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  • Playing: Monopoly for Nintendo Switch
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Oh, boy. This is going to be a long one.

Ginger: Beyond the Crystal was released months ago, but I never got around to it until now. Why? Well, a combination of other things/games keeping me occupied and the reception from other reviews deterred my interest in getting to it. Yet, its status in my mind as unfinished business simply had to be rectified sometime. Now that I played through it, however, I can say with quick ease that I never want to play it again. Given my love for platformers and creative looks, I had a hard time believing Ginger could be that bad. I went into it with modest expectations, and those expectations were increasingly shattered as I progressed through this travesty of an adventure.

Story

The game takes place in this world that’s inhabited by a bunch of Smurf-like creatures and monitored by an unseen goddess. For some random reason, the goddess abandons the realm and sends Ginger to set things right for her…even though she quickly comes back to it to inform him on what to do. Within the HUB areas, there are NPCs that grant missions for Ginger. The prizes? Materials for rebuilding buildings in their villages. Why should Ginger help these people if they aren’t going to help themselves with their own tools? From there, there are random varieties of characters and level themes. How do they relate to the overarching plot? Well, the last them is a fight with a giant flying fish, so I’d say they don’t at all.

While the characters may seem interesting, nothing they say is interesting. The dialogue is as cut-and-dry as it can possibly get, except with an unhealthy dose of consistent grammatical errors. The only standout lines in Ginger: Beyond the Crystal are the two times a villain says a mild swear; keep in mind this is an E-rated game (and not E10+, I literally mean E).

Graphics

When I looked at preview images for this game, I honestly thought there was an evident sense of creativity. You can really tell the developers were trying to make a magical landscape that players could get invested in by noting the set pieces and distinctive art styles. As a throwback to the era 3D platformers dominated the gaming scene, it seemed all too fitting for those things to be the case. Yet, Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is a trainwreck in action.

The game can only run in 60 frames per second if there are few enough objects present in the room. As soon as it reaches beyond that, the performance appallingly chugs. It constantly struggles to maintain even a framerate of 30, and there are lots of times where it depletes even at that point. The HUB areas are the worst offenders, while the Mario Sunshine-style platforming levels are the total opposite since there’s so little rendering necessary for those.

Problems don’t stop there, either. Some character animations are fluid and cartoon-y, while others are static and glaringly unpolished. In fact, I’ve encountered multiple visual glitches by accident, and some of them were easy to replicate. There are also many instances where the text box wouldn’t leave the interface because the game would only look out for the player pressing A to exit out of it instead of any other button (this is despite that the B button is able to advance dialogue, too).

Audio

The best category, bar none, is the audio department. There isn’t anything I could remark against the music, which is as atmospheric as it is appropriate for a 3D platformer. It’s the kind of stuff that would be right at home in the house of RareWare. While the sound effects are a bit more stock, they are nevertheless defined and mixed finely with what goes on onscreen. I also find the progression jingles to be nice and soft on the ears.

Gameplay

Holy Sugar Honey Iced Tea, playing this game is a monotonous nightmare!

Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is split into three types of levels, but it’s a “jack-of-all trades, master of none” sort of deal. Ginger has a double jump that can come in handy at times, as well as a punch that can one-hit-kill most of the enemies in the game. The game also likes to dress Ginger up in various costumes that behold special powers, but you can’t actually use most of them. They are only used to get Ginger into a position in a level that you otherwise cannot access. In that regard, all of them have essentially the same power but with different cosmetics. One power you can use at will is the one where you place bombs (even then, this power is obtained in around the final act); for absolutely no reason, the bomb is sensitive to collision with other objects, and its explosion can instantly kill Ginger. Ginger also instantly dies when falling off from a large-enough height.

Here’s where the problems lie within Ginger: Beyond the Crystal. It’s like the developers had been busy trying to come up with ways to prolong the game length in spite of its primitive mechanics rather than make any part of it fun. The HUB areas are abysmal to travel through because all they do is force the player through pointless timer challenges and fetch quests to increase the ability to move on to an actual level. The second HUB is particularly rancid since the low draw distance makes the view look incredibly foggy, therefore making it harder than it already is to find your way around in the first place. Should you go to a level or another HUB, you’ll have to sit through loading times that give Sonic 06 a run for its money.

Once you finally go to a level, you realize just how limited the 3D platforming is. When it comes to the genre term, you expect an open world with objectives you could approach in ways that are up to you. Meanwhile, Ginger here is confined to a small, linear space similar to that of levels in Super Mario 3D Land. But unlike Mario, Ginger has no sense of engaging design; none of the enemies behave too differently from one another, and the layouts are glorified hallways that only exist to pad out game time. Making things worse is when you go to a part that can’t be accessed because you’re actually supposed to go down a different path first. At first, arrows light up to point the way forward. Then the game soon forgets it ever started such a thing, leaving it entirely up to the player to hope he or she is heading the right way. Often, there’s a fetch quest incorporated into a level that makes you have to travel around parts you already visited just to please the NPC and get a move on.

And all this is without the level-specific BS! If the crap factor wasn’t already dialed up, some levels would have their own annoying features that distract and frustrate. You’d think being forced to repeatedly wiggle the right analog stick in certain areas would be where the suffering stops, but that’s actually one of the lesser troubles! There’s this haunted house level, for example, that’s filled to the brim with fixed camera angles. You also play hide and seek with a guy that has way too low of priorities to be considered a legit threat. Then again, he said “Damn” so he must be evil. Another horrid example is the circus level, where you escort a super-slow kid that loses sight of you as soon as you step away from him by a few feet. Said level also has a memory match minigame where you have to use bombs to uncover the pictures – keep in mind the bomb’s sensitivity to anything that touches it. You’d think the Mario Sunshine-style obstacle courses could be at least a little more creative than what’s found otherwise, but you’re instead treated to jumping challenges for every single one of these levels. There’s no variation in their difficulty whatsoever; the closest it ever gets to throwing in a new element is the use of platforms that disintegrate, and you can bet it doesn’t go far with it.

Then it gets worse. Visual glitches are far from the only kinds one will experience in this garbage! That escort mission I mentioned earlier? One time I got to it, the kid couldn’t move! It didn’t register to him that I was ready to pick him up despite me standing inches away. Before that, I faced another game-breaking glitch where I wasn’t able to shoot stars (the only other power I could use at will) in a minigame that required me to do so. One recurring bit that makes my blood boil is when a timer is triggered so suddenly there’s no way to react in time the first time around. And if you die while a timer is going off, it doesn’t reset. It keeps going, and the timer running out usually results in a bigger push back than if you were to just die. This spaceship level below has the absolute bottom of the barrel of these timer events. For whatever reason, the game holds your hand on basic details, but leaves you on your own when you need help most.

Above all else, THIS GAME IS AN EFFING SLOG!! I’ve been on and off of Ginger: Beyond the Crystal for days. After all the time I spent on this game, I feel I could have spent the that time playing a Zelda game instead. As I suffered, I thought about the other Switch games I bashed. Ben 10 was also a marathon filled with nothing but padding and boring, repetitive mechanics. Yet, it was several hours shorter than GingerVroom in the Night Sky was a horrendous indie title that like its concept wasn’t even planned halfway through, yet its unintentionally hilarious Engrish was more than I could ever get out of Ginger. Lots of hours spent playing Ginger, and what have I gotten out of it? Nothing. I’ve got nothing. This is coming from someone that got this game for free for the sake of reviewing it. Imagine how one would feel after having spent $19.99 to play it.

Verdict

The more I fought through Ginger, the more I despised it. The reason why this review is so long is because I wanted to get the most out of this page after all that I’ve endured in the game. After all, there is no way I’m going back into it! There is no point in the game that redeems itself, rather does it just continue to stagnate the whole way through. Do not be fooled by any interesting art or character designs; this is the worst game I’ve played on Nintendo Switch so far. To think there were plans for a physical release that have mysteriously gone quiet after this game’s digital release. I mean, really? I don’t even think certain titles coming soon could top it in how unbearably awful it is. Do not play this at any cost.

Now to never talk about this again.

  • Playing: ChromaGun
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It’s the #1 game on the Gamecube, the biggest fighting game since Street Fighter II, and the only thing everyone cares about seeing on a Nintendo Direct. This game has been widely played and obsessed over since the day it released on Nintendo’s tiny little lunchbox. It’s been thoroughly used as a base for a plethora of fighting game tournaments worldwide. It’s…

SUPER

SMASH BROTHERS

MEELLLEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Super Smash Bros. was a sleeper hit on the Nintendo 64, but this successor was a whole different beast altogether. Rather than simply touch up on what made the original a joy to play, it aggressively went above and beyond to show that the Gamecube means business! You can’t say “Melee” without someone freaking out over it. The term itself has been far more associated with this game than anything else. If Super Smash Bros. Melee was a person, every tournament player would take it out for dinner and beyond. In fact, I’m willing to bet someone, somewhere, has married his copy of the game.

So why is it such a masterpiece in the eyes of gamers everywhere? Simple: It did so much more, and offered even more than that, compared to the original Smash Bros. The idea of Nintendo characters coming together to beat the crap out of each other has been massively amplified by the technical prowess of the Gamecube and the heavily increased effort poured into the development of the game itself. This wasn’t a project that was merely developed on the side during weekends; this was a full-blown sequel that wasted absolutely no time being built up in the 13 months it was created within. Old characters got expanded move-sets, an assortment of new characters showed up, and there’s a treasure trove of new stages, items, and modes to play around with!

The presentation in general was upgraded to a degree that not even a lot of other Gamecube games ever bothered to reach. Even in the tireless production schedules it went under, the folks at HAL and Nintendo made sure the attention to detail was as perfect as it could get. The graphics were slick, detailed, and filled with liveliness; players were practically playing a CGI cartoon starring all the Nintendo characters they’ve come to know and love. Despite the fighting style featuring a lot of hopping around and wacky item usage, the tight level of depth in the mechanics makes the fighting feel like how fans always imagined the characters would duke it out. You’re not just controlling Link; you are Link. He’s likely feeling what you’re feeling at the heat of the moment.

The core fighting style is relatively unchanged from before; you’re still playing in platforming levels trying to mercilessly slaughter your opponents with your character’s skills. With the many characters there are to play around with, you’re bound to get accustomed to at least one of them. The variety of play styles each one offers is demonstrated through the many moves that could be pulled off with just a button and a directional input. Kicks, sword slashes, and counters could all be accessed at will and can be mastered with enough practice.

Whereas the original Super Smash Bros. featured a measly dozen characters and a sole single-player mode lacking randomization, Melee has like a million Vs. modes and a bunch of single-player features that are leagues above its predecessor. There are even multiplayer features that…admittedly no one ever uses, like Coin and Bonus battles. If you want to have fun from the Special Modes, though, Giant Melee is easily the best one.

Super Smash Bros. Melee was filled to the brim with personality. It’s a love letter to Nintendo fans young and old, whether they feature a beloved character or reference more obscure properties that only the die-hards would know about. I mean, how many people have known about the Game & Watch games before the inclusion of Mr. Game & Watch? After that, how many people know all of the Game & Watchgames this character references with every single attack he does? Don’t worry. I won’t Judge.

Speaking of references, how about them trophies? If there was ever an incentive to keep playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, it was to unlock all of the several kajillion trophies in the game. Each one derives from a Nintendo game and has a description detailing its purpose in that game. There are trophies for loads and loads of different characters and items; for a game developed in such a relatively short period of time, it’s amazing how much the developers crammed into this virtual collection. You’d think they wouldn’t have been able to do this at all, but the fact they did shows how much they cared. It’s almost a shame a lot of them have to be unlocked through the in-game lottery machine.

Oh how I despise you, lottery machine. You feed the thing with coins you earn after playing matches in the game, mostly during the single-player stuff. It does tell you the odds of getting a new trophy out of it, but it always bites when the end result isn’t in your favor anyway. It hurts more so when you feed it a multitude of coins at once and still get a trophy you already have in your collection.

Let me tell you, my memories with Super Smash Bros. Melee go as far as to when I got the Gamecube for my 5th birthday (or maybe it was my 6th, I dunno). My first experiences with everything in the game are unlike what I’ve gone through with any other game. This game was an adventure in itself, and I was along for the ride. I played around with the many different modes like crazy. My brothers and I would fight off in Giant mode and make it so the only items available to use are Pokeballs. We’d wager all our coins on trophies every chance we got. Most important of all, we played matches like there’s no tomorrow. Then this screen sometimes popped up.

With a sound of an alarm and appearing out of nowhere, nothing freaked my little kid self more than this character unlock screen. What’s going on? Who was this mysterious silhouette? What threat am I to face? Then a one-on-one round occurs between me and the new character. As intense as things were, however, nothing was more satisfying than taking on the challenge thrown at me. Before video games had DLC and made it so you had to pay extra for new characters, Super Smash Bros. Melee already had them in the game; you just have to work for them!

While Super Smash Bros. Melee is this amazing fighting game that’s cherished indefinitely, it does have this underlying atmosphere that can get chills down people’s spines. It acts all stylish and appealing, then throws in a screwball when you least expect it. There’s sometimes no telling what could happen next. What happens if you beat up 100 wire framed baddies in Multi-Man Melee? Or if you hit a sandbag far enough as Yoshi in Home Run Contest? Now, I know these result in unlocks for characters and stages alike and can be downplayed as such, but this game can be freaking scary if you let it creep up on you with its more abnormal sequences!

The Adventure mode has a lot of weird quirks that can do this, from Luigi coming out of the blue to replace Mario in the first battle to the Underground Maze being populated by Redeads trying to snack on your character. However, these don’t come close to outright nightmare fuel like THIS UNHOLY ABOMINATION.

What is more a terrifying way to finish an already difficult single-player campaign than through this unexpected, extremely deformed, brutal variation of Bowser?!

If all of this is absolutely not what you expected an article on Super Smash Bros. Melee to cover, then there’s a good chance you either are a “hardcore” player or have been unfortunately accustomed to their lingo. As great as it is to see this classic live on in a continuously thriving community, one can wonder what the appeal may be to begin with.

You see, Super Smash Bros. Melee is sort of a happy accident in which this game that has all this amazing stuff in it just so happens to work really well as a no-frills one-on-one fighter. With the items off, and with stages limited to the most obstacle-less, gimmick-less possible (namely Final Destination and Battlefield), the lone thing standing in your way is your opponent and only your opponent. While it makes the gameplay arguably more focused and is ripe for players to gawk over, the cult around it has gone as far as to develop its own unwritten dictionary for the weird phrases and labels it coined. These include terms like “wavedashing”, “L-canceling”, “Randall”, “gentleman”, “dash-dancing”, and the list goes on.

If you wanna be a pro Smash Bros. Melee player, you have to be taken seriously. How so? First, you have to acknowledge that more than half the roster of characters is entirely useless if you want to win. Fox, Falco, Marth, and Captain Falcon are the only characters that you must play as. Sure, Samus, Peach, or Ice Climbers may sneak their way into the finals, but they delay the inevitable. You also must envision Melee as the only good Smash BrosSmash Bros. Brawland Smash Bros. 4? They are utter trash because they’re not Melee. You can’t wavedash or do fancy tech that makes Fox the victor in every round.

You play with items and fun stages? Wow, what a filthy casual.

Hopefully, my sarcasm is getting through to you. Let’s be real here: You don’t need this mindset to enjoy Melee on a competitive level at all, nor do you have to stick by these unspoken rules the try-hards established. Having fun is still the name of the game, and what could be more fun than breaking the unspoken rules? Here in college, I regularly face off against competitive Melee players with Dr. Mario and without any mechanical exploits. Doesn’t stop me from winning to the point where I’m dubbed “Ryan Sil. the God”. I sometimes like using Yoshi, Link, Samus, Pikachu, and even Kirby and Pichu if I’m feeling particularly smug.

However, the ideal way to play Melee is still with items and all stages. By playing without them, you have probably not even 10% of the entire game at your disposal. Some of the people I play with haven’t even known about some of the other content the game has to offer. For such an exhausting, extensive workload courtesy of HAL, you’d think these fans would appreciate it a little more.

There is one thing we can all come to appreciate, however.

That would be this video I took of the Adventure mode giving up on me.



  • Playing: Stern Pinball Arcade
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Oh my God, a Nintendo Direct is coming. It must be about one thing and one thing only: SUPER SMASH BROS., BABY! How do I know this? Well, I just have a gut feeling.

Ssh! Ssh! Quiet, now! The Direct is starting…

WHA?! What is this garbage? No one cares about puny little indie games! Or Mario Tennis! Or Dark Souls! Or Square Enix! Or whatever those Wii U ports were! I want Super Smash Bros.! Wah, wah, cry, cry, other baby noises.

Yeah, I’m going straight into the gutter on this one. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of hearing a bunch of self-entitled pricks hype themselves up by expecting everything from announcements that blatantly never intend to act like something huge is about to happen. I’m surprised I haven’t done an article on this topic sooner, to be honest. What pushed me over the edge was the unveiling of Two Point Hospital by – appropriately enough – Two Point Studios. The catch: SEGA is the publisher.

Leading up to the announcement was a countdown

and a picture of a lightbulb.

There were no references to Sonic or the Dreamcast to be found. The only hint word was “Two”. So obviously the Dreamcast 2 had to be speculated among other things that won’t exist.

I feel so bad. Not for the “fans”, but for Two Point Studios. They wanted to announce their new project and these oblivious packs of wolves didn’t know any better than to bash it all over because they realized it’s not titled Sonic Adventure 3. A quick Google search shows that Two Point partnered with SEGA to do a simulation game and their logo was clearly visible on the final day leading up to the announcement. Surprise, surprise, the simulation game is exactly what the announcement turned out to be. Of course that didn’t stop the replies from becoming a titanic mish-mash of salt and self-inflicted betrayal.

Two Point Studios deserved absolutely none of this. Yet here we are with most of the replies to the announcement tagging them as if they are any part of the problem.

SEGA “fans” are far from the only people to do this kind of crap. Let’s get back to talking about the Nintendo Direct, eh? Every. Single. Direct. Nintendo does these things to show their fans details of upcoming games for their consoles. Below is a diagram created three years ago summarizing the reactions of literally every Nintendo Direct announcement and aftermath. And it’s still incredibly relevant today (only with Super Smash Bros. also being part of the fan expectations).

This happens regardless of what Nintendo specifies beforehand. It could be a miniature Direct. It could be a Direct focusing only on indie games. Nintendo could scream into every fan’s ears “WE DON’T FREAKING HAVE THESE GAMES TO UNVEIL!!!” Yet these expectations get overly inflated to the point that if balloons could talk, they would tell the fans to chill the hell out. What’s even the point of hyping it up, anyway? Smash Bros. “fans” are only going to complain about it not being Melee anyway.

Guys, please pay attention to what the Nintendo Direct actually has to offer. There could be some great games that wouldd catch your eye. Sixty bucks is sixty bucks. Your time spent in a game you’ve always been waiting for is as valuable as your time spent in a game that you find yourself liking otherwise.

Want to know how to resolve any hype problem? By not expecting anything. By ignoring the incentive to conspire theories about an ambiguous picture. The greatest reveals happen by surprise; this is why companies like Nintendo keep things under wraps as tightly as possible. That “Wait, we have one last thing to show you” is the perfect reel to grab attention for something unthinkable. When it does turn out to be exactly what people have been waiting for, the results will have much more of an impact than they ever would be if the game in question was expected.

Case in point: Metroid Prime 4. It was smack dab in the middle of E3 but no one ever saw this coming. No hint was ever given beforehand. No teaser pictures before E3, no sneaky comments, nothing. Therefore, no one was expecting it to actually happen before watching the presentation. Not only that, but it’s okay to hype it up after the reveal because people now know Metroid Prime 4 really is going to exist!

Sigh…I’m sorry if I have been rather grumpy throughout the article. My thoughts on these things had been bottled up for a good while, and the incident with SEGA and Two Point was enough for me to buckle down and officially rant about hype trains. Hopefully this makes enough sense for you, the reader, to think twice before questioning a company’s stance on a game you’re waiting to be announced.

  • Playing: Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero
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Sometimes, games are kept within regional boundaries. The most notable examples are from Japan, which houses plenty of titles that international gamers wish they could get their hands on. As I was searching online for Nintendo Switch games the United States haven’t officially received, however, I came across an intriguing set of titles that were only ever released in German territories. One of these is Schlag den Star, a video game based on a popular German game show.

Good thing the Switch is region-free, eh?

Graphics

The first thing that comes to mind when I look at the game in action is the Wii era. The Wii was loaded with licensed titles coated with low-rate graphics, and Schlag den Star is no different in this department. Looking like an early Playstation 2 title at best, this game runs at 30fps and features the same kind of ugly 3D cartoon models as seen in other video games based on live shows from that console generation. Why has this been a standard for the genre? To appeal to kids? I think kids would be more interested in playing Mario than answering to quizzes.

 

Audio

I suppose the audio is the best category of the bunch, because it does play out exactly as you’d expect for a game show. It’s kind of stock (particularly the voice clips for characters you play as), sure, but it works. There just isn’t anything spectacular, and Elton’s deliveries seem rather tame for a host.

 

Gameplay

Schlag den Star has a few game modes to choose from, but all of them borrow from a selection of 25 minigames. Well, 13 minigames and 12 quiz formats. Yeah…I haven’t seen the actual show, but something tells me the quiz sections shouldn’t be this prominent. The game has a habit of going in a quiz-minigame-quiz-minigame pattern, though the minigames and quiz formats themselves vary. It’s possible for the game to go from having players pull a car to having them mark locations on a map of Earth. The modes are similar to each other in which you play through a series of randomly chosen minigames and quizzes, with the amount of them being the main variation. There is also a mode where you can pick whichever one you want to play. Interestingly, the mode representing the show’s structure has a unique scoring system where players can earn the same amount of points as what numbered round they’re playing. It helps allow for players falling behind to play catch-up quicker and it generally feels more rewarding when a person wins the round.

The minigames have controls that are easy enough to grasp; they all use the analog stick and the A button. For some reason, the game recommends using motion controls at times. To me, it raises the question: Why flick your arm to throw an in-game bean bag when you can get better results by just pressing a button at the right time? The motion controls aren’t too bad, but if you want to pinpoint your accuracy, button pressing is the way to go.

Unfortunately, the minigames themselves are not very fun. They are either badly put together or are just plain mundane. For example, the archery one has an awful first person view – not that it matters, since you can score big simply by pressing A at the right time anyway. Other minigames include dropping a coin through a piggy bank slot, securing a die if it rolls the right number, and whatever else that has littler depth than a mobile tap-fest. I suppose the quiz questions (which are strictly shown in German) are serviceable enough; even then, you’d have to endure a slow pace conjured by the sloppy character animations.

Multiplayer options are a thing in Schlag den Star, but I settled with a CPU for obvious reasons (not that having friends along would change my opinion of the game). The CPU can either be a worthy contender or outright braindead depending on the minigame/quiz. There were a few times where I’d leave the game alone to see if the AI would crack without my interference. Turns out I indeed won certain rounds by doing nothing! Two instances where the opponent would lend me victories include slipping up on the ladybug game and that quiz where you have to pick multiple answers.

Verdict

Yeah, it’s safe to say Schlag den Star isn’t worth getting from overseas. It’s the kind of bargain bin game that feeds into the mentality that licensed games will always suck. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever played on the Switch, but I have a hard time believing this is a retail video game made after 2002. Whether it shows through the crappy visuals or the overly simplistic minigames that somehow have gameplay issues, there’s an evident lack of care put into the game.

  • Watching: Ed Edd n Eddy
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Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has been the president of the United States since last year. Since then, there are certain individuals out there that love to remind the world this is the president we currently have. For example, the mobile and Steam marketplaces have since seen plenty of video games loosely based on either the presidential election or Donald Trump’s status as a president. One of these games, of course, is Super POTUS Trump, a blatant parody of the Paper Mario series where Mario’s replaced by a far less endearing old person.

With all that in mind, let’s pretend that no one pleaded guilty in the Russia investigation, that Puerto Rico has been assisted by the administration, that MAGA hats aren’t made in China, that Trump golfed only a few days in his entire presidency so far, that he gave up all of his businesses before being sworn into office, and that Hillary is relevant.

Ready? Here we go.

Story

The plot consists of an abridged version of the 2016 presidential campaign, from the day Donald announced his candidacy in 2015 to the final debate between him and the evil Crooked Hillary. There are six chapters containing significant aspects to the campaign that the brave Donald Trump fought hard against. These include things like the illegal immigrants that will totally be blocked by a wall, the constant fake news, and Hollywood stars pandering to liberals.

Before every round, Super POTUS Trump has an option for you to learn about the event in question. When you click on that, you’re greeted with…a YouTube playlist of videos catering to Trump supporter sensibilities?

Look, I’d be here all year if I tried fact-checking every corner of this game. It’s clear that it doesn’t feel like taking itself seriously, anyway. After all, as seen in one of his attacks, Donald uses emojis in his Twitter posts; we all know that’s incorrect.

Graphics

For some reason, there’s only one resolution option before having the game boot up and it’s not the smoothest. Look past that and you at least have a decent-looking game in terms of its presentation. Super POTUS Trump emulates the cutesy Paper Mario aesthetics almost to a tee. It’s not quite as super-polished as the average Nintendo-made game, but it runs smoothly and has a variety of creative set pieces inspired by the election.

Audio

Beginning with a chiptune remix of The Star-Spangled Banner and heavily borrowing voice clips from footage of the campaign, the audio clashes in design but isn’t too bothersome. In fact, I actually got a kick out of some of the one-liners chosen for the game (Donald’s mouth being lip-synced to them is a nice touch as well). The rest of the background music is fine as well, albeit they are not really what could be considered as battle music.

Gameplay

Super POTUS Trump is a very short game that’s made up of six battles – one for each major event. There’s no exploration or story-driven moments to be found here; the battle system is the meat of the entire package. Donald is able to use one of up to four different attacks and he can chow down on some KFC or steak to refill health. After winning a battle, you can choose to have more health or garner coins to unlock up to two new outfits. Battling is typically an exercise in clicking on virtual buttons either quickly or at proper timing. It’s worth noting this game is also on iPad where it makes sense having on-screen buttons to press. This PC version, however, has no keyboard controls; unless you have a touchscreen, you can’t reach the max power of the hat-throwing move because it’s impossible to move your mouse and click fast enough.

Even after adjusting to the virtual buttons that pop up onscreen, the game can be rather stingy when it comes to letting attacks land. If just a couple attacks miss the opponent, chances are you might not be able to win the fight. Enemies can take great chunks of health, so there’s not as much room for error as in actual Paper Mario. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t leave it up to you to capitalize on anything. You can’t dodge attacks on command, nor can you press a button again to deal more damage with the same attack. You just have to deal with whether or not the game decides if you or the opponent misses. And it will be you more often than the opponent. If misses don’t become an issue, though, it’s possible to get enjoyment out of performing the attacks; although they are similarly executed in design, the animations that play out and the smack sounds that come from them make the move worth it. Building up each attack makes for a nice payoff when the enemy receives extra damage, too.

 

Verdict

Is the game as a whole worth the price of admission? Well, considering this is Steam we’re talking about, there are definitely other games that offer much more for $1.99 than Super POTUS Trump (and are likely better optimized for PCs). It has its amusing elements but it gets downright discouraging when luck plays a factor in deciding the outcome of a battle. Still, as a game starring Donald Trump, I could have expected much worse. I’d prefer playing this over the games he actually did put his name on.

  • Playing: Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
www.ticgn.com/reviews/review-b…

2017 is almost over (at the time of this writing) and Minecraft is still one of the most popular gaming trends today. It’s as everywhere as it has been for the past few years, and releases under its name continue to see the light of day. These include the second season of Minecraft: Story Mode and the Nintendo Switch and New 3DS versions of Minecraft itself. Yes, I said “New 3DS”. After all these years, there still couldn’t be a proper release of the game for all 3DS models. Not helping this is that what the New 3DS got was a heavily neutered version, as it was stripped of multiplayer among other things. So what could 3DS owners get to settle with to curb their Minecraft cravings? Well, I’m thinking Battleminerz could be of consideration.

Graphics

Obviously, a game styled like Minecraft isn’t going to have realistic-looking graphics; it very much follows in the same 3D faux-pixelated environments that Mojang’s flagship title boasts. The player character is a lot different, but in a way I think actually makes him/her more appealing (the face actually looks like a face, for one thing). What is legitimately impressive about Battleminerz from a visual standpoint is how much it does with it. The world is incredibly open with no end in sight, and the draw distance is remarkably clear for something not deemed possible to handle on the nearly seven-year-old 3DS.

Audio

As far as audio is concerned, the effects in Battleminerz work well enough for the atmosphere. There’s peaceful music that plays during the daytime, and when night occurs, there’s nothing but potential zombie moans. Softer sounds can be heard when mining affecting terrain in any way. If any obnoxious sounds happen, it could be because multiple people are heard firing guns or using explosive devices constantly. It probably wouldn’t hurt to tell them to stop, though (unless if you’re playing the Battle mode, anyway).

Battleminerz not only has a slightly limited keyboard for texting, but you can even use the 3DS’s mic to voice chat! Yes – There’s voice chatting in a 3DS game, let alone a budget indie Minecraft clone! It’s so unheard of to me, but the fact that it’s there is amazing. You can talk to anybody, whether they be friends or strangers. The only hurdle here is that, as with any online game, there may be some age gaps between people that may play in the same server as you (which could lead to hearing a pre-teen or two mindlessly cursing at their 3DS’s). Look past that, though, and you’ve got a fantastic communication tool for interacting with other players.

Gameplay

At its core, Battleminerz is a Minecraft clone. Although single-player modes are present, the multiplayer features are where the title shines. What you can do in Minecraft, you likely can do here as well. In the wide-open grasslands the game is set in, you can tear up the ground, mine for materials to craft tools and bricks, and/or build structures to your heart’s content. It’s very cool to see what could be done in the game; I’ve seen players build things from castles to recreations of video game sprites. There are checklists you can fill out to achieve Miner, Farmer, and Adventurer badges. Yet nothing pushes you to go for any of them; the game lets you do whatever you decide to do. They are there in case players want to complete established objectives, though.

If that weren’t enough, there’s the Battle mode, which essentially is what the “Battle” in Battleminerz is. How do you make such a mode out of Minecraft, you may ask? By turning the game into a first-person shooter, of course! There are guns you can craft in the other modes, but they are mainly for killing zombies since you can’t harm other players. Here, though? It’s a free-for-all and the chaos is as mindlessly fun as it could get. However, it does highlight some of the control issues in Battleminerz; it’s awkward to look around/aim by using the ABXY buttons as a poor man’s second analog stick. And when you try to collect anything from chests, you have to manually drag the items into your inventory, which can be frustrating to do when you’re desperately trying to avoid being gunned down.

Verdict

Still, it’s hard to ignore the effort put into making Battleminerz a suitable void filler for those that want Minecraft on the original 3DS. The vast, open world is ripe for exploration and discovery, and the degree players can interact is fascinating for an indie title on the platform. It arguably does even more than the actual Minecraft accomplishes on New 3DS. Some aspects such as the controls are more on the iffy side when it comes to certain actions, but I still wholeheartedly recommend Battleminerz as the multiplayer sandbox/party FPS hybrid it is.

  • Playing: The game of life
Well, this year has been a rollercoaster without a doubt. There's a lot that's happened, and I can understand why people may have gotten very exhausted by the end.

Let's get the elephant out of the way first: I hate talking politics. Anytime I have to is bad by itself, because my concerns for our country end up being pushed by the wayside by lowlifes that think abusing emotions and dismissing factual evidence is classified as "winning". If being a "liberal" means caring about the USA, then so be it. It only shows I'm more patriotic than the "President" would ever be. 

That aside, there were some bumps in the road throughout the year that I've faced. Valve decided to employ a stupid policy where if Steam monthly payments aren't over $100, they won't pay me revenue at all. So Valve hasn't paid me for much of the year because of how my games sold that much beneath their sudden expectations. If that wasn't enough, Amazon very recently decided to terminate my Merch by Amazon account for absolutely no given reason. With this and Steam, starting next month, I'll be reduced to receiving mere chicken feed from the very, very little I make on Redbubble and the Amazon AppStore. Fortunately, I'm still at the day and age where I don't need to worry about having loads of money to live and maintain property; the issue is mainly that it sort of backs me to a corner where I can only really rely on my Paypal as being my personal money and not my parents'. 

I've also been a part of a couple falling-outs between myself and certain game developers this year. I thoroughly covered one such affair here. A smaller one occurred when the Paper Soul Theater dev didn't like the fact that I was making Mystery of Melody Memorial, cutting me off from writing for the game as a result. 

Now, I know dedicating a couple paragraphs to the bad things may give off the impression that 2017 totally sucked. That it was all misery. That I never had any fun. And while it's true college left me with a few 24-hour days and that things hadn't always been smooth, I'd say 2017 is far from an abominable year for me.

The great thing about me as a person is that I bounce back easy. I get over things quick. I'm not devastated by my revenues being obliterated unfairly. I have no long-term feelings for the ongoing Internet trolls out there that think cutting their own wrists "owns libs" in any way. If there's anything that does stand in my way, there's always a Plan B. I have no reason to panic about anything. I shrug it off as soon as I no longer take note of the thing in question. I will always aim to make the best of something rather than focus on the bad for eternity. 

So instead of addressing the things that I don't care about, how about I tell you the good stuff that I've embraced and done throughout 2017?

One of the very first things I've helped contribute to in 2017 was get one of the more infamous unlicensed Game Boy Color games archived online. I contacted someone that was experienced with dumping ROMs of bootleg cartridges (He goes by "Taizou"), and mailed him a copy of the game that I obtained from an eBay purchase. Although he dumped the Chinese version of the game before, what I own is the original English version, which had never been dumped online prior to when I shipped him my cartridge. The guy that sold me it on eBay also took notice of the project, and he even explained its whereabouts when he was in possession of it.
I don't want to say the name of it here because the game itself has some awfully offensive subject matter (even though it's really just an unlicensed version of Metal Slug built from the ground-up with these horrible themes slapped onto it). 

Ignoring money problems, the fact that I've released a new game on Steam in 2017 is completely noteworthy. Missileman Origins has been out there in Steam users' libraries since February, and I'm so happy to see that the people that got it have been enjoying it! If you haven't gotten the game yet, you can play the demo on Steam, and you can buy it for a permanently discounted price at the Opium Pulses store (since they actually do pay me) - This also goes for Dynamite Alex.

Speaking of games I'm making, how about Mystery of Melody Memorial?! While the game is far from done, the fact that I was able to officially have it publicly announced and have a portion of it made playable at all is exciting! My ideas are all coming together gradually and efficiently! In 2018, I will be putting even more effort to getting the game as built-up and developed as possible!

But you know what I find more fun than making games? Playing them, of course! And I've done SO, SO, SO MUCH OF THAT this year. The Nintendo Switch by itself ate up my productivity like there's no tomorrow! Sonic Mania! Super Mario Odyssey! The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! Golf Story! The Mummy: Demastered! So many amazing games came out this year that I was overwhelmed in the best way. And man...It feels so great to watch Nintendo swiftly become king of the industry again after what's been going on with the Wii U. Mario Odyssey is one of the most joyful games I've played in an incredibly long time. 

As great as Nintendo's own titles were, my contributions to The Inner Circle Games Network meant that I've gotten as many free games as I could stomach for the year. I've gotten lots of indie titles of varying qualities and even some retail ones in the midst of them. I've been able to play Blossom Tales, Shantae, Stern Pinball Arcade, Lumo, and the list goes on by the dozens. I even managed to score some DSiWare games for my super-long Ryan's Corner feature where I pay tribute to the DSi Shop Channel as a service and look over my experiences with the titles it provided. Best of all, I've continued to make connections with developers for further inquiries. Who knows? Maybe I'll even contact one of them for a job or something when the time is right.  

I didn't just game in my room, either. I hung out aplenty in my college's gameroom, and I WENT TO PAX!! TWICE (South and West)!! During those trips, I got to meet people I've only previously known behind my laptop screen, including some of the TiCGN crew (South), as well as Blazeato (West). I got to play lots of awesome demos, hang out in rooms containing loads of classic games, and of course, play the upcoming Nintendo hits. Back in January, this included the Switch itself! These events, Florida Supercon, and the like never cease to make me put on a wide grin. I also still can't believe I found 257 in the middle of my flights to Seattle!

To top everything off, I just keep on making connections in general. My followers on Twitter continue to increase, my watchers on Deviantart has slowly done the same, and people just keep on reading and playing my stuff as a whole! I remain forever grateful towards anyone that has a genuine interest in seeing what I ramble about or what cool little trinkets I create. If you haven't, then I'm at least glad you decided to read through this bombardment of paragraphs anyway.

As 2017 comes to a close, I will be striving for the best out of 2018. There may be some work to do and some hurdles to jump over, but it'll all be worth it in the end. In the meantime, stay safe and have a Happy New Year~


(art by :iconblazeato:)


(Oh yeah. This year's Samurai Jack, Rick & Morty, and South Park? All solid TV!)
  • Playing: Monopoly for Nintendo Switch
www.ticgn.com/reviews/review-8…

In the day and age where racing games like Forza Motorsport make up the norm of the genre, it can be easy to forget the games that preceded the era. 80’s Overdrive attempts to be a game that remembers way back when. It’s also a good reminder that the Nintendo 3DS still has plenty of life left despite of all the attention and glory the Switch has been hogging.

Graphics

The first thing you’ll notice about 80’s Overdrive is how extremely colorful and retro the graphics are. I fell in love with the look of this game as soon as I saw its initial trailers from last year. Finally getting to see it in motion firsthand on my 3DS is quite the spectacle. The Mode-7-style perspective is a faithful nod to the racers of yesteryear, and the visual themes the courses use have plenty of eye-catching details to gawk at.

Audio

Before or during a race, you can change the music to one of many tracks you can choose from a list. They all seem to be the type of music, though; there isn’t anything I wouldn’t identify as electronic techno/dance tracks. It’s not a bad selection; I think I just prefer a selection that’s more like what Cruis’n USA had to offer.

Gameplay

If you’ve played titles like OutRun or Rad Racer before, you’ll know what to expect from 80’s Overdrive. The basic objective is to speed down the road all the way to the end while avoiding traffic, other racers, and losing control from sharp turns. You can take on tons of levels via the career mode, race within the time attack mode, or set up a race of your own in the level editor. At first, it seems easy to simply accelerate and turn when needed. However, the game challenges in ways that I didn’t even think would be too effective. Yet, there are factors that play into your in-game financial survival.

Money is needed to upgrade your car and enter races; finishing in at least 3rd place nets you cash, but obviously 1st place must be achieved to unlock more levels (although the game sometimes likes to throw in bonus mission objectives that reward with money). Each level has varying quantities of the same features, but they determine how difficult it may be to trek through it. Whether there’s more traffic than usual, a less lenient road, or AI that isn’t willing to back down, 80’s Overdrive is bound to test the player in some fashion. In that regard, it works really well; as intense as things could get, I had a lot of fun outpacing opponents and gathering cash. It’s a risk-and-reward system that requires skill for players to reap its benefits, and it works well as a result. If anything, the AI could be a little too stubborn; one wrong move can prove to be detrimental if you aren’t capable of bouncing back in the race.

Verdict

If you’re up for the challenge, though, 80’s Overdrive is sure to keep you occupied for a good amount of hours. It’s a successful throwback to the games that clearly inspired it, and I recommend it to those that have yet to neglect their six-year-old Nintendo handhelds.

  • Playing: Stern Pinball Arcade

www.ticgn.com/nintendo/review-…

Even though Kickstarter is where many indie developers have been finding their kicks, Wayforward still has a knack for creating games with licenses attached to them. What I didn’t see coming was the source material they found themselves using for this one; of all the things to make into a game, the negatively-received The Mummy gets the treatment. I did a double-take at first, but knowing Wayforward, I knew they would be able to dish out something interesting. So how do I feel about it now that I’ve played it through? Well…

Story

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen The Mummy and I never will.

It’s not like you need to see the movie to know what’s going on here, anyway. There’s an ancient evil that’s arisen the villain dubbed Princess Ahmanet. Agents are sent to find her and destroy her supernatural hordes of baddies. There isn’t much else in the way of storytelling, but the game is really more about taking in the atmosphere of the terrain than anything else.

Graphics

Wayforward never ceases to do excellent pixel art. The Mummy: Demastered is no exception; the rich sprites, tiles, and backgrounds make the title look like a brand new 2D Metroid game! I also dig the elements that are inspired by the Castlevania series, particularly the castles and the many distinctive enemies the player encounters throughout the venture. The visual quality is topped off with plenty of cool effects and an impressive sense of scale.

Audio

Present throughout is a chiptune soundtrack that manages to be atmospheric, yet not without memorable melodies. Because of this, each of the locations in the game have an audible identity even though they are all commonly laden with monsters and dark settings. The darkness is nothing you can’t light up with firepower, though; expect the sounds of gunfire and enemy strikes to be music to balance out the mellow vibes with old school stimulation.

Gameplay

You know how I said The Mummy: Demastered looks like a new 2D Metroid game? Well, the gameplay isn’t too far off of that idea, either. It’s so much like Metroid that I’m almost surprised the soldier didn’t turn out to be female! This is an action-platformer that has a great amount of exploration to it. As the player navigates the caverns, there will be loads of enemies to shoot, platforms and terrain to hop across, and upgrades to seek out. The soldier is already capable of shooting in multiple directions and throwing grenades, but the upgrades could include more powerful weapons, health packs, and other things that can help traversing through paths.

The game design balances out the fluidity of the player with enemies that challenge his or her reflexes and platforming strategies alike. You can expect to die a lot if you aren’t careful, but you can fight it by collecting health and ammo packs that enemies drop. Should you do die, the soldier becomes undead; the only way to re-obtain all the gear you’ve had – and therefore resume progress at all – is by gunning the zombie down. Although an interesting idea, trying to do this in areas where enemies can take down 1/3 of your health in an instant could get increasingly frustrating. Yet, it feels so great when you actually do get the stuff back.

Verdict

That can be said for the whole game, really: It feels great. The Mummy: Demastered is very well-polished, and it captures the feel of its inspirations remarkably. I don’t even play that much of the Metroid series, and I think the game is awesome. I can’t say anything about the movie this is meant to tie in with, but I can assure that this is another memorable entry in Wayforward’s pedigree.

  • Playing: Stern Pinball Arcade
www.ticgn.com/reviews/review-r…

Wave Race. That’s my only point of reference for video games with watercraft racing, and I’m sure that’s to be expected when talking about another one on a Nintendo console. Since Vector Unit is behind this title though, it also ended up bringing Beach Buggy Racing to mind since that was their previous entry for the Switch. Is Riptide GP: Renegade a similar case to Beach Buggy, or does it manage to achieve the qualities of Nintendo’s own classic series? Well…It’s a bit complicated.

Story

There’s apparently a slight narrative going on in this game. The main characters consist of people that don’t seem to like following rules. They race around in circuits illegally and get arrested for it shortly after. So what would be a better way to learn for the greater good, than to keep racing around illegally? Probably not the brightest way to train for the professional circuit, but I digress.

Graphics

The impressive thing about Vector Unit’s games on the Switch is how the team manages to compress them. Riptide GP: Renegade is only 151 MB big, yet has lots of graphical detail and a remarkably smooth framerate. Visual pop-up is a little more noticeable this time around, but it doesn’t distract from the view that much. I also like that the courses differentiate from each other with neat details of their own; one course had ships firing machine guns at the buildings you race by, and certain ones may have the waves bounce for players to take advantage of for airtime.

Audio

I didn’t find the audio department to be as impressive. The music is fairly forgettable, and there isn’t a lot going on when it comes to sound effects; it’s a far cry from the scrumptious sound design of Wave Race 64. I also found it odd that Riptide GP shares some sounds with Beach Buggy Racing. I guess they’re both made in the same mold as each other.

Gameplay

What further convinced me that they are is that Riptide GP: Renegadeshares a lot of the same structural elements as well. There are plenty of tracks to race on in this game, but you can expect them to be reused for differing objectives throughout the lengthy single-player campaign. The more you progress in the game, the more annoyingly stubborn the AI gets and the more you need to pay in-game currency to upgrade your vehicles. Multiplayer options are sound; there’s local multiplayer split-screen for up to four people, and intriguingly there’s online play for up to eight people. If only people actually played this online…

As for the basic mechanics, Riptide GP: Renegade has the checklist filled. The tracks are designed pretty well, and there are a variety of ways racers could pull off tricks to fill up a boost meter. It’s a good mechanic because it rewards skill, and it’s not something you obtain through an item box. Shortcuts could also be used for an advantage, but there appear to be few and far between. The races can get intense considering all you really have to one-up each other are your abilities to maneuver through the tracks and potential boosting power. If only the AI could stop being three steps ahead of me. I don’t mind a hard game, but if I have to grind for money by doing races I already beat, that’s just artificial padding.

Verdict

Riptide GP: Renegade is clearly rough around the edges, but there are good qualities within it that could make the overall package worthwhile. Maybe give it a whirl if you’re curious enough. It’s certainly a content-heavy game for the $10 price. And who knows? If there actually are online players to race against, the game could be that worth picking up that much more.

  • Playing: Monopoly

www.ticgn.com/ticgn-originals/…

I think we can all agree that Sonic the Hedgehog has had an active run this year. He came crashing in with a massive sugar high via Sonic Mania, and proceeded to follow it up with the hangover that is Sonic Forces. Reactions to the latter have been all over the place; some thought it was another stellar title in the series, others like myself thought it wasn’t very good, and a third group of people bashed it as they would with trash like Sonic ’06 and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. With the amount of chatter about whether or not the series has any legs to stand on anymore, I thought I may as well bring up a pillar that people don’t seem to acknowledge much: Mobile games.

Say what you want about the franchise, but I can assure it makes a ton of bank on mobile devices. There is a reason why SEGA has been putting resources into Sonic games on phones since the days of flip phones. They make money. Maybe not a whole lot during the mid-2000s, but with smartphone gaming being more popular than ever, the Sonic series has been alive and kicking thanks to the loads of downloads and purchases it as a whole benefits from. Each smartphone game in the series, counting paid titles, has at least several million downloads. Sonic Dash in particular has hundreds of millions of downloads. That’s a lot of people playing a Sonic game!

What I’m saying is no matter what happens in the console space, you can count on Sonic sticking around in the mobile gaming market. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing, either, because these games are indeed very fun. I understand I haven’t been talking about Sonic Forces: Speed Battle until now, but that is only since I wanted to put things into perspective first. As far as I’m concerned, Speed Battle is another game released this year that adds to the Blue Blur’s pedigree. It was released not too long ago as a tie-in to the Sonic Forces console game, of course, but it has its own flavor that helps it stand out.

One mild disappointment I had with Sonic Forces as a game on the Nintendo Switch was that unlike the previous handheld Sonic games, there was no head-to-head online play. While I understood the console Sonic games never had such a mode, I always thought it would be a guaranteed time-sink. After all, thanks to online play, I’ve found myself constantly playing Super Bomberman R and Monopoly on the Switch.

Imagine my surprise to realize Sonic Forces: Speed Battle is a game that consists entirely of online multiplayer matches. As the character of your choice, you can race along Sonic Dash-style levels and avoid obstacles. Similarly to games like Mario Kart, you can pick up items to throw at other players or use to your own advantage. You can hold up to three at once for strategic play, and each character has his or her own unique item choices. The better you do in each race, the more opportunities you have for unlockables, which range from extra characters to subtle upgrades for them.

With all of this in mind, I found myself being more engaged with this little mobile game than the very title it’s meant to be a promotional tie-in to. There is a surprising amount of depth to its gameplay, and in action it’s a lot of fun in the short burst a typical race provides. While there are microtransactions aplenty in this free-to-play mobile title, it’s safe for me to say that you can enjoy Sonic Forces: Speed Battle without touching them at all. I’ve played this game enough times to unlock several race courses, and I never paid a penny.

So yeah; I quite liked playing Sonic Forces: Speed Battle. Hopefully, if you aren’t an elitist that thinks mobile games aren’t real games, you can give it a shot and see what you think as well. I just thought I would give my two cents on the game via this Ryan’s Corner.

  • Playing: Lumo
www.ticgn.com/nintendo/ryans-c…

A little while back I wrote up a list of the Top 5 Worst Nintendo Switch games. Admittedly, I should have known better than to write it so prematurely; there have since been other titles that could have easily taken some of the slots on that list. Nevertheless, I think I have waited long enough to declare the opposite side of the spectrum: My favorite Nintendo Switch games…in no particular order. I can’t make up my mind on how I would rank these specific titles. Either way, these are the games that I would wholeheartedly recommend to any Switch owner. Of course, they are the ones that I’ve had the most fun with and gotten the biggest everlasting impressions out of. It’s time we have a look at…

Nintendo Switch-TiCGN

There were lots of quality indie games on the Nintendo Switch. I had to think hard about which of them I wanted to dedicate a slot to; from long-running series like Shantae and Blaster Master to Slime-San and Kamiko, it was hard to narrow it all down. In the end, I had to give the nod to Golf Story. There was so much in that game that I fell in love with since its debut announcement, and it lived up to my exceptions greatly. Of the golf-related games on the Switch, this one’s my favorite bar none.

It was fascinating to see the long-forgotten RPG/golf hybrid gameplay of handheld Mario Golf entries return to form. Golf Story adds even more to the mix by providing its own fun new mechanics and a variety of characters that fill the RPG portions with personality and humor. The pixel art is practically breathtaking, and the golf gameplay has the simple, yet challenging kind of hook that encourages players to master it. It’s an understatement to say fifteen dollars is a generous asking price for this golfer’s paradise.

(For more details on Golf Story, feel free to read my review.)

Hey, I didn’t say I wouldn’t include Wii U ports! Even then, why should I not? There are going to be lots of people that missed out on these games the first time. Plus, no matter what platform you’re playing on, the Mario Kart games will always be some of the most addictive multiplayer experiences out there. That holds especially true with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

This is my go-to Nintendo Switch game for online races galore, and the speedy item-throwing chaos never ceases to provide childlike fun. I also like the fact that this Switch version has a much better battle mode than the Wii U original. Dedicated arenas are back and there are plenty of crazy ways to duel on them. I tend to have just as much enjoyment out of these as I do the races.

(For more details on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, feel free to read my review.)

I can’t stress enough how amazing Sonic Mania is! There isn’t a more blissful time I could have had with any other title in the franchise. The momentum-based platforming formula that made the SEGA Genesis games masterpieces in the first place is back in full force here and the attention to detail in everything is a fantastic reminder that the people that made this game love Sonic enough to know how to get the best from the series.

If you’re on the fence or are new to the franchise, this game could very likely be the one to reel you in. Once you have the knowledge of any self-respecting Sonic fan, you’ll begin to appreciate all the little nods and details that Sonic Mania incorporated into every inch of its blatantly passionate design. I can’t get enough of i, and neither can the fans that prioritize gameplay over aggressively flawed stories.

(For more details on Sonic Mania, feel free to read my review.)

Fun fact: I’m not a huge Zelda fan. I own A Link to the Past but it’s in my backlog and I struggle to pull it out. So when I learned Breath of the Wildwould be one of the few launch titles for the Nintendo Switch, I was a little worried I wouldn’t get into it. Still, it was better for me to pick it up with the console instead of Super Bomberman R and…ugh…1-2 Switch…since I knew it would tide me over until more games come along. Then I quickly became engaged with the game from start to finish.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a very special game. There’s a reason it topped The Game Awards: It’s freaking amazing! The scale of the world is phenomenal and the amount of stuff you could do and the amount of different ways you could progress is practically endless. Making discoveries within Hyrule and beyond is so incredibly satisfying; much like the intense battles one could have with the various enemies that keep people on their toes. I know Breath of the Wild is a lot different from other entries but I think it’s about time I start checking them out nevertheless.

What can I say? This was the game that single-handedly convinced me Nintendo learned from their errors with the Wii U and that I had to get a Nintendo Switch as soon as possible. It has been seven years since the last free-roaming 3D Mario game and the last fifteen since this sub-series was non-linear. Not only does Super Mario Odyssey prove to be a return to form but it purposefully takes its sandbox format to the extreme.

Although not entirely as open-ended as Breath of the WildSuper Mario Odyssey takes enough cues to feel like eighteen games in one in its own right. The sheer quantity of content crammed into this game is mindblowing yet Nintendo managed to execute everything in the finest fashion possible. From the hundreds upon hundreds of missions to the minigames (with online leaderboards no less) and loads of ways to goof around in these absurdly creative worlds, Super Mario Odyssey reminds the entire video game industry what fun is like. I still can’t even believe this game exists. It’s a dream come true.

(For more details on Super Mario Odyssey, feel free to read my review.)

  • Playing: Lumo
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Yes, you’re reading the title correctly. It roughly translates to “Blades of the Rose Cross“, but for some reason Rosenkreuzstilette holds onto its original title despite the release otherwise housing English text. However, I’m sure you’re more likely to question the game content than just the title. Your eyes won’t be deceiving you, either; this game is Mega Man with anime girls. It’s to a degree that I don’t even know how the developers got away with doing this, but I guess it isn’t like Capcom is bothering to do anything with the franchise anyway.

Story

At some point in the past, a Holy Empire and Orthodox Church persecuted magic-users known as Magi. One magic-user named Rosenkreuz led eight others into a battle for their freedom and rights. He died in the midst of the battle, but his dream for Magic to be a branch of the Empire’s military was achieved. Still, Commander of RKS Count Michael Zeppelin ordered a strike against the Empire. One Magi under the name of Spiritia Rosenberg – or Tia for short – happened to be away when the order was issued, and as devastated as she was by the turn of events, she set out to fight for everlasting peac-I mean, quell the rebellion.

This is the best the exposition can be summed up, because my God there is a LOT that is told throughout the game! There is so much dialogue that it became rather cumbersome to follow up on. Each of the characters have their own unique personalities, and they all have a common goal: To rebel against the idea that those with powers are being ordered around by those that don’t. There is some solid characterization and writing filled with depth, but it might be kind of overwhelming for the crowd Rosenkreuzstilette is aimed at: Mega Man fans. After all, Mega Man stories are usually at a minimum as it otherwise lets players hop right into the meat of the game. Fortunately, Rosenkreuzstilette does have an Arcade Mode in case you don’t want to have to keep skipping all of the lore to get to action.

Graphics

Rosenkreuzstilette looks really impressive. As self-explanatory as it may sound, it’s like if Mega Man 8 got injected with a heavy dose of anime. The sprites and tiles are richly detailed, and the visual effects do a superb job at making the levels constantly feel alive and kinetic. The Gothic scenery also can make one think of the Castlevania games, particularly Symphony of the Night. All in all, the production values in this game are way beyond what anyone may expect from a clone of a beloved game series.

Audio

They even go as far as to have voice acting for several of the characters. Granted, the text dialogue isn’t voiced (and they are only in Japanese), but the characters have a lot of one-liners and audible grunts. That isn’t to say they outweigh the sound effects and music in the game, though. The former has as much of an impact as that of the series the game takes inspiration from. Powerful attacks have a delicious crunch to them, and sounds like Tia’s jumping are endearing. I also dig the soundtrack; it’s filled with diverse melodies that rival that of Mega Man‘s later entries. They sure as heck are superior to whatever was in Mighty No. 9.

Gameplay

I may be comparing Rosenkreuzstilette to Mega Man a lot in this review, but that’s because that’s exactly what it is. There are eight starting levels with an end boss in each, just like Mega Man. Eventually you get to a castle-themed series of levels that test the abilities and reflexes you’ve obtained throughout the game, just like Mega Man. There are even instant-death spikes, lasers, boss rushes, and “Devil” bosses just like Mega Man. However, it doesn’t really matter how much one work may be similar to another; what matters is how well the work in question is executed.

In that case, Rosenkreuzstilette plays well. The platforming is tight, and shooting enemies feels good. Each level has a distinctive set of platforming challenges and enemy varieties for you to take on in an amount of ways. Tia is also capable of sliding underneath things and using any of the projectile attacks she gained from beating bosses. She also eventually gets two abilities that can serve as platforming aid; one lifts her upward briefly, and another flies across the room until it bumps into a wall. With all of this in mind, Rosenkreuzstilette is great fun when the challenge is just right. For the most part, it is. As for the rest? Well, that’s where things are tricky.

The bosses and later levels are sure to hand you a new one several times over if you aren’t careful enough. Heck, they may still be able to do that even if you are. Rosenkreuzstilette gets absolutely ruthless with its boss patterns. Not only do they move fast, but they will change things up even further if you bring each one down to half of his or her health. If you have any powers obtained from beating some of them, use them. Find the bosses weaknesses because you will need them. And while I enjoy the levels for the most part, there are certain instances where the game just feels like throwing something out of nowhere to kill me. Case in point: The Flash Man lasers that plague one stage by spanning probably thrice the rooms they did in Mega Man 2. Easily the worst offender has to be the boss rush stage; some weaknesses don’t even work as well as they once did against the previously fought bosses, and Tia can only take about five or six hits from any of them. To get through this and the final boss, I ended up grinding E-Tanks so I could refill my health enough times to scrape by. And when I have to do that, am I having fun anymore? By the end of it, I was exhausted.

Also, there are password saves. Passwords. In 2017. What in the…?

Verdict

Nevertheless, I do think Rosenkreuzstilette is a decent game even in spite of the things I would be quick to rage at. It’s a far better game than Mighty No. 9, so if you’re a Mega Man fan and are looking for a better spiritual successor, the Rosenkreuzstilette series should totally be on your radar. I’m just not entirely sure if this first entry is specifically the way to go since its difficulty spikes can require loads of patience and quick button presses. Still, if you’re curious, feel free to give this one a go.

  • Playing: Suicide Guy
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For those that have never heard of Ben 10, it’s basically a cartoon show about a kid that uses a watch-like device to turn into beefed up superheroes that each have their own unique powers. I’ve never been an avid fan of Ben 10, but I am one for Cartoon Network as a whole. There are plenty of shows I’d fondly look back on and even come back to watch all over again.

While Ben 10 wasn’t one of them, I remember leaving the original show on in the background plenty of times. I do know some basic things about the series that way, but nothing too trivial. Well, other than the amount of times Cartoon Network decided to bring it back. How many times does a TV cartoon need a continuation? I guess the original show was successful if CN thought it was a good idea to give it FOUR sequel shows. Don’t even get me started on the live-action movies based on it.

But I’m getting off-track. This is a video game review, after all.

Story

This Nintendo Switch game is based on the latest Ben 10 reboot, which is a weird Teen Titans Go-style version of the original show’s concept that evidently tries too hard to aim itself at small children. Ben himself is the designated hero that gives Sonic the Hedgehog a run for his money when it comes to inflated egos. Gwen and Grandpa Max are relatives that are just along for the ride. Gwen tries countering Ben’s snobbishness with sarcasm and stealth insults, but Grandpa Max doesn’t seem to care what’s going on as long as Ben stops the evil dudes.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but weren’t these characters more developed in the older shows? I remember there being much more to it, yet these interpretations are just rehashes of children’s cartoon cliches. I certainly remember there being more interesting villains. Who are these guys; a giant queen bee, a hand-me-down Joker, and a robot person? Where’s Kevin? Has Kevin appeared in the new show yet? He seemed like an actual threat before he became an anti-hero. How about Vilgax?

So after noticing all that, what is the actual plot of the Ben 10 video game? Simple: A villain wreaks havoc, Ben comes to stop it, rinse and repeat for two more times. None of the villains’ plots tie in with each other, nor do they even make the finale feel more special than previous encounters. In between the battles are loads of corny puns, one-liners, and monotonous gameplay mechanics.

Graphics

When you have to make a game based off the new show, you know the visuals aren’t going to look good. It’s safe to say I don’t like how the reboot looks, and it sure as heck doesn’t look any better when 3D-ified (for a lack of a better way to put it) as a video game. The attempt to convert the style into 3D is also rather reminiscent of games in the sixth generation that tried doing the same with SpongebobFamily GuyPowerpuff Girls, etc. It doesn’t look appealing, and it could only continue losing its luster as time passes on.

Even without that context, the levels feel totally bland and ho-hum. Nothing stands out from one another, and sometimes visual design layouts would even be reused at points to pad out a level’s already-elongated length. The enemies may have difference appearances to suit the villain the “story” focuses on, but they all seem to behave similarly to one another without any real identity to them.

Audio

I hope you like the voice acting, because the music and sound effects are pretty darn soft. To the game’s credit, the voice actors from the Ben 10reboot do reprise their roles here. Tara Strong is especially notable here, since she voiced Ben during the original show’s run. Everyone else, however, has totally different voice actors than in any of the previous shows. Why that is I will never know, but it’s not like the characters’ personalities are there anyway.

Gameplay

You’d think a game about Ben 10 would open up a lot of possibilities. After all, you have a protagonist who can turn into all these different alien superheroes on a whim. Has its potential ever been utilized in any of the Ben 10 video games over the years?? This game sure doesn’t do it justice; it’s a beat ’em up, and a very run-of-the-mill one at that. The game is divided into six levels. Each level took me 10-20 minutes to play through. That’s roughly under two hours, yet Ben 10 overstays its welcome by at least an hour and a half!

The big problem with making a beat ’em up is that you need to make sure every waking moment is engaging. You can’t have a game where all you do is wail on enemies with the same one-two punch over and over again or else it would get boring real quick. Beat ’em ups in the 1990s consisted of games that took less than an hour to beat, but made sure each level had varying enemies and obstacles that tested players’ reflexes and ability to fight back. Many point to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesgames, particularly Turtles in Time, as textbook examples of how to do it.

Ben 10 doesn’t do that. It’s as unimaginative as it is a drag. Ben can transform into different aliens, sure, but the name of the game is still just beating up bad guys. When you’re not fighting, you’re just walking along a linear hazard-less path to get to the next batch of baddies. This process is put on loop for the duration of the entire game. The closest there is to taking advantage of Ben’s alien abilities distinctively are situational prompts that the game informs you of to tell you what alien to use in order to continue walking that linear hazard-less path.

Verdict

Didn’t we just get Cartoon Network: Battle CrashersBen 10 goes into a lot of the same exact pitfalls that game suffered from to the point where it’s uncanny. Either way, this is a very dull game. It probably underwent the mentality that it could be used as kiddy fodder, but on a console where Super Mario Odyssey exists and there are lots of experiences with more bang for the buck, what exactly compels children to want to play this one? The ability to control Ben? There’s a novelty to that, but it’s one anyone is destined to grow out of quickly while better titles withstand the test of time to deliver experiences people can enjoy at any age and mindset.

What I’m saying is I don’t recommend Ben 10.

  • Playing: Maria the Witch
Hey, guys! I am doing a bunch of stuff lately. First and foremost, I entered a contest hosted by Hot Topic themed around Rick & Morty. I made a whopping four entries for the contest, and I want you to check them out and vote on all of 'em!

Here is what I have created - links are below each image:

(This one does have text, but it's white and the work is transparent)
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community.forfansbyfans.com/m/…


(This one also has text, but it's white and the work is transparent)
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community.forfansbyfans.com/m/…
  • Playing: Super Smash Bros. 4
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Sonic Mania came and went a couple months ago, and it was an absolute blast! It’s not the only Sonic game to come out this year. SEGA has recently released the other half of the Blue Blur’s belated 25th Anniversary celebration, Sonic Forces. This is the latest of the 3D Sonictitles, finally serving as a successor to the games before the Hedgehog took a detour with the Sonic Boom show and licensed games. Is it as good as Sonic Colors and Generations, or is it at the bottom of the barrel? Well…Just read onward.

 

Story

This game’s story is a weird mish-mash of the lighthearted Colors/Generations tone and the more serious Sonic Adventure-style narrative. Dr. Eggman plots his latest scheme to take over the world, but this time alongside a distorted creep that seems like he could do anything with his unstoppable-looking powers. This creep is named Infinite. After Sonic and Tails catch up to the Doc, the former is confronted by previously fought villains Metal Sonic, Zavok, Shadow, and Chaos, as well as Infinite. He takes a massive beating from them while Tails was too busy being useless. Because of this, Sonic gets knocked unconscious and the story suddenly fades to a series of lines of text explaining more exposition.

During this time, Sonic is rumored dead and Eggman’s army took over the world. Immediately after the game introduces the Avatar character (more on that later), Sonic’s friends realize he’s actually alive. It turns out he’s been tortured by Eggman’s army for six straight months. By the way, all of this happens between Stages 1 and 2. And none of the 28 other stages have such a time gap. As the Avatar is tasked to save him, one could only wonder just how traumatized Sonic must be after all the pain and agony he exper-

-Oh, never mind. He’s just fine. What was the point of any of this? I feel like it would have been far more effective if Sonic Forces just inexplicably started out with Eggman taking over the world and Sonic and co. fighting against the army. The rest of the story is straightforward stuff, really; find ways to stop the army, then destroy Eggman and Infinite. Only some moments in between it all are where there’s any more brain-numbing nonsense.

For example, we have the entirety of Classic Sonic’s role in the story: None. Chaos attempts to attack Tails in one cutscene; Tails, being totally useless, just cowers before Classic Sonic suddenly emerges out of a portal to bop Chaos on the head to beat him. Now, if you played and beat Sonic Mania, you would know why Classic Sonic came from a portal. What you will never know is why the portal led there and how you’ll ever understand this without playing Sonic Mania. After that, he doesn’t do anything plot-related and vanishes into thin air when the game is over. There may as well be a giant hand tossing him onto the set, because that’s what it feels like. My favorite line in the game is Modern Sonic saying “Don’t worry, Tails. We’ll probably see him again in the future,” because I know for a fact there are fans screaming in frustration from the implication that Classic Sonic may continue to get shoehorned into future games.

Admittedly, I haven’t played the free DLC that contains levels dedicated to Shadow’s reason for being in the story. I don’t really want to, there’s only so much I could really get out of it. I’m sure it  wouldn’t change a lot of the other nonsensical parts of it.

Graphics

One thing that remains consistent throughout the 2010s Sonic games is that the visuals are pretty excellent; the level of graphical detail. The characters are as recognizable as they ever are, and there is a lot that goes on in the background during gameplay. There are some cool environments in here, but others are actually rather on the bland side of things. Casino Forest was easily the most unappealing of the worlds featured in-game, and Metropolis just looks like any average robotic future city setting seen in games and animations.

Some of the lesser things about the graphics could be remedied by the fact that Sonic Forces runs in a super-smooth 60 frames per second framerate…on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. For the Nintendo Switch, the framerate is cut in half. There are noticeable differences in detail between the three versions. It’s odd since the formerly Wii U exclusive Sonic Lost World does run in 60 fps, but I imagine Sonic Forces was built with other consoles in mind before the Switch was ever revealed. Thankfully, the game at least runs consistently; it is a great improvement over what I saw of the Switch version at PAX West. If you’ve played Sonic Colors or the console version of Sonic Generations before, you’ll at least be relieved that Sonic Forces runs as well as those.

Audio

The few orchestrated pieces in the game are great stuff. But the rest of Sonic Forces‘s soundtrack? A wide range of mediocre-to-awful compositions. Classic Sonic’s levels will trigger PSTD from anyone that hated Sonic 4′s soundtrack. They feature the same obnoxious use of the Sonic 2 drum sample, among other primitive instrumentals that ruin any potential the melodies have. In fact, I prefer Sonic 4‘s OST over this. There are games out there, including Sonic Mania, that proved Classic Sonic can have genuine-sounding instruments play in the background. Why does this game ignore that?

Modern Sonic has the best of the soundtrack, but it’s still not enough. Each of his levels usually have synthesized pieces that lack any real energy to them. There are also some levels that have dubstep. Very typical dubstep. The kind of dubstep the artist doesn’t bother blending in with the song because he or she feels like it can be the basis of the song by itself.

The Avatar character’s levels, for some reason, have vocal songs. Despite that the levels play out much like Modern Sonic’s, the songs have this weird out-of-place vibe that doesn’t bother trying to fit the actual gameplay going on. Basically, it’s like Sonic R‘s soundtrack except with more forgettable tunes.

Gameplay

Sonic Forces brings back the winning formula that made Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations modern classics. As the Blue Blur himself, you can Boost through the levels to your heart’s content. Sonic can do all the moves he can do in those games, like the traditional Homing Attack to kill enemies, the stomp to break through some blocks, and he can grind on rails with his feet. Unlike those games, though, he can’t drift or use power-ups.

The latter is now in the hands of the Avatar character. For the first time in the series, you can make your very own Sonic character. I can imagine kids and Sonic fanboys/fangirls obsessing over this feature, and it actually does do a good job providing everything one would want to do with it. The game very consistently rewards players with loads of gear to suit the Avatar up in. Different types of species provide different benefits, and there are different kinds of “Wispon” guns he or she could carry into a level. There are also a few levels that feature both Sonic and the Avatar; it plays out like Sonic Heroes, except you don’t need to manually switch between the two to use a certain attack.

The Avatar’s gameplay plays out like Sonic’s, except less speedy yet it retains his kind of momentum. It can be sluggish at times, especially when trying to hop from one platform to another. He/She’s also got a grappling hook which can be used for flashier jumps, as well as a Wispon gun that can shoot projectiles inspired by the Wisp power-ups from Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World.

In theory, it sounds like there’s a lot that could be done with these characters. In practice, however, Sonic Forces feels completely uninspired. All of the levels are totally short; Sonic Colors had a lot of short levels, too, but that game was a lot more well-intentioned with its level design. Here, every level in this game always feel like it’s over before anything interesting could happen. It’s all a series of platforms and flashy running sequences without the extra depth and flavor that the earlier games in the series incorporated to make the formula work. This even applies to Classic Sonic’s levels. He may play like the SEGA Genesis Sonic games, but the levels are as run-of-the-mill as they come. Right down to the pitiful enemy designs. Gone are Badniks unique to each level, in are Badniks that appear in nearly level. Many of them can’t even attack you unless you’re directly in front of them. Even then, they shoot in a limited arc, so you can stand next to them all you want and you won’t be hit. You have no idea how many pictures I took doing just that.

Verdict

With that said, Sonic Forces isn’t a bad game. It really isn’t. In fact, if you stroll through the levels in this game as you would in the aforementioned Sonics without thinking about it much, you are sure to find enjoyment here. That’s the highest praise I could really give it, though. The problem is that there are a lot of issues with the game that pile up. What we have here is a game that hardly ever feels lovingly crafted. It was likely just made for the sake of there being another new Sonic, and the developers just went along for the ride to satisfy the publisher.

Feel free to proceed this one with caution. If you had to pick between Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania as the Sonic game to play this year, I say go with Mania. It’s half the price, but crammed with so much more to offer in terms of substance and fun. I’m actually very interested in seeing more 2D Sonic in the future, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the 3D games take a break. Sonic Team probably needs one if the feel of Sonic Forces is of any indication.

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The Wheels of Aurelia go round and round

Round and round

Round and round

The Wheels of Aurelia go round and round

And collapse flat on the ground because this game needs a therapist

Story

Wheels of Aurelia is a visual novel that disguises itself as a driving game. Despite the story being the only real focus of the game, it is quite a mess. Just as soon as the game begins, it nosedives into the uncomfortable misinterpretation that feminists are women that want all men dead. That’s the mentality of our main characters, and they stay by that mentality by the end of the game…

…Or at least that was how my first playthrough went. That’s actually 1/16th of the equation; there are sixteen different endings, and each path to one has its own series of dialogue exchanges. They can go as far as to change how the characters act completely; there are other routes that featured absolutely none of that faux-feminist nonsense. But what it did have? Well…Your guess is as good as mine.

Here’s the fatal flaw with the writing as a whole: it doesn’t try. You’d think with four writers in the staff credits, there would be some sort of story going on. There isn’t though. It doesn’t build off of anything. It’s as much of a series of throwaway lines as it could possibly get. If you’re lucky enough, a mentioned character trait may actually stick around for more than one dialogue exchange!

This is one conversation I’ve seen in the game. I kid you not:

“So, who are you meeting in France?”

“A nice French boy I met in Antibes last summer.”

“Before or after your kidnapping, Maria Grazia?”

“What the hell?! How do you know my name, asshole?!”

“I’m not the only one that’s been in the spotlight.”

“‘That girl that was kidnapped’ is not the same spotlight!”

And then it stops. It’s not addressed again, it’s not expanded on, and it’s just left behind like nothing about it matters! It abruptly and shockingly moves on to some other random topic. Imagine if I was going on a rant about Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, and then suddenly said “Man, this ice cream tastes good! What brand is it?” No matter how touchy, political, or pointless a subject is, Wheels of Aurelia throws it in without rhyme or reason.

Graphics

Visually, it’s okay. The environment has a charmingly blocky 3D style to it, and the character portraits are at least well distinguishable. There is hardly anything else to look at, unfortunately. What’s there is only appealing for so long; then again, each playthrough of this game lasts under 15 minutes, so I suppose it makes sense in that perspective.

What I’m raising eyebrows over is the Switch version somehow being a technically inferior game anyway. This is also released on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One, and those versions ran at 60 frames per second. Yes, a visual novel game (if you can call it that considering how disjointed and short-lived the “storytelling” part is) apparently had its framerate cut in half during the porting process to Switch. What happened??

Audio

Probably the best part of the game, the audio in Wheels of Aurelia is interestingly subtle. There is some atmospheric music that plays, but the game also conveys a radio broadcast. It kind of attempts to immerse players into the idea of actually being in the car they control. It’s a neat feature, which is more than I could say about a lot of other things in the game.

Gameplay

Since I have been noting that Wheels of Aurelia is a visual novel, you might suspect that there isn’t much to talk about in the gameplay category. If that’s what you’re thinking, then you are…completely correct. This game is all about its dialogue choice framework and nothing else. You can steer the car left or right, or you can make it go slightly faster. That’s it. You don’t even have to control the car if you want! The closest you can do to make the car affect the game is by choosing whether or not to make a certain turn to trigger a different part of the “story”. It’s kind of impressive, actually; at this point, one could expect to make those same decisions via the dialogue system.

Yet I think even the dialogue system could use improvement. Why do I have to scroll through each individual line by pressing the same button over and over? Why not have each selectable line mapped to various buttons? The D-Pad by itself is perfect for that! Why do I have to wait a few seconds for the game to register that I’ve picked a line? I’m pretty sure a confirmation button would’ve worked just fine! Why, why, why?

Verdict

Yeah…don’t pick this one up. Wheels of Aurelia is a big disappointment. If you are looking for a driving game, this isn’t the place to be at all. But what if you are into visual novels? Even if the Nintendo Switch may be lacking in the amount of visual novel games currently available, don’t be desperate enough to eye this. You will get nothing out of this game.

  • Reading: Questions I'm studying off of for a science test..
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Right off the bat, Golf Story had me sold on its concept. If you missed the RPG modes in Mario Tennis and Mario Golf games from last decade, this title is here to pick that role-playing charisma back up. In a day and age where indie developers expand on ideas that were once active selling points in games gone by, Golf Story continues this movement of love by building on a concept that’s already ripe for revisiting. The result is perhaps one of my favorite indie titles to appear on the Nintendo Switch so far.

Story

The story reminds me a little of the older Paper Mariogames; you have the basic overarching objective. Yet there are a lot of smaller, quirky parts in it that serve as their own individualized stories in a way. In this case, you play as a guy who strives to be the best golfer he can be. He wishes to become one of the pros. Along the road, he would train with a coach, make deals with club owners, tee off against rivals, and join forces with the undead. You know. Typical golfer goals.

 

What makes Golf Story‘s narrative engaging is that it personifies its characters and locations nicely. Sometimes, even the slimmest premise can shine with great character interactions, and Golf Story delivers on that front. It sometimes even demonstrates character development through the actual gameplay – notably when one of the rivals goes from being pretty bad at golf to having trained enough to possibly give your own skills a run for your money. I also love the goofier characters, like the scientists that run the indoor mini golf course. This game got a lot of genuine laughs out of me; the dialogue is witty and well-written all around. There are even a good amount of successful visual gags.

Graphics

And boy, how about those visuals! Golf Story is a pixelated paradise. The landscapes are wildly rich with life, which is amazing given how large they can be. It makes me think a lot of Wayforward’s pixel art. The quality of the details implemented everywhere gives the locales a clear identity as well. This can also apply to the many NPCs scattered around the game. Although there are obviously reuses of sprites for various characters (Tends to be a given for an RPG), they are diverse enough for you to know which is in, say, the area by a certain bridge and so on.

Interestingly, Golf Story also makes use of a lot of hand-drawn graphics. They don’t directly co-exist with the sprite-based visuals in-game, but they do make up the game’s dialogue box, HUD, and menu graphics. I think they work well enough in which they don’t clash with the sprites. The presentation as a whole is generally very polished.

Audio

Contrary to the sprite-based style, the sound effects are more realistic sounding and aren’t held back by any limitations to imitate the 16-Bit era. It’s probably for the best; I love hearing the golf ball get struck by my driver. It’s always fun to hear the ball go straight into the hole. Other sounds have a click-y feel to them as well, such as when you’re progressing in a smaller challenge.

I also like the music variety in the game. Each major location in the game has its own audible flavor (complementing their visual flavors, I may add). The soundtrack is atmospheric, but features melodies that can stick with you after a while. My favorite has to be the jazzy piece from Wellworn Grove. If anything, I feel like Tidy Park could tone its bagpipes down a little.

Gameplay

Golf Story is kind of what the title implies. It’s a golfing game that happens to have a story centered around it. In the RPG portions, the player can walk or run around the lush environments. There are NPCs to talk to, side-quests and missions to take on, and one can even decide to tee off anywhere he or she wishes! There’s a neat sense of freedom to the basic mechanics at the player’s disposal. For no reason at all, pressing X allows you to throw golf balls. You can hit people with them for some funny reactions. The developers didn’t have to program that, but they did. The fact they did goes to show how much effort they put into crafting this experience. The only nitpick I have is that – in a similar fashion to Sonic Mania – there are some super-small bugs that show up every now and then. Minor things that could easily be fixed, but nevertheless I thought I’d address it since the folks at SideBar Games could probably go in to patch them out.

Not only do the locales stand out by aesthetics, but there are some gameplay elements that are specific to each one. In Oak Manor, for example, there’s a golf course where you can only strike the ball from the tee every hole. There may also be NPCs in other places that ask for fetching an amount of objects, or obstacles on courses that affect the golf play in unique ways. For example, turtles in the water can be bounced on by the ball for extra yards. There are even a couple instances where the player would get to play mini golf and frisbee-I mean disc golf. Only a couple, though; I personally wish there were at least some more mini/disc golf courses to play. The potential for elaborate courses involving them is bigger than their presence in the game.

So how is the golfing in Golf Story? Excellent stuff! It takes cues from oldschool golf video games by having a simple layout to learn, but with enough depth for players to try to master. You aim, analyze the wind and slope, select a club to use, and time your shot using a meter for determination. The basic result is a fun throwback to the days of playing Golf on the Game Boy. What surprised me about Golf Story, however, is just how much of it there is. There are a lot of courses, and they have their own subtle challenges in the mix. Once they are played in the main Story Mode, you can select them individually via Quick Play (They even have adjustable settings, including an option for a two-player V.S. mode) and play this as you would any golf game.

Verdict

In fact, Golf Story as a whole is a huge bang for your buck; my Story Mode time clocked in at 15 and a half hours, and that’s not counting all the missions. That much content for a $14.99 game is a freaking steal! It could have been less than half its size and I would still praise it for being a great game. As is, it’s perhaps the best golf video game I’ve ever played as well as my favorite indie on the Switch.

  • Reading: What I just typed
  • Playing: Super Mario Odyssey

First, I'd like to thank those of you so far that have given me birthday wishes. I'm unfortunately suffering from a stomach flu as of yesterday, but I'm fighting it and it's all the more appreciated to see you guys take the bit of time to type those few words for me. :) Without further ado, here's the review!

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It’s here. Oh my God, it’s finally here! The game that single-handedly sold me on the Nintendo Switch and the new direction the company has spearheaded is right on my desk! Super Mario Odyssey is a thing people can buy and play right now. Let that sink in. It’s so amazing to realize that, and it’s even more so when one dives into the experience itself. If you’re a Mario fan, there is no way you haven’t already picked this one up (Well, unless you just didn’t grab a Switch yet, I suppose). Should you somehow still be on the fence, though, allow me to fill you in on what makes Mario Odyssey such an event.

Story

If there’s one nitpick I have about the story, it’s that this game doesn’t have the narrative backbone the character Rosalina provided in Super Mario Galaxy. Her backstory and the message she delivers at the end of that game are things that likely won’t be matched by any future Mario game’s presentation anytime soon. What I can say is that Super Mario Odyssey continues the seamless production values thoroughly present in the ex-plumber boy’s galactic adventures.

Princess Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser is no shocker in any Mario title, but the journey Mario traverses to get to the aforementioned human football is what makes the game. Bowser actually stopped by several other places to steal things for his wedding scheme and these locales have their own wonderfully unique flavors and personalities. I also dig the fact that instead of Koopalings, there are new main enemies that Bowser hired specifically to make sure Mario doesn’t crash the wedding.

On the flipside, Mario has Cappy. This little guy is to Mario Odyssey as F.L.U.D.D. is to Super Mario Sunshine, in both the little narrative there is and in practicality during gameplay. Both characters are amusing companions that serve to assist Mario on the journey, and they sometimes point out tips for those that need that little extra hint. As for Cappy specifically, his sister serves as Peach’s makeshift headdress (naturally by Bowser against her will), and he accompanies Mario as a makeshift replacement for the hat he lost during his initial confrontation with the Koopa King himself.

Graphics

Holy heck, Super Mario Odyssey is a work of art! Everything is so clean, so polished, and so colorful! Mario games have always been successful in conveying exactly what they shoot for, and Odyssey is definitely no exception to that rule. What makes this outing so special, though, is what it does with the graphical capabilities of the Switch. If you were to show me anything from the other seventh and eighth generation consoles, I would hardly be able to tell the technical difference.

This can apply to the Wii U and Switch as well, but keep in mind the Wii U never did have a full-blown 3D Mario adventure like Mario GalaxySuper Mario 3D World is fun and all, but fans could only ever wonder how things would go if there were to be a new installment in the grander scale of previous titles. Super Mario Odyssey not only finally demonstrates the much more advanced hardware compared to the Wii’s specs, but it also is clearly developed with the newer, more aggressive mindset Nintendo got to put in motion this year. Plus, the Switch doubling as a portable console means you can take this ginormous game anywhere you go! Super Mario 3D Landbe darned…

Super Mario Odyssey is an open-world adventure, and it looks exactly as it does in its promotional materials. Nothing deceives, and everything delivers. Each world has an amazing, abstract art style that differentiates from each other in ways not seen in any other game in the franchise. The attention to detail is absolutely insane as well; from the many ways developers may hide secrets and Easter eggs to things they didn’t even need to add like the loads of costumes Mario can buy (with in-game currency and not micro-transactions, I may add) and the many animations Mario himself has, the game feels rich and content-crammed in every corner.

Audio

Interestingly, Super Mario Odyssey takes a page from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild by not having music play throughout the time spent in each kingdom. Every now and then, the music may die out and another track – if not the same one – would play depending on a particular area Mario would reach. Of course that’s not to say things get quiet all the time, but this is a surprisingly atmospheric Mario game nevertheless.

When the soundtrack kicks in, Super Mario Galaxy vibes kick in with a wide range from traditional cartoon-y Mariogoodness to epic orchestrated pieces that solidify the grandness that is this new take on the series. There are even plenty of songs that accompany moments where I thought “Oh my actual God, this is in a MARIO game!” You know you’ve come across something truly special when that thought comes to mind, and Super Mario Odyssey has plenty of stuff like that to go around. It’s a greatly diverse soundtrack for a greatly diverse game.

Also, there’s an 8-Bit sounding version of a lot of the songs, and they’re just as fun to listen to.

Gameplay

Like I said when I played a demo of Super Mario Odyssey at PAX, it feels incredible to finally control Mario in this type of game again! The man in red is every bit as acrobatic as he was in titles like Super Mario 64 and Sunshine. He can perform various kinds of jumps, leap from walls, and now he can roll down hills for some fun with momentum. Cappy also plays a big role in enhancing Mario’s move-set (as I briefly brought up earlier by comparing him to F.L.U.D.D.); the big hook here is possess-I mean capturing things. By tossing Cappy at an enemy or objects that hint at being useful, Mario will take over the thing’s body and be able to use its ability. Want to capture a Goomba? Go right ahead and you’ll be able to jump on others to stack them up! How about a fireball in lava? Well, now you can wade through said lava and find new places you couldn’t get to otherwise!

If there is anything that you may think could be possible as you assess the terrain, there’s a solid chance you can do it. The Kingdoms may not be as large as the landscapes in Breath of the Wild, but boy do they take advantage of everything they could utilize! Super Mario Odyssey frequently rewards players’ senses of curiosity and skill with goodies from coins to Moons, this game’s Power Stars. They are more common than Stars, meaning there are more of them to collect. How many more? Well, the mission total here is 836. Only a small fraction of that is needed to get through the main adventure, but the sheer amount of post-game content would forever vastly overshadow that. Death is a slap on the wrist since you only lose 10 coins as a result, but the challenge can still be prevalent especially when trying to scour every Moon out there. Even then, you’d be surprised what challenges lie ahead and what could keep you on your toes.

Super Mario Odyssey is an explorer’s Mario game, and it makes sure of that. You know how in previous 3D Mario games when every time you collect a Star or Shine Sprite, you are forcibly kicked out of the level to select the next mission? That sequence is completely omitted here! Once you grab a Moon, it gets added to your total and nothing more; in a similar fashion to titles like Banjo Kazooie, you get to immediately move on to doing anything else from there. The pace is snappy as a result, and it’s a great improvement over previous establishments. On that note, you aren’t told where every Moon is located. Although the game may highlight a basic path to take, it doesn’t tell you where any specific Moon is. That’s up to you and only you to discover! This effectively preserves the satisfaction of finding them or finding new ways to get to them. Should you be overwhelmed or lost, the closest there is to a hint provider is a Toad or a parrot you can talk to for uncovering a clue of some sort.

The collect-a-thon probably wouldn’t be fun if the levels themselves were tedious slogs. Fortunately, Super Mario Odyssey is the total opposite of that. All of its Kingdoms are superbly imaginative to the point where players would want to stick around and dig up the most they can from them! Everything feels artistically foreign as far as the Mariouniverse is concerned while simultaneously feeling completely natural. The game presents itself as a literal world tour, and it sure lives up to this theme. There’s so much to do in each Kingdom and so many secrets to uncover that just talking about these doesn’t feel like it does them justice. I haven’t even gotten to the mini games that have online leaderboards, or the countless little nods the game makes to its predecessors!

Verdict

This is why Nintendo remains king of the gaming industry. If you ever needed to explain to someone what makes Nintendo so special, Super Mario Odyssey is the physical embodiment of that explanation. Adults can dive right into this and tap into their inner kid, and actual kids could obsess over the lively, thoroughly detailed cartoon worlds. You can get through the main game in a few hours if dedicated enough, but the post game can potentially last for months on end. I cannot recommend Super Mario Odyssey enough. It deserves every bit of praise it gets, and I can’t be happier to see Nintendo skyrocket back to the top after going through an identity crisis with the Wii U.

  • Reading: What I just typed
  • Playing: Super Smash Bros. Melee
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I’m finally reviewing a game that isn’t on the Nintendo Switch. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten myself to do so, and I’m sure my Vita needed the exercise after being left hanging for so long. That’s not to say Twin Robots was worth getting into. In fact, I would say the opposite; this game is bad.

Graphics

What a dull-looking setting. All of the levels in Twin Robots look the same, and there’s nothing to distinguish each of them from a visual standpoint. Could the floors and walls be any darker? Actually, they can; there’s a switch one of the robots can press that cuts off the power to the door holding the other robot hostage. From that point on, it gets so dark I could just barely distinguish important hazards like spikes apart from the terrain.

The only really interesting thing I could point out is that the framerate dips to a crawl whenever a robot is crushed. It almost feels like my PS Vita is about to collapse from the intensity of those little explosions.

Audio

Repetitive stock rock doesn’t help liven the scene, either. It only gets my ears to be bored alongside my eyes. Could there at least have been a bigger music selection? As far as I know, there are only two tracks throughout the game. Sound effects are fairly far and few between, too. Certain ones are missing while others are underwhelming to listen to.

Gameplay

Twin Robots is a basic 2.5D platformer where the player controls one of two robots. On paper, he or she is supposed to switch back and forth between the two robots in order to get them both to the end goal. When I played a few levels, though, I noticed the designs not really needing the second robot in practice. I was also able to kill the leftover robot by having its health drained (which is meant to be used to share health between robots). I thought to myself “What is stopping me from beating levels with just one robot?”

Turns out I was able to use one robot to beat most of the game. What’s the point of the very premise of the game if the second robot isn’t even necessary until the 21st level (of 28)? The reason why it’s so downplayed is because the levels are extremely simple platforming obstacles that have nothing clever or interesting to offer. It takes no advantage of the two-robot mechanic, save for some times later in the game where one robot would need to be held down on a switch as another goes through the door it unlocks. Otherwise, the second robot is only there to pad out the game time – unless you kill it, I may add – since it travels through the same exact path as the first.

Suddenly, the difficulty goes from stupidly easy to stupidly unfair. Level 22. This freaking level is the epitome of the problem. The bots have health bars, but I doubt anyone would actually die from running out of health. Instant-death hazards and narrow leaps are commonplace, and if you lose one of the two robots, you’ll be unable to do any of the couple tasks that require them both to be alive and therefore restart the stage.

Verdict

In short, this game sucks. This isn’t even the first time Twin Robots got released (It was released on Wii U and Steam prior to this Vita version). What compelled anyone to re-release this? Ratalaika Games, I love ya guys, but I think some titles are best left behind. I did not have fun with this one, and I sure as heck can’t recommend it much. The only praise I can really give it is that it’s not as bad as Vaccine.