Tag Archives: Nintendo

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Kenta Motokura

Producer(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi & Koichi Hayashida

Released in the holiday season of 2017 for the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey presents players with a return to the open-ended 3D style of play of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, and invigorates the series with new abilities and environments, as well as incorporating elements of classic Super Mario gameplay, such as side scrolling. From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this title, and whilst it didn’t become my favourite Super Mario game of all time, certainly goes above and beyond many other games in the series in recent years.

Graphics – 9/10

The first thing to say about the visuals is that on a technical level, this is the best that Super Mario has ever looked. Each character and level found throughout the game is wonderfully detailed, and the blending of 3D and 2D make for something particularly special in terms of graphics. Conceptually, the game does fairly well to stand out from the rest of series in addition, which is quite remarkable given the astounding amount of transition the series has gone through over the 32 years it’s been around. After having watched the trailers for the game before it’s release, I was sceptical as to how some of the environments that were shown would fit with a series like Super Mario Bros, but after playing, I was posthumously proven wrong. Each level especially the Metro Kingdom, which I was most sceptical about, adds a new dimension to the series that I hadn’t thought possible beforehand.

Gameplay – 9/10

Much like Super Mario Galaxy 2, the objective of the game is for the player to find power moons, instead of stars, to power up Mario’s newfound ship named The Odyssey to advance from one level to the other in order to reach Bowser and rescue Peach from him. The most standout feature in terms of gameplay is Mario using his new anthropomorphic hat named Cappy to possess certain enemies throughout the game, and thus use their abilities to the player’s advantage. Much like the new settings, it adds another unique twist to the series’ tableau, as well as a new approach to gameplay, which has scarcely been seen in games before. And in lieu of 3D Super Mario tradition, the game simply doesn’t end with Peach being saved from Bowser. After the main game has been completed, there is a plethora of additional power moons to find, as well as additional objectives given to players for completion on a scale never seen before in a Super Mario game.

Controls – 10/10

Since the 3D Mario formula has existed for over 20 years, it would be more than reasonable to think there would be no issues with the controls; and so there aren’t. Super Mario Odyssey plays out as seamlessly as any other 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64, and the way in which new combat abilities and enemy abilities that Mario can adopt are also seamlessly integrated into the rest of the formula.

Lifespan – 9/10

The base game will take players there around 10 hours to complete, but after which, that hardly even counts as scratching the surface. Each level has an amount of collectibles to pick up that is unfathomable compared to every other Super Mario game before it. It will easily make for 60-70 plus hours of gameplay, and an excellent addition to the collection of extremely long games on the Nintendo Switch along with Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Skyrim.

Storyline – 7.5/10

Following the usual Super Mario Bros formula, Super Mario Odyssey follows the story of Mario having to save Princess Peach from Bowser; only this time, Bowser plans to marry Peach after stealing various relics from each kingdom throughout the world. Mario is also joined by the aforementioned anthropomorphic hat named Cappy, who is also out to rescue a female anthropomorphic hat named Tiara, whom Bowser has Peach wear in preparation for the wedding. Though for the most part the story is largely unoriginal, especially for anything seen in a Super Mario game prior, what makes the way in which is story is told in Odyssey stand out fractionally more than other Mario games is the projection of emotion found throughout. Mario is portrayed as slightly less of an unstoppable superhero capable of beating anyone he comes across, and is shown to feel the difficulty and hardship of what it is he is setting out do. On several occasions, Mario comes painfully close to rescuing Peach from Bowser before the final battle, but he is shown to suffer setbacks, which visibly frustrate him, and though these are not things that haven’t been seen in games prior to this by any stretch of the imagination, it is something new to the series, which in terms of story, has needed for quite some time. But in terms of depth in plot, it still leaves players wanting much more in this respect. It’s certainly my biggest criticism that I have to levy against this game.

Originality – 8.5/10

With that one main qualm I have out of the way, the fact of the matter remains that this game is the most unique Mario experience released since Super Mario Galaxy 2 in terms of every other aspect aside from story. The settings are outstanding and the gameplay is even more so. In recent years, the originality of this series has been very much hit and miss in my opinion, with me contrasting the uniqueness of games such as Super Mario 3D World and Paper Mario: Colour Splash, but Odyssey could possibly pave the way for more unique Super Mario experiences in the future, introducing new elements to the series, which could potentially be either expanded upon or could be spun off into even more new elements depending on what direction Nintendo want to take it into.

Happii

Overall, despite lacking in story, Super Mario Odyssey delivers players, which is in my opinion, the best Super Mario game since Galaxy 2. And whilst it may not be anywhere near as good as the former, it certainly spells a bright future for the franchise, as well as giving players what is probably the longest Mario experience ever.

Score

53/60

8.5/10 (Great)

Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Intelligent Systems

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Directors(s) – Naohiko Aoyama & Taro Kudo

Producer – Kensuke Tanabe

As one of the last games internally developed by Nintendo for the Wii U, Paper Mario: Color Splash was released in later 2016, and ended up garnishing mixed to positive reviews upon release. Fans of the series, however, were not so lukewarm to the game upon pre-release, with many of them complaining about the departure from the formula of classic Mario RPGs such as the original Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door for the GameCube. A Change.org petition was even started to have the game cancelled before release, which to me, is far too overly harsh. Personally, I think this was the best game released all that year, and the second best game on the Wii U for a number of reasons.

Graphics – 9/10

One common complaint out the game during pre-release was how much over-emphasis there was on the paper theme that has been re-occurring since the fifth generation of gaming, which to me, is one of the most ridiculous criticisms I’ve ever heard anyone make about any video game. There’s nothing wrong with the paper theme, as it is generally something different to the rest of the Mario series, as opposed to the 2D side scrolling or 3D platforming themes that came long before it. Color Splash is also set in a completely different place to what most Mario games are set in, which adds even more to the game’s unique look. Though the critics were right in saying that hardly any new characters are introduced, with everything else that has been undertaken with this game on a conceptual level, the series has been given a mostly fresh coat of paint, so to speak, with new locations, new items, a handful of new characters and a catchy new soundtrack thrown in for good measure.

Gameplay – 9/10

Following on from the rest of the Mario RPG series, Color Splash introduces the feature of having to use cards to determine what attacks are used, and in what abundance the attacks are carried out. Cards are also used to heal and call temporary allies to Mario’s side, whilst unique cards found throughout the game, such as the lemon card and fire extinguisher card, act similar to how summons work in the Final Fantasy series, or they are otherwise used to solve puzzles either inside or outside of combat, giving the gameplay a very exceptional twist to it compared to other RPGs. It’s actually quite reminiscent of Nintendo’s early history, as they started out in 1889 as a playing card company. The cards with flowers on them especially speak of this, since the playing cards they manufactured were for a game called Hanafuda, meaning Flower Cards. The only criticism I would have against the game’s style of play is that a lot of the time, it can seem quite easy to progress through with a lot of meagre battles throughout; however, the game’s bosses provide more than enough challenge when confronted.

Controls – 10/10

Though the game introduces new elements to the Mario RPG series, the game poses no problems in terms of controls, as in essence; it functions on the same basic gameplay structure as the likes of Super Mario RPG and the original Paper Mario. It also makes some of the best use of the Wii U’s GamePad I’ve ever seen, as players use the GamePad to cycle through and select from their list of cards in order to attack enemies. It’s also used to solve puzzles throughout the in-game world; mostly involving creating means of getting to otherwise unreachable areas.

Lifespan – 9/10

The game can easily be made to last 35-40 hours, which for both a Super Mario game, and a Wii U game, is exceptional. Whilst I doesn’t quite live up to the average lifespan of an RPG, as many can be last to last over 100 hours, it will still provide players with hours upon hours of gameplay, as in addition to the main quest, there is also a plethora of different side quests to complete, such as collecting every card in the game, completing the rock, paper, scissor challenges and fulfilling the criteria listed on the lampposts of the main plaza.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Whilst the game does depart from many of the typical settings of a Mario game, and introduces a handful of new characters, the plot is not so unique overall unfortunately. Mario, Peach and Toad receive a letter of a paper Toad drained of colour sent to them from a region called Prism Island. They decide to investigate; only to find the main town deserted. They come across an anthropomorphic paint can called Huey, who explains that the fountain he was found in is powered by six stars called the Big Paint stars that provide Prism Island with colour. The party later discover that Bowser is draining the island of colour in order to enhance his own power. Mario and company resolve to restore the Big Pain stars, and thus put an end to Bowser’s plan. At first, the plot seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to other Mario games about 5 hours in, but then, they throw in the whole Peach gets kidnapped thing seemingly for the sake of it. As it happens, they also sneak in a fourth-wall joke about no one could have expected it to happen, which is part of the reason why I can bring myself to not punish the game too much for it. There are also references to older Mario games all over the place in some dialogue spoken by some of the more obscure characters, which keep thing relatively interesting. But overall, I found the story was about the only thing that I found to be wanting whilst playing this game.

Originality – 7.5/10

Aside from the plot of the game, the rest of it is quite unique compared to most other Super Mario games, and does fairly well to stand out from the rest of the Mario RPG series, which is why I’m thankful that the Change.org petition fell through. TechRadar’s Nick Pino described it is “a frightening example of how quickly, and harshly, we judge games we know next to nothing about”, and I agree with him fully on this. If we were so quick to pre-judge every game before its release, some of the best titles may not have hit shelves at all. The game stands out for it’s unique take on turn-based RPG combat, as well as its exceptional art style.

Happii

Overall, Paper Mario Color Splash was my favourite game of 2016. It’s enjoyable to play, very long with plenty of things to do in addition to the main game, and stands out in a style of play that to me, has not been explored enough in recent years, and for a game of this genre in this generation to feature the most iconic video game character of all time shows promise for the future of the genre.

Score

51/60

Great (8.5/10)

The Last Guardian (PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Japan Studios

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Fumito Ueda

Producer(s) – Fumito Ueda & Kazunobu Sato

Released in late 2016 following a lengthy development cycle, The Last Guardian is a follow-up to Fumito Ueda’s previous PlayStation 2 masterpiece games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. In development since 2009, Ueda was inspired to create the game on the back on fan opinion that the connection between Wander and Agro in Shadow of the Colossus was much more emotionally charged than Wander’s commitment to reviving Mono. Ueda expanded upon this by creating a friendship between a young boy and a towering creature called Trico. Whilst I did experience some difficulties with the game’s controls, as did many other players, I found that The Last Guardian ranks in as second in my opinion of the quality of the three Fumito Ueda games; not as good as Shadow of the Colossus, but better than Ico.

Graphics – 10/10

In my opinion, it was well worth the wait to behold the transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, as within that time, the graphics were given a dramatic overhaul to fit in with the standard quality of that of eighth generation gaming. But I found that both graphically and conceptually; the visuals far exceed the standards of an eighth generation game; in particular, the creature Trico’s features are intricately detailed, with it’s feathers reacting to respective indoor and outdoor environments accordingly, and it’s eyes giving it as much of an impressive emotional and lifelike appearance. The individual environments and dungeons are also something to behold, many of which reminiscent of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; many of which interestingly posing the question as to whether or not they are the same areas just in a different span of time, tying the game in with the mythology of the other two games nicely.

Gameplay – 7/10

The object of the game is to guide Trico through many of the different dungeons and environments in order to both solve puzzles and progress through the game. There is also an element of combat to it, as the player is persisted throughout the game by the so-called suits of armour, and the boy must use both Trico and any nearby weapons to defeat them. The game borrows elements from both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to deliver a very unique gameplay formula, with payers having to fend off the suits of armour using multiple combat methods, and the player having to manipulate, and even climb upon Trico in order to reach otherwise impassable areas. The game is better than Ico in that the combat is a lot more intricate than the latter, since players simply had to hit monsters with a stick and advance to the next area, but it doesn’t measure up to the quality of Shadow of the Colossus, since it follows a linear progression as opposed to an open-world one, and consequently, there is less to do throughout. There is replay value to be had, since there are achievements to unlock for playing the game more than once, but what I found in particular was that the world in which the game is set offered more than enough scope for it to be developed as an open world game; especially judging by the opening sequence, which suggests that there were many more guardians in the world than Trico at one point. Nevertheless, what there is in gameplay is enjoyable as well as challenging, and there are a fair few secrets thrown in for good measure to uncover along the way.

Controls – 9/10

As I pointed out, I did have a couple of issues with the controls along with many other people who have played this game; most notably with Trico’s AI. Sometimes, the creature wouldn’t do what I either wanted or needed it to do right away in some given situations despite following the in-game instructions, and on occasion, this would also effect combat. But it doesn’t become as much of a problem as to hinder the flow of the game completely, and for the most part, Trico responds as well as what is needed to most commands given to it by the player. I particular, I do like some more subtle control features, like how the creatures instinctively catches barrels in mid-air when thrown. Features like that give the game a certain charm not found in every title in my opinion.

Lifespan – 6/10

One playthrough of The Last Guardian clocks in at around 10-15 hours, which is yet another improvement on Ico, as that game last only a fraction of that time. For a linear game however, that is about the standard time, which whilst may be fair, isn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary. Personally, I would have been willing to wait even longer if it meant the developers could make the game either last longer, or set it in an open world, which I’m hoping is what Fumito Ueda does with the next game he develops that ties in with the same mythology, if and when he does.

Storyline – 9/10

The story of the Last Guardian follows a young boy and the towering creature Trico in their bid to escape from a huge and elaborate prison. To do this, the boy and the creature develop an intricate and complete understanding of one another, which blossoms into a strong spiritual connection that becomes even stronger throughout the course of the game. Ahead of the release of this title, I had read articles expressing opinions and concerns that the game would not be released in time to fill a gap for games that primarily told stories, and consequently, it would not be as effective as it could be. In response to that, I say the game is as effective in terms of story as it can be regardless of the fact that it has been released after titles such as The Last of Us, Journey and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and despite of this, the game is better than any of those previously mentioned titles in my opinion. Regardless of the fact that there is no minimal dialogue with the exception of the occasional narration, the game is more emotionally charged and elaborate than many other story-driven games on the market, with the addition of offering more in terms of gameplay.

Originality – 9/10

This game in my opinion, is unique in story and gameplay, but most importantly, it’s unique in terms of general concept. It may not be the first game released to do many of the things that it does, following on from releases such as Papo & Yo and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, but it does these things better than both of these latter games, and more intricately too. I can honestly say that it is unlike any other game I’ve ever played, and one of Fumito Ueda’s most outstanding efforts to date.

Happii

In summation, whilst it does have it’s flaws, The Last Guardian provides a solid gameplay experience, excelling in the aspects of story, gameplay and visuals. It may not be as enjoyable as Shadow of the Colossus was, but it is worth at least one playthrough, and proved to be worth the wait of it’s development cycle, thankfully not succumbing to many of the complications that sometimes come with games that have had lengthy development cycles.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD & Platinum Games

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yugo Hayashi & Yusuke Hashimoto

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto, Tadashi Sugiyama & Atsushi Inaba

Being the franchise’s first home console release for eleven years, and receiving mixed reviews upon release, Star Fox Zero brought the series back to it’s roots, but not without incorporating a plethora of new gameplay elements to perpetuate a great a deal of variety and replay value, as well as to satisfy both newcomers and veteran fans. There were some issues I had with the latest re-vamp of the classic Nintendo rail shooting game, but overall, I found it to be a fairly solid gaming experience, and certainly one of the more standout titles on the Wii U to have been handled by a third party developer.

Graphics – 7/10

As expected, the Lylat System has never looked as detailed or as polished as it does in this game. Many classic planets make an appearance, such as Corneria, Venom, Zoness and Fortuna, with the addition of new locations like Sector Alpha, Sector Beta and Aquarosa. What I was especially impressed with was how most of the classic locations had been redesigned so dramatically to fit in with the unfamiliarity of all the new locations. The only two locations, which stood to me as being arguably overly reminiscent of Star Fox 64 were both Corneria and Titania, but even they differed from their Nintendo 64 counterparts; especially in terms of their respective boss fights.

Gameplay – 9/10

Aside from an overhaul of graphics, there is also a massive overhaul of gameplay too. The classic rail shooting mechanics of the original Star Fox game takes precedent, but in addition, there are multiple vehicles that must be piloted in order to traverse different sections of certain levels, as well as completing different objectives. The Landmaster from Star Fox 64 is used in addition to the Arwing, as well as the new Gyrowing, which is used to hack into computer systems via a deployable robot named Direct-I, and the Walker vehicle, which is used for ground combat; an idea reworked from a gameplay feature incorporated into the cancelled Star Fox 2 for the Super Nintendo. Star Fox Zero also features side quests providing additional replay value; something that many Star Fox games have sorely lacked with the exception of Star Fox Adventure. Incorporating the addictive nature of the series, I found playing this game to be very enjoyable overall, and every bit as challenging as any other game in the series to date.

Controls – 6/10

The biggest reservation I had about this game whilst playing was how the control scheme worked in conjunction with the unique features of the Wii U. Aiming is handled by having players use both the control sticks and the Wii U GamePad’s gyroscopic controls simultaneously. There is an option the player can take to have the crosshair locked when steering, but the gyroscopic controls are then enabled again once the player starts firing their weapons, and in my opinion, it doesn’t work anywhere near well as the classic system. If the gyroscopic controls hadn’t have been incorporated, I would have thought much more highly of this game overall. But unfortunately, Nintendo tried to fix something that was by in large unbroken; and it made for an unnecessarily huge hindrance rather than a pleasure.

Lifespan – 10/10

Like both Star Fox and Star Fox 64, there is virtually infinite replay value to be had in this game. Aside from the main story quest, there is an arcade mode, which players can take on in order to beat their high score as well a multiplayer mode. One quick playthrough can take less than four hours to complete, but to complete the game to 100% can take anything between 15 to 20 hours, which to me was unprecedented for any game made in the same calibre.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Being the third re-telling of the events of the original game, the story centres on the anthropomorphic Star Fox team, consisting of Fox McCloud, the leader, Peppy Hare, the seasoned veteran, Slippy Toad, the complacent mechanic, and Falco Lombardi, the cocky ace pilot. Their mission is to aid the Cornerian army led by General Pepper in saving the Lylat System from the invading maniacal scientist Andross. Though I have already experienced this story many times, and loved it, the main problem I had with this interpretation of it was the voice acting; despite the fact that almost all of the original cast from Star Fox 64 returned. In addition, I found it to be nowhere near as well scripted as Star Fox 64. To me, there wasn’t as much as there was in the former game that brought out the character’s traits and personalities. It was much like the same problem I had with the re-vamp of Ratchet and Clank; many returning characters, and not enough development. The developers tried adding a slight plot twist towards the end concerning General Pepper, but to me, it was too little too late.

Originality – 8/10

In terms of story, I wouldn’t say there was a great deal present to differentiate it from any other game in the series. However, from the perspective of both gameplay and conceptual design, there’s a great deal of uniqueness to experience. It will certainly provide both veterans and newcomers with one of the more special gaming experiences on the Wii U, and whilst the controls scheme can be infuriating at times, it’s not impossible to get to grips with. A lot of the boss fights are also very different to most boss fights in the series, with the strategy of beating Andross being something a little bit more than blowing his hands away, and then aiming for his eyes. It also nicely paves the way for a possible continuation of the series in the future, as well as the possibly of even more unique ideas to be incorporated in future games.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Star Fox Zero has it’s flaws, but it’s by no means one of the more frustrating games I’ve played. It’s addictive, challenging, beautiful to look at, and whilst it isn’t the best re-telling of the events of the original game, it does a good enough job at explaining the basic premise, and leaves the next direction the series could possibly take open to interpretation.

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Nintendo R&D 4

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Tadashi Sugiyama & Yoichi Yamada

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto

Released the year after the original game, and to universal acclaim and sales eventually peaking at over 4 million units worldwide, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link made many radical departures from the first game. Whilst exploration and travel was handled using the top-down perspective synonymous with the first Legend of Zelda, combat was represented through a 2D side-scrolling perspective, and working very similarly to games such as Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, thus joining a class of NES sequels that were drastically different to their predecessors, alongside Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Godzilla 2: War of the Monsters and most famously, Super Mario Bros 2. Personally, I found that although this formula has never been able to quite match the same level of enjoyment with the classic top-down Zelda formula used in the likes of A Link to the Past or A Link Between Worlds, I still found the first game extremely entertaining, and a strong entry in the series that still holds up even after almost 30 years.

Graphics – 8/10

Making a significant departure from it’s predecessor, the second game in the Legend of Zelda series displayed many improvements in visual presentation from a technical standpoint. Sprites and scenery are much more detailed, and there is an abundance in enemy variety; some of which have gone on to become stables of the series, such as the Moblins, the Iron Knuckles and perhaps most notably, Dark Link. In the timeline of the series, this game is the latest following the game over scenario in Ocarina of Time, which lead to the decline of the land of Hyrule, so like many of the games in the series, it has a level of conceptual design that has since continued to deviate away from many familiar elements like Hyrule Castle and Kakariko Village, and thus, it still continues to stand out in this respect. It’s also interesting to consider how the names of towns in this game were later reworked into other entries; most notable, Ocarina of time.

Gameplay – 7/10

The developers adopted a style of play for the second Zelda game that went against almost everything the original game was based on, and a style of play that has not really been seen in the series since. Instead of the game solely focusing on the bird’s eye view synonymous with 2D Zelda games, the developers instead opted to use 2D side scrolling mechanics for the combat side, and even incorporated a classic RPG style of play whereby Link would level up in order to become stronger overtime. Whilst Nintendo have never chosen to focus on this style of play again (and most definitely for the better in my opinion), it still made for a particularly fun game; certainly one of the better titles on the NES. Combat is addictive, as well as challenging. Whilst it may not have been innovative for the time, since it was largely based on games such as Castlevania and Faxanadu, it still worked surprisingly well.

Controls – 9/10

Since both styles of play portrayed in the game were quite prominent at the time, especially 2D side scrolling, there are no problems with this game for the most part. The mechanic of the player having to periodically switch between both was seamlessly handled, and combat was handled almost as well as most other games it was based on. The only bad thing I would say about it, as was indeed the case with a fair few side scrollers on the NES (most notably both Castlevania and Mega Man) is that the controls can at times be a little bit stiff and slow to register player commands, which adds an unnecessary degree of annoyance. Thankfully, since this game is much accessible than both the aforementioned examples, it doesn’t cause anywhere near as much of a problem.

Lifespan – 8/10

In all, Zelda II can take around 3 and a half hours to complete to 100%, which by today’s standards may seem like nothing, but it was exceptionally long for the time. Generally, games took little more than an hour or to complete, but there were exceptions made to this rule in titles such as the first two Zelda games, as well as Metroid, Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Though it may be understandable to wish for a longer lifespan, since the game is certainly addictive enough to warrant at least a few more hours of play, hardware limitations at that time should be taken into consideration.

Storyline – 8/10

The story of the second game takes place some years after the first game during the era of Hyrule’s decline. Princess Zelda has fallen under a sleeping spell, and it is up to Link to seek out Zelda’s caretaker Impa to find a way of breaking the curse, as well as stopping followers of the evil wizard Ganon, who plan to kill Link and use his blood to bring their master back to Hyrule. Interestingly, I found that Zelda II introduced many darker aspects of the series that would also be seen in later entries, such as mature themes and hints of ritualistic behaviour reminiscent of the likes of Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess. It’s considered a black sheep of the series in terms of gameplay by most fans, but I believe it can also be considered as such in terms of story too, since it has a fairly prominent dark undertone to it. Although games at the time generally relied on players reading the manual for the most part, it of course adds to the experience to look for things like this within the actual game.

Originality – 8/10

As I previously mentioned, Zelda II belongs to a group of sequels that were drastically different from their predecessors, and consequently, this game stands out much more than many others at the time; but in all, in a positive way. Though there would be many future games in the series released that would surpass the quality of this entry, it’s still an extremely pleasurable experience in its own right, which is owed largely to how much it stands out from the rest of the entire Zelda saga.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a very strong entry, both despite of and because of how different it is to any other Zelda game, and I would recommend it like I would recommend most others in the series. Exploration is rewarded greatly, combat is very addictive, and in my opinion, it is a game that is likely to hold up for another 30 years.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Worms Armageddon (PC, Dreamcast, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Colour & BeOS)

Developer(s) – Team17

Publisher(s) – Atari, Team17, MicroProse, Hasbro Interactive & Infogrames Entertainment

The original Worms game was very much a question of trial and error, but still turned out to be a very good game. Worms Armageddon, however, took the same formula and built upon it extensively, making for a much better gaming experience than the first. Delivering more on their outlandish sense of humour and unique gameplay style, Team17 set the bar for innovation within the industry with Worms Armageddon, and continues to hold up as an excellent game to this day.

Graphics – 7/10

As well as having greatly improved visuals from the original game, with the character sprites being in a lot more detail than before, the settings in Armageddon are also a lot more diverse, and the sound bytes used are a lot more humorous and varied. However, for a number of reasons, the PlayStation port in particular, is much better than the Nintendo 64 version of the game. One of which is the inclusion of the many funny FMVs shown before each battle, which in the Nintendo 64 version, are absent.

Gameplay – 7/10

Thankfully, the great gameplay is present in all ports of the title. The biggest improvement is that there are a lot more game modes to indulge in, and thus, increased variety. As well as having single or multiplayer, there is also a training mode, which can be used to improve the status of either pre-created teams or custom made ones. All these new features work to keep things a lot more interesting than in the previous instalment, and give it much more replay value as well.

Controls – 9/10

Just like the first, however the only issue I have about the game’s control scheme is the system of measuring up wind resistance against trajectory to take the most accurate shot possible with bazookas or grenades. In my opinion, it makes the game unnecessarily difficult at times, given the most awkward of circumstances and unit positions. However, there are no problems otherwise. It can be argued that it is also easier to play it on the PlayStation than it is on the Nintendo 64, given size comparison between the two system’s controllers.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

Like the first game, Worms Armageddon is a game that can simply be picked up and played without players having to worry about making progress in the conventional sense or having to worry about how fleeting the experience may feel like after they’ve finished playing. However, with Armageddon, he extra gameplay features warrant heightened player interest, and thus can be made to last even longer than the original game would have done.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

In lieu of Team17 tradition, Armageddon, as well as the entire Worms franchise, has no established story, but only a basic premise; worms warring with each other. Again, the best thing about the premise of Worms Armageddon is the continuation of the comedic valued displayed in the many FMVs of the game, which play out before each fight. While they may not be quite as funny as the ones in the original game, they’re still quite humorous.

Originality – 7/10

Even at the back end of the 90s, when a lot of the innovation and outlandish ideas of the fifth generation had been well and truly established, Worms Armageddon in my opinion, was still able to stand out among many of the other different games that were around at the time. It wasn’t as if the idea had been completely fazed out by that time; the idea still hasn’t been fazed out even to this day, since Team17 continue to release and re-release instalments of it on a regular basis.

Happii

Happii

To sum up, Worms Armageddon is my favourite Worms game of all time, and one that I would highly recommend to any fans of the series who may not have played it yet. Team17 have produced very many ideas that may sound ridiculous on paper, but work well on console over the course of their foray into gaming, but this to me, is the one that stands out most.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Watch Dogs (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft

Designer – Danny Belanger

Producer – Dominic Guay

I think the best way to describe Watch Dogs is as an open-world Grand Theft Auto-Assassin’s Creed hybrid. It’s a game that requires the player to unique use the city as their weapon; having control of things like bollards and traffic lights to catch criminals and to escape from police, or using the player character’s smartphone to access bank accounts or attain their personal details; information is power, after all. But especially after two years of waiting, I was unfortunately less than impressed by the now best-selling game in the UK.

Graphics – 7/10

Don’t get me wrong. Watch Dogs has some of the most brilliantly detailed visuals of the modern gaming generation; especially on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The problem I found was that there was nothing standing out in the conceptual sense. And the way I see it, having extremely advanced visuals can mean much less than as may be advertised if no creativity is put into the conceptual stage. Indeed, its by that token that I prefer the visuals in Ubisoft’s Child of Light than the visuals in Watch Dogs. To me, this is one of these situations. I’d say the most standout things about the visuals in Watch Dogs is how unique the city is displayed on the map; how it’s been made to look something a lot like an internal computer network. This technique has also been used in a lot of the cutscenes in the game, which does add a bit to the overall atmosphere of the game, but otherwise, there’s nothing else to differentiate it from most other games like it, unfortunately.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

Watch Dogs is a game that has story missions, side missions, and plenty of extra curricular activities thrown in for good measure, and it will make for a decent gaming experience for people who are able to get into it. But I wasn’t able to get into it. Normally, I can tell whether or not I’ll enjoy a game after playing it for about an hour or ninety minutes, but I’d been playing Watch Dogs for roughly three hours, and I found it nigh on impossible to get into. To me, it just seemed to start off very slowly and not pick up momentum like I believe a game should do in its early stages. This has been a recurring problem for me in the seventh generation in particular; with games that people have told me they believe to be classics, such as Red Dead Redemption and Fallout 3. The way I see it, Watch Dogs is a fresh new example of this; a game that will be viewed by many as being excellent, but one that I have too much difficulty gaining enough interest in to play it for any extended amount of time.

Controls – 8/10

Incorporating a gaming formula that has been long-since perfected, Watch Dogs plays out simply enough for the most art, but the biggest problem I found with it was that there are far too many menus, and by that token, it seemed to me that there was just far too much to have to keep track of whilst playing. To an extent, it reminded me unsentimentally of Fable III; though Watch Dogs is far less complicated than that, I can assure. But the thing is, as the hacking mechanics in this game are very much new to gaming, there was inevitably going to be an element of trial and error, so maybe if they were to simplify it for a possible sequel, it may make for a better game than this. But still, other than that, there are no outstanding problems.

Lifespan – 10/10

Watch Dogs’ lifespan is something I mustn’t fault it for. Regardless of how little I think of how this game plays out, it will easily make for at least 60 to 70 hours of gameplay, given everything that there is to do. One thing is for certain; those who find this game easier to get into than I will be rewarded, as there are many collectibles, many side missions and even additional missions to do when playing the game online, which to my excitement, seems to be a recurring thing in games these days.

Storyline – 3/10

The story of Watch Dogs involves a vigilante and hacking expert named Aiden Pearce, who is out to find the people responsible for the unintended death of his niece instead of him. At first, it may sound like a half-decent story of revenge reminiscent of many Steven Seagal films, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really develop into anything more than that. I know because I took the liberty of finding out what happens before playing through the game. I look at it in the sense that the story wasn’t particularly gripping from the start, and from my own point of view, I don’t think I would have been missing much. But the most annoying thing about the story has been another recurring problem found in games like Final Fantasy XIII, for example; when events are moving at a rate, which doesn’t allow for players to think about what’s actually happening. It all just happens regardless.

Originality – 4/10

In reality, other than the hacking mechanic and the whole computer network-styled visuals found in the menus and some cutscenes, there’s not much else to make to stand out among other open-world games. There are a few Easter eggs I was able to find darted around, but what open-world game doesn’t include an Easter egg or two? There were no other unique things I could find apart from these to point out, which was particularly disappointing for how much this game was hyped for so long.

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Niiutral

Overall, I think Watch Dogs will only work with a specific kind of audience, and it doesn’t really have the full potential to appeal to everyone. It’s not one of the worst games I’ve ever played, but it’s by no means one of the best either. Maybe if I were to revisit it in the future, I could have a slightly different opinion of it, but so far, Borderlands has been the only game to be good enough for me to play for an overly long time until it started to pick up.

Score

38.5/60

6/10 (Average)

Vexx (GameCube, PlayStation 2 & Xbox)

Developer(s) – Acclaim Studios Austin

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Entertainment

Being the last original IP published by Acclaim Studios before filing for bankruptcy in late 2004, Vexx was a 3D platformer released to mixed critical success, and low sales figures leading to the cancellation of a planned port to the Game Boy Advance. Personally, I did find that the game had more than it’s fair of issues, but It’s certainly not the worst 3D platformer I’ve played, and not one of the worst 3D platformers released throughout the sixth generation. The game also has it’s finer points that are certainly worth highlighting.

Graphics – 6.5/10

One of these finer points is that the game’s visuals are about as wonderfully varied as many other more successful 3D platformers featuring a wide variety of different locations ranging from forests to volcanoes to dream worlds. The boss and enemy designs were also fairly well executed for the most part, suiting he tableau of each of their respective levels. My biggest concerns about the graphics were focused on the technical side of things. The game looks somewhat outdated for the time compared to a lot of games released prior, such as Luigi’s Mansion and Metroid Prime, and the lighting is also pretty inconsistent which will leave players struggling to navigate through levels when the night comes. It can be an especially annoying problem when players need to climb certain wall surfaces to reach higher ground, as the poor lighting can make it difficult for players to differentiate between walls that are traversable and walls that are not.

Gameplay – 7/10

The object of the game is largely reminiscent of that of some of the best 3D platformers ever developed, such as Super Mario 64 and the original Jak & Daxter; completing specific objectives to collect items needed to advance. In this case, it’s the hearts of dead wraiths, which gives Vexx a much darker undertone than either one of the aforementioned games. There is also an emphasis on combat and stringing combos together, which for the most part keeps things interesting. I did enjoy how tasks to complete in order to collect the hearts were surprisingly varied, and how there are a fair few hearts to collect in each level, giving players plenty to do. Interestingly, some of the hidden locations in the game that can be found relatively early on involve warping into and traversing through wall paintings, which are mechanics extremely reminiscent of the game Contrast, which involve players having to traverse shadow in order to get around. I can’t help but wonder if this game influenced Contrast.

Controls – 8/10

For the most part, the controls are fairly simple to cope with, like most other 3D platformer that require the use if an analogue stick for movement, but I did find a couple of flaws. For example, the swimming mechanics weren’t handled particularly well, handled in a manner reminiscent of the swimming mechanics in Majora’s Mask. I also wished that combat could have been handled a little bit better. I thin that having a targeting system reminiscent of Ocarina of Time or Dark Cloud would have helped to significantly improve the experience and add a lot more fluency to it.

Lifespan – 6.5/10

Vexx can be made to last around 7 to 8 hours, which whilst may be much lower than the average lifespan of a 3D platformer, is still a length of time in which gamers will be kept busy by a lack of cutscenes and a fair abundance in gameplay. There are around ten wraith hearts to collect in each level, and a lot of the objectives required to get some of them are fairly demanding in terms of both time investment and challenge, making it longer than may other games released on the system. Although Luigi’s Mansion is ultimately the superior of the two games, Vexx can be made to seem much longer in comparison.

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story of the game follows a young villager named Vexx, who after being forced into slavery along with his grandfather Vargas by the evil wraith lord Yabu, escapes captivity, and vows revenge against him and his army after Yabu kills Vargas following an attempt by the latter to save Vexx from being killed by Yabu himself. I was surprised by everything about the game’s story, from how the tone is set to how the lot unfolds, and then right up to how it ends. Compared to many of the other games that this game was undoubtedly influenced by, there is a surprisingly dark and gritty aspect to it.

Originality – 7/10

Undoubtedly, the most unique aspect of the game is how mature and sinister the story is compared to many other games in the genre, and how the supposed hero isn’t always triumphant. For how innocent the game looks on the surface, players will inevitably be very surprised when and if they come to pick it up and play it. Better and more unique gameplay mechanics were pioneered in the sixth generation than what was seen within this title, and there are mistakes present that make it stand out for the wrong reasons, but for the most part, I found that it did the things it needed to do fairly well, making it worthy of at least one playthrough.

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In summation, Vexx is a pretty enjoyable and wonderfully dark gaming experience. The gameplay is pretty well executed, the story is shocking well told, albeit with a few examples of bad voice acting, and even though the visuals were somewhat outdated for the time, the world of Astara is immersing and varied enough to be enjoyable for the most part.

Score

42.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Iguana Entertainment

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Entertainment

Designer – David Dienstbier

Producer(s) – Jeff Spangenbreg & Darrin Stubbington

Although this game was heavily slated as being a Doom clone, and with critics drawing inevitable similarities with the likes of Duke Nukem and Quake, there are those who still believe that Turok truly was the game to truly pioneer the 3D first-person shooting genre. This game remains one of my favourite shooters on the Nintendo 64, and for many reasons.

Graphics – 8.5/10

The first of which being is that though the visuals may not have aged well by today’s standards, they were exemplary at the time. Though there are a few glitches, the developers made up for that in the amount of diversity there is in level design and their attention to detail. Perhaps one of the biggest innovations they made in terms of graphical quality was the inclusion of effect such as fog; not only does it add to the omnipotent atmosphere, but it also adds an element of tension, since players will have a few seconds to react due to the limited visibility.

Gameplay – 8/10

Another innovation that Iguana Entertainment made was in terms of gameplay. Unlike any other first person shooter around at the time, including Doom or Quake, the original Turok took place in an open-world environment, allowing players a certain level of freedom in exploration. There are a lot of secrets to uncover throughout, as well as a plethora of enemies, and of course dinosaur-shooting action, to sink their teeth into, and immerse players into the game.

Controls – 7/10

Since at the time, 3D shooters were very much a question of trial and error, at least until the release of Perfect Dark in my opinion, the control scheme of Turok can be pretty awkward. Unlike in most first-person shooters of today, the character is moved using the Nintendo 64’s C-button controls; effectively an additional d-pad on the controller, which was used to adjust camera angles in most other games on the system. The analogue stick, on the other hand, was used to look around. I think in particular, using the C-buttons to move made jumping from one platform to the other, as was required from time to time, unnecessarily complicated. If Iguana Entertainment had just thought of using the analogue stick to move the character around, as Rareware would go on to do with Perfect Dark, then this game could have been ever better than how it turned out.

Lifespan – 4/10

Unfortunately, for an open world 3D shooter, lifespan also seemed to be a case of trial and error, since Turok can only be made to last for about four or five hours tops. Since there were games at the time, which made use of even less space than Turok, with which to have more gameplay substance, I don’t think it would be plausible to try and put that down to reasons such as hardware limitations or lack of memory within the cartridge, but rather that should simply be put down to developer imagination; or lack of it.

Storyline – 6/10

Playing out like most other video games in terms of story, there isn’t much to differentiate it from others. Based on a comic book of the same name, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter follows the story of a Native-American time-travelling warrior named Tal’Set, who was passed down the mantle of Turok, since he was the eldest male of his tribe. As a Turok, Tal’Set is charged with protecting the barrier between Earth and the so-called Lost Land. He must do this by assembling a powerful weapon called the Chronoscepter, and defeating the Campaigner; an overlord, who plans to use the Chronoscepter to break the barrier between Earth and the Lost Land, and rule over both dominions. Judging by the Campaigner’s appearance, intentions, supernatural powers, and his desire to rule over multiple worlds, I can immediately draw similarities between him and Shao Khan from Mortal Kombat; so much so, that it almost sounds like the same story.

Originality – 9/10

Despite the amount of comparisons I can draw with Turok and many other video games, the fact of the matter remains that until this game came along; open worlds in first-person shooters were non-existent, and would not become a standard until many years later, even if I was unable to realize or appreciate such a fact at the time when I was first playing it. Though it has its influences in terms of visuals and story, there was no other game like it, and it remains a cult classic to this day among Nintendo 64 owners; introduced to the series in a time before it would eventually be left into obscurity.

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Overall, the introduction to the Turok series, Dinosaur Hunter, still remains a very enjoyable game, and one I would recommend to anyone wishing to explore past Nintendo game libraries. Though Goldeneye 007 is synonymous with pioneering the 3D first-person shooting genre, there were things in Turok that made it stand out just as much; if not, more so.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Tomodachi Life (3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo SPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

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)