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Starlink: Battle for Atlus is a Sci-fi Flight Sim/Shooter that takes place in a fictional galaxy in the distant future. Starlink’s main feature is that the game comes with a dock for each controller style (for each platform).

Developer: Ubisoft Toronto

Platform: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One

Release Date: Fall 2018

Players use the dock to build spaceships using Toys to Life spaceship components. Changing the parts of the spaceship on the dock changes the parts of the spaceship in the game, in real time. The game features play areas that take place on the surface of fantastical planets as well as outer space. This allows for full three dimensional flight.

The forces of the villainous “Legion” are built to require adaptive strategies on the part of the player. They will need to change parts on the fly during game play.

Ubisoft has avoided painting itself into a Toys to Life corner though. Starlink will feature digital representations of all of the physical parts that can be swapped out. Ubisoft hinted in its press conference that these digital parts can be purchased separately and/or instead of physical products. This is a great way to keep the game going even if the toy sales don’t take off.

Why is this awesome?

This game is essentially a grown up version of the “Toys to Life” model of gaming made popular by the Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Lego Dimensions games. Starlink: Battle for Atlus appears to be hand tailored to an audience who grew up with the Toys to Life model of games and are now young adults who would be interested in more complex gameplay and story content.

Clearly, Starlink also leans heavily on the nostalgia of the science fiction boom of the 80’s and 90’s. This gives adults access to a game style that was previously marketed to children. This game represents the logical next step in a gaming genre that has been around for the several years and is looking to grow up with its target audience.

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Kirby is an adorable cooperative action game for the Nintendo Switch. Kirby has been a reliable member of the Nintendo family since the original Nintendo Entertainment System. This game will takes full advantage of the local multiplayer features of the Switch and integrates them into the game’s core play.

In addition to Kirby being able to suck in enemies to absorb their powers, Kirby can now recruit enemies with the power of friendship and turn them into allies. These allies not only allow Kirby to create combination abilities, but they can be controlled by up to three other players. They can also left as computer controlled cohorts. Game play features high amounts of whimsy to go with the action, with power ups that include a “Cleaning” Kirby who sweeps away foes with a straw broom, and a “Stone” Kirby who turns into a Curling Stone sliding down hills. Kirby is going to make a solid family friendly title to the 2018 Nintendo Lineup.

Why is this awesome?

Kirby has always been a game that is easy enough to pick up for younger audiences, but contains enough hidden prizes and secret paths throughout the level to challenge more experienced players. Its use of local multiplayer for the Switch means that the parent or older child can play Kirby while less experienced gamers can flop about as his recruited cohorts. This accessibility is integrated into the core game play of the game, and the differences in play experience between different ages is compensated for by the design of the game itself. Its level of whimsy and adorably animated cast will make Kirby a strong purchase for family gamers with younger kids who want to play. We look forward to more details from this game in 2018.

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Kingdom Battle is Nintendo Switch exclusive that is a joint venture between Nintendo and Ubisoft. The game starts with the arrival of Rabbids, mascot characters from Ubisoft, into the Mushroom Kingdom. More so, the Rabbids have taken on the caricatures of the iconic Mario cast. The announce trailer, for example heavily features a rabbid version of both Peach and Luigi. Some rabbids have also taken on the forms of iconic Mario enemies. The rabbids’ arrival has also warped the Mushroom Kingdom and made it an even weirder place.

Kingdom Battle is a turn-based tactical shooter, and a role playing game. Mario and his  spend some of their time exploring a newly twisted landscape. While doing so they discover secrets and treasures. They will also find combat challenges.

 Combat plays out on a grid based battlefield. Players spend each turn moving their characters along the grid, traveling through warp pipes and hiding behind cover.  They can also attack enemies using shooting weapons inspired by the combined Mario/Rabbid aesthetic. In between battles, Mario recruits, customizes, and upgrades his group of ragtag heroes. These upgrades give the team access to more powerful weapons and more complex strategies.

Why is this Awesome?

Kingdom Battle has been under-hyped for a very long time.  Many sites, including our own, have glossed it over as the details were slowly leaked.  I didn’t even think this game was possible. Tactical shooter RPGs, and tactical rpgs in general, are a genre that is very popular but is often associated with adult content. XCOM, a well loved tactical shooter series , is the first thing that came to mind when I saw the trailer at the Ubisoft press conference. Kingdom Battle appears to be a game that is family friendly, with as much probable animated violence as Splatoon and Breath of the Wild, while tapping into a branch of gaming that was previously difficult to show young adult audiences. This is a great opportunity for strategy fans young and old to share common ground. 

Kingdom Battle has the potential to be an awesome game. We can’t wait to play this game when it comes out on August 29th. 

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Yoshi, for the Nintendo Switch, is a spiritual successor to the Nintendo WiiU title: Yoshi’s Woolly World. Yoshi games have taken on a their own visual style separate from the Mario franchise. Yoshi 2018 is animated and designed to be played in a world of arts and crafts.

Yoshi is animated in green felt, while running through cardboard doors with hinges made from duct tape. Yoshi 2018 plays like the platform adventure game of its previous iterations. Each individual level is lovingly built as if it were a diorama in a child’s crafts fair, with moving parts and materials that border on photo realism. Yoshi explores these levels from a two or three dimensional perspective, sometimes traversing a level side to side, sometimes hitting an object with a signature egg to reveal depth to the level. The newest design that Yoshi 2018 brings is the ability for Yoshi to turn the entire level around and play “On the back side of the level”. Again, these levels are build as if they are from a craft fair, so Yoshi can explore behind paper walls and cardboard bushes that are inaccessible if he were “In the front side” of the level. Finally when viewing the backside of a level, the perspective of the game peers out beyond the level and into a what appears to be a child’s room, further driving home the theme that everything here was made by hand by a parent and child inspired by a game they love.

Why is this awesome?

Beyond the scope of what is going to be a fantastic Nintendo Switch title, this game will spark the creation of arts and crafts with adults and children alike. It is not very often that games will have direct tie ins to visual creative outlets outside the games itself. I see many felted Yoshis and cardboard castles being made as the result of this game. The possibility of two player co-op shows potential for adult/child cooperation or young children playing side by side with the joy cons.

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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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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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The Nintendo Switch is a console designed to live in two worlds. It is expected to hold its own as a home console while also serving as a handheld gaming device. The Switch does not excel in either way compared to its contemporaries, but I just don’t think that matters. The Switch is able to serve both purposes well enough to justify its purchase. In this case being a jack of all trades is NOT a liability. Without further fanfare: here is our Nintendo Switch review.

Hardware

The hardware specifications are the boring part. So let’s get them out of the way first, shall we?

 

Feature Switch Xbox One PS4
CPU: Cores 4x ARM Cortex A57 8x AMD Jaguar 8x AMD Jaguar
Memory 4GB 8GB 8GB
Storage 32GB flash (microSD-expandable) 500GB HDD 500GB HDD
Physical game formats Game Card Disc Disc

 

These numbers likely won’t mean much for the average consumer, but suffice it to say that in regards to home consoles smaller numbers are generally worse.

The Nintendo Switch is underpowered compared to the other consoles on the market right now. This means that it won’t be able to output the graphics that most game developers would need to be able to put the same games on the Switch that they would on the PS4. As a result, it is possible that the Nintendo Switch may lose out on some of the higher end games that are released each year like Call of Duty, Battlefront, etc.

Nintendo does have the strongest lineup of first party (internally developed) games of any of the console makers though. These companies are no stranger to making the best of underpowered hardware which they have been doing since Nintendo launched the Wii.

Portable Gaming

We live in a world where almost everyone has a giant phone or a tablet. Mobile gaming is no longer the novelty that it used to be. As a result, the Nintendo Switch needs to do something different to stand out from the crowd. It needs to provide experiences that are unique to the console and superior to the other options on iPads and phones to be worth the increased cost.

Fortunately, this is where the Nintendo Switch shines. All you have to do is pull the Switch out of its dock and you can take it anywhere to play the same games as you would at home. I know that I was concerned (before the console’s launch) that this would be a significant drop in the graphics. The drop is certainly there, but it isn’t nearly as severe as I was concerned about. Instead I am left with a console where I can truly play console quality games wherever I go. That is an amazing feeling and one that cannot be reproduced on any other piece of hardware on the market today aside from the Nintendo Switch.

Battery Life

The Nintendo Switch is limited by the size and power of its battery. Our experiences and testing has shown that a fully charged Switch will last for between 2-3 hours undocked while playing graphics intensive games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

It is worth noting, however, that the Switch is compatible with USB C cables and will work with many of the popular portable chargers on the market. Using one of those will definitely extend the battery life of your device.

Unique Gaming Experiences

The Nintendo 3DS, the PSP, the PSVita, and many others have given us portable gaming before. That really isn’t anything new. The Switch, however, offers options for gaming experiences on the move that were never possible before.

The biggest new feature is the ability to play local multiplayer games like Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe anywhere we want. This is going to be one of the biggest features for our family and for many others, I’m sure. Our kids have had 3DS systems for years, but they have never been able to play their home console games anywhere else without moving the whole system. The fact that they can easily play multiplayer games on the thanks to the multiple Joy-Cons included with the console is just an added bonus.

Controllers

Each Nintendo Switch includes a pair of Nintendo Joy-Con controllers. They will attach to either side of the Switch tablet or to either side of a special controller called the Joy-Con grip. The Joy-Cons are definitely small so you will need to be careful not to lose them.

The Joy-Con Grip is a reasonable facsimile of a controller and will work for a while. But, if you or your family intends to play games for any length of time then I recommend the separate purchase of the Switch Pro controller. This is a controller that is built to be similar to the controllers for the other home consoles. It also happens to be a very good controller.

Online Services

As of today’s writing, Nintendo is offering a minimalist online experience for its online focused games at no charge.

That will change later on in 2017 when they add in a paid online service that will include a multiplayer app along with other functions at a premium charge (estimated to be around $30 annually).

We will have to see how that shakes out as they explain the service to us over the summer.

Games

Consoles live and die by the power of their games library. As of right now I feel very strongly that the library for the Switch is large enough to justify a purchase. The fact that the system launched with the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was likely enough, but in the months that have passed the library has only grown with such titles as Graceful Explosion Machine, Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Puyo Puyo Tetris.

Conclusion

The Nintendo Switch is an amazing device. It is not going to replace any dedicated home consoles like the PS4 or Xbox One in terms of sheer power, but I don’t think that matters. This is a tremendous system that will be a worthy purchase for any family.

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Nintendo held a Direct event on Wednesday 05/16/17 that was focused primarily on their upcoming casual fighter ARMS.

The Direct came in the form of a stylized video that was narrated by an in ring announcer. The announced gave us details about the game itself, the weapons (or ARMS as they are called in the game), the different multiplayer modes, and the fighters themselves.

ARMS

Arms is a casual fighting game where players will compete using fighters that hand elongated, springlike appendages. These appendages can be launched at opponents and moved in wide arcs using motion controls. This gives most fights a heavy ranged component to them as most players will be able to fight without the need to get up close and personal.

After selecting a fighter, as is usual in fighting games, players will have the option to customize their fighter by selecting the ARM attacked to both their right and left hands. Each of these weapons will have a weight and an attribute. The weapons range from the toaster, a weapon that shoots out a flaming punch,  to the tribolt, a weapon that fires three smaller projectiles. The weights have an interesting strategic impact because weapons that are the same weight or heavier than the weapons they come in contact with will actually block them. This means that lighter and faster weapons will have a significant risk associated with them since they can be blocked so easily.

There are seven attributes that can be associated with the different weapons.

  • Fire – Knocks opponents down
  • Electricity – Reduces defense and creates openings for attacks
  • Wind – Knocks enemies back
  • Ice – Applies a slow effect that reduces movement speed
  • Stun – Stops movement, makes opponents vulnerable
  • Explosion – Big damage and knockback
  • Blind – Throws a gross ink blot on your opponents screen so they can’t see

Multiplayer Modes

Fight – In this main multiplayer* mode, two fighters battle against each other one-on-one to claim victory. During the fight, bombs and other healing items drop in, adding some strategic options to the proceedings.

Team Fight – In this mode, two players are attached by strings and must team up to battle another team of two. Attacks can hit allies, so watch out for friendly punches!

V-Ball – Similar to volleyball, but much more awesome. V-Ball is a sport that involves knocking an explosive ball into the opponent’s court.

Hoops – Grab opponents and shoot them into the net (or even dunk them for extra satisfaction) in this hard-core game of ARMS-style basketball.

Skillshot – Break as many targets as possible using the versatile powers of ARMS.

1-on-100 – Defeat 100 enemies in a row, one at a time, in this progressive battle mode.

ARMS Test & Training – In Test mode, players can try out randomized ARMS combinations, while Training lets them practice a number of varied drills.

Characters

Nintendo revealed the ten main characters on the Arms roster. They are:

  • Spring Man – “This passionate fighter’s bouncy hairstyle might look fake, but his passion for fighting is definitely real.”
  • Ninjara – “Using his nimble movements and ancient ninjutsu, Ninjara can disappear and warp somewhere else even in mid-air or when guarding.”
  • Master Mummy – “As the only character that can restore health while guarding, Master Mummy is a force to be reckoned with.”
  • Min Min – “With her ramen noodle arms, Min Min’s spin kick and throws are deliciously powerful.”
  • Kid Cobra – “A fan of selfie sticks and livestreaming, this hip fighter pounces on opponents with a charged-up dash.”
  • Ribbon Girl – “Possessing next-level jumping skills, Ribbon Girl violates the laws of physics with her unbeatable power.”
  • Helix – “Who is Helix? He’s an experiment gone wrong, that’s who. His springy body lets him move in unpredictable ways.”
  • Mechanica – “This mechanical genius dons a homemade power suit that can hover above the competition.”
  • Byte & Barq – “Two fighters in one! This robot fighter and his robot canine companion battle together to unleash devastating combo attacks.”
  • Twintelle – “As an A-list actress, Twintelle uses her celebrity status to render her opponents utterly star struck as she walks the red carpet to victory.”

Ongoing Updates

Nintendo also announced that they would be releasing free updates for Arms in the form of maps, characters, and weapons. This will be familiar territory for anyone who regularly played Splatoon on the Wii U.

We won’t likely get too much more information about Arms between now and its launch on June 16th. I have my doubts as to whether or not Arms will be a massive success. But, it certainly looks entertaining. We’ll have to see what happens when the game comes out.

 

 

 

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LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 has been officially been announced!

The LEGO brand gets a new game every year, so an announcement like this was bound to happen sooner or later. This time we will be venturing back into the Marvel universe. Take a look at the teaser trailer below.

The full trailer will be released on May 23rd, 2017 so we’ll have to wait till then for more details. But, we can tell a few things from the marketing materials that have been released to far.

The story will span multiple time period and multiple realities. This will allow the developers to include some very deep cut super heroes like a wild west version of Captain America and Spider Gwen. The villain this time around will be Kang the Conqueror. He is a time traveling villain who is perfect for this sort of story because of his time and reality bending technology.

We can tell some of the characters that will be in the game already thanks to the cover art and the teaser.

The heroes announced so far are:

  • Rocket Raccoon
  • Baby Groot
  • Spider Gwen
  • Spider Man 2099
  • Doctor Strange
  • Captain Marvel
  • Black Panther
  • The Hulk (in Planet Hulk armor)
  • Wild West Captain America

We will obviously see more characters as we get closer to the release date on November 14th of this year. It will launch on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A Switch version will launch later in the year.

 

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Sometimes a game just sneaks up on you and gives you everything that you wanted. Graceful Explosion Machines was that game for me this year. It came out right around the launch of the Nintendo Switch right in between two mammoth Nintendo franchises (The Legend of Zelda and Mario Kart). Just about any other game would have been forgotten amidst that kind of competition, but Graceful Explosion Machine was a neon pink sign that helped me find my way.

(Editor’s Note: The pink hat reference is perfect for ME, but definitely needs context. Back in the before times, when I was much younger, my family went to Disney World. My mother, in an effort to protect us, bought us these obnoxious, neon hats. This helped her easily pick us out of the crowd and find us as we pushed through the crowds.)

Graceful Explosion Machines is a classic space “shmup” (Shoot ’em Up) that is currently exclusive to the Nintendo Switch. It is also a spectacular video game.

Anyone who has ever played any sort of arcade game will recognize the gameplay loop immediately. Players pilot a ship around various colorful levels. The goal is to eliminate all of the enemies in each level as quickly as possible and without getting hit.

Eliminating those enemies requires careful use of the four different weapons at your disposal. Each of those weapons is assigned to one of the four face buttons. You have a standard blaster (that will overheat if you shoot too fast), a long range sniper blast that delivers continuous damage, a sword that swings around your ship, and a set of heat seeking missiles. The latter three of those weapons all share an energy bar. You cant just use those powers wildly.

This careful use of all of your different weapons while flying through the various levels pushes you into an almost meditative state as you play. It’s easy to get lost in the game during those brief moments. The longer you are able to play in that meditative state (without failing a mission) the more joyful that state it. This makes Graceful Explosion Machine one of those games where it actually feels better to play as you grow in skill. That is so rare in today’s market that some kids have probably never experienced it at all.

Fix that problem and buy this game for them. Trust me. It will be worth it.

Is it a kid’s game?

Graceful Explosion Machine is an arcade style game that is all simple shapes and bright colors. There is almost nothing to be concerned about with this game.

There is no narrative that expressed mature themes. The game does involve a spaceship blasting other enemy spacecraft, but all them are such simple designs that the inherent violence is very abstracted. This is a modern equivalent to Space Invaders.

Can a kid play it?

There is no doubt that GEM is a challenging game. But, it is still a very inviting experience. Failing at a level is painless and restarting is very fast.

The game does make use of all of the different face buttons on the controller and the should buttons as well so kids who aren’t used to that will have some difficulty.

Conclusion

This is currently the best game available for the Nintendo Switch not called Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Play this game.

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