Playing Akane the Kunoichi is like pouring smooth, cold retro milk down your throat, all dried up by the never ending thirst for nostalgia... or something. Awful allegories aside, this little diamond can easily be described as Shinobis somewhat chubbier, but still adorable, little sister. The controls are smooth, the sword-(knife?)-play is satisfying and the music is bloody awesome. But nothing compares to the kick ass plot that really manage to nail the balance between storytelling and gameplay.
You are a foxy ninja, your master is kidnapped, you must rescue your master while collecting beautiful kimonos along the way. If you haven´t collected them all by the end, he will not love you. He will be somewhat pleased that you rescued him, but he will not love you. More profound social commentary is yet to be found. Take notes Hideo!!
However, despite being more or less perfect in the controls/visual/audio department, what really makes this game shine is the splendid level design and the delicate difficulty curve. There aren´t that many types of enemies, but each one demands a specific approach. One can make it through the game without breaking a sweat, if you ignore the Kimonos, but if you want to see the real ending (believe me, you want to) you´ll need to step it up. The kimonos are not hidden away in random, unpredictable places though, making the search for them a matter of skill rather then pure persistance (i´m looking at you Mario Sunshine... damn blue coins!!).
The bosses are fun, imaginative and a pleasure to battle. And the later levels, especially the last, hits that "Super Meat Boy" kind of difficulty, that makes you wanna throw utensils at your dog, and then refuse to take him/her to the vet, because you just need. One. More. Try!!
I can´t stress this enough. Buy this game, it´s a colorful, vibrant and very well crafted piece of work.
The legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is by far the greatest entry in the series so far. There are however som small design choices that hinder itÂ´s potential perfection. Allow me to elaborate.
Flaw 1: Pointless rewards.
Zelda sidequests rule. They are often funny, creative and sometime utterly bizarre. ("Sure creepy toilet hand, you may use this loveletter however you please"). The problem lies in the rewards given. They are more than often a direct insult. Anyone who managed to beat Bug Wrangler under 2 minutes, know what i am talking about. The worst offender of this aspect is by far The Ocarina of Time, where the reward for collecting all those Skulltullas were an infinite wallet, perfect for spending buying bombs and arrows in an adventure you already played to death. Skyward sword also falls victim of this crime, by making Batreuax reward for turning him human a wallet upgrade. Sure, the Skyloft enemies also disappear at night, but by this time... the enemies arenÂ´t a problem since youÂ´ve already done everything you need to do at night. Also, the most expensive item in the world is a piece of heart for 1600 rupees. Thus, rendering this award utterly pointless.
Flaw 2: The lack of incentive to do stuff.
As mentioned above, there are alot of fun sidequests to do in Skyward Sword. However, there is really no reason to accomplish them. There is absolutely no reason to gather all pieces of heart. Zelda isnÂ´t the hardest game out there, and i highly doubt many players couldnÂ´t manage without the hearts given to you by the bosses. Especially not considering the possibilty to stock up on potions. My question is, why doesnÂ´t Nintendo include some sort of reward for gathering all the hearts? It wouldnÂ´t have to be a big reward. It could be a picture of Zelda playing with that stupid Tingle Doll! They could have included a power barrier in the sky, that sucked your energy... and the only way to pass through it was to have all the hearts. Anything, just something!! The same thing goes for the economy. Why arenÂ´t there more things to buy?! Why am i rewarded rupees and bigger wallets when there is nothing to spend them on!! Why couldnÂ´t they just included a phase in the game, were you needed a certain amount of Rupees to get by, so all that recourse gathering, golden rupee searching, bug selling, Fun-fun land diving crap lead to something!! I mean, come on!
Flaw 3: Your choices lack consequenses / Lackluster ending.
The cast of Skyward Sword were awesome! The bath-crazy Headmaster! Grooses wierd sidekicks! The adorable Kukiel and so on... and some of the sidequests were shaped in such a manner, that your choices affected their lives in pretty dramatic ways. I loved this part, however... as the ending cinematics rolled by, none of this mattered. Why couldnÂ´t Nintendo include short cinematic sequences that showed the effects of your actions? A small cutscene showing how what happened to the romantic ghost hand (or the hunky Pippit, if you choose different) would have granted your choices so much more impact. And why were we not shown the consequenses of getting together with that Item-check skank?! A small cutscene of a jealeous Zelda or something, please! Anything else than random footage of the games environment!
I guess i am nitpicking. But when something is close to perfection, the smallest of flaws appear bigger than ever before. If the grains of imperfection above were to be swept away, Skyward Sword would truly be the Triforce of gaming.
I must also give a special shout out to the "balancing-pumpkin-mini-game" that in itself works like a big fat middlefinger to everybody who bought a Wiimote-plus. ThatÂ´s right, in a minigame that consists of nothing but balancing and finetuning, Nintendo has opted to exclude the motion controll all together, and making at an all analoge-stick affair. Way to go Nintendo. Way to go.
The game i am looking forward to the most in 2012 is the yet-to-be-announced collaboration between Nintendo, Konami, Capcom, Grasshopper Studios, Atlus, Treasure, Bethesda, Mojang, Rockstar and Blizzard.
ItÂ´s an open world, semi-MMO Horror RPG that focuses on co-op and community created content.
ItÂ´s really quite special. The game takes place in a gigantic sandbox environment created by Bethesda and Grasshopper Studious. The environment is sculptured around the mental breakdown of the fictional character John Dowse, an filthy rich autistic gamer savante that also is happens to be the sole inheritor of Playboy magazine.
The world consists of broken, twisted shattered memories of classic gameworlds. The character customisation is insanely deep, and your finished character represents one of John Dowse many, many dreamed up alter-Egos. The wide assortments of high profile developers take this customization to ridicilous levels. Do you consider John Dowse a Nintendophile that most likely spend his subjective mental breakdown as a gritty realistic crossover between Link and Nico Bellic? Well, create that.
This sandbox world acts as a hub that connects the wide assortment of different Gameworlds that the actual gameplay takes place in. These Gameworlds vary drasticly in terms of genre and gameplay. For an examply, there is 2D Metrodivania based Gameworld developed jointly by Capcom and Konami. There is a fighting based Gameworld by Capcom, an ever evolving 3D platform adventure collectathon by Nintendo and Rockstar. There is a driving world, a bullet Hell world by Treasure, and even an insanely deep game-editor world signed Mojang. This world, the Tabula Rasa, is in itself a tool that allows player to create game concepts aÂ´la Little Big Planet, and assign challenges that other players can take on.
Each and every progress you make in the different Gameworlds reflects upon your avatar, an in order to achieve the maximum level, one must be prepared to master each and every one of the 57 different game genres that the Puragame include when it ships. In this way, when you come across a high level avatar... you can be sure that you are facing a true power player, not just someone with alot of time.
The different gameworlds also works somewhat familliar to WOWs instances, meaning that you can form clans and co-op your way trough variations of almost all of the gameworlds. There is even a meta-trading card game developed by Atlus, that in it owns rival the Disgaea series in terms of depth and complexity.
Puragame is made possible by letting each studio develop their games independetly, and then tying it all together in a new Cloud-based network akin to onlive. Think of it like, your PSN Account or Gamertag were made up like a metagame, and all your achievments/trophies instead consisted of stats and equipment.
The only gripe i have with the game so far is that the loading screens seems atrocious, and altough the developers have tried to camouflage this in internal monologues John Dowse experience while going to the bathroom, tha actual monologues is written and directed by Hideo Kojima, and some of those thoughts go well beyond frightening madness. Like this line for examply.
"The Twilight series would make a sublime turn-based strategy game, say for... the Game.com"