one more bit of fluff before i return to slightly more-serious fare. i’d found the free pokedex 3D app on 3DS to be an entertaining diversion, esp. as a complement to the pokemon black and white games, and i thought it would be interesting to try out the “pro” version not because it expands its entries to include all 649 of those little monstas, but because it includes quizzes in a variety of categories as an additional feature. along with the TV series’ “who’s that pokemon” test where you have to name a pokemon based on its silhouette, the game also includes quizzes on pretty much everything pokedex-related you could think of, including evolutions, alternate formes, heights and weights, egg groups, stats, abilities, moves, and cries. identifying cries was one of the more-difficult tasks and has led me to a renewed appreciation of the work that went into them, although being able to match moves to pokemon ended up being the one area that was just too esoteric for me and that i had to resort to looking up to pass. after getting perfect in all the regular quizzes, an additional hard mode is unlocked with additional quizzes. the quizzes were surprisingly fun and addictive, although with obvious limited appeal in terms of both audience and longevity. the app includes all the other features of the original, including AR features, search options, and pretty much all the details you could want to know about the li’l critters. like the original, this functions as a slightly more-portable and attractive reference than a complete bulbapedia wiki page (albeit with less information) and pro players prob. already have all this info memorized anyway, but as a fairly loyal pokemon fan this was a decently worthwhile purchase for me for $5 off, if just to play through the animations of my favorites, although i doubt i would’ve bought it for the full $15. still, for a minimum of a few hours’ entertainment you could do a lot worse, and legions of pokemon fans have probably already fully appreciated this app and justified its creation.
Archive for the 'nintendo 3DSware' Category
i’ve been playing freakyforms: your creations, alive!, for 3DSware, for a while now, so thought this would be a good time to stop and collect my thoughts on it. (as you may know the game received a retail release in an expanded “deluxe” version a year after its eshop release. the retail version has some enhancements including more body parts for your creations but its core gameplay is still the same.) the game’s concept is simple: make an armada of zany creatures, called formees, using the easy-to-use creation tools. the interface for the tools is much like that of mii maker and, naturally, as a result equally intuitive. there’s a huge variety of body parts to use (including unlockable accessories such as a sword, a scarf, and different types of hats), so much so that you’re really only limited by your imagination. the creation tools can get a little finicky when moving small parts around on the original 3DS’s screen, but would have no such problems on the larger screen of the 3DS XL. it can also be a little hard to get certain pieces to overlap exactly the way you want them to, and a global zoom and pan feature would have been helpful, but those are relatively minor gripes. you’re also called on to modify the environments with the same set of creation tools.
the game really emphasizes the creation aspect, so much so that a common complaint from reviewers is that the action segments feel fairly bare. these segments, which you can play at whenever you want and are timed, give you a chance to play with any of your creations, navigating them through a simple stage and executing simple animal crossing-like requests, such as making a delivery or eating a certain number of fruits. successful completion may unlock in-game characters with new parts, or new accessories. i didn’t mind the repetitive nature of these quests, since they’re a fairly innocuous way to unlock new parts and give you the chance to see your creations actually moving around. i also didn’t have a problem with the touchscreen controls for this part of the game, although they do take a bit of getting used to.
the game further focuses on the creation aspects by tying the ability to unlock other areas of the game beyond the first area to making more creatures. creations with wings generally have an advantage since they can move wherever they want (except for the water stage in which case fins are of course the better option) and the game subtly encourages you to make creations that fit the area you’re going to be playing in by giving you the chance to unlock characters with similarly useful attributes (for example, fins for swimming, wheels for driving up and down roads). but otherwise there really isn’t much limiting your freedom to experiment. each area features a few new types of quests and new types of pieces of the environment to modify, which helps to extend the experience.
rounding out the package are QR and streetpass features that provide nice ways to share creations with others, and a mildly diverting AR code feature where you can take diorama-esque 3D photos of your creations. there’s also a “mission” mode in which you try to recreate a formee from an outline, and you can also rearrange parts from an existing formee, much like taking a lego model apart and rejoining the pieces into a completely new configuration. there are also some trophies to earn to help keep you motivated.
despite the experience being quite enjoyable in general, i’m personally not that taken with games that are so focused on creativity. the creation tools are robust, but the concept gets spread a bit thin since you have to churn out so many formees to progress. i’m curious about the features in the deluxe version, but completely balk at the thought of having to create so many more new formees. the original eshop version received an update so that it can read QR codes from the deluxe version, although you can’t edit or play with the newer formees, just look at them and trade them through streetpass. all in all, a perfectly enjoyable release for $7, and for creative types probably worth getting for the $20 retail release as well.
unleash your inner dr. frankenstein with these freakyforms links:
- official site for the deluxe version
- iwata asks video interview
- glowing review at officialnintendomagazine.co.uk and contrasting review at nintendolife.com
- it’s not too hard to find QR codes to scan for the game. this forum thread at neogaf has a lot of fun ones, and there are some good ones at this tinycartridge.com post.
- here are some QR codes for ones i’ve come across that i particularly liked: iwata | king | game boy | purple pikmin | toon link | two-headed guy | rollerpig | totoro | tingle | random monster
- nintendo of america has put out a lot of QR codes for the game via facebook and twitter. here are the ones that are compatible with the original game: bat | horse | frog | vehicle | crabbot
- entry at wikipedia
i usually try to play series in order, but i got suckered into downloading mighty switch force! thanks to a promotion that nintendo ran for a few weeks last july. i’d heard a lot of good things about developer wayforward, and although i’ve dipped into some of their games i hadn’t actually sat down and finished any of them. i decided to finish this one since i knew it was a relatively short game, which some may see as a minus, but for me these days is more of a plus, given my limited time for gaming.
the game’s central mechanic is using a button to switch blocks from the foreground to the background, and vice versa. at its most basic this translates into having to press two buttons to jump (jump + switch platform into foreground) instead of one, but the developers have done a pretty good job of expanding the core concept to a game’s worth of worthwhile elements. the game was fairly short at 16 levels but since its initial 3DS release has been expanded to 21, and in its wii u incarnation it’s been expanded even further. the 5 bonus levels don’t really add much new in terms of gameplay, but i was surprised at how much i enjoyed continuing after the initial ending at level 16. part of what makes the game so enjoyable is its huge amount of polish (in everything from character design to artwork to music) that in the end offsets the amount of somewhat cheap try-and-die situations that are purposely put near the ends of levels. from a developer perspective this pacing helps emphasize the speed trial aspect of the game since it forces you to play through almost the entire level several times to get through the last little bit and in doing so helps get you closer to the “par” time, but not being a fan of time trials the try-and-die gameplay didn’t feel wholly justified. still, despite these minor drawbacks i ended up quite liking the game, enough so that i probably will try to beat some time trial speeds and even spring for the wii u version whenever i get around to it. before that, though, i’ll be checking out the other entries in their well-received mighty series.
for my first game of 2013 i finally finished up pokemon black for DS. although the critics generally seemed to be excited about the newest edition, i’ve taken a much more skeptical view of the amount that the series evolves between releases, and so my expectations weren’t too high. although i did like the fact that they created a whole new roster of 150+ pokemon for the main part of the game, many times the differences felt fairly minor. does it really matter if the bats in the caves are swoobats rather than zubats or that instead of geodudes there are boldores? but there were enough new type combinations (such as joltik, a new bug + lightning type) that it did feel like the designers were making an effort to expand the universe.
another area that people praised was the more-serious story of a crusader trying to free all pokemon from their enslavement. maybe i just didn’t take it seriously enough, but this new type of story didn’t draw me in at all and it didn’t feel much better than the usual “team rocket wants to take over the world” storylines. another of the main new features was the 3-on-3 battles and the rotation battles. these did help shake things up a bit, but they didn’t happen that often and so didn’t force you to focus on designing your team for those types of battle. which was fine by me, since i usually just create a team and stick with it through to the end.
the graphics are better than diamond and pearl (and features a lot of nice 3-D environments that will look great when the inevitable 3DS iteration of the series arrives), particularly in the battles which feel more dynamic due to the pokemon being slightly animated. the battles themselves are noticeably faster-paced than its predecessors with minimal time between messages. one major annoyance (spoiler alert) is the fact that to win the title of pokemon champion you have to battle the elite 4 twice, once to end the first part of the game, and the other after the last 1/3 of the map has opened up. i’d actually beaten the elite 4 the first time a couple of months ago but was really disheartened at having to keep playing to really call the game finished. there’s still a lot to do, though, and the last part of the game goes by without too much tedium. there’s a sidequest to track down the six sages (although it’s somewhat of a let-down that you don’t get anything for doing so, other than TMs), and there are a lot of high-level trainers to go up against, including cynthia (the champion from diamond and pearl) herself
[geeky aside: for those interested, my final 5 consisted of conkeldurr, serperior, chandelure, vanilluxe, and garbodor. the three who had second abilities all didn't have my choice (e.g. conkeldurr had guts instead of sheer force), and oftentimes their natures didn't help much either. serperior was as solid as you'd expect a starter to be, and conkeldurr ended up being a key player with its high physical attacks and HP. garbodor and chandelure were pretty solid, although vanilluxe was fairly weak and had terrible defense.]
another annoyance was that to “see” all 154 pokemon (152 plus victini and keldeo) of the unova pokedex you have to jump through some hoops, namely: train a couple of the pokemon yourself (namely to evolve ferroseed to ferrothorn and deino to zweilous) since you never see a trainer who has them, hatch one (rufflet from breeding a braviary, who you have to get in a trade from pokemon white), and trade several others, although you can do so over wi-fi since they appear within the game (including zorua/zoroark, who was only available as an event pokemon). the most annoying part of completing your unova pokedex is that to catch the final legendary, landorus, you have to have a legendary from the other game of the pair (thundurus or tornadus). luckily i had a used copy of pokemon white that i was able to exploit, but this would be a much bigger problem for people who didn’t and didn’t want to play through the game twice. anyway, this helped me get high enough to beat alder and become the champion, so i guess i can’t complain too much that finishing seeing all the pokemon takes more effort than it did in D/P.
one other annoyance is that pokemon white has an advantage over black b/c the unique area it includes (the white forest vs. black’s city) has pokemon you can catch in it, whereas there are no wild pokemon in the black city. this seems unfair to owners of pokemon black, and i haven’t seen any advantage that black has over white that would counterbalance it.
despite my complaints, this was a perfectly fine, if not revolutionary, entry in the series. what really made the game more enjoyable, though, were the accompanying “games” that enhanced the experience. although the pokemon games have had spin-offs since the game boy color days and the pokemon global terminal website was created to complement D/P, the pokemon global link and pokedex 3D felt fresh. the former provides the same ability as the global terminal did to see trades and various useless stats such as the country that spends the most time fishing in the games, but the global link is much more integrated into the games themselves.
the global link’s dream world provides a way to catch older-generation pokemon from early on in the game with unique abilities (via generally entertaining minigames), and also moves the berry-planting and secret base features out of the games and into the website. this actually turns out to be a great design decision since you can focus your game-playing time on exploring the game world and your time away from your game with more casual activities (well, relatively speaking anyway), and plus you can send items from the dream world back to your game as well. the game developers have tied decorating your house with the number of berries you’ve harvested, and collecting all the different types of berries via trades in the dream world is a fun diversion. i’ve gotten somewhat addicted to collecting all the available pokemon dolls (as you can see in the out-of-date screenshot of my dream world house).
pokedex 3D is less “essential”, but also makes for a very nice diversion. athough the info on evolutions, movesets, and move descriptions, can all be found online, it’s great to see the pokemon in 3D instead of as sprites (previously only seen on console games such as stadium and colosseum and the cartoons), not to mention actual 3D via the 3DS’s unique glasses-free feature. the app tried to play up the trading aspect of pokemon in order to unlock more of your pokedex, but it was more of an inconvenience than an enjoyable task. the app also tried to play up its AR aspects, which i mostly ignored for the same reasons that i ignored the character and mii features of AR games. but in general this was a nice complement to the black and white games: even though it was free it would’ve been worth a few bucks at least. i don’t think i have the need to shell out $15 for the pro version, that features all the pokemon, but knowing me i’m sure i will eventually.
i seem to be saying this a lot, but all in all gen V of pokemon wasn’t revolutionary but had just enough that was new (particularly in its two complementing games) to make it worthwhile. i have zero interest in playing their “sequels” black 2 and white 2 since despite claims they still seem to be more remix than evolution, but hopefully the next generation will actually offer something truly new. hopefully!
minor evolutions in pokemon black and white links:
- bulbapedia continues to be my main resource for all thing pokemon. here’s the link to the page on black and white.
- whenever i play a new pokemon game i often end up reading about training stats and all that, but i never get into it much. but it’s kind of fun to read about effort values and EV yields.
- the comprehensive tier ranking and strategies at smogon university are also interesting to read and i’m sure could be a huge time suck if you got into it. i find that i learn something new every time i dip into it, such as about rarer pokemon like shedinja who apparently has only 1 HP. yes, i know i’m far from being a pokemon master.
- tidbits from junichi masuda’s (the director’s) twitter on the character called “N”
- review at nintendolife.com
- funny connection between munna and the very first pokemon game
- battle tips and original concept art for zoroark and tepig from officialnintendomagazine.co.uk
- entry on wikipedia
a couple of months ago i posted some thoughts on some of the free software that comes with the 3DS, namely streetpass mii plaza and nintendo video (and prior to that i had posted a review of another pack-in, face raiders, which you can find here.) i recently sat down and finished going through the other pack-in title, AR games, so i thought i would take a minute to look back at that and another freebie, swapnote. although both are old news to most by now, apparently people are still buying 3DSes, as evidenced by the fact the 3DS lifetime sales have surpassed that of the gamecube.
i had played around with the AR games when i’d first gotten my black 3DS, but as far as AR capabilities i’d preferred face raiders. AR games has more variety, sure, but the actual games (archery, fishing, and a unique take on pool, each with a harder version) are briefer and feel more like demos than full-fledged, or even half-fledged, games. no doubt this was intentional, but once i’d seen the AR effects (which are pretty entertaining at first but whose novelty is fairly limited) i didn’t have a whole lot of interest in finishing playing through the games. the fishing mode offers up the most content (relatively speaking), thanks to its free play mode, and i did end up catching a lot of the different types of fish, but it’s still not much more than a mild diversion.
the other half of the set is focused on playing around with the AR cards and taking pictures with the various nintendo characters and miis in different poses. i’ve never been big on games that focus on creativity, but the huge variety of mii poses does make the mode worthwhile. the nintendo characters have far fewer poses, so there’s not as much to do with them. there’s also a drawing mode that lets you draw two-dimensional lines that you can then rotate to show a small amount of depth, but this mode is fairly pointless, although as with the rest of the games you can take screenshots at any time. there’s also a mode to morph surfaces to make them appear flatter or taller. although this was more interesting than the drawing tools and i suppose someone more interested in exploring creative possibilities could come up with some interesting results, i didn’t have any desire to give it more than a cursory glance.
part of what put me off the AR games is that moving the 3DS’s camera around the AR card can cause the image to be lost if the card isn’t visible enough, and can also cause the image to appear jittery which can be an eyestrain. that’s the main reason why face raiders was more enjoyable to me, since it doesn’t rely on having to reference the image on a card and you still get to move the 3DS around in physical space. but despite the relatively small inconveniences of having to find a surface with a good amount of light and having to learn how to hold the 3DS in relation to the card, overall AR games was a mildly entertaining demo of ideas, rather than a classic for the ages.
although i haven’t spent too much time with its predecessor, flipnote, i’ve ended up spending a fair mount of time with swapnote. swapnote is clearly firmly entrenched in nintendo’s philosophy of “less is more”, and that putting limits on players forces them to focus their experience in a very specific way. the application only offers the most basic form of communication in terms of sending handwritten notes to people on your friend list. although you can send a handwritten note (of up to 4 screens) to multiple people and each can respond with a reply of 1 screen, you can’t reply to their replies, nor forward the note to other people. this lack makes the application more suited to general announcements as opposed to a conversation, and so i’ve mostly been using it just to tell people about what i’ve been playing or to ask them what they think about nintendo’s latest release. the application restricts the note to one color for the ink, although a huge range of stationery is unlockable with play coins and new stationery has been released periodically (often in conjunction with the release of a new game). there are also options to send audio clips, and photos from the 3DS’s camera.
my favorite thing about the application, though, has to be that nintendo uses it as a fun way to send announcements. we’ve gotten notes from such figures as reggie from NOA, zelda mastermind aonuma, as well as miyamoto himself, and it really does feel more personalized when you hear the sender’s voice clip and see their handwriting/sketches. although swapnote is limited, it does have its charms and is a worthwhile diversion. it looks like wii u’s miiverse has taken the ideas of swapnote even further, so i’m looking forward to getting into that. still not sure when i’m going to spring for the wii u. i’ve heard good things about the mario wii u game, but am still not interested in it enough to get the system. hopefully they’ll announce a new zelda or metroid game for the system before too long.
back to the main topic, though. of the 3DS pack-in titles, streetpass mii plaza continues to be a huge draw. living in a city i get streetpasses more regularly than most people in the US, and it’s still a nice surprise when the green light appears indicating that i’ve gotten a streetpass. tracking the number of steps i’ve walked and reviewing the stats on games played (per day and total) via the activity log are similarly addictive. somehow i doubt many people would say this, but streetpass mii plaza continues to make me feel that my purchase of the 3DS has been wholly justified despite the still somewhat small library of essential titles. the upcoming release of fire emblem 13 (recently announced for february 4) will no doubt greatly contribute to continuing to endear me to the platform, although there’s still a ways to go before it supplants the DS in my affections, if that’s even possible.
3-d diversions with AR games links:
- official site for the AR cards including a download PDF of the main AR card that you can print out for a bigger experience
- entry on AR games at nintendo3ds.wikia.com
- iwata asks discussion on AR games
- computerandvideogames.com wrote up a few tricks you can do with the 3DS’s various software, including AR games
order up! for wii was a game i got for my nephew that, like carnival games, seemed like it would be worth trying out. order up! is more worthwhile than carnival games, although not by much. like cooking mama (which i had played on DS), order up! is basically an underwhelming collection of cooking-related mini-games. the latter’s motion controls do give it an edge over the stylus-based controls (although i haven’t played the wii cooking mama games) and there is slightly more variety in the form of managing your restaurant. this adds a handful of non-cooking related minigames such as washing dishes (yawn), some assistants that you get to boss around (the majority of whom don’t really provide any benefit), and some small adjustments you make to recipes to suit a particular customer’s taste (e.g. adding salt to the dish). the pacing is also slightly better because you graduate from one restaurant to another and the cuisine changes (for example, fast food to italian), but none of these additions add much to the overall experience. the repetitiveness of slicing ‘n dicing, etc. soon outstays its welcome, so much so that i ended up giving up less than halfway through. definitely a flash-level effort and not a keeper, but it may be suitable for younger and/or less-demanding players.
fast food-level order up! links:
- the game got better reviews than the cooking mama games, but it’s still very limited
- FAQ at gamefaqs
- a version was released for 3DS’s eshop for $10, although i can’t imagine that it’s any better than the wii version
i’m a pretty big fan of intelligent systems, the developer behind the fire emblem and advance wars series, so i had my eye on their eshop release pushmo (aka pullblox), for 3ds, which was released to rave reviews almost a year ago. people have been calling this the “killer app” for the 3ds’s eshop, but for a while i was unimpressed. the gameplay is simple to understand and involves you pushing and pulling blocks in order to ascend each level to get to the goal at the top. maybe that was just b/c i’ve played a ton of puzzle games and maybe it’s b/c a big chunk of the first levels were mindlessly easy, but once the difficulty ramped up i found myself enjoying the game more and more (esp. once the two “gadgets”, ladders and buttons that push out all the blocks of a particular color) are introduced).
the game includes a rewind button that really help make the game enjoyable and lowers the frustration factor, although many times you’ll end up having to restart a level b/c you didn’t know in advance that you had to keep a previous block pulled out to a certain degree. the levels are fairly limited in how long they can be, so that restraint doesn’t significantly detract from the gameplay and also help keep the frustration factor low. in addition, if you’re stuck on a level too long the game allows you to skip it, which also keeps the stress levels low. the gameplay is so simple that a certain amount of trial and error will usually see you through to the end of a level, but at the same time there are plenty of places where you’ll have to stop and think things through to move forward. i really appreciated how even near the end of the game some of the most devious levels only feature a few blocks, and the game’s main levels are well paced so that even within the fairly limited game mechanics there’s still a very satisfying amount of variety. there’s also a nice mix of recognizable “murals” (among which are several groups featuring NES sprites) and regular stages.
the game has unlimited replay value due to its level editor. i haven’t played around with it enough to see if random designs lead to unique challenges, but i suspect they don’t. although i was happy to set the game aside after completing all the main levels, i definitely enjoyed the time i spent with it, so much so that this is only the second game this year that i’m adding to my list of favorite games of all time. not as gratifying as the killer app to beat them all, tetris, but a deceptively simple but oftentimes devious game.
some intelligent pushmo links:
- the official site has three additional bonus levels you can scan in
- although this DailyPushmo twitter site is a misnomer, it still has a lot of great fanmade levels as well as some of the official ones released by nintendo of america
- there are several great sites for additional fanmade levels, including pushmo.3dsfans.com
- this thread at nintendolife.com’s forums and this one also have some good fanmade levels
- related comic at brawl in the family
the second of nintendo’s weekly discounted games in the 3DS’s eshop was sakura samurai: the art of the sword. the game was one of the first first-party downloads in the 3DS eshop and has been most readily compared to the punch-out!! series. the comparison is apt since there aren’t many other games that also feature one-on-one bouts that rely on reading your opponents’ signals, but there are significant differences that make this game completely distinct.
aside from the historical japanese setting, multi-man battles (as opposed to the boss battle only MO of punch-out!!), and the ability to move around the stage’s area instead of only being restricted to dodging left and right (not to mention items, villages with NPCs, mini-games, an upgradable sword, and fairly useless special attacks), sakura samurai‘s biggest difference from punch-out!! is that it focuses more on quick reflexes than learning patterns (although the latter comes more into play during the game’s three boss battles). the game’s combat system relies on soulcalibur-esque reactions: when an enemy attacks vertically, you dodge to the side to avoid it, and when he attacks horizontally you should dodge to the back and then quickly move forward and attack. the core mechanics are limited, but there’s a satisfying progression. in the beginning enemies are fairly slow and only present one attack move at a time, but as you progress they get faster, require more hits to defeat, and chain attacks, requiring you to dodge successfully multiple times in quick succession. there’s a relatively small amount of variety in the enemies and it’s not difficult to recognize the differences between them, but the game’s appeal is centered on the fact that being able to recognize an enemy’s attacks and being able to react quickly enough to avoid getting hit are two very different things.
the concept is simple, but developing your reaction speed does take some time (in terms of reacting to visual cues i suppose this isn’t unlike the DS training game flash focus). the game is on the short side, but its difficulty is relatively high. stages are simply collections of different combinations of enemies with little else to distinguish them, and you can replay any of the ones you’ve unlocked. if you fail a stage you’re given the option to replay a previous stage for more health and money than usual which helps remove the sting of losing, but since you keep all your loot and items, a “game over” doesn’t set you back at all. the game keeps track of your “precision points”, which are gained by dodging attacks with the right timing, and your current streak is highlighted at all times (although extending your streak is pretty trivial since you can just replay the easy stages over and over again).
the game’s final boss is more difficult than anything else, mostly because he has some attacks that can’t be dodged, but refining your reactions becomes strangely addictive. there are a few slicing melons mini-games, some timed “marathon” modes, and a hard mode that limits your overall health which means basically requiring you to focus on earning and spending a lot more money for its equivalent, the invincibility item, as well as a “rock garden” mode in which you can donate steps taken with your 3Ds to make sakura trees bloom. these extras help round out the package, so although the game is a bit on the short side all in all this is a pretty worthwhile purchase, especially for fans of the punch-out!! series. i wouldn’t mind if the developers find ways to expand the gameplay and make this into a retail release.
flash focus on these sakura samurai links:
- official site: includes tips on how to play
- it’s interesting to compare reviews. the review at 1up complains about the high difficulty, whereas the review at nintendolife.com is more similar to my take on the game and says “Sakura Samurai’s balance feels fun and never cheap; messing up tends to encourage doing better next time”.
- theme music, on youtube
- entry at wikipedia
nintendo’s recent debut of a weekly discounted game in the 3DS’s eshop has definitely had an effect on my wallet. only in its third week, i’m already 3 for 3, and i’ve been pretty happy with my purchases so far.
the first game they featured was vvvvvv (aka the letter v six times, aka v’s, a platformer with a distinctly retro (specificially atari) aesthetic but a modern gameplay core. the game’s main hook is that in lieu of a jump button the default action is to flip gravity so that, for example, in order to cross a pit of spikes you move from floor to ceiling and back again. the game, like some other notable modern platformers such as super meat boy, offers a stiff challenge but offsets it by providing unlimited lives, i.e. attempts. even though most of the challenges are contained within a single screen, the game is grouped into levels and includes a metroidvania-esque traversal of a map that keeps a nice sense of momentum as you navigate from room to room. the game also offers up occasional respites from the single-screen challenges, often in the form of “escort mission”-like sections where you have to also take into account the movements of your rescuee. as with most escort missions these sections account for the more tedious parts of the game, but they fulfill their purpose of varying the pacing.
the game has gotten a lot of good press, and it’s certainly polished and very well put together, especially considering it’s an indie release (although i agree that the general platforming physics are a tad on the slippery/loose side). personally, though, i’ve found that i’m not a big fan of this type of modern platformer, where, by providing an unlimited number of attempts, the creators feel they have free license to ratchet up the difficulty to absurd levels of try-and-die gameplay that require pixel-perfect levels of precision. as i’ve mentioned in the past, try-and-die gameplay is my absolute least favorite type of gameplay, and there’s a palpable difference between gradually increasing your skills over the course of a game vs. simply memorizing how to get through a particular area. the game does keep a count of the number of lives used overall when you finish it, but in that case memorization just becomes even more emphasized since you end up building up a lot of long-term memorization rather than just short-term.
although the game only takes a couple of hours to beat, it offers more gameplay in the form of “shiny tokens” to collect, time attacks, achievements, as well as quite a lot of user-created stages. by the time i finished the game (all in one sitting, incidentally), i’d had enough gravity-flipping action and was happy to put this aside indefinitely. it will be interesting to see how this compares to other similarly “challenging” platformers, but from this experience it’s a design aesthetic that i’m going to be highly wary of in the future.
vvvvvview these vvvvvv links:
- official site
- page at steam
- review at nintendolife.com
- FAQ for the PC version, at gamefaqs: includes all the dialogue
- the totally retro soundtrack to the game is pretty catchy. you can find out more about it at the artist, souleye’s, website here
- entry at wikipedia
about a month ago i played through the original xevious in preparation for checking out the enhanced version for 3DS. similarly, i decided to tackle the much-derided urban champion in preparation for trying its 3DS update.
i think it’s pretty safe to say that urban champion has become one of the consistently lowest-scoring first-party titles in nintendo’s history (although i’m quite curious as to what the reaction was when it first came out, way back in 1984). nintendolife’s review is fairly typical in its complaints about the repetitiveness, but i went into it with an open mind and had a mixed reaction. in general i found it to be fairly enjoyable, especially considering it was an NES launch title. the early NES graphics have a classic feel and there’s actually a surprising amount of variety in the controls (slow and fast punches that you can set to high or low, plus the abilities to block and dodge). the “history of 2-d fighters” at hardcoregaming101.net highlights the game’s innovations:
- Urban Champion is the earliest fighter with any kind of easily controllable defending. It invented evading, which in this game takes the form of quickly leaning and stepping back. This is performed by holding back before your opponent executes a attack. Most importantly it is the first fighter to have easily controllable, reliable blocking, which is performed by holding up or down before your opponent executes a high level or low level punch, respectively. It is also the first fighter with dizzies, the first fighter with a form of “ring outs”, and the first fighter where matches were decided by something other than health depletion or point totals.
aside from the historical appreciation, the game actually proved to be fairly addicting. it’s easy to see why people would dismiss it so readily, but i have to wonder how many of those people have played past the tenth level. at the higher levels the game definitely gets more challenging and it’s clear the whole point is to get to the highest level possible, although even after spending a fair amount of time on it it’s not completely apparent to me whether winning was a matter of skill or luck. it feel like it’s a mixture of both (not unlike the later fights in mike tyson’s punch-out!!).
i’ve seen the game occasionally get compared to the game & watch game boxing (random video on it on youtube here), and that seems fairer than comparing it to subsequent games like street fighter II that really defined the genre. (although it’s still hard to justify the $5 virtual console price tag when you could get so many other NES classics for the same price.) it does seem that the game has at least some fans, as you can tell by sifting through comments online, and in fact the 3DS version has an unusually high rating in the 3DS eshop. overall i’d say the game isn’t nearly as bad as the majority of people would like to make it out to be, and its 3DS incarnation may well help remove some of its bad rap. although i spent significantly more time with it than the average person, i didn’t enjoy the game enough to really master it, but it’ll be interesting to revisit this game via the 3DS version at some point.