature that requires you to avoid its swinging claw while blasting its six legs to bring the center of mech down to ground level, allowing you to deal damage to the boss.

The sixth world is unlike the other five, as it purely two boss battles against the big bad of Super Bomberman R's story. However, they're alike in that you're awarded up to three stars each for how well you do on the world, just like every other in the game. Collecting power-ups and not losing a lot of lives means you get a higher grade, and trying to get three stars on each world in each of three difficulties (higher difficulties mean smarter and faster AI as well as less lives to start out with) makes for some good replay value here. It's also a great way of earning money to buy goods in the in-game shop.

Single player mode is overall not too bad, but it suffers from an atypical isometric camera view that can make it challenging to distinguish between different heights in levels and where enemies are. This is especially noticeable in levels with ramps, sometimes obscured by blocks and even the HUD. Thankfully, however, the control lag of this Switch Bomberman has since been patched by Konami, so one big problem of this mode and multiplayer has been remedied (though I would like to see grid-based movement added).

Multiplayer is the other piece of Super Bomberman R and comes in the form of local and online play. Unfortunately, for a full-priced Bomberman game the lack of options available when customizing local matches is absolutely ridiculous and unforgivable. When a $10 Bomberman game released on the Xbox 360 almost a decade ago gives you the options to change AI difficulty and even switch out which item pickups are included and omitted in a match while a $50 Bomberman game doesn't, something is horribly wrong. The AI difficulty is of particular interest because including them battles makes for a completely unrewarding experience lacking much in the way of fun. The AI is simply too good, reading your control inputs and acting accordingly as if they can read your mind. Even Bomberman series masters will lose their cool to these computer-controlled bots from hell.

Up to eight players (either with controllers or with their own Switches) can unload bombs at one another locally.
Online multiplayer has two types of matches available: casual matches with strangers and league battles. The former can have you and some local buddies join in while league battles are for one player only. League battles give winners and all participants money depending on their places in battle, and the winner gets ranking points. When enough ranking points have been earned, they move a rank to a higher class of players. Online isn't optimal, as it's player-based connections which can result in some particularly lag-filled battles.

Super Bomberman R is a better game that what it started out with, and Konami has kept in touch with the community, starting that more updates are planned outside of their fix of the game's occasional input lag that seriously brought down the quality of the game. Still, I want to see the AI in multiplayer addressed as well as the ability to give players options in customizing multiplayer battles (even being able to earn money from local battles would do wonders for making that mode worthwhile to put up with the cheap AI). While Super Bomberman R isn't the absolute blast I wanted it to be, it's not a tremendous dud either. It's just average as of now.

Reader Reviews / FAST RMX (Switch)
« on: March 21, 2017, 09:02:31 PM »
Original review:

When it comes to fast, futuristic racers, many gamers probably first think of Nintendo's F-Zero or PlayStation's WipEout. The focus here is more on the former, as Nintendo console owners have been clamoring for a new F-Zero from the big N for over a decade now. Since Nintendo isn't in the market for a new blazing fast, futuristic racer as of yet, other developers have taken to the cause. A little over a year ago saw the launch of Shin'en Multimedia's FAST Racing Neo for the Wii U. It was an exquisite but insanely challenging racer made more impressive by the small size of the team working on it. Now, with Nintendo's new console, the Switch, Shin'en is back with an improved version of FAST released digitally right at launch. Despite being familiar for Wii U players, FAST RMX offers enough newness and improvements to be more than worth downloading.

FAST RMX sports several modes, though mostly due to rushing to launch the game with the Switch's release, a time trial mode is noticeably absent from the game. Regardless, the primary single-player mode is Championship. This is a series of unlockable cups, ten in all, set across three different speed types. Set up for more bite-sized play sessions, as well as a nice way of making losing a cup at the last race not as much of a pain as it was in the original, the cups include three races each instead of the original's four. The total amount of tracks is a series high of 30.

The structure of Championship mode is interesting, as one would think that the difficulty would only increase when changing speed classes. For instance, Subsonic is the slowest of the classes, and it is also the easiest. But the level of challenge actually changes as you play through a speed class' series of cups. The beginning cups, even on the fastest speed class, are relatively easy to get first place in and stay with the front of the pack, but by the final three cups, I found myself seriously struggling to keep up with first place. I basically needed to run a perfect race just to stand a chance. Thankfully, the placement of rivals in FAST RMX aren't set in stone, meaning that your rival in first in overall points can sometimes slip up and get sixth in a race, giving you the overall points needed to win. Even still, you just need to get at least third overall after three races to pass a given cup.

Another fortunate aspect of FAST RMX is that when compared to the original, FAST RMX offers a much more forgiving difficulty. In the Wii U game, if you crashed even once (maybe twice if you were lucky or good enough), you pretty much surrendered your chance for decent placing in a race. That is no longer the case in FAST RMX.

FAST has some similarities to games like F-Zero and WipEout, but it's also possesses originality to the futuristic racing genre and concept. The main thing that distinguishes FAST from the competition and its inspirations is the color switching gameplay system that has you pressing one button to shift your vehicle's aura from blue to orange and back again. This is of importance because there are multiple stretches of track that are covered in one of these colors. If you cross over a blue patch of track while possessing a blue aura, that patch serves as a means to give you a great boost. Likewise, if you accidentally have an orange aura on a blue patch, then you're slowed down. It's with smart switching and shifting of your vehicle's aura that makes the difference between keeping up with the pack as well as potentially winning the race and falling behind while ending up with a poor finishing place.

There are also energy orbs strewn along parts of each of FAST RMX's tracks, giving your vehicle boost energy that can be used at any time during a race. Generally, it's smart to stock up on these and use them in portions of the track where the blue and orange boost patches don't exist. Smart boosting is particularly needed (even flat out required) to keep up with the AI in harder difficulty cups and speed classes. Boosting into a slower moving vehicle causes them to spin out, costing them a precious second or two of time, and when you're competing in a race where going as fast as possible is necessary, then that can ruin a race for them.

The 30 tracks in FAST RMX are mostly taken from the original Wii U game's vanilla version and its later included downloadable content. There are also completely new tracks. Because the tracks are full of twists and turns as well as patches of blue and orange that can come unexpectedly out of nowhere, learning each track is of extra importance in doing well. A map in single player is available to at least know what turns are coming up, but this isn't wholly helpful due to the speed of which your vehicle is going. It's sort of hard to take a glance at a map when you're pretty much always needing to pay attention to upcoming turns, boost patches, and the placement of boost orbs.

FAST RMX's tracks run the gamut of locales and tests of controlling your blistering fast vehicle. This speed is absolutely amazing, but this can result in one issue with the track design: crashing into obstacles that suddenly appear before you. With learning the tracks, this doesn't become as big of an issue, but there is one track, Iceland, that has everyone racing along a pipe. This structure has various gates, pillars, and even mechanical creatures that can come from out of nowhere, resulting in crashes. Memorization isn't really helpful since the vehicles can slip and slide all over, and it can be hard to make heads or tails of where you are while spinning around the pipe.

Regardless, the various vistas in the tracks are truly stunning, and some even support secondary paths, many of which are excellent shortcuts. Some tracks have insane jumps that require careful control to land safely, others have swaying sections of track, a corridor with three giant fan blades, sections where purple lasers intermittently fire onto the track, and another where a giant mechanical spider mech slams its legs into the ground, hoping to cause havoc to any vehicle that unluckily slams into it.

Outside of Championship mode for solo players, there is a mode more familiar to F-Zero fans, Hero mode. This mode features you choosing from one of the 30 races, and trying to get first place on a mirrored version of that track. The biggest caveat is that your boost meter is also your life meter, so carelessly using energy to boost will most likely result in destruction once your meter is empty and you brush up against a wall or another vehicle. Fortunately, your meter can replenish with the collection of boost orbs and being the right colored aura on a boost patch.

A speedy racer is impressive, but it's not so much if the handling of the vehicles isn't there. Fortunately, in FAST RMX, it definitely is. Controlling each vehicle is a little looser than in F-Zero, but it works overall. Boosting and switching between auras is as simple as pressing a button for each, and the back shoulder buttons help in correcting one's course. Perhaps the only thing I don't like with FAST RMX is how on some turns (usually ones at a right angle to the ground) your vehicle will be on the left or right side of the screen with no change to the camera angle (like having it behind your vehicle and turned with the track). This makes some turns more difficult to achieve than they would otherwise be, especially when there's a boost pad you'd like to run over.

Multiplayer is a necessary function of any kind of racing game, and for FAST RMX what multiplayer it has is nice and serviceable. It's great to have up to four players sharing a TV screen through local play (though I wouldn't recommend it doing four players in handheld mode due to the limited screen space of the Switch), and it all runs at a steady frame-rate. Online is less of a good thing, as there is no current way of guaranteeing you'll play with friends like in private lobbies. (That should also be coming with the patch that includes the omitted Time Attack mode.) Additionally, there's some pretty noticeable lag, such as seeing on your screen that you crossed the line in a different place than you're actually awarded. Then there's occasionally having to watch an entire race unfold before you can join in the next race. These issues add up for a less than stellar online multiplayer experience.

FAST RMX is a beauty of a game that somehow manages to stay at an amazing frame-rate. The game is absolutely stunning in screenshots and only more astounding to the eye in motion. This is not-so-secretly one of the best looking Switch games so far. The music is a nice combination of rock and electronica, though you probably won't be humming any of the songs after you've stopped playing, as they aren't particularly memorable. (Though I do like the track intro theme, as well as Shin'en's use of F-Zero GX's announcer for them.) Overall, FAST RMX is a truly impressive visual package that doesn't feel or look undercooked at all.

Despite some online issues and the current lack of a time trial mode, FAST RMX is a formidable racer that is packed with content. Whether played by your lonesome online or off, or with a group of friends, FAST RMX is a must-have for anyone looking for a game to complement their most likely Zelda: Breath of the Wild purchase. Race on, speed freaks. Race on.


Look at that manual with its clear Zelda NES manual influence! I've never played any version of Binding before, so this retail release made sense for me to pick up. :)

I'm currently deep in Zelda right n-- wait. That comes off really inappropriately. I mean, I'm currently playing the new Zelda a lot, I just started a new data yesterday (after only playing about four hours on day one) and played for 8 hours straight. 0_0 My point is that I don't know when I'll get to this game, but if you have questions, I'll answer them when I do play this game! :D

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