A good snowboarding game can feel almost zen-like. I'm thinking of stuff like SSX 3 with its insanely long mountain that can take upwards of a half-hour to get down. If you have a game like this that has solid controls, a good mountain to race down, maybe some relaxing music... well then you've got something really cool.
I was hoping that 1080 Snowboarding on N64 would be something like that. But... eh, not so much. It does look good. Actually it looks really good. Having played a lot more Playstation and Saturn games back in the era, I'm always sort of blown away now when I check out these N64 games and realize just how impressive Nintendo's hardware was by comparison.
That said, I find the controls in 1080 Snowboarding to be really meh. I mean actually carving down the mountain - it's not perfect, but it's serviceable. But as far as doing anything else, it's a mess. Or I'm a mess. I'm not quite sure which. All I know is that I'm having trouble landing even tiny jumps without beefing it.
I even took the time to go into the training mode that throws tricks and button combos at you so you can learn the ropes. I don't know if it's my controller or the game or me, but I was only able to pull off even the most basic moves less than fifty percent of the time. It was bad. And certainly not fun. Oh well. Nice looking game, though.
Double Dragon was definitely "cool" back in the day. But my memory says that I didn't really care all that much about the series until Double Dragon II came along and added co-op to the mix. I'll be honest - and this might be a crazy thing to say - but as far as single player NES beat-em-ups go, I vastly preferred Renegade.
Of course I didn't know at the time that the two games were kinda sorta related. Renegade was a localized version of the first Kunio-kun game. I think it was the first. I'm not gonna Google it. And then Double Dragon was sort of a spin-off or spiritual sequel or whatever. But the two series have always been a bit intermingled over the years.
Renegade was awesome, though. It had such a great environment. The subway station platform and the burger joint and everything. It was so cool. Double Dragon is cool, too but it feels a bit less diverse. A little less inventive.
Don't get me wrong - the factory area where you can knock dudes onto a conveyor belt so they fall to their deaths? That's awesome. And there's some interesting enemies like Abobobo of course. And y'know, enemies get harder and learn new moves and so do you. It's good and all. I just think I got into it at the wrong time. Like, I already played and loved Renegade. And not long after this, we'd see the release of Double Dragon II and play it with friends and the original game was rendered obsolete.
I do remember playing the GBA remake later and thinking it was impressive. But I don't know. Double Dragon is fine. It's good. I like it. Just not as much as its sequel, nor the myriad Kunio-kun games out there.
A week ago, I hadn't even heard of Dauntless. I was watching the Nintendo indie showcase video this past week, and Dauntless was shown. It looked like it was basically just Monster Hunter inside the Fortnite engine. I like Monster Hunter, so in my mind I was thinking that Dauntless looked cool but ultimately, do I need a new Monster Hunter game? Heck, I've got two unplayed ones on my shelf right now. So I figured I'd probably pass on it, or wait until it was super cheap. Then the video ended with the publisher saying that Dauntless was available now on the eShop... for free. So I downloaded it before the rest of the presentation was even over.
This strategy of announcing a new free game has worked well for Nintendo this year. At least in my book. It's how they announced Tetris 99 and that has become my most played Switch game yet. In an instant Dauntless went from "oh this looks kind of cool," to "awesome! Let I'm gonna play it now!"
Back when I was still playing my Xbox One a lot, I picked up Monster Hunter World on a whim. The MH series had always sort of interested me. Sort of. But all the hype about MHW got to me because it was hyped as an entry point to the series. And what I found was that that was absolutely true. MHW stripped away a lot of the obstacles that made the MH series so "hardcore" and instead offered up a welcoming experience for newcomers. It eased me in.
After now starting up Dauntless, I can tell you this: It's basically Monster Hunter World in the Fortnite engine. Which is a good thing, folks. MHW is not on Switch. But Dauntless is. And it's free.
If you've played Monster Hunter World, then the early tutorial quests in Dauntless will feel unnecessary. Trust me, you know the loop of the gameplay. You take a quest and either go solo or wait for some other players to queue up. You go out and collect some materials and kill a big monster. Then you go back to the hub world and craft some new weapons and armor and rinse and repeat with bigger and badder monsters. You know if you like this game or not right now if you've played Monster Hunter before.
And guess what? I like it. It's damn good.
The character creation tool is definitely solid by the way. I appreciate that. And I appreciate that you can change your character from the ground up at any time.
I have noticed something interesting about performance on Switch so far. When I started playing the game it was in docked mode on my TV and it looked and played amazingly. However, playing in portable mode definitely introduced some sporadic lag. Nothing game-breaking, but it's noticeable if you've been playing it on TV for a while first.
That said, this is a great free Monster Hunter clone and it seems like it's going to continue to receive regular updates. I'm enjoying it and will definitely keep playing. I mean, that game-loop I talked about earlier... it's pretty addicting.
Some games - it's like how do you even talk about them? Some games are just ubiquitous with the whole concept of 'gaming.' I mean, is there a more iconic cartridge than that classic pack-in Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt?
If I were to make a big list of my own personal favorite NES games, I don't know if SMB would even crack the top 50. Heck, it's possible that if I really put my mind to it, it wouldn't even make it to the top 100. Super Mario 2 and 3 would both be there for sure. But the first one? I mean, there's a LOT of NES games out there. Which is not to say that SMB is a bad game. It's a great game. I'm more talking about how vast and solid the NES library is.
On the other hand, Super Mario Bros is easily one of the most important NES games for me. In a way, it's one of the most important games for me period. See, this was the game that introduced me to the NES. At the time I had a Commodore 64 at home - and only had edutainment titles for it. I also had a second-hand Atari 2600, which I enjoyed but the games were fairly simple.
When me and my siblings went to a babysitter one summer in 1987 everything changed. Her kids had just gotten a NES and they were playing Super Mario Bros one morning. My mind was promptly blown. I instantly went from a kid who thought video games were neat, to being a bonafide fan. I remember calling my dad that day to ask him if I could get a NES. (He initially said 'no' by the way. But I was persistent.)
To call SMB "iconic" would be a huge understatement. Just close your eyes and think about that game. You can hear the music, right? You probably have world 1-1 burned into your memory.
Lord knows I've played this game a lot over the years since. The original NES game, the All-Stars remake on SNES, the Deluxe remake on GBC, even the fascinating Super Luigi Bros on Wii U. And it gets to a point where you've played something so much that you're pretty much unsure what to even say about it.
Over the weekend I fired up the game on the Switch Online app. It's obviously just the original vanilla release, but with save states. And I'll be honest, I used them. I think of them as save points at the start of each new level. And it turns out that if you're okay with being a cheater like this (I am) then you can coast through the game pretty handily without ever losing that first fireball powerup from world 1-1.
But what struck me is how solid this game still is. I mean, this 1985 game that completely defined platformers... it's still so good. It's been improved upon in every way since. But it's still really great. The level layout, the controls, the way those later castles have little puzzles in which routes you take. All excellent.
Maybe this wouldn't be in my top 100 NES games. But even if it's not, it's impressive to think that #101 would be this good.
It's 1990 and I'm nine years old. I'm sitting in a friend's kitchen after we get back from seeing the movie The Wizard. His dad made some weird soup that I'm nervous to eat. I think it has venison in it. It smells weird. Our group of friends takes turns passing around a couple of Game Boys to play this Tetris game, which I don't really understand how to play. They explain the rules to me and I get it now. I'm not good at it, but I get it.
It's 1993 and I'm twelve years old. I have to go into the hospital for some minor surgery. To comfort me beforehand, my mom brings our Game Boys and we play Tetris against each other while I'm in the hospital bed. Remember when you had to physically link video game systems together via a cable? As whatever is in the IV seeps into my bloodstream, I start to get drowsy. This day lives on in infamy as the only time my mom was ever able to beat me at Tetris.
It's 2003 and I'm twenty-three years old. I'm dating this girl who has several roommates, one of which is a guy who loved playing Tetris against me as he insisted I was the only player to ever give him a challenge. He owns a SNES and when he smokes he likes to play Tetris. I think it's the only game he owns. We have many Tetris marathon sessions that go on for hours. I think we'd bet money on them. I'd have too much to drink those nights.
It's 2012 and I'm thirty-one years old. After watching a documentary called The Ecstasy Of Order, my wife becomes infatuated with Tetris for the first time since she was a kid. We bond over Tetris World on Gamecube. I get too competitive, though. I can't help it. Tetris brings out this side of me.
It's 2017 and I'm thirty-six years old. I finally decide to put away Breath Of The Wild, and the Switch turns into a defacto Puyo Puyo Tetris machine. It becomes my go-to game to play while listening to reruns of The Office and Parks And Rec. It's total comfort food.
I recount all of these little anecdotes to illustrate just how ubiquitous Tetris is with my gaming life. It seems like even if Tetris is pushed aside for other things, there's always a version of Tetris that I need to have around for any phase I go through. The same way my mom bought Beatles albums on vinyl, then cassette, then CD, then... a Spotify subscription, you sometimes end up buying your favorite games over and over again just to continue to have convenient access to them.
It's 2019 and I'm (almost) thirty-eight. We're watching the Nintendo Direct when Tetris 99 is announced. There was something truly awesome about Nintendo announcing this game we knew nothing about. They were just like, "hey, this exists. And it's out right now. And it's free." So I went and downloaded it with glee. Two matches in, I had ranked #4 and felt like an absolute boss.
Tetris 99 is brilliant. It's a game that I didn't know I needed until it existed. It's such a perfect concept: Play Tetris against 98 people and the last player standing wins. There's strategy to be found. Like do you target the best player? The one closest to losing? The one(s) attacking you? There's a drama that comes with seeing that only fifty players remain. Or that ten remain! All the while the game speeds up as more players go out. It is such a blissful chaos.
I can't say that I'm GOOD at Tetris. I've watched videos of Tetris Masters playing, and I'm not one of them. There's a whole world of stuff I don't understand. T-Spins and all that? Yeah, I don't know. I just play. But I can at least say that I'm not BAD at Tetris. And the next night I got a 3rd place. Then next night a 2nd. I became hooked - compelled to constantly keep trying the same way I felt as a kid playing the original Game Boy cart. I wasn't so much playing against 98 other people as I was competing with myself to top my last attempt.
And that next night... I came in first. It was an amazing feeling. I took a screenshot and ran into the bedroom and whispered "are you asleep?" My wife rolled over and I showed her the screen. She was proud, haha.
I love that Nintendo is making plays like this - these weird surprise games that are totally leftfield. And for everyone who shrugs off the Switch Online service, this is proof that Nintendo does want to make some clear strides to make the service worth your money. I'm just thrilled that this weird game is even a thing, and I can see myself playing it a hell of a lot for years to come.
Seven months later, Tetris 99 remains my most played game of the year. It's crazy. This update of a thirty year old game that Nintendo gave away for free to Switch Online subscribers, and I just can't stop playing it.
What's amazing is the support that Nintendo has put into this game. Y'know the whole "games as service" thing? Yeah. They know what they're doing. The 7th Maximus Cup tournament has been announced for this month. And I've taken part in every one of them so far. I've unlocked all those tournament skins, baby.
And in the past month we've seen the big 2.0 update, which is the reason I'm writing about the game again now. I mean really I could write about it on a weekly basis, given how often I fire it up to play a couple rounds before bed. But the update added so much new content.
First of all, daily challenges are perfect for this game. Now that they're here, I'm not sure why they weren't from day one. Daily challenges are the kind of thing that kept me logging in to Dead Cells or other games of the ilk. And they earn you tokens that can unlock even more rando skins. Good stuff. Fun stuff.
The other huge thing is Invictus which is a special mode that plays just like the normal Tetris 99 mode, except it's only available if you've come in first place before. Since I've done this a bunch of times, I felt like I was part of an exclusive club. Not so much. Where I normally finish in the Top 5 or so in a vanilla Tetris 99 game, Invictus is the big time and these folks don't mess around. So now I'm struggling to finish in the sixties. It's crazy. But it's also rewarding. It feels like Nintendo was able to introduce a new challenge here, basically creating a paradigm where you can choose to play casual or competitive.
So far, I'd call Tetris 99 my game of 2019. There's still a few months left to dethrone it. But we'll see.
I finally won an Invictus. I don't really have a lot to say. I just wanted to say that cuz I was pretty proud. Big time stuff. As the year ends, Tetris 99 is by far my most played game of 2019. So it was cool to finally get a big win like that. Strangely, there's no achievement for winning just a single Invictus. Huh.
It's getting to a point where I'm starting to think I'm just not even a fan of the Ghosts N Goblins series. I replayed the original GNG earlier this year (or was it last year? Hmm...) and even though the nostalgia was there, I didn't actually ENJOY it. I played Super Ghouls N Ghosts a couple months back and lost interest FAST. And thinking back - I feel like everything else I've played in the series has been pretty meh for me. Ultimate Ghosts N Goblins? Maximo? I'm just not feeling it.
But I figured I'd give Demon's Crest a try because it's part of my Switch Online subscription. And guess what? I'm glad I didn't go buy this SNES cart.
I will start by saying that the game is BEAUTIFUL to look at. This one really nails the 16-bit macabre vibe that it's going for. Even more so than Super Ghouls N Ghosts did. This is on par with Super Castlevania IV, visually. The music is... fine.
Playing as Firebrand is pretty good. He's certainly easier to use than Arthur ever was. He's got more attacks and he can fly. It's pretty good.
But I don't know. Something's not clicking for me. And I think it's the vaguely Metroidvania elements. There's six areas for you to explore (available via a Mode 7 map!) and eh, I don't really feel like they're interesting enough for me to want to hop around and revisit each. Just the whole idea of gaining these new powers and coming back to levels to explore further. Maybe that's just not my jam anymore. I had a similar feeling when I played Shanae Half-Genie Hero last year.
So maybe it's not the game. Maybe it's me. Either way, I'm not into this one.
Y'know, I've been a fan of comic books since I could read. As a kid, I was more a Marvel fan than DC. I mean Marvel had the X-Men and Avengers and Spider-Man and just so much good stuff. DC seemed... I don't know. Less cool to me at the time. Except for Batman. Batman was huge. And that first Tim Burton movie hit at such a formative age for me. I was eight years old. I can't even tell you how many times I read the Batman issue of Nintendo Power.
I tell you this because it's almost weird to me how little I've kept up with comic book video games. I mean, I try. But there's just so many games to play. I remember when Arkham Asylum was released back in the day and my wife and I both thought it looked amazing. But we only owned a Wii at the time so we had no way to play it. Bummer.
Some years later I'd finally get around to playing Arkham Asylum, but I think I ended up distracted about halfway through. Like I said, there's just too many good games out there battling for my attention. But given the critical praise for these Arkham games, it IS really weird that I've not gotten around to them more.
Which brings us to the fact that I've been a total sucker for exploring the Wii U library this year. It was such a cool and forward thinking (and misunderstood) (and poorly marketed) system. Though the library is small - roughly 160 physical games in the US - the ratio of good games seems really high within that small library. There's a lot of ports of solid "big games" on the Wii U; the sort of stuff that Wii owners had missed out on in the generation prior.
I was looking for a good game to play on winter vacation, post-Thanksgiving. And guess what I stumbled upon? It turns out that Arkham Origins takes place on Christmas Eve! Perfect!
My wife fell asleep early last night, so I started this one up. As a note, it DOES have Off-TV play but oddly, you can't enable this on the gamepad. You have to start the game on TV, or figure out the combination of button presses to navigate the menu blindly. Which I did. Ugh.
But guess what? Arkham Origins is AWESOME! Oh my goodness, what a great game. It's the usual sort of action-beat-em-up stuff but it's also got some investigation stuff and an open world Gotham (on Christmas Eve!). It's great. I'm having a blast just exploring Gotham, swinging from building to building and breaking up crimes and advancing the story and leveling up and... ugh, it's so good. I played two and a half hours last night and I didn't want to stop (but I was getting tired, y'all. My daughter is six months old right now. I'm always tired haha).
I also feel like there's a Metal Gear Solid vibe here a bit. Like, the game knows it's a game. And there's some weird moments that highlight this. There was a part where I was breaking up an underground fight club organized by the Penguin and I have to face off against Electrocutioner and it looked like this MASSIVE boss battle was about to start up and I just gave him one kick to the head and knocked him out. It should have been anticlimactic but instead it felt funny and awesome that the game sort of tricked my expectations.
This game rules. The setting is great, the voice acting is solid, the cast of characters is fun, and the exploration is satisfying. I'm looking forward to getting back to it. It's a perfect game for winter vacation.
I played some more Arkham Origins last night, and I WAS loving everything about it. I got onto Penguin's ship and the inclusion of Christmas music was such a nice seasonal touch. And then I got to the boss fight against Deathstroke and I'm sad to say that much of the fun of the game was sucked out for me. This boss fight is brutal. It's long as hell and it's all about countering his attacks, sometimes with long stretches between. And if you don't counter perfectly - and if you don't find his openings perfectly - he will destroy you. He hits so hard.
I ended up replaying this battle over and over again. I attempted it easily six or more times. Now, if each of those attempts were five to ten minutes, that time adds up. And when I don't have the kind of gaming time I used to, then that time feels wasted to me. Granted, I'm on vacation this week. But still, I don't want to use up all of my gaming time on ONE boss fight. It's frustrating.
I took to the Googles and found that I wasn't alone. There were countless threads and blog posts and guides saying that this is the most difficult and annoying part of the entire game. I saw many folks saying that they ended up bailing on the game at this point. Which is a bummer given that this battle happens relatively early in the game. I'm about four hours in myself - playing at a leisurely vacation pace. But man. I'm bummed. Part of me wants to just rage-quit right now, even though the other part of me was loving everything else about this game.
Hey, remember that time that Nintendo R&D1 developed a fighting game for NES? Yeah, me neither. Because it was released at the tail end of the Famicom's life cycle and was never brought over to the states. Truthfully, I don't think I was even aware that Joy Mech Fight even existed until about a week ago. But thanks to the Switch's region-free nature, I'm able to play it via the Switch Online service.
So Joy Mech Fight a one-on-one fighting game in the vein of Street Fighter. It also takes some cues from Mega Man in that it features robots, and beating one robot means you can now play as that robot.
Let me lead with a positive. Given that this game was released in 1993, Nintendo really knew how to get the most out of the 8-bit hardware at this point. There's some truly impressive stuff going on here. Visually, Joy Mech Fight looks fantastic. The colors are bright and vibrant. The backgrounds are all well detailed.
The robots themselves have no arms or legs, by the way. Instead, they are floating heads, torsos, hands and feet. It's kind of weirdly jarring at first, but you get used to it rather quickly. I would assume this concession makes them easier to animated, and thus allows R&D1 to pull off some fast fighting that otherwise would not have been possible on the Famicom. It's impressive stuff.
The fighting feels pretty fluid and good. And special moves are generally easy to pull off once you figure them out. I went in mashing and hoped for the best, and honestly - at least in the story mode - it seems pretty easy to push through without knowing what you're doing (assuming you've played your fair share of fighting games before).
You start with a super basic robot, and as each one is beaten you can choose to swap to defeated ones between rounds. I liked the one that had Wolverine-style claws and just stuck with him for a while.
After seven battles I thought the game was over, but it said I had cleared Level 1 .Wait, what? How long IS this game? I checked Wikipedia and it turns out there's over thirty robots to battle. Damn. Depending how much you like Joy Mech Fight this is either a positive or a negative. For me it was kind of like... I mean, this game is fine. But it's not exactly so compelling that I want to battle 30 robots just to clear the story mode.
I have to say - for me - this is more a cool curio than a game I really want to spend quality time with. I created a save state after clearing the first wave, but I'm not sure I'm in a big rush to get back to this one.
I've always associated The Lord Of The Rings movies with Thanksgiving and the holidays. It seems like when I was in college, I'd always be in the mood to watch these movies on Christmas break. So while digging thru my box of loose GBA carts, I came across this little game that I had picked up on a whim a while ago. What I found was a bit of a pleasant surprise.
I'm not going to say that The Two Towers is KIND OF LIKE Diablo. No. It's basically DIABLO on GBA. My goodness! What a delight.
I mean everything about it... you pick a character which is basically a class. I went with Legolas, who is the archer class. Why? Because that's how I roll in Diablo. And I mean EVERYTHING in this game lines up with Diablo. From the HUD to the perspective to the clicky-click battle system and the loot and upgrading your active and passive skills. It's all here. The only thing I can't seem to find is an in-game map. Hmm. But otherwise, yeah, this is like a new little Diablo game and I'm kind of hooked on it.
I'm not sure how long it is or anything but I'm having a lot of fun. I found some rare gear (I assume... the text was green) and I've put some skill points into some neat upgrades that augment my play style - namely, regenerating HP faster. But I mean, this game is surprisingly deep and a good reminder of just how much cool stuff is buried in the GBA's library. I'm kind of a sucker for licensed games, and this is exactly WHY. Who would have guessed the LOTR license would be hiding a Diablo clone? Maybe lots of people given that these games were fairly popular on console. But still. I missed it back then, but I'm enjoying it a lot now.
It's crazy for me to think that we've owned a Wii for a decade now. It doesn't really feel like an "old" system or anything. But damn. We got it in the summer of 2009 for our wedding anniversary. Thinking back, it's nuts how different our lives our now. In 2009 we were a couple of 20-somethings playing Wii Sports and having drinks and staying up late in our little apartment. Now we're thirty-something "grown-ups" who are sneaking some rounds of Wii Bowling while the baby's asleep.
Wii Sports harkens back to a time when pack-in games were the norm. Thinking about some of the best utilized pack-in games (SMB/Duck Hunt, Tetris); pack-in games were a way to highlight some feature of the hardware and really justify your purchase. In that respect, Wii Sports is insanely good. I mean, in an instant you "get" the motion controls of the Wii remotes. You understand how it all works, and you understand WHY they exist.
We've had a lot of fun with this game (essentially a demo disc, but totally not) over the years. Wii Tennis is still super fun as well. But Wii Bowling... that's the one we always come back to. It's a quick game to jump in and out of. And you play in quick turns. It's just so conducive to the sort of game you can sneak in between dinner and Jeopardy and still feel like you've shared a fun experience.
Also, I feel like I should at least mention that my wife is oddly good at Wii Bowling. Like, it's one of the few games that she consistently beats me in. So there's that.