Nintendo Switch

Jan 12th, 2017

Switch Event via YouTube

Well, there you have it, folks.  The release date for the Switch is March 3rd, 2017.  Not much else was revealed about the console, itself, save some new information regarding the Joy-Con controllers…they’re motion controllers.  Also, they’re going to come in different colors (neon red and neon blue).

I’m not going to lie, that hour long presentation unsold me on the Switch right now.  That could very well change, though. 

We got some promising games to look forward to, though: Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Shin Megami Tensei.  Also, we finally got a release date for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (March 3rd, as well), but I’m not sure that’s enough for me to drop the $299.99 needed to bring one home.

Chaining up to 8 consoles at a time for local multiplayer could be a lot of fun, when more games come out that can utilize that.  However, I do believe that the paid multiplayer could have a negative effect.  We’ll see what’s included in the paid package, and go from there.

Again, my opinion is subject to change (as it often does) as more information is revealed, but right now, I don’t plan to pre-order.

 

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Reveal Oct. 20, 2016

Today, Nintendo released an introductory video, providing us with a look at their newest console:  Nintendo Switch.  NS is pretty much what we all thought it would be, and that’s a good thing.  It’s a home console, and a portable console.  What we didn’t know, was that it’ll be available in March of 2017…Also, it looks really cool.

officialfromnintendo

Before today, a concern had been that the console would have a watered down version of the home game on the go.  This does not seem to be the case, as Nintendo states that you (they) will play the same title, “wherever, whenever and with whomever they choose.”

While at home, NS will sit in the Nintendo Switch Dock, which allows for playing on the TV with friends, family, or alone.  All one need do to transfer to the bus, car, plane, doctor’s office, etc. is lift NS from the dock and attach the Joy-Con controller to each side.  You may also leave them off for multi-player use.  Apparently, you will even be able to meet up with other NSers in the alleys of mean streets, West Side Story style, and snap your way to a victory in Mario Kart.

The Joy-Con Grip accessory and a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller will also be available for purchasing.

Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO, Nintendo of America stated that, “Nintendo Switch allows gamers the freedom to play however they like.  It gives game developers new abilities to bring their creative visions to life by opening up the concept of gaming without boundaries.”

Developers, such as CAPCOM, BANDAI NAMCO, E. A., Bethesda, Activision, UBISOFT, and Telltale, will have a wider range of play styles to choose from when considering options for upcoming games for NS. This is extremely exciting to me, and I can’t wait for more news…

 

As always, check back for more information as it unfolds…

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX

Recently, I snagged a copy of Nintendo’s, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX on the 3DS Virtual Console.  This was a colorized, re-release/port from the original 1993 Game Boy title. Eventually, it made it over to the Game Boy Color in December of 1998, with a couple of extra features tacked on (an extra dungeon, and use of the Game Boy Printer for snapshots taken in-game).  I never had the opportunity to play the original, but, when I was a kid, I did struggle my way through a bit of the first two installments to the franchise on the NES.  I believe I said one of my first curse words during a playthrough of The Legend of Zelda, and that snowballed through The Adventure of Linkuntil my parents just took it away and sent me to my room.  I’ve since learned to control my swearing at least a little bit, which helped me keep calm, and allowed me to remain unbanished from the laundromat, where I played the majority of Link’s Awakening.

At the beginning of the game, Link’s ship sinks, and he washes ashore on Koholint Island. He later wakes up in the home of golden-voiced Marin, and her mushroom-crazed father, Tarin, who explain where he is and how he got there, before providing him with his lost shield and sending him on his way.  Away from the house in Mabe Village, a sort of hub for the game, is a beach, where he finds his sword; however, before he can recover it, an owl drops in to explain to him that in order to leave the island, he must first awaken the Wind Fish.  Now the musically inclined, fetch quest-riddled adventure begins. In order to wake the Wind Fish, Link must first obtain eight musical instruments hidden in dungeons.  These instruments are not only protected by an assortment of ferocious feral creatures, but ultimately by the baddest bosses in the game, The Nightmares. Throughout the adventure, Link will traverse the island in search of these dungeons via his feet, rafts, birds, flippers, and even teleportation.

 

Link begins this venture by muddling through a storm, and crashing his ship.

Link begins this venture by muddling through a storm, and crashing his ship.

As usual, there are things that work, and things that don’t.  The dungeon puzzles can get a tad frustrating at times, because you must blunder into the answer, when in-game mechanics don’t work as they should.  For example, there are several instances where a hidden door is the key to progression, and in order to find the door, you must hit your sword against every wall until you hear a nose different from the previous ones, then bomb the spot to open the doorway. That’s fine, if it worked.  Regardless of what technique I used, the noises never differed, which left me placing bombs randomly against walls, hoping for a new pathway. Also, I found myself backtracking a lot more than I would have liked.  I can handle some back and forth, but it does get tiring after you’ve gone from Mabe Village to Animal Village, then down to the house by the bay, only to go back to Animal Village again, all before you can progress even a hint of the story.  It LA’s defense, however, I believe at least partial blame for that running around is due to me, for forgetting some things, and going out of order.

 

One of many times Link will pass by this particular baddie.

One of many times Link will pass by this particular baddie.

The amount of things that do work, though, far outweigh those that don’t.  In relation to the puzzling riddles, some simply can not be solved until certain items are attained.  For example, Link will not be able to cross a small gap without falling until he obtains a special feather allowing him to jump, or flippers which let him swim into different parts of the sea.  The musical aspect of the game was a huge hit for me, as well. The soundtrack is as catchy as it could possibly be (the theme is now my ringtone.) The short tones that occur when you find that secret door, or when you’ve earned the key needed to progress through the dungeon, really give a sense of accomplishment, and in some cases an overall, “FINALLY!” feeling that really drives you to continue playing.  Continuing with the musical elements, my X Factor award for this title definitely has to go to instruments acquired through completion of the eight dungeons.  After defeating the bosses, Link is granted access to music makers needed to wake the Wind Fish, such as the Coral Triangle, the Surf Harp, and the Wind Marimba.

 

The prize for besting a dungeon. One step closer to the Wind Fish.

 

Link’s movement speed was a big plus, as well, as too many modern games rely on the “sprint” function, instead of just making your character simply move at a reasonable speed to begin with.  Never did I wish for him to move faster while backtracking, which was nice.  The visuals, considering it was a Game Boy Color game by this point, were very good, also.  Your typical top-down camera (mixed with now vibrant colors) with some side-scrolling sections avoiding certain Super Mario Bros. villains (Goombas and Piranha Plants) added in for variety, made for a pleasant visual experience and a much needed break from the pressures of current HD requirements.

A dungeon boss guarding a much needed instrument.

A dungeon boss guarding a much needed instrument.

Link’s Awakening is a fun game, packed with puzzles (both clever and annoying), humor, and a whole lot of adventuring for such a tiny cartridge. Some things failed to achieve their goals, but more aspects nailed it than failed, leaving me very happy with the outcome. I recommend it to anyone looking for a decently difficult game to take on the road.

With the Game Boy Printer, you can print snapshots like this, frame them, then tell everyone that Link is your cousin from three towns over.

With the Game Boy Printer, you can print snapshots like this, frame them, then tell everyone that Link is your cousin from three towns over.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Developed by Monolith Soft, and published by Nintendo, Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U is a fantastic open world JRPG designed with a grand scale in mind.  Awe-inspiring visuals and a good combat system all but make up for the underdeveloped story.  Xenoblade Chronicles X gets several things right, and several things wrong.  What is right, works really well, and what isn’t, well, doesn’t.

Firstly, Xenoblade is a huge open world.  Throughout the game, you will traverse five continents spread out across the planet Mira, as you collect items, complete missions, and hunt monsters.  Each region is completely different from the last, as they range from lush, green fields, to a ruin-laden desert.  While each region boasts their very own style of flora, fauna, and family of creatures, one cannot help but see the same sort of animals pop up constantly, if only changed slightly in color or features.   This helps you prepare for battle, knowing what each monster’s weakness is, but also gets just a bit boring.  Mira is a constant joy to look at, despite this small criticism.  I found myself several times, simply standing in one spot listening to the wind in the weeds, or watching a level 92 dinosaur creature mosey through the lower-level animals to the nearest watering hole for a drink.  The scope of the world is fleshed out nicely in Xenoblade, leaving you to gawk at a thousand-foot-tall ruin, a mountain looming overhead, or an enemy towering 100 feet over you.  I felt like I was constantly looking up, but that’s alright, because there was always something to look at.  While most things in the massive open world look fairly detailed and up-to-date from afar, graphically speaking, textures blur wen you get up close.  I understand sacrificing some for the better good, and the grander scope, but I felt a strong disconnect when I approached a beautifully crafted platform, rock, or rhino-like creature, only to have the pixels flatten out to an unrecognizable degree.

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Traversing the world is loads of fun, albeit rather difficult in the beginning.  On foot, Mira is a savage world, full of baddies to annihilate you before you even see them.  Exploring can be frustrating, also, because, while you may be able to see where you want to go, you can’t get there on foot.  Luckily, nearly half way through the game, you receive a mech suit (called a “Skell”) that will allot you better defense, and a boosted jump.  This jump boost allows you to reach places before unseen, but also teases you with now visible platforms and areas which you will only be able to reach with the (even later earned) flight ability.  Yes, you can fly…eventually.  It’s just as fun as it sounds, too.  Initially, forcing me to wait to pilot a skell was very irritating.  However, it gave me a chance to really get the combat system down while on foot, and made me feel like I was truly earning the privilege to pilot one of the fantastic suits.

Combat is a very involved beast in Xenoblade.  Throughout the game, you earn “battle points” which can be used to upgrade “arts”.  Arts are simply skills you use in battle.  While working together with your party and initiating proper commands via button prompts, arts can be used to aggro an enemy, take advantage of critical hit chances, bind enemies in force fields, or heal party members (this one is very important, as there are no healing items to be used in battle.)  As you max out your arts, you’ll find some that you like, and some that you don’t.  All of which, after learning, can be swapped out and leveled up as you see fit.

Regardless of how good the world looks, and how much fun it is to traverse, it does get a bit tiresome running back and forth for various quests.  For example, a great many side missions involve the typical “fetch quest”, forcing you to go to one side of the map, kill or collect something, then bring you back to the original side for a couple of lines of dialogue.  This is exceptionally aggravating with story missions, as they require you to travel and complete side missions each time before continuing the campaign.  This does bring a bit more disconnect to the story, and would more so, had they not included fast travel (this can be used anytime to visit places you’ve discovered via the gamepad) into the mix.

The story, itself, is rather lacking.  It’s nothing very original, as we’ve seen similar scenarios used before, and the dialogue is very cheesy in parts.  I did feel for a couple of the characters, but not enough to really care what happened to them in the end.  One place the story fell flat for me was the constant use of one lame joke.  The characters, Lin mainly, threatened to cook Tatsu, a potato looking creature, many times throughout the campaign.  It wasn’t very amusing at first, and by the end of the 100 hours, it got downright irritating.  The story, otherwise, is pretty simple:  Earth was destroyed by an alien war.  Before it was blown away, however, an enormous ship with millions of people aboard managed to escape, only to crash land on the planet Mira, leaving many people unaccounted for.  Rebuilding their civilization with a settlement called, “NLA” or New Los Angeles as the central hub, your job is to travel the world, collect specimens and resources, as well as plant data probes (to be used to locate the missing parts of the ship and mine minerals and resources).

Multiplayer plays a bit part in Xenoblade this time around, too.  Players can team up online to battle enemies and collect gear, as well as complete squad tasks.  It can get rather enthralling if you have the correct balance of players available; however, I could only get the server to stay connected for short bursts, forcing me to play the majority of the game offline.  If no real person is available to battle alongside you, you do always have the option of scouting avatars for a limited amount of time.  These avatars can be found throughout the world, with a friendly greeting, and a full list of stats to consider.

Xenoblade-Chronicles-X-20

The music of Xenoblade is charming at first, and very reminiscent of early 90s games in parts.  However, some tracks do get a bit daunting as they are played repeatedly without a break.  If the tracks were to be broken up and shuffled, there would be no issue, as they are genuinely good.  I would just like a break sometimes.  The sounds of the game, though, are spot on.  Running, swimming, and jumping all sound very lifelike, as do the many movements of the world’s creatures.  An issue I had with the sound, was that it could not be adjusted through any settings options.  The music, although repetitive, could have been much more tolerable, had I been able to turn it down during dialogue and story cinemas.  Thankfully, the option to turn on subtitles was available, as I would not have known any story details otherwise.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is a good game, filled with hours and hours of things to behold, do, and explore.  While the music can be somewhat overwhelming, and the dialogue a bit stereotypical of science fiction themes, the gameplay and visuals are enough to bring you in for the long haul.  By far, the best looking game on the Wii U, XCX will keep you busy for a long time.

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