Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch) Review

Everyone is Here!

What better word is there than “ultimate” to describe a massive video game crossover that includes every single character and then some from the long-running Super Smash Bros. series? It’s hard to imagine that we have a franchise where so many iconic gaming characters duke it out. Here we are with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a game that celebrates Nintendo and other major video game publishers that have brought joy to many people around the world.

 

Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!

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Super Mario Party (Switch) Review

A Super Star Shindig

Mario Party is one of those series that most gamers have played at least once, whether as the host of Mario’s minigame shenanigans or as an unwilling participant to an all-night 50-turn board game. Once a yearly franchise, the series hasn’t seen a console release since Mario Party 9 and 10 controversially changed key gameplay mechanics. That is, until now, with the Nintendo Switch release of Super Mario Party, which restores the core experience, alongside a handful of new modes.

Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!

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Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) Review

Let’s Do the Odyssey!

Decades have passed since Super Mario 64 introduced an entire generation to 3D platforming, and it holds a special place in my heart for that reason. Super Mario Sunshine continued the open sandbox formula, but after that, the series moved in different directions. Super Mario Galaxy took a more linear approach to 3D gameplay, while New Super Mario Bros. returned the franchise to its 2D sidescrolling roots. But I still longed for an experience like Super Mario 64, so I was beyond excited when I first learned that Nintendo would revisit that untapped well with Super Mario Odyssey.

Check out the Video Version for spoiler-free gameplay and some singing from your 1-UP Panda!

Continue reading “Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) Review”

Super Mario Run (Mobile) Review

Mario’s Mobile Marvel

When Apple held its iPhone 7 event in September 2016, nobody could have guessed that Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto would come on stage to debut a new Mario game for smartphones. While Miitomo, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Niantic’s Pokémon GO signify visible steps for Nintendo’s mobile movement, witnessing the company’s most popular mascot grace the iPhone screen is still astonishing. Yet here we are with Super Mario Run, Mario’s take on the automatic runner genre.

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Run Mario Run

If you’ve played an auto-run platformer before, you’ll understand the gameplay immediately. Mario automatically runs through the level, and you tap the screen to make him jump. You can tap multiple times to jump off walls or perform spin-jumps to give Mario extra air time. Otherwise, Mario independently chugs along on his own. Speed-altering blocks spice the game up, and unstompable deathtraps like Fire Bars prevent it from becoming a cakewalk. However, your role is simply to facilitate Mario on his tour to the flagpole. Fans of other sidescroller games may be hesitant based on that description, and their fears are merited. Super Mario Run is not a traditional Mario game in the slightest. If you go into it expecting Super Mario World, you may be disappointed. It’s better to think of it as an arcade game that utilizes traditional Mario elements to guide its direction.

As a huge 2D Mario fan, there were times when I felt that the game missed the mark. While auto-running is the main gameplay tenet, the lack of control is frustrating, especially when you want to go back and explore. There’s an option to go into a bubble to float backwards, but it uses up one of your limited “lives.” Equally disappointing is Mario’s momentum. Although you are always “running,” the pace is slower than a typical Mario title. This game doesn’t have to be Sonic fast, but the exhilarating sense of swiftness is lost here. As a result. Mario veterans may find the game a bit dull. Another unsettling discrepancy is that Mario automatically vaults over enemies when you get close. If you tap while he’s over the enemy, he stomps it and gains air. This design feels counterintuitive because you must resist the natural urge to jump before reaching an enemy.

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Wall Kicks Will Work.

You get the picture. This isn’t the traditional experience, but there is beauty to be found in the game’s unmistakable Mario elements. Negatives aside, this is a decent representation of what Mario should feel like on a controller-less platform. The jump physics are familiar and polished. Each hop feels satisfying and bouncing on baddies in succession is oh-so-gratifying. The level design is spot on for this new control style. Stages are more compact, so there’s a lot going on in each screen. There’s also a good variety of level mechanics, such as hitting P-Switches to produce a block path or navigating your way through the puzzling Ghost Houses. The game even somehow fits in vertical levels, a rarity for the auto-runner genre. Part of the series’ appeal comes from making precise movements, and Super Mario Run is all about timing. Making it unscathed through the carefully placed enemies is tougher than it seems. While I ragged on the game’s speed, I praise it for its flow. Mario must have practiced parkour because he hurdles over blocks and grabs ledges like a pro. These alterations to standard Mario mechanics show that the developers understood how to transition to automatic platforming.

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Jumping’s just as fun in an auto-run.

Just as the game ramps up, it suddenly ends. With a scant 24 levels, the main World Tour mode doesn’t last long… unless you collect the special coins. Like the series’ Star/Dragon Coins, there are five pink coins hidden in each stage. You have to search carefully and choose the correct paths to find the collectibles, which can be annoying considering you can’t go backwards (without using up a bubble). Nevertheless, collecting the coins in one run provides a great challenge, and it’s interesting to see how your gameplay changes as a result. Your reward for obtaining every coin is doing it all over again with new coin placements, and then again after that. While I would have preferred more stages to playing each one thrice, the progressively difficult coin challenges were sufficiently entertaining.

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Toad Rally (a.k.a. New Super Mario Bros. 2 VS. Mode)

Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder round out the package but aren’t as fun or developed. In Toad Rally, you “compete” against random opponents or friends to collect coins in looping versions of the levels. I use “compete” loosely because you don’t actually play in real-time. Rather, you’re playing against an AI-controlled ghost of your opponent as you would in Mario Kart’s Time Trials. When you collect a certain threshold of coins, you enter Coin Rush, a blazing event in which many more coins suddenly appear for a limited time. By chaining enemy kills and stylishly navigating the level, you also gain support from Toads who cheer you on and give you more coins. Whomever obtains the most coins by the end wins and gains Toads.

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My Kingdom is stuck in a perpetual Christmas.

Toads are important for the game’s Kingdom Builder, in which you purchase and place buildings in your custom field. Some buildings offer great bonuses, like special levels and characters with desirable abilities. However, to get facilities, you must have a certain amount of coins and Toads, so winning Toad Rallies is crucial. This sounds like a fun loop until you realize how many Toads/coins you need. It’s not exorbitant, but with only 24 levels to choose from, you’ll be grinding the same levels over and over. Mario and grinding should never mix. It’s worth noting that you need tickets from the main game to attempt Toad Rally, though it’s easy to reach the maximum 99.

The graphics are fair, to say the least, reusing assets from the New Super Mario Bros. (NSMB) series. The music, on the other hand, consists of nicely remixed tunes from NSMB, which sound well-suited for a game in constant motion. As a final note, the app requires you to be online to play. It’s a bit silly, but as long as you have a connection, you should be fine.

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Poor Goomba… Even the game’s logo hurts him.

Super Mario Run is a pleasant surprise. It thankfully lacks the microtransactions that plague other mobile affairs, and instead has a fixed, fairly low price tag. The amount of content is somewhat low but justifies the cost as long as you don’t mind playing through levels repeatedly. It’s not the Mario you grew up with, but it’s a great example on how to translate a game that still relishes in its roots. If anything, Super Mario Run shows Nintendo’s ability to adapt one of its core franchises to a new genre and platform.

Score: 7/10

Note: The iOS Version 1.0.2 was used for this review.

What are your thoughts on Super Mario Run? What would you like to see in Nintendo’s mobile games? Please share what you think in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Why I’m Excited for Nintendo Switch

Switching it Up

It finally happened. Nintendo revealed their upcoming system, Nintendo Switch. The trailer was under four minutes long, but it was enough to get me hyped up for it. Here are five reasons why I’m excited for the Nintendo Switch.

 

1. Hybrid System

I love handhelds. The Nintendo 3DS is one of my favorite gaming systems as was the Nintendo DS before it. I appreciate the ability to play games wherever I want, especially while I’m commuting or traveling. Even at home, I actually prefer the 3DS or Wii U’s off-TV play because I can play in any room.

Thus, I was thrilled to hear that the Nintendo Switch would be a hybrid system, allowing for both home console and handheld capabilities. While playing on the TV, the “Joy-Grip” controller looks like a standard huge controller with two removable sides, lovingly called the “Joy-Con.” When the Joy-Con sides come off and attach to the Switch’s tablet-like screen, it suddenly functions like a handheld that continues the game where you left off. This mirrors the Wii U’s off-TV play, effectively making the new controller a logical progression of the Wii U’s GamePad. Since the system appears to use game cards similarly to the 3DS, we’ll be able to take games on-the-go, which is great news for handheld gamers. If the system can replicate the awesome experiences I’ve had with the 3DS, then I’m already on board.

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The Nintendo Switch and puppy-face controller (can’t unsee it)

2. Unification

We may also finally be looking at a unified system. Instead of having to buy two separate systems, we may only have to buy one, and all of the new titles will ideally be streamlined into it. We could be looking at a built-in cross-buy, which would fix the existing issue of having to buy the same game on both systems. This move benefits Nintendo as well. The Wii U didn’t do as well this generation, while the 3DS sold like hotcakes. Its handhelds have performed traditionally well, so it would be wise for Nintendo to play to its strengths. In the best-case scenario, the Nintendo Switch could have the sales and lasting power of the 3DS and the larger-scale game experiences of the Wii U.

Of course, in the worst-case scenario, we could get neither. It will depend on several factors. First, if the cost is on the upper end, then it might actually lose sales from those who are used to the cheaper handhelds. After all, the 3DS struggled when originally launched (also in March) with its $249.99 price point. The Switch will need a price that will sell its new hybrid vision while still remaining profitable. Also, we’d need more information on the handheld. For instance, what is the battery life, and how will the video quality be? Is it online-enabled? It’s hard to tell much without physically having the controller. At the very least, if the DS line ends here, I’d miss the dual-screen and clamshell features. It’s still up in the air how exactly Nintendo will handle the handheld situation.

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I look forward to both console and handheld titles on the Nintendo Switch.

Of course, if the handheld line continues with Nintendo Switch, we could be looking at the next version of Pokémon on a console/handheld. In fact, just having PokémonPokémon on the Switch would do wonders, since it’s a big system-seller already. It’d also be great to see big recent handheld games such as Monster Hunter and Yo-kai Watch on the system. I’d love for many handheld franchises to be on a console while still maintaining portable functionality. Likewise, I’d be ecstatic to take all of the big console games wherever I want.

3. Sleek Design

I usually don’t care how a system looks when I play it. After all, I played with the Nintendo 64 controller, the original DS, and the GameCube (Disclaimer: I love all three). That said, I love how the Nintendo Switch looks. The transformation into a tablet surrounded by two slide-on Joy-Cons works so much better than I could have imagined. The end result resembles a flatter, cleaner, sleeker GamePad.

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I adore how the sides slide onto the tablet screen.

The Joy-Con controllers are surprisingly versatile. Not only can you connect them to the tablet, but you can also detach and use them like miniature Wii remotes. It’s unclear whether they have motion control, but you can play with one on each hand or even sideways like an NES controller (à la the Wii remote). With a kickstand and headphone jack, the Switch is already looking more user-friendly than some phones. Finally, I found the traditional pro controller’s design to be one of the best since the GameCube’s. The right control stick is finally on the bottom right, and it just looks comfortable to hold.

I also think the name Switch effectively describes its function with a single word. It might not be the hippest console name, but it’s at least a better name than Wii U. I do think there is a missed opportunity though. They really should have gone with Swiitch. Joking…

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I want to know where in the Mushroom Kingdom this is.

4. 3D Mario

There were a few games teased during the reveal trailer, including possible updates or new games for Splatoon and Mario Kart. However, the one game that caught my attention most was the 3D Mario game. It only appeared for about five seconds, but I rewatched those five seconds over and over. I loved Super Mario 3D World, but I’ve always wanted to see another hub-world adventure more akin to Mario’s first 3D outings. What little we saw looks like it may be a return to form. It resembles Super Mario Sunshine combined with a Mexican-inspired world. The footage looks unlike anything we’ve seen in a Mario game, and it’s that freshness that has me craving more. I’m still excited for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but this potentially new 3D Mario is an easy second place.

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Impressive list of Nintendo Switch partners

5. Third-Party Support

Third-party support is crucial. The Wii U lacked it, which led to long game droughts. Exclusive Wii U owners also missed out on many games. While we don’t know exactly what will be on the system, we do know that the Nintendo Switch will have an extensive list of partners. Its usual partners Capcom, Platinum Games, and Sega are back. Some third parties are back like Electronic Arts, Activision, and Konami. It’s great to see Square Enix, who will hopefully bring Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts in addition to Dragon Quest. Support from DeNA (creators of Miitomo and upcoming mobile Nintendo games), SpikeChunsoft (Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Zero Escape), and Level-5’s (Professor Layton, Yo-kai Watch) suggests that we’ll be seeing portable, and perhaps mobile, franchises on the Switch.

Some other interesting partners (and their notable series) are Bethesda (which we saw in the trailer with Skyrim), FromSoftware (Dark Souls series), Telltale Games (The Walking Dead adventure series), Tokyo RPG Factory (I Am Setsuna), and Take-Two Interactive (Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption). It would be amazing for the Nintendo Switch to finally become a melting pot of excellent game series that reach a variety of gamers. Wii U also started with a fair share of partners, but fizzled out with third-party support early on its life. If played right, we could finally see Nintendo standing tall with the big third-party properties.

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What else are you hiding, Mario?

Conclusion

There is plenty to be excited about with the Nintendo Switch. At the same time, there is a lot we don’t know regarding the Joy-Con, the games, the release schedule, battery life, and cost, among other things. Regardless, I remain optimistic that Nintendo will learn from previous missteps and move forward with this sleek new hybrid system. I also hope that Nintendo can give the system broad appeal with a diverse line-up of games. Either way, for the above reasons, I am excited to make the switch to Nintendo Switch in March!

What did you think of the Nintendo Switch reveal trailer? What are you most excited about? What do you still want to see? What games would you like to see on the hybrid system? Finally, will you be getting the Switch? Please share any thoughts you have about the Nintendo Switch in the comments below!