Category Archives: Nintendo 3DS

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

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Monster Hunter is one of those series that aren’t exactly mainstream in the West so the hottest market for it is Japan, side by side with many other games that seemingly sell like water in a desert in Japanese markets yet the rest of the world doesn’t feel so strongly about. The fact it’s developed and published by Capcom never helped the game for me either. I’m not exactly the biggest Capcom fan around. So like mostly everyone else I let this one slide for as long as I can remember.

Still, the fact this was one of the few games that sported a decent gain in performance when upgraded from the original 3DS to the New 3DS caught my attention. Not because I had a New 3DS and wanted to see it outperforming the old one, quite the opposite really. I bought and played on the XL version of the original console, anything else just spiced up my curiosity.

I’m kind of glad I ended up buying it because Monster Hunter is a truly unique game. It’s not a game I’d deem without flaws but it’s certainly a game that its own flaws might be one of the selling points for some people.

The first thing you need to know is that this game is hardcore. Yes, its core is hard as a diamond, unbreakable in its purest form. It was never developed to be just an experience on the hands of the player like many modern games are, neither was it developed to be a simple cash-in for quarters in an antique arcade machine. This was designed to be incredibly hard, unforgiving in the most pragmatic sense of the word, but it’s not a cheap game.

We all know the drill when it comes to RPGs, you start small-time fighting your way through enemies that near the end basically can’t even hit you. You develop the character, but it develops a whole lot. Monster Hunter doesn’t follow this basic structure, instead, it only offers players with upgrades for equipment that will merely make you slightly stronger than you were before.

There is no leveling up to be found except for the palicoes — members of you party. It features a deep battle mechanic that takes a lot of time getting used to. In fact, most of the first 5 or so hours will be spent figuring out how every weapon in the game works and completing tutorial quests. Of course, you must be open to give this one a try to really enjoy the ride, if you’re the kind of person with very limited attention span who gets bored easily this definitely isn’t for you. This is not a traditional game in any way, shape or form; keep that in mind at all times.

It does feature a whole lot of hand-holding in the beginning, though it still feels like the game abruptly throws you out there to figure things out. These mixed feeling occur because even though the game does try to walk through everything it has to offer, it’s all so complex that only time will really get you going. You should feel overwhelmed at first but things only get better when you finally get the hang of it.

It’s also unclear at the beginning if this features a main story or not. After spending hundreds of hours playing I can safely say; both are true, it does and doesn’t feature a main story, at the same time! No kidding, I can explain. It does have a main story that unfolds as you progress, it does revolve around incentives for going through the campaign, but it’s definitely not traditional. It’s just a fancy way to tell you “well, things have gone to hell somewhere, go out on this quest!”.

The quests revolve around hunting beasts in several different maps, gathering items from specific locations, mining ores and other stuff; or anything that has to do with these things in slightly modified fashion. Hell, some quests only require you to go and do whatever you want for two minutes, it’s that crazy. And you know what? These are awesome, they simply take all the pressure for a few moments and you can simply gather resources knowing that not dying is your only priority.

Most quests have a 50 minute limit so you can’t just stick around for as long as you’d like, knowing how stuff works overall is pretty important especially in more advanced ones. From the items you gather in quests you can trade with merchants, earn money or combine items to create other, more useful items. I call myself a minimalist when it comes to RPGs, I always want to face challenges without having to spend items I might need in the future, when I reach the final boss I generally have enough to fight it 10 times over. This can’t be done here, unfortunately.

Combining items is such an essential part that even people like me who tend to focus on character evolution instead of a strong medicine box will have to rethink the way they see RPGs. Making stuff like Potions and Energy Drinks is essential to move through the game. You also have a limitation on how many you can take on a quest so over-preparing can only be done to a certain limit. Anything else you need to gather in that run and around the map you’re currently at.

You also have way too many things to keep taking care of. For instance, your weapon gets noneffective as you use it, so it’s always wise to bring sharpeners. Hunting a monster with an unsharpened sword is basically useless. As you move around and run your fatigue bar not only drains out, it also gets smaller. Having items to restore it is as important as keeping your health bar in good shape. In maps with lava or ice your health/fatigue bar can be depleted without ever reaching combat, so you need cool or hot drinks to keep your character up from intense cold/heat.

To fight you can choose up to 14 different types of weapons. From run-of-the-mill sword and shields to gunner weapons that require being loaded with ammunition constantly. Each of these 14 styles have unique ways of functioning and combos so most people will actually find out which one suits best for them and try to master it instead of constantly keep changing it. Another thing that comes into play are upgrades, it’s hard to keep a vast arsenal upgraded, so two or three weapons might be the way to go for most people.

Also, the monster you’re hunting won’t simply stay there and wait to get hunted, so you need to bring stuff like paintballs with you to track him down easily on the map instead of running around waiting luck to be on your side when it decides to flee. Another aspect is that the game is never paused — unless you hit the HOME button on the 3DS —  so the actions you take must be done in real-time while dealing with monsters that might chop off half of your health bar with one nicely landed attack.

The nature of the monsters are all very distinct, they are often separated in grounds of stars, the more stars a monster has the more dangerous it is. Some of them are just herbivores that barely attack you while others are incredible beasts that might take the whole of the 50-minute duration to plan out, find and execute your strategies of hunting them down effectively. Especially since some of them can throw stuff around, like some kind of corruption that hampers your defenses and only adds other items to the list you need to bring with you to recover from ailments.

You see, Monster Hunter has a wacky sense of humor, both in its comical dialog and interactions and the overall sense of it. The characters are awesome, the humor added in every bit of their character is refreshing and quite amusing. The game makes you at least grin in positive demeanor from its sillines while constantly slaps you in the face with its hardcoreness. You need to be prepared for whatever you’re about to face, if you aren’t, you will fail, and the game will make sure it happens without any trace of mercy.

The maps are simple overall, just a few numbered locations connected with each other; each map has like 8-12 locations disposed in varying ways. In low-rank you always start out in the camp with a few items needed for the quest to come. When you reach a certain point in the adventure you get promoted to high-rank which will randomly cast you out there with no primary equipment to fend for yourself. By the time you reach high-rank you’ll be able to discern which items you need and which items you don’t.

There’s also the palicoes which are adorable fighting cats that will accompany you during your quests. You have your main palico which will be the leader, after a while you’ll be able to find palicoes in maps and ask them to join you. Palicoes have differing attributes like healing, fighting, bombing, protection, and you can quest with your main palico and another one of your own choosing. Contrary to your main character your palicoes have levels which can be brought up as well as upgrades in equipment and skill set, though the end results are not as stark as the main character’s.

A few other game modes are present like quests to be done with friends both online or local. Generally the same ones you face in single-player but with some added difficulty when played in group. There’s also the expeditions which you don’t have a time limit and can explore and fight monsters to earn guild quests. Guild quests are good for those willing to grind since every time you beat a challenge you level up the challenge, and hunting higher leveled monsters generally hands out better loot.

Everything seems pretty nice and it is, though there are some things that actually bug me. Most of them are not exactly problematic in the most worrying sense of the word, but it makes the game a bit tedious at times. I’ll try to list every one of them.

The most problematic aspect in my opinion —  and naturally the worst aspect of it all — is hunting during expeditions. Instead of a limited time for completing the quests it features limitless exploration. The problem is, to even out the system, they added a mechanic that makes the monster to flee after some time. It only makes the game frustrating because if you have entry-level gears you won’t be able to effectively kill or capture the monster in time. In fact, even with high-end gear some monsters are purely based on luck for having them stay long enough.

Something else that might frustrate some but it’s certainly part of the Monster Hunter experience is how often you need to sharpen you weapons. During a normal hunt you’ll probably do it twice while some harder monster might require 3 or 4 sharpenings. That’s a little frustrating when you have so many stuff to be taking care of. Some monsters also run away too fast, especially when hurt; I know it simply makes sense, but still bothersome.

It’s sad to see how limited you are when it comes to items, if you could somehow carry whatever you wanted you could probably bypass the insane difficulty by taking more potions for example, the time limit would still be present so it wouldn’t be too steep of a change, allowing people to at least have a shot at higher difficulty challenges. All of these aspects are just me nit-picking on some of the more hardcore mechanics that would actually make the game more accessible while still maintaining its core gameplay.

Overall, this game is truly unique. Certainly not an adventure that will please most gamers, especially those accustomed to today’s standards where developers are too afraid to hurt their targeted userbase’s feelings with unnecessary difficulty. Monster Hunter seems to have a laugh at those who can’t penetrate its monolithic wall while pleasing those who dare further the steps onto it. If given enough credit, this game might please many while making others cringe in disappointment.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

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I have good memories form the original Luigi’s Mansion, one of those “hidden gems” from the GameCube days, since the GameCube itself is a hidden gems, it seems. It was a simple game that did many things right at the time. The follow-up, Dark Moon, is basically a simple game that does even more things right.

The light story behind everything offers just the right amount of details to make up for its humorous outcome, nothing is overdone, nothing taken extremely serious. Nintendo is not the best out there when it comes to story so it’s a relief that they didn’t try what they can’t deliver well.

Professor Elvin Gadd from the first game is back, he now lives in harmony with the ghosts and went on to become one of the leading experts in the field of paranormal science and ghosts. He lives in Evershade Valley after finding out that, somehow, the ghosts in this location are friendly and actually quite keen on helping humans. His research was going well until someday the ghosts started to become unwieldy and violent.

Being the scientist that he is he soon discovered that the reason the ghosts weren’t wild savage beats attacking everyone on sight was because of the strange moon called Dark Moon that existed in Evershade. Not surprisingly, the same day the ghosts started to wreak havoc around the lab was the same day the Dark Moon disappeared from the skies. Professor Elvin then realizes he need help from the one and only Luigi, the best and only ghost hunter he knows.

Luigi, upon being pixelated and transported through his own TV set, awakes in the lab of his old friend only to hear the briefing of what had happened. Luigi’s doesn’t seem too hell-bent to help set things right with all the ghosts wandering around but ultimately he agrees to do so. The Dark Moon has been shattered and it pieces scattered around, it’s up to you to find them all.

The best thing about this story is how humor plays a central role in all this. Professor Elvin is save and sound in a banker he had built beforehand which no ghost could ever gain entry while Luigi had to go through the horrors of the adjacent houses and locations. Luigi soon find the Poltergust 5000, an improved version of the previous Poltergust 3000, the vacuum cleaner used to capture ghosts.

The deal is pretty much the same, shed light onto the ghost to stun him for a brief moment and use the vacuum to suck him. Each ghost has a different set of attacks and health points which must be emptied to be able to completely capture them. Some of them will use everyday objects found within the house to shield themselves from the light, like pans or sunglasses. You should first disarm them before using the Poltergust.

In the GameCube days we had to use the C-stick to pull the ghosts away from the direction they were running to, only then you’d be able to decrease their health. In this one the lack of C-stick doesn’t even make a difference, you simply point to the inverted direction using the analog-stick, same one used for movement. If you think about it, it’s not different at all since you’ll probably be going the opposite direction anyway.

Many other gameplay mechanics were added like the flash from your flashlight. Before you just had to point the lantern to your foe to stun him, now you charge the flashlight and unleash a beam of light. The more you charge the wider and stronger the beam will be, good for capturing stronger foes and more than one ghost at a time. There’s also the dark-light lantern which lets Luigi see the invisible, be it ghosts, Boos, doors or furniture. Being invisible means that a special type of ghost has possessed said object and only by sucking them in it becomes visible again.

As it was, the R trigger sucks while the L trigger blows air. You sometimes have the opportunity to suck a balloon and stick it at the end of the vacuum’s tube. Blowing air out fills the balloon allowing Luigi to float around while sucking air deflates the balloon, making him lose altitude. Even without the C-stick to point the vacuum it’s still possible to at least point it up or down using the X and B buttons.

It also features the Power Surge, a special bar that starts filling out when capturing a ghost. When it fills up you can use the power to “super suck” health from the ghost, it starts with a level 1 Power Surge that deals 10 HP but upgrades can unlock better equipment that deals more damage. Power Surging a ghost hands out loot depending on the level used and how many ghosts were captured at one time.

The missions are as diverse as they can get, ranging from cleaning the house from spider webs to rescuing the professor’s assistants and getting them to safety.  There are more than one location to explore so this time you won’t be stuck in a single mansion, which is great.

Completionists had fun collecting money in the previous game, and this time they’ll have just as much. Every mission has records of how well the played has done in terms of time, number of ghosts captured, health lost and money collected. The money is not only for bragging rights or to get a 3-stars rating on missions, it’s also used to buy upgrades for the Pultergust 5000.

Another big plus here are the boss battles, each of them has a distinct and memorable touch. All of them require specific stuff to be done in order to succeed. Some of them even a little complex. After a while you should get the hang of it, but it’s not so obvious as in other Nintendo games, especially in those of Luigi’s brother, Mario.

Other than the main game mode you can check your collection of ghosts and their description at the vault. You can also check the weigh of the heaviest ghost of each type because apparently it’s also a thing. Then there’s the ScareScraper for those who want deepen their ghost-busting routines. A multiplayer mode that lets players take on local and online multiplayer up to 4 players in different difficulties and settings.

The multiplayer is pretty good, it’s one of the best multiplayer modes no one plays. There’s a few conceptual problems with it. For instance, it allows up to 25 floors of ghosts in ascending difficulty. People who want to complete the entries for both the main game and the ScareScraper ghosts might find it difficult to form a team that goes all the way up there. It should be allowed to join an on-going match after drops to make it more playable. If you have other 3 people willing to take up the challenge it turns out great.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is as light-hearted as it can be, and with that it does most things it plans on doing absolutely right. It’s not groundbreaking in any way, the art style is reminiscent from the first game and even the sound effects, many are reused for an added nostalgia effect. The adventure is lengthy — around 20 hours or so — and should please most people. It’s nice that at least Luigi found a niche style for himself.

Mario Kart 7

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Good thing this release has the number on the name because, frankly, after Double Dash I simply lost count. Mario Kart seems stuck in time for all the good and bad reasons anyone could think of. There’s little to no room for improvements and whatever this room may be it’s pretty much covered here, online gaming.

Race picturesque tracks against Nintendo’s all-stars using all sorts of nonsensical items aiming for victory at all costs, that has been the premise since the beginning, and continues to be so.Nintendo got rid of some inclusions made throughout the years in favor of cohesion, like the Chain Chomps for example; it works.Items come in two forms, usable or equipable. Like the mushroom which gives a speed boost and is simply discarded afterward, or stuff like the Raccoon tail which lets you swing at enemies. Some of these equipped items are momentary, like the afore-mentioned Raccoon tail, others simply stay there like the circling shells.

The circuit quickly becomes too chaotic for its own good, I wish Nintendo would simply implement a single player mode where no items would be allowed. You can do it on multiplayer but on single player you need to deal with the abhorrent waves of blue shells every time you’re in first place, as well as the rubber-band CPU which will catapult the enemies right at your tail whenever you get too good for your own well being.

There are 8 cups, each one has 4 stages within. Along the way, as it’s been for a while, you can unlock the mirror mode which does exactly what you might have guessed. The first four regular cups have new tracks while the other four all feature old Mario Kart tracks for previous games. this has been a must have in the series since the first Game Boy Advance release. It’s a good move because you instantly recognize these ones, also, some feature simplicity in design, like the ones found in Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64, which is always a good idea. In tracks so full of jumps, underwater pathways and minimal design sequences made simply to appeal the eye, simplicity comes to be welcomed.

The difficulties are the same as always, 50, 100 and 150 cc. Also known as easy, normal and challenging. Again, as long as overall difficulty goes, the differing speeds won’t make much difference when the CPU can speed up the its racers whenever it feels like it. It controls fine however, they didn’t go Double Dash on this one and kept the jump button, it’s through jumping that the mini-turbos are performed, how it should be kept as far as I’m concerned.

The differences between racers are less eminent here. What really changes things up are the parts you choose for the kart. You get to choose 3 different pieces, the body, the wheels and the glider. Jumping and gliding is such an integral part of Mario Kart 7 that a specified item will take care of that, changing how your kart deals with jumps. Heavier karts have less air time while lighter vehicles could even cut good amounts of a track simply by gliding through it. A few shortcuts might come about here and there involving this mechanic.

The wheels are the main speed modifier and some even go beyond this. Like the sponge wheel which ease the extreme speed loss when going off-track. In multiplayer you can change before each track played while in grand prix mode you need to play all 4 tracks with whatever set you chose at the beginning. The body part also affects speed but also tells how heavy you car is. Some designs make a come back, like the barrel train body from Double Dash.

The added bonus for Mario Kart has always been the deathmatch stages where people fight with balloons, trying to burst each other’s with items while keeping their own. This time the balloons are back along with a coin chase mode which chooses the winner based on how many coins they can gather in a determined period of time. You can play these modes online so it’s a pretty sweet deal.

The online is what makes it stand out, for the first time it’s done well. It’s also worth noting that Mario Kart continues popular throughout the years so even years after the release it’s quite easy to find people willing to have a few races in the world wide web. before it begins everyone chooses a track and a randomizer will determined which of the chosen tracks will be played.

Players can create groups which gather information about who are the top winners and stuff like that. These groups also let other types of rules be chosen, like only mushrooms races, for example. Each player can keep track of how many wins and loses they have. It works great because you don’t have to necessarily reach first place to win. let’s say you gather 8 people to race and you finish 5th, you still have 3 wins for that much as well as 4 losses. If you make it first place you get all 7 wins as you beat all other players. Great system.

It’s safe to say that Mario Kart is a fail-proof kind of game, as long as Nintendo sticks to basics and don’t try to change the core mechanic of the game people won’t complain. It could lead to disastrous results (Double Dash) or it could lead to this, a well balanced racing game that does nothing except what’s expected of it. It can be a good thing for some, it can be bad for others, take you pick.

What you get in the end is a solid Mario Kart experience that should quench the thirst of anyone aching for the regular Mario Kart. Anyone expecting more that that, especially since Nintendo in the last few years basically seemed to only release games that have a definite stir in the way they are played, be it touch screen or motion controls, should tread cautiously. There’s nothing beyond ordinary here, maybe that a good thing.

Mega Man: Legacy Collection

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Let’s judge this for the collection itself and how much effort was put into making this worth the money. In a world where downloading an emulator with a ROM for a game that could run on a calculator it’s not so easy to make profit. Also, in my humble opinion, if there is one game company that does deserve to be ripped-off is Capcom, so why is this a big deal?

It’s a big deal because it’s god-damn Mega Man. You should know by now but within these 6 games gaming history was forged. It doesn’t really matter when you were born or if you’re part of any of these recent shameful newer generations, these games are classics that should be played by anyone who might take their time to call themselves a gamer. They demand that kind of respect.

You should buy this collection because Capcom actually did this one thing right a while back when they developed a brand new Mega Man with the NES style, the ninth installment. After that they went on to release the tenth game only to put the series in untimely hiatus. We must let Capcom know we adore the Mega Man series the way it was meant to be played, old-school.

There’s nothing really groundbreaking that can be said about the six games compiled here, they are fine ports to handheld and hold their classic status pretty well. You might find one or the other the best of the six, you might prefer some more than others; still, there’s no denying that all 6 follow the formula that makes Mega Man so fun. As you play them in order you notice slight improvements like the addition of dashing in later games (from the third on). That’s the preferable approach if you’re new and probably how most people will decide to play anyway.

The added bonuses are what provide the solid state in which you don’t feel ripped-off. There are many things to be found here, like scans from the original cartridges, boxes and manuals both from the American releases and the Japanese releases. They added dozens of bonus like concept art and stuff that were later scratched, like art for bosses that never made into any release.

In fact, one little touch that always make a difference is the fact you can choose which name you prefer, the original Rockman or the Americanized Mega Man. Thoughtful, unlike anything Capcom has ever done if you think about it. Depending on your choice you’ll play the game with the desired main screen. On sound test the entire soundtrack can be played at will.

The challenges section add completely insane nifty challenges that are enough to make the most hardcore Mega Man gamer cringe. They can be completed in a range of three performance tokens and demand a lot from the player. The games known not to be a walk in the park, these challenges are core to the last atomic molecule.

You can save and restart any of the games from wherever it was the part where you stopped. The screen is cropped because of how the 3DS handles graphics, closer to 46:9 than the antique 4:3, but you can choose where it stays a black background or some wallpaper completing the screen. You can be certain, it helps.

Maybe they should have tucked the 9th and the 10th game in the to make it one of the best compilations ever created but the way it is can try a top 10. It’s a NES collection after all, right? These games are timeless classics and anyone should consider at least giving them a try. Finally Capcom does something useful.

 

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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Here we go again, another Zelda for a handheld and a surprise; this pretty much might be the best Zelda released on a handheld. I remember Minish Cap with vagueness and good will. The both Oracle ones were pretty sweet. Still, this might be better suited for a comparison between the two most recent ones. Phantom Hourglass brought back the boat from Wind Waker and took it to a whole new level, not necessarily a good one. Spirit Tracks tried to base its roots on another type of vehicle and the result wasn’t all that great. It’s good to know they didn’t try anything new as a mean of transportation this time.

Recent Zelda made the right move to create a clear distinction between console and handheld, it focused on Toon Link to give a more casual soul to it. The games were funny and Link wasn’t meant to be the savior of mankind as much as usual. The silliness was quite appealing. In Spirit Tracks Zelda, or her soul, could possess bodies of enemies to help Link in the adventure, in Phantom Hourglass you could pimp your ride to ride the mean seas with style. The handheld was a chance to try a few things which in a more serious console release they probably wouldn’t dare.

Still, there was the touch screen, and it was a major selling point, especially in the beginning. People were buying the console to utilize it, so they had to find a way to make it work. The answer was frequently gimmicky, but who cares, we need to take this new baby to its full potential. It’s pretty clear they didn’t have a choice, though slashing the screen every time you needed to perform a sword attack wasn’t really a dream coming true in touch controls. If what you do with the touch screen could have been simplified by a button mash you have a problem on your hands.

See, newer controls are meant to push the gameplay forward, not jeopardize it by unnecessary additions to make the life of the player miserable. Controlling the direction of the boomerang allowed for some nifty puzzles. Both Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks had some interesting puzzles to be solved. Some were quite tricky too. The haunting presence of the main tower in Phantom was not what kept the player coming back, but really the idea that further into it things would get even more interesting.

Zelda Link Between Worlds is a blast from the past. The transition between parts of the map reminds us of the first games. The touch screen is used primarily for menu browsing. Absolutely no item requires the use of it, not the boomerang, not anything. You shoot arrows using a button press, you grapple hook using a single old-school button press. The fact they didn’t feel the urge to showcase how cool it would be to slash the screen to see the slash of the sword pleased me; how revolutionary, how incredibly different it was from everything you had ever seen before. Their focus was on the game and the game only.

The map is not that big if you think about it, after a few minutes you might have traveled to most of the places you’ll be vising again and again. Newer items allow for better exploration but the overall thing is there right at the start. A genius move. Take Phantom for example, how many of those islands were memorable? None of them. You probably remember the main one but the rest was quickly forgotten as soon and you had reached the end of the nearby temple/dungeon.

Link Between Worlds is not afraid to make you feel at home at all times. There’s one town, Kakariko Village, and that’s it. It used a similar trick to Ocarina of Time when they crafted a whole new world mirrored in a new dimension called Lorule. This new world shares the same overall aesthetics found in the main Hyrule, except that monsters are tougher and it seems to be in a more decadent situation than the former. As the story unfolds you discover that this dimension also has a princess and a triforce, though it was destroyed in an unorthodox move that had prosperity in mind, though what it brought was merely damnation.

You start in Hyrule gathering the three stones needed to reach the top of the castle, after that Link is transformed into a painting by the game’s main villain. In a surprise turn of events Link manages to undo the gloomy magic cast upon him, allowing him to merge inside the walls as he then pleases. He’s able to traverse within the walls as long as nothing stands in his way, like lack of bricks or miscellaneous rocks.

Link can only stay inside the walls for a limited period of time and what measures this is a magic bar. This bar actually controls everything in the game. Bombs, arrows and even the power needed to use the hammer all come from this bar. There’s no pick-ups like in other Zelda games, to use the bombs you simply need to have the amount of magic needed to use them and you’re good. The magic is recovered in time, it’s just a few seconds for it to fully recharge. It’s a strange system at first but it works fine.

Another strange aspect is how the items are “given” to the player. You have to actually rent them form one of the NPCs; in case you die during the adventure, you need to collect enough money to rent them all again. This is even stranger. Some dungeons only require one or two different set or weapons so you might choose to save some money instead of renting everything just for the sake of it. If you have the ruppees and the will to do it the player can have the whole set of items available throughout the whole adventure right away! After a while you get the chance to actually buy and even upgrade them. It’s again all a matter of having the dough.

The most incredible aspect of this is how simple everything seems to have been laid out, and yet, how incredibly soulful it all feels. The graphics are much more linked to classic 2D installments than the 3D counterparts of Zelda after Ocarina. The fact it took Nintendo all this time to realize handheld games should be handheld, not miniature 3D, is a testament of how poorly made their decisions have been in the past 10 years or so. The soundtrack is among the best in a Zelda title. Again, lots of reminiscing about the past and not a vast variety, but each track has a distinct place in the whole.

Don’t mistake simplicity, yet fulfilling what it strives to achieve, with lack of audacity, undaunted. This game offers much more action time than the other two DS releases. If you think about how much time was spent going from one place to the other in a silly boat or riding that boring train, you suddenly realize that most time spend in this new Zelda was well-spent. No unnecessary dialog, no recurrent tower, no gimmicky control needed. It’s pure enjoyment. I’d rather play this kind of time waster any day.

Resident Evil: Revelations

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It’s been a while now since Resident Evil drifted away from pure survival horror for the sake of surviving an ever-growing industry with increasingly more dynamic control schemes. Anything outside this territory is niche and should be treated as such. A franchise like Resident Evil had too much potential to aim merely on the horror buffs with its tank movements and sluggish gameplay.

I’m one of “those guys”, I’m afraid. The one that thinks Resident Evil was better when it was sluggish,full of back-tracking and meticulous investigation. I can’t deny the huge impact Resident Evil 4 had on me though. I probably re-played Resident Evil 4 more times than I finished all the other games together. Not only because I speed-ran it like hell, but because it’s such a good game that each of the 27 or so times I finished it it was a blast to play.

The handheld world would be our one last hope of resistance for a return to origins. The re-release of the original game for the DS made our hearts beat fast in excitement. The 3DS is a much stronger system than its predecessor, newer versions with a new camera stick and peripherals adding a secondary analog-stick are widely found today. Resident Evil could finally resemble Resident Evil 4 and play like it.

Resident Evil: Revelations is such game, it plays like newer installments of the series. Basically how the fourth functioned, press the right shoulder button to enter shooting stance and shoot. Besides aiming the movement is still done in a variation of tank-like controls, the camera is fixed on the back of the character and not in some predetermined place around the area.

The game is pretty good for what it is. What actually becomes too apparent right from the beginning is the amazing production. It’s probably the best looking 3DS game to date, hard to imagine they could manage to make it run in a handheld, especially the one which is not the PSP. The dubs are probably the weakest spot in this regard. Some voice-actors are down-right annoying trying to sound like something they obviously can’t — basically the funny guy from those two agents in Arklay Mountains. Also, there are several languages to change both sound and text, something we just see in a few heavy-weight titles.

The sound design is also amazing. They were able to create a sort of surround sound using only the built-in speakers that actually sounds great. Sometimes the game won’t recognize if you’re on top or lower floor compared to some monster coming after you. Like I’ve experienced while fighting a mini-boss in a fairly complicated scenario with lots of stairs, jump spots and corridors connecting everything. Sometimes, I was on the top floor and couldn’t tell if my foe was right behind me or one story under.

There is something I can’t really tell if they were ever certain about it; of course I’m talking about the scan machine. The idea is pretty good but in practical terms it’s not something so enjoyable to use. I would guess they had made it so we could catalog monsters and fill a logbook with all of them; but it simply scans them, raising the percentage a bit depending on which monster you scanned, handing out a green herb when the percentage hits the highest level, and that’s about it.

The developers also thought it would be a good idea to hide numerous items around each location requiring you to first scan them to then be able to pick it up. A small yellow thingy would start bleeping, announcing some hidden item in the vicinity. It only works after readying the machine, so if you want to explore you would have to keep using this thing all the time, which is insanely bothersome. You can also investigate hand prints left by late survivors. Still, using is not practical at all.

The story is supposed to have happened between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5. Hard to tell, because ever since the fourth installment was released RE’s backstory became as clumsy and cluttered as Zelda. Nothing makes sense anymore, the global scale in which everything seems to take place sounds like it happens in a whole new world where the only hope for fighting a future full of zombies and dead graffiti-ridden alleys rely on the same old people who were caught up in the 1998’s incident with Umbrella in Raccoon City.

A new environmentally friendly city was founded in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, a floating city. The city’s energy is generated by solar power using a gigantic satellite that somehow focus energy for the photovoltaic cells found anywhere in this futuristic place. A terrorist group decides to thwart their plans of singing birds and laughter everywhere, so they use the very satellite to wipe this city out of existence.

They are back trying to contaminate the whole world with a modified version of the T-Virus called T-Abyss. By releasing this highly contagious virus in the sea all the wild life whithin the oceans would soon become killer animals with a lust for blood. The fact nature is entwined throughout the whole planet in one giant mass of biosphere, the results would soon escalate to a global disaster. It’s time for a group of anti-terrorists to fight this threat.

The game has an episodic sequence, sort of a Pulp Fiction with gameplay and zombies. Some episodes are happening at the same time, while others happens in different periods of time — for example, you get to play on the floating city as the whole thing goes to hell, it happened 1 years earlier from the main events in the game. It works well, I can’t really complain. Especially in a first play-through, it’s hard to catch everything that’s going on but things get easier as you get used to it.

The location you’ll explore the most is a ship. A good move and interesting concept, though as there are several episodes within one complex structure of story you might get to play in icy mountains or inside buildings as well. You don’t get to control only one character during the whole play-through, you play several depending on what part of the story is being told.

Aside from the main story, there’s the Raid mode, a nice addition I must say. Basically you get several missions based on the main game but more focused and running for a good score. As you advance you get better weapons, or, you get the same weapons but in higher levels. The higher level gives higher firepower, improved stats or more slots to attach custom parts. These custom parts are found everywhere in the main game as well as in Raid mode. They improve you weapon by raising stuff like recharge rate, damage or bullets shot per minute.

Now, I must be honest when I write this review, and from my point of view this is a great game, just not a great Resident Evil game. I might start whining about it, at least for a little while, so you could try to understand my point.

I’m sorry but Revelations is not devoid of flaws. I once asked myself what I would do to compensate what I thought was lacking. First of all, the scanning system has to god. It must give place to a new system, a better system. Take Metroid Prime as an example, scanning monsters has a point in getting 100% of the game. While this is true because of achievements you don’t get any confirmation upon completion that your hard-work was well-worth.

Another strange thing is how Metroid deals with scanning, it basically tells a great deal of lore behind the rich ecology surrounding the player in Talon IV. Resident Evil has a much wider room for improvement when it comes to lore, yet it wasn’t used at all. In Prime scanning often gave hints on how to destroy certain monsters; Resident Evil could do the same, giving like a 10% damage boost for any monster scanned. It would send a positive message to the player, you’ve studied the monster, now you’re more effective against it. Good job.

Another improvement that would be highly welcomed are the files found around the place. In Resident Evil Remake you had several journals, scrapbooks, scribbled messages on the hurry; everything spoke of the mansion or their ordinary mundane life within the bounds of Umbrella. When you explore the place you often find a “Oh, it must have been a painful death”, just to remember that you’re playing a horror game. Sometimes you’d find something, read a few uninteresting lines and move on to the next shooting sequence. Completionists would love an archive system for the lore. Even bad lore.

The episodic is interesting and all, it might work for many modern games but Resident Evil should be about exploration in a specific environment. The objective basically asks you to go from point A to point B, end the chapter; go again from point A to point B, chapter over; complete change of setting, new weapons, new items, point A to point B, end of chapter. Let the player immerse himself within the intricacies of a gloomy, oppressive place, let him enter the survival horror one more time.

This might be one of those situations where I’ll have to say this game is amazing, but as a Resident Evil, it lacks a lot. It lacks atmosphere, it lacks exploration, it lacks a story without all those spin-offs that may or may not have any relation to the main narrative. It has more action than anyone would want for their RE, but isn’t what we all expected at this point? Let’s enjoy RE for what it is and now what we would have wanted it to be.

 

Super Mario 3D Land

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You can always count on Mario delivering the goods, at least it seems. Nintendo has been one disgusting company for quite a while now, releasing obnoxious games in a landslide, but Mario is Mario, you can’t miss it. Lackluster spin-offs and a few disappointments here and there aren’t enough to scratch the plumber’s credibility. The formula is so carved in stone it’s almost impossible to screw up; still, Nintendo has a way of striving for the new whilst retaining key features.

As most of us probably know by now, Nintendo has a thing for brand new concepts. It doesn’t really matter if the concept is acceptable at all as a video-game concept, as long as it’s new and fresh, it can be exploited. Mario Galaxy was one of these crazy ideas that turned out great. Mario Sunshine on the other hand wasn’t. The handheld releases, or 2D Mario’s generally, didn’t really try to reinvent anything, and we thank Nintendo for that. Super Mario 3D Land tries a few known ideas in a new environment turning them fresh.

This game is probably the half-way between Super Mario Bros. 3-inspired installments and Super Mario 64. Sure it’s 3D, but the courses are mostly a corridor which at the end you’ll encounter a flag-pole to try jumping as high as you can to complete the level. You do have full 3D control, however. It was probably a good choice not to make it too loosy, Mario generally keeps moving in a straight line unless you make a drastic movement with the analog stick. Judging how unwieldy the handheld can be at times, it was a good move.

The courses are brief and should not offer much problem to any kind of gamer. If the main campaign was composed merely of the first playthrough my thoughts on this game would be much different. Still, after you beat all the stages in each of the 8 worlds you get to play a special version of the game. Every course gets a tougher variation, often consisting of the same overall design of the stage with a few hassles thrown in for good fun.

The changes in these special stages vary greatly. Sometimes you play with a shadowy version of Mario/Luigi trying to hunt you down, while others the clock is ticking and you only have a limited amount of time to complete the level; sometimes you get time boosters within the level, sometimes you get time added for killing baddies. These special stages enlarge the playtime a lot and I couldn’t really think how this could be a successful game without them.

As it’s become frequent since Mario arrived in the Nintendo DS each stage has 3 golden coins the player can try to find within each level. Both the regular levels and the special ones have 3 of them as an added bonus for those looking to further the challenge a little bit.

In the end of each world a Bowser’s floating ship awaits the player; pretty much like Super Mario Bros. 3, with the exception that it doesn’t get to cruise the world when the player fails the first time. Actually, the stage-selection screen is pretty barren, we could have used a bit of navigation like basically any game since the third NES release, though the 8-bit sprite in the selection screen is a welcome blast to the past.

The bosses are easy enough. I can’t remember a Mario game which had difficult boss battles and this one is not an exception. There’s no variety here, wait for the opportunity and jump on his/her head three times and you’re on. I can’t complain since I never thought boss battles were the high-point of any Mario release; on the contrary, I’m kind of glad the courses are the main focus as always.

Besides the single player campaign there’s nothing to be done at all. Again, score for Nintendo for not feeling the need to add in mini-games just for the sake of having them there. We see it a lot these days, especially coming from Nintendo. It seems every developer tries to input as much value with as low cost and effort possible. Mario 3D Land is great for what it is, not because it has thousands of features differing from the central point of the game, 3D platforming.

Nintendo uses good level design to make the adventure as pleasant as possible. Not too easy so that only 6-year old kind would enjoy, not too hard only hardcore platforms would have a blast. It feels right. At least you don’t end up with thousands of lives before reaching the second world like New Super Mario Bros. 2.

Of course, no Mario release would be complete without the upgrade items that transforms Mario into several types of things, giving him unique power-ups. The flying raccoon Mario upgrade (officially Tanooki Mario) doesn’t allow Mario to fly anymore, but simply glide across a limited distance; the spin attack using the tail is still present. Fire flower Mario functions pretty much like always. There’s also the boomerang Mario which adds the skill of those boomerang koopas often found in most of Mario games.

The most recognizable item, the mushroom is present as well. In the special levels the red mushroom is replaced by a toxic one that does the opposite to Mario. Instead of run away from the player is follows them, inflicting his venom if it ever touches him. New moves are also included, like a rolling dash when you duck and press the running button; good for breaking boxes otherwise unbreakable if not wearing a cape power-up.

Controlling Mario shouldn’t be a problem for most people. Aside from running, jumping and dash rolling — as I’ve mentioned –, Mario can perform two moves that debuted in Super Mario 64. The frontward super jump triggered when you press the duck button (R or L) and jumps right after. In the Nintendo 64 days it was performed by running forward, pressing Z and A right after. The back-flip super jump can also be performed. What differs from the Nintendo 64 days is that Mario used to get catapulted backwards. It also was instant, you ducked and pressed A . This time, probably not to confuse newer audiences, the player needs to build up power by holding down the ducking button for a second or so. It must have been modified to prevent the player from inadvertently using the frontward dash instead, though it didn’t work as planned.

I might have a problem with having to wait to perform the back-flip jump but I understand it makes the game more reliable at times. What bugs me is that both of these two “super jumps” don’t feel powerful at all. The gain from using them is not as apparent as it used to be, and the fact it’s much harder to perform them in a handheld on a much smaller screen might have something to do with that. That works both ways though, it might go wrong more often because of the handheld, but it also should be much more rewarding for those attempting it. This is probably my main complain about this game.

This game is pretty sweet. Another great 3DS release that successfully flaunts the Mario brand high and proud. This should please both 2D and 3D Mario enthusiast. Even speed-runners are bound to find a great deal of fun because it now has a built-in record system for the fastest time in each of the stages. Those aching for a new 3D Mario might have a better feast, but this is a great release nonetheless.