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Messages - NdIGiTy

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Podcast Discussion / Episode 360: Holiday Fantasia
« on: November 30, 2013, 05:28:44 PM »

Still in the post-telethon glow, we focus on new games and find debate on even the most celebrated releases.

We recorded this episode just a few days after the telethon and clearly haven't fully recovered yet. However, we do have plenty to discuss with guest Nate Andrews (as Jon was on vacation in Canada). The first games in this episode-spanning New Business are, naturally, Super Mario 3D World and Zelda: Link Between Worlds. Jonny has progressed much farther in both since the telethon, and this is the first time James and Gui have had a chance to discuss either game on the show. We have a lot to say about both, and the crew isn't unanimous on either game. James also checks out the Phoenix Wright DLC, in which you defend a killer whale in court. Yep. 

Nate is our clean-up batter with Proteus, the dream-like indie game for PC and now PS3/Vita. Maybe it could even come to Wii U in 2014, but is the audience ready for such an experience? We swing back around for more games, including Gui's coverage of the Wii U eShop game called Edge, from the Toki Tori studio. It's coming to 3DS soon, as well. The episode concludes with Jonny's first impressions of his new PlayStation 4, focusing on the novel (and now highly accessible) experience of live-streaming your own games.

We'll definitely be back in the groove next week and ready to hit up a lot of Listener Mail, so please send in your thoughts on the new games, new systems, whatever! And in case you didn't hear on Shenanigans, the upcoming live RetroActive will feature F-Zero X (N64 and Wii Virtual Console), F-Zero GX, and Greg! We hope you'll seek out these games over the next several weeks and participate in this special event!

TalkBack / Legend of the River King Review Mini
« on: May 07, 2013, 07:25:23 PM »

Hook, line, and stinker.

The use of the term "legend" in a game's title can mean a lot of things. It may mean you're in for a lengthy, fulfilling experience, or a complex, well-told story. Sometimes, it's indicative of something a little less extravagant.

Legend of the River King, much like Harvest Moon, is predicated on the idea that, in the right wrapper, certain utilitarian, blue-collar tasks can come across as engaging activities. The difference is that farming in Harvest Moon is a collection of complementary chores that build to some greater accomplishment; fishing in River King is more a collection of nuisances that lead to greater ennui.

Though some of its systems take on the trappings of an RPG (items and inventory, shops, environments you explore on foot, etc.), River King finds a way to borrow only the worst, most disjointed parts of the genre for its already less than thrilling activity. Its plays at having an RPG's narrative arc and explorable world are largely based on your ability to walk slowly around different areas and catch fish. Not surprisingly, there's not a ton of texture to doing those things. Aside from having this severely limited economy of play, River King's fishing mechanics are an exercise in monotony and disappointment. 

Though somewhat interactive and engaging when you manage to get a fish on the hook, it's absolutely never worth the effort and frustration it takes to get there. The actual process of fishing in River King has all the fun of backing out to reposition yourself, watching your lure go untouched, having hooks and bait snatched by fleeing fish, walking to a shop to buy more hooks and more bait, and repeating, without any of the parts where you don't have to fish.

The two halves of River King don't complement each other at all. Its halfhearted combination of RPG systems and fishing only makes it a doddering, tepid experience in both regards.

TalkBack / Buried in Treasure
« on: April 09, 2013, 10:24:41 AM »

Along with other things, Luigi's mansions are haunted by money.

At a certain point in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, if you look up, you can see a stack of crisp bills perched on the gnarled branch of a tree. The green clump is perfectly uniform, and piled high enough to rival the branch’s thickness.

Like any of the other stationary mansion objects, the tree’s branch is something made available for you to poke, prod, rustle through, and peer into as you investigate the ghostly goings-on. Sometimes you stumble across a mischievous ghost haunting the drawer of a dusty bureau or crooked-legged hallway end table, and that’s its own sort of reward. But what shakes out is often just money, and quite a lot of it; the most timid of Luigi’s jostles can send gobs of cartoon currency blasting out like so much expensive confetti. Coins and bills, gems and pearls and heavy bricks of gold: they’re crammed in the mansion from the rafters to the floorboards, and all gobbled up with ease by the little red vacuum.

Finding thematic justification for the injection of all these riches into the game doesn’t require much in the way of mental calisthenics. It might stand to reason that a mansion, however haunted, might yet hold some secret fortunes of the deceased within its crumbling walls and odd hidden spaces. And with the game wearing its comic inspirations on its sleeve, it’s a little easier to accept the monetary rewards it dumps on players as appropriate for the task of besting a mansion’s clever devices.

vrrrrrNGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. From under the tree, you can suck bills off the top of the stack one by one—fwip fwip fwip—until the whole pile explodes, fluttering down slowly until you huff them into the infinite storage of your novelty appliance.

Even for a series that has already established extravagant forms and sums of money as a lighhearted reward for lighthearted deeds, and for a parent brand still very much invested in having players collect coins to no end, the stack on the tree just seems like a lot. And explicitly so. A fat old lump of no-nonsense cash. It's offered unto you under no real pretense of ingenuity or effort, as though it were the thing you were supposed to find all along. Just point and suck.

Your collection of paper and gold for each level fills a meter that ticks down to new versions of the very equipment you use to probe the mansion for more loot (and, on occasion, capture ghosts).The vacuum is as much a tool for grabbing money as it is for cleansing any room of its ethereal tenants; sometimes, more so.

A fact: The assorted currency tucked within the nooks and crannies of each mansion handily outranks its number of ghosts. The game’s slight preoccupation with this type of tangible reward is an innocent one that can encourage inquistive play, but can also distract from its less superficial qualities.

TalkBack / NWR's Game(s) of the Month: March
« on: April 06, 2013, 10:30:15 AM »

Busting ghosts, hunting monsters, and breaking bricks.

Starting with March, we're going to start concluding each month by voting on the best game released on a Nintendo system (and possibly on others as well) during that time span. We'll be running something similar in the forums, too (check out the poll for March), and we'll post your choices and arguments.

Our overall winner for March was Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, but since this is more of a trial run, we're including arguments for a few other frontrunners as well.

Neal Ronaghan - Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

My excitement for Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was based more on developer Next Level Games' pedigree than total affection for the original game. Fortunately, Next Level Games delivered totally and completely, taking everything that was great about the original and refining it to a fine, addictive adventure. While the level-based progression was a little worrying at first, it works because you can still explore the environments to your heart's content. It just works better for the portable format now.

What truly surprised me was the multiplayer, though, as the cooperative experience is a ton of fun. Whether it's local or online, I think I'll be coming back to Dark Moon's multiplayer experience quite often over the coming months. This was definitely my most-played game in March, and it's also my favorite of the month.

Tyler Ohlew - Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

The reason behind my choice for Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is simple enough, I simply had the most fun with it. Sucking up ghosts is just the start; it wasn't long before I craved every rug and strip of wallpaper. Despite its limited moveset, Dark Moon always manages to keep things fresh with its puzzles and hidden trinkets.

What makes it so interesting is how it compares to its predecessor. While aspects are missing, it creates new points of interest to call its own. While I certainly adore Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, nothing else entertained me as well as Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.

Zack Kaplan - Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Being my first Monster Hunter game, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS) has convinced me that I have been missing out on a lot of fun all these years. I choose it as my game of the month, but I will definitely be playing it beyond March for its mix of engaging gameplay and addictive quests. 

Guillaume Veillette - Lego City: Undercover

Say what you want about developer Traveller's Tales and how tired Lego games based on popular licenses are at this point: they have acquired over the last decade an expertise for injecting personality and humor into their games' worlds. Given how important it is for an open game to have an interesting world, this expertise pays off in Lego City: Undercover. Every nook and cranny of Lego City has something cool to see, or some humorous easter egg to find. The player has to complete the main story missions to earn the abilities that will allow them to explore the game fully, but good writing and endearing characters ensure that they'll want to do so anyway. The family-friendly title is very easy for experienced players, but the platforming and driving both feel good enough to be enjoyable for their own sake.

Nate Andrews - Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

If nothing else, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon makes a nearly unassailable argument for Luigi as the more interesting brother. Secretly, the man in green has texture and personality for days, and Next Level Games' excellent translation of the series to the 3DS brings it out perfectly.

I'm enjoying the level-based progression (justified gripes about the lack of a convenient save system notwithstanding), the way the game captures the mischievous intimacy of each area, and the fairly slick control scheme. It's a game that creates interesting spaces to poke around in, and gives you all the tools you need to have fun doing just that.

TalkBack / LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Impressions
« on: April 01, 2013, 03:25:30 PM »

A 3D open world game is coming to a Nintendo handheld, and it's good.

While at PAX East, I was fortunate enough to check out Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins. For those unaware, The Chase Begins is a 3DS prequel to the Wii U game Lego City Undercover. Though I didn’t have the chance to play through a full mission (it was actually hard to concentrate on the show floor), I was able to explore a small part of the city. The open world of Lego City on the 3DS is, in truth, quite impressive. 

Roaming around the city as protagonist Chase McCain, I was able to take control of a truck and have free rein of a small section of the city. When attempting to leave the section, I was greeted with a “mission must be completed” message, which may have just been a part of the demo. As of now, we still don’t know if the city has unlockable sections or if the whole thing is available from the beginning.

The Chase Begins is partially voiced acted. Cut scenes have voice acting, but dialogue is presented through text during gameplay. The cut scene I saw was amusing and well acted. The one problem I found with the demo was how foggy the city was. Similar to other open-world games, buildings would appear as I walked along the sidewalk. This quality didn’t hinder my experience, though, and I never crashed into any buildings while driving because of it. The 3DS’s technical limitations are most likely the reason for the shallow field of view. I don’t use 3D on the 3DS that often, but I tried it out for The Chase Begins and it was pretty good.

The city in The Chase Begins felt alive—an important part of any open-world game. Citizens dodged out of the way when my truck careened toward them, and street lamps fell to pieces in typical Lego fashion when hit.

With the game only a month away, I am even more interested from playing this demo. A good 3D open-world game (C.O.P. The Recruit doesn’t count) on a Nintendo handheld system excites me. 

Podcast Discussion / RFN Live Panel at PAX East 2013
« on: March 26, 2013, 12:47:43 AM »

Our fourth annual live show at PAX East was a blast, and now you can enjoy the audio recording.

It's always a special experience to do RFN live, as a group, for an audience in the same room. PAX East offers just such an opportunity, and this year's panel might be the best yet. The voices you'll hear on this recording include James, Guillaume, and Jonny, plus special guests Nate Andrews and Chris Kohler of Wired's Game Life. One element you'll have to imagine is the improvised video stream provided by Jared Rosenberg -- that part was just for the live audience!

Our topics include favorite obscure games, a couple of fun "What If?" scenarios, elevator pitches to Iwata, and a hefty chunk of audience Q&A. We hope you enjoy it! Thanks again to everyone who helped, especially the PAX Enforcers who set up the room and provided this great recording for all of us.

TalkBack / Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Review
« on: March 19, 2013, 07:02:32 AM »

Unstable at any speed.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on the 3DS didn't need to reinvent the kart-racing genre. It didn't even need to match its well-received Wii U version, which arguably bested Nintendo at its own game in some respects. All it would have taken to make the handheld version worthwhile was a halfway decent approximation of the console version's slick presentation and dynamic tracks. Instead, Sonic and company's lap on the 3DS chugs along as a boring, untenable mess of a racer.

Transformed on the 3DS doesn't break from the formula established by its console counterpart, but it manages to dilute it to the point of tedium in several cases. The varied, objective-based challenges that made up the latter's career mode are replaced by a small selection of races, time trials, and one-on-one races in World Tour mode here, making the process of earning stars to unlock new characters and venues a test of your tolerance for the mundane. Unless you absolutely need every available track and racer, there's little point in grinding through each section of this mode, which offers little more variety than you would find in the other individual modes.

In fact, apart from accessing some of the more interesting courses or using a favorite character, there doesn't seem to be a reason to invest any time in Transformed. The experience points you receive during and after races are unique to each character you use, but earning enough to reach the next level just gives you access to a mod for their stats, which serves only to bump a point from one category to another.

The land/sea/air racing triumvirate the game pulled off so well on consoles makes a sloppy transition to the 3DS, due in large part to unreliable controls and a frame rate that makes all but the most serene stretches of a race nigh unplayable. While you can usually pull off basic land maneuvers like drifting without hassle, controlling aquatic and airborne kart forms is often a struggle against weird vehicle physics and stilted, momentum-killing transformations.

The frame rate, while somewhat tolerable when you're racing alone against your own times or against a single opponent, completely sabotages any chance of a good time when there's a full field of racers or when the 3D is turned on. The game’s decent stabs at detailed, multi-path tracks only exacerbate this problem. While these course interpretations generally have a level of scope and dynamism that would otherwise make them worthy of attention, that quality also brings the frame rate to a crawl and sometimes a near stop. It's unfortunate, since the course designs are visually interesting and well-composed uses of their respective source material.

A workable frame rate might have salvaged this uninteresting, watered-down 3DS version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Instead, the game's single redeeming quality is marred by technical and gameplay problems, leaving it a shallow, unworkable execution of a good idea.

TalkBack / Re: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Review
« on: March 05, 2013, 11:01:40 AM »
Brief but deplorable representation of female figures.  Can you clarify this?  I'm getting a bit tired of this kind of thing and it's a huge turn-off for me nowadays.

Near the end of Simon's section, there's a boss fight that involves some scantily clad enemies with stupidly disproportionate female form. Their "thing" is that they essentially try to seduce Simon. During the fight, they regain health by kissing each other.

TalkBack / Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Review
« on: March 05, 2013, 04:59:05 AM »

A new name takes a familiar form, with surprising results.

On paper, taking direct inspiration from the Lords of Shadow interpretation of Castlevania doesn’t play to Mirror of Fate’s favor. Handheld Castlevania games have long been associated with expectations for a specific and traditional hue of gameplay and presentation, with which the combo- and cinematic-heavy Lords of Shadow brand might seem incompatible. In a sense, this concern is accurate; Mirror of Fate is not the expected breed of portable Castlevania. However, it finds firm footing on the 3DS by communicating these ideas and more in a simple and streamlined manner.

The emphases and defining traits of Lords of Shadow dictate much of Mirror of Fate’s aesthetic, action, and narrative, but the experience is never slavish to any of them. Across its distinct sections, which focus on members of the long-maligned Belmont family, Mirror of Fate smartly balances this core set of gameplay types.

Chief among them is exploration. As you traverse its landscapes and interiors, Mirror of Fate charts your progress on a standard grid map on the system’s bottom screen. Here, the game uses points of interest sparingly, and marks most automatically. While reliable in accounting for the most important of these (e.g., objectives, exits, and supplies of health and magic), Mirror of Fate makes an odd concession for secret areas. In the course of play, it marks most collectibles and upgrades. However, for impasses (which you need to circle back to with an ability or item acquired later) it requires you to dip into the touch screen menu, drag a marker to your location, and leave a written note. Mirror of Fate’s individual areas are not sprawling; you move through most of each on your way to an objective, which leaves untouched areas easy to spot from a read of the map. Even so, halting play to make your own reminders is an odd decision compared to the intuitive marking used elsewhere.

Mirror of Fate gives the player a compact set of tools to navigate each connected castle section. Aside from jumping and climbing, each character has access to a few select skills necessary to overcome the obstacles unique to his isolated chapter of the story. This simplicity doesn’t subtract from the challenge or enjoyment of clambering about the decrepit castle grounds. In fact, it allows Mirror of Fate to focus on building a detailed and believable environment around these points of interaction. The result is platforming that feels natural in construction and in context, instead of needlessly difficult or shoehorned in for its own sake. Mirror of Fate also works deftly with player size in relation to movement and activity. When you’re navigating a platforming section or solving a large-scale environmental puzzle, the camera tends to pull out. In making the character a smaller piece of the overall picture, Mirror of Fate can better present the immediate pieces of the world and the depth of the impressive backdrops complementing them.

When it's time to fight, Mirror of Fate focuses the camera for an intimate view. Though combat is shown from a side perspective, the camera often positions itself slightly behind the character, slung low to profile the attacking creature. Mirror of Fate’s more important fights employ this and other uses of a malleable perspective to particularly great effect. In one early confrontation, the powerful opponent lingers in the background and directs groups of animal minions at you. The moment they’re dealt with, it roars into the closer plane for an aggressive, seamless attack. Other situations play upon loosening or tightening the camera’s view on the field, depending on the opponent’s attacks.

These behaviors are in service of a focus on measured, well-photographed monster fighting. However, they don’t blunt Mirror of Fate’s smart combat. Through simple combinations of the X and Y buttons, it puts a variety of chainable moves at your disposal, from short and reliable ground attacks to more complex and devastating battle choreography. Mirror of Fate lists the procedure for each well-animated attack on a menu, but memorization is not required for effective combat. Attacks tend to build off each other naturally as you complete strikes, and you need only land a few standard blows before you reach an effective combo.

Mirror of Fate also facilitates fluid combat with a set of mid-action mechanics. Each character can evade with ease at a moment’s notice—in the air, on the ground, and mid-strike. This ability is invaluable, and designed well within the machinery of animation and attack. You can also block and counterattack enemies’ standard efforts and evade their unstoppable attacks, which the game excels in making ever transparent. Impeccable consistency in checkpointing also makes Mirror of Fate an easy experience to stick with through difficulty; fail midway through a fight, platforming section, or quick time event, and you’ll return in nearly the same position. In every facet, Mirror of Fate’s combat doesn’t intrude unnecessarily, but acts as a well-built and supportive addition to a stronger whole.

Mirror of Fate’s overarching story, though designated in chunks to a handful of the series’ well-known faces, ends up adding little of importance to the experience. From time to time, it takes small breaks to address the larger plot in the form of graphic, darkly lined animation. But what defines and legitimizes the experience is its deft framing and execution of environments and situations, not the Belmonts’ melodrama or having to check itself to series’ expectations. Mirror of Fate is a confident interpretation of well-trod mechanics and themes, and the Castlevania name is stronger for it.

TalkBack / Castlevania: The Adventure
« on: February 28, 2013, 03:35:03 PM »

Adventure, in the very broadest definition.

In Castlevania: The Adventure, I become the most lead-legged man on Earth, waging slow and imprecise battle against the mobile forces of evil.

The first stage gives me a lean 13 minutes to shamble and whip my way along the layered forest that sits behind me, which seems generous until I actually start plodding. Blobs fall and form into man-things, which seems like an unfair advantage in both ability and speed compared to my laughable skills. I have a dinky whip, 10 small bars of health, and a magnificent four-inch vertical. It's going to be an evening.


I do my power walk routine, only interrupting the pumping of my arms to whip some candles for coins and hearts and temporary upgrades. Enemies fall precipitously and die in flames. Even in death, they’re so much more dynamic than I, given my octogenarian's pace.

It takes me a solid minute to reach the first increase in elevation. In theory, clearing the small step should present no challenge, as my knees plunge somewhere into my chest cavity when I jump. Even so, it takes more than one go to mount. Just when I think I've mastered the gentle inclines, a series of staggered ridges and a stream of rolling eyeballs restore my humility.

Birds and more ledges conspire against me. By the time I climb to where the tombstones outnumber the trees, I've shed forty percent of my health.


I ascend to where mountain peaks become visible and floating platforms conspire to drive me mad. I've only four minutes left when I reach the designated boss arena. Somehow, he's gone in 20 seconds. For all my slowness and suffering and embarrassment, I've won. This could yet be OK.

Still riding a power high from the fight, I'm whisked away to some sort of cave. Hideous hands from the floor spit ricocheting balls of fire; tall knights heave boomerangs that I, with my terrible inertia, cannot seem to avoid.

Again, I overcome. But at a hanging bridge, the eyeballs return. Where I destroy them, I create an even worse foe—the jumpable gap.

I bumble down ropes and misleading pathways and am presented with a hive of frog-like creatures for my trouble. How I'm alive (and still trying) is a mystery.


I'm in a place with a spiked ceiling. A castle, I think, which makes sense. The ceiling descends when I reach a certain point; if I don't stop trudging along, I can just barely sneak through to safety.

Several things happen next that call for speed and precision, which is unfortunate. The spiked floor rises, making a series of platforms and ropes my sole route. I struggle with traversal as before, but now with a heightened sense of urgency. Maybe I can win this thing.

At the top, I breathe half a sigh of relief and let out half a curse before another spike wall roars in from the right.

TalkBack / Re: NWR Wii U Community Night Tomorrow Night
« on: February 25, 2013, 08:21:03 PM »
I'll be on at around 7:00 EST to play CoD. ID is "nandrews."

General Gaming / Re: Second-best Game Designer
« on: February 16, 2013, 10:34:44 AM »
I'll go with Sid Meier, if only because he's a Michigan man.

Podcast Discussion / Re: Episode 69: Simultaneous Local Release
« on: January 19, 2013, 10:53:14 AM »
I don't get it.

TalkBack / Staff Sez #12: The Many Moments of 2012
« on: January 06, 2013, 02:24:40 PM »

Our highs (and lows) of the year that was.

Now that we've survived into the new year, it's time to take ourselves right back to 2012. These are just a few of the things we remember most, good and bad, from last year.

Tyler "Out with the old" Ohlew:

Platinum Games. Wonderful 101. Hideki Kamiya. My life is complete.

Alex "Confetti" Culafi:

Why did Miyamoto have to ruin Sticker Star?

Andrew "Bubbly" Brown:

Kid Icarus: Uprising—most surprisingly impressive voice acting last year!

Tom "Midnight" Malina:

2012's wave of Japanese rhythm games revitalised the dying genre.

Neal "Resolutions" Ronaghan:

The disappointment that was Paper Mario: Sticker Star.

Andy "Auld Lang Syne" Goergen:

Favorite: Off-TV Play. Least Favorite: Except with Virtual Console.

Zack "Kiss cam" Kaplan:

Reggie saying, "I feel like a purple Pikmin." Classic Reginator.

Josh "Ghost of Dick Clark" Max:

When we got on the Wii U hype train. WOOWOO!

Carmine "Father Time" Red:

Playing Funky Barn: realizing review scores don't dictate my fun.

J.P. "Cork poppin'" Corbran:

Ignoring my backlog for a fourth playthrough of Mutant Mudds.

Justin "New Year's baby" Berube:

Least Favorite: Trying to collect all the Kid Icarus cards.

TalkBack / Nintendo Disables Access to Wii U Mock Up Menu
« on: November 19, 2012, 04:48:52 PM »

The company responds to yesterday's "hack."

The fervor surrounding the Wii U launch yesterday briefly intensified when NeoGaf user Trike started a thread in which he claimed to have stumbled upon a debug menu within the system.

Today, however, Nintendo issued a statement clarifying the nature of the find, stating that the menu accessed was simply a "mock up."

"It has come to our attention that some people were able to access a mock up menu on Miiverse following the launch of the Wii U in the US," reads Nintendo's official statement. "Please note that this was only mock up menu and has now been removed and is not accessible."

Podcast Discussion / Episode 314: Three Heads Tall
« on: November 18, 2012, 11:37:04 PM »

You can probably guess the big topic in our last podcast recorded before the Wii U launch, but there's also plenty of love for 3DS this week.

We're not exactly fresh off an exhausting but exceedingly successful telethon (recordings are trickling out and should be fully posted soon), but the RFN crew is glad to be back to the usual schedule, and Nate rejoins us this week. We recorded this one just a couple of days before the Wii U launch, and the excitement is palpable. Still, there's a lot to discuss around other topics such as 3DS, and Jonny gets it going with his impressions of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. For his first New Business in three weeks, James elects to start with the long-awaited Zone of the Enders HD Collection, along with its pack-in demo for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. He also catches up with Shinobi, the difficult but stylish ninja game released last year for 3DS. Guillaume expertly picks up the torch with Shinobi III, a Genesis classic that you can find on Wii Virtual Console and various Sega compilations. He also finds closure on a frustrating trek through Persona 3 Portable. Nate bats clean-up with his thoughts on a pair of brand-new 3DS releases, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (the sequel to 999) and Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask.

Even though we hadn't yet played our own Wii U systems and games as of this recording, it looms large over Listener Mail. The first direct reference comes with a request to assess the real meaning of Wii U's undeniable third-party support at launch, and whether this level of interest from third-party developers and publish might evaporate once Sony and Microsoft launch their next consoles. Next up is a comment on the recent spate of big-name game directors/producers leaving their companies -- and how Nintendo has managed to avoid this phenomenon. Finally, we look at a Japanese commercial in which Nintendo refers to the "Super Wii". Find out what the team thinks of this name and whether it reveals anything about the company's branding strategy. Please keep this part of the show going strong; send in your own email!

If you still haven't heard the long-lost Drunkcast featuring Karl's "Red Velvet" story, and you are of a particularly strong constitution, it can now be downloaded here thanks to many generous donors at the telethon. Also, you may want to get started on The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask pretty soon, as it's a long game, and we're planning to do the live RetroActive around January. The best ways to play are on N64 or Wii Virtual Console; the GameCube compilation version may be okay if you're tolerant of emulation bugs. Look for more details on this special event in the coming weeks! And next time you hear from us, it will be the year 1 A.W.U. -- anno Wii U.

TalkBack / Wii U Will Receive Ubisoft Uplay App
« on: November 18, 2012, 08:23:36 PM »

The company extends its service directly to Wii U users.

Ubisoft's support of the recently launched Wii U may not be limited to its launch lineup. According to the manual for ZombiU, the company will have an app for their Uplay service available to download from Nintendo's eShop.

As on other platforms, users of the Uplay service can earn rewards by playing through supported Ubisoft titles. The manual also notes that the service can provide assistance to struggling players, and provide news updates.

In addition to the Wii U-specific app, players can access Uplay directly through its website.

TalkBack / Nintendo Network Accounts Tied to Wii U System
« on: November 18, 2012, 08:23:13 PM »

Be mindful of where you create an ID.

When Nintendo outlined its Wii U account system earlier this month, we learned you can create up to 12 unique IDs per system.

With the launch of the console today, though, multiple users report that once a Nintendo Network ID is activated, it is tied to that specific system, and can't be used on another. Attempting to do so brings up a warning that the respective ID "has already been linked to another Wii U console." 

Nintendo's official Wii U support page confirms the limitation. The page also carries instructions on how to deactivate a Nintendo Network account, which removes the account as well as associated information, including eShop activity and balance, Friend List, Miiverse activity, and registered email address. Any username tied to a deactivated Nintendo Network account also can't be used for a new Nintendo Network account.

TalkBack / Re: Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Review
« on: November 14, 2012, 05:18:02 PM »
I played through every part of the game (ending at just shy of 30 hours), occasionally saved in puzzle rooms, and never experienced a glitch or freeze of any kind.

TalkBack / Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Review
« on: November 14, 2012, 11:35:23 AM »

Duplicity II.

Text is the most prominent factor in this sequel to Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999); there's no shortage of it, and the text is captivatingly illuminated by other pieces of the game's presentation and methodical style. Through convincingly human dialogues, monologues, and asides, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward makes a strong case for an experience that values internalization and light participation above recognizable control and decision making. Text, and the characters and myriad situations it shapes and plays with, is the method used here to achieve this unique relationship. Virtue's Last Reward builds around writing that is confident at length, and very good.

Like 999, Virtue's Last Reward concerns the mysterious kidnapping and gathering of nine individuals to play the Nonary Game, a devious machination operated by unseen forces, hinged on trust but laced with the temptation for betrayal and deadly consequences. As a twenty-something student named Sigma, you become acquainted with the other eight participants in the intricate and menacing game, and the coincidences of this particular group's identities break down. Through extensive scripted conversations, both one-on-one and in larger groups, the characters’ relationships, behaviors, and motivations come to light, and these details take the menacing situation into even darker places. The quality of the writing, and the meaningful personification and character dynamics it allows, create a well-paced tension throughout each story avenue. A few minutes' talk can swing the momentum of a story beat into unexpected territory, and Virtue's Last Reward is skilled at plunging its vague allusions and the overall confusion of the situation into horrifying clarity with impeccable timing.

To suit the manipulative nature of its situation, Virtue's Last Reward punctuates the flow of the text-driven story with an equally devious brand of puzzle rooms. Though they take place in distinct sectors of the game's enigmatic setting, make decent use of the system's stereoscopic 3D and touch screen, and can contribute to the series' overarching fiction, these "escape" segments often come off as distractions. The puzzles simulate the complexity and dread reflected in the narrative proper, but they also interrupt the game's superior realization of these qualities through text and story. Even with all manner of contrived situations and precise, empirical solutions, the puzzle rooms fall short in delivering the caliber of close, consequential involvement that makes the other sections succeed.

Industrial in its tone and setting, the game positions itself as unavoidably grim. That is not wholly inaccurate. Terrible tragedies and wrenching revelations come with any decision. But these occurrences, even as they twist the knife and the heading of the story, are another chance to further explore the plot. Choice, though required by the rules of the game and the narrative, is not the prime tool of Virtue's Last Reward. The resulting path for any decision is splayed out in detail, and VLR encourages experimentation in each divergence. The game may even decide for you, if the present timeline is linear. In this way, instances of choice become less an arbitrary, throwaway game mechanic, and more a fitting representation of the narrative threads that Virtue's Last Reward ties together so well.

Under the guise of a video game, Virtue's Last Reward unfolds an intricate story in which your participation is consistently worthwhile. In spite of the interruptions caused by its less engaging puzzle segments, this game stands out as an exceptional narrative experience unlike anything else on 3DS.

TalkBack / NWR Community Response: Mario RPGs
« on: November 12, 2012, 09:42:52 AM »

Check out some community Mario RPG thoughts and memories.

After Neal's recent blog about the impact of Super Mario RPG in his life, we asked you to contribute your own thoughts on SNES game and the Mario RPG series that followed in later generations. Here's a sample of the great responses we received:


The addition of RPG gameplay to the Mario formula was a defining characteristic for some of you. MrPhishfood praises the simplified numbers game Mario RPGs use:

"The one thing I liked about the Mario RPGs I've played is their minimalist take on stats. Like in 1000 door your initial damage you could do is 1 and the most basic enemies had 2hp. Nearing the end of the game you could boost your attack power to something like 8. With numbers like that I can easily quantify the number of attacks I need to make, which lets me focus on strategy.

I've always disliked the ridiculous damage and hp stats in Square games that number in the thousands and tens of thousands, its mental arithmetic I can do without."

xcwarrior, on the other hand, views the lack of complexity in Paper Mario as a detriment:

"Loved Super Mario RPG. Using Nintendo characters in a Square Enix type of RPG was amazing. Plus you had the timely hits for bonus damage. Unique characters we haven't seen since unfortunately.

Paper Mario was a big disappointment in comparison. They aren't bad games, but as the person above me stated, they are really simplified. Good for some people, not good for those of us who love the complexity of the RPG genre."

The unique styles of each brand of Mario RPG were also a strong point of discussion. Adrock points to that of Super Mario RPG in particular:

"I like its simplicity though I liked how the later series were even simpler. Square didn't really seem to understand the lightheartedness of the Mario series at times, such as the Victorian-esque buildings in the Mushroom Kingdom. For the most part though, they kept things light and the game is filled with charm and humor. I hope Square Enix and Nintendo revisit Super Mario RPG one day with a sequel. I think there's room for a more traditional RPG in the Mario universe that's very different from Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi.

Many of you, like Neal, had personal stories and particular memories surrounding the Mario RPG games. mustbeburt recalls the day he picked up Super Mario RPG:

"This game truly blew my mind. I actually picked up a copy sometime around 1999-2000.  It was in an SNES bargain bin at Toys-R-Us for $8 (this is also where I picked up Mario World and Mario All-Stars for $8, as well as Mario Kart and all 3 Star Wars games for $5). Pretty much my best haul ever. To finish the story I went right from Toys-R-Us to a friend's house and got stuck there because of a huge snow storm. All I wanted to do was brave the weather and drive to my house so I could try out SMRPG with my brother, but my friend's parents wouldn't let me leave due to the weather.  I can still remember reading the instruction booklet cover-to-cover on their couch where I crashed for the night.I bought SMRPG because it was a Mario game that I never actually heard of.  At the time I also didn't know what an "RPG" was!  This was my first RPG. I totally fell in love with it.  My brother and I were totally blown away by it because we never played anything in the genre before. We still just call it "RPG" to this day."

Ian Sane notes how unbelievable the concept of a Mario RPG was at the time:

"One thing that is really cool about Super Mario RPG is that it is totally a dream game of its time.  I remember the first time I read about it in Gamepro.  So it's RPG starring Mario so who is making it? Well of course it's Square!  Who else would you want making it?  Oh yeah and the graphics are pre-rendered like DKC.  Well of course because that's the super cool trend of the time! Nintendo is a rather notoriously unhip company.  Super Mario RPG is ridiculously hip for a Super Nintendo RPG released in 1996."

Red14 describes the profoundness of the Paper Mario series:

"I've played these games too many times over, and I'm not ashamed of it. I don't really think anything I say now though will amount to anything considering everyone's played all the Mario RPGs of course. I will say though that Paper Mario is an experience for me that speaks in a way of not really a typical game would, but how so that it's kind of a whole presentation of itself. I'd say that's what I like about Paper Mario more than the Mario and Luigi games. While M&L definitely can pull out some incredibly satisfying moves, in Paper Mario, instead of taking the gameplay so far, it puts on a kind of performance. A celebration of itself so to speak, and that is definitely not a bad thing in my eyes. Seeing the stage come out from behind a big red curtain, to hear the music kick off in a battle transition, putting on a show yourself as you pick off enemies one at a time... is what truly makes Paper Mario my favorite series of games. It's only the Mario and Luigi games that come so close to this formula after all, which is why I will now talk about Mario and Luigi.

On the less serious end, Caterkiller has this story:

"Remember the jibberish Mario and Luigi spoke? Mario: Athupuputhepi! Luigi: Adoblaboblabado! My brother and I would have conversations like that just to get peoples reactions. My mom would ask me a question and I would answer "Athupuputhepi" and she would go "huh" and I would keep saying it until she realized I was playing around. I would answer my high school teachers like that as well. Every time they really thought I had something to say, and I was doing it in Mario's voice."


Thanks to everyone who participated!

TalkBack / Staff Sez #11: Mario RPG Throwdown Edition
« on: November 07, 2012, 08:24:46 PM »

Tempers rise and friendships die as we opine on the best Mario RPG.

With so many unique stripes of Mario RPG from which to pick, it's no surprise that we each have different choices and reasons for a favorite. 

From the humble origins of Super Mario RPG, through the ongoing, (literally) two-dimensional journeys of the Paper Mario series, and the sly, brotherly co-op of the Mario & Luigi games, there's a lot to like (and sometimes dislike). Read along as the staff sounds off on what the best Mario RPG may be, and leave your own analysis below!

Alex "Chucklehuck" Culafi

TTYD is one of the best games* ever made...

Andy "Mushroom Boy" Goergen

... *novels.

Patrick "Bowletta" Barnett

Mario & Luigi is fast paced, fun, and charming.

Josh "Stuffwell" Max

Paper. Because shut up.

Neal "Knife Guy" Ronaghan

Super Mario RPG came first and has the Lazy Shell.

J.P. "Ding-A-Ling" Corbran

Super Mario RPG does not hold up at all.

Neal "Revenge" Ronaghan

J.P. Corbran is an asshole.

Tyler "Woohoo University" Ohlew

Ageless sprite work and better writing trump shallow paper mechanics.

Zach "Factory Chief" Miller

SMRPG set the bar, M&L inherited it, PM ignored progress.

Tom "Bowser innards" Malina

Bowser's Inside Story burns all others to the ground.

Zack "Castle fight" Kaplan

Bowser's Inside Story, since I haven't played any others.

Carmine "Blorbs" Red

Woo bean. Hoo bean. Woohoo blend. I have fury! Q.E.D.

Andrew "Yoob" Brown

Luigi steals the show in the Mario & Luigi series.

Nicholas "Sleeping Samus" Bray

Super Mario RPG—it's charming and has Geno.

TalkBack / Mario RPGs: A Call for Submissions
« on: November 05, 2012, 10:03:23 PM »

We want your words!

Neal's blog today about Super Mario RPG's lasting influence on his life led to some extensive, interesting recollections from some of you in the comments. 

The rest of the staff will weigh in with some of their personal opinions on the Mario RPG series later this week, but in keeping with the theme of Neal's blog, we're giving you the floor to express your thoughts on any aspect of the Mario RPG universe.

Leave a comment of any length below—it can be about a certain Mario RPG character, game, series, quality, or something else entirely that you feel strongly about. Near the end of the week, we'll curate and post some of the best submissions, so get yours in soon!

TalkBack / Manhunt 2
« on: October 29, 2012, 12:54:14 PM »

The least dangerous game.

The first asylum resident the voice coaxes Daniel Lamb to slaughter is a nurse standing a few steps down the hallway, his back turned.

"Kill him, Daniel."

"I don't want to. He's a nurse—he'll help me."

"He's the only thing standing between you and freedom. Kill him."

"This is insane."

Afterward, Daniel throws up. Childlike qualities sound in his pleading, confused voice, and there's a matching timbre to the way people address him throughout the hazy moments of Manhunt 2's introductory sequence. Circumstances paint him as something of an abused, tragic figure, but that notion evaporates with each life he snuffs out. 

Manhunt 2 holds little regard for mental continuity, and uses the compromised psyche of Daniel to push you through a bleak, hateful world. The game trades on interactive scenes of brutality and regressed, primal behavior; almost immediately, I learn the best methods for taking a life unnoticed, and how to negotiate the Wii's motion controls to maximize the frenzy with which I do it.

When I reach the second person I need to kill, the voice is less direct.

"I'd take it slowly, if I were you," it drawls, and I peer down the hallway at the plodding victim-to-be. There's no naked prompting to kill now, but I find that I do, in fact, know what I need to do. But as I move Daniel along the interior of a darkened alcove, I move the Nunchuk too much. He knocks against the wall. 

The inmate takes notice and moves near, making the stealthy shiv kill I had in mind useless. I bloody him with awkward punches and kicks until he's still, crumpled in the fetal position and quiet. 

The next nurse I run into gets brave, and charges me. At this point, I've acquired a large hammer, and he goes down with two swings.

"We're gonna get you too, Lamb," a pair of bruisers yell at me as they put the finishing touches on the pulpy corpse of an inmate. They're also nurses.

I wait for opportunities to strike, and do so with all the grisliness the game allows me to muster. And then I run away, like a stooge whacking a mailbox, and find more shadow in which to hide. I'm a coward, and disgusting, as disgusting and irredeemable as anything else in the game. 

The game's poor controls go hand in hand with the brief and terrible acts I commit. When I reach the apex of a kill, reality rushes forward into a red frenzy, and I flail—in the frantic momentum of self-preservation, and to match the on-screen prompts—to cut, bludgeon, puncture, and maim. When I've mastered the sick art of snuffing up close, the game gives me guns. Though somewhat useful from afar, using them in the more frequent and manic close quarters situations is as easy and practical as pivoting a battleship, and I find myself spraying, with gory results, in appropriately disjointed encounters.

That Manhunt 2 do anything deft with the violence and human degradation it portrays and holds tight to probably asks too much. The game is a trench of demonstrably heinous behavior and increasingly pathetic swipes at characters and story. It's a mediocre stealth game, a lousy shooter in the back half, and a psychologically unpleasant waste of several hours.

The game slowly plateaus into scenarios in which guns, and the frenzied combat they invite, are the only viable tool. No more hypodermics. Few shards of glass. Use fists at your own peril. In this way, Manhunt 2 grows backward into complacency, shedding in unison the confusion of the early plot and the nightmarishness closeness of your violence, and turning into a game of boring half-psychos with guns against sadistic full-psychos with the high ground and more guns. If nothing else, Manhunt 2 works as a novelty, seemingly losing interest in itself around the same time you do.

TalkBack / Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Review
« on: October 25, 2012, 06:20:44 PM »

A fine puzzle for a gentleman.

Gorgeous art style, interesting characters, and a tightly wound story are important qualities of the Professor Layton games, and the series may not have nearly the following it does without the romanticized, period-piece charm that supports its gameplay. However, these qualities are also a means to an end, and that end is puzzles. All roads of plot in Layton’s 3DS debut, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, lead back to these myriad brain exercises, and without a deep supply of interesting and complex puzzle experiences, the games would have no support for the narrative lengths to which they reach.

This important puzzling slice of a Layton game is a known quantity. It's enough to say that the puzzles in the latest are wily, always interesting, and well paced, which is about as much as they could hope to be in the brief instances you mess with each. No puzzle (with the exception of those saved for the finale) needs to burn the world down, in difficulty or in payoff. It's better that puzzle experiences be consistently interesting, challenging, and rewarding on a small scale. As with its predecessors, Miracle Mask seems to adhere to this policy, using dozens upon dozens of these devious activities to support its other, mostly interesting ventures.

Miracle Mask's story concerns the disruptive and increasingly ominous magical acts of a character known the Masked Gentleman in the desert city of Monte d'Or - a situation an old high school acquaintance calls Layton in to clear up. More familiar faces show up over the course of the investigation, many from this particular period in Layton's past. In addition to the dark elegance and various activities of the present day situation, the game devotes several flashback chapters to more clearly defining the repercussions of dramatic events involving Layton and his closest friends, while also roping in some interesting puzzle variants.

While these chapters begin with Layton and co. solving puzzles of standard stock in school and village environments, story turns conspire to draw Layton and his best friend, Randall, into the ruins of an ancient civilization. Here, the game shifts into a different, temporary play style: instead of wrestling with puzzles in a static environment, you gain physical control over Layton. With this direct interaction, the game has you maneuvering the character through and interacting with 3D puzzles, which involve careful management of your own space and that of other objects. This change of pace succeeds as a tactic to match the tone of the situation, i.e., the flashback's emphasis on the teamwork and deep relationship between the young, conservative Layton and the enthusiastic Randall. These well-paced chapters provide a strong backstory that runs in parallel with the present day events, and add definition to the identities and motivations of the characters involved.

Miracle Mask takes aggressive advantage of the series’ first outing on the 3DS. While elements of the inviting 2D animation aesthetic remain in the game's numerous locales, Miracle Mask bolsters the structure and personality of Monte d'Or and its residents through the system's capabilities. Character models look superb in both polygonal and stereoscopic 3D as they converse and sort out situations among themselves on the top screen with natural expressiveness and gesticulation. While Miracle Mask includes the series' trademark animated cut scenes, it also often defers to presenting short, nicely framed cinematic moments using the polygonal characters.

Moving through Monte d'Or along the different points of the 2D overhead map creates a microscope-like effect as you delve deeper into the city's structure, peeling back layers and probing the unique areas within. Using the touch screen to look around each distinctive area for puzzles, hint coins, and other items on the top screen imparts a feeling of actually looking, in that, from your position as a person on the street, you can't take in everything from a fixed perspective. The game lets you move your gaze all about, which often exposes the different angles and layers of the inspected section in a neat way.

Miracle Mask throws in several unconnected extra modes, sections of which unlock as you progress the story or find them in the wild. Some, like the mini-game that has you guiding a small robot around 3D puzzles or the shop mini-game in which you strategically stock related items to manipulate each customer's interest, have interesting hooks that reward in the short term. The others, a Nintendogs-like rabbit training activity and a poorly controlling horse-racing event, feel less complete, and lack the sense of purpose and challenge that make the others worth messing with.

If you equate a new Layton release to the promise of fresh puzzles, Miracle Mask should fulfill that desire handily, with a year's worth of downloadable daily puzzles coming on top of those already available. However, the game also takes notable advantage of its new handheld home, using a number of narrative and aesthetic devices to weave its refined style of gameplay and emotional, spiraling story into a tight experience that rewards on all accounts.

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