Top 10 Video Game Duos

Yooka-Laylee

Yooka-Laylee, the Kickstarter darling from Playtonic Games, has already gained an impressive following for its ambitions to revive the 3D platforming genre of the N64 days. It’s also aiming to resurrect the old video game tradition of having two heroes share the spotlight. This got me thinking of some of the other great video game duos over the years, so I decided to compile a list of the top 10 twosomes in gaming.

The only real qualification for this list was that the two characters have to share in their adventures together. They can be two equal heroes or a hero/sidekick combo, but they have to both brave their adventures on a somewhat even level. Solid Snake and Otacon won’t be here, for example, because while Otacon may help Snake in some valuable ways, it’s usually from the sidelines.

Also, as much as I already love them, Yooka and Laylee won’t be here for the obvious reason that their game isn’t anywhere near release. Only established games for now.

Let’s get to it then. Continue reading “Top 10 Video Game Duos”

Most Wanted Smash Bros. DLC Characters

Nintendo has officially opened up a character ballot for potential DLC characters for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. For the first time in forever, Nintendo fans can officially make suggestions for characters they’d like to be added to the series, with the possibility of some suggestions becoming a reality.

If you want to vote for your favorite characters, you can do so by going here. Nintendo’s setup is simple enough: Name the character, the game/series they appear in, and give a brief reason why they should be in the game.

Naturally, I have already voted a number of times. There are some characters I wanted for a while that actually ended up in the game (Rosalina, the Duck Hunt dog), but there are some other favorites that didn’t make the cut. Some of my choices are a little more obscure, but some are characters who should have been in the series by this point. At the very least, they all make more sense than Dark Pit.

 

Dixie Kong

Dixie Kong

From: Donkey Kong series

Why she should be in Super Smash Bros: A better question is why hasn’t Dixie Kong been in Super Smash Bros. already? The Donkey Kong series, despite being Nintendo’s earliest franchise, as well as one of their most popular, is grossly underrepresented in Super Smash Bros. With DK and Diddy already in the game, the next logical choice would be Dixie Kong. She debuted in the second (and most beloved) Donkey Kong Country game, was the star of the third entry, and has remained a series mainstay. She was even the most useful partner in Tropical Freeze!

There really is no reason why Dixie hasn’t been in the series yet. She’s a fan favorite and represents one of Nintendo’s biggest series. Best of all, her prehensile hair could give her an incredibly unique moveset.

Fawful

Fawful

From: Mario & Luigi series

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: Fawful, having appeared in the first three Mario & Luigi games, is one of the more recurring antagonists in the Mario series. Smash Bros. could use a few more villain characters (Bowser, Bowser Jr., Ganondorf and King Dedede being the only ones in Wii U and 3DS), and Fawful is a great candidate. He quickly became a fan favorite due to his odd characteristics and bizarre speech patterns, and he can represent the ‘spinoff’ side of the Mario series proudly. He to, could have a unique moveset (imagine Wario meets Snake from Brawl) that could add some extra humor to the series.

Also, he has fury.

Geno

Geno

From: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: Few characters have been as requested for Smash Bros. as Geno (especially by me). The reasoning is simple enough: He’s the most popular character from one of the most beloved Mario games, and he, like the rest of Mario RPG’s original characters, have yet to return in another game. People want Super Mario RPG to be acknowledged, and Geno becoming a Smash Bros. fighter would skyrocket that game’s recognition.

Plus, Geno’s moveset writes itself! He could be a very unique, and very effective addition to Super Smash Bros.

Of course, we must address the elephant in the room: Square-Enix. Square still owns the character, and they’ve never been the most compliant of developers. The fans can request Geno all they want, and Sakurai could listen, but Square also needs to give the okay.

I certainly hope enough people request Geno as to open the eyes of both Sakurai and Square-Enix.

 

King K. Rool

King K. Rool

From: Donkey Kong series

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: Again, Super Smash Bros. seriously needs more Donkey Kong representation. And it needs more villains. King K. Rool therefore fills two holes in the roster. Similar to what happened with Dedede in Brawl, he has a moveset more or less ready and waiting for him from his various boss fights throughout the years.

Also, if K. Rool were to make the cut, he needs to have a Kaptain K. Rool palette swap. Because pirate crocodiles.

Granted, it’s hard to say just how good K. Rool’s chances would be, considering he hasn’t even appeared in a Donkey Kong game in years. But if he were to make it, he’d be a great addition.

Nights

Nights

From: Nights series

Why he/she should be in Super Smash Bros: While most Sega fans clamor for more Sonic characters to be added to the mix (God help us all if the Shadow fans have their way), the other Sega character I would like to see would be Nights. Given the nature of Nights’ games, I could easily see him/her being an aerial-based character.

Nights is a bit of a long shot, but no doubt he/she would make for a fantastic addition to the Super Smash Bros. roster.

 

Paper Mario

Paper Mario

From: Paper Mario series.

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: First thing’s first… NOT A CLONE!

With that out of the way, I have to point out that Super Smash Bros. doesn’t exactly shy away from having multiple versions of the same character on the roster (Mario and Dr. Mario, Samus and Zero Suit Samus, etc.), and Paper Mario seems like one of the few characters who would fall under this category who would be a welcome and unique addition to the series.

He could have something of a Game & Watch style visual look, and his moves could be based around his partners from the Paper Mario series or something. Just don’t ruin him with a Sticker star gimmick.

Toon Ganon

Ganon

From: The Legend of Zelda: The wind Waker

Why he should be in Super Smash Bros: There are two primary reasons I want to see the Wind Waker iteration of Ganon added to the mix. The first is that The Wind Waker is, bar none, my favorite of the 3D Zelda games (Ocarina of Time be damned). It was like a culmination of what Ocarina started, with a style that was distinctly its own. Twilight Princess felt creatively restrained as it pandered to fans, and Skyward Sword branched out in some creative ways, but the results could be a mixed bag. But Wind Waker had it all figured out, and its only got better with age. Clearly, I just want more Wind Waker representation.

The other reason I’d like to see Toon Ganon is, well, I still can’t stand that Ganondorf’s moveset in Super Smash Bros. is cloned from Captain Falcon. Sure, Brawl and the Wii U/3DS games have ironed him out a bit, but the core of his character is still a Captain Falcon clone. Ganon deserves much better. Given Ganon’s penchant for duel-wielding swords in Wind Waker, I can only hope that could be used to make him a more unique character.

There are a few other characters I’d love to see, and maybe I’ll write about them later. I obviously do not expect more than one or two DLC characters to come out of Nintendo’s character ballot, but it’s fun to think of all the possibilities. Some of these characters should already be in the series. And given some of the characters who have made the cut, it makes the character ballot seem all the more desirable. Because seriously, Dark Pit…

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Review

DKCR3D

Donkey Kong Country Returns was one of the best games to grace the Wii’s library. The platforming was great, the visuals and music were pleasing to the eyes and ears, it had some of the best level design in years, and it was tough as nails. If there were any notable faults to be had, it was that the Wii version kind of shoehorned some motion-controls to certain game mechanics (rolling, ground-slapping, and the admittedly superfluous blowing mechanics), and they didn’t mesh into the rest of the game.

Luckily, that’s no longer a problem on the 3DS port, as any previously motion-controlled actions are now dictated by the X and Y buttons on the handheld (along with the appropriate directional presses on the control pad), which better translates with the rest of the gameplay.

The 3DS version of DKCR is, for the most part, a faithful recreation of the Wii original, but it does have some new features to boast of its own. The game now includes a “New Mode,” which is essentially an easy mode for those who would find the original version of the game too difficult. The levels retain their edge, but the player is given a few additional means to help them progress through the levels easier.

DKCR3DIn New Mode, Donkey Kong and Diddy both have an additional heart than in the original mode. Cranky Kong also supplies new items in his shop to give players a little boost: Green Balloons can bring DK back from a fall into a bottomless pit, DK Barrels allow Donkey Kong to summon Diddy at any time (even on levels where he normally doesn’t appear), and the Crash Guard grants a limited-use shield in the mine cart and rocket barrel stages. Additionally, DK can bring up to three of Cranky’s items into a level at a time, as opposed to the one item per level nature of the original mode.

The New Mode will certainly come recommended to those who may not have the best platforming skills, but the original mode still gets my vote as the better way to play the game.

Another new addition in this 3DS version are eight brand new secret levels that can be played in either the original or new mode of the game. These new levels keep true to the spirit of the original game and bring their own inventive challenges to the mix.

DKCR3DOne unfortunate setback of the 3DS version are the visuals. While the environments and animations are still vibrant, at times (primarily when DK is further in the background), the game can get a little blurry, which makes things a little more difficult than they need to be. The 3D effects also seem to be a little bit of a missed opportunity. DKCR had a strong emphasis on the depth of the foregrounds and backgrounds back on the Wii, but that never seems to reflect in any additional way in the 3D capabilities of the 3DS.

The minor gripes of the original remain: The bonus stages are a bit too repetitive, Rambi the rhinoceros is an underutilized gameplay element, and the music, while solid, is a bit of a disappointment given the precedent of the series. The soundtrack relies too heavily on remixes from the original Donkey Kong Country, and the remixes don’t match up to the originals.

With this said, Donkey Kong Country Returns is still one of the most fun sidescrollers in years. It has since been bettered by its successor, Tropical Freeze, but Donkey Kong Country Returns still boasts some ingenious level design, fun gameplay and a strong challenge. Donkey Kong Country Returns was one of the best games on the Wii, and despite a few elements being lost in translation in the jump to a handheld console, it can boast a similar claim for the 3DS.

 

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review

Tropical Freeze

Its name might bring to mind a mango-flavored iced tea, but make no mistake about it, Tropical Freeze is an inspired and challenging game that lives up to the Donkey Kong Country legacy.

Tropical Freeze begins on Donkey Kong’s birthday. As he’s about to blow out the candle on his (banana) cake, the Snomads – a gang of viking walruses, penguins and arctic owls – invade Donkey Kong’s island. The Snomads go Elsa on the place and freeze DK Island before banishing Donkey Kong and friends. But DK is not one to simply ‘let it go’ and he, along with Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong, set out to fight their way back to DK Island and kick the invaders out. It’s another simple story that’s present only when it needs to be, but at least it’s not another case of DK’s bananas getting stolen.

But story has never been DK’s strong suit. The artistry of Donkey Kong Country has always been in the game design. DKC is all about fun platforming gameplay, creative level design, high difficulty, great music and eye-popping visuals. In these regards, Tropical Freeze graduates with honors.

Retro Studio’s previous DK outing, Donkey Kong Country Returns, oozed a sense of creativity in its level design that not many platformers can match. But Tropical Freeze takes things to a whole new level. It’s often Mario who gets all the credit for Nintendo’s ability to toy with one new idea after another, but games like Tropical Freeze prove that Nintendo’s other franchises can be equally as rich in the departments of creativity.

Tropical FreezeOne minute Tropical Freeze will be throwing you into a savanna that looks like its decked out for the Broadway production of The Lion King, the next you’ll be making your way through a canyon filled with explosives, then you’ll be bouncing off cubes of jelly. Even the mine cart stages (a staple of the series) see so many new ideas added to the mix that each one of them feels fresh. The levels can get lengthy, but they’re swimming in so many imaginative ideas and details that you’ll enjoy every minute of them.

The gameplay isn’t anything radically different from its predecessors, but you probably weren’t expecting it to be. Donkey Kong still jumps, pounds and rolls his way through levels, feeling weightier than Mario but with a similar precision. Though a few additions have been made to the formula. DK can now pluck certain objects out of the ground, and even pick up some enemies and throw them at each other, Super Mario Bros. 2 style. Tropical Freeze also reintroduces swimming-based stages to the mix, after their questionable absence in Returns.

Tropical FreezeDiddy Kong can still be used as a kind of power-up to DK, using his jetpack to give DK a little more distance in the air. Joining Diddy this time around are Dixie and Cranky Kong. Dixie can twirl her ponytail like a helicopter and give DK a boost to his jumps, while Cranky bounces on his cane a la Scrooge McDuck, which allows you to not only jump higher, but also enables you to jump on otherwise dangerous surfaces (like spikes). The kongs all bring some fun to the table, but Dixie is undoubtedly the most useful.

The usual collectibles return, with every stage housing five, seven or nine puzzle pieces that unlock bonus content, and K-O-N-G letters that unlock secret stages. The collectibles will ensure dedicated players will keep coming back to revisit stages long after the game is over.

Tropical FreezeRambi the rhino reappears in a handful of stages, allowing players to break their way through environments and charge through enemies. Unfortunately, no other animal buddies have returned, nor are any new ones introduced. The kongs’ bountiful new abilities may make Animal Buddies seem a tad superfluous, but with water stages returning you can’t help but wish that Enguarde the swordfish could have made a comeback at the very least.

Additional items can be purchased at Funky Kong’s shop, which includes bonuses from additional health to temporary invisibility to Squawks the parrot, who helps locate the hidden puzzle pieces. You can even buy viewable character models just for the fun of it. They may sound like small benefits, but Funky’s items will come in handy though, because Tropical Freeze is a hard game. A very hard game.

Tropical FreezeDonkey Kong Country Returns was already a tough-as-nails platformer, but Tropical Freeze ups the ante. Tropical Freeze almost feels tailor-made for the people who claim Nintendo games have become too easy. It pulls pages from the NES playbook, with even a single miscalculation resulting in bitter defeat. It’s punishing, but not unfair. Tropical Freeze asks that its players study every inch of what’s going on on-screen,  keep on their toes and always be ready to change their strategies on the fly. It’s basically Dark Souls with a Nintendo makeover.

Visually speaking, Tropical Freeze is a beautiful game. To say it outdoes Returns is an understatement. Tropical Freeze pops thanks to the upgrade to HD from Wii U, with DK’s fur bringing to mind Sully from Monsters, Inc. Most levels are a barrage of colors and textures, though some of the most beautiful stages take on a silhouette motif. It’s not just how things look that make the visuals stand out, but the presentation as well. Oftentimes there’s as much going on in the background as there is with what’s in DK’s path. The aesthetics might not have changed since Returns, but the difference in the attention to detail is staggering.Tropical Freeze

More beautiful than the visuals is the game’s soundtrack, composed by David Wise, the man behind the soundtracks to the original DKC trilogy on the SNES. The Donkey Kong Country series is beloved for its versatile and atmospheric music, and Tropical Freeze does the series proud. It’s less reliant on remixes than Returns was, but the remixes that are here stand out more, and this time we even get some remixed tracks from the masterful soundtrack of Donkey Kong Country 2. But Tropical Freeze has an identity of its own due to its original tracks, which capture a similar sense of emotion and style as the tunes of the SNES games, but appropriately brought up to date. While most of the better game soundtracks today tend to sound more like replicated film scores, Tropical Freeze succeeds in sounding like a great, modernized video game soundtrack. It’s one of the best gaming soundtracks in years.

If there are any real notable flaws with Tropical Freeze, it’s in its inability to make any meaningful usage of the Wii U hardware itself. You can play the game on the GamePad, which is a plus, but if you’re playing the game on your television set, the screen on the Gamepad is literally pitch black, and has no usage whatsoever. Besides that, the only real things to complain about are some long load times and the lack of variety in the bonus stages (all of which are simple variants of “collect the bananas” as opposed to the wider variety of mini-games found in the DKCs of old).

All things considered, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze not only trumps its predecessor as the best sidescrolling platformer in years, it’s also one of the best games on the Wii U. It can get tough, but for those willing to embrace its challenges, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a modern showcase of classic game design at its best.

 

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