Okami is a game I've been hearing about for years. It was originally released in 2006 on the Wii, and just a couple years after that had already achieved a sort of cult following. And of course so had Clover Studios - a development team who would eventually morph into Platinum Games. Big time stuff.
Anyway, in the fourteen years (woah!) since its release I just kept hearing about how this is one of the best Zelda clones out there. Which was of course a selling point in my book. But for some reason I never got around to playing it. Then a couple of years ago my wife bought me a copy of the HD port for Xbox One for Christmas. She had been flipping through one of my gaming magazines and it caught her eye as something she thought I'd like. Bless her heart. But for whatever reason, I still didn't get around to playing it and eventually sold off my Xbox collection. Out of a bit of guilt that I hadn't played the gift that she picked out for me, I went ahead and imported the Switch version of that HD port and then - AGAIN - sat on it for another year.
I don't know. Sometimes I think I was waiting for the hype to wear off. There's no way this game could live up to what it had built up to in my head. But I finally figured I should play it, so fired it up today since I had the day off. I ended up playing for about an hour and I regret to say that... I kind of really don't like this game.
Look, Okami is a beautiful looking game. That sort of cell-shaded paint brush look is awesome. But as a Zelda clone... not so good for me. And I had had fair warning that the start was slow going. Which it is. But here's the bigger problem... I kind of hated EVERYTHING going on here. Like, seriously everything.
The camera is crap. I tried every camera setting and nothing could make it feel good. In fact, inverting the Y-axis seemed to do NOTHING. And it's kind of moot anyway as the camera control is often pulled away from you anyway.
The combat feels awful. It's just mostly mashing Y. And beyond that you can do the paintbrush stuff. My goodness, the paint brush stuff. I don't even. Alright so that's the big hook in this game. You have to paint characters to do certain attacks or spells or whatever. I hate it. The options are motion controls via the Joycons (using them like Wii remotes), which is not my bag. Or you can just use the analog sticks which feels super clunky. Plus, it feels like it's always slowing the momentum.
On that same note - O... M... G... the opening IS really painful. There's this little fairy or bug or something who's y'know, the "tutorial giver," and every thirty seconds or so the action stops so I can read way too much text. It's brutal. So add that to the pile. I hate the controls, I hate the camera, I hate the action, and now I'm subjected to WAY more text than feels needed in such a game.
Look, MAYBE this game does turn into the greatest Zelda clone ever. But all I can think is that there is already a fairly long list of great Zelda games out there that I could just play again. And I'd much rather do that.
I'm sometimes a little apprehensive about this little indie games with big hype. It can be a bit of a dice roll. While I've certainly found some amazing games due to the indie-hype (see: Dead Cells), there have been others where I've struggled to understand the hype (see: Celeste).
I went into Downwell with that sort of apprehension. It's a $3 game. It's monochrome. It looks like countless other games to me - admittedly, I had it confused with Towerfall even. And the hype - at least in certain circles - was through the roof. Nintendo Force gave it a perfect score. I know it's a weird thing to say, but a perfect score throws up red flags for me sometimes. How can a game be THAT good, really?
After about fifteen minutes of playing Downwell, I could totally understand the hype. And after about an hour I was sending texts to friends urging them to check this game out. Yeah. It's THAT good.
Downwell is deceptively simple. Levels use procedural generation - like in Spelunky or Dead Cells. So each run is different. Cool. And like in those games, each set of levels has its own theme with different enemies and so on. The point of the game is to continue going further down the well. And the experience is pure arcade bliss.
It quickly turns into a competition with yourself. How good can you do on a single run? For the record, my best run so far is a mere eight minutes. That was a huge improvement from where I started at the beginning of that hour.
The simplicity extends the controls. You only need one button! If you're standing then it makes you jump. If you're in the air then it makes you shoot from a gun at the bottom of your feet straight down the well. So simple that you "get" the controls in mere minutes.
Then it's a matter of understanding everything else at play. Like how some enemies need to be killed by jumping on them, while others need to be shot. Or how the gem system works. Or what to prioritize buying at shops. Or which power-ups to grab between levels to benefit your own playstyle. This is a game that obviously requires a lot of experimentation and PRACTICE. What's great is that it's a game that can make you feel like you've gotten something out of it even if you only have ten minutes to play.
Oh, I also learned quickly that my preferred way to play is putting the Switch in TATE mode and using a Pro Controller. Big difference. Anyway, loving this game. So glad I grabbed it.
I have a thing for good digital card games. I've downloaded and tried every free one that pops up on the Switch eShop. I played a good sixty or so hours of Lightseekers last year, and sometimes I still think about getting back into that one.
One of the first card games I ever got really into was Card Fighters Clash on NGPC. I loved that game, and for months it was the game I'd play in bed before falling asleep each night. I was obsessed. And given that Card Fighters Clash was pretty much a rip-off of Pokemon TCG, I always intended to get around to this one. I KNEW that it would be something I'd enjoy.
And I was totally right. The 3DS Virtual Console is a perfect way to play old GBC games. So using some leftover Amazon credit from Christmas, I started up Pokemon TCG this weekend. First I did the tutorial, which initially seemed tougher to wrap my head around than Card Fighters Clash. But before long I was out exploring gyms and doing battles and even winning a few.
Before I knew it, it was really time for me to get to bed and two hours had flown by. My goodness. Now the thing is I haven't even STARTED messing around with deck building. I'm still just using the Squirtle starter deck, and it's already starting to look a little weak. I've scored like four booster packs so I need to start looking at building my own deck. I'm really not sure where to start. I'm thinking about possibly trying to score a Nintendo Power strategy guide for this one.
didn't have much time for gaming last night. Baby's started teething, poor thing. But I at least started working on a new deck, which began by culling the Squirtle & Friends deck a bit. I started out by cutting it down to just using Water and Fighting cards (and Meowth, which is a ANY energy Pokemon). I thought I'd start with a sort of balanced 20/20/20 template of Pokemon, Trainers, Energy. But it's a little off. I have more Water than Fighting Pokemon, so the Energy is split like 12 and 8 cards. I played a couple matches and it was okay. But I wasn't pulling enough Energy, and I felt like some of my Trainers were being wasted. So I skewed it more like 20/15/25, with 14 Water Energy, and 11 Fighting. That did a little better.
It's still not great, though I'm getting the hang of the deck building here. I play a match or two, and then make adjustments. There are def some Pokemon that I favor. I like the one that looks like a walrus (I'm terrible at remembering their names, sorry) and especially his evolution. I like the one that looks like Nessy as well. Meowth is straight RNG, but he's fun.
On the flip, I'm not super crazy about any of my Fighters. So I'm thinking about which other Pokemons I want to split this deck with. Water's a keeper for me. Maybe Water/Electric? Is that weird or cool? I'm not gonna lie, I like the idea of a Squirtle/Pikachu deck.
Certain Trainers I love having in the deck. Bill for sure. And Scoop. And Switch. And obviously some Potions/Full Heal/Revive. But there's lots that I'm just not using. I need less Evolutions in there, too.
Anyway, I'm having a really good time with this game. I spent a lot of time on Lightseekers last year, and really got into the deck building there, so it's fun to have another card game that I'm actually enjoying crafting decks.
Okay, I re-tweaked the deck into a Water/Electric combo. I like this one way more. And it seems to be working a lot better. I managed to get THREE medals already: Fighting, Water and Science. Good stuff! I'm about 7 hours in at this point.
This has been one of the best $4 in Amazon credit I've ever spent on a game. I've put in a solid thirteen or so hours now. I've enjoyed the deck-building immensely, often tweaking between battles for something close to optimal. At least for my own play-style. I've experimented with a purely Water deck; a Fire/Water deck; and other variations, but I keep settling back on a Water/Lightning combo. Though of my twenty-ish Pokemon, I tend to do like two-thirds Water and one-third Lightning/Any.
I've really had a great time with this game. I now have all eight of the medals, and am in the hall to take on the gauntlet of Masters so I might get a crack at those Legendary cards. This is tough, though. You need to beat all four Masters without losing, else you're sent back to the start. I'm not really sure that my fairly basic deck is up to the task. But we'll see.
I have to wonder - why wasn't Pokemon TCG a bigger series of video games? The card game was huge, right? I can't believe we didn't get sequels on GBA, DS, 3DS, and Switch. Imagine this game on Switch! I'm envisioning a free-to-play game where you can earn cards through playing... like, y'know, all those other games on the eShop. If it went the Lightseekers route and allowed you to import your physical cards... wow. I'd be in trouble.
When I was a kid, Game Boy was my jam. I've talked about this plenty before, so I won't be a broken record here. But, I loved the original Super Mario Land - it was THEE game that showcased the new system for me back around Christmas of 1989. So when the sequel was announced, I was jazzed. And yet for some reason... I didn't actually get it until the late 2000's. I don't know why. I just never got around to it.
In the twenty or so years between release and me finally playing it, Mario Land 2 had built up a sort of mythical cult following. It was considered some kind of crowning achievement of what the Game Boy hardware could do. Sort of like how Link's Awakening brought a SNES style Zelda to the little GB, Mario Land 2 kind of worked as a low-powered and impressive take on Super Mario World's 16-bit glory.
The weird thing is this. I didn't love Mario Land 2 when I finally played it. I thought it was fine. It looks incredible. The sprites are insanely detailed. The levels are huge and full of secrets and cool stuff. But I don't know. Something doesn't quite click with me. The power-ups feel kind of boring and some of the level design ends up where you can basically just skip the level by flying over it if you have the rabbit ears.
Anyway, playing it again - I feel kind of the same. I like the game fine. But I don't love it. It's not boring me or anything, but it's not blowing me away either. If anything, I find myself marveling at what a well crafted game it is - while not really have all that much fun. It's weird.
What's weirder is the spike in difficulty that happens when you get to Wario's castle. The whole game felt like a cakewalk to me. And when I got to his castle I had stockpiled thirty lives without trying. But his castle felt so hard to me that I ended up rage quitting after losing like twenty lives in a row.
I'm glad people like this game. I'm glad it exists. I'm still impressed by it. But I'm all set with it.
It's kind of crazy just how many Mega Man games were released on NES. Was there any other series that got six iterations on that hardware? It's nut. Anyway, MM4 is around the point where I stopped paying attention to the NES games back in the day. I remember a friend of mine did have it, and I played it briefly (and we listened to Tool's album Undertow while playing it). But I don't remember liking Mega Man 4 all that much.
Playing it on Switch in 2020 I'm sort of mixed on it. It's not bad. Not at all. But it's also not the glory that is Mega Man 2 or 3. And I'll be honest, I'm pretty Mega Manned out right now. In the past year or so I've played 1, 2, 3, 5, X and X2. That's just a lot of Mega Man. These retro collections are great archival releases. But maybe I'm overdoing it trying to get the most bang for my buck.
There's some interesting additions here. Apparently this is the NES game where the charge shot came into play. And the level design is fine. Certainly I like it more than MM5 anyway. And they haven't really started scraping the barrel for boss robots either. There's some fairly cool ones. I guess.
It's just weird. MM2 and 3 are so so iconic. And then 4 and 5 feel... I don't know. More of the same? Just kind of less good? But still good? But not great? It's a weird feeling. The levels all feel like they go on for too long. But do they really or am I just getting tired of these games? Maybe both.
I get really excited when Nintendo does these Direct videos and just stealth announces a new game that you can be playing RIGHT NOW. I mean, this isn't really like Tetris 99 or anything. But, they went ahead and announced a new free demo. And that's SOMETHING. To be honest, I really appreciate demos in this day and age. Sometimes, I might play a demo and realize that a game I would have overlooked otherwise is something I really want to play. Other times, I might find out that my brief time spent with a demo is more than enough for me.
This weekend, I downloaded Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, which is both a demo and a mouthful. But let's be real: Nintendo has had a great streak of remakes going on Switch lately. It's not like anyone needed a remake of Pokemon Yellow, but dammit if Let's Go Pikachu wasn't glorious. And NOBODY expected a full on remake of Link's Awakening, but that turned out to be one of my favorite games of 2019. So here we are. There's a new old Pokemon on the horizon and a free demo to go with it. So why not?
Having never played the original GBA and DS Mystery Dungeon games, I was pretty excited to give it a go. All I knew was that it was a Pokemon roguelike, which is cool with me. And the art style is a pretty sort of watercolor looking deal. When I got to the product page, I saw the preorder price of - you guessed it - a full $60. Which seems a lot to me. I mean, look - I get that games are expensive to make. And Game Freak do make good ones. But here's the thing... right away I'm thinking to myself that if I like this demo, I'm either going to wait for a big sale, or even more likely, I'll just buy a copy on DS for less money. Probably.
But really all that is moot. Because y'know what? I'm actually pretty bored with this game. It's cute, yes. But man... I feel like even though it LOOKS awesomely modern, it FEELS sluggishly antiquated. Playing through the rather brief demo I wasn't fired up to get MORE content. Nope. If anything, I kept thinking that if was in the mood to play a roguelike, I'd more like pop Etrian Odyssey back into the 3DS or maybe consider checking out Persona Q2, which now seems like the 3DS' swansong. So eh. I don't know. I don't think I'm sold on this one.
OHHHH. But I did want to say that I found the little personality test thing cure when you launch the game. I don't know why, but I got a real kick out of the fact that the game decided that I'm a total Squirtle. So at least I got something out of this game, haha.
I fired up Metroid Other M today. I knew this one had a sort of divisive reputation. And I was a bit apprehensive about using the Wii mote sideways (NES-style) for a 3D game. But so far, it seems like it just really works. The opening tutorial thing felt really boring. But now that I'm in the game proper, I'm already enjoying it more than I expected. I should note, I'm not a big fan of 3D platformers in general. But somehow this feels like a 2D Metroid on a 3D plane. If that makes sense.
It does seem way more linear so far than your typical Metroid game. But I'm okay with that. I honestly really like the style of the visuals and everything so far. I haven't played much - just an hour or so. But I have high hopes now.
I'm about two hours into Other M now. It's far from a perfect game. Early on there were parts that were so dark, that it was hard for me to fully make out the environment. I even tweaked TV settings, but it didn't help much. Luckily, once I got the power on in the area, it made things better. Also, I don't love the thing where you have to switch to first person view by pointing at the screen with the Wii remote. I find that transition awkward. Like going from playing it 'controller style' to 'light gun' style feels weird and jarring to me in the middle of combat.
That said, I still find it a totally interesting game. And I'll always say that I'd rather play a somewhat-bad-but-interesting game over a just-good-but-boring game. So there's that.
Yes, it's super linear. This has been a complaint since launch. But at the same time, it's still not always obvious how to proceed. There's often little crevices to get into in morph-ball form for instance. And I must say, rolling around Monkey Ball style is actually quite fun.
I do like the visuals quite a bit as well. There was a section where there was a sort of virtual reality nature section with waterfalls and stuff. It was really nice looking - almost a kind of Pandora thing going on there. And some of the alien life is very cool to look at.
I also appreciate the well distributed save spots - something that the linear nature has afforded. I don't need to backtrack a lot to find a save place, which is handy given that I have a baby in the house. So in a lot of ways I can tackle this game in pretty short chunks, which is helping a lot.
Other M is turning out to be a FASCINATING game. There are moments where it is baron and boring; moments where it is genuinely thrilling; moments where its story is a baffling mess; and moments where I'm cursing the controls. And all of these moments may present themselves in the span of just ten minutes. It's mind-blowing. I'm not sure what happened. And I think that Team Ninja had good intentions. And there are some truly great things in this game. Unfortunately, they tend to be buried under poor design decisions and an overall mess of a game.
I played another hour or so last night, and could feel my brain having a tug-o-war trying to decide if I like this game or not. Back and forth, back and forth. I'll run down an empty hallway and feel the tedium, get to a boss fight and think it's awesome, feel the frustrating set in because the controls aren't doing what I want, or I'm not realizing I need to switch to first person mode, hit another boss fight and think it's awesome... Everything about this game is baffling.
For instance, last night I hit a room that had a sort of boss battle against three flying drones. They move FAST and can only be hit when they telegraph a certain beat; this makes auto-aim feel useless because you'll continually target the WRONG drone instead of the one you want to hit. Ugh. They drop a scattershot upgrade. Immediately after that battle, I go into a save room, and then the next room is... a boss battle. This time against two big snake things. I dodge their attacks and try to use the new scattershot I JUST received which would seem obvious. But nothing's working. Finally I check a walkthrough and learn that this battle requires going into first person mode. Ugh.
A bit later, I hit another boss battle. I drop into a hive and the game sort of freezes me in first person mode. I spend FIVE MINUTES just looking around trying to figure out how to start the battle. I eventually think the game's bugged. I check a walkthrough again and find I'm just missing the specific little spot on the screen I need to target to start the battle. Ugh. It's like one of those hidden image puzzle games. Ugh. But then that battle ends up being awesome and fun. It's a mess!
I think I'm sort of enjoying how bad it is, honestly. I can't stress this enough: the vast majority of the game makes NO SENSE. Like, there's a little fuzzy alien thing that you keep spotting in cut scenes. It looks like one of those puffin things from The Last Jedi. Anyway, it's obviously meant to be cute in a Moogle kind of way. And then Samus says something about "this disgusting creature..." and I'm like, "what even IS this story it's trying to tell me?" Wow.
When I was a kid, my Game Boy meant so much to me. Sure, I had a Super Nintendo at the time which was way more powerful. But I was a child who spent his time split between two households. The Game Boy meant that I could start a game at one house, and continue it at another. Given that video games were my biggest hobby, having the ability to keep one system with me gave me a lot of comfort. And one of the most shining examples of this kind of comfort was the first portable Zelda outing, Link's Awakening.
A Link To The Past has remained my favorite Zelda game throughout the years. And while Breath Of The Wild gives it a run for its money (and probably surpasses it if I'm to be honest), if we're going by pure nostalgia, then you can't beat LTTP. But man, Link's Awakening came close back then. If for no other reason than it was a game of LTTP's caliber but on a portable system. It was mind blowing back then. It still kind of is now.
When the Switch remake of Link's Awakening was revealed earlier this year as part of Nintendo Direct, I exclaimed loudly and probably not using real words. My wife said she had never seen me so excited about a single video game. This is saying a lot. We've been together for fifteen years now. She's seen me get excited about a lot of video games.
Yet, when the game was finally released a couple of months ago I couldn't quite pull the trigger. We have a six month old daughter in the house. My hobby time isn't what it used to be. And I can find better ways to spend $60 right now. I just kept thinking that while I'd like to play this remake, I could always just download the original GB version on my 3DS for $6. So it was a hard sell. Even for a super fan.
Well, yesterday morning I found Link's Awakening under the Christmas tree. I guess Santa thought I was good this year. I was happy to jump back into this game.
Let me start by saying that this remake might be one of the prettiest games I have ever seen. Seriously. Ever. It's just gorgeous. It reminds me a bit of 3D Dot Game Heroes, a PS3 game that was so obviously inspired by Zelda games. But it's not blocky or anything. Instead it looks like everything is a little toy. It's like if Amiibos came to life and re-enacting a classic Zelda adventure. It's just so charmingly lovely.
The thing that makes Link's Awakening such a fan favorite is that it's friggin' weird. And I love that. The same way that Zelda II is kind of a black sheep, this one has a lot of odd stuff going on. Like the Mario references. My wife looked over my shoulder at one point and asked why a Chain Chomper was in a Zelda game. And I mean, I don't want to spoil anything but you probably know why.
At any rate, I'm currently in the third dungeon which is gigantic. I had forgotten. I think the last time I played this game was maybe back upon its release. I'd play it at my mom's house on the Game Boy proper, probably listening to music or the TV, and I'd play it at my dad's house on the Super Game Boy on SNES. In a weird way, I was getting the Switch experience back then. Huh.
The great thing about this remake is the quality of life improvements. Granted, it's weird that the dpad can't be used for movement. I don't get that. But things like not having to equip the feather to jump or the bracelet to pick up rocks - that's huge. I revisited Oracle of Seasons not that long ago and found the item swapping to be such a chore.
Anyway, I'm not done with this one yet. I've only just started. But dammit, I'm blown away by this remake. It is just fantastic.
Link's Awakening has been a great game to play over the holidays. It's a perfect blend of nostalgia and newness. And to be honest, I'm glad I did finally play the remake instead of just revisiting the original. This new version really does some solid upgrades to the game that make it a much better experience. That's saying a lot. Nintendo has managed to make a great game even better somehow.
It's not perfect. There are a couple of weird decisions here. I mentioned the lack of d-pad support for instance. There's also the fact that you can only bind items to the X and Y buttons. Why? Why not just let me pick ANY buttons? If I want to use A to jump and Y to swing my sword, why can't I do that?
These little things are sort of baffling. But they never ruin the experience. This remake is beyond charming. It's one of the cutest games I've ever seen. And I'm loving every minute of this adventure.
I'm pretty far into the game already. Currently, I'm making my way through the Face Shrine. I've picked up the boomerang, bow and arrow, and hookshot. Oh, and I just got the upgraded power bracelet. Good stuff.
AND I managed to beat the game on New Year's Eve. What a pleasant way to end the year. Link's Awakening is an incredible remake. And despite the few small nitpicks I had with some of the controls or UI stuff, I really think it's an example of how to do a classic remake right. This is a fine addition to the Zelda series - and one that does seem worth playing over the original.