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2:45 PM on 04.24.2015  

Dtoid Is In a Transtition Phase, So Now's a Perfect Time to Do an AMA!

*In a terrible Doctor Nick voice* HI EVERYBODY!

So in case you haven't noticed, Destructoid is in the middle of a redesign right now. Real talk: I wasn't initally a fan of it when Niero first rolled it out. However, as the week's been going on, I've been warming up to it. Granted, a lot of it is either not working properly or is being worked on, but I imagine after all the kinks are ironed out, everything will be back to the way it was. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. 

But that's not why I'm here. I have many ideas for stuff that I want to write (including a month long celebration of Mario to commerate Super Mario Bros. 30th anniversary), but with the site being in the transition phase it is right now, I don't really feel like writing anything too major due to fears that something might go wrong, like the site crashes or someone sticks their dick in the server. At the same time, I also want to have something on the c-blogs for people to read and look at. So with everything going on, now's the perfect time to do an "Ask Me Anything", or AMA for you young people in the audience.

So I'm going to assume most of you know how this works, but for those of you who don't, just ask me anything, it doesn't matter what it is. It can be serious, silly, profound, whatever. Just ask me a question, and I'll answer it the best I can. Granted, I don't how many people will see this due to the site being a weird transition phase, but we'll see how it goes. I'm not some celebrity or big name personality, nor am I some old fart who's been around the block before. I'm just some stupid 26 year old trying to find his place in this strange, terrifying, and beautiful thing we call life. I don't have all the answers (or any answers, if I'm being honest here) to life's burning questions, but maybe by doing this AMA, we as a community can find the answers to these questions and unravel life's greatest mysteries.

Or maybe we'll just post pictures of Gardevoir and talk about touching each other's butts. That's fine too. Ask away!

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6:41 PM on 04.14.2015  

Do's and Don'ts: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

 

Hello and welcome to another edition of "Do's and Don'ts", a series in which I talk about what developers and publishers should/shouldn't do when it comes to games, practices, etc. In this installment, I'll be talking about a non-Nintendo game for once and discuss what I would like to see in the recently announced Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

So, a new Deus Ex was announced recently, AND OH MY GOD IT LOOKS SO AWESOME! Okay I know it's only a CG trailer and doesn't reflect the final game, but oh my word is it beautiful. Seriously, go look it up right now; I can wait. It's good right? From the music, to the super sweet moves that Jensen pulls off, and that finale where he turns metallic to block the bullets AND OH MY GOD WHY ISN'T THIS GAME OUT ALREADY? Sorry about that; I normally don't get super hyped for a CG trailer, but then again Deus Ex isn't an ordinary series. Let's back things up a bit.

The original Deus Ex released on June 26, 2000 and developed by Warren Spector and his team at Ion Storm Austin (a.k.a the guys who didn't make Daikatana). The game is famous for it's merging of various gameplay elements (including a leveling up system seen and role playing games and first person shooting), and emphasis on player choice by designing levels and situations that could be handled in a multide of ways, with no definitive right or wrong solution to a problem, and while it hasn't aged well graphically (though to be fair the game looked bad even by 2000 standards), the original Deus Ex is still to this day considered a classic by many gamers and various publications. But after the disappointing (but not as bad as fans think it is) sequel Invisible War in 2003, the Deus Ex series went quiet for a few years despite Ion Storm attempting to make a third game twice. Then in 2007, Deus Ex 3 was announced to be in development and was being developed by Eidos Montreal. Fans were initally put off by this due to various design choices being discussed like regenerating health and highlighted interactive objects, but as time went on, people began warming up to it, and four years after it was originally announced, the third game in the Deus Ex series was released in the US, Australia, and Europe on August 23, 2011, now with the subtitle Human Revolution. It was met with universal praise from both critics and gamers alike, and was nominated for various awards. Personally, while it's not a game that I would include on my all time favorite games list, I still rather enjoyed Human Revolution for capturing the sense of freedom and immersion of the original while at the same time forging it's own identity, and it's easily one of the best games released during the Wii/PS3/360 generation.

And so, with the annoucement of the Mankind Divided still fresh in my mind, I thought I would take the time to let Eidos Montreal know what I would like to see them build on from Human Revolution and what they should avoid like the swimming stat in the original. I suppose before I go any further, I should probably give you fair warning that I will be talking about important story parts in Human Revolution, so if you haven't played the game and don't want anything spoiled TURN BACK NOW; this is your only warning. With that out of the way, let's put on our trenchcoats, fight some conspiracies, and throw vending machines at people.

DO: Add some more Social Battles

HIGH OCTANE TALKING ACTION!

Everyone who loved Human Revolution loved different parts of the gameplay; some people liked the stealth, others liked the hacking, some the combat, you get the idea. Personally, my favorite gameplay element were the parts of the game where you used your words, not your guns or your fists, to solve problems, otherwise known as the Social Battles. Yes really; I know it sounds odd that the best part of a video game is the part where people talk, but the way it was handled in Human Revolution was excellent. Smooth talking your way out of a hostage situation or knocking an anti-augmentation purist down a few pegs was genuinely satisfying, and these encounters went a long way in immersing me in the game's world. Granted, some of that immersion was lost once you got a social enhancment and realized that the best way to effectively get the most XP out of any experince was to select certain responses in a specific order, but they were still compelling encounters nonetheless. In Mankind Divided, I want more of these encounters, and considering there were a fair amount of them in Human Revolution, that's saying a lot.

Now I'm not saying every enemy encounter should boil down to verbal jiu-jitsu, but it would be nice to have the option to at certain points smooth talk my way out of a fight. Like maybe you encounter a boss, and instead of fighting them, there's an option to talk it out with them, maybe even convince them that what they're doing isn't the right thing. It sounds weird I admit, and it's something that could probably come off as lame if done incorrectly, but I feel like adding more of these kind of encounters would not only go a long way in getting to know the characters and this world, but also emphasize the importance of player choice and freedom. If nothing else, being able to talk your way out of a boss fight would be much cooler and more interesting than the boss fights in Human Revolution. Speaking of which....

DON'T: Outsource the boss battles

*insert "I never asked for this" joke here*

Yeah, I'm not going to sugar coat this: the boss fights in Human Revolution were terrible and felt out of place; all because somebody decided to outsource these fights to a different company. What was so bad about them, you ask? Well, besides the obvious problems that they were encountered in enclosed arenas that greatly contrasted the sprawling levels that preceded them and the fact they were REQUIRED to be fought (they're exempt from The Pacifist achievement in both the original and Director's Cut), the fact that the only strategy for these fight was basically "shooting them in the face until they stopped moving" felt like a step back from the game's sense of freedom and choice (get use to hearing those words used a lot) shown during the rest of the game. This is made more apparent by the fact that if you chose to primarily invest in stealth and hacking, you were royally screwed during these encounters, to the point where they came off as borderline impossible. To be fair, the DLC The Missing Link did give you a boss fight that was in more in line with what the game wanted, and Director's Cut did redo the boss fights so that players who focused more on hacking and stealth had a chance, but in my opinion these were just putting a band-aid on a wound that needed stitches.

Eidos Montreal, don't do what you did in Human Revolution and outsource the boss fight; I know it's technically not your decision to make, but please don't. Do them in-house and make them feel more organic to the rest of the game. Give me the option to kill the boss or not. Don't make me as a player make my version of Jensen invest in combat skills if I don't want to. I loved Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but those boss fight were terrible, and were the one thing keeping that game from being a 10/10 GOTY contender. It was still an awesome game, mind you, but still.

DO: Let my choices from Human Revolution carry over

Decisions, Decisions

Okay, so this one has kind of already been shot down over on NeoGAF, but the game is still in development, so until I hear something offical from the developers, I'm still pushing for this. I don't expect to see EVERY choice that I made in Human Revolution, but it would be nice to see major characters from the previous game show up in Mankind Divided. Like for example, maybe a thug that I spared in the last game pays me back in this one by giving me free weapons, or a friend/family member of someone I killed in Human Revolution wants to take revenge on me; stuff like that would be really cool and bring a lot to the game. Now, some would argue that Eidos wouldn't want to do that since Mankind Divided is an Xbox One/PS4 game, while Human Revolution is a last gen game. And I'd agree with that, except both Dragon Age: Inquisition and the upcoming Witcher 3 found a solution to this very problem. In the case of Inquisition, there's an app that lets you pick and choose what happens in the stories of the first two games, with your choices shaping Inquisition's world, assuming of course you don't have save files from either of the previous games. The Witcher 3 on the other hand, let's you transfer save files from the previous games on PC, while the console versions will have an NPC that asks you to confirm or deny events that happened in the prvious games, with those answers shaping the world. Now I'm not saying that Eidos should do it exactly what Bioware and CD Projekt did, but at the same time they shouldn't throw their hands up and start the story from scratch because it's too hard to carry over choices, since both of the games I just mentioned proved that it's possible.

And hey, if you're worried about which ending from Human Revolution to consider "canon", just copy Invisible War and make all the endings to some extent canon. But that's really the only thing you should copy from Invisible War.

 DON'T: Make me relearn everything

Seriously, don't make me have to relearn ALL of this.

So this pretty self-explantory, but I don't want to have to re-learn everything again in Mankind Divided. I get that in Human Revolution Jensen needed to get use to his new augmentations, which is why you had to unlock the ability to hack computers and see through walls, but don't make me do that again. It's just going to be really lame and tedious. Instead, why not pull an Arkham City and let me keep my augments from the last game, but give me new stuff to unlock, or even let me build on what I already have? Case in point: in Human Revolution, there was an augment that acted as a parachute, so if you fell off a high area, you wouldn't die from falling: why not build on that and let me gaing the abilitiy to hover for a bit? Granted, in the debut trailer for Mankind Divided, it is shown that Jense gets some new abilities, such as turning himself metallic and teleporting across a room. And all of it looks super awesome. But at the same time, don't make me re-learn hacking.

 DO: Have Malik return in Mankind Divided

In a world where most of the people Jensen interacted with was a liar, a dick, or a lying dickface, Faridah Malik was a breath of fresh air in that she wasn't any of those things. While you didn't interact with her that much over the course of the game, the few times you did were great, as she brought a human element to the whole affair, often offering words of encouragment and support when it came to Jensen. I was a sarcastic dick with most of the people I met throughout the game, but with Malik I didn't do anything like that. She was one of the only characters I would consider Jensen's friend, and when she asked me to help her out as part of a sidequest, you bet I said yes. I'd like to see her return in Mankind Divided because even though she doesn't look it, Malik has augements that help her fly. It would be really intresting to see how she gets by in a society that hates people with augments, and furthermore-

What's that you say? You're saying that late in Human Revolution she sacrifices herself so that Jensen can escape? And that later you can find her body being harvested for augmentations? That's preposterous! She doesn't die, I protected her from those armed soliders long enough for her to escape. Granted, I wasn't proficent in guns at the time, causing me to waste rockets, and it ruined my Pacifist run up to that point, and it took me almost 40 minutes, 50 game overs, and a ton of restarts, but I was able to save her. I don't know what you guys are talking about, Malik dying. You guys are funny. HA HA HA HA........seriously, don't make Malik's death canon.

 

So yeah, that's what I want to see in Mankind Divided. Sorry this one isn't as long as my previous "Do's and Dont'ts" but condisering we just heard about the game about a week ago, I imagine there are a lot of things that can be changed or ironed out. In any case, do you agree or disagree? Maybe you think I left something out, or maybe you have ideas of your own that you'd like to see? Sound off in the comments section. Thanks for reading, and have an awesome day (or evening, depending on where you live). Now if you'll excuse me, it is time for A SAFETY DANCE:

Good night, and good luck.

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3:12 PM on 04.02.2015  

The Good And The Bad In Nintendo's Latest Direct

Did you guys see that Nintendo Direct yesterday? HOLY CRAP IT WAS.....pretty good actually. While most of the games that were shown off weren't enough to make me forgot that the new Zelda got delayed, overall a lot of the stuff they did show off made me excited for the rest of 2015, and we haven't even hit E3! That's not to say that the Direct was perfect, as there were games that were missing in action and some announcements that kind of threw me off. Then again, that's par for the course with Nintendo at this point, and I wouldn't have it any other way. And so, with the Direct still fresh in my mind, I thought I would go over the good (which there was a lot of) and the bad (which there was quite a bit of as well). This is is going to be a lot less formal, so no long paragraphs. This also doesn't cover all the news that was shown; these are just the things that stood out to me.

GOOD: Nintendo gives solid release dates for some of their games

Let's start with the big ones first: we finally got solid release dates for some pretty big games; well big in that now that Zelda is delayed so they now have a chance to get in, but anyway! Mario Maker got a solid release of September (though no actually date), which is great for me since I'm actually looking forward to it and feel it doesn't get as much love as it deserves. They also announced that Yoshi's Woolly World would release in North America in Q3 of 2015, which while is still pretty vague (especially since Europe got an actual release date of June 26), but it's still better than a vague "TBA 2015". Now are either of these games enough to get people to buy a Wii U in 2015? Probably not, but they both look to be solid games in the Wii U library, with Mario Maker letting me make my own Mario levels (which I've always wanted to do as a kid), and Yoshi's Woolly World looks adorable. Speaking of Woolly World......

GOODWoolly World gets amiibo support, and it's adorable

Remember at E3 last year when Nintendo showed the video of Woolly World, and we all saw the producer holding a super cute Yarn Yoshi plushie, and everyone was like "I WANT ONE"? Well, it seems Nintendo heard us, as the game will have amiibo support...in the form of the adorable Yoshi plushies you see above you. I don't care if they only work for one game or if they're going to cost a lot....I need these in my life. Seriously, those things are so cute, I'm getting diabetes from how sweet they are.

GOOD: FATAL FRAME IS COMING TO THE WEST THIS YEAR

HELL FUCKING YES! After Nintendo dropped the ball hard on localizing Fatal Frame 4 (it was going to be localized in Europe, but got cancelled because reasons), the chances of us getting the new Fatal Frame outside of Japan were pretty slim, if non-existent. Which is why the news that we're getting it this year is both exciting and surprising, and while we don't know much about it other than that we're getting it this year, I imagine we'll hear more at E3 this year. Which as someone who preferred the Fatal Frame series over other survival horror games, is good enough for me.

Oh and there was also something about an Attack on Titan game getting localized, but who cares? Pokemon Snap with ghosts is coming out this year!

GOOD: Smash 4 DLC is awesome

So we all knew that Mewtwo was coming to the game soon, but we didn't realize how soon; April 28th to be specific. This would be pretty cool in and of itself, but it seems that Nintendo wasn't done with DLC, as right after announcing Mewtwo, they also announced some new costumes for the Mii Fighters to make them look like various characters such as Link, Dunban, X, Protoman, and a cat; because why not? But the biggest DLC news was that a second playable character was coming; Brawl veteran Lucas would be coming back sometime in June. 

Now while some people kind of bemoaned this news when it was announced (I myself even wrote a piece against this last year), I'm actually pretty excited to see Lucas come back, for two reasons. First, he was my main in Brawl, so any chance to kick ass as him in HD is always welcome in my book, and second because Nintendo also announced that they were setting up a ballet to let players nominate characters they want to see as DLC in the future, so for the three of you who still think Ridely should be playable, now's your chance! Or you can be cool like me and stuff the ballot with Bayonetta or Geno. Or you can be lame and stupid like Kotaku and nominate Goku.....no, I am not making that up.

 GOOD: We finally saw Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem for the first time

 ....And it looked nothing like I thought it would. That's not a bad thing mind you, since it looks super awesome, but man I was way off. From the looks of this trailer, it seems to take elements of not just SMT & FE, but also a little bit of Persona, as it comes off as a bit more bright and colorful and less satanic cyberpunk. I know there are people who aren't fans of this, and while I do agree that I would have loved to have seen a much darker game, for what Atlus, Nintendo, and Intelligence Systems had to work with in trying to take two completely different franchises and making them work as one, this is actually a pretty cool effort. It's obviously still too early to tell whether the game is going to be good or not, but based on this trailer, it definitely has my curiosity, and I hope if it's well enough it can be a series of it's own. Plus, if this doesn't pan out, there's still Fire Emblem: if and Persona 5.

 

That was the good stuff I liked form this latest Direct. It's not everything, but that's just the stuff I personally liked However, it wasn't perfect, and there were some announcments and parts of the Direct that I either really didn't like or were just confusing. Here are some that came to mind.

BAD: Nothing about the new Star Fox

Okay look, I know E3 is coming up soon (a few months to be exact), so I imagine that you don't want to play your hand when it comes to the new Star Fox game right now. But still, would it have killed you guys to show us a screenshot or an unblurry image, if for no other reason than to let us see how the game's progressing? I'm not saying tell us everything about the game, but give us something, you know? I admit this is a minor complaint, since like I said there were a lot of games that were shown off that I liked, but with the new Zelda getting pushed back and Xenoblade Chronicles X's release date in the West still an uncertainty, it would have been nice to see what is (for me anyway) one of the biggest games for the Wii U right now. Hopefully, we'll hear more at E3.

 BAD: amiibo Tap is an app that let's you use amiibo....to unlock demos of Virtual Console games?

This is a weird one. For those of you who didn't see it, amiibo Tap is a new app for the Wii U that will let you use your amiibo....to unlock demos of certain games. And they're only a few minutes. And they're randomly generated. Why do it like this? Why can't I use my amiibo to get a free Virtual Console game or even get an exclusive minigame in Nes Remix 1 + 2? Are you worried that people would abuse the system and use their amiibo to get free games? This just seems mind boggling to me, and makes me wonder if Nintendo really thought this whole amiibo thing through.

On the plus side, at least Satoru Iwata made a Forrest Gump reference.

 BAD: amiibo support for Mario Kart 8 still sucks

One of these days, I'm going to do a c-blog about my thoughts concerning amiibo. Short version, I like them and think they're cool, but the implementation of amiibo in certain games is lame. Mario Kart 8 is an example of this. Continuing what was started with Wave 1 of amiibo, you can scan certain amiibo into Mario Kart 8, you can get costumes.....for your Mii Racer. That kind of look lame. Yay. While I do like the Mega Man and Pac-Man ones, for the most part amiibo support for Mario Kart 8 seems like a wasted opportunity and it probably would have been better to just not have it all. I still love my amiibo and Mario Kart 8, but these are not two great tastes that go well together.

BAD: Stop talking about Xenoblade Chronicles already!

Yes Nintendo I get it: I can finally play one of the best JRPGs released in the last five years on the toilet. But you don't have to keep hammering that point everytime you have an event! This is made even more ironic considering that WE as gamers had to convince YOU that this game was awesome and deserved an international release. You can chalk this up as more of a personal thing and less of an actual complaint, but I really do feel that Nintendo has been pushing the 3DS version Xenoblade Chronicles a lot harder lately. It's a great game, mind you, but it's not exactly something that you should spend much time talking about it, let alone make a "new" trailer of it in your 48 minute presentation.

 

I admit a couple of these complaints come off as nitpicky, but that's mostly because I found myself overall liking this Nintendo Direct. Nothing shown here is going to make the wait for Zelda and Xenoblade Chronicles X that much easier, and if you don't own a Wii U or 3DS at this point, nothing will convince you otherwise. But at the same time, the games and announcments at least show that there are indeed games for the Wii U that you can play. Not only that, but this Direct did the impossible and made me even MORE excited for Nintendo's E3 presence than I already was.

So yeah Nintendo. Overall I liked this Direct and I can't for June to come.

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4:49 PM on 03.26.2015  

Contest: My Birthday's Coming Up, But You're the Ones Getting Gifts! Wait, What?

Update 3/31/2015 10:09 PM: The Contest is Over! Congrats to the Winners! Check your PMs!

You heard that right folks! My birthday is coming up in the next few days, turning the ripe old age of 26. But while going through my Humble Bundle account recently, I noticed I had a few games that I haven't redeemed, either because I already owned them or they weren't games that appealed to me. And so to celebrate the fact that I'm turning older but not any wiser, I decided to pass these games onto YOU! No not you; the person behind him. Yeah you!

However, it quickly occured to me that it wouldn't be fair just to ask people who want the games and be done with it, so I decided to hold a contest instead to give everybody a chance. It's simple really and nothing too painlful (unless you're into that; in that case PM me your digits girl): to enter just leave a comment telling me what your fondest gaming realted birthday memory is. Maybe your parents got you a game that you really wanted, or maybe you went to rad video game themed birthday party once. Whatever it is, just let me know, as well as tell me what three games that you want. Why three you ask? Because in case people ask for the same game, I don't want people to feel left out, so if one of the games you ask for is already taken, you have two other games you can grab, though in the rare case that all three of the games are taken, we'll work something out.

You guys have until April 1st to enter, at which point I'll pick the winners and give them one of the three games they listed. Limit one entry per person, and it's open to everybody! Also, I hate to say this, but Dtoid regulars only, so if you're a new person or someone who hasn't been around in awhile, sorry you're out of luck. Nothing personal.

Oh yeah before I forgot, here are the list of games that you can win (unless stated otherwise, all games are played through Steam):

Crusader Kings II

Crusader Kings II - African Unit Pack

Crusader Kings II - Norse Unit Pack

Crusader Kings II - Russian Unit Pack

Empire: Total War

Galactic Civilizations II: Ultimate Edition

NiGHTS Into Dreams

Orcs Must Die! 2: Complete Pack

Peggle Deluxe, Bejeweled 3, Bookworm Deluxe, Escape Rosecliff Island, and Feeding Frenzy 2 Deluxe (Origin)

PixelJunk Eden

Plants vs Zombies GOTY Edition, Peggle Nights, and Zuma's Revenge (Origin)

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Terraria

Titan Quest Steam Key

Viking: Battle for Asgard

Also in the case of Crusader Kings II, it's an everything ot nothing thing, so no picking and choosing what DLC you get. Other than that, good luck and have fun guys!

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11:43 AM on 03.20.2015  

Hello Hyrule: Taking the Wind (Waker) Out of Zelda's Sails

I make no secret of the fact that I love The Legend of Zelda series, nor am I stranger to writing about certain games of the series. Band of Bloggers was created by a trio of rad Dtoiders (Dreamweaver, Fenriff, and The Scholarly Gamer) as a video game book club where we look at a certain game or series, and this month is all about The Legend of Zelda series. However, rather then going down memory lane or talk about a game I'm not a fan of, I decided that I would discuss and analyze my favorite game in the series. A game that I was excited for and defended in my early days of Internet browsing. A game that got me back into the series after my disappointment over Majora's Mask. The game I liked before it was cool. I'm of course referring to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker; in case that wasn't obvious already.

Released in Japan in late 2002 (with Europe and North America getting it in 2003), Wind Waker was initally slammed by many gamers and members of the press for being "too cartoony", was called by one of my friends as "baby's first Zelda" at one point, and was even being compared to the ill-fated CD-i games. Naturally, all of these claims were unfounded, and Wind Waker would get universal praise by critics and gamers (though it fell way short of sales expectations and is the main reason Twilight Princess was darker). I was one of those people who loved the game, from it's bright art style, to it's lovable cast of characters, to the silly yet kind of sad story, and yes even the sailing. But the biggest thing in my mind that stuck out about Wind Waker and what's made it amazing even after all these years was how much it eschewed a lot of the familar tropes we've grown accustomed to when it comes to playing Zelda games, often going against the norm. The end result of this is a game that embraces what made past Zelda games amazing, but at the same time isn't afraid to shake up some of the more cliched characters and ideas the series has become famous for, and the game is much more interesting and engaging because of it. Here are just a few examples of what I mean.

Oh by the way, before I go on, this is your one and only warning but: SPOILERS AHOY. So if you've never played Wind Waker and don't want the game spoiled for you, you might want to close the tab now.


Let's start with the famous and easily recognizable hero Link (or Toon Link as he's been retroactively been called since Brawl). In most of the games, Link is a brave, strong, stoic hero who will save the land of Hyrule because it's his destiny (there are some slight variations, like where he lives, but for the most part it's pretty much the same). Toon Link on the other hand? He's brave.....and that's about it. He's young, naive, reckless, and not all that bright at times, with many characters reprimanding him because he goes into situations without thinking, often ending with him getting his butt kicked not once, not twice, but THREE times (at least according to my count). Heck, the only reason he's wearing his trademark green tunic is because it's a tradition on his home island of Outset Island to dress young boys as the hero of legend. In other words, at this point in time of Zelda's history, the green tunic is on par with lame holiday tradition that people do for no reason other than because it's a tradition, like not wearing white after Labor Day.

At the same time however, while Toon Link lacks a lot of the qualities of other iterations of Link, he has one thing going for him, and that he's more relatable as a character. Besides the fact that he's a lot more expressive in this game, Toon Link isn't sailing around this huge ocean, fighting hordes of monsters, and exploring dark dungeons because it's his destiny, but because his sister was kidnapped at the beginning of the game by the Helmaroc King, a giant bird, due to mistaken identity (the Helmaroc King was originally aiming for Tetra, who I'll talk about in a bit). This is a lot more meaningful as we all have someone important in our lives who we would do anything to save, and in that regard we as players can let some of Toon Link's reckless behavior slide because we would probably do the same thing. And yeah, it's established early on that Ganondorf is behind all of this and later in the game it falls into the traditional "great evil has returned, awaken to your destiny and stop it", but by that point it doesn't matter. Because by the time you get to that part of the story, you've already explored this vast world as a young boy on a quest to save his sister, so when the King of Red Lions (a.k.a. the King of Hyrule) tells you to revive the Master Sword and stop Ganondorf, you've not only explored the world enough that you're familiar with it, but you also have a personal investment to save it as well, as you have to stop Ganondorf not just because it's your destiny, but because doing so also protects Aryll, Link's Grandma (yeah he has a grandma in this game), Tetra and her pirates, and all the other NPCs you've met throughout this adventure, and that to me is much more of an impactful story than other games; not to say that Zelda games have terrible stories (far from it, I actually enjoy many of them for their narratives), but as a player, it was a lot easier to get invested in Toon Link's plight than in other games.

                               

Wind Waker's version of Zelda (a.k.a Tetra) is another perfect example of a new twist on a classic character. In most games, Zelda is a kind, wise, caring ruler that is beloved by everyone. Tetra on the other hand, is the leader of a band of pirates and cares more about treasure, at least at first. In the beginning, she's bossy, makes a lot of jokes, and even a bit mean, making fun of Toon Link at the beginning of the game because of how sentimental he's getting over leaving his home for the first time. It's not until later in the game that she begins to open up more and shows that she is a kind caring indvidual, eventually forming a bond with Link and doing all she can to help him. Hmm, that sounds familar, doesn't it?

Tetra is an interesting version of Zelda, and not just because she serves as the basis for Midna (who is one of my favorite characters in the series). What makes Tetra interesting is that much like Toon Link, while she possess the basic, common traits of her counterparts, at the same time what makes her an endearing character is how much she isn't them; in other words, how un-princess like she is. She doesn't sit in a castle waiting for Toon Link to save her, but takes the initative, at one point saving him twice in the Forsaken Fortress. She cracks jokes, like in the final battle against Ganondorf when she apologies to Toon Link that she didn't help him sooner because she overslept. And while they don't go over it too much, she also has to deal with the death of her mother. All of this makes for a familar yet unique vision of the Princess of Hyrule. And while she may not get as much screen time as Toon Link, Tetra/Zelda without a doubt leave a mark.

Finally, let's take a look at the big bad of this game, Ganondorf (I swear this one won't be as long). Now throughout the game, it's no secret that Ganondorf is responsible for all of the monsters you fight, including the Helmaroc King (a.k.a the giant bird) who kidnapped Aryll. After giving the overgrown bird a few whacks of your Skull Hammer, you fnally meet Ganondorf. He tells you about the Master Sword and how it acted as a key to his power, and that by pulling it you've brought him back to full strength; he then blocks an attack from Toon Link and says that the Master Sword is useless in it's current state. Tetra shows up to help, but she doesn't fare much better, and it's not until Valoo, a giant dragon shows up and attacks that the two are able to escape. Ganondorf isn't seen again until he kidnaps Zelda and you must climb his tower to get to him. When you meet him, he goes on about how the Gods, not him, have destroyed the world, as the Gods decided to flood the land of Hyrule and turn it into the Great Sea you've been exploring this whole time (told you there were spoilers). This is interesting because it shows a side of Ganondorf that we haven't seen before in previous games (or since for that matter), as in a weird way Ganondorf begins to justify why he's done what he's done. But the real shocker when you reach the top of the Tower, and Ganondorf tells you a bit of his youth. About how growing up in the Gerudo Valley, the wind would always bring death and hardship to him and his people, while in Hyrule, the wind would always bring forth life and hope, and how he began to covet both the wind and by assocation Hyrule.

Now this doesn't seem like much, but in the context of both Wind Waker and the Zelda series as a whole, this is Ganondorf's Killing Joke moment. By that I mean, is that much like The Killing Joke, this sheds some light on the tragic backstory of a well established villian, in this case Ganon. It isn't much, but by giving us this bit of info, Wind Waker takes one of gaming's most famous villians and gives him a motive, a reason for the evil things that he's done over the years, and by doing so, Ganondorf becomes an interesting character in his own right. It's kind of a shame Nintendo never really built on this, because Wind Waker not only made me interested in Ganondorf, but made me kind of feel sad for him in a way. At least until he straight up decks Toon Link.

 

I could probably go on for ages. I could talk about how the Rito and Koroks are the polar opposites of their ancestors, the Zora and Kokiri respectively. I could talk about how vast and empty the Great Sea is, or how the destruction of Hyrule at the end of the game is symbolic of the Wind Waker as a whole washing away the past Zelda games to try something new. I could go on about all kinds of stuff about Wind Waker and why I love it so, but any more and this is going to turn into a novel. These were just a few of the observations that I found while playing through Wind Waker again for the first time in a couple years. 

I love The Legend of Zelda series. They're fun, immersive, engaging with interesting stories, great soundtracks, and memorable characters. Some of them are better than others, but of all of the games I played, Wind Waker is the one that hold a special place in my heart. It had an interesting combat system, the game was colorful, the characters were memorable, and the story was great, dealing with themes of regret, destiny, and clinging to the past. On the surface, it doesn't look like Wind Waker is those things, and not everyone will love it. But much like the Great Sea the game takes place on, all one needs to do is look beneath the waves to find a game that is truly a treasure.

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3:51 PM on 02.24.2015  

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Just Like These Dtoiders

This year, Destructoid is turning nine years old. Can you believe that? I sure can't; it seems like only yesterday I was browsing Dtoid and talking about video games, Queen, and touching other people's butts. Oh wait, that was yesterday. Point is, this place has been around for awhile, and I hope it stays around even longer.

I've been here for about four to five years (the date is still a little iffy) when someone on 4chan linked a blog from here in the /v/ board. I won't go into too much detail about my earlier days since I've covered it before in earlier blog post, but just know that while I visit and lurk at plenty of gaming sites, Destructoid is the only one that I find myself coming to time after time. Sure, I haven't agreed with a lot of the decisions made over the years, but nobody's perfect. To celebrate these nine years, it was decided that we as a community talk about who are nine favorite people are, and not wanting to feel left out, yours truly decided to throw his hat in the ring and let you all know who here at Destructoid I'd like to touch in the bum.

Before we go any further, do know that this was a pretty tough one to come up with. As I said, I love each and everyone of you, so to narrow it down to nine people was really tough, like picking my favorite Queen song tough (Killer Queen....no wait Radio Gaga. No uh, Princes of the Universe?). However, know that just because some of you don't show up on this list, doesn't mean I don't love all of you in some way or another. You're all awesome and beautiful people and if I could I would include all of you on here, but alas I can't. Yes, I know other people have done that so far, but I try and do things by the book here, lest I want the chief to take my badge for being a loose cannon. With that out of the way, let's get dangerous

9. Papa Niero

I know some of you are reading this and are going to be al like "THAT'S CHEATING GOOF!" Well, maybe, but let me ask you a question: if Destructoid was never created, what community would you guys be a part of right now? And would you have as close of a bond with that community as you do with people on Dtoid? It's possible, but I kind of doubt it, especially considering the sense of humor we have here would probably get us banned from most websites. You can't build a house without a solid foundation, and Niero creating this site as an excuse to get into E3 is a perfect foundation to build the sexy funtime house we call Desructoid. And yeah, Dtoid may be bigger than a website at this point, with people coming and going over the years, but this place is still the one thread that brings us all together, and it's all thanks to Papa Niero. 

So thanks Niero for creating Destructoid. Without this site, none of us would be here, talking about video games and touching each other's sexy parts.

8. JawshButturBawls

Gardevoir. What started off as a funny, random comment from JawshButturBawls quickly evolved into a Destructoid meme that I doubt is going to lose steam anytime soon. It's gotten so huge, that when it comes to stories on the FP about Pokemon, it's not a question of IF we're going to be flooded with Gardevoir pics, but WHEN. Hell our own Kyle McGregor made a lovely poem telling us how great Gadrevoir was. And whether you believe the Psychic/Fairy type is life/love, or want the meme to die a horrible death, there's no denying that this is the kind of weird, crazy stuff that brought many of us to the website in the first place. 

And hey look on the bright side: at least it wasn't Jynx.

 

7. It's About To Get Gay In Here

Seriously, how could I not include It's About To Get Gay In Here on this list? Have you read some of his (her?) C-Blogs? They're pretty hiliarious and some of the funniest stuff I've read in awhile. Seriously if you haven't read any of Gay's blog posts, stop reading this and go check them out. Go on; I'll still be here when you get back. 

Oh hey you're back. They're pretty funny aren't they? And that's why It's About To Get Gay In Here is on this list. No ifs, ands or butts. Hehe butts.

6. Chris Carter

MORE LIKE 6.5 AMIRITE GUYS? In all seriousness, I enjoy the stuff that Chris writes. He writes in a way that is clear, precise, and entertaining to read. And even if you disagree with the scores in his reviews (as I have in the past), he's still a pretty cool guy. So yeah, even though me and you haven't interacted all that often, I'm a fan of what you do, Chris Carter. Keep doing what you're doing.

5. Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver is one of the few people who consistently thinks the stuff I blog about is interesting, but that isn't the reason he's on this list (though it is greatly apperciated). No what puts Dream on this list is the fact that he's a pretty cool guy (and doesn't afraid of anything). He's always on the front page with something interesting or funny to say, his c-blogs are entertaining, and he's all around weird; making him the perfect member of the Dtoid family. And he also started up Comments of the Week again, so bonus points there. 

So yeah Dream, you're an awesome guy, and one of the coolest people in the community. And that's saying a lot.

4. Mike Martin (formerly PhilKenSebben)

HA HA.....dangly parts. Mike Martin (formerly lovable scamp PhilKenSebben) was one of the first people I saw when lurking on the site. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't a fan of his, what with talking about his dick and well talking about his dick. But once I got rid of the massive stick up my ass, I realized the Mike was rough around the edges but was a cool guy on the inside. Much like Dream, he's a super cool member of the community, one of the old people from before my time who puts his heart, his soul, and most importantly his dick, into making this place awesome. And I for one thank you for that.

3. Andy Dixon

The man, the myth himself. Like Mike, I didn't have a positive first impression of Randy, and I actually remember saying to myself "who the fuck is this asshole in the pink bath robe?" After being here for as long as I have, I now have an answer. Andy is a rad dude who makes no secret  of the fact that he loves this place and does everything in his power to make this place as awesome as it can be. And he's been doing a damn fine job so far. He's also there to lend a helping hand to anyone who needs it, and has helped me a couple times when I first started blogging seriously. So thanks Andy for being an awesome Community Manager and all around cool guy.

Boner

2. Occam's Electric Toothbrush

I make no secret of the fact that I was a massive asshole when I first started visiting Destructoid. And when I was acting like a dick in those early years, Occams was there to tell me in the nicest way to get my head out of my ass. Much like Andy and Mike, Occams loves this place and does what he can to make this place awesome. He's warm and gentle to all, and does an excellent job of helping new people find their groove and get comfortable here. I've seen Occams get upset at a few people over the years (though to be fair, those people deserved it), but for the most part, he's a jolly happy guy that you can't help but smile along with.

So thanks for being you Occams. You're a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.

 

1. The Dtoider who wrote about Earthbound's Giygas being a fetus

The single most important Dtoider, the one who's C-blog first introduced me to this awesome site, and I don't even know your name. I don't know who you are or what your real name is. I don't know if you're still a Dtoid regular or if you left us long ago. But I do know this much though: you're the reason I'm here in the first place. If it wasn't for you talking about the dark themes in one of the best games ever, I would never have come here and been introduced to such awesome people. Things haven't always been perfect, but the good has always outweighed the bad. This place has become more than a gaming blog to me; it's become a giant dsyfunctional family that I absolutely love. And I wouldn't experince it if it wasn't for you, random Dtoider. And words cannot express those feelings adequately enough. Thank you.

Man, I really shouldn't be chopping onions when I write this stuff.

 

As I said at the beginning of this, I love each and every one of you and to limit myself to only nine people was really hard. That being said, a special thanks to a bunch of other Dtoiders that I want to thank as well, including Brittany Vincent, RenaudB90, Jordan Devore, HyperLemonBusterCannon, Nekrosys, Wrenchfarm (a.k.a Nic Rowen), Steven Hansen, GajKnight (even though you have terrible taste in Persona girls), SeymourDuncan17, The Scholarly Gamer, Jonathan Holmes (who totally stole my first name), Pixilated, Cosmotropolis, ooktar, Luna Sy, JoyfulSanity, and all the rest on CBS. It's been an interesting nine years for Dtoid (four-to five years for me), and hope the next nine years are just as awesome. 

So happy birthday, Dtoid. I made you a cake. A BEEF CAKE:

Good night, and good luck.

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12:44 PM on 02.19.2015  

I Love Super Mario Galaxy

 

"What's your favorite game of all time?" That may sound like a simple question, but it's anything but. Chances are good that some people wouldn't be able to answer the question on the spot, and those who do probably wouln't give the same exact answer. Some people might say The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Half-Life 2, or they might pick something completely out of left field like a Dynasty Warriors game or Pac-Man. Heck, I had a friend in high school who said his favorite game of all time was Jet Force Gemini, a.k.a. that one time Rare said "hey, let's make a third person shooter where you kill space bugs, save knock-off Ewoks, and can play as a cybernetic dog that can temporarily fly in the air". Because video games.

The second question asked after that is usually "why". This one is usually easier for most people to answer, but much like the first question, you'll get a wide variety of answers. Some people like a particular game because it was the first time they ever played a video game before, or they played with a close family member or friend. Maybe said game hit them on a personal level with their story, or it helped them come to terms with who they really are as a person; or maybe the game was really, really good. But regardless of what our favorite game is or why, I think we can all agree on this simple truth: that all of us, from the guy who speedruns Dark Souls to the people who play League of Legends professionally, love video games in some form or another. And while we all have different reasons for loving video games, it's that basic feeling of love and joy that unite us as a community, more so than even movies or music have before us.

The reason I bring this up is because for the first time in a long time, I can answer both of these questions easily. Without a doubt, my favorite game of all time is Super Mario Galaxy. No, not Super Mario Galaxy 2, the original game that came out in 2007. I love Super Mario Galaxy because it's a well designed, beautiful looking and sounding, absoultely fun game to play. However, it also did something that was much more important, which was to create a burning desire in my heart to create an amazing video game and gave me the motivation I needed to make it through my early years in college. And while that desire doesn't burn as bright as it once did, it's still there within in me, and I doubt I would have it all if I didn't play Super Mario Galaxy at the right time. I suppose I should start from the beginning.

Let's go back to a simpler time: August of 2007. I was just starting college, fresh from high school and beginning my college education to get a degree in Game Software Development. It was a fresh start for me as no one from my high school would be there. And when things first started, it was great. I made a ton of new friends, the teachers were great, and I realized how much I liked programming. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period ended almost as soon as it started.

I knew that programming was going to be difficult, but man those first few months were rough. I had never had any previous programming before hand, so to have my teachers talk about variables, if statements, compiliers, and functions sounded foreign to me. It didn't help that a few of my friends and classmates also had a leg up on me, as some of them had programmed before. On top of that, I was unable to hang out with my new friends, either because they had busy schedules, or because I was busy. And if I was free, I would often turn them down because my anti-social, awkward nature from high school carried over (despite the fact I was the loudest and jolliest guy in my class). Oh and there was a guy in my programming class who was kind of a dick, but he was the least of my worries at that point.

Even the one thing that granted me solace, video games, weren't really doing anything for me at the time. I had recently gotten a Wii at the time (after searching everywhere for one, remember when those were hard to find?), and had picked up the Wii versions of Resident Evil 4 and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. While both of these were excellent games, the fact that I had played both of them before on the Gamecube made any desire to play them again not really a priority. It didn't help that Super Smash Bros. Brawl wasn't going to be out for awhile. During those early years, things were changing, and I'm not sure if I could keep up. Then in November, I went to my local Gamestop to pick a game I had pre-ordered back in July; that game was Super Mario Galaxy.

 

You ever felt down or bummed, only for something to come by at the right time to pick you up? Super Mario Galaxy was that thing; a 3D Mario platfomer for the Nintendo Wii in which the platformers had their own center of gravity. So basically Super Mario 64 but IN SPACE! And yet despite this familarity, there was something about Galaxy that felt different, special almost. Whether it was because I was playing on a new system or because we hadn't seen a 3D Mario since Super Mario Sunshine in 2002, but something about it felt old and new at the same time, like holding your childhood teddy bear after it's been washed for the first time in years. And everything about it was perfect.

The levels (called galaxies in the game), while smaller and a bit more linear than what was in Super Mario 64, were well designed with interesting gameplay mechanics such as using the Wii-mote to tehter Mario to certain points across an area a la Spider-Man, or having platforms with the aformentioned center of gravity. While the Wii could only run games in SD, the levels looked nothing short of amazing, ranging from bright and colorful flowery fields to dark onimous ships flying in the night sky, and even a stage that combined the genric fire and ice worlds found in most platformers and made them one. The soundtrack, which was the first in the series' history to be composed by an orchestra (something that not even The Legend of Zelda series would do until Skyward Sword), was beautiful and stuck with me long after I completed the game, and I often find myself listening to it whenever I worked; in fact, I'm listening to Wind Garden, a.k.a the theme heard in the Gusty Garden Galaxy as I'm typing this out right now. This was also the first game that introduced us to Rosalina, who not only became my main in both Smash 4 and Mario Kart 8, but has also became my favorite Mario character, if not one of my favorite all time Nintendo characters. I even loved the Manta Surfing minigames, the Purple Coin challenges, AND the Storybook, three elements that were often criticized by fans. Simply put: I loved everything about Super Mario Galaxy.

Soon, Galaxy became my anchor for those early months. It was the game that I would play to reward myself for figuring out a programming problem or unwind if I had hit a wall. It then occured to me that if someone could make a game as beautiful as this, why couldn't I? A foolish and naive thought for sure, but it was enough to give me the creative spark I needed to get into my studies. As the months went on, other games would come along and take up what free time I had left that wasn't spent studying, job hunting, or hanging out with my friends. But I'll never forget the feelings of joy and immersion I felt playing Super Mario Galaxy, and while Super Mario Galaxywas a great game in it's own right, it just couldn't replace the love I had for the original.

That being said, I'm not going to sit here and say that me playing Super Mario Galaxy instantly made me a better a programmer or that because I played it I now have my dream job. Neither of those things could be further from the truth; it also didn't make me a happier person or make me question my choices. I've had plenty of doubts and moments of sadness while I was in college and after graduating, I'm having them now, and I'm going to have them in the future too. No what Super Mario Galaxy did was show my I love video games in the first place at a time when I needed to know that the most. And while I've lost some of the creative spark and optimism of my younger days, the game still holds a special place in my heart. If The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the game that first introduced me to the idea of making games as my dream job, then Super Mario Galaxy was the game that confirmed to me that I made the right choice.

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7:31 PM on 02.09.2015  

My Struggle With Majora's Mask

Hey Internet, how are you doing? Good, I presume? That's great to hear. I'm not very good with small talk, so let me just cut to the chase: I've been a fan of the Legend of Zelda series for a very long time, with my first game being The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was a change of pace from the usual platformers that I usually played at the time, and while I didn't initally get the hang of it at first, once it clicked for me, I was hooked for life. From then on, I made it a point to play every main game in the series, with a couple of them (specifically Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker) being some of my all time favorite games, alongside the likes of Half-Life 2 and the original Super Mario Galaxy.

But my experince with certain games in the Zelda series hasn't always been pleasant. While there are some games in the series that I absolutely adore (the aformentioned Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker), there have been some games that I've been a bit lukewarm on. Which is pretty common when you have a franchise as big as Zelda, since not everyone is going to like the same thing. But there's one game in the series that I could never get into despite trying numerous times. It's a game that had a bit of a cult following when it first came out, but has since grown in popularity, with many people considering it to be their favorite game in the series. And so Internet, with an enhanced port coming out soon, I come now to confess something that many of you will not agree with.

Internet, my name is GoofierBrute. And I don't like the The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

The face I'm sure many of you are making right now.

Before I go any further down this rabbit hole, I suppose I should probably get something out of the way right now. Despite not liking it, I don't think Majora's Mask is a terrible game. I know that sounds a little contradictory to what I've already said and what I'm about to say, but that's the honest truth. Hell, I wouldn't even call it the worse Zelda game, since that honor belongs to Phantom Hourglass as far as I'm concerned. I'd even go so far as to say that there are some things in Majora's Mask that I actually enjoy quite a bit.

For instance, as much as I love Ocarina of Time for it's story, combat, music, and dungeon designs, I'll be the first to admit the game feels a bit lifeless at times. Don't get me wrong, there are some cool interesting areas like Lon Lon Ranch and the Gerudo Valley, but for the most part the land of Hyrule feels empty and not very interesting, with areas like Hyrule Town feeling like nothing more but window dressing. The denizens of Hyrule don't fare much better, as many of the characters that aren't part of the main story or various side quests come off as forgetable and don't have much in the way of personality. Neither of these problems hurt the overall experince of Ocarina, but they most certainly didn't help. You could chalk this up as being the problem with the Nintendo 64 being not as powerful of system to render such things, and I would agree with you....if it wasn't for the fact that Majora's Mask proved that notion wrong a little more than a year later.

Sure, a lot of the assets of Majora were ripped straight from Ocarina, but that worked in the game's favor, since the team didn't have to spend too much time creating new enviroments and character models, they could take the exisiting ones and give them more detail. Clock Town and the land of Termina were diverse and vibrant, with each area feeling unique and interesting to explore. NPCs who were once forgetable now had names and acted like real people with routines and unique traits. They had likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, and dreams. Some people were close friends with one another, while others were bitter rivals. Getting to know the denizens of Termina and helping them out went a long way to helping you feel immeresed in the game's world.

It's no Morrowind in terms of immersion, but it's pretty damn close.

The story was another aspect of Majora's Mask that impressed me quite a bit. While Ocarina of Time's narrative dealt with themes like growing up, friendship, and finding one's place in an unfamilar world, Majora's Mask's themes focused more on regret, sorrow, mortality, the inevitablity of death and how we as indviduals react when we know the end is coming, in this case the moon falling from the sky and destroying all of Termina. Some characters like Anju (a.k.a. the Cucco Lady from Ocarina who I'm not ashamed to admit was my first gaming crush) accept their fate willingly, while others like the Postman want nothing more than to flee but can't due to various reasons. Watching characters who were once steadfast and heroic on the first day only to turn into broken hysterical messes as the last day was coming to a close was genuinely heartbreaking, and I'd be lying if I didn't say a few of the characters made me get a little teary-eyed, especially when I realized early on that there was no way to save them outside of going back in time to the first day, thus leaving them to their fate. Simply put: Majora's Mask's story and world are absolutely amazing, and for that Majora's Mask should be commended.

So yeah, from a story perspective, Majora's Mask impresses me, and for that I tip my hat to Eiji Aonuma and his team. However, at the same I have to wag my finger at them, since the game has a lot of mechanics and design choices that drive me up the wall. Some of them I've gotten use to over the years, like using the Deku, Goron, and Zora masks to access certain points or a stealth section later on in the game. But there's one part of the game that I've never gotten use and I sincerely doubt I ever will. It's the part of the game that is key to the entire game, and without it, Majora's Mask wouldn't be the same. 

I am of course referring to the three day cycle and the manipulation of time.

You guys are making that face again.

At this point, I'm sure a lot of you are skipping to the comments and telling me that I'm wrong while listing all the things that I can do to make it easier, and to you I say: yes, I know. Yes, I know that you can play the Song of Time backwards to slow down time, or play the Song of Double Time to speed things up. Yes, I know that there's a bank to store my Rupees so I don't lose them when I go back to the first day. Yes I know it's really easy to get bombs and arrows on the first day, and that I keep all my key items. Yes I know the Bomber's Notebook keeps a rough schedule of where important NPCs are and what time of day they go about their lives. I get all of that: but you know what? That still doesn't excuse the fact that this mechanic is limiting and goes against the spirit of what the Zelda series is all about.

Let me tell you what I mean; since it's early days on the NES, The Legend of Zelda series biggest gaming hook has always been the idea of exploring a wide world, with some games (like Wind Waker for instance) suceeding at this better than others. At first, Majora's Mask is one of those games that looks like it's going to suceed. And as I said earlier, interacting with the various denizens of Clock Town and exploring Termina is great in and of itself...at first. Before long however, it felt like the game didn't want me to explore the world, instead making it painfully obvious that in order to get far, I'd have to do the various sidequests to get far and obtain new masks. This quickly became a problem when I realized that many of the side quests were timed and that if you missed even one part of it, the entire side quest had to be started from the beginning, meaning going back to the first day and replaying major portions of it again.

Before long, my various playhtroughs went from "oh boy, I can't wait to explore Termina" to "okay this character shows up here at 7 AM, so if I use the Goron Mask's roll ability I should get there with a few minutes to spare", and to me, that's not what Zelda games are all about. When I play a Zelda game, I want to explore the world: play a few mini-games, find treasure, ride around an open field (or sail around in the case of Wind Waker), maybe even attack some Cuccos to see how long I can survive before they kill me (spoiler alert: not very long); in other words, goofing around while the villian does a bad thing. Majora's Mask lets you do stuff like that, but the game isn't designed to be played like, which I know that for a lot of people is fine, but for me it feels like the game is rushing me, and I don't like it when that happens. It doesn't help either that the game can be pretty cryptic at times with what you can do and where you have to go, so unless you know what you're doing or have a walkthrough handy, it's very easy to get lost playing. All of this culminated in various playthroughs where I would fall in love with the game's world, story, music (oh that music), and characters in the beginning of the game before going through a few dungeons, attempting to complete a few sidequests, trying to complete those sidequests AGAIN because I missed an event or did something wrong, before throwing my hands up and thinking "screw this, I'm playing Wind Waker again".

 

 The one thing that stayed consistent with my various attempts to beat Majora's Mask was how creepy the moon is. Because having pleasent dreams is overrated anyway.

And honestly, that's the what frustrates me the most about Majora's Mask. I WANT to love this game, and put it in my top ten games of all time, since there are elements that I absolutely adore. But much like Charlie Brown and the infamous football, just when I'm confident that the game is really good, Majora's Mask pulls it away at the last minute. And that's more frustrating to me than playing a truly terrible game like Sonic '06 as a terrible game I can justify me not liking it because it's just poorly made. Games like Majora's Mask on the other hand make me genuinely question if it's the game that's flawed or if I'm doing something wrong, and let me tell you; that's not a good felling to have.

I know a lot of you are going to read this and disagree wth me or even be mad at me. And I don't blame you for feeling that way; after all, I just dedicated a c-blog talking about how much I don't like what was an important game for a lot of you, and I did it a few days before a highly anticpated remake of said game is set to release. But know that I didn't write this in anger or spite, or to prove a point, but rather out of dissapointment. I get why a lot of you like Majora's Mask and sing it's praises, and I imagine that in some alternate reality I'm having a blast with it aboard my yacht. But as it stands now, I just can't find myself getting into as much as the rest of you, and I'm starting to wonder if I ever will, even with the remake coming out this week.

I guess you could say I've met with a terrible fate, haven't I?

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9:48 PM on 01.26.2015  

Do's And Don'ts: Punch-Out!!

Hello and welcome to another edition of "Do's and Don'ts", a series in which I talk about what developers and publishers should/shouldn't do when it comes to games, practices, etc. In this installment, I'll be talking about what I would like to see from a hypothetical new Punch-Out!! game.

During a recent Direct, Nintendo announced that they were bringing select Wii titles to the Wii U via download from the Nintendo eShop. The first three titles that were to be announced were the excellent Super Mario Galaxy 2 (despit the original being a bit better), the Wii version of Punch-Out!!, and the Metroid Prime Trilogy, which was nothing short of a brilliant decision by Nintendo and massive flip of the bird to all the scalpers on eBay who had the nerve to sell copies for as low as $80. I still own my Wii and my original copy of Super Mario Galaxy 2, and I intend to download Trilogy when it comes out next week, but a few days ago I downloaded Punch-Out!! for the Wii, and it's as awesome as I remember it. The game still looks nice (despite being in standard definition), the game sounds great, and the gameplay is classic Punch-Out!!, striking a perfect balance between challenging and fair. Soda Popinski is still a dick though.

After playing it for a bit, something occured to me: wouldn't it be great if we got a new Punch-Out!! game for the Wii U? Despite not being as popular as Nintendo's other franchises, the Punch-Out!! series is still loved by a lot of people, myself included. And with this recent re-release and his apperance in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS, interest in Little Mac and the series he hails from is pretty high right now, almost like Marth and Pit were shortly after their debuts in Smash. So yeah, as far as I'm concerned, it's not a question of IF we're getting a new Punch-Out!!, but WHEN. And when Nintendo decides to make a new game, here are some of the things I'd like to see them do, and what to avoid like one of Mike Tyson's haymakers.

DO: Create some new, original boxers

More Fresh Meat to wail on please.

As much I enjoyed the Wii iteration of Punch-Out!!, one of the few problems I had with it were the boxers themselves. Yeah, you had fan favorites like King Hippo and Don Flamenco, but of the fourteen boxers that Little Mac had to fight his way through, only two of them made their debut in this game, with everyone else being a boxer from a previous game. Donkey Kong was one of the new characters, and the other one was Disco Kid, who's big dumb grinning face you can see above. Maybe developer Next Level Games didn't have enough time to put in new characters, or maybe they had some designs that Nintendo didn't approve of. Maybe Nintendo was afraid that because the Punch-Out!! series was (at the time) dormant for so long, that people wouldn't buy it unless they had some old boxers. Whatever the reason, for the next game, give me some new people to Star Punch.

Punch-Out is famous for boxers from various parts of the world, so use that to your advantage. Why not have a singing cowboy from Texas who's songs determine what punches he's going to throw? Or how about a mime where you have to pay attention to their visual cues on account of them being silent? Hell, a lot of the classic boxers are a lot bigger than Little Mac, but why not have one who's the same size as Mac or, dare I say it slightly smaller? The possibilities are endless. Now I'm not saying you should get rid of the old boxers completely, but I do hope going that in this game, the new and interesting boxers are as plentiful as the veterans.

DON'T: Add gimmicky control schemes

 

NOT.EVEN.ONCE.

Remember the Wii Fit Balance Board? Of course you do; it was the thing that your non-gaming relative bought the Wii for back in it's heyday because they saw a report on CNN/Fox News/MSNBC that said that the Wii was an amazing way to lose weight and was perfect for them to get into shape because reasons. But what most people don't remember is that the Wii Balance Board was compatible with a few other games besides Wii Fit, and of those games was the Wii version of Punch-Out!!. Using the Balance Board with the Wiimote and Nunchuck in Punch-Out!! was about as much fun as being Muhammed Ali's personal boxing bag, and most people I know stuck with the Wiimote by itself for most of their playthrough(you could use the Wiimote and Nunchuck together as well, but it wasn't as good). Which is why when it comes to the next Punch-Out!!, I ask this of you Nintendo: don't add gimmicky controls. Just let me use a traditional control scheme.

Now to be fair, Nintendo isn't as motion control crazy as they were last generation. In fact, a lot of big Wii U games support the Pro Controller and use mainly traditional control schemes, and I personal couldn't be happier to see that (and I'm saying this as someone who rather enjoyed my Wii). But then there's the elephant in the room: the Gamepad. I wouldn't mind seeing it used for off-screen play or use the screen to display important info like health, how much time is left in a round, etc., but don't make me have to tilt it block or throw a punch. It's pointless and takes up valuable resources and time. Time that could be used to make the game look nicer, make some new music, add some new boxers, or......

DO: Add more characters from other Nintendo franchises

BANANA-SLAMA!

So I know this contradicts my previous point of "new original characters", and if given the choice between new characters and having Little Mac box a famous Nintendo character, I'll take the former everytime. At the same time.....the fight with DK was super cool and a nice little reward for completing the game's harder modes. And even though he kicked my ass on numerous occasions, it was still an absolute blast to play. So why not do something like that again?

Obviously, you would have to limit yourself to male Nintendo characters only, since I can't imagine many people would be down with watching Peach getting all black and bruised, but that shouldn't be a problem. Besides Donkey Kong, you also have other heavy hitters Bowser, Ganondorf and Wario, or if you want to spice things up, maybe have charaters that aren't as big but can still pack a punch like Link, Captain Falcon and Pit, speedy characters like Fox or Falco, or even tricky characters like Waluigi. Hell, if you want to make things interesting, make Shulk a boxer and have him use the Monado's power to make himself faster or able to take a punch better, or even Mewtwo and Lucario. Now I'm not saying you should make the next Punch-Out!! an all out Nintendo brawl, because frankly if I wanted to see Little Mac beat the crap out of various Nintendo characters, I'd just play Super Smash Bros. But at the same time, it would be a nice change of pace to see characters from Nintendo's other franchises put on a pair of boxing gloves and have a go with Little Mac. No items, three stock, Fox only, Final Destination.

DON'T: Add multiplayer

MAC SMASH!

Punch-Out!! for the Wii had a multiplayer mode.....and it kind of sucked. To be fair, it did play better than the Master Chief Collection's multiplayer, but it's not exactly something you would see played at EVO. For those of you who don't know what it was about (consider yourself lucky) it went something like this: you and your friend on the couch (there was no online) pick between Little Mac and....a different colored Little Mac. Once you picked your Mac, you and your friend would try and hit each other and dodge punches and jabs (which is actually a bit harder then it sounds due to the split screen setup during this) until one of you gets enough energy to turn into Giga Mac, a.k.a that thing he turns into whenever he grabs the Smash Ball. From there it turns into a more traditional fight, with the person who isn't Giga Mac dodging Giga's punches and looks for tells to get Stars. This goes on for a bit until the player who's Giga Mac turns back into regular Little Mac, and the cycle contuines until someone is declared a winner or both of you get bored and switch over to Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Don't do that in the next Punch-Out!! game; it was dull, boring, and felt unnecessary. You could argue that multiplayer for Punch-Out!! could work if you add the option to play as the boxers you fight in the main game, but in order to do that, you'd either have to A) make it a Party Mode and add random elements like items and special abilities so that characters like Glass Joe and Von Kaiser stand a chance against Super Macho Man and Mr. Sandman or B) do nothing and make them handle and react the same way they do in the main game. And from where I'm sitting, neither of those is a good idea, as the former removes any kind of skill and timing (you know, the core of Punch-Out!!'s gameplay) in favor of luck, while the latter means that people will be mainly playing as the Major and World Circuit boxers, while everyone from the Minor Circuit outside of King Hippo (assuming he's in the Minor Circuit in the next game) gets left out in the cold. So yeah, just to make it easier on everyone, don't have a multiplayer mode; some games benefit greatly from multiplayer, while in others it feels tacked on and completely superfluous. And unfortunately for Punch-Out!!, it's one of those series where it just doesn't work.

 DO: Keep Doc Louis

Winning is a lot like a choclate. I just love it baby.

Okay, so this is one of those "no duh" situations, but I feel it should still be addressed. Doc Louis didn't do much in the NES Punch-Out!! other than give you generic tips or tell you to join the Nintendo Fun Club. After being absent in Super Punch-Out!!, Doc Louis returned in the Wii game, completely different than he was in the original. Sure he still gave generic advice and told Little Mac to join Club Nintendo (R.I.P.), but he would do it in way that was part lame, part funny, and all around memorable. From telling Little Mac to "dance like a fly, bite like a mosquito", to having an obsession with chocolate bars, Doc Louis in Punch-Out!! for the Wii was hiliarious, and he brought some much needed comic relief; no matter how hard I got hit in the face, I knew Doc would be there in the corner to give me words of encouragment, crack a joke, or eat a chocolate bar. That last one would mysterious restore some of my health.

So yeah, there's not really much else to say. Give me more Doc Louis Nintendo.

DO: Make a Punch-Out!! line of amiibos....specifically King Hippo

....Seriously Nintendo, just let me buy an amiibo of King Hippo. I don't care if the amiibo bubble has burst by the time this new Punch-Out!! comes out. Let me buy a King Hippo amiibo, and I will love you forever. FOREVER.

 

So yeah, that's what I would love to see in the inevitable new game in the Punch-Out!! series. Do you agree or disagree? What would you guys personally like to see in a new Punch-Out!! game? Sound off in the comments. Thanks for reading, and remember guys: float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, eye of the tiger, and other boxing terms and metaphors. Good night and good luck.

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4:37 PM on 01.12.2015  

Pokļæ½mon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby Review: Another Big Step Forward

I was never a big fan of the Gen III Pokémon games. They weren't terrible games by any stretch of the imagination, and they were definitely some of the best games in the Game Boy Advance library. But compared to the previous games (Gold, Silver, & Crystal), Ruby, Saphhire, & Emerald felt generally lacking; the Hoenn region didn't feel as alive or immersive as Johto did, the Contests felt underwhelming, and the new Pokémon looked either strange or just plain bad. There were some things I liked about the games, such as Double Battles, Abilities, and Personalities, but these changes didn't make up for the stuff that was taken out, such as a tradtional day and night cycle, and ultimately they weren't enough for me to keep me playing. Not long after, I decided to take a bit of a break from the series (the games, the anime, the trading card game, etc.), and it wasn't until Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, & Platnium, otherwise known as Gen IV, to get me back into the series, specifically the main games (I haven't watched the anime in years, but supposedly I'm not missing much).

Flash forward to May of last year, when the Pokémon Company announce on their website that Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire would be getting remakes, this time with an updated presentation, some new content, and making some updates to the main game beyond taking everything from Pokémon X & Y. Everyone except yours truly was super excited about the game, but despite my misgivings about the originals, I thought I'd give these remakes a chance, if for no other reason then I've played all the other ones, so why break with tradition? I didn't get my chance to play Pokémon: Alpha Sapphire until I got it as a Christmas present, and unlike the first time around, I actually played this through to completion. Did these remakes change my mind about the Gen III games? Do I now understand why Pokémon Sapphire & Ruby end up on so many Poké-fans top list?

The short answer to both these questions is no. But that doesn't take away from the fact that both Pokémon: Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are excellent games that bring a lot to the table.

For some people, this is the toughest choice they ever made.

You play as a nameless boy or girl who recently moved to the land of Hoenn with your family. After meeting the Hoenn region's Professor Birch, picking a starter Pokémon to help said Professor, and have a battle with his kid, you leave home and start your quest to be the very best, like no one ever was. As you travel across the land, searching far and wide, you'll capture and train various Pokémon, battle other Trainers, and collect the eight Gym Badges from the various leaders (one of whom is actually your dad *gasp*), leading up to the final encounter with the Elite Four, and the Hoenn Champion. Along the way, you'll battle an evil orginization called Team Aqua (or Team Magma if you're playing Omega Ruby), a team of grown men and women who cosplay as pirates (and whatever the hell Team Magma is supposed to be....hobos, maybe?) who want to resurrect an ancient Pokémon and use their power to flood/dry up the world to make a perfect place for Pokémon to live (apparently sleeping through or skipping Biology 101). So yeah; no pressure or anything.

If the plot sounds familiar, it's probably because it is. It's the same story (with the some variation) that we've seen in Pokémon games for the last twelve years. However, in the game's defense, Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire were the first games in the series to attempt actually telling a story that goes beyond "capture all the Pokémon and become the Champion", so to fault these games for telling a story that isn't all that great would be like faulting the original Dragon Ball Z anime for having too much filler. Besides, you don't play a Pokémon game for it's story; you play it because you want to explore the region and capture the various Pocket Monsters you find along the way. And this is where Pokémon Alpha Sapphire kind of loses me.

 I was never a big fan of the new Pokémon introduced in Ruby & Sapphire, and that opinion hasn't changed as I got older. I wouldn't call them the worse designs in the series (especially since Black & White were the games where you can capture an ice cream cone and a Pokémon literally made of garbage), and in fact some Pokémon first introduced in this generation I've somewhat warmed up to, like Gardevoir, Roselia and the Lotad evolution chain. However, these Pokémon are the exception rather than the rule, and after I found six creatures that I was okay with, I mostly avoided wandering the grass or caves for new creatures to catch outside of the legendaries, and the few that I did catch I'd just throw in the box and never look at again. There were even a couple instances when I would look through my Pokédex or through the boxes of my PC and say to myself "I don't remember catching that". And for a franchise that encourages, no demands, that you "gotta catch 'em all", me not wanting to go out of my way to catch them is a problem.

They're not terrible, but these Pokémon aren't the kind to take home to mother.

Thankfully, the other main component of the Pokémon games, the battling, is excellent as always, adding the many refinements and additions first introduced in Pokémon X & Y. The newly updated EXP. Share is back (making leveling a team much easier), as well as the Super Trainer and Pokémon Aime, making much of the meta game that much easier to access. In addition, despite it being first introduced in X & Y, the Fairy type feels a lot more prominent this time (though that might just be because I had a Gardevoir in my main party for most of the game), as well as Mega Evolutions, though the more Pokémon that get a Mega Evolution, the less interested in the idea I become (really guys, Mega Beedrill?). All of these add up to battles that are both fun and familar. And while I didn't have too much trouble battling the various Trainers along the way (outside of a few story battles and Gym Leaders), I still had a lot of fun and actually found myself revisiting old areas just to re-battle Trainers I had wailed on previously.

Contests are also back from the Gen III games, but this time you get a special Pikachu which you can dress up and enter in any of the contests. While I ultimately didn't bother much with the Contests (since I was never a fan of them anyway), it is nice to see Game Freak expand on an idea that, in my opinion, felt lacking in the original. Secret Bases are another perfect example of this, as there's much more stuff to do with them this time around. Sure you can model them however you see fit, but now it implements StreetPass functionality, so you can share and visit Secret Bases from other people that you meet and invite them to stay at your base. Once I got a few StreetPasses, I found myself getting really into making my Secret Base as cool as possible, something that I didn't expect to happen.

I said earlier that Alpha Sapphire & Omega Ruby had some minor updates to the game, and boy are they much needed. For starters, at certain points in the main story, you can fast travel to your next location by talking to an NPC, thus cutting down on needless backtracking and making the game progress at a fast pace (though it is optionally if you don't want to). The PokéNav, which I completely ignored in the originals, has been completely updated to include a mini news channel (to let you know how awesome you are), a Play Search app (which functions the same as the bottom screen from X & Y), the AreaNav, which shows you the location of Berries that can be picked, Secret Base locations, where and when you can challenge defeated Trainers to a rematch, and DexNav, a feature that shows which Pokémon are in whatever area you're currently in; the one caveat is that you need to actually see the Pokémon in question before it shows up on the scan, but overall it makes filling the National Pokédex much easier. Oh by the way, you no longer have to beat the game to get the National Pokédex, as you can pick it up from Professor Birch (who even gives you a explanation as to why you can now suddenly catch Pokémon from other regions that actually makes sense) after you get all eight Gym Badges, including the Legendaries from every generation except the originals and  X & Y. My personal favorite update is that late into the game you get an item called an Eon Flute, which lets you fly anywhere on the world map without teaching any of your Pokémon the HM move Fly.

Screenshots don't do this any justice.

But the big thing from Alpha Sapphire Omega Ruby that everyone will talk about years from now is the Delta Episode, which is a mini story that takes place after you beat the main game and involves you stopping a meteor from crashing into Hoenn. It's not very long, but it is much more substantial than previous post game content. You even get two legendaries out of it; Rayquaza and the elusive Deoxys. Overall, this and a lot of the improvements that have been made aren't enough to recommend Alpha Sapphire & Omega Ruby, but they are much appericated. I really hope Game Freak builds on these improvements and updates in the Gen VII games and the inevitable Diamond & Pearl remakes.

It should go without saying, but Alpha Sapphire looks great, with the Pokémon looking great in 3D (well, most of them anyway), character models and art work show off a lot more personality, and the environments are bright and colorful, showing off a lot of area diversity. It's just a shame that the various cities and towns you visit feel kind of small and empty. Thankfully, the soundtrack (which is one of the few things I liked about the original games) is just as amazing as ever, finding a perfect balance between being serious and upbeat when it needs to be, fitting ever situation perfectly; in my entire playthrough, I never felt the music was out of place or inappropriate, something that hasn't happened since, well, the original Pokémon Sapphire & Ruby. The new music is really great too, with my personal favorite being the new battle theme for Wally, a young Trainer who you help in the beginning and grows as you progress. I won't spoil it here, but let's just say that the battle against him before you face the Elite Four looks and sounds amazing, and it felt like I was playing the opening to a 90s anime (and yes, that's a complement).

As I said in the beginning of this review, Pokémon Alpha Sapphire didn't change my opinion about the Gen III games. I'm still not a fan of the Gen III Pokémon, and Hoenn just isn't as interesting of a region as say Johto or Unova are, so in that regard, the game ultimately failed. And yet despite these criticisms, there's no denying that I still had a lot of fun during my playthrough. Many of the problems with the originals have been either fixed or removed all together, the amount of side activities to do is great, the music is phenomenal, and while I wouldn't recommend picking the games up for the Delta Episode alone, the game is substantial enough to feel worth the $39.99 asking price. Even as I'm typing this up, I'm still discovering things to do and Pokémon to catch, and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon.

But perhaps Pokémon Alpha Sapphire & Omega Ruby biggest achievement is the fact that for the first time, I'm actually excited to see what the future of the series is beyond catching new creatures. While the games have been making progress over the years, Pokémon X & Y and now Pokémon Alpha Sapphire & Omega Ruby are the biggest changes to the series I've seen in a long time, and show that Game Freak really have been listing to their fans, and I for one couldn't be happier. I've got a fever, and the only cure is more Pokémon.

 

TL;DR: If you've never played a Pokémon game, or left the series a long time ago, nothing here will change your mind or bring you back. But if you're a long time fan of the series, or recently got back into it thanks to X & YPokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are excellent games to pick up, even if you weren't a fan of them when they first came out.

Final Score: 8.5/10

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7:32 PM on 12.17.2014  

Because I'm Right: The Best Games of 2014

For me, 2014 was one of those years, you know the one; where one bad thing happens, and then something else happens, and then it just keep snowballing and before long you're getting intimate with a bottle of Captain Morgan. I won't go into more detail than that, but let's just say the sooner 2014 ends the better. It seems the game industry has also had one of those years this year as well, even more so than usual. This year, we've seen Ubisoft put it's foot in its mouth over having playable female characters, numerous games that came out this year were either buggy at launch or didn't live up to hype (as well as many big games getting delayed to next year), and just recently Grand Theft Auto V was in the news again for stupid reasons. Of course, all of this is nothing when compared to the mine field that is called GamerGate, the impact of which can be explained by people more informed and smarter than myself.

But despite all the bad stuff that happened this year, a lot of great stuff happened too. The PS4 helped Sony start 2014 strong, Microsoft was able to somewhat turn around the Xbox One and has started to pick up steam, and while it's home console still hasn't become as popular as the other two sales-wise, Nintendo is still finding some level of success by releasing a string of well recieved games like Super Smash Bros. 4Mario Kart 8, and Bayonetta 2. And speaking of games, while there have been a couple of major disappointments and/or delays of some big titles, this year has seen the release of quite a few amazing games, more so than in previous years in my opinion. And so, as the year slowly winds down, I thought I would share with you guys (in no particular order) the games that came out this year that I enjoyed the most, and believe me there were a lot. The only two guidelines for this list were games that came out in 2014 (obvs), and I'm not counting remakes and remasters, so sorry Grand Theft Auto V and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby; but you're sitting this one out.

Bravely Default (3DS)

The Groundhog Day of JRPGs.

Okay, so technically this game came out in Europe late 2013, and those of us in the US of A didn't get it until early this year, but Bravely Default is such a good JRPG that it didn't matter if it came out 2014 AD or 2014 BC; I'd still be talking about this game. That's because Bravely Default is one of those rare games that strikes a perfect balance between paying homage to classic 16-bit JRPGs (in this case, the job system of Final Fantasy V) and having some new ideas of it's own, such as being able to turn control the random encounter rate of monsters and having your party autobattle to ease grinding. Perhaps the best thing Bravely Default has going for it however is it's battle system, in which your party, enemies and bosses have the option to  either Brave, in which you move more than once per turn at the cost of being vulernable for a certain number of turns afterwards, or Default, which is like defending in other games, but it gives you Brave Points that you can use in battle later; it strikes an excellent balance between playing it safe and going all out in battle, and encourages you as a player to try multiple party combinations, especially since there isn't one end all be all party combination that you can use all the way to the end. While the story itself may not win a BAFTA for Best Storytelling, it has a surprising amount of depth later on in the game, with a plot twist that I legitimately didn't see coming. The characters are also like this, as they start off one dimensional and generic before growing into well rounded and deep characters; this is especially true with many of the Job Holders that you meet in the game, as they're intially seen in the beginning of the game as crazy, corrupt, or just plain evil, only to find out later that most of them have tragic backstories and aren't completely terrible people, though there are some that are still wonderfully evil villians (looking at you Qada).

Of course, no mention of Bravely Default would be complete without mentioning the big major twist of the game, which is that you have to replay the main dungeons not once, not twice, but FIVE times. Now I know that when a lot of people first heard about this, they either stopped playing game or just refused to pick it up, and while I myself personally didn't mind, I can see why a lot people weren't big fans of this design decision; hell, even I was getting tired of it somewhat by the fourth go around. However, if you decide to give the game a chance, you won't be disappointed, as this is one of the best JRPG on the 3DS (a system where games of this genre are quite abudant) that looks and sounds as beautiful as it is to play. And with the sequel coming out in Japan of April next year (under the original title of Bravely Second), now's a perfect chance for you to get on this train and see what the big deal is. That being said, I do hope the sequel stays away from repeating dungeons, or else they're going to have an angry Goof on their hands, and no one wants that.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

 

HEYO! DONKEY KONG LET'S GO LET'S GO! HERE HE COMES BANANA-SLAMA!

 When Nintendo first announced that Retro's new game was going to be another Donkey Kong Country game at E3 2013, I admit that I was a little disapponted, since I was really hoping that Retro would either go back to making Metroid or even try their hand at another Nintendo property (Starfox perhaps). This disappointment lasted for about two seconds (possibly less), because it instantly occured to me that OH MY GOD RETRO IS MAKING ANOTHER DONKEY KONG COUNTRY GAME AND IT'S IN HD AND NOW I HAVE TO CHANGE MY PANTS! And so after a minor delay, Wii U owners were treated to an excellent platforming experince this Februrary with the release of Tropical Freeze, and it was good; like really good. Tropical Freeze doesn't change too much of what made Returns so much fun to play, but what little it does change makes the game feel fresh and new again. For starters, swimming and underwater segments are back this time, and while you don't have Enguarde the Swordfish to help you this time, they're still pretty fun sections to play; in addition, some levels now have multiple exits, with some leading to hidden levels that you can't access any other way.

But perhaps the biggest change that Tropical Freeze added was the incluson of two additional playable characters; fan favorite Dixie Kong returns to use her helicopter hair to float in the air for a bit (as well as hover down slowly like in previous games), and everyone's favorite old grandpa Cranky Kong makes his debut as a playable character, using his cane to jump a bit higher and to cross spiked areas. The addition of these two (plus the return of Diddy Kong) bring a ton of variety to both the gameplay and stages, as there are certain enemies and stage hazards that can be cleared using a specific Kong, and since Donkey can only have one other Kong with him at a time, the game encourages you to both experiment and explore the levels multiple times, because unless you use a guide, you aren't going to grab everything in one go. Of course, this would be a problem if the levels themselves weren't that fun to play, but thankfully that isn't the case, as each level is an absolute blast to play, each one offering something new and exciting, with my personal favorite being Grassland Groove; they even brought back the minecart and rocket barrel levels from Returns, and they don't make me want to punch a kitten this time. Take all of this platforming goodness and give it an HD coat of paint and music done by David Wise himself, and you have one of the best platformers to ever grace the Wii U. Huh, I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself: I went that entire time without make a monkey or banana joke or pun; that's pretty bananas---GOD DAMNIT!

Goat Simulator (PC)

While doing a Google Image search of this game , I accidently added an extra 'T', so it spelt out Goat Stimulator. Don't make the same mistake I did.

I know this entry is going to raise a few eyebrows. Originally a joke by developer Coffee Stain Studios, Goat Simulator was never meant to be a real game, until the studio released a video of it on Youtube, causing the Internet to demand it get made into a real game. Coffee Stain Studios delievered and released the game on April 1st of this year, and boy what a game it is. There's no overarching narrative or online multiplayer(though there is local multiplayer, and  they did add some MMO elements in the latest update); it's just you as a goat, causing as much mayhem and destructions as possible while witnessing some truly hiliarious, non-game breaking bugs. And I absolutely love it.

Okay look, not every game has to have a rich narrative or have an innovative mechanic. Sometimes a game just needs to be fun, and that's what Goat Simulator is. Yeah, it's sometimes broken, the physics are weird, and it's a joke that not everyone will find funny, but I still had a blast with it. And at the end of the day, that's all that really matters. Plus, it runs better than Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric!

South Park: The Stick of Truth (360,PS3, PC)

Friendly faces everywhere, humble folks without temptation!

After a long development cycle that saw multiple delays and the fear of cancellation when THQ closed it's doors last year (R.I.P.), South Park: The Stick of Truth was finally released this year, and it's well worth the wait. As the new kid in South Park, your job is to help protect the Stick of Truth and the mysteries it wields as you interact with the locals of everyone's favorite quiet little mountain town, get analed probed by aliens, travel to Canada, fight gingers and stop Zombie Nazis. Yeah, in case it wasn't obvious, Stick of Truth's biggest strength is the writing and the humor, which are great on both accounts. I know it was said a lot after release, but it really does feel like you're playing an episode of the show, helped immensly by the graphics using the same artstyle as the show as well as getting the cast of the show to voice their respective characters (Trey Parker totally beats Kevin Spacey for acting), with references to some of the show's best moments. I lost it the first time I heard "Let's Fighting Love" while walking into a store and when I was collecting Chinpokomon.

I also know a lot of people weren't fans of it, but I really liked the combat in this game, as it reminded a lot Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario,  and the Mario & Luigi games, in which you have to press the attack button at the right time or press the button the right time to block. I always enjoyed this kind of combat since it rewarded you for paying attention in combat, as attacks work or fail based on your timing, and enemies have tells and stances to show how they're going to attack or block. I really hope Obsidian take the combat system they used in Stick of Truth  and use it in another game going forward. South Park: The Stick of Truth is not the first game based on the show, and it's far from the last. However, it is the first game that is fun for both fans and non-fans alike, and it was well worth the wait.

Wolfenstein: The New Order (360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, PC)

SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER! AND GERMANY TOO!

Anyone who's read a history book or watched the History Channel back when it was still about history (and not giving the people who aren't aware that the Stargate movie and TV show aren't real relevancy) knows that Hitler and the Nazis were absolutley terrible human beings who did a lot of super messed up stuff. Of course the one (AND ONLY ONE) good thing about the Nazis being Grade A assholes is that you don't need to justify mercilessly killing thousands of them in comics, movies, TV shows, and video games. Which is why Wolfenstein: The New Order is so special; developer MachineGames didn't have to give us a reason to shoot Nazis for the millionth time, but they did, as the game takes place in alternate history in which the Nazis won World War II and have now taken over the world. I know that for a lot of people were divided on it, but overall I really dug the story in The New Order, as the main characters were interesting and in depth (Blazkowicz in particular surprisngly grew on me), and while I did eventually stop caring about the plot as it went along, it was good on the devs to put this much effort into a story and characters when they really didn't need to. Of course, story can only take you so far if the gameplay wasn't up to snuff, but thankfully the New Order is fun to play; oh how fun it is.

 Sure, the main thing you're doing in The New Order is killing Nazis, but it's how you do it in each level that really sets the game apart, as you can go about the missions in one of four ways (stealth, tactical, assault and demolition), with each method offering unique perks and abilities that you can pick and choose to use how you see fit. And while I mostly ended up going in guns blazing (BECAUSE THESE COLORS DON'T RUN), it's nice to see more openess and freedom in the genre. If I were to give out actual awards (Game of The Year, Best Fighter, etc), I would easily give Wolfenstein: The New Order the award "Biggest Surprise", since when I first saw it, it looked really generic, then I sat down and played it and it was much better than I expected it to be. It takes elements from older games in the FPS (medkits, huge open maps) with elements seen in more recent games (regenerating health, cover) and makes them work together beautifully. And while the game does absolutlely nothing new to push the genre forward, everything it does is polished to such an incredible shine that any lack of innovation is made up by the fact that it's just a fun game to play.

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

I'd probably watch NASCAR if the drivers threw shells and banana peels at each other; keyword being "probably"

At its core, Mario Kart 8 is the same Mario Kart that you played when you were a kid on the SNES, the same Mario Kart that you played on the N64 in college with your friends in between Goldeneye and Super Smash Bros. matches, etc. Yeah, there are some tracks that have you driving upside down, and gliders and underwater sections return from Mario Kart 7, but at the end of the day it's still the same power sliding, item grabbing, F-bomb dropping, friendship ending game that we've been playing on every Nintendo console since the Super Nintendo, except this time it's in HD. But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. Mario Kart 8 takes the core gameplay that we've all grown to love and hate at the same time and polishes it to a prestine shine, fixing a lot of the major problems of the previous entries (such as changing how items are used and changing the A.I. of the CPU racers) while at the same time keeping the mayhem of the series intact.

The tracks are really amazing and a blast to play on, with the new ones like Mount Wario and Electrodome quickly becoming some of my new favorites in the series, while the retro tracks have been redone to include new concepts like ramps and anti-gravity sections and they feel like brand new tracks because of it. They even did the impossible and took Toad's Turnpike (and in the DLC Wario's Gold Mine) and made it not terrible! While there aren't as many new ones introduced this time around, the new items in Mario Kart 8 are actually really awesome; the Boomerang is great for hitting players in front if you can time it right, the Piranha Plant snaps at anyone and anything in front of you and give you a boost, and the Super Horn creates shockwaves to stun players, destroy bananas and shells, but more importantly, it can stop the dreaded Blue Shell, thus bringing its reign of terror to a satsifying end. And while it's still lacking in some areas, the online component of the game is great, with next to almost no lag (at least for me anyway). Overall, everything about the game feels both familar and fresh at the same time, and is easily the best game in the series.

 Civilization: Beyond Earth (PC)

I claim this planet in the name of Mars! Isn't that lovely?

Upon seeing Civilization: Beyond Earth in action for the first time, you might think it's just Civilization but IN SPACE! And you'd be right; well sort of. You see, even though it has the same "just one more time" gameplay that the series is famous for, there are small tweaks and additions from previous games that almost make Beyond Earth a brand new game. For example, you're no longer controlling a specific civilization with unique abilities and units, but rather you're picking a corporation to fund you, and you get to choose which abilities and units you start our with, making each playthrough a unique experince. But that's only the beginning, as throughout the game you are given quests to complete, which range from discovering a certain number of relics to making a choice on what to do with a newly discovered material; while they're mostly optional, completing these quests can grant you unique bonuses, XP, new resources to use, and Affinity points.

Speaking of Affinities, they're easily one of my favorite part of the game; similar to Ideologies in Civilization V: Brave New World (in that they both grant you special perks and upgrades for your units based on which one you're aligned with), Affinities are different in that A)all three are avilable early in the game (as opposed to Ideologies being chosen late into the game) and B) Affinities develop based on how you play the game, as opposed to the other way around. Each of the three Affinities (Harmony, Purity, and Supermacy) level up based on what decisions you make throughout the game, and while you can add points in any of the three, if you want to obtain one of the thee victories associated with the Affinites, you need to pick one and develop it; or not if you don't want to. Moreso than any other Civ game, you're free to develop the course your colony takes as you see fit, and it's a blast, as it encourages expermintation, trial and error (huge emphasis on error), and multiple playthroughs. The only real complaint I have with this approach is that while it does grant you a new level of freedom, it comes at the cost of some of the personality that the series is famous for; I'm sorry, but telling some random Russian guy to eat missles just isn't the same as Gandhi dropping nukes on Napoleon because he gave Gandhi a funny look (and by Gandhi, I of course mean me). But that's one minor complaint in the grand scale of things, as Beyond Earth is an excellent game that any Civilization fan would be silly not to play.

Shovel Knight (Wii U, 3DS, PC)

I'll try to refrain from making shovel and digging jokes, but I make no promises. You have been warned.

Without a doubt, the easiest way for me to lose interest in an indie game is if the developers make the game look, sound, and play like an NES game, or they said that games from that era are their inspiration for their game. Nothing against the NES or the games of that time mind you, it's just that most developers think "8-bit game" means "let's make our game with a bunch of cheap deaths"; yeah NES games were hard, but the good ones were games that were tough but fair and rewarded the player for figuring out how to properly use the game's mechanics to advance. So when Yacht Club Games started a Kickstarter in March of last year to fund their debut game Shovel Knight, I was admittedly skeptical for the reasons I listed earlier. But then I finally got my hands on the game, and a strange thing happened. I really liked it; a lot actually.

 Taking elements from Super Mario Bros. 3DuckTales, and the Mega Man series to name a few, Shovel Knight plays like the kind of old school game that I'd love to design one day. Yeah it's tough, but it's fair in it's difficulty; checkpoints are frequent (though you can break them for money if you want), enemies drop plenty of money and items, new abilities, healing items and magic powers are incredibly inexpensive, there's no lives system to deal with, and the levels are both fun to play and designed incredibly well. It really does feel like Yacht Club Games loves game of that era, but not so much that they become oblivious to the flaws and design problems many games of this era had. Combine all of this with an excellent art style, cool characters, a surprisingly deep story, and an awesome soundtrack done by Jake "virt" Kaufman, and you have an indie game that I can really dig. Get it, because it's called Shovel Knight, and you use shovels to dig holes, and......I'll let myself out.

Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

She's a KILLER QUEEN!

Gunpowder and Gelatine!

Hey guys, remember when Bayonetta 2 came out on the Wii U? And it sucked because Platnium were forced to shoe-horn Gamepad functionality, thus ruining the flow of the combat? And because the Wii U wasn't as powerful as the PS4 and Xbox One, the game looked nowhere near as good as any game that showed up on either of those consoles? And because Nintendo were publishing the game, all the violence, nudity, swearing, and sexual innuendo were removed completely? And all of this culminated in Bayonetta 2 being the worse game Platnium ever made, becoming a black eye on the stellar Wii U library, and ultimately going down in history as the worse game of 2014?

Yeah, me neither.

Super Smash Bros. 4 (Wii U, 3DS)

All together now: SETTLE IT IN SMASH!

 Don't act surprised; I've been hyped for Smash 4 since the release of Brawl (by the way, Smash 5 is my most anticpated game of 2018, right behind Half-Life 3). But instead of getting one Smash game, we got two this time around, one for the Wii U and the 3DS, the first time the series has been on a handheld; and both are spectular games. The roster is easily the best I've seen in any game ever, striking a perfect balance between popular veterans and newcomers, with some of the newcomers (like Little Mac, Rosalina, and Robin to name a few) quickly becoming some of my favorite characters in the series. The stages and music are absolutely amazing and offer a nice diversity and are a perfect love letter to anyone who loves Nintendo and its franchises. And while I can't talk about the intricacies of the combat, I can say that the game plays and feels as lovely as ever, even on the 3DS version surprsingly; so yeah, basically the game is super fun to play and you should get it.

That's not even getting into the stuff that each version offers, as each of the versions offer something truly unique. On the Wii U version, you have 8-player Smash, Special Orders, and Event Matches, while the 3DS offers up Smash Run, a mode in which you have five minutes to explore an area, collect power-ups, and fight familiar Nintendo enemies, with a random match played at the end with your powered up character. Smash Run may not seem like much compared to what the Wii U version offers, but it's still surpisingly fun to play in quick bursts, and is a fun mode to play for people who missed Adventure mode from Melee; it's also better than Smash Tour (which is for people who thought Mario Party made too much sense and wasn't chaotic enough). Overall, it's still too early to tell whether Smash 4 will steal the crown from Melee as the "BEST GAEM EVAR!" But I do know this much; Smash 4 is some of the most fun I've had in a long time, and the only reason I'm not playing it right now is because my 3DS is recharging and I'm not a fan of playing it on the Wii U Gamepad screen.

 

 So yeah, those were the best games of 2014. I do want to point out that these games are listed in NO PARTICULAR ORDER, so if you're wondering why Game X isn't higher than Game Y, it's because these are the first ones that I thought of. However, if I were to rank them, they would be....a complete and totally secret to everyone but me. In any case, thanks for reading this, and if you agree, disagree, or if there's a game you think I missed, let me know. Of course it won't matter because as the title says, I'm totally right and this is infallible because I'm infallible and everything I say should totally be taken seriously and at face value.

Anyway, have a happy holiday season, play a lot of games, and stay classy. Good night, and good luck.

  read


12:39 AM on 12.07.2014  

Leave Luck to Heaven: The Ten Best First Party Nintendo Games (#5-1)

Back in late September, I started a list of the 10 greatest Nintendo games ever made. You can read part 1 here. I'm not a fan of leaving things unfinished, so without further ado, here's the thrilling conclusion of the ten best Nintendo games. Same rules with this list as the last one: one entry per franchise, this list is my opinion, etc. 

5. Pokémon Silver (Game Boy) 

A main Pokémon game was going to end up on this list one way or another. The question though was which one was I going to pick? Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow are the games that started the series, Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum are the games that personally brought me back into the series, Pokémon Black/White/BL2/WH2 are the games that improved the online first introduced in Pokémon Diamond/Pearl, and despite them being my least favorite games in the entire series (and almost made me stop playing the games altogether), I can’t deny the impact that Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald had on the series by introducing Abilities and Double Battles. Hell, you could probably make a solid case for the recent Pokémon X/Y games for having a robust online network, streamlining a lot of the meta game, and introducing Mega Evolutions, as well as adding the Fairy type, which completely wrecks Dragon types. But after thinking it over, I just couldn’t in good conscience put anything but the second generation of games, otherwise known as Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal; and when I say I’m discussing the second generation of Pokémon games, I of course mean Pokémon Silver, since that’s the one I played and owned (also because Lugia > Ho-oh).

Much like Donkey Kong Country 2, Pokémon Silver is the definition of a good sequel, building on the already solid foundation established by the original games, as well as adding some ideas of its own. For example, this was the first game to include a day and night cycle (complete with a built in clock), with certain events, characters, areas and even Pokémon showing up at certain times of the day; an already impressive feat made even more so when you consider the fact that the average memory size of a Game Boy/Game Boy Color cartridge ranged from 32KB-1MB, which on the high end is about one one-thousandth the size of The Shivering Isles DLC for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This game also introduced breeding, an idea that would be further built upon by later installments like Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald. It’s also a really nice looking and sounding game for the time, as the land and people of Johto pay homage to Japanese culture with the towers of Ecruteak City or the Kimono Girl Trainers that you occasionally battle; it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that this game was one of my earliest exposures to Japan and its culture, and helped foster a newfound respect and admiration to their culture. But easily the biggest contribution that Pokémon Silver brought to the series in my opinion was the introduction of two new types of Pokémon: the Steel types, which had strong defense but were mostly weak against Fire and Fighting types, and the Dark type, which was strong against Ghost and immune to Psychic Pokémon (which I found out the hard way after using my level 100 Mewtwo from my Blue game against an Umbreon), but were weak against Bug and Fighting types. Both of these types not only changed some Pokémon types (like Magnemite and Magenton), but also changed how Trainers set up their teams, as both of these new types were weak against the aforementioned Fighting-type.

Pokémon Silver came out at a pretty important time in my young life. By the time it came out in 2000, the Pokémon series as a whole was starting to wane in popularity among many of my classmates, with many of them leaving the franchise behind to get in on the new hip, edgy series at the time called Digimon. I was on the verge of being one of those poor unfortunate souls, until I got a copy of Pokémon Silver as a gift for renewing my subscription to Nintendo Power (R.I.P.), and it’s without a doubt the game that showed me that I was ready to stick with this Pokémon thing in the long run. Not only does it stand out as a good Pokémon game, but it’s also a good game in its own right, and while I’ve had a bit of a rocky relationship with the series over the years, I’ll never forget my time and the memories I had playing Pokémon Silver. Oh, and for those of you wondering (since I’m sure you’re going to ask): Gen 2 > Gen 6 > Gen 5 = Gen 4 > Gen 1 > Gen 3.

4. Mother 3 (Game Boy Advance)

 So I know this goes without saying, but if you own a Wii U and still haven’t done so, stop reading this and go download Earthbound off the Wii U Virtual Console; it’s easily the best ten bucks you can spend outside of two Hot-N-Ready pizzas from Little Caesar’s. But as much as I love Earthbound, it’s the GBA sequel Mother 3 that holds a special place in my heart. Originally meant to be released on Nintendo’s doomed N64 DD, Mother 3 was moved to the N64 before being cancelled (due to the development team being unfamiliar with 3D technology), before ultimately being revived on the Game Boy Advance, this time using sprites and telling a much darker, sadder story than the one present in Earthbound. However, since everyone and their mom (ha) has already gone over the story and world in Mother 3 (I myself may do that one of these days), I’m not going to be talking about it too much for this list, though do know that it’s one of the few instances in any medium where a story made me cry. Instead, I’ll be mainly focusing on another aspect of Mother 3 that people don’t talk about as much, but they really should; the combat.

While the game follows the same turned based system that was in the original (which in turn was loosely based off of Dragon Quest’s combat), Mother 3 adds something to make the combat much more interesting: a combo system, or Sound Battle as the game calls it. The way it works is this: whenever you do a regular attack, hit the attack button again according to the rhythm of the song playing during battle (represented by an enemy’s heartbeat, which you can hear by putting them to sleep). The twist is that the music that plays in battle is never the same, and that each enemy has a different heartbeat; some enemies have a fast beat, requiring you to hit the attack button at a fast rate, while others have slower beats, which means hitting the button a little slower. If it sounds complicated and confusing to you, it’s probably because it is complicated and confusing (especially if you’re someone like me who lacks rhythm), but that makes the combat all the more interesting and deeper than most game. And when you do successfully pull it off? Man what a genuinely great feeling.

Everyone already knows the story about the release of Mother 3 at this point that it almost doesn’t need repeating; Mother 3 released near the end of the Game Boy Advance’s life, Nintendo decided not to release it outside of Japan, and currently has no plans to localize it anytime soon. Yeah it sucks, and it’s one of those Nintendo decisions that I absolutely hate, but it’s ancient history by this point. Besides, it’s not all bad, as a group of dedicated fans went out of their way to not only translate the game into English, but also distributed it for free and is pretty painless to use (provided you’re cool with emulation). I’ve used the translation myself when playing the game, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to give the game a try and can’t speak Japanese. In fact, I would recommend playing Mother 3 regardless, as it’s an absolutely wonderful game, with interesting characters, a great story, a surprisingly deep combat system, and an excellent soundtrack; it’s easily my favorite RPGs of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. And much like Earthbound, even if you’ve seen videos and screenshots of it and it doesn’t look all that appealing to you, play it anyway, since there really hasn’t been many games like it before or since its release.

3. Metroid Prime (Gamecube)

One of the biggest things that Nintendo is famous for is its willingness to try new things and take risks, and in 2002 there was no bigger risk than Retro Studios’ debut game: Metroid Prime. Started in 2000 after Miyamoto paid a visit to the studio and suggested they make a new Metroid game using a new action adventure game engine that Retro had developed, the game had a troubled development, with problems ranging from the team being unable to get the camera to work in third person (prompting the game to become first person), to having most of what was worked entirely scrapped at one point (mainly due to the switch to first person), and even Retro supposedly missing various deadlines; heck, by the end of the development cycle, Retro was working eighty-one hundred hours a week to meet their final milestone. There were also reports coming out at the time that Retro had some internal strife, with some people at Retro reportedly being very unhappy with how the company was being managed; the cancellation of a bunch of games that the company was working and laying off employees certainly didn’t help either, and Metroid Prime ended up being the only game they were working on. Oh yeah, and the gaming press and Metroid fans weren’t exactly thrilled that Nintendo and Retro were taking a beloved 2D franchise and making it a first person shoo-sorry, I meant first person adventure. But despite all of these shortcomings, the game released in North America on November 17th, 2002….and it bombed horribly, going down in history as one of the worse games ever made, dooming the Metroid franchise to a life of obscurity, and guaranteeing that Nintendo would never outsource their big franchises to outside companies ever again. Naw, I’m just messing with you guys; Metroid Prime is freaking awesome.

Ironically, the first person gameplay that everyone was vehemently opposed to prior to the game’s release also happens to be its most defining feature. The Metroid games are famous for giving off a sense of isolation and loneliness via exploring strange alien worlds, and Metroid Prime has this in spades, because this time you aren’t looking at Samus move around on screen; you ARE Samus, exploring the mysterious Tallon IV, and Retro wants you to remember that. Everything from rain rolling down Samus’ visor to a pair of eyes that show up whenever you shoot your Charge Beam in the dark go a long way to make you feel like you’re badass bounty hunter Samus Aran and you don’t need to crawl. It’s easily one of the most immersive games I’ve ever played, and I don’t make that statement lightly. The game is also incredibly beautiful, both in terms of sound and visuals; if there was a game that I would love to see an HD upgrade of, it’s Metroid Prime.

I know a lot of you are reading this and are going to say “Y U NO PUT DOWN SUPER METROID?” While I do feel that Super Metroid is an excellent game (seriously you should download it on the Wii U Virtual Console), the original Metroid Prime I feel is the superior game in every possible way. It’s one of those games where it has a bunch of ideas that you don’t think would work (i.e. “let’s make Metroid first person”) not only absolutely work beautifully, but work so well, you’re not sure if you can play another game without them (see Ocarina of Time and Sonic the Hedgehog 2). This was the game that put Retro on my short list of developers I get excited for, alongside other great developers like Platinum. And while I thoroughly enjoyed how Retro handled the Donkey Kong Country series, I would absolutely love for them to go back to the Metroid series. It couldn’t be any worse than what Team Ninja did.

2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube)

Let me just get this out of the way right now: The Wind Waker is my all-time favorite Zelda game, and it always has been. I know that that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s very easy to forget that many gamers were singing a different tune when Wind Waker was first announced. After showing off a pretty sweet tech demo of a realistic Link fighting Ganondorf at Nintendo Space World 2000, Nintendo showed off the first footage of what would be known as the Wind Waker a year later, and it was completely different than what everyone had expected (despite Nintendo saying that the tech demo was basically that…a tech demo). Instead of a realistic Link, Nintendo decided to go with a cartoony look for titular hero, and instead of exploring an open world, players were exploring a vast ocean. Zelda fans and some game journalists were furious at Nintendo over this; the game was slammed leading up to the launch, with some people saying that it looked childish (no it didn’t), that Nintendo was abandoning their older fans to appeal to children (gee, never heard that one before), and that it was unfit for a Zelda game (no it wasn’t). Video Gamer X, the webmaster for one of the earliest Zelda fan websites known as The Odyssey of Hyrule went so far to compare early screenshots to the Philips CD-i games, and called it “animated C-quality Disney garbage”; so yeah, to say initial reaction of Wind Waker was lukewarm was an understatement, but then a funny thing happened. People played the game, and what a surprise; it was actually really good, taking the best elements of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask and refining them while doing some cool stuff of its own.

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame once called sailing across the open sea in Wind Waker as “lending itself wonderfully to that eternally misused adjective ‘epic’”, and that’s an apt description in my opinion. The Great Sea is a huge, vast body of water that has a ton of memorable land marks and islands to explore, and while the Great Sea isn’t as big as say San Andreas or Skyrim, it’s still very easy to get lost in the best possible way sailing from one quadrant to another. Even though I’ve one hundred percent completed the game hundreds of times, I still find myself just sailing on the ocean for a bit with no real purpose, looking for treasure, or just chatting it up with the locals on the various islands. Speaking of the NPCs, the NPCs in Wind Waker are easily some of my favorite in any video game, like ever, as they each have unique looks and personalities that really go a long way in making me care about my quest; I’m not just going to stop Ganondorf because reasons, I’m stopping him because I care about these oddballs that I’ve met over the course of my adventure and have grown to love (except Tingle; screw that guy). And speaking of Ganondorf, I’m not really a fan of the character, but this version of the Great King of Evil is easily my favorite, as not only is he genuinely powerful and intimidating, but this is the game where we learn a little bit of his early life and understand some of his motivation for why he wants to take over Hyrule (at least in this timeline); I didn’t agree with him, but I could totally see where he was coming from and why he did what he did. This version of Link is also my favorite as well, as he’s not some stoic hero who goes out to save the world because it’s his destiny, but rather he’s some kid who goes out and explore this world that’s foreign to him because his sister was kidnapped by a giant bird; he’s young, reckless, and kind of an idiot (he gets his ass kicked three times during the game), but he’s still a likable character who has depth, and who has to earn his title as a great hero.

Now as much I gushed over how awesome Wind Waker is (seriously you have no idea how much I want to play it right now), I will be the first to admit that it isn’t for everybody. While I didn’t mind the sailing and the now infamous Triforce Shard quest near the end of the game, I can see why some people aren’t. Hell if I didn’t play when it first came out (I was 14 at the time), I don’t know if I would have appreciated it as much as I did. It’s also the reason why I’m a little hesitant to recommend the Wii U remake, since unlike the Ocarina of Time remake on the 3DS, there are still elements of the original game that are still in the remake, like sailing and collecting the Triforce shards. However, for those of you who still haven’t played or want to give it a chance, I highly recommend you try it out. Wind Waker is a beautiful game (both in terms of art style and sound), with interesting characters and dungeons, a story that is both silly and sad at the same time, and respects and pays homage to the N64 games in wonderful and fun ways (I won’t spoil it here if you haven’t played it yet). You know what screw it, I’m playing through Wind Waker again; be right back.

1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

I make no secret of the fact that the original Super Mario Galaxy is my personal favorite game of all time. But as much as I adore the game, I almost wasn’t going to include it on this list. The Mario franchise is so iconic and well known that I could have put any game in the main series on this list, and I would have had a good case for it being number one. The original Super Mario Bros. laid the ground work for the series (and Nintendo as a company) going forward, Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced flying, World gave us Yoshi, 64 brought the plumber into the 3rd dimension, Sunshine was a…..interesting experiment, the list goes on. So for me to include Super Mario Galaxy on this list simply because it’s my personal favorite feels a little unfair, especially compared to other games in the series. But after thinking about a bit more, I realized that Super Mario Galaxy is worthy of being on this list, and at number one no less. Super Mario Galaxy is the best game Nintendo has ever made, and is the kind of game that I want to make.

Super Mario Galaxy is, at its core, a 3D Mario game, but IN SPACE. If it sounds like a straightforward simple concept, that’s because it is, but that works in the game’s favor, as the team took a concept as simple as gravitational platforming and came up with some truly amazing ideas. The levels (or galaxies as they’re called) are rich with color and life, with many platforms acting like a planet (complete with its own gravity), and playing on familiar platforming tropes we’ve become all too familiar with (like an ice world mixed with a lava world), and the things you’re doing in these galaxies are truly some of the most fun things I’ve ever done in any video game. One minute you’ll be surfing on a manta ray on courses that wouldn’t feel out of place in Mario Kart 8, and the next you’re pulling a Shadow of Colossus and climbing atop a giant robot, which has its own center of gravity, as if it was a planet of itself. All of this is accompanied by the most beautiful soundtrack that’s fully orchestrated a first for the series. Speaking of firsts, Super Mario Galaxy is the first game to introduce us to Rosalina, who has quickly become my favorite character in the Mario series.  

I realize now that three paragraphs isn’t enough space for me to talk about how amazing Super Mario Galaxy, and I doubt I’d be able to convince anyone of that with a full blog post. But that’s fine; because as far as I’m concerned, Super Mario Galaxy is not only the best game on the Wii and the best Mario game, but also the best representation of Nintendo’s design philosophy, in which gameplay is king. It doesn’t have an open world to explore or a moral choice system, and outside of Rosalina’s Storybook (which you can skip if you want because it’s super sad as hell), there isn’t a deep narrative that asks hard hitting questions. But Super Mario Galaxy doesn’t need any of that, as it can stand toe-to-toe with any modern game just on its gameplay and fun levels alone. It’s also one of the few games on the Wii that not only did motion controls well, but also did it in a way that actually made sense. There really isn’t much else I can say without being redundant; Super Mario Galaxy in an amazing game that is just as fun now as it was seven years ago, and is easily the greatest game Nintendo has ever made.

 

So what do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree? Maybe you think I was being pretentious when talking about Super Mario Galaxy (it’s really amazing guys, I swear)? In any case, let me know what you think. Apologizes that this didn’t come out sooner; real life can be crazy like that. Anyway, thanks for reading. Good night and good luck. 

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