Posts Tagged ‘Wii U’

Tokyo Mirage Impressions #FE

June 26, 2016

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This weekend I made a bold decision: passing up on Overwatch in order to pick up Atlus’s new Persona-esque JRPG, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. I’m not a massive Persona fan—I prefer more hardline Shin Megami Tensei entries like Nocturne and Devil Summoner 2—but I figured, given the nature of both Atlus’s games and the Wii U, that I’d better pick it up now or I might not have another chance.

I’m only five hours in, but so far there’s a lot to like and dislike. Based on the first and second dungeons, which admittedly is not a lot to go on, they feel a bit hobbled together. Granted, these are the first and second dungeons. They’re simple as a rule. But the first dungeon felt like a tile-based randomized map, and the second dungeon relies on a very simple, very sluggish puzzle format. I’m hoping they open up like some of the more memorable dungeons in Nocturne, with massive spires, moving blocks, and tricky damage tiles. But so far, these dungeons feel even more rigid and simple than Persona’s. I’ll give it time.

I am really happy with the enemy encounters. Enemies roam the dungeons; there are no random encounters. Swiping your sword will stun enemies, and they fade away if you don’t engage. Battles are very much in the standard “press turn” MegaTen style, but the Session system promises to open things up. When a character attacks an enemy’s weakness, other characters with linked “Session Skills” will jump in and attack. A large part of the strategy is synergizing your skills so that characters can interact based on a number of different enemy weaknesses.

The battles are bright, colorful, and I adore the main battle theme. Shin Megami Tensei as a series has always succeeded on its battle systems, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions differentiates itself in small but important ways. One thing I’ve noticed so far is that Tokyo Mirage Sessions really pushes players to never select the basic “attack” command. You’re always using skills in order to set up sessions, and I’m hoping they build up to truly ludicrous levels of comboing. I’m the type of person who hesitates to use magic in just about any RPG, but it’s immediately obvious that mana hoarders won’t survive long.

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There’s significantly less micromanagement compared to a game like Nocturne, where it seemed like players could stick their grubby paws anywhere and tweak anything. Instead of fusing monsters, Tokyo Mirage Sessions has players forge and equip weapons to learn different skills and spells. At this point, there’s no real sense of choice between weapons. You just get a new one, use it, and learn its skills. I don’t think that’s a positive or negative; probably Persona fans will be fine with it, and main series MegaTen fans will want a little more freedom. And once I fill up my available skill slots, I’ll probably complain that I’m forced to make too many tough choices.

There are some irksome load times, including a short load screen at the end of each battle, which is a big annoyance for me. The game is vibrant and beautiful, with great character models, but I don’t feel like it’s pushing the Wii U that hard. I’m playing on the retail disc, so this may not be a problem if you install the game to your Wii U. But it can be a bit of a downer when an emotional scene is followed by a load screen.

Speaking of emotional scenes, so far there’s been a good amount of animated cutscenes. The tone of the game is very happy and fluffy, which I appreciate. I love the atmosphere of heavier MegaTen games, but for me Persona felt like a mishmash of horror themes with a bubbly anime atmosphere. I love true horror games, so that always felt like a tease to me. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is much more comfortable with being an anime-themed JRPG, and I kind of prefer it that way.

So far I’m having a lot of fun with the game, and I’m hoping it makes the connections that I can feel it building up to. I’m a creative type of person, so I really engage with Tokyo Mirage Session’s story of a group of singers and artists trying to find their own voice in Tokyo’s crowded entertainment industry. And the characters have all the heart you’d expect from a Persona game. They’re really sweet, and very fun.

So let me end on my favorite aspect of the game so far: I love, love, love that the Wii U gamepad acts as a text messaging service. Characters will text you while you’re dungeon-crawling to provide hints, shoot the breeze, or send you chibi emoticon stickers. It’s a brilliant way to connect players with the characters, and it really feels like the next level of social simulation in Atlus RPGs. Text messages make the game world feel more alive; they help party members rise above anime archetypes and make them feel like friends. In videogames especially, that’s a really rare and remarkable feeling.

Also, did I mention that the character designs are incredible? I don’t think I did. They are.

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Mario Kart 8’s first DLC brings Hyrule Castle and Mute City to the Mushroom Kingdom

November 16, 2014

An in-depth look at Nintendo’s “Super Smash Kart” DLC

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Mario Kart 8 is a big, bold, beautiful game. The track design is unmatched and the handling is sublime… but it was always lacking something. That something is levels, characters, and karts from other Nintendo properties like The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, and Excitebike, all added with this new DLC. Cross-over tracks are a long overdue addition, considering how well Nintendo has crossed-over its games in Super Smash Bros. We’ve entered the era of Super Smash Kart—but what all does this DLC add to the already great Mario Kart formula?

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Bayonetta 2 and the magic of doing the exact same thing, better

October 29, 2014

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I’ve been playing a lot of Bayonetta 2 recently. I think I’m approaching the final act, having just resolved the main source of conflict and uncovered the big bad. All this in just three days of playing at breakneck speed — pretty crazy, considering I don’t even like the first game all that much.

Sure, the first Bayonetta is good. I can appreciate what it’s going for, what people are praising when they call it the best brawler ever. But it just doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t gel. Everything pushes me out of the groove: the story is a bloated mess, end-of-stage grading is overly punishing, and enemy attacks are intrinsically awkward in a way I can’t put my finger on. I shelved the game halfway through.

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Indies have arrived

August 11, 2014

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Amidst a scarcity of big budget games, indies are stealing the spotlight

Looking through my Playstation 4’s media bar last night, I noticed something strange: a complete absence of big-budget, publisher-backed titles. There was the Destiny beta, of course, but nothing truly substantial, nothing I’ve actually bought. In fact, the beep of an empty disc tray is something of a running joke in my house — of course there’s nothing in there; we don’t even own a physical disc for the system.

For me, that’s incredibly weird. I’m not a primary consumer of AAA big-budget titles, but neither do I consider myself an indie gamer. I’m not prone to playing navelgazing, experiential indie titles; instead, I play scrolling shooters, platformers, role-playing games, kart racers, and brawlers. Seeing that my library consisted of nothing but indies came as a real shock to me.

But that’s a defining core of this generation: the walls have broken down, and all of a sudden indies sit flush alongside mainstream titles. New distribution models are allowing indie developers a voice, and they’re making that voice heard.

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Wii U review: Shovel Knight

August 5, 2014

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Dig it or shovel off

To miss Shovel Knight’s NES-throwback ambitions would be next to impossible. Styled after any number of classic Capcom platformers, Shovel Knight features colorful sprites, chirpy tunes, a wide array of weapons and powers, and eight wild bosses to bury.

Shovel Knight dispenses enemies with sideswipes and pogo jumps of shovel justice, unearths gems by digging up rocky mounds, and hops from platform to platform seeking justice. Not to mention he’s seeking his partner and love interest Shield Knight — she’s been taken by a shadowy enchantress, and it’s up to Shovel Knight to save her. I promise their relationship isn’t as banal as it sounds.

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Wii U review: Mario Kart 8

May 30, 2014

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All revved up

I’ve played way, way too much Mario Kart this month. It’s easily my favorite videogame series of all time, and I was so amped about Mario Kart 8 that I played every single Mario Kart game multiple times over. I made myself a tiny bit sick of the series, honestly.

But Mario Kart 8’s here, and I really want to talk with you about it. Nintendo’s changed a lot with this most recent entry — there are larger, immediate changes, like the addition of antigravity, but there are also a lot of smaller systems changes and tweaking going on.

Because there’s so much going on, I’d like to make this review of Mario Kart 8 a little more in-depth than usual. Let’s-a get going.

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Mario Kart’s all-time best (and worst!) racetracks

May 29, 2014

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Celebrating 20+ years of go-kart coursework

There ain’t nothin’ like a Mario Kart track. Over the years they’ve gotten wilder and wilder, from Super Mario Kart’s modest “real kart racing with a twist” to Mario Kart 7’s manic, setpiece-laden jaunts through the air and underwater. And now with Mario Kart 8, Nintendo plans to turn those courses upside-down with antigravity sections that’ll see karts racing on the walls and ceiling.

Just before Mario Kart 8’s May 30th release, I’d like to run down my own personal list of the best and worst tracks in the series’ history. I’ve chosen to break things down by game — I want this list to represent the entire series, after all, and not just my own favorite Mario Kart games. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope these are some of your favorites, too. Here we go, starting with the most recent game and working our way back:

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A tribute to Battle Mode, with concern for its future

May 1, 2014

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Super Mario Kart’s Battle Mode featured 3D multiplayer battle arenas, varied weapon types, precision movement, and x-axis aim a full year before Doom hit the PC scene. Even as a simple side mode, Mario Kart’s battles helped codify competitive 3D gaming as we know it.

But that historical garbage doesn’t define Mario Kart. Mario Kart is primal as hell; there’s the constant feeling that something’s about to come unglued, that all of a sudden the game will stop being fun by virtue of it ceasing to be fair. That unbridled craziness is what makes the series so damned fun — and unique — in the first place. And Battle Mode is Mario Kart at its most primal: four karts enter and one kart leaves in videogaming’s ultimate versus showdown.

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PS3 review: Puyo Puyo Tetris

March 29, 2014

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Puyo Puyo Tetris is all about Suketoudara. Half muscleman and half fish, Suke jumps into battle with a flying kick and wags his finger at fallen opponents. Send him garbage blocks and he shouts in surprise, defeat him and he breaks down crying. Suke’s two-sidedness makes him extremely fun to play as — and extremely annoying to play against.

He’s emblematic of the game as a whole. Puyo Puyo Tetris mixes and mashes up the two classic puzzle series, nailing the core gameplay modes while flubbing up some of the extras. Neither game is quite as robust as it would be in a standalone release, but the mixture of the two is endlessly fun.

Between the games, most western players are probably more familiar with Tetris. Differently shaped blocks fall into a well, and it’s up to the player to stack them into lines with no gaps in between. Completed lines disappear and score points. Tetris pits players against their own skills as the blocks begin falling faster and faster, leaving less and less time to position them correctly.

Unlike Tetris, Puyo Puyo (known in the West as Puyo Pop) was forged in battle. Players build stacks of colored jellyblob puyos into massive chains, flooding opponents with nuisance puyos. There’s a sort of fighting game flow as players harass each other with simple combos while working up to their decisive attack.

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Surprise! The Wii U is fantastic

March 6, 2014

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Ten reasons why this generation’s underdog is an incredible console

The Wii U is this generation’s best-kept secret. I don’t mean that it’s just better than people say, or that it’s criminally underrated, though it’s both those things. What I mean is that the Wii U is a legitimately fantastic videogame console, and one that ushered Nintendo into this gen with style.

I know you’re probably screwing up your face right now, doing some mental gymnastics to try and reconcile what I’m saying with what you’ve already heard. The Wii U doesn’t really sell itself — it invites comparisons with its maligned predecessor, and Nintendo’s confused marketing hasn’t helped matters. Few people are buying the console.

But hear me out before you get all worked up, because those people who own a Wii U love the thing. Here’s why.

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