Tag Archives: 3DS

Luigi’s Mansion 2 (3DS)

Developer(s) – Next Level Games & Nintendo SPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Bryce Holliday

Producer – Shigeru Miyamoto

PEGI – 7

Released in 2013 to worldwide critical acclaim, Luigi’s Mansion 2, or Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon as it’s known in the US, is the sequel to the much-loved GameCube launch title, Luigi’s Mansion. It takes the formula of the original game and expands upon it, as well as introducing gameplay elements that were ultimately cut from its predecessor. My verdict is that whilst I didn’t enjoy this game as much as I did the first, it’s still a particularly good game in it’s own right for a variety of different reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

On a technological level, the second game is about on par with the first, but what makes this game different from it’s predecessor is that the player is not just confined to one place to explore, but rather there is a much wider variety of locations in and around the mansion to explore in addition, such as a museum, a mining area and a botanical garden; all with their own unique look further adding to the lore of the series. The biggest problem I had with this game’s visuals in comparison to the first is that there is much less effective use of lighting to create the same kind of atmosphere that the first game had; mainly due to the fact that there is more light shone in each area even before ghosts are subdued. As a result, it doesn’t have the same sense of wonderful foreboding that the original game had. The soundtrack to this game is also much less imposing too, which to me further bogged down the experience.

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Luigi’s Mansion 2 provides players with a very different experience to the first game, structured as individual stages within each area of the map as opposed to letting the player come and go around the individual areas as they please. This is to encourage replay value, as previous stages require newly acquired items to explore in full. There are also much more side quests, with collectibles rife throughout, along with further incentive to collect coins, as this is now done to upgrade Luigi’s equipment, giving the game a small RPG feel to it. There is also the addition of boss fights located in each area of the game; boss fights being a element that Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to put particular emphasis on. The further scope provided for backtracking throughout the game was a good idea on Nintendo’s part; it made the overall experience far more interesting than what I thought it would be going into it. Although I miss being able to explore the given areas at will like in the first game, the new structure of gameplay nevertheless made this game an extremely enjoyable experience, and it made me glad that Nintendo decided to expand on the series further. The boss fights are just as creative as they were in the first game, if not more so, as some require more varied strategies to defeat.

Controls – 10/10

With the second game, there also came the refinement of the control scheme. In my reviews of the original Luigi’s Mansion, I mentioned that it could take some time to adjust to the control scheme, as there was simultaneous action required to direct Luigi whilst capturing ghost with both the C-stick and main control stick on the GameCube. But the second game doesn’t have these issues, with players having a choice between using the 3DS’s gyroscopic controls or using the X or B buttons to look up or down respectively. This play style makes it much easier to capture ghosts more easily than it was in the first game.

Lifespan – 8/10

The second game can also be made to last considerably longer than the first. To complete this game to 100%, players must invest at least 16 hours into it, as opposed to the mere 6 hours it can take to complete the last game. Since the original Luigi’s Mansion was an unjustifiably short game, the lifespan certainly needed to be extended on, and with the sequel, Nintendo have not failed to deliver; not only is there a longer game to enjoy, but there’s also many more things to do within it to keep players occupied.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Luigi’s Mansion 2 takes place some time after the events of the original Luigi’s Mansion. Professor E.Gadd has found a way to pacify ghosts using a device called the dark moon. However, trouble soon starts as King Boo shatters the dark moon causing the ghosts to once again become hostile. Gadd immediately enlists Luigi’s help to re-capture King Boo and all of the other ghosts in and around the mansion and restore the dark moon to working order. Although the series is kept fresh with a new story to again further expand upon the lore of the series, and by proxy Luigi’s part in the Super Mario series in comparison to Mario, the problem I found with it was a problem I find with many other survival horror sequels; I knew what to expect going into it. If the threat remains the same, the sense of tension or horror doesn’t. The fact that the game is less atmospheric also contributed to the marring down of this game’s story. But nonetheless, it is a solid plot line that does also contain a small comedic element to balance the scales.

Originality – 8/10

Whilst the overall concept of the series has remained relatively the same with the release of the second game, the elements within the series have been kept fresh with the introduction of new ideas and elements in most of every value that players can come to expect. It introduces new ideas in terms of gameplay, it introduces more scenery and more enemies to match and it also constitutes for a longer in-game experience; something that this series desperately needed if it were indeed to be expanded upon.

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In summary, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is one of the best Nintendo-exclusive experiences on the 3DS. It delivers on everything that players can come to expect from a sequel and more. It’s not quite as good as the original game, but it’s close.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SteamWorld Heist (3DS, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One & iOS)

Developer(s) – Image & Form Games

Publisher(s) – Image & Form Games

PEGI – 7

The Third game to be released in Image & Form’s SteamWorld universe following SteamWorld Tower Defence and SteamWorld Dig, SteamWorld Heist takes the series in yet another bold new direction in terms of gameplay, concept and story. Like the other two SteamWorld games before it, I found this game to be wonderfully varied, excelling in conceptual design and enjoyable to the last hour of gameplay. But due to the heightened longevity and replay value this game has in comparison with SteamWorld Dig, It is most definitely the best game in the SteamWorld series to date.

Graphics – 9/10

Despite the fact that SteamWorld Heist still incorporates some elements from the first two games, that the franchise has been taken to outer space in this instalment provides a new dimension in terms of visuals, so to speak. The steampunk influence found in the two previous games is much more prevalent, but at the same time, the overall conceptual design seems completely different in a way that works flawlessly. Character design is wonderfully diverse, and whilst it’s easy to come to the conclusion that individual levels seem like carbon copies of each other, it still does wonderfully well to deviate away from the deep caves and American west settings of the first two games. The soundtrack is also fantastic to listen to through; the majority of which being composed by the band Steam Powered Giraffe, and has since encouraged me to listen to more of their work, which I’ve found extremely enjoyable in itself.

Gameplay – 8/10

Providing a complete departure from any other gameplay formula found in the SteamWorld series, SteamWorld Heist is a 2D side scrolling turn-based RPG that plays out unlike any other game made in any similar vein. It is insanely addictive, as well as having a great sense of satisfaction to experience whilst playing it in devising as many clever strategies as possible to suit every enemy in every given situation in combat. Over the last few years, I have found a great deal of games that have incorporated both turn-based and real-time combat that I have been greatly let down by. But in this game, it works better than most others; if not, any other.

Controls – 10/10

Another problem that seems to crop up with many RPGs to incorporate both turn-based and real-time combat is that the controls tend to suffer drastically. But in this game, the controls are perfect; no unnecessary complications arise, and overcoming the challenge of aiming as accurately as possible with short-range weapons, and managing to land a hit, adds even more of a sense of satisfaction whilst playing.

Lifespan – 6/10

Despite the fact that I was ultimately left wanting more in terms of longevity out of this title. I was pleasantly surprised to see how long it can truly be made to last. When I’d collected all 45 stars in the first area, I was left thinking I’d completed the game at that point, only to find that there was another stage to follow it up, and more stages in addition. Overall, including the DLC package, the game can be made to last at least 20 hours, which whilst is much longer than many mainstream releases, falls short of the average lifespan of a turn-based RPG. It was still an improvement on the lifespan of SteamWorld Dig, and I can’t help but commend the developers for this.

Storyline – 7/10

A distant sequel to SteamWorld Dig, the cowbots are now living an existence of slavery and oppression following the destruction of the Earth, and civilization has become an eternal struggle for survival. The plot follows Captain Piper, who attempts to recruit a team of mercenaries for hire to embark on a space adventure throughout the universe. Whilst the main plot may sound simplistic in scope, the story is kept fresh throughout with the incorporation of character development in each of Piper’s mercenaries as the adventure goes on, and clever humour thrown in for good measure.

Originality – 10/10

To put it simply, this game plays out not only like no other SteamWorld game before it, but unlike any other game in general. It incorporates a blend of turn-based and real-time combat that for once works flawlessly, and proves that indie developers can demonstrate as much initiative and excellence in gameplay innovation as any mainstream developer out there. I was extremely impressed with this title, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what direction Image and Form take in the next instalment within this wonderful gaming mythos.

Happii

Happii

In summation, SteamWorld Heist is a wonderfully addictive and satisfying gaming experience that I highly recommend. Despite the fact that I believe it could have been made to last much longer, what there is to do throughout is enjoyable to the very last hour, and certainly stands out to me as the best indie title of 2016 so far.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Tomodachi Life (3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo SPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

PEGI – 3

Dabbling into the life simulation genre (something relatively rare for Nintendo), Tomodachi Life challengers gamers to create their own world and inhabit it with a populace, who must be kept happy and kept on track to do such things as stay full, stay fashionable, realize their ambitions and find true love. Even though this game was hyped up something fierce, and Nintendo even went so far as to upset an entire community by not including the option to pursue same-sex relationships in the game (something I won’t condone in the slightest), I wasn’t particularly impressed with it.

Graphics – 4/10

Whilst most games that feature the miis as central characters don’t necessarily have much in terms of concept going for them, it seems to me like Tomodachi Life borrows elements from the likes of Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort. And to me, the idea of a game having adopted elements from already generic-looking games doesn’t really bode well. The small pluses are that the game is well polished enough and the amounts of different foods and clothes offer a small level of variety in terms of visual presentation, but I don’t think anywhere near enough was added to keep it fresh.

Gameplay – 4/10

I think the same thing can be said for the game’s play too; a small amount of variety, but not enough to keep players wanting to play. I’d played this game all week, and found to become very repetitive very quickly. There is some value to playing it in that the characters can be made to say some funny things depending on their mood, and I did like the brief interspersions of turn-based RPG combat that can be experienced once the island’s fairground is unlocked, but other than that, I didn’t really find any deeper substance than that in terms of gameplay.

Controls – 10/10

As a simple, and at least relaxing life simulator experience, on a globally familiar handheld console, there was never going to be any kind of problem with the game’s control scheme, as this kind of games had been developed and published by other many times prior to the release of Tomodachi Life. I look at this game as basically being a glorified version of the Tamagotchi, and in all honesty, I found them harder to cope with back when they were the in things, than I do this.

Lifespan – 10/10

Since there is no fixed lifespan, there is no worry about players having to worry about making conventional progress, and thus is a game that can simply be picked up and played as and when. However, I think that without a great level of depth in gameplay, it’s somewhat safe for me to assume that there could be many players out there who would play the game for a couple of hours at a time for a few days, and then simply not touch it ever again, because in that time, they will most probably have experienced most of what the game has to offer.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

Though there is no preset story, and only a basic premise behind Tomodachi Life, whereby different people’s lives can be led, that’s what makes the game unique in a sense. A lot of different stories concerning a massive variety of different characters can be told in a small amount of time, and there aren’t many games I think of off the top of my head, which incorporate such a system. The game also has a varied and sometimes wonderfully weird sense of humour to it as well, which I think adds a small level of artistic expression to the overall experience.

Originality – 3/10

The problem is that the system whereby the game’s story is encompassed is about the only original things this game has going for it in my opinion. There’s nothing overly unique about the gameplay, and though Nintendo may be relatively new to the life simulation genre, I would have though they would be capable of bringing something new to the table to break the mould of previous games in the same category. I was excited for the release of this game after watching various trailers for it, but I now believe I was misled into thinking that this game could have been more than what it turned out to be.

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In summation, although certain aspects of Tomodachi Life save it from being a terrible title, I still feel that it’s a gaming experience unworthy of Nintendo. They have developed some of the greatest and most legendary video games to have been put out to retail, but I don’t feel that this stands out as one of the greater titles in their library by any means.

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

The Binding of Isaac (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS & Xbox One)

Designer(s) – Edmund McMillan & Florian Himsl

PEGI – 16

Created by Edmund McMillan, the same mind behind the infamously difficult Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac is a Roguelike that can be seen as a love letter to the original Legend of Zelda game, but with its own very unique twists. Regardless of how morbid this game can seem to many people, it’s also a particularly enjoyable one to play. But be warned: it isn’t for those who are easily offended.

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals, rendered in the same artistic style as Super Meat Boy, contain a lot of unique, yet taboo elements in things like the various power-ups that can be found in the game, and especially in it’s creature roster, with it being capped off by some of the most compellingly disturbing bosses I’ve ever seen in video games. The only gripe I have with it is that the settings can get a little repetitious at times, but the various DLC packages and re-releases fixed that problem to a certain extent.

Gameplay – 8/10

Playing out with mainly the dungeon crawling aspects of The Legend of Zelda series, it involves simply killing all enemies, and the boss at the end of each stage, then rinse and repeat. But each playthrough is different, as ever section of every stage is randomly generated, presenting players with new power-ups and a new challenge every time. It’s quite testing, but not to the point of being unforgiving, which after playing Super Meat Boy, was like a breath of fresh air to me.

Controls – 10/10

There are also no issues with the controls. There are obstacles present in certain areas of each stage, such as floor spikes and bombs that could detonate unexpectedly, but whether or not the player survives is entirely dependant on their own level of skill, which is how I think games like this should be. At times, players are required to think on their toes in order to accommodate for what abilities and perks they may or may not have; especially during boss fights.

Lifespan – 10/10

As each playthrough presents a new challenge and experience every time, the game quite literally has infinite replay value. I love to see this in any game, but it’s particularly noteworthy when an indie developer manages to accomplish this, since I hear many developers and critics citing that the budget may have been a factor in a game’s development cycle. But especially considering that this started out as a mere Flash game, and would have cost next to nothing to create, it says to me that the limitations stem from the developer’s imaginations.

Storyline – 8/10

The story is extremely reminiscent of the Bible story of the same name. It follows a young boy named Isaac, who once lived peacefully with his mother, until the voice of God called out to her to “cut her son off from the world’s evils”, and lock him in his room. God finally calls out to Isaac’s mother, demanding that she sacrifice her son to him as proof that she loves God above all. But before his mother can burst to kill him, Isaac jumps down a trap door in his bedroom to plunge into the dangerous depths below, and into a world of danger. The story is extremely controversial, containing a number of mature themes and taboos, including, suicide, child neglect, religious hypocrisy, infanticide; the list goes on. But above all, it’s very enjoyable for those willing to take heed to the lessons conveyed within it.

Originality – 7/10

Though there have been many Roguelike games to have come and gone, this is a game that stands out among most others. It goes where other games and developers are generally afraid to go. After Super Meat Boy, I resented the development of such a game. But The Binding of Isaac has made me respect Edmund McMillan a great deal more than I did as a developer; especially since this was also a very personal game for him, as many of the game’s events were in fact based on his own childhood experiences.

Happii

Happii

Overall, The Binding of Isaac, whilst being the most controversial game I’ve ever played, is also one of the more enjoyable. It has everlasting replay value, as well as a story and premise that has rightfully propelled Edmund McMillan into a very special place in gaming history.

Score

50/60

8/20 (Very Good)

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Tokyo

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Koichi Hayashida

Producer – Yoshiaki Koizumi

PEGI – 3

Released relatively early into the shelf life of the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land was universally praised upon release, and has since sold over 10 million copies, making it the third best-selling game for the system, as of this March. Though the series has been lacking in innovation for the past few years, and this game can be seen as an example of this, it’s nevertheless a fairly enjoyable game, and has a decent level of challenge, which is unusual for a Mario game; even to veteran players.

Graphics – 7.5/10

As with most instalments in the series, the conceptual design of the game is quite varied, with the game set in several differently themed worlds and levels. There aren’t a great deal of new elements to most of the scenery, and the same boss is recycled a good number of times, as in New Super Mario Bros 2, but there are also a few hidden secrets to be found, along with many of the hidden coins throughout the game, such as a dungeon area, paying homage to The Legend of Zelda series. References to Mario have been rife in The Legend of Zelda series since it’s inception, but it’s interesting to see that in this case, it’s very much the other way round.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

In a lot of ways, 3D Land plays out a little like a mixture between Super Mario Galaxy 2, in that levels have to be unlocked via the discovery of three hidden coins through each other level, and any classic Super Mario game, due to it’s linear progression, as opposed to the free-roaming style of play synonymous to many 3D Mario games. It’s quite satisfying to solve each elaborate puzzle placed through the game, and to complete it to 100%. However, I think I would have bitterly disappointed if one half of the game hadn’t have been unlockable after finishing the first half. I think if it had ended at the point of rescuing Peach, I would feel very differently about it.

Controls – 10/10

Super Mario 64 pioneered the 3D platforming genre, and an integral reason why was because it had a very innovative control scheme, yet one that was simple to get to grips with whilst players were experiencing the transition from 2D to 3D gaming. Since this game uses more or less the same control scheme, and because each level is of a much more linear progression, there are absolutely no complications, and its interesting to see how many more functions have been added to the overall formula.

Lifespan – 7/10

As I alluded to, the first half of the game can take up to an average of 7 and a half hours to finish, which is why if it had ended at that point, even after taking in the side quest, I would have been left feeling much more jaded by the entire experience. Taking the second part of the game into account, however, it can be made to last roughly 15 to 16 hours, which for a linear Mario game, is fairly impressive.

Storyline – 4/10

As thoroughly milked over the past 30 years, Mario is on yet another expedition to stop his arch nemesis Bowser, and save princess peach. The only difference being is that afterwards, he must then save Luigi. Mario game are generally not played for their story, but for what great gameplay there is, but I can’t help but think that even after repeating the same story beyond the release of this game in 2011, Nintendo could have come up with something different. They have since worked to alter this formula slightly in recent games by introducing new characters and elements to the series, but to me, there isn’t enough of that in this game in particular.

Originality – 6/10

Though combining gameplay elements from different Mario games, and making the entire thing into a fairly cohesive concept, this game is regardless most definitely not one of the most unique titles of the time. It certainly isn’t even one of the most unique Mario games throughout the series’ chronology, since some of the others have helped to pioneer gaming in many different ways. There are certain elements that give the game a fair bit of charm in its own right, such as new power-ups for Mario, but there are also many things that made me think that more effort could have been made in this respect.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Super Mario 3D Land, whilst pretty unoriginal and lacking in story, in lieu of the franchise’s tradition it would seem, is still pretty enjoyable to play, and satisfying to complete. Things would pick up with the arrival of its Wii U counterpart Super Mario 3D World and various other spin-off Mario games, but none of this is to say that this game is a failure.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (Sega Saturn, PlayStation & 3DS)

Developer(s) –Atlus

Publisher(s) – Atlus

Lead Artist – Kazuma Kaneko

PEGI – 12

Originally released for both the Sega Saturn and the PlayStation, Soul Hackers, for the longest time, never saw a release outside of Japan, (with Sony Computer Entertainment America rejecting a proposed overseas port), until it was eventually released in 2013 in both that region and Europe for the 3DS. After playing this game, whilst I would agree with the notion that there are far worse games out there, I’d say it was no surprise that Sony of America would reject a proposed port at first, since Final Fantasy VIII was out at the time, and it would most definitely have been lost in the crossfire. I think based on the fact that the same thing happened to Breath of Fire IV during the release of Final Fantasy IX, and people consider Breath of Fire IV to now be a lost relic, it could have easily happened to Soul Hackers back then.

Graphics – 7/10

For the time at least, the graphics were fairly advanced, using many cutting edge and clever visual techniques used in many of it’s main competitors, such as Final Fantasy; techniques like using hand-drawn still as backgrounds and FMVs to move the story forward. They made the game look pretty realistic. But conceptually, however, there’s much to suggest that Final Fantasy VII was a major influence, since by that time, that series also deviated away from the typical RPG settings fan of the series were used to in favour of a more cyber-punk setting.

Gameplay – 4.5/10

Since this game seemed to incorporate a more tedious form of exploration than many other RPGs around at the time, and there seemed to be less combating involved, I found it quite hard to get into; especially towards the beginning. This imbalance of combat and exploration also makes me sceptical of the rest of the series, since most other Megami Tensei games play out very similarly to one another.

Controls – 9/10

A first-person RPG, which whilst somewhat unique, made the control scheme a little bit fiddly at time. It reminded me of another RPG I once played called Orcs & Elves, in which movement was unnecessarily complicated. Otherwise, however, there are no other issues. The turn-based RG formula had been long since perfected, and if they had managed to mess that aspect of it up, there would be considerably bigger problems than there ended up being in this title.

Lifespan – 8.5/10

As the strongest point of this game, it lasts a pretty decent amount of time, taking up to 30 to 40 hours to finish. Whilst this may still be below the standard of many other turn-based RPGs being released at the time, it’s still a longer time than what most video games last. The biggest problem, however, is the danger of the lifespan most probably outlasting the boorish gameplay.

Storyline – 6/10

The story follows a group of characters who dwell within a virtual reality city created by a sinister corporation, who resolve to end their tyranny as well as a group of cyber terrorist hackers called spookies (led by a man named Masahiro Sakurai, named after the developer of both the Kirby and Super Smash Bros series). The story is fairly well conceived, but it can get a little bit confusing at times. It’s hard to follow to begin with, since events move at such a pace that not much time is given for players to think about whats going on. But after that, it does become much easier to follow. It’s also interesting to think of what other stories influenced this games, such as Ghost in the Shell for example.

Originality – 6/10

Whilst it may be considerably unique from the rest of the Megami Tensei saga, with the settings and conceptual design being drastically different from any other entry in the series, there’s not much present to differentiate it from most other turn-based RPGs; even for the time. The game’s play doesn’t stand out particularly well, and it is easy to see how many other players had been so put off by the fact that it is a first-person RPG, since the controls are indeed unnecessarily harder to get to grips with than the like of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

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To summarize, Soul Hackers is not the most enjoyable game to play, but does provide a relatively long experience and a well thought out story. Unfortunately, half-decent visuals and a good narrative aren’t enough for me to label this a classic, as many other people believe it is; there needs to be engrossing gameplay above all else, and I didn’t find any of that in this title.

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

New Super Mario Bros 2 (3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Group No 4

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Yusuke Amano

Producer(s) – Takashi Tezuka & Hiroyuki Kimura

PEGI – 3

A direct sequel to the well-received DS revival of the classic 2D side scrolling formula of the series, New Super Mario Bros 2 was described by Satoru Iwata as being a “completely new side scrolling action Super Mario in 2D as a key title for the Nintendo 3DS”. To me, however, whilst it was a fairly decent game in its own right, doesn’t have the kind of innovation in gameplay, as Iwata seemed to imply that it did.

Graphics – 7/10

Where this game impresses most in terms of visual presentation is from a technical standpoint in my opinion. It is certainly one of the better-looking titles on the system in this respect, and I think compared with other portable Mario games, there is a lot more textural detail; mostly made evident by the many objects and elements made out of gold to go along with the entire tableau of the game. It does suffer somewhat from a conceptual standpoint, however, since many of the different themes of the individual world had been seen in not only the original New Super Mario Bros, but in New Super Mario Bros Wii before it.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Playing out like most other classic Super Mario games, it follows the same 2D side scrolling formula that Nintendo built upon vastly with the creation of the original NES classic; the difference being that in this game, coin-collecting has a slightly greater bearing on gameplay than in most other titles in the series. The problem being is that it doesn’t have as much bearing that players would most probably had have expected before playing, and the reward for collecting one million coins is nothing more glorious than a new title screen. Nonetheless, it plays out as well as any other 2D side scrolling Mario game, and there’s not much wrong with that.

Controls – 10/10

Nintendo not only reinvented the overall idea of what a good 2D side scroller should be for the better, but they also fine-tuned the control scheme of any typical game of its kind, making it much easier to cope with than in other 2D side scrollers prior. Therefore, there should have been no problems with the controls of this instalment, and nor are there. I’ve always found the tiny Mario a little bit hard to cope with, but that’s semantics.

Lifespan – 7/10

With a lifespan of around 15 to 20 hours, depending on how many coins the players wishes to end up collecting, it may not be the longest experience ever developed, but it still exceeds the average lifespan of most other 2D side scrollers; from the third and fourth generations of gaming or otherwise. I don’t begrudge games like this lasting that long, since whilst they can seem linear, especially these days since the formula has been repeated time and again, they still make for exceptionally fulfilling experiences if done right.

Storyline – 4/10

Once again, Mario is pit against Bowser in order to save his constant damsel in distress, Princess Peach. This concept has been exhausted since even the later days of the NES, and is in my opinion, one of the most beaten dead horses in video game history; if not, the most. These days, it can be automatically assumed that people don’t play Super Mario Bros for the plot, with the exception of a few standout games, like most games in the Super Mario RPG series for example.

Originality – 4/10

Although it is always entertaining to pick up a new Super Mario Bros game, they aren’t always kept as fresh as most gamers would most probably like them to be kept; New Super Mario Bros 2 is literally a shining example of this with all the gold riddled across it. Another huge gripe I have about this game is the exceptionally poor quality of the majority of boss fights; most of which being increasingly harder variations of the four rotating rhino boss first found in Super Mario World. The Super Mario series has never been particularly renowned for its boss fights anyway, but this takes the cake.

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Overall, despite it s many different faults, New Mario Bros 2 may be one of the worst entries in the series in my opinion, but that isn’t to say it’s a terrible game; just a very unoriginal and repetitious one. Nintendo have gone on to make a few more varied and unique games in the series, but this isn’t one of their most standout efforts, unfortunately.

Score

39/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD & Grezzo

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Designer – Hiromasa Shikata

Producer – Eiji Aonuma

PEGI – 7

Released in 2015 as a direct sequel to the critically acclaimed A Link Between Worlds, Tri Force Heroes took the Legend of Zelda series in a new direction reminiscent of the Game Boy Advance instalment Four Swords, whereby players can play either solo or as part of a trio to solve numerous puzzles and, fight against enemies and bosses and harness the power of different garments that can be bought throughout the game. Despite the fact that Nintendo were willing to try something new with the franchise, I still found it to be one of the weaker entries in the series, but overall, not one of the worst games I’ve ever played personally.

Graphics – 8/10

Taking place in the land of Hytopia, and taking a fairly distant departure from the usual locations and basic structure associated with most Zelda games set in the land of Hyrule, the game has a fair bit of diversity in terms of visual presentation. Although it’s a little more light hearted than other entries in the series, and doesn’t include as many dark locations as the likes of Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, it has much of the same charm that came with instalments like The Wind Waker or Minish Cap.

Gameplay – 7/10

Arguably more so than other Zelda gems, Tri Force Heroes has a very heavy focus on the element of puzzle solving, with players having to either work together or alone, using all three links to overcome each different obstacle in each level, and to defeat the boss at the end of it. There are also bonus challenges with each level that range from completing them in a set amount of time, or clearing them whilst taking little to no damage. The biggest gripe I have with the gameplay is that the bosses can become quite repetitious after a while, which falls way short of Legend of Zelda standards, as the series has become renowned over the years for it’s diversity in boss fights.

Controls – 9/10

The controls can be a little bit difficult to get to grips with at first, but once this has achieved, which won’t take too long, it plays out more or less as well as any other game in the series. There is a lack of control features compared to most other games, since most often than not, players with choose one item for each Link toward the beginning of each level, and will have to stick with the said items for the level’s duration, but otherwise, there no other issues with the games controls to address.

Lifespan – 5/10

Underwhelmingly, the game can only be made to last around 15 to 20 hours, which to me personally as a legend of Zelda fan, and who likes to leave no stone unturned whilst playing a Zelda game, would be like a speed run. The problem lies mainly in the fact that Tri Force Heroes has a much linear progression to it than most other games in the franchise, which in turn, goes against every reason why Shigeru Miyamoto created the original game in the first place, making seem all the more disappointing.

Storyline – 6/10

Aside from the game not lasting very long, the story isn’t truly up to much either in my opinion. Princess Styla is one day cursed by a witch known as The Lady to wear an ugly black jumpsuit; and if that sentence alone isn’t enough to make you despair, I don’t want to know what is. The King of Hytopia in turn calls upon a hero who can lift the curse and bring peace to the land; enter Link. That’s all there is to it; there aren’t any of the amazing plot twists or dark undertones to accompany it, which make almost every other instalment of the series great games in their own right, and numerous plot holes. For example, there is nothing to suggest that Princess Styla couldn’t simply wear something over the jumpsuit.

Originality – 6.5/10

I would say that the game does have some uniqueness to it, but for the most part, it stands out for the wrong reasons. The puzzles can be fairly elaborate and challenging, and there is a little replay value to be had in the additional objectives to be completed throughout each level, but whenever a Zelda game springs to mind, I most often thin of an experience to be lost within, and to have to invest a lot of time in doing everything there needs to be done. Unfortunately, I found it impossible to feel the same way about this game.

Niiutral

Niiutral

Overall, Tri Force Heroes, whilst it isn’t even the worst instalment in the Zelda series (by far, that honour would go to the Wand of Gamelon), it falls way short of expectations, and makes no effort to perpetuate all the things that make the franchise as great as it is. However, that’s not to say that it’s a terrible game; there is some enjoyment to be had out of it for the short time that it lasts, and the quality in gameplay greatly outweighs what little quality it has in story.

Score

41.5/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Group No 3 & Monolith Soft

Publisher – Nintendo

Director – Hiromasa Shikata

Producer – Eiji Aonuma

PEGI – 7

A throwback to the SNES classic, A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds revisited a very similar landscape to that imagined by Nintendo back in 1991, and had arrived with a newer coat of paint in terms of visuals as well as having a modified approach to gameplay with a few new mechanics and features. Whilst it doesn’t come very close to matching the same quality as A Link to the Past in my opinion, I still found it to be a very decent game, and an exciting new take on the Legend of Zelda universe.

Graphics – 8.5/10

The newly polished setting from A Link to the Past looks spectacular, with classic locations of the series, such as Death Mountain and Kakariko Village, but throughout the game, the standout feature in terms of visuals was the new dungeons added. They’re almost as elaborate and intriguing than the ones found in A Link to the Past, but whilst one of the two early dungeons has a unique boss, the other has a recycled boss. In the later half of the game, however, the scenery gets much better, when the constant switching between the worlds of Hyrule and Lorule becomes necessary. The dungeons in Lorule are a lot more elaborate and original with more unique-looking bosses, which do well do differentiate it as much from A Link to the Past as possible. The main problem I have with the game’s graphics is the general enemy design. Most are simply recycled 3D versions of the enemies found in A Link to the Past. It would’ve been a good idea to throw one or two more new enemies in for good measure, but the game lacks in uniqueness in that respect. With most entries in the title, different enemies always seem to be added, but with A Link Between Worlds, the developers seem to have taken a small step back. Nevertheless, the game’s overall style does present a mostly even balance between classic and new. Mostly with the new dungeons designed.

Gameplay – 8/10

For me, this game took some getting into at first. For the opening hour or so, it just seemed like I was playing nothing more than a glorified version of A Link to the Past, as it uses virtually the same game mechanics as the 1991 classic. But when I first entered Lorule, that was when I found that the game really started to come into it’s own. It is certainly worth persevering through to experience the positive change of gameplay that’s lasts throughout the rest of the game. There is a gameplay mechanic new to the series that allows the player to merge Link into walls and traverse along them to reach certain areas. This was actually inspired by the Phantom Ganon boss fight from Ocarina of time. It’s incorporated early on into the game, but it’s put to better use in the second half, having to be used to solve more elaborate puzzles within more intricate dungeons; it’s use is even necessitated to fight certain bosses as well. There was one other gameplay mechanic that I didn’t like at first, but I grew used to. To get the in-game items that are typically found in dungeons, instead, they are found in a shop, which at first, the player has to rent, and that are taken away every time the player dies in the game. At first, I struggled to see the point of it, but after advancing further into the game, I found they could be bought outright for a higher price. I realized it was simply to better incorporate the need for the game’s currency, which is fair enough. These new mechanics present players with positive changes from the normal features typically found in Zelda games. They make for a very decent game, overall.

Controls – 10/10

As someone who played through A Link to the Past back at the game’s commercial apex, I was never going to have a problem getting to grips with how it plays out, as it uses a control scheme virtually identical to the old Super Nintendo game. But that’s not to say that newcomers to the series or to this in particular style of play will experience any problems with it. The controls are straightforward with the only new outstanding control element being the wall-merging ability, which, again, no player would have problems with.

Lifespan – 7/10

Although it does take a fair bit of time to play through the main story, in lieu of Zelda tradition, there was also a surprising lack of side quests. Normally, Zelda games have a fair amount of them, but I was bewildered to find how few of them there are in this instalment. There’s a side quest to do which involves collecting ore to enhance the power of the master sword at the blacksmiths and another involving a witch who provides a fast-travel gameplay mechanic (again, reminiscent of the one found in A Link to the Past), but for me, the amount of side quests falls well short of the normal amount usually found in a lot of other Zelda games. This game could’ve done with a few more, in my opinion. But A Link Between Worlds will make for around 10-12 hours of gameplay, which isn’t too bad.

Storyline – 8/10

Whilst not being a huge departure from other titles in the series, the game’s story is still very engrossing nonetheless. In A Link Between Worlds, Link is out to save the land of Hyrule, Princess Zelda and seven sages from a priest called Yuga. After gaining the three pendants of courage, power and wisdom and retrieving the master sword, Link travels to Hyrule castle to confront Yuga, but he finds he is too late, and Yuga has imprisoned Zelda and the sages inside portraits, which he uses to manifest into the franchise’s iconic villain, Ganon. Before he transforms, Link follows Yuga into alternate darker version of Hyrule called Lorule, and is asked by the princess of Lorule, Hilda, to save both worlds and defeat Ganon. The story unfolds into something much more elaborate with a few excellent plot twists along the way. Whilst the lack of side quests was a letdown for me personally, I found this game’s story to be very enthralling indeed, which with the inclusion of Lorule; I believe could potentially present new possibilities for where the franchise could go in the future. It may all make for an even further departure from normal Zelda story elements, and bring more new things to the table.

Originality – 8/10

I think that although many elements are undeniably recycled from A Link to the Past, there is indeed enough in this title to make it stand out from other games of its kind as well as other entries in the series. For me, this is the best DS Zelda game by some distance, as I wasn’t very impressed with either The Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks. The control scheme incorporated in both those games thoroughly annoyed me. Undoubtedly, the most unique aspect of this game is the design of the dungeons and bosses. It’s elements like that, which have kept this franchise fresh, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Happii

Happii

Overall, this game made for a very well designed and enjoyable experience. It is definitely not only one of the standout titles for the 3DS, but it is indeed one of the standout titles of last year. I said in a previous article that I would revisit last year’s game releases to see if any games are worth playing, and this one definitely is.

Score

49.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Codename S.T.E.A.M (Nintendo 3DS)

Developer(s) – Intelligent Systems

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Paul Patraschu

Producer(s) – Toru Narihiro & Hitoshi Yamagami

PEGI – 12

Marking the directorial debut of Paul Patraschu with the assistance of Nintendo veteran Hitoshi Yamagami, Codename S.T.E.A.M was released on the 3DS in early 2015, where it was met with mixed to positive reviews, and only managing to sell around 1800 copies in it’s first week. From what I understand, Nintendo were looking to combine tropes of both Japanese and western gaming with this title, but in my opinion, it fell way too short of it’s intended degree of success.

Graphics – 7/10

One aspect of the game that I can’t criticize too much is the visuals. Inspired by steampunk culture, as well as the works of cosmic horror writer HP Lovecraft, the also game takes advantage of cel-shading to present players with a cartoony, yet quite gritty take on a futuristic Earth, taking place in a variety of different cities and world landmarks, such as London, England, Monument Valley and even the land of Oz at one point.

Gameplay – 4/10

Unfortunately, the concept of the gameplay is nowhere near as creative. Mixing third person shooting mechanics with turn-based RPG mechanics similar to the original Fallout, it is without a doubt one of the worst ideas I’ve ever seen come out directly from Nintendo; if not the worst. What was designed to be innovative and an evolution of the two genres can become very frustrating very quickly, as players will struggle to fins any legitimate fun out of the game. To me, it would have made more sense to have simply focused more on the third person shooting aspect (as indeed I though Nintendo had done when I first laid eyes on it), and not tried to add a half-hearted RPG element to it.

Controls – 4/10

The game’s control scheme to me was just as frustrating in the same way as the first Fallout game was frustrating; players and enemies have to take turns to even move. Not only does this make playing the game feel more like a chore than a pleasure, but it also adds an unwarranted element of impracticality in both the sense of gameplay and story. In what’s supposedly a narrative set in the future, it’s hard to believe that technology would evolve to a point that people need a huge can of fuel on their backs in order to move.

Lifespan – 6.5/10

For those who are willing to persevere, and who are more lukewarm to this kind of gameplay than indeed I am, there is a fairly long experience to be had at least, lasting an average of around 18 to 20 hours. There is also the multiplayer mode on top of that, which adds even more to the game’s longevity. Although I think most gamers will probably decide they’ve had enough of it after about 5 minutes, the campaign still lasts a great deal longer than the average game in the genre.

Storyline – 6/10

The game’s story follows a steampunk soldier named Henry Fleming, who with the help of various fellow soldiers, as well as a multitude of characters from across the Oz universe, as well as HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, embarks on a mission to save the world, as well as several different major world monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth II, from an army of aliens. Aside from the story’s concept simply coming off as a mish-mash of different ideas rolled into one largely nonsensical package, the game’s voice acting is also extremely lacklustre. Even with the likes of Adam Baldwin, Will Wheaton and Paul Eiding lending their voice talents to the game, the entire experience comes off as being even more half-hearted than it already is in most other aspects.

Originality – 6/10

Although Nintendo dared to try something different with a genre, which in all fairness lacked a great of innovation, to me, it simply came across as unique, but for all the wrong reasons. On the whole, this game actually made me quite fearful of how at one point, Nintendo were considered to be the great innovators of the industry; offering gamers experiences unlike any other, yet as the years have progressed, they have, to a certain extent, not only chose to rely on the same formula with each console to be released, but sometimes fail to perpetuate innovation. This game is one of their most recent examples of this.

Angrii

Angrii

Overall, Codename S.T.E.A.M is an extremely lacklustre gaming experience, and in my opinion, a contender for the worst 3DS game to have ever been released. What was designed to be a unique gaming experience like no other simply comes off as a terrible compilation of random ideas, which perhaps may work in terms of visual presentation, but not much else.

Score

33.5/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)