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What does the Destructoid UK Team think of Tri Force Heroes?

Oct 01 // Laura Kate Dale
Joe Parlock - Pleasently Surprised Compared to a lot of people, I am an incredibly new Legend of Zelda fan. I didn’t play my first one in the series until earlier this year, starting with A Link Between Worlds. With the simple, responsive gameplay and fantastically designed puzzles, Between Worlds really made me fall in love with the series; I'm currently playing through Ocarina of Time on the 3DS for the very first time and am having a lot of fun with it. When I heard that there was to be a new Zelda with three-player co-op on the 3DS in the same style as A Link Between Worlds, I was immediately excited. Fortunately, I got to try Tri Force Heroes out with Destructoid’s own Laura Dale and an unsuspecting member of the public at EGX 2015 in Birmingham. Because Laura is apparently evil and cares little for the suffering of the less experienced of us, she guided our little team in to what was apparently the hardest level in the demo. There was lots of lava and lots of enemies, and considering the noise in the convention hall made communicating difficult, we died a lot. But god damn was it fun. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Portal 2’s amazing co-op mode: Working with other people to solve puzzles (or, rather, frantically yelling “PICK ME UP DAMN IT” over the blaring noise of the Nintendo stage at EGX), making in-game gestures to help each other understand what was going on on the screen, and having far too much fun killing my own teammates were all incredibly fun. Other than that, it felt just like the dungeons in A Link Between Worlds as their own expanded game. The boss fight saw us have to take the aggro of a big wormy thing, and then quickly pick each other up to do damage. It was just as well designed as anything from Between Worlds, and really made use of the co-op elements well. I do have one minor concern about the game, though. Much like Portal 2’s co-op, I’m not convinced Tri Force Heroes will have the staying power that makes games like Ocarina of Time and A Link Between Worlds so popular. Playing with somebody who already knows the solutions to all of the puzzles could potentially be a frustrating experience that could only be exacerbated as time goes on. I can’t imagine playing this with random people on the Internet would be much fun six months after release as it could be on launch. Overall though, I was blown away by my time with Tri Force Heroes. Not only did it prove to be a competent Zelda game to this newbie, it scratched that puzzle co-op itch I’ve had for four years now. I'm probably going to pick this up on day one, and I just need to convince Laura and Destructoid UK’s Vikki Blake to let me chuck them in lava come launch. I’m very excited. Laura Dale - Cautiously Optimistic As a long time dedicated fan of the Zelda series, I have been pretty excited for Tri Force Heroes since its announcement at E3. It may not be the sprawling single player epic I had initially hoped I would be playing at the end of this year, but the idea of dragging my friends into playing Zelda with me certainly has its own charms.  At E3 a few months back I focused on playing some of the demo's more entry level missions and exploring the grander scope of what the game is trying to do. You can have a read of those overview thoughts here. With my time with the game at EGX, I was more interested in trying the hardest level on show and seeing how far I could push the game in ways it perhaps was not meant to be pushed. I came away pretty pleased with the level of challenge offered to core players, but a little concerned by some of the multiplayer dungeon design. So, let's start with the positives. The volcano dungeon we played through at EGX was tough. A strong mix of puzzles and combat, I was most surprised to see how many of the puzzles risked injury and death if not completed in a timely manner. In place of simply sliding block puzzles, we instead had sliding block puzzles in tight spaces with lava spewing from the floor below. The challenge was not just work out how to complete this puzzle, but execute your solution as a team, with a very minor margin for error, or face punishment.  The added level of risk involved in executing puzzle gameplay really encouraged team discussion, forming solid plans of attack before moving and working together as a team very quickly. Team communication was vital, and that was a very pleasant surprise. I'm glad to see even seasoned Zelda veterans are going to have a hard time successfully navigating these dungeons. The boss of the volcano dungeon we faced was a particular highlight, standing toe-to-toe with many of the series' more memorable bosses in terms of mechanics. The boss would at any one time have eyes that glowed matching the tunic of one player. That player would be chased by the boss, but the other players wouldn't. Those players not being chased would have to get behind the boss, form a tower and attack the bosses raised tail. If you successfully harm the boss or it successfully harms you, the player being chased will switch up, instantly requiring the team to scramble and reformulate their layout. The boss was challenging, hectic, and just fast enough to pose an ever-present threat to the team as a unit. One of the more concerning aspects that popped up during my time with this demo however is that it was possible to get the team into positions where they could not progress, and using up one of the team's three continues was the only was to restart the section we were trapped in. From progressing from the starting platform before every player has picked an item from the pedestals provided to throwing a player onto a platform from which they could not get themselves back, there were a couple of places in the dungeon where careless play could result in an unwinnable situation. While this is currently just a demo, I would like to see a penalty-free way for the team to return to the beginning of the current room in the dungeon. Still, the more of Tri Force Heroes I play the more convinced I am that mechanically, this Zelda game is going to be what I am after. Challenging temples, frantic gameplay necessitating minimal margins of error, and boss designs that feel fresh and unique. Yep, I'm pretty pleased with what I'm seeing of Tri Force Heroes.
Tri Force Heroes photo
A lot of laughing and dying occurred
At the tail end of last week, UK editor Laura Dale and news team member Joe Parlock both whisked themselves away to the EGX games convention in Birmingham to play a bunch of unreleased video games. Looking for multiplayer gam...

Monster Hunter Diary contains pure silliness, with plenty of cats

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
Diary DX is very much like Animal Crossing, or in a more relevant but more obscure comparison, Disney's Magical World. It's part simulator in the sense that you can roam around talking to other Palicos in the Monster Hunter universe, but the end goal is to participate in a bunch of mini-games located within each micro hub. The hub itself is made of different spokes, with the ability to fast travel instantly with the tap of the bottom screen. Palicos are front and center here, inhabiting each realm and going along for the mini-game rides. During my time with the demo I was able to play two such micro-games -- a pig race, and a Patapon-like sidescrolling adventure sequence. The former sees players betting on pig-riding Palicos, with the power to control a single rider, jumping over logs and other obstacles in the race for first. It's simple, and not something I'd likely want to do more than a few times in total. The Patapon bit was a tad more enjoyable, as it provides options as you follow a set path, like the choice to eat a mushroom, ignore it, or harvest the ingredients -- likewise, enemies can be approached with a stealth or combat option. For the most part, this seems really geared towards Monster Hunter fans, and it's something that the younger audience would enjoy more than a seasoned veteran of the franchise. Monster Hunter Diary DX was recently released this past week in Japan, with Mario and Tom Nook costumes. There's still no word on a localization, but it might be possible if the series continues to sell like gangbusters in the US.
Monster Hunter Diary DX photo
Did I mention the cats?
Monster Hunter Diary DX for the Nintendo 3DS is a silly game. That much is evident from watching the series of commercials presented on a nearby TV screen at TGS, which shows a variety of cats in a variety of different k...

Phoenix Wright 6 photo
Phoenix Wright 6

Phoenix Wright 6's setting marks the biggest departure for the core series

Also, dead people vision
Sep 18
// Chris Carter
I'm pretty happy that Phoenix Wright has permeated throughout the gaming industry. He has a full-on combat appearance in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, his own live-action film, a crossover with Professor Layton, and now, as a summon i...

7th Dragon III Code: VDS is uncompromising, or I suck at video games

Sep 18 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]311332:60431:0[/embed] Those two little bastards repeatedly killed me. Like, ten times straight. Each of their attacks would take off a third of my health, leaving me forced to use a health potion. They attacked again and I was right back where I started. When I got a blow in, it wouldn't defeat one of them (even my specials). Worse, because I didn't spend that time healing, I'd usually die on their next turn. I tasted victory once when it let me start the encounter with a preemptive attack. I think the game felt bad for me. With only a sliver of health left, I dealt the final strike and escaped the situation scathed but alive. Progress. Incredibly uncompromising and frustrating progress, but progress nonetheless. Seconds later, I hit another random encounter against the same two enemies but now with the amount of health I had after the first fight. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. I gave up. 7th Dragon III Code: VDS wasn't going to work out for me. I know when I'm bested, and I absolutely was. Maybe I was missing something important and it's really not all that hard. Maybe it's tough as nails. Whatever the case, it sent me packing with my tail between my legs, and it's been a long time since a demo has been able to do that to me.
RPGs that are hard af photo
Maybe both
As I spend the week demoing games that are entirely in Japanese, I accept that I'm not going to understand a lot of things. I know the kanji for "forest" and that's the extent of my fluency with the language. Dialogue's the f...

Monster Hunter Stories takes the series in an entirely different direction

Sep 17 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]311169:60408:0[/embed] Because of the language barrier (the demo was entirely in Japanese), it was unclear to me if this is solely a random event or if there are patterns you can pick out. Fortunately, the rest was easy enough to figure out just from familiarity with turn-based games. Replenishing health was necessary a couple of times via healing potions; otherwise, attacking was the way to go. All that was training for the quest's final boss: some sort of giant, unhappy dragon. His health bar was obscured by question marks, so all I could do was fight on and hope that he was near death. It added a nice sense of tension. I fought alongside my humble looking monster in hopes of taking down this formidable-looking foe. We didn't stay side-by-side the entire time, though. Eventually, something called my Kizuna Stone filled up and I could hop on top of my monster for a particularly powerful group attack. This was accompanied by a slick animation to verify that, yes, whatever was happening was indeed special. A few of these, some solo attacks, and a couple rock, paper, scissors victories later and the dragon was defeated. We did it, monster buddy. It may be more Pokemon than Monster Hunter, but Stories is undoubtedly entertaining. It's breaking the series formula to try something new, but piggybacking on franchise popularity. At least it's thematically consistent. After all, piggybacking's kind of the entire point in Monster Hunter Stories.
Monster Hunter Stories photo
Ride or die
In a lot of ways, Monster Hunter Stories doesn't necessarily feel like Monster Hunter. It shouldn't; it's different. The Monster Hunter series that has grown an immense following basks in constant action and team-or...

Project X Zone 2 is more of the same, with new faces

Sep 16 // Chris Carter
To be clear, Project X Zone 2, so far, seems to be more of the same. Although Bandai Namco has promised advancements when it comes to the combat system, it's still very simplistic, and more style than substance. That's not to say that there's no strategic depth involved in general though, as the decision to employ defensive options at the cost of SP is alive and well, in addition to the general placement of your characters in each mission's grid. It just isn't nearly as nuanced as a lot of other SPRGs on the market. During my hands-on time with the game I was able to play a full level, which followed the mundane task of "killing all enemies," an objective typically found in the first iteration. Having completed the original it was an all-too familiar sight, albeit with the typical rush of playing as some of my favorite video game characters. During the demo I had access to Dante/Vergil, Chun-Li/Ling Xiaoyu, Strider Hiryu/Hotsuma, Kazuma Kiryu/Goro Majima teams, as well as the solo units of Captain Commando, Phoenix Wright, and and Ulala. As expected, the flair didn't disappoint. Dante/Vergil were a joy to play as, and the ninja team of Strider/Hotsuma (Shinobi) was just perfect. Seeing Captain Commando was also a treat, as he doesn't get nearly enough respect these days. Every single character is represented well, even the ones that can merely be called in by core units. It may be fanservice, but developer Monolith Soft is handling it in stride. Series producer Kensuke Tsukanaka was on-hand to talk about the game, and noted that in particular, they want people to know that this is a character-focused game, so the opening animation will not only feature every playable hero, but will clock in at just over two minutes in length. Tsukanaka went on to state, "We're aiming to look for new fans with an even bigger cast. We want people to see a new character and ask 'what game is this from?' We want them to become even more involved with the industry as a whole." The team is also stepping up the original animation with the sequel, as there will be more artwork than before both in and out of combat. I noticed this particularly during my demo session, as supers and abilities had a bit more visual flair than usual. When asked how this collaboration was even possible, Tsukanaka replied that "all of us have a mutual respect for each other. We've also collaborated for years with one another, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to create this project. The rivalry still exists, but it's a friendly one." Project X Zone 2 is still set for a November launch in Japan, and a February 16 date for the US was just announced.
Project X Zone 2 photo
Your mileage will vary
Based on the reception to Project X Zone 2, it's clear to see that it's a "hate it or love it" affair. Fans seemed to really take to the idea of playing as a cavalcade of heroes from some of their favorite franchises, but oth...

3D Streets of Rage 2 is a return to classic brawler action

Jul 22 // Alessandro Fillari
Released back in 1992, Streets of Rage 2, called Bare Knuckle II in Japan, was an immediate hit with Genesis owners and still stands as a favorite among beat-'em-up fans to this day. Set a year after the events of the first game, our street-fighting brawlers have to take back control after the sprawling criminal empire the Syndicate kidnapps one of their allies and plunges the city into chaos. Teaming up with pro-wrestler Max, and a young rollerblading brawler names Skate (the brother of SoR1's Adam), Axel and Blaze have to scour the city while scrapping with vicious thugs that work for the ever-elusive Mr. X. I spent many hours with Streets of Rage 2 when I was a kid, and the flashy neon lights and bombastic atmosphere -- along with Yuzo Koshiro's bumping synth score -- are imprinted in my memories of those glorious Genesis days. Surprisingly, there's a strong focus on plot in these titles. While most beat-'em-ups settle for the save X from Y plot and call it a day, SoR goes a bit beyond that by wrangling in government conspiracy and even throwing in some crazy sci-fi angles. Though the narrative is pretty much on par with B-level action movies, it still goes a long way with setting the tone and atmosphere. While there was another follow up with SoR3, the second game is my favorite and holds up remarkably well. Fortunately for us fans, Sega agrees and it's since been ported over to many different platforms, including Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and even iOS. However, with its upcoming release on the 3DS, this marks the first time you'll be able to play the game in 3D. "Streets of Rage 2 was the most popular of the three games in the series, so we actually had 2 slated as a conversion candidate from the very beginning," stated producer Yosuke Okunari. "However, when we first starting the development on these games, there were technical issues around getting this game into 3D, and it was deemed an impossible task so we gave up on it. If you've spent time playing the game, you've probably noticed that these sorts of side-scrolling beat-'em-ups are extremely well-suited for stereoscopic 3D (we actually call them 'belt action' games in Japanese because it's like being on a conveyor belt). The benefit of being able to visually confirm that you are lined up with your enemy and thus avoiding whiffing is huge." Coming off the original, the sequel featured a number of innovations and upgrades that made it stand apart from its predecessor. Aside from the obvious visual upgrade, which features sharper graphics and more detailed environments and character designs, the combat mechanics were greatly expanded to include new character-specific moves and super attacks. While I'm sure there were many who missed the police backup from the original, the focus on character diversity and growth was what made Streets of Rage 2 a true upgrade. During their work on the original's 3D remaster, the developers overcame the challenges of translating the unique visual style to bring over its sequel. "The graphics in these games were not like modern 3D, so there's a lot of pseudo-3D going on [referring to the diagonal side-scrolling stages], and when you take that and apply real stereoscopic 3D to it, you get conflicting visuals. So at the time, we thought we wouldn't be able to get the game into 3D," explained Okunari. "That said, because we were able to get the first game in the series into 3D, the staff's ability and know-how around 3D conversions saw huge improvements, and we found ways to work around these sorts of conflicting situations, and thus making the project a reality." After several playthroughs with the 3D remaster, I was impressed with the quality of the port. I can assure you that the pictures do not do the game justice. The side-scrolling visuals really pop with the 3D enabled, and many of the animations and action sequences feel more pronounced. The visuals on the 3DS feel sharp and with no slowdown or loss performance, which is great for when things get really hectic. While the game is largely as it was, gameplay feels just as precise as it was back in its heyday on the Genesis. It's a true testament to the design of the game, and it feels right at home on the handheld. As with the other 3D Classic releases, Sega has decided to do fans one better with the addition of new gameplay modes. In 3D SoR2, players can now experience the new mode called Rage Relay, which gets people playing as other characters during their run. Upon death, your starting character will switch over to the next one from the roster. For instance, if you start out playing with Axel and you get taken during a tough encounter, then you'll switch over to Max upon respawn. Initially, I found it to be a pretty odd gimmick, but I'll admit it came in handy during tough bosses or enemies which called for a bit more brute force. The developers included this optional mode as a way to encourage trying out the other characters after noticing how often players would stick with their favorites. "The original development team that worked on SoR2 was heavily influenced by Street Fighter II when making this game, so rather than a normal beat-'em-up, they really wanted each character to have their own feel, so each character has a very unique play style associated with them," said the producer. "However, unlike competitive fighting games, people tend to only play with the character the choose first for beat-'em-ups, and we didn't think most people strayed from that initial choice. There's four characters here, each with their own play style, so we wanted to make sure every character got a shot and make it interesting by giving players a chance to try characters they didn't really used back in the Genesis era. Our answer to this was Rage Relay." To say I had a great time with 3D SoR2 would be an understatement. I was pretty damn happy with how this remaster turned out. Not only do the new features help liven up the experience, the core gameplay still shows that simple beat-stuff-up action can be a ton of fun. And with local play available, you'll be able to team up with friends to take down Mr. X. With its release approaching, I can tell that many fans of Streets of Rage 2 will feel right at home with the 3D remaster. Not only has this title held up well, but it makes some impeccable use of the 3DS hardware. Once you fire up the game, and Koshiro's synth score reverberates through the opening title crawl, you'll be hooked. It's a total blast from the past, and it'll get your adrenaline pumping in no time.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Taking back the streets on July 23
Growing up, one of my favorite genres was the side-scrolling beat-'em-up. From Final Fight to Double Dragon, I was quite fond of the action found in traveling through different stages and kicking the asses of gang members and...

Rodea: The Sky Soldier might be a bumpy ride

Jun 25 // Kyle MacGregor
Rodea: The Sky Soldier was initially conceived as a Wii game, but it came too late in the day for a system nearing the end of its life cycle. It needed to be reworked as a Wii U and 3DS title. The thing is, the Wii is a special console, and Rodea was developed with its unique attributes in mind. Motion controls are a tad different than standard inputs, and the transition between the two seems to have left an indelible imprint on Rodea's design. Taking to the skies in this aerial action game doesn't come as second nature. With the press of a button, Rodea lifts into the air and hovers for a moment as you aim where you want him to go. He can't fly indefinitely, though, and will fall to his death unless you find another object for him to bounce off within an allotted time frame. It seems like the type of interface that would work seamlessly with the Wii's IR pointer, but on Wii U GamePad, I found myself flying off at odd angles, often coming frustratingly close to objectives that seemed just out of reach. Perhaps it's the sort of thing that comes with practice, but in a brief demo on the E3 show floor, I only got a glimpse at what sort of joys Rodea might have to offer.  Though it never felt intuitive, there were flashes when I managed to soar through the air with some semblance of precision. And in those fleeting moments I could really feel Yuji Naka's (Sonic Adventure, NiGHTS into Dreams) fingerprints all over the game, as I bounded from one floating isle to the next, collecting rings in this ethereal obstacle course. More than anything, my time with Rodea: The Sky Soldier made me oddly happy the Wii U version is coming tethered with a copy of the game on Wii. I'm not sure how much easier it will be to pilot on its original platform, but it feels like that's how it was intended to be experienced. Either that or flight isn't a skill easily mastered in a few mere minutes.
Rodea impressions  photo
Awkward aeronautics
My first flight with Rodea: The Sky Soldier wasn't a smooth one. But perhaps that's to be expected of a title that's seen such a turbulent development history. The project went dark shortly after its initial announcement in 2010, then underwent a change of platforms -- something that seems all too apparent after a few minutes with the final product.

Mega Man photo
The classic series returns with remixes
Mega Man Legacy Collection bundles the first six Mega Man games for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and 3DS. I played a bit at E3. Gut reaction: it's probably going to be worth the $14.99 asking price. You might be wondering what's up wit...

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the mashup fans didn't know they wanted

Jun 22 // Jed Whitaker
Each character's jump is mapped to a different button, meaning to jump up one ledge requires three button presses; multiply that by hundreds of jumps and you'll understand how annoyed I was with the mechanic. Even in the demo, the amount of pressing three separate buttons just to move through the overworld felt excessive. I couldn't imagine doing this through the entire game. Hopefully an option is added that allows all characters to jump at the same time by the time the game releases next year.  Trio attacks and papercraft battles are two additions to the series. Paper Mario allows characters to team up for trio attacks which are timed attacks that play more like a mini-game from WarioWare than the normal timed attacks. One trio attack has your enemies falling from the sky as paper as you whack a ball at them with tennis rackets. Papercraft battles have the heroes standing on top of a giant papercraft Mario and using it to rush down other giant papercrafts to defeat them. Both trio attacks and papercraft are rather minor yet welcome additions to the series.  On-point writing, great dialogue, fun turned-based attacks with a timed button press element -- all staples of both the Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario series are still here and nearly unchanged, which is not at all a bad thing. Fans of either series will more than likely be pleased with this new crossover title, even if it mostly feels like another Mario & Luigi title. The series have always been rather similar other than aesthetic.  Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is scheduled for release on the Nintendo 3DS in spring of 2016 worldwide.
Mario & Luigi: PJ Preview photo
Too many jumps, too many jumps!
Are you a fan of the Mario & Luigi series? You know, the handheld RPG games that star everyone's favorite brothers in hilarious adventures? Then you'll be quite familiar with how Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam pla...

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a shockingly good time

Jun 21 // Jed Whitaker
Most of the time Chibi will be exploring levels looking for a plethora of hidden items, be them collectibles or upgrades that power up or extend his plug whilst solving platforming puzzles. Occasionally you'll be fighting bosses, whipping them to their demise. The Chibi-Robo amiibo included with the game can be used to power up the character and make it a bit easier. There are also other purposes Nintendo isn't letting us know yet, or so its Treehouse stream seems to allude to. While the game runs on both the 3DS and New 3DS hardware, currently amiibo can only be used on the N3DS as the adapter for the original 3DS line is still missing in action -- but it's expected to arrive sometime this year. Fans of both Metroid and platformers will want to pick up Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash. It may be linear, but it is the closest thing to Metroid Nintendo is releasing this year and the platforming is great. Nintendo has promised a great deal of collectibles that will take some time to 100%, so maybe by the time you're finished there will be a new proper Metroid game announced. As if.
Chibi-Robo preview photo
Zip it good
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash for the 3DS seemingly came out of nowhere and captured our hearts, or at the very least mine. Nintendo describes it as a "whipping platformer," which is a phrase I'm not familiar with. But after playing, ...

Corn on the cob crawdaddy and more in Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale

Jun 16 // Jed Whitaker
Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it certainly has a hella fresh wolf and the coolest crawdaddy I've ever seen.
Return to PopoloCrois photo
A wolf wearing a bandana
Listen, I'm going to give it to you straight forward here: I've not played any of the games in the Story of Seasons series, nor do I know the source material. What I do know, however, is that there is a wolf wearing a ba...

Sega brings back OutRun with style for the 3D Classics Series

Mar 11 // Alessandro Fillari
For those not quite familiar, OutRun is an arcade-style racing game that tasks players with racing their shiny Ferrari Testarossa across a stretch of land. At several points, you'll be able to choose which path you'd like to take, which will take you to a brand new setting that you'd likely not see in previous playthroughs. This nonlinear gameplay was rather unconventional for a racing title, which made it quite popular with arcade goers who wished for repeat plays. Over the years, it's developed quite a legacy for Sega, and it has even inspired musicians like Kavinsky for its portrayal of style in high-speed. It was a rather seminal title for Sega, earning a lot praise and finding much success in the arcades. Developed by Yu Suzuki, the creator of Shenmue, Virtua Fighter, and After Burner, it focused on fast gameplay while giving players a soothing and equally pulsing soundtrack to listen to. It even got several followups over the years. But with this remaster of OutRun, the folks at Sega had to put in extra work to retain the the original's style and feel without watering down the experience. "OutRun and After Burner II are two games that were the most important games in Sega’s history through the 1980s. However, due to a number of reasons, there was a time when there were no opportunities to port these two titles to other platforms," said producer Yosuke Okunari. "The most important thing for these kinds of games, and this is apparent from a video of the game you may have seen, is not to take these important games and try to remake them completely from scratch, but rather to recreate the playstyle as faithful to the original as you possibly can. And because the game preserves the feeling of the era it was made in, that history and the memories of those times can be communicated to everyone." During my playthrough, I immediately noticed how much smoother it felt. I played a bit of game when I younger in the arcades, so seeing this in action on a handheld was kind of a trip. And with the 3D enabled, the game doesn't lose performance one bit. It was impressive to see that a super fast racing game like OutRun would be able to make the transition so well. Honestly, it felt a bit hypnotic going over 200 km an hour. Once you're in the zone, you're kinda in a trance. Okunari-san explained that with the success of the previous titles on 3D Classics, they were able to tackle the necessary hurdles porting OutRun would take. "The 3DS is a notable piece of hardware, but it’s not a console that’s particularly well suited for creating faithful ports," he explained. "And so we were not able to include these two titles when we first began the development for the Sega 3D Classics. Only through the success of the first batch were we able to obtain the technical know-how and development budget to work on these two titles. It’s because of all the fans’ support." Often times, the 3DS tends to have some trouble with handling ports of classic or even recent titles. Which made porting the game, despite its age, somewhat of a challenge. One of the techniques that titles like After Burner and Space Harrier use is a way of presenting 2D sprites as pseudo-3D visuals, which is done with unique sprite-scaling designs. But in order to keep it consistent with other titles, the developers had to double the performance on OutRun, upgrading it from thirty frames per second to sixty. "Tying to get squeeze out more performance that the original title supported was a very difficult undertaking," said the producer. "Simply straight porting the game as is would prove to be a challenge in and of itself, but we had to optimize and improve the programming so it would run twice the speed as the original. Also, we added two new songs to the game, and made a point that they had to blend naturally and feel completely natural in the game, which was also a great challenge. Essentially using the same sound sources as the original, while ensuring that they would sound different and unique compared to the original three songs. New songs in the style and feel of the era when the game was originally released, back in the '80s." It's certainly eye-opening to see the amount of work that goes into remasters for classic titles. I supposed with the technology we have now, it's easy to think of products and software from the past as easy to make, or even easy to transition onto current hardware. Given the limitations they had and parameters they had to work within, I'm very impressed with what I played. I spent a good amount of time with OutRun on the 3DS, and it played like a dream. I highly recommend giving it a shot, especially if you're a first-timer. The sense of speed is just as sharp as it was back in the arcade days and experiencing it within the palms of your hands is real rush.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Race with flair on March 12
One of the great things about Sega's ongoing 3DS Classics series is that it allows retro games from the publisher's past to find a new audience. And given its rich and diverse history of quirky and fan-favorite titles, there'...

BOXBOY! photo
Block buds
HAL Laboratories (Super Smash Bros., Mother) has been busying itself with a couple Kirby games recently, but it looks like someone over there had an idea for a lil puzzle game and rolled with it. BOXBOY! (already released on...

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is devilishly difficult, set for release on May 5

Feb 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker (3DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: AtlusRelease date: May 5, 2015MSRP: $49.99 Set in near-future Japan, the world is facing an invasion from a demonic force known as the Septentriones. As the protagonist, you soon discover that a cellphone app called Nicaea sees the possible future deaths of friends and allies, which may also have clues on to how to stop the invaders. With only seven days to defeat them, the protagonist and his allies make a pact with a demon who dubs them the Devil Messengers, granting them the abilities and strength to fight back. The fate of the world now rests on the group to take down the Septrentriones, but along the way they'll have to manage the responsibilities of controlling an army of demons while handling teenage drama that can distract from the reality of their situation. As stated previously, Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is an enhanced version of the original game in addition to a substantial amount of new content. Including the original game's Septentrione arc, which features a new script and dialog, cutscenes, updated voice-work and music, and new demons to recruit -- it also has a brand new campaign taking place after the events of the original story known as the Triangulum arc. For those who are familiar with the original arc and want to jump into the new story, you can do so right from the get-go. The Triangulum arc features many parallels to the original story, such as the foreshadowing Nicaea app and returning characters, but there any many deviations that'll surprises returning players. Not to give too much away, but certain characters and events will be entirely different, and will even have players looking at established characters in a new way. Though no progress will be carried over from the original campaign, the new content will take anywhere from 20-30 hours to complete, which also includes more demons and characters to recruit. [embed]287802:57378:0[/embed] Much like its predecessor, Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker tasks players with interacting with party members to forge friendships and create teams to battle armies of demons invading Tokyo. Battles take place in turn-based strategy format, where characters have to maneuver around the field to make their move against the enemy. Bringing four teams into battle, each ally leads their own unit with two demons fighting alongside them. Players will have to think ahead and use their strengths and special skills to outwit enemies. The importance of character interaction is one of the hallmarks of MegaTen, and Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker expands upon that with strategic gameplay. Character interaction and forming friendships is important to succeed, and you'll even have to make deals with the devil (literally) to get your own demon army ahead. Over the course of seven days, you'll have to the strengthen bonds of allies with the Fate System (similar to Persona's Social Links), and recruit powerful demons to stand a chance against the enemy forces. I had a nice amount of time with Record Breaker, and it seems to retain the heart and fun that SMT fans adored from the original title. There's a rabid following for Devil Survivor 2, and it feels that this enhanced version is very much a love letter to the original game that seeks to give it a much more exciting and satisfying finish. I got quite a laugh with the new voice work and script, which remains as self-aware and humorous with its characters than ever. Though there's been some concern about the premium price tag ($49.99), there's definitely a lot more content to go around with this entry. With the updated Septentrione arc along with a sizable epilogue campaign in the Triangulum story arc, Record Breaker is the most robust package in the Devil Survivor series, and it will see even more content with future DLC. It'll certainly tide you over until Persona 5 will be released.
Shin Megami Tensei photo
More than a remaster
What a busy year this is going to be for Atlus. With the release of Persona 5 in the coming months, there are a lot of expectations for what's ahead with the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. In order to keep fans satiated till t...

Letting off some steam with the Code Name S.T.E.A.M. demo

Jan 26 // ChillyBilly
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. looks and sounds fantastic. I know it's been said before but screenshots of 3DS games on the Internet or in magazines do them absolutely no justice. Intelligent Systems has gone for a nice, cartoony look here. Every character is outlined in thick black brush lines, which makes them really pop in their surroundings. The game itself is made to resemble a comic book; this is apparent during cut-scenes, where the action and story unfold with the use of storyboard-type panels. The character animations are also super smooth. Everything runs great, without a hitch or lag. I have no idea what the exact frame rate is, but it's just like butter -- smooth. Not only does Code Name S.T.E.A.M. look good, but it sounds amazing as well. Everything from the music during each mission to the sound of your weapons has a nice, realistic feel to it. There are certain parts, such as the loading screen, where it seems as if you're listening to old music straight from a vintage phonograph. The sound design really helps to immerse you into this strange yet familiar world. The gameplay is split into two types: real-time strategy and third-person shooter; however, it's never one or the other as both types of gameplay are used at all times. You play from an overhead, over-the-shoulder view. The controls definitely remind me of Kid Icarus: Uprising. You move your character with the left thumb pad, while all the camera movements are handled by the stylus. I imagine that the camera will be controlled by the new nub controller once the New 3DS launches. As is, it feels right, if you know what I mean. It works. It's as fluid as you would expect from a company with Intelligent Systems' pedigree. Each map is filled with various corridors and pathways, all leading to the final goal, which happens to be a giant, glowing green door that reads, "goal." You have to tactically move your unit through the maps, taking out alien invaders along the way. As you traverse the maps, you can destroy various objects to gain health as well as refill your steam canisters. You're also able to save your game as you make your way through each map; however, you have to reach specific save points first, making your every move mean that much more. [embed]283500:56224:0[/embed] Your movements are 100 percent dependent on how much steam your have left in your tanks. Every few steps and every shot of your weapon takes away some steam. It's easy to make the mistake of moving too far, only to be left facing an enemy without enough steam to fire off a shot. You have to carefully plan your course of action, hiding behind obstacles along the way. Of course, you're never really out of danger as some of the objects you'll find yourself hiding behind can easily be destroyed by the enemy. Oh, and have I mentioned that you get to play as John Henry, who launches grenades called "bear grenades" that completely obliterate anything in their vicinity? Well, you can, and it's amazing. When the demo was over, I was left wanting more. Intelligent Systems has nailed the fusion of an RTS with the action and excitement of a third-person shooter. The controls are silky smooth, and the animation and character designs are spectacular. Playing as some of the most well-known figures in American history is just the icing on top of this steam-filled cake. I've had my pre-order in for Code Name S.T.E.A.M. for a while now, so I'll definitely be picking this up when it launches; the hard part now is the wait, especially since I've been given a small taste of what's to come.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. photo
Feel the steam all around me
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a new turn-based, third-person strategy game from Intelligent Systems, maker of the critically acclaimed Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series. It launches in North America for N...

I unboxed the New 3DS XL and tickled its sensitive nub

Jan 15 // Bill Zoeker
The device itself is sexy. Shiny and smooth, but with a nice subtle texture. After recording this video, I gnashed my genitals against it, achieving exceptional erotic satisfaction. You can't prove I didn't. There are a few changes in design that immediately screamed of improvement to me. The volume slider is now located on the left side of the screen panel, hopefully eliminating the problem of accidentally nudging it to maximum and letting everybody on the bus know you're taint-deep in Style Savvy: Trendsetters. The slot for the game cartridge has also been moved to the southern edge of the handheld portion of the system, hopefully reducing premature ejections. However, I think it sucks this new edition still lacks any sort of latch or cover to prevent the cart from being loosed by a minimal, accidental nudge. There will be a more thorough analysis of the New Nintendo 3DS hardware coming to you by Chris Carter soon. In the meantime, enjoy looking at my hands. [Disclosure Notice: The subject of this post was received and demonstrated at a Nintendo-hosted event in San Francisco. I feel like the event started a little earlier than it needed to, but they had Dim Sum and pizza, so that was pretty cool. Below is a picture of the Dim Sum I ate.]
New 3DS impressions photo
Cue people being mad because I think something could be better
After a Nintendo press event yesterday, I was sent home with a review unit of the New Nintendo 3DS XL. I figured it would be a good idea to record my opening of it so that I could share my trademarked cynical indignation wit...

Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire let you soar the skies & do the creep

Oct 14 // Steven Hansen
As X and Y showed, Pokémon translates pretty neatly to 3D models, so playing the twelve-year-old game in 3D isn't all that different from the longstanding Pokémon format. Machokes are helping Mom move, but there's a Wii U in your room now. You still pray for the extinction of Zigzagoon and other early fodder. I still negged my starter Pokémon, Treecko, by naming it Croagunk. And that doesn't even make sense this generation. I might have created a time paradox. There are new things, though. Certain X and Y features like Super Training and Pokémon-Amie remain. My favorite part, though, the custom avatars and Trainer Videos have been left in X and Y where, according to director Shigeru Ohmori and producer Junichi Masuda (Ruby and Sapphire's original director) they fit in X and Y's theme of "beauty," what with the "French inspiration and fashion." That's part of why the Secret Bases, one of my favorite Ruby/Sapphire features, ended after the following generation. Game Freak is big on giving "unique characteristics" to its regions. And in Hoenn, it was the "abundance of nature" that bore Secret Bases in the first place. So the feature just didn't fit with later regions that had their own tertiary things going on, I guess. I'm just excited they've been gussied up even further. The story has been reworked to touch on Mega Evolutions, Primal Reversion. The X/Y connection is important. "I didn't want to just do an update with graphics. The idea of tying it up with X/Y, that there is full comparability," is important to the team. And it makes sense with X/Y's sales figures.  There are some neat gameplay additions, too, including some new navigation tools. You can use Fly from the bottom screen map. The DexNav will show you Pokémon in an area with a little icon so you know what you've caught and where. There are also added areas that are unreachable except when using Soar on the back of Mega Latios/Latias, which actually lets you fly above the clouds.  My favorite thing, though, is the creep. To keep you on your toes as you once again wade through loads of tall grass, occasionally a Pokémon tail will, in real-time, be wiggling out of the grass. These wild Pokémon have a chance of having better stats, preferred natures, or different moves. And getting them requires you to push lightly on the circle pad, which leads to your trainer doing an exaggerated cartoon creep like The Pink Panther or Jon Belushi in Animal House. It is adorable. Now that we've gotten remakes up to the DS era, I was curious at what rate we'd continue to see them. According to Masuda, it goes beyond the graphics and ability to render past games in 3D. And it's not (explicitly) about maintaining a cycle. "In the future...if we can find a lot of cool things to implement and make work with the titles that haven't been remade, that would be the right time to update them for modern times." Hopefully the Diamond and Pearl remakes fit more neatly in headlines.
Preview: Pokémon Ruby photo
What would your Mega Evolution be?
It is challenging to fit "Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire" into a headline. It wasn't hard fitting these 3D updates of the Game Boy Advance classics on the 3DS, though. It was hard making a clean segue from my me...

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate brings a lot of verticality to the table

Sep 19 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]277922:54837:0[/embed] Over the course of 15 minutes or so, we implemented whatever attacks we could to eventually weaken and defeat this monstrosity. Some ranged, some melee, one buckin' bronco, we chased him from area to area and successfully slayed and plundered him. Three cheers for teamwork! The other change to Ultimate is that this iteration is coming to 3DS only. Because of this, it's not necessary to use a Wii U to play with others. Instead, any old wireless hub will work. Three cheers for accessibility! By the time the demo was over, I was ready for another round. We fired up a quick go at a early-game dinosaur monster named The Great Jaggi. We took him down without much difficulty, but more importantly, it satiated that quick need to play just a bit more. It's easy to see why this game is so popular in Japan. Three cheers for Monster Hunter!
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate photo
Water is gone
When the west finally gets Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate -- what Capcom calls "the most complete version of 4 that it'll get" -- players are going to need to turn their attention to the layering of the game. Rather...

You already know you want it but here's a Persona Q preview anyway

Sep 09 // Dale North
Persona Q is adorable. That was my first impression, and that's really the one that sticks the most. Seeing your favorite cast members from Persona 3 and Persona 4 with big heads and little bodies is a delight, but seeing them move and hearing them talk takes it over the top. Watching Rise's eyes bug out or hearing Chie rant about meat products won me over before I ever entered my first dungeon. Teddie is still horny, but now cute. And Nanako? You're not ready. It's fan service by the boatload. They pulled out all the stops -- the music, voicing, art, menus, and more are all dialed up to thrill. There's no way a fan of either Persona 3 or Persona 4 should miss this. There's plenty of new gameplay to go with the fan service. I only played for about an hour but I could already tell that Persona Q is going to be a meaty, satisfying dungeon crawler. Jumping into a brand new game session, I saw that Persona Q has five difficulty levels. All but the very last one, called Risky, lets you bounce around between levels. For Risky, you're locked in for good. But even on Normal, don't expect a walk in the park; Persona Q pulled more from its Etrian Odyssey roots when it comes to difficulty. [embed]280940:55590:0[/embed] There are a bunch of new sub-systems for this spin-off, pulling from both franchises. New from the Persona side of things are sub-Personas, a secondary choice that acts as a status buff. Equipping a sub instantly adds hit and skill points to a character, to be used in battle. These bonus extra HP and SP gains recover for each battle, too. Etrian Odyssey roots show in a trio of specific attack types. Characters will have either cut, stab, or bash attack types that have to be factored into the attack plans as the rock/paper/scissors rules come into play with these. I didn't see this play out early on, but knowing Atlus we'll end up in battles where you'll have to be sure to be set up just right to win. I did some dungeon crawling right off, making my way down corridors that would have any Etrian Odyssey fan feeling right at home, and then jumping into battles that would have any Persona fan feeling right at home. And it all looks great: the corridors look better than even the latest Etrian Odyssey game, with sharper textures and more detail. The character models in battles are PS2-level, holding up to the latest Persona.  For dungeon crawling, there's auto-mapping to help you make your way through the maze, and a new Boost system to help you through the fights. Boost isn't quite Press-Turn, though it still does have you working to exploit enemy weaknesses for a battle advantage. Getting in the right kind of hit will eventually earn you this Boost, which has the attacking character's skills zeroed out for the next turn. Free skill attacks are always welcome! Continued exploits let you continue to Boost, though getting hit will knock you out of Boost status.  All of the dungeons of Persona Q have their own theme. The earliest is Alice themed, and has the gang visiting a messed up version of Wonderland. I don't want to spoil too much, but the last battle of the stage has you fighting exactly who you think you would. My fight had my team going up against this boss' minions, barely making it out alive. Right when the big boss moves in to take over from the minions, the other half of the cast appeared to save the day. Get ready for a really great entrance scene. Oh, baby. Even in the short time I played I could tell that there's way more under the hood to be discovered. New skills, spells, team attacks, and more teased from the menus. And that's not even touching the loot and what you can do with it. I only got the smallest taste. I'd also like to avoid spoiling the story, so we'll go light on those details. It's safe to say that you'll start out by picking which cast you'd like to start with (I started with the P4 crew). Each has their own story start, but the two casts come together in the first hour of play, with a Yasogami High school festival serving as the backdrop for this event. The P4 group finds that school feels weird on festival day; the P3 gang finds themselves at a strange school suddenly. You'll see. It's not long before your party ends up in a mysterious place that leads to a freaky dungeon, and things really get going from there. I don't have much to say about the new kids on the block, Rei and Zen, either. That's mostly because I glossed over their bits in my playtime as I want to enjoy my first real play through, and I don't want to spoil the story for you. I got to see the first hints of their story, which involves lost memories. Their missing memories seem to be tied to the manifestation of the dungeon, and beating the boss of the dungeon reveals a clue to their pasts. So far, all I can really say is that Rei is super cute. And you'll recognize her voice. Though Atlus wouldn't exactly confirm the voice actor's identity, it seems we were on the right track earlier.  Persona Q is a bit different, but you're going to like it. You knew that already, though. Etrian Odyssey loving people are going to like it -- that's a no-brainer. Persona fans will too, especially if they're into the casts of the last two games. This new spin-off might be missing some of the Social Link hooks, but it's got new gameplay, a huge cast, and tons of personality to make up for that.
Persona Q preview photo
First hands-on in English
It was almost surreal to be playing Persona Q in English for the first time this past week. It came out of nowhere late last year, a fantasy game mixing Persona 3 and Persona 4 characters in a new 3DS game that uses Etri...

Mighty No. 9 feels great, but the core concepts take some getting used to

Sep 01 // Chris Carter
Mighty No. 9 (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Comcept, Inti Creates, Abstraction GamesPublisher: ComceptReleased: 2015MSRP: TBA ($15 based off Kickstarter) Let's get the concepts out of the way first. For the most part, Beck controls the same way Mega Man always has -- he can jump and shoot, and in lieu of the classic slide move, Beck has a dash that can be used in succession without any real restrictions. This allows him to boost forward, air dash, and "slide" underneath gaps. But the dash is much more complicated than that. In Mighty No. 9, you'll have to use it to "absorb" enemies. By firing at them and decreasing their health pool past a certain threshold, they become "destabilized." Beck can then dash through them to absorb their powers (extra damage, speed, life, and defense boosts), thus killing them in the process -- most enemies cannot be destroyed by your standard shot and must be dashed through. This mechanic is seemingly a core precept of the Mighty philosophy, as it is used constantly throughout the level and is paramount to success. It's also a double-edged sword. For one thing, I found it kind of annoying at first to have to dash through almost every enemy in my path to remove them -- I was constantly jamming on the dash button so often that I skipped some enemies entirely. But once you play it for a while, it becomes second nature. Skipping enemies is actually bad, because you will need their absorbed powers sporadically throughout the game. For instance, by absorbing a close-by enemy with a red power that strengthens my standard shot, I could then get through a subsequent area with a much easier time -- one that nearly requires you to fire through multiple enemies, which is only possible with said power-up. You can see this at 1:54 in the below video. [embed]280497:55531:0[/embed] Like Neo when he became aware of the Matrix for the first time, so too did I eventually pick up absorption and destabilization. I don't suspect it will be for everyone and I can see some changes happening before launch (perhaps a buff for the standard cannon), but I enjoyed the strategic element, and dashing around everywhere is a ton of fun. I partly enjoyed boosting about because the levels are designed very well, combining action, light puzzle elements, and secret areas and paths that really started to shine in Mega Man 5 and 6. The beta only provides us with one stage -- the Military base -- but it's enough to show us what the development collective has planned for us. While No. 9 isn't what I'd call extremely difficult, it did give this Mega Man veteran some pause throughout. It wasn't just something I could pick up and master immediately -- I had to learn the ins and outs of the dash system, and there were some very tricky portions littered about the stage, most of which involve one-hit spiky pits of death. The boss, Mighty No. 5, was one of the best parts. It was fun to just unload burst fire on him and occasionally dash to destabilize his lifebar, as it felt like your standard cannon counted more for something. His pattern is very predictable (like a classic Robot Master), but his ultimate move (which effectively closed off half the arena periodically) was interesting, and his overall design was memorable. Mighty No. 9 didn't blow me away as a Mega Man fan, but even at this early stage I'm impressed by the layers of technical gameplay it provides. I think it's shaping up to be a pretty promising platformer, and just like Azure Striker Gunvolt, it does enough differently to make its own mark on the genre, without simply cloning Capcom's methods at every step.
Mighty No. 9 preview photo
Check out my full video playthrough below
Mighty No. 9 is probably one of the most anticipated games of 2015. After a massive Kickstarter, creator Inafune and developers Comcept and Inti Creates have kicked off a long line of products to hype it up, including Mi...

Fantasy Life is one of the easiest simulators ever to pick up and play

Jul 16 // Chris Carter
What you're really going to get in terms of the meat of the game (outside of maxing out all 12 jobs) is player choice. Although I only got a taste of what's to come, there are enough options to choose from to the point where you should theoretically have a completely different path from all your friends. You can't change lives on the fly (which can get annoying if you have all 12 active), but there's an instant teleport option to bring you back to the appropriate location to switch. While this system does feel like a bit of a time sink, the fact that every job can viably fight most enemies and gather up materials anyway is a nice touch. Job-wise, you can choose between the Paladin, Mercenary, Hunter, Wizard, Cook, Angler, Woodcutter, Miner, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Tailor, and Alchemist. Paladin was my personal favorite, and I enjoyed the synergy between it and the Blacksmith job, which let me forge my own weapons and armor. The neat thing though is that the Blacksmith could also level-up his skill in the same weapons and wield a sword as needed. Combat is a relatively simple affair, but that makes it just as easy to get out and start slicing things for materials to bring back to town and synthesize. Actual item creation takes place in the form of a fun mini-game, which you can make easier (or faster) by way of special class abilities that you can enact at any moment. It's all very easy to pick up. Even though I didn't get to play it for long, it's clear that Fantasy Life is a huge game. Odds are you'll spend over a hundred hours maxing out every job, not to mention the side distractions like multiplayer, customization, and room decoration. I can't wait to try the full version for myself later this year.
Fantasy Life preview photo
Play how you want
During a hands-on Nintendo event, I was given the option to play a number of upcoming games -- naturally, I gravitated towards Fantasy Life, which I've been waiting a few years to see in action overseas. Developed by the...

Story of Seasons wants you to connect with your inner farmer

Jun 16 // Natalie Kipper
Story of Seasons puts additional emphasis the "lifestyle" aspect of the game. For the first time, there will be other farmers in your town to interact with. At times, you may be competing with them (like during festivals) and at other times, you will be working together. The Japanese game's subtitle translates to "Connect to a New World" and you can really see that theme appearing over and over again. One of the nice touches in which that idea plays out is the lack of a shipping box. I know, I know. Heresy, right? But, hear me out. Rather than just stuffing your goods in a box and never knowing where they go, Story of Seasons has you trading with other countries in the game's world. Send the citizens goods that they particularly crave and you'll get a postcard back. Little touches like that endear me to this title.  The game wants you to connect not only with the NPCs but also with other players. Using Wi-Fi, players can visit each others' farms. That may sound a tad simple but the rewards you reap from the experience flesh out the feature. Visiting friends can help with things like cheering you on as you work or watering your crops. Your friend's efforts may lead to rare crops growing. Sounds like incentive enough to me. Speaking of rare crops, Nintendo collaborated with the developers on this project, adding in some traditional Super Mario Bros. flora to the ecosystem. Thanks to this partnership, your farmer will be able to grow a Fire Flower, Super Mushroom, and a Super Star (okay, so that last one isn't really flora). These crops aren't just for show either. They'll have special effects. The Super Star, for example, will prevent crops from going bad for a period of time. What might have been considered the more tedious parts of previous games in the series are now streamlined. I'll freely admit how grateful I am that, right off the bat, 3 by 3 square plots can be seeded, watered and harvested at once. To most people, it may sound like a small thing and yes, in previous incarnations you could eventually upgrade your equipment to do this but I just love that the developers got rid of the process altogether. I think the new, quicker method actually adds to the experience, allowing you to focus more on other aspects of the game.  Beyond farming, customization looks like a big part of the experience. You can design the look of your farmer along with the layout of your farm as well as certain areas of the town. Some of the previous titles gave you free reign over your town's layout but Story of Season's has limited it to sections of land that you win ownership of during festival competitions. I can see some people being disappointed at this design choice but it looks like there will still be plenty for those customization maniacs to meticulously plan. And can we just take a moment to admire the game's aesthetic? Look through the screenshots in the gallery and if those happy critters in the lush meadows don't warm the cockles of your potentially jaded heart, I don't know what game will. I certainly came down with a case of the warm fuzzies. Get ready to reconnect with the land when Story of Seasons releases this winter.
Story of Seasons photo
The pastoral life never looked so friendly
Fans of farming and lifestyle sims are no doubt familiar with the confusion surrounding the Bokujō Monogatari series. Natsume owned the trademark on the English title, Harvest Moon, but XSEED had the relationship wi...

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: E3 first hunt

Jun 16 // Dale North
Going back in, the two of us headed out on a hunt for the Great Jaggi, a Tyrannosaurus-like beast that took a good fifteen minutes of beating on to go down. I did my best to get in damaging hits with my massive, slow melee weapon while my teammate kept Jaggi busy. We both took advantage of MH4U’s newly improved climbing ability to train the Jaggi up to a wall where we could attack from above and even jump down to land a stronger attack. This time around, simply walking up to ledges has you climbing up them, so the surrounding caverns made for a pretty nice positional advantage.  As we got better at teaming up on it, I was landing some pretty big hits, and we could finally see the Jaggi becoming exhausted. It was at this point that riding the Jaggi became possible. Pining it down let us get in a nice string of hits, but just when we thought we had it the Jaggi ran off into a cave. It did its best to send its little dino-like underlings at us (like annoying little Velociraptors) but we managed to finish it off there by backing it into a corner. And as Monster Hunter goes, that loot we earned from taking down the Jaggi could then be used to upgrade weapons and armors to be able to take on even bigger beasts.  If you’ve played previous series games, you’ll be right at home with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate with its button mappings and touchscreen camera controls. Again, I’m but a casual player and I was pretty comfortable even in the thick of things after only a few minutes.  Every time I play Monster Hunter I think about how I could see myself easily giving up dozens of hours of my life to it. A portable game with a huge, varied world and plenty of challenging situations is the ideal game for me. Add in cooperative play and thrilling boss fights and you have a game that s dangerously tempting for me. I really enjoyed my couple of demo missions at E3. Maybe it’s time I stop being a Monster Hunter newbie. 
Monster Hunter preview photo
Two hunts, one failed
Waiting for one of Capcom’s own to sit in and play with me for my first go at upcoming 3DS title Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I got a bit hasty and started picking my own quest. Little did I know I was headed for trouble...

Diggin' the new button play in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

Jun 12 // Dale North
Instead of stylus taps, players can mash on the face buttons in time. I tried all of the face buttons and even the right trigger button -- all of them seem to work. For directional swipes, players can sweep on the analog pad in the correct direct instead of using a stylus. Curtain Call seems to be pretty forgiving as even lazy swipes in the general direction registered as correct.  I quickly found that the responsiveness of the 3DS's clicky face buttons had me blowing through a couple of test stages quite easily. Taps, swipes, tap-and-hold figures, and tap-hold-swipe moves came off easily, even through the really quick phrases. I aced the first few stages I tried, no problem. Even turning the difficulty up on a couple of songs had me finishing with high ranks.  Now, on a technical level I think that the field music stages are probably easier with stylus play. Following their wavy paths is pretty easy when tracing, and there's no need to tap out the rhythm points on these paths when holding the stylus to the screen. With button play, the player has to tap the rhythm dots as they pass while guiding a target with the analog pad. It takes a bit more coordination, but I think it's more enjoyable than playing with the stylus. I wasn't able to try some of the more difficult stages with the button mode, but I already feel pretty good about it being my new default control mode for when I finally get to play Curtain Call on my own time. My reaction time seems quicker and my moves seem to be more accurate with the buttons. Hazama told us that he thinks that the stylus mode is easier and that novice players should definitely start with it. But I recommend trying both when Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call releases later this year. For me, the button play is a game changer.
Game changer!
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call has added the option to use buttons instead of the stylus. Game producer Ichiro Hazama told us in an interview at E3 today that he was thinking that fans that play 3DS while laying in bed might enjoy this alternative control method. I told him that I think I might be better at it than the stylus method.

Smash Run in Super Smash Bros. 3DS can really change things up

Jun 11 // Darren Nakamura
Smash Run begins with the four combatants dropped into a huge arena, with a five-minute timer counting down. Though players can track each other around the field, the real focus is on destroying computer-controlled enemies and stealing the delicious tokens they drop. Each enemy will drop some combination of powerups, which boost a character's attributes such as speed, physical power, and jump height. These powerups take effect immediately, and so they can be used to more effectively take on baddies around the environment. However, the catch is that being knocked out causes the player to lose all of his accumulated powerups and start over, with the time prior to the knockout wasted. This is where the risk/reward scheme comes in. Players can fight through the dungeon conservatively, avoiding damage and running low risk of losing powerups, but sacrificing those that would have been gained if the dungeon had been traversed with more haste. Alternatively, players can bomb through trying to collect every powerup as quickly as possible, but that runs the risk of losing it all just before the timer expires. Once the timer does expire, the fighters are all put into a randomly selected, standard Smash Bros. stage, with a random rule set in play. This plays out much like a normal battle, except that every fighter keeps all of the powerups gained from the dungeon section. Knowing this, players can try to engineer a character unlike those normally seen. The example given was that a savvy fighter could choose a heavyweight character like Bowser, but focus on gathering speed and jump powerups to give him the kind of movement capability usually reserved for lightweights. Alternatively, what I ended up doing was taking Little Mac, a character who is already quick, and giving him blazing speed. It has surprising depth for something that has only been briefly touched on in the past. Between this and the earlier launch date, Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS is looking like a pretty attractive purchase. If only we had a GameCube controller adapter for the handheld.
Super Smash Bros. 3DS photo
Fast Bowser, hard-hitting Peach, or pretty much any other wacko idea
Nintendo has been doing a lot to build hype for Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U off at E3, but that does not mean the company is neglecting the fighting game's little brother, Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS. In the upstai...

Sonic Boom on 3DS seems like a pleasantly surprising platformer

Jun 10 // Brett Makedonski
Like Lyric, Shattered Crystal frequently halts the platforming challenge to put an emphasis on puzzles. Usually, these are solved via one of the characters' unique abilities. Playing as Sonic, but need to hit a far away button? Switch to Sticks with one tap of the screen to throw a boomerang at it. It's tough to say how difficult these sections will get as the game progresses, but they were pretty basic in the demo we were shown. However, it seems as if often times these puzzle bits won't necessarily bar off the main path through stages, but serve as a gateway to optional areas. The levels in the demo were absolutely huge, enough so that one of the 3DS screens is dedicated to providing a map. It definitely prompts exploration to earn extra rewards -- another takeaway from Lyric. One such example is a playable mini-stage that required the use of Tails. Outfitted in a submarine, there was an underwater maze complete with harmful obstacles that needed to be navigated to find a hidden object. All that needed to be done before Tails ran out of oxygen. It had an air of difficulty about it that assured Shattered Crystal wouldn't just be a walk in the park. As if all that adventuring goodness weren't enough, Shattered Crystal even has a Metroidvania aspect to it. At first, it looks as if Sonic will be soloing the areas until the game's other characters -- Knuckles, Tails, and Sticks -- are unlocked. Once they're available, earlier levels will necessitate a replay in order to access previously unreachable parts by way of using their unique skills. Walking away from some hands-on time with Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, it's easy to have an optimistic outlook for this take on the fabled hedgehog. A title that manages to be true to the series' roots while simultaneously innovating in a positive way is something 3DS owners can get excited about. It may not be an exact return to Sonic's glory days, but there's no reason it can't be just as fulfilling.
Shattered Crystal preview photo
Sonic's Metroidvania
Just last week, Sega announced that the two upcoming Nintendo-exclusive Sonic games were given subtitles. The Wii U title is now Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, and the 3DS version is Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal. Despite sh...

My Tomodachi Life is just as strange as I am

Jun 02 // Brittany Vincent
Tomodachi Life (3DS)Developer: Nintendo SPD Group 1Publisher: Nintendo Release Date: June 6, 2014 I was hooked from the very beginning, importing my own Mii for a bit of narcissistic fun on the island I would soon become the caretaker of. The peaceful-looking apartment complex I would soon move into belied the off-the-wall charm and happenings of the rest of dear Kalopsia Island, which I had named myself. But before I could dig into Tomodachi proper, I had some editing and refining of my Mii to do. I made some necessary physical adjustments and altered my Mii's eye color, height, build, and hair, and then went onto the important stuff: giving little Queen Bee a voice and personality. You can alter your Mii's voice by starting with a default timbre, or you can go wild and use the sliders to assign a voice that makes sense for your digital representation or whichever wacky character you've decided to create. When all the vanity choices have been decided, you have a set of sliders to adjust to give your character a personality, mixing up how direct your Mii's conversation style is, how quirky they are, how friendly they are, and other various subsets of personality that will become integral to the interaction between island inhabitants. Queen Bee mirrored me quite nicely, receiving an "outgoing" demeanor distinction and "leader" personality type. I may have been a little kind with my input, but hey -- she's supposed to be a cuter, better me, anyway. Once I got through the customization process, Queen Bee moved into her apartment straight away, where she began speaking to me and introducing herself. Her speech brought back flashbacks of the many late nights I would spend fooling around with Windows Text2Speech and listening to their singing demos. And I loved it. Her pronunciation of my island name, her name, and other words was spot-on, though of course her voice was nowhere near the way I wanted it to sound -- such is the nature of these types of synthetic voices. It still brought a smile to my face when she introduced herself to me and immediately lamented the fact that she was hungry. Just like me. Since there are only a limited amount of areas to explore within the Tomodachi Life demo, I ventured out to the store, where a few different types of food are up for grabs. I was curious as to what I would be purchasing said food items with since I had just started the game. You receive a set amount of money when you start the game, but pleasing citizens of the island and doing favors will earn you more, little by little. I absent-mindedly rubbed my Mii's belly and she seemed to like it, which earned me some pocket change. When I brought her a nice, juicy steak to eat and dragged it over her body for her to gobble down, she was pleased as well, and I made back almost all I spent on the steak. I mused on how similar we were and how much I liked steak as well. And soda, delicious soda. But Queen Bee wasn't enough for my tastes. I needed more Miis to join the fold. I added my boyfriend and Josh Homme to the apartment roster, and soon I was completing favors for them like nobody's business. Josh wanted new decor for his apartment, so I chose one that had been given to me at the start of the game. It completely reworked his living space into a beach bungalow of sorts, but I didn't have any left for poor Queen Bee, who just wanted food all the time. And my already paltry inventory was dwindling. Luckily, completing favors for my Miis yielded experience and items as they leveled up, as well as the ability to learn new catchphrases and poses. I bestowed Queen Bee with "go with the flow," and a defiant posture. It looked ridiculous. It's something I would do. I giggled cantankerously. My level-up gift was a can of hair spray, so without a second thought I used it and turned Queen Bee's black hair a bright pink, just like mine was only a year go. She seemed to enjoy it, and all was right with the world. Without items, however, or a store at which I could purchase additional things aside from food, my time with Tomodachi Life would be shortened considerably. The Move-In Version only allows a particular number of favors to be completed and only a few Miis for your apartment. There wasn't much else to do aside from watching them occasionally interact after everything had been completed. I turned on the game at different times during the day to see what they were up to. Sometimes they'd be napping, sometimes they'd be rolling around in the floor, and sometimes they'd be chatting with each other about inane things. And like any other life sim, they just chill out and do what they want to do. You watch and interact, and give them guidance. And it's some of the most fun I've had with a handheld in quite some time. I watched my Miis visit the beach and look out at the water and kept buying them food after the demo had "ended" officially until the Concert Hall opened up for a sneak peek. I got to watch two of my Miis performing a bizarre "metal" song that ended right in the middle, for some strange reason. The little skull hair clip was spot-on, too. By the time I had exhausted all of that, I was ready to fast-forward to June 6. Tomodachi Life is indeed one of the quirkiest, silliest life simulators I've ever had the pleasure of playing, and while my annotated experience was only long enough to get a rudimentary feel for how things will unfold, if the entire game is as random and fun as the demo, then I'm going to be a very happy camper in the next few weeks. And I'm hoping there isn't some kind of torrid love triangle between my boyfriend, Josh Homme, and me.
Tomodachi Life preview photo
Welcome to Kalopsia Island!
The allure of a digital life is what inevitably led me to become much less of an internet hermit during my adolescence. There's something to be said about reinventing yourself from the ground up, whether you're just altering ...

Azure Striker Gunvolt photo
One of my most anticipated 3DS games of the year
Keiji Inafune and his superstar development collective are hard at work with creating Mighty No. 9 for every platform under the sun -- but who knows when it's actually coming out. As confirmed to us at BitSummit 2014, we...


Multiplayer fun with Mario Golf: World Tour

Everyone plays simultaneously in multiplayer
Mar 26
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Mario Golf: World Tour features four player multiplayer via online, or local play with just a single cartridge. As it should, but you know the best part of all this? Everyone is playing simultaneously. You don't have to wait...

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