Recently, I had an experience- one of those lifelong dream experiences. I got to go to California to attend E3! And the highlight of that experience? I waited an hour and a half to play Super Mario Odyssey for 10 minutes while I was there. I get funny looks whenever I tell that story to people since I have gotten home. But, I’m not ashamed to admit it. That whole process was the highlight of my trip and I would have done it again in a heartbeat.
The release of a New Super Mario game has always been significant for me. In a way, Mario games have served as gatekeepers to new and interesting experiences. I was never on the bleeding edge of gaming technology when I was younger. My family just didn’t have the money to indiscriminately blow cash on games and consoles unless it was for a birthday or Christmas. And, since Mario games were family favorites in our house, it meant that these games were ones to introduce me to new ways to play games.
A Long History
The original Super Mario Bros was the first game I ever played on the NES. It is fairly archaic when you look back on it now. But, it was perfection back then. I was enthralled by every bit of that game. Super Mario Bros was the first game I played where I actually felt myself making progress and improving my play style and techniques. I was pushed forward through a series of levels, each one slightly more challenging than the last. I learned something every time I had a game over. In a way, this helped to form the foundation of the way I play games.
Super Mario World launched with the SNES and was the first game that I ever remember wanting to explore. It was the first game in the Mario franchise to let players replay levels a second time to find secret exits or hidden coins. Color block temples spread throughout the game also reinforced that exploration mentality. Completing the temple would spread colored blocks throughout the world that would let you run and jump in placed that would have been almost certain death before.
Super Mario 64 was the first game I ever played that took advantage of 3D movement. I still remember the first time that I could just run in circles. I must have spent an hour in that first open area just practicing all of the different ways I could run and jump. I also remember being amazed at how open it was. It was awesome being able to take on the different challenges in any order I pleased. It was also nice to be able to skip levels that I found frustrating and save them until the end. This is a big deal because all of the Mario games before it were more or less linear affairs.
Super Mario Sunshine expanded on the openness of Mario 64 by presenting its challenges in a much more contiguous world. It wasn’t an open world game the way that we think of them now, but it was a very strong step in that direction. I also really appreciate that Nintendo was willing to try something VERY different by, essentially, giving Mario a gun for the first time. It wasn’t a true gun like the ones he will be utilizing in Mario + Rabids Kingdom Battle, but instead it was a super strong water hose attached to a backpack. It was the first time that I remember Nintendo proving to me that they were willing to take risks with their main character.
Super Mario Galaxy is one of my favorite games of all time. It took the 3D movement from Mario 64 and applied it to levels based on spheres. This resulted in one of the coolest collections of levels I have ever seen in a game.
All of this brings me to my time with Super Mario Odyssey. My demo was only 10 minutes long, but it was a very dense experience. It really felt the culmination of everything I had played in the series before. The biggest difference now is that the game feels truly open. I chose a desert based level that had a small quest hub at its entrance. I was then set free to wander the level looking for coins, objectives, and purple moon pickups (this game’s equivalent of the stars from Mario 64). I had complete freedom to move around the level and take on challenges in whatever way (or order) I chose.
This was all accentuated by the new capture mechanic. In Odyssey, Mario can throw his hat Cappy at enemies in order to “capture” them. When he does so he assumes their form and can move like they do. At once point I mind controlled a Bullet Bill and was able to fly over a previously unpassable canyon. This is going to be one of the biggest mechanics in the game and I can’t wait to see how Nintendo lets us use it.
I spent the better part of this year so far in awe at the freedom I was given in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It looks like I might be doing the same with Super Mario Odyssey when it hits the Nintendo Switch on October 27th, 2017.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!
Super Bomberman R
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition
Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
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.
The hardware specifications are the boring part. So let’s get them out of the way first, shall we?
|CPU: Cores||4x ARM Cortex A57||8x AMD Jaguar||8x AMD Jaguar|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.”
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.
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.