Tag Archives: Nintendo

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch)

Developer – Next Level Games

Publisher – Nintendo

Director – Bryce Holiday

Producer – Alex McFarlane, Bjorn Nash & Kensuke Tanabe

Originally intended for release on the Wii U, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was eventually released on Halloween of 2019 for the Nintendo Switch and garnished both critical and commercial acclaim new ideas. After having played through this game myself, I was thoroughly impressed by what it had to offer; so much so I consider it to be one of the best releases on the console so far. 

Graphics – 9/10

The latest installment of the series is set not in a mansion, or a series of mansions like in the previous games, but in a 15-floor hotel; each floor with it’s own distinct theme, such as one for Medieval England, another themed on film, one on fitness and one on Ancient Egypt to name but a few. From the point of view of conceptual design, it’s certainly a lot more diverse than the previous two games, which whilst they remained fresh with different kinds of rooms throughout, the third game simply enhances what was already great about the first two games, which will be a recurring point I’m going to be making throughout this entire review.

The only minor gripe I had with the game in terms of graphical quality was that the areas surrounding the mansion, ie grassland, trees, mountains, etc, are greatly simplified compared to everything else in the game. But it’s only a minor issue since they’re just that; they’re additional background details that aren’t to be paid too much attention to anyway. The real attention to detail is perpetuated within everything besides; the textures the developers used for Luigi, in particular, are extremely impressive, with everything down to visible stitching on his clothes to the internal machinery in his latest weapon, the Poltergust G-00.

Gameplay – 9/10

Again, the gameplay in this title is yet another example of how the developers took the blueprint of the original two games and greatly expanded upon them. It perpetuates most of the ideas that were established with Luigi’s Mansion 2, such as the dark light mechanics to uncover hidden secrets and the strobulb used to stun enemies, but also combines them with the Gooigi mechanic that was first preliminarily introduced as a co-op mechanic in the 3DS remake of the original Luigi’s Mansion and making it an integral part of the single-player campaign, with players having to use Gooigi to traverse through insubstantial barriers such as drainpipes and shuttered doors to either uncover more secrets and solve puzzles. It reminded me of the mechanics in the original Soul Reaver that allows Raziel to pass through similar obstacles.

The setting of the game also clearly allowed for expansion on the general idea of gameplay, giving players a lot more to do than in the previous installments, which in my opinion, was greatly needed for if Nintendo ever did decide to develop a series of sequels to the original Luigi’s Mansion. The second one came close to being better than the first, as there was more added to that game in comparison to the original, but the third expands on this idea to an even greater extent, making for an extremely enjoyable gaming experience overall. 

Another aspect in which this game improves on its predecessors is the quality of the boss fights. The boss fights in the first game were particularly good and the second game offered creativity in this respect but failed to top those of the original game, but the boss fights in the third are even more well thought out and even more challenging, as some of which require the use of Gooigi and therefore require the player having to periodically switch between him and Luigi to beat some of the bosses. The best example of that is the boss fight against Hellen Gravely, whereby the player must use Gooigi to switch off security systems that can hurt Luigi from underneath the floorboards, whilst also using Luigi to avoid Hellen’s attacks and defeat her. 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme of the third game is taken largely from Luigi’s Mansion 2, which in itself was a largely simplified variation of the control scheme for the original game, but it also introduces a lot of new mechanics to keep things fresh. But at the same time, it presents no issues. The combat system is largely refined in comparison to both 1 and 2 and the increased ghost types also necessitate the modification of strategy to best suit them; it all makes for one of the most unique titles to have ever come out of Nintendo in my personal opinion. 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

Whilst not being quite as long as Luigi’s Mansion 2, it still makes for a delightfully lengthy gaming experience, requiring at least 20 hours to complete to 100%. Again, it’s the idea of having a hotel with multiple floors is the means by which Nintendo have expanded on the lifespan of a game within this series. I think If they were to make a fourth game, a good idea would be to set it inside a haunted skyscraper with over 100 floors and more side quests complete with a courtyard at the base. But I digress; an expanded lifespan is exactly what was needed to further develop the ideas perpetuated by the original two games and Nintendo delivered on this greatly with the third game. 

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story begins with the Super Mario Bros along with Princess Peach, three Toads and Luigi’s pet ghost dog Polterpup taking a vacation to The Last Resort Hotel, whereby once they all check-in and settle into their rooms, Luigi falls asleep whilst reading a book. When he wakes up, he finds that the hotel has turned into a ghostly apparition of itself and that the others are missing. It turns out that with the help of the hotel’s owner, Hellen Gravely, King Boo has returned, possessing the hotel and capturing Mario and the others and trapping them in picture frames. Luigi must defeat King Boo whilst finding and freeing the others from him with the help of Luigi’s old ally Professor E. Gadd, who sets up a secret lab in the hotel basement once Luigi finds and rescues him from his own picture frame, whilst also offering Luigi advice from afar and modifying his Poltergust G-00 with new abilities throughout. 

Whilst basically copying the plot of the original Luigi’s Mansion, I like this game’s story for the same reason why I liked Super Mario Odyssey’s story. Despite the fact that both games simply perpetuate the same idea in terms of story as most of every other game in their respective series; before it, Luigi’s hardships and successes are conveyed better through emotion and body language than in previous games, which is most likely part of the reason why this game won the award for best in-game animation of 2019. Spoken dialogue within the game is strangely a lot more diverse than what players would normally find in a Super Mario game, with Luigi saying various phrases upon defeating bosses.

Originality – 10/10

As I pointed out before, this game perpetuates some of the most original ideas that I’ve found in any Nintendo game before it. Not only because of the modifications that have been made to the game’s control scheme, but in every other aspect as well, from the gameplay to the conceptual design. It always baffles me how Nintendo are able to take their series’ and expand on the ideas perpetuated by previous installments and the third Luigi’s Mansion game is no exception.

Deliirious

To summarize, when I first started playing Luigi’s Mansion 3, I immediately thought it was going to be at least on par with the original two games. But having played it through to the end, I put it above the other two. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is unanimously the best game in the series; it takes the best of Luigi’s Mansion 1 and 2 and expands on them to introduce new gameplay mechanics, better boss fights and overall far more enjoyable gaming experience. I can’t recommend this title enough. 

Score

54/60

9/10 (Excellent)

Ori & The Blind Forest (PC, Xbox One & Switch)

Developer – Moon Studios

Publisher – Microsoft Studios

Director – Thomas Mahler

Producer – Gennadiy Korol

Created by a massive collaboration of developers worldwide over a period of four years, Ori & The Blind Forest is a Metroidvania game following the adventures of the game’s titular character Ori and companion Sein as they set out to restore the forest of Nibel, which has come under threat having lost the balance between three elements; waters, winds, and warmth. After having played this game almost 100%, I was enthralled with it from beginning to end. Everything from its art style and the soundtrack to it’s direction in terms of gameplay and story made for one of the most standout gaming experiences of the eighth generation. 

Graphics – 10/10

Similar to games like Cuphead and Child of Light, the game features entirely hand-drawn graphics, though in this case influenced largely by the works of Hiyao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Locations within the game range from a mixture of light-filled and dark forest settings to vibrant, sunny glades, icy chasms, and fiery volcanic formations. No matter the specific location, however, everywhere in this game has a level of eloquence to it in one way or another and it all highlights the meticulous dedication the development team showed to bringing the project to life. The accompanying soundtrack perfectly fits every location, as well as every situation the player finds themself within the game; be that whilst peacefully traversing through sunlit greenery or whilst having to dash away from a volcanic eruption. But even during moments of both absolute tranquility or absolute calamity, the game still maintains that same level of eloquence throughout; in my case, so much so that I didn’t care how many times I died in moments of urgency, which was a lot. I thought it was worth attempting that many times just to soak up the game’s wonderful atmosphere.

Gameplay – 8/10

As a Metroidvania, the game follows most of the typical tropes you would expect to find in a game of the genre; most notably having to gain all manner of different abilities to access each area as the play progresses. However, Ori & The Blind Forest offers players a very interesting spin on things with a unique combat system encouraging players to strategize in accordance with what enemies they’re up against. Combat can also even be a means to access new or hidden locations throughout the game. There is also an ability tree that players can use to upgrade pre-existing abilities or learn new ones by gaining experience in combat, giving the game an RPG feel to it. The combat isn’t as intense as what it is in other Metroidvania games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Dust: An Elysian Tail, but it demands almost as much from gamers as enemies become stronger over time and different abilities need to be used to overcome them. The game also demands a fair bit from players in the respect of exploration, as there are many challenging platformer obstacles to traverse and puzzles to be solved throughout. It challenges players, but not to the point of it becoming inaccessible. 

Controls – 10/10

As in many Metroidvania titles, the staggering variety in controls becomes more and more apparent as the player progresses through the game with the different abilities to learn and incorporate throughout. At first, I thought that it may become a problem, as the same buttons are used for different abilities in varying different respects, but all it is is a matter of getting used to strategizing in accordance with whatever situation the players may find themself in. It reminded me a lot of Metroid Prime in that respect because although that game was a first-person shooter, it doesn’t entirely feel like one in many respects and I found it to be the same case with Ori & The Blind Forest; it’s a Metroidvania game, but there are certain instances in which it doesn’t feel like one in the respect of its control scheme, further adding to the game’s sense of uniqueness. 

Lifespan – 5/10

To complete the game to 100% can take there around 12 hours, which to me, is undoubtedly this game’s biggest drawback. Although this game was undeniably labor of love and that it shows in every little detail, it just seemed to be a criminally short amount of time for a game of this quality to last. It’s in this aspect where I’m desperately hoping that this is where the sequel, Ori & The Will Of The Wisps comes in; similar to the transition between Onimusha and Onimusha 2. 

Storyline – 8/10

The game’s plot follows Ori, a guardian spirit that fell from the Spirit Tree of the forest of Nibel. Ori is later found by a forest inhabitant named Naru, who adopts Ori and raises her. Later, Naru dies of starvation, and Ori is left to fend for herself. She later becomes embroiled in a quest to restore the forest of Nibel, which has begun to deteriorate since the forest has lost balance between the elements of waters, winds, and warmth. Matters have also been worsened by the fact that the core of the Spirit Tree had been stolen by a demonic, shadowy owl named Kuro. Throughout, Ori has to traverse the forest to restore the three elements and the core of the Spirit Tree, whilst coming under the threat of the forest’s many dangerous creatures and natural obstacles whilst also avoiding the clutches of Kuro.

The game’s story, as well as it’s art direction, was also heavily inspired by the works of Hayao Miyazaki; it’s vivid, fantastical, and packed with emotional moments that will have players on the edges of their seats. But it also perpetuates a sense of moral ambiguity; especially towards the end. So much so that I found myself questioning who the real hero was and if the villain truly is a villain at heart. This works to separate it from the works of Studio Ghibli as moral ambiguity isn’t that prominent a theme in the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and others who worked for the company and it’s something new to compliment a story that was heavily inspired by the two aforementioned film directors. 

Originality – 8/10

Whilst critiquing the control scheme, I mentioned that there are certain instances in which the controls make it feel like more than a conventional Metroidvania game. But this can be said for every other aspect of Ori & The Blind Forest in addition. It’s largely unconventional in its gameplay, it’s the scenery, the soundtrack, and its story. Ahead of playing it, I knew that I was in for something special with this title, but I wasn’t quite prepared for exactly how special it would turn out to be. Everything from its combat system to it’s environmental design to its themes of loss, tragedy, and moral ambiguity makes it stand out from most of every other game I’ve ever played. 

Happii

Overall, Ori & The Blind Forest is a must-have not only for Metroidvania fans but for gamers in general. It’s a title that has had every element handled with a degree of love and care that every standout game should have and whilst it didn’t last as long as what I thought it had the potential to, it’s certainly worth at least one playthrough at minimum. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Sheep (PC, PlayStation & Game Boy Advance)

Developer(s) – Mind’s Eye Productions

Publisher(s) – Empire Interactive

Released back in 2000 and receiving mixed to positive reviews upon release (including a nomination back in 2005 from Computer Games Magazine for the best classic game of 2000), with most reviewers drawing comparisons to Lemmings, Sheep is a puzzle game whereby players must herd sheep from the start of stages to the end. I went in not expecting much of this game, since, on the face of it, it was cheap, primitive-looking upon the first inspection, and seemingly developed on a budget by a somewhat renowned company at the time. However, I wasn’t overly disappointed with the game since, though not without its faults, it was fairly enjoyable to play and challenging to boot. 

Graphics – 7/10

As I mentioned previously, Sheep has drawn comparison mostly to games like Lemmings and Worms as in terms of gameplay, it seems to be a game within the same strata. In terms of visuals. However, I began drawing comparisons to the original Blood Omen with its top-down view and pseudo-3D graphics; so much so that I wonder whether or not both games were made on the same engine in fact. The cartoonish aspect also reminded me uniquely of the Toy Story game released on fourth-generation hardware. Where the visuals are concerned, it does have a certain charm to be enjoyed that is comparable to Worm, between in-game graphics and the various different cutscenes throughout the game. 

Gameplay – 7/10

The concept of gameplay is to try and herd sheep from one end of each level to the other within the time limit allocated, with additional bonus points up for grabs depending on the time each level is completed in as well as gaining bonus points for herding sheep through additional obstacles across each level. I’d seen herding mechanics in games prior to playing this, such as in the original Jak and Daxter for example, but nothing anywhere near to this extent or to this level of challenge. Overall I was pleasantly surprised to find out how well this game plays out and how unique it is compared to most PC games released at the time. 

Controls – 9/10

The mechanics of the game are pretty well thought out and there is a minimalist amount of issues with the controls in conjunction with this. The only problem that I had with the control scheme is that it is a little difficult to get to grips with at first; especially since it’s not specified at first which buttons do what throughout the tutorial. But once figured out, it’s easy enough to get to grips with. The programming is a little bit questionable since sheep can sometimes veer away regardless of what commands the player gives, but these things aren’t enough to cause too much of an issue throughout playing. 

Lifespan – 4/10

The game can be made to last 3 to 4 hours overall, which is definitely the most disappointing aspect of this game since with a concept as unique as it is, it needs to be made to last as long as possible and I think it could’ve easily been made to last at least twice as long. It’s surprising to me that the developers chose not to release a sequel as it’s also a formula that could’ve also been extensively modified in terms of gameplay as well. It vaguely reminds me of what Hogs of War 2 may have been if it had seen the light of day. 

Storyline – 5/10

The general gist of the plot seems to be that the sheep that are to be herded throughout the game are in fact aliens from another planet and they must be herded in order to stop a mad scientist named Mr. Pear, but it’s not an aspect that adds a great deal to the game since throughout, it’s only vaguely touched upon and not ostensibly given any true clarify, so it’s much more difficult to get invested in than in other games. But ultimately it doesn’t mar down the overall experience too much as it’s not truly a game that played for its story. 

Originality – 7/10

As I said, Sheep was one of the more stand-out gaming experiences on PC at the time of its release, as what most of what was being released on PC at this time was RTS games or god games. Whilst I didn’t play it when it first came out, I can understand how many gamers who did so would’ve most likely seen it as a breath of fresh air compared to most other PC games whilst playing something more akin to what was being released on home consoles. Mind’s Eye Productions, throughout the company’s life cycle, would mostly develop games based on popular licenses such as Starsky & Hutch, Thomas the Tank Engine and Monopoly, so coming up with a unique concept like this would have felt like a breath of fresh air to them as well that they would have wanted to put as much effort in as possible and for the most part, that does show. 

Niiutral

To summarize, Sheep is a game that is enjoyable to play, especially those who are looking for a stern challenge among classic PC titles; though not without its flaws. It’s a fun game that the developers clearly had a lot of fun creating themselves and stands out as one of their better games before the company’s acquisition by Disney back in 2005. 

Score

39/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

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 its 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 its 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 dining 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 many 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 to be an 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 ghosts 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 playstyle 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 has 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 sometime 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 plotline that does also contains 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.

Happii

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)

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Kenta Motokura

Producer(s) – Yoshiaki Koizumi & Koichi Hayashida

PEGI – 7

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 favorite Super Mario game of all time, it 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 the 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 skeptical 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 skeptical 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 a number 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 his 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 to 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 the 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

PEGI – 3

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 canceled 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 reoccurring 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 meager 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 color 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 color. The party later discover that Bowser is draining the island of color 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 things 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 its a unique take on turn-based RPG combat, as well as its exceptional art style.

Happii

Overall, Paper Mario Color Splash was my favorite 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

PEGI – 12

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 its feathers reacting to respective indoor and outdoor environments accordingly, and its 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 armor, 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 armor 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 catch 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 lasts 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 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 the 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 flawed, 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 its 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

PEGI – 7

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 its 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 revamp 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 canceled 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 as 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 caliber.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Being the third re-telling of the events of the original game, the story centers 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 from 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 possibility of even more unique ideas to be incorporated in future games.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Star Fox Zero has its 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

PEGI – 3

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 its 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 staples 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 leads 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 notably, 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 over time. Whilst Nintendo has 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 behavior 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 the 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 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

ELSPA – 3+

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 humor 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 installment 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 of having to worry about how fleeting the experience may feel like after they’ve finished playing. However, with Armageddon, the 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 value 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 continues to release and re-release installments of it on a regular basis.

Happii

Happii

To sum up, Worms Armageddon is my favorite 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 has produced very many ideas that may sound ridiculous on paper but work well on the 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)