Freedom Planet Review

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It’s time to look at a fairly recent side scrolling game that I was able to nab for free on the Wii U thanks to the MyNintendo Rewards. I can’t say that I had ever heard of the game prior to getting it, but it’s considerably better than I expected. It’s not that I expected it not to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for the game to have such a satisfying plot with so many cutscenes. The voice acting also helped it excel to the next level. It’s a very complete game that has a solid amount of difficulty while always remaining fair and balanced.

The game starts off by assuming that you are familiar with the characters and the setting. That’s always a good approach and even though it would be impossible since this is the first game in the series, it shows that the writers already have a pretty good idea on the background behind the characters. I’m sure we’ll be learning quite a lot about them in the sequels. For now, what you need to know is that Lilac is the main character. She’s a powerful dragon who has the ability of super speed at her disposal. In an instant she can cross large distances like Sonic. When an alien crash lands on the planet and warns her that an alien invasion is coming Lilac prepares to help. The problem is that both kingdoms on her planet refuse to co-operate and her friends aren’t strong enough to help her. It’s time for Lilac to save the world!

The gameplay is your classic 2D side scroller. You run and jump as Lilac as you attempt to get through the level. These stages aren’t always linear though as you may have to go back and forth to find card keys or find where the true path is. Most games of this style put in a lot of pit falls to trip you up and that’s actually the main area where the 2D Sonic games tend to falter. This one makes no such mistakes and the only level where you even can fall is the final one. The rest are fine so you can just focus on speed blasting through it. As far as attacks go you can trow out a slicing attack, skyward uppercut, ground dive, and even a super charge. The charge gives you invincibility against almost any kind of attack and is really handy against bosses.

However, the best attack in the game is certainly your helicopter move. Just double tap the jump button to activate it and deal heavy damage. The move does have a lot of end lag though so against the final boss use it with caution. The bosses are all quite diverse with a lot of different attack patterns to memorize. The game doesn’t bother with recycled animations or levels the way that some games do. This one has a lot of heart and you can tell that the developers did everything they could with what they had on hand. The gameplay is just a blast and it’s easily one of the best 2D games I’ve played in a long time. In terms of sheer gameplay it even dominates popular franchises like Sonic, Kirby, and Yoshi. Mario’s still the best in the genre, but I dare say that this has a solid shot to be 2nd. Of course, it’s a little soon to be saying that after one game so we’ll see how the sequel holds up. Hopefully it is ported over to the MyNintendoRewards shop soon.

The graphics are very solid as well. The character designs are on point and the sprites are very polished. It’s the kind of game that is easy to look at and everything is clear so you always know where the obstacles are. The enemy designs are also a lot of fun. Even when there are a bunch of enemies on screen the game rarely lags which is quite impressive as well. We can’t forget about the soundtrack and that holds up just as nicely. The themes are all very fast paced and really get you into the heat of the moment. On a technical level this game doesn’t falter.

Then we get to the length of the game which is reasonable. It’ll take you around 4 hours to complete the game. Of those 4 hours around 1 hour will be comprised of cutscenes. As I mentioned earlier the story is quite extensive to be honest. Some levels have huge breaks in between them with the multiple cutscenes and they do a good job of getting you invested in the characters. There’a good amount of replay value here as you can play as Lilac’s two friends who have unique levels and a different story perspective. Maybe it would help you like them as much as Lilac although that seems doubtful. You can also try to collect all of the badges and cards which would likely take quite a long time to do.

Time to quickly talk about the characters. Lilac is a selfless hero who is always charging into danger. She feels that by jumping into the fray like this her friends won’t have to, but they aren’t happy about this since they have to bail her out. I agree with Lilac’s logic here even if the friends aren’t really on board. Every time they try to help they get taken hostage or something so Lilac taking point makes sense. Her dragon abilities also make her considerably powerful. She’s definitely the best character in the game.

Then we’ve got her best friend Carol. Carol is more about having fun than saving the world, but she’ll tag along with the lead to keep her out of trouble. Carol’s a decent character, but she does crack midway and basically ends up proving Lilac’s point about why she shouldn’t be involved in this. Carol can fight reasonably well though and makes for a good assist when she has finally calmed down. The only member of the trio that I didn’t care for was Milla. Milla is more of a kid than the others and gets rather scared by what is happening. The game may have plans for her, but she doesn’t have as much potential as the other two.

Torque is the alien who crash landed in the first place and I can’t say that I’m a fan of him either. The guy is constantly yelling at the natives to work together, but his planet was the first to lose so he can barely talk. He always seems prepared to destroy anything to stop the villains as well so I can’t really call him a hero. Add that to the fact that he isn’t useful in a fight and the guy is basically just around to slow everyone down.

Spade doesn’t get to do much here, but considering that he is the big rival I’m sure he will do more in a sequel. He seems to have a history with Lilac and his speed is on her level. I look forward to seeing him appear again soon and he is probably the only character who could possibly surpass Lilac. Finally we have Brevon who is the main villain. He’s certainly a brutal antagonist as he rips his opponents to shreds. I even feel bad for the prince that he mind controlled since the heroes never actually find this out so they end up beating him up and possibly destroying the prince since they thought he was just another villain. Brevon is certainly thorough when he conquers planets and is a very legitimate threat. He made for a great final boss, but getting on Lilac’s bad side was probably a big mistake here. There are other characters like the two governments but they weren’t quite as noteworthy. The body guard who was always talking back to Lilac seemed cool though. She would have made for a solid boss fight.

For one last point on the gameplay, I also liked the game’s continue system. Some games force you to restart the whole level when you get a game over, this one just sends you back to the check point. That’s definitely a good thing if you ask me since some levels are over 25 minutes long and doing the whole thing over again would have been quite the chore. Likewise if you die to a boss’ 3rd phase when you come back that’s the phase that you will start with. It helps make the difficulty a fun challenge as opposed to a tedious chore. With no huge punishment for losing you are able to experiment more.

Overall, Freedom Planet is definitely a really fun game. The plot is a lot of fun and I’m still impressed that there was full voice acting. Admittedly the sound did fluctuate quite a lot though so sometimes it was rather difficult to make out what was being said, but fortunately there are subtitles. Learning how to beat a boss through repetition is fun here and the game rewards defensive play in the meanwhile. If you rush in without a plan you aren’t very likely to succeed. Slow and steady wins the race. If you haven’t played this game yet then I highly recommend doing so. You will never look at the genre the same way again.

Overall 8/10

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Super Mario Kart Review

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At time for a new title courtesy of MyNintendoRewards! Super Mario Kart is one of those games that is so iconic you are almost afraid to play it. After all, the game was a living legend for a while but since then we have gotten many more Mario Kart games, all of which have improved on this one’s formula. Still, it’s a game that needed to be played and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that you will still enjoy it. The game holds up mighty well and is a good game to add to your virtual collection.
There is no plot of course and there are really two main modes for single player. They are the Grand Prix and time Trial. For multiplayer you also have races and then even battle levels which is cool. There is a reasonable amount of content her all things considered and local multiplayer always ensures that the game will retain a considerable amount of replay value.

For the grand prixs there are 4. The cups have become iconic at this point as you always see the Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special cups kick in. While most of the newer games limit the cups to 4 races each this one goes with 5. That’s likely because each individual stage is quite short here. For that reason all races are 5 laps each as opposed to 3. A lot of the levels will seem familiar to you if you’ve played the newer Mario Kart games since they usually pay homage to them by including the levels in the games. This one definitely thought of a considerable amount of creative levels. In particular I liked the Boo stages as well as the Bowser ones. Those are definitely very atmospheric while racing.
Naturally this wouldn’t be a Mario game without having a dynamic soundtrack as well right? The level themes are all quite solid and have held up pretty well over the years. No expense was spared here. Then the graphics are also pretty bright and nice for its time. They’ve also aged well and it’s never hard to see where you’re going. At most pipes may appear to be farther than they actually are but that’s why you can’t trust the rear view mirror.

I would have to say that this is probably the most difficult Mario Kart game that I’ve played as well. Mainly this is due to the controls which are naturally a little rougher than in the newer games. I couldn’t quite understand the drifting feature all too well as my car would go too fast. Ultimately when I had to turn I would either slam on the brakes or let go of the acceleration button. There are workarounds like that but of course you will lose speed so be careful. Since you need to win the first 3 cups to unlock the last one failure is not an option! Harness the access points that the Wii U gives you and you’ll be fine.

Aside from the Grand Prixs you will probably spend most of your time in multiplayer mode just enjoying a bunch of racing games. You’ll likely want to move on to the newer ones at some point, but it’s also nice to just experience the game in its original form. There is also Time Trial mode, but there isn’t a whole lot to do there. I suppose if you really enjoy the levels a lot then that is a good way to play them and also to hone your skills.

Naturally there isn’t a whole lot of other things to say about the game. It’s a really good way to spend 4-5 dollars though. You really can’t go wrong with that price and while the MyNintendo Rewards can certainly be a little larger, they have gotten better than where they were. Since obtaining points is rather easy thanks to their apps, you are basically guaranteed a 50% off deal on any game from the list that you want. When you see a good game on the site just be prepared to snag it!

Overall, Super Mario Kart isn’t just a game, it’s a racing game! It’s a title that really changed the genre as we know it and is still regarded as one of the all time greats. While I tend to really enjoy racing games like F-Zero which have no items so it’s just you and your boost, these can be a lot of fun as well. Double Dash will always be the best Mario Kart but this one certainly keeps up the quality that you would expect from such a storied franchise. If you haven’t downloaded it yet then I recommend doing so.

Overall 7/10

Kirby Fighters Deluxe Review

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It’s time to look at a rather obscure Kirby game. Between Kirby Star Allies, Battle Royale, and Robo Kirby who had time to remember to pick up this title? If not for My Nintendo giving a pretty big discount for this game I probably would have ended up passing on it as well. Still, it’s a quality game with good gameplay, it’s just a shame that it isn’t longer or that it doesn’t have more content. I realize that you can’t ask for much when a game is only about 2-3 dollars, but I’d still expect something a bit longer.

There are 2 game modes to choose from here. Single Player or Multiplayer. In Multiplayer you fight against other people who own copies of the game. In Single Player you go through a gauntlet of 9 battles which is in a format very similar to Super Smash Bros. Once you complete that you will have effectively completed the game. On average I would complete a Single Player mode in about 5 minutes. There are 10 characters total so if you play with all of them then the game is about 50 minutes long which isn’t half bad. I managed to squeeze in about 2 hours, but you will ultimately struggle to play this game for very much longer. After all, there is almost literally nothing to do once you have beaten the game 10 times. I suppose you can just keep trying to beat the single player mode over and over again…but why?

Lets take a step back for a moment and look at the gameplay. It is your classic 2D fighter. Each Kirby has a different moveset which relates to their weapon of choice. Some items will drop on the stage as well which you can use to try and seize the advantage against your opponents. It’s a pretty sound gameplay style and one that works well. It’s one of the reasons why I was able to complete the game 10 times over without getting bored. I probably wouldn’t have done so if there were too many more characters but 10 is certainly reasonable. My favorite character was probably beam Kirby. That guy felt pretty OP. Most of them are fairly good except Ninja Kirby which is probably the worst one in the game.

The graphics are fairly solid. It does look like a modern Kirby game so I’ll give the title some credit there. The character designs are on point and the stages look lovely. It’s really everything that you could ask for in a Kirby game and then some. I also enjoyed the soundtrack which has all of the classic Kirby tunes that you would expect to see. There is really nothing wrong on a technical level and I suspect that this is where most of the game’s budget went. After all, it certainly wasn’t put into the content.

Again, it’s not as if this is a bad Kirby game. After all, the gameplay is good and I just explained how the technicals are solid as well. I don’t need a game to be super long to be enjoyable but asking for more than an hour’s worth of content isn’t a big request. At least throwing in some more incentives to keep on playing would be nice. I’ve played free games that had a lot more content than this one and they weren’t by AAA companies like Nintendo. There is really no excuse not to have made the game a little longer.

Overall, It’s a fun Kirby game. I would only hesitantly recommend it though as you will have more fun just popping in Super Smash and fighting each other there. There’s not really a whole lot of reason to play this game aside from the novelty of a Kirby fighter. It’s only a few dollars though so honestly you aren’t losing much if you choose to get it. If you are a true Kirby fan then you may be honor bound to purchase it, but if not then I recommend buying the Kirby Dream Collection. Now that game had a lot of content.

Overall 7/10

Pokemon Sun Review

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Pokémon has always been a franchise that is stocked full of high quality games. It’s hard to recall a single main game that wasn’t absolutely amazing and that’s probably because one doesn’t exist. These games are 9 star worthy and Sun is no exception. While I do prefer Y, Sun adds a lot of interesting mechanics and even challenges the notion of what a Pokémon is by adding in a bunch of aliens and monsters much like Deoxys.

The game starts off with a bang as we see a girl running away from a group of villains. Just as she is about to be defeated she manages to warp away just in the nick of time. We then cut away to the main character, Terry. He has moves to Alola and has decided to take the Island Challenge which is essentially this game’s version of the Gym Leader system. Nobody ever said the quest would be easy and our young hero knows it, but that has never stopped him before. Along the way he will have to deal with many villains and global threats but Terry is determined to take them down to prove that he is the best.

The gameplay is classic turn based combat at its best. To this day Pokémon is known as the best at this system and it’s easy to see why. The turns are fairly quick with almost nonexistent loading times and the game has a lot of depth even though you only get 4 attack options. A new feature for this game is also the ability to use wild Pokémon to get around instead of using HMs to teach your Pokémon these skills. It’s a pretty nice change since you effectively don’t need to waste a spot anymore.

Let’s talk a bit about the cast. I have to say that Hau is easily the worst rival of the series and possibly the franchise. Purely as a rival at least since this guy never even comes close to getting on Terry’s level. Almost as bad is the fact that he doesn’t care and seems to be content staying in second despite some half hearted dialogue that implies the opposite. As far as I am concerned Hau is just a bit of a miss and may have a shot at being the weakest character in the game. Not physically but in terms of character.

Lillie is a fun heroine and it’s nice to have one that learns about the importance of battling. At first she is certainly not a fan of it but by the end she has decided to start training in this style of combat. With or without the character shift her character already has more personality than many other such characters.

The main villain is also a very solid character and potentially the best villain yet. She has a solid design at the end and her ambitions are pretty decent. She is rather psychotic and doesn’t realize how evil she is but the justifications help make her a fun villain to root against since she is so in denial of what is happening. I do think the anime dropped the ball on this one.

Since Hau couldn’t cut it as a rival the game gives us a second one who is more of a match for Terry. Gladion has a pretty good theme and his Pokémon is interesting since it looks very unique. It definitely appears to be man made right from the start so of course you will start to wonder how this kid got one. He gets a big role in the climax and was one of the low key standouts of the game.

Then we have the leader of team Skull who never really gets to do a whole lot. Guzma could have been cut out of the game and not much would have changed. His team in general just wasn’t that good. I suppose it makes some sense that they would seem rather directionless since they were more of a red herring than anything else but it would have been nice if they could have been at least a little formidable. Instead they were a joke right from the start.

Going back to the man made Pokémon, this game definitely toyed around with the idea of different kinds of a Pokémon more than any of the other games. We had monsters who looked like Digimon from space and that helped to mix things up a bit. The Alola forms of the old Pokémon are nice but only when they are supplementary like in this game. I wouldn’t want them to take the place of a new generation or anything like that.

The graphics are the best that we’ve seen from Pokémon or at least the most cinematic. Now we can get full cutscenes throughout the game to ramp up the intensity. It does make the reused character animations a little more noticeable though as each character can only pull off one real animation and then keeps on doing it for a while. Our rival Hau likes to just grin for ages and ages. That’s definitely in character though.

Unfortunately this game probably has the weakest soundtrack among the main Pokémon games. In particular team Skull’s theme is just terrible and the main Alola theme is well below average as well. After seeing the incredible soundtrack of Pokémon Y it really feels like a step back. Most of the themes are still reasonable remixes but they are brought down by the first two themes.

The game will probably last you at least 30 hours and then you still have the post game to deal with. It’s one of the longer Pokémon post games in the franchise with a lot of new Pokémon to catch in the form of the aliens that escaped. It even acts like an extra story in a sense and then you can go to the battle tower and challenge all kinds of opponents. Assuming you also want to collect all of the Pokémon, you are certainly going to be here for quite a while.

Overall, Pokemon Sun is definitely a blast. While the new style of taking on Island challenges isn’t quite as fun as the normal gym leader system, it works well enough. It’s a decent gimmick but naturally not one that you would want to repeat for the next big installment. At the end of the day the gameplay is as great as always and that’s the most important thing. The game has a ton of content to get through and feels like a AAA game all the way through. I’d highly recommend checking it out.

Overall 9/10

Donkey Kong Barrel Blast Review

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It’s time to look at Nintendo’s biggest mistake when it comes to the racing genre. A DK racer practically writes itself and just has a ton of potential. It’s a shame that the game squandered this so readily. Motion controls are what hold this game back and while it was an attempt by Nintendo it completely backfired. Sometimes just because an idea makes sense in concept doesn’t mean that it should be implemented. This is most certainly one of those times.

There is no story mode of course but we do have a few different tournaments at the ready. There are 4 main tournaments and 2 bonus ones. The bonus tournaments allow you to pick your own stages to have a tournament with friends and another one allows you to randomize the stages. Both are handy when playing with friends but you don’t get a trophy for clearing them so there is no single player incentive. The main tournaments start out at 3 races and eventually go to 5. There are multiple difficulty levels but you are forced to start with Rookie so I just stayed at that level. Even then the game is surprisingly difficult. You have to stay at top speed and use a lot of boosts if you want to come out on top here. Of course, the Mario Party luck factor is around here so sometimes you’ll just get blasted by other racers behind you which is out of your control. Not much can be done about that.

Each racer is using a pair of drums instead of a car. It is for this reason that instead of accelerating like normal you must beat the drums to keep going fast. You have to make the motion of hitting the drums constantly to stay at peak levels and just hit one drum to turn. Hit both at the same time to jump and hold down on the Nunchuk to activate your boost. Your boost is the most important skill that you have here. It can change a whole race and just know that you can extend your boost by hitting enemies or normal barrels. If you time the boost right you can keep it going for a very long time. Just focus on the combo and don’t use your boost unless you see something to bump into.

There are a lot of games that can be called painful while you are playing them, but there aren’t many which you can say that in a literal sense. Your wrists will be absolutely exhausted after playing this game and I am convinced that it wouldn’t be healthy if you played this game long term. You can even expect some neck and back pain if you were straining a lot and too rigid while playing. Naturally the trick is to simply not play too hard but that’s easy to say until one of the computers passes you. Then it’s back to hitting the drums as quickly as you can.

When it comes to the graphics then this game finally gets to shine. The character models are definitely on point and are appropriately high quality. The levels all look great and there is a lot of variety to be found here. Whether it be Jungles, Volcanoes, or even Space DK has you covered. The final level in the game is the hype space one and it is as cool as you may expect. I was pleasantly surprised at how much effort Nintendo put into some parts of this game, but maybe I shouldn’t be. In theory this was supposed to be their next big racer. The stage themes are pretty solid as well even if they aren’t all that memorable. I suppose you can’t have every game be quite as legendary as Mario right?

Aside from the tournaments which won’t keep you busy for very long, the game has other modes at its disposal as well. One of those is the challenge mode where you attack various missions and see if you can accomplish them. The missions are actually reasonably difficult as you can easily lose a stage if you’re not entirely sure how to approach it. Take one wrong shortcut and it’s time to retry. Between the various unlockables and the main tournaments, I think you’ll find that the game has a reasonable amount of content to back the pricing.

All of this is only if you can get past the gameplay though. None of the other stuff will ultimately matter if you wrists simply can’t take the pressure. The items are fun though and if you use them right they will help you take a break. Build up some good boosts and just use it when you know that you’ll be able to keep it going for a while. During this time you don’t need to beat the drums. You have other items like armor and missiles but you have to keep shaking the controllers during this. Interestingly enough, the descriptions in the game say that you can stop shaking once you’re at max speed, but they must have meant that you could stop shaking for a moment because after that the car will immediately start slowing down again. So much for that I suppose.

Overall, Barrel Blast really could have been a good game. It had a lot of the right pieces in place like the animation, soundtrack, and array of content to keep you busy. The one area where it went wrong was with the controls and you’d think that this wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just so drastic that it ends up bringing the whole game down with it and that’s the unfortunate part. You actually feel like the game isn’t healthy to play. If you want some exercise for your wrist and don’t think that it will end up having a detrimental effect instead, then I suppose you may want to give this game a chance. However, if you’re playing this game in the first place because you want to relax while cruising through the levels then this isn’t the right game to add to your collection. There is nothing relaxing about constantly beating the drums.

Overall 5/10

Mario Tennis Open Review

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It’s time to take a look at a Mario Tennis game that was pretty much overshadowed the instant it came out. That’s because it’s basically the same as playing the Gamecube game except with no cutscenes and less games. As a result, there is little reason to buy this game unless you desperately want to play it on the go. Nonetheless, it was only 10 dollars so I figured..why not? It was basically free thanks to a coupon and I’m glad I got it. The game doesn’t do anything unique, but it still has good tennis fundamentals.

There is no story mode of course and so the closest thing is the traditional Tournaments. There are 8 tournaments and each tournament has 3 rounds. Complete the first 4 to unlock the star version of the character you are playing. The battles never actually get too tough. One thing I noticed about the AI is that if you let them get to the ball then you are unlikely to win a rally against them. Fortunately they can’t seem to handle your serve on any level so you can easily score with your return. If you don’t then you will most likely have lost the point. That adds a little extra tension to the rounds I would say.

You can complete all of the tournaments in a little under 2 hours. To help with the replay value, you can do that with every character in order to get all of their Star Forms and some more items for the shop. Every time you win a match a random item is unlocked for purchase. The annoying thing is that the tournaments don’t get you any money though. To earn money you have to play the minigames. They are surprisingly difficult though so clearing all of them could take some time. This way at least you are earning money and accomplishing at the same time. That’s a plus right? Before talking about the minigames, I suppose I should mention that we also have Doubles tournaments. I was never the biggest fan of doubles and didn’t really go into that mode, but it’s sure to add more length to the game. As per always with sport games, the true replay value occurs if you have someone to play with. Otherwise you likely won’t end up sticking with the game for very long. I find it telling that the game is only 10 dollars when Nintendo games rarely go down in price until a very long time has passed.

There are 4 minigames. One has you relive some of the old 2D Mario levels as you try to keep a rally going while going through the level. It’s a fun concept, but a little too slow for my liking. The level goes by incredibly slowly so it’s more tedious than difficult. Ideally you want to have a good mix of both. It’s probably my least favorite minigame. Then we have Coin Mode. You have to shoot through the rings and gain as many coins as possible. This one is probably the most rigged as it will largely depend on your opponent. As a result I actually lost the Silver version of this game. It’s a decent concept, but I don’t care for the execution.

Time for the 2 best minigames. One is a Rally where you have to keep returning the ball without letting the computer touch it. This one’s actually pretty fun and it’ll definitely test your reaction times as the plants fire the ball at you. You won’t know which one is shooting until the very end. Finally, the best minigame is the rally one. You have to keep hitting a ball back and forth as parts of the stage vanish. This game is taken directly from the Gamecube one and so you can probably see why it is the best. It was just thought through very well and is the right blend of challenging and length. The time goes by slowly at first, but by the end you’ll barely notice. These minigames may not be much, but at least they give the game a little more content.

I haven’t talked much about the actual gameplay, but that’s mainly because there isn’t a lot to be said. It’s a very standard tennis game. You feel the power behind each hit and have different options on how to strike the ball. You fire off a high one, a low one, or a standard shot. You do seem to have special attacks, but I couldn’t figure out how to use them and didn’t even need them in the end so that’s why I didn’t try very hard. Perhaps I would have needed it against Ace level opponents at some point. The game has a dynamic camera view option, but I recommend turning it off. It’s distracting to suddenly have the game zoom in when you head to the net. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea, but it was probably the same person who doesn’t give the game the option to remember your choice. As such, you have to turn it off again after each match. It seemed really random though so at least you don’t have to worry about it happening after every match. Otherwise, I have no qualms with the actual gameplay, it’s what you would expect from a Tennis title.

The graphics look really good. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the effort went here although perhaps the character models were just grabbed from somewhere. As there aren’t any real cutscenes it probably wasn’t too hard to just focus on the models. Every character looks to be on point and the stages look sharp as well. The game delivers on this front. When it comes to the soundtrack, it’s fairly decent but forgettable as far as Mario games go. You likely won’t remember it all that well by the time you finish the game.

Overall, Mario Tennis Open is a good game. The Tennis gameplay is solid and that’s really what counts. There just isn’t any extra content to keep you busy. Your attention will only stay on this game for as long as you enjoy playing tennis. I suppose collecting all of the items could help if you’re really a serious collector, but there isn’t a whole lot of point to getting it all otherwise. If you see it in stores for a fair price then I recommend checking it out. I can’t imagine grabbing it at full price though. No matter how fun Tennis is, it just wouldn’t have been worth it.

Overall 7/10

Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros Review

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It’s time to look at the Mario OVA which is so obscure that I wouldn’t blame you for not hearing of it before. There are 3 episodes in this OVA which each tell a story that shows why Mario is a true hero. They decide to mess with his origin a bit and each story is a stand alone, but it’s interesting to see Mario be used in a bunch of classic fables like this. It may not be the greatest Mario adventure, but they aren’t bad.

The first story starts with Peach and her Hammerbro parents. They are not able to protect her from the mighty Bowser. That’s where Mario comes in as he is born from a shooting star and grows up very quickly. He heads off to save her, but he will have to deal with many powerful threats like the King of the Koopas. Mario isn’t scared though and quickly gets ready to take them all down. This is a more vicious Mario than we are used to as he even wields a gun. It’s cool to see Mario fight like this. He actually uses some hand to hand skills which is something that never happens anymore. We seriously need the upcoming big budget Mario film to have some real fights. This is the Mario we deserve. The whole special is very surreal though, like how are Peach’s parents Koopas? I figured they would at least be Toads or something. Bowser doesn’t look very good as can be expected though. It’s a short little story and one that is fun enough.

The second story is about Mario but this time he is only 1 inch tall. Mario doesn’t care about this and wants to go check out the big city anyway. He knows that this will help him quickly become one of the all time greats. He meets Peach along the way and has a great time. Unfortunately, Mario’s plans are cut short when Bowser appears and decides to take Peach away. Mario can’t have this so he grabs his sword and then begins a fight for the ages. Mario may be small, but he has some serious moves and Bowser makes the mistake of swallowing Mario without chewing. I never quite get why the big villains do this since of course Mario will stab him from the inside. Bowser didn’t really think this plant through, but I suppose I can give him some kudos for the attempt. It’s a fun special as well although I prefer the first story. Mini Mario just doesn’t make for as endearing a character as his normal form.

Finally, the OVA decides to end with a bang on the last episode. This one is a Snow White homage as Bowser dresses up as an old lady and tricks Peach into biting the poison apple. Mario arrives too late to save her, but breaks into the castle in a rescue attempt. Surprisingly he wasn’t doing too well this time, but granted Mario was outnumbered. Fortunately Luigi comes in to save the day and the duo finally get to team up. It was nice to see Luigi actually show up for a bit since I thought the OVA had forgotten about him. This was the last special but probably also the best one so it was a good way to close things out. The action was on point.

So, it’s hard not to like this special as how can you not enjoy a Mario anime? Granted, the anime is fairly low budget. There is a lot of reused animation throughout the specials and they went for stills whenever possible. There’s not much of a soundtrack here either so on a technical level the OVA is pretty bad. That’s why you always want to have a good story to help counter balance these elements. If this wasn’t a Mario product then it probably wouldn’t rate quite as highly as it does. Still, it is great to see Mario on the big screen so I guess he deserves some props for that.

Even if you combine all 3 episodes the OVA isn’t all that long. You can fast blast through this with ease. The pacing for each special is pretty good as a result. It’s all pretty easily available online if you decide to check it out. Mario makes for a good hero and Peach is pretty consistent. Bowser isn’t a great villain though and you probably won’t be able to take him seriously for any of the specials. I think Bowser Jr/Baby Bowser may have been a better pick here or perhaps a made up villain. Bowser just seriously needs a better goal than constantly trying to marry Peach. It’s a futile mission and one that was doomed to failure from the start.

Overall, The Amada series may not have put Mario on the map, but they gave it a good shot. The special is reasonably fun, but there isn’t too much replay value to be found here. Watching it once is good enough to enjoy the surreal elements of the OVA. After that you’ll probably want to stick to the main Prince Haru movie. That’s where most of the Mario elements stayed after all. Of course, if you want to see Mario with a gun, then you have no choice but to run to this series. Either way, if you’re a Mario fan then I recommend checking this special out. If not, then I probably wouldn’t recommend it quite as highly as you could find better alternatives, but it’s a good adventure story for any viewer.

Overall 6/10

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

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It’s time to finally go to one of Nintendo’s most classic franchises. DK even started before Mario which is pretty impressive. I got to play most of the old games so it’s cool to see the Country series return. I never really played the music games for the GC, but they are barely even referenced here so I’m confident that they won’t be missed. I ended up getting Tropical Freeze shortly after this one so it’ll be cool to see how it stacks up. I can safely say that Country Returns is a fun game and it’s easy to see that it’s another AAA title from Nintendo.

The plot is that a mysterious being made of wood has shown up to take over the world. It mind controls all of the nearby animals and forces them to start stealing all of the bananas in the area. That’s diabolical if you ask me! They try to control DK, but it apparently doesn’t work on him. This may be a subtle shot at DK’s intelligence since he really looks…not too smart the whole time. Ah well, whatever works right? DK must stop these guys since they are insulting the bananas with their cruel schemes!

There are 8 main worlds. There is also a 9th, but to get to that one you’ll need a lot of collectibles. That’s good for the replay value though. There are puzzle pieces and 4 Letters to grab in every level. Obtaining them all will require you to master all of the levels and show the world that you are a DK pro. Even without this, the main game should take you a reasonable amount of hours. If you beat every world in an hour, then that’s around 8 which is pretty good. Even if it’s a little less than that, it’s much better than Star Fox Zero’s <4 hour play time or Into The Nexus 3 hours.

The game is reasonably difficult as well. I don't think I would say that it is quite as tough as Super Mario World, but it's been ages since I played that game so it's possible that it would be a lot easier nowadays. The gameplay is divided into a few different segments. You have the traditional platforming levels where you jump and dodge obstacles to get to the end. Where DK differs from Mario and the others is that you can roll into opponents to deal damage and you can shatter objects by slapping the floor. You'll grab onto vines to swing around and there are just many more elements than a traditional Mario game. It's made to be more complex and you have to consider a lot of variables.

A great deal of the level is interactive as well with most bushes and other suspicious objects containing bananas and golden coins for you to grab. Some of them are just trolls, but you should check them all out. Gold coins in particular are very valuable in the game. Other parts of the level will see you head into a mining cart. One hit will destroy you so you have to jump with great precision. There's also a blue cart which only appears twice in the whole game. It's slightly different as when you jump, you actually leave the cart. Thus, you have to jump and keep moving to fall into the cart again since it will speed ahead of you afterwards. It's a little easier in co-op since you effectively have two chances to survive this way. There is even a whole boss battle modeled after this style. Surprisingly I don't think there were any under water levels. No worries, Tropical Freeze fixed that.

The soundtrack isn't very lively or memorable for the most part, but I really like the villain jingle. Whenever their theme plays, you know that things are about to get real. It's a little cheesy/corny, but it's catchy and that's what counts. It is even used as the final boss theme which is pretty surreal. I can certainly say that I wasn't really expecting it when it occurred. The graphics are pretty solid. They're not amazing, but the character designs look sharp. It's fun to see a modern DK and there is something novel about seeing any Nintendo character on the big screen. Mario, Link, Kirby, DK, the games never look outright spectacular in the cutscenes despite the gameplay being super crisp, but just seeing them is really cool. Maybe it's because their series don't tend to have a lot of cutscenes, but it is more satisfying than seeing another franchise appear fully animated.

When it comes to 2D side scrollers, Mario's still got the edge over everyone. He's just impossible to beat. I'd probably give Sonic 2nd place although I mainly like it for the boss battles. The actual platforming can be a little tricky at times. Kirby would probably be third because I love cheesing levels. If we just talk about pure gameplay, Kirby even beats Sonic. Then I'd put in DK. It feels like Mario, but the extra complexities do slow it down a bit. If you count one shot games that had side scrolling like Klonoa then the list can get quite long so lets stick to Nintendo for now. I'll merge Yoshi with Mario since they're so similar. DK may be the lowest on this chart, but that just goes to show how tough the competition is. Plus, Nintendo owns 90% of those series which is equally impressive.

Really one of the best things about the game is how much content it has and how fun the levels are. It's a very high quality title that you can play for hours without getting tired. The plot may not be amazing, but the gameplay is sharp and that's really what you're looking for in a title like this. I didn't get to play the Gold Pyramid world since you need to do a lot of bonus stuff for that, but perhaps someday. It's really good to have DK finally return to the home console and maybe we'll get a game for the Switch at some point.

I don't really have any negatives with the game either. The levels all have a check point or sometimes multiple ones. If you die, you can always respawn close by. You can buy extra lives with the medals that you collect and the medals keep replenishing so getting them isn't an issue. The levels are challenging, but not unfair the way that Mario and the Lost Levels was or Mighty No 9. The levels are made to be difficult, but balanced. You'll get the hang of them with practice since the levels themselves never actually change. It's just really good game design.

Overall, Donkey Kong Country Returns is definitely a fun game. I can see why DK fans were so thrilled when it finally came back. The title does a good job of bringing back all of the classic DK elements that fans were expecting. It may have had less barrel launching than I was expecting, but I don't mind since the actual platforming is really the fun part for the game. You can get the game for a pretty good price nowadays so I'd highly recommend it. There is a lot to do here after all and the level variety is excellent. You also won't be forgetting the main jingle of the game anytime soon either. It's simply too awesome and catchy. Now, it's time to check out Tropical Freeze! So far, I'd actually say that it's easier than Returns, but I've only conquered 2 worlds so far. There's still plenty of adventure left!

Overall 8/10

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild Review

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It’s time to take a look at the latest Legend of Zelda game. It’s a very iconic series but one that I have never found quite as critically acclaimed as most. Wind Waker was phenomenal and my personal favorite game in the series. It’s the only one to have lived up to the hype of being one of the best games of all time though. I didn’t care much for Majora’s Mask with the time gimmick and overdone puzzles. I only got to play the portable version of Ocarina of Time, but it was still pretty fun. I never played Twilight Princess since the game was too extreme and would probably give me nightmares. /s Skyward Sword was actually pretty great and I’d probably put that second to Wind Waker. See, the reason why Wind Waker and Skyward Sword were so good was due to the fact that they didn’t really have any gimmicks. It was just a standard Link adventure. You didn’t get lost or have to run around aimlessly for a while. They just got straight to the point.

Now we cut away to BoTW and it has many gimmicks. First of all, there isn’t much of a plot. Zelda is being held hostage in Hyrule Castle (We turning into the Mario series?) so Link must break in and stop her. That’s essentially the entire plot. One of the big selling points of this game was the freedom that was marketed. You could speed off and go save her immediately or gather up some allies and power ups to ensure victory. I naturally sped off to save Zelda immediately since that should be Link’s top priority instead of leading on a sea mermaid, but unfortunately I was unable to win. The speed ruins of people beating the game in under an hour are certainly impressive. It ended up taking me 26 hours.

There are 4 main dungeons to complete in this game and each one that you complete will give you an ally who will take care of one of Ganon’s forms. This makes the final boss infinitely easier and you’ll also get extra Heart containers as well. Aside from the big dungeons, there are also dozens of smaller ones. Every time you complete four of them, you can get a quarter of a heart or a big more stamina.

The gameplay is like your standard LoZ game for the most part. You slice and dice away at the villains. You can also find a horse if you’re lucky and use that to save on travel time. One new innovation for this game is the dreaded stamina meter. This means that you can’t run for more than a few seconds without slowing to a walk for a few seconds. It’s a rather tedious mechanic that only serves to drag the game out. You don’t see Nier Automata bothering with such a gimmick do you? I definitely would have liked for this to have been kept out since it makes climbing in particular a little tedious.

There’s a lot to cover here so lets get started. I usually go with positives than negatives or vice versa, but it’s hard to plan it all out ahead of time in this case so I’ll be going all over the place. First off, I have to say that the concept of a free plot is pretty intriguing. I like being able to go where I want whenever I want to go. The problem is that the game only half committed to this. Since you need certain equipment to go to some areas, the freedom isn’t as extensive as you’d think. I was able to cheese my way into the Goron stronghold by having a lot of fruit and eating it every other second to combat the damage, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t how you were supposed to do it. I also forgot to talk to the old man at the beginning so I missed out on my early chance to get the snow armor. The concept was good, but the execution was bad.

Another part of this that didn’t pan out so well was how slow Link is. In real time, it can take around 20-40 minutes to get somewhere. This gets mitigated as the game goes on since you can activate dungeons that are used as teleport points, but the first trek is always tedious. You’re supposed to be impressed with the backdrops, but a lot of the time they’re pretty empty anyway. There’s nothing to look at so you just want to keep going. Giving Link a good run speed (coughlikeNierAutomatacough) would have definitely been a really good idea. He doesn’t even need to have full turbo speed where you’re rocketing through the world, but being able to permanently run would have been a very good idea.

Now, it’s time for the worst mechanic in this game…the broken weapons. I thought we were done with those after Dark Cloud, but I guess not. This mechanic is terrible because constantly trying to find new weapons is tough. Especially since your storage is so small and after 10 it won’t let you pick something up without discarding a current weapon. I had to fight Ganon with some terrible weapons which significantly prolonged the battle. Just give me the Master Sword and let me swing forever. How I see it, only extra weapons should break, but you should always have at least one sword that is completely permanent. I can’t express enough just how terrible this was. It’s never been a good mechanic nor will it ever be one.

Breath of the Wild’s graphics are pretty good though. They may not be as impressive as Wind Waker’s, but they look good considering that this is a sandbox game. I think the graphics were probably limited to keep the world so large so it’s not quite as detailed as you’d expect at times. Still, it’s AAA quality and I really like the blue lightning effects. I also got some nice Transformers flashbacks from being knocked off a mountain and bumping into everything possible during my long slide down. Sure, it was a little annoying having to go back up, but that was still fun to watch.

Those aspects of the game were handled well. I do like how realistic the gameplay engine was with respect to falling and bumping into things. You don’t just die instantly because you fell a long distance, that was never realistic. The glider was also extremely handy and pretty fun. The game also made the 4 super skills very useful. One of them allowed you to quickly fly for a second straight up which helped a lot with climbing. Another one gave you a full revive which easily makes it the best ability in the game. A third one made you invincible for 3 hits while also stunning all enemies, even the final boss. The final skill was a thunder bolt which I didn’t find to be very useful until Ganon, but that’s reason enough to get it.

They were all quality of life upgrades that didn’t outright break the game, but made it a lot more fun. The developers certainly got that aspect right and it felt like Shantae. The journey to beating the final boss was reasonably difficult, but once you got there, you could now go back to early areas and easily get the bonus collectibles. I feel like that is definitely how a game should play out. For Breath of the Wild, it’ll be a lot more convenient to trek around and find things now that the campaign is done.

There is no doubt that Breath of the Wild has a significant amount of replay value. I could probably platy this game up to 50-60 hours and still have more to do. There are probably around 100 dungeons left and hundreds of wood chimps to find. If I went after the 100% mark it would certainly keep on proving why the game was worth the money. At the same time, Nintendo stubbornly refuses to add a trophy achievement system so there isn’t much point to doing it imo. I’d probably settle for getting the Master Sword and finding the lost memories.

Speaking of the Master Sword, it’s a real shame that you can beat the game without it. I really wanted to see it in action, but I likely never will at this point. It should have been made mandatory if you ask me. Ganon shouldn’t be able to be defeated without it. The final boss was still pretty fun though. Particularly the final phase as I was fairly stressed out. I only had 1 heart left from the first phase so I was running around like crazy trying not to get hit. I do love when final bosses are dramatic even if I’m sure that I would have rage quit for a day if I’d lost. No way was I going to replay the first phase again!

I can’t say much for the soundtrack though. LoZ’s never really been my style when it comes to music which is odd since Metroid, Star Fox, F-Zero, and even Mario have had some really good tunes. The final boss theme isn’t bad even if it’s a little generic. Most of the time, you won’t even notice music playing (If any is actually playing) which is a little unfortunate, but you can’t win them all I suppose.

Another strike against the game is that a lot of the dungeons tend to be very similar. The game is very repetitive in that respect as the 4 major dungeons are almost identical. One of them in particular was very tedious and took me almost 3 hours. It was the low point of the game for sure. Luckily the other 3 weren’t as bad and it’s still a step up from Majora’s Mask. Still, this is the problem with having all weapons from the get go and getting to decide where you want to go. The developers have to make all of the dungeons beatable from the start so it’s hard to make any of them more or less difficult without getting cheesy.

I didn’t really care for the cooking mechanic either. I never really got it and only made random stuff during my playthrough. My cooking failed each time so I blame the game on that…totally. Either way it’s not as if you really need the food. I did like the survival aspect of the game though. As I spent most of the early part with almost no hearts, one hit could KO me from any enemy. Even by the end of the game, the minions were serious threats. It was cool to see them KO me in one hit as it would usually involve a pretty large fall for Link. It really made you fight strategically and that was cool. Again, it was nice to see the progression since once you were a lot stronger, you could theoretically mow them down. At least if you had the super abilities.

Overall, Breath of the Wild is a good game. What it does really well is offer you a ton of replay value and also give you a lot of quality of life upgrades as you play through the game. It rewards you for playing it more and more which is great. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t say that it is one of the best games ever made or even that it is a great game. It’s a good title that had significant problems but enough strengths to get it by as well. I’m still glad that I ended up pre-ordering it and experiencing the journey day 1. It wasn’t disappointing the way that Star Fox Zero was. Hey, I did play it for 26 hours right? It’s the kind of game that I think I may have given a much higher score back when I was a kid and a completionist for games that didn’t even have trophies. At this point though, the game has to have a phoenominal reward for me to do that since I have so many games on the backburner. I recommend checking this out if you like 3D games or are an LoZ fan. Of course if you’re the latter, then you probably already own the game. I’m hoping that the next one goes back to its roots though. All I’m asking for is a classic LoZ game with a good plot and not a whole lot of gimmicks.

Overall 7/10

Mario Kart: Super Circuit Review

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It’s time to review the first of the Christmas games! I ended up obtaining 9, which was a pretty solid amount. For the first time in many years, there were more portable games than home console at 6-3. It’s good to go retro once in a while and this was one of them of course. I’ve always been a big fan of the Mario Kart franchise. While none of the other games will ever come remotely close to taking down Double Dash, the other titles still have a lot of heart. This GBA installment is a rather simple and small version, but it gets the job done. It’s fun for on the go or just to unwind and relax.

As always, the main emphasis will be on Grand Prix mode. You can also play Time Attacks, but most players will probably be going right to the tournaments. There are 4 standard tournaments for each of the 3 difficulty settings and then a 5th that you can unlock by completing the first four. With 4 stages in each cup, that comes down to 20 stages in the game. It’s a pretty decent amount and debatably it is better to have 20 unique stages than 50 color swapped ones. Some of the Wii racing games tried that, but it’s very obvious. Nintendo’s never stopped to such tricks. Each race is only around 2-3 minutes so they go by really fast. Of course, that also means that you’ll be breezing through the tournaments at a very rapid pace.

I completed one tournament on Christmas and then did the next 4 the day after. I also completed one tournament in the other two difficulty settings so I could get a feel for how different they were. The main difference is definitely the fact that your opponents will rarely ever use items on 50CC, but they will use them a lot in 150. Their adaptability also gets a lot better and their cars were already unnaturally fast so it’s tough to stay ahead of them. I imagine that it would be very difficult to come in first on the snow level or the sand one. A bunch of them would be really difficult come to think of it.

Nintendo did a good job on the difficulty with this one. It can also be a little “cheap” at times since you should all be at the same speed, but I guess it’d be hard to program the difficulty in otherwise. As good as the computers drive, getting hit by items would probably mess them up a bit. It doesn’t feel unreachable either though and would probably just take some extra tries. Since the stages are all very short, the replay value is high. Even if you lose, it’s not as if you lost a bunch of time right? I think they should have added some extra incentive to beating the tougher level tournaments though. As it is, you don’t unlock any stages or characters so why would you do it? I believe you get a new title screen or something which is fine…but it could be better. This means that the replay value here mostly just comes from the personal satisfaction of taking down all of the variations of the tournaments. I would mention the multiplayer mode, but a lot of people don’t have GBAs anymore so I don’t expect you’ll find a match. Furthermore, I’m playing this one on the DS myself so I couldn’t play it that way even if I did find someone. The tournaments are enough of an incentive to ensure that you’re not ripped off though. I can’t imagine paying 30 for this, but 5-10? That’s definitely not bad at all.

The gameplay is pretty smooth. Some of the turns can be a little tricky, but it’s the kind of game where you just have to learn when to turn. Once you play enough, you’ll be nailing every aspect of the stage. It is very skill based and with less items being thrown around, you barely feel the gimmicks at times. I know that I need to work on my turning to be a better Mario Kart player in this game. I feel like I lose a lot of speed because I just hit the brakes for every turn. It seems to be the most efficient way to drive, but I somehow just don’t think that this is the case. There’s got to be something that I’m missing. Being able to jump is another fun feature in the game although it’s not all that useful. My L button started to act up towards the end so I couldn’t use the items as well as I wanted to, but you can still get past that with solid driving.

The graphics hold up well for the GBA. The character designs are all fun and retro. It’s cool how they haven’t changed all that much over the years except for Bowser. I have to say that he looks quite different. Between the CD-I games, the Mario comics, and this title, it really goes to show how this style completely died out. The old design was fun, but I probably do prefer the new one. Both have their moments though. The soundtrack is great as always. The tunes are fun to listen to as you play and Nintendo is still at the top of the line when it comes to this. Most Game Boy Advance games did have a soundtrack, but a lot of them were either very limited or only had a few catchy songs. This is a bit of a bold generalization since we do have quite a few RPGs and other franchise titles with fans who are ready to tell me differently, but aside from Sonic Advance and the Pokemon games, what other GBA title has such a solid all around soundtrack? I may be forgetting something myself, but this game is certainly up there.

Overall, Mario Kart: Super Circuit is a solid game. It’s also cool to see some of these old stages for the first time in a while since they were present in Mario Kart Wii as part of the crossover appeal. I like to think that I kept my skills from those other titles which is why I was dominating the computers here for the most part. It’s clearly not as expansive or awesome as Double Dash, but this was a nice way to keep the series going. I’m now one step closer to being caught up with Mario Kart. I just need MK7 and MK8 and then I’m back in biz. It’ll be fun to play those as they’re a lot more modern so it’ll be a very large contrast. If you haven’t gotten this game yet, then it’s still not too late. You’ll have a blast, regardless of how long it’s been. Good gameplay doesn’t feel the same wear and tear that other mediums can get blasted with. Just look at Galaga or Pac-Man.

Overall 7/10