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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

The Nintendo 3DS family of systems has been a boon to families for years. They are sturdy, compact handheld gaming systems with a huge library of cool games. Unfortunately, the way that Nintendo handled the naming, and the branding of the console as they have iterated on it over the years has created a very confusing environment for parents. Below is a low-down on the available systems in the family and our recommendations regarding them.

“New” Nintendo 3DS XL


This is a redesign of the Nintendo 3DS XL hardware with a more powerful processor in it. This allows it to play a handful of “New” 3DS only games (like Minecraft). This is a great handheld for families that want to use the #D function in the games that include it.

Most of the special edition 3DS consoles that are released at this point are this model. So, if you buy one of those, then this is what you are getting.

“New” Nintendo 3DS


This is a smaller edition of the “New” 3DS. They have the improved internal tech that is built into the XL, but in a smaller package. The biggest difference between the two systems (aside from size) is that the standard addition uses

“New” Nintendo 2DS XL


This is the newest iteration of the console. It has the same screen size as the 3DS XL models, but it eschews the 3D feature much like the standard 2DS models.

Some might consider that to be a downside, but it really doesn’t make much of a difference. Most 3DS games made at this point don’t really use the 3D features on the handheld at all, and even when they do the feature is not required for gameplay.

Nintendo 3DS

 

This was the original release of the handheld and is nearly impossible to find. I would not recommend getting this version of the console unless it is being handed down from someone you trust. It has likely been around since around the console’s launch and might have some damage.

With that said if the handheld you are being offered is in good condition it will still work. I just recommend being cautious.

Nintendo 3DS XL

 

This is the original large model of the 3DS. These are still available, and are relatively inexpensive, but I find it hard to recommend this model. Its underpowered compared to its cost. If you are looking for a 3DS option that will be gentler on your wallet, then I would recommend the “New” Nintendo 2DS XL instead.

Nintendo 2DS

 


The Nintendo 2DS was a brilliant redesign on Nintendo’s part. They removed the standard clamshell design in favor of a flat device that looks like a cross between a tablet and a Game Boy. Removing the hinge did away  

with one of the console’s biggest weaknesses as they are relatively fragile. It did some with a downside though.

The clamshell design protected the consoles dual screens from scratches.

Another significant difference is the removal of the 3D features. This is important for some parents who have concerns about their young children’s vision. It also helps Nintendo reduce the cost of the system.

This was my favorite iteration of the handheld for a very long time until the “New” Nintendo 3DS XL was released. I love the button placement and the durability. It is still readily available in a bundle that includes Mario Kart 7.

A PSA About Special Editions


There are a whole bunch of Special Editions available built for different 3DS games. They are beautiful machines, but it is important to note that they don’t include a copy of the game.


Make sure to check back 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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nintendo-world-championship-2017-logo

The Nintendo World Championships are back! The event will take place on October 7th at the Grand Ballroom in Manhattan Center and Nintendo is giving people of all ages and across the country a chance to participate!

The Nintendo World Championships have been held multiple times in the past and are all about giving players a chance to come together and show off their skills at Nintendo games.

For example, the 2015 Nintendo World Championships were built around NES Remix and Super Mario Maker. This year, however, it’s all about Mario Kart 7!

Qualifying events will be held starting on August 19 at eight Best Buy locations across the US. Players will be divided into two age groups (12 and below as well as 13 and up) and will play Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS! The player with the best Time Trial entry in each age group at the end of the two-day event will qualify for the Nintendo World Championships 2017!

The settings players will use are as follows:

  • The 12 and younger age group will play as Mario on the Nintendo DS “Luigi’s Mansion” course using Standard Kart, Standard Wheels and Super Glider.
  • The 13 and older age group will play as Bowser on the Game Boy Advance “Bowser Castle 1” course using Standard Kart, Standard Wheels and Super Glider.

The qualifying events will be first come, first served so I definitely recommend getting their early. They should also be pretty fun events to attend, but part of me wonders why they are only holding the event in eight cities in the US? It doesn’t really feel like much of a “world” competition.

What do you think? Will you and your family be making the trek to one of the participating Best Buy stores to compete? Let us know in the comments!

Best Buy Address

Dates

Times (All times local)

610 Exterior St. Aug. 19-20 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Bronx, NY 10451 Sunday11 a.m.-5 p.m.
181 Curtner Ave. Aug. 19-20 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
San Jose, CA 95125 Sunday11 a.m.-5 p.m.
3675 Pacific Coast Highway Aug. 26-27 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Torrance, CA 90505 Sunday11 a.m.-5 p.m.
2301 Howard St. Aug. 26-27 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Evanston, IL, 60202 Sunday10 a.m.-5 p.m.
9378 N. Central Expressway Sept. 2-3 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Dallas, TX 75231 Sunday11 a.m.-5 p.m.
1000 W. 78th St. Sept. 2-3 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Richfield, MN, 55423 Sunday10 a.m.-5 p.m.
4001 W. 20th Ave. Sept. 9-10 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Hialeah, FL 33012 Sunday10 a.m.-5 p.m.
17364 Southcenter Parkway Sept. 9-10 Saturday10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tukwila, WA 98188 Sunday11 a.m.-5 p.m.
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The Nintendo 3DS Still Has Life Left!

A lot of people, myself included, assumed that the Nintendo 3DS was going to be dead in the water the minute the Switch was released. Nintendo even came out and publicly stated they would be supporting the 3DS in Japan through at least the end of 2018. I sure didn’t believe them though.

I’m glad I didn’t make any bets though, because things are looking pretty good when you consider the upcoming lineup of Nintendo 3DS games. Take a look! You’ll see what I mean.

Miitopia

Miitopia was released last year in Japan. This is a quirky RPG that lets you take the Miis on your 3DS for a wild adventure. In between quests your characters sleep in the inn and you have to help them build friendships so that they will fight more cohesively on the battlefield.

This might be the only way anyone will ever be able to have Shaq and I in the same RPG, so you don’t want to miss it.

Hey! PIKMIN

PIKMIN is a long running franchise that has typically been a 3D experience. Hey! PIKMIN changes perspectives. Instead it is a 2D platforming game that is less of a strategy game and more of a puzzle game. The light and cartoony visuals make this one look, at least on the surface, like the game is being made to appeal to younger gamers. But, we’ll have to see how complicated the puzzles are.

Metroid Samus Returns

Metroid Samus Returns is a complete remake/reimagining of Metroid 2 for the GameBoy. It was announced at E3 this year and excited a lot of fans with its beautiful art and fast paced action.

The original game was a direct sequel to Metroid for the NES and followed Samus as she hunts down a series of specific Metroid (The titular jellyfish like aliens that have appeared throughout the series). It was made for the GameBoy though so it suffered from some serious technical limitations. This had a chance, though, of helping to reignite the love for the series that many fans may have lost over the years (assuming the game ends up being good).

Mario & Luigi Super Star Saga + Bowser’s Minions

The Mario and Luigi RPGs have been around for a very long time. Some would say that they originated as an offshoot of the Paper Mario series, but the first true game in the series was Mario and Luigi Super Star Saga. It was released for the Game Boy Advance back in 2003. The series has continued on since then with several games (many of which were quite good). Nintendo is rereleasing the original along with “Bowser’s Minions,” a game that tells the games story through the perspective of… you guessed it… Bowser’s Minions.

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon

I know that many fans were looking for a bigger Pokemon announcement this year. But, upgraded versions of the smash hit Pokemon Sun and Moon will be a very big deal this holiday season. We don’t know all the details yet, but I know our family is already on the hook for four copies of the game.

Monster Hunter Stories

The Monster Hunter series is HUGE in Japan. It hasn’t fully caught on over in the states, but that doesn’t stop Capcom from making valiant attempts to make it happen. The upcoming Monster Hunter Stories has the potential to do just that. The game eschews its standard high fantasy style in exchange for a chibi anime art style. The game looks adorable. The jury is still out on whether or not the game will include the same level of challenge as the main game though.


As you can see, the Nintendo 3DS still has a bit of life left in it. What do you think? Sound off in the comments if you are going to pick up any of these games for your family!

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EFG Kids’ Corner: Pokemon Y

Our kid reviews are back! This time we have a review for Pokémon Y from Seamus!


This review is all about Pokémon Y. It is one of the Kalos region games as opposed to the more recent Sun and Moon. I am here to drop-kick back to X&Y.

Pokémon Y is the partner to Pokémon X, while being partners it’s surprising how they compare. But they are similar enough that you can get the same tech specs for X so don’t worry if you bought it and are reading this. The only real differences are the Legendary Pokémon and certain mega evolutions. Both Charizard and Mewtwo mega-evolve differently cross game. But, mega stones can be traded from game to game so you can easily get the opposite mega in your game. The legendary is the real determining factor. But again you can trade (but who on earth would trade their legendary even for another legendary? You probably picked the game because you like the legendary better). But that’s just me talking on and on. (I went with Y because my awesome uncle gave it to me as a gift. I had no choice in the matter but Y is cooler in my opinion and surprises are great so thank you so much uncle Pete!) I just love Yvetal.

I played this on a 3Ds and I feel that Nintendo didn’t take advantage of the 3D factor as much as they could have. If you only had a 2Ds you wouldn’t be missing much at all. They only put it in on battles which is only half of the game. The story makes up for that though going far from just battle gyms as you spend good amounts of time battling team flare. I won’t give much away on that but they are an evil organization you must stop. You also get to travel with four other trainers two of which are you next door neighbors. They are Shauna, Serana, Tierno, and Trevor.

This game is a wonderful play with plot twists, puzzles, action, and awesome exploration. Everything a game needs!

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Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon

The Pokémon Company held a Pokémon themed Nintendo Direct today that was eight minutes long, but packed a big punch. They made three significant announcements regarding Pokémon games that we can expect to be playing by the end of the year.

The announcements went as follows:

 

Pokken Tournament DX

A deluxe edition of Pokken tournament will be coming to the Nintendo Switch on September 22, 2017. The game will be a full port of the Wii U game, but will include new characters and game modes.

At this point we should be confident that every halfway decent Wii U game will be ported over to the Switch with some bonus content. I’m glad to see Pokken Tournament given that treatment because it was a great game and went largely unnoticed thanks to its place on the Wii U.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will launch on the Nintendo 3DS on November 17, 2017. They are new games in the Alola region that feature new Pokémon that weren’t available in the original. The announcement for these games was very short, but the Pokémon Company indicated that more information would be coming later on this year.

This would not be the first time that a mainline Pokémon game was given a sequel if that’s what these games turn out to be. They released Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 towards the end of the DS life cycle as well. On the other hand, these could very well just end up being special editions of the original games that don’t include much new content. It is tough to say now, but we’ll find out soon enough.

 

Pokémon Gold and Silver

The Generation 2 classics, Pokémon Gold and Silver, will be coming to the Nintendo 3DS eShop Virtual console this fall. These games are considered by many to be their favorite games in the series.

These virtual console releases are particularly interesting to family gamers like us because we may very well have kids who have squeezed all the juice out of Pokémon Sun and Moon and might be hungry for something else. These will be budget friendly options to do just that.

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World of Nintendo on the 2017 Summer of Play Tour Announced

Nintendo has announced their Summer of Play tour for 2017. They will be bringing the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS family of systems all over the country. They’ll be setting up a veritable wonderland of Nintendo greatness for families to experience.

The tour will serve as a great opportunity for Nintendo fans to get their hands on the red hot Nintendo Switch. This will be great for building interest for the system as its critical first Holiday season.

 

The Summer of Play tour will visit the following locations:

June 9-11
Irvine, California
Irvine Spectrum Center

 

June 16-18
Pleasanton, California
Alameda County Fair

 

June 23-25
Bloomington, Minnesota
Mall of America®

 

June 30-July 2
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Henry Maier Festival Park (Summerfest Grounds)

 

July 7-9
Chicago
Navy Pier

 

July 14-16
Glendale, Arizona
Arrowhead Towne Center

 

July 20-23
San Diego
Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina (San Diego Comic-Con)

 

July 28-30
Arlington, Texas
The Parks Mall at Arlington

 

Aug. 4-6
Miami, Florida
Aventura Mall

 

Aug. 11-13
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Musikfest

 

Aug. 18-20
New York
DUMBO Waterfront

 

Aug. 25-27
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
King of Prussia Mall

 

Sept. 2-4
Baltimore
Harborplace
Nintendo Switch games scheduled to appear on the tour include:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • 1-2-Switch
  • Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!
  • ARMS
  • Splatoon 2
  • Super Bomberman R
  • Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
  • Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition
Nintendo 3DS games scheduled to appear on the tour include:
  • Pokémon Sun
  • Pokémon Moon
  • Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS
  • Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
  • Hey! PIKMIN
  • Miitopia
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Kid’s Corner: A Kid’s Guide to Pokemon Breeding

Welcome to the EFG Kids’ Corner! This is a series of articles written by gamer kids all over the country! If you are a gamer kid (or know one) send me your best stuff in an email at editor@engagedfamilygaming.com! You just might see it here!

Without further adieu… here we go!


Evan, 10 years old

Have you ever wondered about Pokémon breeding?

Well you’re about to learn because I’m going to teach you how to breed Pokémon with a few simple steps.

Step 1: Find a Pokémon daycare (in Omega Ruby, Alpha Sapphire, X, or Y) or a nursery (in Sun and Moon).

Step2: Catch a Ditto. It’s a vital Pokémon to breeding. They are also used in competitive play.

Step 3: Choose a Pokémon you want more of (like a starter).

Step 4: Put your Ditto and the Pokémon from step 3 in the daycare or nursery.

Step 5: Wait a day or two and talk to the person outside of your nursery or daycare and you will get a egg.

Step 6: Put the egg in your party.

Step7: Find a place that is a circle where you can continually walk around without having to stop.

Step 8: Walk around the circle from step 7 until the egg hatches (The Pokémon that comes out of the egg will be the Pokémon that you bred with the Ditto) and talk to the person from step 5.

Boom!!!!! You just learned how about Pokémon Breeding.

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Overwatch-Characters

The time has come to bid farewell to one heck of a bad year. 2016 wasn’t very good for much, but we did get some amazing video games. We had a lot of options for our game of the year, because we played a lot of very cool video games. But, at the end of it all there is only one game that stands out as “the best” and that is Overwatch.

overwatch-teamwork

 

Overwatch – PC, PS4, Xbox One

Overwatch is a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today. Every minute detail in that glorious game is treated with care. You can feel the energy that went into development just like you can feel the excitement in a match rise naturally as it reaches its crescendo.

It isn’t just the details that make the difference though. Overwatch has managed to prove that an online multiplayer shooter with no single player campaign to speak of can be successful. And it achieved this goal by having an amazing set of characters that are well balanced against each other and all but forcing players to learn to play all of them in order to excel at the game. In most multiplayer games players are expected to select a “main.” This is the character you focus all of your effort into learning. With Overwatch the game forces you to learn all of them the same way you would learn the nuances of different weapons in other shooters. This would be bothersome if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters in this game just so freaking COOL!

Speaking of characters – The world is a scary place and there are a lot of people who are more scared by people who are different from them. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It celebrates a cast of characters that celebrate diversity more than just about any game to have come before. If you have doubts, then look at the character select screen and take a look at all the different nationalities, body types, and genders represented. Its impressive, but what makes it better is that nothing feels forced. All of the characters are complete and well rounded. No one is the “token” anything. This is a great feeling when it feels like the celebration of diversity is being squelched elsewhere.

These are just a few of the reasons that Overwatch is a must play game. But, it wasn’t the only great game we played this year. Take a look below for out other favorites!

Pokemon Go – Mobile

Pokemon Go Logo

Pokemon Go doesn’t really have a lot of “game” built into it. You don’t really have a lot of meaningful decisions to make. It doesn’t look terribly good. But, none of that matters when you take into account the impact this game had on the world as a whole.

It felt like the entire world was on their feet and moving around more starting the day after Go’s release. There are videos from all over the world showing massive crowds of people playing together in spite of the fact that they were all playing on their phones.

I covered it in an EFG show awhile back, but at one point towards the end of last year Pokemon Go players has collectively walked the equivalent distance between Earth and Neptune!

There is no question that Pokemon Go has declined in popularity, but we couldn’t leave it off our games of the year list because of that. Its cultural impact was just too great.

NBA 2k17 – PC, PS4, Xbox One

nba-2k17-logo

NBA 2K17 is one of our games of the year because it is, quietly, three very good games in one package.

Players looking for a near perfect simulation of the sport of professional basketball certainly get their wish here. Gameplay is fluid and the developers spent a lot of time giving skilled players the ability to create magic moments on the court.

That isn’t all the game has up its sleeve though. NBA 2k17 is also an amazing management sim. Players can take on the role of GM for their favorite franchise or create an entire new one as they chase greatness. You get to make all sorts of interesting decisions in this mode. So many, in fact, that you might not even have time for the games themselves (But, don’t worry. You can play those too.)

NBA 2k17 is also one of the best role playing experiences around right now. The single player story mode is a straight-up rpg. Players take on the role of Prez, a young player entering his NBA career. You don’t just play his games though. You control his entire schedule. This includes when (and whether) he practices, who he hangs out with, and how he interacts with some of his teammates. It is an unprecedented level of control and it gives a very accurate representation of the NBA lifestyle.

I can’t recommend this game enough for people who are even tangentially interested in the NBA.

Final Fantasy XV – PS4, Xbox One

Final Fantasy XV

How do I even begin with this one? I have been waiting for this game almost as long as I have been a parent. While I have to admit that Final Fantasy XV didn’t exceed any of my expectations and completely blow my mind… it was still an awesome game.

For starters, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Every time I passed over the crest of a hill or rounded a corner I was greeting by some of the most gorgeous vistas I have ever seen. I was endlessly astonished.

It did not hurt that the action was always intense when I got to my destination. XV passed on the turn based combat that has been a franchise mainstay for three decades. Instead, this game features a combat system that is much more action focused. The best analogy I can come to  is that it will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played a Kingdom Hearts game in the past.

This is a must play for even lapsed fans in the series, because Square has done everything they could to bring the series back from the brink and I think they succeeded.

Stardew Valley – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

stardew-valley-logo

Stardew Valley is one of the surprise indie hits of the year. It is an incredibly deep farming, dating, fishing, life simulator that is playing using graphics that look like they could have run on a Super Nintendo.

The simple graphics are just a smokescreen though. This game does everything and does it well. It also has a very slick gameplay loop that gives you just enough time during each game day to do about three quarters of the things you wanted to do. This might sound like a trap, but it just gives that much more motivation to make your next day that much more efficient.

This is a great game that is available on consoles, but it is really best on PC and will run on some of the most antiquated machines. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You’ll like it.

Pokemon Sun/Moon – Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon sun and moon box art

Pokemon certainly had a big year in 2016. It celebrated its 20th anniversary as a franchise. They released the aforementioned Pokemon Go. They also capped the year off with the release of the 7th generation in the mainline Pokemon titles in Pokemon Sun and Moon.

These games did just about everything right. They provided the most accessible entree to the franchisee in years. They simplified (and reduced some of the grinding) involved in Pokemon breeding. And they rode the wave of success from Pokemon Go into being some of the fastest selling video games in Nintendo history.

If you are a Pokemon fan and don’t already own one (or both) of these games, then I would seriously consider it. These are excellent games that are worthy of your attention.

Super Mario Run – iOS (Android 2017)

super-mario-run-logo

This game only came out a few weeks ago, but it left a very strong impression on me. Super Mario Run is the first in an oncoming wave of mobile games being developed by Nintendo exclusively for mobile devices and it is a great start.

It plays very similarly to  standard Mario games at its core. But, there is one exception. Mario almost never stops running. The only level of control that players have is tapping on their screen to make Mario jump. This game is all about timing your jumps perfectly as you try to collect a set of five special coins.

I have enjoyed all of the time I sent with this one so far, and I think that it bodes well the the games that Nintendo will release in the future.

Street Fighter V – PS4

street fighter V

My love for the Street Fighter franchise is well documented. I’m terrible at it, but I love it. Street Fighter V is the newest entry in the franchise and it brings back all of the wild action that I have loved from the past and it looks very pretty doing it.

The game has not had the best start, but Capcom has continued to support the game with DLC characters, competitive fixes, and other updates. This is one game that will look very different over the next few years. I can’t wait to see it all.

Ratchet and Clank – PS4

ratchet-clank-prev

One of the questionable trends over the last handful of years has been the tendency of companies to remaster their content and repackage it for sale to earn a quick buck. Ratchet and Clank looks like it might have been a part of that trend to the untrained eye, but it is anything but.

The key difference is that Ratchet and Clank is a frame for frame, point for point remake of the original game in the long standing franchise using a new engine, significantly improved graphics, and modern game design sensibilities. It also happens to be a TON of fun.

Do not sleep on this game folks. If you own a PS4, then this is a must own.

Skylanders Imaginators – PS4, Xbox One, Wii U

imaginators_keyart

Sure. I get it. This is  a games of the year list on a family gaming site. Of course Im going to include the Skylanders game right? I’ll admit it. That was more than likely, but Imaginators is something special,

In my opinion Skylanders Imaginators is the best game in the Skylanders series so far, bar none. My reasoning here is simple. We’ve been used to getting a new batch of interesting Skylanders each year, but there was something special about being able to create and continuously improve my own character. This made me much more invested in everything that happened throughout the game.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360

lego-star-wars-the-force-awakens-logo

I would have thought that LEGO Star Wars series was dead in the water after Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise and Electronic Arts signed a 10 year license to create Star Wars games. But, lo and behold, the franchise isn’t just alive. It is thriving.

This entry follows the plot of episode VII very closely and even includes some plot points that were hinted at in the movies but never explicitly discussed like C-3PO’s red arm. They even included *that* seen and managed to handle it tastefully while still holding true to their typical humor.

They also managed to, somehow, include several new gameplay modes including cover based shooting and aerial dogfighting. This works out great because the added level variety helped keep the game interesting.

Dragon Quest Builders – PS4, PSVita

dragonquest_builders_new

When I first say this game I thought it would be a cheap Minecraft ripoff. I never expected it to be one of the biggest, and most pleasant, surprises of the year.

It is undeniable that Builders takes some of its design cues from Minecraft. Players travel around a map gathering materials by defeating enemies and breaking cubes. They then use those materials to build things.

The difference here is that unlike Minecraft, this isn’t a pure sandbox game. Players are placed in gameplay scenarios and tasked with building up and defending a settlement. This is a significant change, and one that really appeals to me because I enjoy the more focused gameplay experience.

It doesn’t hurt that the game also features the charming Dragon Quest art style.

I feel comfortable recommending this game to anyone who is looking for a change of pace from Minecraft.

Unravel – PC, Xbox One

unravel

unravel

Unravel was a captivating experience for our family when it came out earlier this year. It was one of the most gorgeous games we had ever seen to that point. The story it told resonated with us very strongly. And the puzzle platforming elements brought us all together as we worked together to solve them.

We loved the short time we spent with Unravel. This is a great game for your family if you are looking for a game to work through together.

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The release of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon is racing toward us. Before we know it we will be knee deep in the Alola region and experiencing the seventh generation of Pokémon games. (Yes, before you ask, that does make me feel old).

We don’t know everything about these two games yet, but The Pokémon Company has been kind enough to give us dollops of information every few weeks. This has helped to give everyone a peek at the games and to help build hype for them at the same time.

Take a look below for a listing of everything that we know about Pokémon Sun and Moon!

The More Things Change…

pokemon-sun-y-moon

Sun and Moon may be new games, but there is no question that they will follow some of the same formulas and tropes as the previous games in the franchise.

  • They will still feature a young  Trainer on their journey across a region as they collect different Pokémon and complete challenges. 
  • They will choose between three different “starters.”
  • There will still be secrets all over the place,  and treasures to collect.

In truth, Pokémon will still be an RPG just like it always has even. I’m not saying that as a pejorative either. Pokémon is a series built on formulas. It makes them immediately accessible to experienced players, and simple to explain to newcomers.

Settling into a new game in the seriesis like sitting in a favorite chair that you just pulled in from the garage. It is warm, comfortable and feels just right even if you haven’t sat in it for a while.

Island Theme

pokemon-sun-moon-gen-7-region

Every Pokémon game is designed after a different real world location. Sun and Moon are no different. These games take place in the Alola region, which is deeply analogous to the Hawaiian Islands.

This is reflected in the art direction for the landscape, the landlife, and even in the costuming of the characters you run into.

The fact that the region is a series of islands as opposed to one contiguous landmass also makes traversal more interesting as well. You can’t just walk from route to route anymore. This could make getting from place to place more interesting as you have to find boards, choppers, ferries, or even Pokémon to help get you where you need to be.

It is worth noting that the Hawaiian Islands are a very diverse. It isn’t all grass and beaches. There are cities in Hawaii just like everywhere else, so we can expect to see some of that diversity reflected in the art design as well.

Poké Ride

pokeride

Residents of the Alola region have a very close relationship with the wild Pokémon who live there. This goes beyond the capturing and battling that happens in other regions. There are certain Pokémon (some familiar and some new) that will help transport residents of the region from place to place and help to overcome obstacles. This is what the Alola residents called “The Poké Ride.”

This isn’t entirely new. There are times in previous games where players have ridden on Pokémon to get over certain terrain, but this feels like it will be a much more common phenomenon in Sun and Moon.

Alola Forms

alola forms pokemon sun and moon

There is something very mysterious about the Alola region. Not only are there different Pokémon there, but some known Pokémon have different forms that have different typing as well! For example, Vulpix and its evolved form Nine-Tails have an Ice/Fairie type form as opposed to their usual Fire type.

The more I think about this, the more I am excited to see what other unique Alola forms there are. This is a great way to expand the diversity in the Pokémon available in the game without having to create new character models. It is also a way to help players play with their favorites even if the typing is different than what they need.

Z-Moves

pokemon sun moon z moves

Pokémon trainers who are adventuring across the Alola region will eventually come across a special bracelet. This bracelet, when combined with items that can be equipped to Pokémon, will give trainers and their Pokémon access to devastating Z-Moves. These are advanced maneuvers that can only be used once per battle that and look awesome when used.

The debut video stated that there was one per type, but it was unclear if there are multiple moves available per type and that you need to choose one, or if they are truly are unique.

New Pokémon

pokemon sun moon new pokemon

What would a new Pokémon game be if it didn’t include new and never before seen Pokémon. Sun and Moon are no exception and we have already seen some splendid additions to the Pokémon roster. Some fan favorites, like the adorable Mimikyu, have already emerged.

New Legendary Pokémon

solgaleo-pokemon-sun-moon

Sun and  Moon follow the form from the last several generations by each including legendary Pokémon that is unique to their game.

Pokémon Sun features Solgaleo a massive white Lion that is Psychic and Steel type. His ability is Full Metal Body. It prevents his statistics from being altered by his opponents moves or abilities.

Pokémon Moon features Lunala. This is a giant bat that is both Psychic and Ghost typed. Lusaka has the ability Shadow shield, which limits the amount of damage taken when at full health.

There will definitely be more legendary Pokémon available in the region, but they haven’t been announced yet.

Island Challenges

pokemon sun moon island challenges

It appears that at least one standard Pokémon game formula is being turned on its head. It looks, based on the videos we have been shown, that there are no Gyms in the Alola region. Instead traveling Pokémon trainers complete Island challenges on each of the four main islands in the region. Each challenge consists of a task, or series of tasks, laid out by a powerful Pokémon Trainer who specializes in a specific Pokémon type (a la gym leaders). Once the task is completed, trainers can then challenge the Kahuna Pokémon. This is a Pokémon that is more powerful than others of the same species and is even able to summon other Pokémon to help it in battle.

Battle System Updates

pokemon-sun-and-moon-fight-options

The Pokémon Company is always striving to update the combat system to make it more user friendly and interesting to look at. At the end of the day Pokémon is a turn based RPG so it is important for players to have all of the information they need at their fingertips. Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon take this even further than previous games by including information about each move type and its effectiveness against other Pokémon.

This change has been criticized by some long time players, but anyone who is still learning or just starting, this is a godsend- helping new players learn the increasing complexity of the game with each iteration.

Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more information about Pokémon Sun and Moon as we get closer to the game’s release on November 18th 2016!

This article originally appeared on Pixelkin.org. Make sure to check them out!

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