Archive for the ‘DS’ Category

Happy Fifth Birthday Wii U- Oh, OK Then

Wow, what a nifty device!

Ranking my favourite games on a Nintendo console right around some major multiple-of-five anniversary has been one of the most consistent things I’ve been able to do on this blog, not to mention one of my favourite kinds of post to write. But never before have I been able to so comprehensively make one such list on the first possible milestone. The Wii U is well and truly done and has been for months, but here we are on its five-year anniversary of release in Australia on November 30th, 2012, and I’m already able to count down my ten favourite games on the thing.

I believe it is Animal Crossing: New Leaf that features a reference within Nintendo’s own studio system to the Wii U’s failure. If you obtain a Wii U console in-game and approach it while it’s on display, you get the pithy message “Great artists aren’t always appreciated in their own time.” It’s a chuckle-worthy bit of self-deprecating humour, but it does contain a grain of truth. Due to its terrible opening 18 months, where a combination of hubris, awful all-around marketing and general industry panic resulted in a more-or-less sealed fate, the Wii U’s “time” was short and unimpressive to the masses. Luckily for the few people who did own one, however, not only did the Wii U boast the widest range of first party Virtual Console titles in the retro gaming service’s history and a pretty wonderful social media environment in the form of Miiverse, but when Nintendo’s back was to the wall, the company sure produced some amazing games. These are my absolute favourites.

Just a quick warning: I cheat on this list. Three times. Without regrets. It’s technically a top 13…

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10. NES Remix (1&2)

Right off the bat we start with two games in one entry, but here’s a sobering thought: NES Remix is the only Wii U-exclusive game to see a sequel on the same console. That’s not why they share a position on this list though – That’d be because they are essentially two halves of one package that come with a combined price tag a fraction of what a full retail release costs. The NES Remix twins represent some of the most fun you can have with a group of friends on the Wii U – and without a strict player number cap to boot. Despite an ostensibly single-player presentation, you can lose lives so quickly in these games that they almost beg to be played in a pass-the-controller group setup. That’s almost exclusively how I played it, at least. Chopping up absolute classics with nonetheless dated mechanics and throwing them into a blender with other, perhaps less stellar 1980s games is a surprisingly effective recipe for uproarious chaos, and I really hope we haven’t seen the end of this mini-franchise.
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9. Nintendo Land / Game & Wario

At first glance, this is a devious rule break, but there’s method to the madness. For as long as these two games have been out in the marketplace (so most of the Wii U’s lifespan), I have maintained that if you splice half of Nintendo Land and half of Game & Wario together to make one five-player party game, you get one of the very best and most unique experiences on the Wii U. Though Nintendo Land gets no shortage of hate for its poorly-received launch game status – and Game & Wario tends to get forgotten entirely – there are some genuine gems to be found across these two wacky titles. The Luigi’s Mansion-inspired ghost game in Nintendo Land was played more times in my house than most other entire games, such is its unironically ingenius 4-vs-1 multiplayer slant, and you can say something similar about Game & Wario‘s Fruit – which pits a room of watchful bystanders against one nervous player trying to blend in amongst a screen full of AI characters. Taking into account the Mario and Animal Crossing themed attractions from the former game and the Pictionary-lite mode / insane ring-toss variation from the latter, it really baffles me why Nintendo never officially paired the two collections in some capacity. No first-party release after these two showcased the one-of-a-kind potential that the Wii U’s control setup could offer.  
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8. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Persona. It’s a word that will make almost any JPRG fan sit up and take notice, and it absolutely should have been found somewhere in the rather confusing title of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Despite a premature announcement trailer that hyped up a bona fide Fire Emblem crossover with Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series, the gameplay loop and visual style of this buried gem has much more in common with the storied SMT sub-series Persona, which has only recently broken into the wider gaming consciousness this year. Though it was spoken of within gaming circles as the game to play if you just couldn’t wait for Persona 5 on the PS4, it turns out that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is no mere entree, and despite sharing much of the same structural Persona DNA it has plenty of worthwhile appeal all its own. In fact it is just as effective when played after Persona 5 is over, because its manically optimistic energy seems like the perfect antidote to the melancholy that the 100-hour PS4 epic can exhibit at times. Though Tokyo Mirage Sessions leans into its J-pop industry aesthetic so emphatically that it is bound to put some people off, it has plenty of critical things to say and just as importantly, the battle system, upgrade paths and character arcs are extremely satisfying. And the in-game menus are laced with neon lime green, which is a hearty bonus.

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Switch Hype: Ranking Nintendo’s Ten Main Consoles

My my, I do love a countdown opportunity.

And so it is, dear reader, that we find ourselves here. Here at the dawn of what will be – for better or worse – a new cycle of Nintendo being Nintendo. The impending Switch console has the attention of the gaming world for now, and all the bad news has yet to come. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling for yours truly – one of bubbling excitement, of mildly tempered hope – but one in which I will gladly bask for the time being, if only because that feeling seems to be my number one most reliable source of blogging motivation. And would you look at that – the Switch will be Nintendo’s twelfth (let’s scratch the Virtual Boy) eleventh major videogame device! Yes, a nice, round top ten is ripe for the typing. How good.

I will now attempt to rank the ten major home/handheld Nintendo consoles of yore according to my own personal feelings about them. Yes, this will be a different list to your own, dearest reader. That’s OK. It is not an easy thing at all for a Nintendo tragic such as myself to see some of these wonderful machines placed below others – go ahead, try it – but I have struggled through it anyway. It’s probably worth mentioning that I haven’t owned all ten of these pieces of hardware, but I sure have played a significant portion of the game offerings they brought to the table through various re-releases and chance adventures, so I feel comfortable laying it out for your perusal. I’ve taken physical design, hardware refreshes, game library, nostalgia and all the usual good stuff into account. Here we go.

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10. Nintendo Entertainment System

Australian Release: 1987
My Favourite Games: Balloon Fight, Kirby’s Adventure, Super Mario Bros 2

Yes, the one that started it all is down here. The main reason is a boring one: The NES’ games don’t tend to hold up as well today as other later Nintendo titles, as by necessity they are visually and conceptually basic. Having said that, the very best of the NES crop represents some of the most satisfying, mechanically tight challenges to be found anywhere in videogames, not to mention some technical wizardry when it comes to working within memory limitations. Of the two-and-a-half consoles on this list that I never owned, this is the one whose game library I have sampled most widely, thanks mostly to things like the wonderful Wii U eShop games NES Remix 1 & 2 and the recently released NES Classic Mini console, and particularly in this bite-sized format there is a great deal of fun to be had with NES gems even for the less skilled gamers among us (e.g. me).

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The Best & Worst of Pokemon – Closer

Well, that was fun.

As you wait on the intriguing next development in the Pokémon main series, why not peruse my subjective stances on the six generations of Pokémon games released thus far? The links are all here in one place:
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The Best & Worst of Gen I

The Best & Worst of Gen II

The Best & Worst of Gen III

The Best & Worst of Gen IV

The Best & Worst of Gen V

The Best & Worst of Gen VI

<‘———‘>

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Happy battling.

The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation VI

Games
Pokémon X
Pokémon Y

Platform
3DS

Region
Kalos

New Pokemon
72
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+7. Sweet divergence

The mantra of the development team behind Pokémon X and Y was simple: Bring back lapsed Pokémon players from different generations by capitalising on the headline that the Gen VI pair would be the first Pokémon games to be rendered in full polygonal 3D. To maximise this, an intimidating number of new Pokémon was not necessary – instead the developers decided to give special attention to older generation Pokémon wherever possible, while introducing fresh ‘mons at a nice steady rate. And they started to put this design decision into action very early on in the story. On the first long grass route in the game, you can catch an astonishing six different Pokémon, both old and new, and by the time you hit the first Gym, that number has almost tripled. While this may seem unremarkable to some, it means that Gen VI achieves the exact opposite of the problematic situation I outlined in my Gen IV post – odds are your team will be different from those of your friends in the early game. Ergo, early multiplayer encounters are exciting. And that is a titanic plus in my book.

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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation V

Games
Pokémon Black Version
Pokémon White Version
Pokémon Black Version 2
Pokémon White Version 2

Platform
DS

Region
Unova

New Pokemon
156
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+6. Generous seasoning

I wanted to make an entry devoted solely to the auto-prompt that pops up when you run out of steps on a Repel item in Gen V and beyond, but I definitely don’t have the space.

In a rare example of consistent visual iteration within the Pokémon main series, Gen V built on the significant attention to day-night cycles that Gen IV exhibited so thoroughly by introducing a seasonal cycle. Not quite one-to-one, the cycle saw the region of Unova change seasons at the start of every real-life month, changing up the look of several pivotal routes, slightly altering the encounter rates of certain Pokémon, changing the appearance of Deerling and its awesome evolution Sawsbuck, and even granting/removing access to certain items or events. I kind of wish the developers went even further than they did with the concept, affecting more than just isolated areas, but I’m still very happy it was included.
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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation IV

Games
Pokémon Diamond Version
Pokémon Pearl Version
Pokemon Platinum Version

Platform
DS

Region
Sinnoh

New Pokemon
107
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+6. It’s all in the details

I remember quite vividly the day I brought home my copy of Pokemon Diamond to play. It would be an understatement to say I had followed the game’s Japanese release rather closely, and yet I was still surprised, not to mention floored, by the sheer number of tiny yet noticeable changes the game brought to the series as the first entry I could enjoy on my already treasured DS. From the way my Turtwig appeared to physically eat a berry in battle, to the slightly randomised animations of certain moves, to the vastly improved bag and PC Box structures, to the way buying 10 Pokeballs would just grant you a free Premier Ball, completely un-advertised, all these small touches added up to give me the same wide-eyed feeling of wonder I had experienced four years prior with Gen III. And at that point in my life, I had not thought that was possible.

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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation III

Games
Pokémon Ruby Version
Pokémon Sapphire Version
Pokemon Emerald Version

Platform
Game Boy Advance

Region
Hoenn

New Pokemon
135
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+7. Starker contrast

When a new generation of Pokémon games is announced, said games inevitably come in pairs, and there is inevitably very little difference between the two versions. While it may not quite be an exception to the rule, out of all the main series releases Gen III arguably brought the loudest suite of differences between its corresponding games. The third generation arguably has the single most robust lineup of version-exclusive Pokémon in series history, and they begin to show up very early on. What’s more, Ruby and Sapphire are still the only games to offer a version-exclusive villainous team, which changes the flavour of the story, the types of Pokémon you face in enemy battles, and even the type of natural disaster that befalls the region late in the game (not to mention its accompanying music track). Only Gen V even comes close to that level of contrast.

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