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 'series' Category
i spent some time recently trying to make more progress on super mario strikers for gamecube, but have had to give up. (see the review at nintendojo for more info about the game.) i’d played the game at various points in the last few years, and although i was improving and got through the easiest level, the next level up proved to be painfully tedious. it may just be that i’m bad at sports games in general, but the AI in this game feels egregiously cheap. as you’d expect from a team sports game you only control one of your 5-person team at a time, so you have no control over whether or not your teammates are in a good position for you to do a quick pass and score, whereas the CPU seems to set up such shots without any effort whatsoever. adding to this feeling of chance is the fact you don’t control your goalie at all either. oftentimes you can sneak in a goal by shooting, missing, and then scrambling for the ball and another kick, but this ends up just being a button-mashing frenzy and, again, a matter of luck. the “super goals”, activated by the captains only, also feel somewhat unbalanced. here a meter appears and if you time your button presses well you can earn not only a goal, but 2 points instead of just one. it takes some setup to clear enough space around you to attempt it (usually achieved by activating one of the mario kart-style powerups), but otherwise it just feels like more randomness, as does the random appearance of bowser to wreak havok on the field. the powerups themselves all serve much the same function with minor variations, but otherwise aren’t too objectionable, although as others have noted the difference in the stadiums is purely cosmetic and feel like they could’ve been an opportunity for some interesting variations. i also found it tedious that at the higher cups you have to play 7 rounds, and the default of 5 minutes per round seems similarly excessive (i quickly realized this, and ended up setting the rounds to 3 minutes instead). not to mention that the graphics during matches are unmemorable (although the intros, in which the characters saunter into the stadium, are amusing) and the music is minimal.
the game generally got good reviews and it may be that its multiplayer mode is more enjoyable, but after spending hours on the game without really enjoying any of it i’ve put it to the side for now. i’m hopeful that the sequel is better, but before i get to that i’ll probably try to catch up on the mario tennis series instead.
although i’m still not a big fan of it (yet?), i’ve been trying to work my way through the castlevania series. next up for me was castlevania: harmony of dissonance on GBA. it seems that the game is the least liked of the three castlevania games on GBA, and i agree with the general consensus that the game, although it looks more polished (albeit a bit garish) than circle of the moon, is too easy and that the dual-castle mechanic isn’t that interesting. the game was fairly mindless and rote for me and ended up requiring a ton of backtracking, although i got to like it more by the end. there are some nice details in the enemy design that i don’t recall seeing in the other titles (like the skeletons that jump out of the mirrors and the special events you trigger by destroying guardian armors in often amusingly gruesome ways), and the weapon combination system helps make things more interesting (although i mostly stuck to the holy book shield variations). the bosses tended to feel very same-y, though, partly due to all appearing in similarly shaped rooms, long with a low ceiling and two ledges. overall, i would rank this below circle of the moon, which although much more frustrating was also more difficult and thus less mindless. neither of them ended up being particular favorites of mine, although it looks like the next entry, aria of sorrow, features a more-memorable central game mechanic.
with the exception of the brilliant first title, so far i’ve found the yoshi series to be fairly lackluster. on the surface the next entry on the list to tackle, yoshi touch & go for DS, looked like it was going to be an even shallower experience. unlike the previous three games which are all essentially platformers, this one’s an arcade-style game that features the typical variations, including score attack, time attack, marathon, and vs. modes.
the game was released just a few months after the DS’s debut, and it was clearly designed to show off the new hardware’s dual-screen, touchscreen, as well as microphone capabilities. each mode has two sections: one in which baby mario slowly drops from the sky to the ground and you trace clouds to guide him to safety, and the other in which yoshi, in a more typical platformer fashion, carries baby mario horizontally, swallowing enemies and fruit and chucking eggs to clear a safe path and rack up points. both sections, especially the second, prove to be surprisingly robust, and once you get into the groove you can last for quite a long time in the endless marathon modes, although it doesn’t seem like the difficulty increases noticeably as you proceed within a playthrough. the game does provide a nice balance between the benefits of conserving eggs vs. using them up in order to reach a higher score, and unlike warioware: touched! it’s enjoyable even now, years after the novelty of touchscreen mechanics has worn off.
it’s surprising how enjoyable the game is. although it has only a few modes it will take you some time to beat all the default high scores, and by that time you may have become addicted to the simple but tactile gameplay. it’s unusual to see such a straightforward arcade-style game such as this, which makes it a somewhat refreshing experience. it would’ve been interesting to see the mechanics applied to an entire platformer game, but i suppose that niche was more ably filled by the excellent kirby: canvas curse. despite its modest offerings the game was fairly well-received by critics when it was released, and although i wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite games ever, it’s definitely one of the more compelling entires in the yoshi series that i’ve played so far.
next up in my series of posts where i rank series that i’ve played all the games in is the mario kart series. (incidentally the previous posts looked back at the mario and metroid series.) i played the series pretty much entirely sequentially over the span of four years, and although the first entry didn’t really grab me, its sequel, mario kart 64, is what made me a believer and a fan. the first entry in the series was the first of its kind and started a whole genre, and the series continues to be hugely popular. it’s gotten a lot of flak in more recent years, though, for becoming more casual: all too often the first-place driver will suddenly find her/himself in last place at the last moment of a race. but it’s still a lot of fun, and in general i appreciate that even if you make a mistake you still have a chance of winning the race.
here’s a look back at the series via my ranking of the seven games in the series. for this post i’ve enlisted the help of alienjesus to provide a contrasting opinion. so without further ado, 3 … 2 … 1 … GO!
|the mario kart series|
|as ranked by geozeldadude and alienjesus|
|#||geozeldadude’s list||alienjesus’s list|
mario kart 64 (N64): as i mentioned, mario kart 64 is really what made me become a fan of the series. although it’s prob. among the easiest in the series, like many sequels it took the core concept and greatly expanded it. the tracks went from the almost-completely flat tracks of super mario kart to ones that had bumps, jumps, and steeply angled twists and turns, along with many more moving obstacles to contend with including penguins, cars and trucks, boulders, a train, and a giant yoshi egg. the game introduced new types of course locations that have been built upon ever since, including farm, desert, stadium, jungle, and city tracks. the balance of items feels “just right”, and i think many people would agree that it’s one of the standout entries in the series, if not the best.
Mario Kart DS: Definitely the best Mario Kart. This is the game that perfected the series, and got everything right. The physics felt perfect, with well judged steering and a better sense of speed than most Mario Kart games. The item selection was better balanced than others in the series (I’m looking at you MK Wii and Double Dash), and the track design was at its peak – Tick Tock Clock, Desert Hills and Airship Fortress are some of the greatest tracks in the series. Add in bonus challenges, the first major appearance of remade retro tracks, 8 player possibilities and the series’ first online mode and you’ve got an amazing game that manages to improve on a classic formula.
|2||mario kart wii (wii): i’m torn about this choice. if you read my post at the time, i was extremely frustrated by how the profusion of items makes the whole experience chaotic and obnoxious in the single player grand prix mode. of all the games in the series i’ve played this one the most, though, thanks to the wi-fi modes, which my nephew and i regularly use. it’s simple for us to race together, and it’s been interesting to see how accurate the VR (vs. ranking) is. although many people quickly gave up on the motion controls, i think they’re what makes the game a wholly unique experience and i don’t consider them to be a handicap. the game took the 3-D tracks of mario kart N64 and took them even further by adding in trampolines, more ramps and boost pads, and half pipes. it features quite a few now-classic tracks, including mushroom gorge, coconut mall, DK summit, and koopa cape; it looks great; and the number of characters and karts/bikes is an added bonus. although my first experience with the game was more frustrating than fun, nowadays it’s clear to me that it’s one of the definite high points of the series.||Mario Kart 7: This one seems hit and miss for most, but I love it. Whilst the underwater mechanic never did much for me, the new gliding mechanic works great and a well judged glide can put you way ahead of the pack. The reduction back to 8 characters from the Wii game’s 12 is much appreciated, and causes a little less of that ever-present Mario Kart rage when you get ruined by items on the last lap. This is also helped by the reduction in the number of items to use. The character selection is odd, and not all of the tracks are hits, but there is a nice selection of unique tracks like Shy Guy Bazaar to keep things fresh. Plus, the new three stage tracks are a nice change of pace.|
|3||mario kart: double dash!! (GCN): this game gets a bad rap, and there are probably several reasons, including the “double” mechanic which is somewhat useless as a 2P experience. i never tried that myself, but as a single-player feature it adds strategy and adds to the game’s uniqueness. people also seem to complain about the return of character-specific items, which i thought was a nice change for the series. the tracks really didn’t feel that unique, but the game looks great and it brought in a few of my favorites to the series (birdo, waluigi, daisy, plus the creation of toadette). i’m probably ranking this game a bit high, but i always appreciate it when developers try to do things a little differently.||Mario Kart: Double Dash!!: This one was a real favourite of mine when I was a teenager. The track selection may be one of the smallest in the series, but it’s full of classics like Baby Park, Wario Colosseum and Yoshi Circuit. Some people don’t like this game’s comparatively heavy physics, but personally, I love them, and always go for the heaviest cart. The mix-and-match character selection allows for everyone to choose a weapon or character set-up to suit their tastes, but the character specific weapons tend to be a bit overpowered and chaotic. Even so, it still manages to be significantly less frustrating than the Wii game’s never ceasing bombardment of pain, and sits pride of place in number 3 on my list.|
|4||mario kart DS (DS): this is the first of the handheld titles in my list. the handheld games in the series have always felt like they closely followed the mold of their console predecessors, but mario kart DS did have some things to set it apart. it features a mission mode, which does a pretty good job of expanding the overall experience. it was the first to feature a wide variety of retro tracks (the GBA iteration included all the SNES tracks, but the DS edition draws from all the previous entries in the series). it was also the first to introduce wi-fi matches, although that mode was pretty much a wash for me since winning relies on snaking, which i find completely pointless. i could’ve easily put this third in my ranking, but i just didn’t find the experience to be as memorable as double dash due to the tracks being too closely based on the N64 tracks (with the exception of delfino square, which remains a favorite).||Mario Kart 64: This one was a tricky decision for me. Honestly, I’m not that taken by most the N64 game’s track design, which tends to be a bit sparse, nor its slow physics and odd feeling power boost system. With only 8 characters and 16 tracks it also tends to feel a bit lacking in content compared to the later games in the series. Why did I rate it at number 4 then? A few reasons – first of all, despite there only being 4 of them, this is the game with the absolute best battle mode arenas in the whole series (with Double Dash coming in second). Block Tower and Double Decker are classics that never fail to break up friendships. Secondly, though most tracks feel a bit bland, some of the more interesting ones are classics – Yoshi Valley comes to mind straight away. Finally, this is the last game in the series where weapons were more toned back – even the blue shell, which debuted here, was far better balanced here than it ever has been since.|
|5||mario kart: super circuit (GBA): next up would be mario kart: super circuit. the first handheld mario kart, this game felt like a step back for me since all the tracks were completely flat like in the original SNES game, and even despite that fact they weren’t very memorable. the game was the first to introduce a rankings system, which increases replayability (as well as insanity), but in the end i think what gives this game the edge is that instead of just being a remake of the original SNES game, it’s basically a remake with double the amount of content, which is a pretty sweet bonus.||Mario Kart: Super Circuit: This is the game that fought MK64 for the number 4 slot for me, and I’m sure several people with think I’m nuts to not have this one in last. The game has some weird slidy physics and loses out on the multiplayer front too – it’s pretty tricky to find 3 other people with the game and link cables who will want to play this with you nowadays. However, some of the tracks in this entry to the series are among the most creative and interesting in the series, yet most have never made it into one of the retro cups of the more recent games – Sunset Wilds, Cheese Land and Ribbon Road. It’s also the last time we saw the Boo weapon, which I sorely miss. Nothing was more fun than stealing your friends own red shell and nailing them with it.|
|6||mario kart 7 (3DS): i find it surprising that quite a few people have called mario kart 7 the best in the series. i found the game to be a huge bore in the single-player mode due to its astoundingly low difficulty level. the addition of gliders, underwater sections, and customizable parts is hardly noticeable, and although i appreciated that they toned down the number of opponents and thus the amount of items that get thrown at you every second compared to the wii edition, there’s just too much time where nothing interesting is happening at all (this is exacerbated by the addition of tracks that are one continuous course instead of multiple laps). the “lucky 7″ item is more confusing than fun, and i found the new tracks to be entirely ho-hum. it’s possible i’ll get more into the game the more i play with others and over wi-fi, but right now it’s easily one of my least favorite in the series even though it introduces lakitu, one of my favorite new playable characters to the series.||Super Mario Kart: The original, but certainly not the best. Whilst still an enjoyable game, Super Mario Kart has been improved on so much that it feels severely dated nowadays. Ignoring the obvious slidy physics, the tracks feel short and limited, and way the game plays in split screen even in single player is irritating. The worst aspect of all is the way the game deals with CPU characters using weapons though – not only can they activate them at any time, but they also tend to be unique and overpowered exclusive abilities. Having one of the Mario Brothers as your main rival and constantly activating his invincibility is a pain in the neck. Certainly worth a play, but more of a novelty these days.|
|7||super mario kart (SNES): the game that started it all, but also the game that is the most inaccessible and unforgiving by modern standards. i basically haven’t touched this game since i played it four years ago, but the amount of rubberbanding by the AI is a common complaint (although i didn’t have too much of a problem with the fact your opponents get unique weapons and you don’t). at the time i also hadn’t really mastered drifting, but now that i have it should be interesting to give this one another go.||Mario Kart Wii: You probably all saw this coming; I’ve been bashing this game enough during the article for it to be pretty apparent. The worst aspect of Mario Kart Wii is that it’s not a bad game – the courses are decent enough (Koopa Cape, Mushroom Gorge and Maple Treeway are awesome), there’s a nice and big, if odd selection of characters (Baby Daisy? Why?), the 12 player battle mode is chaotic fun and the online multiplayer is pretty well done. The problem is that you’ll be too busy getting constantly slapped around the face to care. With more overpowered weapons, more item blocks, more characters to use them and a new way of dealing with CPU characters’ items, it’s not uncommon to go from first to last in this game as you get pummelled by every weapon possible all in a row. What’s worse than going from first to fourth because of a Blue Shell? Going from first to twelfth because of a blue shell, a red shell, a bob-omb, a star and a bullet bill in the space of 10 seconds, with a thundercloud left above your head to boot. Bah!|
|8||-||Mario Kart Arcade GP 1 & 2: Throwing these in here just for a mention to be honest. I honestly don’t know if I think these are worse games than Mario Kart Wii, because I haven’t played them enough. What I do know is that from the little I’ve played, the tracks are dull, the turning feels weird, the items are odd and they really feel more like Mario Kart knock-offs than real Mario Kart games. There’s supposedly a third on the way which includes the glider mechanics from Mario Kart 7. I don’t imagine it will be any more interesting.|
interestingly enough, it looks like alienjesus and i agreed pretty closely, with only our opinions of mario kart 7 and mario kart wii being drastically different. anyway, thanks to him for helping out, and for two more contrasting opinions, see this article at craveonline and this one at digitallydownloaded.net. don’t know when i’ll actually get around to replaying the entries in this memorable series, and hopefully it won’t be too long before we hear more about the new entry, for wii u.
it had been a long time since i’d played a breakout style game, so i recently played through kirby’s block ball for the original game boy. (in terms of the timeline, the game was released in mid-1996, after kirby’s dream land 2 and before kirby super star on SNES.) i’d played alleyway, also for game boy, quite a few years ago, and at that time i’d mentioned that according to wikipedia: “Years later, the game’s designer Gunpei Yokoi would reuse much of Alleyway’s source code (such as paddle behavior and adapted physics engine) for the Game Boy game Kirby’s Block Ball while working with Shigeru Miyamoto’s team.” the game has a completely different feel, though, and the games don’t share much in common beyond them both being successors to ye olde breakout.
kirby’s block ball adds several key mechanics included, no doubt, to try to distinguish itself from other breakout successors such as arkanoid. like arkanoid, block ball adds powers, although not to the paddle itself but to the ball, activated by pressing the B button. the powers are inspired by the kirby games and are required for destroying certain blocks, although there are only four and they don’t feel particularly necessary. one of the bigger differences is that in some stages instead of controlling one paddle that moves across the bottom of the screen as in the other games you control as many as four paddles, one on each side of the screen. another big difference is that some bricks can only be broken when kirby does a “power bounce”, achieved by pressing the A button right as kirby hits the paddle. the power bounce also grants kirby extra speed, and invulnerability if he hits the spikes that border the stage. having to control more than one paddle and constantly press the A button to do the power bounce makes the game’s controls much fussier than other breakout-type games. others may enjoy the extra engagement, but i found the power bounces to be repetitive and tedious.
the game features ten stages each comprised of three normal stages, a sub-boss battle, and a boss battle. boss battles are exactly what you’d expect without much in the way of surprises, and each level has a high score target (called a “borderline”). in order to see the final stage and the actual ending you have to achieve the high score on every level, a feat that i quickly gave up on. the main reason for that is in order to get the high score you pretty much have to execute the bonus rounds in the levels perfectly. these are triggered by hitting a certain item and then clearing the rest of the level within a short amount of time, which proved to be overly difficult. of course a more-motivated player would actually try to improve her/his control over the ball, but even after playing through all the levels i didn’t feel particularly adept at making the ball go where i wanted it to. the game also features four mini-game type bonus levels that were more enjoyable, but don’t appear very frequently. so all in all, despite the always-cute kirby trappings, this wasn’t a particularly fun or memorable take on breakout. hopefully some of the other kirby spin-offs will impress me more.
bounce around these kirby’s block ball links:
- review of 3DS VC release at nintendolife.com
- page for the 3DS VC release at nintendo.com
- entry at kirbysrainbowresort.net, which includes scans of the instruction manual
- entry at kirby.wikia.com
- screenshots of the ending, at vgmuseum.com
i’m more than a month behind, but here’s the first of my catch-up posts. the fire emblem series has long been one of my favorites, and although copies were initially scarce apparently due to delays with shipments i was able to pick up my pre-order of fire emblem: awakening for 3DS from gamestop just a few days later than its actual release date (along with the pre-order bonus art book).
the game has gotten some of the best reception of any game in the series to date, as evidenced by the glowing reviews and the fact it’s had “the best first month sales in the entire history of the franchise, shifting 180,000 units since its launch”. as a long-time fan there was a lot i was looking forward to for this, the 13th entry in the series, especially since the previous game in the series, a sequel to shadow dragon on DS (itself a remake of the very first fire emblem game) didn’t make it outside of japan.
i can see why the game has been popular, as it’s significantly more accessible than other entries in the series. it’s the first (outside of the previous japan-only release) to feature a “casual mode” whereby characters who fall in battle aren’t lost forever, but just for the current map. this mode is entirely optional, though, but the bigger change is that the game has a world map which allows you to fight optional battles for as little or as much as you want to grind for experience and gold. i don’t know why i found this to be such a problem since i loved sacred stones which featured a similar mechanic, but i think one of the big differences is that in that game you couldn’t get really good items like stat boosters and special weapons from the map shops. in awakening not only can you buy special items and weapons whenever you want, but you can also receive them through spotpass and through free and paid DLC.
awakening also allows you to change classes however much you want (resetting your level to level 1 of that class but for the most part without making you lose your increased stats), which means you have unlimited level ups. part of the fun of the fire emblem games thus far has been optimizing your strategy to make your character as powerful as possible by the end of the game and by the time s/he reaches level 20 of her/his final class, but this game is so open-ended that that aspect of the game has been lost. as a result, the game also lacks a ranking system, a feature from earlier games and one that greatly increases replayability.
skills have been an aspect of the game for years, but because of the emphasis on reclassing the game takes on a more final fantasy tactics-like feel but without nearly as much variety in the skills or in the classes themselves (although new skills have been introduced to the fire emblem universe, only a small subset, such as galeforce which allows you to attack twice in one turn, are clearly superior, so much so that they seem overly advantageous). part of the reason the classes have lost some of their uniqueness is that more classes have been added and previous classes adjusted to make reclassing more viable by adding more overlap in the abilities of each class. for example, falcon knights can use staves in this game, which makes it easier for players to reclass a character into or from another class that uses staves since then that character won’t have lost her experience with that weapon type. similarly, the bow knight can use bows and swords, again, making it easier to reclass him/her into a class that uses swords and another weapon, or bows and another weapon. the net result, though, is that the finely tuned balance of classes in previous games is somewhat muddled here.
as i mentioned, the spotpass and paid DLC also make the game more casual since they provide powerful weapons, skills, or characters. a ton of characters from all the previous games in the series are available to recruit via free spotpass DLC, but they’re the characters pretty much in name only since their character models don’t actually look much like them and they only have a minimal amount of unique dialogue (and in some cases feature completely different attributes such as their class). the paid DLC seems pretty useless to me beyond providing advantages to your playthrough even beyond the ones the game and the free DLC provide; they generally include a new map with only a few snippets of dialogue, although i probably will get the ones that include more actual conversations. there is a series of side stories offered as free spotpass DLC that feature unique recruitable characters related to the main game and serve as a sort of epilogue and are much more worthwhile, however.
despite this litany of complaints, i did play play the game obsessively for more than 50 hours and definitely enjoyed some of the brand-new mechanics, namely the dual system whereby two characters can either pair up to create a “superunit”, or fight next to each other and not only give added bonuses like extra avoid as in previous games, but also join in with a follow-up attack or completely guard the other unit from an attack. awakening really emphasizes one of my favorite parts about the series, which is building relationships between characters. i was looking forward to the marriage system, which was previously seen in the japan-only seisen no keifu (aka genealogy of the holy war), and it’s impressive that the developers allowed so many possible pairings. this leads to a huge number of support conversations (although this comes at the expense of exploring more of the same-sex relationships). the children generally tend to be a bit immature and whiny (and outside of unlocking support conversations aren’t really worth using since by the time they arrive they’re much more underlevelled compared to their parents), but it’s fun to see the series explore parent/child and, to a much lesser extent, sibling dynamics and to have different families moving as a group around the battlefield, each member gaining advantages from fighting alongside the rest of his/her family. in order to expedite the marriages, support conversations unlock at a much faster pace than the rest of the series, and it doesn’t seem like certain pairings are harder to get than others. in the previous games it was satisfying to finally earn the highest support rank for the most unlikely pair before the final battle, but, again, that aspect of the series is lost in this game.
in terms of other, more-minor complaints, i got to like the character artwork okay eventually, but i never got into the 3-D models, which look very cutesy and final fantasy crystal chronicles to me since everyone has short bodies. the sound samples for each character helped bring them to life (although got rather repetitive), but the story feels fairly generic even by fire emblem standards and chrom just isn’t a very memorable main character. still, the gameplay is as solid as ever and the characters are still fun to use, and i have a feeling i’ll like it more when i play on a harder mode. although as a long-time fan i feel a bit disappointed overall at how much more accessible this entry is, but if the overall net effect is to bring new fans to the series and thus ensure its continuation (and evolution) then i’m happy to enjoy the game for the characters and new dual mechanics and will wait to see if the next entry can surpass some of my favorites in the series.
oh, and in case you’re wondering, here were my main units: chrom/sully, kjelle/lucina, ricken/miriel, sumia/avatar(M), donnel/maribelle, gaius/tharja, and noire/laurent. gaius was completely useless (a thief who can’t dodge? ugh), and ricken, tharja, and avatar were similarly weak. my MVPs were definitely miriel, sully, donnel (he often got every single +1 possible on his level ups), and kjelle, and noire was worth using because she’s pretty hilarious. her S-rank with laurent is really creepy, though. and of course henry was an easy favorite (his A-rank convo with lissa is really cute haha).
i’ve been playing a couple of hours of wii over wi-fi with my currently-10-year-old nephew most weeks for the past couple of years (since he was about eight), and i’ve been meaning to post what his favorites have been. the options are fairly limited, but we haven’t been bored yet. my nephew’s much more of a social gamer than a solo one, and in general he’s very easygoing and not picky, but based on the frequency we play certain games he seems to prefer some games over others. here’s the run-down:
1) at the top of the list is mario kart wii. although i found the game to be more infuriating than fun at 150cc, the game has several advantages over the other wi-fi games on wii, the main one being that instead of just two-player matches against each other, we can play against up to 10 other random opponents. it’s a bit humbling to see how bad i am at the game compared to many others (although i wonder how much more time they’ve put into it, and i do have the disadvantage of always using the wii wheel), but both of us place high enough enough times that we don’t get too frustrated at how badly we’re getting beaten, despite our low overall ranking (measured by the VR score). it’s a little annoying that we usually can’t join each other’s current race right away, even if the other person hasn’t actually started racing yet, but aside from that the always changing competition and variety of tracks, karts, and characters keep this one pretty high on our list.
2) next up would have to be super smash bros. brawl. i’ve waxed poetic about the game several times already, but my nephew likes experimenting with the huge number of characters. the game was easy for him to get into, and his skills have continued to improve fairly steadily. we usually play a 2 vs. 2 team-up against the computer, but every once in a while we mix it up with a 1 vs. 1 match or a multi-man brawl. it would’ve been nice to have been able to have a 2 vs. 2 team match against random opponents, but it wouldn’t be as fun as mario kart wii‘s matchups anyway.
3) in third would probably be tatsunoko vs. capcom: ultimate all-stars. i got this for him this past christmas, but already we’ve had a lot of fun with it. it’s his first experience with the street fighter series, and the simplified single-wiimote control mechanism makes it almost as easy to get into as brawl. it’s still generally more complicated than brawl so it’ll be interesting to see which he ends up preferring, but there’s a nice variety with the characters (although we still haven’t really figured out why some characters seem so useless). i personally would rather play brawl, but i’m interested in spending more time with this game myself.
4) a more-distant fourth would be animal crossing: city folk. i personally would rather play this than some of the other wii wi-fi games, but i can see how a 10-year-old boy would prefer something with a bit more action and competition. we don’t play it that often, but whenever i do he’s always perfectly happy to do so and enthusiastically runs around shopping, fishing, and bug catching. i probably get more out of it than he does, and in part thanks to our sessions together i’ve reached some milestones since my post a year and a half ago including just a few weeks ago finally paying off the last of my mortgage and finally finding the last fossil (i’m still hunting for two more pieces of the robo series). it’s not his first choice, but he seems to fully enjoy it regardless.
5) rounding out the list is excitebike: world rally. the game is perfectly enjoyable, but as a wiiware title it just doesn’t have the depth that the other games do. part of why we don’t play it that much is that, despite holding it in extremely high regard, i lost interest in it after i got all the highest medals. but wi-fi matches against random players is fun (and it’s not difficult for us to get put into the same room), and my nephew gets caught up in playing more matches so that he can unlock the next color (not sure why he finds that so appealing, but he does). a perfectly good, albeit limited, alternative to the other games mentioned.
the number of wi-fi co-op games on wii has been a bit disappointing, but there are still games we haven’t spent much time with yet. we’ve played pokemon battle revolution a few times, but he’s not inclined to play it solo in order to unlock better pokemon. i also got him mario strikers charged for christmas, so we’ll probably be trying that out before too long
and to finish up, for some additional suggestions here’s a list of recommended wii wi-fi games that was the first hit i got from a search online.
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
i’m getting near to the end of finishing all the games in the zelda series. of the three i had remaining i decided to tackle oracle of ages for game boy color. i’d played its companion, oracle of seasons, a few years ago and had enjoyed that game, but since i knew the games were going to be very similar i’d held off on it, and for better or worse the game does feel very much like seasons. both were heavily based on link’s awakening, so already the game felt overly familiar, just in terms of the presentation.
in terms of the gameplay there really weren’t many surprises, aside from one wholly unique item, a unique race, and the occasional minor variation on previously seen items. as with seasons it was fun to see the animal helpers again and some 2-d versions of characters from ocarina and majora’s mask. although the general reputation seems to be that seasons emphasizes action more than ages, which emphasizes puzzles, the amount and level of the puzzles in ages didn’t seem much different than usual. the game’s central past/present game mechanic felt tired by now, so it suffered in comparison with the slightly more-unique ability to change the seasons in seasons, even though seasons is probably less unique overall due to its many references to the original NES zelda. as with seasons the rings felt fairly pointless, and the pair’s linking system didn’t really grab me either, although a playthrough in the other direction might make me appreciate that more. i didn’t end up bothering with the password feature at all which put me at a distinct disadvantage for the linked endgame since i hadn’t gotten any of the linked-game powerups, including the best sword in the games. this ended up making the final battles harder and more frustrating than they should’ve been, but i suppose i can’t really fault the games for that too much.
all in all this was a typically solid zelda game, but coming near the end of my zelda experiences it really didn’t feel like it adds much new to the series as a whole. hopefully by the time i finish the last two games there will be some new zelda games to tackle, and although i haven’t made much progress on replaying the other series that i’ve finished, it’ll definitely be interesting to see what i think about this game the second time through.
aged the legend of zelda: oracle of ages links:
- many of the links in my post about oracle of seasons are relevant
- official site for the game: includes screenshots, movies, and info on the cast of characters
- entry at zeldawiki.org for this game and for the pair, including details on the the linked-game passwords
- official FAQ and walkthrough at zelda.com
- official japanese site for the games with even more official character artwork
- an interesting article on early versions of the games