I had to let the hype die down a little bit before I posted this as I really wanted to dig into the Switch.
It has been a crazy few months and all the new releases and new hardware (Ryzen) There is so many new and interesting thing going on in the video game wolrd. (#Darksiders3) As you may know it is hard to hide I am a Nintendo fan, and I have been trying to get around that but it seems they have finally made a product that I really enjoy that is breaking throuhg and shaking things up in just the right places.
I think that what I like the most about the Switch is how the hardware resembles almost everything everyone loved about the Sony Playstation 1. (And the Sega Genesis if you can get over some factors)
The original PlayStation had a lot to overcome to even have a good step into the market. To be honest if Sega had been a little bit better… The PlayStation probably would have never been quite the success that it became. But with Nintendo not giving developers a platform with the ideal physical medium to publish on… Cause CDs are like a $1 to publish on… there was simply a tidal wave of support that was ready to jump onto the PS1 once it was announced that Nintendo would skip CDs.
Besides those two huge opportunities what the PS1 had going for it was:
1) Simple hardware - That fits with industry standards of how a computer operated at the time.
2) Cheap development kits that were very easy to program with.
I am a huge fan of the Ben Heck Show. Because not only doe they tear hardware apart and really go into the details of how the hardware operates, but it's also a great show too :3
The PS1 ran more like a PC than most of its competitors, which in the long run probably made the system a lot more easy to program for. I don't think I have to point out on a technological standpoint that the Sega Saturn and the Nintendo 64 were both needlessly overly complicated. The Sega Saturn with its 8 processors, and the N64 with its weird GPU getting ram priority over the CPU just probably looked crazy to most developers that were looking for an easy port job.
Also with the PS1 it had insanely cheap development kits, and they were giving them to normal consumers too… Which lead to much better early third party support and the eventual dominance of the market, simply because they were getting the best of the up and coming game developers straight to their system.
Here is a song for the next section.
The thing is Nintendo had so much pride after the DS and Wii both really were successful. They thought it was the 90s again, in that they could just do whatever they wanted. As I explained above, they kind of sucked at making platforms without having outside leverage beyond the hardware.
Kind of like: “WE DON’T CARE ABOUT DISKS CAUSE THEY SUCK”
Which I totally understand with the N64 it was a pride thing, and anti-possible piracy, but if the N64 had a CD drive it would have torn the PS1 to the ground in the first year because there would have been nothing the PS1 could do that the N64 could have.
So as bad as the 3DS and Wii U years were for Nintendo… I think it was the kind of smacking they needed to get their heads out of the clouds and see where development was going. As half of the reason why they were so incredibly successful in video games was because they understood game development better than other world regions.
As a fan… Nintendo really sucks at designing the tech parts of their hardware. The SNES worked cause they had exclusivity contracts… But you have a 16bit processor bottled necked by an 8bit buss… Again I have to remind people that today that might not seem like a huge deal except for the fact the system that was two years older had a 16bit buss and a 32bit register.
So I really excited about the Switch in terms of a development platform as Nintendo has done a lot of work to make the system easy to develop for.
Not only have they gone out of their way to work directly with Epic on their Unreal 4 engine… Which I might add that I hate the Unreal engines in general because they are not typically well tooled and leak power left and right… But Nintendo went out of their way to work on API and software for the engine and the Switch to make porting much more efficient and effective.
But this seems that Nintendo has been humbled in many ways with the Wii U and they actually have been asking for advice on how their system should work.
Because, they went out of their way to send the specs to Capcom and other major third party developers in Japan and listen to their feedback. Originally the system was only going to have two gigs of ram and Capcom sent them feedback that they should increase it to four… and they listened.
Which is a dramatically different from their Wii and Wii U model of hardware release. Where they stuck to what they wanted to do regardless of where the industry was moving and how it might affect what type of games were on their devices.
Cause as much as I did like the Wii… There was a lot of shovel ware on that system. And I think for the most part that is because it was using an old system architecture which most developers would not take quite a seriously and in the long run there was very few traditional third party games that really made it to the Wii. (We did get COD but it took a really long time)
As much as I would have loved to see a system that would completely rival the PS4 and XB1. That would require a lot more hardware and power. Which then would require a larger price. Which then would bring up the screen resolution argument again. Which would then kill the battery life. Which then would lead to a completely different form factor… So as much as X2 is tempting I can totally see the rabbit hole that would be just for slightly better performance.
Between the Wii U and XB1 is not a bad place to be.
Well enough about the hardware… What are my impressions?
The screen on the actual device is like the Gameboy Micro in that it is at a 100% pixel ratio with 720P (BTW it is 5000K (200k more than the sun) if you like to record or take pics from it) and has brightness that puts the PlayStation Vita to shame. Not to mention the speakers are really loud and accurate.
I did not play my system mobile at first because I did not have a screen protector. The visuals on the TV are okay… but I think Nintendo has an alternate color space or some kind of look up table that allows the colors to look much more vibrant than on a stock TV. Less to say I think the visuals on the TV are okay, but will require fine tuning to really get the same level of pop you will get with the actual screen.
At first I was astounded with how small the Switch is… It is possibly one of the smallest systems I own… Except for the PSTV but Sony made sure I cannot enjoy that… I think it might have been okay to make the system or the Joy-cons larger as even though the buttons and joysticks are larger than the PlayStation Vita they are kind of awkwardly placed on the system.
Most noticeable is the thumb lock I will get from jumping back and forth from the joystick to the d-pad buttons on the actual system as my hands have to adjust where on the system I can hold it. This does not happen when I use the comfort grip, or simply use the Joy-cons detached. But how it is now I feel the system is a little rough on people with larger hands. Thankfully the kickstand and a table really circumvent this, but I would not recommend playing this way for more than five hours.
Sound quality is a mixed bag. I have a pair of studio headphones that have their own amp for dynamic audio, so if there is noise I will hear it. The Switch is noisy in some places that I would not expect it to be. In game it is perfectly fine, but the second I jump on to see what my friends are playing there is noticeable background noise that should not be there since there is no audio playing there anyway.
I think this is the biggest downside to the System On a Chip design as it is probably next to impossible to remove all electronic interference with all of the extra heat, electricity, and other unknown elements hitting the system all at once. It is noticeable on my TV too, but I have to turn it up really high just to even come close to hearing it… and for people with hearing damage they probably will not ever notice it.
It is really hard to press the power button, even when you really mean it. I notice I have to devote all of my concentration on doing that. Which is odd cause the Gameboy had made a slider a standard for the longest of time and I think the DS pretty much got rid of that… It is not terrible, but it is harder to use than the Vita.
So far the games have been pretty good. Or at least Zelda Breath of The Wild is pretty great. Though there are a lot of really good indie titles that are making it to the online store.
Most noticeably Blaster Master Zero and Fast RMX are the best games for you $$$.
Not to say there are not other great games out there but for me those had a lot of extra value and really show off the system well.
I don’t know what to say about RMX that has not already been said except that it pretty much is the only title to show off the true capabilities of the Switch. If other developers can pull off as much as they did I really don’t see the Switch having too much of an issue moving forward.
That does bring me to HDR rumble. It is basically the best rumble per space since the GameCube.
There is one thing that really bothered me with the Wii is that it opted out of the larger rumble motors in the GameCube for a cheap cellphone vibrator. It turns out that the Switch still uses cheap cellphone vibration technology… its just they got the best quality ones on the market that actually shake the entire controller just like the older rumble packs.
What I also know is that the HDR rumble is more accurate in that the developers can actually copy how sound waves move in the air though the movement in the rumble which does lead to some very satisfying rumble. Which brings up to me why the Pro Controller is $70… its because it actually has really freaking good rumble for once that puts both the PS4 and the XB1 controllers to shame and still manages to have a personally confirmed 40 hour battery life. (and includes a good quality USB 3.0 cable )
Blaster Master Zero… That game has the best HDR rumble. Not only is it accurate but also it is an old school portrayal of rumble and at its best is very satisfying. Every hit of your cannon sends the controller shaking and I love it.
Blaster Master Zero is a pretty good re-imagining of the first games and I think it has a lot of strengths to it. First it tries to be a modern re-master instead of rethinking the wheel. I think after Overdrive it was a great time to jump back into the past and find the core mechanics that made the original game so great and improve on them.
Though I have to say this new game does introduce some problems. There are stages where you have to wait for water to go by. At first this is just a minor annoyance but when it gets copied and pasted throughout the whole area it gets really boring. I also felt that the weapon selection screen could have added a bit more information about each gun and what they can do to help you.
The second weapon upgrade allows your blaster to shoot farther. But it also stuns enemies. There is a certain boss that this gun is super effective against… Even more so than the wave gun that should do this and be safer…
Music is good but not quite as good. It kind of comes down to personal choice and I totally get that the head got to choose what they wanted... But the title screen is… Below average, it’s a bit serious and feels like it belongs with Contra more than Blaster Master.
Some of the Stages are remixes but they add more bass and re-tune parts so they are more modern and for the most part work really well. But then you get to level 2, which should have been the castle stage that got reworked into an underground settlement and it has really generic sounding BGM that works for the area, but kind of kills the momentum of the game. Having played the original I never got that Stage two was a castle stage… I thought the music was congratulating you and saying you are awesome and here is a new challenge.
I have gone though and looked at the music changes and for the most part the music was a lot more simplified, and in some cases left in an incomplete minor loop with no relief. Which is probably a great contrast to the upbeat original sound track, but personally I kind of prefer the complex yet simple songs of the original except for Stage 6-8.
That said I think the new additions to the game was great. Having more buttons to control with they went ahead and put a dedicated trigger to locking directional shooting which works when in Sophia and in a dungeon.
Also there is a lot more sub weapons to collect and a lot of new ways of using them. In some places I wished they had made more puzzles around using them besides having the flash sub weapon… But most of the levels are short and fast to the action.
All of the new guns have a second function:
Long Range: It also stuns
Penetrator: It goes through walls
Diffusion: It also pushes enemies back
Auto: Like an AK-57 it can start to spray wide after a few rounds
Reflect: It will deflect more powerful shots back if used the second before a hit
Striker: It hits every enemy on the screen if it hits
Flame: It burns walls and ice
Wave: It goes though everything and stuns enemies (except for 1 boss, yes RoboSquid I know your pain XD)
Which I think this is a really cool update over the original, as most of the other guns in Master Blaster were never really used for anything but projectile damage so it’s a nice mix-up here. Though I cannot help but feel that I never was forced much to use any other weapon than the Wave beam.
But there was one crab boss that blows bubbles and it was totally satisfying using the shield to shoot them all back and do massive damage.
Level design is good, except it kind of feels smaller than normal. In that this new game really does make Sophia smaller which does change some of the balances of enemies, as they did not get scaled well with her. I am also not sure if certain levels had the same amount of impact as they did on the original. I think it is because certain stages with original music were not as good as the NES versions. I am not really sure if it was simply because this started on the 3DS but the scaling in this game is a bit off and so some areas are much larger and seem less designed as in the NES version.
Which does lead to this game is a lot easier when it comes to the platforming action. The NES title require some segments of perfect platforming which I can understand why they were omitted but then again they still implemented the falling damage on Jason… Which in my opinion is much worse than any skilled jumps they may have required as Jason’s falling damage only does one thing: Forces you to use ladders and waste time. There are also several sections that require Jason to crawl on the floor. Again the only reason why those are there is to require you to get out of the tank and crawl on the floor, but Jason crawls really slow. Not that I want him to go lightning fast… but sometimes it will take 20 seconds to get to the other side of a room… Which is kind of a pain and not cute.
That said this game does a pretty good job copying the physics and the gameplay of the original without really messing with it too much. Not only are there save point… THANK YOU. But there is a map system for people that don’t want to go exploring… Which I broke down and used when I got the bad ending. Which is possibly one of the most depressing endings I have ever gotten… Worse than Sonic Adventure 2… So I had to go through beating all of the mutants and collecting all of the extra health pieces so I could activate the last stage and hopefully get to the good ending.
I think this game did a great job getting the Anime story into the game that the western audience never got to see. Lets just say the US did not miss out on some of the crazy and there is a lot of liberties that were used in the original story… but it probably still made more sense than the US marketing.
At $10 this game is a must have.
If you told me that Inti Creates was going to remake another one of my childhood games last year I probably would have dug my head in the sand. As I do think they innovate kind of well… but their track record in my book is not that solid as I would like for them to handle something like Blaster Master.
But I think they stuck to their strengths: 2D Pixels and really did a great job in faithfully transitioning a modern game to play like the classic.
This game has some of the best pixel art I have seen in years, its kind of a strange mix of the C64 and the NES and yet it works really well. They have done a great job emulating limited color pallets when it comes to the animation of the pixels. I have taken great notice to the green parts of the flamethrower that is a throw back to the limited color changes per sprite.
Also I see screen darkening effects very similar to Turrican on the C64 would handle depth changes.
There is simply a lot of cool extras details they have put into this game that only people that know that era would even begin to understand why they are that way and what really brings in the extra wow factor in.
So when stacked up to other retro remake indie games I have to think Blaster Master Zero is a very strong game and for a budget price it really shines and shows what amazing skill it takes to make a game with tight controls and fun gameplay.
I think it would be good to recommend it over Zelda because Zelda hype has been building for years and for some people its not going to be the game they wanted it to be. Where is like the title… I had Zero expectations walking into this game and is has way more than that to give.
Well that is all, my computer is typing very slow so I am going to stop it here.