Console: Nintendo Switch

When Nintendo dropped their first trailer for their new console, the Switch, towards the end of last year, I and a lot of people were really excited. A device that could be played on the TV like a traditional home console OR taken with you and played in handheld mode without sacrificing much in the way of graphical quality? Sign me the hell up. Though I mostly play handheld games, I do also love sitting back with console games when time permits, so the concept of a single gadget that lets me do both was something I was really looking forward to.

Though I was initially on the fence about buying Nintendo’s latest console on launch (partially due to the tiny launch lineup of games, partially because the first generation of any console usually has issues and partially because the Nintendo Direct that went into more detail about the Switch was pretty underwhelming), playing it early at the hands-on event back in January and getting into the first 20 minutes or so of Zelda: Breath of the Wild made me realise I didn’t want to wait for it. Though Zelda: BOTW was also scheduled to release on the Wii U at the same time, it required roughly 3.4 GB of memory for an install. My Wii U has less than 2 GB of space remaining, and rather than having to go and buy an external hard drive for one game, I figured I might as well put it towards a whole new console that would eventually get even more games. So, first thing on March 3, I was at EB Games picking up my preorder.

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As you can see, I went nuts with Zelda: Breath of the Wild stuff, since that’s the only game on the system I wanted at launch (I did want I Am Setsuna as well but it’s not available physically and it’s $60 on the eShop, which is double the price it is on other systems; I’d happily pay it for a physical copy but not a digital version). I’ll review Zelda and its Amiibo in another post, but for now I just want to talk about the Switch console itself. I should also note that it’ll probably be more of a ‘first impressions’ post than anything since the console is only a few days old, and no doubt updates will bring in a few more changes; I’ll come back and update this post once I’ve spent more time with the system. After showing the basic specifications for the system, I’ll go into what I like and don’t like about the Switch.

The Specifications
Without going into huge amounts of detail, here are the main things worth knowing about the Switch:

  • Memory: 32GB internal memory, though this is reduced to about 25GB once you take into account the operating system etc. You can expand the memory with Micro SDXC cards and as far as I know, there’s no limit to the size you can use.
  • Battery life: Varies depending on game, but seems to be anywhere between 3 and 6 hours in handheld mode. I got about 3 hours (maybe slightly less) while playing Zelda in handheld mode but I haven’t tried other games yet. JoyCons seem to have a life of about 20 hours from what I’m hearing, though some people are reporting inconsistencies (see below).
  • Screen: 6.2inch capacitive touch screen, with a resolution of 1280 x 720.
  • Dimensions: ~23.5 X 10 X 1.5cm (including JoyCons)
  • Weight: ~400 grams (including JoyCons)
  • Game Media: Switch games use a proprietary cartridge (or card?) very similar in size and shape to the PlayStation Vita’s games.
  • Backwards Compatibility: NA, I’m afraid. While Nintendo’s past few systems (both home and handheld consoles) have allowed you to play games from the system before, the Switch can only play Switch games. So if there are any Wii U games you wanted to play but didn’t because you never had a Wii U, you’ll need to hunt down a Wii U console.
  • Online Service: While free at the moment, the Switch will eventually become Nintendo’s first console with a paid online service in about August this year. We don’t yet know what the monthly/yearly fee will be in AUD but hopefully it’s not too high; it’d be hard to justify spending much on it when there will likely only be a handful of online-playable games by that point.
  • Virtual Console: Nothing on this front yet, either. However, most other consoles have launched without digital access to their back catalogue, so we can assume it will be added eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The Good
Firstly, the operating system on the Switch is much cleaner and more streamlined than Nintendo’s previous systems (mine’s obviously a bit empty at the moment since the only game I have is Zelda). Games are organised as large square tiles that take up most of the screen, while key functions like the eShop, photo album and settings are available as small circular icons along the bottom. The different options within the Settings menu are also much easier to navigate. Choosing the Controller icon allows you to pair more controllers and also tells you how much battery is remaining in your current controllers. By tapping your profile icon in the top left, you can easily add friends and see who’s online.

If you wanted to take screenshots on the Wii U or 3DS, you had to press the Home button while playing, then suspend the game, go into Miiverse and either make a post or add it to your screenshot album, which was rather tedious. The Switch has a Capture button on the Pro Controller and the left JoyCon which allows you to save screenshots to your picture album with a single button press. Once you’ve finished playing, you can go into your photo album and easily share screenshots to either Twitter or Facebook.

Modes
The Switch’s main selling point is the ability to play it both on TV or on the go, but it can also be played in tabletop mode, which is good for if you want to do some multiplayer gaming but aren’t near a TV. Let’s have a look at the different modes (hopefully I’ll be able to update them with more relevant game screenshots once we get a bigger Switch game library).

TV Mode
Like other home consoles, the Nintendo Switch can be played on TV, with the JoyCons either being used individually or in the Grip (or swapped for a Pro Controller). Whether you use a Pro Controller or the JoyCons in the Grip, it feels much the same as playing with a standard controller on other consoles.

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Handheld Mode
By sliding the JoyCons onto the side of the Switch and lifting it out of the dock, you can play it in handheld mode. The screen portion on its own is about the height and width of a 3DS XL but is much slimmer, and the JoyCons don’t really add much weight. As mentioned above, battery life varies depending on the game, but for the most part, you should be able to get at least 3 hours out of it, which isn’t much worse than dedicated handheld gaming devices. The Switch is surprisingly comfortable to hold in this mode; I found that when I played the PS Vita, I started to get a bit of RSI after a short while, but I can play for ages on the Switch with no discomfort (I know you’re supposed to take a break from gaming every hour but ain’t nobody got time for that).

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Tabletop Mode
The Switch console has a little kickstand on the back of it that can be used to keep it upright on a surface in front of you, while you play with either the JoyCons or the Pro Controller. This mode seems to be aimed mainly at local multiplayer, as you can have a number of Switch’s connected this way, and depending on the game and number of players, you can probably get by with just the two included JoyCons (however some games require each person to have a pair of JoyCons). The ease of which spontaneous multiplayer gaming sessions can be set up in this way is a definite plus, but people with larger hands may find it tricky to hold a single JoyCon horizontally and use it as a ‘traditional’ controller for use in games like Snipperclips and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe when it comes out.

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So far I’ve mostly been playing in TV mode but I have spent a decent amount of time with it in handheld mode. The flexibility offered by being able to just take it out of the dock and keep playing it in handheld mode when my old man wants to watch TV is a huge blessing.

The Bad
One of the first things I noticed is that, although you can easily put the Switch in sleep mode, it’s harder to actually turn it off. Eventually someone told me that if you hold down the power button on top of it, it gives you Power Options, from which you can actually shut the system down. However, if you put it back in the dock to charge, it will turn on again and just go into sleep mode (I’m not sure if holding down the power button while it’s docked and then turning it off using the controller would work; haven’t tried that yet). While this isn’t a huge issue in general, I sometimes go days or weeks without playing any games, and when I’m not using a system, I like to have it unplugged and off, so I didn’t want to have the Switch in sleep mode and still be consuming battery power. It’d also be nice to be able to turn the console off while it’s docked by using the controller.

Speaking of controllers, some people are reporting having one JoyCon eat through its battery much faster than the other. My Switch has fallen victim to this as well; though both were evenly charged when I first started playing, my left one ended up in the red while the other one was still about 2/3rds full. Again, this doesn’t bother me a lot as their battery life is quite long anyway – longer than that of my usual handheld gaming devices – but it does mean that in total, you can’t have as much gaming time away from a charger of some sort as you could if both JoyCons ran down at the same rate. I bought a Charging Grip as I find I like playing in TV mode most, so in my case, it won’t really affect me too much, but it’s worth mentioning for those who prefer to play it as a handheld.

Thanks to the Capture button mentioned above, taking screenshots is very easy, but sharing them can be a bit fiddly. Miiverse was scrapped with the introduction of the Switch; you can still post to it from Wii U and 3DS, but not with the new console. The Switch also doesn’t have a web browser, so at this stage, the only way you can share screenshots from your album is by posting to Twitter or Facebook. After having my Twitter account hacked after adding a Twitter app to my PS Vita a while back, I’m not a fan of having my social media accounts linked to multiple services, so I wasn’t enthusiastic about this. You get the option to link your Twitter or Facebook account to your Nintendo Account, but when I posted without linking and went back later to post another photo, I found that it had saved my Twitter name and password anyway, which seems to defeat the purpose of allowing me not to link it. So far I’ve used my regular Twitter account but I’ll probably just make another disposable Twitter account specifically for my Switch screenshots. Another annoying aspect of being forced to use social media to post screenshots is getting abused by others for posting ‘spoilers’, even if you immediately save the screenshot to your device and delete the Tweet.

One complaint levelled at the Nintendo 3DS was the requirement for two people to enter each other’s friend codes to add each other as friends online. I never found it a huge issue, though I did wonder why they couldn’t just let us search by User ID, like the Wii U did. Unfortunately the Switch has brought back friend codes, though at least this time, only one person has to enter the code and send a request; the other person can just accept without having to enter the first person’s friend code. Again, not a great hardship, but since we do have Nintendo User IDs, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason why we couldn’t just search for friends using that instead.

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As you’d expect with the launch of any new hardware, the Switch does have some issues. One of the most common I’ve seen reported is that the left JoyCon briefly desyncs during game play. It hasn’t happened to me at all, but one of my friends said it happened to him three times during his first day of playing Zelda. Luckily it seems it can be fixed in a few seconds (ie. you don’t have to go out to the controller menu and manually resync it or anything) but it would still be annoying.

Another seemingly widespread problem that’s popped up – and I have encountered this one myself – is that the Switch will lose its wifi connection and tell you it “can’t find an IP address” when you try to reconnect. It’s only happened to me once, and it was quick/easy enough to fix, but still rather irritating. It seems to happen mostly while the console is docked after it has been put into sleep mode, and the most common solution (which worked for me) is to undock it and, in handheld mode, go into Internet settings and manually reconnect it to your wifi.

Accessories
Since the Switch launched with a number of accessories, I figured it was worth mentioning some of them. Most of what’s available are just JoyCons (available separately or in pairs) and the straps, as well as a dock (preorder only at this stage) and AC adapters. As mentioned above, the JoyCon grip that comes with the Switch doesn’t allow you to charge the JoyCons (out of the box, they can only be charged by connecting them to the docked Switch), so I bought a Charging Grip and adapter so I can charge the JoyCons while playing. Like with the Wii and Wii U, there’s a Pro Controller available for the Switch, but unlike its predecessors, I think the Switch’s Pro Controller is almost unnecessary (unless you have large hands) as the JoyCons in the grip feel and act much the same as the Pro Controller anyway. There’s also a wheel accessory you can slot a JoyCon into for use in racing games, but until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe releases at the end of April, I don’t think there’s much you can do with it for now.

You can also get various cases, though most only hold the Switch itself and the JoyCons; only a few can hold the dock and accessories as well. I got two Zelda: BOTW themed cases. The top one is for the Switch itself and it holds the system with the JoyCons attached. The case is a lot firmer than I was expecting. From the pictures, it looks like a soft cloth case, but it has a bit of padding. It can hold 14 games on one side, and the system itself slides into a netted compartment on the other side. This net is quite tight so getting the system in and out can be a struggle as the thumb sticks tend to get stuck on the net a bit. Still, the build quality is quite good, as is the printing on the outside of the case. I’ll probably get another case eventually but I’m not planning on taking my Switch on the go that much so it’s not a big deal. The other case is just for games and it holds 24 game carts (there were similar cases available for DS and 3DS games).

zelda-switch-cases

Anyway, that wraps up my thoughts and first impressions of the Nintendo Switch for now. As I said earlier, I’ll come back and update this post if anything changes, but overall I am glad I got the Switch on launch and am loving the ability to play an open world Zelda game wherever I want. That being said, I think that if you’re not interested in Zelda: BOTW, there’s probably not much point in buying a Switch for the next several months at least. The physical lineup of games at the moment is very slim, and with no Virtual Console and a fairly small selection of eShop games to start with (and with many upcoming indie games also being released or already available more cheaply on existing platforms), that $470 AUD price tag is pretty hard to swallow. However I expect – and hope – that once games like Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey hit the shelf, and we have more indie games that we can play on the go, the expense will be more than justified.

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Nintendo Wii U: Super Mario 3D World (review)

Release date: November 2013

Developer: Nintendo

Format: Digital download (eShop) and physical disk

Other platforms: NA

Price: ~$70 AUD

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Most Nintendo fans have played Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and/or the Super Mario Galaxy games, most of which were generally regarded as being some of the greatest games of their time. As relatively open world 3D platformers, they were a nice change from the standard 2D Mario games which have graced just about every console since the NES. Mario’s latest return to the 3D realm takes place in Super Mario 3D World, though in some ways, it feels more like a 2.5D adventure. If you played Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS, you’ll probably recognise its game engine in SM3DW, though the levels are all completely different between the games. Though you can move the camera a little, you can generally only view the level from one side, meaning it doesn’t have that open feeling previous 3D Mario games have.

The story starts with a green Sprixie (a fairy-type creature, I suppose the name is a cross between ‘sprite’ and ‘pixie) appearing before Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad and telling them that Bowser has kidnapped all the other Sprixies. True to form, the big spiky brute shows up almost immediately and kidnaps the green Sprixie as well before escaping. Mario and co. set off after him into the Sprixie Kingdom so they can save all the poor Sprixies. It’s not much of a story, but at least it’s a bit of a refreshing change from Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser.

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Following the standard formula for most Mario games, SM3DW consists of eight worlds, each with eight levels (with a ninth world being unlocked once you beat the rest of the game). The environments seem to follow the conventional template, with the first world being green and grassy, the second being set in a desert, the third being water-based and so on, but the individual levels within these worlds vary greatly. You get to ride a friendly dinosaur through a series of water courses, traverse volcanic castles full of monsters, ride on high-speed trains while being pummeled by Bullet Bills, and that’s just in the first few worlds. It all adds a sense of familiarity, but at the same time, the inventive and colourful level designs help make this game stand out from the crowd. There were some mini-boss fights half way through each world that were so easy it almost seemed pointless to have included them; these usually involved killing an enemy who could multiply itself, and most of them can be beaten in about 15 seconds. The boss battles also follow the “find its weakness and hit it in the same way three times” pattern we’re all so familiar with, and though the enemies were varied in their design and attacks, it did feel a bit formulaic.

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Most of the levels have their own idea or mechanic that provides a particular set of challenges, but these are generally innovative and don’t overstay their welcome. At least, for the most part. I’ve heard a lot of people complain that hardly any Wii U games made good use of the GamePad, the controller that was heavily pushed as one of its main selling points. While I agree with this, I do also think that it can be a bit gimmicky, and in my view SM3DW does fall into that trap in a few places. Some platforms contain a fan and can only be moved by blowing into the microphone, while some levels have sections made up of blocks that need to be tapped on the GamePad screen in order to move them into the right place for you to use them to get where you’re going. While this is clever and works well in some areas, it can get annoying to have to keep looking down from the TV to the little GamePad screen to move blocks and then back up again to keep playing (if you’re playing off TV and only using the GamePad, this isn’t going to be an issue).

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The levels in the early worlds are pretty easy to get through, and even most of the stars are easy to collect. Once you get past world 3 or 4 the challenge does ramp up a bit, and it can be a real struggle to even finish the level, let alone collect the stars. It pays to collect as many stars as you can on each run through a level, as many levels in the later worlds can only be unlocked if you have a certain number of stars. You can play as any of the four main characters, each with their own skills; for example, Luigi can jump higher, while Peach can float with her dress. While it’s possible to get through all the levels as Mario, there are some areas where it’s a lot easier if you play as one of the other characters.

Many existing powerups return from previous games (such as the Fire Flower, the Tanooki Suit and the Boomerang Flower) but SM3DW introduces a few new ones. First is the Double Cherry, which adds a clone of your character every time you pick one up. Some elements require a certain number of characters to stand on a platform to unlock a collectible, so it’s worth keeping the clones alive for as long as you can, which is occasionally challenging when trying to maneuver them over small platforms and past enemies. The second powerup is the Super Bell, which turns Mario and his companions into a cute little cat. In your feline onesie, you can climb up walls and other surfaces that would be impossible in any other form, and you can also lash out with your claws to attack enemies or operate wheels to raise and lower mechanical platforms. This powerup appears in almost every level and could have been overused, but the level designs make it feel like it belongs, rather than something that was thrown in as an afterthought.

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SM3DW also has a co-op option. The vast majority of my time with the game was spent playing solo, but when I went to my friend’s house last week, we started a new file on his console just to see how far we could get (and he enjoyed playing alongside “someone who knows what they’re doing” rather than with young children for a change haha). I can see how co-op could be a frustrating experience when playing with someone unskilled or hell-bent on trolling, but for the most part, co-op was just damn good fun.

In many ways, it can help make it easier to complete levels or achieve certain tasks (such as collecting red coins before they vanish after a limited time) and if one player dies, they will be returned to more or less the same place after a few seconds, as long as at least one other player is still alive. The only real issue is that the camera will generally focus on player 1, and if someone else gets too far off screen, they get turned into a bubble and pulled to player 1’s location, potentially making them miss out on whatever collectible they were in the middle of trying to reach. There’s also a competitive aspect, with the player who picks up the most coins and stars and reaches the flagpole at the end of the stage first getting a higher score and a little crown to wear in the next level.

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Each world also has one level where you play as Captain Toad. This concept was later expanded into its own full game, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The levels are self-contained, but Toad cannot jump, so he has to rely on sneaking past enemies or moving elements of the levels by touching the GamePad screen or blowing into the microphone. Unlike the main levels, there’s no flagpole to jump on to finish the level; the only way to win the level and exit is to collect all five green stars. Luckily most of these levels weren’t that challenging and I never found myself coming anywhere near close to running out of time.

If you enjoy puzzle platformers, you’ll like these levels and I’d recommend you pick up Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, but if you prefer straight up fast-paced platforming, you’ll probably find these levels more of a nuisance than anything. Unfortunately, the Toad levels suffer from the same issue his standalone game does; the camera can be tilted either by using the right stick or by tilting the GamePad, but there is no way to disable this second option, meaning you have to sit completely still while playing or risk obstructing your own view of enemies or obstacles at the wrong time.

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Throughout the levels, you can collect Miiverse stamps, for use in posts to Nintendo’s social media site. These don’t really serve any purpose but they’re something else to collect for those who like to 100% complete games.

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One of the things that stood out for me about this game was its soundtrack. Though many of the tunes are recycled from earlier Mario games, there are still plenty of new tracks, and they’ve all been given fresh new life as jazzy orchestral songs. I actually got the soundtrack from Club Nintendo (back when that was still a thing) because I liked it so much (my favourite is probably Shifty Boo Mansion).

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While I don’t think SM3DW quite reaches the heights of the Super Mario Galaxy games, it’s still a challenging, fun-filled experience and one of the best games on the Wii U, and it proves that the Mario franchise is a long way off becoming stale. It takes the frantic platforming you’ve come to expect from Mario games and injects it with vibrant HD visuals and a catchy soundtrack, and aside from a few gripes with the camera, it’s hard to find much to fault about it. If you have a Wii U, this title is a must-have.

Score:

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Nintendo Switch Hands-On Event: Melbourne, January 2017

A few weeks ago I entered some competitions to win a chance to play the Nintendo Switch, the new home/handheld hybrid console coming out in March this year. I was lucky enough to win a double pass through Vooks (I actually won another one later through EB Games but had to decline it so they could redraw it), so today my friend (The Casual Geek, or TCG) and I went off to the city to get our hands on the Switch and some of the upcoming games.

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While we were waiting to be let in, we wandered around in the foyer, where Nintendo had a timeline of their previous consoles set up in some display cases.

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As we headed into the actual event room, there were a few more display cabinets set up with the Switch inside. This room was dark, so apologies for the somewhat dull/blurred photos.

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The Switch in docked mode with the ‘puppy-dog’ controller (I don’t care about its real name, that’s what I’m calling it forever).

Nintendo Switch in tabletop mode with Joy-Cons.

Nintendo Switch in tabletop mode with Joy-Cons.

Soon we entered the holy mecca, where we could play with the Switch and some of its games six weeks before everyone else does! By far the game we wanted to play most was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so we lined up outside the booth set up with the game. Each play session went for 20 minutes, with ten players able to go in at a time, so we had a bit of a wait; in the meantime, we took some photos of the Master Sword (or, more accurately, the Sword of Resurrection).

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Finally, it was the moment we’d been waiting for. Each of us got to sit in front of a console and play the opening 20 minutes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch. I also managed to get a Game Over by jumping off the tower instead of climbing down it, because I’m an idiot. I spent most of my turn playing it on TV mode, and though I’d thought it looked gorgeous when I watched the trailers on my computer, seeing it on the big screen blew me away.

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Eventually one of the Nintendo employees suggested I try it in handheld mode, and since this is a big selling point of the console, I did just that. It didn’t compare to TV mode but it still looked damn nice, with crystal-clear graphics on the handheld screen (not that you can tell from my potato-quality phone camera photos).

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The section we got to play has mostly been shown in the trailers that we’ve already seen, so I can’t say anything new about the game in that regard. However I will say that having the chance to play what promises to be a stunning and epic game has only increased my hype for the game when it and the console launch on March 3 this year.

I was pleasantly surprised by how natural the controls felt to hold, both in their puppy-dog form and when attached to the console itself for use in handheld mode. With the controllers attached, the console is about the same dimensions as the Wii U’s GamePad (although slimmer), and though I think it’s slightly heavier, it’s still more comfortable to play with. I had some concerns that it would be slightly too big to be comfortably used as a handheld, but it’s not much bigger than the 3DS XL and feels more streamlined. It’s also really easy to detach the Joy-Cons from the console or the puppy controller and attach them to the other. Not just that, but even the dock is really slim and compact.

Once we got booted off Zelda, we wandered around to see what else was on offer. After getting our photo taken with Mario…

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… We went and checked out ARMS, one of the games that is being pushed heavily to take advantage of the motion controls in the Switch’s Joy-Cons. I did feel a bit uncoordinated playing this as I have played very few motion controlled games in the past. Each of us held a pair of Joy-Cons and punched by moving our hands and arms like boxers, using buttons to dash, dodge and unleash punching flurries. You could choose different characters with different attributes (eg. some are harder hitters but move slower) but we only played a few rounds, so we didn’t get to discover much about it that isn’t already known.

I did wonder if there was a way to play without the motion controls, because I know that some people a) just really hate motion controls or b) can’t use motion controls because of injury or disability. Most games I’ve played in the past that had motion controls also had the option to change to a completely button/thumbstick-based control scheme, so I would assume (and hope) that Switch games will offer the same choice. That being said, the experience did remove my concerns about the individual Joy-Cons being too small and fiddly to hold comfortably; though they are small, I still didn’t have any issues pressing the right buttons. Then again, I have smallish hands, so those with bigger hands may not find it as easy.

While it was fun to play with briefly, I wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy the game. It seems to me like something I’d play at a birthday party full of drunks, and even though I enjoyed playing it at the event, I also felt that I’ve now more or less played all I want to of that game. Maybe once you get deeper into it you can unlock more fighting styles, characters or attacks and so on, but as it stands now, it just doesn’t grab me. It would also be an expensive game if you don’t already have two sets of Joy-Cons, since each player needs a pair of them.

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We didn’t get pictures of ourselves playing this or any other game since we were too busy playing to find someone else to take our photos.

After ARMS, we went and played Splatoon 2. I love the first Splatoon game on Wii U but TCG had never played it (for those of you who haven’t played it, it’s essentially a shooter in which you play as part of a team of four Inklings against another team of four and each team competes to see which can cover the most terrain with their coloured ink, using a variety of paint-slinging weapons). Again, we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the game (each round goes for 3 minutes and we played two rounds) but from what I can see, it’s shaping up to be just as good – if not better – than the first game in the series. For Splatoon 2 we used the Switch Pro controllers, which feel very similar to most traditional controllers. Unfortunately our team was annihilated both times (I’ll blame it on TCG’s lack of experience with the game and the fact I haven’t played it myself for more than a year).

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Next, we decided we should check out more motion control games, so we wandered over to the 1-2 Switch booth. They had four or five of the mini-games set up, so we basically just went into the first one that opened up, which happened to be Quick Draw (I also wanted to play Samurai Training but we didn’t get time; the event only ran for 2 hours).

While ARMS requires each player to have a pair of Joy-Cons, 1-2 Switch is played with each person only having one Joy-Con. As the title suggests, Quick Draw required us to hold our Joy-Cons down at our sides and see who could draw the fastest and ‘shoot’ the other player. Apparently some of the other 1-2 Switch games were great for showcasing the haptic aspect of the Joy-Cons, but Quick Draw almost just felt like we were using a smaller Wii Mote. And, as with ARMS, it felt like another game that you’d bust out at a party once everyone was drunk enough, but would otherwise sit in the gaming cabinet gathering dust. It kind of seems like the Switch’s version of Nintendoland.

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Unfortunately we didn’t get to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, though I wasn’t too fussed about this since I already own the non-deluxe version on Wii U. Time was running short once we left the 1-2 Switch booth, so TCG dragged me over for a round of Just Dance. As I was wandering over to see if I could have a go at Super Bomberman R, the announcers called time for the event and it was time for us all to go home.

Sadly we didn’t get a Switch cookie like the media people who went to yesterday’s event, but we did get a pretty nice bag of Nintendo Switch goodies as we were heading out, including a hat, thermos, writing journal, pen and lanyard. I’ll have to hide it from Dad so he can’t steal it; he loves hats.

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Overall, the Nintendo Switch Hands-On Event for Melbourne was a great day out. I have to admit that I was on the fence about buying the Switch on launch day because aside from Zelda: BOTW, there aren’t really any games for it that I want on launch, and there aren’t a huge number of games I want coming out until later this year or next year (now, I’m sure someone will start whining “You can’t expect the Switch to compete with existing consoles on launch!” Well, no, I don’t, but I DO generally expect there will be more than one game I want when I buy the console.). But after playing Zelda and getting a sense of the scale of that game, I think that game alone will be enough to keep me busy for a while, and I don’t want to wait a second longer than I have to before I can play it again. Later this year we have (among other things) Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey, and in the future we’ll be getting Fire Emblem Warriors, Skyrim (I know this is out on PC but I prefer console gaming and I only have a Wii U) and Xenoblade 2, along with other games we’ll probably find out closer to release. I am still worried the lackluster launch lineup will make the console struggle to sell for the first few months, but I think once we get more games out later this year, it should be a worthy console.

So, come March 3, I’ll be lining up outside the shops with all the other nerds, waiting for my Nintendo Switch console and new Zelda game 🙂

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The Pokemon Cookbook – Maki Kudo

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not big on cooking. Yes, I can cook decent and nutritious meals, but I’m often too lazy to do so and end up just microwaving a Lean Cuisine or shoving a frozen pizza in the oven instead. When I do cook properly, any attempts to be creative end in tears, so I usually just follow the recipe or directions exactly. This means I’m not the sort who would normally have any interest in a cookbook, but when I walked into EB Games the other day and saw The Pokemon Cookbook by Maki Kudo sitting on the shelf, I bought it without hesitation.

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The Pokemon Cookbook is only $23 at EB Games, and probably cheaper online if you’re willing to shop around. As you might expect, it’s aimed at children, so the first few pages give some pretty simplistic explanations of healthy eating, safe food handling and cooking tools. Throughout the book are a few pages that tell you how the recipes in the book can be adapted into other characters and useful ingredients you might like to have around.

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The majority of the book is, of course, full of recipes. Every few pages there’s a picture of two or three dishes arranged in an appetising display, followed by a full page spread for each individual recipe. A full ingredients list is provided, along with a description of any ingredients western audiences may not be familiar with (some are difficult to find outside of Japan) and possible substitutions if you can’t get those particular ingredients.

The instructions themselves present the steps as a numbered list, and each step is described in simple, straight-forward language. The recipe page includes a picture of the finished dish, as well as detailed diagrams showing how to prepare various aspects of each recipe, such as cutting and arranging ingredients into the required shapes or preparing it for cooking. It also tells you how many serves you get from each recipe, but since the book is aimed at children, I’m assuming these serving sizes are relatively small; you’ll probably need to adjust and cook a bit more if you’re preparing the meal for adults.

pokemon-cookbook-recipe

The index at the back of the book is split into two sections; one lets you search meals by food type, while the other lets you search by Pokemon name. This makes it easy to quickly find your favourite Pokemon or pick a recipe if there’s something in particular you’re in the mood for.

There are 36 recipes in the book. Some are a little similar, and a couple show you how to make different character versions of the same dish, but overall there’s a good variety of dishes you can make from the book. You can make meat and vegetable dishes, bread or rice-based meals and a number of desserts. The only complaint I had (and it really is a minor complaint) was that I would have liked to see a greater variety of Pokemon represented in the recipes; there were three Pokeball recipes and six Pikachu recipes, and most of the Pokemon were lesser known ones from later generations of the games, so I found myself missing beloved characters like Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff and Gengar (and as a die-hard Eeveelution fan, I was sad that not one of them made it into the book, though their character designs would probably be complicated to turn into food). Still, once you’re familiar with the recipes, it’d be pretty easy to use some of the tips for adapting the recipes the book gives you to make your favourite Pokemon.

Once I’ve attempted a few of the recipes in the book, I’ll update this post with some photos of my Pokemon culinary adventures, but after reading it from cover to cover, I would definitely recommend it to any kids (or grownups!) who love Pokemon and want to learn to cook a few new recipes. Most (if not all) of the recipes in the book are healthy and the prospect of being able to cook and eat their favourite characters (yeah, I know it sounds bad when I put it that way) is sure to encourage people of all ages to try out more nutritious meals.

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Nintendo Wii U: Paper Mario – Colour Splash (review)

Release date: October 2016

Developer: Nintendo

Format: Digital download (eShop) and physical disk

Other platforms: NA

Price: ~$70 AUD

wiiu-paper-mario-colour-splash

When Paper Mario: Colour Splash was announced for the Wii U earlier this year (yes, I know the AUS/UK version is still spelt ‘Color’ but it feels wrong to type it that way, so I won’t), it got some pretty mixed reactions. Some people thought it looked like a fun and colourful game on its own and were looking forward to playing it. Others were annoyed that it looked similar in many aspects to Paper Mario: Sticker Star, the last game in the series which released on the Nintendo 3DS and was widely criticised for – among other things – its pointless battle system. Still others appeared to be throwing their toys out of the pram simply because it wasn’t The Thousand Year Door, Paper Mario’s second outing which appeared on the GameCube (if you want a laugh, go and look at the abundance of whiny comments on any of Nintendo’s posts about Colour Splash).

I was in the first category. I actually have TTYD and Super Paper Mario but haven’t had time to play TTYD for more than a few hours (though I loved what I did play), and I’m yet to boot up SPM. I never even bought Sticker Star, mainly because a friend who shares a similar taste in games to me played it and returned it the following day because she disliked it so much. Therefore I went into Colour Splash with no real expectations.

The story opens with Mario receiving a strange letter from far off Prism Island; a folded up Toad who has had his colours stolen. Mario, Peach and another Toad set off for the island to find out what happened to Toad, only to discover the island is being attacked by Bowser’s minions, who are draining all the colour from the island. The six Big Paint Stars have been stolen from the fountain in town, so Mario has to team up with Huey, a sentient paint can, to help track them down. Naturally, Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser fairly early into the game (with one of the Toads crying “No one could have predicted this!”), so the story really doesn’t stray far from the typical Mario formula.

wiiu-pmcs-stars-fountain

What Colour Splash lacks in story originality, it makes up for in humorous dialogue. The characters that inhabit the world make it feel lively and organic, and there are a lot of genuinely funny lines (some of which may go over the heads of younger players). I did occasionally get annoyed by some exchanges that were a bit wordy and wished they’d hurry up so I could get on with the game, but it didn’t happen often, and when it did, it was only brief. The levels all have their own self-contained stories, so in one level you might need to recover missing items for a character, while in another you may need to rescue Toads who are being harassed by Bowser’s goons. The personalities of the different characters meant that this never felt like a chore and each level had its own fun mystery to solve.

wiiu-pmcs-self-destruct-airship wiiu-pmcs-surround-sound

Similar to most regular Mario games, this game has Mario move around a world map to access the various levels, though in this case all the ‘worlds’ are in one map rather than having eight or so separate maps. The map starts out being all sepia-toned, but as you recover the Paint Stars from the levels, the map gets filled in with different colours for each region (and roads that look like sticky tape), allowing you to access more areas.

wiiu-pmcs-world-map

The levels themselves feel like a blend of platformer and RPG and are a joy to look at, with the paper aesthetic forming a big part of the gameplay. The soundtrack has an upbeat jazz feel, and even though many of the tunes are remixes of older Mario music, it still feels fresh and new. There’s a variety of environments, full of corrugated cardboard water wheels, gift-wrapped mountains and papercraft trains, and these all look beautiful in HD. As you travel through these 3D levels, you will find white spots that need to have their colour painted back in, which you can do by whacking them with your hammer. Even if you don’t care about 100% completing the game – each level shows the percentage of white spots you’ve recoloured – it’s worth painting these spots when you find them because coins, cards and sometimes health-restoring hearts pop out. There are some items that won’t function properly unless you repaint their white spots – such as locked gates or closed beach umbrellas – so painting things is sometimes required to progress.

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Painting isn’t all that’s required to get through levels; some objects have an ?! icon on them and have to be ‘Unfurled’ by activating the matching block and hitting the object with your hammer. It’s always fun watching a log unfold itself into a bridge complete with handrails or a fancy armchair pop out from a simple block.

Colour Splash also introduces the Cutout technique. Sometimes you’ll come to a point in a level where it seems impossible to progress or reach a far-off platform with a Paint Star. By moving around slightly so the perspective lines up just right, you can hit Y to activate Cutout mode, which will let you trace along a line made by parts of the environment to create steps or a gentle slope. Once you do this, you get transported to the left of this Cutout segment and you are then able to make your way across to the flag on the right and return to the normal mode to get that Paint Star. This was one of my favourite aspects about the game as it provided a fun and different puzzle-solving element; sometimes it was obvious that you had to cut something out, but in a few places I had to think about it for a bit before I found the area I could cut. Even if it doesn’t line up when you press Y the first time, it still shows you the dotted line outlining the shape to be cut out, so it’s easy enough to move around a bit or shift some items to get it to work.

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The main mechanic in Paper Mario: Colour Splash is the card system, and you’ll accumulate a lot of cards on your adventure. Some cards, called Thing cards, are rarer and far more powerful than regular cards and are obtained by finding 3D ‘real world’ objects within the levels and shrinking them down into card form for later use. These Thing cards play a significant role in boss battles (more about those later), but they are also necessary to remove certain obstacles within levels; some of the Cutout sections described above will reveal a perfect rectangle for you to play a Thing card. Most regular cards are commonly found within levels or after enemy battles and grant basic attacks like stomping on enemies or hammer attacks to use in battles, though you can get fire and ice flowers and cards that call in other minor enemies to attack and take damage for you, or mushroom cards to restore health.

Sadly, this card-based battle system is the game’s biggest letdown. Though it improves on the sticker-based system from Sticker Star (at least from what I’ve heard), it does still feel pointless at times. While moving around in a level, you can either jump on or hit an enemy (which gives you the first turn) or have them run into you to start a battle. Often multiple enemies will run in and join whichever one you’re fighting, so you may end up pitted against as many as five enemies at once. At this point you select a card (or cards) to play for that turn.

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The card selection and deployment system is needlessly drawn-out, though; once you choose your cards from your collection along the bottom of the touch screen, you need to tap ‘Cards Ready’ on the GamePad. This takes you to a screen where you can hold down the card to paint it (if it’s not already coloured), which will make it stronger than if you just used the black and white card. The stronger the card, the more paint it requires, so you do need to be mindful of this if your paint supplies are already low, as some cards can drain half of your supply for a particular paint colour. Then you have to tap ‘Done Painting’ to go to another screen on the GamePad which will let you ‘flick’ the card with your finger to send them into battle and start the round, where well-timed button presses will help you deliver more attacks and/or do more damage with each. Essentially, you have to go through three screens to use a card, when there’s no reason it couldn’t just be done on one screen. It still doesn’t take long and it’s not complicated but it does start to feel very tedious a few hours into the game. Luckily you can generally flee battles quite quickly, though it is worth fighting some enemies as they can drop paint, cards or hammer scraps after they are defeated. As you collect more hammer scraps, you gradually increase the amount of paint you can hold in your hammer, which can make a big difference later in the game. These hammer upgrades on their own aren’t as fulfilling as an experience/level-up mechanic from older Paper Mario games, but at least battling does feel like it has some purpose.

I also came across a bug – or at least a design flaw – in one of the battles. Occasionally during a battle, Kamek (a magic-wielding baddie) will fly in and disrupt your ability to use cards. Sometimes he’ll remove all but six of your cards, while at other times he’ll flip them all over so you can only see their backs, and you won’t know what cards you’re playing until the fight starts. However, sometimes he will change all of your cards to a single attack type, and in one of my battles, he changed them all to a Hammer. Unfortunately I was battling a flying enemy, which cannot be reached with a Hammer attack. Since I was unable to do any damage to the enemy and Kamek also disables the Flee option and the option to pay 10 coins to get another card, it would have been literally impossible for me to win or escape the battle, so I had to exit the game and start it up again. Luckily the game saves any time you leave a level so I didn’t really lose any progress, but it was still annoying.

Boss battles are a little more interesting, but they come with their own set of problems. The aforementioned Thing cards are a key component here, and each boss has a particular Thing they are weak against. Once the battle progresses to the point where the Thing can be used, the boss becomes ridiculously weakened and easy to take down if you play the right card. It’s always fun to watch these Thing card attacks, as they’re over-the-top and often weird. However, if you don’t have the required Thing card, the boss’s attacks will do an insane amount of damage, knocking you out in one or two hits at the most. This means that if you don’t have the appropriate Thing card, it’s impossible to win that battle. Luckily there’s a Toad who lives in a garbage can in Port Prisma (the town you start the game in) and he will tell you what Thing card you will need next (whether it’s for a boss battle or just for some other obstacle within a level), so as long as you talk to him before entering a level with a boss battle, you shouldn’t find yourself in the lurch too often. In general, I rarely found myself stuck at a certain point and not knowing where I needed to go or what I needed to do next.

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On the plus side, running out of cards is something you don’t really have to worry about. Most cards can be purchased from the shop in town once you’ve found one in a level somewhere, and they generally don’t cost much. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter; you basically can’t scratch your own arse in this game without having coins and cards thrown at you, so even if you do use up a lot of cards in a battle, it’s quick and easy to get more without putting much of a dent in what will soon be a sizable stash of coins. There were a few times when I had to actually throw cards away to pick up new ones because I’d reached the limit of my inventory.

I was hoping there would be some challenge to the game, but for the most part, there wasn’t. Even towards the end of the game, there were never any sections where I ran out of cards or couldn’t work out what to do, though I did get low on paint at times. I also had issues with the pacing at times, with some rather annoying detours and mini-games delaying me from getting an item I needed to progress. There were also a few sections that required quick reflexes to get through to flee an oncoming enemy or falling obstacles, and often you could only work out the right path after dying at least once. This wouldn’t have bothered me too much on its own, but when you die in these sections, you get shown a Game Over screen and then get booted out all the way to the title screen. Given it would be just as easy to have you restart at the last save block you hit, it seems unnecessary to make the player have to go through that many steps to get back into their game.

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Paper Mario: Colour Splash isn’t going to win any GOTY awards, but it’s still a funny and enjoyable game for the most part. The battle system does feel a bit pointless at times, and there are issues with the pacing in some parts of the game, but these things are far from a deal-breaker. The story is simple but the characters made it charming and interesting enough that I wanted to keep playing to see what happened, and I never get tired of looking at the gorgeous paper environments. Even though Colour Splash may not reach the heights of its earlier predecessors, it’s still worth a look.

Score:

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Nintendo 3DS: Monster Hunter Generations (review)

Release date: July 2016

Developer: Capcom

Format: Digital download (eShop) and physical cart

Other platforms: NA

Price: ~$55 AUD

MHG Case

After becoming addicted to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate once I started playing it, I was keen to see what would be next for the franchise. Monster Hunter X released in Japan last year, but given that it usually takes at least a couple of years for the game to come to the west (and even then, we usually have to wait for the ‘Ultimate’ version), most people weren’t really expecting to see it any time soon. So it came as a happy surprise to many Monster Hunter fans when the localisation of Monster Hunter X – called Monster Hunter Generations – was announced in March to release in Australia on July 16th this year.

As with most games in the series, Monster Hunter Generations is pretty light in terms of story: You play as a hunter who takes on various quests to help out residents of various villages. At first you only have access to one village, but after doing a few quests, you unlock the ability to travel between the four villages in the game (three from previous games and one new one) at will. This was one area I felt that Generations took a step backwards from MH4U, as even though MH4U‘s story was also pretty bare bones, it at least gave a sense of context and purpose to the adventure from the beginning. It made you feel like you were actually helping people as you explored the various villages and surrounding environments. I know Monster Hunter isn’t really a game you play for the story, but it would have been nice to have a little more narrative direction in Generations (at least for solo play) than “go kill/collect stuff”. I am only about 20 hours in so far so hopefully the story does improve as I play through further.

MHG Yukumo Village

MHG Pokke Village

Those who love terrible puns will have a field day with this game, as the dialogue from many of the NPCs (particularly the adorable Palicos) is riddled with them. Most of the time I found it amusing, but there were occasions where I just wanted to get on with it and found myself mashing the button to get through the speech so I could do whatever I was trying to do. Still, the characters all have their own personality, which makes things a bit more interesting.

Once you’ve set up your character, it’s time to start some quests. First up are the optional ‘tutorial’ quests that teach you about the different weapons, the newly-introduced Hunting Styles and Hunting Arts (which I’ll talk about later) and other things you need to know in order to play the game, like finding and combining items. I found the tutorials to be needlessly ‘waffly’ and it annoyed me that the ‘tutor’ would often interrupt me to tell me to do something I was already in the middle of doing. I also think it would have made more sense to combine some of the shorter tutorials into one, rather than constantly having to go back to the village and pick another tutorial quest. You do get some zenny (money) and a few reward items from doing them, but most experienced players will probably skip them.

After this, the first few quests will mostly be ‘fetch’ quests, ie. ‘deliver 5 of X item’ or what I call ‘pest’ quests, such as ‘kill 8 of X small monster’. These quests will often unlock new ingredients for the village kitchen, allowing you to eat meals with a greater variety of stat boosts and other effects before departing on a quest. Once you’ve done a handful of these fairly easy quests, you’ll find that most of the quests throughout the game involve hunting a large monster (or sometimes more than one) to either capture it or kill it. I felt that the quest lineup for the 1-star level (quests are ranked from 1-star to 7-star, with 1-3 being Low Rank and 4-7 being High Rank and becoming harder as you get higher) skewed too far towards fetch and pest quests, as there was only one large monster to hunt, but luckily once you get past the 1-star quests, you are given a lot more large monsters to kill or capture. Some of the monsters have appeared previously in older Monster Hunter games but many are completely new creatures, some of which even have new abilities and ailments to inflict on unsuspecting hunters (for example, the new monster Malfestio can ‘confuse’ hunters so that they will move in the opposite direction to the player’s circle pad movements). As in MH4U, the monster design is brilliant, and it’s hard not to admire some of the deadly creatures even as you’re trying to work out the best way to bring them down.

Earlier Monster Hunter games had Frenzied monsters (monsters that are infected by a disease that makes them stronger, faster and more aggressive) and Apex monsters (monsters who have overcome the Frenzy virus and retained its attributes and are now incredibly difficult to injure without the use of Wystones) but both of those are absent in Generations. Instead you get Deviant monsters. These monsters are far stronger and have a different physical appearance and move-set than their standard counterparts. Deviant monster quests require Special Permits which can only be received through StreetPass or by trading Wycademy Points.

MHG Astalos

Astalos, one of the new monsters introduced in Generations.

As in previous Monster Hunter games, monsters have no health bar but will instead begin limping or dragging body parts and running away to rest once they are low on health, and cutting off or breaking parts of the monster will leave visible damage. Quests mostly have a 50 minute time limit and though some take place in areas or environments that have appeared in previous games, some areas are completely new, and all of them look beautiful, with the music lending to the epic feeling of each quest. Each large monster has its own theme melody when you hunt it, which also adds to the frantic nature of the fight. I think from a visual standpoint, Generations looks a little better than MH4U, and I sometimes found myself stopping during a quest just to look at the sweeping landscapes before me. The environments themselves range from deserts to forests to arctic landscapes and can be as deadly as the monsters that inhabit them if you don’t prepare yourself. When you’re not hunting or fighting monsters, it’s important to gather bugs and herbs and mine for various ore and stones whenever you can, as these are necessary not just for armour or weapon forging and upgrading, but for crafting potions and other items you will need on your quests.

MHG Cold Mountain Landscape

Crafting armour and weapons is a key component of Monster Hunter, and most of the materials required to do so can only be obtained by hunting large monsters. The same 14 weapon types that were available in MH4U – ranging from great swords to axes to hammers and bowguns – return in this game, though the introduction of new monsters mean there are new possibilities for weapons and armour to forge. Your attack strength and other factors like defense, resistances and speed (and many others) are determined by the type of weapons and armour you have, so it’s well worth aiming to have a few sets of armour so you can change it depending on what monster you’re hunting; if you go into a fight with, say, a Kirin, and your armour has negative resistance against thunder-type attacks, you’re gonna have a bad time. While monsters can inflict blights on you like poison, paralysis or burns, some weapons can allow you to do the same to monsters. The ability to customise your weapons and armour is part of what makes Monster Hunter so much fun, but as with other Monster Hunter games, you will sometimes find yourself having to look up weapon/armour guides or material lists online to work out what you want to make and where to find all the required materials. Other than that, though, Generations seems like a good place to start for newcomers to the series, as the aforementioned tutorials do a reasonably good job of introducing the player to the game mechanics. Weapons seem to have a lot more ‘weight’ than in other fighting games, with lighter weapons like the Dual Blades and Sword and Shield allowing for fast attacks while heavy weapons like Hammers and Hunting Horns are much slower to use and move around with but cause more damage per hit.

MHG Weapon Crafting

MHG Malfestio Armour

Veterans of the Monster Hunter series will immediately notice a few changes in Generations in terms of gameplay mechanics. The first is the introduction of different Hunting Styles; in addition to Guild Style (which is very similar to the standard style most hunters will be used to), there’s a new Aerial Style (allowing you go jump off monsters or other players to land hits on monsters while airborne no matter what weapon you’re using; with the other styles, you can only vault with the Insect Glaive or jump off an elevated platform), Striker Style (allowing you to equip more Hunting Arts and charge them faster) and the Adept Style (which is for those who like to guard or evade enemy attacks at the last second to perform powerful counterattacks; this is the most challenging style). Hunting Arts are also a new addition; these are special moves that must be charged up by attacking monsters, but once activated can have a variety of effects, such as unleashing a powerful attack, increasing the potency of healing items or gives other stat boosts (these moves are also generally a lot more flashy in terms of special effects than normal attacks with the weapons). Some of these Hunting Arts can be used regardless of which weapon you are using but others are specific to certain weapon types, such as the Extract Hunter Arts for Insect Glaive users, which harvest all three monster extracts in one hit to provide the hunter with stat boosts for a short time. You need to time the use of these Arts carefully, though, as if a monster hits or knocks you while you’re performing one, it will interrupt you, essentially wasting it. You start the game with a limited selection of Hunting Arts but unlock more as you progress through the game. Both Hunting Styles and Hunting Arts are a nice addition to the series and bring something new to the game but still leave the core gameplay essentially the same.

The Blood Wind Hunter Art for the Dual Blades.

The Blood Wind Hunter Art for the Dual Blades.

The way Palicos can be obtained and used has also been enhanced in Generations. Palicos are the cute feline helpers who can accompany you on your offline quests. Previously they were scouted in the wild while on quests, but you can now scout Palicos in the village by telling the Meowstress (yeah, I know) the appearance and/or skills you want the Palico to have and once you come back from your next quest, she will have a number of Palicos for you to choose from if you want to hire one (you can also get them through StreetPassing with other MHG players). Palico skills can range from fighting and offensive (either melee or ranged attacks), to healing, capturing or other support skills, so it’s definitely worth playing with the scouting options and putting together a varied team of kitty warriors.

By far the change I was most excited about (even more than the cool new Hunting Styles and Arts) is the fact you can now actually play as a Palico (or prowlers, as they’re called when used as playable characters). Once you change into the Prowler mode, you can choose one of your Palicos to play as (another reason it’s worth collecting and leveling up as many cats as you can) and go off on quests accompanied by two other cats, as you would if you were human. Unlike human hunters, prowlers have unlimited stamina and have nine ‘lives’ instead of the three that humans have (they can be ‘killed’ twice before it counts as carting). The drawback is that they aren’t as strong and can’t use consumable items like potions or other medicines. In terms of combat, prowlers can use a boomerang for their ranged attack, or can get up close and personal with their melee weapon (usually a small hammer or bladed weapon). When playing multiplayer, you can have any combination of hunters or prowlers in your team, though this may result in the human hunters having to ‘carry’ the prowlers through a quest if a monster is particularly strong. To me it almost feels like a ‘party game’ mode for Monster Hunter; a lot of fun, especially with friends, but too limited in comparison to playing as a human hunter to take seriously. A number of solo quests can be completed as either a hunter or a prowler, but some can only be taken on by one or the other.

MHG Palico Hunters Night

The Three Meowsketeers! (sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

Just murdered a giant desert lizard as a cat with an orange afro. 10/10 GOTY

Just murdered a giant desert lizard as a cat with an orange afro. 10/10 GOTY

Unlike in previous Monster Hunter releases, Generations does not include the challenging G-Rank quests which open up after completing all required Low and High Rank quests (to be fair, G-Rank quests are usually absent from the original release of the game but are included in the expanded ‘Ultimate’ version, which is what we usually get in the west). Low Rank and High Rank quests are still here, naturally, and there’s a stack of quests to do whether you’re playing solo offline or playing multiplayer online or through a local connection. In fact, even taking into account the G-Rank quests in MH4U, Generations still has a significantly higher number of quests in total. However, the lack of G-Rank does affect the types of weapons and armour you can forge. In previous games, monsters killed in G-Rank quests dropped rarer or stronger varieties of materials than what was available in High Rank, so you could craft weapons with greater sharpness and armour or weapons with more skills or slots for adding skills through talismans. More monsters in general means more types of weapons and armour, but the best armour you can make in Generations is relatively limited compared to G-Rank armour from earlier games in terms of how many skills you can have built into that armour. In a way this makes it more challenging to hunt the end-game monsters – since your gear isn’t as powerful and doesn’t have as many skills to boost elemental resistance or stats or negate blights or stamina loss – but a lot of veteran hunters will probably find this disappointing. That being said, some of the materials only available from hunting Deviant monsters can be used to craft armour that charges Hunting Arts faster and gives the wearer skills that are combinations of multiple skills, though this armour has no slots for the hunter to customise or add skills themselves.

There are also a few new or returning mechanics that weren’t in MH4U, such as the ability to deposit items during a quest and have them sent back to your house if your bag gets full, and the ability to hold A to carve or collect items instead of having to keep pressing it. Though they may seem like relatively small things, it made me wonder why they weren’t included all along, as when you’re gathering items in the field, it doesn’t take long for your bag to fill up. Being able to send the delivery Felyne back to your house with a stack of items means you don’t have to keep ending the quest and returning to the village if you want to keep gathering items, and being able to hold A to gather materials instead of having to keep pressing it saves a lot of time and will probably reduce the amount of RSI hunters get.

While I still think Monster Hunter is a bit of a niche series, the franchise is definitely becoming more popular as recent games in the series become a bit more newcomer-friendly. If you hate having to grind, this game probably won’t be for you, but the vast range of armour customisation options and the variety of different monsters to hunt alone or with others is sure to keep many people playing. Capcom will be releasing monthly DLC for the near future, keeping it fresh for those who have finished the main quests, but for a lot of people, the thrill of hunting with their friends is all they need. Though Generations has perhaps downgraded in some aspects from MH4U, there are also a lot of changes that really improve the hunting experience, so if you’ve enjoyed previous games in the series, you’ll want to add this to your 3DS library. And if you’re not sure or are a newcomer to the series, you can always check out the demo on the eShop before you shell out for the full game.

Score:

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The Day Steam Support Broke GameDragon86’s Mind

A few months ago I bought a new phone, and because I was going to a different carrier and had been getting a lot of unwanted calls on my old phone, I decided to just get a new number rather than trying to port my old number across. As I soon learned the hard way, some online databases won’t accept the new number as they haven’t updated the allowed formats (it seems a number of people have had trouble with mobile numbers starting with 047 instead of the old 042 numbers). Most of the time when this happened to me, I was able to talk to someone at the company in person and they manually updated my number within about 30 seconds. When I tried to change my SteamGuard number, I again ran into the issue of the system not accepting my new number (the “Next” button which was supposed to turn green to let me click and save it just remained greyed out after entering my new number, though if I changed the 7 to a 2, it would have apparently accepted it). Obviously I would need to lodge a ticket with Steam support to get it changed manually, but how hard could that be?

Very, as it turned out.

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And so it was that my sanity finally cracked under the onslaught of stupidity. I don’t know whether they were unable or just unwilling to read what I’d written before farting out a response, but the whole experience has made me suspect that Steam’s “support” technicians are not human but are in fact a room full of monkeys dragging their arses over their keyboards and probably throwing their own poo at each other during tea breaks.

It’s a shame there’s no good alternative to Steam. It’s annoying enough to have to deal with brain-dead customer support at the best of times, but even more so when the issue is something that could literally be resolved in a few minutes if they would just learn to read, rather than asking me to provide information I’d already provided (and which wasn’t relevant/necessary anyway), telling me to do something I’d already done and giving me a solution for problem Y when I actually had problem X. For now I’ve left my old number in there since I can still access/receive messages on it, but seriously… It’s 2016. It shouldn’t be this hard to update a mobile number.

*head explodes*

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