Tag Archives: Nintendo

Kirby’s Dream Course Review

*Review based on Kirby’s Dream Course’s release as part of the SNES Classic*

Good ol’ Kirby. Nintendo’s most underappreciated of workhorses has never truly got the recognition he deserves, often held down in the shadows of Nintendo’s more prominent franchises like Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. Sure, he may not have a title quite as heralded as Super Mario World or Ocarina of Time to his name, but Kirby has also never had any atrocious edutainment titles or CDi games under his belt, either. Nor does his series house a game anywhere near as bad as Metroid: Other M. When a series’ worst entry is still a game as charming and creative as Kirby Air Ride, I’d say it’s doing alright for itself.

Kirby is usually known for his 2D platforming adventures, which are easier and friendlier than Mario or Donkey Kong’s journey’s in the same genre. Kirby is a gloriously overpowered character, being able to eat enemies, copy their abilities, and even fly over hazards. But the series has never not been fun, and that remains true even for Kirby’s spinoff titles. Perhaps one of the most under-the-radar Kirby titles – and the out-of-left-field entry in the SNES Classic Edition – is Kirby’s Dream Course, which combines the colorful world of Dreamland with miniature golf.

This 1994 SNES title sees Kirby transported to isometric golf courses, where the goal is to defeat all enemies – save for one – on a course. Once these enemies are defeated, the final foe becomes a hole which serves as the stage’s goal. Get Kirby into the hole within a set number of turns, and you can move on to the next stage.

Kirby is controlled here like a golf ball, with players able to adjust the power, angle and spin of Kirby’s movements. As in golf, the player receives a better score if they can get Kirby into the hole in the least amount of turns, but being a video game, Kirby loses a life if too many turns are taken. Players can gain extra turns when Kirby defeats an enemy and makes it into a goal, but will lose turns when hit by an enemy attack, and will immediately lose an entire life if he falls off a stage.

It’s a simple setup, but the core gameplay is a lot of fun. Better still is that Kirby’s copy abilities have found their way into the mix, with Kirby gaining an ability when he defeats a foe that happens to possess one. The powers can then be activated by a press of the B button once Kirby is on the move. The wheel power, for example, will boost Kirby’s speed so he can glide on water and move easily through tough terrain, while the stone ability will bring Kirby to an immediate halt, which can be a lifesaver on more elaborate courses.

If there’s any notable complaint to be had with the gameplay, it’s that – for a game with a pretty unique setup – Kirby’s Dream Course doesn’t exactly do the best job at giving the player a decent learning curve. The simple act of ‘striking’ Kirby can be a little confusing if you jump right into things, and although there’s a tutorial available to help out with that, it fails to explain some of the finer details of the experience (such as giving Kirby light boosts with the A button). The same applies to the aforementioned copy abilities, with the game more or less leaving you to guess how their individual physics will affect those already present in the game. It’s not overly cryptic, but for a Kirby game to be cryptic at all seems strange.

Visually, the game is another impressive showcase of the timeless colors and charms of the SNES, and the sound effects and music are delightful remixes of classic Kirby tunes. And while the single player adventure may feel a little repetitive at times, a two-player competitive mode gives the game some nice replay value, with players taking turns to see who can best a course the quickest.

Kirby’s Dream Course may not be one of the most remembered Kirby games, but it is another testament to the pink hero’s often-overlooked versatility. While Mario frequently reaps praise for his chameleon-like ability to blend into any genre, Kirby has been doing the same thing for nearly as long, but to much littler fanfare. And though Mario’s offshoots usually deserve their praise, when it comes to golf, Kirby has the former-plumber beat. The later Mario Golf on Nintendo 64 looked and felt like a typical golf game, but with Mario characters attached. Kirby’s Dream Course, on the other hand, actually feels like what golf might be like in Kirby’s whimsical world.

 

7.5

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Video Game Awards 2018: Best Platform

Before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that, somehow, I haven’t given out an award for best platform in previous years. While I hope that, maybe someday, I can give some kind of retrospective of what I believe to be the best video game platforms throughout the years of my life, for now, let’s just retroactively award Best Platform for the previous years that Wizard Dojo has existed.

2014 Best Platform: Wii U: Yes, the Wii U. Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Smash Bros. and DKC: Tropical Freeze in the same year? 2014 was the year to be a Wii U owner.

2015 Best Platform: Playstation 4: Bloodborne alone was probably reason enough to ascend the PS4 to the top of the mountain in 2015, but it also featured other high profile greats as well.

2016 Best Platform: Playstation 4: Overwatch and Dark Souls 3 may have also been available on other platforms, but PS4 also had Uncharted 4. So it gets the edge.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get to 2017. In such a landmark year for video games, it seemed like just about every platform was a viable contender to be the best of the year. But, of course, I have to pick one.

 

Winner: Nintendo Switch

Has any video game console had as stellar of a first year as the Nintendo Switch? Right out the gate, it boasted what is probably the best Legend of Zelda game, and it quickly followed suit with other greats like ARMS and Splatoon 2, as well as a re-release of the exceptional Mario Kart 8, and the surprise of the year in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, before wrapping up the year with the phenomenal Super Mario Odyssey. To believe some people still try to use the whole Switch has no games “argument.” Seriously, when was the last time a console fired on all cylinders throughout its first year in the way the Switch did in 2017? Fingers crossed that the Switch’s sophomore year can replicate at least some of this consistency.

 

Runner-up: SNES Classic Edition

Runner-up: Playstation 4

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Gameplay

Gameplay is the glue that holds a game together. No matter how good a game’s story might be, no matter how much content a game tries to cram in, if the gameplay isn’t engaging, it’s all for naught. As such, naming the best gameplay of any given year is kind of a big deal.

There were certainly no shortage of fantastic games in 2017, but in the end, one had to be more fun to play than the rest.

 

Winner: Super Mario Odyssey

Come on! How could it not be Mario? Sure, there have been other series that have matched Mario’s playability on occasion (some more frequently than others), but there’s not been another series that has so consistently mastered the fine art of gameplay quite like Super Mario, and Odyssey is arguably the most fun entry in the series.

You can possess a T-rex for crying out loud! A freaking T-rex!

It’s not just that, though. Super Mario Odyssey reaches the heights it does because it has so many ideas constantly at play, end executes them so excellently. The aforementioned T-rex is just one of many creatures and objects Mario can “capture,” each one bringing with them their own gameplay. Then we have Mario himself, whose moves have never been so versatile, and possibly never so fluid to perform.

Super Mario Odyssey was largely touted as the spiritual successor to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine as a new “sandbox” entry in the series, and while that’s true to an extent, its design and gameplay feel just as influenced by Super Mario World and the Galaxy titles which – with all due respect to 64 and Sunshine – were on another level gameplay-wise.

Every kingdom of Odyssey is filled with countless things to do, and every last one of them are fun. Sandbox? No no no, Super Mario Odyssey is a toybox; giving you all the tools you need for the ultimate playtime.

Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Runner-up: Persona 5

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Handheld Game

Once upon a time, the convenience of being able to take a game on the go also meant sacrificing much of its quality. Sure, there were some exceptions – with Link’s Awakening and the early Pokemon titles being early examples of well-regarded handheld titles – but it would be hard to argue that the Gameboy boasted the same quality or timeless appeal as the SNES games that were being released at the same time.

The early 2000s saw handheld gaming take major steps towards sharing the same level of quality as their console counterparts. More recent years have really brought handheld gaming to another level. Now, with the Nintendo Switch combining a handheld with a home console, the line between the two is more blurred than ever.

On the downside, that also means that traditional handhelds as we know them are becoming a thing of the past. It’s even hard to imagine Nintendo giving the 3DS a successor when they can do more on the Switch anyway.

As such, I think naming the best handheld title of the upcoming years may be a different beast than it’s been in the past (considering handheld games are now quite literally the same as home console titles). If I choose to continue this category in the future, it may seem like a superfluous additional token to a Switch game or the like. Because of that, I’ve decided to omit Switch games from this category for 2017 (because how could Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild not win?). Think of it to give a “last hoorah” of sorts to handheld gaming as we once knew it.

 

Winner: Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

I have a complicated history with Pokemon. As much as I love the overall idea of the games (and their many wonderful creatures), I’ve often felt it’s the most unchanging of Nintendo’s major franchises (which is particularly ironic, given its emphasis on evolving creatures). For every Pokemon I’ve got to level 100, I have a game unfinished.

Thankfully, the 3DS entries have been heading the series in the proper direction. Finally shedding their 2D skins for 3D graphics, the X and Y versions felt like they brought the series more up-to-date, while Sun and Moon felt like a rightful step forward. They may not have reinvented the formula, but they added some much needed alterations to it.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (the “Yellow versions” to Sun and Moon’s “Red and Blue) continue this trend, bulking up what its preceding versions built while also adding in some tweaks of its own (including a weird story involving alternate dimensions and the long-overdue return of Giovanni and Team Rocket, who will hopefully be back in Pokemon Switch seeing as all subsequent Pokemon baddies felt like their bargain bin equivalent).

The new “Ultra” versions of Sun and Moon allow you to obtain almost every legendary Pokemon from the series’ history, which feels like a great way to pay homage to the series’ heritage. While aspects such as those may play up the nostalgia card, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon also bring about enough of their own changes to the established formula to ensure that the future continues to look bright for Pokemon.

 

Runner-up: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Content

These days, video games are packed with content. Whether it’s alternate modes, post-game content, or various side objectives, games due their damnedest to make sure there’s always something to do. 2017 was no exception to this, with game after game cramming in whatever they could to make sure gamers were never bored. Of course, there can only be one winner.

 

Winner: Super Mario Odyssey

With all due respect to the vastness of Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule, and the seemingly never-ending length of Persona 5, it was Super Mario Odyssey that had something fun to do around every nook and cranny. Odyssey is one maybe a handful of games where there’s simply never a dull second. Like the best Mario games (specifically, World and Galaxy 2), Odyssey liberally sprinkles in creative idea after creative idea, with none of them overstaying their welcome. And by combining that inventive mentality with the more “sandbox” style of 64 and Sunshine, it turns every Kingdom into a virtual playground.

Hundreds and hundreds of Power Moons are hidden away for Mario to find. And the reward for collecting them? More Super Mario Odyssey! It seems like no matter how much you accomplish in Odyssey, you’re always uncovering more to do.

Better still is that Nintendo seemed to have designed Odyssey with every audience in mind, intentionally implementing moves that allow speedrunners to “break” the game if they’re crafty enough, while other players have plenty of options to take their time. Then take into account all the different capture abilities and gameplay styles, and Super Mario Odyssey is like an endless well of fun. I mean, you can ride around the city in a motor scooter! You don’t have to, but it’s there, and you can!

To top it all off, Super Mario Odyssey has perhaps the best post-game content out there, expanding the adventure by quite a large margin, while also introducing all the more variations of gameplay. And now with updates making their way into the game, Super Mario Odyssey is simply a title that never lets up.

 

Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Runner-up: Persona 5

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Local Multiplayer

Though the rise of online multiplayer has left the good ol’ local variety in a dwindling state, there are still some games out there that showcase the sheer joy of playing with or against a friend on the same couch. Though their numbers may be fewer these days, local multiplayer titles can still provide some of the most fun experiences around. 2017 provided a handful of titles that were prime example as to why that is.

 

Winner: ARMS

“My favorite character, Twintelle. Such a magnificent view!”

As stated, the local multiplayer scene isn’t what it once was, but Nintendo are still kings in the category (sometimes to the detriment of their online games, but it’s nice to see someone still cares about the local stuff). ARMS should join the ranks of Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon as one of the great Nintendo multiplayer franchises.

Combining a 3D fighter with shooting elements, ARMS features fighters with extendable limbs (or hair, in the case of Twintelle) in wide battle arenas where they duke it out from a distance. Featuring a colorful cast of characters to boot, ARMS is another showcase of Nintendo’s indelible quirks in game and world designs.

Add in the fact that, like Smash Bros., ARMS is a fighter that supports more than two fighters at a time, features a number of different play styles and mini-games, and ARMS is the next great multiplayer Nintendo franchise.

 

Runner-up: Divinity: Original Sin 2

Runner-up: Cuphead

Video Game Awards 2018: Biggest Surprise

Sometimes, you just know when a game is going to be good. You can just feel it in your gut. Other times, however, a game may leave you scratching your head at first appearance, only for it to turn into something truly wonderful once you pick up the controller (or place your hands on the keyboard, as it were).

As far as 2017 was concerned, there was one obvious game that took me by surprise in the best possible way.

 

Winner: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

When I first heard the leaked news of a Mario and Rabbids crossover I, like many others, was dumbfounded. It just sounded so absurd it had to be some kind of joke (or worse, fanfiction!). Not only are the two franchises quite different from each other, the difference in quality has been nothing short of a night and day affair (what with Mario starring in many of history’s most beloved games, and the Rabbids…well… not so much).

Who would have thought that such a bonkers crossover would not only end up to be true, but also be one of the best Mario offshoots out there? And of all genres, it’s a strategy RPG! And the characters use guns! It’s still hard to believe this is a real game.

But a real game Mario + Rabbids is, and a damn good one at that. By placing the Mario characters in an unfamiliar setting (taking obvious inspiration from XCOM), crafting a surprisingly deep battle system, and finally giving the Rabbids the quality title they were so desperately in need of, and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle proved to be a most pleasant surprise.

 

Runner-up: Sonic Mania