Friday, June 9, 2017

ARMS: A Knockout Punch for Nintendo

I reviewed ARMS for the Nintendo Switch over at GameSpace. This game truly is Nintendo at it's best mixing their formula to a genre to create something fresh. Go take a look: http://www.gamespace.com/arms/review/



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kamiko: The Best $5 You'll Spend on the Nintendo eShop

The Switch has fast become my favorite mobile game device of all time. Apart from the design of the hardware the flow of indies that are releasing on the device have made it my go to console. The most recent gem to be released is KAMIKO, and for $5 it's money well spent.




Developed by FlighHigh Works in KAMIKO you'll play as one of three princesses. Yamato with her two handed sword, Uzume with a bow and arrow, or Hinome with her sword and shield. You'll lead your princess through a series of 4 stages. In each stage you'll unlock for shrines. Once the shrines are unlocked you'll be able to encounter the final boss of a stage.

As you make your way through each stage enemies will be spawned when you reach certain trigger points. You can move in and out of areas to spawn waves of enemies to fill a blue resource you collect by killing them. This blue energy is used to break seals on treasure chests and other secrets and locks you'll encounter throughout the game.


Each stage has a number of puzzles which aren't overly difficult but offer a slight challenge. The main draw to the game is the aesthetics and the level design. You'll probably be able to beat the game in under 2 hours your first time through. This game invites you to play again and again to improve your time. If you were never interested in speed running before KAMIKO just might be the first game to scratch that itch. Apparently some players have the game down to 15 minutes already. It's pretty amazing.


The main draw for KAMIKO is its gorgeous pixel aesthetics and serene music score. It's also a very approachable adventure game that offers mild challenges while not being overly difficult. I even managed to miss a power up along the way and I thought I had checked every nook and cranny. While KAMIKO may be lacking a bit of depth you get what you pay for with this title and $5 dollars is definitely worth 2 hours of fun. 

8/10


How the Prey Demo Saved Me $60

I played the Prey demo over the weekend. I was excited for this game but after an hour with it I decided I won't be purchasing it. You can read more of my thoughts on it over at GameSpace.

Regardless I like when developers release demos. Sometimes they convince you to purchase the game. I was swayed by the Dragon Quest Builders Demo, Snipperclips, and Puyo Puyo Tetris. Sometimes they sway you the other way though.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

If I Were the Nintendo Strategy King For a Day


We are about 6 weeks into the life span of the Nintendo Switch and I’m really enjoying it so far. Sure it has its warts but what system doesn’t? One thing I’m doing more than I thought I would is playing the system in handheld mode. I’ve played it in parks, hotel bars, and even an airplane. I’ve inadvertently turned into a Switch evangelist with my love for Zelda and how well Nintendo pulled off a mobile console that allows for deep meaningful game play heretofore unheard of.

Along the way it did something else. It ruined the 3DS for me. I mean just flat, “I don’t want to play on it anymore.” It’s a shame too because there are some gems of games on there. It’s like intentionally handicapping myself. Why would I want to? And it’s not just that the games don’t look as good. I do play retro games so that has only marginal impact on me. [Heck I even hosted a retro MMO gaming series for MMORPG.com before retro gaming was cool.] It’s just not as complete of a gaming experience and I can now have complete gaming experiences on the go.


The Neon One is All the Rage
I’m now going to put on my corporate strategist hat and talk about what I would do if I was left to set the strategy for big N for the next few years. They may even have a plan like this in place already and just aren’t ready to talk about it (I’d put money on it they do). But regardless, this is what would happen under my watch.

First I’d sunset the 3DS. As part of this process I’d evaluate all the first party games that are currently in development and see if they could pivot to Switch. If they couldn’t transition and we still had a projected return on investment, I’d continue the production on the 3DS version and release it if they could come out before the end of 2019. If development could make the pivot, I’d have the game release on the Switch.

I’d notify all third party developers that we planned on discontinuing production of the 3DS by the end of 2019. They in turn could continue to make new games for the 3DS (and with a giant install base that could be very possible) but that as a company Nintendo would shift their sites solely on the Switch.

Production would cease on all new 3DS (and 2DS) devices during the middles of 2019. I don’t know how quickly the inventory on a DS churns so I can’t say and exact date here. I would make sure that Nintendo produced enough retailers could have inventory to make it through the holiday season but not so many that there would be any left going into 2020.

To correspond with the sunset of the DS system of devices we’d announce the Switch 2.0. This would have an improved processor, better battery life, and increased internal memory. The increases of each would match the curve of the increase in technology. I would speculate that there would be at least 128g of internal memory and battery life would see a 10 - 20% increase. The target price for this console would still be $299.99. Switch 1.0 would have a price reduction to $199.99. This would align it with the current price of the New Nintendo 3DS.

From this point Nintendo should plan on releasing a new Switch every 24 months. The new Switches would release at roughly a $299.99 price point and push the previous switch to a $199.99 or possibly even $149.99 price point. If stock was still available from two generations previous that would be discounted to $99.99 creating three distinct price points for consumers to gain access to the Switch.
Peripherals for the different versions of the Switch would stay consistent across the generations. While the screen size of the Switch might grow (Think Galaxy or iPhone + size compared to their base model) Joy-Cons would still attach to them on the side like they do the current Switch. Sure this might make for some interesting aesthetics but it insures that consumers feel safe buying expensive peripherals and don’t have to worry about buying into an entirely new ecosystem every two years. It would also allow Nintendo to continue to create colored variants and themed Joy-Cons and controllers and consumers maintain that higher level of comfortability that these devices wouldn’t be out dated in the next 18 months.

Because of the continuity with peripherals it would also open up the avenue to only sell the tablet portion of the Switch to consumers as an upgrade. This creates an ideal win / win for Nintendo and the customers because Nintendo could sell the upgrade at a reduced cost i.e. $250 or even $230 which would have a higher average revenue per unit that if Nintendo sold the tablet with Joy-Cons at the $300 SKU. It would allow the consumer to purchase just the tablet if that’s all they wanted and save money in the process. Everyone is happy.




Nintendo could also realize giant costs savings in manufacturing and development by moving to one ecosystem and no longer having to split their focus between the two. The virtual console could also be used to make beloved 3DS games available on the Switch, albeit with slight modifications to work on a single screen.

This Switch is doing things we haven’t seen since the Wii. It’s crossing demographic lines. I’ve seen a lady buy one for her three-year-old son. I’ve also bought one at the store for my mother. Demographics that don’t typically appeal to the PC, Xbox, or PS gamer. With an entry point of $99 I believe this could become one of the greatest selling consoles of all time easily giving the Wii a run for its money. It might take a decade or two but it could even catch up to the DS or PS2.

You may be looking at my website right now and confusing it with a Nintendo fan site. I really couldn’t blame you for that because of all the content surrounding the Switch. But hey, it’s the hot new thing so of course I’m going to talk about it. It’s what gets me excited. Just ask my wife. Don’t worry though. I’ll get back into other stuff soon enough. I plan on putting up and Orcs Must Die Unchained video later this week. Until then.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Talented Mr. Shifty

Hey everyone. Here is my video review of Mr. Shifty for the Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy!


















For those that just like scores I gave it a 7 out of 10.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dear Nintendo, why don't you like my money?

To My Dear Nintendo,

Are you sick, not feeling well, does money make you itchy?

Why do you repeatedly self harm?

The NES Classic is the prime example of an unexpected runaway hit. And now, even with supplies so low the system sells for two to three times MSRP on Amazon and eBay you stop production on the system.

Did you bump your head? Why would you stop. Do you have limited production capacity? I understand that you are making Switches but this just baffles me. 


The ONLY way I see this not screwing over your loyal fan base is if you release a $60 "NES Classic" software pack for the Switch that contains all the ROMs for the Switch. What will more than likely happen, however, is that you sell the games piecemeal for roughly $5 each. Which puts the package in the realm of $125. While this isn't outrageous it is a far cry from $60.

Also, You really want $60 for a second Switch docking station? 60?!?! And that doesn't even include the power cord that you want another $30 for. For that price people might as well just but another Switch (which I'm sure you'd be more than happy about). Come on Nintendo. I get that you are in the business to make money and you are currently cleaning up the egg that is the Wii U from your face but I'm getting to the point where what I can only call your greed is souring me to everything else. 

Come on Nintendo. Do the right thing here. You told customers not to worry and that you would make more. Now that you have gone back on your word do something to make amends. Don't come off looking like a bunch of greedy clowns.

Oh, and hey I get it. You got burned by all those Animal Crossing Amiibos. But don't worry. Something tells me you'll get your money back with the 3 new Link Amiibos (for a total of 14!) and two Cloud, two Bayonetta, and 2 Corrin. 

The NES Classic wasn't going to be the next Animal Crossing Amiibo blunder either.

/rantoff

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Updated Takes on Classic Tales

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Updated Takes on Classic Tales

This newest source book from Wizards of the Coast puts a new coat of paint on a handful of classic and a few modern tales.



All of these, dare I say modules?, have been updated to work with 5th Edition. Inside this tome you'll find:
  • The Sunless Citadel
  • The Forge of Fury
  • The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  • White Plume Mountain
  • Dead in Thay
  • Against the Giants
  • Tomb of Horrors
I've thumbed through the majority of the book and read through the entirety of the Sunless Citadel. I also happened to have a copy of the original the Sunless Citadel in my collection to do some side by side comparisons.

The Yawning portal serves as a sufficient plot device to string together these adventures to serve as an overarching campaign. Not too much real estate is dedicated to the Yawning Portal or its proprietor Durnan but it provides enough details to give the DM plenty of hooks to work with. 

Each adventure appears to be a pretty accurate representation of the original. These are more of a freshening up, not a reboot. In fact some of the text boxes are almost a word for word lift from the original. At least for the later adventures. Some of those original modules never had boxed text.

Side by side of the original Sunless Citadel on the left and the 2017 version on the right.
The new Hall of the Goblin Chief on the left, the old on the right. 
The Sunless Citadel has a great introductory adventure for new players to get pulled into D&D. Intriguing monsters, a number of traps, multiple ways to handle adversaries, and an epic conclusion. Another feature that ties all these adventures together is they are dungeon crawls. The more recent 5e adventures have had interesting narratives but seemed to miss some of the first D in D&D. Tales from the Yawning Portal corrects for that perceived oversight in a big way.

One of my fears with the last few official 5e products from Wizards of the Coast is what appears to be a returning to the well and mining already released products for new books. While Tales from the Yawning Portal doesn't dismiss those fears I am happy to see a larger product that takes the place of the old modules. Over the last few years we have received a number of campaign books but this is the first that provides us with smaller adventures. It's a nice change of pace.

One of my chief complaints with this book is layout of the maps. Some are sized entirely too small for the section of the page they are placed on. A prime example is the upper levels of the Sunless Citadel. This map originally took two thirds of the inner book jacket. The new version occupies about one sixth of the page. While the map itself is of excellent quality, there is a lot going on there and it can be hard to see. That should have been scaled and filled up an entire page.


The Original 
The Upgrade. Beautiful but too small.
 
One of the nicest touches are the About the Original box before each adventure. These provide some of the behind the scenes information you may not know about some of the modules that have become icons. And the more you know....


These About the Original are a great touch


Wizards of the Coast is set to launch their newest source book at mass market retailers on Tuesday April 4th. You can already find a copy at your friendly local game store.




A few of the new monsters you'll find in this book.

4 start out of 5.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I am Setsuna: It's a great big white world.

Last year I reviewed I am Setsuna when it was released for the PS4.

After spending a few hours with it on the Nintendo Switch I can assure you that is is the same game and plays just as well. If you liked that iteration of the game you'll still enjoy it now.

If you have a Switch and are looking for a solid RPG you can't go wrong with I am Setsuna.

After reflecting on the original score I gave it I think it might have been a little high. I still think the game is a solid 7.5 / 10.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Has-Been Heroes Review: A Little Washed Up Out of the Gate

Has-Been Heroes is a Roguelike action game with lane defense strategy elements  developed by FrozenByte and published by Gametrust. It is due out on March 28th for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Steam, and XBox One.



(The footage in the accompanying video is from the Switch release and the Switch is probably the best home for this game.)


In Has-Been heroes you initially take control of a couple of washed up heroes and their young admirer who becomes their apprentice / third musketeer. You are tasked with the ultra important job of escorting the kings 2 young daughters to their school. Along the way you are waylaid by enemies under the control of a great evil that closely resembles a purple Flying Dutchman from Spongebob Squarepants.



There are a number of rogue like elements present in this game. Each time you play through Has-Been Heroes you will be presented with a new randomly generated map that is visible in the lower right corner of the screen. Locations are represented by a series of interconnected dots. The only location you know for certain at the beginning is the boss. What type of crossroads location a dot represents only becomes known when you occupy an adjacent location. These crossroads locations can be battles, rest areas, different types of merchants, chests, and other locations you’ll unlock as you play though the game.


When a party member dies it’s game over. Sort of. You’ll start a new game and won’t be able to carry over anything you were carrying from the previous game. What  does carry over is the unlocks you acquire from collecting souls. As you kill monsters in this game you collect their souls. Collect enough souls by the end of a run and you’ll be rewarded upon death with a soul chest. What exactly is inside the soul chest is random. These random rewards are the unlocks that add a bit of persistence from run to run.


You can unlock spells such as the Quickstrike which clears your melee cool-downs, Midas touch which grants more gold when you kill an enemy. Items such as the Masters Degree which grants you more health. You can also unlock new crossroads locations, regions, and endings. As you encounter new types of enemies along the way those are also shown in your unlocks on the start screen. It’s sort of like a Monster's Manual from Dungeons and Dragons.



The combat in Has - Been heroes is easy enough to understand but hard to master. Each of your heroes occupies a lane. These lanes will be attacked by waves of enemies. Your job is to kill the enemies. Your heroes can switch lanes allowing for them to unleash combos. Each enemy has a certain amount of stamina represented by a green square. If you hit them enough to remove their stamina you’ll stun them. When they are stunned you can unleash hits on them for a lot of damage and they will be knocked back in their lane. Some boss type enemies have the ability to switch lanes too but they are the exception, not the rule.  


The key is to hit your opponent with enough little hits to expose them to damage and then swap in one of your more damaging characters for the punishing hits when your opponent is stunned. Unfortunately that’s a lot easier said than done. You can only swap a new character into a lane once the current character in that lane has performed an attack and is out of position.  



You characters also each come with one spell standard but as your progress across the map you can  find new spells in chests or purchase them from merchants. Learning to use these spells to their potential is the difference between success and failure when it comes to a boss. Also it’s easy to look at a map and follow the critical path from start to the boss and sometimes fight no battles along the way. This is a trap. Always following the shortest route will leave your characters with few extra abilities and equipment and will ultimately result with their quick demise.


Has-Been Heroes is a fun game filled with silly humor and tense action sequences. It also exemplifies one of the greatest features of the Nintendo Switch. The ability to play a game anywhere even in short stretches of time and have meaning game play experiences. While at $19.99 it’s easy to recommend adding this game as a great match to your Switch library it is also a lot of fun on whichever gaming device your prefer.


(A digital copy of Has-Been Heroes for the Nintendo Switch was provided by their publisher)


Score 7.5 / 10

Friday, March 17, 2017

The post in which I linked my shrine videos

Shrine Videos Continued:

I've challenged myself to try and release at least one shrine video a day for The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. I've released 5 so far. Hopefully I'll get to all of them. I won't end up linking to all of them from the blog. I don't want to saturate it with posts about Zelda. However, you'll be able to find them all on my YouTube channel.

Here are the three newest:

Hila Rao:



Daka Tuss:



Shai Utoh:




Monday, March 13, 2017

Rob's Rant & Review on: The Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild

Rob's Rant & Review on: The Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda is the reason I'm a gamer.

I played a lot of video games growing up. I piddled around on a Commodore 64, Atari, Intellivision, and other assorted systems but it was the Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System that made me a gamer for life. The open world, not knowing what was around the next corner. The sense of excitement to push into the next area and discover the unknown. You could spend hours setting random trees on fire and blowing up rocks to discover if they housed a hidden cave or items.



Then there were the dungeons. They were not presented in any particular order. Many of them were accessible from the start even though an item from a different dungeon would be required to complete it. Trial and error. You had to learn what worked and what didn't on your own. Exploring those dungeons, pushing on into the next room reminds me of the best things about Dungeons & Dragons. 30 years later I'm still chasing that dragon.




"Miss me?"

Nostalgia is strong but that's not the only thing propelling this game into the pantheon of greatness. Breath of the Wild captures that sense of adventure from those early Zelda games on the NES. The world is vast and full of things to do. Not all of them are readily apparent either. It pays to wander off the beaten path. You never know where you can find a small puzzle that will reward you with access to a new shrine or seeds to expand your inventory.

Major landmarks will have markers on your map once you discover them. Shrines and towers will also act as fast travel spots. You don't need to complete a shrine to unlock this feature so there is no need to worry if you get stumped by a puzzle. You can always quickly come back later and try again. Even with the shrines marking up the map, and there are well over 100 of them, the map is so large it won't be riddled with dots. Not everything shows up on the map. This is a good thing! It allows the world to maintain a sense of mystery. It's hard to strike that balance between too busy and not enough going on. Nintendo has managed to find that sweet spot.

The world of Hyrule feels real... just disregard the fact it's full of moblins and walking skeletons. The game makes exceptional use of physics and the environment. Your arrows won't shoot straight indefinitely. Gravity will affect them and cause them to arc. If you see an enemy camp down a hill you can roll a bolder or bomb down onto them. You can set your wooden weapons on fire and use this for bonus damage against your targets. Some puzzles will require you to burn things down with flame arrows. The world isn't just there to be looked at. It's there to be played with and the more you interact with it the more you'll discover and the more fun you'll have. It feels like if you can dream it up you can probably do it.



                                              "The world is there to be played with"

Cooking is another fun diversion that is as easy or complex as you make it. It also provides exceptional bonuses and is worth your time to familiarize yourself with. If you find a pot, you can cook. Sometimes you'll get lucky and a camp will already have a pot set up. Other times you'll have to get some wood and flint. Put the wood under the pot and set the flint next to the wood. Strike the flint with a metal weapon and the resulting spark will set the wood on fire and now you are cooking, literally. Gone are the random hearts found throughout the world cutting grass. To restore health now you'll have to rest or eat. An apple will give you half a heart but a cooked apple will give you a full heart. An apple, wheat, butter, and sugar makes a pie and will give you 5 hearts. Add special spices and you may get a bonus effect. Stamina, stealth, frost resistance. The game doesn't come out and tell you this either. You have to go looking to discover this information.



                                                             "There be dragons"

Gone is the hand holding. There are parts of the game that are easy and others that are brutally hard. Gone too are the typical dungeons we've grown accustomed to in the series. Those have been replace by the shrines and Devine Beasts. These are an evolution of Zelda dungeon and some will really make you think to solve their puzzles before you encounter their boss.



                                                   "There will be no hand holding"

The Legend of Legend of Zelda is expanded upon and carried forward with Breath of the Wild. The story of Calamity Gannon and Princess Zelda are as familiar to us as any game in the series. Yet the story is presented in a new and unique way. Clearly this game takes place after Skyward Sword but what isn't clear is if it's the last in the series.

Breath of the Wild is an instant classic. It is the first must have game for the Nintendo Switch. From the moment you complete the opening plateau until the moment you save Hyrule the game is full of wonder and amazement. The level of detail from the interactive environments to the puzzles in the shrines are extraordinary. This game on its own could justify the purchase of a Switch.

10/10



The first post with shrine guides.

A Quick Shrine Guide

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

From time to time I'm going to do short guides. I threw one together for Akh Vaquot. This is a shrine. Enjoy