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.

 

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Toy Story That Time Forgot Review

TSTTF

Toy Story That Time Forgot is Toy Story’s take on the annual Christmas special. The end result, much like the Halloween special Toy Story of Terror, is a fun little adventure, but doesn’t capture the same heights as the Toy Story feature films. That is to be expected, I suppose. At only a half-hour, it doesn’t exactly have the time to develop the same kind of story as its theatrical predecessors.

The story takes place a few days after Christmas morning, and Bonnie is out on a play date with her friend Mason. Bonnie brings some of her favorite toys, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Trixie (Kristen Schaal), and Rex (Wallace Shawn). But upon arrival, Bonnie and Mason get distracted by Mason’s new video game console, leaving the toys to explore the house on their own.

Toy Story That Time ForgotThe Toy Story gang soon meets up with the Battlesaurs – an army of colorful dinosaur warriors modeled after 80s action figures – who have been opened but not yet played with. The Battlesaurs fall under the Toy Story tradition of not knowing that they’re toys, which works for the story at hand, though the concept is starting to feel a bit overused by this point.

Trixie is the star of this Toy Story short, being embraced into the Battlesaurs tribe as one of their own. At first she loves the idea (whenever Bonnie plays with her, Trixie is depicted as anything but a dinosaur, so she welcomes the change), but after she finds out that the Battlesaurs spend their time destroying other toys in gladiatorial arenas, she sets out to teach the Battlesaurs of their true identities and the importance of playtime.

It’s a fun story, and it has a good sense of humor (the 80s action figure parodies are spot on), but don’t expect the same heart-swelling moments as Pixar’s feature films. It does what it can with its running time, but you kind of wish Buzz, Woody or Jessie had the starring role again. Being more fleshed-out characters, the primary Toy Story cast may have better carried the short, since Trixie isn’t exactly given the time for character development anyway.

Toy Story That Time ForgotSome might argue that it’s a Christmas special, so it doesn’t need the same oomph of other Pixar works. That might be true, but the short also kind of forgets that it’s a Christmas special, with any mention of holiday festivities only showing up in the opening and closing moments. So the Christmas holiday seems kind of like an excuse to introduce the Battlesaurs more than anything.

But while Christmas may get lost in all of the Battlesaur-ness, Toy Story That Time Forgot is still an entertaining short that adds another fun chapter to the Toy Story series. The animation is lovely, and the character designs for the Battlesaurs are among the most creative Pixar has made. It may not exactly be the Christmas tradition it wants to be, but it is a short worth revisiting from time to time. And don’t you forget that.

 

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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.

 

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F-Zero Review

F-Zero

F-Zero has never had it easy. It was an SNES launch title alongside Super Mario World, and we all know which game became synonymous with the console. F-Zero’s innovative “Mode 7” graphics were a revelation at the time, and made racing games feel more immersive. But Mode 7 would soon be used for a little game called Super Mario Kart, and we all know which game is considered the more influential.

So while F-Zero may have been in the shadows of more prolific SNES games, on its own merits it’s a more than capable racer.

Players choose between four vehicles, each with their own statistics, and race through various futuristic tracks. You can choose between different cups and difficulty levels, even the easiest of which provides a good challenge.

F-ZeroThe races are fast-paced, turns are sharp, and not only do you have to worry about falling behind the other races, but about your vehicle being destroyed as well. Your health bar depletes every time you run into a wall or bump into other racers. Should it deplete entirely, your car explodes, and you have to start the entire cup over. Health can be replenished by driving on certain pits near the starting point of each lap.The added game over element makes what is already a challenging racer all the more difficult. It may not be for everyone’s liking, but it rewards those seeking a challenge.

The graphics are mostly pleasant, with the aforementioned Mode 7 allowing for scaling and rotation effects that still hold up. There are admittedly some areas where the graphics don’t hold up so well, but given that F-Zero was pushing racing games into new territory at the time, the shortcomings are forgivable.

A huge, retrospective drawback is the lack of multiplayer or any additional modes. F-Zero holds up in a lot of ways, but the complete absence of multiplayer takes a lot away from the experience. The racing available is tight and precise, but with very little else to offer takes away replay value. And without being able to share the experience with a friend, it’s no wonder that Super Mario Kart stole F-Zero’s thunder.

Still, you can’t take too much away from F-Zero. It was novel back in its day for its graphics and fast-paced racing, and everything it has to offer has held up well, but it lacks the substance of other SNES games. There is certainly fun and challenge to be had with F-Zero. But you may find that, just as was the case back in the day, your racing skills will most likely drift back to Super Mario Kart.

 

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Duck Hunt Review

Duck Hunt

Back in the day, Duck Hunt was one of the most prolific games on the NES. It gave gamers a simple task: Shoot ducks with the NES Zapper (a gun peripheral that came packaged with the game), or risk being mocked and laughed at by your dog. The simplicity of the game made an impact on the NES’ appeal, and Duck Hunt was so iconic with the console that it soon became bundled with Super Mario Bros.

Now that you can play Duck Hunt on Wii U, you can see how age has effected the game in both positive and negative ways.

 

On the plus side, the game is still fun. The NES Zapper is replaced with a Wii Remote this time around, with the motion control probably making the game more intuitive than ever (though some targeting blips still occur).

There are three game modes: Game A has you shooting at one duck at a time, Game B has two ducks flying on screen at once, and Game C shifts the game to shooting clay pigeons (two of which are on screen at once), with the clay flying from the foreground to the background, becoming harder to hit as they shrink in the distance.

All three game modes involve ten targets per round, with the player given three shots to hit every on-screen target. Hit the right number of targets per round and you can move on, miss the required number and it’s game over. Hit all ten targets to get bonus points.

All three game modes serve as fun little mini-games, and the simplicity of it provides retro charm. On the downside, all three modes put together don’t pack a whole lot of depth, which may effect the game’s replay value.Duck Hunt

The thing is, Nintendo has excelled at mini-game collections for years now, and regrettably, compared to even one of the mini-games of Nintendo Land, Duck Hunt feels shallow. It might seem unfair to compare an NES launch game with one from the Wii U, given the incredible leap in technology. But the sad fact is that while Duck Hunt may still be fun, it no longer feels as addictive as it once did. The simplistic gameplay is still charming, but the overall package doesn’t hold up quite so well on its own.

Duck Hunt is definitely worth a look on the Wii U’s Virtual Console, but you may find it becomes more complimentary to the rest of your Wii U and Virtual Console library than a gaming experience in itself. It may not be the go-to game on your Wii U menu, but it is a fun little deviation between meatier games.

 

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Big Hero 6 Review

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is Disney’s first animated film “inspired” by a Marvel comic, though it’s probably more of a love letter to anime than it is to Disney’s superhero subsidiary. Set in the city of San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 has the look and feel of the robot and superhero-fueled anime and manga from the 90s.

Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a boy genius who spends his time winning money in unsanctioned “bot fights,” after having graduated high school at an early age. Hiro’s brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) tries to persuade his brother to attend his university, where Hiro’s robotic knowledge would be more than welcome. There Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends Gogo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), and Fred (T.J. Miller). But most importantly, it’s where Hiro meets Baymax (Scott Adsit), Tadashi’s healthcare robot.

This being a Disney movie, Hiro’s happy family doesn’t last long, and soon tragedy strikes and Hiro loses his brother Tadashi. Hiro then isolates himself from his friends and family, but once Baymax comes back into Hiro’s life, it leads the two on an adventure involving the mystery of Tadashi’s death, a super villain who stole Hiro’s invention ‘Microbots’  and is using them for a villainous plot, and eventually sees them, as well as Gogo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred, become super heroes.

 

If the setup sounds a bit like your typical Marvel movie origin story, that’s because a good chunk of it is. Big Hero 6 is a tried and true super hero flick in a lot of ways, which does prevent it from reaching the heights of some of Disney’s recent filmography, but it feels more honest and genuine than most of its live-action superhero counterparts, which makes it feel much fresher than the majority of super hero movies we’re bombarded with these days.

 

Big Hero 6It’s that heart that keeps Big Hero 6 afloat. Hiro is a likable main character, and the story allows him to show a wider range of emotions than we see from most Disney heroes. Baymax is surely one of the most endearing of Disney characters, he provides humor not because he’s a character created solely for comic relief, but because he’s a robot, and he acts like a robot. Yet, because he’s a robot dedicated to helping others, he helps boost the film’s emotional center. The relationship between Hiro and Baymax is what gives Big Hero 6 its heart. Through Baymax Hiro is able to get a better understanding of his brother even after his passing. It’s a super hero movie about overcoming the loss of a loved one.

 

Big Hero 6But while Hiro and Baymax may provide character development and depth, the other four members of the titular Big Hero 6 are unfortunately less fleshed out: Gogo fits squarely into the hardcore tomboy archetype, Wasabi is uptight and prone to comical freakouts, Honey Lemon is the girly girl, and Fred is the laid back comic foil. While Hiro and Baymax are given the time and attention to win our affections and earn our sympathy, the rest of the group are exactly who their one-note introductions say they are.

Another unfortunate aspect is that some of the film’s more story focused moments seem to go by too quickly, possibly as a means to fit as many action sequences into its running time as possible. The action scenes in question are all excellently done, mind you, but perhaps with a little more time dedicated to the story the other characters could have ended up as memorable as Hiro and Baymax.

In terms of animation, it doesn’t get much better than Big Hero 6 as far as CG is concerned. There is a painstaking attention to detail at work in Big Hero 6, which makes San Fransokyo feel like a living, breathing city (and keep an eye out for slews of Disney and Marvel Easter Eggs). Additional visual treats are provided by Baymax – whose “non-threatening, huggable” appearance make him one of the most unique of movie robots – and the Microbots, which join together by the thousands to create various shapes. In terms of the film’s scope and all the visual pop within it, Big Hero 6 may be the biggest spectacle Disney has ever made.

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is a charming film, and a whole lot of fun. But I fear that comparison’s to Frozen (it’s immediate predecessor in the Disney canon) and The Incredibles (Disney’s “other” super hero flick) may effect it’s appeal. Those two films took their genres, and added deeper thematics and storytelling to them. By comparison, Big Hero 6 feels like a more tried and true super hero movie. A really good one, mind you. But it may end up in the shadows of the two aforementioned films for not going the extra distance. It even tries its hand at creating a twist on its villain scenario, but it’s a twist that feels immediately predictable. Compared to the surprises of Frozen and The Incredibles, Big Hero 6 falls short.

 

You can’t dismiss Big Hero 6 for not being as good as Disney’s best, though. There’s a whole lot to love about it: Marvel fans are given plenty of fan service (Stan Lee cameo and post-credits sequence included), it gives the Disney canon some diversity in style, and it’s a highly entertaining love letter to Japanese anime. It’s beautifully animated and features action scenes as good as any super movie movie. But best of all are Hiro and Baymax, who elevate Big Hero 6 to being one of the most endearing movies in Disney’s recent resurgence.

 

Big Hero 6

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Welcome to the Dojo!

Welcome to the dojo!

To all who come to this opinionated website… Welcome! Wizarddojo.com is a place of video games and animations (and other movies). You will find reviews, top 5/10 lists, and other such writings on those subjects. Primarily by yours truly, but hopefully some other members of my fellowship will join in this venture. So stay a while and listen.

 

In preparation for the launch of this site, I already cooked up some reviews and other such things, so why not take a gander at them? Or you could look at that about page if you’d like. Get your magics ready and prepare for battle, you have entered the wizard’s dojo!