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Messages - NWR_Neal

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I'm sure recording Monday night will be fine.

John, Neal, and Alex gather at the beginning of what would surely be a normal and not exciting week. Neal gives his thoughts on the Nintendo Direct (having been busy listening to a wide assortment of brass instruments), and John finally has a chance to talk about Starfield. The gang also catches up with their listener mail discussing the price of various online subscriptions.

TalkBack / Metroid Prime: Federation Force Is Great, Actually
« on: Yesterday at 12:34:04 PM »

Or how not to launch a spinoff.

2015 was a year of transition for Nintendo for a variety of reasons. The Wii U was definitively a sales bomb, regardless of how well received Splatoon and Super Mario Maker were when they launched to critical and fan acclaim that year. The 3DS was doing okay, but as the system entered its fifth year in the wild, it creaked under the pressure of being Nintendo’s only successful console on the market. We were still two years away from the Nintendo Switch, even if 2015 was the first time we heard mention of the NX - the codename that begot the Switch name when Nintendo revealed it was fervently entering the world of mobile game development.

While good Nintendo games were continually coming out, a few mainstays had been in weird states of transition. Take the Legend of Zelda series, which was being populated by remakes and spin-offs while we all waited for Breath of the Wild to come out. Or more relevant to the topic of this video, take Metroid, which was a beloved hardcore franchise that was seemingly on life support for a decade. Following an early 2000s run that saw three numbered Metroid Prime games, two Prime spinoffs, and two new 2D entries, everything landed with a thud following the release of the Wii game Metroid: Other M. Aside from the well-made Metroid Prime Trilogy collection on Wii, the Metroid series was languishing between indifference and irrelevance. Until E3 2015, where Nintendo announced a new entry in the series and somehow turned indifference into anger and fury.

But I’m not here to stoke that anger - or I guess I am since I’m not mad at Metroid Prime: Federation Force. I’m here to tell you that Metroid Prime: Federation Force is great, actually, but at the same time, the announcement and reveal of the game justifies concern and confusion among fans of the decades-old series. It’s a shame that a quality work such as Federation Force was widely dismissed. I want to spell out what went wrong in its rollout and why this is still a game worth celebrating regardless of its sad place in history.

With 2015 being such a transformative year, Nintendo’s presence at E3 was some amount of a last gasp. The past few years of the notable convention were a series of ups and downs, especially during the Wii U era. In 2012, the launch year for the home console, their booth was packed to the gills with Wii U demo stations, but was conspicuously absent of people. The naive, optimistic young Nintendo reporter that I was back then was stoked at how short the lines were, but in retrospect, it was a harbinger of the lackluster Wii U sales to come. E3 2013 and 2014 were steps in the right direction, with the former highlighting a solid lineup consisting of the likes of Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, and several Smash Bros. reveals. 2014 was arguably Nintendo’s strongest of the Wii U era, hosting a Smash Bros. tournament and demo as well as the fervent reveals of Splatoon and Mario Maker.

That brings us to E3 2015. Following on the heels of the moderate good will of 2014, Nintendo followed a very similar script, kicking things off with the 2015 Nintendo World Championships that included novel competitions and the reveal of EarthBound Beginnings on Wii U Virtual Console and a mysterious game called Blast Ball.

It didn’t take long for folks to piece together how much Blast Ball looked like a first-person Metroid Prime HUD. Within moments, there was hope and speculation for something new in the Metroid series. It had been a half-decade since Metroid Other M and almost a decade since the last brand new Prime game. Surely, Nintendo had something up their sleeves to satiate the Nintendo fans that stuck around during the dismal Wii U era.

As everyone would learn the next day during Nintendo’s E3 2015 Digital Event, this was not your father’s Metroid Prime. This wasn’t really anything that Metroid fans asked for. It was Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a co-op-focused shooter that put you in the mech suit of Galactic Federation soldiers. Samus was nowhere to be seen in the sub-minute-long reveal. This was just a new adventure in the Metroid Prime universe, aiming to launch nine years after Metroid Prime 3 and six years after Samus’ last non-Smash appearance.

To say Federation Force’s announcement was met with a thud is disrespectful to thuds. And even as someone who loves Federation Force, I get it. Metroid as a series had been dormant and there was no promise of more adventures with Samus. There was just this quirky co-op spinoff. Pair that with the rest of the E3 show for Nintendo, which was filled with question marks or poorly received reveals. Star Fox Zero was a headliner. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes paired with Federation Force as another late-in-the-game multiplayer-focused 3DS game. Animal Crossing finally got a Wii U game...that was an amiibo-centric board game. Mario Tennis was back with what we would come to learn was a clear low point for the entire sport of tennis. Metroid Prime’s return in spinoff form was already starting from behind, but the rest of Nintendo’s lineup wasn’t doing it any favors.

I remember being hopeful for Federation Force. The game looked fun! Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon developer Next Level Games was working on it! But at the same time, Nintendo revealed a new game in a beloved series that appeared to play incredibly differently than the acclaimed entries, without any promise or mention of anything else in the works. Federation Force was a red-headed stepchild at announce because of this. And it sucks because Federation Force is great, actually. It’s just different from 2D Metroid and Metroid Prime.

The fan response teetered between confusion and anger. YouTube videos had massive amounts of dislikes and even the optimists were waiting for a Metroid Prime 4 announcement that never came. Hindsight being 20/20, Nintendo likely didn’t have another Metroid game to show during 2015. Metroid: Samus Returns was in development but still over two years away from launch. Metroid Prime 4 was but a twinkle in the eye of series producer Kensuke Tanabe, as even the initial development of the game didn’t likely start until early 2017. There wasn’t anything concrete to reveal alongside Federation Force, and even Tanabe’s comments about the future of the Prime series after Federation Force weren’t enough to cut through the noise.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force was doomed to fail because of the context in which it was announced. There was no rebounding from the deafening furor of the E3 reveal, even if frankly the core gameplay looked fun as hell in multiplayer during the Treehouse segments. The fact that the only playable demo was of Blast Ball was even more of a death knell for the early reception. Blast Ball’s cute, but it’s insubstantial. For better or worse, Federation Force is a sobering tale of how to not announce a spinoff to a longtime franchise.

Nintendo tried to rehab the reveal before the August 2016 launch in a March 2016 Nintendo Direct. It was debatably too little too late, but Tanabe clearly had a passion for this series and this concept. Federation Force ventured to show a different part of the universe, expanding it beyond Samus and Metroid by highlighting the battle between the Galactic Federation and the Space Pirates. Samus was finally confirmed to be a part of the game, but not playable. The attempt at salvaging a dreadful reveal was the best it could be, but it wasn’t enough.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force launched on 3DS on August 18, 2016 to a MetaCritic score of 64, by far the lowest ever for a new Metroid game. It’s worth noting that the second and third highest critic scores actually come from Nintendo World Report’s leadership. Our current Director John Rairdin gave the game a 9/10 and I reviewed it for the magazine Nintendo Force and gave it an 8.5. It does feel fitting that John and I are working together on a video called “Metroid Prime: Federation Force Is Great, Actually.” We have the receipts to prove we mean it.

Now the naysayers have a point because the context for how Federation Force was revealed fell flat and over the course of the year between announcement and launch, Nintendo had no real ability to satiate the desire of fans for a “real Metroid game.” But with the hindsight of years after launch, what makes Federation Force good? Let’s dive into the gameplay and legacy of Project Golem.

First off, the first-person shooter controls on 3DS work great. This does use the nub C-stick on the New 3DS as camera control, but that nub doesn’t work that well. Even with the middling second-stick, the combo of Circle Pad movement, lock-on, and gyro controls make aiming feel wonderful. It takes a lot of learnings about Metroid Prime controls and makes something that lands around the best of both worlds, taking the original Cube controls and the Wii motion of Prime 3 and the remastered Trilogy. Developer Next Level Games clearly can make the 3DS sing after their work on Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and even with the chibi art style, this is a good-looking 3DS game.

The individual missions have a lot of variety, whether you’re trying to corral beasts, protect areas, or find items. I might have said some things when this game came out about it feeling like a natural extension of Metroid Prime and I’ll admit that’s a little crazy talk, but it still feels like it fits in that world. The three planets you visit could easily be a part of the places you explore in the prior Prime games. There’s the ice planet Excelcion, the machine ruins of Talvania, and the volcanic Bion. They assuredly fit the typical tropes of the franchise, especially since most places have long-gone ancient races that left everything in tatters as Space Pirates swoop in to mine the remains.

Now we get to elements of Federation Force that probably sunk it further into a spiral of doom. This is designed to be a multiplayer game, but it truly works best with a full team of four. The difficulty stays consistent no matter if you have one, two, three, or four players. With four, it’s well balanced, staying challenging but not impossible. With two or three, the difficulty can ramp up considerably. As a single player, you have the ability to toggle a mod on or off that gives you double firepower while receiving half damage - making it a great way to level out the challenge if you’re rolling solo. You can even have drones join you too.

By the time Federation Force launched in 2016, the 3DS was more than five years old and was showing its age considerably, especially in terms of online play. I don’t remember the exact specifics of the online landscape the day Federation Force came out but I don’t recall any positive random player experiences. Unless you have a quartet willing to hop online with you, you likely had a bad time trying to find partners to ride the wave beam that is Metroid Prime: Federation Force. It’s a damn shame because when I did pair up with a full squad, I had an absolute blast. But also I ran a Nintendo fan site at the time so finding that group was relatively easy. Even if this was the Metroid game everyone was hyped for, the active online player base wasn’t really there for it on 3DS in the summer of 2016.

Even Blast Ball had a bad beat by the time it came out as part of the final game. While the multiplayer mode is novel in how it is essentially Metroid Prime Soccer, the mode’s lunch was stolen shortly after announcement by the launch of the now-monolithic Rocket League. You could debate about the veracity of comparing the full-fledged online-focused Rocket League to the throwaway side mode of Blast Ball, but no matter what, Blast Ball was done bigger and better a year before the game was even publicly released. Federation Force’s release has a lot of self-owns from Nintendo along the way, but it was truly a perfect storm of Murphy’s Law.

Even with the generally poor reception despite the quality and competency of the game’s core, Federation Force is now a part of the world of Metroid. Maybe it’s a sad chapter, but it’s a chapter nonetheless, filled with a chibi art style and a weird plot obsession with making things bigger that pays off with a final boss being a giant morph ball Samus who is possessed by Space Pirates. And then you fight Master Brain, which may or may not be tied to Aurora Units and not the Mother we all know and love. There’s even a story tease with the mysterious Prime villain Sylux showing up to steal a Metroid. Maybe that will play into Metroid Prime 4? Or maybe we can look forward to another 15 years of wondering who the heck Sylux is and why they matter.

I loved Metroid Prime: Federation Force when it came out and I still love it to this day. It might not be the Metroid game we all wanted, but it’s a fun game for what it is that was released at the absolute wrong time. The multiplayer is awesome when the stars align, and the general variety and story are fun and interesting. You can dismiss this game all you want and while I’ll join you hopefully waiting for Metroid Prime 4 to continue the spectacular solitary adventures last seen in 2007, I’ll always have a fondness for this game and perchance to dream of a world where this was an addition to the world of Prime and not seen as a lone forgotten offshoot. The Federation Force died so Samus could run again. Here’s hoping we don’t have another moment in time like that again.

TalkBack / Picross S+ Bringing 3DS Games to Switch in 2024
« on: September 11, 2023, 11:00:00 PM »

The forthcoming release will collect all nine Picross e games that are now inaccessible after the closure of the 3DS eShop.

The next game in the Picross S series will be Picross S+, a collection of all nine Picross e games that were originally released on the 3DS eShop.

Due out in 2024, Picross S+ will contain the content from Picross e for an estimated price of $4.99 (and equivalent pricing). The other eight releases will be available as DLC for an estimated price of $4.99 each. This will be the first time Picross e9 will be available outside of Japan.

Additionally, developer Jupiter released Logiart Grimoire into early access on PC. The game features Picross-like puzzles and builds off of it with puzzle fusion where you combine the objects you create in puzzles to solve different challenges. Logiart Grimoire will also come to Switch after the early access period.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 379: Super Mario Land, World, and Land 2
« on: September 08, 2023, 10:59:08 AM »

Part 2 of the 2D Mario Game Club

The gang returns to talk about Mario's arrival on the Super Nintendo, along with his two Game Boy titles. Has Super Mario World truely stood the test of time? And are the land games good or just delightfully weird. Find out in this episode of NWR Connectivity!

Podcast Discussion / Episode 378: Sea of English Majors
« on: September 01, 2023, 01:13:38 PM »

And somehow Tears of the Kingdom shows up again.

Alex joins Neal and John to discuss the release of Sea of Stars and our incredibly positive opinions of it. Even John played it... for a few minutes. Alex then touches on his review of Bombrush Cyberfunk before we turn to a small backlog of listener mail.

TalkBack / Little Nightmares 3 Announced for Switch Release in 2024
« on: August 22, 2023, 10:30:06 AM »

Supermassive Games takes over main development duties for the third installment of the Bandai Namco series.

Little Nightmares III is coming to Switch (and other platforms) in 2024, adding co-op play for the first time in the series.

Supermassive Games is developing the title, following their work on porting Little Nightmares II to Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. They also worked on The Dark Pictures Anthology games for Little Nightmares publisher Bandai Namco as well. The series creators Tarsier Studios were bought by an investment group that is owned by games holding company Embracer Group, which is likely why they are not involved with this next entry.

The game follows friends Low and Alone looking to get out of The Nowhere, a locale filled with nightmares of the little (not-so-little) variety. The gameplay hook about Little Nightmares III is that it is playable in co-op with two players. That even extends to the single-player, where the second character is AI controlled.

In addition to the new video game, Bandai Namco also announced a six-episode podcast series called The Sounds of Nightmares that tells an original story in the world. The first two episodes are available now.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 377: Neal Embraces His Inner Sad Dad
« on: August 18, 2023, 10:57:53 AM »

And John can't spell Asobi.

John and Neal reunite after a series of scheduling issues. Without John's weekly guidence we find that Neal has been led astray by the temptations of the world and purchased a Playstation 5.

TalkBack / Marble It Up! Ultra (Switch) Review
« on: August 15, 2023, 01:30:54 PM »

An impressive follow-up that rocks and rolls.

A few years back, Marble It Up came out on Nintendo Switch and while the physics and controls of the ball-rolling game were fantastic, the full package was light on content. As I said in that 2018 review: “[C]ontrol of the marble is immaculate, the framerate is buttery smooth, and the level design is strong. Unfortunately it’s over way too quickly and feels more akin to a nice start than a full product.” I enjoyed what was there, but it ended too soon. Marble It Up Ultra is the full realization of the previous game, retaining the design ingenuity and smooth movement with a wealth of content in both single and multiplayer.

Across six chapters with 60+ levels, the singleplayer ride is a thrilling one, regularly introducing new concepts, twists, and turns. The initial chapter takes its time with tutorials, but once you get through that, the rest of the game hits the ground running (or rolling). Different power-ups give you single-use abilities, whether it’s a way to slow down time to improve your high score or a glide ability that helps you navigate gaps in the air. Beyond that there are more complications, such as shifting gravity that toys with your perspective and perception.

Finishing the numbered chapters is not the end, though, as various bonus chapters with dozens of additional levels are unlocked depending on how many medals you rack up in the other stages. Some of these are diabolical. Online compatibility brings more content as well, including weekly challenges that take existing levels and tweak them for a different challenge. Online leaderboards throughout every stage, including the weekly challenges, add even more to do beyond the base game.

The multiplayer, which features cross-platform play (at least on PC, Switch, and Xbox), has five different modes that are all fun but fleeting. It’s hard to tell in the pre-launch phase whether or not these modes will turn into Rocket League or Metroid Blast Ball, but from my time so far, I lean more towards the latter. These are fun and cute, especially the Rocket League/Blast Ball-esque Soccer mode. The Zombies mode is notably neat, as a few players start off as zombies and have to hit the others to convert them.

Marble It Up Ultra is exactly the type of sequel that the original release needed. It takes the excellent foundation and builds a deeper and more fulfilling game around it. This is packed with more challenges and a greater variety. While the multiplayer might not be something that stays populated, the leaderboards do a great job of extending the experience beyond the campaign. And also the terse challenge of the bonus chapters and weekly challenges adds to the fun. It’s a (marble) blast to see this come together as well as it does.

TalkBack / Legend Bowl (Switch) Review
« on: August 09, 2023, 07:05:28 AM »

A hail mary that tries to thread the needle between Tecmo Bowl and Madden and falls short of the goal line.

I have been so starved for portable Madden that I put too much time into the PC version that constantly crashes and runs like garbage on Steam Deck last year. I exist as an entity on the prowl for a meal that satisfies my male desire to call plays dotted with Xs and Os. I crave the arcane feeling of simulating an entire season of football just to see the numbers go up and down on my virtual army. So when I heard Legend Bowl - a retro-looking football game headed up by an ex-Madden developer - was coming to Switch, I got very excited. Unfortunately, that excitement dimmed the more I played, even if the foundation shows promise for future seasons.

While Legend Bowl might initially conjure up feelings of Tecmo Bowl, the actual feel and gameplay is closer to Madden, specifically the old ‘90s 2D style. You have a full playbook with a variety of plays as the camera is behind the quarterback from an aerial vantage point. The controls took a little bit of getting used to but definitely felt familiar to me as a Madden veteran. This was all very promising as I queued up my first play. Then I snapped the ball and the game moved like molasses by default. It felt like every player with the ball had the speed of B.J. Raji (or William “the Refrigerator” Perry if you want a non-Wisconsin reference). Runs of a yard or two took eons. Breaking free in open space made every 10 yards you ran feel like an eternity. Thankfully, there is an option to tweak the game speed, but even with a faster pace, this is a game designed with slower intent in mind. It's a bandage (a patch, if you will) and not a full salve.

Legend Bowl is a game that looks like it should be an arcade sports hit, but it tries too hard to lean on the simulation side while losing sight of arcade immediacy. My attempts at multiplayer with friends fell flat, with some of the biggest issues coming from the pace and the finicky nature of passing the ball. A toggleable pass assist option helps a lot, but the default makes throwing the ol’ pigskin effectively lean too much on precision. In a football game I don’t need to be reminded of how difficult it is to play quarterback (I can just watch that game where the Broncos played a backup wide receiver at QB for that); I want to feel like I can be an All-Pro, especially when playing with friends. This game did not have the staying power a lot of recent successful arcade sports games have had, which is very important since it lacks online play.

Aside from the moment-to-moment gameplay, the depth of the franchise mode is impressive. As I said at the top, I’m a sucker for seeing the skill numbers of my team go up and down during a sports season. The 32-team league and 17-game schedule that comically apes the real NFL is engrossing in a way that Madden has slowly gotten away from in the past few years. The franchise mode, as well as the tournament mode and other options, add a high degree of customization to Legend Bowl that is welcome. I just wish I liked playing the actual game more than I do.

The structure in place here is encouraging though and I hope Legend Bowl has a future as the football video game landscape is dire, especially on Switch. Refining the gameplay or deepening gameplay options and tutorials could go a long way into making this an arcade classic. To bake in a relevant sports metaphor, this game is like the first season after moving on from a franchise legend. You could wind up with a losing first season but end up with a first-ballot Hall of Famer when their career is over. Or this could turn out to be a bust and get the head coach fired. Only time will tell because there is a lotta ballgame left.

TalkBack / Hyper Meteor (Switch) Review
« on: July 27, 2023, 08:00:00 AM »

Asteroids in meteor form.

High-score-chasing arcade-style games are one of the core foundations of video games, as back in the day the likes of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Asteroids were based primarily on who could get the highest score and stay on the cabinet leaderboards. It’s a well that I enjoy returning to every so often on modern platforms. I have fond memories of being sucked into the legendary Xbox Live Arcade game Geometry Wars 2. In the same vein of that retro-futuristic style, the developer Vertex Pop has been peppering Switch with indelible slices of arcade goodness with games such as their 2017 release Graceful Explosion Machine and the 2020 port of We Are Doomed. Their latest Switch release, Hyper Meteor, is a simple but engrossing ride that draws heavy inspiration from the classic Asteroids. It’s electric to play, with an intuitive design and good online leaderboard integration.

Hyper Meteor is also weird in that it is a port of a Playdate game. To the unfamiliar, the Playdate is the little yellow handheld with a monochromatic screen and a crank. It’s very much a system that has more in common with the Game Boy or Game & Watch than any other console released in the past three decades; so that makes Hyper Meteor’s Switch version an interesting experiment. Does the black-and-white stylings translate well to Switch? It does indeed, especially thanks to added modes and co-op.

It’s a two-button game, where one boosts your ship forward and the other deploys a limited-use screen-clearing bomb. You boost your ship into the lighter-shaded areas of meteors or enemies while you avoid ramming into the darker-shaded side or villainous fire. The basic mode is an endless one, where you just keep going until you run out of lives. That’s all that is available at the start, but playing the game quickly unlocks the other three modes. Meteor mode revolves around deploying explosions to wipe out the untouchable meteors that populate the screen. Countdown is a challenge to get the highest score in a three-minute time limit. Lastly is Waves mode where you try to get the highest score possible while trying to survive 40 waves of foes.

That is, more or less, the whole game. Flourishes exist along the way in the form of unlockable color palettes and music. An array of in-game achievements offer additional goals. The online leaderboards are present for every mode, and while I’m currently playing pre-release, I am already suckered into trying to top the few high scores out there and look forward to seeing if any friends pick this up.

What I appreciate the most about Hyper Meteor is that it perfectly walks the line of being dazzling and fun to play without achieving mastery. That’s something that carries through every Vertex Pop game, but it was also something that stood out to me as I first played this in its simpler form on Playdate. It just feels good to zoom around the screen and ram some meteors and enemies. Extra lives and bombs show up at a frequent enough clip that you usually have a buffer. Of course you can also go psycho mode and just aim for never breaking your multiplier and restarting when you do. I don’t recommend doing that in the local co-op lest you lose your partner. That being said, the local co-op is a great addition, especially as you’re plotting strategy in the time-limited or meteor-exploding modes.

Hyper Meteor rocks as it succeeds at being a fun arcade high-score chaser with a lot of good vibes and enjoyable details. Even if you only put a few hours into it exploring each mode and visual flourish, it’s still a worthwhile game. But if you go down the rabbit hole of chasing high scores, you’ll be rocketing into meteors for days.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 375: 2D Mario Game Club - The NES Era
« on: July 28, 2023, 07:16:55 AM »

Part 1 of the 2D Mario Game Club

Matt joins John and Neal to talk through the titles that redefined console gaming. How has the original Super Mario Bros. aged? What's the best version of Mario 2? Can anyone think of anything bad to say about Mario 3? And is anyone even watching Marvel Secret Invasion?

TalkBack / Disney Illusion Island (Switch) Review
« on: July 27, 2023, 04:00:00 AM »

Come along and sing the song and join the jamboree: M-I-C-K-E-Y, V-A-N-I-A.

When Disney Illusion Island was revealed at D23 in 2022, I didn’t pay much attention to it. When it showed up at various showcases later on, I enjoyed seeing the cartoony animation but aside from that, I didn’t have high hopes that this would be anything more than a nice-looking generic licensed platformer. However, after hearing the developers call it a “Mickeyvania” and talk passionately about how this is an exploration-heavy platformer made for the whole family, my ears perked up. I love me some Metroid and all of the indie games it inspired, but the majority of those skew more difficult or at the very least require knowledge of the genre. Illusion Island bucks that trend, and after spending a number of hours with it both by myself and with my family, I’m ready to be signed up as a Mouseketeer because Disney and developer Dlala Studios have made a game that takes the paramount concepts of a Metroidvania platformer and distilled them into a form that is fun for all ages while not being a pushover. This is 2D Metroid made gentle or maybe more apt for the year it comes out: this is to Metroid what Super Mario RPG is to Final Fantasy.

The premise for Illusion Island reminds me of the Sega Genesis-era Mickey games like Castle of Illusion. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy wind up on a mysterious island where they’re tasked with collecting three legendary tomes to help out a group of locals trying to restore order. The gameplay and world doesn’t have a lot of overt Disney references, as the folks you interact with are all original characters. That being said, to a degree this just feels like a new Mickey Mouse cartoon. While there aren’t a ton of cut scenes, each one is a few minutes of adorably written and lovingly drawn animations highly reminiscent of modern Mickey Mouse media. It’s filled with a lot of tongue-in-cheek jokes that reference video game tropes, much in the same way Pixar movies stick in gags that adults will get instantly and that kids won’t be bothered that they didn’t fully understand the bit.

Beyond the story and setup is the truly magical part of Illusion Island: it’s a blast to play. The Metroidvania world layout and overall design is highly evocative of Ori and Rayman Legends, though the challenge skews significantly easier. That doesn’t mean it’s a breeze, though. Early on, it’s definitely sleepwalk-easy for anyone with a decent amount of platformer experience. By the back half though, it became way more demanding than I expected. This never enters any stratosphere of Meat Boy levels of pain, but if you play on the hardest difficulty, you might be surprised by how hard this game can get. Of course, you can make it so you have multiple hits before you perish, even making it way easier by having infinite health. Checkpoints are reasonably spaced so even if you do go hard, it’s never that frustrating.

The marketed appeal is that this is a four-player platformer that can accommodate players of all skill levels. In my experiences playing a few hours with my kids, Illusion Island lives up to that promise. Every player can choose their own difficulty and toggle different assists, ranging from a jump assist to a wall-cling ability. One player can even drop a rope when they reach the top of an area, so the others can join them easily if they’re having a hard time. The multiplayer is local only, which is a little bit of a bummer even if I think the ideal experience for this involves adults and kids playing in the same room.

In addition to my time with the multiplayer, I played through the game and 100%-ed it on my own, which took me around 8-9 hours. This was way more compelling as a solo experience than I expected, with a good amount of secrets to uncover and a cadre of collectables to find. I found myself bouncing between which character I played as, largely because every power-up and ability has a unique animation. Mickey hovers in a cycle-copter while Donald comically flaps two feathers to stay afloat. Goofy rides a hot pepper for a secondary jump boost while Minnie grapples with a carabiner on a string. Aside from the whimsy of the animations, the characters play identically and all of the abilities are stock platformer upgrades. However, in the later stages, the degree that you can move effortlessly around the screen is thrilling. Movement feels good across the board.

Movement is important because that’s basically your only means of interaction with enemies since this is largely a non-combat game. It felt weird at first, but the deeper I got, the more I enjoyed the flow of rhythmically moving past enemies. The baddies have a good deal of variety, too, with each area and biome adding new twists and designs. You can find out all their goofy names by collecting different cards hidden throughout the world. Other collectables include Mickey Mouse memorabilia that references different shorts Mickey and the gang have appeared in over the past century and hidden Mickeys strewn across the background. The hidden Mickeys are a cool touch, but for some reason you aren’t introduced to collecting them until after you go through a few areas. Backtracking is the name of the game, but it’s frustrating to have to redo an area no matter how attentive to detail you are (an option to give visual and audio cues when you’re nearby a hidden Mickey minorly alleviates the issue). The most noticeable items to find are “Glimts” - little balls of light that number in the thousands. Finding these unlocks lore about the world you’re in as well as extra hearts that let you weather more hits, something that definitely came in handy during the more challenging late-game segments.

I’m blown away by Disney Illusion Island. In a sea of hard-as-nails Metroidvanias like Hollow Knight or Metroid Dread, it stands out as being just as well-crafted but skewing towards a different, gentler experience. This is the platonic ideal for an entry-level platformer because it is filled with smartly designed gameplay that takes well-worn tropes and makes them more approachable for everyone while still providing a nice romp for those experienced with these types of games. If you’re a parent who wishes your child would cut the crap and start playing Symphony of the Night with you, maybe start them here and then work your way up to fighting Dracula with some pit stops like Ori and Guacamelee along the way. Here’s hoping the quality of this game leads to the Quackshot remake of my dreams.

TalkBack / 6 Things We Learned About Pikmin's Development
« on: July 18, 2023, 08:08:00 AM »

We will patiently wait for the Edward Scissorhands and Pikmin crossover game.

Did you know that when Pikmin was revealed in 2001 at E3 and Shigeru Miyamoto said it would be out that year that all they had done was more or less what was in the demo? That’s just a taster of what was revealed in Nintendo’s Ask the Developer Interview about Pikmin 4. The first installment brought together members of the original Pikmin development team that started working on the game way back in the days of the Nintendo 64. Some of the tidbits are fascinating. Here’s six things that we learned.

The Original Idea Revolved Around “Thought Chips”

Shigefumi Hino and Masamichi Abe started working on what would become Pikmin in the mid-1990s with the guiding idea of displaying a “large number of characters on screen.” This idea, according to Hino, was to take these characters and control them using “thought chips” that would instruct them to do specific tasks such as fight, defend, and heal. As the game wore on, the AI-controlled characters would be able to equip more chips.

The Yoshi-like early creature design

Early Pikmin Creature Designs Were Inspired by Tim Burton

The first design of the creatures for this prototype were more Yoshi-like according to Hino, but he “felt it lacked impact as a character.” Miyamoto added that part of the goal was to make a critter that high school girls would find cute.

In came the designer Junji Morii who put together a number of sketches that solidified the look of the elongated Pikmin. He cited his affinity for Tim Burton’s worlds, saying that he “wanted the designs to not just be cute, but also give a sense of eeriness, or some emotional weight.”

Hino added that he “wanted to take a bold step and depict a somber, mature, and mysterious world.” The team watched the 1973 French animated movie Fantastic Planet for inspiration. Hino even tried to read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, though he admitted it was too complex for him to wrap his head around. Miyamoto elaborated on their inspirations by saying they all watched a bunch of arthouse indie movies that “you wouldn’t find in regular video stores.” I would kill to know this list that helped fuel the weird GameCube era of Nintendo.

Morii's early designs

Mario 128 Didn’t Actually Directly Influence Pikmin

Over the past 20 years, it seemed to be assumed canon that the GameCube demo Mario 128 was directly connected to Pikmin. That, according to programmer Yuji Kando, was not the case. “We didn't know about the existence of Mario 128, so it's not like Pikmin was influenced by Mario 128 in terms of planning or technology, but many new ideas came out of Nintendo GameCube's ability to move a large number of characters, which wasn't possible back in the days of Nintendo 64.”

That’s not to say Mario 128 didn’t help Pikmin out along the way; it likely doesn’t exist as is without that tech demo. But the paramount ideas of the game were laid out well in advance of the demo and core members of the development team weren’t involved with Mario 128. That being said, as NWR’s John Rairdin pointed out, Miyamoto was intimately involved in the creation of Pikmin and he definitely knew about Mario 128.

The Development Team Had Doubts About Violence and Death in Pikmin

At this point, we all know what happens when you fail your Pikmin and they die. A Bulborb will scoop them up in their mouth and chomp away until you hear the final screams of your beloved critters and they disappear into a ghostly form. It’s just accepted now that after you use your army to take down a Fiery Blowhog, you carry its carcass back to your base so you can generate more Pikmin to enlist in your mission. But according to Miyamoto, he had some real doubts. “Are we dead set on doing this?” he recalled with a laugh.

Part of the overall goal of Pikmin was to, as Hino said, “convey a touch of somberness.” That overall touch of borderline magical realism seems to have been an inspiration from the European indie films the team watched.

Of course even if this all seems very artistic, Miyamoto is quick to clarify that the gameplay came first, as is Nintendo’s way.

At E3 2001, Miyamoto Lied And Said The Game Was Finished

He didn’t even beat around the bush: “At E3, I spoke as if the game was finished. (Laughs).”

In actuality, only the stage shown at E3 was complete. And that was specifically made for E3. Edits to the debut trailer were being made days before E3, with Miyamoto having a heavy hand because he only joined the team as a director earlier that year (he was a producer on the title prior). He said to Abe, one of the game’s other directors, that “I’ll join as a director, so please give me three months. I’ll step down if it fails.” Miyamoto was so bold because he was confident that the game would be finished for the launch of the GameCube later in 2001. Who knows if he’s just saying that in hindsight or not.

When he joined, he put together a game flow diagram of what Pikmin would be. We can’t totally see the full details of this game design document, but it’s a rare look into how Miyamoto lays out a game. He explains the diagram further: “At first glance, this diagram just looks like a bunch of cryptic sentences strung together, but if you follow each sentence one by one, you can understand the program's flow with this single sheet. In other words, nothing other than what’s written here will happen. It always happens with game development. We want to do this, we want to do that, and we end up with lots of new elements. Then the director says, ‘Well, I guess we'll have to figure out how to fit them all together!’ and flees the scene. (Laughs). But this diagram is also a declaration that we won't do anything more than what’s written here! Unless we set those boundaries, we can’t develop with so many people involved. I figured I'd better draft them myself before bossing others around. So, I wrote it all down while discussing with Kando-san things like how AI works in the system, whether the processing would be able to keep up, and, if not, whether it could be replaced with other mechanics.”

Miyamoto's Game Flow Diagram

Ex-Argonaut Developer Helped Coin The Term “Pikmin”

Abe recalled that Colin Reed, a programmer on Pikmin who was a part of the Argonaut Software team that made Stunt Race FX on Super Nintendo, was responsible for the origins of the name Pikmin. He mistook the word “ippiki” (which means “one small animal” in Japanese) as the word “Piki,” thinking that was the name of the creatures. That developed into Pikmin over time.

Podcast Discussion / Episode 374: Fireside Chat by the Burning Pikmin
« on: July 14, 2023, 10:29:30 AM »

Return of the editor.

John is yet again lost in space so Neal is joined by returning editor Alex de Freitas for a chill chat about Pikmin and the new Pikmin 4 demo as well as an obligatory check-in with Tears of the Kingdom. Then the duo round out the show with a fun piece of listener mail.


Good speed, bad acceleration.

In this unedited raw episode John and Neal sit down to talk through yesterday's Nintendo Direct. It got off to an oddly slow start before suddenly picking up speed 10 minutes in. Who's making Mario RPG? Should we be worried by vague 2024 announcements? What do Mario's staunchly stated republican beliefs mean for the future of 2D Mario? All that and more in this episode of NWR Connectivity.

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


Also James Cameron will never be as good as Ridley Scott!

Now that there is no centralized event, it's kind of weird that we all (except Nintendo) just hold press conferences in the same week in June. Anyway, they were largely pretty good! Except for Geoff's. Geoff's was boring.

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


A look ahead at 2029.

Pikmin 4 is just around the corner and perhaps so is a Pikmin 4 Direct. John and Neal discuss the possibilities of the next Nintendo Direct before turning their attention to the sustainability of 6-year development times on The Legend of Zelda. The boys then turn their attention to what they've been playing (that isn't Zelda) before inevitably getting distracted by, you guessed it, Zelda.

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

TalkBack / Super Mega Baseball 4 (Switch) Review
« on: June 02, 2023, 09:25:50 AM »

With the power of EA Sports, the best baseball game ever adds real-life players and a lot of depth and breadth.

When I reviewed the Switch release of Super Mega Baseball 2 in 2019, my only listed con was that it didn’t have the MLB license. Flash forward four years and two games and Super Mega Baseball 4 still doesn’t technically have the MLB license (the MLB Players Alumni Association is the license used here), but the addition of real-life retired pro baseball players fits the tone and vibe of the series perfectly. Super Mega Baseball 4, out now on Switch and other platforms, takes an immaculate infrastructure and adds a richness that surprised and delighted me, even after my dozens and dozens of hours across Super Mega Baseball 2 and 3. Developer Metalhead Software, now part of the EA Sports family, have once again made a game that is better than the last one, though this feels like a larger leap than the one from 2 to 3.

The flashiest addition is the 200+ MLB Legends added to the player roster. Legends might be stretching it in some cases, but the sizable number of real players range from Babe Ruth who played 100 years ago to players like Alex Gordon who last played in 2020. Sifting through the eight new teams that are made up of these old pros is akin to opening up packs of baseball cards. If you are a fan of being like “hey, remember Dave Righetti?” then you will have a ball seeing the players chosen for this game. It’s definitely slanted more to the past 30 years, but there’s a good enough balance of older and newer players. You can boot up the game and immediately play a season or franchise with these teams. You can also do the same with the 20 Super Mega League teams, which features the expansive cast of characters from the other games in the series. There’s even a Creators League, which features content creators and influencers. I’ll be real: I didn’t touch that, but if you’re into Jomboy Media you can play as some of the people from there.

You can also mix and match from those leagues to create your own, but even better is the biggest new mode added to Super Mega Baseball 4: Shuffle Draft. It’s a streamlined way to build a team from any collection of players. You draft 22 players for your roster, picking one from a group of up to eight every round. The players vary in position and quality when you begin, but as you go the pool of players will be limited to what open spots you have on your roster. For example, if your first few picks are all starting pitchers that fill up your four-person rotation, you likely won’t see another one starter. Similarly if you don’t draft a catcher at all, your last round will basically be all catchers. This keeps every league and season fresh in a way that is digestible and fun, letting you customize your team to whatever your preference is. Once you draft that team, you can take them into virtually any other mode.

Aside from Shuffle Draft, the rest of the modes have had a lot of clarity and refinement added. In the grand tradition of Shohei Ohtani, two-way players are now possible. Bullpens are deeper, so you have more variety later in games. Player traits are also expanded, factoring into an overall team chemistry system that rewards you by building a team with similar player types. I enjoyed the Super Mega Baseball version of Franchise in the third game, but the tweaks made here help to make it less obtuse. Helpful tooltips better explain the player development and free agency quirks. I also love how you can do something like start with the Legends league and then add in the Super Mega players as free agents over the course of your Franchise.

Pennant Race—the seasonal online mode that was cross-play and fun in the past—is still here with a few tuneups here and there. It uses the Super Mega teams, but depending on what teams are excelling the best, MLB Legends will be added to underperformers each in-game online season. I’m generally not a huge online player for sports games, but the Pennant Race is a good time. In my experience so far, it has worked well cross-play even as PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X players enter the fray.

The technical gap between the Switch and the other current-gen home consoles sidles into the biggest issue with Super Mega Baseball 4 on Nintendo’s system. It runs well in game, but the visuals look a little bit rougher (especially on handheld) and the load times have increased. This is the type of issue that I understand why it’s there, but this is a Switch game that is feature complete and cross-platform with consoles that dwarf its power. Even still, it’s worth calling out. Unless you’re, like me, someone who will play this predominantly handheld, I’d lean towards one of the other consoles. The Switch version is still incredible. It’s just showing its age.

Even with that caveat, the visual and audio upgrade in Super Mega Baseball 4 is impressive. While still maintaining the vibes of the original, the games are more visually engaging, with a variety of new camera angles and details. It also does that EA Sports thing where it has a bunch of licensed music that will likely include a song from a band you’ll see live 20 years later and then have a vivid flashback to the hours you spent playing this game (I saw the band Midtown recently and when they played “Give It Up,” I was instantly transported to Madden 2005). I’ve always considered EA’s MVP Baseball 2005 as one of the best baseball games ever made, so it’s neat to see the ‘00s-era champ pair up with the current title holder.

Super Mega Baseball 4, like its predecessors, has become the new standard for arcade sports games upon its release. Metalhead Software has refined near perfection over the past few years and I’m in love with the lineup of MLB Legends and the new addition of Shuffle Draft.

TalkBack / Etrian Odyssey II HD (Switch) Review
« on: June 01, 2023, 06:00:00 AM »

An excellent game given a second (third?) life on a platform that is relatively suboptimal for its style.

When Nintendo’s dual-screened handhelds went away following the end of the 3DS, one of the greatest laments for me was the reality that Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey series - a prolific franchise that featured eight games, a spin-off, and two Persona-skinned versions across the DS and 3DS - was potentially dead because the move away from a two-screened system with a touch screen and a stylus meant that the unique and brilliant cartography element of the series was impossible to do right. It was a pleasant surprise when the Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection was revealed, bringing the original three games in the series to Nintendo Switch in HD form. Seemingly, Atlus figured out how to get these to work on a non-DS system. After playing Etrian Odyssey II HD, I’m not quite sure if they got these games to work optimally on a non-DS system. There is an admirable attempt to make the distinctive brand of dungeon crawling work but even if I got used to the quirky elements of map drawing, it never felt as natural as it did on 3DS. The overall quality of Etrian Odyssey II, which initially came out on DS in 2008, makes this still a great game, but it’s held back by its new home.

For starters, Etrian Odyssey II takes you to a fantasy land where the player creates their own guild of adventurers that are tasked with exploring a labyrinth that goes high into the sky. The labyrinth is split into floors, with a set of five floors composing a stratum, and generally capped off by a big boss fight and a change in scenery. You have a lot of freedom in creating your party, pulling from a long list of classes that have interesting twists on regular melee and ranged combat concepts. While the thrust of the game is just progressing through the labyrinth by exploring and battling, you also pick up a variety of missions that encourage you to explore more of the dungeons. That’s where the trademark cartography aspects come about as you crawl through the floors.

How it works is that when you’re exploring a dungeon, the screen is cleft in twain, with one side displaying the first-person world and the other displaying the map in two different forms: a zoomed-out view and a close-up view. When playing portably, you can use the touch screen to draw out the map and make use of icons to note different doors and locations. The bad thing is, well, without a stylus your maps are going to be a mess. You can use a stylus if you have one, but it’s not an ideal solution. To complement the touch controls and account for the fact this game can be played on a TV now, a button control option for map-making is also included. This is what I wound up using more often even if it’s a pat-your-head/rub-your-belly situation. You use the right analog stick to guide your cursor and hold down a shoulder button to draw a line or select an icon. It has a frustrating learning curve, but at a certain point, it nearly became second nature for me. It’s an inelegant solution for a massive problem. A left-handed option is offered, which moves the map to the left side of the screen, but I only recommend that to my fellow lefties if you’re using a stylus.

Beyond the controls, the dungeon crawling is as engrossing as ever. I haven’t played the DS original but I played a lot of the 3DS remake Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold (I’ve occasionally stated it’s my favorite Etrian Odyssey game). There is, naturally, a familiar progression here, but it’s worth noting that nothing from Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold aside from the varied difficulty settings is brought into this version. This is, more or less, the 2008 DS original with HD graphics and a few minor tweaks, including some excellent remastered music from series composer Yuzo Koshiro. While I do appreciate the open-ended approach of naming your own characters from the varied classes, the story mode that is exclusive to the Untold release was rather good, so its absence here is felt.

The combat system holds up even its relative old-school simplicity. It’s from the first-person perspective, so you only see the sprites of your enemies. You select the moves for your party of five and then watch as they are executed. Rinse and repeat until you or your enemies perish. The auto-battle feature is nice for when you’re grinding, and once you start developing your characters and outfitting them with different skills and abilities, you can lay down some awesome traps for defeating foes. You can poison an enemy, and then use an attack that does more damage to a poisoned enemy, for instance. Picking the right team of five can be imperative to your success because the way they support each other is hugely important.

Three different difficulty options that you can switch between almost at will make this an approachable game despite some of its punishing elements. Basic and Expert are both relatively stern challenges. Basic requires you to be thoughtful and strategic in all of your actions even if it isn’t at the same level as Expert. Picnic, the easiest option, is extremely easy. I appreciate that there is a variety, even more so because of the flexibility to swap between them.

I’m thrilled that Etrian Odyssey exists beyond the DS and 3DS, but what we got doesn’t hit the highs of the series. Atlus admirably tried to make it work on Switch, but the controls for drawing your map aren’t as natural as they were on DS and 3DS. Etrian Odyssey II is still a great video game, with a really good progression through each stratum and a lot of depth and synergies between the classes and abilities. My hope is that if Etrian Odyssey survives beyond this dungeon crawl, the next release will be more future-focused than porting over the past.

TalkBack / Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster (Switch) Review
« on: May 25, 2023, 06:43:13 PM »

The best Final Fantasy you likely haven’t played on a Nintendo platform comes back home.

It took a while for me to reach this point, but I love Final Fantasy V. If I were to break out my all-time Final Fantasy rankings, it’d sit right behind Final Fantasy VI, and the gap between the two is not as wide as you might think. However, the relative inaccessibility of Final Fantasy V in the west cut down on the lasting impact of this excellent game. Thanks to the console release of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters, this 1992 Super Famicom game is the most readily accessible it has ever been (legally). And for the most part, this is a fantastic version of an incredible game.

Final Fantasy V is most notable for its job system, which builds off of Final Fantasy III’s similar mechanic. You don’t have a vast party like the Super Nintendo games before and after, but you do have 22 different jobs to switch your primary party of four between over the course of the adventure. It deepens the complexity of strategy (and might remind modern players of similar systems in Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler) as your heroes Bartz, Lenna, Galuf, and Faris level up in the traditional sense and also earn ability points for whatever job they have equipped. Leveling up jobs opens up new abilities and options, most of which can then be used as a secondary option when they’re in a new job. There are definitely optimal job paths for different characters, with some more viable for mage roles than others, but the beauty of the job system is that it’s so flexible. Once you start getting jobs, the only limit is your ingenuity for breaking the system (and maybe grinding).

Thankfully if you do just want to play around with jobs, the Pixel Remaster includes a variety of boost options that let you earn up to four times the experience points and ability points so you can power-level without as much grinding. You can also turn off encounters at any moment. The malleability is glorious, as you can play it more or less like it was back in the day, or customize it to your preference.

While this release of Final Fantasy V includes a slew of enhancements, updates, and tweaks that all come from the Game Boy Advance, mobile, and PC releases over the years, it does not contain the Sealed Temple and the four new jobs from those releases. This is a recurring theme with the Pixel Remasters as virtually all six of these games have had novel additions in the 30+ years since they first came out, but not all of that is worked into these nearly definitive releases.

The story in Final Fantasy V is one that I enjoy and has its fair share of wonderful moments, it’s not quite at the level of Final Fantasy IV or VI. The music is naturally stellar, with delightful new arrangements as well as the superb original soundtrack. Like with every Pixel Remaster on console, the font issue from the PC and mobile releases is better but not truly fixed. It contributes to a recurring theme that this is so close to being the best version of a classic but it’s just not all the way there.

Still, if you’ve never played Final Fantasy V and have an affinity for RPGs, I suggest you drop everything and play this video game. I truly believe it stands tall among the best of the entire Final Fantasy series, carving its own distinct path with the refined job system. The Pixel Remaster is as close to a definitive release as we’ve had of Final Fantasy V in the west so far. I do wish I didn’t have to offer a handful of caveats, but this is still a good version of an all-time great.


And some Xbox talk.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is out and we've been playing it non-stop. But before we get to our initial thoughts on Link's latest adventure, we answer some listener mail regarding Xbox and the Playdate.

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


Because absolutely nothing more significant has released... right?

In a desperate attempt to keep the backlog under control, John, Neal, and Alex flew through Xenoblade 3's Future Redeemed DLC. We start with some general (mostly spoiler-free) discussion of gameplay before diving into what the ending of Future Redeemed means for the rest of the series.


You can disagree with the three I put in the headline being the most important. Check the rest of the article for the full list.

EA Sports and Metalhead Software revealed a slew of new real-life pro baseball Legends that will be playable in Super Mega Baseball 4 when it launches on Switch on June 2.

The Legends will be playable in the classic league with other fictional characters as well as the specific Legends League that is made up of two conferences: New School and Old School. Of course each Legends conference has their own unique team names, like the Mammotanks and Empire in the New School and the Originators and the Joyriders in the Old School.

Beyond that, you can use the Legends almost however you want, whether it's just a straight Franchise run with them, or customizing the players across different teams. In the Franchise mode, for example, you can start a league with the original Super Mega Baseball squads and then have the Legends show up as free agents from season to season.

The online mode Pennant Race works the Legends into the game in an interesting way as well. Every season for the online mode will have four Legends replace four players from the original Super Mega Baseball teams. Who the Legends are and what teams they end up on will be based on a variety of factors, including the usage of teams in the mode or what teams have lost more frequently.

In addition to the cover athlete David Ortiz and the already confirmed Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Jose Bautista, here is the full list of newly confirmed Legends:

  • Vladimir Guerrero
  • Billy Wagner
  • Bartolo Colon
  • Mike Mussina
  • George Brett
  • Willie Mays
  • Rollie Fingers
  • Ozzie Smith
  • Mark Loretta
  • Ray Durham
  • Joe Mauer
  • Ryan Braun
  • Barry Larkin
  • Mike Napoli
  • Carl Crawford
  • Kyle Seager
  • Huston Street
  • Johnny Damon
  • Rick Ankiel
  • Fred McGriff
  • Latroy Hawkins
  • Joe Nathan
  • Brian Wilson
  • Ryan Dempster
  • Torii Hunter
  • Jamie Moyer
  • Bronson Arroyo

Fingers crossed Miguel Cairo is among the 240 Legends.


Part 6 of the 3D Zelda Game Club.

The 3D Zelda game club finally draws to a close (until next week). The panel is joined by special guest Lauren Ronaghan to discuss the game's place in history, its design, and its accessibility to a new group of fans.


EA Sports returns to console baseball with the help of Metalhead Software for the latest Super Mega Baseball game.

Super Mega Baseball 4 is coming to Nintendo Switch (among other platforms) on June 2. The first new entry in the series since 2020, this is also the first game developer Metalhead Software is releasing with their new owner, publisher EA Sports.

The fourth release in the sports series will be the first to feature any kind of real-life players, headlined by cover athlete David Ortiz. In total, Super Mega Baseball 4 will feature more than 200 "legendary baseball professionals" (they did not actually get the MLB license it seems) including Ortiz, Jose Bautista, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. The legends will be split up into teams by era and also can be put into the new Shuffle Draft mode where you can mix and match players from the pool of Legends and the classic Super Mega Baseball players like Hammer Longballo and Muffin Studwick.

Beyond the legends, Metalhead is promising a slew of other updates and upgrades, including expanded player traits, a new team chemistry system, automatic walks, two-way players, expanded bullpens, and much more. The visuals will also see a boost, though we cannot tell yet how much that will impact the Switch version since the provided screenshots appear to be based on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X versions. However, all versions of the game will feature cross-play.

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