It’s been years since Nintendo released a new 3D Mario collect-a-thon, but now we have one in the form of Super Mario Odyssey. This is the first time since the GameCube where Mario is being given a series of levels to explore and root out secrets. Super Mario Odyssey came out on October 27th, so our take is a bit delayed. Still, we’re here to give our thoughts and opinions on the game and how it holds up to the series as a whole.
Super Mario Odyssey follows Mario through another adventure to rescue the perpetual damsel, Peach. As always, the story is very loose and serves more as justification to get Mario moving. The levels are the main draw, but this game really has a lot of appeal to it. Worlds have exploration in mind, just like in SM64 and Sunshine. There is still linearity to the plot, though. Each level is a self-contained world where you can explore as much as you want and find moons in any order. However, you go to the levels in a set order.
With all that said, let’s dive into the meat of the review.
Gameplay and Mechanics
Nintendo has stated time and time again that they begin work on a game by refining a core mechanic. Once they’re certain that core mechanic works perfectly and is inherently fun to use, that mechanic informs the rest of the game design. Never has that felt more true than when playing Super Mario Odyssey. The basic mechanics of movement are naturally fun to use. On top of that it seems like an incredible amount of thought went into the design of things, making certain jumps and skips just barely possible, if you know the advanced jumps that make them possible.
However, Nintendo also believes in accessibility, which we can confirm is present in Super Mario Odyssey from the moment you start up the game. Not only are the advanced mechanics and motion controls almost entirely unnecessary to complete the game, but even the very little ones won’t have too much trouble, if they use the Assist Guide, which lays arrows on the ground to guide you and makes bottomless pits no longer lethal.
Assist Mode shows you which way to go and when you fall off a ledge, you bounce back with one damage instead of starting over.
Assist mode in Super Mario Odyssey also affords you an extra three hit points.
Motion controls are present, and while they do afford you some new techniques you couldn’t get without them, there’s only one or two moons where they become even remotely necessary. In case motion controls in aiming bother you, this can be turned off in the settings menu, but we found the motion controls were good enough they didn’t mess us up at all.
With all the thought that went into the core gameplay mechanics and the level designs revolving around them, we can happily say this aspect of the game is nearly perfect.
Graphics and Sound Design
Super Mario Odyssey boasts a brand new soundtrack of original BGMs and a few beloved classic remixes. While the remixes of old songs are a staple, the new music is where the sound designers get to shine. Nearly every track is immediately recognizable and totally unique from the rest of the OST in a way we haven’t seen since the Nintendo 64. Nintendo’s always been known for their music, but this time they’ve really knocked it out of the park.
Meanwhile the graphics are less on the impressive end, but the game still looks great for what it is. Everything is so crisp and clean, with the toony graphics matching the feel of the game. We didn’t personally find the juxtaposition of Mario next to regular humans to be so off-putting, but it could easily bother some players who get caught off guard by this.
There are some gorgeous landscapes to see in Super Mario Odyssey.
Altogether, the game provides a package of audio and visuals that perfectly compliments the adventure that we’re sending Mario through. As an added bonus, the entire soundtrack is available to you after putting in some work and beating the final boss. You can choose to play any song you’d like from the entire game instead of what normally belongs there. It’s the perfect way to drive home the stronger pieces in your soundtrack, leaving us with nothing but good memories.
It might be entirely fair to accuse Super Mario Odyssey of having too much content. Overall, there’s over 800 moons to collect regularly and 999 total after buying the rest. Moons can be collected for clearing an insane gauntlet of challenges or simply ground pounding a glowing spot. This actually creates a bit of an inconsistent tone. Easy moons you get for wandering into the right room or wearing the right clothes make harder moons feel a bit undervalued.
Even so, that range of difficulty is more to allow players of all skill levels to reach a reasonable point in the game. Even the hardest moons in the game didn’t leave us feeling too defeated, anyways. Aside from that, there’s purple regional coins to collect along the way. They allow players to buy new outfits for Mario, or souvenirs and stickers for the Odyssey. That becomes another collection criteria, later on.
Nintendo split every level into four sections. A story segment comes first where only a few moons along the game’s intended path are available. Next, the open exploration where routes that were closed to you are now available. Worlds open up and most moons become available. Third, there’s a post-game segment where elements start popping up that only work after the conclusion. Finally, there’s a moon block in every level that can be opened to release even more moons to collect. Some levels have well over 100 moons, which may get a bit overwhelming.
In all honesty, these are just minor nitpicks. We do still feel it stops the game from netting that perfect score. Even so, you shouldn’t run out of things to do too soon. Assuming you don’t just reach the end of the game and stop there, that is.
Conclusions about Super Mario Odyssey
Without question, Super Mario Odyssey is a masterpiece. We will remember this game for its stellar game content, amazing new soundtrack, and inherently fun gameplay mechanics. There are a variety of challenges for all players ranging from just barely old enough to hardcore veterans. This isn’t the most difficult game to grace the Super Mario franchise, but it delivers for hardcore players, too. Granted, some objectives may cheapen the experience of harder ones via similar rewards. However, Super Mario Odyssey still lives up to the Super Mario reputation. It may even be the best one to date!
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]intendo has finally released Arms, the fighting game they’ve been touting since the January presentation that gave us our first look at what was coming to the Switch. It’s incredible to see that the game still plays as fluidly as it did during launch. However, now that all the features are available to us, it’s time we gave this game its full review. How does the game stack up against other fighting games? Do the game modes do what they need to do? Is Arms going to survive in the competitive scene or even in the party gaming scene? So let’s dive in and answer some of these questions!
Gameplay and Mechanics
The emblem on the top left is your current rank.
Diving right into the meatiest part of the game, we have the actual gameplay. Nintendo is known for games that make you want to play them more when you see someone else playing them. There’s no question that the same can be said for Arms. Like any fighting game, Arms can be fast and frantic, or slow and paced. How quickly the game moves depends on the players and by extension, their chosen characters.
Arms revolves heavily around a rock-paper-scissors mechanic seen in most fighting games. Grabs beat blocking. Blocking beats attacks. Attacks beat grabs. However, this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, at first. Just because you punch doesn’t mean you won’t get grabbed, as blocking opponents can counter you by dashing with their guard up. Or perhaps an opponent in the air drops down just as you start to punch them, avoiding your fist and following with a grab.
Flow of Gameplay
This kind of complexity can lead to some stress on the part of newer players. Perhaps someone tried to punch through a grab only to get grabbed, anyways. They might feel they were punished despite reacting properly. However, they were baited, which leads me to a key point about this game. Arms allows you to moderate the time you have to react to what your opponent does without directly altering their options. That is, when you play up close and personal, the game becomes about making reads and the usual fighting game fare. However, when you fight from a distance, it gets more reactionary.
I clearly didn’t do so hot in this match.
For this reason, many matches, when played defensively become a game of chicken. The first person to act will usually get hit. Then, with less health, they’re now pressured to get more aggressive or risk being timed out. This leads to them being reacted to some more, which ends poorly. The game is a slippery slope, in this way. Playing more aggressively against defensive opponents often ends poorly. However, if you play passively against a defensive opponent in the lead, they’ll happily run out the timer.
That’s not really a problem on its own, but it does mean that, at least for now, higher level play will be very defensive. This will inevitably rely on matches dragging on, which will push away a lot of competitive players. It’s hardly a death sentence, but will likely limit the game’s competitive appeal.
I honestly applaud Arms for using motion controls as its primary control scheme. This, more than anything, makes it stand apart from any other game out there. And as expected, Nintendo made sure you could play Arms with any controller available to the Switch. Since not everyone is fond of motion controls, this is nearly a necessity for the game to function for many.
On that note, however, the actual controls screen makes the game a little more confusing than necessary. That is, it doesn’t list what every button does. They only tell you to punch with A and B when honestly, the triggers feel more natural for this. Further, playing with two players, people are bound to notice that the second player has no control or options anywhere. In fact, throughout the entire game, the second player is always just an add-on. Nothing more.
Now, we already have an article giving the run down on a lot of this, which can be found here. It briefly goes over each of the basic gameplay modes. The main menu has the major categories set up: Grand Prix, Versus, Party Mode, Ranked Battles, play with Friends, and Local (LAN). Grand Prix is the closest this game has to a story. It’s somewhat bare bones, though, even for a fighting game. The main story is that your character has entered a tournament and you want to win. The only thing of interest that happens is at the end if you’re playing on a high enough level, but I won’t spoil that for you.
Grand Prix with two players makes every match a doubles round.
Suffice it to say, this game takes a lot of its direction from Super Smash Bros. The game modes kind of mirror what Smash on Wii U had available. A campaign, a For Fun mode, and some mini-games that could arguably feed into teaching the gameplay. However, while Smash was absolutely packed with content, Arms seems to give you what it thinks you NEED and not much more. It’s really a lot more like Splatoon, in that regard.
Also, there are currently ten characters available to play as and a secret character (not really a secret anymore) that will become playable whenever the first DLC drops. He even has three arms of his own, but we won’t get into that, here. Which yes, each character has three Arms that are particular to them, though you can use these Arms as any character, as long as you unlock them through the Get Arms mini-game. Pay in-game money to play a single player skill shot mini-game for a chance at some new weapons to play with.
So, this mode is actually locked when you first get the game. They want you to play through Grand Prix on level 4 or higher before you can start joining in on ranked matches. This is possibly one of my biggest gripes with the game. I understand that this is too keep ranked from being flooded with try-hards that don’t understand the core gameplay. However, I don’t think making them fight AI opponents is an elegant solution.
Any fighting game pro will tell you that AI is either a joke or unfair, and sometimes both. AI, no matter how well-programmed, never fights like a human being. There’s a level of unpredictability it just can’t reach without RNG, which just makes things unfair, at best. AI also has some ungodly reaction speed (think Lvl 9 Lucina counters in Smash). While you can artificially slow this reaction speed, it’s still going to feel very different from a real player.
Overall, I think a party mode quota or leveling system similar to Splatoon would have been a more reasonable solution. Build up to fighting good players by fighting anyone that joins in Party Mode.
A new challenger approaches!
Regardless, once Ranked Matches are unlocked, they work pretty well, I think. The game sets you up to search for a ranked match while you go on and do anything you want to do. If a challenger approaches, you’ll find yourself pulled from whatever you’re already doing to face them. This does seem a little unnecessary, as at least for now, you’ll almost never have trouble finding an opponent, but in the future, this could be very useful.
Overall Arms Gameplay Impressions
Overall, I think the game and controls work intuitively. It’s clear they tried to cover their bases, though as of launch, that seems to be all they did. I don’t have any problems with the core mechanics, though I could see competitive groups complaining that it’s too reactionary. Still, I think the game is a lot of fun and it can lean heavily on its core mechanics and the upcoming content. Free DLC will likely help out the content end of things, but for now, I can’t say there’s too much to do, yet.
Of course, Arms relies heavily on online multiplayer to keep players occupied, and thankfully, this works well. There’s party mode, which gives a more varied gameplay experience and ranked matches for competitive players. If nothing else, the game definitely covers its bases on the online gameplay.
Visuals and Soundtrack
I don’t think I can gush enough about this aspect of the game, however. For whatever flaws the UI and content (as of launch) might have, Arms looks and sounds incredible. From the intro theme, you already know you’re in for something unique. The soundtrack opts to use bongos and a choir as its main s0und. The whole thing is upbeat and really gets you pumped for the game, itself. Each character has a stage and theme song to themselves, and while they all use the same motif from the main theme, each one still sounds entirely unique.
Speaking of unique, between the eleven characters currently in the game (including the new character coming in the DLC), none of them could every really be mistaken for one another. Each character has a central theme that defines them and guides their design, which is then accented with bright colors. Everyone’s looks tell you a lot about their personality. You can tell a lot of love and care went into the character design and original soundtrack. This part of the game is nearly flawless as almost every aspect oozes appeal. Even if I decided I didn’t like the game and wanted to spot playing, I’d likely keep my eyes on it just to see what new characters, stages, arms, and music they roll out with.
Final Thoughts on Arms
Arms is a game with lots of appeal covering up it’s light content. Customizing your character and arm choices is a great feature but the game modes still just cover their bases. It’s just enough to let you decide whether to take the game seriously or play for fun. It’s enough to let you play on your own, with friends at home, or with anyone online. Arms does what it needs to do and not much else.
Of course, this will be fixed via free updates, offering more content. Splatoon had a similar issue at launch, so it’s hard to argue that really hurts the game overall. The competitive mechanics are in play to make sure that Arms takes some skill, but the randomness exists to ensure no one gets shut out. That may make some matches feel really unfair. However, ranked battles exist solely to scratch that itch for a fair fight.
To top it off, the game looks and sounds amazing. The only issues I really have are a few things it fails to mention and a couple decisions that don’t really feel like they hit the nail on the head. Player two has no control or options in the main menu. The controls aren’t fully explained. Ranked Battles being locked behind Grand Prix seems questionable. Arms was clearly intend for a single player to go online, but at least it offers options just in case.
Overall, I think Arms is a decent game with good potential and not enough content, yet, to see it through. My opinion will likely improve over time, but it’s going to be a very interesting game to keep track of for the future.
–Special thanks to Nintendo for sending us a review copy of Arms for Nintendo Switch.
Starting from launch, we’ve been playing the new Cooking Mama title on the 3DS. As always, Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop is an assortment of short mini-games played end-to-end in order to make a dish of some sort. You’ll cook one meal and they give you another to replace it. That leads into the most prominent thing about the game. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop wants you to always have options.
That leads into probably the most prominent thing about the game. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop wants you to always have options. Whether it’s the food you cook, the clothes Mama wears, or the store you sell your sweets in, this game always gives you a choice. So much so that this is likely the reason the game is so addictive. Because just about every detail is customizable, there are hours of menu-surfing to do until you have everything just the way you want it. This almost seems to overshadow the core gameplay at times, but in the end, that’s kinda what the game is really about.
Core Gameplay and Customization
At its core, Cooking Mama is all about utilizing the touch screen on the 3DS to perform various tasks. This can range from repeating numbers you’ve just seen to whisking a bowl full of eggs carefully. You’ll even need to balance food items at times and on rare occasions, the game even makes use of the built-in mic. As with most mini-game collections, Cooking Mama doesn’t really seem to focus on one thing in its core gameplay. Instead, the focus of the game is somewhere between the lines.
Everything you do in Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop brings you closer to more customization options. Cooking enough treats will unlock more in the store and sometimes unlock bonus mini-games. These bonuses allow you to play one mini-game over and over until you get a high enough score to unlock more outfits for Mama in the store. You can customize the floor, walls, and counter of your kitchen, as well as your appliances and tools. The layout and decorations in your store are yours to pick and choose. You can even change the in-game clock (although I’ve yet to figure out how you get more of those).
Customize your pancake towers~
This leads me back to my previous point: this game is all about giving you, the player, options. And you have those options so you can spend more time customizing. This pads out the length of the game, turning what could be beaten in one day with ease into something that’ll occupy the faster players for a week at best. Players with less focus may be occupied for much longer. Which really makes me feel that the game works best for those that have their 3DS with them for those long train or car rides.
The Charm of Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop
Gameplay is great and usually, it’s what I focus on most in a review, but to do so misses one of this game’s greatest assets: the presentation. Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop, like any other game in the series, is very cutesy and always gives you something to look at. It’s the spectacle that really makes Cooking Mama work as well as it does. You’re given a motherly character who appreciates everything you do. Almost all custom setups will still look good. Everything is stylized and cute.
On top of that, the soundtrack, while a bit repetitive by the end, is very appealing. The game works out well in the sense that it gives you plenty to do without much effect aside from your own enjoyment. Then the cute personal appeal draws you back in for more.
Everything is just so cute~
Ultimately, Cooking Mama is a delightful game that keeps you playing for better or worse. You’re never locked into one path and the aesthetic appeals greatly to a more casual audience. This game works best in a pick-up-and-play setting, which makes sense as it’s on the Nintendo 3DS. If you’re looking for the deepest depths of content, you won’t find it, here, as the game is overall somewhat short, if you’re not into the customization aspect.
For those that ARE into the customization, this game could easily eat a week or a month or longer, just depending on how much you get into it. There is plenty to choose from to make every aspect of the experience suit you. For a more casual audience or younger players, I recommend this game. For core gamers, you can probably afford to look somewhere else unless the aesthetic just suits you that well.
In the end, Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop does nothing that we aren’t already used to. If you’ve liked this series in the past, you’ll probably like it, now. If it wasn’t your cup of tea, you probably shouldn’t expect this one to be, either. And if you’re new to the series altogether, this may not be a bad place to pick it up.
— This review of Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop was based on a review copy given to us by Rising Star. Special thanks to them for making this review possible.
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o we recently got the opportunity to play a Strategy RPG on the Nintendo Switch. Disgaea 5 Complete is a re-release (enhanced port with DLC content) of Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance for the PS4. As you might guess, it’s been very different from anything else we’ve reviewed recently. That is, Disgaea 5 Complete isn’t a game that you binge for a week and move on. It’s more of a commitment and time sink than your average casual title.
The basics of the game are simple, although they can be a bit clunky for newcomers. However, Disgaea’s strategy gets deep early on, expecting a lot of players. On top of that, the story and presentation is a bit niche, appealing heavily to the anime crowd. As if that weren’t enough, the content can feel schizophrenic at times, as it expects players to do a little bit of everything to get the most out the game.
As if the art style wasn’t enough of a clue, to begin with!
Originally, I wasn’t too sure I was going to enjoy Disgaea 5 Complete. I thought it was being unreasonable by expecting me to do busy work to make even the tiniest bit of progress. However, I eventually learned otherwise when the game finally clicked for me. Disgaea 5 is a very deep strategy game that will let you tackle things head on only so you can learn the hard way that this rarely works. So let’s dive into some of what this game has to offer.
Story and Presentation
Without a doubt, this game appeals mostly to the anime crowd. It’s full of the tropes that are well-known throughout the medium (genre?) and seems to revel in that fact. In particular, it shares a lot with many modern shonen action anime (think Naruto, Bleach, or One Piece). If you’re familiar with that subgenre of anime, then you likely know what to expect. Thankfully, this hardly works against the game’s presentation.
Here, you can see the brooding male lead, the exploitative female lead, the brainless beefcake, the cunning genius, the adorable little girl, and the try-hard idiot standing in the typical anime intro panning shot. So many anime stereotypes! So little time!
You see, this isn’t all that important to Disgaea 5 Complete. Instead, it actually sets a reasonably strong backdrop for the characters to travel from one netherworld to another. Each of the main characters shares one theme in common: revenge. They all have some reason to seek revenge against the Lost army. Their pursuit of the all-powerful demon emperor leads players through a great variety of locations, which are then used for a variety of gameplay quirks. More on that, later.
So if it isn’t that important, why would I bring this up first? Well, this will almost undoubtedly be the thing that drives you to keep playing, at first. The story and characters are just interesting enough to keep you going while you unlock some of the game’s depth.
Each of the characters is solidly fleshed out, as you might expect from an SRPG. Each one has a goal, personality quirks, different methods of tackling their problems, and different developments that will occur over the course of the game. They’re mostly likable enough to draw you in, despite their flaws being apparent right off the bat.
With that, however, comes one of the better points about Disgaea 5. The character relations are the driving force for most of the character development and humor. Particularly, many of the jokes are derived from their many personality quirks. For instance, it’s a running joke that Killia eats before every battle. This comes up fairly often, usually popping up at least once in a chapter. Later, this plays off of another character, Usalia, who needs to eat curry all the time to avoid going berserk and getting herself killed.
Seraphina: What are you doing? Killia: …Uh, eating, obviously.
Story progression is one of my biggest hang-ups with Disgaea 5 Complete. Depending on how quickly you advance through story missions, it can move reasonably fast or just stop entirely. With a game this deep, it’s very difficult to keep story progression at a regular pace. That’s because some players can rush through, skillfully handling every encounter. Meanwhile, others will need to stop and do the hub-world tango between every mission to make sure they can handle whatever comes next.
The game takes almost the entire first half to unlock the majority of its functions. Comparatively, you gain allies like Red Magnus, pictured above, relatively early on.
Thankfully, the Cheat Shop allows you to control how quickly your characters progress in certain ways. It’s possible to crank up the EXP flow to double, triple, or higher in order to keep your characters strong enough to rush ahead. Be careful, though, as this will cost you in other areas. Pacing is up to the player and to a lesser extent, their skill. However, this isn’t really spelled out for you. It’s actually locked behind a strategy assembly meeting, which just means you have to do even more ridiculous faffing about.
Now we get to the meat of this topic. This is where the game really expects players to dig their heels in and pay close attention. Everything starts off simple enough, with the game teaching you basic UI functions and how combat flows. It lets you make the first move and the enemy team will react to what you do. Next, the game will give you the general idea of how evilities (passive abilities each character has) can affect the battle. Then it’ll teach you that there can be benefits to arranging your characters a certain way.
Everything runs smoothly for the first few chapters. The game will teach you about hiring basic class characters to fill out your team and introduce new characters. You’ll learn about super moves and deal with neutral parties. You’ll learn about weapon-type weaknesses on enemy characters and how some netherworlds have certain effects that can cause some real trouble for you or even help dictate how you can deal with enemies.
However, alongside this, the game expects you to be experimenting on your own. Sure you can tower one character on another and have a stronger attack ready. But why not tower even MORE characters and deal an insane amount of damage on top of that? Then you find out that this limits you to attacking only one opponent at a time and focuses enemy attacks on just one fighter at a time. Disgaea does a lot of this risk-reward setup. Most moves work in your favor and against you at the same time. So with that in mind, let me share with you the moment my opinion on this game drastically improved:
So while I was playing the game, as I said, I was having trouble. Even with the 1 million Hel gift packaged in the special content section, I found myself running short on funds, dealing with enemies only a few of my characters could handle because no one was properly equipped and grinding was starting to become a serious chore. This was just past the halfway mark in the story mode, and I really just wanted to push to the end. That’s when everything suddenly clicked.
I realized that my troops were underequipped, but the enemy troops had some very nice weapons, and one item in the game happens to allow you to steal stuff from enemy fighters. So with that in mind, I began pilfering weapons and armor as I went and stocked up my team properly with no more need to go shopping for better gear.
Grouping characters like this will leave them vulnerable to large attacks that can hit everyone at once, but it also makes it a lot harder for these sword fighters to hit Usalia and Izuna in the back.
This would allow me to save money for other things, like consumables and the Strategic Assembly (which I’ll explain later). From there, with help from the Cheat Shop, I began to progress much, much faster. I even began to notice enemy patterns and learned some ways to keep them at bay while my team skirted around problems and lead enemies into disadvantageous positions.
Disgaea 5 Complete truly expects a lot of players on a strategic front. You CAN brute force missions with higher levels than those of your enemies. However, you’d be best off weighing your options. Bunching up in a group can help you travel around more safely and gives you more attacking power, at times. However, doing so also leaves you open for powerful skills that can hit multiple characters at once. If you aren’t careful about this, your team could get wiped out fast.
Maps also vary greatly, forcing you to look around and assess advantages and disadvantages. This could be areas enemies can’t easily reach, natural choke points, effects on the battlefield itself, or even the way enemies are placed. Sometimes a good strategy can overcome even immense level gaps. This is when Disgaea truly shines. The game almost feels like a big puzzle book, at times. That seems to be one of the game’s strongest points of appeal.
In this sense, Disgaea 5 Complete is at least solid. However, this is far from accessible, and you’ll see that’s a theme with this game. The game really does expect players to understand intricately how it plays.
Disgaea 5 Complete’s Seemingly Endless Content
So as I’ve mentioned, this game has a great variety of content. This is because, in addition to the SRPG-style story missions and the JRPG-style quest board, stores, and skill progressions, there’s a myriad of extra things to pay attention to. Near the halfway point, you can also call an assembly to afford more services or affect future missions, capture and interrogate prisoners to help you gain evilities and new recruits, set up squads to help you run the home base and give you neat bonuses in combat, redesign and build the entire hub world as you sink more time into it than you might sink into rearranging your house in Animal Crossing. You can cook curry, alter basic game attributes, set everything, even background music, to your liking. You can even send crew members out to explore other worlds and bring back goodies for you later. There’s an endless dungeon to help you upgrade items. A Mario-Party-style minigame to help you improve your characters, and even that really feels like just the beginning.
Seriously, why a board-game-styled minigame of all things?
Honestly, it really starts to feel like a lot to swallow, and at some points, it almost feels like Disgaea 5 Complete wants you to try absolutely everything between every mission.
Disgaea 5 Complete also comes with a slew of bonus content that mostly represents the DLC from the PS4 version. There are new characters like Metallia, Leharl, and even NIS’s mascot, Nisa. Also, there are bonus scenarios involving characters from past games. Even then, some things are just there to help like the helper Prinnies and the 1mil Hel gift.
Of course, the bonus scenarios are the highlight, here. Fan favorite characters will fight against and alongside you in various situations before you can unlock them as playable allies in the main campaign. The levels seem to scale based on your own levels, or at least the bonuses for these missions do. Though there seem to be some tricky situations in play. It may be best to avoid this until you have a hang of the core mechanics.
Disgaea 5 Complete is a deep game with a lot of content for those looking for something they need to sink time into. This game really isn’t for everyone, especially pushing out newer players, but it also seems like an effort has been made to help ease this with some of the special content. Don’t get into this game unless you want to solve countless combat scenarios and spend weeks building up your army. This game definitely favors those with the time to kill.
With that said, the game is enjoyable, if you can get sucked into the narrative or the deeper gameplay mechanics. I’d definitely recommend this game to anyone that’s already a fan of SRPGs. Otherwise, this may not be the most enticing title of the year.
With all that being said, Disgaea 5 Complete comes out on Tuesday, May 23rd. However, there is already a demo up on the eShop. You can read more about that, right here.
–Special thanks to Nippon Ichi Software America for supplying us with a review copy of the game in advance.
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith more than 120 million copies sold, Minecraft is one of the most popular games ever released. Now, the game has finally made it to Nintendo Switch. Minecraft Switch Edition is available beginning May, 11th, and features all of the rich gameplay one comes to expect from a game in the series. Minecraft Switch Edition is the first true portable version of the game that features full controller support. While the game has been available on mobile devices for some time now, Minecraft on the Switch is truly unique in the sense that it is as much of a hybrid as the Switch console itself.
Minecraft has always stood out to me as an inspiring game of creativity, due to its inventive gameplay but also the aesthetics. Even though the visuals have had a dated look and feel to it for some time now, few games have visuals so recognizable and charming. The simplicity of the graphics make the game easily customizable, hence the many skin packs the game comes with. Furthermore, the game looks beautiful on the crisp screen of the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. It feels like you are holding the huge world in your hands, which is something I always enjoyed about games on handheld devices such as the Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Switch.
Getting Started with Minecraft Switch Edition
First time you start the game you will be prompted with the main menu, at this point we couldn’t contain our excitement, so we choose a character Skin ( Mario ), and created our first world right away. Within the options of your server, you have the ability to choose if you want to create an online or offline game. If you do opt to go online, up to 7 other friends will be able to join, and mine with you. You can however restrict the people who can join your game. For example you can allow only friends, or friends of friends.
Once you have selected your desired server settings you will be able change the gameplay options. The game modes you can choose are Survival, Creative and Adventure. These are three modes known from previous versions of the game. And each one of them changes the gameplay just a little bit. You may also change the difficulty from easy to medium and hard.
Creating, building and crafting are a few of the most important actions you will perform in the game. While the beginning can be a bit overwhelming, the tutorial explains the basics of these three core actions. Even though new players may get lost mining all sorts of different materials, from trees to sand, not knowing what to do with either of it. The Crafting user interface luckily is pretty straight forward. You can even use touchscreen controls to navigate through the menus, making it even easier to perform your tasks. As pretty and sleek as the user interface is, you will still want to have your Minecraft Wikis at your fingertips for crafting recipes, tips and tricks.
Once you do decide to start crafting, you might feel a little frustrated at the beginning. There is no way to know what materials you need to create a torch, a pickaxe or anything else your heart desires. You will be forced to rely on Minecraft wiki pages to know what is needed for the item you want to make.
There is definitely a learning curve to all of this, if you are a first time player to Minecraft, the huge world and options can make you feel lost at times. But Minecraft is fun enough to warrant the learning curve. Once you overcome the first hurdle, the addiction kicks in once you crafted and created your first items. By this time you will proabbly have noticed, that the sun has been setting for a while, and scary noises will appear all around you. Thats right the day and night cycle is still part of the gameplay, and different creatures will appear during the night.
This is where the game will really pull you into the world. You will either have to find shelter, craft or find a sword. Even a wooden stick will help you make you feel more secure. This is also where I began worrying, as I was running around holding a bag of seeds, feeling beyond helpless if anything scary should cross my path. I started looking around, trying to get a hold of materials I could use to make some simple tools. A shelter, some weapons or even a simple stick. Like a cavemen stocking their first fire, building basic tools, torches and a shelter – all of these things will make you feel a lot safer in Minecraft, especially during the night. And once you survived the first night, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. As the sun rises, and shines some light on your newly created survival kit, you can’t help but somehow feel proud of what you have built.
Create and Build
Beyond creating a sense and feel of safety, you will also be building the land of your dreams. As you mine more, you will establish a good amount of materials in your inventory. Once you mastered crafting your basic survival kit ( tools and torches ) you will expand your repertoire to include superfluous pieces. In order to build your first tiny shed, house or mansion, depending on how big your ambitions are, you will need to craft ladders, stairs, doors, windows and more. This is where the expansive crafting systems turns from a necessity to survive, into something you frequently do, simply out of joy to complete your next big project. There is always something to do in Minecraft.
Once I finished my first house on the top of a mountain, I looked out of my ( personally crafted ) window, and noticed there is a higher mountain in the far distance. Off I went to go exploring and climbing that new taller mountain I saw from my window. Once I completed my journey, I started building a new project, just on the tip of the mountain. The feeling of freedom and exploration, the ability to alter and change your world to your very own desire, is to date a very unique experience only found in Minecraft.
The crafting system in this game is as powerful or as simple as you want it to be. You can stick to crafting torches and weapons, or make it more complex and start building houses, or even a self-powered rail system, that will connect the entire world. There is no limit besides your creativity, and building an underground railroad system, is one of the best experience you can have, especially when done so in multiplayer with friends.
Adventure Alone or with Friends
The feeling and the thrill of exploration, with unforeseen events is impeccable. The Minecraft Switch Edition captures this just as well, as any previous Minecraft version on the market. There were times I spend my day farming, maintaining my house, hunting for food and just sitting back and relax. But other times, you will find yourself stumbling upon a gigantic mine, a mysterious cave, or an area of the world you haven’t yet explored. These are the kind of moments that invite you to an unexpected adventure. Because worlds are randomly generated, you never know what secrets you may uncover next.
Of course adventuring is always better with friends, in my opinion at least. Minecraft on the Switch offers multiplayer for up to 8 people. You can play with your friends, or the friends of your friends, the choice is yours when you create and open your world to others. The multiplayer is supported through local as well as Online network. If you have the option to play with others, we highly encourage you to do so. Building that underground rail road system, or the beautiful mansion by the beach is twice as much fun, when done in a collaborative manner. As you build your empire, friends can drop in and out at any given time, and it is great fun to stun your friends with what you have built after they been away for a while.
Minecraft Switch Edition is a wonderful game, that adds to making the game lineup for the Nintendo Switch even stronger. There is little new for a longtime Minecraft player to be discovered. But to be able to take the game on the go, with full controller support, and online multiplayer, makes this one of the best Minecraft iterations of the series so far. The graphics, though beginning to look somewhat outdated, look still stunning on the crisp display of the Switch. The huge world size, and the different skin packs make the game very replayable. Minecraft performs and plays beautifully on Nintendos Hybrid console. The team behind Minecraft has managed to make this is the perfect game to play with your friends, and is a must own game for every Switch owner who enjoys sandbox games – regardless if you have already played Minecraft before or not.
Big thanks to Microsoft for providing the review copy of the game.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nd so, another strong indie title has graced the Nintendo Switch. KAMIKO, developed by Circle Entertainment, Kan-Kikuchi, and SKIPMORE, looks and feels like a top-down Zelda in many ways. The game has that arcade feeling to it, but it’s far more forgiving. The game was published by Flyhigh Works in mid-April on the Switch in Japan only. Thankfully, it was out on North American and European eShops just two weeks later.
KAMIKO lets you play as one of three warrior priestesses, each gifted a different holy weapon to fight demons. You’ll make your way through four stages, purifying gates and solving puzzles until you reach each stage’s boss. The game is short, but it seems to be extremely replayable, so let’s dive in and see what makes this game work so well.
KAMIKO’s Familiar Gameplay
So it’s probably not hard to imagine how the gameplay works, already. You run around, smacking enemies with whatever weapons you have and try not to get smacked in return. That’s not wrong, but it severely under-represents what actually makes KAMIKO play the way it does.
First, you select a character to play. The girls you can pick vary in combat style. Yamato has a giant sword that’s very simple and works similarly to Zelda. Uzume is an archer, which gives her more range than Yamato, but her attacks are slower. Attacking three times in a row unleashes more arrows than just one. Then there’s Hinome. She throws her shield like a boomerang, which can one-shot opponents. However, this is slow and has some start up, which means you have to be careful using it. While her shield’s out, she can stab outwards up to two times with her dagger while her shield to returns. You can think of this as Yamato being easy mode, Uzume being medium, and Hinome hard.
Also, you have three meters to keep track of and your health works as normal. Getting hit depletes your health while finding gems will restore it. There’s your spirit or magic gauge, which allows you to open doors and chests, purify shrines, and use each character’s super move. You do super moves by holding down attack until your character lights up and releasing. Each one is different, but Yamato’s is essentially the Hurricane Spin attack from Wind Waker. The third meter is a combo meter that counts up each time you slay an enemy before the bar drops. If you get hit or fail to kill an enemy before the time bar is empty, your combo starts over.
How the Core Mechanics Change the Way You Play
So as we mentioned before, there’s a combo meter, but why? Each time you slay an enemy, you get spirit energy back. It costs 50 energy to open things, 100 to purify gates, and 150 to do a super move. Although you don’t need the full cost for the super move, it drains that much if you have it. As you start with a max of 200 spirit and can only get up to 400 by the end, it’s important that you keep collecting spirit energy as you go.
That’s where the combo meter comes in. The higher your combo is, the more spirit energy you’ll gain from each kill. By racking up a huge combo, it’s easy to refill your entire combo meter in a matter of seconds. There was one point during a boss, where using Yamato’s spin attack, we kept all of the spirit energy we used up because the combo meter was so high and there were plenty enemies.
This encourages players to emphasize speed. They dash around, rack up a higher combo, and won’t have to grind for spirit energy, later. This seems to work particularly well in KAMIKO because the game also tracks your time on each stage and overall. So, players get faster to get better times and it makes the overall game last a little longer! It left an overall good impression.
This only ever feels like it gets in its own way is during the timed bridges that appear in three stages. The controls are a little loose, which means you can run into a wall or doorway and get stuck for just a second and that’ll stop you from making it across. This hardly ruins the game, but it’s a small blemish on an otherwise perfect gameplay experience.
Visuals and Sound Design
On top of playing well, this game looks and sounds amazing. The chiptune soundtrack is absolutely one of the highlights to the point that I greatly recommend looking for the hidden item in each stage so you can unlock the sound test in the main menu. On top of that, the visuals are crisp and clean. Colors stand out, making this game very playable in tabletop or handheld modes. In fact, it almost feels like the game was designed to be played on a handheld. This is probably the one thing this game gets right more than anything else.
Story and Content
So even as much as this game got right, there had to be a weak spot, and that’s the story. The story isn’t especially compelling and will most likely just get skipped over after your first playthrough. The gods have come down to a warrior priestess of your choice to offer her a holy weapon so she can fight and banish evil spirits. She must travel to four gates in each stage to purify the land of evil. There’s one point at the end where the evil spirits call into question the motives of the gods, but nothing ever comes of that.
It almost felt like there was supposed to be a final stage unlocked at the end that utilized all three characters when you completed the game with each one, but nothing of the sort happened. That left the game feeling a little bit TOO short. KAMIKO could’ve really benefited from more stages or a secondary campaign. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t vary much of anything aside from enemy placement. Even then, the same enemies still appear in the same areas. They just shift around slightly based on where you enter from.
Thankfully, the gameplay feels so great that this minimal content is extremely replayable. After five or six runs, though, it still loses its charm.
Overall, KAMIKO is a really good game. The developers did an amazing job refining the gameplay and core mechanics to emphasize speed. The soundtrack is beautiful and the visuals really stand out on any screen. The only real drawback is that the story didn’t get the love it needed and left the content feeling really short. For the low price this game demands, however, I don’t think I could recommend this enough. The game is incredibly replayable, and you will more than get your $5 worth. Give it a look, if you haven’t, already
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the release of a new Nintendo system, a new Mario Kart was bound to follow shortly after. Nintendo didn’t disappoint at all, though, with the short lifespan of the Wii U, it was unlikely we’d see a brand new one. Instead, we received an enhanced port of Mario Kart 8 for the Switch. While many may argue that this was a questionable move for Nintendo, the game is being well received. So with that, let’s dive into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to see how it really holds up in the series.
Slightly jarring, isn’t it?
Mario Kart Racing Content
Before even starting up the game, it’s clear that Mario Kart was never really geared toward single-player experiences. The game does alright on this front, but it can only really do so by substituting in computers for you to play with. This is a game that’s always preferable with more players. Thankfully, we do have an online mode to help with that, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
So in Grand Prix mode, Nintendo gave us five difficulty modes and 12 cups with 4 courses each to play with. The difficulties affect the speed of the karts, the viciousness of the CPUs and can even flip the course like a mirror image. The courses have a lot of variety to them, ranging from a subway to a deep and mysterious forest. Some courses are mostly underwater, some are in outer space, and at least one is inside an active volcano. There’s even a number of courses that reference other games, like Zelda, Animal Crossing, Excitebike, and even F-Zero! All of this content is also available for Versus races, but instead of playing full cups, you play individual tracks. You can also play in team races or time trials, but series veterans will already know that.
In fact, the new additions to the racing aspects of the game are fairly minimal. They mostly take the form of changes in mechanics and the items available to racers. Among these changes are the tweaks made to certain car parts, adding more variety to the builds players can craft. There’s also the purple drift sparks, which allow you to get a third and even more powerful drift boost as you come around corners. It’s especially interesting because the changes are difficult to notice for some of the less-skilled players. Higher level players will likely appreciate the changes to the gameplay, though.
Dry Bowser showing off those purple drift sparks.
On the note of skill, this games actually introduces a couple of safety nets for newer or less able players. These come in the form of smart steering and auto-acceleration. This means you don’t have to press the A-button to go and you don’t have to be a great player to avoid falling off the track. You can basically play without even touching the controller! This has some great side effects, meaning that nearly anyone can play. (We have an article here showing exactly that.)
Of course, you don’t have to worry about that making the game more unbalanced for the more skilled players. As it turns out, if you have smart steering on, you can’t get the third-tier drift boost. And of course, if you’re not pressing the A-button with auto-accelerate on, you’ll still go slower than you would’ve, otherwise. It reminds us of Mario Kart Wii. You could choose to have the game automatically drift whenever you turned, making your turns sharper, but this meant you wouldn’t get the drift boost.
With that said, it’s somewhat annoying that these options are automatically turned on, whenever you first play. You have to manually turn these options off in the vehicle select when looking at your stats. (You can also turn these off in the in-game pause menu, but that’ll probably annoy the other players more.) Of course, we realize that the players more likely to find these options will be the ones that want to turn them off, so it’s an understandable design choice.
Mario Kart Battle Content
This is where Mario Kart 8 Deluxe really stands apart from the Wii U version. In the original, battle mode was a selection of courses from the racing side of things. In the Switch version, the developers gave this game the battle courses it deserved. There are eight in total, and it’s clear they were designed as arenas. On top of that, they added a new battle mode called Renegade Roundup.
In Renegade Roundup, players are split into two teams. One team chases the others with piranha plants while the other must avoid them. It’s basically cops and robbers. When caught, players will be placed in cages, which other renegades can unlock by driving under them. The law wins if all renegades are caught, and the renegades win if time runs out, first. This happens to be one of my favorite modes, though it may help that I played this on the Dragon-Driftway-inspired battle course. It seemed to work very well on that stage.
Renegade Roundup from both sides of the field.
Other stages include Luigi’s Mansion, a block-based arena like in Super Mario Kart, Sweet Sweet Castle, a moon base, Urchin Underpass (from Splatoon), Wuhu Town (think Wii Sports), and the Battle Stadium (which isn’t really based on anything). Each one clearly has strengths and weaknesses. Shine Thief, for instance, seems to work very well in Urchin Underpass and Wuhu Town, but leads to a lot of cheese on Battle Stadium.
That’s right, online is also a big part of this game. There’s once again little that is truly new, here. It works very much as it did on the Wii U, though perhaps a little more stable. The online does its job, to be sure, but one change to the system allows you to switch your kart setup while in the lobby. This allows players to be a little more strategic about their setup based on the stages available. If players wanted to do this in the Wii U version, they would have to leave the lobby to change your setup. That’s a certainly an improvement!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a remake of Mario Kart 8, but with many of the major glaring flaws fixed. Characters that were clearly missing have been returned and the online is less of a pain to deal with. The game is at once more accessible and yet more competitive. The graphics are just as good and the soundtrack is as amazing as ever (with bonus points for adding “Splattack!” from Splatoon). Most importantly, battle mode is back and better than ever with new stages and new modes. Our gripes with this title are relatively few. If you didn’t have a Wii U or Mario Kart 8 before, this is a big recommendation.
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat Remains of Edith Finch is a game developed by Giant Sparrow who also made The Unfinished Swan. They seem to enjoy the concept of an interactive storybook, and from what I saw, it works out well for them. You see, this game is all about the story. In Edith Finch, it’s clear that this game is more about discovering the narrative than anything else. The game’s sound design, varied visuals, and the overall mood really work to sell these mysterious circumstances and I feel like it works greatly in the game’s favor.
The game begins on a boat out in the middle of the sea. You immediately have control over the character’s view and look down to read a book written by the title character, Edith Finch. As soon as the story begins, you’re already being presented with mysteries. Not everything will make sense at first, but if you pay attention, you’ll begin to piece everything together.
The story follows Edith Finch as she makes her way through her family’s old house that her late mother would never let her explore. She tells her readers about her childhood living in this house and how as strange as everything was, it just seemed normal to her. Following the deaths of many family members, the mother, Dawn, chose to seal up all the doors in a nearly insane attempt to hide her family from a curse that seems all too real. As Edith makes her way through the house, she discovers the stories of her family members and how each of them died.
There’s a very dark overtone throughout the whole game that just keeps players from ever getting comfortable. Even in some of the more lighthearted stories, the reality weighed me down, making me realize just how tragic everything really was.
The greatest strength of the story seems to be in the discovery, so I won’t go into details as to avoid spoiling the story. What I will say is that I played this game with a couple friends, and while there were great moments that really told us just how dark a story we were getting into, there were also some moments where something happened that just completely broke the mood. While I appreciate the variety in the story-telling styles, naturally, it meant that some would work better than others. As such, it’s understandable that some narrative styles may have cheapened the impact a little. Overall, that’s made up for by the styles that really drive it home, though, so I think it’s a fair trade-off.
Visual and Sound Design
I would feel bad if I brought up sound design and didn’t give credit for the voice acting. I really think the voices and script go a long way in making this story feel more real. Between the voices of the family members telling each of their stories and the writing that reasonably changes in style depending on who’s telling the story. Not only that but the medium through which each story is told changes, as well, typically reflecting the personality or background circumstances of each person. For instance, one story is told through a journal while another is told in the form of a comic book or a series of photographs.
Aside from that, the graphics are decent. While the game doesn’t do anything especially impressive on that front, it does make good use of what it has. The views are worthwhile and the rooms inside the house just get crazier every time.
The actual background music, on the other hand, is gentle and sorrowful. It plays under the narrative, setting a mood without really requiring much of the player’s attention. The only time I remember the music being the focus was right when I started up the game, but it fades and often even disappears altogether, simply keeping you in the moment. It’s the kind of music you might listen to while studying and it works very well, in this instance.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is not where this game shines in any sense. The controls work just fine, though I did find myself stumbling a little bit due to limited space to move my mouse in. It definitely appears that this game sacrifices gameplay for story coherence, but in this case, I think that’s a trade I’m willing to make.
Edith Finch falls squarely into a category I like to call “beautiful walking simulators” where the gameplay is more akin to walking through a museum than anything else. The upside is that it makes a narrative far easier to craft, but it risks losing any players that aren’t just looking for a story. What’s more, the game only lasts about two hours and has next to no actual replayability to it, so you’re effectively paying to watch a movie. Overall, this is definitely the category that hurts this game the most.
What Remains of Edith Finch is short, but sweet. The game really sells its story and mystery, making the player wonder if they might have missed any clues or secrets. However, the game is very heavily scripted and gives the player little freedom to experiment in any meaningful way. The voice acting is definitely great, but don’t expect to be revisiting this game anytime soon. With a $20 price point, it’s difficult for me to argue that it’s worth the money, but if the intriguing narrative piques your interest, please pick this game up on the PlayStation Store or Steam for Mac and Windows.