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Review: Skylanders: SuperChargers

Sep 28 // Chris Carter
Skylanders SuperChargers (3DS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Vicarious VisionsPublisher: ActivisionReleased: September 20, 2015MSRP: $74.99 (Starter pack, two characters, vehicle, base, game) To be frank, I was worried about the state of Skylanders after Trap Team. I mean, sure, it was a great action game and still had its charms, but I was starting to think that Activision had been scraping the bottom of the barrel with its newest gimmick. With the vehicular-based focus however, Vicarious Visions has turned the formula on its head again, going back to basics with old-school, sensible tendencies. The focus here is vehicles, and not just cars. Land, sea, and air-based transportation is at the crux of the experience, with the Starter Pack providing the former. To be clear, there are elemental gates for ancillary content (forcing players to use certain toys to access some areas), but the fact that the entire core game can be completed with one land vehicle, and the vast majority of sidequests are accessible with just one sea and air toy respectively is a massive step up from past titles. Yes, you will have to spend a bit of extra cash to get everything, but I was completely satisfied with the main campaign on its own terms. Speaking of the toys themselves, they're still at the top of their game. All of the vehicles sport moving parts, and take me back to my Micro Machines days, racing cars across a table with glee. There are fewer new characters this time around in favor of the vehicles, which is fine in my book, as they're much easier to wrap your head around with three distinct varieties. Just like before, two players can play together on the same console with two different Skylanders -- here, a vehicle can be added to the mix with the new portal. Yes, that's one vehicle. While I initially thought it was a limitation, it actually feels like a more deliberate design choice, as sharing a ride is much more fun as a co-op experience. [embed]312286:60536:0[/embed] One person drives, and the other shoots -- it's that simple. With the touch of a button you can switch roles, should someone else want to take the driver's seat. Movement is intuitive, as the driver is only focusing on traversal, and the shooting bits cleverly make use of a reticle to avoid the need for the driver to always be in sync with their partner. In short, it allows everyone a ton of freedom, but it isn't too overwhelming of a prospect to hop from car to car. The story this time around doesn't require any prior knowledge of the series, which simultaneously works in its favor and hurts the setup. Once again, Kaos (who is still charming as "Not Invader Zim," but is getting a bit old at this point) reigns supreme, it's just that this time he's taken the noble Eon captive, leaving your ragtag team of Patrick Warburton and company to save the day. It's a plot that belongs in a Saturday morning cartoon, but the sleek visuals and upbeat performances sell it well enough. During the 10-hour campaign, you'll find plenty of variety when it comes to mission types, enemy patterns, themes, and gameplay. One moment you might be diving underwater in an obstacle course of sorts with a submarine, and the next, you're up in the air dogfighting, Star Fox style (yes, you can barrel roll). The pacing is excellent, and boss fights are seen in a whole new light as vehicular confrontations. But this time you'll have Mario Kart-esque races as a distraction as well, which are easily the best pieces of side content yet for the series. The entire affair feels thoroughly integrated into the game itself, without feeling like a tacked-on "me too" mode. One race for instance features a level populated by two giant dragons, who constantly are visible throughout the track, and occasionally pop out to cause havoc for the participants. Each level feels like it was given a sufficient amount of love, to the point where I'd put many of them on par with classics like Diddy Kong Racing and some of the best Mario Kart games. That's not to say that it completely measures up to its contemporaries. The item system feels limited, and the combat system in general (all cars can use their standard attacks during races) is disjointed, as some elements from the campaign don't quite work in this gametype. Plus, you'll need to buy a certain number of toys to access every track. No, it's not perfect, but again, as a side mode, it does its job and then some. Online play for the campaign and racing modes also don't hurt its case, on top of the revamped Triple Triad-like Skystones mini-game. I'm utterly surprised that Activision hasn't run this franchise into the ground yet. Skylanders: SuperChargers reinvigorates my interest in the series, and I'd go so far as to say that I wouldn't mind a full-on SuperChargers racing spin-off in the same vein as a proper Mario Kart game (note that the Wii and 3DS editions are racing games, essentially). After all, a little competition never hurt anyone -- maybe they can put that Crash Bandicoot license to good use. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. The Starter Pack and a few additional toys were provided as well.]
Skylanders review photo
Back to business
Year after year, I can generally count on the Skylanders games. I had zero hope for Spyro's return back in 2011, but every single iteration has been a competent brawler. While Activision can be accused of running franchi...

Review: Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Sep 22 // Ben Davis
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: September 25, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Happy Home Designer puts the player in the role of interior decorator as an employee of the Happy Home Academy. It's your job to listen to clients' requests, fulfill their needs, and add your own bit of flair to their home designs. There are more than 300 villagers in need of decorating advice, and Isabelle will visit with requests to design public facilities around town. Each villager request will have a special theme to follow pertaining to their vision of an ideal home, such as "a tropical resort," "a forest of books," or "a bamboo playground." They'll bring along a few pieces of their favorite furniture which must be used in the design, but the rest is up to you. Design their yards, the exterior of their homes, and of course the inside as well, and try to fit the theme to make the clients happy. Isabelle will also drop by occasionally with requests to design larger public spaces, such as restaurants, schools, hospitals, and more. Many of these buildings have multiple rooms to decorate, each with their own set of requirements. These were the most fun for me, because I got to use items which I never wanted to use in my own home in previous Animal Crossing games, and the layouts were a lot different than what I was used to working with, so everything felt new to me. [embed]311329:60430:0[/embed] Every new request adds new items to the catalog of furniture at your disposal. Any of these new items are sure to make the client happy, although ultimately it really doesn't matter too much. They will be pleased as long as the furniture they brought along is used, and it's actually not possible to say that the house is finished until those items have been placed, so there's really no way to make any of the clients unhappy. This was the most disappointing thing about the game to me. I was hoping to be graded on my designs, with the ability to make clients happier with more thoughtful interior decorating skills or upset if their house turned out to be a disaster. In reality, they'll be just as happy if you take time designing a beautiful house as they will be if you walk in, unpack their boxes, and say that everything is finished without adding or moving anything at all. It's terribly unsatisfying, but I suppose it does give players the freedom to play however they like without the fear of upsetting any of the villagers. Fortunately, your designs can be graded by other players if you choose to upload them to the Internet via the Happy Home Network. Houses and public facilities can be rated by four different categories: cuteness, coolness, uniqueness, and the "I'd live here!" factor. If you find an interesting design online, you can visit that person's house to walk around and check it out before giving an assessment. It's a pretty neat feature and a good way to get some feedback, but it's not quite the same as having the game score your designs. That being said, designing rooms is still super fun, and easier than ever to do. Just drag, drop, and rotate furniture with the touch screen, add more items from the catalog, duplicate items with the L and R buttons, drag unwanted stuff to the trash can, and voila! No more slowly pushing and pulling furniture into place (but you can do that too if you want). Also, there are no bells to worry about, so the only limit to the amount of items which can be added to a room is the space afforded by the floor plan. Decorating rooms in Animal Crossing has never been simpler. There are also options to add ceiling fixtures, create your own custom designs, have Cyrus refurbish stuff, add background noise other than music, and more which can all be unlocked with Play Coins. Once a house or public space is finished, you're free to go back and visit it whenever to hang out with the residents or offer a remodel (although public spaces can only be remodeled after they have all been built). Villagers who have been helped already can be found walking around town, and new potential clients can also be found wandering around with thought bubbles above their heads. Finished public spaces will also be used by villagers, and their roles within the buildings can be chosen by the player (meaning you can decide which villagers are customers or employees). Happy Home Designer features support for amiibo cards. The game includes one amiibo card to start with, and more can be bought in packs for $5.99. The cards can be used to design homes for special villagers who wouldn't normally come by as clients. I got Lyle's card, for example, a higher-up at the Happy Home Academy, so I got to decorate my coworker's home. The cards can also be used to summon villagers to public spaces, so the town can be populated by all of your favorite villagers. That's essentially all there is to Happy Home Designer. Just design homes and admire the finished projects. But even for such a simple idea, I still find myself going back in to see which villagers are looking for a new home and how interesting their theme sounds. It's strangely addicting, and designing homes for some of the more offbeat villagers like the mad scientists, wrestling fanatics, and criminal masterminds is really fun. I just wish they had built in some kind of grading rhetoric for how well your designs resonated with the clients. There has always been a grading mechanic for your own homes in previous Animal Crossing games, where the Happy Home Academy would award points based on how well the furniture fit together, how everything was arranged, and so forth. It's strange they would scrap that idea for a game built entirely around the Happy Home Academy, but that's the way it is. I would recommend Happy Home Designer for anyone who really enjoys designing and decorating virtual spaces. If finding the perfect furniture for your house in Animal Crossing was your favorite part of the series, then you'll surely get some enjoyment out of this game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Animal Crossing review photo
Comfortable living
Animal Crossing's home design feature was actually the thing that got me hooked on the series in the first place. Back when I was addicted to building houses in The Sims, one of my friends came over for a visit and broug...

Review: Mega Man Legacy Collection

Aug 25 // Chris Carter
Mega Man Legacy Collection (3DS, PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Digital Eclipse, CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease Date: August 25, 2015 (Digital - PC, PS4, Xbox One) / TBA 2016 (3DS, physical sets)MSRP: $14.99 (Digital) / $29.99 (Physical) So what exactly is the Legacy Collection? Well, it's a package that includes the six original NES games, as well as a few other extras, and a challenge mode -- it's that simple. Every game has the option of three aspect ratios (original, wide, and full), as well as two additional visual filters meant to replicate old TVs and monitors. That's basically all you get in terms of mixing up the games from the way they were originally presented. The key mantra from Digital Eclipse is "if it ain't broke don't fix it," which is going to be a polarizing choice for many gamers out there. Personally, having grown up with the NES, I'm completely okay with things like slowdown effects and choppy, warped visuals. Yep, that's right -- the developers have opted to retain the original look and feel of the games, for better or for worse. You also won't find any quality of life improvements, such as the ability to switch between subweapons with the triggers -- a feature from the PSOne Classic re-releases a few generations ago. In case you're wondering, yes, the Elec-Man subweapon pause glitch still works. There are some nice extras though, like a music player that features every original track from all six games, and a hefty database mode, which showcases artwork and concept art for every enemy in the game. It's all old archive material that exists in some artbook somewhere, but it's still nice to be able to flip through it all in one centralized location. One really cool feature of the archive is the ability to instantly fight any Robot Master at will from the menu screen, with every weapon from that game at your disposal. [embed]304980:60114:0[/embed] Ok, so onto Mega Man 1-6 -- how do they hold up? Quite well, actually, from this gamer's point of view. You can peruse through some quick thoughts here on all six games, but I really think that each title deserves a spot in the collection. The original Mega Man is a bit rough at times with some haphazard level designs, the Blue Bomber seal of quality is immediately apparently upon progressing to the second game -- and of course, the third, which is my personal favorite of the original lineup. While I did feel the burn with Mega Man 5 due to a lack of innovation (as I always do), I enjoyed it all the same, and Mega Man 6 wowed me, again, with just how clean and interesting it is. My view on the stalwart commitment to the "originals" is mixed, but ultimately positive. While it would have been nice to possibly play a remixed edition separately with more modern options, every game is a classic in its on way, even when you're looking at it years later, free of the tint of nostalgia goggles. If you're feeling finicky and want to switch between games however, it takes seconds to do so with the highly responsive menus, and save states are available for each game (as well as old school password support, of course). So onto the big daddy feature -- 50 challenges, accessible by way of a standalone mode. This is likely the deciding factor for many of you out there, since they are technically the only thing new in Legacy Collection. While I was initially worried that they wouldn't do enough, I was pleasantly surprised after working my way through them, especially with the approach that they took. In recent years, we've seen a "remix" mentality for challenge modes, spearheaded by NES Remix. It's a trend that sees developers taking locations from multiple games and mashing them up, and it's a trend that I can get on board with. While Legacy Collection features standard challenges like timed boss rush modes, they also have remixes, which function like obstacle courses of sorts. The game will task you with getting through 15-30 second bite-sized pieces of existing levels, complete with a portal at the end, which brings you to another mini-section. It's addicting, as the game forces you to constantly rethink your strategy, and sometimes hilariously drops you into a sticky situation, like the beam section in Quick Man's stage. Even better, multi-game remixes are unlocked later on, which require you to deal with taking on successive areas from multiple games. It's crazy jumping from title to title, as I would often forget that certain experiences didn't have sliding or charged shot capabilities. Getting a respectable clear time will definitely test the mettle of even the most seasoned Mega Man vets out there. Thankfully, all of this comes complete with leaderboard support, so you can see how you rank up against your friends and the world. I've already started a friendly little competition with a few members of the press, and I think I'm going to get addicted to this feature all over again, just like I did with Mega Man 9. I'm interested to see the top times from players all around the world, and this is a truly great way to unite Mega Man fans old and new. After booting the game up I was inspired to beat all six games again and work on the challenges, so the Mega Man Legacy Collection did its job. I'd really like to see more Legacy packs down the line from Capcom -- perhaps with a bit more bravado in terms of extras and alternate modes of play. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Mega Man Legacy review photo
Legacy secure
If you've kept a close watch on the site for the last three years or so, you'd see that it's no secret that I love Mega Man. Despite the fact that Capcom hasn't given him any love in the past few years, it's still my favorite series, and one day, I'd like to see it return to glory. While the Mega Man Legacy Collection wasn't everything I was looking for, it'll do just fine for now.

Review: Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight

Jul 31 // Chris Carter
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight (3DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: Curve DigitalRelease Date: August 4, 2015 (US) / February 12, 2016 (Europe)MSRP: $49.99 (Atlus tax) For those unaware, the Untold portion of the moniker denotes the inclusion of an all-new story mode, complete with preset characters and a new narrative. It sounds weird, but any Etrian fan knows that the series started off with dungeon-crawler roots, and thus, allowed players to basically create and customize whoever they wanted --with a loose story binding it all together. Thankfully, The Fafnir Knight includes both gametypes and multiple difficulty options for players of all backgrounds If you spring for the new setup, the tale starts off with low-key princess protection duty with your childhood friend Flavio, but quickly evolves into a grand tale of adventure to seek out the city at the bottom of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth. Early into the fray, your hero awakens their true power -- the Fafnir Knight class, capable of transformation. While the story itself isn't as memorable as a lot of recent JRPGs, it's still a fun enough narrative with a cast of likable characters. The dialog in particular isn't riveting stuff, nor is it laugh-out-loud funny; it's serviceable, which is essentially how I feel about Etrian in general. Dungeon crawling is basically the same as always (now with the enhanced 3D style), and with Fafnir Knight, you'll have the ability to manually map out your findings on the bottom screen. Or, if you're feeling a bit more conservative, it can automatically populate. FOEs have returned, which are basically giant superbosses present throughout the game. [embed]296957:59744:0[/embed] Like many JRPG superbosses, they aren't easy to best. You'll generally have to avoid them early on or risk instant death. Since they're visible on the screen, it's easy to see where they're coming from however, and you'll have to either deduce their patterns or use trap items to fool them. It's a nice little diversion, and returning later on to defeat a pesky FOE is a great feeling. Don't think that a more concise campaign implies that the formula has been dumbed down, as players will still be able to create an initial avatar and customize the classes of story characters. There is a caveat: you'll need to sacrifice five levels to switch classes. Additionally, you can't just call upon the guild to create new characters at will. To further muddy the waters, the Grimoire system seeks to mix things up a bit, as you can now equip party members with items that allow them to tap into additional classes. However, it feels extremely limited in nature, as most of them are a random drop, and it took me hours to find the few specific tomes I really wanted. It's an odd gambit by Atlus even in the confines of the Fafnir story, as the Etrian series has always prided itself on full customization. It's a bit easier to forgive once you dig into the new cooking mechanic, which has been expanded in an unprecedented manner. Now, you can customize ingredients and discover new recipes to craft as you cook your way to statistical bonuses for your adventures. Eventually, this diversion works its way more and more into the story. The Duke of the main town allows you to potentially earn a profit from the restaurant as you expand and re-invest in the town. It's a nice little meta-narrative and adds some lightheartedness to the game. Classic mode is of course, utterly different. It's a less limited tale featuring a mysterious labyrinth, and the experience is more about the journey than a real story. You can register new party members at will, and you're free to choose from over 10 classes at the start. It's very intimidating for non-RPG fans, so I recommend trying out story mode first. And really, that's what's so great about the Untold series -- it allows new players to acclimate without holding their hand too often, and still provides a way for hardcore fans to create limitless combinations of parties to their heart's content. Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight is a remake that's perfectly timed and well crafted, despite the fact that the formula isn't quite as fresh as the wholly new Etrian IV (I really miss the more open-ended maps). Now all Atlus needs to do is remaster Etrian III, and it'll have all four core entries ready to play on the 3DS. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Etrian Odyssey 2 review photo
A worthwhile update
It sounds crazy, but 2008 was a long time ago. That's when Etrian Odyssey II was first released for the Nintendo DS, and seven years later, Atlus has decided to bring it to a new audience with The Fafnir Knight. While a few of the advancements from later games don't translate perfectly, it's still a worthwhile dungeon romp, and another great entry in this storied series.

New update and DLC out for Super Smash Bros., preview it here

Jul 31 // Jed Whitaker
Stages: Peach's Castle (64) Hyrule Castle (64)  The stages include their music and a few extra tracks as well.  Mii Outfits: Bear (Gunner) King K. Rool (Brawler) Flying Man (Brawler) Chrom (Swordfighter) Black Knight (Swordfighter) Lloyd (Swordfighter) Samus (Gunner) Hoodie w/ Smash Bros. logo (All) Also, I'm proud to announce an impromptu Super Smash Bros. Destructoid tournament for Wii U! The tournament is now live and joinable by searching for "" and is open up to 100 participants. You have until Sunday at 8:00pm ET to fight your way to the top, then I'll reveal the results on the site and give you a shoutout. Huzzah!  One last thing...
Smash Bros. Wii U tournament!
The new update for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is out in the wild now, bringing with it new stages, Mii costumes, tournament mode, and balance changes. Included for free in the update is a K. K. Slider costume for th...

Review: Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3

Jun 30 // Chris Carter
Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 (3DS [reviewed], PS Vita)Developer: Omega ForcePublisher: Tecmo KoeiMSRP: $29.99Released: June 30, 2015 In a sense, although Chronicles 3 is a continuation of the existing Chronicles offshoot series, it actually ends up being bite-sized take on Warriors 4, but with a few twists in tow. Players will create their own warrior right off the bat and follow a more personalized story, putting them smack in the middle of famous figures like Takeda Shingen. It's a strategy fitting for a portable, even if it takes some liberties when it comes to gameplay. What this does is it allows Samurai newcomers to instantly acclimate themselves without having to know any background on the franchise whatsoever. Even with the last full iteration, it was tough to glean a lot of ancillary backstory about armies and characters unless you had kept up with the series. With Chronicles you can just jump right in, and it will assist you in filling in the blanks. There's a bit of choice involved in the pre-battle cutscenes, but it's mainly an illusion and more of an excuse to learn more about the cast. This goes double for the story, which doesn't really change, and is more of a predetermined narrative for your character. Having said that, the "bonding" system does allow you to unlock new scenes (and a few levels) the more you battle (or pay to drink tea) with fellow officers. [embed]295006:59270:0[/embed] For the most part, gameplay is roughly the same: there's your standard attacks and combo openers as well as supers. It's fast, and despite claims of being "repetitive," it's still a damn fun approach to beat-'em-ups. Chronicles 3 takes things a bit further though (as it has in the past) and allows you to swap between four characters in the battlefield at will, which is better than Samurai's recent two-character mechanic, and a great way to always keep you in the action. Instead of running back and forth constantly, you can just switch to someone else. The main storyline took me roughly 10 hours to complete, then it's off to individual battles while you grind up your character and earn gold to buy new outfits. Instead of a bunch of different bonus gametypes, you'll have a simple challenge mode at your disposal, which is basically a score attack on a timer. Most of your enjoyment will derive from grinding it out for rare weapons and fighting enemies across the span of the entire campaign all at once. It's fun, but its appeal is definitely limited and your mileage may vary. I would have preferred more modes. Sadly, the 3DS hardware has not been kind to Chronicles. The game looks incredibly generic, especially in comparison to the detail that was put into Samurai Warriors 4's new character models. You can't even make out faces for enemy soldiers a lot of the time, much less the set pieces in the background. As a reminder, this review is based off the 3DS version (the only one that was provided), which does have the added benefit of constantly displaying the map on the bottom screen. The 3D effect enhances the experience a bit, but sadly, also contributes to some slowdown. It's never unplayable, but it does make things worse and I don't recommend using it. Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 is held back by the switch to the 3DS, and I recommend just picking up the past core entry instead. In the meantime, I'll attempt to locate a Vita version to see how it compares to Warriors 4, which was also released on the Vita earlier this year. With some of the performance issues smoothed out, this personal story would be more worth telling. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Samurai Warriors review photo
Not quite as punchy on a portable
Samurai Warriors 4 was a noticeable advancement for the series, and added a number of interesting mechanics like instant character switching and more varied move sets for each character. It even solved a few common compl...

Review: Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure

Jun 18 // Chris Carter
Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure (3DS)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoMRSP: $8.99Release Date: June 11, 2015 Yep, this is pretty much the same Dr. Mario you know and love. Miracle Cure sports 10 training levels and 50 core stages for its "campaign," and mixes the classic gameplay of Mario with the newly-minted sub-franchise of Dr. Luigi, allowing both playstyles as a separate option. If you've never played a game in the series before, you're directing little pills on a screen, similar to Tetris, to eliminate viruses and clear the board. Each virus and pill has a respective color (blue, red, or yellow), and matching up four of a kind will clear that link. Dr. Mario features a standard pill shape with up to two colors, and Dr. Luigi makes things a bit more difficult with an "L" shape pill. That's the gist. Here in the newest 3D game there's a new mechanic though called the "Miracle Cure," which basically translates to "powerups." Leave it to Nintendo to barely iterate on a formula and still make a fun game, right? Said powerups include bombs, which blow up anything in their blast radius, and line-based explosions, which are more tactical in nature. For the most part, everything is the same as before, but the Miracle Cures do add a bit more nuance should you opt to turn them on. For instance, the pacing for individual levels is a bit faster since you can score a ton of bombs to blast out some mishaps you may have stacked up in a particular round. It's not mind-blowing, but it doesn't detract from the experience. In addition to the aforementioned preset puzzles, you can also play a custom mode that allows endless play, as well as the option to play directly with a CPU, head-to-head, racing to clear your board first. This versus mode also extends to both online play and local play, the latter of which thankfully supports a download play option, so only one person needs a copy. Honestly, the online experience was one of the smoothest of any recent Nintendo game, as I didn't have any lag of any kind playing a number of different people in Japan. It's all matchmaking based, mind. [embed]294288:59147:0[/embed] It also has this cool display method that shows your game on top and your opponent's on the bottom, both of which have been lag-free based on my testing. For all of these modes you can also opt for Dr. Mario- or Dr. Luigi-based modes, as well as the option to turn off Miracle Cures if you wish. My suggestion? Play with Miracle Cures online. It can be a radically different experience, looking up, then quickly looking down and realizing that your opponent has blasted away half their viruses with powerups. When all is said and done though, there really isn't a whole lot to Miracle Cure if you aren't going to play multiplayer with a friend who shares your passion. I really wish Nintendo showed a bit more effort when it comes to solo play, as the standard "missions" aren't cutting it. I would kill to see a new storyline (like Dr. Mario 64) incorporated into the franchise, one that unites both Mario and Luigi against a common foe. For now, there's only so much pill-dropping that I can take. If you're a Dr. Mario junkie, you can probably pull the trigger on Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure just to see what the fuss is about in regards to the power-ups. For everyone else, just stick with Dr. Luigi until Nintendo decides to overhaul the formula a bit more. [This review is based on a retail build provided by the publisher.]
Dr. Mario review photo
The next game should be Nurse Toad
There's something to be said about preserving old games. As we move into the digital era and publishers start putting less and less emphasis on physical media, many classic games and pieces of hardware will cease to exist. Fo...

Roy's not quite our same boy in the new Super Smash Bros.

Jun 14 // Chris Carter
First off, it has to be said that Roy is even less similar to his Fire Emblem brethren in this game. He wields his sword backwards, which provides him with a unique set of animations, as well as different hitboxes for his attacks. Roy is a much more close-combat oriented fighter than Marth or Lucina, with nearly all of his attacks, including his neutral-B charge move, sporting a smaller distance. There's no tipping here -- Roy does most of his damage up close with the hilt, and feels completely different right off the bat. In addition to his neutral charge he also has his patented upwards slash, counter, and forward/backward sword combo. Don't dismiss him as a clone though, as all of these moves have different timings and animations to get used to. Take his Up-B -- it's a tad slower, but it hits multiple times, so you don't have to worry about executing it perfectly. Everything else is best used close-up, due to the lack of a tip-damage bonus. As a general rule, Roy is also speedier, so you won't be able to acclimate as a Marth or Lucina main immediately without getting a feel for how he moves. Oh, and his grabs are much better at setting up combos. Out of all of the Fire Emblem characters in the game, he likely has the most depth. While Ryu is a sexier brand new addition and Lucas is a fan favorite, I think Roy will end up being the best part of this DLC drop today as more veterans get their hands on them. Out of all three, he's my personal favorite. In fact, he really puts Lucina in an odd spot, as she feels less relevant when compared to both Marth and Roy's uniqueness. Yep, the crowd still chants "Roy's our boy" -- amazing.
Roy Smash photo
He's changed for the better
When playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, I always tended to side with Marth. I dug his aesthetic, his animations, and his moveset over Roy. But with the release of his DLC incarnation in the new Super Smash Bros., Roy is now my boy.

Lucas goes big and goes home in Super Smash Bros. 4

Jun 14 // Jonathan Holmes
First, the cosmetic changes. Lucas now has alt shirts that feature his dog Boney, a baby drago, and even Mother 3 antagonist The Masked Man. Again, if you've played Mother 3, that will all mean a lot more to you. I don't want to spoil anything, but I think it's fair to say that seeing Lucas in that last shirt is a lot like seeing Luke Skywalker lounging around in a Darth Vader bath robe. It cool, but also a little creepy if you think about it for too long.  As for how Lucas plays, he seems to have all the same basic moves that he had in Brawl, but many have seen drastic changes. PK Magnet, his down B, is now much bigger, comes out a lot faster, does more damage, and can heal Lucas a lot more than before. Absorbing a fireball from Mario heals Lucas by about 12% now. It looks like he can only heal a total of 30% damage or so per stock, but more than that might be bordering on over powered, especially in light of how much more deadly this attack is as an offensive maneuver. Lucas's up smash also seems to have a larger hit box than it used to, traveling farther up and out than before. It's hard to say if that's just how it looks though, as Smash 4 is much more flashy than Brawl in general. We're also hearing that his rope snake throw/tether has longer reach than it used to, though he can't seem to use it to grab opponents in the air. It also looks like he can't combo for as many hits with his neutral air.  So that's a little about how Lucas looks in Smash Bros. 4. PK Magnet seems to have gotten the biggest buff in his arsenal so far, and the rest of his moves seem solid enough to keep him competitive. Sadly, he's already been banned from EVO, so we won't see how tournament level players handle him there, but I'm sure it won't be long before some professional Smash 4 player shows us more of what Lucas has to offer. 
Smash Bros. photo
It's hard out there for a PK imp
Lucas is one of those characters that people will play no matter how good or bad he is in a given Smash Bros. game. Mother/Earthbound fans are like that. Just look at the comments in the announcement post for Earthbound Begin...

Ryu is gunning for top tier in the new Super Smash Bros.

Jun 14 // Patrick Hancock
First, let's discuss Ryu's stage, Suzaku Castle. In short: it's wonderful and weird. The music is great and speeds up when things are getting down to the wire. The default mode will definitely not be tournament-legal, since it has a walk-off on the right side. For general entertaining play, however, it's superb. Strategies will change depending on the side the fight is happening on, and since there's a lot of open space on the left side, you can expect some serious ledge play at times. There are two platforms on the left, one on top and one on the bottom. The top one has no grabbable ledges, but the bottom one does. The ledges on the bottom platform are a bit wonky, as characters who come up towards the center of the platform will snap to a ledge that seems way too far to snap to. Players will also only snap in the way they are facing, it seems. Here's a GIF to demonstrate what I mean: As for the character, the first thing I did was take Ryu into the Training mode. He's got at least twice as many attacks as a standard character, and I need to know what they are and how they act before I go into a match. From here on out, I will refer to his light attacks as the attacks executing by tapping the button, and heavy attacks as the ones where the player has to hold the attack button. There's apparently a medium somewhere in the middle, but I'll be damned if I can pull it off intentionally. Holding the attack button doesn't even feel like truly "holding" it. I was worried that having to hold down a button for an attack would feel weird, but it is still very quickly executed. Now I'm worried that I'll "hold" the attack button for too long when I want to do a light attack! You really have to consciously tap the button to execute a light attack. In general, heavy attacks are the ones that come out for me when I'm not thinking. Ryu is definitely a thinking-man's character. Throwing out attacks isn't going to cut it. In each scenario, players must think "okay, light or heavy?" and then execute properly.  Let's start with the special moves. Hadoukens are a great way to cover an approach or force the opponent to make a move. You can not spam Hadoukens, as there can only be one out at a time. The Shakunetsu Hadouken can be activated by performing a half-circle forward motion and an attack button. This Hadouken is slightly stronger than holding the special button down (8% compared to 7%) and will carry the opponent with them over 5 hits. It's great for edge guarding since it takes the enemy for a ride. Shoryuken is a great recovery move and can be a kill move at high percents. It kills Mario at around 105% with no Rage, for example. Personally, this is my go-to kill move in combos, but I'll speak more on that later. Also, it's possible to input down-forward twice to execute this move, instead of doing the normal Dragon Punch motion of forward, down, down-forward. [embed]293924:58985:0[/embed] The Hurricane Kick, despite being called "hugely destructive" by Sakurai, is rather lackluster as an attack. It does less damage (9% if inputting the command) if the opponent is very close to Ryu, and more damage if they are hit during the spinning phase (13%). It pushes the enemy vertically, and doesn't kill Mario until around 130%, and that's with no Directional Influence. As a recovery move, however, the move is wonderful. Ryu can act after it, allowing him to Tatsumaki to gain horizontal ground, and then Shoryuken to go vertically. Finally, his Focus Attack. This is easily the most interesting special move Ryu has. While charging it Ryu has one hit of super armor. While charging, Ryu will flash twice, once for each increasing level. If the player hits the opponent before it flashes once, the opponent will be knocked back. If he hits them after it,  they go into a crumple state, just like Street Fighter IV. The second flash happens a split second before it is fully charged, which means it's a level 3 Focus Attack, which leads to a longer crumple. Also, if released in level 1 or 2, the Focus Attack will be absorbed by shields. Releasing a fully charged Focus Attack will still crumple a shielding opponent. Most importantly, Ryu can dash-cancel the focus attack while charging or after a hit. If an uncharged Focus Attack hits a shield, Ryu can also dash-cancel the lag. In Street Fighter IV, this was known as an "FADC," or Focus Attack Dash Cancel. This allows a guaranteed hit on crumpled opponents. It's super satisfying to pull off a FADC into a kill move like Shoryuken. It's also a good psych-out move to dash-cancel a charging Focus Attack, similar to how Sonic can cancel his Spin Dash. It's important to note that when inputting a Street Fighter command to perform a special move, it must be done in the direction Ryu is facing. If you wanted to do a Shakunetsu Hadouken backwards, for example, it would instead register as a Tatsumaki (quarter-circle back). It is not pleasant when you're expecting one move to come out and get another, so keep this in mind! Ryu's normals are incredibly varied thanks to his unique ability to have TWO OF EVERY TILT. Some of the more useful ones I've been using are his strong forward-tilt, Collarbone Breaker. It does not completely destroy a fresh shield, but it comes very close to doing so. His heavy up-tilt is also very useful and does 12%. Other than that, I've been using both version of his down-tilt a whole lot. The reason I use his down-tilt is because it can be cancelled into any of his special moves on hit. This is my go-to setup after a successful crumple, as well. Basically, I look for opportunities to FADC into a heavy down-tilt which I cancel into a Shoryuken. In case you forgot, I'm still talking about Super Smash Bros. here. As for some other notable moves: His forward smash is incredibly powerful (22% fully charged) and moves him forward, making it have a deceptively long range. His down air spikes, but only if Ryu is close to the opponent when it connects. His up smash and up air are good at keeping opponents airborne, but have short ranges. Literally all of his special moves help with his recovery. Both his Focus Attack and Hadouken give him a little vertical boost, so use them to surprise an opponent while recovering! So, what's Ryu's weakness? Well, other than the fact that players may flub inputs from time to time, I would say Ryu's biggest downside is his throw game. None of his throws are kill throws, and they don't seem to lead into any combo opportunities. Regardless, I think Ryu is going to be a very viable fighter at a higher level of play, and is a blast to experiment with no matter how good you are at the game. Also, always play as the pink Ryu to pretend like you're Dan Hibiki.
Ryu Smash Impressions photo
Watch as I Tastumaki to my death
Remember the first time you went online with Street Fighter IV with your favorite character, Hakan, and fought about 100 Ryus in a week? And they all spammed Hadoukens and always woke up with a Shoryuken? Wouldn't you like to...

SSB DLC photo
Dreamland 64, Splatoon Inkling and more!
[Update: Even more information has been extracted and leaked from the update file such as Ryu's alternate colors, Roy's alternate colors, Dreamland 64 stage for Wii U, pictures of each new character's special moves inclu...

Sonic Boom photo
From out of nowhere
Sonic Boom didn't do too well on 3DS and Wii U. They were two of the worst performing Sonic games in history, and were rated very poorly across both platforms. Despite that, the cartoon series is doing very well. Sonic B...

Lucas photo
Mark your calendars
Nintendo of Europe appears to be the gatekeeper of all Super Smash Bros. info, as it tends to announce everything first. Today, it has revealed that Lucas will make his way into Smash as 3DS and Wii U DLC on June 14...

Review: Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven

Jun 02 // Chris Carter
Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven (3DS)Developer: MarvelousPublisher: Marvelous (JP), XSEED (EU, US)Released: October 2, 2014 (JP) / June 2, 2015 (US) / June 4, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 Magna puts you in the shoes of a humble innkeeper (whose name can be customized at the start), who made a promise to his father to always keep his doors open and be the best proprietor he can be. One day on a standard trip to a cave to gather crystals (a precious resource in this world), he encounters a group of monsters. Fearing death, he retreats to a corner hosting a giant crystal, and summons a magical Spirit Girl named Charlotte (an "Artemis") who saves the day, and pledges her loyalty to him. It gets really goofy from here, in a good way. Maiden Heaven quite literally lays the last bit of its moniker on thick, as Charlotte has six other sisters who end up joining the fray over the course of the game. The narrative is framed as a shonen journey at its core, and the tone and even the presentation remind me of Lunar: The Silver Star, all the way up to and including the short, voiced anime cutscenes that intro new characters -- which is definitely a compliment. It's technically a harem anime setup, but the sexual tension is very light outside of a few scenes (most of which are optional and involve a bathhouse that buffs your party). Plus, you can readily fast-forward any story scene in the game if you wish. As you progress through the game, you'll start to realize that the story is tertiary to your interaction with the Artemis sisters. Think "Social Links" from Persona but much less detailed, and you'll have an idea of what to expect. By talking to characters at hub zones you'll be able to embark upon sidequests, which allow you to increase your affinity towards certain characters, and thus, power up your combat synergy with them. It's an interesting system, mostly because you cannot schmooze everyone in the game. You have to choose between them somewhat, as a handful of these quests will automatically cause the core story to continue. [embed]293142:58774:0[/embed] Magna has a really cool animation style that hosts chibi character models but is also insanely detailed, and for the most part, it works. Backgrounds are fairly stunning on the 3DS even without the 3D effect, and individual moving parts like a random Newton's cradle on a desk look great. The big problem with Magna though is that there is little to no exploration involved. It almost feels like at one point there were going to be massive hubs (you can see a few during quests), but they were cut for time. Instead, cutscenes are the only real way you're going to see Magna's sprawling kingdoms, and even the world map is a boring series of cutscenes. Speaking of cut for time, the English voice acting cast is great, but actual voicework is sparse, and mostly for combat actions and the first few bits of dialogue within a scene. It's unfortunate. Combat, on the other hand, is always a joy to play, and doesn't feel rushed in the slightest. It's a turn-based top-down strategic affair, but it's also grid-less, similar to Valkyria Chronicles. Instead, individual characters have a certain speed rating to determine their turn, and a movement radius. You can traverse anywhere within said radius, and then either defend, attack, or use an item. It's standard stuff, but the way combat actually plays out is just as over-the-top as its cast. The main goal with Magna's battles is to topple as many enemies as possible. Most baddies are grouped up in a formation, with a leader surrounded by tons of minions -- the former of which can summon more as long as he remains alive. For the most part, you'll want to run into these groups and hit an outside member to smash them into others, who fall over like bowling pins.  10-hit combos will grant you extra turns, so it's in your best interest to smash up piles of enemies in rapid succession. It's not the deepest system but it never gets old. Thankfully, individual scenarios have a decent amount of variety to them thanks to random items scattered about the battlefield, like explosive bombs and health potions. It might be turn-based but it doesn't really feel that way if you act quickly, and once you start acquiring more party members you'll have quite a bit of firepower to work with. The standard difficulty setting is spot-on, offering a decent enough challenge right out of the gate. You can also adjust the difficulty on the fly if you want. If you fail a level you can reform your party instantly and buy items before the battle, which is a really cool feature. Lord of Magna has seven endings in all, one for each sister. It's not an extremely lengthy JRPG though, as most of the replay value and extra content is hidden behind this gimmick. Since you can't see all of them in one playthrough it encourages you to do it all over again, but I'm not so sure a lot of folks out there will do that. Personally, I was happy enough with one completion, but years down the line I can see coming back for more. I enjoyed my time with Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven, despite the fact that it felt a tad unfinished at times. The combat system is fast-paced, the cast is likable, and the animation style looks excellent on Nintendo's newest portable. If you curb your expectations a bit, strategy-oriented JRPG fans will find a charming little flawed adventure in Magna. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Lord of Magna photo
Go go Harem Rangers
It's a miracle that Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven even exists. The project was unceremoniously halted after Rune Factory developer Neverland declared bankruptcy, and publisher Marvelous actually re-assembled part of the team t...

Nintendo Direct photo
A short 17-minute presentation
Nintendo had a pretty informative Japanese Direct session last weekend, but today, it dropped a brand new "Micro" session on us, with lots of news coming out of it. Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is confirmed for North America, a...

The great Wave 4 amiibo hunt is on today, and it's about what we expected

May 29 // Chris Carter
Here is the absolute worst part about the Wave 4 launch -- everything is coming out at the same time. Did you want Greninja and Jigglypuff, and missed the 15-minute online order window at 3AM EST? Tough. Unless you have a loving spouse or a family member to wait in line at another store, you have to choose between them. The same goes for Ness, an exclusive that you'll need to go to a GameStop location at opening to snag today. Silver Mario throws another wrench in the equation, as he was only officially announced roughly a week ago and tossed into the mix seemingly to watch consumers squirm. The GameStop I went to was completely sold out of everything but Pac-Man, Silver Mario, and the Splatoon amiibo when I arrived. In case you're wondering, the Splatoon series is looking exceedingly common. Charizard and Wario's rarity kind of jumps store-to-store, and I'd expect a Diddy-like situation in the future where they are rare at first, then become common. Pac-Man seems to be a confirmed common. Ness seems to be very rare, but I don't know if he's a unicorn just yet, unlike Shulk. Surprisingly, Silver Mario seems to be everywhere today, but who knows what his status will be next week. This is what the GameStop situation typically looks like elsewhere. Again, Robin and Lucina are as rare, if not rarer, than Marth at this point. Many stores didn't even have them, and my location only got two of each. I've been listening to testimonies all day, and the rub on Target is that although rumors circled that each store would get as many as 20 Jigglypuffs, most of them only obtained 4-10. One tip I've heard from the East coast crowd is that lots of folks are heading to Target, and not Toys"R"Us, so you might be able to sneak into a smaller line there. Though it must be said that the latter is not getting a lot of extra Greninja stock across the country, with most going to pre-orders -- call your store if possible first to avoid disappointment. For those of you who are in earlier timezones where retail locations haven't opened yet, the folks over at Amiibo News and Nintendo Inquirer have concocted a pretty killer shopping guide for today. If you're going out, good luck!
Wave 4 amiibo photo
Good luck
Today, Wave 4 of the amiibo shopping "experience" begins. We already assumed it was going to be hell on earth based on the pre-order process, and it turned out to be fairly uninspiring all around as shops opened across the US...

Review: Stretchmo

May 15 // Chris Carter
Stretchmo (3DS)Developers: Intelligent SystemsPublisher: NintendoReleased: May 14, 2015Price: Free-to-play with microtransactions ($9.99 for everything) The way Stretchmo's microtransaction setup works is very confusing at first glance. Initially, you'll have access to a select few intro puzzles. After that, there's one 100 level pack for $4.99, three 50 level packs for $2.99 each, and the option to buy all of them for $9.99 upfront. If you buy each add-on individually, there's a small discount for purchasing more. My guess is that the series didn't perform as well as Nintendo would have hoped outside of Japan, so they want to give international players a chance to "get a taste" for a few bucks. Whatever the case may be, it's not a bad idea as it basically functions as a demo, outside of the fact that there is no way to sample individual packs. As for the game itself, it's pretty much business as usual outside of one new addition. Our heroes will have to solve various block puzzles and reach a predetermined goal (usually at the top of the heap) by pulling and pushing them into submission to create new paths to jump and cross. In this edition you'll have the power to "stretch," blocks on the side, which actually adds quite a bit of depth to the proceedings. You'll soon learn that blocks can be manipulated in a multitude of different ways from every single angle, creating some of the most taxing puzzles yet. Intelligent Systems also brought back the convenient zoom feature, as well as the effective 3D technique, which makes it very easy to move about each creation. Beyond that one new mechanic Stretchmo's gimmick is found in its various level packs, which all have a different theme and character. The 100 core levels are hosted by Mallo, and are actually the easiest of the bunch -- some of which are even remedial. If you enjoy the core Pushmo experience, I'd recommend picking them up, but they aren't anything special. [embed]292153:58540:0[/embed] Poppy is next in line, with items that are themed after real-life objects. While her 50-stage gauntlet has a bit of charm to it it's only marginally more difficult than Mallo's adventure, and I wouldn't say that it's essential in any way. Corin on the other hand kills it with the Fortress of Fun. This add-on brings in more gadgets, including full-on enemy characters to deal with. They remind me of the Sackbots from the Little Big Planet series in that they're crudely designed and only sport a base-level AI, but they're probably the most innovative addition to the series yet, because nearly every level is crafted around avoiding them and jumping on their heads. It adds a degree of twitch action that wasn't really present before. Papa is the last pack in the bunch, and his theme is old NES classics. You'll find levels designed around retro art like an 8-bit Mario head, much like the maps that so many players have created and shared on their own. This add-on however has the benefit of being the most difficult set of levels in the game, and when you add in the stretch ability, I'd be comfortable with making the claim that they're actually some of the biggest challenges in the entire series. For those who are interested, yes, Stretchmo still has a creation studio (that's enabled after you make one purchase). It can read QR codes just like the old iterations, and your gadget unlocks are tied directly to your progress in each pack. In other words, if you want enemies you'll have to buy Corin's levels, and so on. [embed]292153:58557:0[/embed] While all of this is generally pretty great, there are a few downgrades in comparison to the previous version. In particular, the Pushmo World Fair feature from the Wii U release is sorely missed. Although the idea of socially sharing your QR codes with one another is cool, I loved the ability to instantly jump in and casually browse through online creations, even if I didn't play all of them. I also miss the screen real estate provided by the GamePad, which has since spoiled me. Still, the new concepts presented in two of the level packs (Fortress of Fun and NES Expo) make up for it. If you've never given Pushmo a fair shake before, trying out the free stages in Stretchmo is a great way to start. While I'd generally recommend going the full mile and buying the whole thing outright, you can also just spring for the Fortress of Fun for a few bucks and come out on top. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Strechmo review photo
Sure, I'll push some mo'
Nintendo has been silently crafting some killer franchises over the years. While he may not light up sales as much as Mario, after four years, I'd consider Pushmo's Mallo to be a fully-fledged Nintendo character. Now he's back in his fourth game on the 3DS in the form of Stretchmo, which adopts a rather odd free-to-play scheme that essentially functions as a demo.

Review: NERO

May 13 // Brett Makedonski
NERO (Xbox One [reviewed], PC, Wii U, 3DS)Developers: Storm in a TeacupPublisher: ID@XboxReleased: May 15, 2015 (Xbox One), TBA (PC, Wii U, 3DS)Price: $19.99 But to spend a little more time in NERO's world is a wondrous thing. The omnipresent phosphorescent set-dressing strikes a dissonant chord against the subject material, but works in an odd mutuality. When hope seems like it's sure to slip away forever, the aesthetic inspires in an underlying way. Hey, maybe things will turn out all right after all. As this is a foray through a child's mind who's going through uncertain realities, nothing about NERO is metaphorically black and white. The journey is paced however you see fit. Meandering about is enticing, as everything about it begs for exploration. Backtracking is likely to occur often, as you realize you've been staring at the lustrous sky for too long and forgot to pay attention to your surroundings. Every time this happens, you'll fall a little more in love with NERO. Wandering off the beaten path has its benefits beyond taking in more scenery. NERO is a first-person puzzle-solving game, but it can be very light on the latter if you so choose. The majority of the puzzles are tucked away in areas that aren't even necessary to venture to. Those who opt to complete these brain-teasers will be awarded with an extra slice of narrative. [embed]292028:58522:0[/embed] Honestly, those who take the quick and narrow path through NERO are robbing themselves -- not just of a few puzzles, but of the core experience. It's a game where you slowly figure out that aimless wandering is the aim. It's something that requires some marinating, soaking in the world to fully appreciate it. Approaching NERO with a destination in mind is a mindset that will result in disappointment. Likewise, those who appreciate clearly drawn lines will similarly feel frustration. NERO is intentionally ambiguous at all times about its narrative, but its tone is always striking. Different thematic accents constantly punctuate different scenes; the ones that don't happen to arch over the course of the entire journey. For all the discussion it's sure to raise regarding plot, it's undoubtedly a story of love and loss, grief and guilt, companionship and family, and coping when the world is so goddamn unfair. All that being said, NERO isn't perfect. Detractors will knock it for a short run-time, flat textures, frame rate stutters, and lack of puzzle variety. However, isolating those issues is akin to missing the forest for the trees. There's something greater at play here, and letting yourself become immersed in NERO will likely render those shortcomings moot. Even after finishing, it's difficult to pin NERO down to a concept or feeling that's easy to explain. It's a game that prioritizes emotion above all else, and it does so wonderfully. But as the boy at the heart of this tale learns, emotions are tough to understand, and thus NERO is tough to understand. You'll just know that you felt something, and that sensation alone is worth the journey.
NERO review photo
A strange and distant land
I don't know why I kept playing NERO. That's not a statement meant to express disdain. I literally don't know what -- but something -- drew me to keep trekking through this sad, enamoring world. Its gravitas has a gravity abo...

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 is now better than ever

May 04 // Kyle MacGregor
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker (3DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: AtlusReleased: May 5, 2015 (NA), Fall 2015 (EU)MSRP: $49.99 Tokyo is in shambles. Earthquakes have ravaged the city, knocking out all lines of communication, derailing trains, and flattening entire buildings. There are fires, riots, refugee camps, oh, and an army of demons that threaten humanity's continued survival. Enter a band of plucky teens with demons of their own to save the day and stave off the apocalypse. That's the lead-in to the "Septentriones Arc," the main story from the original Devil Survivor 2, which is now accompanied by a second campaign called the "Triangulum Arc." The epilogue picks up right where the first part leaves off, leaving our heroes to deal with a new threat. The continuation isn't quite a full-blown sequel so much as it's a sizable expansion, one that should keep you busy for an extra couple dozen hours on top of the base game. Thankfully, the Triangulum Arc is available from the get-go; so if you've already played through the main story and just want to see the new content, you needn't start from square one. Of course, newcomers will want to begin with the Septentriones Arc. Despite including a quick refresher at the outset of the journey, the new campaign likely won't make much sense to neophytes jumping into the narrative in media res.  [embed]291439:58422:0[/embed] In addition to the new campaign, Atlus has put in the effort to upgrade the overall experience. After doing a side-by-side comparison with the original game, Record Breaker's music really caught my ear. The soundsmiths at Atlus really cleaned up the audio quality, making it sound way more crisp and clear while eliminating a scratchy, fuzzy quality that mars the DS release.  On top of the enhanced sound quality, the team at Atlus USA went ahead re-localized the entire script and kitted it out with full English voiceover, which is a massive improvement over the text-only original. Being able to hear the cast goes a long way to helping flesh out these characters, especially given how lively and rich many of their performances are. The visuals are also a shade nicer. Again, looking at the games side-by-side, I noticed Record Breaker looks a tad sharper and features slightly more vivid colors. The camera perspective in battle has also been pulled back, which make the sprites appear less chunky. One of the major complaints a lot of folks seemed to have with Devil Survivor 2 when it launched in 2012 was the difficulty. In our review, Dale North said "the first game's difficulty bar was already set pretty high, but Atlus has turned it up even higher in this sequel with battles that are so difficult that [he] came dangerously close to snapping [his] DS in half." This time around there are multiple difficulty settings, which hopefully should help you keep your system intact. At its core, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is still a satisfying fusion of classic "MegaTen" and strategy gameplay. And with the new story content and other additions and enhancements, this is definitely the best version of the game. Whether it's enough to warrant a second purchase is debatable, but given a choice between the two, this is without question the one to get.
Break Record impressions photo
Record Breaker is finally here, and it was worth the wait
If you've ever wanted to experience Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 or wondered what happened to its colorful cast of demon tamers after the credits rolled, now is the time. Atlus is about to unleash Record Breaker, a new version of the 2012 tactical role-playing game that not only improves the title, but expands upon it with a new arc that advances the story.

How to make Ryu an interesting character in Super Smash Bros.

Apr 19 // Patrick Hancock
Sprite GIFs used are all from the Street Fighter Wiki. Give him an EX meter and EX moves So, let's assume Ryu has his Hadoken, Shoryuken, Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, and some fourth move like a counter or his Joudan Sokutogeri. What would make Ryu unique isn't so much his actual set of moves, but what he can do with them. Give Ryu an EX meter, similar to Little Mac's KO meter, and allow him to build it up and use it. It could build just like it does in Street Fighter IV, by connecting with attacks or getting attacked. Spending this meter can work in a few ways. One would be double-tapping the B button to use an EX move instantly. Double-tapping is weird and I'm not sure it would work in Super Smash Bros., but it's an idea. Another option is to allow Ryu to consume an EX bar to make his next move an EX move. For example: when there's at least one bar of EX glowing, Ryu can hold B to drain it and store it, similar to how many characters store a charged up move. Then, the next special move Ryu executes will be an EX version of that move, with different properties.  If Nintendo really wants to get fancy, it could even work with Capcom to include Street Fighter V's mechanic of spending an entire EX meter to make a character "super-charged" until he is knocked down.  Art by DeviantArt user kupbot Make Ryu's alternate costumes like Bowser Jr.'s Whether Nintendo meant to or not, they set a precedent with Bowser Jr. and his alternate costumes. Ryu is a perfect candidate for this method of alternate costume since there are plenty of Shotokans for Nintendo to choose from. Since each character has seven alternate costumes, here is what I've come up with for Ryu's alternate costumes: Ken, Akuma, Dan, Sean, Gouken, Sakura, and Evil Ryu. Let's be honest, Ryu is boring. He's the "guy on the box." Sure, he's recognizable, but most people tend to gravitate to someone else in Street Fighter. He's a wonderful beginning character and incredibly important to the franchise, but I will be way more willing to use Ryu if I can actually play as Sean or Dan. Sure, it may only be an aesthetic change, but to some, aesthetics really matter. Speaking of which... Give Ryu custom moves from other Shotokans While it is incredibly disconcerting that Mewtwo does not have custom moves at the moment, I am still holding out hope that DLC characters will eventually come with or get their own custom moves. Considering it's one of the biggest new features in this entry of Smash Bros., it only makes sense to do so. Assuming Ryu does get some customs, why not take them from the characters that make up his alternate costumes? Here's some basic ideas: Hadoken custom move ideas: Dan's wimpy Gadoken Gouken's angled Hadoken Sean's basketball (I really like Sean, okay?) Fireball multi-hit Shakunetsu Hadouken Tatsu custom move ideas:Note: This is assuming Ryu's basic Tatsu moves him horizontally  Dan's multi-hit Dankukyaku Stationary Tatsu Vertical Rising Tatsu Shoryuken custom move ideas: Ken's fiery Shoryuken Sean's Dragon Smash The multi-hitting Shoryureppa Since the fourth move could be a multitude of things, I'll just stop here. I think the point is clear: there are a ton of variants on these moves, and it would be a shame to see them go to waste! Two different Final Smashes Luckily, Street Fighter's Ultras convert directly to Super Smash Bros.'s Final Smash. So why not give Ryu two of them? Everyone already expects the Shinku Hadoken to be his Final Smash, but what if, by hitting B and a direction, he could execute a different one? He could have the Shin Shoryuken or even the Shinku Tatsumaki Senpukyaku.  I honestly have no idea if this would be possible, but it sure would be cool! The bottom line is, Ryu is possibly going to be in Super Smash Bros., but without going the extra distance, he'll be a character not many people will be interested in playing. If Nintendo and Mr. Sakurai give Ryu the same care and attention I know they are capable of giving, Ryu could be a favorite character for many players. Roy on the other hand...
Ryu in Smash done right photo
Listen up, Nintendo!
Street Fighter's Ryu is currently rumored to be coming to Nintendo's newest entry into the Super Smash Bros. series, thanks to some hidden files in the most recent update to the game. It makes a lot of sense; Capcom...

Mewtwo in Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS is on the juice

Apr 15 // Jonathan Holmes
Mewtwo has grown up a lot since his Melee days, where his design was largely based on his big-headed origin in Pokémon Red/Blue. Since then his legs have gotten bigger, his arms have gotten longer, and his head has gotten a lot less bulbous. In Melee, it seemed like a lot of his psychic attacks were there to compensate for his baby proportions. Now that he's become more physically formidable, that added psychic flair seems less like a necessity and more like a sassy style choice.  He's also a good head taller than Lucario, his former replacement. That's sure to make a lot of long-time Mewtwo fans happy. Seeing him tower over his crowd-pleasing, dog-faced protege feels appropriate, given his status as the original uber-Pokémon.  Mewtwo was only just released to the public today, so it will be a little while before we discover the details around his various moves and properties. From what I've played so far, he has two major changes in his normal move set. His neutral A combo now ends with a swipe that that sends enemies flying, and his down air A is now a down thrust punch that really packs a wallop. Both changes are quite fitting given his newly gained girth and stature.  [embed]290541:58195:0[/embed] As for his Smash Ball attack, he takes the form of Mega Mewtwo Y and dishes out some potential instant-kill damage with a fast-moving psychic shadowball. It's strange that his beefier Mega Mewtwo X form is nowhere to be seen here, but maybe I just haven't found him yet. If you've discovered anything else about Mewtwo, or any other aspect of the latest changes to Smash Bros. for the 3DS and Wii U, let us know in the comments. I heard Diddy got nerfed today, but I've been too busy having fun with Mewtwo to find out. 
Mewtwo in Smash photo
'It's what you do with the gift of life that makes you who you are'
A new era of Smash Bros. has arrived. Speculation about who's going to be next icon to join the all-star roster can become a daily part of our lives again. Starting today with the original uber-Pokémon Mewtwo, the age ...

Project X Zone 2 photo
A follow-up to Sega, Capcom, and Namco's mashup
Back in 2013, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Sega teamed up to give us a healthy serving of fanservice in the form of Project X Zone for the 3DS. Our own Kyle MacGregor called it a "love letter from Japan," and I think that'...

Review: Pokemon Rumble World

Apr 07 // Chris Carter
Pokémon Rumble World (3DS)Developer: Ambrella, Nintendo SPDPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 8, 2015MSRP: Free Rumble World has a setup that's a bit more endearing than past Rumble titles. In a medieval realm of toys you serve the king, seeking to defeat evil wizards and vagabonds, and of course, catch 'em all for his pleasure -- and by "all," I mean all 719. Your Mii is heavily involved in the adventure which is a nice touch, and you can tell a lot of effort was put into it, borrowing from the adventure setup pioneered in Blast. You'll start off with one humble creature and progress across small levels comprised of multiple boards, hacking and slashing your way through hordes of Pokémon. On occasion, said Pokémon will drop to the ground instead of exploding into dust, allowing you to capture them and add them to your team. Players start off with just one attack at first, eventually earning two after capturing higher-level creatures. If one so chooses, switching Pokémon is as easy as selecting one from a menu and waiting a few seconds. Beyond a bit of nuance regarding the weakness chart, that's pretty much it. It's mindless, but the dungeon-crawling setup is far more engaging than the arena theme of the first game and Rumble U, especially since there are some side paths to explore and bosses to defeat. Every world is hosted by way of unique balloons (that run on timers; more on that in a second), which are themed after specific elements (fire, water, grass) or subfranchises (Kanto, Johto, all the way up to X & Y), so there's a lot of variety in store for players who keep forging on. [embed]289936:58081:0[/embed] Capturing more creatures is the main draw of the game, as it will increase your adventurer rank, opening up more shop purchases, quests, and balloon types. There's also a core storyline by way of daily challenge levels with extra optional objectives. The actual kingdom is very small, mostly consisting of just a balloon launching site and a store, but it will fill up with more Mii characters and Pokémon to spice things up over time. Thankfully, the rate at which capturing occurs feels fair, as you'll find new party members in nearly every level. Ok, so how does it work with the free-to-play model? Not bad, actually! The premium currency is Poké Diamonds, which can be used to insta-buy items, new balloons upgrades, continue after death, or inflate balloons early. 50 Diamonds for $1 is the going rate, and balloons sell for 10 to 100 Diamonds each. You can also earn Diamonds through normal gameplay. That's right, the game has timers, but it's done in a fair way that allows you to constantly play the game. For starters, those daily story quests are repeatable without having to ride balloons. You can't capture anything while playing them, but you can earn Diamonds and, of course, simply have fun without having to worry about energy or timers. On top of that, most of the early balloons inflate at a rate of 30-60 minutes (some are longer), and all of them have individual timers. It's not as bad as some other energy-based games as rounds tend to last more than 30 seconds (my average dungeon run is two to three minutes), and I had plenty of other activities to do while waiting like exhaust all of my other balloons, master additional challenge difficulties, and manage my party. Later in the game by the time you finish all of your timers, you'll cycle through several of them, allowing immediate repeat adventures. There's also some online and StreetPass functions, including the ability to invite other players to your kingdom, visit other realms, and earn Diamonds. I can't stress enough how mindless everything is, but I had a decent enough time jumping into each dungeon on a repeat basis, staring at the party screen as more and more creatures populated it. Pokémon Rumble World probably won't make as much money as Shuffle, but it feels a whole lot less scummy. It's fairly shallow but very fun in spurts, and the best part is that players can truly enjoy the game for more than a few minutes at a time without feeling like they aren't getting anywhere. I may have burnt out on the simplistic formula after roughly a week of play, but I still have a desire to return to the game on a casual basis. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
PokÚmon Rumble review photo
Free to actually play
Nintendo has been dipping its toes in the water of DLC and free-to-play with mixed results. Although it has done a great job creating worthwhile add-ons that don't feel like rushed day-one cash grabs, the whole amiibo situati...

Review: Etrian Mystery Dungeon

Apr 06 // Chris Carter
Etrian Mystery Dungeon (3DS)Developer: Spike Chunsoft, AtlusPublisher: AtlusRelease Date: April 7, 2015MSRP: $39.99 If you've never played a Mystery Dungeon title before, it's fairly easy to explain, despite the fact that each title is quite difficult to master. It's a roguelike (and I actually mean roguelike, not the overuse of the buzz term to denote permadeath) that takes place mostly within randomly generated labyrinthine locations, tasking one with staving off monsters, earning loot, and leveling up a swarthy crew. It's entirely turn-based and takes place on an invisible grid that can be toggled at will -- so if you don't move, even if there are enemies in the room, nothing happens. It's less of an action game and more of a tactical affair, where position and conservation of gear and skill points matter. In Etrian Mystery specifically this is mostly due to the fact that every step takes FP (Food Points), you can only carry a certain amount of items into a dungeon, and the toughest limitation of all -- your party has to actually finish or escape a dungeon to get any loot and prevent any losses of gold or items. If you fail in any fashion, it automatically saves your game and it's back to town with your tail between your legs. The way movement and combat works is through a "leader" system, controlling one of four members with the other three in tow. While you're in control one can manipulate any character at will, but the others will go about their business automatically with a sort of Gambit-like system. You'll also be able to change your formation to protect more fragile members, and since many monsters can one-shot casters, it's important to get used to the practice. [embed]289800:58006:0[/embed] Party composition absolutely matters too, and having two melee with two ranged characters will make a world of difference. Naturally choosing what classes will take you quite a while to decide, as there are ton of options, including but not limited to tanks (Defender), healers (Medic), debuffers (Hexer), warriors (Landsknecht), ninjas, samurai (Wanderer), dancers, casters (Runemaster), and more eccentric hybrid classes like royals. CPU characters mostly make good decisions, but unfortunately the Gambit mechanic only has an "on or off" toggle for abilities -- no complicated formulas to flip through to get exactly what you want. Of course, that's where manually switching leaders comes in, and bosses give you direct control over each member for every action. There's no way to sugar coat it, Etrian Mystery Dungeon is tough. At one point in the second dungeon, I descended a flight of stairs into a room with five enemies who could each two-shot the party. One of them killed my caster instantly, grew stronger as a result, and one-shot my subsequent characters. Shortly after I realized the auto-level system was off, and I hadn't assigned skills for my party. I returned after some grinding and my runemaster smoked half the room with his newly acquired spells before they could make a move while my tank taunted the remaining foes to soak damage. It was immensely satisfying. Each individual dungeon is no joke, and you pretty much have to do sidequests and level up a balanced party, including your reserves. A decent chunk of quests that are required to buff up individual classes also must be done solo without help, which can get very dicey on lower dungeon levels. Etrian Mystery Dungeon makes you work for pretty much everything, and punishes you for failing. That's perfectly okay with me as the tools to succeed are sufficiently provided, but one should definitely know what they're getting into. The reason what Etrian Mystery works so well is mostly due to the fact that the game opens up the more you play it. Each dungeon layout is randomly generated, but you can build "forts" to lock in certain levels for a hefty fee. As a secondary benefit you can also send standby party members there to train at a higher experience rate, and later in the game they serve a new purpose of keeping gigantic monsters away from town. As you start to unlock new parts of town you'll also have the option to redevelop areas of your choice for extra benefits, like more reserve spots in a party or extra stock in the town shop. The town itself is all menu-based, but it's incredibly easy to move around, organize your party, save, locate missions, buy items, and eat one-dungeon food buffs. The art style isn't all that impressive once you're in the actual dungeons, but the character models, town, and landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful, as is the soundtrack. It's also important to note that a rich engrossing story isn't really the core focus here so much as constantly entering dungeons and bettering yourself. While there is a tenuous narrative afoot, the real meat of the universe is found in tomes or in-game database entries, as most of the dialog is basically table-setting for more dungeon crawling. I really enjoyed some of the relationships between the townsfolk, but they didn't have a lot of interesting insights or meaningful backstories. The more I played Etrian Mystery Dungeon the more I fell in love with it. While the learning curve is pretty steep and the rewards are fairly low-end early on, you really do get as much as you put in. It gives existing Mystery fans a lot to stick around for, and serves as a nice entry point for newcomers, so long as you are willing to learn. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Etrian Mystery Dungeon photo
Same old dungeon, lighthearted new feel
Mashups are often born purely for fanservice-related reasons, and as you can probably guess, the results are mixed. For instance, it would be tough for an RPG developer to make an action game based on two different puzzle pro...

Review: Wave 4 amiibo Shopping

Apr 03 // Chris Carter
Wave 4 amiibo Shopping (GameStop, Target, Toys"R"Us)Developer: NintendoPublisher: SatanReleased: April 2, 2015 (Shopping), May 29, 2015 (Wave 4)MSRP: $12.99, Your Soul and Dignity GameStop: What started off as a great plan ended in shambles yesterday. On April 1, GameStop announced to the world that Ness was a exclusive to the store. I heard the collective groans of potential buyers everywhere, as I've seen this phrase a hundred times over -- "I don't even like amiibo, but I think I'm just going to get Ness because he's my favorite." When GameStop further clarified that "online and in-store orders would go live at 3PM EST" the following day, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, corporate had other plans for the rollout and didn't actually tell anyone publicly. While the entire internet waited for 3PM EST as they were told, I obtained a memo from GameStop that morning that I shared with our readers. In short, it basically stated that the 3PM EST online announcement was a lie, and that pre-orders wouldn't actually go live until "later in the day" at an unspecified time. Instead, GameStop was going to push people in-store to get them to pre-order, with priority going to those people who could shirk their responsibilities or their jobs and head to a retail location. That was problem numero uno, and a very scummy tactic on their part to bait and switch. Problem numero dos happened shortly after. As it turns out, having every single GameStop location in the country try to process orders at the same time is a bad idea. Based on my experience in-person and testimonials across the country, it took roughly one hour for the first customer in line to get processed. Then yet another issue promptly reared its ugly head. What GameStop had done to speed the process up is provide one giant SKU for all of the Smash amiibo line, so you could just get them all and walk out. It was a great idea in theory, but the SKU wasn't actually its own allotment, it was directly linked to all of the other separate amiibo listings. When it came time for the second person to put in their order across the country (after another 30-60 minutes), Robin and Lucina were instantly sold out, and their "package" order was instantly canceled, forcing them to retry another order. At that point, everything was sold out except the Splatoon 3-pack, and in some cases, Ness, who took another hour to go through. I was at my GameStop for over two and a half hours and walked out with an order for the Splatoon pack. The customers at my location were rather accommodating and understanding, and we had a great time talking about the world of gaming with the manager. But other stores weren't so lucky, as I can attest to pictures of broken displays, store damage, and one case of a customer being ejected by shopping center security. Sure enough, GameStop's system completely crashed that evening, and no online orders went up for that day. At this point it looks like anything online at GameStop may not even happen at all. If you couldn't leave work, school, or an appointment to go in-store, tough. Target: Oh Target, we meet again. Rosalina was one of the worst experiences yet in terms of amiibo hunting, as she went up completely without warning in the middle of the night on Target's website and sold out within minutes. There was no indication that online pre-orders would even open, and after they sold out Target took to Twitter to basically state "tee hee, no more pre-orders, you'll have to hope she's in stock at our store at launch." It was so bad that Target obtained a memo from corporate the morning of her release, noting that Rosalina would never be restocked. It looks like the exact same thing happened with Jigglypuff yesterday morning. With no warning at roughly 10AM EST, Jigglypuff went from an unannounced figure to a Target exclusive, to being completely sold out in the span of about 30 minutes, before most of the people on the west coast could grab their morning coffee. Target also gave the same "you're screwed until May 29" response when asked about future pre-order rounds. Another exclusive launch bites the dust. I sense a pattern here. Why is Nintendo damn secretive about amiibo news? Toys"R"Us: Lastly, we arrive at yet another exclusive amiibo in the form of Greninja at Toys"R"Us. Yesterday, outlets reached out to the retailer to find out when pre-orders may occur, and the standard response was "from 7 to 9AM EST." I set my alarm for 6AM just to make sure, so I could report on it when it did drop. Of course, we all know that life doesn't work out how you want it to, and they went up at 3AM EST for around 15 minutes. Luckily I had a guardian angel in the form of our own Brett Makedonski, but thousands of others weren't so lucky. Joining the ranks of Rosalina, Greninja was the latest amiibo go up in the complete dead of night while most of America was sound asleep and completely sell out. I've said it multiple times, but regardless of "port strikes," "unforeseen demand," "retail fumblings," or other issues not attributed to Nintendo, most of the problems with each wave stem from the mere fact that Nintendo itself is making these exclusivity deals in the US. The shocking thing is that it saw how poorly these deals went down with prior waves and decided "screw it, let's do more." They actually had a good thing going on with the Gold Mario figure, so it's puzzling that they'd regress like this. They provided enough stock to last four or five pre-order rounds, Walmart announced it before it went online, and most importantly, it's a variant figure that already exists in two forms. If you want Mario you can readily find him without having to hunt down the gold version. If you want Marth, Ike, Robin, or Lucina for Codename S.T.E.A.M's DLC -- sorry, you're out of luck unless you feel like importing. Which, funnily enough has caused stock issues overseas, as some of my friends who own small businesses are reporting that US customers have drained all their allotments. Back in 2014 directly following the Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit fiasco, a Nintendo rep answered fan questions regarding amiibo during a Reddit Q&A session, and noted that exclusives will happen "as long as retailers are willing to pay" -- I don't expect that to change anytime soon. It's a shame, because while most of the people reading this are fairly savvy consumers (savvy enough to read a tech or gaming blog at least), I'm just thinking about all of the young Nintendo fans or clueless parents who have no idea how scarce amiibo are. While every Wave has had its snags, Wave 4 is the worst storm yet. Nintendo really needs to rethink its strategy, as well as take some direct cues from Activision's Skylanders and Disney's Infinity lines. One of the core issues is secrecy. Nintendo has this thing where you aren't allowed to know what is going on pretty much at all times. While Activision often shows you the entire lineup for a Skylanders series at the start then releases it in waves (you get a really cool poster thing that has everyone on it!), Nintendo sat on reveals for months. That secrecy may work for games that can be purchased digitally without fear of a shortage, but it is very clear that Nintendo is out of its depth here, and something needs to change.
Wave 4 amiibo review photo
April Fools came late for Nintendo
Yesterday, Nintendo unleashed hell on earth pre-orders for Wave 4 amiibo figures. The current lineup includes Robin, Lucina, Ness, Pac-Man, Charizard, Wario, Jigglypuff, Greninja, and three Splatoon flavored toys. As someone who follows this craze partially for reporting purposes and in part due to personal interest, it was the absolute worst day yet for amiibo fans.

Who would you elect to be the next Smash Bros. DLC character?

Apr 02 // Jonathan Holmes
Chris: Waluigi C'mon now, this villain (anti-hero) is due for the spotlight. He hasn't even had his own debut game yet -- despite the fact that New Super Mario Bros. 2 totally should have starred Wario and Waluigi -- and he's just wacky enough to fit as an eccentric DLC character while fitting the Mario theme of many other existing cast members. His signature tennis racket could serve as the basis for his Smash attacks, his taunt could be a rose pose, and his air-dashes could be something wacky like swimming in the air like Faust from Guilty Gear X. The sky is the limit for Waluigi. Laura: Captain Toad and Ghirahim I'm personally throwing my votes in for Captain Toad from Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker and Ghirahim from Skyward Sword. Why Captain Toad? He's cute, he's adventurous and I'd be fascinated by the idea of a character who couldn't jump. Would he use a jumping item? Would he be land locked? How would that work with certain stage hazards? I want to see Nintendo tackle that challenge. Why Ghirahim? I know Smash Bros. needs more sword fighters like I need a hole in the head, but I've always been a fan of his presentation as well as his combat fluidity. He's fast, agile, magical and able to constantly misrepresent his location. Mix that in with fast aerial-sword combat and I'm totally on board. Oh, and his Final Smash transformation form is already sorted. Brittany: Bayonetta Honestly, the only character I've been waiting to see in Smash Bros. will probably never find a home there, but a girl has to keep up hope. My darling Bayonetta, as deadly as she is lovely, is practically begging for inclusion. With plentiful combos and deadly Wicked Weave attacks, she'd string up the competition as the mane event. I'd love to wrap my fingers around my controller and untangle a victory with her. Plus, there's the potential of seeing an amiibo figure released in tandem with making her available, and I live for the thrill of chasing those things. Then I could finally put Cereza on a shelf and call her mine forever. That's not creepy, right?  Jed: Birdo, Jason from Blaster Master, Mark from Monster Party Why Birdo? You know why, because I'm a dinosexual. Jason from Blaster Master -- one of my favorite NES titles, and one of the best Metroidvania games, would work great in Smash too. In his home series, Jason can travel on foot or in a tank, which could make him play like a mix between Bowser Jr. and Wario's motorcycle in Smash. The only big difference being that he could shoot projectiles while in or out of his tank. That's the "Jason difference." He also likes frogs. Mark, the boy hero from the cruelly overlooked Monster Party, was the first character that I'd ever seen reflect projectiles with a baseball bat. Ness is a wannabe poser next to him. Mark also turns into a flying dinosaur-like demon bat that breathes fire. Who cares about Ridley when you could be playing as Mark! Ben: Dillon, Mallo, and Sakura Samurai Nintendo had a ton of new IPs on the 3DS, and I'd like to see them have a bit more faith in their new ideas. In particular, Dillon's Rolling Western, Pushmo, and Sakura Samurai were all really neat, creative games with fun characters who would fit well in Super Smash Bros. Dillon is already in Smash as an assist trophy, but I still think he'd make a great fighter. Some of his moveset could be similar to Sonic's, but there's plenty of other unique attacks they could give him. Perhaps he could even set up gun towers around the map that other players could destroy. Sakura Samurai would easily work as another swordsman fighter, and Mallo from Pushmo could be really interesting. I'm not sure what his attacks would be, but I'm sure Nintendo could think of something fun. They made the Duck Hunt dog into a fighter, after all! [embed]289889:58026:0[/embed] Holmes: Star Man (from Pro Wrestling), Tingle, Chorus Men, The Wonderful 101 Like Ben pointed out, the Duck Hunt dog's appearance in Super Smash Bros. of the 3DS and Wii U tells me that anything is possible for the game's future cast. That said, out of my four picks, the only one that I think has a fighting chance is Chorus Men. Tingle is amazing, but he's something of a one-note tune in most people's eyes. Star Man is the greatest wrestler in videogame history, but Sakurai made it pretty clear that he doesn't want to add new characters to Smash unless they are part of an actively running Nintendo franchise. That's rule will probably doom The Wonderful 101 to exclusion as well. On the other hand, Rhythm Heaven is a hugely popular series in Japan, with a new release in the franchise coming up this year. The games haven't done half bad in the rest of the world either, especially if you count memes as a badge of success. I've already voted for Chorus Men once today on the Smash Bros. site, and I plan to continue to do so for the rest of my life, or until Nintendo closes the polls.  Summa: Bo Jackson (Tecmo Bowl) Before our sports games got all fancy with their simulation stat packing, I was filling out notebooks of game results and meaningless numbers that my best friend and I use to produce after weekend-long dual tournaments played out on Tecmo Bowl. If you played this legendary game, then you know that nobody dominated more than Bo Jackson. Want a move list? How about a spiked football to the head? How about an up-the-gut rush that knocks your opponent unconscious and utterly useless? If Nintendo wants to play with my nostalgia heart, then introduce this virtual God amongst men. Patrick: Snake There is only one answer to this seemingly limitless question: Snake. I'm not even a Metal Gear Solid fanatic (the only game I've played is Ground Zeroes), but his Brawl incarnation is so unique and freaking satisfying that I find myself missing Snake every time I look at the character selection screen. His play style is nothing like anyone else's; people said Duck Hunt Dog would play similarly, but he just doesn't. His move set doesn't need any changes, just make an HD model for him and boom! He's back. Kyle: Chun-Li "Nintendo vs. Capcom" isn't an actual thing, but it really should be. It really, really should be. You see, I have this strong desire to spinning bird kick Diddy Kong in the face. Or kikoken Diddy Kong in the face. Or lightning kick Diddy Kong in the face. The point is, Chun-Li is awesome and Diddy Kong deserves to die in a fire. Make my wildest dreams come true, Nintendo/Capcom. Darren: Bubsy April Fools!
Smash Bros DLC wishlist photo
Don't say Shrek...
Nintendo's April Fools Nintendo Direct was no joke. While there wasn't a whole lot there that would interest people who aren't existing fans of the publisher, there was something for just about everyone who already enjoys Nin...

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a bare-bones port of a fantastic game

Mar 25 // Chris Carter
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (3DS)Developer: Monolith Soft, Nintendo SPD, Monster Games (3DS port)Publisher: NintendoReleased: April 10, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Jim has already talked at length about what makes Xenoblade Chronicles so special, so I'll spare you most of the details. Suffice to say, I would consider it a new classic in the JRPG space. Every so often you'll find people longing to return to the golden era of the genre, pining over various SNES and PlayStation classics, but new masterpieces come and go in the current era all the same -- this is one of them. Despite the problems I'm about to present with the 3DS port, you owe it to yourself to play it in some form or another. Right off the bat you should probably know that Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS has a huge file size requirement if you're going digital. It weighs in at 28832 blocks, which translates to roughly 3.6 GB. It won't even fit on the 4GB card that comes standard with the New 3DS due to the system partition, so plan accordingly if you're picking this up on the eShop. The huge size is likely due to voice acting, and the fact that it's essentially a 100-hour JRPG squished into a portable format. You can tell immediately that Xenoblade has been downgraded during said squishing session, but it runs smoothly with little in the way of performance issues -- which is more important in my book. Having said that, it is tough to ignore some of the other shortcomings from a visual sense. The icons are extremely low res, as in, they weren't even touched up on the 3DS. It's really strange to look out into the horizon and see a vast beautiful tundra, then go to a shop and flip through the user interface as if it were a PS1-era RPG with fuzzy, muted menus. [embed]289388:57883:0[/embed] Another issue I had was the lack of screen real estate. The bottom screen hosts your status information and such, but the core of the game takes place on the top. It's ample enough space to do pretty much everything, but when you're actually in a battle, your targeted enemy will take up a great deal of the screen with its info box. There needs to be an option to shrink the enemy info text, because even with the "zoomed out" view it can get cluttered. With those technical issues out of the way, the game really shines on a portable. Xenoblade controls like a dream, as the extra buttons on the New 3DS allow it to mirror the Classic Controller setup on the Wii. The C-Stick also controls the camera, which is pretty much needed at all times to survey the land and constantly locate hidden treasures or areas. Even with all the aforementioned problems, it didn't hinder my enjoyment of one of my favorite RPGs in recent memory. You can skip cutscenes you've already seen in case you've already beaten it on the Wii and want to move forward with the story, and the 3D effect, while relatively tame, delivers an interesting perspective on the Bionis and the Mechonis. Keep in mind though that there is no extra content included in the actual story -- so if you already have your 100+ hour completion file on the Wii and want more, the only real advantage you'll get out of Xenoblade 3DS is the portabiity. There is amiibo/Play Coin/StreetPass support, but it's a tiny little bonus that lets you view character models or listen to music. When you think about it, the prospect of Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS sounds pretty silly. It's a port with no real content additions or true enhancements, and you have to buy a whole new 3DS model just to play it. If you can get past that barrier though, ultimately this is a way to get a great game into the hands of more players -- and I'm okay with that.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D photo
Who ate the bones?
Xenoblade Chronicles pretty much blew me away back in 2012. Fans had been clamoring for a localization for over two years, and due to an add partnership between Nintendo and GameStop, we got one. It was a rather limited relea...

Fire Emblem amiibo support for Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. doesn't add much

Mar 12 // Chris Carter
Marth and Ike can both be used as soon as the character select screen is available. All you have to do is tap them down after hitting the "amiibo" button, and have a New 3DS available (the release date for the adapter for old 3DS units is still unknown). From there, they'll be available until they die in battle, where they can't be revived -- to bring them back to life, you just tap the amiibo again after the mission is over. Depending on your view this is either a cute nod to the Fire Emblem series or literal DRM to make sure you don't borrow your friend's figures. Personally, I'm far more impressed by Marth's abilities. His main power, "Destiny," allows him to completely avoid Overwatch counter-attacks from enemies, which sounds overpowered but is actually balanced out by his main statline. You can use him to draw out some Overwatch attacks for other characters which adds quite a bit of tactical value to his deployment.  His loadout includes his falchion, which is his core melee weapon, in addition to a less steam-costly rapier, which is his less powerful, precision-based weapon. The rapier has the added benefit of bringing an Overwatch counterattack to the table, and it can hit weak points for a bigger steam-to-damage ratio. As you can probably tell Marth is entirely melee based, and like Ike, he cannot use sub-weapons. He also has a low defense rating and a lower HP pool, so you definitely have to be more careful in terms of his positioning. He in turns mixes up your style because his survival is dependent on his teammates. Oh, and his area-of-effect (AOE) heal super can be a life saver. He's pretty much useful in every situation if you use him correctly, even if he never really grows as a unit over the course of the game. While I'm a fan of Ike's design, his prowess in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a lot less impressive. With nearly 50% more health than Marth he's basically a tank, in addition to having a larger steam pool and a better steam recharge rate. That's basically Ike in a nutshell, as there's nothing really fun or exciting about him. His special ability feels throwaway -- "Push" lets you move crates or enemies. Lame. Ragnell is his main blade, which does have a ranged ability, but it's extremely weak. Urvan functions as his secondary weapon, an axe weapon that can hit multiple enemies right in front of him. With no subweapons to mix up his style or no Overwatch capabilities of any kind, he has even less tactical value. Ike's frontal AOE super is also yawn-inducing, since it feels like over half the characters in the game have the exact same offensive AOE power. While I'm not all that impressed by Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.'s amiibo functionality yet, I'm much more excited at the prospect of getting the whole four-unit crew together at once -- something that isn't possible right now because Robin and Lucina aren't even up for pre-order yet. For now though, it's best to think of Code Name's amiibo support as a nice little extra, nothing more.
S.T.E.A.M amiibo support photo
So far, at least
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is out, and you can read the full verdict here on the core game. Of course, where there is amiibo functionality to be covered, I'll be there. Right now, Code Name supports four total figures -- Mart...

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'...

Review: Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Mar 11 // Kyle MacGregor
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: Intelligent SystemsPublisher: NintendoReleased: March 13, 2015MSRP: $39.99  The tale begins in an alternate version of 19th century London, where everything runs on -- yes, you guessed it -- steam. Suddenly, aliens attack the city and it's up to Henry Fleming, a character based on the protagonist from American Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, to save the day. Soon enough our hero joins forces with S.T.E.A.M., a group helmed by Abraham Lincoln as a Strike Team tasked with Eliminating the Alien Menace. Hence the catchy acronym. Throughout the story, various literary characters, historical figures, and tall tales (such as Tom Sawyer, Queen Victoria, and John Henry) will join the team, creating an interesting ensemble cast -- at least in concept. The portrayals are shallow and kitschy, as one might expect of an experience striving to style itself after old school comics, rather than create some sort of sophisticated rendering of these personalities. Despite some flat performances, there is some humor to be found in a narrative that never takes itself too seriously. The characters frequently seem to acknowledge the absurdity of their coexistence, something typified by the title's amiibo functionality, which allows players to summon Fire Emblem characters (Marth, Ike, Lucina, and Robin) onto the battlefield. The combat at play in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. has often been compared to Valkyria Chronicles, though the juxtaposition doesn't do Intelligent System's latest effort many favors. Both games hybridize third-person shooting with turn-based strategy, but the similarities don't extend much further. I would caution anyone hoping this game will carry the torch for Sega's modern classics to temper those expectations. In both single and multiplayer missions, players can take up to four characters onto the grid-based battlefields at any given time. There, each unit is given a set amount of "steam," a resource shared for both movement and weapons fire. Steam regenerates between turns and a limited supply of unused steam can be carried over between turns as well. Since the systems are linked, players must constantly weigh the importance of mobility against offensive firepower and defense when deciding how and when to best utilize this important resource. Defense comes into play with the "overwatch" system. Overwatch attacks are counter maneuvers which can be employed during the enemy's turn. However, they require foresight. Players will need to leave enough steam in reserve at the end of their turn to fire a weapon. Any unit that wanders into the line of sight of a character performing overwatch will be frozen dead in the tracks and riddled full of bullets. There's another catch, though. Only certain types of arms can be used to perform an overwatch attack, so players have to remember to switch to the appropriate weapon before handing over the reigns to their opponent. It's an exceedingly useful ability, but it requires some thought and comes with an opportunity cost. You could always be moving or shooting in your own turn. [embed]288507:57723:0[/embed] Movement is a critical element of battle, as well. Each square on the grid is large enough to field multiple units, meaning your squad can be positioned in various formations. It's possible to heal multiple characters if they're bunched up. Similarly, you can attack enemies who crowd together with radial ordnance fire or spread out characters in adjacent squares in opposite directions to prevent your foe from doing the same. There's also an element of stealth beyond just hugging cover for dear life. Some opponents rely on sight, whereas others are blind and pinpoint targets based on sound. Moving slowly and quietly really can make a huge difference in some battles. Slipping past a sightless opponent and concentrating attention elsewhere can sometimes be the key to victory. While I'm not the biggest fan of the art style or story, the gameplay here is reasonably solid, if unspectacular, with one minor exception. The enemy movement phase is hellaciously long. A turn can easily last for well over a minute, and you don't always have a view of what's going on. Boy, does staring at the same ugly walls sure get old fast. Your foes will oftentimes just shuffle around in the background or totter around in slow, awkward patterns, getting hung up on terrain and having nice long thinks about what it wants to do. I often found myself setting down my 3DS during enemy turns, only to have one of my idle characters break the fourth wall with a snarky comment like "I'm tired of waiting." Me too, dude. Me fucking too. Truth be told, I feel incredibly conflicted about Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. The idea of a Nintendo studio authoring a western comicbook-inspired steampunk tale about American folk heroes is just so off the wall it's enthralling. However in practice, it really underdelivers. Meanwhile, the gameplay is a heady, engrossing experience. But it's also one that is frequently undermined by the tedious and protracted nature of enemy turns. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a decent, respectable game with some truly euphoric highs amid equitably frustrating lows. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Code Name STEAM photo
Half-steam ahead
Nintendo has created some of the most bizarre intellectual properties in the medium, but the latest strategy game from Intelligent Systems (the studio behind Fire Emblem and Advance Wars) may be among the strangest. The adven...

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