Category Archives: PC

Cuphead Review

Cuphead certainly looks unlike any game that came before it, replicating the distinct look of a 1930s cartoon down pat, right down to the grainy picture quality and surrealistic character designs. The music and sounds also have that muffled, “in a tunnel” quality of the slapstick cartoons of the era. Cuphead is brought to life through completely hand-drawn visuals. From its shockingly fluid character sprites to its cel animated backgrounds, Cuphead is a wonder to see in action. It may not be the first game to use hand-drawn visuals, but no video game has earned the right to be called an interactive cartoon quite like Cuphead.

Simply put, Cuphead is on an aesthetic level that’s all its own, and it may be a good number of years before another game showcases a similar level of visual inventiveness.

Of course, all the aesthetic pleasures in the world wouldn’t mean much if the game they contained couldn’t stand on its own two feet. Thankfully, Cuphead is a more than capable gameplay experience, even if its action can’t quite capture the same magic as its eye-popping visuals.

Players take control of Cuphead, an old-timey cartoon figure who – as his name implies – has a cup for a head; while a second player can take control of his brother, Mugman. These two characters live on Inkwell Isle, under the watchful eye of Elder Kettle. One day, while Elder Kettle is asleep, the two mischievous brothers sneak into a casino. After at first securing a winning streak, the casino’s owner is revealed to be the Devil, who raises the stakes on Cuphead’s gambling. After Cuphead makes a bad roll, the Devil demands their souls as payment. The brothers plea for another way out of the mess, and the Devil promises he’ll let them go, if they can secure the souls of others who owe the Devil a debt. So Cuphead and Mugman set out to defeat the debtors, and find a way to get out of their contract with the Devil.

It’s a silly plot, but perfectly in tune with the 1930s cartoons that inspired it. People often seem to misremember old cartoons as being more innocent than they actually were. Many old cartoons, even those starring the “squeaky clean” Mickey Mouse, often saw their cute characters go through some extreme circumstances before they learned a lesson, and it’s great to see how Cuphead manages to capture the tone of its inspirations, and that the 1930s cartoon feel doesn’t stop at the visuals.

In regards to gameplay, Cuphead is a run and gun platformer, with a particular emphasis on its boss fights. Cuphead and Mugman can shoot magic from their fingers, and can perform a “parry” action by pressing the jump button against pink objects while in midair. The more damage the heroes do to enemies, the more a special meter builds up in the form of playing cards, with a successful parry automatically achieving a full card. Cuphead can use stronger attacks by using a single card, but if you wait until you have a full five cards, you can unleash a super attack.

Along the adventure, Cuphead can purchase new types of guns (or magic blasts, whatever you want to call them). You can equip two such guns at a time, and can swap between those equipped by the press of a button. Additionally, you can also buy items that provide other benefits, such as additional hitpoints (the standard is three, but you can up it to four or five), or the ability to hit an automatic parry during a jump. To prevent the heroes from becoming overpowered, however, you can only equip one such item at a time.

There are three types of levels in Cuphead: the standard run and gun platforming stages, boss stages, and bullet hell boss stages (differentiated by Cuphead and Mugman piloting an airplane in an autoscrolling level).

The boss fights are the meat of the game, with most stages being gauntlets of either multiple bosses, or individual boss enemies who go through multiple phases. Perhaps most notable is how creative many of these boss fights are. Despite Cuphead’s simplistic gameplay mechanics, the creativity on display with every boss fight makes them constantly surprising, and every last boss is distinct from the others.

On the downside of things, the platforming stages aren’t remotely as fun, and it seems that the developers were well aware of that, seeing as there are only six of them in the entire game. I wouldn’t say these stages are flat-out bad, but they fail to replicate the quality and creativity found in the boss battles, and feel really bland by comparison.

In terms of challenge, Cuphead is as deceptively sinister as the cartoons that inspired it. Its opening tutorial is perhaps the easiest I’ve ever played, but once you step into the actual game, it can get incredibly punishing. Cuphead’s steep difficulty curve means it certainly isn’t a game for everyone. You won’t find any checkpoints in the boss fights or the levels, so if you die, it’s back to the starting line. And some of the bosses are unrelenting in the amount of alternate forms they take and how many projectiles they throw at you at once. Thankfully, as challenging as it is, the difficulty is mostly fair (I only felt there were two boss fights where it seemed like there were a distracting amount of going-on on screen).

The bosses do include a “simple” option where you’ll only face off against their first few phases at the expense of not getting their soul contract and, subsequently, being unable to progress until you try the actual thing (making the simple mode more of a practice mode than anything).

With how painstakingly long it takes to create hand-drawn animation, Cuphead is an understandably short game, with only three “proper” worlds and a fourth world that consists of one particularly lengthy gauntlet and a battle with the Devil himself. But for the most part, Cuphead is a blast while it lasts. The standard stages may be a little bland, but the boss encounters are one delight after another. And in terms of style, Cuphead is second to none.

 

8.0

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Sonic Mania Review

Sonic the Hedgehog is back!

It feels so good to be able to say that again, but it’s finally happened. Sonic the Hedgehog now has a new title to his name that lives up to the series’ most iconic entries on the Sega Genesis! In fact, I might even go so far as to say that Sonic Mania outdoes them.

Back in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog hit the gaming scene, and quickly became a video game icon. Sonic was to be Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario, and indeed, for a few years, Sonic was even more popular than Nintendo’s famous plumber.

But it was not to last. While Sonic’s first several outings on the Sega Genesis (and its add-ons) are still highly revered even today, what he’s done since then has been a little less consistent. Mario proved to be a jack of all trades, seamlessly making the jump to 3D with Super Mario 64, transitioning into other genres with the likes of Super Mario Kart and Super Mario RPG, and still producing some of the best titles in gaming decades later with the likes of Super Mario Galaxy. Sonic, on the other hand, felt lost in time.

Though Sonic initially looked poised to replicate Mario’s versatility, the series would soon lose its footing. There wasn’t a proper Sonic title to be had on the Sega Saturn (and that console’s would-be Mario Kart, Sonic R, was a bit of a disaster), and though the Sonic Adventure titles on the Dreamcast were praised in their day, time hasn’t been kind to them, exposing utterly chaotic camerawork and more than a few notable technical issues. After that, Sonic became a multiplatform series once Sega went the third-party route, and things didn’t ease up for the blue blur.

During these years, Sega would try all kinds of experiments with their mascot. Some of these experiments worked to a degree, while others were all-time lows for the series. In many cases, it seemed like the Sonic franchise just leached its way onto anything, and that the developers at Sega would rather be making something else entirely (quite literally in the case of the infamous “Sonic the Hedgehog ’06”).

Whatever Sonic games that did shine during this time were those that played closest to the Genesis playbook, with Sonic Colors and Generations becoming fan favorites. Though sometimes Sega could get carried away with the nostalgia card, with the two episodes of “Sonic the Hedgehog 4” feeling like watered down, clunky versions of the classic template.

But now, we have Sonic Mania, and it’s a thing of beauty.

“Sonic Mania even includes an anime-style opening a la Sonic CD.”

Released as part of an extended 25th anniversary celebration to the franchise, Sonic Mania is perhaps a better gift to the series and its fans than they could have even asked for. Sonic Mania is everything Sonic should be.

Though Sonic Mania is published by Sega, its development team consists of notable members of the Sonic fan-game community. The game was helmed by Christian Whitehead, who was famously recruited by Sega to port a number of the classic Sonic titles to mobile platforms, and teamed by PagodaWest and Headcanon, who have a few Sonic fan-games to their resume.

I’m not sure whether it’s poetic or ironic that it literally took the fans to create the best Sonic game in over two decades, but the end results prove that Sonic Mania truly is a labor of love by people who love the franchise, for people who love the franchise.

First there are the obvious connections to the Genesis classics; the 16-bit visuals and character sprites make the game feel like a proud follow-up to Sonic’s initial outings, albeit taking advantage of modern hardware to make for some dazzling effects that weren’t possible back in the day. Additionally, the majority of Sonic Mania’s “Zones” are new versions of those found in Sonics 1, 2 and 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic CD. Some such “remixed” Zones even use the templates of their original forms, but with some new additions and tweaks, so that even when Sonic Mania is at its most comfortably familiar, it’s still full of surprises.

“Here’s the final boss from Sonic 2 in the first level of Sonic 1.”

For example, the game begins in Sonic the Hedgehog’s Green Hill Zone. While that first-ever level of the franchise has been countlessly recreated in recent years, it’s never been done so poetically as it is here. The Green Hill Zone begins almost identically to how it did back in 1991, until suddenly you notice one of Sonic 3’s magnetic shields in place of Sonic 1’s standard force field, and the corkscrew loops from Sonic 2’s Emerald Hill Zone are at play. Alterations such as this are just the tip of the ice burg, as Sonic Mania is constantly finding ways to reinvent what we know about Sonic’s past.

That’s not to say Sonic Mania is simply falling back on nostalgia, however, as it also includes level design that is entirely its own. Along with a few brand new Zones unique to Mania, the second “act” within the returning zones are less remixed, and more built from the ground up. Sonic Mania really is the perfect marriage of the old and the new for the franchise.

The gameplay is, once again, Sonic at its purest (and best) form. Players can select Sonic, Tails or Knuckles, each with their own abilities (Sonic is fastest and now has a “Drop Dash” move to keep momentum after jumping, while Tails can temporarily fly and Knuckles being able to glide and climb up walls). You’ll run through stages collecting rings, which once again work as a kind of health system (get hit and you lose your rings, get hit without rings and you’re dead). You can collect the aforementioned force fields and shields from Sonic 3 (magnet shields pull in rings and grant a double jump, fire shields give a charging attack and can burn through certain obstacles, and bubble shields allow you to breath under water and jump higher). There’s also a new power-up in the form of blue rings, which are something like a ‘ring insurance.’ The blue rings will make sure that, the next time Sonic gets hit, he can still reclaim every last ring he held by clumping them together in a few giant rings. The blue ring may not sound like much, but in those times when you make a little mistake that would have otherwise cost you hundreds of rings, it becomes a godsend.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a 16-bit Sonic title without some 3D bonus stages. If you can reach a checkpoint with twenty-five rings secured, you can jump into a halo above said checkpoint and play a new version of Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s famous Blue Sphere mini-games (and yes, they’re as hard as ever). Should you complete a Blue Sphere mini-game, you are rewarded with bonuses such as new game modes and unlockable content.

“Sega Saturn FTW!”

But Sonic Mania once again goes beyond the call of duty by including a second such bonus stage, this one brand new (albeit inspired by Sonic CD). If you can find a giant ring hidden in a stage, you are transported to one of these new bonus stages, where Sonic (or Knuckles or Tails) have to catch up to a UFO to claim a Chaos Emerald. These bonus stages have you collecting blue spheres to pick up speed to reach the UFO, while also gathering rings to put more time on the clock, all while being presented in Sega Saturn-inspired visuals.

Another iconic attribute of the Sonic games were the soundtracks. And good heavens, does Sonic Mania deliver on that front. Once again the creation of a series fan (Tee Lopes, famous for covers of various Sonic tracks), the soundtrack to Sonic Mania includes stellar remixes from Sonic’s past (each returning zone gets a different remix for both of its acts), while the brand new tracks are more than worthy successors to the franchise’s legendary music. Though the soundtrack takes most of its cues from Sonic CD – which up to this point had the best soundtrack in the series, hands down – it also feels distinctly its own. It may even be my favorite gaming soundtrack of 2017 and, yes, it may even top Sonic CD for the title of “best Sonic music ever.”

If I had to nitpick anything about Sonic Mania (and you’d have to nitpick to have anything negative to say), it’s that some of the obstacles in the Flying Battery Zone feel a bit unruly and hard to predict, which lead to more than a few accidental fumbles; and the Hydrocity Zone can be a little on the confusing side. But again, any complaints to be had are minor.

“Old levels now feature new gimmicks, like these bouncing gels in the Chemical Plant Zone.”

Sonic Mania obviously plays the nostalgia card, it is so much more than simply a trip down Hedgehog memory lane. This is exactly the kind of sequel the franchise has been begging for for two decades, and the kind of Sonic experience Sega has tried to create themselves in the past, but couldn’t quite get right (Sonic Generations was probably their best attempt). This is the classic Sonic gameplay we all know and love, but it’s also smarter than the games that inspired it. The level designs – which contain so many alternate routes and introduce so many new gameplay gimmicks that they never lose a shred of their charm – are arguably the deepest in the series, and even have a Mario sense of exploration about them to track down their every last secret. And the boss fights are, bar none, the most consistently entertaining in the franchise. No matter how difficult (or easy) the boss fights got, they all provided something new and left their mark.

Sonic Mania is the game fans have waited ever so patiently for. It’s so lovingly crafted, and so well executed, that it may actually have you forgetting about Sonic’s missteps over the years and make you feel like the series never slowed down. From the obvious homages to the most esoteric of references, Sonic Mania oozes an unmistakeable love for all things Sonic (well, all the good things), and lives up to the very best games the blue hedgehog has ever starred in.

If Sonic Mania is anything to go by, then Sonic has finally returned, and in such fashion that it feels like he never left.

 

9.5

My Favorite Games from E3 2017

E3 2017 has come and gone. Everyone seems to be doing their E3 awards now, so I’ll do the same. Though I’m mainly basing this on my personal experience of attending the event, and since I couldn’t experience every game E3 had to offer, my selections will (mostly) look different than most peoples’. I decided to do something of a top five, but instead of ranking the games, I’ll award each one in its own category, to compensate for the long lines preventing me from playing more.


*Best Game I Didn’t Play*

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

There were plenty of games at E3 that I didn’t get to play, so I guess it makes sense to make a category honoring the best of the games I (unfortunately) missed out on. Of course, I kept track of all the big games from the show through…basically every source I could. And while there were a lot of games I wish I had the chance to play at the show, the one that I regret not getting the chance to play was Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.

I loved the original game, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, on the Playstation 3. In fact, it was my favorite game of 2013, and one of the best RPGs of recent years. Though the sequel seems to be changing up the formula a bit in terms of combat, it’s still aiming to bring the ineffable charms of Studio Ghibli to the world of video gaming. And frankly, the new combat system looks just as fun (I really liked the “Dragon Quest meets Pokemon” gameplay of the original, but the Pikmin-esque elements are winning me over). In a year chock-full of great games, Ni No Kuni II is among the titles I’m most excited for. And with all due respect to the other great games I wasn’t able to try at E3, I’m kicking myself the most over missing out on Ni No Kuni II, whose line seemed to always be closed every time I tried to play it…

Yeah, I’m also eagerly-awaiting the remakes of Crash Bandicoot and Superstar Saga, but they’re remakes. It’s different.

 

*The “Wow, I Can’t Believe This Actually Works!” Award*

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

For years, I’ve found the Rabbids to be nothing but annoying. When I heard the rumors of a crossover with Super Mario, I was more dumbfounded than anything. Never would I have imagined that this oddball combination would actually lead to a very promising tactical RPG.

It’s Mario. It’s Rabbids. It has XCOM-esque gameplay. It has music by Grant Kirkhope. The Mario and Rabbid characters use sci-fi weapons… This is the weirdest concept for a game I’ve heard in a very, very long time. Almost like Ubisoft pulled a bunch of ideas out of a hat, and decided to put them together. But, if the demo I played is anything to go by, it actually works.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle proved to be surprisingly complex with its battle system, and it seems to be using both Ubisoft’s Rabbids and Nintendo’s most iconic IP in a really creative way. Here’s hoping the final game is every bit as much of a pleasant surprise.

 

*The “Outta Nowhere” Award*

Dragon Ball FighterZ

As a kid, I loved the Dragon Ball franchise. As I’ve gotten older, I still have a soft spot for it, even if it loses any shred of story structure once it goes into the “Dragon Ball Z” territory and beyond. The planet-devastating action from the manga/anime series should be ripe for the picking for the video game world. But to be honest, I think that Dragon Ball games, at their best, have only ever been so-so.

That all changed when I played Dragon Ball FighterZ. Visually, it looks just like you’re playing an episode of the anime. Actually, considering the game’s animation is far more fluid than the anime’s, Dragon Ball FighterZ looks better than its source material. More importantly, it plays beautifully. The combat is classic, 2D fighting at its best.

The game oozes both depth and accessibility in its gameplay, with easy-to-learn combos and mechanics that definitely take some time to learn to use to greater effect. Plus, it rectifies one of my major gripes with most 2D fighters by making the matches decently lengthy. Normally, I feel like if you get hit by just a few moves in a 2D fighter, the match is nearly over. But here, players get to choose three characters apiece, with each one being decently durable, leading to matches that felt lengthy, but not so lengthy they overstayed their welcome.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been as excited for a fighting game as I am for Dragon Ball FighterZ.

 

*The “Right in the Childhood” Award*

Sonic Mania

Sonic the Hedgehog was one of my favorite video game series as a kid, but somewhere along the line, the games started sucking. I – like many people – believe this all happened around the time Sonic made the jump to 3D. Some still swear by the Sonic Adventure titles, but I’m sorry, they really show their age. Not to mention they also began the trend for Sonic games trying to be melodramatic story-focused, furry-baiting nonsense, which focused more on introducing more small armies of dumb animal characters in each game than actually making a good game. The more I think about it, the more I think Sonic Generations may be the only 3D Sonic title I actually like…

Sega has tried in the past to bring Sonic back to his former glory, with the Sonic Advance/Rush titles being decent attempts that never quite felt right. A more literal approach was taken with Sonic the Hedgehog 4, but both of that game’s “episodes” felt like dumbed down, clunky versions of the formula.

But with Sonic Mania, Sega seems to finally be getting Sonic right! It looks and feels like the Genesis Sonic games in many ways, but also feels like a proper sequel to the 16-bit Sonic classics. It takes the best bits of Sonic’s most beloved games, while also making everything smoother, and adding a good dose of originality and creativity to boot. Plus, we get the classic pot-bellied, Felix the Cat-esque Sonic that we all love, instead of that obnoxious, desperately-trying-to-be-cool buffoon that the Hedgehog has become.

Whether or not Sonic Mania can repair the franchise as a whole is yet to be seen. But at least it looks like we’ll finally get one game that does the series proud.

 

*Overall Game of the Show*

Super Mario Odyssey

Earlier this year, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game which reinvented the foundations of the Zelda series to masterful effect. Now, Nintendo is aiming to do the same with the one franchise that is arguably more highly-regarded than Zelda.

Nintendo may be boasting that Super Mario Odyssey is returning to the “sandbox style” of Super Marios 64 and Sunshine. But it’s actually so much more than that.

Super Mario Odyssey looks to be rebuilding what we know and love about the Mario series. The worlds of the game are outlandish even by Mario’s standards, and that sense of originality is finding its way into the gameplay.

Instead of one-off power-ups being found in blocks, Mario can buy different outfits – with each boasting different abilities – which he can then wear whenever. The famed plumber is free to search for Power Moons (the replacement of Power Stars) however the player sees fit, with the episodic nature of past 3D Marios no longer limiting Mario’s options. And most prominently, Mario can take control of enemies, NPCs and even objects using his new magic hat, which means the gameplay is constantly changing.

Even with all the changes Odyssey looks to bring to the Mario formula, it still retains the level of polish, intricate controls, and bountiful charms you would expect from the Mario series. Odyssey looks to be a classic in the making.


Well, that does it for my E3 awards. I now leave you with this video of the Super Soul Bros. performing at E3 (pardon my recording skills…or lack thereof).

E3 2017: Day 3

E3 2017 has come and gone. While there are plenty of discussions to be had on the presentations and such, I’m just here to recollect my experience at the show. While there were some detriments to this E3 (namely the ungodly long lines), it was fun to be able to experience E3 again, and I look forward to next year’s show… provided they sell reasonably-priced tickets to the public again. Anyway, here’s how my last day at E3 2017 went.

First the bad news: I didn’t get to play Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. I tried – several times – to get in line for it, and every time the line was “temporarily closed,” until the last time I tried and it was closed for the day. So that sucked. Otherwise, I had a good last day at the show, though I didn’t actually play a whole lot.

The first game I got to play was a second go at Dragon Ball FighterZ against my brother. I managed to win once again after a hard fought battle (I usually suck at fighting games, so I don’t mind bragging here), but I really can’t stress enough how much I enjoy this game. It was definitely worth a second look, and was definitely one of the best surprises of the show.

Speaking of pleasant surprises, the next game I managed to play was Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Now, when I first heard of the rumors of this game, I can’t say I was too excited. I was never a fan of the Rabbids, so to hear they were crossing over into my favorite franchise was a bit iffy. It also didn’t help that the rumored title was Super Mario RPG: Invasion of the Rabbids, which seemed like a disappointing follow-up to the classic Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (one of my favorite video games of all time).

Now that the game’s been revealed (and has no connection to Super Mario RPG), I’m actually really excited for it. The game basically plays like the XCOM reboot, but with Mario and Rabbids characters, and music by the composer of Banjo-Kazooie (Grant Kirkhope). That is an odd combination, but certainly an interesting one.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is essentially a tactical RPG, with the game featuring eight playable characters (Mario, Luigi, Peach and Yoshi, along with four Rabbids dressed as those four characters), though the demo only featured three (Mario, and the Peach and Luigi Rabbids). The battles use a turn-based system, with players able to move their characters to different places within a certain distance on the field at any time. During movement, players can boost their characters’ distance by pairing them with another character or going through pipes, perform a sliding attack by crossing an enemy, and ultimately find a spot to cover from enemy damage. After the characters are positioned, they can attack enemies using an array of weird sci-fi weapons.

It sounds simple, but Mario + Rabbids proved to be surprisingly deep and complex with its tactical elements. What seemed so easy on face value had me making a number of mistakes before learning better.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle may be one of the weirdest games I’ve ever heard of, but if the demo was a taste of what is to come, then I can say I’m actually very excited for a game featuring the Rabbids. Never thought I’d say that.

Truth be told, standing in line for Mario + Rabbids took up a good deal of time, so I didn’t get to play a whole lot else on this final day of E3 2017, though I did get to explore the show floor a bit more, and I liked what I saw. Two games I’m looking forward to but skipped were ARMS and Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy. With ARMS literally being released tomorrow, I didn’t feel the need to stand in a lengthy line for it. And while the Crash Bandicoot remake compilation is one of my most anticipated games this year, it comes out at the end of this month. So again, I didn’t think waiting in a long line for it made much sense (I would possibly make an exception for Mario or Dark Souls, if that scenario ever occurs).

So the last game I played at this E3 was, well, the first game I played at this E3: Super Mario Odyssey. Mercifully, Nintendo seemed to learn from the chaotic mess of a line from the first day of E3, and tweaked things to make it more tolerable. There were more, smaller lines this time, instead of a gargantuan mass of humanity. I probably only had to wait a half hour, which was a godsend compared to the first time around.

On the first day, I played the desert stage of the Mario Odyssey demo, which felt familiar to the Super Mario Galaxy games in that it was built around action and platforming. This time, however, I tried out the city stage, which felt more in line with Super Mario 64 or – perhaps more accurately – Breath of the Wild.

The city stage serves as a massive sandbox with objects galore to be found and completed as the player sees fit. In retrospect, I probably should have tried out the different costumes to see their abilities, but I was too busy gathering Moons (Odyssey’s replacement for the traditional Stars).

I got one Moon by performing well at a game of jump rope, one for besting an obstacle course, and a few for braving precarious situations. In total, I earned a total of six Moons, which the man working at the kiosk told me tied the record set for the city stage during the demo. Of course, this leads me to an aggravating little detail: My demo ended just as I was climbing the pole at the top of the highest building in the city, which the Nintendo employee ensured me had an additional Moon at its peak. So I was apparently seconds away from having the best record of Moons on the city stage for Super Mario Odyssey’s E3 demo. Just my luck…

In between viewing, playing, and waiting in line for all these great games over the past few days, I also enjoyed some of the other things E3 had to offer: I enjoyed a bit of a GameSpot interview with WWE wrestlers Xavier Woods and Samoa Joe on the last day, while during the second day I had a listen to some awesome Mario Kart 64 remixes courtesy of the Super Soul Bros.

“Joe’s gonna kill you!”

I’ve had a great time at this year’s E3. Yes, the lines were disastrous (hopefully they’ll learn how to better handle the extra people if the event is still open to the public next year), and sure, people can go ahead and comment about how Sony’s presentation wasn’t up to their usual quality, or how there weren’t too many surprises. But for me, it was simply a great time. I made lots of memories, played some terrific games (particularly Super Mario Odyssey, which I feel is destined to be a Nintendo classic), and just had a good time.

I’m hoping I can return to E3 again next year, but all I can say for now is that it was great to attend the event again. But good luck with 2018’s E3 having as stellar of a lineup of games as this year.

“Me…about to be crushed by the DK Rabbid…”

E3 2017: Day 2

Day two of my ventures of E3 2017 have come and gone. Today, I managed to play a few different games, and actually found some great surprises. On the downside, the AAA booths have proven almost too crazy to deal with. I made the exception for Super Mario Odyssey, and I hope to still play a few more AAA games if I’m able (I really want to try Sea of Thieves). But their lines are pure evil. Just evil.

On the plus side of things, I’m not the biggest fan of the direction many AAA games are taking these days, so missing out on them at E3 isn’t a personally crushing loss. But there are a couple of games I hope to catch tomorrow, seeing as it’s the last day of E3 2017 *sob*.

Anyway, the great news is that I spent most of the day with my brother, so we got to experience a number of games together. First we played Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, the newest edition of Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy spinoff fighter for the Playstation 4. It was pretty fun and interesting, though I clearly didn’t know what I was doing. In a game placing two teams of three against each other, I came in last place in the losing team, while my brother got first place on the winning team. Ouch.

I got a bit of vengeance, however, with one of E3’s biggest surprises. Dragon Ball FighterZ had a bit of a line, but it was definitely worth it. The game is a classic-style, 2D fighting game from the makers of Guilty Gear, and uses the same beautiful cel-shading as said series, which looks as close to hand-drawn animation as possible.

Dragon Ball FighterZ uses a team system, with players picking three different characters. The demo consisted of six characters from the anime franchise: Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Frieza, Cell and Majin Buu. Both me and my brother picked variations of a Frieza, Cell and Buu team (because Saiyans are boring). The game not only looks gorgeous, but the controls and gameplay are incredibly fluid. Better still, unlike many fighters, where it seems like characters are eliminated rather quickly, it took a good few minutes before either of us knocked out our first character. I ultimately ended up victorious in my match against my brother after a hard fought battle. But the real story here is how disappointed I was when my time with the game ended. I wanted it to keep going. Dragon Ball FighterZ was that much fun.

“The bounciest game of the year.”

Another surprise of the show was Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. Yeah, yeah, this is a series all about waifus and bewbs (as if that’s a bad thing), but it was fun. It basically works like Splatoon meets Super Mario Sunshine, with teams of bosomy, bikini-clad ninjas using squirt guns against each other. Once you have an opponent down, you can continue to squirt them to remove their bikini top or bottom for extra points (convenient lighting prevents all-out nudity). Look, it’s actually a fun game, okay! I know sites like Kotaku are probably already writing their SJW-fueled negative “review” of it. But it’s harmless fun, and more humorous than anything.

Sadly, due to long lines and rather chaotic crowds, I didn’t get to actually play much else, but I did get a good looksy at Sony’s booth, and made another trip to Nintendo’s. That Spider-Man game looks great, and call me a sucker, but I’m really excited for the PS4 version of Shadow of the Colossus, even though I’ve already played it on PS2 and PS3.

I really wanted to try out Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, but the lines for it at both the Nintendo and Ubisoft booths were closed by the time I made it to them. Strangely, Ni No Kuni II’s line was “temporarily closed” the first time I approached it, and then closed for the day the next time. So I guess I know which games I’m starting with tomorrow.

“I never thought I’d want to play a game featuring the Rabbids so badly…”

I did get to play one additional game before the day was done though, Sonic Mania. The Sonic Mania demo allowed you to play as all three characters (Sonic, Knuckles and Tails), and had two different stages to try out (the classic Green Hill Zone and the brand-new Mirage Saloon Zone). I decided to go the classic route and play as Sonic, though because Green Hill Zone seems to be recreated in every Sonic game in existence, I picked the original level instead.

I have to say, it’s hard to get very excited for Sonic games these days, but Sonic Mania has been on my radar since it was announced last year. Even with under ten minutes of playtime with the demo, I think I can safely say it’s the best Sonic game in years. It looks, sounds and feels like the golden age of Sonic games. Though I might even say it controls even more fluidly than the classic Genesis games, and the fact that it’s on modern hardware means that, even though it’s still 16-bits, it can allow for far more complex and robust animations. Sonic Mania is now a game I can’t wait to get my hands on, and it’s been so long since I’ve felt that way for a Sonic title.

Well, that about covers everything I actually managed to play on day two of E3 2017. There’s one more day left, and still a few games I want to be sure to try (mainly Mario + Rabbids and Ni No Kuni II, but if I can manage Splatoon 2, or the Crash Bandicoot and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga remasters, I’ll hopefully squeeze them in as well. And I wouldn’t mind another go at Super Mario Odyssey, provided the line isn’t two and a half hours long).

Even though I may not get the opportunity to play a good deal of games on the show floor, just being able to be at E3 is a real joy for me. As a kid I always wanted to attend E3, and now I actually get to go and play some of the most anticipated upcoming games on the show floor. That’s pretty cool the more I think about it.

Here’s hoping for another trip to E3 in 2018!

E3 2017: Day 1

Day one of my ventures to E3 2017 have come and gone. The bad news is that the first day of the event always has the most unholy of long lines, but at least this means the next two days (hopefully) will be more manageable.

So how was my first day at E3 2017? Well, if I could describe it with a single image…

With a brand-new 3D Mario playable at the show floor, of course that was going to be the first place I went. And the above image pretty much explains what was in store for me. I waited in line for over two and a half hours just to play ten minutes of the newest Mario title.

Thankfully, though the wait was painful, it was ultimately worth it, because those ten minutes were a whole lot of fun. Super Mario Odyssey is shaping up to be something special. It controls beautifully (as is the case with most games starring the famed plumber), looks wonderful, and sounds great. But perhaps the best thing about Mario Odyssey is just how utterly insane it is: Mario can now take control of enemies and some NPCs by throwing his hat on them, with each possessed form bringing their own abilities to the table (a stone maui head could reveal invisible platforms, for example). Plus, Mario can actually buy stuff with the coins he collects, primarily more hats, as well as additional costumes, with each one having their own benefits as well.

Another thing I noticed in my brief time with Super Mario Odyssey is that it seemed to address one of my biggest wishes for the 3D Mario games, and allows Mario to stay within a level after nabbing one of its prizes (this time being Moons, replacing Stars). Hopefully this feature makes it into the final game, because while I loved all of the previous 3D Mario titles to some degree, I felt that the “episodic” setup for the stages – with the selected objective dictating the direction the stage took – was better suited for the Galaxy titles, which were more linear. Super Mario 64 and Sunshine are still touted for being more “open-world” platformers that were built on exploration, so it kind of felt counterproductive to have a fixed objective for you as you picked which “episode” of a level to tackle. If Odyssey sticks with the direction it’s going, then being able to grab whatever Moon on a stage in whatever order is a step in the right direction for this style of 3D Mario.

That’s right, folks. I played Super Mario Odyssey. I even got the hat to prove it.

Obviously, I felt very highly about what Super Mario Odyssey has in store. In a gaming year that has been exceptionally generous in quality titles, and one that has seemingly changed Nintendo’s fortunes for the better, Super Mario Odyssey has a good chance to end up being one of the 2017’s best titles. It already feels like one of the freshest games Nintendo has made in a very long time, and any game where you can possess a T-Rex with a magic hat should be a great time.

On the downside of things, I didn’t get to do a whole lot else on my first day at this E3 (though I did walk by Danny Trejo before entering the building, so that was cool). I saw a number of games that I can’t wait to play, but the lines were all either really long, or just all over the place. I’m hoping that tomorrow and the day thereafter will be a little more calmed down, so that I can check off the games on my “to-play” list.

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom certainly caught my eye, as did Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (apparently I like games with the word “kingdom” in the title). I also hope to check out the indie games, and even though it comes out pretty soon, I’m really tempted to have a go at Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane trilogy. Sonic Mania, Sonic Forces, Splatoon 2, and Arms are also on my radar. If I can somehow manage to get through the Sea of Thieves line, I definitely will do that as well. Finally, if that remake of Superstar Saga is playable (it was hard to tell with the mass of humanity at Nintendo’s booth for Mario Odyssey), I’ll definitely spend some time on that if I can. With how far the Mario & Luigi series has fallen with its last two entries, going back to its glorious beginning may be just what Nintendo needs to get the Mario RPGs back on track.

So perhaps not too eventful of a day for me when it came to playing a variety of games. But I got to play the game I’m most excited for, so that definitely counts for something. Plus, for someone like me who’s not there to write news reports and interview people, going to E3 is as much about the experience of it as anything. And despite the lines, I had a fun time. There are certainly a lot of great games to look forward to, and I may have already played the best of the bunch.

Mr. Shifty Review

*This review originally appeared on Miketendo64.com*

Remember that opening scene from X-2: X-Men United where Nightcrawler is teleporting all over the place, beating people up every time he reappears? Take that, and merge it with a top-down beat-em-up, and you have a good idea of what Mr. Shifty is all about.

Players take control of the titular Mr. Shifty, a teleporting thief who is trying to steal “Super Plutonium” from the clutches of Chairman Stone, who seeks to weaponize it. To do so, however, Mr. Shifty will have to infiltrate Stone’s building, which is the “most secure facility on the planet.”

Mr. Shifty is a very simple game. Your goal is to clear a room by either eliminating all enemies or solving puzzles, with each stage consisting of a number of rooms. The catch here is that Mr. Shifty dies in one hit, and can only use his fists – or various objects he finds – as weapons. So you’re left with figuring out how to best utilize your teleporting abilities to shift through walls and sneak up on enemies. You’ll also have to teleport past deadly lasers, land mines, and explosives, all of which can also be used to take out enemies, if you’re crafty enough.

The game can actually be very creative with how it goes about its premise, with many of the game’s puzzles requiring on-the-fly thinking and its simple combat being tough and exciting.

With that said, the game can feel a bit repetitious after a while. As fun as it can be, Mr. Shifty’s bag of tricks does start to feel exhausted from time to time. It will introduce fun ideas (such as rooms that prevent you from teleporting, stripping you of your primary means of defense), but then keep using them to the point where you may start to get frustrated with them. This is especially true in times when you have to endure a gauntlet of enemies amid such moments, with a single death resulting in starting the whole gauntlet over.

This only intensifies as the game goes on, with the third act unfortunately being the low point of Mr. Shifty, as things really begin to drag on and on.

The aforementioned story is simple, and in case the “Super Plutonium” didn’t tip you off, is full of self-parody and jokes at the expense of gaming and action movie clichés. It can be decently funny at times, though at the same time, I don’t think it’s funny enough to be particularly memorable.

Mr. Shifty is also bogged down by some technical issues, with slow-downs and temporary freeze-ups being common occurrences. It’s by no means broken, but the technical blips are notable enough to hinder the experience somewhat.

Hopefully this doesn’t sound too negative, because when Mr. Shifty works, it’s a lot of fun. The teleporting mechanic brings a good dose of creativity to the puzzles, and the combat is delightfully reminiscent of the beat-em-ups of old. The visuals are also pretty decent for the genre, and the music – while maybe lacking in variety – fits the game well.

Mr. Shifty is a fun experience while it lasts, with simple and addicting gameplay that gets bonus points for the creativity in which it presents its key mechanic. But the increasing monotony, along with the technical issues do hold it back. Mr. Shifty is a game that wants desperately to be replayed over and over again so that players can beat their best times. But after the novelty wears off, it’s hard to say just how replayable Mr. Shifty would be.

 

6.5