For a pretty long time I've been a defender of the Wii in the realm of "hardcore gaming." I mean, yeah, it was full of low quality shovel wear and waggle crap. But it also housed some incredidlbe games like Castle Of Shikigami III and Tatsunoko Vs Capcom. It was the first console of that generation that I bought. And though I had many fun memories with my PS3 and 360 later, it's the Wii that's remained THEE most played console for co-op in my household.
My wife and I bought it as our anniversary gift for our anniversary in 2009. And in 2021, it's the only console I can say has been continually plugged in for over a decade now. My wife and I STILL play House Of The Dead 2 on it from time to time, which is notable only because it was part of the original batch of games that we bought with the system. Insane.
That said - and as big a Zelda fan as I am - I completely skipped Skyward Sword because I had no interest in playing a motion controlled Zelda game. Too gimmicky. It's the same reason I skipped the two DS stylus Zelda games. Ugh.
So when it was announced that Skyward Sword was coming to the Switch with new "button controls," I was interested. Here's a new (to me) Zelda game. And the reviews were through the roof. I was on summer vacation last week, so I grabbed SS at Best Buy and I was legit excited to give it a go.
After four or five hours I regret to report that I think my original hunch was right. I don't care what the reviews all say, this is a low-tier Zelda game to me. And honestly, it's a series I love SO much, that I'm probably harsher on it than most series.
Let's talk about these new button controls. They're not quite that. At all. Instead, the right stick is your sword. So you're still doing motions. And now you have to hold the left trigger to get the camera to work. It's all so clumsy. That and this game was made for Wii remotes, so even emulating the motions on an analog stick just isn't right. I've bumbled around for hours hoping that combat would feel good, but all I keep thinking is that if I could just hit A BUTTON it'd be so much simpler than this.
Then there's the flow of the game. People say these are the best dungeons in the series, but I don't see it. I've only done one - granted. But I feel like the time I spent just getting there was just a snore-fest of slowwwwwww crap that equates to like a three hour tutorial. If you like fetch quests, have I got a game for you!
Listen, I understand why this game was re-released. At least I think so. It was hinted that BOTW2 takes place "above Hyrule," so I think this game will fill in some gaps for players who missed it. But I mean, we had BOTW, and the amazing remake of Link's Awakening on Switch. Even Age Of Calamity was interesting - story-wise. But this? No.
The other thing is that the game is straight ugly. I HATE the look of this game. The gross uncanny valley of kinda realistic 3D models but with weird cell-shaded faces with lumpy noses and missing features. It just looks so jarring to me.
Try as I might, I'm struggling to find good things to say about this one. And I mean, I DID try. I was excited. I wanted to like this. I wanted to finally play through it with a Pro Controller. But it's just bad to me.
And take all this with a grain of salt. I'm also not a fan of Ocarina Of Time, or even Okami, so probably I have bad taste in the general view of most gamers. So whatever.
1993. I was twelve years old, and my family had a fancy Windows based 386 computer in our house. Which seems weird thinking back, because my mom wasn't the wealthiest. But here we were with AOL. It was incredible. And trying to retrace the steps, I think it's because my step-dad worked at Circuit City at the time and probably had an awesome discount.
In 1993, shareware was a big deal if you had a PC. I played all kinds of stuff because of these cheap/free disks. (Who remembers Jazz Jackrabbit?) But Doom wasn't even the first FPS I got into. Nope. That would have been Wolfenstein 3D. And yet Doom is the one that hangs on as super important in gamer history. And for good reason.
I vividly remember staying over my friend Phil's house one time in 1994 and him showing me Doom deathmatches. It was crazy. He was playing a game ONLINE. Like, against friends at their houses. On the internet! THE FUTURE WAS HERE!
In the many years since - god, I'm old - Doom has remained a true classic. Yes, the FPS has been refined over the years in many ways. Namely, vertical aiming. And better maps. And stories. And so on. But yet, NOTHING needs to be fixed in Doom. It is perfect the way it is the same way you couldn't really improve upon Super Mario Bros or Tetris. Even if you can refine it (Super Mario World, Tetris 99), the original is still perfectly crystalized the way it is.
Doom was ported to Switch via the eShop a while back - which is part of a long, LONG lineage of ports. Doom has literally been on EVERYTHING from SNES to GBA to smartphones and smart-thermostats. And at this point - outside of my family's old Dell 386 - I don't know if there's even a preferred way to play Doom anymore. But this Switch port is solid.
One thing I'm really impressed with is the inclusion of (official) WADs. If you didn't grow up on the cutting edge, or didn't read Masters Of Doom, or live under a rock, WADs are user made levels/campaigns. Some are their own new legit fan-games. But the ones offered here - for free in a $5 downloadable game - are totally welcome. Like, there's Sigil which is an honest go goodness Episode 5 just finally released in 2019, which is insane and awesome.
Anyway, I played through Episode 1 this week, which is really important to me. Episode 1 is the original shareware release. IE, it's the game as I knew it 1993. I've played it many times on many platforms in the years since, and those opening levels are just really iconic to me (and millions). This game is still brilliant all these years later.
The level design is well thought out. The sound design in insane. Those sound effects are the stuff of legend and can still creep me out and make me feel anxious. The speed is intense. The guns are satisfying. Doom is an unmistakable classic with a kind of crazy history of sequels - both good and bad.
But I love that Doom exists on Switch. I love that all the levels are here in their insane glory. This is the better way to play on a Nintendo system - sorry SNES and GBA. The included WADs add so much value to an already overly cheap point of purchase.
I'd say that Doom is recommended, but you really don't need me to recommend it.
Soul Calibur II is the sort of game I used to love. Used to.
When I was in my teens, I was all about fighting games. I was one of those kids that had Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II and Street Fighter II Turbo on SNES. I played the heck out of the first two Mortal Kombat games as well.
Then, around 2010 or so, I REALLY got into fighting games again. It started with rekindling my love of Street Fighter II. I remember picking up the Turbo port on GBA and just being obsessed. It was long before I got wrapped up in the hype for Street Fighter IV (and again, bought three - or was it four? - versions of the damn game).
Then all bets were off. Me and some friends started doing fight nights online each week. We were playing everything. Mortal Kombat 9, Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Blazblue, Street Fighter X Tekken, King Of Fighters XIII, Dead Or Alive 4, Soul Calibur IV, and on and on.
During this era I was fairly into the Soul Calibur games. I mean, they weren't my top tier figthers (those were all Capcom games). But they were probably mid-tier. Right there with your Tekkens and so on. I liked Soul Calibur just fine. I mean, I must have because I had all of them up through SC5.
But in the years since, I've mellowed I guess. In my 20's and early 30's I was really into arcade games. Fighters and shmups were my go to. Now that I'm 40, I don't know. The one fighting game that I really feel compelled to go back to time and again is Smash Ultimate. Maybe I'm basic now? Maybe my taste has just become more refined, and I like the idea of focusing on the one I enjoy the most?
At any rate, tonight I revisited my dusty copy of Soul Calibur II on Gamecube. I remember back in like 2009 that I was pretty into this one. Not that the GCN was especially known for its fighting games. But this was a stand-out on the system. Each version of SC2 featured a different exclusive fighter. PS2 had um... someone from Tekken I think? I forget, and I'm too lazy to confirm. Xbox had Spawn, which is kind of cool. But GCN had Link and I think that makes it the clear winner among the ports.
Link makes sense, stylistically. He's got a sword and shield. It works.
Anyway, the positives first... this game still looks mostly great. I played it on GCN through HDMI and enabled the 16:9 resolution in the menu and, yeah it looks really good. I'm always pleasantly surprised when pre-HD games offer a 16:9 option. It's definitely appreciated anyway. The music in the SC series has always been solid as well.
Now onto gameplay. Look, the SC series is pretty good in that department. It's got some fairly technical sparring in 3D. To me, it's on par with the likes of your Tekkens and Virtua Fighters. It's probably GREAT if you want to spend the time. I just don't really have it in me to get good at these games anymore.
I was able to pretty reliably button-mash my way through most matches in arcade mode, and made up to the end boss pretty easily, but he wrecked me hard. The issue is that I don't really know what I'm doing. I kind of guess/remember that there's a horizontal slice, a vertical slice, a kick, and a block. I've got that. But I'm just no good at piecing it altogether in an ellegant way. So it's ugly to watch.
Like I said, this is the kind of game that I used to love. Now, I just can sort of appreciate it for what it is. For me now, fighting games are Smash > Street Fighter/Capcom stuff > Dead Or Alive if I'm in the mood for a 3D fighter. And that's about all the room I've got to get into fighters and learn (and retain) the moves enough to enjoy them. Which is okay, I think. I'm just not the same arcade dude I used to be.
There are some games that I like way more in theory than I do in execution. Games I WANT to like, but just don't for whatever reason. The more I look into the series, it seems that Assassin's Creed falls into this camp.
I first played Assassin's Creed III over a year ago. And what I enjoyed about it was completely ignoring the story and just walking around a Revolutionary War era Boston. That was neat. But the game itself? Eh. The missions didn't really excite me, neither did the story. The combat felt clunky. But running around on rooftops and climbing stuff? That was cool in a total sandbox kind of way. So all in all, the game proper lost my interest rather quickly.
I picked up Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag because I assumed it was a game about Henry Rollins' old band. No. I'm sorry. Played out jokes are played out. I bought it because I'm a sucker for the Wii U, and I had read through the HG101 book, Epopee about French game design and this was fresh in my mind.
Ugh. This game. I want to like it. I do. It's a vast open world game where you can man a ship and explore the oceans. I mean, I saw a whale breach the surface, so that was cool.
The problem is that in order to actually get the freedom to just ignore the story and go off into the ocean and do nothing/anything... it means I have to suffer through a big enough chunk of the story that I'm just tapping out.
The opening tutorial level thing where you have to make your way to Haiti felt like a chore. When I got there I was reminded of just how much I hate the combat in this games. It's so rough. Look, I"m not the biggest fan of open world games like this, but I am a fan of some. I LOVED Grand Theft Auto V, and really wish it was on Switch. I spent a ridiculous amount of time in that game just exploring and screwing around before I even bothered with the story, and then played through the story with glee. I also kind of loved Metal Gear Solid V, and really wish it was on Switch, although I'm terrible at that game.
I do wish that the Assassin's Creed games would click with me. I like the whole angle of it being based on real locations and using actual history as inspiration. I like the weird sci-fi angle of the games being memories or whatever inside of virtual reality, but...
At any rate, I've played Black Flag the last couple nights and all I can say is that I keep waiting for it to get good. But my time is limited. I don't have time to play through a story I'm not enjoying just waiting for the game to open up to me and let me have a good time. So I think that's it. I think I'm going to just finally admit that the Assassin's Creed games really aren't my thing, even if part of me wishes that they were.
I've been playing Sonic Racing Transfored (the name it SHOULD have gone under rather than it's actual and much clunkier title) for well over a week now. That's really saying something because frankly, most racing games are ones I'll play for a night or two as sort of gaming sorbet before moving onto something else. Don't get me wrong, Super Mario Kart (SNES) was a legit phenomenon for me and my friends back in the day, and my wife and I still to this day dabble in Mario Kart 8 and Double Dash, but again, that's usually for a single night of unwinding.
I hadn't played Sonic Racing Transformed since around the time of its release. I was a fan for sure. Heck, I'm pretty sure that I preferred the first Sonic Racing reboot to be honest. But I don't know, I went back to this one on Wii U this past week and kinda sorta thought it was fantastic.
There's a true sense of speed to the OMG level. The visuals are great. The tracks are long and well designed and change upon each lap. The roster is a thing of beauty for Sega fans. It's just a truly solid racing game.
The gimmick here is that it's not a pure kart racer, but rather you also switch between boats and aircrafts. It can be jarring at times, and honestly, I don't care for these sections quite as much as the karts. But it's at least unique. The boat stuff feels like you're suddenly thrown into Hydro Thunder or something. The flying... is fast, but kind of clunky to me at times. There's also the fact that the levels can get a little busy, making it confusing where to head at times when you're not familiar with a course.
That said, I'd still throw this one pretty high on my list of casual racing games. It's got a definite arcade vibe to it, and yet putting time in really pays off. After my week-plus of digging in, I had unlocked all the mirror tracks, learned how to drift like a champ, and found some shortcuts. Plus, I even messed around with the glorified quest mode, but gave up on it because after a while it can drag with repetition.
But as a purely simple and impressive racer a la Mario Kart, this is a solid recommendation. Certainly one that seems to be passing the test of time.
I don't know why I never played Yoshi's Island back in the day. I mean, Super Mario World is probably my favorite 2D platformer of all time. Probably? No. It must be! But for some reason, the sequel didn't interest me in 1995. I must have moved on to more 'mature' games by then, and the crayon colors and baby Mario must have scared me off.
But I did finally play it sometime in the late 2000's when I picked up the GBA port of the game. I remember being pleasantly surprised. But for some reason I didn't stick with it all that long. And I really haven't thought about the game since.
Luckily, Yoshi's Island found its way back to me via the Switch Online service. My daughter is three months now, and she seems to really like watching bright and colorful visuals. So as an alternative to cartoons, I fired up Yoshi's Island and put her little chair next to mine in the game room.
Well, the bright colors really did seem to comfort her. And me? I had a lot of fun playing the game as well. Visually, the game holds up incredibly. I mean, I'd much rather look at graphics like this in 2019 than say Donkey Kong Country or Mortal Kombat.
It also plays well. Yoshi feels like Yoshi, and the levels are interesting. But with that said, I feel like the game would have benefited from NOT having the Super Mario World 2 title. It should have just been called Yoshi's Island and considered a spin-off, because this doesn't feel like SMW2. It feels like its own thing. And having that comparison in my head kind of hurts it.
Let's be real - we've never gotten a follow up that can compete with Super Mario World. I suppose the closest is that you could call the New Super Mario Bros games spiritual successors. And while I LIKE all of those games to varying degrees, none of them are as perfect as Super Mario World.
But I digress. This is a super fun game. Although one that I need to turn the volume down on. As a new dad, there's a certain level of unneeded stress that comes from hearing a baby crying in a game. C'mon.
I'm currently kicking around in the second world, and having a solid time. Certainly I'd consider this BETTER than any of the NSMB games anyway. And I'll definitely say that Nintendo has done a great job with the SNES games on Switch Online. I feel like even in their first initial batch of games they've out shined the NES offerings.
The cliche when you have a baby or toddler in the house is that the days go slow, but they years go fast. I'm quickly learning that this cliche is true. Take Yoshi's Island as a good example. I very vividly remember firing this game up on NSO and playing through the first world while my daughter sat in her little bouncy chair next to me and watched the bright colors. At the time, she was only three months old. Now she's two years old. It's nuts.
The difference between a newborn and a toddler are vast. The cry is different for sure. Now we're into full on tantrums will full sentences thrown in. It's just crazy.
But I digress.
I was re-reading HG101's book on their 200 Greatest Games Of All Time for the umpteenth time and was reminded of Yoshi's Island. So I've been playing through it at a leisurely pace over the past couple nights.
I definitely respect Yoshi's Island. It's just beautiful to look at. It's got to me one of the most visually appealing SNES games period. I still play it with the sound off because frankly, I can't stand baby Mario's cry. But it's a solid game.
It doesn't REALLY feel like a sequel to Super Mario World, though. That game is pure perfection in my mind. And lately I wonder about my own fondness for platformers. I mean, I definitely like a lot of them, and I love a few. Super Mario World is the best. But there's so many I just don't get the appeal of - stuff like Donkey Kong Country, or Klonoa, or Rayman, or many other critically acclaimed games. So it's hard for me to put a finger on what it is that I do and don't like in a platformer. I only know that I do or don't like one.
But Yoshi's Island is a really good game. It's not NEARLY as good as Super Mario World, though. SMW is about legit platforming and this... I don't know. It's focus is so much more about navigating the levels. They're almost maze-like at times, which inches into Sonic 3 territory for me - and that's a game I hate. Luckily, I don't hate this one. Maybe it's because this one is more about puzzle solving, which again - I don't LOVE in a platformer, but it's been interesting and there are saving graces.
The boss battles are certainty interesting. I mean, I've fought a frog from inside its own belly before it pooped me out. I've pushed a boss off of a ledge, almost negating the boss battle altogether in a weird almost Monster Party kind of feeling.
That said, I don't like playing as Yoshi nearly as much as Mario. And let's be honest, this is Yoshi's game. Call it SMW2 all you want. This is really just the first game in the Yoshi series.
I don't love this game, but I like it a lot. I get why it's achieved a sort of cult status. I think it's fun, and interesting. I'm currently in World 4 (of 6) and still having a good time. Where it would rank on my list of Mario platormers (if we're letting it in because of the SMW2 title, that is), I don't know. Kind of medium-high? If we're just talking about 2D games then my top tier is Mario World, Mario Bros 2 and 3, and Mario Land. This falls below all of those, but it's definitely in the next tier, which is still definitely something good.