Category Archives: Nintendo Switch

Celeste Review

An inspirational climb to greater heights.

January has never been a heavy hitting month for video game releases – it functions as a relative calm before the storm. However contemporary showcases have proven to be a delightful exception to the rule, transcending January into a mainstay of quality. January 2013 saw the release of one of the best modern JRPGs in recent memory, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and January 2017 introduced the franchise resurrecting Resident Evil 7: biohazard, a franchise reviver and one of the best games of 2017. This past January also had a masterpiece simmering under the radar, the independent platformer with tremendous heart, Celeste. While its sense of scale is rather diminutive compared to the previously mentioned January entries, its level of quality never faltered, making it an undeniable front-runner for game of the year. Plated with its impeccable level design, brilliantly simple mechanics, and slew of deviating paths and hidden goodies, Celeste transcends into a remarkably defined staple of the modern 2D platformer. Its pitch perfect gameplay and refined mechanics are enhanced by its impeccably crafted pace and gameplay implementation, introducing new twists and turns at every corner, significantly upping the ante with each new chapter. Aside from its mechanical prowess, Celeste boasts one of the most beautifully crafted narratives to ever grace the gaming sphere, a creative element typically undermined or absent in mainstays of the genre. Celeste’s inspiring coming of age story is a breath of fresh air to the expanding portfolio of 2D platformers. While these two fundamental structures of Celeste are inherently separate, both exude an unparalleled level of quality, becoming prime examples of their craft and are seamlessly harmonized as a result. Celeste is not only a remarkable start to the new year, it is arguably the best modern 2D platformer, standing tall amongst the meteoric heights of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Ori and the Blind Forest.

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AfterStory’s Top 10 Games of 2017

2017 was a meteoric year for gaming, arguably dishing out some of the best titles the medium has seen in decades. Release upon release of exceptionally crafted works of art, 2017 flipped preconceived notions of established franchises, while pushing boundaries of creativity with precariously novel IPs. While 2017 had its fair share of shade –  it further cemented the toxic implementation of loot boxes and microtransactions – 2017 managed to maintain a pristine shine of quality, despite the ever growing culture of filth that has surrounded this beloved medium. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is an unpolished, yet addictive multiplayer experience that rightfully took the world by storm with its heart pounding action and unpredictable encounters. Nier: Automata, while not the underrated masterpiece fans claim it to be, is an exuberant experience with the foundation of a masterpiece, as technical and design limitations hold it back from further greatness. What Remains of Edith Finch is arguably the most diverse and entertaining walking simulator to date, with a sense of gameplay variance that is unprecedented for the notorious genre. ARMS is a surprising gem of local multiplayer goodness, crafting one of the best motion-controlled experiences to date. Seeing the release of two games that effortlessly entered my “favourite games of all-time list” and the copious amount of diversity and quality released throughout this illustrious year, 2017 will forever be remembered as  the best year of the current generation, a personal favourite of mine that continuously exceeded my expectations. Without further ado, below are my favourite games of 2017.

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Dark Souls and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Coming to Nintendo Switch!

I normally don’t like posting stuff here that feels more like news and less like my glorious opinions, but with how much I constantly gush with my love of Dark Souls and Donkey Kong Country, I just had to write on this.

Essentially, Nintendo held a “mini-Direct” earlier today, and while many Nintendo fans were predictably upset over the lack of new Metroid and Fire Emblem details, I was doing backflips of excitement and performing Captain Ginyu’s Dance of Joy. Why?

Dark Souls and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are coming to Nintendo Switch.

When I woke up this morning and saw the news, I was like…

But then I quickly went like…

And then I was like…

 

Good heavens, it’s like Nintendo has been reading my constant tweets about the magnificence of Dark Souls and Tropical Freeze, and my desires to see them on the Switch, and decided to pull the trigger on them just to shut me up. Thanks, Nintendo!

Okay, so Dark Souls Remastered (as the 2018 edition is called) will also be on Playstation 4 and Xbox One, which is amazing. But for the first time in forever (*Cue Frozen song*) Dark Souls is on the same console as Super Mario, which is basically the best thing to have ever happened. It seems the only caveat to this news is that Tropical Freeze will now include a new super easy mode for wimps beginners. Now, unlike many elitist “hardcore” gamers, I don’t have a problem with easier difficulty settings being available for those who want/need them, but the disappointing element is that the new mode features Funky Kong as a playable character. If they were going to add a new character, why can’t he just be in the standard game, and the easier setting could be just that, an easier setting. I want to play Tropical Freeze in all its brutal glory with Funky!

But that’s probably the only time I’ll complain about Tropical Freeze. Ever. In life. Though I suppose now that my favorite Wii U game is coming to Switch, I now have a harder time justifying the Wii U’s quality (it was a great system at the time, damn it! So misunderstood!).

Oh, and on top of all that, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is getting Donkey Kong as a playable character, and Super Mario Odyssey is getting a new quasi-multiplayer mode in which players hide magic balloons, which other players can then search for. Basically, it’s the Mario version of From Software’s offline-online features, like leaving summon signs in (you guessed it) Dark Souls. Plus, this adds a whole new layer of depth to Odyssey, now that players are essentially adding their own equivalent of Mario’s usual collectibles, the sandbox style of Odyssey will never end!

Getting back on track, Dark Souls and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are coming to Nintendo Switch this May. Praise the sun!

The End is Nigh Review

*This review originally appeared at Miketendo64.com*

The End is Nigh is the latest brainchild of Edmund McMillen, the creator of Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, and serves as something of a spiritual successor to Meat Boy, using gameplay very reminiscent of its 2010 predecessor, albeit with some notable tweaks. Whereas Super Meat Boy’s primary hook was its titular slab of raw meat’s ability to slide and jump off walls, The End is Nigh stars a black, blob-like creature named Ash – one of the few survivors of an apocalyptic event – whose primary means of platforming is leaping from ledges.

That’s a simple enough gameplay setup, but one that works wonders with some creative level design. The stages of The End is Nigh are bite-sized, single-screen affairs. The game’s “chapters” are comprised of several of these single-screen stages, with a refreshing lack of loading screens between them. The chapters will usually introduce a twist or two to the ledge-leaping gameplay, with each of the chapters’ stages building on the gimmicks they introduce. Whether it’s swimming in chemicals that will kill poor Ash in seconds, or platforms that lower of raise when landed on, The End is Nigh does a decent job at keeping its simple premise fresh.

Like McMillen’s previous games, The End is Nigh has a notably steep difficulty curve. Thankfully, players have unlimited lives, and just like progressing to a new level, there’s no loading times in between death and respawning, so the frustration doesn’t get too out of hand. Still, you may get annoyed during certain stages that increase the challenge considerably from the other stages of their chapter. I don’t think The End is Nigh is as difficult as Super Meat Boy on the whole, but like its predecessor, there are some moments that arenotably more aggravating than the rest. When you reach such areas and begin redoing them over and over and over, you may wonder if it’s all worth it.

This is doubly true for the game’s bonus content. Hidden in every stage are “tumors” (yes, tumors), which can be traded to some NPCs in order to unlock additional levels, and each chapter hides a video game cartridge, which unlock different mini-games. Though the levels can be creative, their utter brevity makes the idea of going out of your way to find the collectibles just to play more of them feel like a lackluster payoff. The mini-games are a bit better of a reward, though again, I think only a very niche crowd would want to take the trouble to unlock them.

Aesthetically, The End is Nigh is pretty delightful. The visuals showcase a silhouette style, and although this isn’t the first indie title to utilize such a style, it’s one of the better looking ones. And the musical score is surprisingly lively and energetic.

The End is Nigh is another fine entry in McMillen and co.’s expanding resume of games. It may seem a bit like Super Meat Boy-Minus at times, but that’s not exactly a horrible complaint. Ash is fun to control, the level design is enjoyable, and the game is fun to look at and to listen to. The extra content may leave a lot to be desired, and you may wonder if seeing the game the whole way through is worth it. But The End is Nigh ultimately comes together nicely.

 

7.5

Sonic Forces Review

Oh, Sonic.

To say that Sonic the Hedgehog has had a rough history ever since he made the transition into 3D is more than a little bit of an understatement. From games that were decent in their day but aged horribly (Sonic Adventure) to flat-out stinkers (Sonic Boom: The Rise of Lyric), Sonic has become something of a joke.

It finally seemed like Sonic the Hedgehog would make his triumphant return to greatness in 2017. Not only did the series receive a new, 16-bit sidescroller in the form of Sonic Mania, but it also received something of a follow-up to 2011’s Sonic Generations, one the few 3D entries the series could be proud of.

When Sonic Mania was released during the Summer, it really seemed like this was to be the year of the hedgehog, as Sonic Mania captured the very essence of Sonic’s best outings and created a fun and creative successor to the Genesis titles we’ve all waited over two decades for. But alas, despite being the “fastest thing alive,” Sonic just can’t seem to keep his momentum. All the good will established through Mania has seemingly run straight into a brick wall with Sonic Forces, a title whose potential seems continuously squandered through a rushed, unpolished execution.

Like Generations, Sonic Forces looks to combine both 2D and 3D Sonic gameplay. As in the 2011 game, players take control of either pot-bellied “Classic Sonic” whose stages are strictly 2D, or the trying-way-too-hard-to-be-cool Modern Sonic, whose stages switch between a 2D and 3D perspective.

Modern Sonic is equipped with a homing attack, which really only makes things feel like mindless button-mashing, since you just have to repeatedly hit the button to blast through enemies who can’t do anything against it. What really hurts Modern Sonic’s stages, however, are the sections that have Sonic blasting through a stage in 3D perspectives, largely because you can’t make out what’s in front of you until you crash into it. You’d be surprised just how often you slam into a robot and lose rings because you thought it was a speed booster, and many of the deaths you’ll encounter feel more attributed to an inability to see what’s ahead, as opposed to player error.

It should come as no surprise that Classic Sonic’s stages are the highlight of the game. Classic Sonic retains the “drop dash” from Sonic Mania, though he doesn’t control as smoothly as his recent 16-bit counterpart. Classic Sonic’s stages benefit from the 2D perspective and actually being able to see what’s in Sonic’s path, but better still is that you actually feel like you’re doing something more than pushing forward and spamming the homing attack. The Classic Sonic stages may not stack up to anything from Sonic Mania (or even Generations, for that matter), but at least they actually feel like there’s something to them.

“I tried to make an old-timey cartoon character, but it ended up looking like something far more sinister.”

But wait a minute, a third playable character joins the Sonics this time around, in the form of the player’s own created avatar. Yes, it appears as though Sega has been paying attention to the countless, eye-rolling Sonic OCs on Deviantart, and has given players the ability to make their characters (somewhat) canon. You can choose a species for your avatar (including hedgehogs, dogs, cats, wolves, and others), select different eyes, gloves, shoes, etc. The character customization is somewhat limited, but you gain more customizable items by performing well in the stages and meeting certain requirements.

“Some levels have your created character teaming up with Sonic, fulfilling the second biggest fantasy of the Sonic fanbase.”

Though the prospect of playing as your own character actually had some potential to add a new twist to Sonic gameplay, the levels in which you play as your avatar are perhaps the weakest of the lot. Instead of customizing abilities to make your avatar actually feel like a Sonic character, your avatar is instead equipped with a grappling hook and a weapon, the latter of which can be swapped out in between levels with any other weapons you’ve managed to unlock.

This is where things start to go off the rails. These abilities just aren’t fun. The hook basically works like a stiffer version of Modern Sonic’s homing attack, while all the weapons are just overpowered moves that you can just spam on mindless enemies who stand in place and pose no real threat.

“Where the hell is my character?!”

The avatar stages play closer to Modern Sonic’s, which means they also suffer from annoying perspectives in 3D sections. What’s all the worse is that even the 2D sections with the avatar get muddled with how small your character often ends up on the screen. And when clunky wall-jumping mechanics are suddenly introduced late in the game, it brings whatever fun the avatar stages had to a dead stop.

One of the worst aspects of Sonic Forces is its plot. Somehow, Dr. Eggman from the Modern Sonic dimension has found the Phantom Ruby from Sonic Mania, and has used its power to create a super being called Infinite. The ruby – and subsequently, Infinite – possesses the ability to alter reality, being able to create replicas of past Sonic villains Shadow the hedgehog, Metal Sonic, Chaos and Zavok (and no one else apparently, as Infinite just keeps recycling those four).

Anyway, Infinite defeats Sonic the Hedgehog in battle, and the famous blue hedgehog is believed to be dead by his friends (before his survival is unceremoniously revealed on the map screen…yeah). Turns out Sonic’s been captured, and in is absence, Dr. Eggman has finally succeeded in taking over the world. Knuckles now leads the resistance against Dr. Eggman, and has recruited the small army of goofy animal characters that have been introduced to the series over the years (not that most of these characters even matter, seeing as they only ever seem to show up to, well, show up). The player’s avatar is the “rookie” of the resistance, and Classic Sonic shows up after being sucked into a wormhole in Sonic Mania. Together, the resistance plans to rescue Sonic, defeat Eggman’s forces, stop Infinite, and bring freedom back to their planet.

The plot is just far too serious for its own good. There was a time when Sonic games being more story heavy was at least a novel concept, but the plots of the series have become something of a bad joke with how cheesy and forced they are, and Sonic Forces might be one of the worst offenders. I don’t have a problem with serious storylines, but considering this is a series about a cartoon hedgehog who runs really fast and fights robots, seeing it trying to be so serious and edgy really just makes it feel silly. It is possible to make meaningful stories with cartoony characters, but trying to turn Sonic the Hedgehog into something so dramatic just doesn’t work.

“Not creepy at all…”

Sonic Forces isn’t all bad, however. Along with the Classic Sonic stages bringing some fun to the table (though also reminding you that you could be playing Sonic Mania), the game looks great visually, and its musical score is actually quite good (just turn the volume down a bit when it comes to the vocal tracks). But whenever Sonic Forces starts to look like it’s getting better, it ends up stumbling and wasting its potential. Along with all the gameplay fumbles, the level design is nothing special, and the boss fights are particularly unmemorable (just catch up to them and spam that homing attack some more).

Sonic has certainly been in worse games than this. But Sonic Forces showcases many of the attributes that have lead to the series’ drastic fall from grace. And seeing as it’s coming off the heels of the exceptional Sonic Mania, the shortcomings of Forces are only magnified all the more.

If given some extra development time and polish, Sonic Forces could have been pretty good. As it is, well… it’s a 3D Sonic game.

 

5.5

Ittle Dew 2 Review

*This review originally appeared at Miketendo64.com*

Ittle Dew 2+ is a pleasant surprise. Originally released in 2016, Ittle Dew 2+ makes its way to the Nintendo Switch, and brings with it a fun homage and parody of the classic 2D Legend of Zelda titles, with a unique sense of charm and humor to boot.

The top-down, dungeon-crawling adventures that Link popularized on the NES and SNES are made anew in Ittle Dew 2+, but with a few twists. Instead of the high fantasy setting like Hyrule, Ittle Dew 2+ takes place in a more contemporary, lighthearted setting. The hero is a young girl named Ittle, who is accompanied by her flying dog Tippsie. The two “crash” onto a strange island filled with dungeons and loot. Stranded on the island, the duo has to adventure through eight dungeons in order to get pieces for a new raft to get off the island (Tippsie makes a joke as to why they can’t simply make a raft from one of the many nearby trees).

It’s a cute and silly premise, given all the more personality by the fact that the game’s world seems to mostly take place in a kid’s imagination (whether or not it’s literally supposed to be Ittle’s own fantasy world, I’m not quite sure). The first dungeon takes place in a pillow fort, while the second is a giant sand castle. Even a junkyard becomes a menacing dungeon in Ittle Dew 2+.

I say “first” and “second,” but the truth is all but the eighth dungeon can be done in whatever order the player chooses. It has a level of freedom similar to the Zelda games that inspired it, and finding every new dungeon or location is fun in itself.

Ittle starts her adventure armed with little more than a stick, but along the adventure, you pick up new weapons and items like the Force Wand (which pushes objects from a distance and deflects enemy projectiles), dynamite to destroy blocks, and eventually upgrade your stick to better weapons like a flaming sword.

The personality and charm of Ittle Dew 2+ is prominent at every turn, whether it’s the weapons and items, or the nature of the dungeons themselves, Ittle Dew 2+ is a game that oozes charm. Even the equivalent of Zelda’s heart pieces are boxes of crayons. How charming is that?

It’s those aforementioned dungeons that steal the show. Though the dungeons are on the short side, the puzzles they house are some of the most fun in recent memory. Each dungeon contains numerous puzzles, some of which can be decently head-scratching. Some of the best ones even have multiple means of figuring them out, and will leave the player to get creative to solve them.

Unfortunately, combat against enemies and bosses isn’t quite as joyful. Later dungeons include many instances in which enemies swarm the player, which isn’t so bad in certain instances, but other times, these enemies might have contradicting patterns (one may only be able to take damage from behind, while another might require you to back them against a wall and attack from the front). When you get into situations that throw multiple different enemy types at you all at once, it can get a little hectic.

Similarly, the boss fights have a considerable leap in difficulty from the rest of the dungeons that they’re featured in. While each boss has their own pattern that you can figure out in a few tries, they tend to do massive damage, meaning they often end up being trial-and-error affairs. The boss fights are never bad, but given that the dungeons themselves aren’t particularly difficult, the boss encounters may become off-putting to some players with their difficulty spikes.

One other minor complaint is that the load times can be notably lengthy. They’re far from the longest load times I’ve seen, but they can take a decent chunk of time just to load a single-room cave.

Still, it’s hard to complain too much about how much Ittle Dew 2+ gets right. Ittle controls just as smoothly as Link ever did in his 2D adventures, while the cel-shaded visuals only add to the game’s bountiful charm, and the musical score is as whimsical as anything else in the game.

Ittle Dew 2+ may be over quickly if you only seek to finish Ittle’s raft, with each of the dungeons only taking a short amount of time to complete, with the next in line being displayed on your map at any time. But Ittle Dew 2+ has some good staying power with its sidequests. The world is littered with optional caves that contain secret items, and there’s even a dream world that can be visited for a more expansive detour. And the fact that Ittle Dew 2 leaves the first seven dungeons and side content to be done in whatever order the player chooses, the pace of the adventure can be as quick or as leisurely as the player sees fit.

Ittle Dew 2 is a lot of fun. It pays both beautiful homage and hilarious tribute to The Legend of Zelda, while also having a standout personality that’s all its own. It may be a little on the short side, and some of the combat sections leave a bit to be desired. But its inventive puzzles, smooth gameplay and oodles of charm help elevate it to a real delight.

 

7.5

Super Mario Odyssey Review

Reach for the moon…

The Super Mario series requires no introduction; to say that it is synonymous with the video game medium would be an immense understatement. Its cadence to this unanimous praise is heavily warranted as the Super Mario series is game development at its finest. One staple and undisputed fact that has remained a constant of sorts for the legendary series is its profound sense of unadulterated fun; no other series is able to emit an equivalent sense of elation or wonder. However, Mario’s strongest backbone and alluring element is its ability to adapt and evolve.  The core ingenious structure has remained intact for over three decades, with innovative ideas and constructs implemented into each new iteration of Mario. It’s a successful formula that rightfully acknowledges and respects the past, but also leaves way for innovation and improvement, encompassing a disposition for unpredictability and audacity. Super Mario Odyssey is a prime example of Nintendo’s pristine ability to take the familiar and beautifully mold it into something brilliantly exotic. In a lot of ways, Super Mario Odyssey is a renascence of the 3D sandbox platformer, however this magical adventure is far more than the sum of its parts. It redefines the structure of the series in terms of its gameplay variance, level design, and progression structure, while paying homage to its roots and acting as a celebration of sorts for the beloved franchise. It’s a delicious adventure that is equally parts exploration and platforming, and is chockful of enticing secrets and goodies to discover. Super Mario Odyssey is an amalgamation of each minute element that validates the series’ perfect standing; this foundation is enhanced considerably through Nintendo’s ingenious use of inventive concepts and implementations, crafting an experience that is constantly evolving in surprisingly brilliant ways. It’s an unabashed masterpiece that surpasses the insurmountable standards set by the Mario franchise. Super Mario Odyssey is the definition of perfection and is a glorified testament to Nintendo’s unparalleled sense of creativity and innovation.

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