I'm fascinated by the relationship that Ubisoft and Nintendo have forged. This generation we've seen Nintendo hand over their licenses and let Ubisoft go nuts. And the results have been mixed, yet totally interesting. When they announced that there would be a Mario and Rabbids mash-up that played out like XCOM last year, I was both baffled and excited. I didn't end up loving the game, but I'm totally glad that it exists. And that's pretty much the same way I feel about Starlink.
For all intents and purposes, Starlink may well have been a Switch exclusive. Honestly, how interesting would this game even be minus the Starfox license? I can't imagine even wanting to check it out on Xbox One. But the Switch version is BASICALLY an open world Starfox game. I mean... c'mon.
So that's what I bought: an openworld Starfox. And mostly it works that way. Oh, and I also bought Starfox toys. That was the other big selling point. It seems stupid yes. Toys-to-life is kind of a dead genre. But I mean, that Arwing looks awesome on my shelf. So there's that.
But what even is this game? I've been playing it on-and-off since launch and I'm still not really sure. Sometimes it really is a new Starfox. Sometimes it's more like No Man's Sky. Other times it's a big open world space shooter sim kind of deal. And accordingly, sometimes I'm having fun and other times I'm not. The purely Starfox stuff is great, but a lot of the planetary exploration feels like a slog to me.
The truth is that I have to think it's more of a failed experiment than a successful one because I just can't seem to stay focused on it. I get annoyed with the repetition of the stuff you have to do on planets. It feels like a lot of mindless fetch quest kind of stuff and halts down the really interesting and engaging stuff for me.
Ultimately Starlink feels like some good ideas that are marred down by some bad ideas. It's sad that I feel like I'll remember this game more for the cool plastic toy that came with it rather than the actual gameplay itself. Oh well.
I was really into my DS back around the time that Space Invaders Extreme dropped. Like, I'd take my DS with me wherever I went Into It. And y'know what else I was really into back then? Shmups! And arcade games in general. But that was a decade ago, and I've noticed my focus has changed a lot since then. While I still certainly have an appreciation for those arcade games I used to love, I just don't seem to have the same patience for them lately.
In the past year I've found myself revisiting old favorites or various other old arcade classics and I'm just finding myself as sucked in as I once was. It seems weird to say that I don't feel like I have time for these kinds of games. But I don't know. While some gamers seem to appreciate the fast pick-up-and play nature of games like this, the truth is that I find there's too much 'practice' involved with getting any good them.
Then again maybe this is all in my own head. Some games that I've spend many hours on the past year include Overwatch, Paladins and Arena Of Valor - all games that require a lot of practice (and repetition) to get the hang of. So maybe it's just that I feel like I've played a lot of these sort of arcade style games so much in the past that they just don't exactly excite me as much anymore. I don't know.
I've also found myself more drawn to slower more deliberate kinds of games these days. Games like Civilization VI and Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures are fairly high on my wantlist right now. I've also been in the mood for digital card games and turn based RPG's. Heck, I just played through a Pokemon game last week and enjoyed every moment. So maybe that's the bigger thing. Maybe I'm using gaming as a way to really unwind and chill right now, so arcade games just aren't jiving with that.
Whatever it is... I feel like I connected with Space Invaders Extreme way more a decade ago. Part of it might be that in 2008 the whole "modern retro" thing was really kind of novel. I remember when Mega Man 9 was announced that kind of thing seemed so mind-blowing at the time. Of course ten years later we've been through the biggie indie game boom (see Indie Game: The Movie) and nostalgia has been at an all time high. Even some of my favorite games this year were very obvious retro throwbacks - things like Dead Cells and Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon. So there's a possibility that a newer game just looking or feeling "retro" doesn't instantly make it cooler to me anymore. Or maybe I'm just rambling some nonsense again. I mean really, part of Octopath Traveler's appeal totally was THE WAY IT LOOKED.
I'm not even sure why I'm doing so much thinking on this one. WHY do I need an answer on this? In 2008, Space Invaders Extreme was totally awesome. I loved the way a game that looked old could feel so new. And now something about this game just feels... I don't know. Shallow? Rounds last a few seconds. There are a few power-ups, but they don't last long. The bonus rounds don't really do anything for me, so I'm often just skipping them. The boss battles are admittedly the most interesting part of the game for me. They're sort of like little puzzles to solve, except the puzzles aren't very challenging. But I do enjoy these. Truth be told, I'd probably enjoy Space Invaders: Extreme far more as a boss rush nowadays. Hmm. Maybe there's a boss-rush mode. Probably. I haven't really poked around the menu much.
But I guess I'm just trying to figure out my own growth (HA!) as a gamer. I can totally see that my tastes have changed from decade to decade and it's interesting to me - but also sometimes kind of weird. It's weird when things I thought were awesome and fun now just don't really comfort me anymore. Maybe it's just a phase. Or maybe it is what it is. As we grow as people so do our tastes, yeah? Space Invaders: Extreme is cool. I suggest shmup fans play it. But I'm not really in the mood for it anymore myself.
I started playing Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire on 3DS last night because idk. I never been a big Pokemon fan or anything. I remember my first exposure to the phenomenon was a couple of friends had gotten obsessed with Red/Blue in my senior year of high school (1998) and had brought in their Game Boys to trade their little monsters. As a side note, this is kind of fascinating to think about - as I was leaving my GB in my backpack back then as well for spurts of Zelda: Link's Awakening in study hall or lunch. This was a full decade after the little handheld had launched! Anyway, for whatever reason I was too cool for Pokemon, but was reintroduced to them a year later when I girl was dating was obsessed with the TV show. She was a vegetarian but kept making me eat Happy Meals at McDonald's so I could get her the little Pokemon toys they were promoting at the time. Again, I was too cool.
Some years later when the DS entries in the series were all the rage, I decided I'd give the games a go. I settled on Pokemon: Yellow since it was a sort of refined take on the original Red/Blue games; plus it started you with Pikachu; plus the yellow cartridge was friggin' cute. And so I played it for a while on the Gamecube's Game Boy Player and I had a really good time. I had the official guide to ease me into things and I was impressed. And then that was it. My Pokemon curiosity had been satiated. I understood why folks liked the games, but had no interest in checking out others.
As you are probably well aware, there's a new Pokemon game on Nintendo Switch now. It just came out. And it's (virtually) a remake of Yellow. So I was PUMPED. I had a Pokemon game on pre-order, y'all! My wife thought that was weird, but I insisted I'd changer her mind once it came out and we could couch co-op it. Pokemon: Yellow! On the couch, or portable, but mostly on the couch! Like I originally played it. And then came the waggle. You can tell me all day that the motion controls are cool, or that if you play it handheld it kinda works. But dudes, once it was announced that I could not use the Pro controller on Pokemon: Let's Go, I cancelled my pre-order.
But with the game out on shelves, I still have an itch. Watching all those people playing it on kiosks at the Nintendo World Store last week really gave me an urge to catch some Pokemons. So I used some store credit and decided I'd order one of the 3DS entries. I figured one of those titles would be recent-ish enough to give me a feel for how the series has progressed. (I had originally intended to get the DS remake of Gold or Silver, but those prices!). I settled on Alpha Sapphire - a remake of one of the GBA games - because frankly, I thought that the colors in the title felt more mainline than X or Y or Sun or Moon. Plus, Sapphire is a shade of blue... so I don't know. I like blue.
I've only played a little over an hour so far, but I like it. The visuals are really lovely, actually. I started out with the Mud... ugh, I'm so bad with names. Seriously. In a game with hundreds of names, I'm not going to be good at telling you names. But he's the little green four-legged one that's a water Pokemon, y'know? And I leveled him up to 7 so far, and caught another level 5 wolf-looking one. I found a level 7 or 8 thing in the wild, but then forgot to catch him and knocked him out instead. Dammit. I need to remember to catch em! But yeah, having a good time so far. Seems like a good game to unwind with before bed.
I played s'more Alpha Sapphire, and I've got five Pokemons on my team now. I got the thingy that allows all of them to gain experience even if they don't battle, so that helps. They're all mostly around level 10 now, and a couple of them have evolved. I'm having a good time. Got my first badge, and have now made my way over to a little island.
I'm definitely enjoying Alpha Sapphire way more than I figured I would. I had a busy night, but once I had downtime I plopped down on the couch. My wife put on Elf, and I went Poke-hunting. I beat the gym master on that little island town in the southwest of the map. Again - bad with names/too lazy to Google. So now I've got two badges. I found myself a fishing pole, and then headed off to another village to deliver some parts to a scientist working on some sea exploration thingy. The plot's... not really important to me here.
Before I left that town there was something about a Pokemon beauty contest that sounded awful silly to me. But I figured, eh, I'll see what it's about since I stumbled upon it. So I entered, won, and received a "Cosplay Pikachu," rounding out my party to a full six. I admit, I could have had a sixth hours ago, but I haven't been all that diligent about actually catching these things, haha. Anyway, as a dude whose previous Pokemon experience was having a blast with Yellow, it was really really awesome to get a Pikachu. And this little bastard's wearing a leather jacket, ha!
I'm not really sure where I'm headed next. Is there even a critical path of main 'quests' to complete or is it really just a matter of earning each badge in whatever I order I happen to do that?
I'm 13 hrs into Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, which to be honest, I'm almost surprised I'm typing that. Nothing against Pokemon, I've just never been super interested in the series. But holy shit, I'm actually having a lot of fun. I do think that a big part of it is that I've been very busy recently, so an RPG that is extremely linear and has rather simple combat is just very appealing to me at the moment. I think there's times when my brain wants big gigantic "do whatever you want" worlds like in Skyrim or BOTW, and right now my brain just wants comfort food that isn't overly complicated. I've now tackled six gyms and am on hot pursuit of a missing submarine. Good times!
Okay, in order of how much I tend to use them...
My starter is a Swampert who I've had since the beginning of the game (originally a Mudkip). He's got a water attack and two rock attacks outside of his basic attack. And he's usually my go-to for most basic battles. I think he's hovering just under level 50 right now.
I have a 'cosplay' Pikachu that I won in a beauty contest. Leveled just behind Swampert. She's got three different electric attacks and a basic.
Beutifly is cool. The rest of these are probably like ten levels below Pikachu. Beautifly has a couple of wind attacks, and a life-drain/restore thing.
Latias I got from someone in a story quest. She has a Mega Evolve or whatever but I don't even know what that does. Haha. Does it literally evolve her for good, or is it something that is specific to a battle?
Slaking evolved from the Sloth looking thing that I just thought was funny looking. I basically never use him, but instead have him hold some of the TM's that are useful for navigating the overworld.
The sixth slot is sort of a revolving door because honestly, like 90% of my battles involve the top 3 that I listed. I think right now I've got a Mightyeena in there.
I think I've beaten the big major story beat in Alpha Sapphire as I've caught that big aquatic Poke' on the cover art. Forget his name. Begins with a K. It was actually sort of anticlimactic... there was this huge cut scene showing how epic this moment was and I just threw a Master Ball at him and *poof* it was over. Haha. Anyway, everyone tells me that I've saved the world or whatever and now I can either go off and complete my Pokedex (totally not me), or can go compete in Pokemon League. I did finish out the 8th and final gym for good measure. Anyway, have I effectively 'beaten' the game now having gone thru the main story, or is there a credit roll after beating the Pokemon League thing? I'm currently on my way thru Victory Road.
Well, damn. I ended up having way more fun with Alpha Sapphire than I figured I would. I'm a fan of turn based battle systems in RPG's, so there's that. And sure, this is linear and fairly easy in comparison to most, but it was also really fun and cute and chill to play. I never needed to look at a map or walkthrough online to know what to do next. And the game let me decide if I wanted to just rush through the story or take my time 'collecting em all.' I'm more of a main quest kind of dude, so I focused on that. But it gives the game a lot of replayability to go back and do the post game stuff or just keep collecting. It's neat.
Since I've never really paid much attention to the series, I decided to do a bit more research and realized that while there's like thirty Pokemon games out there, there's essentially just seven mainline games with much of the releases being updates or remakes of those seven. So that's kind of cool. Maybe in the (near) future I'll get around to exploring a game from each generation then.
The Switch is my perfect console on paper. Switch games can be played from the comfort of a couch on a big screen with a sturdy Pro controller, or they can be played "on the go." In execution - well, it still is the perfect console, but sadly there are still some glaring omissions in its software library. I'd love to have a modern football game on the Switch, but unfortunately EA holds a bit of a monopoly on the digital NFL these days and it's been some years since they've released a Madden on Nintendo hardware. Madden 13 was the last one - released on the Wii U - and before that was the confusingly and simply titled Madden NFL Football on the 3DS.
While it's sometimes casually referred to as "Madden 3D," this is sort of an odd entry in the series. It was the only Madden game released on 3DS and came out as a bit of a stop-gap between Madden 11 and 12. Looking at the game though, there's no doubt that this was basically a port of Madden 11 and I suppose they left the year out of the title so as not to detract would-be buyers at the time from thinking that they should just wait for 12 which would be coming later in the year.
Reviews were middling on this one - and sometimes rightly so. There's no real excuse for the lack of a franchise mode for instance. But I mean still, this is a pretty fun portable football game. It's my only option for such a thing right now, so I feel like a beggar can't be much of a chooser. I've really been embracing portable games lately. And looking at screenshots and Youtube videos, it appears that this certainly is a step-up in pretty much every regard from the various DS entries. So there's that.
I played through a full season and I felt like the core mechanics were fine. The problem is that there's just not the real drama that should come with a season (or franchise). It's like each game is its own self-contained thing. I never saw player injuries - not sure if that changes on higher difficulties than the default. So I don't know. It just felt like I was playing sixteen games that were the same thing each time.
There is this system where during key plays time slows down and you need to do basically a quick time event to be successful. But this was literally just tapping A a bunch of times. It was pretty boring and added nothing to the experience. Even a true QTE that used contextual input could have been more interesting. And this only happened like five times in my whole season.
While I had fun throughout my nine or so hours with the game, I don't know. The Super Bowl was won and... that was it. Congrats. Nothing more to see here. Move on.
When I was a kid we had "the cottage." It was a small cottage a few blocks from the beach a couple towns over the my step-father's dad had built with his bare hands. It was nothing fancy. The shower was outside. And though there were four bedrooms upstairs, they only had partial walls separating them. And it was blazing hot if you tried to sleep up there. But it was also quaint. It had a nice screened in porch that I spent so many weekends on playing my Game Boy. And extended family would each rotate a week that we'd stay there during the summer. Oh, and there was a NES at the cottage with only a small stack of games that ended up getting a whole lot of play each year.
Dr. Mario reeks of summer to me. In my memory, the only time I ever played Dr. Mario was those summer weeks. But damn, it was an easy obsession. Dr. Mario was never a solitary game for me back then. There was always someone who wanted the next game against the winner. And there was something about the game - like Tetris - that made non-gamers want in.
This weekend I'm wrapping up my winter vacation with my wife. That cottage is no longer with out family. Actually, my Grammy Nelson whom it belonged to passed away a couple of months ago. But revisiting Dr. Mario this weekend, I don't know... it was a nice reminder of those days. Remember the summer (or winter) vacations of youth? They were magical times that seemed to go on forever. Maybe because our young minds barely understood time. Or maybe because we were so young and without responsibility, that time really was in surplus.
I spent tonight running through the twenty main levels of Dr. Mario and it was a lot of fun. Of course this time it was solo. Something I wasn't actually used to. It was interesting to play this game in a more strategic, and dare I say - slower pace. I wasn't so worried about doing things faster than my opponent and that really opened up the game to a sort of weird zen space-out kind of vibe. It was actually quite leisurely.
I'm playing the original NES game via the Switch's Online Service and as expected, it's exactly as I recall. Funny enough I left the music on the default ("Fever"?) and my wife came over and listened for a moment and said I was listening to the wrong song. I switched to "Chill" and oh yeah, she was right. Haha.
Dr. Mario is not my favorite puzzle game. Not by a long shot. There's so many I'd put above it. For one thing, I way prefer falling block games. But still, there's something really special about it for me. At least as far as nostalgia is concerned. And to some degree, isn't that what a lot of this hobby is about? I mean, if I wasn't so happy to go back and hang on to those things that made me happy when I was young, I'd probably just be focusing 100% on new games. But there's just something special about these old games that help me hang on to what makes childhood so wonderful.
Maybe, just maybe I'm getting a little emo here. But that's to be expected I suppose. You see, my wife is twelve weeks pregnant with our first child right now and I heard its heartbeat for the first time this week. For the first time I felt magic in a winter vacation that those youthful ones waiting for Santa could never compete with. I just didn't know it yet. So I guess it was a good time to go back and be a kid again for just one night. I look forward to getting to show my child the sorts of games that meant something to me when I was a kid in the years ahead.