Hyrule Warriors Review

Hyrule Warriors

There was a moment at the very end of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword which pitted Link against army after army of monsters in order to reach the big bad (and the captured Princess Zelda) at the end. It was a barrage of action and spectacle, akin to being the Nintendo equivalent of the Battle of Helm’s Deep. If that moment left you wondering what an entire Zelda game built around such moments would be like, then Hyrule Warriors gives you a bit of an idea, if maybe not entirely fulfilling on its promise.

While Mario and friends regular deviate from their core series for some karting and a few rounds of tennis, Zelda rarely takes the opportunity to shy away from the series’ primary timeline for the sake of a fun little deviation. But Hyrule Warriors basks in the opportunity to tell its own side story in the series, throwing in as many references to past entries as possible without worry about how it might effect the series’ canon.

Primary and supporting characters from the Zelda series make a return, with the likes of Link and Zelda being joined by Impa, Midna and Darunia, among other familiar faces from the series. Some original characters also make the playable roster, but they feel a tad misplaced and don’t mesh well with the established characters. The new editions end up feeling more like anime cliches than members of the Zelda cast.

Hyrule WarriorsIt’s not just the characters, but the world, story and scenarios of Hyrule Warriors are all swimming in Zelda fanservice. The story tells of an ancient witch who watches over the Triforce, until she gets possessed by the spirit of Ganon (who else?), corrupting her heart and mind. She then uses the Triforce’s power to open portals throughout time to search for the fragmented pieces of Ganon’s soul, which have been scattered throughout time.

Of course, this plot really is little more than an excuse to cram all the aforementioned characters together, and to recreate some of the series’ iconic moments. But it works for what it is, and who am I to argue about something that’s basically a love letter to one of gaming’s most revered legacies?

But alas, the fanservice is all this game has to connect it to that legacy. The game is titled Hyrule Warriors for a reason. While the game is a loving tribute to the Zelda series, as a game it is, first and foremost, a Dynasty Warriors title. And while this Dynasty Warriors gameplay can be fun, it’s best played in short bursts, as longer play sessions reveal Hyrule Warriors to be a repetitious affair, lacking the depth of design that Zelda is known for.

Hacking and slashing through hundreds of enemies at a time is thrilling, and gives you plenty of opportunities to try out the various combos you’ll learn as you level up, but every character -despite having aesthetic differences – all play the same, and they all get the same bonuses as they gain experience, and the enemies similarly lack variety. A little bit of life is added to the equation by some light strategic elements, such as overtaking enemy outposts and making sure your own bases don’t become overrun, but even these strategies end up being performed by the same hacking and slashing of enemies.

Hyrule WarriorsThere is a good deal of content to the package, however. There are numerous secrets and bonus objectives to be found on any given stage, and the plethora of playable characters means the game has a bit more replayability than it might otherwise have should you wish to level all of them up. Additionally, an aptly-named Adventure Mode provides a different experience, not to mention retro charm.

In Adventure Mode, players guide an 8-bit Link through a grid-like map, where each square is a mission where Link has the opportunity to win items and unlock new areas on the map. The Adventure Mode and the game’s various challenges add an addictive nature to the game, but none of them individually provide the depth to make Hyrule Warriors a truly compelling gaming experience.

As a love letter to The Legend of Zelda, Hyrule Warriors gets top marks: It reintroduces us to many beloved characters, recreates some epic scenarios from the past, and includes some top-notch remixes of classic tunes. The aesthetics inspired by Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword make this a kingly piece of Zelda fanservice (though being the Wind Waker fan that I am, I can’t help but feel left out of the loop).

But in terms of it own merits, the fun of Hyrule Warriors is hampered by repetitious gameplay and an overall shallow experience, not to mention some technical issues like long load times and an inconsistent frame rate (somewhat forgiveble, given the sheer number of characters on-screen at any given time).

Hyrule Warriors captures the spectacle of that climactic moment of Skyward Sword, but it’s entirety lacks the heart and emotion of that single moment. Is Hyrule Warriors fun? Yes. But it’s no legend.

6

Advertisements

Super Mario 3D World Review

Super Mario 3D World

At first glance, Super Mario 3D World may simply look like Super Mario 3D Land got a Wii U makeover and added multiplayer to the equation. The game’s first world is largely that, an expansion of the concepts Nintendo’s Tokyo studios came up with for their 3DS Mario effort. It uses similar mechanics and level structure to 3D Land, but brought up to a larger scale to fit its home console and allow three additional players to join in the fun. This time, in addition to Mario, players can also select Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad, who regain their abilities from Super Mario Bros. 2 back on the NES (Luigi jumps high, Peach floats, Toad runs fastest).

But it doesn’t take long for the guise of familiarity to melt away. What starts as a continuation of 3D Land’s design quickly begins reconstructing itself with idea after idea that are all their own.

Super Mario 3D WorldThe initial changes are the most obvious. The Cat Suit – which is so prominently featured on the box art and advertisements – gives Mario and company the ability to scamper up walls and strike enemies with a scratch attack. The Cat Suit joins the ranks of the greatest Mario power-ups for its sheer versatility. The variety of uses for the Cat Suit is a testament to the creativity at work at Nintendo’s Tokyo Studios.

Joining the Cat Suit is the “Double Cherry,” a power-up that creates clones of the character who grabs it. The Double Cherry is notable for being a power-up that not only stacks up with itself (the more cherries you grab, the more your clones multiply), but also stacks with other power-ups as well (small armies of fire Marios or cat Luigis come into play soon after the Cherrie’s introduction). It can get a little tricky to control multiple clones, but if anything, its a delightful chaos that ensues.

The new power-ups are joined by returning favorites (Fire Flower, Boomerang Suit, Mega Mario, etc.), but the new power-ups aren’t all that 3D World has going for it. It’s the level design that deserves the most praise. Although some will cry foul at the more linear structure carried over from 3D Land as opposed to the wide open worlds of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, the majority of 3D World’s stages boast the same creative spark as the very best Mario games.

Super Mario 3D World3D World’s levels are comprised of one-off ideas and rapid-fire concepts. Rarely will you be doing the same thing twice, and even when a concept does repeat itself, it finds a way to rearrange itself to make it feel fresh all over again. One moment you’ll be riding across a river on the back of a dinosaur, the next you’ll be jumping across platforms that materialize in accordance to the stage’s music, and then Mario will be wearing a canon on his head, fighting his way through an armada of Koopas and Bob-ombs. And this isn’t even taking into account the Captain Toad stages, in which you guide a Toad through a single-screen obstacle course without the ability to jump, or the Mystery Houses, which see Mario and friends face a barrage of quick, singular challenges.

The ideas just keep coming. Even when 3D World is playing up the nostalgia with nods to Mario’s past (and boy does this game enjoy doing just that), it finds ways to make these retro concepts feel like its own creations. It’s this kind of inventiveness that has helped the Mario series remain relevant since its inception, and it shines all over 3D World’s level design.

A notable exception comes in the form of the game’s boss fights. 3D World’s bosses are fun (the final battle with Bowser in particular is so full of energy it feels like something out of a Platinum title), but each of the game’s eight standard worlds contains only one or two boss fights – with many of the bosses being repeat encounters – and only a select few provide any real challenge. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so noticeable, if 3D World weren’t following-up Galaxy 2 on the home console front. After Galaxy 2’s insistence on introducing a new and engaging boss fight at just about every other turn, 3D World seems restrained by comparison.

The gameplay is as fun as ever, and now that we have a 3D Mario that’s up to four players, you can either play a more relaxed-yet-challenging single player campaign, or experience the sheer insanity of a multiplayer adventure.

Super Mario 3D WorldOn the visual front, Mario has never looked better. Sure, New Super Mario Bros. U gave Mario the jump to HD over a year beforehand, but its aesthetics and style kept very close to what we’ve seen in the past. For all intents and purposes, 3D World is Mario’s proper introduction to HD. From the sheen of a Bullet Bill to the rain striking against the camera in the game’s later stages, Super Mario 3D World oozes a fine attention to detail in its visuals. Sure, the world of 3D World may stick to simpler shapes in its platforms than the whimsical oddities of the Galaxy series (no worm bridges across space apples this time), but while the environments are simpler the style remains just as intricate. It’s gorgeous.

A stellar soundtrack adds to 3D World’s personality. Much like the Galaxy series, 3D World’s score is comprised of live band instruments and orchestras. If compared to the music of Galaxy, one could say 3D World’s score is more fun, but less beautiful. Equally catchy all the same.

3D World also finds some fun (albeit small) uses of the Wii U’s Gamepad. Certain levels will require touch screen actions in order to help Mario and friends out, while blowing into the Gamepad’s mic will reveal hidden objects and levitate certain platforms (in addition to making the player look like the best kind of idiot). It’s not exactly extensive usage of the Wii U’s capabilities, but they still bring some fun ideas to the table.

Super Mario 3D World brings out pretty much everything we’ve come to love about the Mario series through the years, all while weaving together its own style. It’s the most literal translation of Mario’s 2D roots into a 3D environment yet, and it contains bits and pieces of Mario’s history brought together and made anew. And for those seeking an extra challenge, 3D World contains three hidden Green Stars in every stage, as well as a hidden stamp that can later be used on Miiverse. Finding everything will ensure that the fun continues long after Bowser has been defeated. A large amount of post-game content also helps give the game lasting appeal.

Admittedly, for all its fun and creativity, 3D World never quite reaches the same heights as the Galaxy series, though it is the best entry in the Mario series since the galactic duo. But not being as good as Mario Galaxy is certainly no unforgivable sin, and despite just a few small hiccups in boss fights, Super Mario 3D World does an excellent job for itself. It’s some of the most fun to be had in gaming in years, and one of the best games on the Wii U.

Just be warned, if your friends start throwing you in harm’s way and cost you your cat suit, you may never want to speak to them again.

8

Super Mario 3D Land Review

Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land was the first standout original title on the Nintendo 3DS. Before its release in 2011, the 3DS’ library mainly consisted of quality remakes (Star Fox 64 3D) or uneventful original titles. But then 3D Land brought the handheld up to speed, and it hasn’t looked back.

Super Mario 3D Land looks and plays closely to the 3D Mario platformers, though its level structure and pacing make it more resemble the plumber’s 2D iterations. Your control over Mario feels similar to Super Mario Galaxy, though the spin attack is absent, and many of Mario’s acrobatics altered (no more triple jumps, long jumps are performed after rolling, and somersaults now need a brief charge-up). Mario’s moves are back to basics.

An inclusion of a run button makes things feel more in line with the 2D sidescrolling Mario games, meaning that Mario will leisurely stroll through a stage unless the button is held at all times. It may pay homage to Mario’s roots, but the run button feels slightly awkward when controlling Mario in a 3D space.

The stages, while having the appearance of those found in Marios 64 and Galaxy, are more closely associated with Super Mario Bros. 3 or New Super Mario Bros. The levels are timed, like in the 2D games (though you can find clocks to add to your time), and the goal is not to collect stars, but to reach the end of the stage (in the form of a flag pole, naturally).

In terms of structure, 3D Land enjoys paying tribute to a number of Mario’s most beloved games, but it doesn’t stop there. One of the big draws of the game is the return of the Tanooki Suit, which returned here for the first time since its debut in Super Mario Bros. 3 over two decades earlier. Some changes have been made to how Tanooki Mario works. He can no longer fly, instead being restricted to fluttery jumps (making trickier platforming levels a bit easier) and the ability to turn into a statue is reserved for post-game content. Tanooki Mario does retain his tail whip attack, which basically functions like the aforementioned Galaxy spin attack. Tanooki Mario may work differently, but you can’t deny the pure joy of seeing Mario in that ridiculously fluffy outfit once again.

The other power-ups include the Super Mushroom (which makes small Mario return to his normal stature after being hit by an enemy), the ever-present Fire Flower, the Propeller Box from New Super Mario Bros. Wii returns, and the game introduces one new power-up to Mario’s arsenal: the Boomerang Suit.

Super Mario 3D LandSimilar to Hammer Mario from Super Mario Bros. 3 (which saw Mario turn the tables on the Hammer Bros.) Boomerang Mario follows suit and gives Mario the same boomerang throwing capabilities of the Boomerang Bros. This new suit serves as a good compliment to Mario’s repertoire of zany power-ups, though it can feel like little more than a slightly altered Fire Mario. Jumping over your boomerang repeatedly and watching it take out enemies from both sides of you is entertaining, though the power-up is neither as inventive and strategic as Cloud Mario nor as destructively fun as Rock Mario of Galaxy 2.

The game was the first to make extensive uses of the 3DS’ namesake 3D effects. I dare say that playing the game without the 3D turned on may even take something away from the experience.

Super Mario 3D Land boasts a number of 3D visuals at just about every instance: blocks will float into your immediate view, piranha plants spit ink more at the player than at Mario, the difference between foreground and background have never been more evident, and in some top-down sections (such as a level dedicated to The Legend of Zelda series), Mario will leap up at the player with every jump.

The visuals are joined by a fun musical score. The new tunes are catchy and charming, and compliment some returning favorites. It may not be one of the best soundtracks in the series, but it suits the game.

3D Land is definitely a solid Mario title, though it does suffer from a few drawbacks. If you’re a Mario veteran, the game will be a breeze for the first five of the game’s eight initial worlds, and when the difficulty picks up, there are still few instances in which a couple retries won’t suffice. The difficulty does, however, take a strong spike after you beat the game and the new challenges begin.

Another downside is that, for a Mario game, 3D Land is strongly by-the-book. While certainly fun and engaging, the level design of 3D Land lacks the constant sense of creativity of a Mario World or Galaxy.

Super Mario 3D LandThat’s not to say the game doesn’t have its own sense of inventiveness. Nintendo once again shows that they can conjure fun gameplay and level structure like no other. But the game’s very best moments feel like condensed iterations of Galaxy’s machinations. Even the boss fights are variants of the same three enemies: Boom-Boom from Super Mario Bros. 3 returns alongside his new boomerang-wielding female counterpart, Pun-Pun, who join the perennial Bowser. They’re fun, but the boss fights are too few in number and too lacking in variety.

Super Mario 3D Land may be by-the-book by Mario’s standards, but perhaps that’s only because Mario’s standards have been set to such heights. It may not be a Mario World, 64, or Galaxy, but Super Mario 3D Land is a great platformer nonetheless, and it’s helped pave the way for just about every great 3DS title since.

 

7

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Review

Captain Toad

Super Mario 3D World is one of the best games on the Wii U, with some of the best platforming gameplay in the history of the Mario series. But among the highlights of 3D World were the Captain Toad segments, in which Captain Toad would navigate small stages without the ability to jump. But these stages were in short supply, leaving many players hungry for more.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is here to answer that call. It takes the same basic concept of those 3D World bonus stages – navigate small levels and solve puzzles, no jumping – and not only gives players more of it, but expands the concept in many thrilling and creative ways.

Captain ToadTreasure Tracker tweaks the rules ever so slightly. Instead of exhausting a stage of its green stars as he did in 3D World, Captain Toad now only needs to reach a single (gold) star to complete a level. But each stage also houses three diamonds – which you’ll need to unlock more levels – as well as a bonus objective (finding a hidden item, collect a set number of coins, use a minimum of a stage’s trinkets, etc.). The bonus objective isn’t revealed until after you’ve played through a stage once, so you’ll usually find a good reason to go back to replay levels to mark off every objective.

Most of the stages are small, diorama-like entities, with their entirety being visible on-screen from the get-go (only a select few stages are large enough for the action to scroll elsewhere), and they’re all puzzles based around a single mechanic.

In some stages, 3D World’s Double Cherry returns, leaving players to navigate stages while controlling multiple Toads at once. Some levels have Toad flipping the stage over, piece by piece. Some of the best stages see Captain Toad (or Toadette) riding mine carts, which may not have the hectic action of Tropical Freeze’s mine cart stages, but they do bring a unique take on puzzle-solving.

Every stage is a showcase of a fun idea and gameplay hook, and the attention to detail is surprisingly deep. It’s amazing how many creative directions Nintendo takes the Captain Toad concept. Only a handful of stages are truly head-scratching, but they are consistently fresh.

Captain ToadAnother highlight is how well Captain Toad integrates the Wii U Gamepad. As mentioned, most of the stages are bite-sized, and this allows for the camera to search every nook and cranny of the environment. Players can rotate the camera 360 degrees around most stages, and even go for a bird’s eye view to find every last piece of treasure. Players can control the camera with either an analogue stick or through motion control. The former is ideal for newcomers, as the motion controls can be a bit too sensitive, but their implementation in the aforementioned mine cart stages (in which players get a first-person perspective of the action on the Gamepad’s screen) is some of the best on the system.

Touch screen controls and yes, even blowing into the Gamepad’s microphone are used at points to alter the environment and aid the Toads from point A to point B. It may not provide any radically new uses of the Gamepad, but Captain Toad uses the it’s features in various meaningful ways, and they never feel forced.

Aesthetically, the game is beautiful. Yes, it’s using the same visual scheme as 3D World – and even borrows some of that game’s music – but it’s a testament to just how gorgeous that game was that it still looks and sounds so pleasing a second time around. And Captain Toad uses these materials in enough of its own ways to not just feel like a rehash (though a little more original music would always be welcome).

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker also boasts a surprising amount of content. The adventure is divided into three ‘episodes’ (one in which Captain Toad is the star, one where Toadette takes center stage, and one where they both share the spotlight), with each episode housing a good chunk of levels. An additional “Bonus Mode” has a good number of special stages, including some from Super Mario 3D World (retooled to accommodate for Captain Toad’s lack of jumping), provided you have Super Mario 3D World saved data on your Wii U.

Captain ToadOn the downside, the game isn’t quite so creative when it comes to its boss fights. You’ll only encounter a handful of boss monsters throughout the adventure, and all of them are variations of the same two bosses. They provide some fun, but with how creative the game is in most of its other aspects, the lack of variety in bosses is a bit of a disappointment.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker may not be the biggest or best game on the Wii U, but it is one of the best showcases of the Wii U’s features, and another great addition to the system’s increasingly impressive library. And it’s charming like nobody’s business.

 

7

 

Kirby Triple Deluxe Review

Kirby Triple Deluxe

Kirby’s 3DS debut is one of the best displays of the 3DS hardware. Kirby can traverse between the foreground and background – with enemies and obstacles often switching between spaces – which makes for some of the best 3D effects on the system. Motion controls also come into play, leaving the player to tilt and rotate the system to solve Kirby’s more difficult puzzles. In terms of what Kirby Triple Deluxe does with the 3DS’ capabilities, it may just be the best showcase of the system since Super Mario 3D Land.

But Triple Deluxe isn’t just a display of the 3DS’ bag of tricks, it’s also one of the most fun Kirby games in years. Many argue that Kirby is at his best when he deviates from his own formula (Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Kirby Canvas Curse), but Triple Deluxe proves that, when he wants to, Kirby’s more traditional adventures are just as good.Kirby Triple Deluxe

Kirby once again eats enemies and gains their powers – including returning mainstays like sword and fire, with a couple of new powers such as Circus and Bell joining the lineup – but now Kirby has an extra trick up his sleeve: Hypernova Kirby. Besides sounding like a Digimon’s special attack, Hypernova provides a unique twist on traditional Kirby mechanics.

Hypernova Kirby sees the pink hero turned into a super-powered version of himself, where his inhaling ability turns into an all-out vortex. Kirby can eat enemies by the dozens, suck up trees and other chunks of the environment, and can even manipulate the stages themselves. Hypernova Kirby only appears on a handful of stages, but each instance is used intelligently, making these segments among the highlights of the game.

The stage design, although lacking in the intricacy and challenge of Mario or Donkey Kong, is a step up from some of Kirby’s more recent offerings. Finding hidden ‘Sun Stones’ helps Kirby progress further into the adventure, while collectible keychains give the game an obsessive-compulsive replayability.kirby Triple Deluxe

Aside from the primary story mode, two additional mini-games are included: Kirby Fighters works like a simplified, Kirby-centric Super Smash Bros., where players can select different copy abilities and duke it out with other Kirbys. Meanwhile, King Dedede’s Drum Dash works as a rhythm-based platformer where players take control of King Dedede, where they jump on drums, collect coins and avoid enemies to the beat of classic Kirby music.

Both of the side games are fun, but they do have a few drawbacks. Kirby Fighters is fun in small doses, and even gives the game a multiplayer option, but Kirby’s copy abilities are not as refined as the fighters of Super Smash Bros. Some powers have a lot more to offer than others, meaning that it isn’t exactly a balanced fighter. It’s definitely a fun concept – and the stages play off Kirby’s history, including retro music and some forgotten characters making a comeback in some levels – but hopefully one that can be better elaborated in future Kirby titles.

King Dedede’s Drum Dash, while certainly an entertaining diversion from the main adventure, only has a handful of stages, and they can be surprisingly difficult, especially considering the more easygoing nature of the main game.

But none of these complaints are so strong as to take away from the whole package. Kirby Triple Deluxe is brimming with the series’ trademark charm and sense of fun. It’s packed with content, and it understands its hardware better than the majority of its 3DS brethren.

 

7

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Review

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS was a fine addition to the series, though its main goal was transitioning the series to handhelds, not pushing the series forward. It was great, but it also felt a bit restrained. Consider the 3DS version the warm up, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the main event. It lives up to the hype, and then some.

Super Smash Bros. Wii UThe character roster and general gameplay remain the same as they were on 3DS. It’s tight and polished, and more balanced than the Smash Bros. of yesteryear. The character roster is varied and full of personality: The likes of Little Mac, Duck Hunt and Pac-Man bring the nostalgic charms, while characters such as Rosalina, Wii Fit Trainer, and Villager represent Nintendo’s contemporary appeal. Then there’s Mii Fighters, who add a personal touch to battles. They join the majority of Brawl’s roster and a host of other newcomers to ensure there’s never a shortage in play styles (Though I still question why Kid Icarus is more represented than Metroid or Donkey Kong).

But while the characters and gameplay may be identical to that of the 3DS Smash Bros., what the Wii U version does with them is entirely its own.

There are a plethora of new modes: Smash Tour sees players face off in a Mario Party-style game board, collecting fighters and power-ups as they go, and ending in a battle where said collectibles are put into action. Trophy Rush works as Smash Bros’ take on Tetris, and lets players break falling blocks and collect trophies and character customizing items. Master Orders throws players into battles of their choosing, with more difficult challenges bringing better rewards. Crazy Orders is an intensified version of this, with players fighting battle after battle, accumulating rewards with every victory, but a single defeat means losing most of your prize.

These are just a few of Smash Bros. for Wii U’s new modes. They join many returning favorites, from Classic and All-Star to Break the Targets and Home Run Contests. A fan favorite mode from Melee, Events, makes a comeback, and includes some of the game’s most difficult challenges. The Stage Builder from Brawl also returns, better than ever due to having a few more tools at display, and the Gamepad opens up more creative possibilities with your stage designs.

To top it all off, there are hundreds of trophies to collect, Challenges to complete, and character customizations to unlock. Said character customizations add a whole new level of depth to the series. I’m not sure I’ve ever played a game with quite as much content as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. There’s always something to do.

Of course, what will have you coming back the most is multiplayer. Super Smash Bros. has always specialized in multiplayer, and that’s truer here than ever.

Super Smash Bros. Wii ULocal play allows up to eight players, eight players, to partake in the mayhem. And mayhem it is. Having eight characters all at once can be a little overwhelming, and you may lose yourself amidst all the chaos. But in the end it’s great to have as an option. At the very least, having five or six players still feels grounded while also allowing more players than past entries in the series.

Online multiplayer is also a treat. Though it lacks the 8-player option, it does, like the 3DS version, include modes of play that cater to casual audiences as well as the more hardcore crowd. For Fun includes four-player free-for-alls as well as team matches, where all the items, Final Smashes and stage gimmicks are left intact. Meanwhile, For Glory includes free-for-alls, team matches, and one-on-one bouts where stages are leveled, no items allowed, and wins and losses are recorded, making these matches all about player skill and bragging rights.Super Smash Bros. Wii U

The online modes are a huge improvement over Brawl. It’s much easier to find other players, and now players are penalized for being inactive or quitting mid-match, which encourages more fun battles.

However, with the online modes comes Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s one notable flaw: The game runs smoothly for the most part, and it certainly feels more together than Brawl’s online capabilities. But when it does encounter problems, it does so with a vengeance. You may go through a dozen matches with no problems whatsoever, and then suddenly you find yourself in a battle that seems to be moving in slow motion, with the characters reacting a few seconds after button presses, if at all. At its worst, I encountered what should have been a two-minute bout that was slowed down to ten minutes of freeze frames. Most matches should work fine, and there are few things in gaming as addictive as playing Smash Bros. with people around the globe, but in those matches where the game can’t keep up with itself, it can be unbearable.

Some may cry foul that they can’t use their customized characters when facing off against online opponents (this includes Mii Fighters in their entirety), but it’s forgivable when taking into account it’s due to maintaining balance between fighters. And you can always use your customized fighters when facing off against friends online.

Super Smash Bros. Wii UThe series’ jump to Wii U also means this is the first time Super Smash Bros. has been presented in HD, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The stitches on Mario’s overalls, the scales on Bowser’s arms, the sheen of Samus’ armor. Nintendo’s characters have never looked more detailed, and the animations are fluid and lively. The stages are downright eye-popping, and boast just what the Wii U hardware is capable of.

The musical score is the best in the series. It retains the majority of Brawl’s tracks, while introducing far more original and remixed themes than the 3DS version. The score is one of the best in Nintendo’s history, and is every bit as much a love letter to the heritage of Nintendo as the characters themselves.Super Smash Bros. Wii U

If Super Smash Bros. for 3DS was the appetizer, consider Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to be the main course. It’s everything we love about Super Smash Bros. made bigger and better than ever. It relishes in any idea it deems fun, no matter how big or how small (you can even take screenshots, and then scribble on those screenshots with the Gamepad). The game boasts a multitude of controller options – all of which I’ve played feel well integrated – meaning you can play however you like. The replay value is nearly endless, and it’s more creative, balanced and fun than any Smash Bros. before it.

Whether you’re old enough to get all the references or the Wii U is your first foray into the worlds of Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has something for everybody.

 

8

Super Mario Bros. 2 Review

SMB2

Today, Super Mario Bros. 2 is often seen as a “black sheep” in the Mario series, neither as revolutionary as its predecessor nor as excellent as its successor. But truth be told, if Super Mario Bros. 2 is a lesser entry in the Mario canon, then let that speak to the overall quality of the series. Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a great game.

It’s true, the game we know as Super Mario Bros. 2 is just the Japan-only Nintendo title Doki Doki Panic retooled with Mario characters in it. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the game was among the best platformers of its era, not to mention the impact it had on the Mario universe.

Birdos, Bob-ombs, Shy Guys, many elements that are common place in Mario games today got their start here. This even includes the attributes of the main characters.

Players have the option of selecting four characters: Mario is well-rounded, Luigi has the highest jumping and descends slower, Peach can temporarily float in the air, and Toad lifts objects the fastest and throws them farthest.

The gameplay is unique among Mario games in that jumping on enemies doesn’t defeat them. Instead, you can jump on an enemy’s head and lift them up, and then toss them at other enemies. Additionally, vegetables are abundant in the ground, and can similarly be plucked and tossed at foes. It’s a fun gameplay hook that still stands out in the Mario series.

One downside is that the usual Mario power-ups are nowhere to be found (aside from an occasional Starman). Instead, players gain extra health by finding mushrooms in warp zones (temporary bonus rooms accessed through hidden doors). It’s just a shame the added bonuses found in warp zones don’t continue through subsequent levels, as it could have added an interesting RPG element to the Mario formula. But it works for the game at hand.

Super Mario Bros. 2Mario and company will of course venture to various themed worlds, each with a handful of stages and ending with memorable boss fights (boss fights which, I must admit, are more varied than those in the more popular Super Mario Bros. 3). It’s not as expansive as Mario’s later ventures, but it provides the same sense of fun.

The graphics are colorful 8-bit sprites, but not as detailed as those found in Mario 3. The music is a highlight, featuring some iconic pieces from the NES era that are still remembered and remixed today.

Super Mario Bros. 2 has a whole lot going for it, and it has aged more elegantly than the brunt of NES titles. Yes, it’s shaky origins mean it deviates from many loved elements of the Mario series (no Fire Flowers), and some might even say it feels slower when compared to other entries in the series, but Super Mario Bros. 2 is still a blast to play. Whether you’re firing up the old NES or playing it through the Wii U Virtual Console, Super Mario Bros. 2 proves that being a black sheep doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

 

7