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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Nintendo held a Nintendo Direct video presentation on October 1 that focused entirely on 3DS and WiiU games that are on the way. The following is a list of the five most important things we learned from watching the presentation.

Super Mario 3D World is coming November 22, 2013

It also looks like it is EXACTLY what Nintendo needs to kick off the holiday season. The game looks amazing and is bringing more innovative ideas to the table than I can ever remember from a Mario game. This is going to be a must own for families that own a WiiU (and might even be a reason to buy a WiiU in the first place).

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze has been delayed until February 2014

This is a pretty big disappointment because it was one of my most anticipated games of the holiday season. I really enjoyed the last Donkey Kong game.

The last thing Nintendo needs to do is to push some of its premier franchises out of the holiday window, but it is possible that they wanted to avoid any potential competition with Super Mario 3D World.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 will feature an online multiplayer component

Players will be able to earn points for their country to help contribute to a leader board. This will be a great warm-up for the Nintendo online multiplayer services to help them get ready for Mario Kart 8 next year.

 

A new Kirby 3DS title is in development

They showed a brief preview of the title in progress and it looks amazing. The game is currently slated for release next year. Kirby fans look like they have a lot to look forward to. (I. Cannot. Wait.)

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds will feature some significant changes

They announced significant changes regarding item acquisition. The biggest difference is that items will be available for “rental” in order to allow players to tackle dungeons in any order they choose. This is a significant change for players used to previous entries in the franchise that were much more linear.

It looks like there is a lot to be excited about for Nintendo fans this year and next. What are you most excited about? Sound off in the comments!

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in Chief

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB: E 10+

08/11/2013

Reviewed on 3DS

Overall Review:

If you had told me when I was a teenager that one of my favorite role playing game (RPG) series as an adult would feature Mario and Luigi I would have laughed at you. I would never have imagined that the Mario and Luigi series would captivate me as much as it has.

To put it simply: Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is brilliant. This series never fails to impress me with its wit and charm. This particular entry stands out because it “features” Luigi. I use quotes here because most of the action takes place while Luigi is sleeping on the job!

If I were to have one complaint about the game it would be its length. I know that sounds odd considering it is a role playing game (RPG), but I was ready for it to be over by the time I was done.

Family Gaming Assessment:

There is nothing really worrisome about this game.

The villain can be a little scary at times, but the things he does and says are often funny enough to laugh it off.

Playability Assessment:

Anyone familiar with Super Mario games should be familiar with them. They look simple and cute, but that shiny veneer hides a devious learning curve. Mario and Luigi: Dream team is no different.

There are puzzles in almost every area that will test your child’s logic and memory. If they are easily frustrated by these types of activities you might want to play with them to help make sure they don’t get too angry.

There is a lot of reading involved in the game. Young readers might struggle with some of the words, but if your child can retain words that they read a few times then They won’t have much trouble after a while. The language is very repetitive.

Conclusion:

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

If you have a child that is interested in role playing games, then this is the perfect entry point to the genre.

 

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Nintendo released a lot of information regarding the upcoming holiday season today. The biggest announcement was the impending release of the Nintendo 2DS which I discussed here. But, that was not the only announcement that came from the Nintendo camp today.

Nintendo also announced a $50 price cut on the deluxe edition of the WiiU console. That leaves the console at a price point of $299.99. I think this is a great move. The PS4 is only $399.99 and it was well worth the $50 upgrade to get that kind of hardware improvement over the WiiU. The $100 gap is more significant.

Nintendo also announced that they would be releasing a Legend of Zelda:Windwaker HD bundle on 09/20/2013 that would retail for $299.99 and include a digital copy of Hyrule Hystoria and a download code for Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD at no additional charge. This is a phenomenal deal!

Other announcements include the release dates of several Nintendo titles:

WiiU –

The Legend of Zelda Windwaker HD ($49.99) – 09/20/2013 (digital) and 10/04/2013 (retail)

Wii Party U, bundled with Wii Remote Plus and stand ($49.99) – 10/25/2013

Super Mario 3D World ($59.99) – 11/22/2013

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze ($49.99) – 12/06/2013

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games – Launches this holiday, further details to be revealed soon.

WiiFit U – Launches this holiday, further details will be revealed soon

3DS –

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ($39.99) – 11/22/2013

Mario Party: Island Tour ($39.99) – 11/22/2013

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Nintendo came out with a TON of news today. The biggest announcement of the day was for a new handheld system call the Nintendo 2DS. This is, for all intents and purposes, a stripped down version of the 3DS hardware that is being sold at a budget price of $129.99. The system will launch on 10/12/2013 which is, interestingly enough, the release date for Pokémon X and Pokémon Y.

The there are two main differences between the 2DS and the 3DS. The most significant is that the 2DS does not have the 3D technology that inspired the 3DS’s name. It will, however, still play all of the existing DS and 3DS games. This is a big deal because there are a lot of parents who are concerned about the 3D effect and its potential impact on young and developing eyes. This gives those parents a worry free option for their child.

The other difference is in the actual physical shape of the machine. The 3DS is shaped like a hinged clamshell. The 2DS has no hinge. Both screens reside on one side of a tablet-like device. This has the advantage of protecting the device from hinge breakage (there isn’t one). This does come at the expense of a risk for more frequent damage to the exposed screens.

The lower price point is also welcome. The internet exploded when the announcement was made, but there was universal agreement that a $130 machine being released alongside a Pokemon game is a killer combination that will result in a lot of happy children (and Nintendo executives) this holiday.

What do you think? Are you picking this up for your family?

 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-In-Chief

WayForward Technologies

ESRB Rating – E 10+

August 13, 2013

Reviewed on PS3 (Also available on, Wii, WiiU, 3DS and PC,  Xbox 360 version available on 09/11/2013)

Overall Review:

Just about everyone reaches a point in their adult life where they begin to develop a yearning to re-experience the things they held dear as a child. They ride on the gentle waves of nostalgia until it’s all they can do to keep themselves from spending all day at work reading Wikipedia about their favorite cartoons as a kid.

Ducktales: Remastered is the perfect game for people who are experiencing that right now. Many of us played the original title back in 1989 when it was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Remastered is crafted in such a way that it looks and sounds the way we imagined it so many years ago. The 8bit era of the Nintendo gave us the freedom to imagine the world, but Remastered allows us to enjoy it.

The feeling of playing this game, at least for a longtime fan, is the most important thing to discuss here. I could pick at dodgy controls and somewhat intrusive story sequences for a few hundred words. But, there is an intangible element to this game that transcends the game mechanics and storyboards. Most games today are full of tension. They want to evoke a feeling of dread, excitement, joy, or all of the above. Ducktales: Remastered stands apart from all that. Instead it lets me be 9 year old boy sitting cross legged in front of the TV with my brother again. That is worth my $14.99 every single time.

Family Gaming Assessment:

I’ll make this quick. This game is rated E 10+, but the content is very mild. It plays out like an episode of the Ducktales cartoon. If you would let your child watch that, then this game is no problem.

Conflict in Ducktales: Remastered is resolved through using Scrooge’s cane to pogo bounce off of enemies. There are no weapons or fighting of any kind. If violence is a concern for you, then this game should not be a problem.

The only real theme that is worth noting is that the Transylvania level does have a horror movie aesthetic. If you are concerned that your kids are easily scared by cartoon ghosts and mummies, then that level is something to consider. With that said, it is goofy enough looking that it should be easily explained away.

Playability Assessment:

This game is very difficult. I would expect children to have a fair amount of difficulty with this one unless they have had a fair amount of experience with other 2d platforming games like Rayman Origins or the New Super Mario Brothers series.

With that said, the game does have a difficulty selection option. Putting the game on “Easy” lessens the challenge by reducing the damage you take from running into enemies. It also removes the “life” counter from the game and prevents you from getting a game over. This should be very helpful for young and/or inexperienced gamers that might be discouraged by losing their progress.

Conclusion:

Ducktales: Remastered is a great game. It is not without its faults, but I found the experience to be fun and engaging. Kids will have a lot of fun playing through the colorful environments and becoming acquainted with some of the less appreciated characters on the Disney roster (a Gizmoduck/Phineas and Ferb crossover would be amazing).

All of my praise so far is based on the assumption that the prospective player is a fan of the series. The waters are far muddier if you are not a fan of the original game or the Ducktales series. The game relies on the nostalgia effect to overcome some of its weakness. When I wipe that away and think objectively about it there are not many reason to go out of your way to play this game.

My final verdict:

Fans: Buy it. Now.

Non-fans: Buy it when the price drops unless your kids REALLY like Disney games. 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-In-Chief

Publisher

ESRB Rating – T for Teen

June 25, 2013

Available on Nintendo 3DS

Overall Review:

Project X-Zone is quite possibly one of the most absurd games I have ever played. The game is, on the surface, a solid turn-based role-playing game. At its core is a dense ball of concentrated fan service the likes of which we have never seen. The game features characters from Capcom, Namco-Bandai, and Sega franchises and throws them into whirlwind plot that puts the entire universe at risk for reasons I still don’t understand.

Did I mention that it was also a lot of fun?

I struggled initially with how to put the exhilaration I felt while playing this game into words. At one point my army consisted of: Chun Li, Morrigan Le Fay, Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Ryu, Ken Masters, Frank West, and Hsien-Ko. (For those of you who don’t play games a lot: This is the video game equivalent of an episode of Game of Thrones featuring House, Ted Mosby, Sheldon, Walker Texas Ranger, Tommy the Green Ranger, and ALF.) Seeing some of my favorite characters in such a bizarre mash-up made me laugh openly as many of the characters were introduced.

I have always been a fan of turn-based strategy games. I don’t have the best reaction time so shooters and fighting games, while fun, are very hard. Turn-based games give me as long as I need to take to think out my next move. Project X Zone performs well enough here. The environments are interesting, and the ability to destroy objects adds an interesting level of exploration to the game play. I did have some issues with some of the more grueling fights. As the game went on some of the fights were so long that I would have to stop midway to take a break. This game is definitely NOT intended for people with short attention spans.

It was not without its weaknesses, but the crazy character lineup and cartoonish action do a good enough job making up for them.

Family Gaming Assessment:

The animation in this game is where it earns its T for Teen rating. The character models for the women are all HIGHLY sexualized. Many of them have cleavage spilling out all over the place. I’m a grown man and some of the character models made me feel a little uncomfortable especially since one of the main protagonists is a teenager. Morrigan also makes more than a few implied sexual comments. She never comes out says what she is implying, so it should go over the heads of littler kids, but the potential for understanding is always there. With all that said, younger kids wouldn’t be as impacted by this. Morrigan’s comments would probably go right over their heads, and the provocative clothes wouldn’t mean anything.

The violence is there, but it is nothing more intense than some Saturday morning cartoons. The only exceptions are that several of the characters use guns. If you are uncomfortable with your kids using guns in their games, then that is something to keep in mind here.

This game is the epitome of a T for Teen rated game. There is no one facet of the game that crosses the line into being completely inappropriate for younger kids, but it dances near the line long enough to make it questionable.

Playability Assessment:

This is a strategy game, so some of the game play will be too challenging for younger or more inexperienced players. The game plays out on a grid so I suppose a good analog would be a game like chess. If they hand handle the basic concepts there then the game should playable.

Once the different units engage, the action is resolved with simple two button combos: a direction on the circle pad and one of the face buttons. This is easy enough and the results are easy to see. Experimentation will net some interesting results.

There is voice acting, but the tracks are entirely in Japanese. Those of us who are native English speakers will have to rely on reading to understand what characters are saying and to navigate the menus. Early readers will probably struggle with this game.

Conclusion:

I had a lot of fun while I was playing Project X Zone, but most of my appreciation was derived as a result of the characters themselves. I don’t know that people who aren’t fans of the characters to begin with would find it nearly as entertaining. As a result, I can’t really recommend this game for general audiences.  

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D3 Publisher of America
Rated E for Everyone
Released 07/15/2013

Review based on PS3 version (Available for Xbox 360, WiiU, 3DS, Wii, DS)

Overall Review:

Games based on kid’s movies get a bad rap. They are never given the time in development to really grow and flourish into something original. As a result, most developers just pick a genre and jam in story concepts until the game is “finished.” Considering these games get such a bad rap, I can see why some developers go out of their way to try and think differently and try to avoid doing something obvious.

It’s admirable, but sometimes I think people should just go with a proven concept and focus on execution over innovation. Turbo:Super Stunt Squad is the result of an attempt to do something “different” and suffers for it. The entire game experience is impaled by a shoddy attempt at dodging expectations.

Point blank: I cannot recall a gaming experience in my life that has disappointed me more.

I spent the days while my copy was in transit waiting to play a cart racer. I assumed that it only made sense since it is a licensed title based on the story of a snail who dreams of winning the Indy 500. Cart racing games are a personal favorite of mine. I love just about everything about them, so I figured I was in for a treat… until I started playing.

Turbo Stunt Squad is not a racing game in the least. Instead, it is a trick based game that is not unlike the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series many of us played a decade ago. It feels like a clone, and not a very good one at that.

You control Turbo, or one of his snail friends, as you traverse environments from the movie trying to achieve high scores and complete tasks and challenges. Over time you can customize your snails shell in some interesting ways, but it isn’t really worth the effort involved.

Family Gaming Assessment:

There is some gross humor in the game when you remember that these characters are snails. Rail grinding on a burrito on the floor of a taco stand is funny, but sickening when you think about it.

Aside from that, this game is perfectly acceptable for younger players. In short: If you let them watch the movie, then the game is just fine.

Playability Assessment:

This game is not easy. The tutorial does a good enough job of explaining what buttons to press, but the levels themselves are a challenge because players have to use contextual clues to figure out where to go and how to get there. This isn’t easy for younger players who don’t have a lot of experience with video games.

For illustration, I gave the controls to my oldest son who is 7. He fiddled with the controls for about 5 minutes and then went off to do something else. I was able to hold his attention longer with a game of Civilization V (which is an abstract grand strategy game).

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a Turbo game, then you are far better off downloading Turbo Racing League for your phone or tablet. This game just isn’t worth the trouble.

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By: Lara Murray

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: June 9, 2013

System: 3DS 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is out for the Nintendo 3DS and is the newest addition to the Animal Crossing series. Like its predecessors, it’s not necessary to have played any of the other games in the series so a new player with just basic reading, math, and comprehension skills can jump right in and enjoy the game. Up to four people can create a villager to live in town, but only one person can play at a time. Additionally, only the first villager to arrive in town can become mayor after a misunderstanding from the animal villagers, which takes away one of the neatest aspects from other players on the same game.

As mayor of the town, a player has the ability to enact ordinances and start public work projects that add decorations to the town. As a resident, a player controls their villager and interacts with other residences and the environment. Every imposition has a consequence, however subtle it may be: befriended residents will stay in town, while neglected or annoyed one will take off for greener pastures; shake a tree in hopes that “bells” (the in-game currency) or an item will fall out, at the risk that a bee’s nest will drop and you’ll be stung instead; run over the same area of grass long enough and it will wear away into a dirt path; plant a red rose and a white rose together, and find a pink rose growing one day from their cross-pollination.

Being a mayor is fun, but a mayor needs a home to retire to after a long day of work At the beginning of the game, your villager starts off with a humble tent while your house is built. It’s a small home at first, but over time the outside of the house can be remodeled and the inside can be expanded into multiple stories and floors. Remodeling cost bells, but by reselling old clothes and furniture and selling fruit, fish, insects, and fossils gathered in town, earning bells to repay your debt is easy. If money isn’t an issue, then fruit can be planted to grow more fruit trees and fossils, insects, and fish can be donated to the town’s museum for exhibition.

Seasons and time pass by in the game much the same as in real life. There’s snow on the ground in the winter and an abundant amount of mosquitoes in the summer, just to name a few of seasonal quirks. Many insects and fish only come out during certain months of the year, so there’s always something to catch. Holidays and villager’s birthdays are celebrated, often with a commemorative item available only during that time. When you want to remember a moment, pressing the L- and R-shoulder buttons will snap a photo that’s stored on the 3DS and can be uploaded online.

When you feel like your villager needs a change of scenery, chart a boat to a local tropical island for some exploration, visit the Dream House in town, or visit a friends town and see what they’re up to. You can also open the gate to your town and invite friends in. Visiting friends’ towns provides the advantage to gather fruit and buy items not available in the stores in your town, and finding travelers who only crop up in towns weekly on a random basis more often. Unless you’re in range of another player with a 3DS and a copy of the game, it’s necessary to have already swapped friend codes prior to visiting a friend’s town, preventing unwanted strangers from entering your town or you from entering theirs.

The multiplayer aspect of the island is a new feature that wasn’t featured in the past Animal Crossing games, but is one of best new features of New Leaf. Once in the same town, friends can travel to the tropical island and participate in one of the many “tours” available. The tours are mini games where participants work together to complete tasks, such as catching a certain amount of bugs within a time limit or completing a scavenger hunt, to win medals. Medals may then be cashed in to buy exclusive items available only on the island. You can also visit and play any of the tours by yourself by visiting the island when there are no friends visiting your town, but without the hectic fun of working together with friends.

The Dream House is another fun new feature in New Leaf. It allows you to visit the dream world of another town—either randomly selected from towns uploaded online, or by specifically entering a code that represents an exact town—where you can do anything you want but changes aren’t permanent. Parental controls must permit Internet access to visit any dream town, as well as unlock the Child Online Privacy Protection option in order to upload your town to the database where dream towns are pulled from.

Very few games can actually offer limitless entertainment, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf does it without missing a step. New Leaf proves that you don’t need violence or adult situations to produce a good game. Sometimes all it takes is a little misunderstanding when you move into something new to have fun.

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LEGO Marvel Super Heroes cover art

This is the cover art for the upcoming LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. I can’t wait to play it with my boys!

When LEGO expanded their product line beyond building toys and into games, we were thrilled. Everyone loves a good LEGO game. The LEGO series of video games has been a delight to family gamers for years now. We’ve played as Indiana Jones, Batman, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and more. This Fall we will get a chance to step into the LEGO version of the Marvel universe. Are you as excited as I am? Our boys cheered when they saw the E3 trailer.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes will launch this Fall on pretty much every device capable of playing games. LEGO has built the game to work on next generation consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, and WiiU. It will also be available for current generation consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. They also did not leave out handheld devices like the 3DS and PSVita. The game will feature over 100 Marvel characters. We can make some assumptions regarding a lot of them, but LEGO is being mysterious about exactly who will be featured.

Marvel has released the cover art (posted above) for the game featuring a number of characters. They are:

  • Captain America
  • Wolverine
  • Iron Man
  • Black Widow
  • The Thing
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Mr. Fantastic
  • Thor
  • Spider Man
  • The Human Torch
  • The Silver Surfer

Those are some big names. Who do you think is missing? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

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Nintendo did not hold a press briefing at E3 2013. Instead they posted a 38 minute Nintendo Direct video on their E3 website showing off the new titles that are on the way.

They showed a number of new and exciting titles, but things didn’t really pick up steam until the end of the presentation where they closed with game play details for Super Smash Brothers.

Smash Brothers is a fighting game that pits iconic Nintendo characters against each other in 4-player battles has been on of the most successful franchises Nintendo has to offer. It really couldn’t be coming at a better time as the Nintendo WiiU has been struggling on account of a lack of killer games. The reality is that Smash Brothers might be just what the doctor ordered.

They confirmed the return of several longstanding characters like Mario, Pikachu, Samus Aran, Link and Donkey Kong. They also have announce three new characters so far at E3.

The first new character was “The Villager” from Animal Crossing. He appears to be an interesting character with a lot of defensive moves. For example he can dig holes to prevent opponents from charging in on him. He can also catch projectiles in mid air and pocket them.

The second character announced is quite possibly the biggest news of the entire event (Yes. I mean all of E3… ALL OF IT). Capcom’s Mega Man will be making a guest appearance in Smash Brothers this time around complete with mega-buster, a whole pile of robot master weapons, and his trusty dog Rush. This is a huge deal because Mega Man is among the most popular characters in video games and has, sadly, been left out of the spotlight in recent years.

The third character was announce after the Nintendo Direct presentation went off the air. The “Wii Fit Trainer” is going to be stomping all over some Nintendo characters with her yoga moves.

We, sadly, don’t have a release date for this game right now, but Nintendo indicated that it would be releasing for the 3DS and Nintendo WiiU in 2014. I expect that we will have a lot more character announcements between now and then.

Stay tuned!

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