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”

Nintendo E3 Spotlight Impressions for Every Game

Hats Off to Nintendo!

The annual gamer’s hype holiday week is finally here! The big gaming expo E3 is in full swing, and the major companies have all given their press conferences. In Nintendo’s case, as in previous years, the presentation came in the form of the web broadcast titled the “Nintendo Spotlight.” Although I still miss the live press conferences with cheering, the Spotlight was an exciting event. My wife and I did cheering of our own and recorded our impressions directly after the event, which you can see below.

 

Here is the Video Version, with fresh reactions directly after the show!

Continue reading “Nintendo E3 Spotlight Impressions for Every Game”

Panda’s Picks: 10 Anticipated Switch Games

Joy-Cons to the World!

The time has come! The Nintendo Switch will finally launch this Friday, and gamers worldwide will soon play with their shiny new console/handheld hybrid. I’ve already detailed why I’m excited for the Switch as well as my impressions from Nintendo’s January presentation. Now I’m turning my attention to the most important part of any console: the games. Here are my top 10 most anticipated Switch games!

10. Arms

Arms.jpg
Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.

I wasn’t initially keen on Nintendo’s upcoming motion controlled fighting game, Arms. But the more I learned about it, the more I wanted the game in my… arms. This game may look like Wii Boxing, but the characters’ arms extend to hit their opponents, similarly to Mr. Fantastic. Consequently, it’s more reliant on solid punches rather than frantic arm-waving. Although I’m not the biggest fan of motion control, I’m interested in seeing how the Joy-Cons’ improved gyro affect Arms’ gameplay. I’m also intrigued by the controller’s HD Rumble functionality, which allows for sensations within the Joy-Con.

9. Runner3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nindies Showcase announced a hefty lineup of indie games launching this year for the Switch. Among those, one title that caught my eye was Choice Provision’s Switch-exclusive Runner3. The first two autorunner games were the best parts of the Bit.Trip series, and I enjoyed them more than Super Mario Run. Funnily enough, the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, contributed his vocal talent to the second entry. Nevertheless, Runner3 will surpass those on the graphical level with its incredible dynamic camera angles and jaw-dropping artstyles. Runner3 looks to be a visual tour de force, and I’m looking forward to hopping to the beat with Commander Video soon.

8. Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2.jpg
Stay fresh!

I enjoyed the ink-splatting turf wars of Wii U’s Splatoon, but I didn’t get the GamePad’s motion controls. Though that was the way to play, I felt they were unresponsive and instead played with the analog controls. Splatoon 2 promises better gyro aiming thanks to its upgraded Joy-Con and Pro Controllers, and that has built up my desire to play the sequel. If Nintendo can deliver lots of fresh content, then I’m on board to being a squid again! I mean, being a kid again?

7. Super Bomberman R

Super Bomberman R.jpg
I love the art for this game!

My hype for Super Bomberman R may be mistaken for mere excitement that the adorable bomb-dropping mascot is alive. But I’m sincerely excited for classic 8-player bomb battles and a cooperative 2-player story mode. I’ve never played the series online, so I’m also looking forward to the mayhem that will ensue. It will be a blast (pun intended) to play when it launches this Friday.

6. Yooka-Laylee

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up in the heyday of Rare’s 3D collectathon platformers like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. The talented creators of these classic games have opened a new studio to bring that experience back to the forefront. The team at Playtonic Games have been hard at work on Yooka-Laylee since 2015, and the finished product will be joining the Switch’s ever-growing lineup in April. As a huge fan of the genre, I wasn’t sure that we’d ever see the return of the classic 3D collectathon. But here we are, mere weeks away from experiencing the misadventures of a chameleon and bat pair as they collect pagies throughout open sandbox worlds. In typical Rare fashion, the game will include trademark googly eyes and mine cart levels. I’d be excited for Yooka-Laylee regardless of platform, but now that it has a Switch release, I know how I’ll be playing it!

5. Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together!

 

 

 

What is Snipperclips anyway? It’s as hard to explain both what it is and why I’m excited for it. The Treehouse Live video does a great job showing where the potential fun lies, so that would be a great start. Essentially, it’s a cooperative game in which each player uses a Joy-Con to control a cartoonish bullet-shaped creature with legs. If one player stands directly in front of the other, he can clip off a segment of his partner, completely altering his shape. For instance, you can erase your partner’s bullet-shaped tip to create a scooper, which you’ll need to pick up a basketball.

It’s something that we haven’t seen before, and that breath of originality is what we need in this era of sequels and remakes. Working together with a friend to accomplish goals like sharpening a pencil is bound to cause limitless hilarious outcomes. Combined with the charmingly silly faces, this game will likely be a riot at get-togethers. We don’t have to wait long for it either, since Nintendo is releasing Snipperclips at launch this Friday! Snip!

4. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Xenoblade Chronicles 2.jpg
I’m really feeling it!

Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles X was one of my favorite games on Wii U. Its hybrid turn-based action battle system easily won my RPG-loving heart. However, it didn’t have the heartfelt character-driven story of the first Xenoblade Chronicles. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will be a sequel to that original game. We don’t know too much beyond the initial reveal trailer. But if the other games in the series are any indication, we will be treated to a gorgeous world where if you can see it, you can reach it. Hopefully, the Switch’s more powerful hardware will allow XBC2 to live up to the lofty standards that the humongous predecessors have set. The release is currently scheduled for 2017, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the developers needed more time to create this expansive RPG. Either way, I’m ready to set dozens of hours into it when it launches.

3. Fire Emblem Warriors

 

 

Fire Emblem has been gaining so much traction these past few years, thanks to the success of Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates. In fact, a FE-focused Nintendo Direct revealed an upcoming mainline title for Switch. But I’m currently more excited about the forthcoming Fire Emblem Warriors, the spinoff that combines the hack-and-slash gameplay of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors with the likable characters and wartorn countries of Fire Emblem. The FE series had a previous Wii U crossover with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, but Fire Emblem Warriors is poised to service the fans more with direct references to the franchise proper. My wife and I enjoyed playing Hyrule Warriors together because of its fun gameplay and nods to the beloved series. Now that she’s suddenly become a huge FE fan thanks to Fire Emblem Heroes, we will be sure to enjoy Warriors when it ships later this year.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Zelda Breath of the Wild.jpg
Breathtaking

I’ve written quite a bit about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ever since its unveiling from E3 2016. There’s so much more I could say about this exciting open-world title that takes the series to its humble adventurous roots. Of course, the game is more than humble, promising a massive continent to explore and hundreds of puzzle-filled shrines. BotW offers unique tools and a gigantic playground to experiment on. But I’m most excited about having my own personalized journey through this new land. Based on the freedom within the first area alone, no two playthroughs will be identical. Much like the first Legend of Zelda, BotW will allow you to explore at your leisure, letting your curiosity be your guide. And that’s exactly all I could have asked for from the newest entry in the Zelda series. I’ll be looking forward to diving into this long-awaited epic this Friday!

1. Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey.jpg
I hope Mario catches his hat.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of Super Mario 64, so much that I’ve been playing it profusely to prepare for an upcoming passion project. The Super Mario Odyssey reveal trailer showed us that the game will be a return to form; it’ll hearken back to the large 3D sandbox worlds of SM64 and Super Mario Sunshine, and that has me thrilled to bits! Although Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World were stellar games in their own right, they were distinctly more linear than their Nintendo 64 and GameCube predecessors. After Sunshine, I’ve been yearning for a new Mario experience where I could traverse a huge hub, jump into new worlds, and hunt for stars hidden across the map. Based on what we know so far, Super Mario Odyssey looks like it will replicate that nostalgic experience. The theme of the game is literally “jumping to an unknown world.” Coupled with dazzling visuals, strikingly juxtaposed areas, and new mechanics emphasizing Mario’s iconic cap, Super Mario Odyssey has the potential to be a game that defines the Switch. And that’s why it narrowly edges out Breath of the Wild as my most anticipated game.

nintendo-switch
Switch it up soon!

Conclusion

There are more games that I’m looking forward to, but but these are my ten most anticipated titles. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much depth the Switch’s first year will have, from the most beloved Nintendo franchises to an armful of new IPs. We’re truly entering a new age of Nintendo consoles, and I hope that the company delivers an experience surpassing the Wii U’s. We’ll see once the Switch finally launches on March 3!

What are your most anticipated Switch games? Will you be getting the Switch at launch? What games would you like to see most on the console/handheld hybrid? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!

Nintendo’s Switch Presentation: My Roller Coaster of Highlights

Merry Switchmas

Nintendo finally held its long awaited press conference for its upcoming console/handheld hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. The company revealed the system’s $299.99 price tag and its March 3 release date. Nintendo also announced quite a few games. Here are my strongest positive and negative reactions to the Switch Presentation.

Super Mario Odyssey

Imagine a modern urban setting with your typical skyscraper, a theater, a store called “Crazy Cap,” and a street sign for Dixie St. The only indication of which game world you’re in are the words, “New Donk City.” Pan down to the streets where a taxi passes by. Suddenly, a manhole cover begins to shake and out pops… Mario? This is how the new Super Mario Odyssey trailer started, and I love it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game will feature an large open sandbox world akin to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. I adore Super Mario Galaxy and its inventive worlds and mechanics. However, most levels were distinctly more linear than the rich, explorative areas of the former two. Super Mario Odyssey is a return to form, and it looks more amazing than I could have imagined based on the initial Switch video. The theme is “jumping to an unknown world,” and the world looks spectacular. I wanted to roll around in that Mexican-themed town, run across magical leaves that form in midair, ride a lion through an inverse-pyramid desert expanse, and dance with robots in a lush jungle. I’d even cook myself in that giant crystallized vegetable soup area. The world looks somewhat parallel to our own, yet it oozes with such creativity.

Bowser's Royal Wedding.jpg
I hope I’m invited!

New Donk City, an area with realistic humans walking about, will be a fitting playground for our Brooklyn-born plumber. In the trailer, Mario triple-jumps on a cab, spins on a traffic pole, and wall-jumps up skyscrapers. Sure, it’s odd to see Mario in a city setting with regularly-proportioned people, but Sonic did it in his first 3D adventure… Actually, that’s probably not the best example. Sorry, Sonic! Regardless, it’s endearing to see Mario jump rope with two ladies in a park. Even Bowser is dressed for the occasion, looking more debonair than ever before in his white top hat and suave suit. Seriously, Peach, give him a chance!

Super Mario Odyssey Hat.jpg
That hair though.

The last major point changes up the gameplay significantly. Mario can throw his signature red cap as a boomerang. While the hat is in midair, Mario can then bounce on it, leading to what will likely be a huge platforming game-changer. Nintendo even borrowed a page from Rare’s old-school collectathons like Banjo-Kazooie and put googly eyes on the hat. Super Mario 64 is one of my favorite games of all time, and if SMO can replicate and improve upon that style, then I will have a fantastic time next holiday season. There are other great games to come to the Switch, but Super Mario Odyssey was quite easily my game of the show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelda: Breath of the Wild at Launch

The latest trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is gorgeous. Watch it if you haven’t already. I fell in love with the new open-air gameplay that Nintendo showed off during their 2016 E3 presentation, and the newest trailer cements it as my most anticipated game this year. Zelda herself looks like she jumped out of a Ghibli movie, and I adore the personality she displays this time around. It’s especially powerful when she cries into Link’s arms. To that point, Nintendo is really making an effort to finally use voice acting to its finest. With what appears to be a fascinating cast of characters and an intriguing plot with 100 years of history, Breath of the Wild will hopefully be one of the finest titles to grace the Switch. And the best part? It’s a launch game, coming out on the same day as the Switch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Emblem Warriors

I spent over a hundred hours playing the content-rich Hyrule Warriors Legends, and Fire Emblem Fates was one of my favorite games of 2016. Enter Fire Emblem Warriors, a fusion of the Fire Emblem franchise and Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors gameplay. Excuse me while I salivate. The very prospect of running around the field slicing and dicing enemies as Marth, Ike, Lucina, and Corrin has me giddy inside. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much and can’t tell exactly who will be in the game. But if it’s anything like the fanservice celebrations of Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes (which is now coming to Switch!), we will have a star-studded cast of the series’ lords.

 

 

 

 

 

RPGs

Next to platfomers, one of my favorite genres is the role-playing game, particularly Japanese ones (JRPGs). The Wii U unfortunately lacked RPGs, only having a few (great ones!) near the end of its life cycle. During the presentation, Nintendo announced a handful of RPGs. If they all came out within the next year, I’d be set until their next system. I’m most hyped for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which appears to be a truer sequel to the Wii original than Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X was. The game looks great so far, with stunning visuals, a vast world, and cute anime characters. That game on its own would be meaty enough, but there were more surprises during the show. Atlus teased a new Shin Megami Tensei, a classic RPG series that has since spun off into Persona and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Square Enix also revealed a new “Project Octopath Traveler,” made by the same team who worked on (and named) the Bravely Default games. Though we didn’t see much, the game had a distinct Super Nintendo or early PlayStation sprite artstyle, which speaks to the 16-bit lover in me. Finally, we got announcements of Dragon Quest X and XI, though it’s up in the air whether those will make it to the West.

 

 

 

The Return of Bomberman and Puyo Puyo Tetris

There was a sizzle reel at the end that showed nearly every other game publicly scheduled for the Switch. I saw some good-looking games in the reel such as Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Ultra Street Fighter II, and Sonic Mania. But honestly, no other games caught my eye more than Super Bomberman R and Puyo Puyo Tetris. For Konami to actually release a new Hudson game, and for it to be Bomberman, is nothing short of amazing. I was actually moved by the Bomberman 33rd anniversary logo in the corner of the game box. Bomberman hasn’t had a proper console game in years, and yet here he is, gracing the Switch with his adorable presence. Playing eight-player local and online battles will probably be a launch highlight. I’m happy this beloved gaming mascot is back. Similarly, I’m excited for the return of Puyo Puyo Tetris and the chance to play two different puzzle games with cute anime characters. I wish these games had a bigger presence during the actual presentation rather than being relegated to bits in a sizzle reel and post-presentation YouTube uploads.

 

LOWS

Presentation

This brings me to my lowlights: The presentation itself wasn’t that great. Make no mistake. The games look fabulous, but perhaps the presenters could have spent more time showing them off, particularly the ones that actually had trailers. For instance, they could have easily talked about their new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe update which has a revamped Battle Mode and new characters and tracks from Splatoon. They could have also shown us why we should be interested in a game called Snipperclips, which I knew nothing about until Treehouse Live did a hilarious playthrough the following day. Instead, we had a long explanation about the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. I understand that the mini Wiimote-like devices that snap onto a bigger controller deserve explanation. However, it was unnecessary to talk about them for a fourth of the conference, especially when they began showing off the Joy-Con’s ability to read hand signals.

It didn’t help that the first game they showed off was this eccentric party game called 1-2 Switch. I was fine with Wii Sports, stuck with Wii Play, and even enjoyed Nintendo Land. I’m not sure what the appeal of 1-2 Switch is. The game revolves around a series of minigames where two players face each other and perform random motion-controlled actions, completely ignoring the screen. The first example was “Quick Draw,” a wild-west style gun duel where the first one to pull their Joy-Con out on the mark wins. Other examples include mock-eating contests, air guitar, wizard duels, swordplay, and milking a cow. I suppose it allows you to reach into your imagination, but then why would you need a $300 machine to do it? Perhaps it’s for children, but it’s primarily an older crowd playing in the trailer. I’d understand if it were a launch game, in which case, I would certainly play it and would love to be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, I’m not sure whom this game is for. I don’t generally hate on things either. I’m genuinely confused what’s fun about 1-2 Switch.

launch-lineup
Launch Lineup 2017

Launch Day Lineup

On launch day, we will at least have Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, and 1-2 Switch. We also have Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance at launch, with more games to come in the year. While Breath of the Wild will hopefully be enough as a launch game, it’s also coming out on Wii U the same day. As alluring as Bomberman is, Nintendo has an uphill battle to climb if they want to attract people to their system. To be fair, most consoles have had poor launch days. Even some of my favorite systems only had a single remarkable game. Although it’s still a low point that the launch is weak, the launch year looks like it will be strong overall, with hits like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 coming soon.

nintendo-switch
March 3, 2017

Conclusion

There were other assorted highs and lows during the presentation. I’m very excited about the system being region free, the HD rumble technology (as weird as that sounds), and the Switch’s capacitive touch screen – making it closer to a smartphone than a 3DS. I’m also glad that EA and Bethesda are supporting the Switch at this stage and hope that they stick with it. I’m not fond of the new paid online, though I hope this leads to a better online infrastructure. I’m fine with the system’s price, but don’t like the expensive costs of each additional controller and accessory. Overall, I’m still as excited as ever for the system. The excitement isn’t as mind-blowing yet, but there’s enough great games in the pipeline to have convinced me to preorder. This will be an interesting year for Nintendo, and I hope to cover my own journey with the Switch when it ships on March 3!

What did you think about the Nintendo Switch Presentation? What are your highlights and lowlights regarding the new system? What do you want to see for the system? Are you getting a Switch? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below! Thank you for reading!