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  1. It's hard to think of something more quintessentially 80s than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Anthropomorphic animal mascots, "cool teen" energy, a healthy bit of martial arts violence—the turtles are just made for that time period, and that includes rapidly churning out some repetitive action games. I say repetitive but these side-scrolling beat 'em up games are absolutely charming as well, even if you didn't grow up playing them. And putting 13 of them into a single game makes The Cowabunga Collection one shell of an experience. You might assume there are some pointless additions with a 13 game lineup, and…yeah you'd be right, at least a bit. With three versions of TMNT: Tournament Fighters (NES, SNES, and Genesis) you really have to question what was the point of including all of them. SNES and Genesis might make sense since there are roster differences between the two, but is anyone really all that interested in diving into a 2D fighting game on the NES? Still, it's an interesting move to include all of them, and shows how comprehensive this collection is really meant to be. Aside from the fighting games you've also got the classic arcade beat 'em ups, the original and Turtles in Time, as well as their adaptations on home consoles. There's also the infamously difficult TMNT game on the NES, and the three Game Boy games which arguably hide the hidden gem of this collection, Radical Rescue, which is more of a Metroid-style adventure game rather than a straight-forward action game. So although the majority of The Cowabunga Collection is beat 'em ups, there's a bit of variety that helps round out the package here. All of the games play great as well—or at least, they play as you remember they did, whether it was on an arcade cabinet, console, or handheld. The experience is well preserved here and it really does feel like stepping into a time machine when you've got some friends together on the couch, beating up wave after wave of Foot Clan mooks. This collection also adds some content though, in arguably the best possible way for a retro collection like this. You're able to turn on enhancements to tweak the experience, such as reducing the slow down lag that happens when there are a lot of enemies on the screen in the older games, as well as turning on easy or god mode settings for many of the games. You can also save at any time in each game and even rewind several seconds to fix any little mistakes that might have cost you a precious life. It's wonderful that The Cowabunga Collection is able to cater to both die-hard old school players as well as new ones in this way. If you want the classic experience it's all here, but if you just want to make it through the game without throwing your controller through the television, you can turn on enhancements like infinite lives to make the stiff, clunky mechanics of late-80s/early-90s games more bearable (and the NES game is still incredibly difficult even with these enhancements, so there's still a point of pride in beating it). The other major addition is online play for four of the games: both of the arcade games, Hyperstone Heist on the Genesis, and the SNES version of Tournament Fighters. It seems like your online experience will vary quite a bit depending on your own connection and other players'. Playing with just two players is mostly okay, but when you turn it up to three or four the game becomes a lagfest. It's still a nice feature if you're lucky enough to not face too much lag, but the couch co-op experience will always be the definitive way of getting four turtles together. Finally there are all of the bonus materials included in the collection, which is a treasure trove of turtle content. You've got old box art and concept sketches from the games' developments, screencaps of the cartoons (both the classic 80s one and newer ones), comic book covers—it's an awesome little museum of the turtles, and best of all it's all available as soon as you boot up the game, you won't need to unlock it by playing. When it comes to repackaged re-releases of retro games, The Cowabunga Collection may be one of the best based on the breadth of content and gameplay options. Even if some games are technically repeated, 13 titles is a huge value, plus all of the bonus content provided, and most importantly the enhancements that make these tough-as-nails classics a little more manageable for modern players. The online experience isn't quite up to par, but get some friends together and order a pizza and you're in for a radical Friday night with The Cowabunga Collection. Rating: 8 out of 10 Turtles
  2. Credits to the banner goes to alienboyva Nintendo is on a roll for the last 2 weeks, with short trailer reveals. Splatoon 3 releases September 9th. Here's a look at the some Turf War gamepaly! Also, below is news on some Splatoon DLC is on NSO EP. Possible good news, Splatoon 3 supports cloud saves. This makes me wonder if Pokemon Scarlet and Violet will support cloud saves. These games never had it before because cheating and Nintendo is still new to the internet. See how voice chat works in Splatoon 2 for reference.
  3. Special thanks to ArmoredFrog for the banner! Hello once again, Ninfora members! This is Lt. Surge, host of the widely popular and retired Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart Wii game nights! Every Thursday night, I am willing to host a night of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! All the craziness of the new eighth installment of Mario Kart in what I am hoping to be a successful night of fun, laughter, and nail-biting races! Joining is pretty straight forward: RSVP your spot by indicating your interest in participating and use our tourney code to enter the weekly tournament! Also, the last Thursday of every month will see the speed class in the tournament change from 150cc to 200cc for a night of high speed and crazy item shenanigans to say farewell to the current month and start anew with the following month. For those that wish to be in contact during the races, there is the forum's Discord server and the MK8 channel that was built on the server. There, we can chat via text and even join the voice chat channel in the same app. With that said, I hope to see plenty of racers every Thursday! See you on the flip side! For those interested, you can find all of the tournament highlights and streams in the following playlists, straight from The Krazy One's YouTube channel Discord invite is here. Tournament Playlist (Edited Videos) Streams (In original format ~Unlisted) Battles
  4. A game released in Japan that never saw a worldwide release is an all too common tale, and although I wasn't familiar with Live A Live before this Switch version, I was excited to see yet another RPG plucked from the past for modern audiences to enjoy. Having grown up on SNES RPGs, I was also particularly interested in experiencing an unknown title from that era. Nothing quite prepared me for Live A Live, though. This unusual, experimental game that plays with genres so much that large parts of the game can't even really be called an RPG truly took me on a rollercoaster of enjoyable highs and confusing lows. But once the ride was over, I knew it was something special. When you start up the game you're given the choice of starting any of the seven chapters, each starring a different protagonist in a different era, from the Wild West to Imperial China to the Distant Future, where you play as a robot. Right out of the gate Live A Live is playing with gameplay and narrative structure, and it's far from the last twist or turn you'll see. Every chapter has unique gameplay mechanics, and some show obvious influences from other games or media. One chapter is essentially a fighting game, a series of boss fights with characters that feel straight out of Street Fighter, while the Distant Future chapter plays with eerie sci-fi and thriller storytelling. I hardly want to say more, because experiencing all of these chapters and their quirky little foibles is a huge part of what makes Live A Live so enjoyable. You never know quite what to expect, and you'll always encounter something a little different. Of course, this quirk has its downsides too. Anyone expecting a traditional RPG might be put off by the unusual mechanics found here. This truly feels like an experimental game, one that blends genres and is bold enough to try new things to keep you on your toes. Sometimes that means locking you into a pretty straightforward path, but other times that means giving you the chance to completely change how you approach a challenge. That said, the game does have some bad 90s game habits, e.g. some very unclear directions at times, as well as a lot of running back and forth just for a snippet of dialogue. The pacing isn't always on point, especially when you're bouncing between these different game styles. Even when I found myself a bit lost or weary though, I always found the overall experience compelling. Live A Live is essentially a collection of short stories, a style/format that isn't often explored in games, and it's not hard to see how this concept grew into Octopath Traveler 20+ years later, another HD-2D game that I adored. The characters here aren't the most deep or well-rounded, but just being able to jump between these short stories and their different settings and tones is a fun novelty. For instance, it's hard to deny the humor and charm of the Prehistoric chapter, with its complete lack of dialogue so the story is strictly carried out in animation and mime. That said, Live A Live does still have some RPG mechanics, and true to the game's style there are some quirky touches here as well. Battles take place on a small grid-based battle screen, where you're free to move around when your action gauge is full. Similar to the ATB of Final Fantasy VI, you can only act when the gauge is full, and using powerful abilities requires yet more charging. The trick here is that when you're moving the enemies' gauges are filling as well, so you don't want to waste time, and sometimes attacks that take a long time to charge aren't worth it. Every attack has a certain range and style—most physical attacks hit one square near you, magical abilities might have more range, and some attacks can hit multiple squares at once. The game kind of throws all of this at you at once, but in practice it's a novel battle system that has some good ideas, and some bad ones. There's a degree of strategy involved—you might want to hit multiple enemies at once, or target elemental weaknesses—and it's even possible to evade enemy attacks by just walking out of the square they are targeting. The difficulty of battles isn't terribly consistent, though. Since you're using a new character in each chapter you're always kind of starting at square one, with fairly weak characters, which either means equally weak enemies, which is a bit bland, or frustratingly powerful ones that require a bit of luck. Only at the end of the game does the combat system feel more balanced out, though by that point you've probably amassed quite a few powerful attacks so it ends up tipping to the easy side again. Regardless, the battle system's unusual grid structure adds a fun novelty to the usual random encounters. Live A Live is also not a typical RPG in terms of length. The chapter system divides up the flow of the game quite a bit, and there's also some significant variety in length. Some chapters are barely an hour long, while others will take at least a few. All told, it's still pretty short for an RPG—maybe twenty, twenty-five hours—but I can't help but give the game credit for embracing its unique structure so thoroughly. I'm a big fan of the HD-2D art style, and it looks pretty good in Live A Live. The visuals don't quite pop as much as Octopath Traveler or Triangle Strategy, though that may be down to the fact that this game is updating and refining visuals from nearly 30 years ago—at times the graphics just don't feel quite as polished as those other games. Still, the HD-2D style nicely walks the line between nostalgia and stylish modern effects and does a great job of bringing so many different locations and scenarios to life in Live A Live. The soundtrack is also phenomenal. All of the songs have been rearranged for this remake and thank goodness the game includes a jukebox because you're going to want to hear these songs more than once. Not surprisingly there's a wonderful variety to the music to suit each chapter, from different music styles to different instruments, and somehow every single chapter walks away with catchy, moving songs. The voice acting is a mixed bag though. There is some effort to match voices/accents to appropriate locations and time periods, which is great, but of course it's the voices that don't quite mesh correctly that stand out as clumsy. Live A Live is a brilliantly unique RPG. It's also one that might not appeal to everyone, not least because the fractured narrative and gameplay structure only truly shines at the end of the adventure. There are some ups and downs in the middle there, especially if you're looking for more traditional RPG mechanics, or lack the patience for obtuse 90s game design. If you stick with it though, Live A Live is something special. It's a game that isn't afraid to take risks, and the payoff is an experience that feels wholly unique, charming, and engaging. If you're interested in trying a game that truly feels different, you absolutely need to try Live A Live. Rating: 9 out of 10 Lives
  5. Available October 8th | https://metroid.nintendo.com/ Join intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran in her first new 2D Metroid™ story in 19 years Samus’ story continues after the events of the Metroid™ Fusion game when she descends upon planet ZDR to investigate a mysterious transmission sent to the Galactic Federation. The remote planet has become overrun by vicious alien lifeforms and chilling mechanical menaces. Samus is more agile and capable than ever, but can she overcome the inhuman threat stalking the depths of ZDR? Face off against unrelenting E.M.M.I. robots Once DNA-extracting research machines, the imposing E.M.M.I. are now hunting Samus down. Tensions are high as you evade these E.M.M.I. to avoid a cruel death while finding a way to take them down. Find out what turned these robotic wonders into the scourge of ZDR and escape with your life. Feel Samus’ power grow as you gain maneuvers and abilities Acquire new and familiar abilities as you traverse the many environments of this dangerous world. Parkour over obstacles, slide through tight spaces, counter enemies, and battle your way through the planet. Return to areas and use your new abilities to find upgrades, alternate paths, and a way forward. Explore the sprawling map, evade and destroy E.M.M.I. robots, and overcome the dread plaguing ZDR. *About from Nintendo.com Price: $89.99 Includes: Standard copy of the game Steelbook game case 5 cards featuring art from Metroid 1-5 190 page art book Pics: Price: $29.99 Functionality: Samus - Gives you an extra energy tank to increase your health by 100 (Once per day). E.M.M.I. - Grants a Missile+ tank to increase Samus’ missile capacity by 10 (once per day). Pics:
  6. It's incredible to see how far an IP that was brand new in 2015 has come. Even with the Nintendo brand backing it, it's not easy for a new IP to take hold to this extent, especially with the unique blend of online shooter and cartoonish charm that Splatoon has. But playing the game makes it clear why it's so popular now, and just how it came out of Nintendo. Sure it's an online multiplayer game, but it's also beginner-friendly, stylish, and just plain fun in every moment, win or lose. It's that abiding fun-first philosophy that has kept Nintendo going for decades and made Splatoon such a hit. So how do they keep it going with the third installment? By polishing up small aspects and adding a few new features to make Splatoon 3 the most frantic, engaging, and fun it can possibly be. The story mode here has a lot more in common with Splatoon 2's DLC, the Octo Expansion, than it does with the previous story modes. Levels are generally centered around one kind of challenge, such as only using a specific type of special ability or making it to the goal with only one tank of ink, no refills. There are still a few of the more generic "just make to the goal" kinds of levels, but overall Splatoon 3's story mode offers far more variety in challenges, and you may even pick up some helpful tips that apply to multiplayer mode as you learn the ins and outs of specials and weapons. As for the story itself, you're once again assisting Captain Cuttlefish, though this time it's because of a mysterious fuzzy ooze that turns anything it touches hairy. It's not a deep, elaborate narrative but it's a fun time, especially with Agents 1 and 2 getting involved again. As for the multiplayer side of the game, the basics are the same: the main mode is Turf War, a 4v4 match that emphasizes inking the ground rather than taking out opponents (though that certainly helps give you free rein to ink). All four Ranked Battle modes return but they're now called Anarchy Battles, and they come in two flavors. Open mode lets you jump into a match even with friends and rewards (or subtracts) a small amount of rank points. In Series mode though you have to queue solo, and by paying an "entrance fee" of ranked points you'll play a series of matches. Win five and you'll earn a ton of ranked points, but lose a total of three and the series ends. The good news is you'll still earn some ranked points based on your wins and your individual performance, so it's not exactly the gamble that it seems, it's just a slightly higher stakes version of Anarchy Battles. And those battle modes (Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz) remain just as intense and exciting as ever. Splatoon 3 also adds a few new maps alongside returning ones, and there are naturally some new weapons and gear to try out, including a new bow-type weapon and a katana-type weapon, but overall the core experience is unchanged, including some of the more annoying quirks like two-hour map rotations that can see you playing on the same map seemingly over and over. If you already enjoy the Splatoon formula though this should be good news. The maps do feel a little too homogenized, with pretty similar narrow layouts that don't show as much inventive design as past games, but that also ensures the action stays pretty centralized and frantic. Online matches still nicely skirt a line between slightly goofy and intense competitive action (maybe a little more on the competitive side during Anarchy Battles), and the fast-paced action still oozes charm and light-hearted fun, like a summer camp water gun fight. It's fast-paced, matches are pretty short at just three minutes, and the whole vibe of the game just feels like the experience is meant to be joyous (though we all still have the occasional salty moments while playing online). Your online experience will differ depending on your connection, but overall mine has been okay, one or two dropped connections aside. The majority of changes in Splatoon 3 seem to come from little additions or improvements. Salmon Run, the co-op mode introduced in Splatoon 2, is now available 24/7 instead of in semi-random shifts, which is great news since the mode is a blast (and extremely challenging when you get to the higher levels). There are new bosses to fight as well as a new superboss called a King Salmonid that shows up occasionally to make your job even more challenging. It's a fun fight but it'd be nice if he appeared a little more frequently, since sometimes it feels like you have to grind just to get him to show up. The lobby between matches (both normal and Salmon Run) now allows you to run around and practice a little before the next match starts, which can be a nice way of loosening up for the battle. There are two new abilities that you can use in any mode: the Squid Roll allows you to rapidly turn and dodge enemy attacks while the Squid Surge lets you leap up vertical walls, after a short charge time. Both add some valuable new maneuverability techniques, though their usefulness can be situational. There are also new ways to spend all the cash you'll accumulate: you can decorate a locker with items and stickers, and players online will be able to see your locker in their lobby. It's strictly cosmetic but it's nice to have something else to spend money on, especially after a few months when you've locked in your favorite weapons and clothes. Finally there's Tableturf Battles, a card-based minigame that translates the Turf War experience into a two-player card game. At the moment you can only play the CPU but there are plans to add a PVP option here in the future. Essentially you play cards to claim turf, and you can't "ink over" turf that has already been claimed. Whoever has the most turf in the end wins. It's not a bad diversion and again it's something else to collect in-game, though if you're not usually the type to get hooked on card-based minigames I doubt this one will change your mind. It's cute but lacks the energy or engagement of an actual Turf War match. On the presentation side of things, it's also a variety of small improvements and polishing. Between the excellent art direction that previous games established and some new little touches like fresh hairstyles, locker decorations and a new plaza, Splatoon 3 looks fantastic. The ink is still satisfyingly globby and viscous, the clothes are stylish, and the weapons are inventive. Most importantly, the frame rate is buttery smooth and never impedes the action. And of course there are already some great songs to enjoy, including the Splatfest audio from the three new hosts (and yes, that means 3-team Splatfests, such as the one happening this weekend!). Splatoon has always been a game that is dripping in style, and Splatoon 3 is no different. Splatoon 3 isn't exactly a leap (or squid jump) to a new level for the series. There are improvements for sure, not least of which is just making the game more convenient to play, whether that's through 24/7 Salmon Run, partying up with friends, or the split Anarchy battles that provide more options even with the usual limited map rotation system. But for the most part this is the Splatoon we know and love with a fresh coat of ink, and for millions of squids/kids, that'll be enough to dive back into the fray and start splatting away with their favorite weapons. So if you're already a Splatoon fan and are itching to get back out there to compete in Splatfests and collect golden eggs in Salmon Run, you'll love Splatoon 3 for being a nicely polished take on a familiar formula. Rating: 9 out of 10 Booyahs
  7. Pac-Man will always be one of the most important and recognizable figures in video games, but as a 3D platforming star? Maybe not. Originally released in 1999 on the original PlayStation and now updated with visual upgrades and a handful of gameplay adjustments, Pac-Man World Re-Pac is a strange little piece of gaming history, and is perhaps a good reminder that not every video game character needs to make the jump to different genres. As the game begins, Pac-Man's whole family is setting up a birthday party for the yellow dot himself, but the jealous Toc-Man sends out ghosts to kidnap Pac-Man. The ghosts mistakenly take everyone in the family but Pac-Man, so he sets off on a quest to rescue them. Classic basic story for a video game, but it is nice that it's told through some (again, pretty basic) cutscenes. I want to jump straight to the presentation, because there's a baffling decision here but you can fix the issue if you play the game yourself. By default, the game is in resolution mode, meaning the visuals prioritize crisp images and you're left with a noticeably choppy frame rate. It's not quite enough to spoil the gameplay experience but it looks terrible and is honestly a little headache-inducing at times. However, in the options menu you can swap to performance mode instead, prioritizing smooth frame rates at the cost of the resolution. The odd thing though is that the resolution basically doesn't change at all, at least not to a noticeable degree, but the frame rate is significantly smoother—still not quite perfect at times but it won't strain your eyes. Maybe the benefits of resolution mode would be more clear on a different TV, but to me there is absolutely no reason to use resolution mode and you need to change it immediately if you play the game yourself. Aside from this issue though the game's visuals and audio are fairly uninteresting. The game obviously has a more polished look that it must have had back in the day, but the art design, character models, and soundtrack just never quite pop. They're not necessarily bad, but they do feel generic and forgettable. With that out of the way, Pac-Man World comes from the early days of 3D platforming, and that means it has some pretty simple, slightly sloppy ideas about platforming. It's a fixed-camera game, but you can still move on a 3D plane, i.e. left and right but also toward the screen and away from it. There are definitely times where you have very little sense of depth, and lining up a jump is frustratingly clumsy, especially with Pac-Man's slightly floaty jumps. The bright side is that this remake has added a Yoshi-like flutter-jump to Pac-Man's skills, so you have a small chance to correct any missed jumps. You'll still probably die plenty of times though, it's just that kind of platformer. The good news is that there are also plenty of checkpoints in each level, and you'll pick up plenty of extra lives on your journey. There are also collectibles in each level that help add some depth to the gameplay, because if all you're doing is rushing to the end of the level there's not much interesting game design here, at least nothing that hasn't been seen in plenty of 3D platformers by now. It might have been more fresh when it was first released on the PS1, but today the platforming feels bland. Back to the collectibles though: you can collect letters to spell out "Pac-Man" in each level, plus one of Pac-Man's family members is trapped in each world, so you'll need to find their cage and a key to free them. Like I said, it's good to have some collectibles to give you more reason to explore every inch of each stage, but it is a little weird that so many of the collectibles require backtracking. For example, there are locked doors that require fruit to open, but oftentimes the fruit you need is somewhere in the level ahead of you, so you need to grab it then return to the door. The strangest thing is that the fruit often isn't far ahead or even hidden at all, you just need to spend a little time to grab it and backtrack. It feels like it's explicitly designed to fill time which, sure, maybe the game needed, because even while doing all of this backtracking, Pac-Man World is a roughly five or six hour game. It's a shame that a game that short can feel so repetitive though. Aside from the 3D platforming, Pac-Man does take some time to get back to his roots in this game. There are bonus levels that play like a classic Pac-Man board, with ghosts chasing you and pellets to collect. Pac-Man World adds a variety of new hazards as well which provide some interesting twists, even if the core action is always the same. Classic Pac-Man mazes are just timeless fun, so it's nice to see them included here. Pac-Man World Re-Pac is a perfectly decent little trip down memory lane, I'm just not sure who was clamoring to go on this trip. The dated platforming design isn't necessarily bad but it's not terribly exciting either, and even a handful of revamped features don't change the slightly floaty controls, clumsy sense of depth, or bland visual design. Pac-Man World Re-Pac isn't exactly a missed classic nor is it such an oddity that it warrants attention, but if you're looking for a middle-of-the-road 3D platformer, this game fits the bill. Rating: 6 out of 10 Power Pellets
  8. Where better than a video game to play with the very nature of storytelling? 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim doesn't tell a linear story—in fact it tells one of the most non-linear stories I've seen in a while, allowing players to pick and choose which of the 13 protagonists' interconnected stories to follow. Along the way you're left to piece together the sci-fi narrative through plenty of labyrinthine twists and turns, resulting in a unique, engaging, and confounding experience. Oh, and there are mech battles against giant robots. First off let's be clear: 13 Sentinels is, for the vast majority of the game, a visual novel. There are mech battles that are required to progress, but for the most part you'll be spending your time in what the game calls "Remembrance." Here you can choose which protagonist's story to watch unfold through lots of dialogue. The 13 characters are high school students with their share of teen drama, but very quickly the game thrusts you into an elaborate sci-fi adventure across different time periods that practically requires a flow chart in order to follow. The real joy of the game is watching the story unfold in your own way, since you can choose to follow this character for a while, then jump over to another one for a bit. There are gates, i.e. you might need to progress character B's path to unlock the next scene in character A's, but overall there's still a good bit of freedom in how you approach the story. I'm not sure I could even succinctly summarize the plot if I wanted to, but it's best to just dive in and explore for yourself. Although the protagonists' stories do overlap at times there isn't too much repeated content (and you can also fast-forward through any dialogue you've already seen). Each story also has its own quirks. One character is essentially an investigator, trying to track down a missing person. Another starts off with amnesia, a gun in his hand, and a dead body on the ground. Another thinks she's in a quirky, E.T. kind of story. Despite these differences the stories ultimately weave together nicely, and they all still feel connected thematically thanks to some excellent world building that leaves you with a lot of questions, urging you to keep playing. All that said, the real strength of 13 Sentinel's writing may be in the way it's presented rather than in the content itself. There are definitely some fun stories here, but there are also some fairly repetitive ones, some bland characters, and a bit of over-reliance on teenage dating drama. The game's visual novel elements can also be a bit boring. The branching paths within one character's story don't actually matter all that much, since you'll eventually explore all of them, and sometimes it can feel like all you're doing is pressing A over and over for an hour to progress slow, circuitous dialogue that neither progresses the story nor bolsters the characters' developments. In fact, the overarching sci-fi narrative probably wouldn't have as much impact if it were told linearly. However, because it is told in such a unique and organic way, the story will keep you riveted throughout the adventure. Now on to the RTS mech battles (aka "Destruction") side of 13 Sentinels, which is again only about one third of the actual playtime of the game. I use the term "RTS" loosely here since you're able to pause the action every time you choose one of your characters' actions, and the combat feels more like tower defense at times. Here's the gist: with up to six mechs in your party, you'll need to defend a terminal point against incoming waves of Kaiju (giant robots). The 13 protagonists are divided up into four generations of mechs, and each character has slightly different attacks, strengths, and weaknesses. The 1st-gen mechs, for example, excel at close-quarters combat, while 3rd-gen mechs are built for long range strikes, and each of the three 1st-gen mechs have slightly different attacks available to them. You're able to select which characters to use, customize their attacks, and eventually upgrade specific aspects of their stats, giving you a good amount of control and variability over the course of combat. Although basic attacks do not cost any resources, the most powerful attacks—and your bread and butter during combat—require EP (this game's version of energy, mana, etc.) so you'll need to be thoughtful about how you use it. There's a decent amount of information to keep track of, but since the game pauses whenever you select a character it's not that difficult to take your time learning everything. In fact, the combat in 13 Sentinels is actually pretty dang easy. As long as you're maintaining a fairly balanced team and upgrading attacks when you can, the normal difficulty doesn't pose much challenge. The good news is that you can change the difficulty settings to hard (or easy) at any time, plus you can challenge yourself by not leveling up your characters' attacks. Even if the battles aren't particularly challenging though, the combat in 13 Sentinels is pretty fun—after all, isn't it always satisfying to blow up giant robots? And since it generally isn't too difficult you can experiment with attack loadouts and whatnot to spice things up. Alternating between Destruction and Remembrance also provides nice palate cleansers for each aspect of the gameplay. All told 13 Sentinels should last around 25 hours, though since so much of that time is just reading dialogue it can feel a bit slow at times. The good news is that the mech battles offer a decent bit of replay value if you want it. Change the difficulty level, change the characters you use, change their attacks—these differences are enough to approach each battle with a new perspective, plus you'll be rewarded with experience points to empower your characters. It might also be worth it to spend some time in the Archives replaying parts of the story just to clear up some of the more confusing parts of the narrative. This is a Vanillaware game, which means the characters and backgrounds are all drawn in exquisite detail, as if someone made an entire game out of a concept art book. On the other hand, the battle graphics are disappointingly basic, and the scenery of the story does get recycled quite a bit over the course of the narrative, but there's still something magnetic about Vanillaware's art style (even though they just can't seem to resist putting some fan-service cheesecake into their games). The story is also nicely acted with voice work in both English and Japanese. The one weak link here is the soundtrack, but a few mediocre background songs aren't going to pull you out of the narrative experience. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is the kind of unique experience that everyone ought to play, though the heavy focus on Visual Novel storytelling will be a drag for some. Still, the characters are pretty likeable and the sci-fi mystery at play should intrigue anyone. The mech battles might disappoint anyone looking for strategy-rich gameplay, but as long as you approach the game thinking of the mech battles as a sort of side mode for the real heart of the experience, the intricately twisty story, you'll appreciate the battles as quick breaks from the odd and fascinating storytelling system of 13 Sentinels. Rating: 8 out of 10 Sentinels
  9. It's just a fact of nature that small things are cute. Baby animals, miniaturized decorations, and now Tinykin, a game developed by Splashteam and published by tinyBuild games. Navigating a normal house as a bug-sized person with the aid of tiny alien creatures puts a delightful perspective on common household objects and opens up plenty of possibilities for satisfying platforming. This little adventure has a lot of charm. You play as Milo, a space-farer who has finally rediscovered Earth after humanity long abandoned it. Fascinated with the past, he lands there only to find that he is tiny compared to the structures left behind, and there aren't any other humans around. Now he'll have to enlist the aid of friendly insects and Tinykin, small alien creatures, to help him discover the truth of what happened and return to his spaceship. The core concept is a lot of fun but the real charm of the story comes from all of the ants, beetles, and other insects you talk to. Even though most of the dialogue is optional, there is a ton here to enjoy and almost all of it is filled with humor and references. It's well worth taking the time to chat with every creature you meet to experience more of this adorable little world. As Milo you're not able to do too much. You can run and jump, and soon enough you're given a bar of soap that acts like a skateboard, but it's the Tinykin that actually get anything done. You'll encounter a handful of different types, and each one helps you explore the house and complete tasks for the insect residents, which gets you one step closer to building a transportation device to leave the house. The first Tinykin you encounter help you carry things or push heavy objects, but you'll also find ones that explode when thrown or ones that stack up like a ladder, allowing you to reach new heights. The one major catch here is that Tinykin cannot move between rooms, so every time you enter a new area you'll need to build up your Tinykin army again from scratch to continue exploring. Comparisons to the Pikmin series will be unavoidable, but Tinykin takes a different path with the "hundreds of tiny alien helpers" concept. There's no combat in this game so it's really all about exploration and you don't need to worry about preserving your Tinykin (thankfully you also don't have to worry about your Tinkin's pathfinding skills as they'll just warp to you). Finding more Tinykin is as much of a core aspect of the game as using them. You'll find them in color-themed egg sacs, and since you start at zero in each new room there's always an initial challenge of building up your forces to fully explore the area. You might find a heavy object but you don't have enough strong Tinykin to carry it, or you want to reach a ledge but you don't have enough ladder Tinykin. It's a simple system but it encourages you to poke around every tiny nook and cranny that you can to strengthen your exploration possibilities. Each room is essentially a sandbox, and you're given the freedom to explore it in your own way. Because of this, Tinykin makes just wandering around a really fun experience. There's always a main quest to tackle in each room that will ultimately reward you with another piece for your transportation device, but there are also side quests to tackle, or bugs to chat with. Oftentimes just exploring and opening up new paths is incredibly satisfying—you might climb all the way up a bookshelf and then unlock a rope that allows you to come back up whenever you want. These tiny progression elements quickly add up and make it feel like you're always discovering something new. Milo also has the ability to glide (as long as he has a bubble around his head) so there's also a satisfying degree of freedom in how you move through the environment. When you have a lot of Tinykin at hand to assist you, it's wonderfully rewarding to just wander and enjoy the environment around you. Much like Super Mario games, it's fun to just move and exist in this world. A big part of that charm also comes from the familiar yet foreign scenery. Like the Pikmin games, it's a lot of fun to see everyday objects from a different, tiny perspective. This isn't just some mountain to climb, it's a stack of books and VHS tapes. Piles of kitchen sponges become fields for growing grain. The bugs throwing a pool party are doing so in a bathtub. Little touches like these add so much personality and joy to Tinykin. The game also uses a cute and striking art style of 2D characters in a 3D environment. It's a cool look and has the added benefit of making characters stand out, so even at a distance you know there's a bug over there that you want to go talk to. The soundtrack is similarly playful and energetic. The music is bubbly and adventurous, well-suited to an exploration game like this. Tinykin isn't a terribly long game, but it's not too tiny either. A good seven or eight hours should see you through the whole adventure, though that can vary a bit depending on how much time you put into side quests and general exploration. There are also achievements as well as collectibles that get put into a museum for you to peruse, plus the option to upgrade your bubble ability for more comfortable exploration. If anything the game is too short though, and I would've loved to have an even bigger house to explore. Tinykin is a playful and joyous exploration adventure, one that allows you to take your time and see everything that the game has to offer in your own way and at your own pace. Without any combat or really any serious failstate (falling from a great height or drowning in water just reloads you right back to where you were), this is a relaxed game that still engages you and encourages you with more to see around every corner. Tinykin may also be particularly suited to the Switch as this is the kind of game you'll love to pick up and play in quick, little bites. Rating: 9 out of 10 Bugs Review copy provided by publisher Tinykin is available now on the Switch eShop for $24.99. A demo is also available.
  10. You might assume a comedy game set in the afterlife would be some kind of morbid, black comedy, but RESTLESS SOUL has enough puns and wordplay to make a dad blush. Developed by one-man studio Fuz Games and published by Graffiti Games, this ghostly game has you running (or floating) all across the afterlife in the hopes of finding a way to return to the living world. Although the gameplay is somewhat minimal, the charm of its simple graphics and joke-a-minute writing makes RESTLESS SOUL a spirited adventure. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this game is packed with jokes—just about every bit of dialogue has some kind of pun, wordplay, or gag involved, including plenty of 4th wall breaking jokes that poke fun at video games or the game's art style. There aren't enough rimshots in the world to accompany every punchline you encounter in this game. It's goofy, it's charming, and it makes every interaction with an NPC a delight. Maybe not every joke lands—does any comedy have a 100% hit rate?—but if you enjoy a good pun you'll be grinning while playing RESTLESS SOUL. And interwoven with the humor are occasional bits of an adventure story as you collect the keys necessary to open the path back to the living world. It's a perfectly fine narrative with a heartwarming conclusion, but the humor is the real star of the show. The gameplay is a pretty interesting mishmash of ideas. The flow of the game follows a steady formula: you enter a new town, chat with the locals to enjoy some jokes, then enter a tower where you'll fight off enemies, solve puzzles, and take down a boss. The combat is like a bullet-hell shooter (though not nearly as intense as other bullet-hell games), with the added challenge of being at a three-quarters perspective with 2D characters. All you can do is shoot, move, or dodge with a short-range dash, so there's not a lot to learn here. Most combat encounters are pretty easy as well, though if you need some help you can enable God Mode to adjust the difficulty. On rare occasions the game switches things up, like throwing you into a first-person perspective for a shooting gallery challenge. Ultimately though the combat stays pretty simple, and it would've been nice to see some more complex ideas thrown into the mix to spice things up and to make combat more than a minor speed bump over the course of your adventure. As it is, the combat is pretty insubstantial. RESTLESS SOUL also features a number of minigames, which do help shake up the gameplay formula every so often. The minigames and puzzles are never terribly difficult either, especially if you've ever played an adventure game like Zelda, but it's good to have a little bit of variety, even if it's not going to really test your skills much. There are also a few side quests throughout the game—nothing that will strain your exploration skills, but they offer valuable rewards that increase your combat power, so they're worth pursuing. It's also good to just have another reason to explore this uniquely monochromatic environment and see everything the game has to offer. The simplicity of the graphics is really what makes it so eye-catching (and you'd better believe there are a few jokes that play into the visual design). It's basic but also charming, and even with such a limited style there's a decent amount of variety to the environments, enough to make the trip from one town to the next believable. The soundtrack is in the same boat: simple, but pleasant. This also isn't a very long game by any means. Rushing through the game (and depriving yourself of all of the funny dialogue) would only take a few hours, and even completing all side quests and in-game achievements is only going to last you maybe six hours or so. To be fair though, it's a good length to ensure that the humor doesn't grow too stale, and without more complex gameplay mechanics there's not much else that could have drawn out the game's length anyway. RESTLESS SOUL is a charming little game that shows that maybe death is a laughing matter after all. It's a goofy adventure that doesn't take itself too seriously and instead packs in as much humor as it possibly can, with relatively basic but enjoyable gameplay elements in between. The jokes work though, so it's not a bad formula, and its short length makes it a breezy, amusing adventure worth the time. Rating: 7 out of 10 Souls Review copy provided by publisher RESTLESS SOUL is available now on the Switch eShop for $14.99.
  11. Relaxed or cozy adventure games are practically a genre unto themselves now, and that includes Time on Frog Island. With no dialogue or text and an island littered with things to discover, this game prompts players to explore at their own pace and piece together puzzles that often require running around and trading items with the island's amphibian inhabitants. The aimless structure of the game leaves something to be desired, though. You play as a sailor whose little boat is shipwrecked on an island populated by anthropomorphic frogs. The boat is in dire need of repair, but by helping the frog inhabitants you might be able to piece together all of the parts you need to set sail once again. Many of the frogs have their own little stories that you can get involved in, and your backstory is also gradually revealed through still images every time you sleep. Time on Frog Island is charming but the lack of dialogue might ultimately hurt the experience. Without any kind of narrative grounding that dialogue might provide, the simple requests of the frogs feel too basic, and the sailor's backstory, while emotional, lacks impact. Time on Frog Island is more or less a puzzle adventure game with an emphasis on chains of trade requests that might be a side quest in other games. For example, you need rope from the fisherman, but he requests a feather in return. The island's chieftain has the feather but wants something else in return, and to get to him in the first place you'll need to get past the guard and complete his request. So on and so forth, until you gather every item you need and can leave the island. These trade puzzles aren't bad but they can get a little tedious at times, for a few reasons. Initially the island seems confusing, especially since there's no map and no way of keeping track of where frogs are or what they requested from you. Thankfully the island is fairly small, though it is still annoying having to just remember where you might need to take objects. You can only carry one item at a time, so either you need to remember where to find it once you do need it or you'll have to try to keep a stash somewhere for easy access, which is pretty messy. You also don't move terribly quickly, so even when you do know where you need to grab something it might take a bit of time to just do it. Time on Frog Island is obviously meant to be a slow paced, meditative game, but the wandering, slow nature of the gameplay and the inconvenience of no map or quest tracking system can make the experience a bit boring. It might be for the best then that the game is so short, because this gameplay formula wouldn't sustain a longer experience. Assuming you spend a bit of time wandering and slowly figuring out what to do, you'll probably spend around three hours on Frog Island. If you know exactly what to do you could likely finish the game in under an hour. On the bright side there are a lot of little optional things to interact with and accomplish, including achievements, but again the lack of direction can make figuring out what to do tedious and unrewarding. They feel like tasks for the sake of tasks, not challenges for your puzzle-solving or adventuring skills. And on a separate note, the game's controls have a finicky problem where you have to be standing in just the right spot to talk to NPCs or hand them items. It's a small annoyance but it happens quite a lot. The game's presentation isn't all that thrilling either. That's not to say it's bad, but it probably isn't going to "wow" anyone, with its fairly basic trees, shrubs, and rocky terrain that could easily come from any number of games. Even the sailor, the player character, doesn't have a lot of personality in his design. The one bright spot here is the frog design since they each have unique little features—it would've been nice to see the rest of the island get that kind of attention to detail, though. The soundtrack is also pretty understated and atmospheric. Not a bad approach for the game's relaxed vibes, but it also comes off as forgettable. Time on Frog Island is a cute little game that just doesn't have the energy to keep its brief runtime engaging. Despite being the focus of the game, exploration isn't all that rewarding and uncovering secrets isn't quite worth the effort. You have to be sure you're in the mood for a meandering, low energy game if you're going to set sail for Frog Island. Rating: 6 out of 10 Frogs
  12. Site: https://www.fallguys.com/en-US Price: FREE (In-App Purchases) Multiplayer: Cross-platform (Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, PC) Fall Guys is coming to Switch on June 21st and will be going FREE to PLAY! I've never played Fall Guys, but it looked like a lot of dumb fun. Since it's going F2P, I'll check it out when it hits Switch. I've always wondered why it wasn't F2P to start with...? If you pre-register (It's FREE) you will unlock rewards if any of the goals are met... *See link in Tweet*
  13. Endling: Extinction is Forever takes players on an emotional adventure through the eyes of a mother fox, the last of her kind. In an environment actively being destroyed by humanity's actions, just surviving is a struggle. Endling presents a topical message, but doesn't quite translate it into an engaging gameplay experience. As the game begins you play as a mother fox fleeing a forest fire, then settle down somewhere safe to birth your cubs. Now you'll need to take care of them by exploring alongside them to gather food and teach them survival skills. Early on, one of your cubs is captured by a fur trader, and you'll gradually explore the area in search of the missing kit. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you think a game with the subtitle "Extinction is Forever" will have a happy ending, well, I don't know what to tell you. The major themes of the story are pretty clear from the first minute—Endling is not at all going for subtly—and the game seems to struggle to say much else beyond highlighting the importance of environmentalism, but this mother fox's journey is still pretty emotional, and seeing the environment slowly destroyed by pollution and human actions makes for a sobering experience. Endling's visual and aural design does a lot to elevate the emotional messaging as well. The fox and her cubs are just adorable so it's easy to feel for them, and the strong color palettes of the background scenery do a great job of highlighting the destruction of the scenery. It's a color-forward art style and it works perfectly for the story here as natural colors are paved over by bleak, lifeless tones. The music also does a fine job of heightening the emotional moments. The soundtrack is atmospheric and melancholy, as you'd expect in a story about the struggle for survival. The gameplay, however, leaves a lot to be desired. It is ostensibly a survival game: as the mother fox, your cubs' survival depends upon your ability to find food and occasionally fend off or avoid threats. Endling could have been an extremely tense balancing act of exploration and foraging, but there are two main problems here. For one, the game is extremely linear, so early on you don't have much space to explore and you have to wait for storyline checkpoints to pop up before you can branch out. For two, feeding the cubs is actually extremely easy, and there aren't a lot of twists or turns to it. Feeding the cubs a small animal you've killed or some berries makes sense (turns out foxes eat berries! Who knew), but you can also sometimes scavenge in trash bags. I thought there might be some kind of repercussion for this, like the cubs getting sick, but nope. All you have to do is make a loop or two around the linear paths of the map to pick up some food and that's basically it, night after night. Finding your missing cub boils down to following scent trails every so often, which the game will prompt you quite clearly to do, so all you have to do is survive until the story allows you to progress. It's extremely repetitive and doesn't give the player many opportunities to branch out or experiment. It is possible to teach the cubs new skills, like digging in the dirt to find grubs, but again with food pretty easy to come by, there's not much incentive to bother with finding opportunities to teach skills. The only real challenge is that sometimes you'll run into humans or predators, but the best strategy is to just outright avoid them as much as possible. All you can do when you do encounter them is either run away or sneak past them, which isn't exactly spicing up the repetitive gameplay. It might be for the best that Endling is so short, because there isn't enough gameplay to justify a longer game. You can wrap things up in just four hours or so, even faster if you know to rush through some of the boring foraging moments, and there's basically no incentive to replay the game since there's no variety in the gameplay. Endling also isn't quite optimized for the Switch. There are some pretty significant load times which, annoyingly, pop up quite often, and you may run into the occasional glitch which will require you to reload the game. Thankfully the game auto-saves for each night you spend in-game, but you still have to sit through those load times again. Endling: Extinction is Forever is an admirable game with an important message, but as a whole it feels lacking. The pathos of the story's themes is undeniable, but the actual narrative of the fox and her cubs isn't all that interesting, and the gameplay is slow, repetitive, and bland. The environmental message will definitely resonate with anyone who plays Endling; it's just a shame that the rest of the game's design isn't as engaging. Rating: 6 out of 10 Foxes
  14. One part remake and one part sequel, Pocky & Rocky Remastered is a return/revival of the SNES original, retaining a lot of the old school gameplay while polishing up the visuals with some fresh sprite artwork. Bridging the old and the new leaves something to be desired though, especially for anyone not already a fan of the franchise. You play as Pocky, a shrine maiden who is just minding her own business when her pal Rocky, a tanuki, rushes in to tell her that monsters are attacking. You might assume that what follows is a straightforward quest for Pocky and Rocky to beat up some monsters and restore the peace, but Reshrined's story is oddly complicated with some jumps to wildly different scenarios. There are most likely references to the original games that I simply missed, but taken on its own I was a little confused by the plot here. The weirdest part is that there are some long, overly written cutscenes too, which again you'd not expect in an old-fashioned game and somehow still leave the narrative feeling under-explained. Reshrined is more or less a top-down shooter. It's not on rails and you can aim in eight directions, but the general idea is the same: you're running through levels blasting away at tons of enemies, ultimately taking on a big boss at the end of the stage. The basics do feel rather old-fashioned, i.e. the eight directions of aiming instead of a fluid twin-stick experience, and you can only shoot in the direction you're facing which often means you have to walk toward what you're shooting at. Without the nostalgia for the old-school experience it comes off as rather stiff and dated, especially when you frustratingly run into tougher enemies that move around a lot or just take a lot of hits. You've only got a couple of extra lives and new players will likely die a lot as you get acclimated to each level. Still, the old-school experience is the whole point here, plus the game is actually extremely forgiving when you game over. You'll restart at whatever checkpoint within the level that you've hit so you don't have to replay the entire stage, and you get endless continues. Sometimes it felt like all I was doing was clawing my way to the next checkpoint, but progress is progress and I did learn more about the mechanics with each new attempt. The key gameplay mechanic in Reshrined is the way power-ups work. You've got red, blue, and green orbs that improve your attack power in different ways. Picking up multiple orbs further increases your firepower, but only if it's the same color orb, i.e. you pick up two red orbs for a red level 2 attack, or you pick up a red and a green to ultimately just have a green level 1 attack. Sometimes it feels like a hassle trying to avoid the wrong color orb, but the neat thing is that since each type of attack has unique properties you'll want to strategize your approach around them. Is a homing attack useful on this stage, or do you want raw power? It does add a tiny bit of replay value at least. And replay value is sorely needed, since Reshrined is only about two or three hours long (even when you die/retry a lot). Aside from the standard normal and hard difficulties there are some baffling unlockables available. For one thing, you have to unlock easy mode by collecting a lot of coins in the game. I truly do not understand why easy mode is locked until you've either finished the game already or have driven yourself crazy by replaying the first few levels over and over, but the other odd choice is locking co-op behind Free Play mode. Again, you'll need to finish the game once to unlock Free Play, which just lets you replay the whole game with a friend and allows you to pick a character to play as. You don't even pick a specific level, you have to play the whole thing from the beginning with no way to make a hard save. To be fair, using a different character is a neat challenge, since each one has slightly different attack styles, but as a bonus mode Free Play is laughably lacking. The game's presentation also skirts the line between old and new, to much better results than the gameplay. You can definitely see the influence of the SNES original, but the redone sprite work is excellent and adds a lot of stylish flourishes that make for a best of both worlds situation. The soundtrack is pretty sharp as well, with fun, catchy tunes even if you don't have any nostalgia for the original game. Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is a fun window to the past. The old-school difficulty is a little tiresome by modern standards, but thankfully the infinite continues prevents the game from ever getting overwhelmingly tedious. What is odd though is the lack of bonus features and the baffling unlockables which are downright backwards. Ultimately it feels like Pocky & Rocky Reshrined is meant to give old fans a healthy dose of nostalgia, not to win over new players. Rating: 7 out of 10 Tanukis
  15. ....Is Byleth the bad guy in this one?!? I thought it was the other way around with this new guy was the bad guy but this is interesting way make a new character for Three Houses and make the Byleth who is a mercenary so this turn of events is possible. Also like the house new names or nickname or whatever for each leader of the house. Everything seems to have change for the setting of Fodlan, this is kinda cool.
  16. Site: https://tetris99.nintendo.com/ Price: Free for Nintendo Switch Online Members (Exclusive) The free to download online software, Tetris® 99, is available as a special offer for Nintendo Switch Online members. In large-scale, 99-player battles, it'll take speed, skill, and strategy to knock out the competition and become the last player standing. You can target opponents by sending them Garbage Blocks, but be careful…your rivals can target you back! Defeat opponents to acquire KO badges that may give you the advantage on future attacks. Survive the onslaught and look forward to upcoming online events! (FREE with NSO membership) (Big Block DLC* : Block DLC 1 - $9.99) (Big Block DLC* : Block DLC 1 - $9.99) *Big Block DLC "Season Pass" ($9.99) includes 2 modes, with more to be announced at a later date. NEW Modes Now Available!: UPCOMING EVENTS: 🏆 4th Maximus Cup - 6/21 to 6/23 (Win Gold My Nintendo points!)... PAST EVENTS: ---------------------------------------------------------------- Did anyone download this yet? I played a few rounds and the highest I placed so far was 20th and most KOs I had in one match was 5. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this with being able to have multiple people attack you at once and being able to switch who you're attacking on-the-fly. So far this game seems very bare-bones right now. No tutorial/how to play, only one mode. can't play with friends, no offline practice, no unlockables, etc. It seems like Nintendo just ripped a smaller online mode out of a larger Tetris game and gave it to NSO members for free. However, there is an EXP meter witch will increase your level as you play, but IDK if your lvl even matters. Can others even see your level? I noticed it says Ver. 1.0.0 on the main menu, so it seems like Nintendo plans to regularly update this. I'd really like to see some of the things mentioned above add to the game, because I'm really digging battle royale Tetris...As crazy of a concept as that is.
  17. Monster Hunter Rise was another outstanding entry for the series, continuing the quality of life improvements introduced in World and adding fun new ways to move and fight. It was missing one thing though: the ultimate challenge of g-rank hunts. The recent DLC, Sunbreak, remedies that issue while introducing new monsters, silkbind skills, and types of hunts. Now dubbed master rank, these hunts feature old and new monsters with faster attacks and tougher situations for a true test of your hunting skills. This is exactly the kind of intense action that the Monster Hunter series is known for, and longtime fans will love every minute of it. After solving the crisis in Kamura, your hunter encounters a new problem: a monster not native to the area has appeared. You learn it's from the neighboring kingdom of Elgado, so you set off to help them cull the monster population and get to the bottom of why these beasts have grown more aggressive. Storytelling is never a main selling point in a Monster Hunter game, but Sunbreak does a great job of introducing new NPCs with personality and charm. There are several new cutscenes that make the NPCs feel more directly involved in your adventure, and their dialogue skirts the line between cute and corny, as always. Most importantly though, Sunbreak introduces two new types of hunts, Follower Quests and Support Surveys. These hunts are only for solo players but they let you team up with NPCs in a sort of pseudo-multiplayer experience. This is the kind of addition to the game that I didn't even know I wanted, but loved playing through. Each NPC can equip a few different weapons, so you can sort of build out a team to hunt with, and they do provide actual help during the hunt by fighting, healing you, and sometimes even riding monsters to attack your main target. At the same time though they don't make hunts trivial; the difficulty is still there, and you're still doing the majority of the work, but having NPC buddies along for the ride is an excellent way of making the story and setting feel more involved in the actual gameplay. And yes, hunts are definitely more difficult in Sunbreak compared to the base game, though the challenge rarely feels unfair. In master rank, monsters move and attack so quickly that you have to learn a new flow of battle, which is always an exciting prospect for hunters. At the same time the gameplay still feels overall easier than past Monster Hunter games, so newer players shouldn't feel too intimidated by the increased difficulty of master rank. There'll be some painful learning moments, but every hunter has been there at one point or another. The monsters themselves are a little bit of a mixed bag. The main three additions, The Three Lords, are excellent, both from a design and combat perspective. They have all of the style and intense challenge that defines Monster Hunter. The other new additions though are a little less exciting, with monsters returning from past games or new elemental variants of monsters from Rise. In the end, having any new monsters to hunt is a fun addition, but it feels like Sunbreak could have gone a little further with more new monsters. The DLC also introduces a handy new feature that allows you to swap between two sets of silkbind skills, the movement and combat techniques introduced in Rise. The value of this new feature entirely depends on how you play the game. More variety is good, but some players likely have a set of skills that they already prefer and won't feel much pull to swap around with different sets. More frustratingly, Sunbreak doesn't give you the most interesting new silkbind skills until you've progressed through quite a bit of master rank. Getting the new skills earlier would've helped highlight the value of swapping between two silkbind sets. With two new locations to explore, over a dozen new monsters, and a whole variety of new equipment to forge, Sunbreak adds a substantial amount of content to Rise. There are also planned updates through this year and next to continue to add new monsters and locations, so it's safe to say you get plenty for your money with this DLC. All of this doesn't even factor in the allure of multiplayer hunts or grinding for specific materials. At this rate it looks like Sunbreak can easily last you as long as the base game, and most likely more than that. It also looks and sounds just as good as Rise. The new monsters (and more importantly, the new weapons and armor forged from their materials) look fantastic, the frame rate runs smoothly, and the soundtrack has some excellent tunes for death-defying and thrilling hunts. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak delivers more of the fantastic gameplay established in the base game with more challenging hunts, stylish new monsters, and new features that range from helpful additions to fun new ways to play solo. Hunters will love having even more content to sink their teeth into, and even more challenging hunts to hone their skills and perfect their play styles. Rating: 9 out of 10 Hunts
  18. It's a little hard to believe that it's been four years since this DLC was announced and three years since Cuphead came to the Switch at all, but players finally have a chance to dig into The Delicious Last Course. Was it worth the wait? If you're a Cuphead fan, absolutely: more bosses, more weapons, a new character and tons of opportunities to swear at the TV (in a good way). The Delicious Last Course adds a new island to Cuphead's campaign, which means a slew of new bosses to tussle with (there are no new run 'n' gun levels). Ms. Chalice, the ghostly ally from the main game, tells Cuphead and Mugman that she's discovered a way to regain a corporeal body, but she'll need their help to collect all of the necessary ingredients to make it permanent. Like the main game, this isn't a story-heavy DLC add-on, but it's still absolutely packed with personality and charm. The few cutscenes we do get are delightful and the boss designs and animation once again imbue so much life and energy into these extremely challenging fights. The boss fights themselves are just as inventive and engaging as the main game—perhaps even moreso, because it really feels like these battles are made for experienced players to fully test their skills (or maybe I'm just rusty after not having played Cuphead for a while). Once again the developers have done an amazing job of walking a fine line between challenging and frustrating. There are definitely going to be moments where you let out a curse or two, but the difficulty always feels engaging and encouraging. The new bosses are so wacky that even when you die to each new form it's just fun to see what kind of challenges the game throws at you. Aside from just having new bosses to fight, the main addition in The Delicious Last Course is Ms. Chalice herself. By equipping a new charm you're able to play as her, and she comes with a number of special abilities. For one, she has 4 hit points instead of 3, and veterans of Cuphead will know that just one more hit point is often the difference between success and failure. She can also double jump, and her parry is a dash instead of a mid-air attack, so her movement feels a little different. Finally, she also has an invincible roll that she can use by dashing along the ground, which can be a game changer against bosses that require perfectly-timed dodges. All of this adds up to a fun new way to play Cuphead (since you can also use her in the main game). Overall she's probably an easier character to use than the main two characters, but more importantly she has those unique touches that make her gameplay feel engaging and exciting even if you're already a pro at the original Cuphead. This DLC adds a couple of other bells and whistles: there are additional weapons and charms to purchase that introduce new ways to tackle both old and new bosses, and there's a sort of parry-challenge mode that takes you through five new bosses where you can only parry instead of attack. It's a fun challenge in and of itself but it's also a great reminder of how to play for returning players. As mentioned there are no new run 'n' gun levels, which is a shame, and the quantity of new content does feel a little bit light, but the quality of the DLC is undeniable, and the long years it's had in development have clearly resulted in incredibly polished gameplay, visuals, and audio. And oh boy what a visual and aural feast this is. The original Cuphead is just filled with such gorgeous attention to detail and style, and yet the developers seem to have crammed even more flair and personality into these new bosses. The animation is once again stunning and truly worth the price of admission alone. The soundtrack is also just as catchy, jazzy, and all-around delightful. It's definitely worth just listening to the music at some point, when you can focus on it and not the endless barrage of attacks you need to dodge. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is an outstanding continuation of one of the best games released in the last few years. It delivers more of what players loved about the original game while throwing in enough new spices that the gameplay tastes fresh. Anyone that enjoyed Cuphead simply must check out this delicious send-off of Cuphead and Mugman's adventures. Rating: 9 out of 10 Chalices
  19. Sometimes a little change of scenery is all you need to spice up a game. Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag draws obvious inspiration from the Trine games—swap between three characters, each with unique abilities, to fight monsters and traverse platforming puzzles—but the Celtic setting adds a fresh layer of charm to the gameplay. Before the events of the game, Chief Ardan forges an alliance with the creatures of faerie, but the evil Caoránach, Mother of Demons, is determined to disrupt the peace. When she kidnaps Ardan and steals the magical Crown of the Stag, his three children must work together to stop her and rescue their father. That's more or less the extent of the storytelling here: there's occasionally some dialogue thrown into the game, but nothing like deep world-building. Even if it's a light touch though, it's a fun setting and a decent plot, like a summer blockbuster that you watch for the action rather than the writing. You play as Kilcannon, Haggish, and Clakshot, and you're able to swap between them at any time. Each has special abilities: Kilcannon can float in gusts of air, Haggish is strong enough to break walls, and Clakshot's bow can hit distant switches. If you've played Trine it's a lot like that series—to overcome obstacles you'll need to swap between characters, oftentimes using each one in some combination to progress. Although the adventure starts off relatively simple, Clan O'Conall throws some challenging platformer puzzles at you by the end of the game, especially in areas that are more open so you might need to explore a bit to figure out what to do. That said, none of the puzzles are terribly difficult here, especially since everything is color-coded. Even if you don't have to think too hard about the solutions though, the execution is enjoyable thanks to the smooth platformer controls that are simple and satisfying. You'll also need to fight your way to victory, and the combat is a bit less engaging in Clan O'Conall. Each sibling can fight so you can use any of them to dish out damage, but no matter who you're using, fighting is a bit dull. The monsters don't put up much of a fight, and even when they do it's very easy to dodge them, and there are only a couple of twists to the combat (sometimes you'll need Haggish to break through enemy shields, and sometimes you might want to use Clakshot to hit distant foes). Despite the simplicity of the monsters they have a lot of health, so you have to hack away at them over and over to defeat them. This is especially true during boss fights, most of which aren't too difficult, they just take a long time to defeat. Fighting feels like busy work—it's not actually challenging you and it's just something you need to get through to progress. Clan O'Conall is also a pretty short game—just four or five hours will see you through the whole adventure. The only replay incentive is in collecting every fairy in each level and defeating every enemy. Sometimes it does take a little extra exploration to get everything but it's not too hard, and since doing these tasks earns you points for leveling up your characters you'll want to be sure to do them anyway for the added health, strength, and new abilities. One thing that Clan O'Conall did not carry over from Trine is multiplayer—this is a strictly single-player game. The art style skirts a line between clean, cartoonish designs and artwork inspired by manuscript illustration and ancient Celtic designs. The effect is striking: environments are gorgeous and lush while character designs are fun and a little goofy. Ultimately it's a stylish blend of inspiration, even if sometimes the frame rate seems a little choppy and doesn't quite do the scenery justice. The music, also with a heavy Celtic-inspiration, is fun and lively though oddly there are a lot of levels where the soundtrack is just barebones or minimal. It's weird since the music is clearly well done, but it's not always given its due. Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag is a fun little side-scrolling platformer that takes some smart inspiration from the Trine games and some beautiful inspiration from Celtic lore and art. Although the gameplay likely won't blow away veteran platformers with any unique challenges, it's still a satisfying selection of puzzle-platformer ideas and decent yet repetitive combat. It's also a quite brief adventure, but it's an entertaining one while it lasts. Rating: 7 out of 10 Crowns
  20. Developer Omega Force is on a roll with their mash-up Musou games, from 2014's Hyrule Warriors to their latest title, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Just like 2020's Age of Calamity, Three Hopes takes more detailed inspiration from a specific Fire Emblem game—in this case, Three Houses—for an action-packed experience tailor made for fans of the original game. And like Age of Calamity, it's delightful just how well it works combining Three Houses' unique aspects, including branching storylines and a wide character selection, with the relentless combat of a Musou title. Three Hopes is essentially an alternate universe version of Three Houses: all the major players are back, plus a few new ones, but the war of Fódlan plays out a little differently. You play as Shez, a customizable mercenary who runs afoul of Byleth and Jeralt's Mercenaries. With the help of the mysterious Arval you vow revenge, but your journey takes you to Garreg Mach where you can join one of the three houses to follow either Edelgard's, Claude's, or Dimitri's storyline. Fans of Three Houses will love seeing all the characters again—the best part of both of these games' writing is simply the dialogue where you get to hang out with these characters and see all of their quirky interactions. Shez is also fully voiced so there's more engagement between him or her and the rest of the cast which is a lot more satisfying than another silent protagonist. As for the overarching plot, it's interesting to see a bit more of Fódlan and some of the side character nobles, and there are plenty of ups and downs during the war to keep the conflict active and engaging, but the real draw of the story is in the characters, and in that regard Three Hopes does a fantastic job of respecting the original characters and reinterpreting them in fun ways. Three Hopes also does an excellent job of bridging the gameplay of Musou and Fire Emblem. You're still fighting your way through thousands of soldiers as a one-man (or two-man, with local co-op) wrecking crew, and all the basics of chaining together light and heavy attacks, conquering strongholds, and taking over the map is the same here. Musou games have found a formula that works and really has not deviated much across dozens of games. But all of the little Fire Emblem influences add nice touches to the action and contribute strategy elements to the non-stop combat. For example, even though it wasn't in Three Houses, the weapon triangle is back, and using a sword-wielding character to take down axe-fighters gives you a huge advantage that is hard to ignore, especially early on in the game (there's also a second weapon triangle for magic, bows, and gauntlets so they don't miss out on the fun). Since characters can only use weapons based on their classes you do need to think ahead and keep a balanced army to deal with any threats. Three Hopes also features the class skills and combat arts of Three Houses which provide huge benefits and allow you to customize your characters a bit. Your combat arts are limited by your weapon's durability, so there's a little Fire Emblem influence there as well (though thankfully durability is restored between battles and you don't need to constantly purchase new weapons). Combat arts aren't just flashy, they're vitally useful for wearing down enemies when you're at a weapon triangle disadvantage, and can help you deal with groups of enemies. The weapon triangles and combat arts flow so naturally into the core Musou gameplay that you'll forget that they're Fire Emblem features. The game's progression is also just plain cool: in each chapter you're progressing across the map of Fódlan, and in order to make it to the next major battle you'll need to work your way through various skirmishes. You can choose to fast track your way to the next story mission, but in doing so you might miss out on collecting valuable resources. It's a nice way of making the smaller side chapters feel important, even though they're usually quite easy to play through. On the other hand, there are some ways in which Three Hopes feels like it combines the worst time-wasting aspects of Musou and Three Houses. If you're not the type who enjoys meticulously checking over each character's equipment, skills, and dialogue, then the times where you're at your base camp (much like in Three Houses) might feel a little interminable at times. There are a lot of little details to check on, and especially early in the game it'll feel like you're spending way more time in camp than on the battlefield (and again, that's a complaint that can easily be leveled at Three Houses as well). As time consuming as these moments can be though, Three Hopes might be a little more streamlined than other Musou games—it definitely feels like there are less fiddly weapon mechanics to waste time on than in, say, Age of Calamity—and of course you can always speed your way through these moments and take to the battlefield with a slight disadvantage. It's not like the game won't eat up all of your time anyway. Playing through just one route (and engaging with a decent amount of the between-battle camp features and optional paralogue missions) will probably last you thirty or forty hours. Add the two other routes and all of the little ways you can customize your army and this is a game that can basically consume your life. There's also a new game+ feature to carry over some progress to make subsequent playthroughs faster, but either way you can spend a lot of time here. More importantly, all of that time spent here is pretty enjoyable. Quibbling about the time-consuming side features aside, the core gameplay loop of fighting through hordes of enemies, maneuvering your characters around the battlefield, and swapping to each one as needed is just a blast. It's flashy and action-packed and a little mindless, but it's always fun. On the presentation side of things, Three Hopes looks gorgeous and again does a great job of drawing from the source game. On the battlefield you'll get a good number of enemies crowding around you and elite units are easily identifiable, and as for the playable characters it's fun to see alternate costumes for all your favorite fighters. The environment design isn't going to blow you away, but since that's never been the point of a Musou game it's not a big deal. The soundtrack is solid but is easily overshadowed by the voice work with all of its returning actors once again adding a lot of charm and personality to these characters and all their weird little interactions in the midst of a war. Fire Emblem: Three Hopes is another excellent Musou crossover. The core action-packed gameplay is the same as it ever is, but all of the little Fire Emblem touches add fun new details to how you play and how you build your army. Most importantly though, it's a ton of fun to interact with this cast of characters again, and with three unique routes to play you can spend a lot of time hanging out with your favorites and building up their abilities in various ways. If you're already a fan of Musou and Three Houses this is a no brainer, and if this is your first time with the Musou franchise you'll be starting out with one of its best. Rating: 9 out of 10 Hopes
  21. Update: Lawsuit officially filed. https://ninfora.com/forums/index.php?/topic/3325-switch-joy-con-drift-class-action-lawsuit... If you don't know about this whole deal with the Switch Joy-Con drift, watch the video in the spoiler bellow first. Luckily I haven't experienced this, yet. Though, I know there are a lot that have. I really hope this goes somewhere, because this is a major design flaw and Nintendo hasn't said a world. Joy-Con aren't cheap, ya' know ...Even for a single one. If you haven't experienced this yet, you will eventually. This really makes me wonder about the Switch Lite. Hopefully they didn't use the same control sicks as in the Joy-Con, because you'd be screwed if you start getting drift. You can't just buy new Joy-Con. I know you can just replace the sticks on the Joy-Con yourself, but most people are comfortable doing that and on the Lite, It would probably be more of a pain. In an all perfect world, Nintendo would fix this flaw and replace everyone's Joy-Con sticks for FREE.
  22. Eastward has all the signs of a passion project: a small development team drawing some clear influences from classic 2D games with a ton of attention poured into the little details of the adventure. When you're so focused on a project though, you might end up losing sight of larger issues and forget to edit your work into the most polished version it can be. Eastward has some charming, unique ideas, but pacing issues and uninspired gameplay mechanics drag down the experience. You play as silent protagonist John, a stoic miner in an underground town who has adopted a mysterious little girl named Sam. Soon enough Sam begins to exhibit strange powers and the pair are banished from town to the surface world, a post-apocalyptic setting under the constant threat of deadly miasma. From here the duo travel from town to town and gradually learn more about who Sam really is. Emphasis on gradual, because Eastward has an extremely slow, meandering storyline that instead places emphasis on more picaresque interactions in each town. There is a huge cast of side characters and John and Sam are constantly getting involved in their lives. It's an odd structure that puts too much emphasis on side stories at the expense of the main narrative. It's like a TV show with a few too many filler episodes, despite the fact that the central mystery is under-explored. The quirky characters are definitely charming, but Eastward is in desperate need of some editing to tighten the story and mystery into something more cohesive rather than constantly throwing away its own momentum with little tasks like cooking the best possible meal or starring in an action movie. The gameplay is more or less top-down action-adventure, albeit with a very linear structure. John starts off equipped with a frying pan to bash enemies and gradually gathers a few more weapons to attack or solve puzzles, while Sam's powers can also be used for puzzles or for defensive purposes. You can swap between the two and separate them, which is sometimes necessary for puzzles. The combat in Eastward, though, is extremely underwhelming. Even when you've got a couple of weapons/tools at your disposal it never really evolves from "just whack enemies until they're dead." Early on, you can easily stunlock enemies by hitting them, so combat feels completely mindless, then when you start fighting stronger enemies that don't flinch from your attacks you're left with the basic loop of hit, walk away to avoid attacks, hit again. There's no dodge action or blocking mechanic so you're literally just moving away a bit, outside of an enemy's range. Fighting monsters never feels rewarding or exciting, and most of the time just walking around them makes a lot more sense than swinging away with a frying pan. You'll also do a lot of exploring in dungeon-like environments filled with simple switch puzzles or sometimes blockades that require a new weapon to get by. These puzzles are pretty simple as well, with solutions that should feel obvious to anyone that's ever played an adventure game like this, but I can't criticize the game too much for relying on tried and true adventure-puzzle mechanics. And when you need to use John and Sam separately, there are some satisfying challenges to overcome, they're just few and far between. There's also some light exploring you can do in the overworld, though be warned: the game's progression is highly linear and you can't return to previous areas. Try to explore as much as you can early on lest you hit a cutscene that pushes the story forward and you miss out on health upgrades or money. One thing that I do have to point out though: this game loves sending the player on back-and-forth fetch quests, i.e. go from point A to point B and back to point A with the only gameplay interaction being talking to NPCs. This comes back to the game's editing and pacing problems: sure the quirky NPCs are fun, but there are too many long stretches where you're either clicking through cutscenes or are simply walking to the quest marker indicated on your map. Obviously a game doesn't need to be 100% action all of the time, but too often the main path of Eastward just meanders and squanders any sense of urgency or momentum that the core mystery offers. I'll also mention that the game crashed on me fairly consistently every few hours. Turning the game off completely instead of putting the system to sleep seemed to help alleviate the issue at least. Thankfully the game does auto-save pretty frequently, so I rarely lost more than a minute or two of progress, but it was still a constant annoyance while playing. Eastward also features an entire mini-RPG within it called Earth Born. You can play it at specific televisions found in each city and also collect Pixball items to use within the mini-RPG. It's pretty neat to have an entire miniature adventure within the world of Eastward, and it's easy to kill time within it. If you're mostly sticking to the main story though, Eastward should last around 20 hours, more if you're spending a lot of time talking to NPCs and whatnot. The game's presentation is an obvious highlight. Eastward features some of the most beautifully detailed pixel art I've seen, with lovingly crafted scenery that adds so many fun little details to the world-building as well as tons of creative character sprites. The animation is frankly stunning—very rarely do you see such detailed, fluid animation for pixel art, not to mention so much of it. There aren't just a couple of all-purpose character animations here: there are a surprising amount of animations that are only there to add personality, and all of them are fun to see. The soundtrack is also well done with some clear influence from classic games. The music can be a little inconsistent though, and not in terms of quality but just in terms of sound balancing. Sometimes the background music is so understated that you forget it's there at all. Eastward is a clearly ambitious game that tries to explore a unique, detailed world in its own way. The approach misses the mark a bit though, and the game's good ideas are marred by a poor sense of pacing that could have used a lot more editing to tighten up the whole experience. The gameplay leaves something to be desired as well, with bland combat and decent but not terribly inspired puzzle design. The visual design adds a ton of charm though, and if you're willing to sit through a lot of slow, drawn out scenes—both cutscenes and gameplay—Eastward's unique atmosphere has its appeal. Rating: 6 out of 10 Frying Pans
  23. Time loops and video games go together like peanut butter and chocolate. What better way to frame the inherently repetitive nature of games than with a setting that resets itself? In Treasures of the Aegean, an ancient mystery and fluid parkour-platforming gameplay push you toward exploring more and more with each loop. Despite the natural fit though, this game could have used more polish to ensure each loop stays engaging. You play as Marie Taylor, a treasure hunter exploring the ruins of the ancient Minoan civilization when the island that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption resurfaces. Mixing history, mythology, and time travel, Marie's investigation traps her in a time loop as she tries to figure out what really happened to the Minoans millennia ago (while also grabbing as much treasure as she can). It's a fun premise that is brought down by the bland characters. Every conversation between Marie and her archeologist partner James Andrew is awfully dull, and learning more about Marie's personal backstory also fails to engage. The mystery of the island unfortunately lacks punch as well since you can figure it out long before Marie does, and the numerous typos throughout the game show a real lack of polish. Treasures of the Aegean is a time loop game. Marie has a limited amount of time to explore the island before another volcanic eruption, so your goal is to explore as much as you can in each loop. The island is massive, so trying to see everything in one loop is a tall order—generally you're trying to map out small sections of the island so you know where to go on your next loop. There are treasures everywhere and collecting them adds more time to your next loop as well as your "score," so to speak, at the end of the game. Most treasures are pretty easy to grab so it's not hard to rack up extra time for future loops. More importantly, there are several mysteries on the island that you'll need to solve, each with some manner of puzzle or key. A lot of these add lore to the story but you'll also need to solve the three major puzzles within one loop to unlock the final region of the island and complete the game. Marie is seemingly a parkour master so the platforming is extremely fluid in Treasures of the Aegean: you can run, slide, even climb straight up walls for a short distance. Again the island is huge and the map only fills in once you complete a loop, so you'll need to do a ton of exploring just to keep your bearings. As a bonus wrinkle you start the loop in a different place on the island each time, so early on you'll be dropped into completely foreign parts of the island and will have to explore blindly. The time loop here is inventive but inherently tedious. You're constantly backtracking across areas as you try to figure out what to do with a key you just picked up while the time limit bears down on you. Some of the major puzzles do have shortcuts so you can easily revisit them once you've solved it once, but there's still a lot of repetition here. Thankfully Marie moves fast, and the controls are both fluid and tight, but the platforming isn't quite interesting enough to justify doing it over and over across the same environments. There isn't even much room to learn advanced movement techniques, so you're stuck just going through the same motions every time. The game's length is going to vary a bit depending on how quick you are at exploring the island and uncovering the key puzzles, but you're probably looking at a minimum of five or six hours. Even that feels a little too long for Treasures of the Aegean, though. Running around and grabbing treasure just isn't quite exciting enough to last for several hours. With a striking visual style, the graphics certainly jump out at you at first. The comic book-inspired look and bold, colorful environments make for a good backdrop for this puzzle-platformer adventure, but it's the details that bring down the presentation a notch or two. The character designs are boring and a little amateurish, while the repetitive scenery with only a handful of unique features loses its charm after a couple hours. The soundtrack is minimal and atmospheric, which only makes Marie's exploration feel lonely. Treasures of the Aegean boasts a neat time loop mechanic and smooth parkour-platformer gameplay, but it doesn't quite stick the landing with the most important aspect of the game: repetition. Ensuring each loop is interesting is paramount, but massive environments with a handful of puzzles that are few and far between—and oftentimes require finding scattered keys—just isn't all that engaging. That said, there's not a lot that is necessarily bad about Treasures of the Aegean, but there's also not a lot to hook you in and keep your interest. Rating: 7 out of 10 Treasures
  24. Considering the global popularity of soccer (or football), it's a little surprising that it's taken this long for another Mario Strikers game to come out. But after roughly 17 years, Mario and friends are back in the pitch with Mario Strikers: Battle League, featuring offline and online play as well as a Club system that lets you join up with other players and compete against other clubs online. With relatively few game modes and options though, this game might not be strong enough to take home the cup. There's no story mode or narrative to speak of in Battle League, but there is a cup mode that lets you (and up to four friends on the same console) compete against CPU teams. These cup matches can be a little underwhelming though. Each cup is meant to highlight a different attribute of the character roster (power, speed, passing, etc.) but on Normal mode the CPU isn't all that difficult and you're not really challenged with learning the finer details of the game in order to beat them. Finishing every cup does unlock a harder difficulty mode at least, which is more of a challenge, but not surprisingly the real meat of the game is in the multiplayer modes. Let me backup a bit and touch upon the core soccer gameplay. Like a lot of Mario sports games, Battle League finds a nice balance between replicating the sport, simplifying things enough that novice players can jump right in, and reveling in wacky interactions from special skills or items. Throwing out a giant banana peel to trip up an opponent while they're trying to pass is just good goofy fun, but at the same time if you want to master your timing for effective passing and shooting you can do that too. In true Mario fashion, Battle League is easy to learn but has enough depth that you can really spend time fine-tuning your abilities in some fun ways. The main new feature here is the Hyper Strike. Strike Orbs will randomly appear on the field and if you or one of your teammates grabs it you'll be able to shoot off a Hyper Strike by completing a simple timing-based QTE, similar to powering up a shot in Mario Golf games. A perfectly-timed Hyper Strike is unblockable and even an imperfectly-timed one can get through the goalie sometimes (if you're playing a human opponent they'll get a chance to block by button mashing). They're worth two points so there's a bit of a risk/reward system at play since you need time to charge up the shot. Each character has a unique Hyper Strike animation with a fancy windup and field-shaking effect. Hyper Strikes are fun and flashy but they lose a lot of their value when playing against human opponents that can block or just outright tackle you before you complete the QTE. In a way it's good that they're not so overwhelmingly powerful that they can swing the fate of the match in a single shot, but they're also not quite as satisfying to use as they should be. You're also able to customize each character with gear to change their stats. Every character has strength, speed, shooting, passing, and technique attributes—for example, Peach excels in speed while Bowser is a strength powerhouse—and by buying/equipping gear you can change their stats, such as giving Peach a strength boost. To keep things balanced every piece of gear also decreases some other stat, so you can't just make some kind of unstoppable soccer juggernaut by piling on equipment. It's cool to have a little customization (gear will also change a character's appearance), though it would have been nice to have more varied gear as well as an option to save different gear sets so you can quickly play around with different attributes. Buying gear for every character is also extremely expensive so you'll need to grind the game quite a lot to earn the coins to afford it all. Ultimately though, there's a surprising lack of variety in Battle League. You've got multiplayer matches, cup mode, and online Clubs—that's it. There are a few fields you can choose to play on but they have no effect on the gameplay. The character roster is a little light with only ten characters (though that might be a blessing in disguise if you're trying to buy gear for everyone), so the repetition sets in pretty quickly. The online connection works well and you can jump into a match solo or with a friend, plus you can play 2v2 with three other players online, but otherwise there aren't any gameplay options to speak of, like changing the length of the match or doing a shootout instead of a full match. Presumably we'll see some updates down the line with new character releases and the like, but Battle League definitely feels light right now. Based on other recent Mario sports titles perhaps this bare-boned approach shouldn't be too surprising, but it does seem like a big missed opportunity to not have bonus modes, challenges, or even a more robust single-player campaign. As far as the presentation goes, the visuals are pretty sharp with plenty of colorful flourishes during a match that are stylish and a little chaotic, but in a fun way. Each character also has a couple of victorious or disappointed animations when a goal is scored which add a lot of charm to the game. Peach trying to remain calm while her team is losing doesn't get old. The soundtrack isn't half bad either. It's action-heavy and feels hardcore, but that's what you need when you're tackling Toad and pushing your way toward the opponent's goal. What you see is what you get in Mario Strikers: Battle League. The soccer gameplay is easy enough for new players but has some depth if you put the time into mastering it, and Mario flourishes like items and Hyper Strikes add some wacky effects to the match. The lack of varied content is disappointing, as is the straight-forward and grindy approach to gear customization, but if your goal is to jump into some fun, light-hearted soccer matches with friends either locally or online, Battle League has its charms. Rating: 7 out of 10 Goals
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