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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story of Seasons wants you to connect with your inner farmer

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

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: E3 first hunt

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

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

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

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

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

Sonic Boom on 3DS seems like a pleasantly surprising platformer

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

My Tomodachi Life is just as strange as I am

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

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


Multiplayer fun with Mario Golf: World Tour

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

First details on Azure Striker: Gunvolt

Mar 07 // Dale North
Story In the near future, a new type of psychic power has evolved, and those with the powere were initially feared. A large conblomerate known as the Sumeragi Group took it upon themselves to round up those that posess these powers to bring order to the world. But it turns out that their shelter was actually a concentration camp for those with the powers, and that experiments were being conducted daily on them. A group called Feather was formed after learning of these concentration camps, and they work together as a human rights organization to protect the psychics. One member of Feather, a 14-year-old boy named Gunvolt, sets out on his first mission to assisinate Lumen, a virtual pop star. Characters Gunvolt -- Gunvolt is a nickname -- his true name remains his secret. His power, Azure Striker, allows him to control lightning. He starts out as a member of Feature, but he leaves when he meets a girl named Joule. Joule -- Joule is a 13-year-old psychic created in a lab by the Sumeragi Group. Her power lets her enhance the power of other psychics through song. She is rescued by Gunvolt, and they begin living together. Lumen -- Lumen is the most famous pop star in the country. She's actually the avatar of Joule. The Sumeragi Group is using her as sonar to find other psychics to capture them. Lumen claims she only reflects the person Joule wants to be deep inside. Combat Conductor Gun -- Gunvolt has a rapid fire gun that doesn't do much damage. Holding down the fire button allows for continuous fire. This gun can be used in conjunction with the lightning ability to lock onto targets to increase its damage power. Lightning -- By activating lightning (by pressing R button), Gunvolt can generate a protective ring that works as a shield. It also does damage to any enemy that comes in contact with it -- they'll slowly lose their health while touching it. Offensively, lightning lets Gunvolt lock onto enemies to damage them, and that damage can be increased up to three times by continuing to hold down the R button. This ability can be aimed at several enemies, and this allows for attack chaining, which helps the player reach higher scores. Lightning also lets Gunvolt levitate, giving him a platforming advantage. Instead of falling down pits, Gunvolt can ease down while shooting. He can also float upward, allowing him to get in more shots than he would with jump shooting. Platforming and gameplay Gunvolt can jump and double-jump, as well as dash. Used together, he can perform mid-air dashes. Beyond these moves, he'll learn new ones as the game progresses. We only saw one of his special abilities: Voltic Chain. By tapping on a touch button on the 3DS bottom screen, this attack sends giant chains across the screen, and then he charges them with electricity to do damage to enemies. Enemies Daytona — Fire is Daytona’s psychic ability, and it allows him to create explosions. His slide and leap attacks make him difficult to dodge. Melac — Melac is able to create wormholes, and his attacks are unpredictable and hard to dodge. He is able to send an attack through one wormhole and have it come out another. His special attack lets him send laser beams through several wormholes at once. 
Gunvolt details photo
Characters, powers, and story
We were among the first to get our hands on Keiji Inafune's / Inti Creates' new 3DS side-scrolling action game, Azure Striker: Gunvolt here at BitSummit 2014 in Kyoto, Japan. We now have the first details on the game's story, world, and characters, straight from the developers.

Meet Yoshi's New Island, same as the old island

Feb 27 // Steven Hansen
Yoshi's New Island (3DS)Developer: Arzest CorporationPublisher: NintendoRelease: March 14, 2014 Yoshi's New Island shakes the Yoshi's Island canon down to its foundation. It turns out the stork dropped Baby Mario and Baby Luigi off at the wrong house. Not the momma! as it were. Then Baby Luigi goes and gets himself kidnapped and it's up to Mario and Yoshi to bring him home as they make difficult choices that will test you morality and leave you second guessing yourself for days. I mean, not really. It's a new Yoshi's Island game. Heck, when asking themselves, "What should we call this new Yoshi's Island?"they only went so far as to think, "How about Yoshi's New Island?" What's with the obsession of newness? Of fileting yourself on the cutting edge? Can we expect Star Fox's New Adventure and New Metroid Prime? But yes, this is a platformer wherein you must protect Baby Mario, eat enemies, throw eggs, and flutter jump around like House of Pain. There is some "new" here, though less than the name implies. You can have ice breath or a gigantic egg. Obvious are the transformations, which are mostly tilt-based and don't look all that fun or engaging. I got to try out Yoshi as a hot air balloon. He can also become a sub or a bobsled. It's immaterial.  [embed]270517:52572:0[/embed] Why has Nintendo so strongly committed to 3D models, even when operating in a 2D plane? Disney won't make another 2D movie, Nintendo won't make another 2D platformer. It boggles my mind. I guess it puts me in the minority. It's not even that Yoshi's New Island looks bad. I just like 2D. I guess I'll play more Rayman. There are staples at play that I like (besides good platforming). There are six multiplayer minigames all playable through Download Play (one cartridge). I like that Nintendo often includes those in its games. And "Eggy Pop," the balloon popping minigame, left me laughing at its name for a good 13 seconds, so it's done its job, as far as I'm concerned.  It's cute and charming. The discordant, kazoo-filled soundtrack is like if Tearaway's soundtrack was composed by kindergarteners. I like it, anyway. And the Yoshi Story theme has been stuck in my head all afternoon. Fighting Big Beanie, an angry bean with large eyebrows, was fun. You know what you're getting with Yoshi's New Island. A new island, same as the old one, with unnecessary transformation sequences, cute music, and pleasant platforming. I still want Nintendo to do a new game with 2D artwork, though.
Yoshi New Island photo
I landed on Yoshi's New Island & knew just what I'd Yo-see
Do you know what's fun? Making Yoshi noises. Come on. Do it. The tongue grab. The flutter jump. The ground pound. Such an animated dinosaur. Hamza and Dale are really good at making Yoshi noises. Yoshi's New Island is also fun.

Hands-on with the 3DS' F2P Steel Diver: Sub Wars

Feb 13 // Steven Hansen
[embed]270465:52578:0[/embed] Sub Wars' free version includes two single-player missions (with three difficulty settings) and two playable subs (the second is unlocked when you play the single-player). On top of this, the free version can engage in both local and online multiplayer. The catch here is that if you try and play online, you'll likely be outclassed by better subs and only be effective if you're 1) talented, 2) playing against other people using some of the starter subs. The free version is more like a demo with multiplayer when it comes down to it, but those desperate for something to play without spending money might find something to enjoy. The proper version includes the potential to unlock all 18 submarines, which are unlocked by doing well in multiplayer play. There will also be five individually priced, WWII inspired DLC subs down the line. Aside from more ships with different stats that encourage different playstyles, there is an added customization element in your ship's crew. Crew members will randomly spawn on islands during multiplayer. Pick them up, and you can add them to your stable for various stat changes -- +2 to turn rate or +1 to surface speed & - 1 health. These can factor into your playstyle -- if you want to be incredibly fast to the detriment of your health gauge, for example. You can also get a pink and purple daisy pattern (and several others) for your ship and communicate with your teammates on the bottom screen with Morse code (which will come up on their bottom screen as text). As for the gameplay itself, the four on four multiplayer will be filled with bots if need be. Otherwise, it plays as if you're piloting the sub in first person. You set your engines to forward or reverse and manipulate your orientation with the circle pad as you putter around and try to shoot off missiles at other sandwiches (I've written "subs" too much).
Steel Diver preview photo
3Das boot
In the middle of last year Nintendo announced it would try out the whole free-to-play scheme with Steel Diver, to the collective sighs of relief from various Nintendo series fans. Now we have details on just how that pricing ...

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball: Haggle a dog to buy games

Feb 13 // Steven Hansen
Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is free-to-play in Nintendo's lexicon. I see it as more of a demo. Everyone will be granted free access to the first six levels of the aforementioned batting minigame, Bat & Switch (hah!) which you get to by jumping into your Nontendo produced 4DS entertainment system. This game is so weird and goofy and I love it. "The localization guys had a field day," I'm told. The pitcher has a suit and a pitching machine head. And starts throwing some wicked curveballs you have to belt out into the skyline, simply with a well-timed tap of the A button. If you back out of the minigame (and out of your magic game system), you can go visit Rusty's shop. Rusty's wife has left him. His girlfriend thinks he's a deadbeat. He has 10 mouths to feed -- his pups. Rusty is a dog. He is also a shop owner, just trying to make ends meet selling minigames. When you go to visit Rusty, you're treated to dialogue "episodes" wherein you try to convince Rusty to sell you another of Real Deal Baseball's 10 minigames, but at a bargain. Unless you're an impatient moneybags who hates fun, in which case you can pay the base $4 that each minigame is priced at outright. But $4 is a lot for a minigame (that would be $40!), which is why we're going to haggle with Rusty and learn a little bit more about him along the way. Thankfully, removing any shred of buyer's remorse, one of Rusty's pups will always be privy to the conversation to inform you if you could get dad to go lower, or if he's truly, desperately at wit's end. They wouldn't reveal how low Rusty's prices go, but I'm assured it's significantly lower than the base price. Doing well in the minigames you do have -- or the handful of demo levels -- also nets you stamps and items that aid in your haggling. Aside from Bat & Switch, I'm told there is a fielding minigame that requires you to catch balls with the circle pad, as well as an umpiring minigame that might manage to give me empathy for blue. You start calling balls and strikes, but as you reach higher and higher levels you end up responsible for foul tips, fouls, balks, hit by pitches, and more. As a fan of baseball, minigames, and dog shop keeps, I am stupidly into the idea for Rusty's Real Deal Baseball. Provided you can haggle those minigame prices down and cut some deep deals, it should be a fun experiment in variable pricing. I can't wait to have conversations with Rusty, bathe in the resplendent nature of the writing team's puns, and play wacky minigames.
Rusty's Real Deal Basebal photo
A minigame compilation with a meta game about haggling a dog to buy real games with real money
Leave it to Nintendo to make "free to play" weird. This time, thankfully, it's my kind of weird. Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is not a baseball game. Rather, it's a compilation of baseball-themed minigames. There's a hitting mi...

Preview: Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes

Jan 07 // Chris Carter
Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes (3DS, PS4, Vita, Wii U)Developer: 8bits FanaticsPublisher: Nicalis, Inc.Released: TBA 2014 1001 Spikes is a retro enthusiast's dream. You'll control the titular Aban in his quest for more treasure, as the game takes you through a series of levels in the style of the world map from Ghouls 'N Ghosts. It's a full quest, complete with a narrative, collectibles, danger, and well crafted levels full of fiendish traps. It also plays wonderfully, most notably due to the "two button" jump system. You can press one button to jump high, and another to jump at a standard height, like most 2D platforming protagonists would. This allows you to control your jumps and make precise landings on any platform -- because, you know, they're probably filled with spikes. It's a simple nuance but a welcome one, and as someone who has been playing platformers for over 20 years, it feels fresh -- in other words, it combines all of the good times you had with retro games with a solid framework to make it more fair. The full game will feature nine characters, including Nyx from Nyx Quest, Commander Video, and the President Thompson/Sugimoto duo from Tempura of the Dead. My experience with co-op has been great, as there's a slight trolling element in this current build that allows you to throw projectiles at fellow partners to stun them. It isn't game-breakingly annoying however like a few other titles, since the maps are generally pretty large, and the camera zooms out at a decent length to give everyone their space. In addition to legit four-player co-op for the entire campaign, 1001 Spikes will feature a "Golden Vase" mode (among other multiplayer gametypes) which plays similarly to Spelunky's deathmatch gametype mixed with Halo's Oddball. There's a giant vase in the middle that drops coins as you carry it while running, but everyone else is gunning for you in one giant trap-filled map. It's fleeting fun, for sure, but there's a method to its chaos, and solid platforming skills will win out more often than not. The map I was able to test had varying degrees of height, with multiple doorways to enter (Scooby-Doo teleportation style), tons of spike traps, and fire-breathing wall hazards. The spikes in particular were cool, as they triggered a trap on the opposite side of where it was stomped -- so a fleeing player could run all over them to play defense even though he can't technically use his hands while holding the vase. The final game will sport leaderboards, as well as a sound test mode and a few other secrets (hopefully we'll hear some more progress on the level editor). It expands upon the original game in a big way with a multitude of modes and characters, and everything I've touched so far has me pretty excited to try the real thing. In short, it plays like an NES game with tons of content stuffed into it, and I'm perfectly okay with that.
1001 Spikes photo
This is shaping up to be one of my favorites of 2014
Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes was a great concept. It launched way back in 2011 on the Xbox Live Indie store for a whole dollar, and remains one of the best games on the marketplace to this day. But the folks over at Nic...

Mario Party 3DS photo
Mario Party 3DS

A quick look at the new Mario Party for 3DS

Hope you don't embarrass easily
Oct 08
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
While some games in the Mario Party series are easily better than the others (*cough* Mario Party 2 *cough*), I think we can all agree that each one has been fun to play. Mario Party: Island Tour for the 3DS is no different, ...

Tap happy with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

Sep 19 // Dale North
My Tokyo Game Show hands-on session with the upcoming 3DS game had me playing Final Fantasy V songs. In battle mode, "Gilgamesh" had me feverishly tapping out rhythms on top difficulty. Other than some slight visual touches there looks to be nothing new about this mode. I guess that the added songs will add the new in this case. The original track list returns, but new stuff from games like Final Fantasy: Crisis Core and Final Fantasy XIV have been added. The feel of this game changes quickly when you don't know the songs. A new tune from Lightning Returns had me fumbling and failing, putting me in my place. On the Field Stage Music side of things, I redeemed myself with Final Fantasy V’s "Airship Theme." I love the way these stages look when doing the airship thing. The action is slanted so that it looks like you're flying into the left side of the screen. The play isn't any different from the standard flat play, but the dynamic look changes the feel. And happy little moogles popping out to celebrate doesn't hurt, either. You don't need my TGS preview to know that you'll want this game. It's everything you liked, upgraded a bit, plus new songs from Type-0, Advent Children, FF:XIV and more. You're getting 200 songs, 60 characters, a new quest and more. Add in a new two-player competitive mode that has proper taps sending junk to opponents (like a puzzle game) and you have one hell of a update. The Japanese release of Curtain Call is slated for Spring 2014. I hope ours comes not too long after.  
First hands-on at TGS
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is more of the same, but I doubt any Theatrhythm fan will be complaining about that. More music from more Final Fantasy games and more tapping action. More just-misses. More cramped hands. I can't wait.

Preview: Falling right into Pokemon X & Y

Sep 19 // Steven Hansen
[embed]262112:50549:0[/embed] Pokemon X and Y (3DS) Developer: Game FreakPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: October 12, 2013 In the introductory sequence that explains the World of Pokemon, there is mural with a Wailord under a rainbow. It made me smile. You know the intro drill. After naming and sexing yourself, you wake up in your room, pajama clad. I remembered something as I rifled through my own bedroom and, shortly after, the rest of my home: Pokemon is a good RPG. It's a silly, facile world wherein everybody is obsessed with Pokemon, but it's also consistent and endearing. I spent a few minutes cycling through television shows, all of which involved Pokemon in some way, smiling at the warm banality of it. Within minutes I was searching trash cans for items like I hadn't missed a beat. Later in town, someone asked if I loved Pokemon. I said, "yes." They agreed. That was the conversation. It must be really, really fun to write for the series that takes its whimsy so seriously. It's like a world where you replace currency with glitter and unicorn sparkles, but then have a totally straight face when talking about your employee stock options dipping .08% kawaii kitten faces. It's childish in the best of ways. Pokemon are serious business. They are all business. X and Y's director, Junichi Masuda, told me one of its themes is beauty and it showed when I left my house to a much less humble looking town than I'm used to setting foot in. Heck, my house in X and Y -- my mom's house, I guess -- is nicer than any I've lived in.  I love 2D art. If were to get wrapped up in generalizations, I could probably say that I prefer 2D art to 3D. Pokemon X and Y makes great use of the added dimension. The shaders on the pocket monster models themselves make them look like faithful adaptations of their original 2D forms, rather than the typical uncanny 3D representation. Meanwhile, the 3D environments offer a little more breath, a little more life to the adventure. Regular routes have sweeping camera angles and beautiful nature effects. It might just be the novelty, but I like it so far. I also love the 3D models, animation, and attack effects in battle. Remember Zigzagoon? Screw Zigzagoons. They're derpy Rattatas, infuriatingly unaware of their status as boring fodder. But wait! I encountered a Zigzagood in battle and it playfully bounded back and forth like a corgi and...what is this... I think Zigzagoons are super cute now?! It's true. The animation is delightful.  Interestingly, the one thing that didn't sit well with me is the 2D art for trainers you encounter, which shows up as you head into battle. Something about the overly clean, smooth, computer generated look didn't sit right with me. It's the only time I missed sprites. You're introduced to a host of friends early on that basically acts as a tutorial and gives you your first Pokemon. I went with a Froakie, the aloof blue frog with the best facial expressions. It was my first water starter since Red/Blue and Gold/Silver; the first time I chose a water starter first, too. I didn't want that to get to his head, though, because I'm still suspicious of these new starters, so I named him Croagunk. It's like Pokemon trainer negging.  It was a bit strange going through the first forest with a friend attached at the hip ready to heal me on command. Unless I missed the trend starting with Black.White, the game seems a bit extra newcomver friendly early on, which isn't the worst thing. Mostly it reminded me of being two steps out of the forest in Yellow and my Pikachu encountering a Metapod that would only use Harden. I ran out of pp for all my moves and had to Struggle myself to death over an incredibly lengthy battle. It was morbid. Despite the new roller blades and Pokemon that can be ridden, bikes are confirmed. I also like buying cute hats for my character. More games need tertiary dress up components. Sometimes I want to catch Pokemon, sometimes I want to go into the shops and look at skirts. There's an admirable amount of new life in Pokemon X and Y despite things not being all that different at its core. I played for an hour, so it might just be a mix of nostalgia and novelty, but I think this will serve well as a point of re-entry for older fans and a means to capture new ones. I would like to again be a master (of Pokemon). I have the skills to be number one.
Pokemon X/Y preview photo
What kind of Pokemon are you? Why do you do the things you do?
Are you a boy or a girl? My preview of Pokemon X and Y last month left me plenty excited. There was a lot to take in: Mega Evolutions, a lunatic scientist, an extra dimension. However, the demo also left something to be desir...

Puyopuyo Tetris is exactly as it sounds, and I dig it

Sep 18 // Dale North
As any Tetris player would know, those lines I sent my opponent were also a bit of an opportunity for her. Multi-line clears had too many random blocks in my way to set up chains, so I had to rely on my reflexes to send as much trash back. I won and then jumped back in to try it in reverse, with my Tetris skills up against the computer's Puyo.  Aside from this cross-up versus mode, there's also a Swap mode that has games changing for each player in a given time. And while it wasn't available on the show floor, a four-player mode was being demoed via video. Of course, you're free to play Tetris vs Tetris, or Puyopuyo vs Puyopuyo if you'd like.  Puyopuyo Tetris comes to several platforms in 2014. Let's hope Sega brings this mashup to the west.   
Better at one than the other...
Sega is showing off its new puzzle game Puyopuyo Tetris here at their already super busy TGS 2013 booth. As a fan of both games, I gave this cross-up a spin on the 3DS. Puyopuyo Tetris is also coming to the Vita and PS3 as we...

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse puts the rest to shame

Aug 31 // Jonathan Holmes
Shantae may be a pirate now, but she still has some of her old moves. She still attacks with a Belmont-inspired hair whip, and she still knows how to dance. She also has a new move that allows her to suck up items into a lamp, making it easier to collect loot and other enemy drops. Pirate's Curse will have 5 dungeons, the most in the series so far. Though the game will be quite large, WayForward is looking to shorten the length of the bits in-between dungeons, packing in more ideas in a smaller space than the original GBC game. As exciting as that all is, I'm most interested in finding out why Rottytops made that heel turn in the last episode. Is she really a jerk now? WayForward says we may be surprised.  It will be interesting to see where WayForward takes their flagship character in what's planned to be the final chapter of her first (and hopefully not last) trilogy of games. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is. The game is set to hit later this year. Check out Sup Holmes on September 8th with Matt Bozon, WayForward boss and Shantae's creator for more sweet inside scoops. 
Shantae photo
Third time's the charm
Tucked away in a corner below The Wind Waker HD and behind Pokemon X/Y at PAX is a small kiosk featuring Retro City Rampage and Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, both on the 3DS. Stop by if you have the chance. The games are bo...

Preview: Licking everyone in Pokemon X and Y

Aug 16 // Steven Hansen
Pokemon X and Y (3DS) Developer: Game FreakPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: October 12, 2013 The demo is just an amalgam of different game elements, not tied to an actual part.of the game. Certain things -- the X and Y buttons entirely, amusingly -- were locked.out. After speaking to a journalist who told me a professor was waiting for me, I marched directly.forward and encountered a Pikachu. Of course. What did surprise me about this first battle was how good X and Y looks. The transition to 3D models is seamless, unlike the early polygon days, and the art style itself lends a familair flatness to the pocket.monsters' perspective anyway. I was also impressed by the animations and battle effects. Flamethrower and Fire Blast look proper deadly. The 3D also lent the game a decent effect when on, especially with the HUD. I'm still not terribly inclined to play with it on all the time, but if that's your thing you should enjoy the subtle effect. When I went to move, I instinctively went for the circle pad, this being a 3DS. The four directional walk (and run) are mapped to the d-pad, which feels a bit strange to use on the 3DS. The circle pad handles multi-directional, quick movement on inline skates (no word on if the bike returns). Rollerblading is still cool, right? I traded all my pogs to buy these blades! After dispatching the Pikachu, I mounted a stupid looking new Pokemon and rode it in rapid circles around some majestic fountain, but I couldn't take my beast of burden further than that. What followed was standard fare. I fought wild Pokemon amidst floral grass and ran through hedge mazes to talk with the wild Pokemon that were flitting about. A "kekekekekeke" to you, Marill. I also iced a trainer named Shauna who wore a pink top with three stacked, black bow ties like a Hot Topic Frosty the Snowman. Oh, and I caught a Pikachu out of spite. Pokeballs are released in a slightly disconcerting first person view, which I enjoyed. The other new feature I noodled around with was the Pokemon-Amie, which lets you interact with your Pokemon on the bottom screen. It too was neutered for this demo, but I did get to pet my Fennekin before it became indignant that I didn't give it its food correctly. Then I opted not to feed the little Prima donna. That'll learn it. To what extent the Pokemon Amie will affect the game is under wraps, but it does do things, like give higher chances for critical hits. I'll leave it to the avid Pokemon metagamers to figure out how to properly game the mechanic. After dispensing of my stupid-looking, much too amiable rival, I went and talked to the insane Professor Augustine Sinclair. I'm still puzzling over the quantum mechanics quandary that is his hair. He also either has cat whiskers or a beard less impressive than even mine. The very animated lunatic then told me I was The One to unlock the power of Mega Evolution and forced a Mewtwo on me. I didn't even have to save up a Master Ball. With my level 100 Mega Mewtwo, I easily dispatched his level 100 Crobat, Chandelure, and Dragonite. He struck a pose of scientific ecstasy and I wondered why Pokemon professors were getting younger and zanier every game. He looks like a rockstar or a Space Dandy. He's like Charlie Day's character in Pacific Rim. I think his hair is alive. I also ran through the demo a second time for kicks and wound up with a Froakie, my potential eventual starter. It knew Lick. So I licked everyone.  X and Y is Pokemon, no doubt about it, but it did leave me with some surprises. Particularly, I was impressed with the visuals. I love 2D art and sprites, but this looks a lot better than I had anticipated. It also looks better on the 3DS than in screenshots, though I am curious to see if it suffers at all stretching for the 3DS XL. I skipped Black and White, the first time I'd missed a mainline Pokemon release. X and Y seem as good a place as any to jump back in.
Pokemon X/Y preview photo
An insane scientist, goat riding, pet neglect, Mega Evolutions, and more!
Pokemon X and Pokemon Y are currently playable in Japan at the Pokemon Game Show. We got a look at the same hands-on demo, minus the 10 minute time limit and the assuredly hours-long line. The demo opens with you as a rand...

Impressions: Urban Trial Freestyle (3DS)

Aug 13 // Ian Bonds
Urban Trial Freestyle (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)Developer: Tate InteractivePublisher: Strangelands Ltd.Released: June 27, 2013MSRP: $6.99 The main layout of the title remains relatively the same; get generic biker dude from point A to point B on his motorcycle while accelerating, braking, flipping, rotating, and generally jumping around like a goon while you try to top your best score through each puzzle-like level. There are technically 40 levels in total, though you're actually traipsing through 20 levels in a stunt run, then the same 20 in a speed run. Along the way you'll collect money bags spread around which allow you to buy upgrades for your bike and outfits for the rider. [embed]257958:49553:0[/embed] As in the PlayStation versions, Urban Trial is fun enough, but never quite reaches the same heights of Trials HD due to the repetitive level maps -- though it's still a serviceable title. The "events" that happen in certain levels to change the terrain are cool, the leaderboards add to the need to top scores, but at times the game seems a bit on the easy side. Even with a few mistakes, you can get three out of five stars on just about every level, making unlocking the next and moving ahead a breeze. In fact, for a while I didn't think you could even get any lower than three stars, as I unlocked all the levels in just a few hours with minimal backtracking. Graphically, the 3DS version doesn't quite hold up to the PS3 or Vita versions, but that's to be expected. The backgrounds are still the standout feature, showcasing a sharply detailed desolate and apocalyptic backdrop to the crazy runaway trains and boulders that randomly breeze through the levels. The 3D is implemented well, too, though the character model on the biker himself is a but fuzzy, which hinders the 3D a bit. As for the exclusive track editor, you get what you expect: a minimal experience at best. There's a wide variety of set pieces to choose from, but sadly no real rhyme or reason to their organization. Also, placing items or rotating them for placement is a tedious event, as control varies between touch screen and d-pad without any indication of which is necessary for either task. Also, inexplicably, there's no way to share any of the tracks you create online. They simply are there for you, and you alone. Urban Trial Freestyle isn't a bad game -- there's just not much to it. The 3DS version doesn't vary much from the other versions, but the few differences are noticeable. The one draw, the track editor, is a fine distraction, but it's missing a few key elements. If you already have the PS3 or Vita version, the track editor may not be reason enough to pick up the 3DS version, but as far as physics-based motorcycle stunt games, you can't do much worse.
Urban Trial photo
The so-so Trials HD clone comes to 3DS
Back in February, PlayStation 3 and Vita owners finally got their taste of the motorcycle madness found in the Trials HD series that Xbox owners have been enjoying for years. Sadly, Urban Trial Freestyle just didn't seem to h...

Skylanders Swap Force is surprisingly more fun than evil

Jul 29 // Steven Hansen
Skylanders: Swap Force (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 [previewed], Xbox One, Wii U, Wii, 3DS)Developer: Vicarious Visions (PS3, PS4, 360, One, Wii U) / n-Space (3DS)/ Beenox (Wii)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: October 13, 2013 After last year’s Skylanders: Giants, which featured bigger monsters, the toys needed a new gimmick. This time, it’s swapability. Over a dozen of the new characters are Swap Force characters, meaning they can be vivisected at the waist (they’re held fast with magnets) and you can change characters’ top and bottom, mixing and matching as you see fit. It’s basically sanctioned unholy fusion of separate action figures. Kids these days have it so easy. Each Skylanders toy has its set of stats tied to it and each Swap Force character halve lays claim to independent statistics, which means you’re not tied to the entire character if, say, you wanted to keep a quick and speedy base but wanted to easily switch between melee and ranged attacks. Or something, I guess. I think it’s more personal preference than anything, because the game isn’t that deep. There is a Nightmare Mode you can gain access to, so maybe being savvy with character abilities and strategies might be a thing worth considering down the line, but everything I got the swappurtunity to go hands-on with was fairly straight forward mashing on monsters, which gets back to my original point: it’s solid mashing on monsters. I get the appeal now. I don’t exactly like the appeal, because there’s something inherently slimy and manipulative about the whole children’s toys market wherein kids are trained to desire all the baubles, but I get it. Had I disposable income and a child, Skylanders would be a no stress way to introduce said stupid human child to videogames in a lax environment. The child would get colorful visual stimuli mildly reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank, silly toys that children are apt to collect and enjoy, and pretty chill monster mashing combat. It’s not to say I wouldn’t get anything from it, either. Skylanders, at least of the Swap Force ilk. are generally named with lovely puns (and permutations thereof when they get swapped) that I enjoy terribly. Invader Zim’s voice actor also voices the main villain, and the writing in general pulled a few chuckles out of me. You can also see some semblance of heart and fun in Swap Force. Jumping has finally been added to the game and while it’s not a core tenet, it’s fun, as we learned so many years ago playing all those platformers. Plus, the jump animations are all kind of great. There’s a snake Swap Force character, Rattle Shake, who is basically Crocodile Dundee with Antnio Banderas’ voice, which is hilarious in and of itself. His jump features a springy sound effect as his tail coils up and propels him upward. I enjoyed it, anyway. The robot legs also bring a cool backflip jump into play. All existing Skylanders characters have been retrofitted with new jumping animations as well. Also, the Crocodile Dundee snake character? His gun is a smaller snake. I hate copping out and suggesting Sklyanders: Swap Force for kids. First, because I don’t know a modicum about child rearing. I’d probably throw s book at them and make them entertain themselves. Or take them to the park to play sports in the hopes of vicariously living through their organized athletic success after my own failures and blown out knees. Yeah, what of it? Don’t tell me how to raise my own gosh darn hypothetical children. The other reason is that I don’t see why those ungrateful little twerps can’t just play Super Mario World like I did; why they have to have something pared down and spoon fed to them. My SNES is literally sitting in my entertainment center right now. Still, if you can abide by the bollocks that comes along with children’s toys (and potential physical pay walls locking you out of side content that you need certain characters or character types for), I can see how Skylanders: Swap Force might be appealing. I’m still leery of the whole charade for more ideological reasons, but it’s a solidly fun escapade with some character to it. And Invader Zim. And a Crocodile Dundee rattle snake with a snake gun.
Skylanders Swap Force photo
Snakes shooting snake guns
Activision’s Skylanders franchise has always smelled of a money grab to me. Copperish, like the smell of old pennies scrounged up by hard-working parents so little Linda Anne can have all the newest and coolest Skylande...

Regular Show game is an amalgam of old-school genres

Jul 17 // Steven Hansen
Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby In 8-Bit Land (3DS) Developer: WayForward Technologies Publisher: D3 Publisher Release: Fall 2013 Once again, WayForward is working closely with the creator of the show they're making a game off on. In this case, WayForward has worked closely with J. G. Quintel, with whom the team "bounced ideas back and forth constantly."  When an alluring game system arrives at the duo's door, they can't resist shirking their chores and getting some play time in -- as relatable a scenario as any, wouldn't you say? Things go awry, however, and they're sucked into a virtual world. I was shown an early level that played like a standard, old-school, Mario-styled platformer, with the one difference being the ability to swap between Mordecai and Rigby at will. The taller Mordecai has a double jump, while Rigby can be used to travel through prohibitively small spaces. As you go through the level you collect money, used in a game of chance at the end of each level, and golden tapes that can be used to unlock unique concept art, cheat codes, and more. There is also a mullet power-up. I'll leave show fans to find the reference, but I think it's hilarious without context. The second type of level I was shown was a classic scrolling space shooter akin to Gradius, in which Mordecai turns into a space ship. Things got a bit more dicey here -- the old-school challenging nature of the genre does seem to be in full effect -- until a shield and three-way laser blaster power-up helped the player skirt by. There was also an excellent puzzle to get a golden tape which necessitated flying the Mordecai ship towards an obstacle, then switching out of ship mode so Mordecai would faze past it, before getting the tape. I wonder if there will be secret doors. The third gametype on display was a Smash TV, or Retro City Rampage, styled kill-'em-up in which Rigby runs about shooting people from a top-down point of view. My interest was especially piqued when all three of these disparate, standalone genres were stitched together in levels that necessitated jumping between all three styles of play. Knowing full well that many of 8-Bit Land's players are well versed in the genres it offers, the next logical step is to "focus on switching between different modes on the fly," along with collecting all the golden tapes in typical fashion. I'm not sure how Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby In 8-Bit Land plays, but I'm interested in its weird genre melding and appropriately stitched together aesthetic. At the same time, it does remind me a bit of Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! in that it's the first game in the Cartoon Network and WayForward collaboration for the series and things look a bit bare and minimal. It could be saddled with similar faults: a bit of emptiness and lack of length or content. Still, it's certainly an interesting approach that fans of the series and retro games could enjoy.  
Regular Show game photo
Not a regular game
Not to be outdone by its contemporary, Adventure Time, and the upcoming Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW!, Cartoon Network toon Regular Show is getting a long-titled game of its own, Regular Sho...

Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies is lookin' fine in 3D

Jun 13 // Caitlin Cooke
The demo I played was very reminiscent of the original series with the same dialogue style and basic gameplay mechanics but with the extra oomph that the 3DS can offer - mainly, short 3D cutscenes and added graphic detail. Oh, and of course Phoenix's hair is even more spiky in 3D. Players can still shout OBJECTION! into the mic and I imagine the investigation will also incorporate some 3DS features, however the demo did not get into the crime scene portion.  The court scene was very much the same as it's always been -- lots of banter, pressing the witnesses, presenting evidence and of course all the courtroom drama that goes along with it. It was entertaining watching Phoenix stumble his way through his first investigation in years - it wouldn't be an Ace Attorney game without embarrassing the main character! The new gameplay mechanic, the "mood matrix," allows Phoenix to sense how the witness is feeling during their testimony -- happy, angry, sad, or surprised. Pinpointing an unexpected emotion allows for Phoenix to press the witness even further on their testimony, exposing new information. It didn't seem very difficult but it was interesting being able to view the witness' memories play out. I found this to be a unique addition and I'm curious how it will play out in the long run. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is being released in Japan on July 25th with western regions following suit in the fall for 3DS download only. Yes, it's sad, but hey at least we're getting it, and getting it soon!  
Phoenix Wright photo
I have no objections
I'm a big fan of the Ace Attorney series but fell off the wagon somewhere between the Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth games, so it's exciting to see that Phoenix is making a comeback in Dual Destinies. The game takes place...

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