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Wii U

amiibogeddon photo
Um, wow
[Update: Toys"R"Us put pre-orders back up momentarily this morning, and I expect them to either be faulty or drop very soon. Try to re-pre-order if you want at your own risk!] [Update 2: Now the retailer has taken o...

Review: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Dec 01 // Chris Carter
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD TokyoPublisher: NintendoReleased: December 5, 2014MSRP: $39.99 Don't expect any meaningful exposition from Captain Toad, because it's not here. Cutscenes clock in at 30 seconds at most, and there are only a few of them in total throughout the adventure. The gist is that the evil bird Wingo has stolen a treasure that Toad and Toadette have just located, and in her attempt to yank it back, Toadette is lifted into the air and taken. Toad embarks on an adventure to save her that basically just involves solving puzzles to progress, and eventually she will join him and return the favor. While the story won't win any awards, it feels like the first legitimate adventure for the duo, which should please fans of toads everywhere. No other Mario characters are jumping out and stealing the spotlight here -- it's just the two aforementioned characters and their thirst for treasure that fuels the game. Captain Toad is a puzzle game at heart and using the power of the Wii U's GamePad controller, involves anything from tactile controls to tapping, to microphone use. The concepts are pretty ingenious, including but not limited to: stunning enemies with taps, tapping to change-up platforms, triggering question mark or POW blocks, throwing turnips in first-person, and a lot more. [embed]284007:56393:0[/embed] Each level is what I refer to as a miniature "fish tank," allowing the player to scan, flip, and zoom in and out of the entire environment during an attempt to solve the puzzle. The objective in every stage is threefold: find three optional Super Gems, solve an optional objective, and locate the star to end the level. The optional objective is usually the toughest, involving side goals like "don't destroy a bridge," "stay in stealth mode the entire level," or "locate a special trinket." They aren't revealed until after completing a stage, which gives incentive to go back and replay it -- albeit in an attempt to give the game some padding since it doesn't reveal the objective upfront. Toad's gimmick is that he can't jump because "his backpack is too full" (aw). He can run though, as well as pull up plants Super Mario Bros. 2 style and use them to kill enemies, grab mushrooms to grow back to size should he get hit, use power-ups like hammers and Double Cherries to clone himself a la 3D World, and utilize a minecart with an infinite turnip supply to chuck at enemies. There are also a ton of different concepts like boost pads, donut blocks, and a mix of classic Mario objects and new surprises. The minecart bit is probably my favorite of the bunch, and the first-person viewpoint works in the game's favor because it feels so unique. I would easily pay something like $10 for a game that consisted entirely of minecart levels. While there are boss stages and they are often the highlight of any given string of puzzles, they are basically just regular levels with said boss adding some extra chaos to the mix. As a general rule the controls are pretty great, and I had little problem getting Toad to do what I wanted. If you haven't played the Wii U a ton it can be jarring to go back and forth from touching and looking at the GamePad to looking at the TV, but after a period of time you'll either get used to it, or just learn to use the pad entirely. The part I really don't like about the controls is the forced use of the GamePad's accelerometer feature, which can often be used accidentally while holding the pad. While it doesn't get to the point of ruining levels consistently, it's annoying in that I can't turn it off completely, since I wholly use the right analog stick to control the camera anyway. It's clear that Nintendo had a therapeutic goal in mind with Toad, because even during some of the more difficult levels the game is far from stressful or aggravating. This is especially evident when taking into account that players keep whichever Super Gems were collected during the same run. In other words, there's no worries if you get a tough to reach Gem then fall off a cliff, as long as you complete the stage eventually with the amount of lives you have left you won't have to obtain it again. The game also tracks the highest coin run on top of all the tertiary goals, so it's perfect to occasionally run through past levels again. The stress-free nature can work against it though. After completing the game I couldn't help but want more. While a lot of the mechanics in each level were a joy to see for the first time, after repeated play sessions some of them lost their luster, as the gimmick was basically a one-time thing. I even breezed through a few levels and roasted every goal on the first try, which led to the occasional bout of disappointment. While every new world feels fresh in its own way, there are a handful that are a half-measure when it comes to challenging the player. In terms of content, there are a little over 70 stages to tackle, including some bonus 3D World remakes (for those who have a World save file), which lightly modify the level to accommodate for Toad's lack of jumping. In essence these levels will take roughly 10 minutes to beat, and 30 minutes to completely master with all goals completed. There are also bonus stages to earn extra coins and lives, but those only take a few minutes and pop up sparingly. As a result, even with the lower price-point, you may feel underwhelmed by what's in the box if you don't absolutely love solving puzzles. There is amiibo support of some kind planned for a day-one update, and you'll find coverage of what that entails here at a future date -- for now we're in the dark. Captain Toad is an experience that doesn't attempt to really wow you, but instead delivers consistent puzzle experiences at a rapid pace. There's more Nintendo could have done with it, but it is a puzzler in its purest form, and that will be more than enough for people who wanted more of the titular hero after playing the bonus games in 3D World. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Captain Toad review photo
Toadally sufficient for puzzle enthusiasts
From the moment I played the Captain Toad minigame in Super Mario 3D World, I thought to myself "this would make a great downloadable title." It seems as if Nintendo can hear my thoughts, because it did just that. Priced at a...

The Super Smash Bros. for Wii U challenges unlocking guide

Nov 22 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]284165:56423:0[/embed] 1. Clear Classic on intensity 9.0 without losing a life: Double Final Smasher Protection Badge equipment 2. Play as Lucina and score 8 or more KOs alone in Cruel Smash: Vampire Brawn Badge equipment 3. Play as Dr Mario and get Fever Rush 8 or more times alone in Trophy Rush: 100,000G 4. Play as Pit and score 4 or more KOs alone in Cruel Smash: Reaper trophy 5. Play Pac-Man in Stage 3 of Solo Target Blast and score 300,000 using the back (left) wall: Whomp trophy 6. Clear Solo Classic in 12 minutes on intensity 9.0 with Marth: Critical Hitter Sword equipment 7. Collect all custom moves: Smooth Lander Brawn Badge equipment 8. Collect all Mii outfits: Able Sisters trophy 9. Get 8 or more KOs in Solo Cruel Smash: Toadsworth trophy 10. Collect all Mii headgear: Majora's Mask trophy 11. Clear All-Star on Hard with all characters: Saki Amamiya trophy 12. Destroy a total of 50,000 blocks in Trophy Rush: Moon Launcher Protection Badge equipment 13. Clear True Solo All-Star without recovering health between rounds with Captain Falcon: Deathborn trophy 14. Score 450,000 in a single game of Target Blast Stage 3: Magolor trophy 15. Collect over 300,000g: Prince of Sable trophy 16. Collect 700 unique trophies: Item Hitter Agility Badge equipment 17. Get a Perfect on every stage in Target Blast: 20,000g 18. Clear Crazy Orders after 20 or more turns with Mario: F.L.U.D.D. trophy 19. Score 85 or more in a single Rival Smash: Waluigi trophy 20. Collect all CDs: Tac trophy 21. Clear Classic on intensity 9.0 without any customizations: Knuckle Joe trophy 22. Clear True All-Star in 6 minutes with Jigglypuff: Koffing trophy 23. Clear Classic on intensity 8.0 with 3 different characters: Master Fortress: Second Wave CD 24. Start the final battle in Smash Tour with 10 fighters: Flying Man trophy 25. Clear True All-Star on Hard with Duck Hunt: Samus (Dark Suit) trophy 26. Use Ganondorf in Home-Run contest and hit the Sandbag at least 3,280ft: King K. Rool trophy 27. Clear True Solo All-Star Mode within 6 minutes with Shulk on any difficulty: Mechonis trophy 28. Clear 3-Minute Smash after getting 120 KOs: Kritter trophy 29. Clear True All-Star Mode on Normal or higher without using healing items: 150,000g 30. Complete the reward conditions on all Solo Events: Galacta knight trophy 31. Clear True All-Star Mode without using healing items with Zero Suit Samus: Gunship trophy 32. Clear the "All-Star Battle: Secret" Event on Hard: Shadow trophy 33. Clear Classic on intensity 7.0 or higher with all characters: Regal Crown Mii headgear 34. Clear the "The FINAL Battle: Event on Hard: Soulflee trophy 35. Play Bowser Jr. in Solo Target Blast Stage 1 and score 150,000: Countdown Drill equipment 36. Play Samus and get a chain of at least 100 in Trophy Rush alone and without taking damage: KO Healer Arm Cannon equipment 37. Clear All-Star on Hard with 8 different characters: Caloric Immortal Protection Badge equipment 38. Clear True All-Star on Hard alone with Ike: Black Knight trophy 39. Play Cruel Smash alone with Luigi and survive for 1 minute: Mr. L trophy 40. Hit the Sandbag over 3,280 feet win Home-Run Contest: Daisy (Baseball) trophy 41. Clear a Master Orders ticket on Intense: Desperate Specialist Agility Badge equipment 42. Clear Crazy Orders after 12 or more turns: Soda Popinski trophy 43. Get 3 or more KOs on your rival in Rival Smash: Dixie Kong trophy 44. Clear True All-Star mode on Hard: Perfect-Shield Helper Brawn Badge equipment 45. Get 120 or more KOs in a single Endless Smash: Unharmed Attacker Agility Badge equipment 46. Clear Classic on intensity 8.0 with 2 or more characters: Master Fortress: First Wave CD 47. Clear "Kirby's Crazy Appetite" Event on Hard: Fire Kirby trophy 48. Clear 10-Man Smash within 25 seconds with all characters: Wonder-Yellow trophy 49. Clear Solo 3-Minute Smash with 100 KOs with Mii Gunner: Birdo trophy 50. Get a chain of 300 or more in Trophy Rush: CommanderVideo trophy 51. Play Ness in Stage 3 of Solo Target Blast and get 200,000: Jeff trophy 52. Play Meta Knight and score 90 KOs in Solo Endless Smash: Substitute Doll trophy 53: Get a Perfect on any stage in Target Blast: 5,000g 54. Clear all Solo Events: Special Flag trophy, Golden Hammer 55. Clear a Master Order on Hard or higher with King Dedede: King Dedede's Theme CD 56. Clear 3-Minute Smash with 110 Kos with Boswer: Banzai Bill trophy 57. Clear 10-Man Smash alone with Dr. Mario without taking any damage: Dr. Mario Masterpiece 58. Play Fox alone in Trophy Rush and get Fever Rush 6 or more times in a single game: Krystal trophy 59. KO your rival 4 or more times in Rival Smash: Ice Climbers trophy 60. Clear Crazy Orders after 10 or more turns with Greninja: Battle! (Reshiram/Zekrom) CD 61. Clear a Master Order on Very Hard or higher: Trade-Off Attacker Protection Badge equipment 62. Get a chain of 200 or more with Donkey Kong in Trophy Rush: DK Rap CD 63. Get 3 or more Checkpoint Bonuses in Smash Tour: Bionis trophy 64. Clear Solo 100-Man Smash in 3 minutes with Mii Sword-fighter: Multi-Man Melee 2 (Melee) CD 65. Collect 300 unique trophies: Timmy & Tommy trophy 66. Score at least 200,000 in a single game of Target Blast Stage 2: Dire Hydrant custom move (Pac-Man) 67. Defeat 12 or more fighters in a single Smash Tour: Crazy Orders Pass 68. Come in 1st in 5 or more Smash Tour battles: 2,000g 69. View every fighter's Final Smash: Smash Ball trophy 70. Destroy 250 blocks in a single game of Trophy Rush: Crazy Orders Pass 71: Get 1 or more KOs in Cruel Smash: Duck Hunt Stage and Character  72. Clear Solo Classic within 20 minutes with Olimar: Mission Mode CD 73. Play as Zelda in Solo Target Blast Stage 1 and get 150,000: Wolf Link trophy 74: Clear Solo Classic at intensity 5.5 or higher with Wario, without any customizations: Full Steam Ahead (Spirit Tracks) CD 75. Clear Solo All-Star on Normal or higher with Lucario: Meloetta Pokeball 76: Clear Solo 100-Man Smash in 3 minutes with Sonic: Speed Skater Shoes equipment 77. Hit the Sandbag between 1,640 and 1,656 ft. with ROM in Home-Rune Contest: Dr. Light trophy 78. Play Robin alone in Trophy Rush and get Fever Rush 4 or more times: Conquest (Ablaze) CD 79. Play Pikachu alone in Trophy Ruch and destroy a total of 200 blocks: Xerneas Pokeball 80. Clear 10-Man Smash in 17 seconds: Gerudo Valley CD 81. Play Sheik and score 50 KOs or more in Solo Endless Smash: Tetra trophy 82. Hit the Sandbag between 1,640 and 1,65 ft. in Home-Run Contest: Wonder-Green trophy 83. Clear the "Fitness Junkie" Event on Normal or higher: Snorlax trophy 84. Play Falco alone and get a chain of at least 150 in Trophy Rush: Accele-Reflector custom move (Falco) 85. Get a max combo of 50 or more in Training mode: Unharmed Speed Demon Agility Badge equipment 86. Hit the Sandbag 1,968 ft, or more in Home-Run Contest: Earthbound Masterpiece 87. Use a Tour Item 18 times or more in Smash Tour: Riki trophy 88. Play Link and score 50 KOs in Solo Endless Smash: Ripping Boomerang custome move (Link) 89. Play Mr. Game & Watch alone and destroy 100 blocks in a single game of Trophy Rush: Flat Zone X Stage 90. Clear Solo Classic on intensity 5,5 or higher with Kirby: Kirby's Adventure Masterpiece 91. Play Palutena on Stage 2 of Solo Taget Blast and score 80,000 or more using the back (left) wall: In the Space-Pirate Ship CD 92. Deal the final blow to a boss in Smash Tour: Ridley trophy 93. Clear Crazy Orders after 5 or more turns: Speed Crasher Agility Badge equipment 94. Get a score of more than 20 in a single Rival Smash: Star Wolf (Star Fox: Assault) CD 95. Play Charizard and get 328 ft. or farther without using the bat in Home-Run Contest: Rock Hurl custom move (Charizard) 96. KO your rival 2 or more times in Rival Smash: Super Mario Bros. 3 Medley CD 97. Clear the "No Mere Sparring Match" Event on Normal or higher: Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream Masterpiece 98. Clear Solo Classic without losing a single like with Little Mac: Title (Punch-Out!!) CD 99. Obtain a score of 25 or more in a single Rival Smash with Dark Pit: Guiding Bow custom move (Dark Pit)  100. Play Toon Link in Solo Target Blast Stage 2 and get 120,000: Lor Starcutter trophy 101. Reveal the entire wall during the credits: Credits CD 102. Clear Classic on intensity 5.5 or highter: Master Core CD 103. Get a max combo of 30 or more in Training: Title Theme (Wii Sports Resort) CD 104. Clear Solo Classic with Yoshi: Yoshi Masterpiece 105. Clear 10-Man Smash in 25 seconds: Fancy Suit Mii outfit 106. Play Peach and hit the Sandbag 1,049 ft. in Home-Run Contest: Title/Ending (Super Mario World) CD 107. Get 50 or more KOs in a single Endless Smash: No-Flinch Smash Protection Badge equipment 108. Clear Classic without losing a single life: Dr. Kawashima trophy 109. Clear All-Star on normal or higher: Hyper Smasher Brawn Badge equipment 110. Clear 100-Man Smash in 3 minutes: Wii Fit Plus Medley CD 111. Clear the "Behind Enemy Lines" Event: Tricky trophy 112. Clear 100-Man Smash: Tatris: Type B CD, Golden Hammer 113. Clear 3-Minutes Smash after getting 60 or more KOs: 1,000g 114: Have the game on for more than 10 hours: Mr. Resetti trophy 115. Clear Classic on intensity 2.0 or more with 5 characters: Master Hand trophy, Golden Hammer 116. Collect 50 different special moves: Nimble Dodger Agility Badge equipment 117. Recover the stat boosts a Metroid stole from you in Smash Tour: Vs. Parasite Queen CD 118. Score at least 150,000 in a single game of Target Blast Stage 1: Exploding Popgun custom move (Diddy Kong) 119. Clear the "The Falchion;s Seal" Event on normal or higher: Dashing Assault custom move (Marth) 120. Get a chain of 100 or more in a single game of Trophy Rush: Chomp Hat Mii headgear 121. Clear Solo 10-Man Smash within 35 seconds while playing as Mii Brawler: Fighter Uniform Mii outfit 122. Collect 15 different special moves: Air Attack Brawn Badge equipment 123. Clear Crazy Orders while playing as Villager: Rover trophy 124. Clear the "When Lightning Strikes" event: Pokemon Stadium 2 Stage 125. Collect 50 unique trophies: Celest trophy 126. Clear the "Playing Tricks" event: Smashville stage 127. Clear a Master Orders ticker while playing as Mega Man: Tornado Hold custom move (Mega Man) 128. Clear Crazy Orders: Crazy Hand trophy 129. Play all the maps in Smash Tour: Pac-Land stage 130. Get a chain of at least 50 in Trophy Rush while playing alone and as Wii Fit Trainer: Wii Fit U Trainer trophy 131. Clear 10-Man Smash: 100G 132. Clear a Master Orders ticker while playing as Rosalina & Luma: Rosalina in the Observatory/Luma's Theme CD 133. Clear a Master's Order ticket: Crazy Orders Pass 134. Bump into an enemy who appears on the board during Smash Tour: Nabbit trophy 135. Create a Mii Fighter in Custom: Peach Crown Mii headgear 136. Customize a fighter in Custom: Shield Regenerator Protection Badge equipment 137. Create a stage in Stage Builder: Saharah trophy 138. Bump into every opponent on the board in a single game of Smash Tour: Mecha Suit Mii outfit 139. Clear the "The Original Heavyweights" event: Kongo Jungle 64 stage 140. Clear All-Star: Victini Pokeball
Smash Bros. photo
All the unlockables!
Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U was released yesterday. If you've picked up the game, you've likely put a few hours into it already, though chances are a lot of that time has been spent on multiplayer. Sadly, there isn't too ...

Just how rare are some of Nintendo's amiibo toys at launch?

Nov 21 // Chris Carter
Also at every location, there was a maximum of two Villagers and Wii Fit Trainers each left on the shelf, with a stock of roughly 10 units per store. GameStop stated that Villager, Wii Fit Trainer, and Marth were sold out entirely and were only available for pre-order customers. This was the case for at least 10 of their stores in my area after they checked their system. But the most rare of all is without question Marth. By the time I had went to two stores and found zero of them, I got the idea to check Amazon -- sure enough, they're going for around $30 already. Speaking to the store reps, I found out that Toys"R"Us only received four Marths in total at my local store, and that all of the surrounding areas within a 30 mile radius were sold out. Best Buy didn't get any Marths, and my fourth stop, the second Target, only had two -- I picked up the last one. GameStop, Toys"R"Us, Target, and Best Buy all seemed confident with additional shipments of every toy except the aforementioned three characters. Keep in mind that throughout the holiday season scalpers and collectors are going to likely find out when shipments are before the general public, and will be there bright and early to collect. I was told that at my local Toys"R"Us, someone had gotten there at the store's opening and bought every Marth toy at once. While the jury is out on whether or not Nintendo deliberately induced a shortage on these few rare figures or legitimately didn't ship enough, you should definitely ask a friend if they're going out to today to pick you up a rare toy if you wanted one. Or of course, just order them online, since most of them are available outside of Marth.
amiibo report photo
You might want to get Marth now
While Nintendo provided me with the Link, Mario, and Kirby amiibo toys for testing with Super Smash Bros., acquiring the rest of the lot was completely up to me. So I decided to take a trip early this morning, survey any pote...

Review: Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric

Nov 20 // Chris Carter
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U)Developer: Big Red Button EntertainmentPublisher: SegaReleased: November 11, 2014MRSP: $49.99 Sonic Boom is not a reboot per se, but a re-imagining of the Sonic universe with a new art style and villain. The biggest problem is that developer Big Red Button not only changes many things for the worse, but the "alternate" universe is a half-measure. First off, you might notice the new crew (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy) are wearing different gear and wraps -- lots and lots of wraps. While the actual designs are passable, the in-game personalities aren't. The most criminal change of all is the decision to make Knuckles a lumbering idiot. As a once-respected protector of the Master Emerald, I enjoyed Knuckles' proud nature and his ability to bravely take on any problem head-on. He was a great counterbalance to Sonic's carefree attitude. But in Sonic Boom, he is a complete moron, billed as the "brawn" of the operation like a poorly produced Saturday morning cartoon (and it does have a cartoon now, which may explain things a bit). Case in point, this conversation between Sonic and Knuckles: Sonic: "And as we know, there's no time like the present!" Knuckles: "Wait, there are presents?!" Ugh. Tails, Amy, and Sonic are more than tolerable, but a lot of soul is missing, particularly when it comes to the titular hero. There's absolutely a way to make Sonic cute and campy and get away with it. Although a large group of people are always going to find the character annoying, I've found the "you're too slow" finger-wagging cockiness of Sonic endearing and sometimes unintentionally funny. In Sonic Boom, he's milquetoast, which is a shame. [embed]283867:56394:0[/embed] Lyric, the new villain in town, is a creepy lizard-like take on Dr. Paradigm from Street Sharks. He fits the mold quite well and is a foe worth chasing, but things start to take a familiar turn as Dr. Eggman once again makes an appearance. Big Red Button had so much opportunity to turn things on their head and craft a new world we haven't seen, but instead the studio played it safe with the same exact personalities as before, just dulled down. I just don't get it. As the promising story takes familiar turn after familiar turn, it becomes forgettable. Actual gameplay, on the other hand, is decent when not marred by technical issues. The platforming in particular feels right, and the camerawork is impressive throughout the adventure. In terms of frame rate, Sonic Boom feels like it caps out at 30 frames per second with occasional stuttering and choppiness. It's not broken, as the game is still playable throughout the annoyances, but it -- and the sound outages and messy cutscenes -- are something to be aware of. These issues affect the presentation but don't necessarily impede gameplay. It's a bit odd though, because the game looks worse than most of the recent 3D Sonic titles. The characters are bright and stylish on-screen and the indoor environments have a penchant to delight, but the outdoor settings feel half-finished in certain instances, like the team didn't get to flesh out most of the details. This is no more apparent than when you attempt to run on water in zones where you "aren't supposed to," and are met with a "glub glub" effect and instant death. Gameplay is predictable. Think of a basic 3D Sonic, but with areas only specific friends can reach (you can tag-switch characters with the d-pad). Tails can use gusts of wind, Sonic can spin up ramps, Knuckles can climb on certain walls, and Amy can triple-jump and balance on marked beams. Notice the words "certain" and "marked"; Sonic Boom isn't as open as you'd expect. While Sonic Boom's design inherently limits where you can go, it also makes for some fun puzzles in the indoor dungeon portions. Billed as an open-world adventure, that claim only feels half true. While there is a big hub with a few NPCs, it mostly acts as a gateway to the other zones, which are more linear affairs with branching areas. In terms of combat, all of your favorite moves are back like the Sonic Spin and homing attack, and character operate mostly the same way outside of Tails, who employs a more ranged style. It's not the most ingenious fighting system in a 3D mascot game, but it works. The new "Enerbeam" mechanic lets you use a beam-whip as either a tether to certain areas or as a weapon, but it functions exactly as you'd expect and barely comes into play. Like most of the game, its addition can be described as "adequate." Co-op (up to four players) makes things heaps more enjoyable, especially when kept at a maximum of two. Since one player can opt for the GamePad and the other a traditional controller on the TV, things get much more fun when it comes to the action and exploration areas. Switching characters is also smoother in co-op as you can basically tackle any obstacle in tandem without having to stop, wait, and do every puzzle individually. My favorite part of the game was playing with a partner and figuring out some of the clever indoor jumping puzzles together, often times saying out loud things like "What if I tried this? I'll go around and meet you there." If you have a friend who can't get enough of Sonic, you may want to pick up Boom at a discount and go halfsies on it. There's also an arena-like mode to experiment with, but it'll only last you an hour tops. When I first saw the announcement for Sonic Boom, barring the weird Knuckles redesign, I was excited by the prospect of change. The Sonic series hasn't taken many risks in recent years, particularly when it comes to the 3D aspect of the franchise, and Big Red Button had a lot riding on its inaugural effort. Unfortunately, the game could have used a few more months in the hopper and taken many more risks. Better luck next time. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Sonic Boom review photo
It has all of your favorite friends in it, like The Incredible Hulk
As a character, Sonic gets a bad rap these days. No matter what is announced, I can practically hear the collective groaning from my desk. Like any popular franchise with consecutive releases, some of them are going to be goo...

Here's how Nintendo's amiibo figures work, and how they interact with Smash Bros.

Nov 19 // Chris Carter
Setting up an amiibo with Smash Bros. was one of the easiest things I've ever done on the Wii U. All you do is go to the amiibo section on the main menu, touch it to the pad, select an account to register it to, and give it a nickname. From there, you can customize your amiibo "player" with one of the preset color palettes (my pal is a Dark Link skin called Shadow), feed it items to change its stats, and assign it custom movesets where applicable. From there, you can battle against amiibos as AI opponents, train with them, put them up against other AI fighters, or challenge your friends to take them out. They'll earn experience points and work their way up to the level cap of 50, at which point their tactics will be maxed out, turning them into a formidable opponent akin to a maxed out CPU setting. From there, they will allegedly adapt new strategies. Sounds neat, right? Well in reality, it's not all that exciting. Getting to level 50 can take just one day (or less) for those diligent enough. Plus, after starting up the game and unwrapping a brand new amiibo there won't be any custom moves unlocked to assign and customize the toy with. So basically at first, it's going to be a stock character with a new paint job and a nickname. In short, Nintendo easily could have had this functionality with AI save files on the Wii U's hard drive without the need to purchase a $12 toy. I haven't seen anything noticeable in regards to the "post level 50" functionality. It has also been revealed that amiibo figures can only store data from one game at a time -- at which point that data must be deleted. The only three games in the near future that use amiibo functionality besides Smash Bros. are Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad, and Hyrule Warriors, but Kart and Hyrule currently only have an equally underwhelming on-disc DLC type unlock system that will not erase your data. Captain Toad's amiibo functionality is unknown. So basically for now, we're safe storing Smash amiibo data unfettered by other games. But once Yoshi's Wooly World, Mario Party 10, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse arrive, it might get annoying depending on what the amiibo conditions are. Then again, the toys themselves will become a hell of a lot more useful. Either way you slice it amiibos don't have me excited quite yet. But they do look pretty damn awesome on my desk. [This write-up is based on a retail build of the toy provided by the publisher.]
amiibo review photo
Nice figures, underwhelming use so far
Nintendo's long awaited foray into the toy market is here: the amiibo are ready for purchase, and the flagship game, Super Smash Bros., is right on the horizon. While the toys look great in person and the setup is painless, so far the actual interactivity is underwhelming. Collector itch aside, I'd definitely recommend waiting until more compatible games are out before committing to any purchases.

Review: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Nov 19 // Chris Carter
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)Developer: Sora Ltd. / Bandai Namco GamesPublisher: NintendoReleased: November 21, 2014MSRP: $59.99 For all intents and purposes, this review will cover the Wii U version. Mechanically, it operates identically to the 3DS version, so if you want to read more about the physics and changes from Brawl, check them out here. In fact, even the roster is the same, but characters unlock in a different order -- the methodology is still dead simple: just complete matches and the unlocks will come. Of course, there are plenty of extra level unlocks, Mii outfits to earn, music track unlocks, trophies to buy and earn, and challenges to complete. A few of the challenges are the same as those on the 3DS, but given all of the new (and improved) modes in the Wii U version, a good deal of them were changed. So, onto the new stuff! The immediately noticeable thing is that Smash Wii U is a beautiful game. Details like Rosalina's dress are now visible with an HD console, and the level of detail in pretty much every stage in the game is noticeable. The Orbital Gate stage from Star Fox Assault actually had my jaw dropping it was so impressive. Nintendo is really making the most out of the Wii U hardware, and I'd go so far as to say that like Galaxy 2 before it, this is one of the best looking games on the market -- including the other current-gen console lineups. [embed]283523:56292:0[/embed] The controls for the Wii U are markedly improved over the 3DS version's singular scheme. Using the GameCube controller adapter (which is basically just a hub that uses two Wii U USB slots), I busted out my Wavebird and never went back. It just feels natural, and it works flawlessly with Smash Wii U. For the purposes of the review I tested out everything, including the GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, and Wiimote. Hell, players can even use a Classic Controller or a freaking 3DS system. The prospect of so many choices is pretty exciting for any Smash fan, whether they started at the beginning or are getting into the series for the first time. One thing I should note though is that the GamePad wasn't as comfortable for lengthier sessions, mostly due to the left analog stick and its propensity to click while getting into a match -- it just doesn't seem all that ready for heavy amounts of twitch gameplay. It's definitely a viable option though, and better than being cramped on the 3DS for hours on end. Due to the nature of TV play, the stages are also bigger, and in most cases, better. The standouts include a Metroid-themed stage where Ridley will swoop onto the arena and cause havoc, siding with the player who deals him the most damage. The Great Cave Offensive from Kirby Super Star is also a pretty amazing level, with tons of hazards and bits of lava to navigate. Other stages are returning fan favorites, such as Hyrule Temple and Onett, and accommodate up to eight players. Wait, eight players?! Yep, this time Nintendo has finally added an option to battle with eight people (on roughly a third of the total stages), and man is it something else. It's hectic, insane, and quite frankly, something most are only going to want to do sparingly because of how chaotic it is. Thankfully the mode can be played alone against CPUs, adding a whole new dimension to solo play. I tend to play it during long sessions once I'm tired of the other modes. The biggest improvement from the 3DS edition is probably the removal of the disappointing Smash Run, and the injection of Smash Tour -- a board game-like experience that sort of mirrors Mario Party. But don't get too caught up in the comparison, because there aren't any minigames here -- just battles with items and a board in the mix. At the start of every turn, character tokens and power-ups are scattered about a board for players to pick up. Power-ups raise stats (similar to Smash Run), and tokens grant extra characters to use during the match, as well as at the very end for a winner takes all battle royale once the turn count runs out. Every player rolls a die numbered from one to six, then is immediately allowed to run, as there's no waiting for other players' turns in Smash Tour. If two or more players end up running into each other a battle involving all four starts, allowing them to steal fighter tokens as a result. All along the way things are mixed up considerably with items, which can be used out of battle to move further, set traps, switch places with enemies, or vacuum up nearby items. Other items can be used specifically in battle, like starting with a homerun bat. There's actually a lot of strategy involved throughout the three Smash Tour boards available. While there is some Mario Party random madness involved, players really can plot a course and use items in a strategic manner to get the best of foes. It's also constantly engaging and rewarding since everyone moves at once. This is a new staple mode in my house. In terms of other game types, Event Mode is back! It's not only rewarding to navigate through wacky themed battles like giant Bowser and Donkey Kong wars solo, but it's also a blast to play with a co-op partner. Extra rules are also unlocked from the start, including crazy modifiers like everything starting off small or with a bunny hood, as well as the power to increase the frequency of item drops. All of the Stadium modes like Home-Run contest, Multi-Man Smash, and Target Blast are back, as well as the All-Stars gauntlet battle, Trophy Rush, and Classic Mode. Basically everything but Smash Run and StreetSmash return from the 3DS game. Master Orders and Crazy Orders are also fun modes, which let players risk coins for rewards -- similar to Trophy Rush. Online play wasn't available yet, but we will keep you updated. Another new aspect of the Wii U version is the level creator, which the GamePad makes very easy using its touch interface. The creator itself isn't super robust as it only allows for a handful of theming options and objects, but it's intuitive, and it works. If it feels like Nintendo didn't pack in enough, there's amiibo support, but sadly it feels underwhelming so far. Out of the three I tested (Mario, Link, and Kirby), there wasn't anything special there that couldn't have been done by a save file. Finally, there's a Masterpiece theater mode, which grants three minutes to play a selection of Virtual Console game demos. This is basically nothing more than a gimmick, as some of the points they decided to start the demos are bizarre. For instance the Mega Man II demo puts the player right into the first Wily Stage, and 30 whole seconds on the timer are taken up by a cinematic. It's probably the most disappointing of the bunch, but as an extra on top of extras, the disappointment is easy to swallow. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U delivers all of the rock-solid mechanics that the 3DS version gave us, with the joy of playing on a big screen with friends and a heap of worthwhile modes. It certainly doesn't negate the greatness of the 3DS edition, but for those who have a bunch of friends anxious to Smash and can only get one, this is the version to get. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Smash Wii U review photo
Absolutely smashing... yet again
Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS was everything I hoped it would be. It rekindled my love for the franchise after my group of friends and I lost interest due to Brawl, and I'm playing online more often than I would with most fig...

Now's a nice time to buy a Wii U: Here's everything you should know

Nov 17 // Steven Hansen
How do I buy a Wii U? This part is harder than you might think. First, you need a job, under the table or otherwise -- just some source of income (note: if you are genealogically wealthy, feel free to skip this step!). I know what you're thinking: A job? In this economy? Be prepared to work harder than you should for less than you deserve. Doing so dutifully, without violent outbursts or unionizing, will see you repaid with varicose veins, ulcers, and a meager stipend which can be exchanged for goods and services. One such good is a Wii U, of which there are different types. Don't buy an 8gb Wii U. The main option there is this Skylanders bundle. For the same default price ($300), you can get the 32gb "deluxe" Wii U with copies of New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U.  You're not being sneaky paying $250 for the Skylanders bundle from GameStop because you're still stuck with an 8gb system. If you want to be a bit sneaky, get a refurbished "deluxe" Wii U with Nintendo Land for $200. Plus, "deluxe" owners still get cash back on digital purchases. Save money without Craigslist strangers insisting you walk into the shed in their backyards to pick up the console.  NOTE: The $330 Mario Kart 8 bundle isn't the worst idea if you know you want Mario Kart 8, which, like most Nintendo games, probably won't end up on sale soon. You also have until July 31 to register that Mario Kart 8 copy and get a free game. Availability is the problem here. No GameStop within 100 miles of San Francisco has one, for example.  What else do I need? Well, hopefully you have enough money from your job (after paying medical expenses, if you're American, lol) to afford a living space wired with electricity. You'll need it, along with a screen. You might also want more controllers for multiplayer games and an external hard drive if you're worried about the 32gb "deluxe" storage size. If you have Wii remotes from the U-less Wii, you can use those as controllers, though some games may require the Wii Motion Plus extension. You can also pick up a Wii U Pro Controller, which resembles the gamepads of its contemporaries, or try your luck with cheaper third party alternatives. Of course, there's always Craigslist. Just say no to sheds. Or tell you friends that your super cool get together hangout is BYOC -- Bring Your Own Controller. Wouldn't that be a cute thing to tell them? Your friends, I mean. "And b-t-w, it's going to be BYOC, and we have to keep the noise down because my diabetic cat gets spooked, and I hope you don't mind gluten-free treats, okay, hope to see you Saturday night!" Good videogames that wouldn't work if put in something besides a Wii U Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Indeed, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker suffers from some archaic mechanics, its fundamentals not having aged quite so gracefully as its aesthetics. Its unwieldiness and occasional sluggish pace can, in fact, grow temporarily infuriating. However, the streamlined menu system and map access go some way toward making up for any setbacks, while the unmistakable Wind Wakercharisma ensures you won't ever stay mad at it for long.  After all, in a world of greedy cartography fish and cynical French Minesweeper purveyors, how could you not keep smiling? - Jim Sterling Pikmin 3 Pikmin 3 isn't everything that Pikmin has ever been before, but it's still the best representation of the concept to date. It feels like a full replacement of Pikmin 1, and a perfect companion to the different-but-equal Pikmin 2. The series' signature creepy, cartoon-like take on real trials of life is there in full force, bolstered by incredibly beautiful graphics, an unexpectedly involving story, tons of secrets, and new ways to play, all while never straying from the spirit of the original game. - Jonathan Holmes The Wonderful 101 The Wonderful 101 is one of those rare games that keeps getting more and more fun the more that you play it. If you have the dexterity to handle the controls and the patience to deal with a few momentum-killing platforming/puzzle bits, you're in for a heck of a time. - Jonathan Holmes Nintendo Land Those unconvinced about what the Wii U can do would benefit from finding themselves a way of trying out Nintendo Land. It manages to do a lot with the system without, I believe, even scratching the surface of what more focused and dedicated videogames could achieve. It's a game meant to excite you more about the system you just purchased, and that is what it does. Well worth checking out, at any rate. - Jim Sterling Lego City Undercover For all its faults, charming is absolutely the word best describing LEGO City Undercover. While more could have been done to exploit the sandbox scenario, and while it sticks a bit too nervously to formula than it could have, Undercover is nonetheless a frequently pleasurable, occasionally hilarious little romp in a new LEGO world full of potential. Should TT Games get another chance to revisit this idea, I hope for -- and expect -- a lot more of an expansion on the concept, and a lot more focus on the fresh elements that provide Undercover's highest points. As for this first try, we have a pretty damn good effort that I'd love to see more of. - Jim Sterling Super Mario 3D World There was a moment where I was taking in the beautiful soundtrack, hovering over a tricky jump as cat Peach, and watching the glistening water below where the game really came together. It was then that I realized that Super Mario 3D World had achieved a level of platforming design that's close to perfection, and there was almost never a moment where I didn't have a smile on my face. This is the unequivocally the best Mario game since Galaxy 2, and it shows up anything the "New" series has ever done, and then some. - Chris Carter New Super Mario Bros/Super Luigi U New Super Mario Bros. U is a great little platformer that kicks off the Wii U launch with a bang. Players know exactly what they're getting with this one -- an entertaining and incomplex bit of gaming that provides challenge and smirks in equal measure. While certainly a "safe" game to launch with, it is by no means unremarkable, and the only people who would fail to have fun are those with a fundamental aversion to Mario or platformers in general. Literally everybody else would find it incredibly difficult to dislike this one ... even if some of those latter stages will make them temporarily despise it. - Jim Sterling Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze I didn't think it was possible, but Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has topped Returns. It's an incredibly crafted platformer with an HD sheen and an insane attention to detail, and any fan of the genre owes it to themselves to experience it. With the addition of control options to the already proven formula, Retro Studios' rendition of Donkey Kong is pretty much flawless - Chris Carter Mario Kart 8 Mario Kart 8 is my favorite series entry since Double Dash, and if it gets arena battle tracks at some point by way of DLC, it will be a near-perfect package. Its vibrant visuals will hold up for years to come, ensuring that the game will withstand the test of time, and it will be a staple in my household for a long, long while. - Chris Carter ZombiU ZombiU is awkward, ugly, crawling in its pace, and often nonsensical with its narrative ... and I remember when horror games weren't ashamed of any of that, even actively exploiting it to create alienating, frightening atmospheres that stuck in a players' memories and made them too spooked to want to take another step forward. ZombiU did that to me. It made me afraid to walk into rooms, it made me think twice before tackling two opponents at once, and it frequently reminded me I was weak, piteous, but maybe just careful and lucky enough to get through.  And for as much as it screws up, ZombiU somehow does it well. - Jim Sterling Good videogames that would work if placed in consoles other than a Wii U (unless you tried to place the Wii U disc of that game in another console, which would not work, obviously) Rayman Legends Rayman Legends is occasionally flustering, and sometimes seems to demand more than a conventional controller is capable of. The surprisingly slapdash jury-rigging of Wii U features on other systems is glaring in its inelegance, too. However, we're still left with an impressively designed platformer that proves itself a worthy followup to Rayman Origins, making a few notable omissions, but adding some excellent new ideas of its own.  Charming, funny, and only sometimes exasperating, Rayman Legends is the kind of game that makes this industry a better place for its existence.  - Jim Sterling Deus Ex: Director's Cut Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Director's Cut gives you a ton of extra bang for your buck on top of an already stellar game, and if you haven't experienced it yet, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. If you have played it, I'm not sure the $20 Wii U premium is worth it, especially if you don't plan on using the Remote Play option. But somewhere down the line, the lower price of the other versions is a very enticing offer should you get that Human Revolution itch at some point, because this is the clear-cut best version of the game. - Chris Carter Resident Evil: Revelations Resident Evil Revelations isn't as good on consoles as it is on the 3DS. It clearly wasn't designed for larger machines, and the somewhat clunky, rudimentary controls indicate that it would need to be rebuilt from the ground up to prove a superior alternative. However, it's still a fine game and still the best Resident Evil game available right now, and if you've not played it already, you truly ought to. If you've already tried it on 3DS, there's not a lot to bring you back, but any other Resident Evilfan would be best served giving it a go. - Jim Sterling  Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U As long as you're prepared to deal with the decidedly smaller community, the Wii U Edition ofTekken Tag Tournament 2 is the best version of the game. It's essentially the exact same package with a few extras, and a few tiny conveniences that put it slightly over the original. While I wouldn't double-dip if you're already a Tekken adopter, the Wii U Edition is a great place to start. - Chris Carter Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Encountering monsters in Monster Hunter isn't like most other games. Monsters will take your breath away shortly before they take your life away. This is a game that will force you to learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat them and achieve the same failure as before.  While the visuals are far from stunning and the online lacks any sort of host migration, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is one of the best and most rewarding experiences in a long time, and will certainly keep you busy for a while. - Patrick Hancock Hahaha these videogames don't even have discs Shovel Knight Shovel Knight is one of the best platformers I've ever played, period. As I sit here with the theme song stuck in my head, I'm realizing that Yacht Club Games has created something truly special, and it was absolutely worth the risk to start their own studio. In addition to a potential Shovel Knight 2, I can't wait to see what they have in store for us down the road. - Chris Carter The Cave All told, The Cave is a morbid, humorous romp filled with life lessons which should be apparent already to all but the total sociopath. While there are some niggling issues with overall polish, it's a fun time for fans of adventure games that should set you to giggling and, hopefully, feeling just a little bit guilty about that glee. - Conrad Zimmerman Bit.Trip Runner 2 Runner2 feels like a very natural progression for the series. The team at Gaijin Games has crafted a more nuanced and impressive follow-up to what was great title in its own right. Avant-garde but with a healthy respect for the past, Runner2 is a marvelous rhythmic platformer that just about anyone should be able to enjoy. - Kyle MacGregor  Little Inferno Some may complain that the game is too short or is overpriced. They'd be missing the point, which is arguably part of the Little Inferno concept. As for me, I feel that the game is a bargain at $15. It's the only game of its type on the market today. I can't think of the last time that a game has made me think, feel, and laugh at such a consistent pace. It's mix of high-concept messages and simple, more-fun-than-it-should be "gameplay" make it a must buy for anyone who likes thinking about videogames and/or burning things. - Jonathan Holmes Guacamelee! Right from the start, Guacamelee! offers up a sugar skull-covered playground to delight in and devour with mucho gusto. It's a game I'll be playing and replaying again for some time to come. - Jonathan Holmes Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition In fact, I still to this day can't beat par on every single stage in either version. WayForward really pulled out the stops on this one to make it truly challenging, should you decide to try and conquer every single score. Right now, there are no plans to bring the hyper stages to the 3DS version. - Chris Carter  NES Remix 1 and 2 NES Remix 2 is a solid follow-up with more "must have" games and a few extras to sweeten the deal. If you passed due to the ho-hum nature of some of the titles in the original offering, think about checking it out this time around. - Chris Carter  Pushmo World As much as I love the originals on the 3DS, this is pretty much the definitive version of Pushmo, especially when you consider the fact that the Wii U GamePad makes it semi-portable. So long as you haven't tired from the core formula yet you won't be disappointed, and genre-fans who haven't played the series in general should pick it up. - Chris Carter Aban Hawkins and the 1001 Spikes Like Dr. Wily or Jigsaw from the Saw films, the temple designers of 1001 Spikes put a lot of thought and care into all the ways they've planned to kill you. They want you to feel smarter, braver, more patient, more skilled, and closer to them as artists as you unravel the puzzling deathtraps that they've created. You must truly get inside their minds in order to fully deconstruct the monstrosities that they have built for your desperate pleasure, and ideally, you'll know yourself and the developers of the game better for the experience. This is a game that will have you thinking about how intense, perplexing, and perfect it was for days. Like a tiny mouse says early in the game -- "the harder the victory, the greater the joy of success" - Jonathan Holmes Good videogames you may or may not have played while Boyz 2 Men and Ace of Base were winning American music awards and Darryl Strawberry was being suspended for 50 days and cut from the Giants' roster Super Mario World It's still not on 3DS god damn it.  Earthbound I was too busy listening to Ace of Base to play Earthbound, I'll get to that eventually. Advance Wars  Fire Emblem: Awakening introduced a lot of people to Intelligent Systems, but the strategy developers have another delightful series, Advanced Wars, that seems doomed to never get a sequel while four Fire Emblem characters end up in Smash. Videogames that are not out yet but by the grace of our lord and savior Luigi will be soon barring acts of Luigi, amen Super Smash Bros. If you have a Wii U, you should probably get this game. Yes, it's on 3DS, but is that how you want to play the next Smash Bros.? Dust off your rolodex, get the gang back together, or find people on Craigslist to play with you. Bayonetta 2 'I feel that it's important to let your creativity flow and Nintendo has been able to provide us with the freedom to do what we had originally envisioned,' director Yusuke Hashimoto said. 'We were able to have a lot of back-and-forth between Platinum Games and Nintendo and they were able to provide objective feedback; 'Maybe that's a little too much', or, 'maybe you should try this'. I feel that was really good and helped push Bayonetta 2 to even higher quality.' Fatal Frame: The Black Haired Shrine Maiden The Wii has yet to bring us a new a new Pokemon Snap, but at least there's Fatal Frame. Hopefully this isn't just for Japan. I am now saying "Crimson Butterfly" in my head over and over. Xenoblade Chronicles X Bad name? Well, uh, better chance that it's a good JRPG.  Splatoon Its shooter by way of Tony Hawk graffiti mode is a novel concept that has, in early impressions, worked surprisingly well. It's a shooter that does things differently. We could use some of that. Used to be some pleasant variety in the genre.  -- Good-bye.
Wii U buying guide photo
Console break down and the best games, present and upcoming
[Bumping this guide from July 2014 as-was in anticipation of Smash Bros. week, the holidays, and some new Wii U owners. The only good "Black Friday" deal for the console seems to be $360 from Best Buy with Smash, Do...

Review: Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 1

Nov 14 // Jordan Devore
Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 1 (Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: November 13, 2014MSRP: $7.99 ($11.99 bundled with DLC Pack 2) I've always liked Mario Kart enough to want to play it with friends, particularly back in the N64 days when everyone else was obsessed and their enthusiasm seemed contagious, but I never loved the series -- not until Mario Kart 8. That's when everything clicked into place. I get it, now. The handling feels right, the anti-gravity tracks are fresh, and just looking at the game is a joy. It's not perfect -- the lack of proper arenas in Battle Mode remains a huge letdown -- but I love it. Still, it only took a few months for me to lose interest given my usual fleeting attention span for racing games no matter how good they are. I've been wanting to get back into Mario Kart 8 ever since and that's the main reason I was thrilled to learn about Nintendo's plans for not one but two expansion packs. The Legend of Zelda and F-Zero and Excitebike and Animal Crossing in Mario Kart is cause for celebration. If those crossovers can't pull me back in, I'm dead on the inside. The first DLC pack is currently available, but the second won't be here until May. I'm going to go ahead and recommend buying both right now assuming you have already purchased Mario Kart 8 and don't regret that decision. The add-ons are $7.99 a piece or $11.99 together, and getting both will give you access to eight new colors for Yoshi and Shy Guy as a bonus. [embed]283817:56335:0[/embed] What's in DLC Pack 1, exactly? A good amount, considering the price: Characters: Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, and Link Vehicles: Blue Falcon, B Dasher, Master Cycle, and Tanooki Kart Vehicle parts: Triforce Tires and the Hylian Kite glider Egg Cup tracks: Yoshi Circuit, Excitebike Arena, Dragon Driftway, and Mute City Triforce Cup tracks: Wario's Gold Mine, Rainbow Road, Ice Ice Outpost, and Hyrule Circuit Having more variations on Mario and Peach seems like a waste of character slots especially now that Nintendo is branching out to other series but three things turned my opinion of Tanooki Mario around: 1) he sometimes turns into a statue while performing tricks, 2) his eyes are far too mean for such a cuddly costume, and 3) his honking sound effect is a nostalgic treat. But as much as I liked the cat costumes in Super Mario 3D World, the appeal is mostly lost in Mario Kart 8. We're racing, Cat Peach, not running up walls. Sorry, but you aren't needed here. Link, on the other hand, is a crowd favorite. The bulk of the online matches I played were full of Link after Link and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Everyone wants to be the hero (which is all the more reason to rock Tanooki Mario). He fits in well with the rest of the cast and should feel more at home once Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing arrive in DLC Pack 2. As for the new vehicles, my favorite ended up being the Blue Falcon from F-Zero, not the Legend of Zelda-inspired Master Cycle. While the kart's stats aren't exactly to my liking -- I've traditionally stuck with heavy characters on the Sport Bike -- its wheels are well-hidden and the design is so damn cool. When Mute City came up for a vote in an online match and literally every player chose it, I was happy to be repping Captain Falcon's ride. Show me your moves! The B Dasher, popularized by Mario Kart DS, has a neat Formula One look. There's also the jeep-esque Tanooki Kart, but neither left much of an impression. I ditched them after a few matches. Perhaps I'll come around just as I did with the tracks Rainbow Road (SNES) and Ice Ice Outpost. Frankly, I didn't care for either course the first time around, but in subsequent playthroughs, I warmed up to them. A few heated online races can change your mind like that. Wario's Gold Mine, the first track of the Triforce Cup, had me immediately; it's like racing across a wooden roller coaster. Going down dips is so much fun. The course returns from Mario Kart Wii with stunning new graphics (that sunset is something else) and an anti-grav section. The next track in the cup is yet another Rainbow Road because we apparently can't get enough. (It's true.) This one is based on the original Super Nintendo Rainbow Road which should thrill long-time Mario Kart players. Thwomps crash down to create ripples in the track that you can boost off, but the timing is tough. It's short, simple, and a hell of a good time in online races. Ice Ice Outpost is perhaps the weakest of the DLC tracks -- it's not as alive with details as I would've liked -- but that's not to say it's a bad course; more like underwhelming. The track is split up into two lanes that weave around each other and through icebergs, providing many opportunities to swap positions either intentionally or because some jerk knocked into you. Hyrule Circuit closes out the Triforce Cup and it's even better than expected. While roaring across Hyrule field, you'll collect Rupees, not coins. Deku Babas replace Piranha Plants, and instead of Swoopers, there are Keese. Nintendo even swapped the item pickup sound effect for fanfare fitting of The Legend of Zelda. The track continues into Hyrule Castle and players can complete a little puzzle to boost over the Master Sword. If this is the standard we can expect from crossovers, I'm hopeful for the future of Mario Kart. Bring on Super Kart Bros. The Egg Cup kicks off with Yoshi Circuit and the track's numerous sharp turns still give me trouble just as they did in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! There's novelty to racing on a Yoshi-shaped island, but the actual surroundings aren't all that interesting (although it's not like you can pay full attention to background details without going off course.) Challenging stuff. Excitebike Arena is an oval track with tons of randomly-placed ramps to perform tricks off of and mud spots to avoid. That might not sound exciting but it ends up rounding out Mario Kart 8 nicely; there's nothing else quite like it in the game. And that song! It's a shame the DLC tracks aren't compatible with Battle Mode given how well Excitebike Arena would work in that context. Fans of the anti-gravity gimmick should check out Dragon Driftway right away. Most of the course, which has a Chinese aesthetic, is upside down or sideways. The track itself follows the winding body of a dragon (who you might recognize as Gobblegut from Super Mario Galaxy 2). And then there's Mute City. You don't have to be an F-Zero fan to love this fast-paced anti-grav track but you're going to be especially pleased if you are. It's full of boost pads and, in a nod to the source material, recharge strips (used here to earn coins). Just wait until that rocking theme song comes on. Mute City feels like an actual bustling city thanks to little details like billboards with Captain Falcon. Easily one of my favorite tracks, downloadable or otherwise. The rest of DLC Pack 1 isn't as consistently great as the core game, but it's all relative. By industry standards for post-release content, Nintendo is killing it. This is a must-buy for Mario Kart 8 players, and I'm hopeful the company will continue pulling in other franchises going forward. These packs can't just be a one-off experiment; the potential for cool crossovers is too high. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Mario Kart DLC review photo
Zelda x Mario Kart
Mario Kart 8's first DLC pack has Link riding a horse-shaped bike called the Master Cycle. And, good lord, Mute City from the beloved but still dormant F-Zero series. Also, a track based on Excitebike with a killer remix. Are you even going to read this review? Don't answer that. Let me have this moment.

Review: Bayonetta 2

Oct 24 // Chris Carter
Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)Developer: Platinum GamesPublisher: NintendoReleased: October 24, 2014MSRP: $59.99 (with Bayonetta 1) Bayonetta's simple and elegant technical action system returns in the sequel. On the surface, it's a two-button "punch-kick" system that also allows weapon switching and a ranged attack option. The beauty of the system is that it's very easy to learn, and on lower difficulties, it's viable to get by (albeit earning lower scores) with only picking up a few combos. But once you truly dig in to the tougher challenges, you'll have to master a large number of the game's combos to survive. Moves like the three-kick launcher, followed by an aerial rave, or the four-punch-kick flurry stun. While two buttons doesn't seem like much, the addition of delays and traditional fighting game moves expands the combo system to a whole new level. There's even air combos, and analog stick spin moves. The sequel once again uses concepts pioneered in Devil May Cry 3 like projectile juggling and instant weapon switching mid-combo to allow for a near endless amount of options in how you choose to approach any situation. If this sounds intimidating, don't worry -- the game teaches you everything fairly well. There's even a loading screen to practice on, with a combo list readily available to freshen up. It also tells you how many times you've used each move, in case you need an indicator of how to mix things up. [embed]282342:55930:0[/embed] Dodging is as essential as ever, triggering a "Witch Time" slowdown effect if performed right before a blow is about to be struck. One of my favorite things about Bayonetta is that it doesn't have those goofy "DODGE NOW!" icons above all of the enemies' heads that initiates an instant counter. You'll have genuinely need to pay attention to the battle at hand, learn the telegraphs (if there are any), and dodge on your own. Stylish torture attacks return (which are tag-team attacks with a partner), as do the big finale beast finishers and a lot of the classic abilities that made the first game so great. There's nothing better in gaming out right now than initiating a knockback move followed by a sprinting panther rushdown attack, then a juggle combo while triggering Witch Time after a quick dodge. It not only plays great, but there's so much style involved in just about every animation. Dashing turns you into a panther, double-jumping allows you to sprout butterfly wings, hovering turns you into a crow. Everything from the snapshot "photo finish" effect of completing a challenge room is painstakingly detailed. Control-wise, Bayonetta 2 exemplifies everything I love about the Wii U as a piece of hardware -- options. There's setups for the GamePad, touch controls, and the Pro Controller. There's four configurations of inputs in all, and Off-TV play is always on. I didn't think I'd be able to perform with precision using the GamePad as a controller back when the game was announced, but I'm loving it. That said, I wouldn't recommend touch controls outside of the novelty. In terms of the story, it's just as cheesy as ever, with characters like the Joe Pesci look-alike Enzo returning in a bigger way. To give you an example, Enzo's penis almost gets grinded up by Jeanne's motorcycle about ten minutes in, and Rodin, dressed as Santa Claus, drives a car on the side of a building. Oh, and Bayonneta kicks a fighter jet flying at full speed with a Sunday dress on. The choreography looks like it was taken straight out of an over-the-top action movie, and it's all the better for it. Bayonetta 2 doesn't linger whenever a new concept is introduced, which is a pretty big accomplishment since it's running on all cylinders throughout. Whether it's flying through the air in a special boss fight or piloting a mech, the game keeps you interested throughout its 12 chapters without re-using mechanics over and over. The level design is still reminiscent of Devil May Cry or God Hand in that its semi-open, allowing for a good deal of exploration and hidden treasures. There's also more underwater parts this time around -- don't worry, they're good. It's clear to see that the series has gotten an upgrade visually on the Wii U, and the frame rate is very clean -- I had no issues with my playthrough. As I said earlier detail is the name of the game here, as a lot of enemies have organic armor that can rip off bit by bit as you're slashing away. Bayonetta's new look is also perfect, in the sense that it's familiar but also different enough to divorce itself from the original. As an added bonus you can also switch on Japanese audio if you're into that, and the jazzy soundtrack is even better than the first game's offering (Bayonetta 2's take on Moon River is among my favorite tracks). The biggest addition is probably the "Tag Climax," which is a two-player mode that allows people to work in tandem while challenging each other to earn the highest score. You can bet "Halos" (the game's currency, which is linked to your campaign file) on whether or not you'll earn the highest amount of points, which also jacks up the difficulty. Bayonneta 2 allows you to select from a specific mission pool (called "Verse Cards") as well as from a pool of multiple characters and costumes. My favorite part of Tag Climax -- it has a CPU bot option! While many games completely forgo this mechanic that was once commonplace, Bayonneta 2 allows you to enjoy the mode even if none of your friends are online or you can't find anyone in the matchmaking system. This feature will come in handy years down the line when the online mode is dead and you still have the itch to play it. Like the first game, there's also tons of extra content that's available right on the disc with no DLC needed. There's new difficulties, verse cards, characters, a crafting system, Miiverse functionality, and stamps. There's also single-player challenge rooms in the realm of Muspelheim, which are similar to Onimusha's dark realm. These are no joke, with modifiers like "only Witch Time attacks do damage" or "complete the challenge without getting hit." To make it even tougher, you don't have a life bar in general -- you have a "hit meter" that decreases as you take even one bit of damage. The good news is that you can retry these as many times as you like until you best them. Oh, and there's also time trial races for extra chests, story fragments to find, and Rodin's shop is back for you to spend all your Halos in. It sports items, consumables, accessories, weapons, and moves to buy. You can even try out the moves beforehand. Unlike the first game, you can also opt for hard mode right out of the gate. Platinum basically thought of everything. Although this review doesn't take the bonus free copy of Bayonetta 1 into account, anyone would agree that it's a massive incentive to take the plunge. The first game still holds up to this day, and with a consistent frame rate and a ton of extra costumes, it's definitely worth playing whether you've already completed it or are experiencing it for the very first time. When Bayonetta came out in 2010, I thought it was nearly perfect. Four years later and Platinum hasn't lost its edge with Bayonetta 2. It's just as stylish and as fun as ever, and a must-buy for action fans who own a Wii U.
Bayonetta 2 photo
I've got a fever, and the only cure is more dead angels
Outside of Devil May Cry 3, Bayonetta is one of the finest action games of all time. The action systems were so clean, so precise, and so rewarding that it leaves pretty much everything these days in the dust. Bayonetta 2 doesn't change a whole lot, and that's perfectly okay with me.

All the Smash Bros. Wii U facts, differences from 3DS version

Oct 23 // Steven Hansen
You start with 40 playable characters on the Wii U, though there are some left locked. The game looks better in HD with all that resolution. And the screen size also allows for eight-player Smash, which is a special mode restricted to particular stages and offline play. There's some giant stages, like Palutena's Temple, Hyrule Temple, and an expanded Battlefield to host multiple fighters. Five- and six-player fights don't seem to have the same restrictions, while seven-player fights are missing. There's also a giant new stage with instant kill sections and a Donkey Kong stage with foreground and background bits of stage, both of which can be fought in. Of course, the Wii U version features more stages, some of which are laid out differently than the 3DS ones. Some old favorites return along side some new ones (Windy Hill Zone, Mario Circuit, 75m, Wii Fit Studio, Norfair, Onett, etc). The Miiverse stage, which will come after release, gathers up Miiverse posts about whichever fighters are playing in the background of a Battlefield sort of stage. A lot of the 3DS modes, save Smash Run, are playable, often with changes and multiplayer options. Target Blast is up to four player with a larger second bomb. There's two-player co-op or four-player turn-taking Home Run Contests. Trophy Rush is two player now as well, while Multi Man can be played by four players. And there are so many new, HD trophies. Ridley will join the battle on his stage. Beat him up and he'll fight for you. Keep beating him up and score a point for KO'ing him. In addition to time and stock, coin battles are back. There are also stamina matches where your hit points count down to zero. Special Smash is back, too, with all sorts of rule customization. Change speed, player size, all that good stuff. And you can mix and match. Item Frequency and the ability to turn individual items on and off are back, too. You can customize what music plays during battle or menus. There's about four times as much music on Wii U as there is in the 3DS version.  Classic Mode now allows for two-player co-op--good for getting two trophies at a time--and your battle advancement is based on how well you fought your previous match. Rivalries and other random events happen as well. All-Star Mode now works in a reverse chronological order and there's a new rest area. It's also playable with two players. As mentioned, Event Mode is back as well, beyond the expanded Challenges. Two-player event battles have their own section. One other solo mode, Special Orders, has you taking tickets from Master and Crazy Hand in increasingly difficult scenarios. There's also Master Fortress, a new form the Master Core shadow swarm can take.  A Smash Run-inspired, four-player board game called Smash Tour is basically Mario Party with Miis. You're still trying to gain power-ups, but you're also collecting characters. The final battle affords you 1 stock for every character you've collected, in order.  There is also a Masterpieces mode which lets you play bits of old-school NES/SNES games that Smash characters appear in. Think of the NES carts in Animal Crossing with time limits that encourage you to buy the applicable game from the eShop if you're having too much fun. I expect to play a lot of these snap shots.  Of course you can use a lot of controllers for Smash Wii U, including the GameCube controller if you have an adapter. The video also recommends a Wii Ethernet LAN adapter for smooth online play. Voice chat is cut off during online battles, but possible at character select.  There's also a photo mode that lets you stage your trophies and take cool snaps, which will later be distributable online. Online tournament hosting is being worked out still, but regular 64-player tournaments are possible.  With the GamePad, you can also draw your own custom stages, which is going to be sweet as heck.  Oh, and Mewtwo is coming next year if you register the 3DS and Wii U versions.  Phew.
Smash facts photo
Eight-player melee and more
Alright. If Smash Bros. 3DS is at least a little sparse, this video makes it feel all the more sparse. I mean, Event Mode is back. And there's a separate two-player Event Mode.  Watch along with the video abov...

Review: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

Oct 23 // Chris Carter
Shantae and The Pirate's Curse (3DS [reviewed], Wii U)Developer:  WayForward Technologies / Inti CreatesPublisher: WayForward TechologiesMSRP: $19.99Released: October 23, 2014 (3DS) / TBA 2014 (Wii U) Shantae and the Pirate's Curse follows the storyline so far, which sees Shantae living a normal life without the genie powers that were taken from her at the end of the last game. This doesn't change up the formula much, as she still has her signature "hair whip" ability to attack enemies, and will still gain new powers over the course of the game -- they'll just be a little less genie-like in nature (though I miss her transformation forms dearly). It feels like a natural progression of the story, and it's interesting to see Shantae interact with people around her as a human. As usual, the narrative is over-the-top and wacky with jokes and references galore. It's never "laugh-out-loud" funny, but WayForward does a decent job of keeping things interesting, and their characters likable. The conceit this time involves an unlikely alliance with Shantae's nemesis Risky Boots, to put down the evil curse of the Pirate Master, Risky's old boss, once and for all. Instead of following the concept of Revenge's giant, singular open world, Curse instead has a small collective of islands, which function as mini-worlds with the same focus on exploration. [embed]282790:56058:0[/embed] This is where I become a tad conflicted. It's noble that WayForward would want to mix up the formula, but each map as a separate entity feels less impressive than one actual world. All of them have their own unique themes (a desert, a snow world, and an undead bog for instance), but the maps themselves feel small, and getting from place to place can be a hassle. Instead of teleporting around using spots in one hub, Shantae has to get back to the start area each time, access the ship, and sail somewhere else. After unlocking a new island, this usually comes into play in the form of some puzzle that must be solved before accessing the new dungeon. The task isn't always clear, so it may require players to search every previous island inside and out before progressing with the story. It helps that the core game itself is so solid that it's fun to roam around, but it can get tedious over time to have to island jump over and over. The bosses also aren't as memorable this time around, and even a comical boss rehash doesn't do the trick. Having said that, the actual mechanics are as slick as ever. WayForward's formula for Shantae is among its best work, and every jump, hair whip, and ability use feels perfect. This time our hero will have to rely on items and pirate gear to do the job, including classic concepts like potions and attack-boosting drinks, as well as more game-changing upgrades like a downward slashing scimitar and a gun. Because her newfound powers and items are so fun to play around with, the sometimes clunky transportation setup is excusable. The actual dungeons have some pretty interesting layouts (with plenty of secret areas to find, some of them downright dastardly), and overall I felt like a few of the game's areas were some of the most challenging zones WayForward has crafted yet. If you're like me and gobble up platformers for breakfast, you'll find a lot to like here. It took me roughly seven hours to complete the story with a decent amount of exploring. As a general rule it is longer than Risky's Revenge. Diehard fans can search for every heart piece in the game, as well as gather every bit of dark magic (hidden across each world) to unlock the true ending. Thankfully, WayForward has placed an indicator on the selection screen that shows how many of each collectible is left in every world -- so taking on that endeavor is manageable and not a hair-pulling ordeal. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse under-delivers on a few aspects of the overall package, but the fact remains -- genie or not, Shantae is still very much relevant in the current market. Just keep in mind that at times it feels like an appetizer for the upcoming Half-Genie Hero, which sees the full return of Shantae's powers as well as a fully playable Risky Boots.
Shantae reviewed photo
She's still got it
I've always thought that Shantae is a bit of an underrated series. While WayForward can be hit or miss these days, I can always rely on their ability to craft a good platformer. Shantae: Risky's Revenge for the DSi ...

Hyrule Warriors' 'Master Quest' DLC is worth the price of entry if you're already addicted

Oct 17 // Chris Carter
Hyrule Warriors: Master Quest DLC (Wii U)Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja, NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: October 16, 2014MSRP: $7.99 (part of the $19.99 Season Pass) Let's start with the additional campaign. Put simply, it's a prequel and a side-story to the events that unfold over the course of the narrative. You'll see Cia's rise to power, how she recruited Wizzro and Volga, and her interactions with the denizens of each of the "portal" worlds like Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess. It takes place over five missions, all of which re-use maps from the story mode but offer new scenarios. Where these maps really shine are with the game's Hero difficulty. They're some of the most challenging ones on offer, and you'll have to employ some actual tactical thinking to best them without a few retries. The first map in particular is really cool in that it features three armies, all of which are constantly warring as the battle rages on. It also gives you a great look into the character of Volga, who is easily the star of the new update. Link's new Epona weapon is surprisingly one of the best parts of the package. It functions very similarly to horses in the Warriors series -- outside of the fact that you can't actually get off said horse. Attacks range from charges (with the classic carrot icons from past Zelda games) and area-of-effect abilities. In other words, Epona can be used in every map without an issue and kicks a lot of ass. I really liked the added touch of the shadow aesthetic when using the Dark Link skin. [embed]282707:56003:0[/embed] The new map is titled the "Master Quest," and gives you another board to work through in Adventure Mode from square one. Although hardcore fans probably breezed through the first map without too much difficulty, Master Quest is going to put your skills to the test. Every piece of the map features a certain challenge requirement, like "no healing of any kind," or a time limit on your objective. This is on top of the fact that a lot of the levels are just harder in general, and some require the use and mastery of the new characters. In my mind this is a great way to do DLC, as it's a natural progression from the first map. I would have liked to have seen something drastically different like a monochrome or Game Boy Color-themed Link's Awakening map, but the missions speak for themselves. Having said that, if you didn't dig the first map, you probably won't bother to complete this one, and you should wait for the next DLC pack to hit -- unless you like the idea of costumes and 8-bit weapons for your troubles. Finally, the last part of the paid Master Quest add-on is two costumes for Cia and Lana. These are essentially holy-themed getups, and while Lana's isn't all that special, it drastically changes Cia's appearance from evil to good, which is something. Still, it's not nearly as enticing as a Fierce Deity or Toon Link skin, per se. While the three free extra characters aren't technically part of the DLC, buying Master Quest unlocks a few perks, like their higher-level weapons and the ability to use heart containers on them. They're also some of the most fun characters in the game by far. Cia's badassery speaks for itself. As one of the core villains of the game, she uses her magic abilities and her whip as weapons. She can throw energy balls, summon flying discs to attack groups of enemies, and even summon a small army of Dark Links to lay waste to the battlefield. She's an AOE-oriented character but still holds her own in one-on-one situations. She also feels completely unique, even from Lana. As a neat bonus you'll also get two extra costumes right off the bat, including a hatless skin and a skin without her mask. Volga took me completely by surprise, and ended up being one of my new favorite characters. He plays similarly to a polearm character from the Warriors games, which should make more than a few fans happy. His "dragon" aspects are also well done to the point where it doesn't feel like they're overdoing it, and wings and claws will sprout during specific attacks. In terms of raw power he's one of the stronger characters in the game, giving you an extra viable roster option if you're the min-max type. Wizzro on the other hand feels weaker at first, but he's a highly technical character that shines in co-op. What's cool about him is that the vast majority of his attacks are ranged, putting him in a class of his own. He's adept at juggling and has a very useful beam attack that can be aimed at single enemies or even groups. I really like how the developers allowed him to use some of the basic moves of the Poe enemies but keep his own style. Hyrule Warriors is on a roll. Not only does the base game have more gameplay than nearly anything released in 2014, but the DLC does a decent job of augmenting the experience. While I'd like to see a little more original content in future DLCs, the three characters alone will add hours of entertainment.
Hyrule Warriors DLC photo
It's not as new as I would have liked, but it keeps me going
Hyrule Warriors is a massive game. If you want to 100% everything, get every weapon, and max out every character, it could last you roughly 200 hours or more. I'm hitting the 100-hour mark myself, due in part to the new ...

Review: Skylanders: Trap Team

Oct 07 // Chris Carter
Skylanders: Trap Team (3DS, Android, iOS, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Toys for Bob / Beenox / Vicarious VisionsPublisher: ActivisionReleased: October 5, 2014MSRP: $74.99 (Starter Pack) The premise is basically the same as it always has been with the Skylanders series. Once again an ancient evil (The Doom Raiders) has awakened, and it's up to the Skylanders and their new allies (the Trap Masters) to put them away. Players will do this by using all of the toys released so far, as well as the new Trap Master figures that can access unique crystal areas, and the trap pieces. To be clear, all of the toys from the first three generations of Skylanders can be used here, which is a pretty neat way to keep a collection relevant. At this point it's hard to believe that Toys for Bob is still coming up with unique characters and movesets, but pretty much every new toy I've used shines in its own unique way and has its own personality. Visually, Trap Team has taken some strides since Swap Force, which is a big accomplishment considering how great that game looked on newer consoles. Everything looks like a legitimate Dreamworks or Pixar animated film, and the idea of the franchise transitioning over to the big screen is completely believable based on the game alone. The script isn't as sharp as Swap Force, but it's still perfectly acceptable for kids, and completely skippable for adults. Gameplay-wise the series still holds up, with addictive hack and slash gameplay that deserves to be respected with any modern action release. Characters will naturally grow their abilities as time goes on and most of them will have a tool for every situation, making every toy feel fun and viable. Higher difficulties also help ease in veteran gamers who may view Skylanders as a kids-only franchise. On the other hand, there's nothing really new that justifies spending $75 to get the Starter Pack, which includes the game, the new portal, two traps, and two characters. It sounds ridiculous, but while Swap Force technically innovated with the ability to jump and a few other elemental mix-up mechanics, Trap Team doesn't really add anything exciting to the mix. Well, the "new" bit is found in the traps themselves, but I was pretty disappointed with how they actually play out. The concept involves the new Traptanium portal, which has a tiny slot to fix in plastic traps that are shaped like pegs. The game has 46 special villains in it that can be captured as you make your way through the story, and if you have a trap toy handy of the correct element (the game comes with the Life and Water traps), you can collect them to re-use from that point on. The trapped character also "talks" by way of the peg, which lights up in the portal. Traps are a bit of a letdown in two ways. One, the actual use of trapped villains involves summoning them for a limited amount of time as a playable character. Said time is linked by way of a special meter, and at the end of the day, it amounts to nothing more than a temporary power-up. It would have been much cooler to have each villain as a fully playable character at all times with their own level system and custom movesets. Whereas the hulking  giants and the swap combos fundamentally changed the game, traps don't feel nearly as innovative. Additionally, adding traps to the game is just too much in terms of the physical collecting aspect. While all eight elements of traps can be purchased now in stores, two "mystery" elements are not for sale, and thus those villains cannot be captured until those are released. While I'm generally okay with gating off small bonus rooms by way of elements, giants, swap doors and Trap Master crystals, gating off characters while juggling the similar looking trap toys doesn't really make for a fun time. Taking off and putting on toys feels intuitive. It doesn't matter if the toy is big, small, or has interchangeable parts -- simply placing a new character on a surface and playing instantly is a fun and well designed activity. The traps on the other hand will leave many people confused as to who is in what trap, and since they're only truly used at certain points of the game to capture enemies, they often feel like they're sidelined. Thankfully, all of the other mechanics I mentioned earlier from past games are still readily available, and you can still complete the game only using the traps from the base kit. In true Skylanders fashion there's plenty to do though, even for those who don't dig the traps. The Kaos Doom Challenge is probably the biggest addition, and expands the arenas from Swap Force into a full-on horde mode with tower defense elements. Why the series didn't have this sooner is beyond me, but it's a ton of fun to play with friends, and a great way to get more use out of your whole collection of toys. Skystones, the in-universe card game is also back in a bigger capacity, battle arenas are still in, and a few more minigames like a 2D platformer diversion are available to unlock. While I never really connected with the trap mechanic or the new Trap Master toys, Skylanders: Trap Team is still a well-oiled machine. On newer consoles it looks fantastic, the action gameplay is still exciting, and the charm is still there. I just hope that Activision and its ilk have more interesting concepts in mind for the next iteration.
Skylanders 4 review photo
Same great gameplay, not so great new gimmick
Toys For Bob has found some rather interesting ways to evolve the Skylanders franchise. While the conceit the first time around was simply interactive toys, the developer mixed things up with giants on the second go, and...

Review: Costume Quest 2

Oct 07 // Alasdair Duncan
Costume Quest 2 (PC [reviewed], Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U)Developer: Double FinePublisher: Majesco, Midnight CityMSRP: $14.99/£10.99Release Date: October 7, 2014 Costume Quest 2 begins right at the end of the DLC pack for the original game, Grubbins on Ice. Siblings Wren and Reynold, along with their friends Everett and Lucy, have found themselves in a limbo world with numerous trans-dimensional portals. Thankfully, they're able to get back home, but only to find themselves as the protectors of Halloween against a new enemy. Who could hate Halloween so much? Why the devilish dentist Orel White, who uses time travel to free the monsters from Repugnia and wipe Halloween and candy from the face of the Earth. There's plenty of fun to be had with the time-travel plot; it's amusing to see Everett and Lucy all grown up and in the second third of the game, their daughter will team up with Wren and Reynold. You'll find lots of kids in the past who you meet in the future and it's entertaining to see how they have turned out, whether they achieved their hopes and dreams or whether everything went wrong. Don't expect too many head-scratching moments due to time travel -- it's a fairly linear game that you could play with kids and they wouldn't find it confusing to follow. This is still a light, fluffy, colorful series. Costume Quest 2 follows the same structure as its predecessor: there's a series of neighborhoods where your team of three party members can go trick or treating and at each house you can either get a neighbor dishing out candy or a monster encounter which leads to a turn-based battle. There are tweaks to the battle system this time around which make it a fresher experience. Now, each enemy has a class -- either monster, magic, or tech -- and the costumes your party wear will be stronger and weaker against those classes. So for instance, the superhero is strong against wizards but weak against tech, meaning you'll inflict more damage against magic users but take greater damage against tech enemies. Like the first game, each costume has its own special ability either offensively or defensively and some even have abilities that you can be used outside of battles. This time however, those battle abilities are tied to a progress bar that will move on with each successful attack or block. The ability to land a blow in real time has returned but now it's standardized across all costumes, along with a real-time blocking system. Eventually, you'll unlock a risky counter-attack prompt and a combo strike too but the combat wears out its welcome towards the end as you're really just repeating the same button prompts over and over again. Another thing that's new is that your party's health bars will carry over from battle to battle but that's undermined by having healing fountains dotted around each area. As long as you go straight to one after each fight, you'll have no problems preparing for each battle. To give Double Fine some credit, there's a whole host of new costumes you'll find throughout the game, all with distinct special abilities. You can customize your own party to either specialize against one specific enemy type or to try and cover against all classes. Like with many games that features randomized battles like this, you're not really able to prepare well for encounters; even though each neighborhood has only a few enemy types, you're not going to know the make-up of an encounter until it starts. So you might have only one costume that's good against magic but end up facing three enemy tech specialists. The best strategy just seems to cover all your bases and hope for the best. While the costumes are new, some of the abilities are just repeated from the previous game. For instance, the Pharaoh costume combines the resurrection ability from the unicorn and the grapple function of the pirate, all from the previous Costume Quest. True, there's not really much you can do in a game like Costume Quest 2 but it's worth trying out all the costumes yourself just to see the animations, even the clown's frankly horrifying healing animation.  Despite its limits, Costume Quest 2 is a fun little treat, one that doesn't last too long but perhaps that's for the best. Double Fine has done a decent job overhauling the combat system but while there's a more robust set of mechanics than the first game, they do wear thin towards the end. Costume Quest 2 still has that Double Fine charm and any game that includes a Blazing Saddles joke in 2014 is okay in my book.
Costume Quest 2 photo
Wren and Reynold return for more Halloween fun
The original Costume Quest was a seminal game for Double Fine; it was the first game to come out of Amnesia Fortnight, a two-week period of experimenting with small-scale games. Costume Quest's success led the way for Stackin...

Smash Bros. Wii U photo
Plans for ambiibo revealed
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will launch in North America on November 21, Nintendo of America announced today. The fighting game will then release across Europe on December 5. It will support amiibo compatibility at launch. The figures will be available the same day for $12.99 each. Twelve different models will hit shelves at first, with six more coming in December.

Review: Chariot

Sep 30 // Brett Makedonski
Chariot (PS4, Xbox One [reviewed], PC, Wii U)Developer: Frima StudioReleased: September 30, 2014 (PS4) / October 1, 2014 (Xbox One) / Fall 2014 (PC, Wii U)MSRP: $14.99 Chariot chronicles a princess' quest to fulfill her recently deceased father's final wishes and bury him in peace. As might be expected of royalty, his last request is that he be laid to rest with as much wealth as possible. He's a king, after all. If you ever forget, you'll be immediately reminded by his attention-seeking antics and demanding demeanor. Playing the part of good daughter, a platforming adventure through several levels of cave ensues -- all in the name of acquiring as much gold and as many jewels as possible. There's a hook, though: The king's coffin -- err, chariot -- needs to be dragged along, too. He wants to collect all that treasure first-hand. This is how Chariot brilliantly distinguishes itself from the vast majority of platformers. The challenge is rarely in maneuvers that are made by the player-controlled character; it's in figuring out how to lug that damn sarcophagus around. A rope can be tethered and unhinged from it at any time by holding and releasing a button, which is the only way up, over, around, under, or through certain obstacles. [embed]281583:55731:0[/embed] Pushing and pulling the king's ride through these levels proves daunting at first, but there's a certain comforting rhythm to it once you grasp how the physics work. Initially, it can prove disastrous hopping over even the tiniest of gaps. However, before long, there's a learned familiarity that makes it easy enough to fluidly take these sections in succession, knowing exactly when to let go and re-hook in order to maximize distance. Then, your confidence is completely undone as the weight of the penduluming coffin sends you plummeting like a wrecking ball. But, that's okay because the physics feel mostly consistent, and the characters have a believable weight to them. Dust yourself off and try again, princess. Progressing-dashing mis-jumps aren't the only foe in Chariot. There are looting creatures that populate small areas whose only goal is to steal your hard-earned fortune. These come in different forms (small hopping things, bats, large evil penguins, etc.), meaning that they have varied methods of attack. For instance, the bats are nearly impossible to run away from because pits can't contain them, so you'll have to fight them all off. The penguins are after bigger chunks of loot and take more than a single hit to dispose of. The problem with the looters is that there's no real reason for them to exist. Chariot is a challenging enough game in its own right, and it instills a methodical and cerebral platforming experience for the player. Adding these frequent sections with enemies undoes the zen-like groove that Chariot makes it easy to fall into, and their suddenly frantic pace directly opposes what the game excels at. Chariot makes successful strides to vary gameplay through the game's different areas, although sometimes to the point of needless frustration. For example, the second stage is entirely too dark, making it all too often unclear where the next platform rests. Upon entering the ice level, you can forget everything you know about Chariot's physics because it affects them so greatly that it'll almost seem like an entirely different set of rules. While the main and obvious path through Chariot can be relatively unimposing ("relatively" being the key word here), there are a remarkable number of alternate off-shoots that really ramp up the difficulty. Actually, it's kind of astounding how much additional content there is if the player wants to find it (although, a good chunk of this is designed solely for cooperative play). Most of the time, it's here that you'll find each level's extra goodies. Apart from more treasure, there's a blueprint to craft gadgets and collectible skulls. Gadgets are items that can be crafted between levels once the corresponding blueprints are obtained. They also cost a bit of gold, but that's mostly negligible. One of the first ones is a peg that can be stuck into a wall temporarily, allowing you to tether the coffin from it, freeing you up to platform elsewhere. Another is a canary bomb that attracts looters and then explodes like a grenade. Only one gadget can be brought into each level, so choose wisely -- its effect can greatly reduce your struggle. Something else that can greatly reduce your struggle is a friend. Chariot as a singleplayer endeavor can feel a tad hollow because of all of the areas you have to pass on because they were designed for co-op. Often times, this is where some of the best loot is. Don't get me wrong -- solo play is still great; it's just difficult to live up to the amazing experience that cooperative play offers. Chariot with a partner can begin somewhat awkwardly. Brief tussles over the king, not quite sure who's expected to do what, literal issues with people not pulling their weight. However, that all melts away before too long. Just like with singleplayer, there's a learned rhythm that it doesn't take long to fall into. Once you do, it's harmonious -- and more efficient than solo play, to boot. For some parts, you and your partner will be able to get by on an unspoken mental bond over how to play Chariot. But, for the aforementioned optional routes, it'll often require verbalizing exactly what each person's next move should be. Even the simplest of these areas can be supremely rewarding once you clear them and collect the treasure you were after. When you best particularly difficult ones, well, you feel like a pair of kings (not counting that dead one you've been hauling around). That's where Chariot truly shines -- its cooperative play. Going at Chariot solo adds up to a competent and unique platformer that's satisfying, yet somewhat unfulfilling because of all the opportunity that's unfortunately necessary to pass up. However, once you have a friend in the mix, any concern dissipates and you're left with a memorable social experience that just happens to be almost flawless in its execution.
Chariot reviewed! photo
Pimp my ride
Local cooperative play is something that's been increasingly neglected in an age of videogames that pushes online connectivity seemingly first and foremost. It's ironic that titles like Destiny are the current benchmark ...

Review: Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (iOS, PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Vita, Wii U, Xbox One)Developer: Avalanche SoftwarePublisher: Disney InteractiveReleased: September 23, 2014 (NA) / 2015 TBA (Vita)MSRP: $74.99 (Starter Pack) / $34.99 (Play Set with two characters) / $13.99 (Individual characters) Since the toy-game market can be confusing as hell these days, here's exactly what you get in the Starter Kit. For $74.99, you'll net three figures -- Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow -- as well as the Avengers Play Set world, the USB base, and two pre-made Toy Box levels. That's what I'll be covering here in the review -- extra Play Sets and characters will be covered individually. You'll immediately notice that 2.0 comes with two less Play Sets than the original game (just Avengers) -- which was bundled with Monsters Inc., Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Incredibles. At first glance, it's pretty disappointing. But what Avalanche Software has done is flesh out the Play Sets in general so that the included Avengers area is now comparable in size to multiple stories in the first game. Not only that, but the two aforementioned Toy Box levels are basically mini-stories themselves, involving special types of gameplay like tower defense -- and they can be played with any character. Despite the fact that it shipped with three Play Sets, one of the chief complaints about the first game was how limited it felt. Not only could certain characters not play in certain Play Sets, but there weren't enough real Toy Box adventures outside of player creations -- some of which weren't really up to par. Disney Infinity 2.0 addresses both of these somewhat with collectible "crossover coins" (letting Iron Man crossover into Spider-Man's world, for instance), and a better Toy Box. [embed]281121:55657:0[/embed] Let's start with the main attraction, though: the Avengers story. Right from the start it feels like an authentic cartoony experience based off the film series, which is a good thing. The Avengers tower is already built and established, SHIELD is out and about, and any applicable character is a part of the campaign's cutscenes, whether you have the toy or not (Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Hulk). Cross-over characters like Nova and Rocket Raccoon are also incorporated and playable if you own them. The concept is based off the best set from the original -- The Incredibles. You'll basically have a "city in peril" situation to deal with, with Loki and MODOK at the forefront. The voice cast is full of people who have worked in animation, comic-book adaptions, or the videogame industry (Troy Baker does both Loki and Hawkeye), and they do a great job of performing the characters in Marvel Super Heroes. Samuel L. Jackson is a big get, and most of the Avengers are voiced by actors who play them in the Ultimate Spider-Man series. Nothing feels phoned in. Missions however aren't as lively, and are generally comprised of typical sandbox fare, like "protect this asset," "go to this location and kill these enemies," or "pursue this enemy." There's a decent amount of variation, but odds are at the end of every activity, you'll have to kill something. The game also doesn't look particularly stunning even on the PS4, and beyond the draw distance, it doesn't even feel like a real upgrade. There are a few dungeon-like sections to round out these missions, which usually have a fun boss battle or series of puzzles in tow.  Now, this is a game aimed at the younger audience mind you, so there isn't going to be anything mind-blowing in terms of plot nor is the base game particularly difficult, but there are a few concessions now with the new iteration for older players. Most notably, there's an additional difficulty level that can jack things up a bit, and if your character dies in combat, they have to be revived by a teammate, lest you restart at a checkpoint or put a new character in. It's not exactly punishing, but there's more at stake than the original game that had infinite respawns. But while missions may not stray from genre-conventions, Avalanche really nailed how each character plays. Iron Man is particularly impressive, as his animations and abilities directly mirror how you'd expect him to look in a game. Every Repulsor Blast and rocket sound effect is perfect, and every Marvel character feels like a big upgrade gameplay-wise over the Disney and Pixar cast in the first game. Skill-trees are in, which ups replay value considerably and helps differentiate the cast even further. Leveling up in the last game provided no major value to the toy in question, but the cap has been extended 10 levels to 20 here, and now skills can add extra things like super abilities, extra flight time, or new attacks. Hand-in-hand with the increased replay value, the Toy Box portion has been upgraded significantly. With the starter kit, you'll net "Escape from the Kyln" from the Guardians of the Galaxy universe, a Gauntlet-like top-down action romp with RPG elements, and "Assault on Asgard," a tower defense minigame. Like the Avengers story, both of these aren't the deepest experiences, but the big plus is that any character can be used in them -- even toys from 1.0. This solves a big problem I had with the first game in that "Toy Box-only" toys originally felt like half their gameplay was missing -- but now, you should get a lot of play with any figure. The included two minigames are a decent start, but I hope that Avalanche develops more gametypes in the coming months beyond the pair it has already announced. The level-building process is also improved, if you're one of those creative types. Now, you can access a news feed of information highlighting the top levels available (fan-made or created by developers). You'll also get a lot more storage for your creations, as well as an expanded favorite sorting system and a vote mechanic -- all of this makes it easier to find better content instead of sifting through everything there is to offer. Making levels is easier too, with new template options and more objects to choose from. In fact, pretty much the entire first game's object list is included on top of all the new items. There's also a create-your-own-house section where you can customize a living space for your characters. Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes is still aimed at the younger crowd, but the new Toy Box and attention to detail will speak to audiences of all ages. With stronger writing and even deeper gameplay options, the third game could really have universal appeal beyond the audience it already reaches. 2.0 feels like a natural evolution, and that's a good thing if you liked the original.
Disney Infinity 2 review photo
Less finite than the first
Disney Infinity was quite the ambitious project, but it fell flat in a few key areas. This was mostly due to a lack of even game worlds, with a few of the universes overshadowing others that felt more rushed. The other a...

Review: Hyrule Warriors

Sep 17 // Chris Carter
Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja, NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: September 26, 2014MSRP: $59.99 The madness that ensues in Hyrule Warriors may not be canon, but it's explained rather well. Characters provide their typical grunts and guttural sounds over a text-based dialog system, but every level begins with a special voiceover narration -- a first for the Zelda series. The actor that provides the voice fits the mystical theme of the game well enough (even if she under-delivers a tad), and I found myself enjoying the story, no matter how tertiary it is to the real action at hand. What you're getting is a typical tale of dark vs. light, with Link and his crew battling the evil Cia (a newcomer created for the game) and some villains from the hero's past. It's all very predictable, almost in a comical fashion, but a lot of love and authenticity was put into the characters, as they all operate how you think they would after meeting each other. The development team also put a lot of work in when it comes to differentiating every character (both aesthetically and mechanically), and the cast feels wholly unique. Control-wise, Hyrule plays like your typical Warriors game with the addition of one extra (items, which I'll get to in a moment) -- meaning it's insanely easy to pick up and play, even with no prior knowledge of the series. The "combo" move setup returns, allowing players to press the standard attack button any number of times for a full combo, with the option to alter it with the special attack button. For instance, if Link attacks twice then uses a special, he'll summon a projectile with his sword, and if he attacks three times then prompts a special, he'll use an air-juggle launcher, and so on. All of this works seamlessly with the Hyrule cast, since every character has a radically different moveset. This is rare in a Warriors game, but I found myself liking every playable combatant, and since characters have two distinctly different weapons that alter their movesets on top of that, odds are you will find a play style you'll gel with. For example, it's amazing how they translated Fi into a hack and slash so well, as she looks and plays like she was transplanted 1:1 from Skyward Sword. No one feels like a clone character. Sub-weapons are also included, and seek to differentiate Hyrule from its pedigree. Bombs, arrows, and the hookshot (among others) all make an appearance, and all serve a purpose -- like bombing rocks in the overworld just like a real Zelda game. You can also level-up each character individually, and earn "badges" -- a huge skill-tree like system that you can progress through by earning Rupees and materials through normal play. It's an easy and fun progression mechanic that encourages players to replay levels for items without feeling like a grind. The lock-on system is one of the best I've seen in the series, as it actually works as intended. While locked on, you can dodge with the press of a single button, or guard by holding the left trigger and circle around your opponent. The only problem I found is that sometimes the camera gets a little wonky while locked on, but this only happens briefly once every 10 levels or so. When playing on the TV, the visuals are beautiful (though not as amazing as some other current-gen games), and there is hardly any slowdown to speak of. Once again, I'm finding myself glued to the GamePad as a control method. It's my favorite controller out right now, and I absolutely love how it feels. Players can also opt for a Pro Controller or Wiimote and Nunchuk if they please, and controls are fully customizable. There's just one major problem -- Off-TV play feels rushed in Hyrule Warriors, and really exposes the lack of power on the GamePad. Simply put, Warriors games typically display up to 100 models on-screen at once in heated situations, and the GamePad cannot handle it. In some levels -- the Twilight maps in particular, with looming towers in the background -- I've gotten full slowdown spurts as lengthy as 30 seconds (again, this doesn't happen on the TV). Now, the game is doable, and for the sake of experimentation, I completed the entire campaign on hard using Off-TV play. But if at all possible, it's not recommended. While the story and characters are wonderfully presented, the missions are going to be your typical Warriors fare. Even on hard mode the game isn't that much of a challenge, and although many levels have objectives like "capture this keep" or "kill this captain," your main goal 99% of the time is to enter the enemy base and kill the big boss. It can get tiring if you're going at it alone to say the least, since your fun factor is cut down by obtuse objectives, sometimes forcing you to slog to and fro across the entire map. You'll also have to gradually unlock characters by playing the story, starting with Impa by completing the first level, and so on. You won't even have the full cast until you complete the game, which fits in terms of the story (as you have to meet them first), but with many levels limiting you to just one character (Link), it feels restrictive. Thankfully, there is an exploration element in Hyrule Warriors that somewhat mirrors the Zelda series proper to help break up a lot of the repetition. As previously mentioned you can look for rocks to bomb, cuccos to find and mess with, hidden chests to grab, and special items to gather. When there isn't an imminent need to press on, I liked running around levels trying to find things, and it gets even more fun as you accumulate sub-weapons throughout the story. Slashing grass for health and breaking pots never felt this fun in the Warriors games. Your enjoyment is going to be increased ten-fold if you play the game with a friend. Hyrule Warriors features a full co-op mode for two players, but like other aspects of the game, it's very particular. For one, there is no online co-op of any kind. It's a huge bummer that really makes the package less appealing if you can't wrangle up a friend locally. Another thing to keep in mind is the aforementioned poor off-TV play. In Hyrule Warriors, there is no support for split-screen -- one player has to use the GamePad screen, and another has to use the TV -- no exceptions. The good news is that every single level and mode (except the first stage after booting up the game) is playable with a friend. What's really cool is that the second player can pick anyone unlocked so far in the story, even if the first player is limited to say, Link-only. Despite the lack of online play and inherent issues, couch co-op is an absolute blast, and I've played at least 30 hours with my wife, even though the campaign is roughly 10 hours. I cannot state strongly enough how much fun it is to share the experience with a partner. There's also a big bonus that makes up for the repetitive campaign -- adventure mode. This is also fully playable with two people, and features a retro-flavored map from the original NES The Legend of Zelda. You'll explore the entire overworld from the first game as you tackle each "square," which is a challenge level of sorts. Some squares might require you to kill 400 enemies in 10 minutes, and some might task you with killing three or more bosses on-screen at once. After beating a stage you might earn an old-school item like a lantern or a bomb, which can be used on the map to open up even more areas. It's crazy how fleshed out this mode is, and it cuts down on a lot of the fatigue from playing the campaign -- especially since many levels are actually challenging. If you're looking for even more to do, there's 100 collectible Gold Skulltulas that are hidden about the game. If you wanted to complete the story, adventure mode, find every Skulltula, and max out every character, it would probably take around 100 hours at minimum. That's not including the planned free updates and upcoming paid DLC. For instance, over the course of the review, a new challenge mode was even added as an update that essentially delivers more story-like missions. Hyrule Warriors can fall into the same trappings as any hack and slash, but the amount of effort that went into making it enjoyable for Zelda fans is staggering. This is one of the best couch co-op games I've ever played, warts and all.
Hyrule Warriors review photo
A Skyward Link to the Twilight Ocarina
We never could have imagined this mash-up in our wildest dreams. Nintendo, Team Ninja, and Omega Force together, co-developing a game based on the Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors series. Few stranger things hav...

I've discovered a new go-to game for relaxing

Sep 12 // Jordan Devore
I can't recall exactly how I got it into my head that I needed this 2010 Wii title. Nothing against the Wii, but there are so many other things I could be playing, whether for work or for leisure. Maybe it was a postponed Hawaii vacation that left me daydreaming about scuba diving. I can't be sure. What's important is I passed on the original Endless Ocean in favor of its sequel, which the internet rightfully told me to do. If you're only now hearing about the series, take that advice too. Blue World is a diving adventure game with a heavy emphasis placed on swimming around at your own pace, taking in the sights and sounds while exploring. And really, that's what makes it so unbelievably relaxing: there is little if any frustration to be had. You can't die. You can however chill out with a pack of giant otters in a South American river, or hitch a ride on a dolphin. Now, don't get me wrong, there are some horrifying, monstrous sharks lurking in certain areas -- but they can largely be avoided. And, more importantly, you can electrocute (err, "pacify") the shit out of them with your Pulsar device and go about your business. Even if that fails, the worst they or any other dangerous species will do is knock a bit of oxygen out of your tank. You might think that'd be a big deal, what with oxygen being the life-sustaining necessity that it is and underwater videogame levels often being stressful, but it's not. If you run out of air for whatever reason, you'll just be taken back to your boat with no real consequences. Remember almost drowning in Sonic the Hedgehog? This game is the opposite of that. Occasional scary-looking sea creatures aside, Blue World is a peaceful, laid-back journey. The music, which features vocals -- something not enough games are willing to adopt -- is beautiful, even uplifting. Combined with the steady breathing of your player character, the audio will put you in a zen-like state, totally unaware of the passage of time. Feel that stress melt away. Now, all of these feel-good descriptions are not to say you can breeze your way through the entire game. There's a story -- a sizable one at that -- but completing it feels like merely scratching the surface. Then the real fun starts: there are hundreds upon hundreds of real-world species to find across sea and land; coins to collect; and pieces of treasure to salvage. With or without the aid of online guides, finding all of that stuff would take ... jeez, I can't even hazard a guess. Certainly a long, long time. And that's not even counting all of the other stuff packed into Blue World, like training dolphins, running an aquarium, decking out a private reef, taking photos, and giving tours. It's JRPG deep, which is important because there are plenty of games that are inherently relaxing but not many that can keep your interest for 30+ hours. Every step of the way, the game rewards you with new titles. I don't know what the hell a "Temple Falcon" is, but I am one now, apparently. The positive reinforcement is appreciated. Chad Concelmo said it best in his review of Blue World for Destructoid: "The game is harmless, pleasant, relaxing, and just makes you feel really good inside."
Relax photo
Unwinding in an endless ocean
I play videogames for many reasons. Sometimes, I play for the story -- the chance to visit new worlds and live out someone else's life. Other times, it's the sense of competition I find most alluring, or the chance to master ...

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker shows off the pros and cons of the GamePad

Sep 05 // Brett Makedonski
Given some time with Captain Toad at PAX Prime, I wasn't exactly shocked to find that the game plays exactly how I'd figured. Self-contained levels that require the camera to be rotated for new viewpoints, a somewhat slow-moving but well-controlling character, and some puzzles that didn't hurt my brain but still weren't overly easy to solve. Playing the same build as Darren at E3, I learned what it was like to work my way through cube-like levels, ride a railcart, and square off against a dragon. What I first noticed about Captain Toad was the way that the developers have the opportunity to go above and beyond with the level design. It would be easy to mail in an effort where each level plays similarly to all of the others. Instead, there's a fast-paced stage that centers around shooting things while on a minecart, and another that involved using strategic cover to evade a dragon's attacks. Given that these were almost half of the levels I played, I have hope that they'll be equally as well-represented in the final game. Even the levels that were more static had some variation to them in the sense that many required either puzzle-solving skills or precise timing. However, my most striking observation dealt with the game's use of the Wii U's GamePad. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker involves many situations in which you need to tap items on the GamePad's screen to move them. This is a way for Captain Toad to ascend ledges, open new pathways, or find some well-hidden treasure. At times, these acts can exemplify the potential that the GamePad has for use in Wii U titles. It adds a clever touch of character to the mix, asking the player to interact with the game in a way that might feel more personal. It can just feel so absolutely brilliant to impose your will across several objects in succession in a way that a standard control wouldn't allow. However, the immersion of the experience can be starkly shattered when you realize that you've been staring at your GamePad and not your television for a while now. It's easy to get caught up with your head down, neglecting the fact that there's a large high-definition screen in front of you, and opting to turn your Wii U into a handheld device instead. From what I've seen of Captain Toad, it won't walk this line and strike a balance between the two sensations. That's a shame because we're still waiting for developers to consistently integrate the GamePad harmoniously into gameplay without pushing the players to become dependent upon the smaller screen. Quibbles with the GamePad aside, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is shaping up to be an experience that fans of those sections in 3D World will enjoy. In predictable fashion, Nintendo declined to comment as to why exactly we're tracking treasure, opting for a canned "that'll be revealed later." To be honest, I don't really need a reason; just being given the opportunity to trek through Captain Toad's world is reason enough.
Captain Toad preview photo
For better and for worse
Anyone who has played Super Mario 3D World knows what to expect from Nintendo's upcoming Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. That's because Captain Toad made an appearance periodically in his own levels throughout 3D World&n...

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

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

Mario Kart 8 DLC photo
And courses based on non-Mario games
[Update: Nintendo of America has released more details, mainly that both downloadable content packs will cost $7.99 each, or $11.99 if you buy them together. Pre-orders are now open and they grant immediate access to the...

Smash Bros. photo
Based on the Game Boy Advance games
The latest update from Super Smash Bros boss Sakurai details Samus and her new outfits. Blue and orange shorts and a small top, both of which were seen at the end of Metroid: Fusion and Metroid: Zero Suit, respectively. Here'...

Here are Destructoid's top ten games from gamescom

Aug 15 // Brett Makedonski
Alien: Isolation It's easy to understand why everyone has initially opted to take a decidedly guarded approach to Alien: Isolation. Fool me once, and so on. But, after several hands-on sessions with the game (including three different extended sections), it's almost impossible to contain our excitement for Isolation. Creative Assembly looks to have cultivated an atmospheric thriller that's actually deserving of the highest praise -- being compared to Ridley Scott's Alien. That's elite (and almost unspeakable) company, but all the demos we've seen nail what made the film so haunting. Turns out it's a considerably more terrifying experience when you're not just watching, but actively eluding this monstrosity. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Horses and cardboard boxes. Bikini model posters. Stealth and theft. Shit skids. It's serious and silly, stuffed into a highly anticipated next-gen package. At gamescom this year, we didn't see much more of MGS than we saw at E3, but seeing it again made me crave it that much more. But take your time, Kojima. If this is as good as we're hoping it is, it'll be worth the wait. Evolve Turtle Rock Studios' Evolve lets you pick your play style. Prefer team-oriented action, or the god complex that comes alongside being a hulking behemoth? It doesn't matter which you choose, both look to be equally fantastic. Evolve's four-versus-one asymmetrical multiplayer thrives because of one thing -- balance. It's remarkable how despite all the different character pairings and ability combinations there are, a harmony's always struck to never give either side an unfair edge. In the many matches we've played, it's constantly up in the air as to which will prevail, proving that it'll be an ideal experience for both solo and multiplayer goers alike. Life is Strange Both of Dontnod Entertainment's efforts, 2013's Remember Me and the upcoming Life is Strange, feature prominent female characters. The team says it isn't trying to "fix" the videogame industry, but it's just telling the stories it wants to tell. After seeing Life is Strange for an hour, it's difficult to imagine the tale being told from anyone else's perspective. Thrust into the role of teenage girl Max Caughfield, Life is Strange is about exploration, adventures, curiosity, and in all likelihood, growing. As Max and her friend Chloe investigate the disappearance of a classmate, they'll investigate the world around them, too. What parts do they play in this existence? How do they fit into it? Do they even want to fit into it? To complicate things, Max has the supernatural ability to rewind time. If an event played out to her disliking, she can take a mulligan and have another go at it. Not that it'll necessarily make matters easier. How can you expect a confused, inexperienced, misunderstood, and scared girl to make perfect decisions? All you can expect is that she'll inevitably grow. No Man's Sky Hello Games' Sean Murray told us that his studio was formed to make No Man's Sky. This is their dream game, satisfying their desire for a true science-fiction game with the ability to freely navigate the universe, exploring strange alien planets. It's a world we'll have to jump in to fully appreciate, but what has been shown so far has already captured our imaginations.  Assassin's Creed Unity As the Assassin's Creed franchise commits fully and takes a leap of faith into the new generation of console gaming, it's impossible not to recognize the upgrades that the change in hardware affords it. Apart from a visual enhancement, Unity's Paris in the throes of revolution simply looks and feels more alive and complete. This is essential for Assassin's Creed to take its next step. The series has always thrived on the playground that it gives the player. By creating a world that absolutely oozes dissent and uprising, Ubisoft seems to have reached a new pinnacle for the sandbox. And, that's precisely the element that ties the entire experience together. Bloodborne Do you love From Software's Souls games? Great. Upcoming PS4 title Bloodborne is going to be your dream game. But, if you've never bothered, I still think this one is going to draw you in with how they've approached their formula with new combat mechanics, much more gore, and a seriously freaky world to explore. The new area and beasts we saw at gamescom this week have us even more excited (and scared) to start playing. Ori and the Blind Forest Yeah, Ori and the Blind Forest is gorgeous. Anyone that's laid eyes on even a screenshot of the game knows that. But, good games are a lot deeper than superficial aesthetic. Luckily, Ori is more than just some beautiful art. Ori and the Blind Forest handles wonderfully as a platformer. With several different mechanics and abilities that open up through progression, it's a skill-based endeavor that challenges the player and taunts them into mastering its systems, but is never unfair. Those visuals are just the cherry on top. A giant, delicious cherry. Yoshi's Wooly World Soft, wooly eye-candy with Nintendo's platforming know-how made Yoshi's latest outing a crowd-pleaser on the gamescom show floor this year. Making the little dino the star of the action makes for a fresh experience, like soft towels just out of the dryer. Bllleh! Until Dawn Two years ago, Sony showed a campy, horny teen horror PS3 game that would be played solely with a PS Move controller. Now, Until Dawn has completely transformed into a full-fledged PS4 adult horror game with a Hollywood cast and branching gameplay that can lead players to one of hundreds of endings. Oh, and it's legitimately scary. Most improved player award.
Best of gamescom photo
All the winners, in no particular order
Gamescom is the largest videogame trade show in the world. Sound like a big deal? It absolutely is. Hundreds of thousands of people cram together in a convention center that's massive, but doesn't feel even close to huge enou...

Review: Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty

Jul 21 // Chris Carter
Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox One)Developer:  Just Add WaterPublisher: Oddworld InhabitantsMSRP: $29.99Released: July 22, 2014 New 'n' Tasty kicks off in the bleak, factory-like setting of RuptureFarms. The (formerly) titular Abe is a Mudokon, a peaceful shamanistic race that is now slaves to the Glukkons -- a parody of evil corporate businessmen, right down to the cigars. Before the game starts, everything is running at status quo. Mudokons are slicing up and processing other races into meat to profit the Glukkons, but recently, profits have been down. Abe wanders into the boardroom one day and spies a new strategy -- the Mudokons are going to be the next main course! Without missing a beat, Abe is immediately forced on the run, and your journey to escape RuptureFarms and embrace your destiny begins. One of the best aspects of the original was its compelling world. Within the first five minutes of the game Abe's Odyssee exhumes more lore than many other titles provide in five hours. You'll see Abe's race, a pack of Glukkons laughing over the demise of an entire species, and plenty of backstory to give your quest purpose. The moody atmosphere of the factory is sufficiently terrifying, as are most of the inhabitants that fill them up. So how does New 'n' Tasty play? Simply put, it's a puzzle platformer built around Abe's abilities (or lack thereof). As you can probably tell, Abe is a fairly meek individual. He has the power to run, jump, chant (more on this in a minute) and sneak, as well as use a rudimentary communication system by way of button combinations (hello, follow me, wait, whistling, farting, and laughing). He'll use the latter ability to start conversations with fellow Mudokons, and lead them into set gates to allow them to escape. The main problem? His friends aren't so smart, and will literally keep on running into hazards or enemies unless you specifically tell them to "wait," clear the way, and then tell them to follow again. Clearly, New 'n' Tasty wears its puzzle tendencies on its sleeve, as you can't rush into things head-on every single time. [embed]278263:54947:0[/embed] Instead, Abe can make use of three different principles -- wit, stealth, or confrontation. The former usually involves locating different switches, pulling levers that destroy or otherwise maim enemies in a deceitful manner. Stealth involves holding down the sneak button (which will in turn teach your friends to sneak around) to get by, carefully ensuring that you won't wake sleeping enemies. But the third way is probably the most interesting. Abe isn't completely helpless, as his chant power not only opens up gates for his companions to escape, but it can possess destructive enemies to do some real damage. The catch is that he not only has to have room to chant for a full five seconds (if an enemy is in sight, they'll shoot you down), but foes taken in this manner cannot jump -- so it's not a fool-proof solution to every puzzle. For the most part, taking control of enemies never gets old. You can walk around and communicate with other guards, start a conversation, and gun them down where they stand before you overload your subject's brain and make them explode. You can run your subject into a meat grinder and continue on your way. You can also scout ahead and use your poor possession as bait. The possibilities are constantly changing depending on the situation, and that's what keeps the game fresh and exciting. However, along with all that gameplay comes a few caveats. Developer Just Add Water has not only adapted the same great level design and aesthetic style, but the same wonky controls as the original. Abe's jumping, to put it lightly -- sucks. If you remember classic platformers like Prince of Persia where jumping from left to right moves you a certain amount of non-negotiable "blocks," you'll have the right idea of how imprecise leaping is. It's very, very difficult to do some of the tougher platforming sections (think mines in clusters at your feet) with the control scheme. Sometimes you'll try to get Abe to do a small leap, only to hit your toe on a set of mines and explode. Other times it's tricky to get him to jump farther, leading to some unfun platforming portions where you're fighting the controls to get to the next part of the level. I get why they recreated a faithful set of physics, but it doesn't mean it's ideal. Additionally, not all of the game's puzzles are created equal. Although the vast majority of the story is fairly open ended in terms of how to approach each problem (which is just as commendable now as it was at launch), some puzzles are either so obtuse that you'll be spending quite a while divining the singular solution, or so easy that the concept feels completely wasted. As long as you're willing to put up with a few of these sections, you'll charge on through to the game's more rewarding moments -- but I have a feeling that casual puzzle fans will get too frustrated to continue. One thing that does translate well though is the original style, overlayed on top of the beautiful new visuals. Oddysee's engine has been completely overhauled from scratch with Unity, and it genuinely looks incredible. For comparison's sake I even went back and popped in the original just to see how much New 'n' Tasty has improved, and it was like I wasn't even playing the same game. If you're a huge fan Abe's Oddysee, it's worth buying it again just to see the world of RuptureFarms completely recreated like this. Although the campaign is rather lengthy (roughly 10 hours depending on your skill level), there isn't a whole lot on the extra side to tide you over outside of three difficulty levels, and the ability to go back and save more Mudokons for a better ending. There is a "co-op" mode (just like the original), but it solely consists of taking turns after each death, and simply cuts out the hassle of passing a single controller around -- that's it. Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty is roughly the same frequently soul-crushing, yet unique and rewarding game it was in the '90s. Even if you hated it back then, it's probably worth investigating the remake just to see if your puzzle skills have improved, even if there aren't a whole lot of extras ready for you this time around. In the end, Abe's adventure is a tale worth telling.
Oddworld reviewed photo
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One of the first games I ever played on PlayStation was Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. I remember opening up the jewel case, adorned by a creepy looking creature with his mouth sewn shut, with no idea of what to expect. Over t...

Smash Bros. 4: Hopes, Fears, and Predictions

Jul 20 // Jonathan Holmes
Hancock's hopes Modes: The more the merrier. I'm not picky with modes, since I'm one of those guys who plays without items and on non-shit stages. I would love to see a replay saving and uploading system similar to Mario Kart TV thrown in there, except with a great ability to edit replays. Add some Miiverse integration in there? Mmmmmmmmmm that's good. I would probably spend hours looking at SM4SH highlight reels on Miiverse if I could. System: I'm hoping more characters have innate and unique systems like Little Mac's KO punch or Lucario's Aura. That way characters will have even more distinct playstyles than they already have, and it can help separate any clone characters that pop up! I don't want this to be Melee; again or Brawl again. I genuinely want this game to have its own identity and feel. Roster: Not taking into account the leaked list that is now questionable, I'd love to see a character like Seth from SSFIV or Double from Skullgirls. You know, a character that borrows moves from other characters yet still stands on their own. I'm not really sure why, but I tend to love those characters. I guess the perfect candidate would be the Pokémon Smeargle. And maybe he'd have to imitate only moves that exist in that match. How would it work? No idea, but I'd love it. I also tend to love characters that have a bit of random-ness to them, like Game & Watch's hammer attack (side-B), Luigi's missile (side-b), or Peach's turnip pull (down-B). If a character had a core mechanic based on that, it would be my jam. Maybe like Magikoopa or Count Bleck with the ability to shoot random projectiles or apply random effects to enemies? Of course this would come with the chance to backfire as well in order to balance things out.  Other than that, any character from Paper Mario. Also Boshi from Super Mario RPG as a skin for Yoshi please. Holmes' hopes Modes:  One of the biggest questions left about Smash Bros for the Wii U is "what will the single player mode be like?" We know that we aren't getting a huge ensemble campaign mode like Brawl's Subspace Emissary, but we know that we're getting something. It's not like Sakurai to want to make a humbler, less grandiose Smash Bros game than the one that preceded, so I'm hoping that the single player mode of Smash Bros for on Wii U is just as big as Subspace Emissary, just with better pacing.  The best way I can think to do that is to bend to convention a bit and give every character in the game their own unique story mode. That would go along with Sakurai's declaration that cut scenes would not be used as "rewards" in the game, but would still give us what we want- some sense of narrative and an excuse to have cut scenes in some form or another. I'm imagining each character having a campaign themed around their game of origin. Mega Man's game starts with a eight boss select screen, but with Mario and Fox appearing under new names like "Mustached Man" and "Furry Man". The Animal Crossing villager would have to run through a 2D town, knocking on doors and doing favors while beating the crap out of strangers he meets and greets. Fire Emblem and Pokemon characters would travel in a top down 2D map, but every battle would play out in the traditional Smash Bros way. Little Mac will have to fight his way to the top of the WVBA, and so forth.   From there, each character would cross over into one or more of the worlds of other characters, engaging in Amiibo-enhanced team-ups, and eventually taking on a character-specific last boss (Dr. Wily, Vehemoth Phosbat, etc.). Just no original bosses this time, please. Rayquaza and Ridley mean a lot to us, unlike things like Galleom and... what was that other one's name? Duon? C'mon now Sakurai, what the heck is a Duon? More importantly, why should we care? System: Smash Bros 4 appears to be a game that wants to make everyone happy. Sadly, that's not possible, but one way to come close would be to allow us to play Smash Bros 4 in the same styles as it appeared on every prior Nintendo  home console. The roster would be consistent regardless of what console you choose, but everything else would be changed to match the system of your choice. Activating "Wii" mode would revert the game to Brawl's level of graphic fidelity and physics/combat engine, activating GameCube mode would activate Melee-style visuals and fighting system, and so on. Nintendo presumably still has the polygon models from those games, so they could do a little recycling, while creating some top notch SNES and NES sprites for each character wouldn't likely add too much to the game's budget. On the 3DS, we'd get the same treatment except for DS (would use N64's polygon models), GBA (would use the new SNES-style sprite art) Virtual Boy (that same SNES-style sprite art, but all in red) Game Boy Color (the NES-style Sprites again) and of course, the good old Game Boy. OK, I guess they could skip the Game Boy Color, but while we're in fantasy land, I figured I'd go whole hog. Roster: This may sound like a cop out, but more than anything, I hope that every character on the roster gets a cool alt. skin that will replace most of the game's traditional "clone" characters. We know that Lucina was originally planned to be alt. skin for Marth, which means Sakurai has been considering the idea of lumping individual characters with identical movelists into one spot on the roster for a while spot.  That's more or less what he's doing with the alternate versions of the Wii Fit Trainer, The Animal Crossing Villager, and Robin.  Now that we have the ability to customize the properties of each character's moves, there is less reason to have clones. It would be great to see Lucas, Wolf, and Dr. Mario to comeback, and for Dr. Luigi, Green hair Samus, and Ms. Pac-Man to make their debuts, but not with their own spots on the roster. Make them alt. skins and everyone will be happy. If they don't make that happen, I may cry and then die. Unless Sakurai and company make Mariel Cartwright's Fatal Frame character idea a real thing. With everyone in high heels. Do that, and all is forgiven forever. Hancock's fears Modes: From what we've already seen, I don't have many "Mode Fears." Like I said, I like the standard stuff and that's already in! System: Since tripping is out, I worry that the game will feel too slow or floaty instead of striking the balance between Melee and Brawl. I want things to carry weight to them and I want it to be fast-paced enough to keep spectators' interest. I'm always scared of new mechanics, but I'm also excited for new mechanics. All current signs and omens for SM4SH have been good ones, and so most of my fears have been quelled. Roster: My biggest fear isn't who makes or doesn't make it, but that the balance will be garbage. I don't want another "Metaknight tier." Actually, I don't want Metaknight to make it in at all. Even if he is rebalanced, he will rekindle some horrible memories. I don't even mind clones too much, since I understand and appreciate their intricacies.  [Note from Holmes: After hearing that, I'm going to write like Metaknight doesn't exist for the rest of this post, because I love you.] Holmes' fears Modes: My fear is that Sakurai and the team were stretched thin between developing two versions of the same game for different consoles at the same time, That may have limited them from implementing as much content in Smash Bros for the Wii U and 3DS as in there was in Brawl. If we have to buy two games to get a package that's as complete as Brawl was (including unlockables, soundtrack, and multiple single player modes), that will be a bummer. Understandable, but still a bummer. System: Having played Super Smash Bros. 4 on the 3DS and the Wii U, I'm pretty sure I'll be happy enough with the system. I don't think it's likely that the game will have the same allowance for constant high speed aggression as Melee, but if that's what I want, I can always go play Melee (or hopefully, the Melee-mode in Smash Bros. 4 as described above). That's actually what worries me. What if Smash Bros 4 is abandoned by the majority of the competitive players like Brawl was? Does that mean that Melee will be the only game at Evo until the inevitable Smash Bros 5 arrives? I love Melee, guys. I really do, but it hasn't surrendered the spotlight in the competitive scene for the past 13 years. Would a little reduced speed and mobility in Smash Bros 4 allow Melee to monopolize that position for another 8? I hope not.  Roster: I used to be worried that the Ice Climbers were going to get cut. Despite being about as unique as fighting game characters get, as wells being the occasional choice of tournament-level players, these two classic characters seemed like prime candidates for the chopping block. The portable version of the game was to blame. Reports state that it will be tough for Smash Bros on the 3DS to hold an process a lot of characters, items, and background elements at one time. Does that mean that "two-in-one" characters like the Ice Climbers will be more than the 3DS can handle? Concerned fans fear the worst.  Having since played the game on the 3DS, I'm a little more optimistic that Nana and Popo will be back. The console seemed to be able to handle a lot of enemies at one time in Smash Run mode, and while I'm no expert on the science of RAM, it seemed like mirroring the polygon model and animations of one extra character wouldn't be be beyond its capabilities. On the other hand, I'm less confident in the return of Ganondorf, Meta Knight, or even Wario, and even less hopeful that we'll see all new villains like Ridley or King K. Rool. We haven't seen any "villainous" character besides Bowser and Dedede confirmed to be playable in Smash Bros. 4, and I'm not sure that we will. I blame Amiibo. The new NFC figuring system is set to be a major part of how Smash Bros for the 3DS and the Wii U connect to each other. Scan a character like Mario or Pikachu in your game, and they'll exchange data and carry new traits between the 3DS and Wii U titles, as well as new unannounced games likely unrelated to the Smash Bros series. That leaves characters that you can only play as in Smash Bros at a disadvantage, and villains like Ganondorf are not likely to be playable in anything other than Smash . If that's the case, then their Amiibos may be functional with fewer games, making them less marketable.  Nintendo is relying on Smash Bros more than ever to help not only with console sales, but to up the profile of all their various franchises and products. That might make it the first game in the series since the original to go without any playable bad guys. They may appear as tough-as-nails unplayable bosses, but that just wouldn't be the same. Or maybe they're just saving them all for epic villains reveal trailer. I hope so! Hancock's predictions Mode: I predict a huge amount of customization options for modes, allowing a lot of mixing and matching, which is sure to please most people. I also predict I will never use any of it. Fox only, Final Destination. System: I think it will be the best-feeling Smash yet. Probably on the floaty side, but with the new edge-guarding systems in place, I think that might actually work to the game's advantage. Fewer battles on the edges of the map and more focused on just regular fighting, which will make low-recovery characters like Little Mac not-useless! I also think that it will make the strategies in this game unlike any previous installment. I'm hoping with Namco's help the game will be well balanced, but only time will tell. I am especially hopeful for the potential of patches and DLC. We're clearly getting a huge amount of content on the disc, so any DLC will just be a cherry on top. Roster: Jigglypuff is definitely in, hopefully with her Sunday bonnet costume and maybe even an Igglybuff/Wigglytuff skin. Wario BETTER be in, but hopefully with a moveset more akin to his Project M version. I hope Ganondorf makes his return only if he is completely reworked. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he is replaced with a different Zelda character in order to promote Hyrule Warriors. Revealing Midna or Zant as a playable character would make people lose their shit, myself included. I don't think Lucas makes it, unfortunately. I'd love to see Poo though! Holmes' predictions Modes: Sadly, I think that the single player modes in Smash Bros 4 will be greatly diminished compared to Brawl, but still more robust than Melee. There will be an adventure mode like Melee, and it will likely have some awesome boss fights, but there wont likely be anything as ambitious as Subspace Emissary. That's a double edged sword, as Subspace Emissary might have tried to bite off more than it could chew. I think Sakurai has probably learned from that, and will treat single player mode as less of a main attraction and more as a training ground for the player, while stat farming and grinding for your Amiibo sidekick.  The one mode I'm sure will be bigger this time is the trophy hoard, for both combat-involved assist trophies and the regular motionless models. Amiibo is basically a Smash Bros trophy collection for real life collectors. Planting the idea that these little plastic statues have value, both in-game and in real life, is a financial necessity for Nintendo, which is why it will likely be a major part Smash Bros 4. While I recognize how ridiculous that is, I'm also pretty excited about it. Lets hope Kyle Hyde finally gets the trophy he deserves! System: Smash Bros 4 doesn't seem to have wavedashing, and there's some concern from some of the best minds in the competitive scene that the landing lag may hurt the game's pacing a bit. That probably wont be enough to kill the game in the competitive scene, but it's not likely to convince Melee loyalists that it's time to let go, or win over new fans that never liked Smash Bros in the first place. Smash 4 will probably replace Melee at EVO for the next couple years, but after that? I'm not so sure.  Like with the game's new modes, I'm guessing the bulk of Sakurai's effort to craft a new system will be their to sell us on Amiibo. Just as ROB and The Zapper were to the NES, the analog stick was to the N64, and motion controls were to the Wii, Amiibo is the non-gameplay related feature that Nintendo is hoping will get a skeptical and disaffected consumer base to consider picking up a Wii U. Smash Bros is Amiibo's centerpiece game, and I think we can expect Amiibo-centric features to be in every part of the game's system other than "For the Glory" mode. That's the one part of the game likely remain "pure". Sakurai knows that long-time Smash Bros fans aren't likely to take kindly to any focus diverted from one-on-one combat. Roster: As of the time of this writing, 36 character have been announced for Smash Bros 4. I'm guessing that total will be 46, which leaves us 10 more to go. History has shown that no character that appeared in the first game in the series has ever been cut. Going by that, I'm giving Ness and Jigglypuff each a 90% chance of returning. I also have the feeling that characters who made the jump from Melee to Brawl have a better chance of making it, as they have been a part of the series for longer than many Smash Bros fans have even been alive. That puts Ice Climbers 80% (reduced slightly due to the technical issues they might cause), Lucas, Falco, and Wolf all 10% chances (hopefully they'll just be alt. skins). Wario gets 75% because he's a pretty good bet he's also a leading man as wells as a "bad guy" and Ganondorf gets 25% because he's always been treated like an afterthought in Smash, and isn't as Amiibo-friendly as most of the rest of the gang. As for new entries, I'm giving Bayonetta a high 75% chance. She'd fit somewhere between a guest character and regular Nintendo all-star, as she was created by Platinum and Sega, but for the moment, is now being published exclusively by Nintendo. That gives Nintendo a vested interest in promoting her in any way they can. They've got a lot to lose if Bayonetta 2 isn't embraced by the Wii U's current install base, financially and otherwise. They may include her in Smash Bros 4 for that reason alone. Her Amiibo is also likely to sell pretty well, and could work to be compatible with whatever Bayonetta game may come next (here's to hoping for a fast paced 2D action game in the 3DS). Shulk for Xenoblade is a safer bet at 90%. He's got a great move set, and decent sized fan base, and wields the titular blade that shares the name with a JRPG that Nintendo wants us all to buy in 2015. The same goes for some representative from the Rhythm Heaven series. They haven't become a household name outside of Japan (yet), but the games have been consistent million sellers in their home country. Karate Joe, the previously rumored Choir Boys, or even a group of monkeys are all possible. Combine them for a 90% chance of inclusion.  That leaves 165% percent, which is a weird number. 99% of that has to go to Mr. Game and Watch, who was all but confirmed at the end of Pac-Man's E3 trailer. 33% goes to a character from Fatal Frame. Though there is very little crossover appeal between a colorful 4-player fighting game and ghost photogaphy horror game, but that never stopped Nintendo before. The last 33%, goes to Disk-Kun, the old mascot for Nintendo's now largely forgotten Famicom Disk System. He could throw little floppy discs at enemies and confuse children. That seems like something that would inspire both nostalgia and light giggles from Sakurai, and if ROB and Mr. Game & Watch are any indicators, that's sometimes all it takes to get a spot on the Smash Bros roster. But enough out of us. What are your Smash Bros 4 dreams, nightmares, and educated guesses? We only have to wait a little longer until all is revealed, so lets enjoy contemplating the possibilities while we still can!
Super Smash Bros. photo
Dreams, nightmares and realities with Hancock and Holmes!
When it comes to writing about Smash Bros, I'm a control freak. If Destructoid goes more than a day without posting about the series, I get impatient. Smash Bros is actually a big reason why I got started here. Back in 2007, ...

Fatal Frame Wii U photo
Zero: Nuregarasu no Miko haunts Japan this September
Koei Tecmo unveiled the next entry in the Fatal Frame series, Zero: Nuregarasu no Miko, today during a NicoNico Live event. The Wii U horror title, which Siliconera translates as Fatal Frame: The Bla...

New Smash Bros. fighters photo
Also, Captain Falcon returns
Today, Nintendo was set to tease a "New Fighter Intro Video" at 7AM PST, and tease they did. The new fighter was revealed to be none other than Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening. But wait, there's more! Robin from Fire Embl...

Mighty Number 9 opens new crowd funding campaign, teases cartoon show

Jul 06 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]277657:54765:0[/embed]
Mighty Number 9 photo
Tonight on it's the mind we examine the phenomenon of Deja Vu
It seems like only yesterday that Keiji Inafune announced the Kickstarter campaign form Mighty Number 9 at PAX East. It was an exciting day for Mega Man fans. Just looking at the commemorative t-shirt from that event still p...


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