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  1. 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:
  2. 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.
  3. For me, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is a momentous release. I played Gen I and II back when I was a kid, but fell off the Poké-train and didn't pick the series up again until Gen V. In 2014 I had the chance to see what I missed in Gen III with the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire remakes, and I've finally caught up on Gen IV as well. Now I've played every mainline Pokémon generation, as well as plenty of spin-offs (I'm a long way off from catching 'em all, though). Was Shining Pearl worth the long wait I took with the franchise? Well, for better or for worse, it's a lot of the same Pokémon experience that trainers have seen for decades now. As is tradition, Shining Pearl opens with customizing your character and picking a starter Pokémon to begin your quest to be the very best, like no one ever was. Your first meeting with the Pokémon professor plays out a little bit differently than usual, but ultimately the formula is pretty well preserved—collect badges, battle a nefarious group (in this case, Team Galactic), challenge the Elite 4 and become a champion. It's not until the later generations that the villainous team or your rival get much more than a basic personality, so don't expect much depth from the writing in Shining Pearl. Still, there's a certain charm to the simplicity of these cookie cutter characters. Catching, training, and battling Pokémon is as engaging as it ever has been in Shining Pearl—there's definitely something addictive about leveling up to the next Pokémon evolution, or claiming another badge on your road to become a champion. And of course all your training and experience can be put toward multiplayer battles if you wish, or you can just trade Pokémon with players all over the world to fill out your Pokédex. The core gameplay is virtually unchanged, and it's still pretty dang fun. These remakes of Diamond and Pearl include some extremely convenient quality of life upgrades, not least of which is changing the HM system. Like the most current Pokémon games, you no longer have to force Hidden Moves upon your Pokémon in order to explore. Once you have the HM (and the appropriate gym badge level) you'll actually summon a random Pokémon to use the ability for you, which is kind of hilarious to picture. Shining Pearl also allows you to access your PC box from anywhere which is super convenient and makes it much easier to have a larger "active" party of Pokémon instead of just sticking to the same six all the time. EXP Share is also on by default in this game which is nice, though somewhat obnoxiously there's no way to turn it off, so you'll likely find yourself completely overleveled for most of the adventure (especially if you're catching/training a lot of pocket monsters). There's also an autosave feature—plus you can save anywhere—so there's a big safety net to ensure you don't lose any progress. Overall these new features significantly help shake off some of the old quirks of the early Pokémon games and align the experience with something a modern player would expect. That said, Shining Pearl does feel a bit old fashioned at times, seemingly because this is a pretty faithful remake. Sometimes the familiar Pokémon formula loses its charm when it's just: visit new town, defeat gym leader, fight Team Galactic a bit, move on, repeat. It doesn't help that there's a pretty weak variety of Pokémon here, meaning you'll see the same ones over and over, both in the wild and in the hands of trainers/gym leaders, so the monotony really gets laid on thick. Something else about the game could've used some fine-tuning to make the experience feel a bit more fresh, aside from the quality of life improvements mentioned above. Of course, if you do get hooked on the Pokémon formula, there's a huge amount of content to enjoy in Shining Pearl. The road to becoming a champion will likely only last 20 hours or so, but as usual there's a ton of post-game content to enjoy as well as all of the multiplayer options. Of note is the Grand Underground system which essentially gives you a massive environment to explore and catch Pokémon—not too dissimilar from the usual gameplay loop, but being able to find themed areas and see Pokémon in the environment instead of running into them in random battles helps spice things up a bit and provides a great opportunity to catch some rare Pokémon. The Underground kind of feels like Pokémon distilled down to its most essential components, which really just shows how fun those components are. Shining Pearl trades the original game's sprite graphics for squat, chibi 3D models that feel appropriate for the Pokémon franchise's cute, friendly style. It doesn't have the same variety of the most recent generation, Sword and Shield, but the chibi artwork tries to find a happy medium between the original's look and modern graphics, and in that sense it does succeed. The soundtrack stands the test of time quite well and has that satisfying sense of adventure mixed with bright, friendly charm that is found in so much of the series. Pokémon Shining Pearl is a solid if rather unambitious remake. It's not here to completely overhaul Gen IV into something modern Gen VIII will recognize, but it still adds some valuable quality of life improvements that help make it more accessible. Despite that, many aspects of Shining Pearl feel stuck in the past, which is fine if you're here to enjoy a trip down memory lane (with some visual upgrades) but some Pokémon trainers might not want to revisit some of the more finicky aspects of the older generations. Still, the franchise has endured as long as it has because catching and training Pokémon seems to always be fun no matter what kind of packaging that experience is placed in, and for many Pokéfans that will be enough to journey through Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl either once again or, like me, for the first time. Rating: 8 out of 10 Gym Badges
  4. 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 Tournament Playlist (Edited Videos) Streams (In original format ~Unlisted) Battles
  5. Take some Zelda gameplay inspiration, sprinkle in some precise combat mechanics, and put a sword in the hands (wings?) of a crow and you've got the formula for Death's Door. But the most important thing to know is how sharply polished this action-adventure game truly is. Though the fundamental building blocks seem familiar, Death's Door is a charming and wonderfully engaging experience from start to finish. You play as a cute little crow who works for the Reaping Commision Headquarters, a bureaucratic afterlife office. Your job is to enter the land of the living through special doors, reap souls, and return to headquarters. As soon as you've harvested your first soul though something goes wrong and you're pulled into a quest to collect three extra-powerful souls to open up the massive Death's Door. The game's writing does a lot with very little. This isn't a story heavy game but every time a piece of dialogue or lore pops up it's clever, interesting, and fleshes out the world in a fun way without providing exhaustive lines of text. And the further you get through the game the more that the quirky, funny writing shines. Death's Door is an isometric action-adventure. Armed with a sword (or other melee weapon, including an umbrella) you'll cut your way through enemies and explore a mostly linear but densely interwoven world. You don't have the freedom to go anywhere, but within each region you'll often be unlocking shortcuts that allow you to travel from checkpoints more quickly. That's especially helpful in Death's Door since you'll probably be dying a lot. This isn't an overwhelmingly difficult game but it can be challenging, and the limited healing options mean that every time you get hit it's a problem. The good news though is that if you do die you won't lose progress, you're just sent back to the last checkpoint with any items, unlocked shortcuts, and experience points (i.e. souls) retained. So sometimes exploration feels like a slow, twisty process, but it's also pretty satisfying when you've mentally mapped out the whole region and unlocked everything possible. It helps that there's a charming simplicity to Death's Door's exploration system. In each region of the game you gain a new ability that lets you explore and uncover secrets, but since there are only three abilities there's nothing super fancy going on here. Fundamentally Death's Door feels like a lot of other action-adventure games, but it does the formula so well that it's hard to complain about it. Lighting torches to unlock secrets, blasting weakened walls with bombs—it's all stuff that's been seen before, but this game knows how to do them well and keep the player engaged with plenty of little secrets to uncover. Most importantly, the souls that you collect act as experience points to level up your abilities, so you're always making some degree of progress even when you're wandering. The combat system might be where Death's Door shines the most though. Again there's nothing really fancy at work here. You've got a few weapons that have slightly different properties, but mostly combat is all about knowing enemies' openings so you can get some hits in and dodge away. It's simple, satisfying, and quite challenging, as anyone that plays Soulsbourne games can attest. What's so important though is the smooth, snappy controls in Death's Door which give you a good sense of weight and balance that makes every hit feel earned. And again the game doesn't feel unfairly difficult—in fact your dodge roll has significant invincibility frames, so even though you do need to know your timing well it's not so precise that you'll be tearing your hair out trying to master it. The flow of combat feels great and will easily pull you into the adventure. Death's Door lasts a good eight to ten hours, which feels about right. Nothing about the adventure drags nor do your accomplishments feel unearned. Completionists will enjoy finding every little secret that the game has to offer, and there might be a little extra post-game content for particularly dedicated players that want to do everything possible in the game. The presentation in Death's Door is just as charming as the writing. When it comes to art design, less is more here, as the player crow is pretty adorable despite not having much detail and the environments feel mysterious and deep even without much ornamentation. The character design is easily the best part of the game, though it's a shame that there are really only a handful of characters throughout the whole adventure. The soundtrack is also pretty sharp. It adds to the moody atmosphere of the exploration gameplay and helps elevate the intense boss fights. Death's Door takes the action-adventure formula and polishes it to a perfect shine. The exploration is rewarding, combat is satisfying, and the story moments, though infrequent, provide a ton of personality and charm. The difficulty level can be challenging, but for this little crow's adventure, it's worth taking the time to master your combat skills and to explore every nook and cranny possible. Rating: 8 out of 10 Souls
  6. It doesn't seem easy to come up with an even cuter Pikmin-style game, but developer Moonlight Kids manages it with their adventure/puzzle game The Wild at Heart. Commanding a small army of adorable little critters in a colorful forest makes for one charming experience. You start off the game as Wake, a young boy running away from home with his best friend Kirby by journeying into the nearby forest. He ends up lost though, and stumbles into the strange, magical realm of the Deep Woods, where friendly guardians battle against nefarious night monsters. Eventually Wake meets up with Kirby and the two use helpful forest creatures called Spritelings to explore and fight back against the evil monsters. The Wild at Heart isn't super story-heavy but when you do encounter dialogue scenes there's a lot of charm and heart to the writing. It's cute, friendly and funny without getting too silly, and the optional diary logs you can find do fill in a richer backstory lore that helps the world feel more alive. If you've played Pikmin you'll have a basic understanding of The Wild at Heart's gameplay. Your main method of interacting with the world is commanding your Spritelings to clear obstacles, pick up items or battle monsters. There are five types of Spritelings each with a specific use—the first type you encounter is immune to poisonous hazards, another type is able to break crystals, etc.—and by the end of the game you'll need to use all five in concert to fully explore and collect everything you need to fight back against the darkness. Additionally, Wake is able to use a supercharged vacuum to clear away piles of leaves or pull in distant objects, while Kirby uses a magical lantern to dispel hazardous materials. Both kids can command or throw Spritelings but they can also take damage, so you'll need to be careful when monsters appear. Essentially, it's an adventure game by way of puzzles. In order to explore, you'll need to use your Spritelings cleverly to clear obstacles or battle monsters, and early on you'll be limited by what types of Spritelings you have. Sometimes you'll need to split up Wake and Kirby and alternate between the two to overcome puzzles, and sometimes you'll need to throw a whole heap of Spritelings at a monster to take it down (Spritelings can die sadly, but you can also grow more). For the most part though the game world is pretty open and you can explore in any direction that tickles your fancy, which gives the game a nice feeling of freedom. Perhaps most importantly though, you're limited by how much you can get done in a single day. At night, powerful monsters appear and you'll need to make it to the safety of a campfire to survive. This simple loop of exploring a bit further each day and returning to a camp at night is incredibly satisfying and will keep you fully engaged with the game, since every time you return to camp you'll be thinking about what else you can do the next day. Anyone with an explorer's heart will love wandering the woods here. You'll also need to collect a lot of resources in order to upgrade the kids' abilities, the number of Spritelings you can control at once, and various other features at the main camp. Resource collecting can be a little bit tedious at first but it feeds into the gameplay loop of doing a little bit each day and gradually building your way up to something bigger. Combat is also a little dicey in The Wild at Heart. Your Spritelings are, frankly, a bit dumb and not great at fighting or self-preservation. You'll have to keep a close eye on them if you want them to survive, and once you have the resources to craft potions that make them temporarily stronger or immune to damage those potions are practically a necessity to make it through some enemies. It's also a bit annoying that there's no option to just send all of your Spritelings into battle at once—you can only throw one at a time and even if you make your whole army idle they won't take the initiative to attack by themselves. Thankfully defeated monsters don't respawn for a couple of days so even slow combat won't interrupt your steady progress too much. On a technical level, The Wild at Heart does have some loading issues on the Switch. Everything else about the game runs perfectly well, but the loading times when you move between areas are pretty long. If that's the cost of large areas with delightfully colorful graphics though so be it, because The Wild at Heart has an awfully charming art style that perfectly matches the magical forest vibe of the story. The 2D graphics are just delightful and it really captures a childlike sense of whimsical adventure. The presentation is capped off with a beautiful soundtrack that is moody and atmospheric while exploring as well as fun and bubbly while hanging out with side characters. It sets just the right tone for this exploration adventure. You can expect to spend around 10 hours exploring the Deep Woods and finishing the main story, but there are also a lot of optional areas to explore, and fully upgrading everything possible will take significantly more time. The game also has sort of a slow-paced vibe anyway, so this isn't really the kind of game you should try to rush through, but one you should relax with and just enjoy exploring. The Wild at Heart is an absolutely endearing game that perfectly evokes the childlike wonder of exploration and the fantasy of stumbling upon a magical forest. The similarities to Pikmin are far from derivative and this game adds plenty of unique features of its own to make the adventure feel fresh and unique. Anyone feeling that explorer's itch will enjoy befriending Spritelings and losing themselves in the colorful forest. Rating: 8 out of 10 Spritelings
  7. How often does a video game RPG actually allow you to get into the nitty gritty details of role-playing a character? The RPG genre has ended up meaning something vastly different from its tabletop game origins, but clearly the developers behind Disco Elysium: The Final Cut weren't content with that division. This story-heavy game feels far more like an actual tabletop RPG experience, the kind where every little action can inform who your character is, his thoughts, motivations and values. It's a frankly staggering work of storytelling, so rich in worldbuilding backstory that you'll feel like this all takes place in a fully realized world. It's just a shame that it runs so poorly on the Switch, though. Disco Elysium starts you off with a slightly cliché amnesic protagonist. After what appears to be one hell of a bender, you wake up with a hangover so severe that you can't remember a single detail about…well, anything really. The city you're in, the state of the world, and even your own name is a mystery, but from here on out every dialogue choice that you make informs your character. If you get into a political conversation with someone you can choose to lean toward communist, nationalist, liberal, or other philosophies. How you react to other people can inform whether you're a hothead or a bit of a sad sack. As you progress you'll also unlock thoughts that you can add to your mental filing cabinet that will also inform your personality and belief system (as well as improve your stats for gameplay purposes). It's one of the most organic, rich, and satisfying ways to develop a role-playing character that I've ever seen in a video game, and it's an absolute blast to not only see how your playthrough develops but to then compare with friends on what kind of personality they nurtured. All of this is made possible by the impeccable writing throughout the game. To call Disco Elysium text-dense might be an understatement—there's almost nothing but text in this game, and all of it is fantastically written. The dialogue is consistently engaging with tons of surprising humor sprinkled throughout a lot of dark, heavy topics. The worldbuilding is just incredible; the game takes place in a fictional world fully populated with nations, political ideologies, etc. Sure that's not so uncommon in the world of video game fiction, but the level of care taken to make all of that backstory fully realized is absolutely impressive. It's also, granted, pretty confusing when you first start, but for anyone that enjoys reading fiction and learning everything they can about a new setting, Disco Elysium is just the perfect experience. I should finally get to the actual plotline of the game. Your character may not remember most details about himself, but what you do know is that you're a detective in the city of Revachol and you need to solve a murder. Complicating matters is a conflict between a workers union and their corporate employers as well as a long history of downtrodden individuals in Revachol, all of which seems to be blurring the facts of the case. As you might expect, solving this case is anything but simple, and mystery fans should love the freedom of picking over every little clue or lead in pursuit of the truth. Since your investigation follows your gameplay choices it's fun to see how you might pick up a hot lead and go on an investigative tear, then hit a roadblock and end up meandering for a while. It's an engaging and constantly surprising mystery story, and like any good detective you'll need to pull information from plenty of uncooperative individuals. This is largely where the actual gameplay mechanics of Disco Elysium lie. Key dialogue options or interactions require a skill check based on your player stats. You'll choose your starting skill stats when you first begin the game, but you can also increase them by leveling up, equipping clothing, or unlocking new thoughts to internalize. For example, you may need to pass an Empathy check in order to talk to a character, or there might be a physical challenge that requires a Physical Instrument check. Early on you may find yourself constantly stymied by difficult skill checks, but exploring everything that the game has to offer to gradually build up your skills is central to the game's progression and is ultimately quite rewarding (failing a skill check will often lead to a hilarious scenario as well, and most of the time you can retry the skill check again). This is a slow burn kind of game after all, and building up your character's skills plays into the measured, thoughtful progression of the story perfectly. Sadly, Disco Elysium hasn't made a great transition to the Switch. Aside from slightly clunky controls which could be better optimized for a controller, the game has some fairly significant technical issues, including frame rate and audio dips when you're in a busy outdoor area, long, 30+ second load times every time you move in and out of buildings or between floors, and pretty frequent crashes during loading screens. The autosave feature isn't terribly reliable either so I'd end up saving every time I had to move in or out of a building, which is just tedious. The game itself is 100% worth playing, but the Switch might not be the right platform to do it. When the game is actually running smoothly you'll be treated to one stylish experience. The artwork of Disco Elysium is as unique as its story and setting. The design reflects the bleak and slightly depressing tone of the story, but there are still these occasional bursts of color and painterly artwork that just shine in the dreary setting. The unkempt, raw vibe of the art design feels perfect for the story being told. The soundtrack is excellent as well, similarly atmospheric and moody, though the star of the audio is definitely the incredible amount of voice acting that brings this story-focused game to life. Even if reading the text is always faster than listening to the voice work, I'd often feel compelled to just listen to the characters talk and further immerse myself in the game. My complaints with Disco Elysium: The Final Cut fall almost entirely on how the game runs on Switch hardware, which causes long load times, frame rate stuttering, and relatively frequent crashes. The actual content of the game though is incredible, a unique and engrossing journey with engaging characters and more worldbuilding than you can likely even take in via one playthrough. Best of all, the fantastic writing and dialogue is complemented by a simple yet oddly exciting skill check system that makes every little conversation a fun challenge. Anyone that enjoys a story-rich game owes it to themself to give Disco Elysium a try, though maybe on a platform other than the Switch. Rating: 8 out of 10 Skill Checks
  8. Welcome to the 5th annual Ninfora Game Awards, curated as always from my favorite games of the year! 2021 saw some big RPG releases (which is great news to me) but overall it ended up being a pretty strong year for the Switch no matter what genre you prefer, and far too often I found myself with more games to play than free time to actually play them. That's a problem I'll gladly accept though, so check out some of my favorites below and let me know what title was the highlight of 2021 for you! Best Classic RPG: Bravely Default II Among all of the new-fangled approaches to RPG combat systems and level progression, there's something to be said for classic turn-based battles and character class structures. Bravely Default II feels a lot like its predecessors, but all of the BD games have been delightful RPG adventures and this latest entry in the franchise is another must-play for classic RPG fans. Best Psychedelic Game: Tetris Effect: Connected Just in case anyone needed a new excuse to spend way too much time lining up blocks, Tetris Effect: Connected offers an impressive variety of game mode options all wrapped up in trippy visuals and audio that will make the hours melt away as you play. Plus, playing a co-op mode in Tetris turned into a pleasant surprise of frantic, friendly gameplay. Just those small additions are enough to perfectly spice up the familiar Tetris formula. Most Felonious Vegetable: Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion An adorable little turnip shirking his civic duty is apparently a formula just silly enough to work, especially when it's combined with charming pixel art graphics and a lively little food-based world. More importantly, beneath that vegetable skin is a solid Zelda-style adventure game, one that is admittedly over far too quickly but will keep players hooked while it lasts. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion may seem like a goofy meme game, and it still is in some ways, but it's also a fun little adventure worth exploring (just don't pick up any tax tips from this game). The "Biggest Bowser" Award: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury First giant dynamaxed Pokémon and now this? Mario's most frequent antagonist is getting in on the super-sized monster action, and the result is a truly fearsome battle. The Bowser's Fury addition of Super Mario 3D World also adds a pretty fantastic little side adventure filled with tasks to complete, which is sure to satisfy fans of the Super Mario Odyssey formula and makes Mario's future in sandbox/open-world games look bright. Most Surreal Game: Genesis Noir Genesis Noir is easily one of the most singularly stylish games to hit the Switch this year. A wholly original blend of mystery adventure, jazz, and cosmic philosophy, this is a truly unique and engrossing video game experience. Thankfully the early launch glitches have been mostly curtailed now, because this is a one-of-a-kind game that deserves a smooth playthrough. Best Artwork: Cris Tales Sometimes it's fun to see a game's concept art and compare how much the artwork had to be translated from initial concept to actual in-game assets. With Cris Tales, it feels like they put that initial, super-detailed artwork directly into the game. Every character and background scene is absolutely gorgeous, and thanks to the game's time-travel mechanics you're also treated to multiple versions of everything. The result is stunning and creates a truly beautiful setting for a clever JRPG adventure. Best Link to the Past: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD In retrospect, it's fascinating to see how some elements of Breath of the Wild clearly grew out of Skyward Sword's design, neatly linking the familiar Zelda adventure formula with the open-world freedom of the most recent game. That's not to say Skyward Sword is just some sort of stopgap between classic and new Zelda games, though. Replaying it on the Switch is a great reminder of the game's inventive dungeons and satisfying motion control mechanics. Perhaps most importantly, the handful of quality of life improvements alleviate a lot of little annoyances and help make the game soar. Best Pikmin Game: The Wild at Heart Yet again indie developers come through as we all patiently wait for Nintendo's many franchises to get sequels. But I don't want to reduce The Wild at Heart to some sort of Pikmin clone. This is also a real-time adventure/puzzle game with adorable little minions to control, but the charming art style and simple but engaging puzzles are what make it a fun, memorable journey. Best Life Lesson: Say No! More Who says video games can't impart life lessons? Say No! More is an extremely silly game centered entirely around the idea of saying "no" to the ridiculous demands of coworkers. There's also an important message about self-care and standing up for yourself though, wrapped up in one of the strangest and yet most charming indie releases of the year. Most Surprising Sequel: NEO: The World Ends With You There are actually plenty of contenders for this award this year, but an extremely stylish, niche action-JRPG custom-made for the DS is definitely not the franchise I expected to see revived on the Switch. Despite the change in hardware and combat system, NEO: The World Ends With You is a more than worthy sequel dripping with Shibuya style and boasting a new equally rewarding battle structure. In many ways NEO is made for fans of the original, but that shouldn't discourage new players from diving into the Reapers' Game. Most Random Game: Lost in Random Card-based games can be a little dicey at times, but Lost in Random makes it work by neatly balancing the chance elements with several aspects that you do have control over. Ultimately though it isn't the combat system that makes Lost in Random so memorable. Even's journey through a quirky, dark fairytale world littered with humor and stunning visuals is something only developer Zoink could pull off so well, and I'd certainly love to play another round in this world. Best Rampage: Monster Hunter Rise I haven't been playing Monster Hunter since the series began, but I've been playing long enough to be excited by how much the franchise has grown to capture worldwide attention. Part of that broader appeal is definitely down to how much the most recent games have eased up on the more tedious aspects of hunting, and even if I'm a little tempted to rant about how back in my day you'd have to find the monster on your own and memorize its habits, the easier elements have done wonders for making the hunt more streamlined without losing the thrill of battle. There's no better time to get into monster hunting than with Rise, and hopefully this still isn't the peak of the franchise. Best Soundtrack: Everhood Everhood is a downright odd game, and even if I'm still not entirely sure what actually happened throughout the story there's no denying that the soundtrack is amazing. And that unusual storytelling is perhaps part of what makes the rhythm-based gameplay so engaging. You never really know what to expect in Everhood, but you can bet it'll have some great music backing it up. Best Retro Ninja Game: Cyber Shadow Yes, that includes the requisite incredibly difficult final boss. Cyber Shadow is a stylish love letter to classic side-scrolling action games, but it's also smart enough to know when to play with new mechanics and spice things up for veteran players. The steady, satisfying progression from simple sword attacks to death defying dashes from one enemy to another makes Cyber Shadow a blast from start to finish (even if that final boss will take you so, so many tries to defeat). The "Punk's Not Dead" Award: No More Heroes III Like any other entertainment industry, there's a trend toward producing "safe" content that is designed to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible to rake in the money. God bless Suda 51, then, for always sticking to his punk aesthetic, shaking up the video game world with every insane thought that seems to run through his head. No More Heroes III is by far the strangest of the NMH games (and that's saying something), so players are in for a wild, one-of-a-kind ride with this one. Best Comedy: Later Alligator If you're looking for a game with alligator puns boy do I have good news for you. Later Alligator is a hilariously charming point-and-click adventure that seems to pack in as many jokes-per-minute as it possibly can. The best part though is that the humor all stands up well. Jokes in video games can oftentimes be pretty broad or bland but Later Alligator does a fantastic job of hitting the comedy mark, whether it's in dialogue, visual gags, or the never-ending supply of reptile puns. Best Photobomb: New Pokémon Snap Of all the Pokémon spin-offs to come out over the years, the original Pokémon Snap certainly captured a lot of fans' attention. It's a wonderfully unique premise after all—instead of training and battling these pocket monsters, you get to just live in their world and make your favorite little buddies feel more real for a little while. New Pokémon Snap is just as delightful and relaxing, even when you do just barely miss your opportunity for the perfect shot and have to replay the whole level again. Best Writing: Disco Elysium: The Final Cut So often it's the little things that really make a game stand out, small moments that surprise and delight the player, and Disco Elysium is made up of about a million of those little moments. This game takes RPG branching dialogue to a whole new level and does it with smart, funny, and engaging writing that perfectly draws you into a richly detailed, slightly dreary world. Game of the Year: Metroid Dread Can a game that has been teased for nearly two decades actually live up to years of expectations? Yes, apparently it can! Metroid Dread was a practically mythical piece of video game development history, but finally getting to play it in 2021 I can say it's just about everything a Metroid fan could expect or want from a new side-scrolling game. Both exploration and combat are smoothly balanced with Samus's sleek, fluid abilities that make just moving around the labyrinthine environments a real joy, while conquering the fiendishly difficult bosses stands as one of the most satisfying accomplishments of the year for Switch gamers. There's no shortage of Metroidvania games out there these days, but when the formula is executed as sharply as Metroid Dread, you have to give credit to the bounty hunter who defined an entire genre of gaming.
  9. Yeah, they nickname all the Pokemon that appear in this remake. All I'm gonna say is, the 2 fish looking shocked and what their nicknames are, really got to me.
  10. How does an indie side-scrolling action-platformer stand out in a sea of similar titles on the Switch? How about with beautifully hand-drawn artwork and unique gameplay mechanics that lend themselves to satisfying puzzle design. Greak: Memories of Azur will easily turn heads with its art style, and a closer inspection will reveal a charming and engaging little game as well. You play as Greak, a boy searching for his two siblings, Adara and Raydel, in the war-torn land of Azur. The siblings are from a race called Courines who are being decimated by a violent rival race called Urlags. The very land is being destroyed in this conflict, prompting the Courines to flee but not before Greak finds his siblings. There's a surprisingly decent amount of lore and storytelling here, though the game doesn't always do a great job of introducing you to the backstory. There's a fair bit of jargon to parse early on while you're still getting your bearings, and some of the more direct explanations of the plot are held until nearly the end of the game. Still, there's something particularly charming about a story about siblings looking out for each other, and even if you don't follow all of the names being thrown around the good vs. evil setting is simple enough. Memories of Azur plays like a side-scrolling action game, but the catch here is that you can control all three of the siblings at once, either as a group or separately. Early on you only use Greak, then you'll find Adara, and finally Raydel for the last third of the game. Each sibling controls a little bit differently: Greak has a sword to fight with and can crawl through tight spaces, Adara uses ranged magic and can float short distances, and Raydel is equipped with a sword, shield, and grappling hook but cannot swim. You can move the whole team together at once by holding ZL (though I highly recommend changing the control settings to toggle instead of hold) or you can use just one or two at a time. When you're just controlling Greak the game feels like a fairly standard action-adventure—you'll need to fight monsters and solve simple platformer-puzzles—but once you get Adara the gameplay opens up and becomes far more interesting. As you might suspect you'll need to swap between characters to solve puzzles and open up pathways. Sometimes it's as simple as needing two characters to press two switches, and sometimes you'll need to use each character's unique abilities to overcome hazards. It's a fun mechanic and put to good use with puzzles that are clever and engaging but never too tedious. The final sequence of the game is essentially one long puzzle as you move the siblings around a large interconnected area to make use of their skills and it really highlights the potential of this system. Where the multi-character system stumbles though is with combat. Fighting feels a bit tedious as the siblings have very little HP and even basic enemies take several strikes to bring down, and that really becomes tricky when using multiple characters at once to attack. It's great to dish out more damage at once but it's frustratingly easy for one sibling to get hit and/or pushed out of sync with the others. Most healing items are not instantaneous and you'll need to open up a little menu to use one (which will not pause the game) so healing mid-battle is a dangerous prospect. These quirks can make basic enemies a bit annoying while prolonged boss fights become especially frustrating. Granted, the solution is sometimes to just send one sibling in at a time so you can easily keep track of their attacks, dodges, and healing, but this will also really drag out battles. Combat just never feels quite as fluid and satisfying as it should in Memories of Azur. The game has a few other little quirks that feel unpolished. The map isn't much of a map at all since it doesn't show any detailed account of your surroundings, just the general region (forest, caves, etc.). The world isn't so big and elaborate that you need a map too much, but it definitely would have helped with some of the necessary backtracking. There's a cooking system in the game where you can collect recovery ingredients and make dishes that will provide better healing, but the limited inventory size makes the whole exercise a bit underwhelming. One of the most surprising aspects of Memories of Azur, for modern gamers, is the lack of any auto-save system. Thankfully save points are plentiful, but if you ever end up dying, especially in a boss fight, it's a little annoying not to have a faster restart system. Finally the controls are somewhat complicated when you're controlling multiple characters and you're likely to fumble them even with a bit of practice. Memories of Azur is a relatively short game, clocking in around six to eight hours, which actually feels too short. It seems like the story and lore is building up to a longer adventure, but then it ends somewhat abruptly. The gameplay really gets going once you have all three siblings, but that's in the last third or less of the game. There are side quests as well as a quest tracking system, but only a handful of optional side quests throughout the whole game. It's a shame since the premise and story probably could have supported a longer adventure, at least a few more hours. The hand-drawn artwork of Memories of Azur is gorgeous. The visual aesthetic strikes a nice balance with atmospheric backgrounds and slightly more colorful, cartoonish characters and enemies that are adorable. Best of all, the character animation is fantastic and imparts a ton of charm on the world of Azur. The orchestral soundtrack is also lovely, though too often seems to take too much of a background, subtle approach. The music is solid and could have stood out a bit more than it does. Greak: Memories of Azur puts a fun spin on the familiar 2D side-scroller formula with its simultaneous protagonists. Controlling multiple characters at once in an action-platformer is tricky and doesn't always make for a satisfying combat experience, but it does allow for some fun environmental puzzles. The game is a little bit too short for its own good, but it's an engaging adventure all the same. Rating: 7 out of 10 Memories
  11. The great thing about the point-and-click adventure game genre is that it can so easily work with any premise. From heroic quests on behalf of kings to dramatic tales filled with hard choices, any story background fits with the relatively basic gameplay formula, including the hilarious reptile-filled world of Later Alligator. Simple puzzles, stylish animation, and a ridiculous amount of puns await players in this charming alligator adventure. It's a beautiful day in bustling Alligator New York City, but Pat the Alligator has one little problem: he fears his entire family is planning on killing him tonight. Thankfully you, a helpful alligator stranger, agree to help Pat by playing the part of investi-gator and speaking to his extensive family to solve the murder mystery before the big event takes place. As a point-and-click adventure, Later Alligator lives or dies by the quality of its writing, and I'm happy to say this game is hilarious. It's goofy and unique in the best way possible, positively packed with wacky dialogue, sight gags, and puns, good lord the puns. Each mini-game puzzle you play has a punny title and some of them are so hilariously specific that I really have to question whether the mini-game came first or the title (take, for example, a puzzle involving putting together the torn pieces of a photo on behalf of a trolley driver named "A Streetcar Maimed His Flyer"). Truly sharp comedy can be difficult to land in a video game format but Later Alligator makes it look easy. And the game's adorable, quirky art style plays a huge part in selling the humor. Later Alligator was co-developed by Pillow Fight Games and SmallBu Animation, the latter being an award-winning studio that has worked with some major names in cartoons and animation. That talent is on full display in this game: the 2D animation is bursting with personality and charm. Each new character you meet is a delight and the variety of alligators that the animators are able to create is hilarious. The real cherry on top of it all is the delightful soundtrack by 2 Mello that perfectly matches the oddball energy and charm of the animation. It's not just quirky background music either—there are some great tunes here, they just happen to exist in an anthropomorphic alligator setting. As for the actual gameplay, you'll have to track down each member of Pat's family in the city to chat with them and try to suss out details about the big event later for that evening, which usually requires completing some sort of puzzle or mini-game. These are typically classic puzzles, like sliding blocks or even just a quick round of the card game Old Maid. While the mini-games don't truly test your wits or dexterity, they are fun little diversions and add a lot of variety to a game that would otherwise just be walking around and hearing alligator puns (as fun as that would be). It is possible to fail a mini-game though, so to truly 100% the game you'll need to complete each one. And even if you aren't usually the completionist type, you'll want to do everything you can in Later Alligator. For one thing, a single playthrough is quite short, just a few hours. For another, you're timed while playing and it's not actually possible to find all of Pat's family members in a single playthrough, so you won't really get the full experience if you just stop the first time you see the credits roll. Finally and most importantly, there are multiple endings that build upon one another, so you'll definitely want to find every family member, complete every mini-game, and fully finish the adventure to see the true conclusion to Pat's tale. This may be a goofy, pun-filled game but there's still a little mystery and intrigue that will keep you playing through all those playthroughs. Besides, as mentioned each playthrough is quite short, so 100% completion should only take five or six hours. Later Alligator is a prime example of creative minds coming up with a specific vision and then delivering on that concept with real heart and charm. The unconventional and stylish animation, the simple yet engaging mini-games, and the seemingly endless supply of puns and wordplay makes this short adventure a delight from start to finish. Players looking for something fun, funny, and punny could hardly ask for more. Rating: 9 out of 10 Alligators
  12. One-man developer Tom Happ has followed up his critically-acclaimed 2015 indie Metroidvania with a brand new side-scrolling adventure, Axiom Verge 2. But despite the name, this isn't quite a direct sequel to the first game. New characters, new settings, and new gameplay mechanics provide a fresh pixel-art experience that emphasizes exploration in a sprawling, labyrinthine environment. It's a thoughtful, rich world to explore, even if your initial introduction to it all starts off a bit slow. You play as Indra, a billionaire CEO who visits an Antarctic research station after receiving a mysterious message that her estranged daughter might be there. The base seems to be completely empty though, and after a bit of exploring Indra is pulled into a cryptic parallel dimension filled with dangerous robots. There's clearly a lot of rich backstory lore sprinkled throughout the game—some of which may connect to the first game, but you'll have to do a good bit of exploring and dot connecting to find them—and the concept is ripe for sci-fi storytelling. It's a bit disappointing, then, that the story is so hard to follow. The basic plot is simple enough, but the lore, told through scattered logs and notes that Indra can find, throws so much jargon and anchorless terminology at you that you probably won't understand most of it your first time through the game, or at least not until you're near the end and can reread everything to understand it. A little mystery is fun but when you can't even decipher the clues it gets a bit tedious. The gameplay has the same slow-start issue as the story. The beginning of the game is pretty standard side-scrolling Metroidvania stuff, bordering on stiff and repetitive. Initially, Indra's only weapon is a melee-range ice axe, which feels pretty inefficient to use against fast-moving robots or enemies with ranged attacks (it's also a little annoying to constantly have to crouch to hit small enemies). In fact, combat never feels particularly satisfying in Axiom Verge 2, though the silver lining here is that you never really need to fight. There are no required boss fights (there are large enemies but you can just avoid them. You will be rewarded for defeating them though) and more often than not just dodging little enemies is more efficient. It's a bit weird to de-emphasize combat so much in a game like this, but since hitting enemies is a little clunky to begin with maybe that's not such a bad thing. Gradually you'll unlock more abilities and find new items that expand the scope of the gameplay significantly, particularly the exploration side of the game, and that's when Axiom Verge 2 starts to shine. You'll gain the ability to pilot a little drone and send it into the Breach, an alternate map with its own enemies and hazards, and by navigating the Breach you can open up new paths in the main map as well. It's a clever way of significantly expanding an already elaborate map filled with little nooks and crannies to explore, and it comes across fairly naturally. The game provides very little direction while you're exploring, but that opportunity to wander is one of Axiom Verge 2's greatest strengths. You'll definitely get lost at times, and it's a little too easy to overlook little spots on the map that end up being the key to progressing, but once you have multiple traversal abilities there's a lot of fun in just running around and seeing where you can end up. That said, Axiom Verge 2 maybe throws too many abilities at the player that end up only being useful in narrow scenarios. The de-emphasis on combat means a lot of the weapons you find don't feel all that useful overall, and some features, like hacking enemies and objects, are easy to overlook when just running away is far more effective. Balancing the selection of items and abilities might have helped make some of them feel less superfluous. Even if you end up getting lost for a while, Axiom Verge 2 isn't too long. You can finish the adventure in under 10 hours, though if you're going for 100% completion you'll really need to spend time checking every corner of the map. There's also an entire speedrun mode available so naturally speedrun fans should enjoy finding the most efficient routes through this maze of a map. The game's presentation is stunning, not surprising after the rich pixel art design of the first game. That old school vibe is back in Axiom Verge 2, complete with stylish backgrounds and impressive mechanical enemies (particularly all those monstrous bosses that are actually optional). The art design does a great job of balancing the mystery of a parallel world with understandable and navigable environments. The soundtrack is also wonderful. It's otherworldly and a little haunting but encourages you to dive into this adventure and explore. Axiom Verge 2's Metroidvania formula puts the emphasis on exploration rather than combat, and by doing so delivers a rich world to explore. Most importantly, balancing on-foot exploration with drone exploration expands the possibilities of wandering and rewarding the player with little secrets. The combat is lackluster and almost feels included merely out of obligation, but the sense of adventure—including those moments when you're lost and are just poking around the corners of the map—will still easily pull you into Axiom Verge 2. Rating: 7 out of 10 Axioms
  13. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is coming to the Nintendo Switch next year. Made by Vanillaware, creators of games such as Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Odin Sphere, and Dragon's Crown, the game is a Visual Novel with some RTS elements thrown in. My personal favorite game of 2020, it has a really great overarching story that spans over 13 different viewpoints. If you haven't already, please play this game, either when it comes out on Switch, or on PS4 (where it is usually 50% off about right now); it really is an amazing visual novel.
  14. How do you improve upon an arguably perfect puzzle game? Tetris is a household name for gamers and non-gamers for a reason: it's a beautifully simple and addictive game that challenges players to not only plan ahead but to be ready to roll with the unexpected, like when the line piece just refuses to show up. It's hard to tear your eyes away from the game and, if you're like me, you'll start seeing Tetris patterns in tiled floors and walls before long. This perfect gameplay formula was nailed down decades ago, so can a few new modes and stylish visuals of Tetris Effect: Connected really impact the experience? Yes, they absolutely can. Easily the most unexpected aspect of Connected is the Journey mode, which acts as a sort of single-player adventure or story mode. Obviously there's not really a plot to this Tetris game, and even calling it an adventure might be stretching things since it's just a series of stages where you have to hit the requisite number of lines cleared to move on to the next one, but Journey might be the perfect introduction to Connected. First and foremost, it takes you through all of the gorgeous backgrounds and styles that the game has to offer. Even though your time in each background is brief, this is a great way to see them all in a mostly continuous journey. And even though there isn't a plot or quest to conquer here, the game really does take you on a beautiful journey. A huge amount of the praise for Connected has to go toward the visuals and audio design. The scenery is stunning and provides so many gorgeous environments that your brain just kind of melts into the visual effects as you're focused on lining up blocks. More importantly, the sound effects tied to your actions—dropping blocks, "clicking" them into place—add a fantastic layer of immersion and improvisational energy to the game. It's so satisfying to notice how your actions jazz up the already phenomenal soundtrack. Even though at higher speeds your brain is probably fully focused on survival, just having that added touch to the game's atmosphere is beautiful. Connected uses the modern Tetris formula, meaning you can spin blocks almost indefinitely and can bank one block to swap in or out at an opportune moment, but it also adds another new touch. Clearing lines builds up your Zone energy, which you can use to pause the flow of Tetriminos and manually drop them for an added layer of precision. When the Zone effect ends, you'll be rewarded with a nice score bonus. A Tetris snob might say that this is yet another way that modern Tetris makes things easy for the player, but it really is a fun way of incorporating new features that don't fundamentally alter the way the classic Tetris experience is played. Of course, Connected isn't just about Journey mode. There are several other single-player modes to tackle, including standards like marathon or score attack, as well as more unusual challenges that throw unique rules at you. There's a nice bit of variety here and even if you don't love the more stylized game modes the standard Tetris experience is just as fun as it ever was. For many players—particularly Tetris 99 fanatics—Tetris isn't just a single-player game. Connected features several multiplayer modes for online or local play, including modes with modern or classic rules. That's right, you can go all the way back to 80s Tetris here with a head-to-head score attack challenge with no infinite spin, banked Tetriminos, or Zone effects. It's actually really fun to change things up on yourself every so often, just be careful not to get too stuck in one rule set and forget how to play the others. The Connected subtitle also comes from the most unique multiplayer mode, a co-op challenge where three players team up to fight a series of computer-controlled bosses. The name comes from the fact that, once you've built up the proper Zone energy, all three players' boards connect into one massive Tetris board to deal garbage block attacks to the boss. Cooperative Tetris is an entirely different beast and super rewarding when you and your teammates are working in sync. Perhaps best of all, all multiplayer modes feature cross-platform play, so it's pretty easy to find opponents (or allies) for every game mode. The best recommendation for Tetris Effect: Connected is actually just playing the game yourself and seeing how the psychedelic visuals and audio blend together into a gorgeous Tetris experience. I'm going out on an extremely short limb here to assume you already know what Tetris is and are well aware of how engaging and addictive it is, both solo or competitively. Connected is no different, and the gorgeous visuals and new game modes let players see that classic, fantastic puzzle game experience in a whole new way. Rating: 9 out of 10 Tetriminos
  15. What if, instead of opening your map to check your position or the distance to your target, you could simply rearrange the map to instantly bring yourself to the target? That's more or less the premise of Carto, an adventure-puzzle game where you play as a young cartographer capable of rearranging a map of the world in order to explore. It's a clever, easy-to-understand puzzle formula complemented by adorable graphics and a cute story in this brief adventure. You play as Carto, a young girl and novice cartographer who is separated from her grandmother due to a storm. The storm also scatters pieces of her map all across the world, and now she must explore to find the missing pieces and return to her grandma. Carto is an awfully cute game with a charming, light-hearted narrative. You meet and interact with a variety of side characters all living their own little lives and oftentimes there's some problem Carto can help them with, but this isn't a typical save-the-world quest. It's a relaxed, casual story brimming with adorable charm that is just all around pleasant and fun to hang out in. As mentioned the gameplay revolves entirely around rearranging the map in order to explore, unlock new map pieces, and repeat. There's an important caveat here though: when map pieces touch they have to match, meaning a forest piece has to touch a forest piece, a mountain piece a mountain piece, etc. This one rule is enough to provide plenty of inventive challenges. Carto isn't a particularly demanding puzzle game, but you'll likely encounter a few head-scratchers that give you a moment's pause. Thankfully, since there are so few gameplay mechanics actually at play, you aren't likely to get stuck for long. Sometimes the puzzle hints are a bit too vague and you may need to rely on trial and error, but if anything these particularly obtuse puzzles help spice up the gameplay a bit. Carto is fairly short—most players will probably finish in around five hours or so, maybe a bit more depending on how quick you are with puzzles or how long you take to read all the dialogue. The premise could probably have sustained a longer game as each new area Carto explores adds new little twists to the map formula, but the game also doesn't feel too rushed. It'd be nice if it were longer but the length works as is. The pleasant, relaxed tone of the story—and really the game overall—is matched by an absolutely adorable hand-drawn art style that is cute, colorful, and cuddly. It's also particularly charming in motion. The animation is simple and cartoonish in the best ways possible that will instantly endear players to Carto and her adventure. The soundtrack matches this atmosphere with a fun but extremely chill sound that can't help but make you relax. All of the presentation has a storybook charm to it that makes the game suited for all ages. Carto is a great example of taking one gameplay idea and fleshing it out into a whole adventure. The map manipulation mechanic is simple and delightful, full of clever puzzle opportunities that make you rethink movement and adventuring in video games. It's a fairly brief, leisurely kind of game but it works beautifully and develops an absolutely charming vibe that puzzle fans shouldn't miss out on. Rating: 8 out of 10 Map Pieces
  16. Release Date: October 8th Price: $39.99 *25% off at launch (First 2 weeks)* Site: https://www.tetriseffect.game/ Tetris Effect: Connected is Tetris® like you've never seen it, or heard it, or felt it before—an incredibly addictive, unique, and breathtakingly gorgeous reinvention of one of the most popular puzzle games of all time, from the people who brought you the award-winning Rez Infinite and legendary puzzle game Lumines. Music, backgrounds, sounds, special effects—everything, down to the Tetris pieces themselves, pulse, dance, shimmer, and explode in perfect sync with how you're playing, making any of the game's 30+ stages and 10+ modes something you'll want to experience over and over again. A challenge for the mind and a feast for all the senses, Tetris Effect: Connected is the perfect excuse to play Tetris again... and again...and again, and again, and again and again and again and again and again and again and... Includes Cross-Platform Multiplayer! Players on different platforms can easily join Friend Match rooms with the new Room ID feature. Spectator Mode is available in Friend Matches. A room can contain up to 8 total people. Includes the “Zone” mechanic, where players can stop time (and Tetriminos falling) by entering “the Zone” and either get out of a sticky situation that could otherwise lead to “Game Over,” or rack up extra line clears for bonus rewards. Multiplayer mode "Zone Battle," which shakes up traditional 1-on-1 Tetris gameplay via the time-stopping Zone mechanic made famous in Tetris Effect. A "Connected" co-op mode, where up to three players can literally connect their Tetris playfields together and play as one. Over 30 different stages, each with its own music, sound effects, graphical style and background that all evolve and change as you play through them. Ranked and unranked play, matchmaking, and player progression for unlockable avatars. *About from Nintendo.com | Tetris Effect: Connected is the free multiplayer update for Tetris Effect. *CLICK TO ENLARGE*
  17. Super Monkey Ball is a premise that was just crazy enough to work. Adorable little monkeys rolling around in plastic balls as you propel them through increasingly elaborate obstacle courses is simply an insane concept, and yet it spawned 20 years of arcade-style games. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania fondly looks back on those two decades by collecting levels from the original Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe and rolling them together into one massive collection. It's a charming celebration of the franchise, though not much of a step forward. Although there is a story mode here, there's not much storytelling happening in Banana Mania outside of some cutesy little cutscenes. Not that that matters much—the focus is obviously on the gameplay, and this game delivers an almost overwhelming amount of content. With hundreds of stages ranging from childishly simple to controller-breaking hard, Banana Mania offers a wealth of physics-based platformer challenges. Narrowly balancing your monkey ball across tiny strips of land or building up the momentum necessary to roll up to a high ledge is almost endlessly inventive and truly difficult at times. They can get frustrating, but they're also incredibly satisfying once you finish them. And if for some reason you need to push yourself with even greater challenges, there are bonus missions you can tackle such as finishing the level in under a certain amount of time or collecting every banana. These definitely aren't for the faint of heart though. In addition to story mode there are challenge levels, party games, and ranked challenges that let you compare your best times against players online. Just finishing every level in the game is a big task, and the replay value pushes things even further. The party games can be hit and miss though, especially because the physics in fan-favorite Monkey Target feel a bit off compared to the original game. In fact, the physics in the game overall don't feel quite the same, and while this does make some levels more challenging, only purists are likely to actually feel the difference. Instead, most players will just notice the high difficulty here. Banana Mania adds a few side features to the core Super Monkey Ball experience, though not all of them work perfectly. There's a helper mode which essentially acts as easy mode—you get more time to complete a level and even get guide arrows to point you toward the correct path. The only problem is that most levels aren't challenging due to time or labyrinthine design. Most of the time the challenge is balance, momentum, or aim, so helper mode isn't all that helpful most of the time. Banana Mania also includes camera controls to help you navigate around those tight paths that define Super Monkey Ball levels, though the camera movement is a bit clunky and can be intrusive in stages with a lot of walls. Banana Blitz's artwork is adorable and frankly pretty basic, but how much detail does a game like this need anyway. It's cute and colorful and fun for all ages, plus you can unlock different outfits—as well as different guest characters—to put your own spin on your monkey pilot. The remixed soundtrack is in the same boat. It's chipper and fun and probably won't stick with you after playing. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania brings together an incredible wealth of gameplay with hundreds of levels and tons of replay value. Not all of the changes or updates are perfect, but rolling around as a monkey in a plastic ball is still pretty charming 20 years after the first Super Monkey Ball game. Hopefully the developers can keep the ball rolling with a brand new adventure in the franchise's future. Rating: 7 out of 10 Monkeys
  18. Developer Zoink has carved a delightfully oddball niche for themselves since their 2013 release Stick It to the Man!, a hilariously offbeat adventure full of quirky charm. That sense of style is clearly on display with their latest release, Lost in Random, which has all the trappings of a dark fairy tale told through an unconventional, witty, fourth-wall-breaking lens. Like Zoink's previous games, this feels like a one-of-a-kind adventure whose undeniable style outweighs any nitpicks about the gameplay. The game takes place in the six cities of the world of Random, all of which are ruled by the powerful, foreboding Queen. On a child's twelfth birthday, they are required to roll the Queen's black dice to determine which city they will spend their life in, from the lowly Onecroft to the luxurious Sixtopia. When two sisters, Odd and Even, are separated by the roll of the dice, Even sets off on a quest to rescue her older sister, which leads her to discovering her own powerful dice—named Dicey—that could rival even the Queen's. Even's adventures take her through each city of Random and connect her with all manner of madcap characters presented in this weird, quirky, and delightfully charming story. Like previous Zoink games the humor is a perfect blend of silly and unique, and the world-building in Lost in Random has a fantastically eerie sense of style that is just a touch creepy in the most wonderful way. It's incredibly easy to be pulled into this unusual world, and along the way the game still manages to tell a heartfelt story about sisterhood. The game's visual style is a huge part of what makes this strange world so engaging. The artwork draws inspiration from stop-motion animation which, combined with Zoink's inimitable art style, makes for lively, bizarre, and exciting imagery. Townsfolk range from humanoid to talking fish, the scenery has pieces of chess, dominoes, and playing cards built into it, and the exaggerated, slightly grotesque character design oozes style. It's a singularly unique look that is gorgeous to see and so much fun to explore. Lost in Random does take some notable technical hits on the Switch as the in-game visuals clearly aren't as smooth as on other systems, but the strong art style makes up for it. The voice acting also does a fantastic job of bringing this oddball world to life with tons of suitably weird voices. The only complaint here is that Even is only voiced during specific cutscenes, which is a shame since the voice work is great and there's plenty of dialogue that could have been voiced when she's talking to townsfolk. The core of the gameplay in Lost in Random revolves around Dicey, cards, and how Even can use them in battle. While fighting the Queen's minions, Even will need to collect dice power from blue crystals in order to roll Dicey, giving her a number of action points. Rolling Dicey pauses the action and allows Even to activate any cards in her hand, including weapon cards, defensive abilities, and "cheat" cards that have some other effect like creating a zone where enemies move slowly for ten seconds. After activating your selected cards the battle resumes and generally plays out as a third-person action game—for example, you might use a card to summon a sword that Even can swing at enemies. The action points limit how much you can actually do during one roll, but you'll gradually unlock more opportunities to expand your playstyle. Lost in Random is technically a deck-building game, but there are actually relatively few types of cards, so you don't have to pore over hundreds of card combo possibilities to perfect your strategy. This battle system is undeniably unique and provides a good balance of strategic depth and chance. You might have big plans when you're filling out your deck of cards, but if luck's not on your side you might not pull the right ones at the opportune moment. Still, it's pretty easy to experiment since there aren't too many cards to learn, and the game's loading screens even include a few combo tips. You also only have 15 cards in your deck, so you should cycle through them quite quickly. That said, combat can get a little too repetitive at times. The big issue is actually the beginning of every battle as you charge up enough dice energy to draw cards and roll Dicey. Breaking crystals (either on enemies or in the environment) can be kind of slow, and at the very least it's just a boring little chore to perform at the beginning of every fight. Diving straight into the action a little more quickly might have prevented some of the battles from feeling too long. There are some battles that change things up with unique rules, but if anything the game could have used more of these moments to break up the monotony a bit. Lost in Random's UI is another notable stumbling block. The biggest issue is the card screen, where you can swap cards out of your deck and review their effects. The cards are gorgeous so it's no surprise that the artwork takes front and center, but reviewing your deck is just a little less convenient than it should be. A deck-building game like this really ought to have some way to save one or more preferred decks for easy access while you're experimenting. The adventure should last around 12–15 hours, which feels like a good length for Even's quest. The combat can feel a bit repetitive at times but exploring each city and talking with the weird inhabitants never gets old. There are side quests you can tackle which will earn you new cards (or at least money to buy new cards), though Lost in Random is a pretty linear game—when you leave a town you can't go back, so you'll need to wrap up any side quests before you head out. Lost in Random is a beautifully unique adventure, from the quirky art style and world-building to the combat system that rolls together the luck of the draw and third-person combat. The relatively low amount of card types keeps the card-collecting gameplay from getting overwhelming, though it can also limit your strategic opportunities. But the real heart of the game is in the joy of exploring a strange, hilarious dark fantasy world. For players excited by eccentric settings and slightly creepy lore, Lost in Random isn't a risky roll at all, it's a sure bet. Rating: 8 out of 10 Dice
  19. until
    Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) nights are Thursday nights from 10PM - 11PM Eastern time. Information is available on the official Ninfora Discord server.
  20. Nice to see more streaming apps coming to Switch (Still waiting for Disney+, Crunchyroll, Netflix, ect.), but I don't really use Twitch. Video Tour: In case anyone is wondering... No, you can't stream from the Switch. Also, you can't even chat on the Switch.
  21. In the pantheon of unlikely but highly demanded game sequels, a follow-up to Square Enix's The World Ends With You was up there with the best of them for well over a decade. Which is why it was such a delight to see NEO: The World Ends With You announced. Not a port, not a retouched rerelease, but a brand new adventure through the stylish streets of Shibuya with new characters tangled in the deadly Reapers' Game. NEO has some awfully big shoes to fill to compete with the 2008 original on the DS, and thankfully the game seems to know exactly when to play to nostalgia and when to blaze a new trail. Just like the original game, the story of NEO revolves around the Reapers' Game. Our protagonists Rindo and Fret are enjoying a day in the Shibuya district of Tokyo when they find themselves forced to participate in a game where failure means death. Over seven days they tackle challenges and gather allies in a desperate bid for survival. One of the big strengths of the original TWEWY is the cast of characters, and NEO features an equally engaging scrappy bunch of protagonists (and antagonists). Their personalities and growing bonds will easily charm you over the course of the game, which is particularly important since this is the kind of RPG that will frequently douse you in dialogue sequences. Granted there's a lot happening and a lot that needs to be explained, but NEO can be a little too long-winded at times—early on it feels like it takes ages for things to happen as characters discuss things in circles. Aside from those occasional slow points though the story will easily keep you engaged, culminating in an exciting climax that will be particularly rewarding to fans of the first game (but don't worry new players, NEO will fill you in on the important bits). Gone is the complicated (but satisfying) battle system from the original game that made full use of both of the DS screens. NEO instead finds another inventive use of button combos. Each character equips a pin to attack, which is assigned a button (X, Y, L, R, ZL, or ZR). During battle you tap or hold the respective button to attack and each attack has a limited use before being put on cool down. However, the more important combat tactic is chaining together "Drop the Beat" combos in order to build up your Groove meter which, once filled, allows you to use powerful super attacks. Battles almost feel like rhythmic exercises as you swap between characters to make the best use of combos—in addition to just maintaining a combo, you might need to knock a flying enemy out of the air with one attack before following up with another. There's a nice sense of organized chaos to the battle structure. There's a lot of flashy action happening on screen but by experimenting with different pins you can find your groove throughout it all, resulting in a nicely engaging action-RPG system that is as fun in normal battles as it is in boss fights. There's also a great amount of customization available. The pins you equip determine your attacks so you'll constantly be collecting, leveling up, and evolving new pins to use, but you also have quite a bit of control over how battles are carried out at all. Most of the time you can actually choose to just ignore random encounters, and when you do fight you can choose to chain together enemies for greater rewards and a better chance at earning rare pins. You can also adjust the game's difficulty to the same effect and even lower your experience level (that's not as scary as it sounds, it actually just affects your HP, and your attack and defense are only changed by eating food in the many available Shibuya restaurants). It's nice to be able to adjust the game's difficulty on the fly and make your grinding experience as deep or as light as you want it to be. Juggling level grinding, leveling pins, eating food, and grabbing new clothes for stat bonuses gives you plenty to do and think about on the busy streets of Shibuya without feeling overwhelmingly detailed. There are also a ton of pins to collect and unlock, so completionists will be incredibly busy with NEO. You can also tackle side quests which have the added benefit of expanding your social network, which unlocks various bonus effects or sometimes rare clothing options. Side quests are limited to specific days but the game's story bakes in a handy excuse for revisiting the past so you won't permanently miss anything. Jumping back to a previous day to pick up a side quest you missed then returning to the point you left off is also quite convenient. The average player is probably looking at 40 hours to finish NEO, but completionists will have many more game hours ahead of them if they truly want every last pin. The street art-inspired look of the original returns and it looks glorious on a big screen (no offense to the DS). The art design is slick as hell and just oozes a hip, fashionable sense of style that is distinctive and just plain fun to see. Cutscenes are mostly static images but the art looks so cool that you probably won't mind, even when you see the same character poses again and again. The frame rate takes a few hits in handheld mode when there's a lot happening, but while docked there are no egregious issues. One thing does stick out though—the load times are a touch too long, especially for entering and exiting battles, which is something you'll do countless times over the course of the game. It's a constant, annoying little flaw, but ultimately not a terrible one. NEO also has an undeniably hip soundtrack, one bursting with seemingly boundless energy that will keep your head bobbing, your foot tapping, and your ears glued to the sounds of Shibuya. The voice work also does a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life and making you care about them, dialogue quirks and all. 2008's The World Ends With You is such a singularly unique game that its successor would have its work cut out for it to deliver a similarly engaging plot and stylish design, but NEO: The World Ends With You almost makes it look easy. The vibe is perfectly preserved here while the change in the battle system not only makes sense given the change in hardware, it also allows for its own unique and entertaining challenges that are rewarding and addictive. Fans of the original will be thrilled to see such a worthy sequel here, and new players should love getting their first taste of the inimitable style of The World Ends With You. Rating: 9 out of 10 Pins
  22. If you've ever played Monster Hunter and thought "gee I wish I could befriend that terrifying beast that's currently barreling down on me" then boy do I have a game for you. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is the follow-up to 2017's monster-collecting RPG on the 3DS, in which players raise and train monsters to fight in turn-based battles. The gameplay loop of Monster Hunter is preserved in a different, gotta collect 'em all kind of way rather than grinding for rare monster drops, but the massive wealth of content remains—for players that enjoy a generous amount of repetition, at least. In the Monster Hunter Stories games you play as monster riders, not hunters, and you build bonds with monsters (aka adorably small Monsties) in order to fight alongside them in battle. In Wings of Ruin, your customizable character is the grandchild of a famous rider and, after learning the ropes of monster riding, you’re entrusted with a special Rathalos egg and set off on a quest to discover the cause of the strange red pits that are opening up across the land, and how the Rathalos egg might be connected to them. There’s a real anime/Saturday morning cartoon vibe to the writing, which is to say it’s cute but toothless. Characters are one-note, the humor is incredibly cheesy, and the overarching story is, not surprisingly, all about the power of friendship. It's a bit of a shame that the spin-off series that really has the opportunity to delve into a more engaging story instead relies on overused tropes, but as usual for Monster Hunter the focus is on the gameplay and perfecting your equipment—or in this case, your Monstie party. The combat in the Monster Hunter Stories games operates on a simple rock-paper-scissors system. You have three attack types: power beats technique, technique beats speed, and speed beats power. The monsters you fight will use one type of attack, so you have to learn (and memorize) their attack patterns and react accordingly (when enraged, monsters will change up their attack type so you have to be ready to adapt). These attack patterns are more consistent in Wings of Ruin compared to the first game, which makes battles way less frustrating and allows you to more easily counter monsters. The flipside is that monsters now have more attacks with unique effects, so you'll still be on your toes during battle. It’s a more simplified system but it’s not fundamentally different from mainline Monster Hunter games: once you learn a monster’s habits, you’ll be able to efficiently counter them. Where things get complicated is that you can’t directly control your Monstie’s attacks. At best you can make them use special skills, though this requires Kinship points so if you're out of points, you're out of luck. The limitation is frustrating but by swapping Monsties during battle you can work around it. Additionally, your weapon type matters during battle. You can target specific parts of the monster to break them (not unlike mainline Monster Hunter games) and different parts are weak to different weapon types (slashing, blunt, or piercing). The game makes it easy to keep track of what part is weak to what type, and it adds another nice little piece of combat to strategize. Even by RPG standards the combat does feel a bit monotonous in Wings of Ruin since, once you know a monster's patterns, you can pretty efficiently avoid damage entirely—aside from those moments when your Monstie or partner just isn't using the right attacks—so battles don't feel particularly rewarding after a while. But that's where experimenting with different Monsties comes in. Aside from fighting, the most important part of your adventure is collecting Monstie eggs. You can find monster dens while exploring or force a monster to retreat in order to find a specific egg, but in short you'll be collecting dozens if not hundreds of eggs during your adventure. For one thing it's important to always keep a variety of power, technique, and speed Monsties in your active party, but if you really want to get into the nitty gritty you'll also want to find Monsties with good genes. You can transfer these genes to other Monsties to give them passive boosts or new skills in battle, and if you're willing to get into it this can be a massive time-sink that could make even a serious Pokémon trainer blush. You don't have to dig into these details too much if you're just playing casually, but a big part of the game's longevity is going to be how much time you spend collecting and perfecting your Monsties. And yeah, just like the mainline games there is a ton of stuff to do here. The story quests alone will last a good 35 hours or so, plus there are plenty of side quests, a ton of post-game content with more challenging monsters to battle, and finally multiplayer modes, both competitive and co-op (co-op is only for side quests though, you can't play the story with a buddy). Wings of Ruin adds more Monsties to raise and train compared to the first game and has seen a steady drip feed of free additional content since the time of release, so anyone looking for a long RPG to sink their teeth into will find the perfect candidate here. It can definitely feel repetitive, but that's the name of the game with this kind of monster-collecting RPG. Seeing the fearsome creatures of Monster Hunter as cute, chibi-fied Monsties is still a bit jarring, but the bright and colorful style of the Stories games is charming in its own way. It is fun to see a different take on familiar monster designs, and the cuteness has actually been toned back a bit in Wings of Ruin—returning characters are now older so everyone seems less baby-faced. The soundtrack's energy propels you through the long adventure, though the voice acting is a mixed bag. Your Felyne companion, Navirou, does a lot of the talking in the game, and his grating personality and sense of humor is pretty tiring. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is, for the most part, more of the same from the first game: a Pokémon-style monster collecting game set in the world of Monster Hunter. The combat system is still a bit frustrating thanks to the inherent randomness of not directly controlling your party members, and the story is about as forgettable as they come. However, where the game shines is in the simple loop of collecting, training, and battling with Monsties. It's repetitive, but for completionists it'll be ideal, and may make Wings of Ruin a stepping stone for players to get into the mainline Monster Hunter games too. Rating: 8 out of 10 Monsties
  23. 11 years ago Sonic Colors was a breath of fresh air for the blue blur. It cut back on the rash of gimmicky hooks that had plagued the previous few games and mostly kept Sonic doing what he does best: racing through elaborate levels at breakneck speed. It was a Wii exclusive though (plus a separate Nintendo DS version), so it'd look pretty dated by today's HD standards. Sonic Colors Ultimate fixes that by upgrading the graphics and adding a handful of minor new features to the experience. But after a decade of other Sonic games, does Colors hold up? Well, yes and no. The story in Colors pits Sonic and Tails against their classic rival Eggman as he once again concocts a nefarious scheme to control the world. This time he's built an amusement park in space to hide the fact that he's harvesting aliens called Wisps in order to drain them of their otherworldly energy and power his machines. It's a perfectly bland story full of bad attempts at humor and you won't be missing much by skipping every cutscene. The level design in Colors is undoubtedly the highlight of the game. Stages transition between fast-paced 3D sequences and tricky side-scrolling platformer areas. It's a formula that has worked well for a while now and more importantly it allows for some inventive level design. The 3D sequences satisfy that urge for Sonic speed while the side-scrolling sequences can be elaborate and always reward exploration as you can discover hidden secrets by sprinting off the beaten path. With richly designed levels, Colors caters well to both completionists and speedrunners. The unique hook of Colors is the Wisps, the alien creatures that give Sonic new abilities. These are essentially just power-ups that help the hedgehog explore and reach some of those hidden paths, but the gimmick is far less intrusive than some of Sonic's past adventures. They don't really fundamentally change the gameplay, but they add a little extra flavor, which is probably for the best. All that said, it's hard to shake the feeling that this game design has been done better by some of the Sonic games that have come out since 2010. Colors was an important game at the time for helping remind Sonic's developers what makes the hedgehog's games fun, but now it's clear that it was a stepping stone to bigger and better things, and returning to it simply feels dated. The controls in particular can be frustratingly loose and incongruent with some of the more precise platforming challenges the game throws at the player, and they don't always find the happy balance between revelling in Sonic's speed while also maintaining a sense of player control. Colors isn't a long game and can be finished in around five or six hours, but there's a lot of additional content you can come back to. It's unlikely that you'll find all of the collectibles in each level on your first playthrough, and earning the highest grade on each level is even harder. Colors Ultimate also adds Rival Rush, a side mode that allows you to race against Metal Sonic. It's not a particularly exciting new mode but it is at least more substantial than the new cosmetic customization feature that can be unlocked by collecting large coins in each level. Grabbing coins to change the color of Sonic's gloves is pretty underwhelming. Finally, Colors Ultimate adds the Jade Ghost Wisp which allows Sonic to move through walls. It's a handy way of accessing hidden areas but since it can be hard to find and hold onto the Wisp for later use its application can be pretty limited. The game's presentation has had the most obvious and noticeable upgrade, bringing Colors into HD and adding remixed versions of the soundtrack. You'd never be fooled into thinking the visuals were made from the ground up for a modern HD console, but the original Colors already had great art direction and adding a little polish helps it shine. The original soundtrack was also top-notch, and the remixed songs are just that—alternate versions, but not necessarily better (or worse) than what was already there. I should also note that as of the 1.0.4 patch, I didn't run into any of the severe graphics issues or glitches reported by early reviews of the game. There were a handful of times where the framerate didn't feel as smooth as it should be—which is even more noticeable in a fast-paced game like Sonic—but in general the game ran smoothly. A decade later, one of Sonic's landmark 3D games feels…fine. What was important at the time seems like a given now, and the fact that Wisps have now popped up in numerous Sonic games reduces some of their novelty. More importantly, the original game's flaws, notably in the controls and handling department, feel more stark now and really could have used more of an upgrade rather than a straight port. If you never played the original on the Wii, Sonic Colors Ultimate can be a nice peek into his past, but the "ultimate" version of this game should be more than this. Rating: 6 out of 10 Wisps
  24. Who can resist a good ninja game? They make the perfect game protagonist: they've got combat training with a variety of weapons, they're lithe and acrobatic, and they're just plain cool. Stick a ninja in just about any setting, such as, say, a retro-styled side-scroller set in a futuristic cybernetic world, and you've got a solid premise on your hands. Cyber Shadow, from developer Mechanical Head Studios and publisher Yacht Club Games, combines retro and modern gameplay elements in a sleek ninja package. You play as Shadow, a cyborg ninja who wakes up in the ruins of Meka City to learn it has been taken over by the mad scientist Dr. Progen. Shadow will need to rescue the trapped souls of his fellow ninjas and put an end to Dr. Progen's machinations once and for all. It's easy to assume that storytelling would be sparse or inconsequential in an NES throwback game, and sure you could ignore Cyber Shadow's cutscenes, but a solid plot line runs through this game with some interesting backstory peppered throughout via cutscenes, text logs, and memories you can find. Sure it's not a massive RPG's worth of storytelling but it makes for a fun setting. For most players, a side-scrolling NES-style ninja game probably brings up Ninja Gaiden as an obvious comparison, but the developer actually cites Shadow of the Ninja as a major influence thanks to its emphasis on precise movement and combat. Especially early in the game, when you're limited to just your sword, you have to approach enemies with some thought. You never have all that much health (even after you find a few upgrades) so you're better off taking things a bit slow and focusing on precise, planned strikes. Precision is arguably the core of most games and Cyber Shadow nails this fundamental aspect with methodical gameplay that rewards players who know how to wait for an opening, get their hit in, and get out. It's a steady and satisfying challenge. That's where the game starts, and as you progress you unlock more and more ninja abilities that kind of evolve the way the game is played. Early on these new abilities are just new attacks, like throwing shurikens, but when you gain the ability to run and strike enemies in a mid-air dash, the flow of gameplay opens up entirely. Unlike most NES-era games, which were understandably repetitive, Cyber Shadow keeps every moment of the game engaging by giving the player new tools to play with and new ways to approach challenges. It's a slow and gradual build-up but it's a blast once you get the full effect with all of Shadow's abilities at your disposal. And don't worry NES fans, even by the end of the adventure Cyber Shadow never lets up on the difficulty. This game has plenty of Nintendo-difficult moments, largely thanks to one-hit kill spike traps or the fact that you get very few invincibility i-frames when you're hit, so you can easily get juggled by multiple enemies if you're not careful. These challenges can be frustrating at times but thankfully the game mitigates them with frequent checkpoints. In a neat twist you can also upgrade checkpoints to provide you with extra bonuses, such as recovering all of your health or giving you a free item (upgrading requires in-game currency which you'll probably have more than enough of after dying and retrying a few times). Items disappear when you've been hit three times, but if you can hang onto them items are pretty powerful. Some items have obvious uses—like a floating gun drone that shoots an energy bullet every time you attack—but others are a little trickier and may require some experimentation. It'd be nice if the game did a better job of explaining these to you the first time you see them, but there are only a handful of items in the game so you'll eventually learn how best to use each one. The game's progression is technically linear—and is even divided into chapters—but there are also a variety of hidden upgrades scattered throughout the adventure, some of which may require late-game abilities to access. The trick is that there are teleportation pads at the end of each chapter that allow you to jump back to grab things if you want (and it never hurts to have a little extra health or energy for your special attacks). It's hard to remember exactly where you saw a suspicious ledge or door—there's no in-game map—so it can be time consuming to retread large parts of the game. Just finishing the story should last around six or seven hours though, so adding on another hour or two of backtracking might be worth it for some players. Retro pixel-art presentation has become pretty commonplace in the indie game scene, but it's not often you see authentic 8-bit visuals like this. The sprite work, color palettes, and animation reflect an earlier video game age and they look amazing. The cybernetic setting mixed with the ninja protagonist also makes for cool, unusual set pieces. The soundtrack is just perfect as well, evoking that old-school style while still feeling fresh and engaging. Cyber Shadow is made for retro game fans, but also knows how to mix things up with engaging challenges from start to finish. It's undeniably challenging but rarely feels punishing since Shadow's ever-growing arsenal of abilities gives you exciting new ways to tackle combat and platforming sequences. There are still some areas where the one-hit spike deaths are just a little too common, but overall Cyber Shadow is yet another excellent addition to the world of thrilling ninja games. Rating: 8 out of 10 Ninjas
  25. The most important skill Metroid fans have developed since the series began probably isn't shooting, exploring, or even sequence-breaking. It's patience, because how often do fans have to wait 19 years for the continuation of a franchise's story? Clearly good things come to those who wait though, because Metroid Dread is an incredible return to side-scrolling form for Samus Aran. With a combination of classic abilities, exploration mechanics, and intriguing new twists on the familiar gameplay formula, Metroid Dread is well worth the long wait. Samus is back to doing what she does best: investigating mysterious transmissions on dangerous worlds. A video from the planet ZDR reveals that the X parasite, a deadly life form that Samus battled in 2002's Metroid Fusion, may be alive on the planet. The Galactic Federation dispatched a team of powerful E.M.M.I. robots to investigate, but they've lost contact with them. Enter Samus, the one woman uniquely qualified to deal with this threat. Dread takes its storytelling cues from the best of the Metroid franchise. There are engaging mysteries and light cutscenes scattered throughout the game but it never loses that feeling of isolation and exploration that define Metroid games. There's a light touch of world-building at play here and it feels like the perfect amount. Dread also features a fantastic characterization of Samus, not through dialogue or inner monologues but essentially through mime. The way Samus moves through a hostile environment, the way she carries herself, and some small touches during cutscenes paint a picture of a seasoned warrior, perceptive and adaptable, that says so much about her history and thought process without the need for words. Dread's gameplay is exactly the kind of side-scrolling Metroid action you'd expect, and a clear continuation/refinement of the formula that developer MercurySteam established in 2017's Metroid II remake, Samus Returns. Like that game Samus has a melee counter that puts another fast and fluid ability at her disposal, allowing you to efficiently smash through enemies with one sleek counter shot after another. A new slide ability allows her to squeeze through tight spaces or even underneath an enemy's legs, again emphasizing speed and grace in Dread (and don't worry, the Morph Ball is still in the game). There's a real sense of always being on the move in this game without sacrificing the joy of exploring and testing out new abilities to unlock secrets, which really shows how well the developers understand the Metroid series. One of the key features of Dread—and really the source of its name—is being pursued by the E.M.M.I.s. These deadly efficient robots have, naturally, turned to hunting Samus, but her weapons can't pierce their thick armor plating. E.M.M.I.s are confined to specific "hunting grounds" but every time you enter one it's awfully tense. You only have one small window of opportunity to counter if a robot grabs you, and it's a truly tiny, precise window that is pretty hard to master, so your main hope is to outrun or hide from these robots. Samus will also gain new abilities specifically to help avoid these mechanical menaces, adding some fun new twists to the familiar Metroid gameplay. Especially early on these E.M.M.I. sequences are intense and stressful, and they give the player an interesting opportunity to focus on evasion instead of firepower. However, the stakes of escaping an E.M.M.I. are actually kind of low, which is both good and bad. If you're caught it's game over, but the game autosaves every time you enter an E.M.M.I. area so you lose very little progress. That kind of spoils the stakes a little bit though, and by the end of the game these E.M.M.I. challenges are a little more tedious than they are exciting and stressful. The autosave is definitely preferable to backtracking to a save point though, so even if it's imperfect it's maybe an appropriate solution. The rest of the game certainly doesn't coddle the player, though. Recovery stations and save points are fairly generously sprinkled throughout the game but enemies hit hard—you're clearly not expected to get hit often—and even more importantly boss fights can be pretty difficult. However, it's a good sense of challenge. Boss attacks are often well telegraphed and you'll even have opportunities to recover health and missile ammo during the fight. Any of your mistakes will be thoroughly punished, but it keeps the battle exciting and engaging without being too overwhelming. Dread may be one of if not the most difficult Metroid game, but it never feels unfair. Most players will probably clock in around ten hours on their first playthrough of Dread, though of course this game is made for speed-running and testing the full extent of your skills. It feels like just about the perfect length for the adventure—there are twists and turns and depth to the gameplay but the brisk pacing ensures the action never grows stale. There's also a hard mode if you need even more of a challenge, and naturally there are tons of hidden upgrades scattered throughout the planet. The game makes tracking these collectibles easier than ever—not only does the map light up when there's a hidden item in the area, it even tells you what percentage of hidden items you've collected in the region. It's perhaps a little too easy, but then again sometimes it's hard to figure out how to actually reach an item even if you know it's there, and there are some incredibly tricky ones that fully test your Metroid skills. Completionists should have a lot of fun figuring out what are essentially Metroid puzzles. These screenshots don't really do justice to Dread's visuals. The gameplay seems to emphasize speed and fluidity, and that's reflected in the sharp art design, smooth animation, and intriguing environments that have just enough detail to get your imagination going without cluttering the screen as Samus whips past. And as previously mentioned Samus's movements and animation say so much about her, both in cutscenes and outside of them, that really shows a wonderful attention to detail. The soundtrack is sharp as well: intensely atmospheric, as you might imagine, and provides a perfect backdrop for exploring a mysterious world as well as battling deadly enemies. Metroid Dread is a thrilling continuation of Samus's adventures. Developer MercurySteam proved they had the chops for working on established Metroid concepts with Samus Returns, and now they've proven they can go a step further and help lead the series forward in engaging new directions. Combat is satisfying, exploration is engaging thanks to the tools at your disposal—and the steady rate that you unlock new abilities—and the intense challenge of massive boss fights provides wonderful moments of triumph and accomplishment. Hopefully we won't have to wait years for another adventure with Samus, because as Dread proves, the quality of the series hasn't lost a step. Rating: 9 out of 10 Metroids
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