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TalkBack / Crawl (Switch eShop) Review
« on: January 05, 2018, 05:56:00 PM »

A dungeon crawler that's a blast with friends.

Developer Powerhoof’s Crawl is yet another game in the long line of Steam Early Access titles to make its way to the Nintendo Switch. Crawl is a roguelike with a focus on local asymmetrical multiplayer not unlike Turtle Rock Studios’ Evolve. Both titles have players take control of the hunter and the hunted. In Crawl, one player controls the hero whose goal is to defeat the final boss and escape the dungeon. The job of the other players is to take control of the dungeon’s monsters and traps to keep that from happening.

Crawl’s randomly generated levels, loot, and permanent death are reminiscent of recent roguelike darlings like The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon. What sets Crawl apart from other games in the genre is its focus on multiplayer. You still lead a lone hero against hordes of enemies; however, the enemies are controlled by your friends. At the start, everyone controls a hero, but to progress beyond the first room only one player can be left standing. The remaining players control ghosts that can summon monsters and possess traps. The goal for the ghosts is to kill you and take your place as the hero, with the end goal being to reach level 10 and face the final boss.

Crawl plays as a fairly standard, top-down dungeon crawler. Controls are simple and utilize only two buttons and the analog stock for movement. One button is mapped to your basic attack and the second controls specials purchased at in-game shops. The controls are the same for ghosts, though their specials are tied to the monsters they summon. Level to level, the focus of the hero character is to level up and get to the shop to buy upgrades before another player takes their place. The players that control the ghosts benefit from the hero’s success. When a hero levels up, the ghosts receive “wrath”  that is used to evolve the summonable monsters. This helps to balance the game and keep one player from dominating throughout the whole game as the hero. Much of the game turns into a struggle of who will get to the shop first, as once an item is purchased, it’s sold out. When a player character reaches level 10, they can activate a portal that takes them to one of three bosses. The ghost players control the boss while the hero tries to kill it. Each match allows for three tries to beat the boss. If the hero succeeds, he wins the game, but if no one can kill the boss, the winner is based on the experience points each player received throughout the match. Games can last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours depending on the choice players make.

Crawl works wonderfully as a multiplayer title, but alone it falls short. You can play the game with AI controlled players, but the lack of variety doesn’t keep it interesting. The fun of Crawl is the couch co-op. Remove that, and you quickly start to notice the flaws. Environments are stale as all of the levels have the same look, no matter how deeply you traverse into the dungeon. Likewise, despite having 61 monsters to play as and unlock, you end up using a lot of the same ones over and over again, and some are much better than others. Moreover, playing alone means waiting around for the AI-controlled hero to shop and backtrack through rooms. Not all rooms give the chance for you to summon monsters. Unfortunately, if you don’t have local friends willing to play with you, you’re out of luck as there are no online options to speak of.

As a local multiplayer title, Crawl stands out amongst other roguelikes. It’s fun and simple gameplay is easy to pick-up for pretty much any level of gamer. However, without friends to play it with, this is not a game worth playing. Alone, Crawl runs at a pace that lives up to its name.

TalkBack / Slain: Back From Hell (Switch) Review
« on: December 22, 2017, 02:02:00 AM »

Who knew a game inspired by Altered Beast could be good?

Slain: Back from Hell has had quite the journey since it was first announced on Kickstarter at the end of 2014. Inspired by side-scrolling, hack and slash games such as Altered Beast, Shadow of the Beast, and Ghosts 'n Goblins, Slain! caught the attention of many thanks to its intricately detailed pixel art. However, after it was released to negative reviews in 2016, the developers, Wolf Brew Games, went back and reworked the game and rereleased it as Slain: Back from Hell. Nearly a year later, the game has made its way to the Nintendo Switch.

Slain: Back from Hell follows Bathoryn, an undead warrior who has been awoken from his tomb to combat the demonic overlord, Vroll. True to its retro inspirations, the story provides little more than motivation to keep the challengers coming. Where the game truly shines is in its presentation. Slain is a stunning game to see in motion. The animations of Bathoryn and his enemies are fluid, and the detail present in the pixel art for both the characters and the backgrounds fit the game’s gothic inspired art style perfectly. Moreover, the game is filled with copious amounts of gore. You’ll be as accustomed to Bathoryn’s insides as you are his outsides by the end.  Nothing really feels dated about Slain’s visuals as can be the case with so many other retro-inspired titles.

Where Slain starts to feel a bit dated is in the gameplay, but not in a bad way. It borrows a lot from the side-scrolling, hack and slash games that inspired it. Bathoryn can do a simple combo attack with his sword. Likewise, you can charge the blade to have him lunge forward to take out his enemies. If an enemy is too close for comfort, you can parry and counter their attack for more damage. For long distance, Bathoryn can use a magic missile style attack that requires mana which can be obtained through countering attacks as well as using the charged attack to kill enemies. The magic attack can also be charged for a room-clearing effect. Furthermore, you can apply fire and ice elements to your sword to do more damage to different enemy types. Despite, or maybe because of its simplicity, the movement and combat feel fluid. I never had any problems with imprecise controls while playing the game in handheld mode. However, I would recommend against playing Slain while docked, as the wireless controller presents noticeable input lag. Timing and countering enemy attacks are a must to succeed at this game.

The areas of the game are all separated into two types of levels. When you first choose an area from the hub world, the level starts out incredibly linear. The objective is simply to move from the left side of the screen to the right while taking out enemies and doing some rudimentary platforming. Slain keeps these levels from getting too repetitive by throwing the enemies at you in sequences that you cannot brute force your way through. You need to plan your timing and attacks or else you won’t be able to advance to the interior sections of the levels. These sections are a bit less linear as you have to find switches to activate platforms or interact with the environment to progress. You’ll die a lot in both sections from hordes of enemies, difficult mini-bosses, and instadeath traps. However, only rarely did I feel a death was cheap. I learned from most of my deaths and became a better player. Slain forces you to grow by upping the number of difficult enemies you need to defeat to proceed. There is no leveling system and Bathoryn does not get stronger, you simply learn how to deal with enemies that you may have struggled with at first. The same is true for the boss of each area. I died several times fighting every boss in this game, but each time I got a bit better until I was able to defeat it. The bosses are well-designed and are worth learning their patterns. Luckily, deaths are not a hindrance in Slain, as there are lots of checkpoints scattered throughout levels and you respawn fairly quickly.

Slain: Back from Hell is not a game that everyone will enjoy. It’s difficult and requires a lot of patience to see it through to the end. It’s also not a very long game. My first playthrough clocked in at around seven hours, though better players could certainly finish it more quickly. There’s also nothing new to do once you’ve slain Vroll. But if you have a thing for the difficult platformers of yore, Slain: Back from Hell is a satisfying blend of what made those games great.

TalkBack / Sine Mora EX (Switch) Review
« on: October 11, 2017, 12:07:14 PM »

Sine Mora is finally on the Switch, but was it worth the wait?

For a console that’s not quite a year old, the Switch has several shoot ’em ups to choose from thanks to all of the NEO GEO ports and indie titles playing catch-up on the system. Sine Mora EX, the latest of these, was first released back in 2012 and now appears for the first time on a Nintendo system in the form of an enhanced port. Unfortunately, Nintendo fans could have probably stood to wait for this one.

Sine Mora EX is a fairly traditional side-scrolling shooter without a lot of bells and whistles. You pilot a ship on a horizontally scrolling level while shooting and avoiding enemy ships. Where it stands apart is its focus on time. Instead of a life bar, you have a time limit. When the time runs out, your ship explodes and it’s game over. Time is extended when you take out enemies and it’s decreased when you take hits. Functionally the time limit isn’t too dissimilar from a life bar. Occasionally you’ll be doing great and die a cheap death thanks to the time running out, but those deaths are few and far between. More often than not, you’ll find yourself surviving through levels having played exceedingly poorly—I never finished a level with more than a D ranking, but I did finish. This destroys any sense of satisfaction in completing a level, as often you can simply brute force your way through on Normal difficulty. On higher difficulties, however, the game becomes a bit too difficult.

Despite holding your hand, playing Sine Mora EX can still be fairly irritating. Like in most shoot ’em ups, enemies drop power-ups and items that refill different abilities. Some of these drops are a necessity if you want to enjoy the game. The speed up ability, for instance, slows down the level allowing you to more easily maneuver through patterns of bullets and enemies. It seems impossible to avoid some attacks from grunts and bosses without using speed up. Nevertheless, it’s easy to run out and difficult to fill. Worse are the general weapon power-ups. If you’ve played a shoot ‘em up before, you’re probably familiar with  how the weapon upgrades work. Grab a power-up and your gun moves up a level, increasing its damage output and spread. Get hit and you’ll lose those new levels. Now, Sine Mora lets you gather your power-ups back after getting hit, but there’s a problem. There are no invincibility  frames after getting hit. So if you scramble to grab your power-ups and get hit again, you’ll lose them yet again. This is especially frustrating with bosses that require a spread of bullets to more easily hit their weak spots.

Sine Mora EX offers a few different modes to experience this frustration. You have a Story Mode with a surprisingly dark narration revolving around genocide and revenge. The story is one of the stronger aspects of the game, but it can interrupt the flow of the levels. In Arcade Mode you get the same levels, but without the all of the cut scenes that routinely bring the game to a standstill, as well as the ability to choose your pilot and ship. There’s Score Attack Mode where you can choose individual levels and compete for a high score—the game does have online leaderboards. If you want something that departs from the usual side-scrolling fare, there’s also Challenge and Versus modes. Challenge limits your ship’s abilities and has you meet certain criteria; for instance, one challenge has you dodging red mines while you shoot at yellow mines on a stationary screen. Versus Mode is in addition to the Story Mode co-op that allows a second player to control a rotating gun platform to help out the first player. Instead of helping, you’re competing with each other in three different mini-games. All three limit your abilities and feel extremely basic.

As down as I am on the game, Sine Mora EX shines in its presentation. Each level has a unique theme and feels alive thanks to small touches like little men fishing or animals escaping as bullets fly. This carries over to the boss designs that range from a giant mech to an armed train. They’re a sight to behold and marginally more fun to play than the levels that house them. Sine Mora is a good-looking game and it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into making it that way. It’s just a shame that it’s not as fun to play as it is to watch in motion.

TalkBack / Vaccine (Switch) Review
« on: July 27, 2017, 07:20:29 PM »

Sometimes nostalgia just isn't enough.

There’s a strong market for nostalgia in gaming right now. People want to play games like the ones they played when they were children. Indeed, the strength of titles like Shovel Knight is in how well developers are able to merge the modern with the old. The indie scene has mostly stuck to reviving the 8 and 16-bit eras up until now—not many have attempted to plunder from the early 3D consoles. Developer Rainy Frog’s Resident Evil inspired rogue-lite, Vaccine, might give some insight as to why. Games from that era have not aged quite so gracefully as their 2D predecessors.

The concept sounds great on paper, a Resident Evil clone set in a manor with a layout that shuffles upon each death. Issues are abound that spoil any potential the title might have had to be a must buy for fans of survival horror and rogue-lites alike. The first issue comes with how closely Vaccine tries to reproduce some of the more outdated mechanics of the early Resident Evil titles, namely the tank controls and fixed camera. Controlling your character is a chore. You have to turn your character on an axis; it’s more like driving a Panzer than controlling a human. It’s manageable once you get the hang of it, and I recommend using the d-pad instead of the analog stick for the most fluid control, but it still feels clunky. The fixed camera is an even bigger issue. In practice not being able to see all of your surroundings should add tension to a horror game, but it mostly just gets you killed. Several times I found myself low on health, sure that I was in an empty room, only to move an inch and die thanks to an enemy placed out of sight. In the event you’re lucky enough to notice the enemy, the combat devolves into slowly backing up, stopping, shooting, and repeating ad nauseam until one of you is dead. It is mostly a game of who has the most health if you run into one of the faster, harder hitting enemies.

Vaccine fails to be competent as a rogue-lite as well. Nothing carries over upon death. The randomized manor never really changes significantly. The rooms, weapons and enemies you’ll find remain the same on each run. Each failed run feels like a waste of time. Luckily, most end well before the game’s allotted 30 minute time limit thanks to the unfair difficulty. But even with the short runs there’s not a lot to make you want to come back.

The one successful aspect is in reminding you how clunky games of the early 3D era were. The jagged graphics do an alright job of copying the look of games like Resident Evil, though Vaccine is noticeably less polished. The graphics also make it difficult to find items that are lying about in rooms. You’ll be amazed when you see the vomit of pixels the game calls a shotgun. Some items do glisten as you come close to them, but strangely not all. Some hard to find items like keys are required to progress from room to room. If you’re lucky you’ll find the key as you explore, but you may as well restart runs where you don’t.

Vaccine isn’t a title I’d recommend even to the most fervent survival horror fans. There just isn’t enough variation to continue playing death after death. Stay away from this one.

TalkBack / Hollow Knight (Switch) Preview
« on: July 19, 2017, 12:57:34 PM »

Waiting is the hardest part.

When Hollow Knight was announced for the Switch I decided I would pass on the PC release, even if it meant waiting a couple months to play it. After all, I had Breath of the Wild to occupy my gaming time so it wasn’t the hardest of sacrifices to make. Unfortunately it’s still not out on the Switch and I can only wait so long. The last Steam sale was also pretty persuasive. Nevertheless, playing Hollow Knight on PC has convinced me that it will be a perfect fit for Nintendo’s new console/handheld hybrid.

Hollow Knight is an action platformer in the Metroidvania mold that was partially funded through Kickstarter and developed by Team Cherry, a group of three guys from Australia who bonded over their love of Zelda II. The game is set in Hallownest, an expansive, yet decaying world filled with the animated corpses of once sentient insects. You take the role of an unnamed knight of sorts and travel through the world’s ruined underbelly. Along the way you’ll run into a slew of enemies as well as a few insectoids of sound mind that are happy to help you on your way, though usually for a price.

Early on you’ll learn the importance of geo, the game’s currency. Like in most Metroidvania titles, areas in Hallownest are blocked off until you discover new abilities. These abilities are usually obtained after killing bosses and act as permanent upgrades. However, NPCs scattered around Hallownest offer a different kind of upgrade in exchange for geo. Improving your map will likely be the earliest of these you’ll run into. Neglecting to do so will leave you with a nigh useless map that doesn’t even mark your current position. Upgrading it adds markers for your character and special areas like checkpoints and fast travel points, as well the ability to feel out the map as you explore. NPCs will also sell items called charms that buff your character making it that much easier to traverse, collect items, and increase your resilience to enemies. These buffs are limited by the number of slots you have however, so you’ll want to plan wisely as to which ones to equip.

While map upgrades and charms make exploring Hallownest easier, you’ll first need to go without them to rack up enough geo to buy them. You’ll find geo in chests hidden about, but most of your wealth will come from slain enemies. The combat in Hollow Knight is fairly simple. You’re armed with a sword called a nail that you can slash forward, upwards, and downwards. There are no complex combos. Much of the combat revolves around watching for openings—especially with bosses—and going in for the hit. There’s slight recoil when you hit an enemy, so you’ll also want to be mindful of your surroundings. This recoil works to your favor while performing downward slashes, allowing you to bounce off enemies much like in Zelda II or more recently, Shovel Knight. In addition to geo, you’ll also receive soul from fallen enemies. Soul is used to perform different abilities you’ll acquire throughout the game, such as the ability to heal yourself.If collecting geo sounds a bit too much like grinding then don’t worry, you’ll likely spend enough time searching where to go next that you’ll you rack up plenty of cash. Hallownest is a vast world and it’s not always apparent where you need to go, but finding all of the nooks and crannies scattered about is part of the fun. With so much time spent exploring, I do wish I could play it on break at lunch or while lying in bed. It’s a game that can suck you in for hours, hours that you may not want to spend sitting in one place. The Switch version will more than remedy this.

As much as I’ve enjoyed my time playing Hollow Knight, what impresses me most is the presentation. Its traditionally animated sprites and intricately painted backgrounds are a treat to the eyes. Likewise, the game uses sound in novel ways that help to bring Hallownest alive. You’ll likely hear NPCs and enemies before you see them as they get progressively louder as you draw near. The soundtrack also does a great job infusing a sense of melancholy throughout the ruined world. It continually amazes me what small teams like Team Cherry are able to accomplish on relatively small budgets.

According to Team Cherry, Hollow Knight is now “feature complete” on the Switch but they’re still looking to test and optimize it further. There is no stated release date as of yet. The Switch version will include the upcoming DLC, Hidden Dreams, at launch. It initially released on PC on February 24, 2017. You can expect a full review when it launches on Switch hopefully sometime this year.

TalkBack / Steel Diver: Sub Wars Review
« on: February 24, 2014, 01:22:00 AM »

Sub Wars is great when its servers stay afloat.

As much as I enjoyed the first Steel Diver, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with just how little content it had to offer. Steel Diver: Sub Wars takes a lot of what I loved about the first game, switches up the perspective, and adds a competent online multiplayer option that’s much more compelling than replaying Steel Diver’s single player missions over and over again.


Unlike the first game, Sub Wars moves from 2D to a first-person 3D perspective, creating what is essentially a slow first-person shooter. Don’t take “slow” as a bad thing, though. Iwata wasn’t wrong when he called it a "contemplative first-person shooter” during the February 13, Nintendo Direct. You have to carefully time your shots while taking into account the position and speed of the enemy sub. This makes hitting the opponent, especially from long distances, a difficult, yet satisfying experience.

To navigate your sub through the game’s turbulent waters, you can choose to control your depth, speed, and position either by using levers on the touch screen, or by simply using the Circle Pad and face buttons. I first used the touch screen, but the face buttons feel more natural and provide tighter control of both your depth and speed. You can also launch torpedoes using both control methods, but I preferred the traditional method.

Unlike the first game, Sub Wars offers both single player and multiplayer modes. In single player, you’re tasked with seven different missions (or 2 if you’re playing the free version), each with three difficulty levels to complete. These missions range from navigating your sub through rings to underwater warfare. Finishing them under a certain time limit earn you a star medal. Star medals are needed to unlock sub patterns and one of the subs. While the single player missions act as a nice diversion, they’re little more than tutorials to prepare you for the multiplayer mode.


Multiplayer in Sub Wars is a rather simple, eight-player, team Deathmatch that can be played both locally and online. There are no other objectives than to just sink the enemy subs. While this may sound boring, it’s anything but. Searching for enemy subs with your periscope and radar, dodging incoming torpedoes, masking your sub's presence to avoid detection and homing torpedoes, and using each stage’s terrain to your advantage are all aspects of Sub Wars that make it surprisingly enjoyable. You can even communicate with your teammates by using Morse code to type out letters during the game.

Of course, multiplayer could still get a bit boring because of the lack of mission goals. However, you also unlock new subs, patterns, and crew as you play, which keeps things interesting. The different subs, while aesthetically distinct, also handle differently. Some subs are small, fast, and carry weaker torpedoes, while others are larger and can take and serve much more damage. All are viable online; just pick the one that best suits your playing style. To further customize your subs, you can apply patterns, give them their own color theme, and chose the crew members who will be stationed on them. Crew members give the sub different bonuses, affecting its overall stats. Again, the crew you choose is entirely up to your play style, and bigger ships can carry more crew.


Unfortunately, I have found the online multiplayer to be unstable. I often get error messages before I even enter a game, and nearly half of my games end in disconnects. It’s frustrating, as I’d love nothing more than to play the game. However, I haven’t seen that many complaints from others online, so this may be an isolated incident. Though I’m not sure why I can play Mario Kart 7, browse the eShop, and download games without any issues, while I’m lucky to finish a game in Sub Wars. If you’re on campus Wi-Fi like me, you may want to see how the free version of the game responds before you purchase it. Many of the complaints I’ve read online seem to come from people living in college dorms.

Steel Diver: Sub Wars is a great follow-up to game that had potential, but just wasn’t meaty enough to meet expectations. Sub Wars’ addition of multiplayer more than makes up for the past game’s brevity. When it works, it’s a blast to play; however, you may see more error messages than subs.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - February 20, 2014
« on: February 20, 2014, 11:05:43 PM »

Craft weapons and swing on vines in this week's Nintendo Downloads.

This week in Nintendo Downloads features platforming apes, weapon crafting, dog fighting, and more.

3DS eShop Sales

Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D - $2.99 until March 6.

Heavy Fire: Special Operations 3D - $2.99 until March 6.

Robot Rescue 3D - $0.99 until March 6.

Crazy Chicken Pirates 3D - $0.99 until March 6.

Bird Mania Christmas 3D - $0.99 until March 6.

Wii U Retail Games

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze - $49.99, Available February 21

3DS eShop Games

Weapon Shop de Omasse - $7.99

Weapon Shop de Omasse, the final game of the 3DS Guild01 collection, is finally available in the West. Enjoy the writing of the popular Japanese comedian, Yoshiyuki Hirai, while you craft weapons for adventurers using the game’s rhythm game-like mechanics. You can read our review here.

Kung Fu Rabbit - $4.99

Released on the Wii U last year, Neko Entertainment’s action platforming title, Kung Fu Rabbit, is now available on the 3DS. The game promises dozens of hours of play, with 80 levels and 15 collectible items. Check out our review the Wii U title here.

Quell Reflect - $3.99

Challenge your brain with Quell Reflect, a puzzle game that features over 100 logic defying levels.

3DS Virtual Console

Sky Kid - $4.99

The Mekazukin army has invaded Bird Land; the only way to stop them is to hop in your trusty plane and blast them out of the nest. You can either play alone or with a friend in this NES port this Namco classic shoot’em-up.

Wii U Virtual Console

Ice Hockey - $4.99

Sports games have come a long way since the days on the NES, but if you’d like to refresh your memory of just how primitive they once were, you can now pick up Ice Hockey on the Wii U Virtual Console. You’d probably be better off playing air hockey.

TalkBack / Bravely Default Expectations
« on: February 08, 2014, 05:00:16 PM »

Our staff shares their expectations for Square Enix's latest 3DS RPG.

With Square Enix's latest Japanese RPG, Bravely Deafult, out in North America, we asked our staff their expectations for the game, and if it will be the game that rekindles their love for JRPGs in general.

Zachary Miller:

I was initially excited about it, but the demo killed it for me. The focus on Jobs makes me sad—I like an RPG that just gives you the usual classes and says "go" rather than making me worry that I'm playing the game wrong.

The game looks great, though.

Tom Malina:

My JRPG tolerance is very specific, so in general, if I am to get excited about something like Bravely Default, the systems it employs need to be accessible enough that I can not only understand how they work, but also feel like I can make effective, intelligent use of them.

I certainly expect Bravely Default, based on the impressions I've seen, to be a good game, but that doesn't mean I anticipate it will be something I personally want to play.

Andy Goergen:

At this point, it's very difficult for me to find myself invested in anything that doesn't have the ability to pick up and get playing (and feel satisfied) within a minute or two. JRPG's don't really fit that mold, but if there was some sort of pick-up-and-play mechanic in this game that didn't require me to set aside 30 minutes every time I wanted to play, then that might get me excited for the game.  As it stands, no matter how pretty or epic the game is, it just doesn't fit the way I play games anymore.

J.P. Corbran:

I'm not generally a JRPG guy, and originally wasn't even interested enough to download the demo, but hearing people talk about it, even when they meant it as complaining, got me to try it. Before long I was completely hooked. The only non-Pokémon JRPG I've ever really come close to completing was the original Final Fantasy, which I loved, so I feel right at home with what you might call the archaic nature of a lot of it. This shows the power of demos, as I went from not interested at all to buying it day one because I had a chance to try it.

Guillaume Veillette:

My 3DS is starved for another JRPG and Bravely Default will keep me busy for quite a while. Experimenting with the various classes in the demo was fun. The only thing missing was a fun world to explore, something that the full game will fix. I especially like how the game seems to respect the player's time, allowing him to fast-forward through the battle animations, and reduce or turn off the random encounters completely. It doesn't hurt that the game is easy on the eyes and the ears, as well.

Neal Ronaghan:

I keep on going back and forth on if I want to get Bravely Default. My first impression with the demo was bad, but I've gone back and enjoyed it a bit more. I keep on coming back to the whole idea that I think I'd rather finish a DS RPG like Dragon Quest VI or Radiant Historia that I never polished off. I think this is the kind of game that I could be at a Target for something else and I walk out with the game. Or it's late night on a Saturday, I had a few beers and I'm on the eShop. I mean, that worked with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate last weekend. Who knows.

TalkBack / Nintendo Download - January 30, 2014
« on: February 01, 2014, 04:25:12 PM »

Download The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in this weeks Nintendo Downloads.

This week's Nintendo Downloads offers a double helping of eShop originals, along with two classic Virtual Console titles.

Wii U eShop Sales

Super Indie Sale – 60 percent off the following titles until 9 a.m. PT on February 13:

3DS eShop Games

ARC STYLE: Solitaire - $2.99

Tired of playing Solitare on that unwieldy desktop, or maybe your laptop is just too big to carry around? Well, now's your chance to own what you already have on every other device on your 3DS. 

Touch Battle Tank 3D 2 - $4.99

The sequel to the first Touch Battle Tank 3D is finally available on the eShop. If you're like me and have never heard of the series, it's a top-down shooter where you control a tank through 90 stages of the "futuristic tank shooting war."

3DS Virtual Console

Mario Bros. - $4.99

The brothers first adventure is finally availibe on the 3DS. Before they were gallant plumbers saving damsels from giant turtles, they were plumbers who fought small, aquatic animals.

Wii U Virtual Console

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - $7.99

You can finally play A Link to the Past on the Wii U GamePad. No longer do you have to suffer through the Wii U's less than perfect backwards compatibility. If you enjoyed The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, it's the perfect time to give its predecessor a chance. 

TalkBack / Re: Bravely Default Review
« on: January 28, 2014, 04:36:48 PM »
How would you compare the experience of playing the full game to that of the demo, because I hated the demo, particularly the slow & tedious combat (and yes, I know you can speed it up, but it's still turn-based combat and that still means messing w/ a bunch of menus)?  I'm pretty much going out today to cancel my pre-order on the full game specifically because of how much I disliked that demo experience.  I'd like to know if there's more to this game than "old stuff we threw in just to remind you of better old stuff", which is what I got out of the demo.
I can say, that unlike the demo, there aren't really any MMO-like fetch quests that require to slay a certain number of enemies for items. As for the combat, the demo is true to the full game, with the absence of loads of jobs and the inclusion of special attacks. I loved the demo though.

TalkBack / Bravely Default Review
« on: January 28, 2014, 01:00:10 PM »

Bravely Default ought to be the default on your 3DS.

Bravely Default took its precious time coming to the West. The 3DS Japanese RPG was first released by Square Enix in Japan on October 11, 2012 as Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. However, that’s not the game we’re getting in North America. Instead, Nintendo brought over Bravely Default: For the Sequel, an enhanced version that implements several improvements. The lengthy RPG was well worth the long wait, though. If you miss the glory days of the Final Fantasy series, Bravely Default is the game for you. It’s a Final Fantasy title in every aspect but in its name, in a good way.

Bravely Default follows the Wind Vestal, Agnès Oblige, and her three companions—Tiz Arrior, Ringabel, and Edea Lee—as they set out to restore light to the four elemental crystals and bring balance back to the world. As someone who has only played bits and pieces of the mainline Final Fantasy series, even I can tell that sounds a bit too familiar. Yet despite its rote nature, the story is fairly engaging. In addition to the issues with the corrupted crystals, ongoing tensions between the game’s central faith, the Crystal Orthodoxy, and those against it flare up constantly. Surprisingly, Bravely Default’s world can be awfully bleak at times, as even character deaths can seem joyous compared to some of the themes. These moments are, however, well balanced with the more light-hearted interactions between our four heroes and the characters they meet along their journey.

These interactions are all fully voiced by an English cast whose performances vary from great to cringeworthy. For those who want them, the Japanese voices are also available. For the most part, I really enjoyed the dialog and humor, but some instances, such as the generally prudish female cast, can be a bit annoying. If you’ve ever watched anime, you’re probably familiar with the cliché that men are perverts and women are pure and naïve. It’s a recurring theme that comes off as a bit too Japanese/anime-like for my taste. Aside from that, the characters are likeable and surprisingly well developed.

As for its gameplay, Bravely Default keeps it simple with a battle system that feels relatively retro, when compared to its modern day counterparts. Battles are both mechanically and aesthetically similar to earlier Final Fantasy titles and are entirely turn-based. All of your commands and status bars are on the touch screen, freeing up the top screen to show off the gorgeous visuals.

While the battle system harkens back to simpler times, it does differentiate itself in several different ways. In addition to the traditional Magic Points, there are also Brave Points (BP). Each character has their own BP, and one is used each turn, unless a character Defaults. Defaulting allows you to stockpile as many as three BP at a time, which can then be used to perform certain actions or a Brave Attack. Brave Attacks allow you to make multiple actions in one turn. However, each action uses up one BP. Performing Brave Attacks when you don’t have BP stockpiled will cause you to sit out however many turns you took in advance. If you use it right, you’ll be able to finish most random encounters on your first turn, and it’s a must in most boss battles. Learning when to Default and when to use a Brave Attack is an integral part of the battle system, and it can also be incredibly rewarding when done right.

Also notable in Bravely Default is its job system. As you kill bosses, you’ll acquire artifacts that give you the ability to switch jobs—these include many of the usual Final Fantasy classes, including Black Mage, Monk, White Mage, etc. Characters gain job experience separate from their overall level and can switch jobs at any time while still retaining the experience. For example, a character can be a level 5 Black Mage, as well as a level 8 Monk. As you level up jobs, you acquire support abilities in addition to the usual attacks. You can also mix and match support abilities from different jobs. The system allows for an enormous amount of customization that is simple, surprisingly complex, and fun to mess with.

Of course, aside from the battle system, Bravely Default offers an entire world to explore. The overworld is reminiscent of older JRPGs, where you travel from town to town, running into random encounters as you go. However, you can adjust your encounter rate to your own preference, even if that preference is zero. While on the overworld, a map of the world appears on the touch screen, with your destinations clearly marked. Most exploration is removed and as a result, hand-holding is way too prevalent.

Once you make it to your destination, be it a town or dungeon, you’ll immediately be greeted by some of the best art I’ve seen in a handheld game. The settings look like paintings, and the 3D effect really makes them pop. Do not play this game with the 3D off; you’ll regret it. The music is, on the whole, great with a lot of standout tracks. All of this makes up for the fact that the dungeons lack any sort of puzzles. Some are built a bit like simple mazes, but for the most part, you just mow through random encounters until you get to the boss. The towns also feel a bit light. All of the shops are essentially menus, and the NPCs don’t have much to say, aside from those important to the story.

If you’re still on the fence about the game, Bravely Default also includes fairly extensive StreetPass and SpotPass features. These include the Norende Village Restoration, which allows you to rebuild a town using both people you meet through StreetPass and online, as well as features that allow friends to help you in battle. Overall, I found restoring Norende to be the most useful, as doing so opens new shops for weapons and other items. The restoration takes place in real time, so you’ll have to keep your 3DS in sleep mode when you’re not playing the game. And don’t worry if you have trouble getting StreetPasses, as the game just as easily pulls villagers for the restoration through SpotPass as well.

Bravely Default is a massive game, and one of the best examples of the genre available on the 3DS. While it harkens back to a simpler time, it still offers more than enough complexity to keep players engaged for a long time. Its story and characters are also worthwhile, despite the reuse of Final Fantasy’s crystal theme. If you’re a JRPG fan, you may want to have your money ready.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - January 23, 2014
« on: January 23, 2014, 08:44:43 PM »

It's another slow week in Nintendo Downloads.

If you thought the last few weeks were slow, this week has them all beat. The releases for this week included both Life Force, for the 3DS VC, and Mighty Bomb Jack, on the Wii U VC. That's it.

3DS eShop Sales

Fractured Soul - $5.99, until February 6

Shin Megami Tensei IV - $29.99, from January 27 to February 3

3DS Virtual Console

Life Force - $4.99

Life Force, also known as Salamander, is s spin-off of Gradius, a popular side-scrolling shoot 'em up series. Just like in Gradius, you have control of the Vic Viper, a powerful ship that can take advantage of various power-ups to up its arsenal. There are six stages to fly through filled with waves of enemies.

Wii U Virtual Console

Mighty Bomb Jack - $4.99

In Mighty Bomb Jack you bomb your way through 16 levels of a pyramid in order to save the royal family of Pamera from the clutches of the demon Belzebut. You'll have to brave both enemies and the timer alike if you want to save the royal family from harm in this classic NES title.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - January 16, 2014
« on: January 16, 2014, 08:25:39 PM »

Download Unepic in this week's Nintendo Downloads.

This week is mildly medieval with the Wii U platforming RPG, Unepic, and the quest to conquer Dracula in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.

3DS eShop Sales

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl - $19.99, until January 27

Wii U eShop Games

Unepic - $9.99

Have you ever set down with a group of friends to a nice game of Dungeons & Dragons? what if you were transported to the game world? Would you be able to survive? Unepic puts you through just that, with 200 rooms to explore, seven bosses to slay, 100 weapons to collect, and dozens of quests to complete.

F1 Race Stars: Powered Up Edition - $29.99

If Mario Kart still feels like a ways off, you could always give F1 Race Stars: Powered Up Edition a try. It's like Mario Kart, but instead of playing as the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom, you take control of several, miniaturized F1 racers.

3DS Virtual Console

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest - $4.99

It's time to take hold of the Vampire Killer and fight yet another battle against Count Dracula. If you've played the original Castlevania, you might want to follow it up with Simon Belmont's second quest to conquer the king of darkness.

Wii U Virtual Console

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest - $4.99

Simon's Quest is also availibe on the Wii U this week.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - January 9, 2014
« on: January 11, 2014, 11:58:35 PM »

Chibi Robo is back in this week's Nintendo Downloads.

It's another slow week for Nintendo Downloads. Though, what this week lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. After all, Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder is out this week.

3DS eShop Sales

Aqua Moto Racing 3D - $4.49, until January 23

Darts Up 3D - $1.49, until January 30

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers - $19.99, until January 20

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan - $19.99, until January 20

Code of Princess - $19.99, until January 20

3DS eShop Games

Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder - $9.99

While Japan enjoyed two Chibi-Robo! releases as recently as 2009, the West hasn't seen the miniature robot since the Walmart exclusive release of Chibi-Robo!: Park Patrol on the Nintendo DS. The series long hiatus is over, with the release of Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder, a game where you perform menial tasks for the opportunity to bring real-world objects into the game using the 3DS camera.

Wii U eShop Games

Cocoto Magic Circus 2 - $29.99

Light gun games were a staple of the Wii's library, but they're a bit less common on the Wii U. If you miss pointing your Wii Remote at your TV, you might want to try Cocoto Magic Circus 2.

Wii U Virtual Console

Gradius - $4.99

If you're a fan of side-scrolling shooters, you're likely to be faimlar with Gradius. While you could own this classic NES title on your 3DS since last October, it's now also available for the Wii U, and we all know the Wii GamePad has a bigger screen.

eShop Demos

Jump Trials Supreme


TalkBack / Bravely Default Impressions
« on: January 08, 2014, 12:25:56 PM »

Bravely Default's demo is meaty, offering nearly eight hours worth of content.

Before I give my impressions of the Bravely Default demo, I have to get one thing out of the way first. If the thought of buying Bravely Default has ever crossed your mind, if there’s even a remote possibility that you’ll be picking it up sometime in the future, play this demo. Not only will you unlock beneficial item packs for the full game, but the demo itself is completely original. Its quests and dungeons will not appear in the full release. Now that I’ve given you a reason to download it, here’s a little of what you can expect.

Bravely Default’s demo doesn’t waste any time in getting you straight to the crux of the game. After a brief cutscene you’re given full rein to do whatever you want. Of course, the demo eases you into the game’s mechanics, but it does this by giving you written instructions after you claim quests in the hub city of Ancheim. You can also buy items and talk to locals in Ancheim. However,  the meat of the demo takes place in the overworld. There you’ll run into several different types of monsters through random encounters. In fact, the first quests in the demo have you fight these monsters to collect a certain number of items. There’s a few more of these fetch quests, but they usually act as introductions to familiarize you with a new area’s monsters before you go for the boss.

Each random encounter is tackled through the game’s battle system, which is more reminiscent of older, simpler JRPGs than some of the more complicated, recent ones. Fights are turn-based, so you’ll have some time to better plan out your strategy. Each turn you choose whether to attack, use an ability, consume Brave Points (BP), default, use items, or run, for each of your four characters. Each turn your characters use one of their BP, but a character’s BP can be increased by choosing to default instead. Defaulting is similar to setting your character in a guard position, but in addition to taking less damage, they also gain an extra BP; otherwise, characters regain one BP at the end of their turn. Stockpiling your BP will allow your characters to attack more than once a turn with no repercussions. Each time you select the Brave option in the menu, your character will be given that additional turn. However, doing this uses up each individual’s BP. If you haven’t stockpiled them and you choose to use the option, your character’s BP will become negative, and they’ll have to sit out however many turns until it returns to one.

Aside from juggling the BP and Default systems, your characters also have several different jobs available to them. The jobs in the demo are what you’d expect from your typical Final Fantasy title. Knight, black mage, white mage, red mage: they’re all there. Each job gains its own distinctive abilities as you level up. Unique to Bravely Default, however, is the ability to share a character’s abilities with other members of the party. Each character can use abilities from one additional job. Likewise, you can switch jobs whenever you like, and characters retain the levels for previous jobs. This adds quite a bit of strategy for what would otherwise be a very simple battle system.

The demo also includes Bravely Default’s StreetPass and friend list features. These include using StreetPass to rebuild the town of Norende, allowing you to purchase better items than are available in Ancheim, and summoning friends, using their abilities to help you in battle. Speaking for the demo, restoring Norende seems to be must if you want to beat bosses without exorbitant amounts of grinding. The game even warns you against proceeding against one boss before you have better weapons that can only be obtained from its shops. The problem is, however, that restoring Norende can take some time, especially if you’re low on StreetPasses. With only one StreetPass in addition to the one I started out with, it takes me around an hour or more for each upgrade to the town, and I’m still in the early stages. This could turn out to be an issue, but the demo does specify that you’ll have the option to use online friends as well in the full release.

Additionally, the demo also includes a brief AR movie. You’ll have to download the AR cards from Bravely Default’s website if you want to view it though. That aside, you can expect to use several of the 30 uses available to you with this demo. It should be more than enough to scratch that JPRG itch before Bravely Default releases for the 3DS in North America on February 7.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - January 2, 2014
« on: January 02, 2014, 06:40:37 PM »

The pickings are slim for this week's Nintendo Downloads.

The eShop may have recovered from last week's holiday-induced outage, but this week's Nintendo Downloads show that the big N's problems aren't over just yet. Hopefully you were excited for last week's downloads, because that's all you're going to get this week, aside from a new Wii U Virtual Console title and a 3DS demo.

3DS eShop Sales

Atlus Sale - Select Atlus 3DS titles are on sale until 9 a.m. PT, January 6

Wii U Virtual Console

Mega Man X2 - $7.99

If you don't already have Mega Man X2 on one system or another, this is as good a time as any to snatch up the SNES classic. And if you have the Wii Virtual console release, you may as well pick it up again. After all, a $1.50 is a small price to pay to wreck Sigma and the other Mavericks with the comfort of the Wii U GamePad.

eShop Demos

Bravely Default

TalkBack / Orion's Odyssey Review
« on: December 27, 2013, 01:56:51 AM »

Orion's isn't the most difficult odyssey.

Going into Orion's Odyssey, I really didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t heard of the game or its Kickstarter campaign before it hit the 3DS eShop, but its charming 2D art style was enough to pique my interest. Sadly, my interest slowly faded as I found myself wondering when the real game was about to begin.

Orion's Odyssey opens as a robot named Orion travels alone, through space on a rocket ship. Unable to converse with his fellow machines on the ship, he decides to land on a planet called Earth in search of someone to talk to. Before setting foot on the planet, he discovers that he has the ability to build whatever he wants to out of thin air. He hopes to use this new ability to help the people of Earth anyway he can.

This building ability is also the driving mechanic of the game. When Orion arrives on Earth, he comes in contact with several different people. To help each person by using Orion’s ability you have to complete a simple puzzle, and I do mean simple. Each item Orion creates has its own outline; all you have to do is use six different shapes to fill in the outline. The game never gets any more complex than that. You simply use the stylus to drag shapes into an outline until you fill it in. The puzzles never increase in difficulty as you progress, and there’s no sense of satisfaction when you complete them. There’s no “bingo” moment like there is with many other puzzle games.

As you complete each item, the story of Orion’s adventure on Earth continues along. Sadly, while the writing is often as charming as the game’s art style, it isn’t entertaining enough to excuse the game’s overly simplistic puzzles. As you complete each puzzle, you do unlock optional challenge levels that limit the shapes you can use in each puzzle, but these are hidden in the menu, and there’s no easy way to return to the main menu other than turning off the game or waiting through the dialog for the opportunity to pause the game. The challenge levels, while not incredibly difficult, offer much more challenge by simply barring you from using one of the six available shapes. They should have been the part of the Adventure mode, not unlockable extras.

Orion's Odyssey is one of the many cases of a game that looks more interesting than it actually is. The puzzles are shallow and won’t be a challenge for anyone out of grade school. If the extra challenge puzzles had been part of the main story, it might have been worth playing through in order to experience Orion’s delightful adventure. However, playing the main story isn’t worth it to get to the Challenge puzzles.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - December 26, 2013
« on: December 27, 2013, 12:25:46 AM »

Make an appointment with Dr. Luigi in this week's Nintendo Downloads.

This week the Year of Luigi continues with the release of Dr. Luigi on the Wii U. We also have a few other unique titles, such as CastleStorm and Cubit The Hardcore Platformer Robot, as well as a couple of Virtual Console titles.

Wii U and 3DS eShop Sales

Ubisoft Wii U and Nintendo 3DS Sale - 30 percent off select Ubisoft Wii U and 3DS titles from now until December 31

Atlus Sale - Select Atlus 3DS titles are on sale from now until 9 a.m. PT, January 6

3DS eShop Games

Cubit The Hardcore Platformer Robot - $2.99

As its name suggest, Cubit is a "hardcore platformer/endless runner. If games like Mario and Rayman are too complex, Cubit's one-button gameplay just might be for you.

Bird Mania Christmas 3D - $1.99

If you're not into platforming, however, you can pick up Bird Mania Christmas 3D. It's like an endless runner, but you're not running, you're flying. Of course, it comes a day late for Christmas, but you could always pretend that it's Christmas all month long.

EDGE - $1.99

If those titles are bit to mindless for you, you may want to try EDGE. It was released early on the Wii U, but this cubic puzzle game is the perfect pick up and play title for the 3DS.

Wii U eShop Games

Dr. Luigi - $14.99

The Year of Luigi isn't over yet. We all know Mario is a competent doctor, well how about his brother Luigi. Now he gets his chance to line up some pills and kill some germs. Its the same Dr. Mario puzzling you love, but this time with a green tint.

CastleStorm - $9.99

Ever want to storm castles? Well, now's your chance. CastleStorm puts you in control of your castle's defenses as you try to annihilate the opposing kingdom. The game feels a bit like Angry Birds if it had a medieval setting that allowed you greater controller over your projectiles and units.

3DS Virtual Console

Mario Tennis - $4.99

If you were disappointed with Mario Tennis Open's lack of the RPG mode, well look no further. Mario Tennis may be an old game, but if you're looking for a tennis RPG, this Game Boy Color classic is the first place you should look.

Wii U Virtual Console

Super Punch-Out!! - $7.99

Finally, Super Punch-Out!! is out on the Wii U Virtual Console. You may not get the chance to fight Mike Tyson, but you can hone your boxing skills in glorious 16-bit graphics.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - December 19, 2013
« on: December 19, 2013, 11:14:12 PM »

This week we have two more Sega 3D remasters, as well as a few original eShop titles.

Yet again, we have two new Sega 3D remaster titles this week. But for those that would rather not revisit their childhood, there's Banana Bliss: Jungle Puzzles and Knytt Underground to keep them satisfied.

Wii U eShop Sales

Little Inferno - $4.99, December 19 to January 2

3DS eShop Games

3D Streets of Rage - $5.99

Re-experience this arcade classic for the first time in 3D. 3D Streets of Rage puts you in the middle of the mayhem as you pulverize thugs to return the city to its crime free glory days.

3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master - $5.99

Yet another 3D remaster of an arcade classic, 3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master gives you the chance to tackle the Shadow Master in stunning stereoscopic 3D. There's no better way to slaughter hordes of bio-ninjas.

Banana Bliss: Jungle Puzzles - $3.99

Take control of Morris the Monkey and explore seven jungles, with over 300 puzzles to complete in this 3DS puzzle platformer. This could be the next best thing to Catrap.

Winter Sports: Feel the Spirit - $9.99

Maybe arcade titles and puzzle games aren't your thing; well, you can always keep your gaming seasonal with Winter Sports: Feel the Spirit. It doesn't feature everyone's favorite plumber or hedgehog, but it does feature over seven different winter sports.

Wii U eShop Games

Knytt Underground - $12.99

If you're still not satisfied, there's always the decidedly more mature game (that's right, it's rated M), Knytt Underground. It's a platformer set in a post-apocalyptic setting, with a Limbo-like aesthetic; what more could you ask for?

3DS Virtual Console

Crash 'n The Boys Street Challenge - $4.99

If you enjoyed River City Ransom, maybe you'll like this game. Crash 'n The Boys Street Challenge takes the presentation of River City Ransom, but instead of fighting, you'll be completing several sporting events.

Wii U Virtual Console

Castlevania - $4.99

Castlevania speaks for itself. If you'd like to experience the series before the term "Medtroidvania" was coined, then this is the perfect place to start.

eShop Demos

Nano Assault Neo

Brunch Panic

World Conqueror 3D

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - November 28, 2013
« on: November 28, 2013, 10:18:22 PM »

3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-On are out this week.

This week in Nintendo Downloads stars Sega's 3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-On. If those don't interest you, there's also a couple Virtual Console titles, a few eShop games, and several sales to drain your wallet.

3DS Retail Games

Young Justice: Legacy - $29.99

3DS eShop Sales

Shin Megami Tensei IV - $29.99, November 28 - December 2

Super Mario Bros. - $3.49, November 28 - December 5

Super Mario Bros. 2 - $3.49, November 28 - December 5

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins - $2.79, November 28 - December 5

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move - $6.99, November 28 - December 5

Wii U eShop Sales

Mario Bros. - $3.49, November 28 - December 5

Super Mario Bros. - $3.49, November 28 - December 5

Super Mario Bros. 2 - $3.49, November 28 - December 5

Super Mario World - $5.59, November 28 - December 5

3DS eShop Games

3D Space Harrier - $5.99

Space Harrier is finally available on the Nintendo 3DS, and it's been given the full 3D treatment. You can now play the classic arcade shooter in beautiful, stereoscopic 3D.

3D Super Hang-On - $5.99

Like Space Harrier, Super-On has also been given the 3D treatment. Likewise, the game also includes new tilt controls and a Moving Caninet mode, so hang on tight! 

Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre - $19.99, available December 2

Never been to the Lourve? Well now you can experience the museum from the comfort of your home, right on your 3DS. ">My Exotic Farm - $24.99

Are you fan of farming? Well, there's yet another farm simulator availible on the eShop. This isn't Old McDonald's farm though. You'll be looking after animals a tad more exotic than cows and pigs (think lions and crocodiles.)

Race To The Line - $3.99

If you're a racing fan, Race To The Line could be interesting. Race with one of 10 cars across eight different tracks across the USA, Europe, and Asia.

3DS Virtual Console

Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom - $4.99

We've already seen the first two Ninja Gaiden games be released on the Virtual Console, and now we have the third. If you're up for a challenge, this is the game for you.

Wii U Virtual Console">Contra III: The Alien Wars - $7.99

To continue the trend of release the third game in the series, Contra III: The Alien Wars is now available in the Wii U eShop. And like Ninja Gaiden III, it's also pretty challenging.


Heathcliff: Spot On - $4.99

DSiWare is still alive, and barely kicking, with the release of Heathcliff: Spot On. If you ever wanted to spot the difference with Heathcliff, then this is the game for you.

TalkBack / Call of Duty: Ghosts Review
« on: November 21, 2013, 05:10:22 PM »

Few things in life are certain, but you can always count on death, taxes, and Call of Duty.

For the past several years, Activision has made a killing by releasing yearly iterations of the Call of Duty series. This year is no different with the release of Call of Duty: Ghosts. However, while last year’s Black Ops II benefited from being a launch title on the Wii U, Ghosts has several competing titles releasing alongside it. If you’re a Call of Duty fan, you’ll likely already know what to expect, but if you’ve somehow missed out on the series after all of these years, you may want to beware of Ghosts.

Call of Duty: Ghosts’ campaign opens as you, your bother, and your father frantically run back to your house as tremors shake the earth around you. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that this isn’t secretly the sequel to Disaster: Day of Crisis. It turns out that the tremors you felt were actually caused by an orbital weapon called the “Orbital Defense Initiative,” or ODIN. ODIN has been hijacked by the Federation, a global superpower covering much of South America. Their use of ODIN to bombard the southwestern United States was only the beginning of a brutal 10-year-long war between the two superpowers, a war which you fight in alongside your brother and father.

Nevertheless, the campaign’s biggest issue is its gameplay, not its story; though neither offer any especially interesting moments. Honestly, the campaign would have been better suited as an on-rails shooter as opposed to a FPS since it would have been just as scripted either way. And that’s its problem, everything has already been decided for you. You can’t deviate from Infinity Ward’s plan, even a little bit. This means you’ll often have to wait for your slower AI-controlled allies to catch up. Much worse, however, is how much the campaign discourages experimentation. If a section requires stealth you must use stealth, and the same goes for most fire fights. Deviating from this script will send you back to a previous checkpoint with an on-screen prompt telling you what you did wrong. Likewise, while you have several interesting weapons at your disposal, including your German Shepard, Riley, you can’t use any of them unless you’re prompted to do so.

The point-to-point gameplay of the campaign doesn’t fare much better. It feels sluggish in comparison to the multiplayer, which is known for its fast-paced, twitchy gameplay. It almost felt like I was playing an old adventure game, as I spent most of time looking down the sights of my gun, searching for the right pixels to fire at. You’ll spend a lot of time doing this hidden behind cover, while your screen is shook and blurred red with each bullet that crosses your path. It’s more frustrating than fun.

Luckily, Ghosts’ multiplayer is nowhere near the mess that its campaign is, though it’s certainly not the best the series has to offer. Aside from the usual additions—new maps, game modes, weapons, and perks—multiplayer is essentially the same as Black Ops II was last year.  It’s fairly easy to hop online and play matches with up to 12 people, that is, if you want to play Team Deathmatch or Domination. Most of the other modes are barely played. That said, both modes are still a blast, and new weapons and perks all work. Some of the maps are a bit on the large side, though. I often spent a tad too much time searching for the enemy team, only to be found first. This isn’t an issue in every map, but it does pose a problem in a good portion of them.

Ghosts also includes the ability to create your own soldier. You can now change both your gender and your uniform, in addition to the usual cosmetic options. You can save up to 10 loadouts, however you have to unlock all but one using Squad Points, which you gain when leveling up and completing other operations in multiplayer. The additions are mostly cosmetic, but they’re a nice reward for dedicated players.

Much more interesting, is what you can do with the soldiers that you create. Ghosts includes a new mode called Squads, that lets you play matches alongside your AI-controlled soldiers. You can either choose to play with them or against them. The new mode is interesting, but it’s not quite a replacement for the traditional multiplayer experience. AI still isn’t a match for a human player.

Speaking of AI-controlled opponents, Ghosts also has its own answer to the previous games’ Zombies mode. It’s called Extinction, and instead of fighting zombies, you’re tasked with killing aliens, while using a drill to destroy their hives. The mode can be played online and locally with up to four players, and consists mainly of protecting the drill from alien swarms. It’s not bad, but killing the aliens isn’t as fun or as rewarding as taking out human players online.

Call of Duty: Ghosts is one of the few games that would be infinitely better without a campaign mode. While the multiplayer is just more of what we’ve seen in previous entries, it is at least fun to play. The campaign, however, offers little more than frustration with its hordes of enemies and overly scripted nature. Infinity Ward would have been better off allocating more time and money to the multiplayer.

TalkBack / Nintendo Downloads - November 14, 2013
« on: November 14, 2013, 07:28:40 PM »

This week is bursting at the seams, if you know what I mean.

Retail releases dominate in this week’s Nintendo Downloads. Even so, SENRAN KAGURA Burst finally makes it to the 3DS eShop this week, and let’s be fair, what else would you want?

3DS Retail Games

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! - $29.95, available November 19

Barbie Dreamhouse Party - $29.99, available November 19

Hot Wheels: World's Best Drive - $39.99

Frozen Olaf's Quest - $29.99, available November 19

Girls' Fashion Shoot - $29.95

Wii U Retail Games

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games - $49.99"> Zumba® Fitness World Party - $49.99

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW! - $39.95, available November 19

Barbie Dreamhouse Party - $39.99, available November 19

Hot Wheels: World's Best Drive - $49.99

3DS eShop Sales

The Legend of Zelda - $3.49, November 14-21

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX - $3.99, November 14-21

Zelda II - The Adventure of Link - $3.49, November 14-21

Wii U eShop Sales

The Legend of Zelda - $3.49, November 14-21

Zelda II - The Adventure of Link - $3.49, November 14-21

3DS eShop Games

Secret Mysteries in New York - $5.99

Step into the shoes of Oscar Gaebelein, a young forensic scientist, and use your hidden object finding skills to help him solve the murder of a well-known, 1920s New York politician.

SENRAN KAGURA Burst - $29.99

SENRAN KAGURA Burst is bursting at the seams. In this action-packed beat’em up, you decided your allegiance. Are you a girl of Hanzō, who fights for all things just, or are you a girl of Hebijo, who fights only for money? Choose your side and flatten your enemies, all while looking as sexy as possible in one of 72 different costumes.

World Conqueror 3D - $5.99

If forensic science and ninja gals don’t quite cut it, you can always act as a master strategist in World Conqueror 3D. Lead some of the finest troops in world history and react several battles from World War II.

Word Wizard 3D - $2.99

And for the linguists out there, we have Word Wizard 3D, a selection of classic word games where you’ll “create, compose and find words.”

3DS Virtual Console

River City Ransom - $4.99

If you still haven’t played this classic brawler, now is the time to do so on your 3DS. Get ready to kick butt, take names, and save your girlfriend in River City Ransom. And don’t forget to bring a friend along, as the game offers two player co-op through Download Play.

Wii U Virtual Console

Uncharted Waters: New Horizons - $4.99

Set sail for uncharted lands in Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, a SNES title where you take the role of one of six different characters to explore the open ocean as it was in the early 16th century.


Deer Drive Legends - price TBA, available November 19

Ever want to kill dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, along with your garden variety woodland creatures? Well, now you can with Deer Drive Legends on WiiWare.

TalkBack / Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Review
« on: November 06, 2013, 11:30:06 PM »

Batman is back, this time on the 3DS.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is the first major handheld release in the Arkham series. Released alongside Arkham Origins on consoles, I wouldn’t be surprised if the average consumer just assumed it was another poorly done handheld port. Luckily, it’s at more than that.

Set three months after the events in Arkham Origins, Blackgate follows our Caped Crusader as he is tasked with cleaning up a major prisonbreak at Blackgate Prison. Batman’s old nemeses—Joker, Penguin, and Black Mask—have partitioned off the prison into three sections—Cell Blocks, Industrial, and Administration—each taking control of one for their own purposes. In order to infiltrate the prison, Batman forms an uneasy alliance with Catwoman, who keeps him informed as he explores different parts of the facility.

Sadly, Blackgate’s story never quite reaches the level of its predecessors. The game’s dialog is fully voiced, though Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil, best known for their roles in Batman: The Animated Series, don’t return as Batman and Joker this time around. Nevertheless, their new voice actors, Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker, do a great job of sounding the part, and are, for the most part, indistinguishable from their forerunners. That said, the game’s dialog isn’t nearly as well written as in previous games. Whereas Arkham Asylum’s story expanded upon the characters of the Batman mythos, Blackgate’s story feels more like a means to an end. It’s there just because it has to be, not because it has anything interesting to say.

Fortunately, Blackgate’s gameplay more than makes up for its lackluster story. For the most part, playing Blackgate feels like playing Arkham Asylum, but with less freedom of movement and with everything locked to a 2.5D perspective. With the new perspective, you can really only move Batman left and right using the Circle Pad, with no ability to manually jump. At first I thought this made the game feel a bit too on-rails, but that changed once I finished the tutorial and entered Blackgate. While the tutorial mainly consisted of running right and pressing the R button to use the Grapnel Gun to propel Batman across gaps, the three sections of Blackgate require you to be much stealthier with your movement. You’ll often be forced to crouch to cautiously avoid Joker’s goons, or to traverse one of the many hidden ducts in the game.

The series’ exploration elements are still present, and in some ways, they’re improved due to the fixed perspective. As in previous entries, your progress is largely tied to the tools and upgrades that you’ve collected. Each new tool adds a new dynamic to the game, opening up several new areas to explore in Blackgate. For instance, the Gel Launcher lets you shoot a sticky, explosive gel that detonates weakened walls and structures that would otherwise block your way. The game uses these tools to create several satisfying and sometimes unexpected puzzles. Nevertheless, exploration in the game is slightly hampered by a map that only shows you a bird's-eye view, with no visualization of the buildings’ depth or layers. It’s usable, but it’s not ideal.

Also returning from previous entries, is Detective Mode. It plays an important role in the game, allowing you to scan your environment for objects to interact with. You can use it to find clues, and it even lets you see the nearby enemies and whether or not they can see you. It can be activated by touching a button on the corner of the touchscreen, and you can scan the area by moving a reticule with the Circle Pad. Unfortunately, there does seem to be an overreliance on Detective Mode at times. Even if you see an object that you can interact with, tools like the Gel Launcher or Batarang cannot lock-on to it unless you’ve scanned it first. It can be especially frustrating if you die during a boss battle, as you’ll need to rescan the items again to finish the fight.

Equally as important, and rarely as frustrating, is the game’s combat. Armature Studio has done a remarkable job in adapting the Arkham series’ acclaimed combat system to a 2.5D perspective. If you’ve played any of the previous games, you’ll know that timing for and countering your enemy’s moves are critical if you want to survive. In addition to the brawler sequences, there are also areas where stealth is the preferred method of combat. These usually involve goons with guns who force you to think of ways to remain unseen, lest you be riddled with bullets. The game’s boss battles mix both the stealth and brawler sequences in such a way that makes them almost feel like puzzles. You can expect to die a lot before you figure out their solution, but thanks to their puzzle-like quality, they never really felt frustrating.

What Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate lacks in its plot, it more than makes up for with its gameplay. It may not be on par with its console brethren, but it’s still an enjoyable experience, whether or not you’ve played previous games in the series. And with several collectibles to find and an eight-hour-long story mode, it’s at least an excuse to revisit Gotham.

TalkBack / Pokémon X and Y Online Features Overview
« on: October 25, 2013, 01:58:26 AM »

Find out how to the make the most of Pokémon X and Y's online features.

Pokémon X and Y have been out for nearly two weeks, and, if you’re like me, you’ve already finished the main story and are now looking for something else to do with your beloved Pocket Monsters. Luckily, the game doesn’t have to end once you’ve bested the Elite Four and conquered the champion. In addition to their post-game offerings, Pokémon X and Y offer several innovative online and local multiplayer options that give you the perfect excuse to put your meticulously chosen team to use.

Game Freak experimented with a more localized online and local multiplayer system in Pokémon Black and White with the use of the C-Gear. While the C-Gear allowed for easy battling and trading using the cartridge’s infrared connection, players were still forced into Pokémon Centers if they wanted to take full advantage of Black and White’s wireless capabilities. However, with X and Y they’ve completely removed this limitation with the introduction of the “Player Search System.” All of the game’s wireless features are now conveniently accessible via the touch screen.

Utilizing the PSS, you can now see whenever your friends that own Pokémon X and Y are online, and you can even challenge them to a battle, offer up a trade, or simply initiate a voice chat by tapping on their icon on the touch screen and choosing the desired option. Additionally, you can also meet people in random matches and make them your acquaintances. Their avatars appear below your friends on the touch screen, and you can do everything except initiate voice chat with them. Likewise, you can also battle and trade with anyone in the vicinity of your wireless signal, regardless of whether or not you know them. These nearby players are listed under “Passerby” on the PSS. If there are no players nearby, the game will pull online players to fill the passerby spot.

In addition to these options, the PSS also offers several other ways to battle and trade. The “Battle Spot” option randomly matches you with opponents from all over the world, and choosing it gives you the option for free or rating battles. Free battles allow all types of Pokémon and let you to choose from Single, Double, Triple, or Rotation. Rating battles are similar, though they require you to register with the Pokémon Global Link website. You can do this by choosing the “Game Sync” option in the PSS and following the on-screen instructions. Rating battles affect your online rating. Your wins, losses, number of battles, and rank will all be recorded on the Pokémon Global Link site, so I suggest you making sure your team is up to snuff in free battles first.

Not to be outdone by the Battle Spot, the “GTS,” or “Global Trade Station,” is also available via the PSS. Like past games, the GTS allows you to put Pokémon up for trade so that people worldwide can offer you others in return. The beauty of the GTS is that once you put a Pokémon up, you’re responsibility for it is over. You can go on playing the game, or not, and your Pokémon will remain up for trade until someone accepts your offer. When depositing a Pokémon into GTS, the game asks you the type, gender, and level of the Pokémon you will accept from others in return. Afterwards, you just sit back and wait until someone accepts. Likewise, you can seek out other players Pokémon. Simply search for the type you desire or type in the name of the Pokémon you want if you haven’t encountered it yet and find the user whose offer best fits your needs.

However, if patience isn’t one of your virtues there is a faster, but random method of trading called “Wonder Trade.” In Wonder Trade, players put up whatever they want to trade, and they’re then randomly matched with another player who did the same. Think of it as a Pokémon lottery. You’re likely to receive a Zubat or worse, but there’s always the chance that you’ll strike gold. It all depends on what Pokémon your random partner decided to throw out.

Pokémon X and Y’s new wireless and online options are arguably the best in the series. Not only are they convenient and plentiful, but they also run smoothly. I hardly ever experienced any lag, even when playing with players from across the world. Likewise, finding random partners to battle and trade with is a cinch. Don’t expect to wait more than a minute at most. If for nothing else, Pokemon X and Y should certainly be praised for that.

TalkBack / New York Comic Con 2013 Photo Round-Up
« on: October 14, 2013, 09:21:42 PM »

Check out some sweet pictures form New York Comic Con 2013.

Last weekend was New York Comic Con 2013, and William M. Brown Photography has supplied us with some pictures to show off this year's event.

Nintendo's Booth and Assorted Crowd Pictures

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