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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

Nintendo has had an awesome year. The Nintendo Switch is selling like crazy, and they haven’t really released a bad game yet. Take a look below for our recommendations for Nintendo Switch games that will make great gifts!

 

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


You can read my review to see exactly what I think about this one at length. I feel, strongly, that Breath of the Wild is the best game that Nintendo has ever made. This is an game that will give your family hundreds of hours of enjoyment. I can’t recommend this game enough.

 

Super Mario Odyssey



New Super Mario games are rare. It isn’t out yet, but I played Super Mario Odyssey at E3 for ten minutes and I was sold afterwards.

The biggest new feature in this 3D Mario adventure is Mario’s hat. Its been possessed by an ghost named Cappy. Cappy gives Mario the ability to capture enemies (and other characters) in the various levels and use their powers to help complete puzzles and locate Power Moons.

Splatoon 2


Splatoon was one of our favorite games last generation. We had our doubts initially, but there was no way that we were letting an shooter that’s appropriate for kids slip past us. I wasn’t sold initially, but I played for an single hour long demo and was sold.

The sequel takes every part of the original formula and improves on it. Its a great gift for kids who are asking for an shooter to play, but just aren’t old enough for other games in the genre.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe


Mario Kart is one of the biggest, and best, franchises in Nintendo history. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is also one of the best games available on the Switch. This game will be a ton of fun for your family so buy with confidence.

Nintendo even added more benefits for families by adding both auto-steering and auto-acceleration options. These two accessibility options make it much easier for younger players (or players with disabilties) to play the game.

Arms



Arms is a super-cool fighting game experience where players battle it out using spring-armed warriors. Most fighting games released to date feature a camera set to the side. Arms is different because the camera sits behind the character like it’s a shooter. It is also a little bit slower since fighters tend to be farther apart. This slower and more methodical pace makes it more accessible for less experienced gamers while still leaving room for players to master it.

Minecraft


I know I sound like a broken record, but Minecraft should be on top of everyone’s shopping list. It may be one of the best selling games of all time, but there are plenty of kids who don’t have it.


Be sure to check out all of our other 2017 Holiday Gift Guides!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

The Holidays are a great time for families to get new home consoles. They make great gifts for the whole family and can be responsible for a lot of great memories. Take a look below for our recommendations for home consoles this year.

Nintendo Switch


The Nintendo Switch launched in March of this year and has been a wild success for Nintendo. It is, without question, the best console for families on the market right now and it isn’t close. The console/tablet hybrid has just passed its 6 month anniversary and it is already home a better lineup of family games that either of its main competitors.

The main attraction for the Nintendo Switch is that it serves two purposes. It is both a home console that you can play on the family TV and a handheld console that you can take on the go. This can be a godsend for families that have multiple siblings because you can use it in “tabletop mode” to play multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition anywhere!

Looking for some Switch games to give? Heres our list of Switch Games!

Sony PlayStation 4



The PlayStation 4 is another great console option. It doesn’t have the strongest lineup of exclusive games, but it is home to all of the major third party games like Destiny 2. You shouldn’t have any problems finding games to play with your family here. The catalog is already full of great games already and the future is bright since Spider Man will come out next year.

The biggest decision that new PlayStation owners will have to make when shopping for a PS4 is whether to purchase a base model or to spend a little bit extra for a PS4 Pro. The main difference between those two systems is going to be the graphics performance. Both of them will play the same games, but the PS4 Pro will make them look better if your family owns a 4k television.

Looking for some PS4 games to give? Here’s our list of PS4 games for this holiday!

Microsoft Xbox One


2017 has been a challenging year for Xbox fans. The exclusives have been in short supply and several high profile games have been delayed or cancelled.

There is a ray of hope though. The Xbox One X has been announced and it looks like a great console for families looking for a powerful console to help show off their new 4k television.

Looking for some Xbox One games to give? Here’s our list of Xbox One games for this holiday!

Last Generation Consoles



Families that aren’t interested in standing on the bleeding edge of console gaming technology still have plenty of reasons to pick up older consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and, to a lesser extent, the Wii U. These consoles should be relatively easy to find used from places like GameStop and have huge catalogs of games just waiting to be plucked from bargain bins.

In the worst case scenario a uses Xbox 360 will be a serviceable Minecraft machine for families that want to let their children play, but don’t want them using the family PC or laptop.

3DS Family of Hardware


The Nintendo Switch is the most exciting thing that Nintendo has on the market right now, but the 3DS handheld systems are still useful. They will be great purchases for families that want to introduce gaming to their children, but want something sturdier. The handheld may be entering the sunset of its life, but it has a library with hundreds of games that your children will love.

The only real problem with the 3DS family of systems is that there are so many versions that it can be hard to keep track of them. Fortunately, EFG published a handy guide to help sort all those details! You can read it here.

SNES Classic

The SNES Classic isn’t a traditional console, but it is such a big deal that I had to include it somewhere. It is a bite-sized console that includes twenty of the best games ever made. Its going to be in high demand though, so keep that in mind if you are adding it to your shopping lists.


Thats it for the consoles, but make sure to check out the rest of our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!

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Fe is the Next EA Originals Game and its Stunning

Fe was first announced back at E3 2016 and has been silent since. EA revealed more about the game during their GamesCom press event. It is being developed by Zoink Games and follows the story of a fox cub as learns to use his voice to help heal the forest of light.

We haven’t been able to get our hands on the game yet, but everything we have been shown so far is looking great! Fe appears to be a 3D platformer (like Super Mario 64, Yooka-Laylee, and other similar titles). Players will control a magical fox cub as he or she explores a forest and learns to use various songs to help befriend different animals. These animals will help unlock new areas for further exploration. The gameplay itself doesn’t really strike me as particularly new or interesting, but I am captivated by the sound design and the visuals. The heavy use of black in the background and the foreground really make everything stand out. It is tough to tell whether or not the art style will get confusing during combat or platforming sections, but we’ll obviously know more about that we get closer to launch.

EA will be publishing Fe in early 2018 on the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. The trailer is linked below. Take a look and let us know what you think in the comments.

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Dragon Quest Builders 2 Announced

The Dragon Quest Summer festival took place this past weekend. Square Enix announced a sequel to the surprise hit Dragon Quest Builders. The game is tentatively titled Dragon Quest Builders 2.

We don’t have a release date, but Square Enix did tease several new gameplay elements. The first game combined Dragon Quest RPG elements with Minecraft building. The sequel doubles down on that and adds additional features like:

  • Underwater diving
  • Up to four player cooperative play
  • a huge increase in the number of blocks that can be stacked
  • a Breath of the Wild style glider to help with traversal

The biggest news, however, to come out of the announcement is that it will be coming to both the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch. Its a perfect system for a game like this. Dragon Quest Builders is a game that encourages lots of small trip out into the wilds looking for materials. The hybrid console will give players plenty of opportunities for that. I can absolutely imagine playing DQ Builders on my Switch in handheld mode while watching football or something similar.

You can watch the gameplay demo that was livestreamed at the event below.

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Super Mario Odyssey Rated E 10+ by the ESRB

Super Mario Bros. Odyssey has been rated E10 + by the ESRB. This makes the title the first mainline Super Mario Bros. game in the franchise history to be given a rating greater than E. We don’t know any of the content descriptors yet since the ESRB hasn’t published any of the details yet. In fact, the only confirmation we have regarding the rating is the product page on the Nintendo website.

Odyssey is going to be one of the biggest games this fall and its rating probably isn’t going to affect that. But, it is interesting. What could set this game apart from the other Mario titles that would make it unsuitable for children under the age of 10?

There are a few possibilities.

First, the game does include New Donk City. This is a more realistic world than has ever been included in a Mario game. It features human-like people and a real world atmosphere (sort of). It could be that this level includes some more realistic dangers. Its possible that someone in one of those dark alleys, for example, is smoking a cigar or something similar.

Second, we don’t know all of the worlds yet. It is entirely possible that there is a kingdom that is based on the haunted mansion themes from previous games. Maybe those were deemed to scary?

Lastly, Mario does, essentially, fight like a Skylander in this game. It could very well be that the ESRB reviewers put Odyssey side by side with other kid friendly action platformers and decided to equalize them.

We won’t have to wait much longer for the details as I am sure that the ESRB will be releasing the information soon.

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lost sphear

Tokyo RPG Factory has announced the release date for Lost Sphear, the follow-up to I Am Setsuna. It was only announced a handful of months ago, but it appears that development on the game  progressed very quickly.

Lost Sphear will be released on PS4, Switch, and PC on January 23, 2018.

Tokyo RPG Factory’s first game, I Am Setsuna, was given a luke-warm reception last year. Though it was highly anticipated, it ended up being a disappointment to many because it was too heavily focused on nostalgia.

Lost Sphear is a game that, by all appearances, looks like it is being made in the same mold as its older sibling. It is being developed in a deliberately retro way hoping to evoke fond memories of the golden age of RPGs.

With all that said, I can’t help but be optimistic when I look at the trailers for the game. Take a look for yourself!

The story revolves around a boy whose village disappears right around him. He then embarks on a quest to help restore the missing pieces of the world. Even if Lost Sphear struggles the same way I am Setsuna did, I think it offers many interesting gameplay possibilities. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait long to find out as the game comes out less than 6 months from now!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments!

 

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in my opinion, is the best video game that Nintendo has ever made. I also think that it is on the short list for one of the best games ever made. Longtime readers often accuse me of speaking in hyperbole a lot, but this is no joke. Breath of the Wild is just that darn good. This is the game by which all open world games will be judged moving forward.

The Legend of Zelda is one of the longest running franchises in game history. Each game in the franchise, up until now, has taken a very regimented formula and built upon it. . Link wakes up. He goes to a dungeon. He gets a tool within that dungeon that helps him complete it. He then uses that tool to get to the next dungeon. He finds another tool there. He rinses and repeats until he eventually encounters and defeats some version of Ganon.

Breath of the Wild is a game that was built on one single core principle: nothing is set in stone. Nintendo set out with the purpose of stripping away as many parts of that regimented formula as they could while still maintaining its “Zelda”-ness. I don’t know how they created such a unique game and new feeling game while still regularly reminding players that they are playing a Zelda game. But, they definitely succeeded.

The biggest different between BoTW and other games in the franchise is that (aside from a brief stint on the Great Plateau) players can do as they please. Players are given all of the basic tools they need within the first few hours of the game and are then set free to run off to do… whatever.

This freedom was not only liberating, but it was also a creative force. Everyone playing this game was crafting their own narrative. Players had to come up with whole new ways of discussing their experiences because almost everything you said about the game was a spoiler in one way or another.

Another critical element to the experience in BoTW is its sense of discovery. It feels like every inch of that game was a meaningful encounter, a puzzle, or a signpost sending you on your way to further adventure. There was always something exciting on the horizon for me as I played. In fact, it was easy to find myself distracted that I would set off on a grand mission only to stop halfway through to literally pick flowers.

The days where Link could, on death’s door, slash at some bushes to get a few hearts are gone. Instead, you have to combine ingredients like apples, meat, mushrooms, and other food items to cook healing items. Combining the right ingredients can even result in food that provides stat buffs. You can even combine monster parts to create elixirs. Mastering this system is crucial for anyone who wants to be able to progress through the game. Fortunately, experimentation is almost painless. Ingredients are everywhere and there is a cooking station at every stable.

Nintendo went out of their way to craft Breath of the Wild carefully. Their artistry is visible in every aspect of this game and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Is it a kids’ game?

Breath of the Wild is rated T for Teen. It does include some mild violence that players can’t really escape. Almost all of the conflict resolution in the game is done at the point of a sword, or club, or arrow.

There are some slightly mature themes and costuming choices running throughout the game, but there is nothing overtly sexual going on.

Can kids play it?

The most important thing to note with Breath of the Wild is that this game is incredibly challenging. The world is not a forgiving one and players will have to contend with armies of monstrous enemies as well as the elements. It is very important that you monitor your child’s frustration level while playing. There is no “easy mode” in this game. Young players can, however, move at their own pace throughout the world. The game is designed so  that players will not be constantly under siege from the enemies.

There is some voice acting, but the vast majority of the story and the quest clues are all delivered via text. Players will need to be adept readers to be able to succeed at this game. A lot of the clues depend on subtle word play that might be lost on early readers.

Conclusion

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best video game that Nintendo has ever made. I would comfortably recommend this game to anyone who owns either a Nintendo Switch or Wii U. It is a remarkable value when you consider all of the secrets that players can slowly pry out of this massive world. Do yourself a favor and play this game. The reality is that we don’t score games here at EFG, but if we did I have a hard time imagining that we would give it less than a perfect score.

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nintendo-switch-logo

It is readily apparent at this point that every halfway decent Wii U game is going to be give a “Deluxe” version on the Switch at some point within the next few years. We already have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the Pokemon Company has announced Pokken Tournament DX. That got me thinking about all the great Wii U gamers that died on the vine on the Wii U. E3 2017 has passed without anymore announcements, but take a look below for a list of five Wii U games that need Deluxe versions ASAP.

Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World

One of the highlights of the Switch is its ability to handle multiplayer gaming on the go. Each Switch comes with two controllers so local cooperative play is a possibility for everyone who owns the system. That makes bringing  Super Mario 3D World to the Switch a very smart call for Nintendo.

Super Mario 3D World is, without question, the best multiplayer Super Mario Bros. game ever made. This makes it a natural fit for a console that allows for multiplayer gaming everywhere it goes.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Mega Man fighting Fox Mcloud in Super Smash Bros for the WiiU and 3DS

This one is an absolute lock. No need for wishful thinking. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U being ported to the Switch is an inevitability; it really just a matter of time.

Super Smash Bros. is one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises so it only makes sense that they would bring it over to the Switch at some point. It could even be that the only reason they haven’t announced it is because they want to let Arms breath a bit before they announce another fighting game.

It doesn’t hurt that it would also be very easy to give Smash the Deluxe treatment. Nintendo could include all of the DLC from the Wii U version for an insane value. It wouldn’t hurt to throw in another character, but the roster is already massive enough.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker started as an interesting set of levels in Super Mario 3D World. Nintendo was so happy with how those levels turned out that they made a whole game out of it. People had mixed reactions with this game, but I thought it was, quietly, one of the best games the Wii U had to offer. This would be a smart port for Nintendo.

I don’t think this would be the flashiest announcement they could make, but it would go a long way towards providing diversity in their game library on the Switch.

 

Tokyo Mirage Sessions # FE

Tokyo Mirage Sessions # FE holds two distinctions. 1. It has the weirdest name of any game published on the Wii U. 2. It is the best RPG published on the system as well.  It was a niche title released on a niche system so it had a very constrained audience. Mirage Sessions was a fascinating game that combined the stylish design of Shin Megami Tensei with the fantasy flare of the Fire Emblem series.

RPGs feel great on handheld consoles like the Switch because they give you more opportunities to grind and build up characters. This is a no brainer.

Super Mario Maker

Super-Mario-Maker

Super Mario Maker had its issues. The biggest among them being that it was very difficult to find good levels. Re-launching the game on the Switch would give Nintendo an opportunity to fix the discoverability problem.

The only real problem with bring Super Mario Maker to the Switch is that it would be difficult to design levels and test them on the big screen. That’s a small concern though as you would still be able to both create and test while in handheld or tabletop mode.


 

What do you think?  Do you have any Wii U favorites that you think should get Deluxe versions? Sound off in the comments!

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Guest Writer: James Pisano
Battle Chasers: Nightwar, a beautiful single player RPG that started out as a very successful Kickstarter project and developed by Airship Syndicate and Published by Nordic Games, is based on one of the most popular American Comic Series in the 90s, by Joe Madureira.  Joe Madureira is the Creative and Animation Director on the game, so the “flavor” of that world remains intact.  The beautiful artwork, the rich and immersive environments, and the strategic depth are all high points that I know will have me coming back for more and more this October when the world will be able to enter the arcane punk wonderland of Battle Chasers: Nightwar.
In the time I had my hands on this game at E32017, it was clear to me that the developers thought through things like deep party synergy without falling prey to trite conventions.  The party they had setup for the demo was made up of Calibretto – and Ancient War Golem, Gully – A young girl on a quest to find her father, and Knolan, a sage-like Wizard who packs much more power than one might think.  Calibretto looks like he -should- be the tank, but he’s really a healer who can also deal some AOE damage in a pinch.  Gully has the look of an elfish rogue, but is actual rather tanky and handy with crowd control abilities and taunts.  And Knowlen is mostly arcane DPS with a sprinkling of heals available for support.  Each party member can be cycled to be the party’s representative on the overworld, and is able to use their unique abilities to damage enemies before actually entering the encounter screen, which adds another layer of strategy and engagement that makes this game all the more appealing for me.
As far as the level design, we were told by the company’s PR rep that the dungeons are procedurally generated, which adds a TON of re-playability and depth.  The environments looked complex and cohesive enough that I was surprised to hear that they were constructed this way, especially given the beautiful art style.  And if you’re one for deep lore from a team that really cares, this is your kind of game.  So come October 3rd, gather the family around and fall in love with this sure-to-be-epic RPG on your platform of choice.  Yes, it’s being released on PC (Steam & GOG), Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
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10 Minutes of Super Mario Odyssey Was Worth a Trip to E3 2017 All By Itself

Recently, I had an experience- one of those lifelong dream experiences. I got to go to California to attend E3! And the highlight of that experience? I waited an hour and a half to play Super Mario Odyssey for 10 minutes while I was there. I get funny looks whenever I tell that story to people since I have gotten home. But, I’m not ashamed to admit it. That whole process was the highlight of my trip and I would have done it again in a heartbeat.

The release of a New Super Mario game has always been significant for me. In a way, Mario games have served as gatekeepers to new and interesting experiences. I was never on the bleeding edge of gaming technology when I was younger. My family just didn’t have the money to indiscriminately blow cash on games and consoles unless it was for a birthday or Christmas. And, since Mario games were family favorites in our house, it meant that these games were ones to introduce me to new ways to play games.

A Long History

The original Super Mario Bros was the first game I ever played on the NES. It is fairly archaic when you look back on it now. But, it was perfection back then. I was enthralled by every bit of that game. Super Mario Bros was the first game I played where I actually felt myself making progress and improving my play style and techniques. I was pushed forward through a series of levels, each one slightly more challenging than the last. I learned something every time I had a game over. In a way, this helped to form the foundation of the way I play games.

Super Mario World launched with the SNES and was the first game that I ever remember wanting to explore. It was the first game in the Mario franchise to let players replay levels a second time to find secret exits or hidden coins. Color block temples spread throughout the game also reinforced that exploration mentality. Completing the temple would spread colored blocks throughout the world that would let you run and jump in placed that would have been almost certain death before.

Super Mario 64 was the first game I ever played that took advantage of 3D movement. I still remember the first time that I could just run in circles. I must have spent an hour in that first open area just practicing all of the different ways I could run and jump. I also remember being amazed at how open it was. It was awesome being able to take on the different challenges in any order I pleased. It was also nice to be able to skip levels that I found frustrating and save them until the end. This is a big deal because all of the Mario games before it were more or less linear affairs.

Super Mario Sunshine expanded on the openness of Mario 64 by presenting its challenges in a much more contiguous world. It wasn’t an open world game the way that we think of them now, but it was a very strong step in that direction. I also really appreciate that Nintendo was willing to try something VERY different by, essentially, giving Mario a gun for the first time. It wasn’t a true gun like the ones he will be utilizing in Mario + Rabids Kingdom Battle, but instead it was a super strong water hose attached to a backpack. It was the first time that I remember Nintendo proving to me that they were willing to take risks with their main character.

Super Mario Galaxy is one of my favorite games of all time. It took the 3D movement from Mario 64 and applied it to levels based on spheres. This resulted in one of the coolest collections of levels I have ever seen in a game.

All of this brings me to my time with Super Mario Odyssey. My demo was only 10 minutes long, but it was a very dense experience. It really felt the culmination of everything I had played in the series before. The biggest difference now is that the game feels truly open. I chose a desert based level that had a small quest hub at its entrance. I was then set free to wander the level looking for coins, objectives, and purple moon pickups (this game’s equivalent of the stars from Mario 64). I had complete freedom to move around the level and take on challenges in whatever way (or order) I chose.

This was all accentuated by the new capture mechanic. In Odyssey, Mario can throw his hat  Cappy at enemies in order to “capture” them. When he does so he assumes their form and can move like they do. At once point I mind controlled a Bullet Bill and was able to fly over a previously unpassable canyon. This is going to be one of the biggest mechanics in the game and I can’t wait to see how Nintendo lets us use it.

I spent the better part of this year so far in awe at the freedom I was given in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It looks like I might be doing the same with Super Mario Odyssey when it hits the Nintendo Switch on October 27th, 2017.

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