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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: Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition

May 14 // Chris Carter
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition (3DS)Developer: GungHo Online EntertainmentPublisher: GungHo Online Entertainment (JP) / Nintendo (EU, US)Released: April 29, 2015 (JP) / May 8, 2015 (EU) / May 22, 2015 (US)MSRP: $29.99 It's not just a checkmark on the side of a game box -- this 3DS package really is two full games in one. You'll get the traditional Puzzle & Dragons experience with Z, as well as a Super Mario Bros.-centric romp. But even the former feels like it was severely influenced by Nintendo, which is definitely a good thing. In the world of Z, Dragon Tamers roam the land in search of adventure, much like Pokémon Trainers. Hell, it even has the option to choose between a male and female protagonist, and the story starts off in your house with a conversation with your mom. It gets even more on the nose from there with a "D-Gear" instead of a Pokédex, and the presentation of red, blue, and green monsters as your first party members. Truth be told, despite how familiar this setup is, and how much the generic story drags at times, it's far more endearing than the gambling nature of the free-to-play mobile game. The events of the story are set in motion by a massive earthquake from the evil organization Team Rocket Paradox, but the world is more captivating than the actual characters or events involved -- odds are you'll be skipping a lot of dialogue. Thankfully, the creature designs in Puzzle & Dragons are interesting to fight and discover, as they look wholly unique, and even while battling static monsters with just a few animations on-screen the game still has a ton of charm. If you do happen to dig the story though, you'll quickly suffer a degree of disappointment, as it takes a backseat in favor of dungeon crawling and constant battling. [embed]291810:58494:0[/embed] Remember, the core principle is to match three orbs on a grid to damage your enemies. You'll drag and drop them on the bottom screen using your stylus, and said orbs will initiate attacks based on elements that you match. So for instance, a simple activation of three fire orbs will kick off a small fire attack from your appropriate party members, but a huge combo of red and blue will see a stronger counter from multiple party members. Matching more than three will also queue up more devastating attacks, and so on -- you've seen this before. Puzzle & Dragons does have a few nuances in place to differentiate itself though, like an active time gauge to keep you on your toes (allowing you to create combos while you're at it), the ability to target specific enemies with the D-pad, and a rock-paper-scissors mechanic with the elements involved. It also has a light amount of party building, as the best way to succeed is to diversify your setup to allow the most coverage in terms of orb attacks. Each character also has a super that can be used every so often, like a direct-damage power or an ability to change up colors of specific orbs. It's not incredibly deep, but there's some meat to it, especially when you pick up more characters and start making decisions on who to use, as well as who to upgrade, and who to sacrifice to make existing party members stronger. As it turns out, the Super Mario Bros. portion of the game is fairly remedial. If you've never played a match-three before or have children, you'll want to play this one first. It has the same basic gameplay, but with a new "story" that involves Mario and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom, including the lovable Koopa Kids. As usual the plot is fast-tracked here, with Bowser once again capturing Peach due to the power of "mysterious orbs" from the P & D franchise. That swift pace carries on throughout the experience, and it's rather jarring to go from the sprawling Z to this.Remedial as it may be, it has some challenging spots, and it's still worth playing if you dig puzzle games. The thrill of building a party is still present, and although the world isn't all that engaging (it feels as lifeless as the first "New" game on DS), most Nintendo fans won't pass up the chance to fight and capture classic characters like Goombas or Piranha Plants. It's disappointing that the Mario part isn't as fleshed out, but it's more excusable when you add in the fact that the core Z experience is worth the price of entry alone.Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition isn't likely to wow anyone, but it's a pretty comprehensive package that would make a great gift to any match-three addict. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Puzzle & Dragons review photo
Two games in one
Puzzle & Dragons came out some time ago in 2012, and has since taken the world by storm. Although its origins started as a humble match-three puzzle game, GungGo Online cleverly added in slot machine-like addictive qualit...

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.]
Pokémon 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. We'll provide updates for those two figures shortly after their product launch. 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...

Samus wants to be in Shovel Knight

Mar 11 // Jonathan Holmes
What Samus Wants photo
Like Stella, Samus wants her groove back
When we last checked in with Samus, she was trying to score an interview with Tim Rogers, co-creator of Videoball. Despite the fact that she's been appearing in videogames for over 25 years, he still didn't know who she was....

Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

Mar 04 // Darren Nakamura
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars (3DS [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: March 5, 2015MSRP: $19.99 Once again, various minis are scattered across stages, and they must touch all of the coins and get to the exit. The "why" of it is unimportant, it's the "how" that is the focus. Minis cannot be controlled directly. A mini will start walking forward once tapped with the stylus or if another mini walks into it. Most of the player's job is to manipulate the environment in order to allow the bots a safe path to the exit. To that end, there is a handful of tools at the player's disposal. There are girders that can act as platforms, ramps, and walls. There are springs that allow the minis to clear gaps or reach new heights. There are conveyor belts, lifts, and pipes that will move the little toys around the map. A tenet of Game Design 101 is to gradually introduce new elements to the player, never overwhelming but eventually creating something complex. Tipping Stars adheres to this idea strictly. Each world features a new environmental piece: the first level introduces it, the next few levels mix it with everything else, and the last few levels require the player to demonstrate mastery in order to move on. [embed]288509:57600:0[/embed] There are a few common threads that tie the worlds together. Each has eight levels. The seventh level always features a Mario mini holding a key and a locked exit. Not only does the player have to complete all of the usual objectives, but he has to have the robots lined up in the correct order, or else the keyless one at the front will just bump stupidly into the lock while the one with the key cannot access it. The eighth level acts almost as a boss encounter, where one mini becomes possessed and must be bopped with a hammer before the stage can be completed. It adds motion to the otherwise stationary puzzling of choosing which pieces go where. Despite the fact that Tipping Stars follows all of the rules of good game design, it lacks anything special to make it noteworthy. The puzzle design is straightforward to a fault. Solutions never require lateral thinking and as a result I never felt any sense of accomplishment upon completing one. Instead of making me feel smart it just made me feel mechanical, like one of the minis marching aimlessly ahead. Oh, I finished that puzzle. Onto the next one. That isn't to suggest that Tipping Stars is too easy. Some of the later levels (and especially the bonus levels) can be quite difficult. However, the difficulty is often in timing and execution rather than in strategy and foresight. For some puzzles, it's possible to see the solution but still muck it up by not poking the minis at exactly the right moments. The level editor from Mini-Land Mayhem! makes a comeback, with the expected incremental upgrades that come with the new hardware. Levels can be shared on Miiverse, and more player-created levels can be saved than before. Basic levels can be created right away, but a lot of cosmetic alterations and the higher level equipment must be purchased with stars.  Stars are the in-game currency, and are generally earned by completing puzzles. Higher scores earn more stars, but each level only grants up to three stars. The key to the economy is that it's not possible to gain enough stars to buy everything by playing the built-in levels alone. To make up the difference for some of the higher-priced items, stars can also be generated by playing user-generated levels, having one's own levels played, or by "tipping" another creator for particularly well-made content. The most commendable addition to Tipping Stars is the inclusion of cross-buy and cross-play. A purchase on either 3DS or Wii U will net a download code for the other, and saved levels can be transferred between the two. It's nice to see Nintendo testing out the idea, even if it's on a mundane title. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is not bad. It is essentially Mini-Land Mayhem! with visual and technical upgrades. It never instills any sense of wonder or accomplishment, and it often feels more like work than play. It's a very paint-by-numbers affair; for a puzzle game it doesn't actually require much thinking, only doing. It is a game that exists, and that's about as much as there is to say about it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Mario vs. DK review photo
Ż\_(ツ)_/Ż
A little more than four years ago, Nintendo released Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on the original DS. It continued the series' focus on the miniature Mario robots, to the chagrin of fans of the platforming in the ...

Review: Ironfall: Invasion

Feb 27 // Chris Carter
Ironfall: Invasion (3DS)Developer: VD-DevPublisher: VD-DevReleased: February 26, 2015MSRP: Free (campaign and MP are paid downloads, $9.99 each) If you have a Circle Pad Pro or a New 3DS, you're going to feel right at home with Ironfall, as it functions just like a full-on console shooter. The controls work especially well on the New 3DS, with extra shoulder buttons for sprinting and reloading, as well as the C-stick functionality for aiming. L aims, R shoots, and B ducks into cover -- that's basically all you need to know, and it plays out wonderfully. Ironfall has a neat mechanic that ties actions to your health, by way of a meter called "heart-rate." There are certain thresholds you cannot cross unless you take damage, but sprinting and shooting will raise your heart-rate ever so slightly -- forcing you back into cover to lower it faster. While it may seem like an action-hindering design choice, it actually makes things more strategic, as avoiding enemy fire altogether will inherently limit your meter.However, the campaign doesn't really make use of the strong foundation, mostly wasting your time through 11 boring levels. It's basically a corridor shooter with uninspired locales and minigames you've seen a thousand times over. The alien menace is also painfully generic, to the point where you won't even care about killing them, instead focusing on the clock all the way. Visually Ironfall looks fine on the New 3DS, especially with the 3D effect on. The main problem is that the actual art style is dull as heck, and reminds me of a budget PS1 title -- not in a good way. Although the framerate is consistent, it's hard to really get on board with playing through the story when everything looks so mundane and washed out. [embed]288276:57548:0[/embed] Thankfully, multiplayer saves the day, as it's quite fun. If you've ever played an old school shooter like WinBack, you'll feel right at home here. It's surprisingly robust for a portable game too, featuring online and local play, as well as a decent amount of weapon types. You'll only get standard free-for-all and team modes, but some are ranked, which allow you to bet "credits" and gain a higher rank for bragging rights. Don't expect a fully-fledged Call of Duty-like perk system here -- you play just to play, not to earn more gear. While multiplayer works well as-is, a couple things I really want in a future update are more weight to the combat and direct notification of kills outside of a unceremonious "this player died" banner. While everything is smooth and the bullets actually connect, it's really hard to tell if you killed another player at times, or if you are even hitting them. As you can tell by the info box above, Ironfall has a unique pricing system. You can download the base game for free, which nets you the first campaign level and a limited multiplayer demo -- consisting of one character, the assault rifle, and grenade launcher. If you want to pony up for either mode you'll pay $9.99 each, with a bonus jukebox feature if you buy the bundle. Don't get the bundle. If the idea of a 3DS cover shooter entices you at all, the best course of action is to play the multiplayer for free, then go from there. Personally, I was sold based on the old school feel alone, which is more excusable for a fun arena-like setting than it is for a rushed campaign. Multiplayer is the saving grace of Ironfall: Invasion. Although it doesn't offer anything new, it should scratch that itch for arena shooter fans who are looking for something to play online long term on 3DS. With a relatively smooth connection process and simplistic gameplay that works, it should keep you busy for a while. Just avoid paying for the campaign at all costs. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Ironfall Invasion photo
Someone call Marcus Fenix
Developing a Gears of War-like cover shooter for Nintendo 3DS is unconventional, but that's just what VD-Dev did with Ironfall: Invasion. Featuring both local and online multiplayer, as well as an 11-stage campaign, the project seems fairly ambitious for the handheld, and as you'd expect, there are mixed results. While multiplayer turned out well enough, the campaign is a mess.

Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a quirky spinoff in line with series legacy

Feb 26 // Alessandro Fillari
Etrian Mystery Dungeon (3DS)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: AtlusRelease date: April 7, 2015MSRP: $39.99 For those unaware, Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a spinoff of its mainline series Etrian Odyssey. Playing as adventurers seeking fame, fortune, and glory, you must explore dangerous monster-filled dungeons while helping out local townsfolk in need. In and around the village of Azlarga, you build your reputation amongst the locals who come to rely on you for help. Over the course of your adventures, you'll acquire new weaponry, abilities, and and party members that wish to join in on your successes, and hope to conquer the more nefarious and deadly dungeons that remain untouched by explorers' hands. In similar vein to last year's Persona Q, EMD takes several of the series' concepts and gameplay ideas, and injects them into a brand new setting. In Mystery Dungeon, the action is moved to the tried-and-true roguelike dungeon crawler school of thought. With an overhead third-person angle, you have to keep watch of your party members and their surroundings as they venture through the environment. Utilizing grid-based movement, positioning is everything. Certain party members use either ranged or close-range abilities, and must be placed accordingly. With only four characters to bring with you into the field, you'll have to choose wisely from the several classes that EMD has to offer. While exploring, you'll want to monitor the status of your party members. As some traps poison people, or debilitate movement, you have stay stocked up on recovery items. For every step you take, you also drain FP (food points), which affects stamina and combat prowess. Once that's completely drained, your party leader will sustain damage for every move you make. In order to stay ahead of this, you'll have to keep them well-fed, or have another member of the group take point. This puts an interesting spin on exploration, as often times you'll have your tank lead. But if he's too tired to take charge, then you might be forced to escape or have one of your more vulnerable members lead. [embed]288216:57511:0[/embed] Fortunately, there are many different ways to stay on top in dungeons. Certain classes can scout ahead and spot traps and monsters, while others can keep the party buffed and in good health. Also, there are several areas within the labyrinths that are fairly safe, which can be fortified by your group. In these forts, you'll remain safe, and they can be used for quick travel back to the outside. Forts are run by members of the guilds you can join back in Azlarga, and they help monitor your resources. Loot, minerals, and other special resources found in the dungeon can be taken back to the forts, though, keep in mind, they can be still be attacked and destroyed by monsters in the dungeon. So it's important to make sure if you want to invest the time and money to build one, especially in a dangerous location. The Etrian Odyssey series is known for its tough challenges, and EMD definitely retains that for dungeon exploration. Every dungeon you travel to is randomly generated, which not only keeps things interesting, but has you on your toes. In some cases, the first few floors of the dungeon might be a cake walk, but traveling to a fresh location might have you walk right into several traps and powerful foes. Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities to save yourself and your crew. If you for instance wipe, you can send in rescue units for your team for evac back to town. Unfortunately, you'll lose out on items and currency found at that location. So it's always best to keep a fresh save at all times. I'm usually not that partial to dungeon crawlers, but I found Etrian Mysery Dungeon to be charming, despite its difficulty. The visuals and art style are vibrant and colorful, which is a welcome departure from the common brown and grey aesthetic of roguelike dungeon crawler RPG titles. I found the presentation to be fun, and the world is one I would love to explore again. I expect players to be quite taken with Mystery Dungeon. With its release in April, it should also scratch an itch for fans eager to play Etrian Odyssey V, which is still a ways off. Granted, this is a bit different than previous EO titles, but that's actually kind of a good thing. It's another approach to dungeon crawling, sure, but at its heart it's a similar experience fans will love.
Etrian Mystery Dungeon photo
Hardcore dungeon crawling with a new perspective
Over the years, Atlus has become one of the more endearing presences in gaming. One thing fans appreciate is its tendency to switch things up. The publisher has a handle on the niche gaming scene, and it's reassuring to know ...

The hunt is on for the Meta Knight amiibo, here is what I found

Feb 20 // Chris Carter
Some stores were handing out tickets, but many, including mine, were not. Confusion was abound, because at the first store I went to, someone in line stated that they were told that the location had "fourteen" on-hand. It turns out that there were actually five total figures that were available for non-preorders. In other words, nine were on hold. The second store had 10 total, with only five available on-hand. Other reports I'm getting from friends range from five to 10 maximum on-hand for non-pre-orders. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to still snag an extra figure slightly after opening. If you're familiar with the Lucario situation at Toys"R"Us, this is basically the same exact thing. At the first store, the line was roughly 20 people long -- since I showed up near opening I did not get one, but thankfully I was able to get in on the first set of pre-orders, and my package is scheduled to arrive today. I have not been able to verify whether or not Best Buy will trickle in stock over the coming weeks, or whether the figure is like Rosalina, where stock is outright not being replenished. A manager at the first store noted that they "should" be getting restock, but he wasn't entirely positive. He also gave a quick tip out to consumers -- call or check back on Wednesday and Friday mornings at your location, because that's when new stock comes in. So where can you get it in the meantime? You can try to check the product's stock page throughout the weekend to see if any missed pre-orders spill over, or try to check your store for stock here. If you're calling your store or going in person, use this SKU -- 1375009. You can also find him at Amazon UK, Amazon.FR, and Amazon.DE, or check out our amiibo hunting guide for more ideas. Japanese sites are having a difficult time keeping him in stock. Good luck!
Meta Knight amiibo photo
Good luck
[Update: Get this. One amiibo hunter is reporting that you can get $5 off any Wii U or 3DS game nationwide if your store does not have Meta Knight in stock. Even if your store denies you, it doesn't hurt to ask!] Today, ...

Review: Pokemon Shuffle

Feb 19 // Chris Carter
Pokémon Shuffle (3DS)Developer: Genius SonorityPublisher: NintendoReleased: February 18, 2015MSRP: Free, with microtransactions (the bad kind) To dispel the notion that Nintendo is entering entirely uncharted territory, it has already done free-to-play -- to great success, actually. Rusty's Real Deal Baseball was one of my favorite games of 2014, and implemented the scheme in an incredibly unique and very Nintendo way. Although I'm not a big fan of Steeldiver: Sub Wars' gameplay, the model is fantastic. What the company has done with Pokémon Shuffle is a complete 180 from its past triumphs, and frankly disappointing given that it's a child-oriented IP. I don't know if Nintendo, its board members, Genius Sonority, or The Pokémon Company is to blame, but any way you slice it it's not good. Presentation-wise, Pokémon Shuffle seems innocent -- it's vibrant, and all of the enemies you fight are represented by floating heads with no 3D effects to speak of. The general setup of the game is fantastic as a puzzler. It's a match-three, no mistake about it, but it's fast-paced and some stages are actually difficult (more on this later). It's remarkably easy to pick up since there are few restrictions as to where you can shift tiles. As long as you can make a match of three or higher, you can use your stylus to drag and drop. If you happen to get multiple matches in a row and more drop down to form more matches, you'll make combos. That's basically the gist, and it works. Most levels require you to defeat the enemy by scoring a certain amount of points within a certain turn limit. There are some nuances, like the ability to use different types of Pokémon to do more damage by way of a weakness system. Also, certain monsters will have specific powers like the "Power of Four" attack that does more damage when you match up four or more tiles. Some characters can even Mega Evolve, which gradually fills up a gauge while matching that monster, and unleashes a power move the rest of the game. It adds a bit of edge to each match, because you'll stop to think every so often and decide whether or not certain matches are worth it. [embed]287855:57404:0[/embed] That pick-up-and-play surface mixture with complex depth is fun for the first 10 or so tutorial stages, then the free-to-play gating starts. Initially, Pokémon Shuffle will graciously allow you to play the game, granting you "Hearts," "Jewels," and "Coins" freely. Wait, what? Three currency types? Yep, it gets very sticky from here on out. The core currency is Jewels, which function as the premium element and are available for purchase for $0.99 each, with a small discount for bulk shopping. You can exchange Jewels for Hearts, which let you play one level one time (win or lose), or Coins, a sub-currency that can buy one-use (of course) power-ups. The main problem with Shuffle derives from the Heart system. You'll start off with five at first, and then you'll have to wait 30 minutes for each one to refill, up to a maximum of five. To give you some perspective, levels generally take 30 seconds to one minute to complete. So after three or so minutes, you're waiting two and a half hours to play five more. Even if you only pick it up once per day it's still a tough prospect to swallow. But that's not the worst part. Power-ups are presented in such an underhanded way that they trump waiting for Hearts on the sleaze scale. After each level is completed, you have a chance to catch the Pokémon in question. At first your catch percentage is generally high, weighing in at 75% or more -- so catching that Charizard makes you feel good, but even if you don't catch it, spending a Heart to try again doesn't feel like a waste. As time goes on however, I've bottomed-out on common-level Pokémon at 3%, at which point my jaw actually dropped. After a capture failure if you happen to have 2,500 Coins handy (that's a ton, as each win only gives you 100 Coins), you can spring for a one-time use Great Ball, which enhances your chance slightly. It doesn't even guarantee success. Let me say that again -- some common-level Pokemon will have a 23% capture rate even if you literally pay for an item that costs roughly 75 cents in real-world money. It's outright disgusting when you think about it, especially since people are going to want to catch their favorites. If it happens to be anything under 50%, good luck to you. There's also insult to injury once you realize that you spent a Heart replaying a level to try to catch a Pokémon with a low percentage, only to find out that you have to wait over two more hours to truly try again. Oh, and each Pokémon has a miniature experience/level system too, so if you want to grind to increase your level for some of the tougher Expert or later stages, that's more Hearts. It's absolutely maddening. At one point I was having a lot of fun playing the game since I had purchased some Hearts. I blew through some stages and it was a blast. Quickly, I realized that I was playing Pokémon Shuffle, and the energy system kicked back in. I guess Nintendo thought that I didn't need to play for more than 30 minutes and needed a break. Nintendo allows you to gain extra currency by way of StreetPass, which I did test, but the gains are minimal. At best, you'll get to play an extra 30 minutes or so per day if you live with another 3DS owner before it's back to the waiting game. The other issue is that pretty much every power-up is oddly expensive outside of the clear-cut best value 800 Coin turn extender, which feels like a win button in some cases. No Play Coin support is another missed opportunity. Anything truly enjoyable about the game is ruined by the microtransactions. Apparently Nintendo is doling out random events, like the ability to fight Mew for three weeks after launch. I absolutely rocked him, and blew the challenge out of the water on the fifth attempt, using up all my allotted Hearts. It was a rush. I was greeted with a 30% chance to catch him with a Great Ball. I said to myself, "Why even try? Why even get excited at the prospect of catching a rare Pokémon when the game is literally pay to win?" Expert (EX) levels seek to mix things up by allowing unlimited moves in exchange for a time limit, but they follow the same principle -- you do a ton of work, beat the stage, and get nothing out of it outside of a paywall. In the interest of disclosure, I made it to level 100 (Nintendo states there are 160 in all), and used $4.99 of my own funds to purchase Jewels to continue playing. I didn't replay very many levels to see if I could recatch Pokémon, because frankly, it felt like a waste of time. I'm not inherently against free-to-play in the slightest. I actually have felt inspired to spend money on games I was having fun with, and many games like Dota 2 and Path of Exile actually feel legitimately free, with a purely cosmetic shop. The system can work. Maybe I sound like I'm trying to bargain with the devil, but if Pokémon Shuffle had even a 15-minute-per-Heart timer it would be a much stronger experience. For now, if you really want a 3DS Pokémon puzzle game, buy the flawed Pokémon Battle Trozei instead for $7.99. It's basically the same thing, but you can actually play it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher ahead of launch. No microtransaction payments were provided.]
Pokémon Shuffle review photo
Micro-mon Mega Evolved
Nintendo takes on the world of microtransactions with Pokémon Shuffle. What could go wrong? A lot. 

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

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

Review: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+

Feb 16 // Chris Carter
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ (3DS)Developer: Access GamesPublisher: Namco Bandai GamesReleased: February 10, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Back in the day Ace Combat 2 was the first flight simulator that I truly got into. It was incredibly easy to pick up and play, as it was extremely arcade-like in nature -- no lengthy Microsoft Flight Simulator manuals required. Although there were a few nuanced mission parameters like escort and protection goals, the basic idea was to blow everyone up. Although the genre has advanced far past that primal urge, it was a lot of fun back then, and in many ways, it still is. This time around, the story and mission types are slightly arranged, but always focus on the same concept of chaos. The narrative doesn't matter much (it's your basic regional war plot), because after that very short brief you're going to be hitting the skies and blowing shit up time and time again. Whether it's by way of a third-person view or a 3D-enhanced cockpit variety, it all feels great control-wise. Picking up pitches and yaws is simple and long or mid-range missile switching is cake. It's even easier with the Circle Pad Pro (or New 3DS C-Stick), which is now supported after its conspicuous absence in the original Legacy 3DS localization. Legacy+ gets the job done visually, but it doesn't look like any effort was made to smooth out some of the rough edges. It still walks and talks like the same game from 2011, which is tough to stomach given the full retail price. The "Plus" really is the head-scratching part of the moniker since it feels nearly identical to the original outside of amiibo support. In essence you can use six different amiibo (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Link/Toon Link, Samus, and Fox) to unlock new Nintendo vehicles, just like Mario Kart 8. It's not all that exciting even for Nintendo fans, since all you're doing is unlocking on-cart DLC. The one saving grace of this whole feature is the existence of question mark blocks scattered about the world, which can net you a plane sans amiibo (presumably for non-New 3DS owners). It's a nice little feeling to blow up a block, even if it's just a fleeting sensation. Ultimately, Legacy+ feels like a half-measure. It lasts roughly four hours, and that's about all she wrote. There are the aforementioned amiibo unlocks, but right now that feature is only available to New 3DS owners while Nintendo figures out when to announce and release the adapter for legacy portables. There's very little justification for actually buying this new package, and the amiibo stuff really should have come as a free update for existing owners. Or at the very least, Namco could have stuck in some multiplayer support or something this time. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy+ is a great way for Ace veterans to relive a classic on the go, provided that they didn't already buy the original release in 2011. There's just not enough here for entice anyone to double-dip or shell out the full price if you aren't a sim-junkie. While the publisher should be chided for releasing an iteration as rushed as this, they are lucky that the core package was already decent to begin with.
Ace Combat 3DS review photo
That '+' is pretty stingy
Japanese publishers have some truly confusing localization titles sometimes. In 2011, Namco Bandai released Ace Combat: Assault Horizon for the PS3 and Xbox 360. It was a grittier take on the franchise that added real-wo...

The hunt is on today for the Majora's Mask New 3DS XL, here's what I found

Feb 13 // Chris Carter
As you can see in the gallery below, there were plenty of standard New 3DS units in stock, with more in the back to sustain all-day customer traffic. If you want to see off-hand if any stores in your area have a unit, check this website with the following DCPI number -- 207-01-0402. Good luck! None of the Target representatives or managers I spoke to had any information on restocking opportunities, but as always, any updates we obtain on the situation will be placed here. Rest assured though stores are getting some stock, so it never hurts to call. In other online related news my Best Buy order is preparing to ship, so many of you out there who didn't have yours canceled already may have a package on the way later today.
Majora 3DS hunt photo
Only a few in stock at each store
[Update: Target seems to have some extra stock online from dropped pre-orders. Check now (try the mobile link too) and throughout the day to see if anything pops up. GameStop is also taking orders on a $250 bundle w...

Very Quick Tips: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D

Feb 13 // Chris Carter
[embed]286307:56927:0[/embed] General tips: You can play the Song of Double Time (YY LL RR) and the Inverted Song of Time (RL YR LY) as soon as you get the Ocarina near the beginning. The former has been vastly improved for Ocarina 3D -- it now goes to an exact hour in time, which is amazing for precision quests. The latter can be played to slow down time, and should basically be done at all times as soon as you reset the three-day cycle. If you want to reset the clock to normal, just replay it or better yet, skip ahead with Double Time. Once you understand how Majora flows the game becomes much easier. The cycle of operations should proceed as follows -- sidequest, unlock the dungeon, sidequests, reset time, dungeon. The key here is that last bit. If you reset time right after you discover a dungeon and unlock the Owl Statue, and then immediately play the Inverted Song of Time to slow down the clock, you'll have no trouble completing a dungeon without the clock running out. The Bunny Hood is arguably one of the best items in the entire game. It allows you to run super fast, which is useful for clearing some big gaps to earn hidden treasure and dodge baddies in boss fights or general dungeon use. To get it, you have to get the Bremen Mask first. Go find Guru-Guru (the music box guy) in the Laundry Pool in Clock Town on the night of the first or second day. Then go to Romani Ranch on the third day (or clear the rock yourself once you unlock the Goron form). Head to the back to Cucco Shack, equip the Bremen Mask, and hold down the action button until you collect every chick in the area. You will then be gifted the Bunny Hood. The Razor sword upgrade is another must-have item. Kill Goht, the second boss on the first day. Don't worry about doing this on your first run -- after you defeat him the first time, you can just restart time, go back to the dungeon, and immediately warp to Goht at the entrance. Head to the hut right next to the core area Owl Statue, and trade your sword over to the blacksmith for an upgrade after unfreezing his equipment. Go pick up a Powder Keg in Goron Village proper from the cave, head out of the area, and run up the hill to the right. Blow up that rock, compete in the race to earn a bottle with Gold Dust, and use that to upgrade your sword a second time. You can do this process in any order you want, you just need a full day to upgrade your sword each time, so it must be started on the first day. If you're having trouble clearing gaps, use the Bunny Hood or Zora form, or just roll-jump off cliffs for a hidden long jump. Anytime you see a character say "heal," or "soul," or something that alludes to that, play the Song of Healing to set them straight. If you're worried about your Rupees, always wait until the last minute when you want to reset time, use the Song of Soaring to head back to Clock Town, and deposit them at the cart right next to the Owl Statue.
Majora 3D tips photo
Link is too Fierce
Majora's Mask may have problems, but the three-day cycle concept is not one of them. While some people didn't like the fact that they had to "start all over" after the cycle repeated, that's not really the case. You get ...

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D

Feb 13 // Chris Carter
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (3DS)Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo. GrezzoPublisher: NintendoReleased: February 13, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Majora's Mask is a sequel to Ocarina of Time, making it perfect for people to pick up right after playing Ocarina 3D. You don't need to play any prior Zelda entry though, as Majora stands completely on its own. Kicking off as a search for Link's pal Navi, he ends up meeting Skullkid, who is in possession of an evil mask. One thing leads to another, and he finds himself cursed, and in a foreign land named Termina, with its capital Clock Town smack dab in the middle. Oh, and a giant Moon is going to destroy everything in just three days because of Skullkid. No pressure. Visually Majora 3D has a nice new sheen to it, and if you go back and compare it to its classic version, it looks better across the board. Everything is brighter, more crisp, and less jaggy, breathing new life into Termina that I never really saw before. Like specific bits of the story, it definitely doesn't feel like a current-era title, and if you were turned off by Ocarina 3D's visuals you likely won't be amazed here either. The first thing you might notice after dropping into the world is that Clock Town doesn't feel like your typical RPG town. It's alive, bursting with people going about their daily routines, with different dialog at different times of day. That's because Majora runs on a time system, with a full night and day cycle. After three days the Moon will crash into the world and kill everyone, but you have a few tricks up your sleeve to prevent that from happening. Masks, man. Masks are life. You'll have three major ones at your disposal that you'll acquire through the main storyline, which let you change forms to a light, medium, and heavy build. All of them have their own tricks of the trade, like walking on lava without taking damage, rolling about the world, or the power to swim swiftly. You'll also find a great deal of other ancillary masks that have their own benefits, like a quicker run speed or the peculiar power to blend in with enemies -- usually in a humorous fashion as they don't recognize what is clearly a young boy with a giant mask on. Finding and using all of the masks is half the fun, but a lot of them are still fairly useless outside of one specific quest. [embed]286268:56943:0[/embed] To deal with the whole "end of the world in three days" thing, you'll learn the Song of Time very early into the game with your trusty Ocarina, which resets the cycle entirely and lets you play "from the beginning." All of your Rupees, consumable items, and dungeon progress are reset. Sounds punishing right? Well, not really if you understand how the system works. For one thing, you can play something called the "Inverted Song of Time" immediately, which slows down the clock on a permanent basis (for each cycle). You can also store your Rupees in the town bank and pick them up even if you reset time, and consumables can be replenished in seconds by whacking the right bushes. To prevent yourself from running out of time while in the middle of a dungeon, just unlock said dungeon, then immediately play the Song of Time, and the Inverted Song, giving yourself three entire days to complete it. It's that simple. While the time element is a cool feature that does add a unique element to Majora, you can manipulate it in such a way that it doesn't become a true detriment to your quest. Oh, and in Majora 3D, the Song of Double Time now goes to an exact hour instead of just cycling up between the next day and night period -- gone are the days of waiting around for 15 or more minutes just to initiate an event. You also have the Song of Soaring, which is basically fast travel for any Owl Statue you happen to find in the world. When coupled with the power to go portable on the 3DS, Majora 3D is easily one of the most convenient Zelda entries to date. As you can clearly see a lot of the frustrating parts have been taken out. Some may call it casual; I call it progress. Of course, Majora is still frustrating at times. There are some really stupid gates on progress in some areas outside of the time cycle. Bottles are more plentiful than any other Zelda game, but they are very hard to come by at first. One specific part of the story takes place in Termina Bay, and tasks players with capturing objects in bottles. There are far more objects than actual bottles at that point, and even if the player has more than one, it takes multiple trips to go into the staging area, then slowly return to "deliver" them before going to get more. It's an antiquated design coupled with a stealth section that throws you out of the zone instantly if you're seen. The stealth mechanic has a few neat hidden mechanics you can throw at it, but the elongated fetch quest is still just plain not fun. Majora also still does that dumb thing where if it becomes "Dawn of the Second Day" for instance while you're in the middle of questing, it will pause, show the flavor text, and then dump you back into the area like you just zoned in. Why is this still a thing? Many a time I was busy doing an annoying quest like tracking down a hidden object, and completely started back at square one because of the notification. There's also a few more relics of the past, like a Wizzro miniboss fight that feels like it's re-used five times over. While it may be advanced thematically, a lot of the actual quest line feels dated. Thankfully, the gameplay holds up for a 3D action romp, especially with the 3DS enhancements. Just like Ocarina there's now a map on the bottom screen, and it's leaps and bounds above what the N64 was capable of with that tiny allotment in the corner -- it's especially great on quests where enemies show up as icons on the map (like the aliens at Romani Ranch). You can also assign extra items on the touch screen, which comes in handy for all of the masks you're going to pick up. The Ocarina and Pictobox (camera) are on dedicated touch buttons too. The former is very nice as it's used constantly, but it would have been nice to change the latter as I rarely take pictures. Majora 3D also supports the Circle Pad Pro for camera manipulation, or if you have it, the New 3DS' C-Stick nub. The Sheikah Stones are also back, which basically serve as an in-game video "Super Guide." Majora is probably the most deserving Nintendo release for this feature, because of how cryptic it can be. The other big upgrade is the enhancement of the Bomber's Notebook, which keeps track of quests and persons of interest in Termina. It's not super explicit now but it's very useful, armed with an alarm feature, a full calendar of all three days with breakdowns for day and night, and full quest tracking for each step. You can also find times for the availability of certain characters. Two new fishing holes are also in if you like that sort of thing. All four of the core dungeon bosses have also been altered slightly, mostly providing a giant Majora-themed "eye" as a weakpoint during their vulnerable phase. I know some of you will hate the "casual" weakpoint alteration, but to me they're ultimately a non-issue. In the end, you hit the boss, it gets stunned and vulnerable, and you slash it a bunch of times. Having a big eyeball in play doesn't really make much of a difference since the fights are still memorable. The third and fourth guardians, Gyorg and Twinmold, are a bit different. Gyorg now has an entirely new phase in his fight, which takes place completely underwater. You also won't get the Giant's Mask immediately during Twinmold -- only when you kill one half of the duo will the mask drop. Both changes are interesting, especially the latter since it's no longer a gimmicky throwaway fight. Nintendo didn't go above and beyond the call of duty with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, but the improvements do in fact make it a more playable experience. Many of the frustrating elements from the original are gone, and because of the nature of the three-day cycle, it's a perfect thing to pick up, play, and turn off after one cycle completes. Majora still isn't my favorite Zelda, but I'm much more inclined to go back to it on the 3DS. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Majora's Mask 3D review photo
On the third day, Link rose again
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is unlike any other Zelda game in the series. For instance, there's no sign of the franchise's classic villain Ganon, and no Zelda outside of a quick flashback reference. It's also a de...

Guide: Where you can import amiibo, and where you can find rares

Feb 11 // Chris Carter
General tips Your first step is figuring out what amiibo are actually rare if you are strapped for cash and can't order every wave as soon as they are available. There really is no way to do this without staying up to date on amiibo news from sites like Destructoid or the Amiibo Inquirer, since most rare figures are revealed by way of insider tips, whether it's from Nintendo themselves or specific retailers. For instance, King Dedede is supposedly going to be the most rare non-exclusive in Wave 3. Toad looks like he's going to be rare for all intents and purposes since he is selling out everywhere, but it seems as if that might not be the case. In the case of store exclusives like Rosalina, Lucario, Shulk, and Meta Knight, expect those to always be rare. My rule of thumb is to import exclusives, always, as a backup. Just in case my order is canceled and there are no extras in-store, I have that two to three week shipment coming in from Japan. Those usually end up going to friends or getting traded. If I ever miss out on a rare amiibo, I have a few "chips" to bargain with. Finally, the "defect" amiibo craze seems to have died out, but if you have a choice in-store of multiple packages, always look for an anomaly. Nintendo World Store Do you live in New York City or close by? Your first stop for rare amiibo is going to be at the Nintendo World Store. It occasionally gets rare amiibo in stock, and even stocked exclusives at one point. You can also call the store at (646) 459-0800, or check its fairly up-to-date Twitter feed. Nowinstock.net A friend recently turned me onto this site, which is basically just an aggregator for when retailers actually get their stock in or start taking pre-orders. You can sign up for email alerts, but SMS texts are the fastest way to get notified for when amiibo sales happen. There are also other retailer stock notification services like BrickSeek, or GameStop's SKU tracker -- just replace this Shulk SKU with the one of your choice. Amazon Europe Amazon France and Amazon Germany are probably the best storefronts in terms of getting consistent rare amiibo in stock. You may have to create a new Amazon account in some regions however, and you can't take advantage of Prime. These are generally tougher to use than Japanese sites, who almost always have translated text on-hand -- but it's very easy to figure out with an online translation service, and the checkout process is fundamentally the same across all of Amazon. Japanese sites I've had good experiences with Play Asia, Nin-Nin-Game, and Ami Ami. There are other sites out there like YesAsia as well, and I'm sure some readers will share them in the comments along with their results. Note that it usually takes two to three weeks for your shipment to arrive, and with various issues with US ports going on lately it may take longer. Trading Trading always has an inherent risk that the other party won't follow through, but for those of you who are more trusting, there are online trading posts out there like /r/amiiboswap, the NVC Amiibo Group, or this NeoGAF thread. Also, try to ask fellow amiibo collectors if they're willing to trade extras if you're in a pinch -- many would be willing to part with an extra Shulk for an extra Rosalina, for instance. Just know the general "tier" that an amiibo is worth so you have an idea of what to expect. Make friends with managers or employees This is a tip I often give people who want to find rare products, and I would never advocate being fake with people or "using" them in any way. But it's common sense that if you're a little nicer to people in retail, you will generally get better service. Also, developing a rapport with someone is an easy way to get recognized, and they will often go the extra mile for you when possible. Any decent manager will also accept that since you're a repeat customer, they also in turn get more cashflow for the store -- so ask to talk to them next time about their amiibo stock situation, and maybe you'll get your own insider tip. It's a win-win. Making friends with amiibo collectors in general who are willing to send you texts for when certain waves go on sale is also key.
Rare amiibo guide photo
Exclusin' ain't easy
Unless my Meta Knight pre-order is screwed up by Best Buy, I'll have every existing amiibo on-hand by next week. A lot of people have asked how I'm so successful at getting some of the rarer figures, and the answer is "helping out a lot of friends, and getting help from friends." But there are a lot of ways to procure them. Here are a few that will allow you to sidestep scalpers on eBay.

Review: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Feb 10 // Patrick Hancock
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomReleased: February 13, 2015MSRP: $39.99  The beauty of the storyline in Monster Hunter games is it constantly feeds directly into what players want to do: kill more monsters. It doesn't force players to do extraneous tasks that detract from the main point of the game. Even when tasked to collect little pieces of rock or plants, monsters inevitably get in the way and need a good slayin'.  This time, much of the plot's focus lays with Gore Magala, a giant black winged monster. This monster is not only tough, but brings with it a Frenzy virus. This blight has an interesting affect on the player; once infected, the virus starts to incubate within the player, represented by a purple bar next to the player's name. If it reaches its full potential, the player loses their regenerative health. If the player does a certain amount of damage to the monster before the virus manifests, they gain a temporary boost. When a monster (not just the Gore) is infected with the Frenzy virus, however, it acts as if it is always in rage mode. Not only is the monster more powerful, but they are also quite wily. Dealing with these monster is no easy feat, even if players have slain the non-frenzied version many times prior. Now, the Gorestoryline will take up a couple dozen hours to get through, but as most Monster Hunter fans are aware, that's just the beginning. Players will move from location to location rather quickly in Ultimate, as their caravan continues to grow alongside the player's reputation. The locations are all varied and will even be altered themselves after specific events, changing the way the player must approach them. It also helps keep things from getting too same-y, keeping monotony at bay. Monsters can still hide out in the transitional part of an area that forces a player into the adjacent area, which prevents the monster from being attacked, but it seems like the monsters move around much more frequently in MH4U to help prevent that. If it does occur, prepare to be frustrated until the monster decides to move out. [embed]287439:57255:0[/embed] The "treadmill" in Ultimate is all about the equipment. Each monster provides materials after death, and those materials can then be forged into weapons and armor that reflect the properties of the monster. Big fiery rock monster? That will yield some high defense, high fire resistant armor! Once that set is complete, it's only a matter of time until the player decides to go for a bigger, better set from a stronger monster.  Quests do vary, but in general, players will be killing a monster and carving it up to reap the rewards. Sometimes players may have to capture the monster instead - wounding it until it is very low on HP and then luring it into a trap device. Other missions consist of bringing back delicate eggs, minerals, or fish in order to make the townspeople happy. Sometimes, a player might just want to head out into an area without any real objective, in order to explore or gather materials, which the game permits. Also available are "expeditions,"which are a randomly-generated series of areas with a random collection of monsters strewn about. These seem to have been included as a way to keep things "fresh" by adding a layer of randomness to the layout, but in reality the expeditions are rather underwhelming as a whole. The pool of areas seems incredibly low and rather uninteresting.  There are no traditional "experience points" within the game, just the experience the player gets themselves as they see themselves get better and better at mastering the mechanics. Often, players may not even notice they are getting better until a boss that gave them so much trouble a few hours ago, is now a minor inconvenience in a fight with a much, much larger monster. With fifteen different weapon categories, players are bound to find one they enjoy using and slowly start to learn the nuances of it. There are two new weapon types in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: the Charge Blade and the Insect Glaive. The Charge Blade utilizes a sword and a shield. "But Patrick," you intrude, "there's already a 'Sword & Shield' option!" That's right! You sure do know your Monster Hunter! What makes the Charge Blade different is it's possible to switch out of sword and shield mode into Giant Axe mode. In Sword and Shield mode the player will build up charges for the Giant Axe mode. Once the charges are full, the sword becomes very ineffective, forcing the player into using the Giant Axe. Then, the player can use the charges to hit with extra power, adding even more damage on to the already powerful swing of a Giant Axe. The versatility of the Charge Blade quickly made it one of my favorite weapon types in the game. Having the power of the Giant Axe with the utility of a shield makes it an ideal weapon, especially for any solo hunters. When forging a Charge Blade, however, it is unclear how much damage Sword will do versus how much damage the Axe will do, since there's only one damage number.  The Insect Glaive is also a very versatile addition. The weapon itself is a long glaive, as the name says. The real star here is the Kinsect, the insect companion. The player can send the Kinsect off in a direction and if it hits a monster, it can be recalled to give the player a bonus to an attribute. Bonuses can be combined and stacked to a point, and the attribute gained depends on where it strikes the monster. The player can also vault into the air, adding a ton of mobility to the weapon. This also helps the player mount the monster, which is another addition to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. The Insect Glaive is quick and nimble; vaulting to avoid attacks or deliver big blows feels great and micromanaging the Kinsect's location keeps battles interesting. Being able to mount monsters, riding on their backs and giving them a good stabbing, goes well with one of the game's biggest additions: vertical movement. There is a ton of verticality in this game and incredibly well-designed monsters to take advantage of it. Climbing onto a wall to knock a monster down, only to jump off and deliver a slam-dunk to its head feels absolutely incredible. On the flip side, having to worry about a giant ape butt-slamming its way onto your face is absolutely horrifying.  The camera, however, can have a hard time keeping up. I played this on a standard 3DS, without the analog nub of the "New 3DS," so most camera work was done by pressing the L trigger to focus on either the monster or straight ahead. Minor camera adjustments can be made if players choose to include the digital d-pad on the touch screen, or by using the actual d-pad to rotate the camera, but it is hardly ideal. With how large some of the monsters get, plus the quickness of Frenzied monsters, there will be more than a few times where the player must tame the camera before they can fell the beast. Joining the player is their trusty cat-buddy, the Palico. The player's main Palico can have their appearance completely customized before starting the game. Later on, the Palico's helmet, armor, and weapon can be crafted just like the player's, albeit with different Palico-only materials. These materials are gathered once the player gains access to Sunsnug Isle, the island where Palicos hang out. There is a quick fishing and questing mini-game that can garner rewards used to make new gear for the Palico. They're enjoyable diversions and creating new Palico gear quickly became a priority, considering how much they help in battle. The player can eventually recruit more Palicos from the field to bring to the island, and can soon bring two out into the battles. Of course, playing Monster Hunter online with three other humans is easily one of the best experiences available in videogames. Four people honing their skills with their respective instruments of destruction, united in their goal to take down a gigantic beast. Multiplayer can be done locally or online, and luckily the online experience is rather smooth. Playing with other people in the USA led to no noticeable lag, regardless of the number of players. Even when the host was an entire Atlantic Ocean away, the lag was rather insignificant, though it was noticeable. The lack of voice communication is certainly a bummer, but having full text chat is at least something. All of this is wrapped in the classic Monster Hunter charm. Characters are eccentric, the music is epic, and the monster designs are as amazing as ever. One moment players will be laughing at a line of dialogue, only to have their heart pounding moments later as they narrowly escape a Frenzied monster's devastating blow. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is about mastering a craft and being proud of it. So go ahead, be proud! [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Monster Hunter 4 review photo
Where a monster can fart before killing you
Ah, Monster Hunter. A game that ends up being more of a culture than anything else. These have always been games about community and self-improvement. Getting better isn't measured in some arbitrary number, but how well you c...

Here are some recommendations for Club Nintendo's new massive reward dump

Feb 02 // Chris Carter
The Wonderful 101 (Wii U - 600 Coins) I put this first because it pretty much needs to be the first game you pick up. It's one of the most original games of the past few years, and the Nintendo and Platinum partnership has definitely proven itself with titles like this and Bayonetta 2. Seriously, why are you reading this? Go get it now, then look at the rest. Super Metroid (Wii U - 200 Coins) Every year I go back and beat Super Metroid. It has a special place in my heart and it's not just due to nostalgia -- it's one of the best platformers ever made. With just the right amount of boss battles and a brilliantly creepy atmosphere, it's a joy to play and isn't so difficult that you're pulling your hair out deciding where to go. If you enjoy Metroidvanias and somehow haven't played Super, this is your next purchase. Game & Wario (Wii U - 600 Coins) I think Game & Wario gets a bad rap. It's always been a fairly niche series, but Nintendo tried some new things with Game and some of them didn't pay off for a large amount of people. Playing it with my spouse however was a joy. We loved trying to figure out where all of the hidden objects are with the "Shutter" minigame, passing the Wii U GamePad to each other when we spotted something the other didn't. We spent hours playing Sketch with parties, and Islands with each other on the couch. Fruit is a massive hit with friends as well, forcing up to four other players to "catch" and identify one thief, who sneakily uses the GamePad to hide in the crowd. If you have lots of friends over and an open mind, give Game a chance after you've picked up some of the other games on this list. Doc Louis's Punch Out!! (Wii - 250 Coins) I know what I said about non-native Wii U games, but hey, this one is exclusive! Once it's gone it's probably gone forever, and is only being offered because the service is closing down. For those of you who couldn't get into the series, you probably won't be all that impressed with what is essentially a small demo battle with one of the most iconic characters. But if you're a Punch Out!! fan, this is a piece of the franchise's history. Get it before it's gone. Kersploosh! (3DS - 150 Coins) This strange game about falling down a well is something I come back to very often. Every few months or so I'll get the itch to beat my last high score, or try out another trinket. Your object is to basically survive until you hit the bottom, utilizing a variety of different objects like pebbles, watermelons, or even a fragile egg. For a mere 150 Coins it's a great distraction if you're looking for something unique. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (3DS - 600 Coins) The 3DS version of Returns eliminates the only major problem I had with the original -- forced motion controls. With a tactile setup it feels identical to the Donkey Kong Country games of old, and earning every tricky collectible is now that much more attainable with a more direct control scheme. The first time I booted up Returns 3D, I spent 10 hours straight playing it. It's addicting as hell, and a must-have in your 3DS library. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (3DS - 200 Coins) This is still among the greatest handheld RPGs of all time. Out of all of the Zelda games ever made I think this one stands up as one of the easiest to pick up and play, and the DX version makes that even easier with a colorful new visual style. At 200 Coins it's a steal. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS - 600 Coins) If you want more retail games on the 3DS (or for your upcoming shiny New 3DS), 3D Land is the perfect starting point. Nintendo really outdid itself this time, adding in plenty of new concepts without resorting to a host of yawn-worthy "New" tropes. The 3D also works great, and some of the game's environments are breathtaking, even on that tiny screen. This is easily one of my top core Mario games to this day. Donkey Kong (3DS - 150 Coins) I don't think anyone expected the Game Boy version of Donkey Kong to be this good. It turned what was basically an endless arcade game into an RPG-like affair, bringing you through completely new zones and concepts. It's still the best iteration of the classic Donkey Kong formula. Kid Icarus Uprising (3DS - 700 Coins) Uprising isn't for everyone, but on a personal level I consider it one of the best games Nintendo has crafted in the past five years. It's full of charm from start to finish, from the clever and adorable script to the pitch-perfect voice acting. Every member of the cast sounds like they're having fun, and a lot of that rubs off directly onto players. The control scheme isn't perfect and I had to take breaks every hour or two because of cramping, but the adjustable difficulty slider is an excellent way to bring in newcomers and veteran shooters alike. With tons of twists and turns it's also exciting throughout, and a lot longer than I expected. This is one of the more expensive pickups, but if you have the extra coins and remember when Saturday morning cartoons were cool, you may find yourself falling in love with Uprising. Of course, this list is non-exhaustive; it just includes a few of my favorites. Make sure to recommend other pickups in the comments! Jonathan Holmes' bonus list of recommendations: Doc Louis's Punch-Out!!! The Wonderful 101 A Kappa's Trail HarmoKnight Earthbound Excitebike World Rally Sakura Samurai Tokyo Crash Mobs Donkey Kong (Game Boy)
Club Nintendo rewards photo
Lots of great stuff in there
Nintendo dropped a bomb on us today. A delightful digital bomb of over 100 games to download off Club Nintendo in exchange for your precious Coins. The service is gearing up for a remodel, but before then, all your Coins must...







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