Sunday, December 20, 2015


    When Nintendo released the Wii, they were onto something with the reduction of buttons and change in design of the controller. The original NES controller also had very few buttons and this made it easy to learn controls. Something we must remember is that back then, there weren't any tutorials. Instead, the first level was where we experimented with the controls and then just started playing. I consider this important as this was how accessibility was defined, but we've lost that in modern gaming.
    Today's AAA games tend to be complicated with hours of gameplay or text devoted to explaining how to play. This actually hurts the game's value as those who quickly understand the controls don't want to sit through long tutorials. I know that every time I picked up a new Mega Man Battle Network game, I was annoyed by the tutorial stages that just seemed to go on forever. These levels are nice for new players, but they frustrate veterans and kill the reply value of the game. This actually brings about the ironic situation where the game may be accessible to newcomers, but not accessible to experts.
    On the flip side, if there is no explanation for a complicated game, then the developers risk isolating any new players. The solution is a proper balance. If the game is simple enough in gameplay, then no tutorials are needed. A good example is Super Mario Bros. where you move or jump. World 1-1 gave newcomers perfect environment to learn how to play the game while also not being annoying for experts to play. In fact, there are so many secrets in that level, experts would replay just to find them.
    Now what about complicated games? Fire Emblem: Awakening did a good job here as well. Instead of a time consuming tutorial, the player was given screens of text with picture examples with the option to skip and view later. This means new players can read the tutorials whenever they want to, making it a prime example of accessibility while not impeding those who already know the gameplay.
    Accessibility has a bad connotation in gaming to mean adding tutorials. However, it really means just making it so more people can enjoy and easily understand the game. It's a good goal, but it must be important to realize that it affects not only the novices, but also the experts. When that balance is achieved, the game is allowed to achieve greatness.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Inazuma Eleven First Impressions

Normally, I’d write a full review but that is unlikely to happen soon. I bought Inazuma Eleven as part of Nintendo’s eShop sale and I even reach Chapter 4, but now that Xenoblade Chronicles X has come out, my full focus has shifted to my most anticipated title of the year. However, Inazuma Eleven is not too shabby even if there are some minor annoyances in gameplay.

To start off, Inazuma Eleven is a Soccer RPG developed by Level 5.  The game is also primarily controlled by the stylus which is the best way to play but you may want to invest in a bigger stylus lest your hands cramp. When moving around the world, you can use the circle pad and buttons to move, which I often do, but once a battle or match starts, you need the stylus. In these modes, you draw lines for your team to follow and tap in order to pass or kick the ball. It is important though that you still use the circle pad to move the map so that you have a better view of your team. It’s the map aspect that makes me wonder if the game is better suited for the iPad but the stylus is pretty important.

Matches are the major battles. You have a full 11v11 match but these are also what progresses the story meaning you don’t always play to play soccer and you have a ton of cutscenes. The first few matches make it clear you can only succeed if you perform certain special moves. However, when you first start playing, it’s likely difficult to accomplish the one simple goal and failure means going through a lot of cutscenes again and pointless “gameplay”. This makes it annoying that you cannot save halfway through or the lack of checkpoints. However, once you get the hang of the gameplay, things start getting better. 

Battles are the Random Encounters of this JRPG. They consist of either scoring the first goal or stealing the ball within a time limit in a 4v4 format. They occur fairly often and reward you with 2 currencies and experience if you win. However, if you lose or run away, you lose some of both currencies. On the plus side, winning one round can make up for losing 7. The problem I have with the battles format is that the AI is dumb. Your teammates tend to go where you can’t see them, meaning you have to constantly move the map while defending the ball somehow. The map is also fairly small as it’s a 4v4 but its width is no different. This is annoying because your teammates also like going along the edges instead of actually towards the goal. This means that even if you pass to them, you have to move them back in order to be in range of the goal. With the Steal the Ball, your goalie will keep running back to the goal instead of actually helping you, resulting in a 3v4. In Matches, the AI is better but it’s still long.

To help with the bad AI, you have the ability to pause the game and draw routes for your players to follow. This is perhaps the game's best Risk-Reward implementation as they will continue to follow those lines even if things don't go the way you expected. You can change the lines, but that will have to be in real time as you have to wait before you can use another "timeout". It is important to note that any time the action is paused that you can draw routes, this includes during action decisions and kickoffs. When you master using these opportunities, things get to be pretty fun.

The next annoyance would be the Special Moves cutscenes, they get tiresome after a while and I wish that there was a "Turn Off Animation" like in Fire Emblem. These special moves are also somewhat of a gamble as you don't know when your opponent will use one.

Anyways these were my quick and poorly written impressions. I actually have found myself wanting to keep playing even when my wrists hurt. I really enjoy playing soccer and found myself as a strategist when playing, so this game is almost a perfect match for me. If you want more information about the story, there's an anime with a few episodes on the eShop that appears to follow the game's plot pretty well. Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Games and Violence

I originally wrote this piece on my Philosophy Blog, but I feel like it deserves a place here as well as the ideas behind it haven't changed. Enjoy.

               Lately, video games are receiving the bad rep of leading to an increase of violence. This idea has been exaggerated to the point of games being blamed for shootings. Yes, these are terrible crimes and we should work to prevent them in the future, but in order to do that, we need to make sure our attention is in the right place.
                Games are only the latest to be blamed for violence. Before that, it was television. Then it was movies and comics. Books and stories have been blamed for a long time for inciting the people. That is why there is a thing called censorship, but that is an argument for a different time. As I was indicating, placing the blame on a single part of society has been around for quite a long time, and it’s always the “latest” thing.
                While some people agree that it cannot be pinned on just video games, they merely extend it to all of media. They are on the right track, but still are missing key information. They are still making broad generalizations in this modern day “witch hunt,” which also is another topic for another day.
                One of the causes for this mob is the lack of understanding. There’s that old saying that “people fear what they do not understand”. They cannot explain it, thus it is illogical and evil. Some people misunderstand it, and combined with the other group, a mob is formed. For the case of “witch” hunts, some people attributed resurrection and healing to black magic and the devil. In a Christian world, this cannot be done because it acts against the nature of their religion, considering the story of their savior healed people and raised them from the dead. Thus people need to first try to understand the issue correctly, hence my essay on the Allure of Video Games.
                In the case of video games and many aspects of the media, there is this tendency to paint everything under the same brush. Since the news generally reports only the bad stuff that happens, most of the public only hears of the bad stuff. They get the impression that video games are only Call of Duty and since they feature guns, they lead to real life shootings. I don’t know of anyone whose skill with a controller means they can handle a real gun.
                Now it is certainly possible that first person shooters can lead to real life shootings, only because we are human and thus stupid. But even then, there are two major prerequisites. First, there needs to be a disregard to the value of life, especially of innocents. Second, the guy needs to be crazy. And of course, people can argue the first implies the second or vice versa.
                Why those two? Because even with the abundance of violence in the media, that should not make it easier to kill people if we value the concept of life. And as long as we are not insane, we can maintain that view. As long as our heroes still show a respect for life, even of the criminals, then I would think that would prove my point. To my knowledge, the nature of Batman and Superman is still to let the law handle it, and the versions that don’t do that are turned into insane villains.
                While I acknowledge the possibility of causation, that's all it is. A possibility. A 1 out of 5 billion chance that someone will go crazy and somehow that is the cause. Do video games lead to increase of aggression? Not as much as just bringing up the idea of politics does. Politics are the cause of many innocent killings and shootings, and they get funding, but we haven't banned that yet. Is it fair for me to paint all political activity under the same brush?
                On that note, most games are not Call of Duty. There is still Mario, Portal, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Minecraft, etc. In fact, in Nintendo games, the player rarely encounters another human-like foe.  I remember being told, “Don’t go into video games, because those are dens of evil.” Uh, no. Video games are art, the formation of something created in someone’s mind. Just like a movie or a painting, whether requested or not. There may be an abundance of bad art, but that doesn't mean there are not good ones. Even then, I wouldn't necessarily say Call of Duty is bad art per se.
                Is there an over abundance of violent video games? Probably, but since I don't play them so often, that leads to another thing. I've already mentioned there are alternatives, and they are popular. That means the consumer and gamer has choices in what games they play. Parents have choices in what games they let their children play. If they are buying primarily "Mature" content for a 10-13 year-old, then I would think there are far more fundamental problems going on there than the kid playing a game.
                One last thing I will address. I heard someone say that there is a “study” that playing video games cause people to be more irritated. Everyday life causes people to become irritated. If we were to ban games based off that idea, sports would also be gone (remember that obsessed fans really go crazy). Then again, traffic, politicians, and bullies would also be banned, which could eliminate so many problems, though cause new ones. The thing is, we cannot disprove the idea that games are what kept shooters from acting earlier.
                There’s actually one more thing that came to my mind. I don’t know what are the real motivations of these shooters. Did they just not have any value for life? Was there a specific message they wanted us to see?  With all the attention that is given to shooters, you’d think there would be some focus on what made them snap. Too bad our society decides to focus on debating guns and burning video games instead.

Game On,
N. D. Moharo

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What Makes a Game a Classic?

A while back, I wrote about Nintendo and its efforts to find its next One Game for the Wii U. When you think about it, that's one big difference between the Wii U and the 3DS. The Wii U has great games, but the 3DS has Classics. Why do I make that claim? Perhaps it's best to examine what makes a game a classic. (By the way, feel free to comment. I could use some good minds to bounce ideas off of) When we think about the classic games of older generations, you tend to think of only a few titles. They also tend to be normally only one game per series (games that aren't true sequels can buck this trend like in Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda). In these titles, there is something spectacular about them. Yes, most of them are innovative, but some are actually the perfect realization of an earlier game (like Crash Bandicoot 2Mega Man II, or Mega Man X).

Just because a game is fairly innovative and unique, it doesn't mean it will achieve classic status. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a neat game and twist on the Puzzle Genre, but as I mentioned before, I don't hear of people clamoring for a Wii U just to play it. In contrast, Portal became a phenomenon that made a lot of people call in sick in anticipation for its sequel. Both are fairly unique puzzle games but Portal makes you want to replay through its appeal. Captain Toad, on the other hand, has the puzzle genre problem. Once you solve the puzzle, you remember the solution and so replaying doesn't feel as satisfying. Portal, though, has a mastery element to it and gives you a feeling of success as you play again and again.
Thinking With Portals
Thinking with Portals
That mastery element is key to crafting a classic. Some gamers seek challenging games, but even the seemingly simple game can have levels of mastery. Pokemon Red and Blue could be beaten by anyone, but those who wanted to be the very best were free to do so. Similar could be said of the original Super Mario Bros. Many people who enjoyed it probably never beat it, but they loved it and those who wanted to go further could do so. Because that game has become so ingrained in our culture, we forget that it's actually a fairly difficult game. Speaking of Super Mario Bros. that game is essentially the key to every classic title. There's a reason why people talk about it so much and why it could be played on almost every Nintendo platform since. It is the classic of classics. The first level is referred to as the best example of how to do a first level. Its design is set so that you learn the mechanics quickly and yet at your own pace. The music is so catchy that even those who never played it would recognize it. However, you don't need to listen to me go on and on about that game, just to see the lessons you could learn from it and other great titles.

When I say mastery is key, I mean it. This is because a classic game is not only easy for beginners to pick up, it does not insult the intelligence or capability of those who wish to master it. Super Mario Bros World 1-1 is essentially a tutorial level but not many would realize it. Likewise, the original Legend of Zelda allowed you to figure things out on your own, placing you in a safe environment but allowing you to explore despite how dangerous it is to go alone. Ocarina of Time also made it quick and easy to pick up and play while Twilight Princess took ours before you finally felt like you were playing.

Another important characteristic of classics is they stick to their core gameplay. This is one of the faults of Skyward Sword; a good game, but packed too much side content and made it mandatory. This distracts from the core gameplay and makes it a barrier for those who who want to replay. For example, the silent realm may have been a neat concept, but it stresses me out and the main reason why I haven't replay it. A characteristic of classics is that even when you lose all of your data, you want to play it again. Even if you can't beat the game, you are fine playing it again and again. I remember not being able to progress far in Super Mario Bros. 3 but I also spent many joyful hours replaying the first world over and over. And that boot level... who could ever expect the amount of joy that comes from one level?
Best Level Ever! :D
Best Level Ever! :D
So what games does the 3DS have that I consider classics? It would be cheap to call Ocarina of Time 3D a classic since it's really an N64 classic but the 3D version is still great game and, in my opinion, the best version for someone to pick up. As for classics that originate on the 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising is the first I think of. The second and possibly my favorite original 3DS title is Fire Emblem: Awakening. While both latter have a considerable amount of content that is online based, meaning they will be lost after the internet support is gone, they have plenty of gameplay and enjoyment within their built-in single player campaigns. Even without their online components, I would not find it difficult to recommend either of those two games.
What do you think? This certainly isn't a perfect view because through this, I wouldn't consider Metroid or Metroid Prime as classics. However, those are highly regarded as classics so perhaps I am too picky in my assessment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Game Review: Pokemon Shuffle for 3DS


Nintendo has tried its hands in many things. Some of its attempts at F2P were pretty cool. We got Rusty's Real Deal Baseball and Steel Diver: Sub Wars. While the former required to buy each individual game, you could haggle in-game and just buy the ones you thought were interesting. The latter gave everyone an awesome Strategic First Person Shooter with the full purchase granting more single-player content and more access to subs and crew. However, I never felt as if I needed to purchase the full title to really enjoy the game. Pokémon Shuffle can be thought of similarly, but it does require a different mindset.

Pokémon Shuffle for the 3DS is a variation of the match-3 gameplay that was popular facebook and then smartphones. The "twist" is that you match three or more of the same Pokémon to unleash an attack against another. Once you defeat a Pokémon , you have a chance to capture it and then use it in your team. Many Pokémon traits carry over from the main games, such as elemental weakness, leveling up, and Mega Evolution. I still even feel the need to continually tap the screen or A while trying to catch a Pokémon . However, the limiting factor the Pokémon Company has placed on the game is the heart limit which in turn determines your play time per session.
Either wait or pay up if you want to play more

Either wait or pay up if you want to play more

You start off with 5 hearts and each stage you play requires you to use one. Once you use the first heart, a 30 minute timer counts down to replenish that heart. However, you can only recover one heart per 30 minutes. In my initial playtime, a match can take an average of 1-2 minutes, longer as you progress, so you have to wait 2 hours and a half just for about 10-30 minutes of gameplay. Either that, or you can spend some jewels to replenish your hearts. If you run out of jewels, then you can actually purchase more from the eshop, with a limit of 150. Another way you can obtain jewels is to streetpass with other people who own the game. If you defeat a trainer for the first time, you receive another jewel. There is also a "Check In" feature that can grant you some items but you can only do it once per 24 hours. To be honest, I saved 10 out of the 12 jewels the game gives you within the first 150 stages. You can beat the game without them.

When you do battle, you are given only a certain number of moves to defeat a Pokémon . Some Pokémon like Eevee will grant you 15, others like Torchic only give you 5 moves to win. However, if you plan your moves right and if you are super lucky, you can pull off a large enough combo to win within a couple of moves. If you run out of moves during a fight, then the game will ever-so-kindly ask if you would like to spend a jewel for five more turns.
Few moves and many disruptions

Few moves and many disruptions

It's easy at first to dismiss the game as exceedingly simple but I've found a few layers of complexity and strategy hidden beneath those smiling faces of monsters. In addition to the move restriction, different Pokémon will use various disruptions to make your game more difficult. One disruption freezes an icon in place while another replaces Pokémon with blocks or even other Pokémon . Now more Pokémon might sound good, but this game is actually where having less Pokémon is better, hence the Complexity -1 item costs 9000 coins. I certainly needed it to defeat Mewtwo at the very end. Speaking of items, if you use the in-game currency of coins before a battle, you gain a respective boost whether it be 5 more moves or starting with Mega Evolution. However, that strategizing begins even sooner than that. When you select a stage, you can edit your team to try and take advantage of various weaknesses or abilities. There is handy optimization button which has the same pick a team for you based of power and elemental strengths. I tend to use that a lot, but I also make fine changes to my team from time to time. For example, the optimization button likes me to have Audino for support, but I like to use Kangaskan and try to Mega Evolve him. Eevee is slightly weaker than Audino, but his ability speeds up the Mega Evolution process. On the other hand, if there are only 3 moves, then I might as well use Audino.

To add to the challenge, there is an expert mode that has you fight Pokémon under a time limit instead and in that case, spending a jewel at the end grants you only 15 more seconds. If that sounds messed up, I will agree with you. While you could argue that the extra chance gives you a chance to catch that Pokémon , I find it hard to argue that it is worth the equivalent of 5 hearts. It's even worse when you consider the alternative is spend a jewel beforehand, get 3000 coins, buy the extra 10 seconds and you probably also have enough for a great ball to increase the odds of catching that Pokémon . On the bright side, if you do obtain enough jewels, you end up with enough gameplay for a while (12 jewels gives 80 hearts). When looking at the cost, that's about $9 when you buy the package set, roughly the cost of a fully downloaded title like Pokémon Battle Trozei. To be honest, I probably would buy that game before buying so many jewels for this title. At least streetpass in combination with the Nintendo Zone gives another way to obtain jewels, I just think they could have at least made you start with 7 hearts instead of 5 since starting with 10 would probably mean no one would ever buy the jewels.
the middle one is slightly more expensive than Pokemon Battle Trozei. Just get that instead and play in tandem

the middle one is slightly more expensive than Pokemon Battle Trozei. Just get that instead and play in tandem

If you do need a reason to connect online, I would say the main reason would be the 500 coin bonus and the special events. For example, the "Daily Pokémon" event allows you to capture a different Pokémon once a day. In addition to that, there are competitions often where you can obtain Mega Stones. Another common event is to capture a legendary Pokémon like Mew! I'm curious to see what other special events the Pokémon Company has planned. It's certainly a reason to open the game every day.

It might be tempting to try and catch every Pokémon the first time around. My advice is to resist the urge. Great Balls are expensive and that money can afford two helpful items in the hard battles. Save your coins for when you require those items. Also, I count on those missed Pokémon to add replay value after beating the 150 stages. Also, some Pokémon just never get used. After catching Pokémon there was never a good opportunity to use him. There were only 3 more fire types, and by then, I had better Pokémon to use.

So how is the best way to enjoy this game? I found watching a TV show and playing during the breaks work nicely. If I feel like waiting the full 2 and a half hours, then I can easily play Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate during that time. Or I can play a stage or two and then go for a quick jog. So the only thing this game is not conducive to for the tightly-budget or more fiscally responsible is long play sessions. On the other hand, it's easy to start up and play for 2 or 5 minutes at a time, meaning it's a good game for small periods of waiting like for your girlfriend to use the bathroom in a mall. Perhaps you'll even get some streetpasses. After all, it's not a horrible game, it's just annoyingly designed as an F2P to try and make money from the impatient. So parents, I highly suggest limiting the online purchasing feature for this game or at least make sure your kids don't have access to a credit card.

Update 4/18/16
The game has been steadily updated since its initial release over 1 year ago. Since then, there have been a few neat improvements

  • More items have been added to assist in leveling up your Pokemon and speeding up Mega Evolution
  • A lot more stages have been added
  • There is now a recommendation system for if capturing a Pokemon is a good idea
  • There is a mission system that unlocks bonuses
  • Extra hearts can be saved for later instead of used before your timed ones
  • You now see how powerful a Pokemon is right after you caught it
  • Some stages make use of weaker Pokemon you never use
  • You can now see how much experience is required to reach the next level
  • You now see how much experience is gained from a battle
  • Saturdays are Victini days where battling against him can get your Pokemon lots of experience; Also, he's a powerful Pokemon so it's useful to be able to capture him once a week 
  • You can face off against Meowth on Sundays to earn lots of coins. I generally gain 2000 or more. Useful to use Mewtwo so that you can pull off more combinations
  • If you want a challenge, you can try the new gauntlet-mode 
So I haven't received many jewels when I get a streetpass. However, if you don't streetpass with someone for a few days, once you finally do, you get 2 bonus hearts. If you streetpass a lot, then you get hearts for every 10. I like to save these for escalation battles as you battle the same Pokemon a lot for bonuses. These tend to be good Pokemon as well

So I gave it a recommendation before and now it's even better. The same suggestions apply so if you can hold to them, this may be the game you play the most

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Allure of Video Games

I originally wrote this piece on my Philosophy Blog, but I feel like it deserves a place here as well as the ideas behind it haven't changed. Enjoy.

           Video Games have been getting attention lately. This attention will probably spike up too since E3 is around the corner. This event is considered one of the biggest video game conferences of the year. Also, details surrounding the successors of two popular consoles are expected to be given. So what makes video games so popular?
           While visiting another country, I asked a female college student how she plays. She told me how she does not spend money on the hobby and plays for maybe three hours a week of Dance Dance Revolution or Mario Kart. However, her motivations were just as important. When I asked her why she played games and the language barrier got in the way, she wrote on my paper the words “Reality Escape.”
            In my own experience, the phrase “escape from reality” addresses many issues. It can deal with boredom, stress, or depression. For example, when I was writing a research paper, I would feel the urge to go and play my Nintendo 3DS instead when I could not think of anything to write. Then after I had relaxed a little, I would return to writing. Similarly, in an interview with a Japanese student, she mentioned video games were something pleasant to do on the train rides. It is not uncommon to see Japanese people of all ages playing some sort of game in their commutes; In Tokyo, I saw a businessman playing Dragon Quest on a Nintendo 3DS.
           In that same discussion, she discussed how the games would be set in various places, from mythological to historical. While this relates to the idea of “Reality escape,” it also links to the idea of experience. Each game provides a certain experience for players to enjoy. Similar to my previous interviewee, she likes Dance Dance Revolution and music games. In contrast, she also enjoys action games like Monster Hunter. When I talked to one of my “hardcore gaming” friends in America, he said, “Maybe the biggest reason they are so much fun is they allow me to experience a lot of different things without as much investment.” This perhaps plays into why gamers look forward to “new games.” Games help fill the desire for new experiences, especially when bored. However, one game can only provide a certain amount of “new experience” before the gamer needs something else.
          What sort of experiences could make games appealing? One explanation would be dreams. Dreams are the aspirations of an individual. They encourage and drive a person to do many things. However, we, as humans, have a variety of desires and passions. Games allow us to tap into each and every one of them, even the ones that are impossible. In a video game, I can be Superman. I can fly through Metropolis. Of course, a video game is therefore a safer way of living that dream for a five-year-old than the top bunk bed and a towel for a cape.
          How do games provide these “experiences”? They borrow techniques from other mediums. Most games have art and strive to make it appealing. They contain music to help substantiate the experience and create a mood. They also have narrative and some have fantastic stories. Looking at these elements, there is nothing different between video games and movies. However, there is one and that is the level of immersion.
          Whether or not people think about this, the aspect of controlling a character as if it was you is very important. My Japanese source from before mentioned in her interview that she “can play video games like I am in the video game.” This helps enforce the escape from reality. Whether are on a train or in the living room with nothing to do, games provide an “alternative you” to control. The player is able to make choices or perform actions as if it was them. Movies allow the audience to see the world created, but they need to work hard in order to have the audience feel involved. By giving the player some control, games are easier to become immersed.
           Of course, all of this is not to take away from games’ initial and source of appeal. Games are made to be enjoyed. All of these qualities and more are taken into account with the purpose of determining how fun is a particular game.  If games were not enjoyable, then there probably would not be any games. However, the popularity of something like the Wii for families help cement the idea that many people will buy and play something that they might consider fun
The term “fun” comes into play more when discussing the two major groups of gamers; Casual and Hardcore. I asked my gaming friend, who served as a president for a “Game Club” in college, about what he considered to be the difference between these two terms. His response was “the reasons people play. Casual people are more interested in experiencing the games and having fun. A hardcore gamer likes to put their skills to the test and wants challenging game play.” This challenge that players seek in their games can be related to how some members of a sports team practice very hard, simply to be the best.
            While there are these two groups of players, it is important to remember that the titles cover mainly the two polar sides. Many players find themselves in the middle. In my interviews with the Japanese student and an American counterpart, both described themselves as not really being a part of either camp. They would talk about how they play a little more than “casual” gamers, but not to the extent of or as competitive as “hardcore.”  
             So why do people play video games? Are they dreamers? Do they desire competition? Or maybe they just want some fun instead of being bored on a train? There is no single answer to those questions. Gamers are part of a global race called “humans,” in which everyone is unique and possess different tastes. As a result, any of the reasons given or not or combination of any could explain the mass appeal of video games. Thus, perhaps the main reason for the love of games is there are many reasons.
Game On,
N. D. Moharo

Monday, November 23, 2015

Game Review: Gunman Clive 2 for 3DS

Every game I get to review, I want it to be good. Some developers are such stand-up people that I really hope their game is great when I get around to reviewing it. Gunman Clive 2 fits this bill. The game is even more impressive when you consider it was done by one man with the exception of testing, translation, and music. This guy definitely deserves all of the praise I'm going to give him because this game's polish is far superior to any triple-A title from last year and better yet, he did it all by himself. I missed the first game, but after playing the second entry in the series, I might just go ahead and pick that up too -- seriously, it's that good. GunmanClive2Banner

Graphics and Music
As any picture shows, the graphics are pretty distinct and have a neat hand-drawn feeling. The animation is smooth and varied and the color coding is a great help. To think the same man who programmed the game also did a good job with the visuals makes me jealous (but in a good way) for his talents. However, I would rather focus your attention to the music as the real star here. This is the one major thing not done by Bertil Hörberg. As soon as I started the game I placed my ear to listen to the opening screen's memorable tune. It gave me a feeling that rivals the classic The Legend of Zelda theme with its sweet opening. Great music makes you excited about the game even when not playing it and this album does the job! Actually, if nothing else go buy the soundtrack on bandcamp for $1.50. It's totally worth more. This recommendation comes from a guy who only bought the soundtracks for games like LoZ: Ocarina of Time, Xenoblade Chronicles, Okami, Kid Icarus Uprising, and To the Moon. This is a worthy addition to that library.

The simplest way I can describe Gunman Clive 2 is that it is to Mega Man what Bit Trip Runner is to Super Mario Bros. The levels are short, but generally require precision because one platforming mistake spells death which means doing the whole level over again. However, the game is quick to respawn players and the levels are really short so this isn't as bad as it may sound. Most of the time I died because I kept making the same stupid mistake or tried rushing too much. If it still sounds too rough for you don't worry because Bertil's got you covered. Select Easy Mode and you'll instead respawn to where you last touched ground at the cost of some health, which is plentiful in Easy Mode. I wish I knew about that system beforehand, but then I might not have felt so accomplished for beating the game on Normal. Then again, since the game is a good challenge even on Easy, you can still feel accomplished when you reach the credits.
The platforming is spot on and I'll attribute this to perfect programming on the 3DS system. This game absolutely belongs on the 3DS if for nothing else but the fact that you have both the Circle Pad and the D-Pad. For most of the game, I defaulted to the D-Pad for the solid platforming but when the game plays with gravity late in the game you will want the circle pad. I also found it amazing how the platforms could be so small or just seemingly out of reach but I was generally able to land on them. If you are the type of gamer that has trouble with platforming, don't worry because Bertil's got you covered again. Select your character at the start to be Ms. Johnson and you got Princess Peach with a gun complete with the float ability. Even if you do die, there is one aspect I'm surprised many developers have not adopted already; the music does not restart! For that, I sing odes to Bertil for letting us keep our sanity and enjoy the awesome tunes Arne Hörberg composed.
Each boss has its unique patterns, but still a challenge nonetheless
Each boss has its unique patterns, but still a challenge nonetheless

If you listen to me talk long enough about the 3D Legend of Zelda games, you'll probably hear me comment about how the enemies are done so perfectly that they only take a small number of hits and never over-populate the screen. The same is true in Gunman Clive 2. You never tire of fighting even when they reappear if you return to the environment a la Mega Man. Only the bosses take a lot of damage and are a real challenge. It's also worth mentioning how varied the bosses are ranging from a samurai to a t-rex to a giant robot. I died plenty of times fighting these bosses, but thanks to the lightning-fast respawn time and the fact that boss levels are their own stage, you eventually memorize the patterns and hone the skills necessary to triumph over them. My chief complaint would be the behind-the-back levels. It's cool that you get to ride a pterodactyl, but switching to flight mindset is pretty hard and I'm sure you'll die a few times before you get the hang of it and soar through it. To make it easier, I recommend using the circle pad for those two levels. For the horse one, the d-pad is the best due to the nature of aiming your gun as well as accelerating. Overall, this game is solid and I have yet to find a bug. Much laud to the one-man studio!
It's a cool concept, but I found it a bit hard to handle
It's a cool concept, but I found it a bit hard to handle

While I found the game difficult and occasionally frustrating the first time through as I played it on Normal, discovering the mechanics in Easy mode and different characters makes it easy for me to replay and enjoy the game again and again. The different difficulty levels compounded with the different characters form a good excuse to test my skills again and again. I'm curious to see how it's possible to beat the game on hard using only Chieftan Bob's Spear or even Duck Mode where you control a duck and try to fly through the level.

Tired of waiting for Capcom to finally release a good Mega Man game? This game is for you. It's perfect on the 3DS with solid platforming, music, and bosses. It's friendly to those who make mistakes but you still feel accomplished even if you play it on Easy with the Gun Version of Princess Peach. By the way, did I mention you get to ride a panda and a triceratops while hunting ducks? This game feels absolutely crazy, but it is awesome!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nintendo and the One Game

Before he passed away, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata made comments about how one game could change or determine the lifecycle of a platform. We have indeed seen this with Nintendo a few times. His example was how Pokemon revitalized the Game Boy and extended its life until the Game Boy Advance came along. It's an interesting note because Nintendo has looked into its past and has indeed been trying to find that One Game for the 3DS and Wii U.

Nintendo has been given credit for resurrecting the video game industry. It did this with one title that defined the console for its entire life, Super Mario Bros. The NES had plenty of great and classic titles, but Super Mario Bros rightly earned credit for defining the system and reviving the video game world. I found it harder to pick the defining title for the SNES but when I think about it, Super Mario World was the title everyone I knew with an SNES had. If there was a game to revitalize the SNES later in its life, my pick would then be either Donkey Kong Country or Super Mario Kart. The N64, on the other hand began with Super Mario 64 and was revitalized by Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 64. The Gamecube had Melee in the beginning but nothing really toward the end of its lifecycle. It was possible that the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess could have been that title had it not released on the Wii a month before. However, even that game did not attract the most attention for the then-released console. That honor belongs to Wii Sports.
The only Nintendo systems you can't play this game: N64 and NDS
The only Nintendo systems you can't play this game: N64 and NDSi

So how much has Nintendo paid to its past? Considering that it has released installments for all of those titles on the Wii U, quite a bit. Even Nintendo Land was thought of being their attempt at Wii Sports for this generation (and is a good title nonetheless). However, there is something else to notice in this view of history. Except for Super Mario Bros and Super Mario 64, Nintendo didn't really invent the genre. Instead, Nintendo innovated with an existing genre such as Pokemon did with turn-based RPGs. Super Mario Kart played with the already existing racing genre, Super Smash Bros was a very unique fighting game at the time, and Nintendo had previously released 3D sports titles before the Wii came out. When trying to catch lightning in a bottle, you don't need to create something entirely new, but you do need to innovate and create a grand experience. Considering that the Wii U consists mainly of follow ups to old titles, that might explain why they are all great games, but none being that One Game Nintendo is looking for. However, there is one title that would fall into this special category; Splatoon!

Nintendo has innovated the 2D sidescroller, the 3D platformer, Racing, Fighting, Turn-based RPGs, and Sports. Now it has done the 3rd Person Shooter: Splatoon. This game has been described as the surprise hit but should it be considered so? By removing some of the focus from "splatting" other players, it made it more accessible to those that are not so skilled. Also, the different weapons help improve the level of accessibility. For example, my sister isn't good with camera controls but the with the rollers, she can still perform well. Lastly, it was fresh! Gamers enjoy new experiences and doing stuff they cannot do normally. Painting the park using super soakers falls perfectly into that role. Hence, Splatoon had a lot going for it.

Now I can't say that whatever genre Nintendo decides to innovate on will definitely be the next hit because it won't. Pikmin was a great adaptation of the Real-Time Strategy genre but it was more of a cult classic than a world-wide phenomenon. Metroid Prime was a fan favorite take on First Person Shooters but it didn't make the Gamecube a success. Likewise, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a critically acclaimed take on the Puzzles but I don't hear of many people flocking to buy a Wii U just for that. Perhaps the difference is that each of the One Games were titles easy for anyone of any level to enjoy, but they also were easy for people to sink into and master if they wanted to. Those titles were fresh and really did appeal to everyone and there were no sacrifices for any crowd. The Wii U still has a few more years so it is possible we might eventually see a similar game for it, but even if the Wii U never gets that One Game, just like all of the previous consoles, it is certainly the home to many fantastic games.
Hopefully it won't take Nintendo long to find the "Princess"
Hopefully it won't take Nintendo long to find the "Princess"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

If you don't want a Wii U, that's okay

    So many of you probably know that I enjoy playing the Wii U and 3DS. There have been some great games for both systems and there still a few I look forward to playing. However, I am not you. If you are not convinced by now of the catalog filled with variety and many unique ideas, then there is no reason for me to try and convince you otherwise. If your decision is solely based on the "okay" E3 digital event as opposed to the E3 week, then I have some concerns. The concern is quite simple and is that "Do you enjoy games?" This question is fair because it is often tossed around in the gaming community about who is a true gamer. It is especially fair in light of the backlash surrounding a game in which its only "crime" is its name. Are you a true fan or a fanatic? The game looks interesting and I might get it but I'll reserve judgment for when it actually releases.

    If you care more about a single title than actual gameplay, then I would argue you are not a gamer. Do you consider games art? Then you shouldn't care about what title is on it and let the developers do what they want. Do you just want something to play and then toss it aside to play through another title and repeat the cycle? I would say you are either a game reviewer or addicted. The first bears no real problem but the second can be devious. The thing about addictions is that you stop being able to enjoy what you are addicted to. A real glutton doesn't care so much about taste but the feel of something going down his throat. Likewise, the "gamedicted" becomes incapable of really enjoying the games he plays but rather sees it as a chore or just something that needs to be done. Sometimes I asked myself if I was addicted but I am reassured when I find I can go a few weeks without caring to play a game. Yesterday, I was intending to play something but it never happened and I didn't care. Perhaps we have destroyed the art of gaming for ourselves by obtaining loads of games instead of being content with very few per year. You have likely heard it not only from me but also others that buying only a few games per year actually helps you enjoy them even more and that should be the goal of playing games in the first place and having unique experiences. At least that is what Nintendo has had as its mission this entire time. Yes, they make some horrible mistakes, but I do appreciate their philosophy as their focus is not about competition but about the actual enjoyment of games they want to make, even if we don't want to play them. Splatoon's DLC model? That's perhaps the biggest clue that we need to start small and focus on that.

    Let me go through and list the great exclusives that I have enjoyed for Wii U and heard others have as well (In no particular order other than what comes to mind first).
  1. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
  2. Pikmin 3
  3. Bayonetta 2 (plus the Original packed in even though I probably will never play these two)
  4. Wonderful 101
  5. Lego City: Undercover
  6. Super Smash Bros for Wii U
  7. Mario Kart 8
  8. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
  9. Affordable Space Adventures
  10. Shovel Knight (began as a Nintendo and PC exclusive but still touts off TV play)
  11. Batman Arkham CIty: Armored Edition
  12. Super Mario 3D World
  13. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
  14. Splatoon
  15. NintendoLand
  16. Zombie U
  17. Hyrule Warriors
  18. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze
  19. New Super Mario Bros. U
  20. New Super Luigi U
  21. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  22. NES Remix
  23. Sonic and All Star Racing: Transformed (Not an exclusive but has the exclusive feature to allow for 5 local players, not even MarioKart 8 does that)
  24. Wii Party U
  25. Various Virtual Console releases (Metriod Prime Trilogy, Mega Man Battle Network 3, etc.)
  26. Yoshi's Woolly World
  27. Art Academy
  28. Super Mario Maker
Here are games for Wii U that I and others look forward to
  1. Xenoblade Chronicles X
  2. StarFox Zero
  3. Legend of Zelda U
  4. Various Virtual Console releases
So yes, Nintendo has arguably the best exclusive lineup out of all of the current consoles. So if these titles don't catch you eye, then I don't need to talk to you about buying one. The only thing I ask is that you don't try to keep others from enjoying the system and its greatness. Otherwise I will really think you are not a true gamer because you would be acting in direct opposition to the enjoyment of playing games.
Other things to consider in no particular order:
  1. Can play all of the Wii Classics from Wii Sports to Skyward Sword (as well as that Capcom fighting crossover)
  2. Unique gameplay opportunities
  3. Some multi-platform titles are actually best on the Wii U (E.g. Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Arkham City, etc.)
  4. Other Multi-platform games are playable on PC and some extend their lifetime even more due to mods
  5. At $300 (or $250 for the Smash-Splatoon Bundle this Black Friday) for the Deluxe set, it's still the cheapest console on the current market
  6. Has External Harddrive support (so you can just buy the basic model and just buy a 2TB external drive for the $50 you probably saved)
  7. It will be more playable when you have children due to content as well as off TV support. Even Amazon Instant Video and Youtube can be watched on the Gamepad alone
  8. Easier to convince your family and non-gamer girlfriend to play and have a good time
  9. Still the best party console (Wii Party U can actually be a bit fun)
  10. Virtual Console Titles have Restore Points which make overcoming some difficult sections a lot smoother
  11. Miiverse has a lot of neat art
  12. Asynchronous multiplayer means less screen cheating
  13. Unlike with Kinect and Move as well as likely Project Morpheus and the PS Camera, the gamepad continues to be used and supported, even in games where it is completely optional
  14. You have plenty of options for controllers and possibly already have all the controllers you need to play

Friday, November 20, 2015

Let's Launch

Hello Gamers!
    So we got tired of waiting for authors to sign up. It looks like we will just have to attract authors by producing content with our very small group. The goal was that there would be a few posts per week but I guess we'll just have to start slow. Right now you can expect maybe one post a week though that might die down if our authors can't come up with something. If you want to help that situation, we are still accepting applications through our google form.

Anyways, we have our first review! Go ahead and check out Neo's review of Ittle Dew for the Wii U

Game on,
N. D. Moharo

Game Review: Ittle Dew for Wii U

When something becomes a success, you tend to end up with two things: Clones and Parodies. The Legend of Zelda series has its fair share of clones, some which have succeeded in their own path and some that just died out, but parodies are rare to come across. Ittle Dew could be argued to be some tribute in terms of gameplay while satire when it comes to dialogue and conventions. The result is an interesting indie title that probably takes inspiration from Grand Theft Auto as well as Zelda.

In the Legend of Zelda series, there are two core elements of gameplay, puzzles and combat. visually, Ittle Dew looks like it can be a Zelda title. The puzzles are also similar in nature but a greater emphasis is placed on them. Yes, there are a bunch of torch puzzles and moving blocks but here you can freeze blocks, warp bombs, and create your own blocks. Sound interesting? Because that is the highlight. While people may argue the parody storyline is great, I'll leave that up to individual taste. For the most part, I found it fun thanks to its very short nature but once it goes on for more than a few screens, I was thinking to myself, "enough..."

One of the many examples of satirizing the conventions
In terms of combat, the game is okay. Your sword/stick only hits directly in front of you, akin to the original Legend of Zelda, so you can actually miss if you are just slightly to the side. I also found that in combat situations, you really want to use the d-pad as the circle pad can be annoying to control when you are trying to line yourself up to strike your foe. As a result, the game does benefit being on the Wii U. However, I am annoyed by the presence of unbeatable ghosts. I don't see any benefit of that as you may be more worried about the ghost than the puzzle at hand.

One feature that left me a bit confused at first was how each dungeon forced you to drop all of your prior items. It's an interesting idea about how to make the dungeons playable in any order but it was also unexpected. While there is an obvious order based off the money you find, the game, toward the end, even posts a sign saying that the "three items can be obtained in any order". Perhaps more interesting would have been if you could beat the final boss without any of the items (just a wooden stick), but it doesn't go that far.

The Three Items for the game
Another thing to warn you about is the saving method. It automatically saves for you when you open chests or change floors in a dungeon. It's neat in terms of checkpoints, but it also means that if you get stuck beating a boss, you can't do anything about it.

If there is something I would like for the developer to do, it would be patching this game. As impressive of a work it is, I've encountered more bugs than I would care for. How bad is it? Twice my Wii U crashed during the final battle (or after, considering that I did beat the guy, confirmed by watching Youtube videos of the fight), I've had to resort to playing with no sound due to that horrible screech that comes on a few minutes in, and I got stuck in a walking animation while trying to go up stairs which required a game reset to fix (not even the retry room option was available). Considering that before and after these incidents, I've played Splatoon for a few hours just fine, I think there's a problem with the game.

Overall, it's a neat game and I enjoyed solving the puzzles. The existence of Professional Routes that require some extra puzzle solving as well being able to solve dungeons in any order is good for replayability. There are a lot of mini rooms with various puzzles to solve scattered throughout the land. Word of caution: don't watch the trailers since they show how to solve some of the puzzles. Essentially, if you are looking for a fairly short and cynical Zelda game, this is it.
Lots of block moving

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Pre-Launch Phase

This site is currently in its testing and design phase. Please be patient as we are preparing for a solid launch. If you would like to join our team, please look at our Policies and About Us section.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Welcome to Reasonable Gaming!

Hello world!
    Yes, this is simply a test post that should soon be deleted.