Category Archives: Wii U

Super Smash Bros. Wii U

Smash-Bros-for-Wii-U.jpg.optimal

People, people, comparing anything titled Smash Bros with Melee at this point is poignant. When a developer wants to make tweaks to improve upon a game they’ve established they have two ways. Throw everything into the rubbish bin to start from scratch, but people will go nuts and complain like there’s no tomorrow because it has lost its essence; or you can maturely meddle in pretty much everything regarding to this to create a broader, larger-than-life experience that feels a superior version of such game.

Super Smash Bros is Nintendo’s Call of Duty. If Nintendo tries something new, people will go nuts and start jumping-off buildings; if they keep it safe and change a few characters added and new stages people will go nuts and start jumping off buildings as well. Either way, there’s chaos, you have to decide which way to go. The nepenthe in this situation is that it doesn’t really matter which path was chosen anyway, the game will sell like water in a desert post in the middle of the Sahaara.

You can’t have the same element of surprise you had for the monumental Melee transition, nothing here feels unexpected, nothing will give you that “wow-factor” from the entry cutscene which looked better than everything you had ever seen in video-games at the time to the plethora of game modes that seemed to just be endless. Every corner you looked another new mini-game was hiding, it seemed like you could be playing that game for the rest of time.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nintendo’s brawler you have an amazing roster of Nintendo and third party characters that will face in the battlefield in different types of battles. The damage you cause to your enemies will make a percentage meter go up, the more you’re hurt the more prone to fall or being blasted off the stage you are. So even if you have half of your foe’s damage you could still be sent off flying and lose the match if you opponents strategy is better performed. This makes Smash bros a mixture of fighting and party game that appealed to many people since it’s not as tight as a usual fighting game nor it’s completely devoid of skill such as most party games.

The first Smash bros game, on the Nintendo 64 created the foundation of what Melee was built upon. melee is one of the best game Nintendo has ever created, such an amazing feat, colossal in every way imaginable. Brawl came along and people complained that it felt too casualized, less intense and floatier than Melee was. they were right, some tricks that made the game even more hardcore were cut to basics. This new installment stands between the sheer hardcoreness of Melee and the more accessible Brawl.

Brawl was pretty much a mistake but it tried something new with subspace emissary. Sure it felt horrendously mashed together with a new character thrown in every couple of seconds just for the sake of it but at least it was a decent try at modernizing the adventure mode in Melee. This new installment doesn’t even try that. There’s no real adventure mode except for a Mario Party styled board game that doesn’t really feel interesting at all. You roll the dice and move around in a map that can be small, medium or big and collect stuff, fight and wish for luck.

The core game is what shines here for obvious reasons. This time around you can have up to 8 players at once fighting which is chaotic to say the least, but I can’t imagine anything more Smash Bros than that. The whole deal of impractical battles like sudden death matches and low gravity can all be selected for your decisive dose of fun with your friends.

If you decide to take things a little more serious there are online modes that disable items and are programmed to only allow certain maps. This is Nintendo keeping the hardcore fans fed. Unlike Brawl’s online mode this one works pretty nice, though you can’t have many different kinds of battles unless you’re playing with people you know. There’s also online with items for people who don’t really care about being competitive at all, which always feels more like Smash even though some game-breaking items still exist from Brawl, like that final smash thing which is simply wrong in so many ways.

Something kind of annoying in this new Smash which definitely didn’t occur in melee is know clustered the game modes seem to be. Choosing the game modes is pretty strange at first which led me to believe they had left out the classic mode, but I was just trying to find it in the wrong place. Definitely not a deal breaker in any way but it struck me by surprise at how Nintendo tried to make it look “cool” and just made everything worse, not functional in any way or form.

There’s another version, a portable one for the 3DS which works basically the same with tuned down graphics and different trophies based on handheld games and characters. You can link your handheld version for a few extras. If you don’t have a handheld version which most people won’t, since you either want to go HD or portable, you can still link your 3DS to use it as a controller if you really want to.

The controller issue has been present and will continue to exist since the GameCube controller was Nintendo’s last regular controller and it rocked. You can order adapters and improved versions of the original GameCube controller but I found that playing with the Wii U’s Pro controller was a pretty decent experience; especially since you can change the button settings. You might have a harder time using the tablet controller but it’s still pretty much a bulkier Pro version so you definitely do not need the GameCube to have complete control over you character unless you’re a real die-hard fan or some hardcore Smash player.

The classic mode has changed a bit, you simply walk around in a board and choose which challenge you want to face off. Depending on which one you chose a some characters are discarded and some items can be gathered; I’m not exactly sure if this was necessary but it’s not something that will bother. Among the many, many types of items you get from playing anything there’s new CDs for new soundtracks, new special moves for character creation, money to spend on trophies and fighting challenges and costume items.

One of the exclusive features in this fourth installment is the opportunity to create your own fighter based on a Mii character you might have created. You choose the overall stance which this character will be based — brawler, sword fighter and gunner –, change the looks and include special attacks. Everything you have at your disposal for creating characters is gotten throughout the gameplay.

Not only can you build your own character but you can create your own stage as well. with the help of the tablet controller and a creator mechanism you can draw the form which your future created stage will look like and even choose stuff like ledges that allow characters to hang or not. Reminds of how you can create levels in Super Mario Maker though not so full of features.

There’s a cool new game mode which is called Special Orders. You have both Master and Crazy Hand (basically the bosses of Smash, for those not familiar with it) that propose fighting challenges for you to face off. Master Hands Orders are simpler, you choose a character and face off different kinds of challenges for a prize. The higher the difficulty the better the prize. You also need money to summon thee orders so you have to have money to generate more. If you lose then the money spent was wasted.

In the Crazy hand side things get a little more serious. This truly feels like the adventure mode that wasn’t added. You pay an initial fee or use a Free Pass to enter the competition — generally using a pass since the money required to enter is 5000 coins, which is rather a lot. The competition will hand out 10 minutes for you to face as many challenges as you can at the expense of losing money if you fail. When you feel you’ll run out of time or just think you’ve had enough you can attempt to fight Crazy Hand for the final showdown. The amount of HP you have and the difficulty level will depend on how many individual challenges you have completed. In more advanced fights other players could join the battle or even Master Hand, requiring you to fight both at the same time. Unlike normally found in Smash Bros, this final battle has you with decreasing health instead of increasing.

The fan-favorite home-run contest which you beat up a punching bag over a dome without causing it to fall before using a bat to send it the farthest you can possibly send is back. The initial force field that helped players in Brawl is also present here during the 10-second pre launch. The other famous mini-game target smash isn’t featured anymore, instead we get a modified version that isn’t really all that good. In Target Blast you do the same thing you do in home-run contest but to a smoking bomb that explodes after 10 seconds as well. Depend on how you launch it you’ll blast primary or secondary targets for points. The system is pretty similar to the cellphone game Angry Birds, which Miyamoto have already declared being a fan of.

Multi-man smash stays pretty much the same with the addition of rival smash which you fight to beat more enemies than your rival, and the absence of the brutal 15-man smash. To tell the truth, 15-man smash won’t be missed at all, it was more of an endurance test that once completed you could pretty much forget about it altogether. The other main mode, all-stars, is also present. It works the same as it used to, you fight all the characters, mostly more than one at a time, and have a limited set of items to heal up.

The event matches got a little make-over, you can have a list of challenges or go browsing your path. The system of difficulty settings introduced in Brawl is there. Every event has an easy, a normal and a hard mode. It also features special requirements that once met can yield newer paths, events, items or money. To make everything more cohese when it comes to sense of achievement you have the overall Challenges. These are a set of 140 requirements that range from defeating classic mode with a character without losing any life to hitting a certain distance in home-run contest using some character. Some are quite easy while some are incredibly hard and many types of bonus can be gotten from these achievements, from new characters to new stages.

The set of new stages is pretty good, some of them are pretty interesting while also having the usual simpler ones used in serious battles. Some are bigger than others which can hold up to 8 players at once. Stages from past games are also added in the mix so you’re sure to encounter familiar locations here and there. To complete the Smash experience in them yo can take snapshots and save replays which can be seen and reviews anytime in the Vault.

Many other interesting stuff is packed within the game like the trailers and preview videos released by Nintendo introducing some of the newer characters like Sonic and Pac-Man. Also, you get to try game available in the Nintendo Wii U’s Virtual Console like Super Mario World, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the past, among others. You have a time limit to try them and while I have yet to play some Virtual Console game aside Donkey Kong Country 2, some demos feel strangely laggy for some weird reason.

The last mention I have about bonus stuff is the selection of music to compose the game. It’s not really a secret that most music in Smash bros is actually remixed versions of the games which the stages were built upon. All of them are cataloged in a nice playlist that indicates the game is was featured and many songs are featured in its original form. CDs are one of the items present in Smash Bros Wii U and getting them unlocked several amazing sound tracks that should sound familiar to those who have spent some time with Nintendo games in the past. You can pretty much let the playlist playing and have a really good time listening to some of the best original and remixes of songs from Nintendo and third party titles.

The best feature that Melee brought us was the trophies. The ultimate collectible in smash. every trophy has a description and is nicely placed in an expanding location to make the player feel proud of his achievements. These trophies can be gathered playing the game, beating challenges, playing home-run contest or by simply buying them at the in-game store using in-game coins. There’s also a mini-game which you chip in a few coins and play Trophy Rush, which you have to beak boxes that might contain trophies to earn them before the floor under your feet gets overwhelmed and collapses. Not something that will make you come back for more but there’s always a mini-game for trophies since Melee. With 700-plus trophies, any method is relevant.

This is it, Nintendo has packed most of what people thought was necessary for a good Smash Bros experience plus a pretty good online mode. Since the controls are not what Brawl had presented and the general speed is much faster, hardcore fans will surely find a home in it. It’s still a bit floaty but the controls are tight. Most of what’s actually included aren’t new or groundbreaking in any way, but that’s not what’s expected from Smash Bros anymore, it has to be build upon its roots to deliver the fighting experience players have been dealing with since the beginning. Playing solo is not the way to go with this, and while the online might be fine for most people, the best experience one can have with Smash Bros — and that can be said since the very beginning of the series — is having other people in the same room who share the same interest for a brawler like this. Super Smash Bros Wii U is the expected step forward.

Advertisements

Super Mario 3D World

SuperMario3DWorld_image1600w

This is the Wii version and follow-up to the reboot version of Mario released for the Nintendo 3DS a while back. I’ve already talked about the previous game, Super Mario 3D Land and argued that while it might seems strange at first it ultimately served its purpose and provided an adventure that was neither 3D nor 2D Mario, it was something in-between that felt and controlled like the 2D Mario as long as you stayed on track but could venture beyond the limits of 2D making it a perfect hybrid.

This time it is released for the Nintendo Wii U, a home console and in glorious HD. I must say the game starts pretty dull and takes quite a bit to actually get going but when it does, it’s awesome. It’s true that some people, at least I did, might go through 70% of the game feeling underwhelmed but it wasn’t much different in the 3DS release, it was just brand new and made more sense. It made more sense because the 3DS has certain limits to what it can actually portray so a full 3D Mario, while still easy to achieve, was probably not Nintendo’s main focus. This honor was in store for their next console, in this case, the Wii U.

The Wii U was Nintendo’s first console to feature high-definition graphics and this is one of the best looking games I’ve ever seen. Artistically everything is top-notch, in gleaming vibrance. It’s pretty much an updated, prettier version of Super Mario Bros Wii U which already looked fantastic. Mario games have always sported a lasting graphical style so it’s fair that when this stylistic choice has made its transition to high-definition it would shine brightly.

The overall feeling is slightly more childish than other Mario’s which weren’t mature to begin with, but this light-hearted version should please younger audiences with relative ease. There’s nothing inherently tough going through the levels and they’re pretty brief so experienced gamers should feel unchallenged at first. Later games offer a much better challenge but if you’re experienced the best thing to do is go for 100%, completionist style.

There’s quite a few stuff to collect through the levels. Every level has one stamp and three green stars that can be collected. Stamps were originally used in the in-game messaging for the Miiverse which has since been discontinued. The green stars go beyond mere collectibles since they unlock new stages. You can also track which levels you’ve achieved the highest point in the final flag pole, much like it was in the previous game.

There are several moments which you’ll get blasted to the past with a few honorable mentions and fitting homages to classic Nintendo games and characters. There’s one stage which is based on speed zippers that bring back the Super Mario Kart theme. Both the stage and music take inspiration in the classic Super Nintendo title, with one of the game’s most classic tune remastered. Other Nintendo games like Luigi’s Mansion, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario 64, and so on, have had interesting cameos. Super Mario 64 for example has the slide song remastered which is one of Nintendo’s most iconic tune ever produced.

The story itself is as skippable as it has ever been. Some fairy appears from a transparent pipe in front of the four major characters Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad and asks for help because Bowser imprisoned her peers inside bottles. It’s starts like that as the transparent pipes seem to take a major role in transporting through the levels, it sure looks much more stylish than the green ones.

Playing solo is fine, you’ll have lots of fun, but the game will only show its true colors if you have at least one more friend to play with. If you have four different people in the same room willing to have a good time with good old Mario then you’re up to one of the best co-operation multiplayer games ever produced. It’s that good. All players will share the same screen and should probably stay visible so you still have control over what you do, wandering off will just make things harder. Since, unfortunately, most of us won’t have that opportunity, it’s worth noticing that the single player still offers a full game experience.

Playing multiplayer has some other advantages like extended competition for who gets most points during the stage, whoever achieves that gets to control their character during overworld play, where the levels get chosen. The overworld is incredibly beautiful but stands a little less necessary than 2D Mario. You have full 3D control over the character while in the map but there’s very little aside from going from one stage to the other. It’s a step up from the 3DS game where you just had to choose the levels but it’s not like it will matter much anyway.

The character selection has clear influences in Super Mario Bros. 2, which is weird since that’s seen as the black sheep of the Mario series, as wrongly as that may be. Mario seems the regular one, Luigi has that leap jump he had in the second game, Peach features the same float she used to have, and Toad seems to be the nimblest, faster of the bunch. The same set of skills are found in Super Mario Bros. 2 and they work pretty well creating a dynamic between the characters here and not just shadowed versions for the extra players. If you’re playing alone you may want to choose whichever suits you better, Peach, as it was in the past, seems to be the easier choice while Toad the more advanced one.

Lots of new suits are available, the most noticeable is right in the box, the Cat Suit. The character becomes a cat and can use their claws to climb walls up to a certain point before they yield. The Cat Suit is the most present in the game, you’ll abundantly find it in many levels. There’s also a cannon suit — or box, if you will –, and boomerang suit. Aside from a few exclusive ones the omnipresent Fire Flower and Tanooki Suit are also present; the Tanooki Suit allows only gliding.

The newest and strangest addition is the Double Cherry item. It simply adds another character on you at that time, the same character. You’ll basically be controlling 2, 3 or even 4 characters at once, each taking up space on-screen. It gets pretty difficult to control all of them in synchronicity since one of them might get stuck or die because you timed your jump for the one closest to some ledge while the ones in the back will perform the same action at the same time. Still, some puzzles require 4 characters to be present at the same time to trigger elevator for example, mostly for the harder green stars, but still.

Aside from the twisted changes in how the courses are designed, like ghost houses and castles where there’s the usual mini-boss battle at the end, there’s a whole new type of challenge called Captain’s Toad Adventures. You absolutely need the Wii U’s gamepad to play these levels and they feel more like tridimensional puzzles with slight tinges of platforming left. They’re pretty fun, the only thing that might bug people off is the fact that Wii U Pro Controller users who probably have their gamepads collecting dust will have to dust them off and charge those bad boys again. It would be completely playable since the 3D gyroscope view can be controlled using the right stick so they could have made our lives easier.

The camera has pretty strict movements since this relies so heavily on having an original axis to which you’ll move the character. Having a closed camera in some angle — say, 90 degrees, 45 or right beside your character — helps keeping controls manageable for a game that is not full 3D. In the end it works. I can say it works and anything other than that would cause more trouble than solving, so as far as this fake 3D goes, this is pretty spot on.

Overall the presentation is pretty tight. The music tends to get muffled in the background way too often. One of the new trends in gaming is taking options off the hands of the player. It would be awesome to turn down some of the SFX sound to hear the composed music more clearly but in an unfortunate decision they didn’t give us that option, nor any options at all. Mario compositions have had a pretty nice twist when Super Mario Galaxy came out and the whole orchestrated compositions became a thing, but as of now it just became more and more of the same. Some are catchy, some fit pretty well with the style of the level, but few of them actually stand out.

Super Mario 3D World take a little too long to actually sink in but when it does you find it to be a pretty solid Mario game. The one problem it might face is the fact that it’s a hybrid version of both 2D and 3D Mario’s, which could please both world, but could just as well make both hate the direction they’ve taken with this. This should be treated as a spin-off of the Mario series which right now is just an index for several types of spin-offs. If you think about it, even the real 3D ones are somewhat of a secondary version of what it primarily was. While the 2D ones are legacy re-imagined versions of what should had become outdated.

The Mario series lives on in its many forms, this happens to be one of them.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

TwilightHD-1

It was a decisive moment for Zelda at that time and age. The wheel was set in motion when Ocarina of Time broke the boundaries of 2D to delve into the 3-dimensional realm. Having sowed the seeds for the way Zelda was imagined in newer generations to come, any unexpected outcome would only surface after people were said and done with whatever was shipping within the confines of those cartridges so eagerly expected. Judging from both the public and critics’ reaction, at the time and decades after, it was certainly jackpot.

When you have something of such a secure formula in your hands and needs to drop a few millions to deliver a “sure thing”, what would you do? Stick to what you know it’s proven certain or dare to go beyond? Nintendo tried to go beyond with Majora’s Mask. Not in the actual sense of bigger or better, but fundamentally different. The same thing can be said about Wind Waker, the hissy fits from fanboys thrown over a direction that wasn’t directly apparent, logical, had coalesced in the view of lost potential. Strangely, some seem oblivious to the fact that not everything surveyed from a perspective distanced from the every-day brainstorm within a project may only serve the wild imagination of those who think safe. Yes, ideas were had and ideas were materialized.

When the next Zelda was still in development people were excited because the new Zelda would be the long-waited sequel to Ocarina of Time, whatever that might mean. Like it was set off-track in the two absolutely stellar sequels and now we’d finally be able to relive all those moments we had with Ocarina. One can develop a sequel, one can’t recreate the zeitgeist of the time, nor can they expect to meet expectations when these expectations were basically set in stone.

Unfortunately Nintendo felt the need to quench the thirst of those people, Twilight Princess has the “feel” of Ocarina of Time, which is not always a good thing. Link now lives in a quiet town with his neighbors and friends when they get kidnapped. Decided to go on a quest to rescue them he gets entangled in something far more sinister, he somehow goes beyond his own reality and into a dark, twilight world where chaos seem to reign. He’s also somehow transformed into a wolf and gets help from a mysterious figure that decides to stick with him.

Most of the characters aren’t really memorable in Twilight Princess and the story is not something to be proud of. It features the twists you’d expect from a game so largely based on Ocarina of Time but it fails to deliver anything beyond the ordinary for a Zelda title. It would be something far worse if not almost all Zelda titles weren’t the same. The one character that stands above all is none other than the mysterious being that helps Wolf Link in the beginning, an inhabitant of the Twilight, a vespertine version of Hyrule.

Her name is Midna and over the years she has gained quite a cult following because of her lasting personality, often mocking Link for his actions and giving a special spice to an otherwise incredibly dull story. Also, most locations in Hyrule aren’t memorable at all. The overall map seems strange and incredibly limiting, while what you find in the fields feel like the same thing over and over. It’s certainly one of the least inspired over-worlds for a Zelda title.

Instruments quickly became a series’ staple, this time the howling of the wolf took part in doing what other games had in differing forms and usages. Still, it feels like it was ultimately underused and simply thrown in just for the sake of it, Wolf Link can howl at certain locations a few songs that are going to be played precisely twice and then forgotten to unleash an ancient master of arms or some sort who will teach Link a few skills for battle, but that’s all. The timing to play the instrument is awful and it’s just not worse because you don’t need to handle them with the atrocious Wiimote+Nunchuk anymore.

They felt they needed to bring back Kakariko Village this time around, though we certainly would have been fine with any other town. Gorons and Zoras both have their play in the story. There’s a central market that, although completely filled with people coming and going all over the place, feels empty, with very few stuff to actually interact during the adventure.

The style is also largely based on Ocarina of Time, the darker tone is all over the place. Because of this, though it came after Wind Waker, it still feels more outdated in the graphical department. Wind Waker had an HD remake for the Wii U as well and the result should impress a lot more than Twilight Princess. It’s still a pretty sight to see an old game like this in high-definition, even if the graphical direction took its toll on it because it featured a more mature look, and that tends to age fairly bad.

A few items have made a comeback from previous games and serve in many new ways to Link. The hookshot now works in a different, even better way. The boomerang can be locked onto up to five targets before being released and also somehow have the power of the wind, which comes in handy to make stuff get back in movement along the way. This installment also has the honor of featuring the one item that probably would win a contest in weirdness for all games; basically a spinning cog wheel that can be engaged in wall rails to make Link traverse walls while also having the ability to simply catapult himself out of it. Brilliant — in a dark futuristic twilight-ey kind of way.

While everything seems bleak when you start thinking about it, there’s certainly one aspect that makes this game shine and probably stands as one of the best cases in Zelda series yet. The dungeons. Whatever lack of creativity creating the over-world they went through in development it was gone when they decided to start crafting the dungeons. Not one of them is forgettable, though they probably won’t be featured in any lists of fan-favorites, they’re some of the most well-structured I’ve ever seen in Zelda, and probably in a video-game. Wind Waker was the complete opposite of this when the dungeons were all pretty dull, this time things are way different.

Some of the dungeons featured in the game have completely unfamiliar structures like venturing through the house of Yeti and his wife who has fallen ill. You start looking for something and end up helping her get better. The “water dungeon” here certainly offers less backtracking then Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, but it can become a pain to go through if you’re not observant enough.

The dual gameplay certainly adds a flavor in terms of diversity of actions. Wolf Link hasn’t got the ability to use any of Link’s items, but he can use his acute sense of scents to track down people or objects. He also can use Midna’s power in teleportation and attacking since Link becomes Wolf Link when he traverses off his own realm and into the twilight realm. Being Wolf Link in front of people will just scare them off and cause trouble, though you are able to talk to animals, which, perhaps not strangely, have much more stuff to say that’s actually worth something.

Zelda Twilight Princess is quite flawed in the way that it tried to be a pretty safe bet to please fans with the serious facade, the larger-than-life story elements and the clear inspiration in Ocarina of Time — especially the mid-game complete turn of events that Ocarina so famously featured. The overall experience feels unnecessarily dull and the overall world is pretty uninspiring. Though, if you’re playing a game for the challenge just know that the dungeons are some of the best to ever grace a Zelda game; they do follow the old formula somehow, but end up being Twilight Princess’s strongest aspects. All in all, a pretty solid game that should offer a quality time.

Super Mario Maker

supermariomaker

Two dimensional Mario games are a sure way to earn some money while maintaining the faith in quality as well as refurbishing the same old thing for God-knows how many times. Nintendo is as guilty of rehashing ideas that have yielded great success as any other developer out there. Though not everything is as we had hoped.

Some stylistic choices are immortal, they don’t come close to ever being made outdated. Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario World are such examples. Their gameplay/style could be made indefinitely until the end of time itself, no one would complain. The fact that the style of Super Mario World was quickly phased out bugs me, the handheld days could have been fruitful in that regard. Do not want to be stuck in the past? Great, but those aren’t old ideas, they’re gold ideas.

Super Mario Maker actually tries to cater to those who have tried to further their fix on 2-D Mario for as long as the internet was something of a fertile ground for original ideas that wouldn’t have a chance in the mainstream. Softwares were designed to create brand new stages of classic games like Super Mario World and such. Some people went as far as creating whole new worlds to offer a complete experience.

Now Nintendo takes the basic creation aspect that games like Minecraft have brought into the industry to something more the liking of old-seasoned gamers. It’s simple really, you have the general aesthetic of such games as Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. and give players the opportunity to create and share levels.

You have a built-in engine emulating those games workable in Super Mario Maker, whatever the gameplay was like in determined game it will be maintained in whatever level played for that game. For example, in the first Mario you couldn’t grab shells, so you can’t grab shells when playing levels made in the style of the first NES games, the others allow Mario to perform that.

Stuff found in newer games are only possible in the levels that play like New Super Mario Bro. like the wall-kicking trick. While creating a level you can interchange the style of the games but be aware that if your level uses wall-kicking to allow beating then you’d be facing an unbeatable level in any other Mario engine, unless you offer some kind of work-around trick.

You even have a few added-in levels built by the creator but they won’t last long, what’s actually juicy here the the full possibility of connecting to the Mario community as a whole and play courses made from people all around the world for all the different regions this games is available to be played at.

The difficulty of these levels go from levels that you don’t even have to press any button to beat — the the so called-ed automaton courses — to levels that only a handful of people from the thousands upon thousands who have attempted actually managed to beat them. One thing is certain, if a level exists in the system it can be completed, how hard it is stands as the real question.

There are four difficulty levels that take differing difficult sub-settings and present the player. In the first difficulty you only have to beat 8 levels in order to complete the cycle. In higher difficulties you have to beat 16 levels. To do that you have 100 lives, which might sound like a lot, but in higher difficulty settings they will be extinguished faster than you imagine.

By beating 100-lives challenges you unlock new skins for level design. The actual requirement for unlocking stuff for different designs — like the engines of other games like Super Mario World — is simply spend time on the course creating screen and dealing with its structure. Creating levels is super simple and intuitive, you simply choose what you want to add and manually do so using the tablet-controller. Everything is as simple as touching the grid screen while selecting the aspect you desire.

This type of games are meant to be peer to peer, sharing and all that stuff; though if you never want to create anything and just aspire to have a limitless Mario source you’re bound to find Super Mario Maker with open arms just waiting to start the marathon. It’s basically impossible to run out of courses to play. Granted, not all of them offer a good experience, in fact the majority are complete crap, but still, among the incredible bad design ranging from cheap tricks to courses that only require the player to run/walk to the finish lines you might find some golden challenges that are worth your time.

Whenever a course is uploaded it starts tracking the first person to ever beat it and the world record time. You have highlights with some of the best creations in any given week, the latest additions for those willing to delve into the newer, fresher stuff, and even some event courses designed by some popular people or for some kind of championship. It’s true that most of these popular guys are Japanese gaming news icons and are basically unknown by westerners, but still.

There are many things that could be said about the system regarding how the levels are chosen for each new marathon, though you don’t have to actually cope with terrible design if you decide so. When facing a 100-lives marathon and you run out of hope of beating or having any fun at all with any course you can simply hold the “-” button to skip it.

The community built over it isn’t all too connected to tell the truth. Nintendo is still stuck in the past when it comes to building an online system that actually welcomes the players, though it serves the basic purpose of delivering new courses at a rate never imaginable. Who would have thought this could be possible in the old days of 1992 for example that such a feat of limitless Mario could be even imaginable? Not many people I’m sure.

When you play a course and you decide it should be rewarded you can give the creator a star. Getting more starts will earn you more popularity but that about it. The popularity built around famous creators is pretty much set in stone by now. Some features that were available at launch aren’t really functional anymore because of the changes made on the Nintendo’s Miiverse. Ever since it came down the commentaries left when people died have been whipped out, remaining only a sound X bubble to tell its history of once having been there. Not actually a huge loss though it offered some good comments here and there.

The game as a whole is pretty bare, like it is stripped down to its basics of level sharing and playing endless streams of stages created by other players. There’s nothing really missing in that one aspect, though nothing beyond this is offered, nor even hinted at. The simple premise of replaying some of the the classic and even the recent engines of Mario until the end of times is sufficient to make up any mind about whether or not this should be an instant buy or something unworldly unthinkable.

2D Mario players should be enthusiastic about this. You might not spend hundreds of hours because at some point you realize that nothing will ever beat the perfection that game design was in the original games, but it’s certainly more worth it than another New Super Mario experience or some random recreation of the classic games over the internet. It’s amazing for what it is.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath-of-the-Wild-Walkthrough

I’ve said it before in 2004, it doesn’t matter whether or not this is too classic to be messed with, it doesn’t matter if it’s Nintendo most serious game and when people buy it — and they’ll buy it if the box clearly states that there is nothing inside, just a blank disc with the Zelda logo printed in order to drive fanboys crazy. They misunderstood Zelda, it is not something made to be carved in stone, this was always meant to walk alone with its own legs, with its own merits.

The life after Ocarina has been a drama about when or how will the next Ocarina arrive. People lost their minds when Wind Waker was announced and it turned out to be one of the best ideas Nintendo ever had, certainly the last great Zelda was back in 2004. Now Zelda once again tries something new, something people weren’t expecting, like the 3-day cicle in Majora, like the cartoon style in Wind Waker, like none of the recent Zelda had the guts to offer.

People like always have complained, they have a right to do so, but the grand majesty of this game offers something to behold and an adventure that can be called even better than Ocarina. I’m not judging Ocarina of Time as simply a game that had its ups and downs, I’m referring to how groundbreaking it was, how it often gets chosen as one of, if not the best game ever. I can agree with that or I don’t, that’s my own choice.

Nintendo is not known for open-world, sandbox style games. They often have a set of gameplay mechanics that work around a completely optimized experience. The general product can be so solid that revising it doesn’t even feel old. This level of freedom is seldom something in Nintendo’s agenda.

Zelda Breath of the Wild gets any kind of reminiscence from the past and throws it off the window. Now-classic Zelda aspects like using bottles to store liquid, getting them during the adventure and having a finite set of them for example is lost. The general consensus of improving Link through use of different tunics and getting stronger shields/swords that follow a linear pattern, also gone.

Be ready to expect something different from Zelda, something you might find weird that a company that in the eyes of many have trouble moving on from ideas that proved resourceful, milking it to the last drop, they have now provided a grand and absolutely fresh experience.

Zelda’s story might be one of the least memorable ones in all video-game’s history. It’s so convoluted, so hurriedly put together just for the sake of giving compulsory continuation nuts happy that it feels cheap. It’s the same old guys with a sword trying to save the princess, not unlike Mario, except the sword. If you thought Link’s arsenal also lacked an ability to jump you should think again because now he can not only jump but climb mountains to fully explore the vast world he’s inserted in.

The old system where you optioned for some kind of item set through the custom button system is scratched. Now Link has a few powers in store to fight evil which includes the ability of telekinesis and stop-time to store kinetic energy for a full release after it goes back to normal. Even bombs are some kind of materialized exploding material that Link simply have access through the use of his special item.

The special item is some type of long-lost Sheikah artifact that can only be used by the chosen hero that acts as some kind of super-powered smart-phone, the same thing that allows Link to move objects through the air allows him to record a map and take photos. Through the use of this Sheikah amulet Link can access the several “shrines” around Hyrule. These are the main primary side-quests of Breath of the Wild since they’re the stage-grounds that require the player to do something in order to receive a soul-orb of some kind. These soul-orbs actually improve Link’s health (hearts) and stamina.

Secondary side-quests are the standard help someone out by doing something pretty mundane like cooking some kind of meal, that kind of stuff. Cooking plays a big part in this game because it’s simply too easy to lose hearts. Gone are the days where people rushed through Zelda games trying to beat it with only 3 hearts. You’d be playing a one-hit kill in Breath of the Wild. Some enemies, and not even the bosses or sub-bosses, can easily chop off dozens of hearts from Link if their strongest attacks are yielded. Cooking has some complicated mechanics which includes different results for many, many different ingredients and classes of ingredients found all around.

The story is pretty good, even better if taken in consideration it’s a Zelda game. In the past you had Link, Zelda and four other “champions” that maneuvered gigantic machines called Divine Beasts. Once Ganon spread its power he conquered these beasts and killed the champions. In a last-minute resource Zelda, Impa and other two elder characters put Link to sleep so he could one day awaken and bring peace to Hyrule. Princess Zelda was locked inside the Hyrule Castle while she tried to keep Calamity Ganon (basically the new fancy way to refer to Ganon) at bay.

One hundred years passed and the hero was reborn with no memory of the past, now he has to take controls of the relics from the past, the four Divine Beasts to have a chance against Ganon, who is almost prevailing over the now weakened Zelda. What’s interesting is that you live the world that knows of a hero downed in battle 100 years ago, and yet, you’re the one and only.

The story unfolds pretty nicely, something new for Nintendo as well, and the four different paths can be taken in any order you’d like. To tell the truth, much of what you really need to go through the game is given to you in the first two hours, the rest is better swords, shields, bows and ingredients.

What’s been topic of hot debate and intense criticism is the weapon damage system. Any weapon you use takes self damage and could break at any moment. You’ll get a signal that the weapon you’re using is about to break but what caused the uproar was the fact that they don’t really hold much fight in them. Some weaker stuff might last for 2 or 3 swings before they’re sent down to oblivion. Other might take longer but most of them will break between 6-10 hits. When they break you have to choose another one which is bothersome but the action doesn’t simply roll on.

Some other gameplay mechanics were added, like damage taken from altitude. higher altitudes generally mean harsher, colder climates and if you’re not suited up for those situations with thick furry coats, good boots and breeches you’ll take damage in time. The same goes for Death Mountain or the desert where you’ll have to have clothes that support the extreme heat. Another solution would be brewing special potions that let you endure the extreme weather for a period.

Not everything is laid down on the table as you start the adventure, you might feel like a 10 year-old exploring the expanses of Super Mario World and feeling like getting to Donut Plains to be quite a feat. Weather will kill you; limited stamina limits your movement climbing wall of stones; new abilities aren’t exactly easy to grasp, especially when you’re expecting typical Zelda stuff; Enemies take a truck-load of damage; some enemies are not even beatable in the beginning. The vast land of Hyrule is as menacing as it is beautiful.

To go with the flow of a deserted land filled with chaos and condemned to doom you get a simplistic soundtrack which might sound completely absent at first, but ends up fitting perfectly with the general feel of the game. I actually checked to see if the music was enabled and searched online about it to make sure.

This Zelda is a 180 degree shift from the Zelda we’re accustomed to, anyone looking to have their share of typical Zelda experience might leave frustrated with this one. This changes so many aspects of the game that it’s actually a miracle that Nintendo chose to shift the direction it took so much. It takes some inspiration in modern gaming like Skyrim (big explorable world) and Assassin’s Creed (climbing and navigating vertically), but also brings back some cool ideas from past game like Wind Waker (taking pictures and cataloging stuff). It’s truly one of the best games ever developed, a worthy holder of the Zelda title, which was never meant to suffice with the lack of prestige from recent installments.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

By now it shouldn’t come as a surprise to no one but these new games don’t really do the original Donkey Kong Country franchise its justice. The base games were the most spectacular experiences anyone could have in gaming, these new ones aren’t exactly bad in the new style they’ve chosen, but the controls ruin it nevertheless.

At first it was the abysmal wiimote, then came the 3DS version, and we were certain the nightmare was real, unchanging. The problem with the controls were half addressed in this sequel, though the road still feels long and treacherous. There were two main problematic aspects, the fact you couldn’t set the preferred method while maintaining the movement type and how loosy the mechanics were set.

The 3DS version of DKC Returns was especially horrendous, you either had to set the shoulder buttons to perform the roll or the front upper ones. Depending on which one you chose you could ONLY control with the analog stick or the D-pad. I had a really hard time with this since I would have chosen the D-pad over the analog stick but had to rethink my choice because using the shoulder buttons to run was too much of a hassle.

At least this time around you can choose the mode and the movement type. Something so basic that should have been mandatory on the Returns. Customized button-sets are rarely anything groundbreaking these days, Retro Studios should have little to no problems adding up. Still, they went ahead and added a whole new button to complexify a system so pure in its fundamental form.

Why someone would change the Super Nintendo DKC controls is beyond anyone’s range of thought, it effectively is the climax of game mechanics in video-games. The momentum system worked so well that even Mario should have learned a thing or two about how to give full control over to the player without jeopardizing anything, at all.

Nintendo and Retro Studios didn’t think so. I’m a little more inclined to think Nintendo had a say on this matter more than we want to admit because it might just sound natural to add another button and preserve newcomers from having a hard time dealing with a button that both attacks/rolls and runs. God forbid having to deal with an ill-fated roll press during the complex platforming within.

It doesn’t really matter who thought it was a good idea, it’s not. Another button not only resets the mindset from previous classics but also adds a whole new problem, it’s another button to keep track of and it’s a shoulder one. Shoulder buttons aren’t exactly everyone’s favorite and though it certainly changed a whole lot for the better when compared with the right/left buttons from the Super Nintendo era, it’s still not the most comfortable set.

Dealing with a double working button shouldn’t be a problem for anyone, the first three games did it proudly and nothing ever changed on how incredible they offered their control settings. The mechanics stand the test of time as much as the graphics, which is somewhat of an incredible feat to tell the truth. At least give us the option, that would be an ideal scenario.

I want to go out on a limb and say that this isn’t even the worst problem, we could even deal with that if they kept the movement tight. Donkey Kong moves are so loose that it’s a pain from start to finish. You get used to it like anything else, to a point you start counting on how imprecise the movements are and start regulating on your own.

The roll jump is way too powerful, leading to clumsy immediate momentum ending too soon to offer any depth in terms of maneuvering in mid-air. Gone are the days of perfectly timed off-sets from edges and welcome are the days of rocket blasting off from any jump roll you perform. Basically a wild card that in time will offer less and less dangers, but the ever-present nature of insecure controls is not something you can easily shake off.

The fact the game is not a walk in the park doesn’t ease things up one tiny bit. Boss battles are especially long and cut in different little episodes. Basically you need to hit the boss three times in three different acts to beat it. They take a little bit too much to develop but it’s clear that it’s better polished than in the past.

From a technical standpoint this is absolutely flawless. From the design to the songs that accompany the adventure, everything works fantastically. The soundtrack is especially good because it marks the return of David Wise, the one and only Rare composer that has composed for the classic trilogy as well as other classics like Diddy Kong Racing and, more recently, the attempt to return to form from former Rare employees that produced Yooka-Laylee.

It’s probably the best soundtrack in any game in at least a decade or so, it’s that good. It not only features key tracks from the original but it also does it right. We often see newer versions of classic tunes that simply turn into tiring rehashes. Look at Mario 2D, so many old tunes that are overheard mixed with others that just sound uninspired. David Wise manages to make the soundtrack really feels like a bonus when unlocked in the music menu after beating levels.

The KONG letters count for completion and around the levels you must find pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Each stage has a differing number of pieces, sometimes 5, sometimes 7, sometimes 9. The bonus rooms feature basic puzzles that revolve in getting 100 bananas, most of them are repeated during the game and aren’t interesting at all.

You can buy items to make you life easier if you choose so. Stuff like extra defense for mine cart levels or extra hearts to endure stage are available. Since the reboot of the series you now have hearts bound to your character that work as life. When you break a buddy kong barrel you get double the life — yours and the kong you’re traveling with.

DKC Returns only had Diddy Kong and he was a secondary character, offering assistance to Donkey Kong making jumps and lasting longer in the air by using his jetpack, the same goes for this title. The good thing is that now not only Diddy Kong is available but also Dixie and Cranky Kong.

Dixie actually plays much like she did in DKC 2 with an added bonus, she is capable of flying a bit up in the air. This is extremely helpful to reach most places that tend to expect that little extra height from jumps. When you find a barrel most of the time it will keep scrolling between three initials (from Diddy, Dixie or Cranky) and whichever kong is picked up will come out of the blasted barrel. Sometimes only one kong is available, but only in specific locations where a determined kong ability is required.

The addition of Cranky Kong is kind of unexpected but it was well-implemented. He does a pretty singular type of jump, after pressing A you must press it again before reaching the ground to perform a cane jump. This jump is stronger than a regular jump — similar to a boosted jump after jumping on an enemy — and completely negates a thorn pit. You can basically keep jumping on thorn that would otherwise hurt donkey kong or any other partner.

Unfortunately only Rambi features as an animal buddy just like in Returns. I can only assume they will focus on different animals in a third installment of the series. It would be nice to see some of the ore famous ones like Enguarde the fish or Squitter the spider. I would love to see all of them in a future release but maybe they’d be disinclined to add some that were cut from sequels like the frog. Still, a Donkey Kong game without a wide array of animal buddies is never the appropriate approach.

Unlike what happened in games like Super Mario Bros. U the screen of the tablet controller is turned off based on what type of screening you wish to use. If you choose the TV you won’t have to worry about wasting precious battery time on a secondary screen that adds absolutely nothing to what is already happening on the televisions set.

The story revolves around a group of arctic baddies that invade kong island during Donkey Kong’s birthday, spreading the cold touch of its evil mastermind throughout the tropical paradise the kongs are used to. It’s up to ou heroes to save the day. I know, a DKC shouldn’t even have a story to begin with, but it just fits. Just think about the original when a stash of bananas was stolen, it was a good enough reason to embark on the most memorable adventure ever.

Since the overall graphical style was completely changed the aesthetics of the enemies were changed as well. It might take a little while to get used to them, some are quite bizarre, like oversized owls or viking-looking bears. The animation style was well designed and the bonus content containing the concept art for them are quite interesting to examine.

I might sound pessimist here but Donkey Kong Tropica Freeze is not without its problems. Anyone can easily overlook its problems especially if you don’t nitpick. Still, it’s a shame to see such a stupendous series not living up to its full potential. The DKC trilogy is one of the most solid pieces of gaming experience anyone can ever hope to play and the reboot games are simply good fun that could become marvelous if only they had better controls.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD

wp-1-500x282

I might be a minority here but I don’t remember freaking out on Zelda’s new style back in the beginning of the 2000’s. I remember waiting for the magazine that contained all the information of the game that was about to be released, I came home from the bookstore reading it and getting amazed at each picture I saw, each word used to describe it. When it was announced I didn’t give it much thought, I guess I was way too sure Nintendo wouldn’t screw things up. At that time, they really didn’t.

People were going crazy because Majora’s Mask wasn’t the grand adventure everyone expected, even if the original idea of a 7-day cicle came to become the game we have today it wouldn’t have the same overall style as Ocarina had. Who knows, maybe it would even be even more macabre than it already is. I for one loved Majora for what it was, maybe more than Ocarina. Sometimes I get too busy enjoying the game for what it was than what I wanted it to be.

Bold as it was for Nintendo to stray away from something that seemed to have grown with Ocarina and add so many new stuff that made the game much more of a gamble than just give the fans a second Ocarina following every step of its predecessor and staying safe, Nintendo took this bet to astronomical levels with Wind Waker.

Some things just can’t be changed, the reliance on defined dungeons that offered the true leveled experience within the confines of the story unfolding in an overworld that tried to be as pulsating with life and inviting as it could be stayed true to the formula. The item mechanics had gone through different paths between Ocarina and Majora and it was only logical to improve upon some of them while adding new features to previous versions found in the new 3D iterations.

What was in question here wasn’t how the mechanics would have changed, it was pretty obvious that Nintendo didn’t have much problem with changes when they released Majora, what caught the eye was the visuals. New at the time, the cel-shading style became famous after Wind Waker successful use of it. The visuals were less mature and took form of a cartoony style in spite of taking itself way too serious.

If you think about it, Link has always been somewhat of a blank sheet of paper, it had its “oohhh”‘s and “ahhh”‘s at specific times but his reactions lacked any organic idiosyncrasy to showcase any type of real emotion toward Nintendo’s most treasured attempts at some kind of meaningful story. Nintendo games were never about stories, they were about gameplay and we all knew that, still, Zelda tried so hard but Link couldn’t be par with they had been achieving.

Right at the beginning of Wind Waker you realize why they chose to draw Link with that fully expressing face of his, his quest begins when a malign gigantic flying bird drops a stray pirate girl at the forest of his home island, Outset Island. The pirates had been chasing this bird down up to that point when the girl end up in the forest. Link goes to the location to try to rescue the person in distress but she seems to have managed herself pretty well. She meets up with another pirate friend and leaves.

Upon leaving the forest they have to cross a bridge to reach the other side and standing there on the other end of the bridge is none other than Link’s sister who lives in the island with him. At that moment she waves her hand at her brother and he returns back the waving with a big nice smile. That moment of happiness and bond between the two siblings is pretty brief but so important for the immersion of the player because right after that, before they could meet up crossing the bridge the evil bird returns and snatches his beloved sister.

Link is desperately heartbroken and decides to go after her. After striking a deal with the pirates to help him out they sail away to the horizon. The story unfolds nicely when after reaching the forsaken fortress and failing to successfully rescue his sister he is rescued by a talking boat named King of the Red Lions. That’s when the adventure really takes form and the evil that lurks that strange place seems far more sinister than just a kidnap.

Wind Waker takes its time with the player, I remember back in the day reaching to a conclusion that it would take close to 15 minutes to cross diagonally the Great Sea from one end to the other. Quite a long time will be spent in the sea and the distances from one island to another aren’t really inviting, but unlike the DS version of sailing the Great Sea seems much better suited to get lost within its confines. Most of the islands at the beginning demand items that only later in the game you’ll have access so they remain clouded in mystery for a while while you’re running along with the main adventure.

The high definition format made Wind Waker shine brighter than ever, a game can hardly be 15 years old and still look absolutely amazing, all thanks to the change of style. No overhaul was needed to make it one of the best looking games ever, just the higher resolution and horizontal/vertical rate tuned according to newer TV models. The timeless visuals do all the work, pulsating with vibrant, vivacious display of scenery.

The controls were ported nicely. The tablet isn’t just an emulated useless screen like in other releases, it actually helps keeping the menu in fully functional even in action. You can change to view the map or item selection screen for example. The wider range of options available in the Wii U’s controller allow for a better, yet quite complex, set of controls.

There’s also a new feature that lets people write messages and embed pictographs — in-game photographs — within a bottle and throw in the sea. The message is send through the network and if another player find your bottle and opens it he’ll be able to read your message and save your photo. Something similar happens in New Super Mario Bros. U. Unlike in Mario, which could have used an online multiplayer, Wind Waker’s system is just and added bonus that shouldn’t get in the way of people who just don’t care.

If there is one tiny complaint I’d have with how things were done regarding the controls and the bottled message system is that you can’t really do some stuff while sailing. If you’re going to spend so much time sailing a boat basically doing nothing but trying to spot treasures to take them off the bottom of the ocean, and even that particular thing gets old pretty fast, it would be nice to not have to stop sailing to manage messages in bottles to pass the time. It would be an ideal method of making the long journeys between islands less tedious for some.

There’s also quite a lot to do in terms of side-quests, like the Nintendo gallery where you go around the world taking pictures of living things and the numerous people that are bound to make outrageous demands for the poor Link and his boat. By the way, the two make up for a great team. It actually goes right to the list of revamped stuff, gladly. To complete Nintendo gallery Link had to take pictures of people and monsters along the way and show to the figurine maker. We didn’t have any indication that the shot was good to go

Nothing major was changed from the original but a few tweaks made the game much more pleasing. At a certain point you come across a Swift Sail that will double the speed of sailing and even better, the wind will automatically change to whichever direction you’re facing. Not having to keep constantly conducting the wind song to change direction and sailing at sluggish speeds certainly brings joy to anyone who has spend hours upon hours sailing in the original.

The aforementioned Nintendo Gallery actually goes right to the list of revamped stuff that used to make us suffer but now doesn’t as much, gladly. To complete Nintendo gallery in the past Link had to take pictures of people and monsters along the way and show to the figurine maker. We didn’t have any indication that the shot was good to go. Now we have, a yellow thingy will show the picture is acceptable to be transformed into a figurine. It also used to take a whole day for it to be done and the maker only made one each time. Needless to say the extreme grinding of the song to skip the day/night was unbearable. Still there was more, only 3 photos could be taken each time, which made the long travels between places and the figurine isle such a hassle. Not to mention the ones that had to be taken before the character/monster was gone for good or had the need for the long-gone Game Boy Advance-GameCube connection. Unfortunately the former remains a problem.

Video-game redone in glorious high definition. Though most wont see much reason to pick this one up again it still stands as one of the most well-suited games to stand the test of times graphically and its adventure is as lively as no other Zelda could match until this very day. A timeless experience nonetheless, whether you feel like reliving all over again is debatable, but the greatness of this game is not.