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Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

The influence of both Metroid and Castlevania is still felt to this day, especially during the last five or so years. One of the best examples of this influence can be found in last year’s Guacamelee, from developer Drinkbox games. With its 2D platforming, brawler combat system, and a lot of humor, Guacamelee became a hit across a number of platforms. Now it’s back in the shape of Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, marking the game’s début on the Nintendo system. Guacamelee follows Juan, an average man slain by the kidnappers of El Presidente’s daughter. Juan reawakens to find himself in possession of a Lucha mask, granting him the power of the Luchador. From here, Juan must save El Presidente’s daughter while avenging his own death. Juan’s journey is a humorous romp across various environments beautifully presented in a cartoonish manner. While the story is never compelling or engaging, it does progress the game efficiently enough that it never becomes an issue that detracts from the overall experience.   The aforementioned Metroid influence is made clear pretty early on. Each environment hosts various sections that are only accessible after the player has unlocked certain skills. The risk of adopting this approach is putting far too many inaccessible areas in one zone early on, making the player feel trapped in a box. Thankfully Guacamelee does a fairly decent job of keeping the balance between keeping the player curious while allowing them to progress at a manageable level. The nifty parts of the environments hide secrets; this is what captures a genuine feeling of rewarding curiosity and exploration. The core gameplay of Guacamelee is accomplished. The jumping mechanics feel tight, responsive, and only the player can make errors. The combat is built around the idea of building combos and adjusting to the enemy in question. The early stages of the game feel rather repetitive due to the lack of abilities and a small range of enemy types. As the game chugs along, things become far more enjoyable with the player being granted more freedom in how they wish to build combos. With this focus on combos comes an unfortunate fascination with repeatedly putting the player into kill rooms. While it’s fun to string combos together in brainless kill rooms once or twice, it devolves into a repetitive chore after the sixth or seventh room within an hour or so of play.   One of the surprising highlights of Guacamelee is the platforming component. There’s a neatly entwined relationship between platforming and a number of the attacks featured within the game. There’s a number of cases in which the player is required to combine movements, jumps, and attacks in order to reach a certain point. The combination between challenge and skill is wonderfully delicate, making each tricky jump satisfying to pull off. It’s a neat touch that gives the core gameplay an extra dimension. The presentation of Guacamelee is a wonderful meld of bright colours and quirky character designs. The sheer boldness of the colours allows the game to almost jump out of the screen, which technically you can do given the Wii U’s capabilities. The game looks great on both a TV and a Wii U pad. The pad’s other features aren’t really used all that well, however, it’s only purpose is to host a mini-map. Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a wonderfully crafted experience. There’s little to truly complain about beyond some repetitive enemy patterns and some areas that feel a little less interesting than others. There’s enough content there to keep everybody happy given the price point–even more so given the local co-op that the game offers. With tight, responsive controls, wonderfully crafted platforming sections, and more than an odd giggle along the way, Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a great example of Metroid-inspired concepts put into practice.          ...

The Nintendo Balancing Act: Can They Do It?

The Nintendo Balancing Act: Can They Do It?

Nintendo is seemingly on the road to recovery–at least in terms of the Wii U. The back-end of 2014 seems ready to usher in a big 2015 for Nintendo’s curious creation. After the success of Mario Kart 8, and the sheer positivity of their E3 direct showing, Nintendo is riding a wave of positivity with the Wii U as the surfboard. All this new hype surrounding the Wii U, or more accurately the future of the console, does create a slight creeping worry–what about the 3DS? Nintendo spent a long time, and a lot of effort, on turning the skeptics of their 3D gaming handheld into fans. After a truly spectacular 2013, the 3DS became one of the must-own systems, breaking free of the stigma of being a pricey gimmick.   While it remains to be seen whether or not the Wii U will go through the same transformation, Nintendo must maintain a level of focus on the 3DS. It won’t be easily accomplished, as trying to maintain the momentum of the Wii U while supporting the 3DS will be the very definition of a balancing act, but it must nevertheless be done. Nintendo has done well historically when it comes to maintaining two systems, especially consoles and handhelds. Nintendo has seemingly planted the 3DS firmly within their future plans, with a focus on Amiibo and classic Japanese franchises such as Monster Hunter and Persona. The biggest game in Nintendo’s future release calender, for both systems, is undoubtedly Super Smash Bros. With both versions prompting positive reactions from E3, it seems both systems are already being fairly balanced. There was an initial worry that the 3DS had been overlooked during E3, but thankfully Nintendo’s reveal of Code Name: S.T.E.A.M put the worries to bed. It’s key that Nintendo maintains this balance between their systems, not allowing one to overshadow the other. It would be understandable for Nintendo to put their time, money and effort into the Wii U. Given the system’s struggles, and Nintendo’s plummeting profits, there’s almost an expectation for Nintendo to spend the next few years dragging the Wii U into calm waters. The balancing act has already begun, and so far it’s going smoothly. Both systems boast strong line-ups going into late 2014/early 2015, with titles such as Monster Hunter 4, Bayonetta 2, Smash Bros and the surprising cult hit in the making, Splatoon. Whether or not Nintendo pulls off this finely tuned balancing act, there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel after some rough times.  ...

I Need That Wii U Hotness | E3 2014

I Need That Wii U Hotness | E3 2014

I have to admit, I was one of the guy’s who would shit on whatever Nintendo put out because of how much I hated the direction they took with the Nintendo Wii, and now the Wii U. I didn’t like the way things were going. I was a grumpy gamer who wanted my fun Nintendo memories on the Snes, N64, and Gamecube not to be tarnished by some bullshit motion controlled gimmick. However recently, and especially over the last couple of months I’ve opened my heart up a little to the Wii U and what they’re trying to do. I joked on our E3 Predictions podcast this week that all I needed was a new Zelda game (not Hyrule Warriors) to sell me on their console. Now I feel like a toss-pot because not only did they tease a new Zelda game, but they also teased some other games for their platform that tickled me where my bathing suit goes. If you can’t tell from the preview image for this article, Captain Toad is one of those games. When they first revealed the game I thought it was just going to be some boring, rehashed Mario game. But once they showed some more gameplay after their Digital Event I was really, really hooked and curious on this game. It doesn’t seem like they’re making a huge, cheesy, gimmick out of the gamepad motion control stuff. It actually looks good! I love the whole camera control aspect out of the game. Nintendo didn’t stop there with their presentation for me. Sure, Captain Toad may be one of the more games I’m curious about but that’s not all. The open-world aspect for this new Zelda title is really what sells me entirely. I can’t wait to sit down and dip into this game. It seems to be mixing the art-style between Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword. Even though I thought Skyward Sword was a “meh” game I’m still really curious in this game, and really dig the art-style we were teased. But the real question I have about this new title. This new “Link” looking character we were teased. Of course Link has always been joked about being a feminine character, but this time around “he” looks more feminine than usual. So, the question to be asked and considered is that maybe for our new adventure into the Zelda universe will be tackled with a female playable protagonist. I don’t know if this is 100% true, but it would definitely be a unique take on the series, aside from the open-world theme we’ll be getting. Of course I joked about a Zelda game selling me on the console, but I had no idea we’d be getting something of this scale. Give me a Wii U, and this game dipped in chocolate and covered in flakes of gold. I need this. So, congratulations Nintendo. You’ve sold me on your damn console....

Mario Kart 8 Reminds Us Why We Love Video Games

Mario Kart 8 Reminds Us Why We Love Video Games

Modern video games have took on a whole new form. The days of being designed purely to supply fun have gone. Cinematic experiences, gritty story lines, fancy tricks–these elements have taken hold. Is this a bad thing? No, of course not. It’s just the natural evolution of the industry. It does, however, allow us to appreciate the games that are just there to be fun. Mario Kart 8 isn’t fancy; it’s not trying to blow people away with spectacle, it just wants its players to have fun. It’s a trait Nintendo has become synonymous with, and Mario Kart 8 embodies this. The core values of Nintendo are all present within the soul of Mario Kart. The controls are simple, fluid, and rewarding. The level design is interesting and captivating with a lick of nostalgia. The audio is sheer video game bliss; it’s undeniable classic Nintendo with its whimsical charm and sense of innocence.   There’s an unbridled sense of sheer joy with each turn, each green shell fired, each finishing line crossed, that reminds us why we ever started playing video games in the first place. Because they’re fun. While it might be attributed to blind loyalty, the first time Mario Kart 8 boots up and lights up the screen, there’s an instant buzz of anticipation for the new experiences that’s tinged with a touch of nostalgia. It’s a rare power in the possession of only a few developers, most of which played large parts in the childhood of their fans. If there’s one thing Mario Kart 8 has truly brought back to the forefront of modern video games, it’s the notion of multiplayer being more enjoyable than competitive. The modern market is full of games that place victory before fun. Kill streaks, victory bonuses, t-bagging–the sense of fun has been replaced with the need to win. This is where Mario Kart neatly slots in; victory is simply a byproduct of the fun EVERYONE is having. First, second, third, even last place–everyone involved is having fun. The tradition of sitting down and playing with a bunch of friends in the same room, on the same screen, has been dying out piece by piece. The return of Mario Kart has ushered in a resurgence in gathering in front of the TV and experiencing multiplayer in the most natural, and arguably most enjoyable, way possible. Mario Kart 8 isn’t just simply a video game–it’s a symbol of traditional video game concepts in a modern-day market. It’s a simple game that is an important reminder of what a video game should be at its core: fun to play....

Does Nintendo Appeal to the Modern Gamer?

Does Nintendo Appeal to the Modern Gamer?

There was a time that a games console only had to offer good games in order to appeal to consumers. Those were the days long before exclusive downloadable content and streaming. The new age of video game fans is upon us–and they expect it all. And maybe, just maybe, this is why Nintendo struggles to appeal. As a life-long Nintendo fan, I always tend to buy their newest system on release day. The concept of playing new Nintendo titles is also always appealing to me; after all they’re pure video game entertainment. Whimsical, interesting, beautiful, curious, and humble are all words I’d ascribe to Nintendo’s games. Unfortunately times change, and those who are new to video games no longer have an interest in straight-up fun video games. They want something more. There’s a growing number of people who have recently become interested in video games–and not just the act of playing them, either. There’s a sense of gloating that comes into play these days–an influence of social interaction with the likes of streaming becoming the norm. There is, of course, the rise in e-sports and competitive play, which people thrive on sharing. None of these things interest Nintendo (well, for the most part at least), and in turn Nintendo does not interest these people. The divide between those who genuinely enjoy ‘classic’ video game experiences and those who enjoy the more flashier offerings has never been so clear. There’s plenty on offer for those looking for the modern video game experience on the likes of the 360, Ps3. Xbox One, and PS4. The more classic offerings are still, and always have been, provided by Nintendo. The Wii U and 3DS remain unique in a industry where everyone is trying to be the next big thing. Video game culture has changed hugely in the last few years. The emergence of video game celebrities has given birth to a rise in the number of people wishing to follow in their footsteps. The Youtube generation wants to share their experiences and skills, and thus streaming has become such a popular feature. The modern video gamer doesn’t just want video games; they want more, and Nintendo doesn’t offer that. If I’m being utterly honest ( and selfish), I’m glad Nintendo does not appeal to the new population of video gamers. There’s a sense of joyous creativity and love that comes with each Nintendo title, and it’s a sense that seems to be lost on the new generation of video gamers. It’s not their fault however; they were most likely exposed and brought up on modern-day cinematic video games as opposed to the more humble offerings my age group, and those before, were brought up on. Nintendo may be becoming irrelevant to the new wave of video gamers, but this does not mean Nintendo has lost their way. Not at all. Times are changing; Nintendo is not, and as selfish as it sounds (and perhaps it’s bad for business), that suits me–and I’d guess many others–just fine. There will always be a spot open for classic video game experiences, and Nintendo is still offering that by the bucket load.        ...

Smash Direct: People Talk Positively About Nintendo For a Change

Smash Direct: People Talk Positively About Nintendo For a Change

The last year or so has been rough for Nintendo–and that’s putting it very lightly. It seems everyone wants to lambast the company that gave many people a gateway into video games, and as such they have become an easy target for the sharp-tongued observer. Nintendo is not faultless, but some of the comments stem from people jumping aboard the bandwagon. In that vein, it came as a welcome surprise, recently, to finally have a Nintendo-related topic in which people talked about the games and nothing more–bar that bouncy-haired guy from Gametrailers, that is. Smash Bros. has always been a franchise that gets people hyped and tearful over the sheer nostalgic goodness it has to offer, and that’s awesome. It’s a franchise that services its fans in the best possible way, and by the looks of it things haven’t changed. The joy of seeing so many familiar, iconic, characters in one place doing battle is immensely satisfying. The Wii U–and Nintendo’s problems–have long garnered negative attention and comments. So, the stark tonal change, in terms of chatter, anyway, during the Smash Direct event was an enjoyable change. Does it mean the Wii U will suddenly become a huge success? Of course not. But it’s nice for people to take a more logical approach to the system, all thanks to Smash Bros.   The reveals during the Direct had people excited, interested and happy. There has not been a single gripe expressed thus far (at least by a large slice of people). Well, apart from the expected ‘I wish such and such were in the game’ being voiced here and there. People just seemed to enjoy what they were seeing, discussing what was on display in a civil manner, which is not something that happens all that often in modern video game communities. As for the game itself, it was a refreshing showing of a video game, with no gimmicks, no celebrity cameos, and no shady sponsorships–just straight-up info given to us in a humble and respectful manner. People may have became disillusioned with Nintendo, but at least for the duration of the Smash Direct, people came together and enjoyed what was on show, as well as discussing video games as fans, not rivals.    ...

A History of Call of Duty: Achievement, Progress, & Decline

A History of Call of Duty: Achievement, Progress, & Decline

Call of Duty is one of the more curious franchises in today’s videogame landscape. The series itself was the product of a stagnated and dried out series of games that left a number of developers frustrated and bored. When Call of Duty first hit the masses, its set pieces and intense action were met with praise and admiration. Even then it took heavy influences from popular TV and films, much like it continues to do now, but back then it was more than welcomed. But when did people become tired of the CoD staples? Did people really have enough of a good thing? Or are people just being too critical? The first entry into the Call of Duty franchise was nothing short of brilliant. Its high production value and intense set pieces created some truly wonderful gaming experiences. There was nothing else on the market that matched Call of Duty‘s intensity and well-crafted singleplayer campaign. Infinity Ward raised the bar–and they expanded on it even further with the sublime expansion pack United Offensive. Vehicles, new redefined multiplayer, truly stunning set pieces, a fantastic singleplayer, a truly great expansion, which was also the last ever expansion that would come out for a Call of Duty title. With all that being said, however, there is still a problem: most of the modern Call of Duty fans never played the first game or the expansion due to it being a PC-only title.   Call of Duty‘s transitions to consoles was a bit of mixed bag with the likes of Finest Hour and Big Red One being rather average. The big step forward came in the shape of Call of Duty 2, a title that sold a number of people on the 360 when it launched alongside the system back in 2005. While it didn’t do anything new compared to the PC versions, it did deliver the first true Call of Duty experience on consoles. Its quality brought in a huge new audience to the franchise and signaled the beginning of Call of Duty‘s rise to power. Unfortunately, it was also the start of the yearly release rota. The new yearly Call of Duty format led to the franchise being outsourced for the first time (excluding spin-offs) with Treyarch creating Call of Duty 3. The game was met with a positive reaction thanks to its solid singleplayer and decent multiplayer offerings. One of the more refreshing elements of the game, though, was the returns of vehicles and the addition of playing as the Polish and Canadian military. Things like this made sure there was a noticeable difference in how the game felt, but it was hardly a bad thing. Treyarch proved they could create a more than decent Call of Duty title, but remained in Infinity Ward’s shadow at the time.   The biggest entry, and arguably the best, was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Departing from the World War 2 setting (which. by 2007, had become heavily overused), the game was set in the present day, along with the biggest enemy of said setting: terrorism. To put it simply, Call of Duty 4 redefined the FPS genre in ways that are still felt to this day. Its campaign was brilliant and even more cinematic than anything that came before it. Also, Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer became the jewel in Call of Duty‘s crown, setting the standard for all entries that would come after it. The class set-ups, the fast-paced nature of the gameplay, the perks, the kill streaks, all elements that have since become almost standard in the industry. Call of Duty 4 brought in the masses in a spectacular way and catapulted the franchise into becoming a pop culture icon. But it also proved to be the last big step forward the franchise, and also the last Call of Duty game to be loved by almost everyone. World at War‘s release in 2008 was when things started to get a bit dicey in terms of people becoming sick of the franchise and its success in general. While the game was decent, it felt too similar to what had already been experienced in past series entries. The competitive multiplayer felt more like a mod rather than a new game due to it sticking a bit too close to the core values of Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer; vehicles did return but felt considerably more forced; and kill streaks started to creep outside of the lines of acceptable balance. However, Treyarch managed to provide a fresh experience in the shape of Nazi zombies. A limited mode that was both small and well rounded in equal measure, it tasked players with holding up in a bunker against waves of zombies. The mode would become eventually Treyarch’s signature, and would be expanded on in great depth in their later works.     World of War may have had some critics, but for the most part, it entertained people and was seen as rather harmless. The next entry, Modern Warfare 2, however, hailed the start of Call of Duty becoming the poster boy for genericism. Released back in 2010, Modern Warfare 2 heralded the start of the detractors started to grow in numbers and make their voices heard–and it was deserved. Its singleplayer may have been solid but its straight-laced, by-the-book nature began to wear heavy on people. Go here, blow this up, kill these guys, repeat. Things became extremely limited and uninspired. Also, the set pieces were overused and took away from any sense of awe or spectacle. In fact, its set pieces became something of a joke–a joke that would continue to run and run. And outside of the campaign, the multiplayer didn’t fare much better. It may have been popular but its sporadic and unbalanced nature turned off a lot of former fans. The Kill streaks became ridiculous, with a number of them supporting camping and various other annoying play styles. It felt like the multiplayer was crafted for those with short attention spans and not much else. 2011 then saw the release of Treyarch’s Call of Duty Black Ops. The supremely set piece-heavy singleplayer did nothing to suggest the franchise was heading towards any progression any time soon. It may have been decently made on a technical level, but at its core it was merely just another Call of Duty experience we had already become overly familiar with. Though the story was at least trying to depart from the generic modernity of the franchise, with Treyarch going for a flashback-heavy story that allowed Treyarch to explore various areas of the Cold War, albeit with slight science fiction undertones. Multiplayer, on the other hand, was slightly more controlled compared to its predecessor but still suffered from too much emphasis on overpowered kill streaks. Black Ops‘ biggest positive, on the online side, was Zombies, a mode that continued to grow in depth and character as it went on, even beyond Black Ops. And on that note, Black Ops 2 released in 2013 but did little to progress the storyline. It, again, was flashback-heavy with sci-fi tones, and the mulitplayer was pretty much the same. Zombies also continued to get bigger and bigger, though whether that was as good a thing as it may sound is open for debate. The game was, at its core, overly similar to Black Ops, and thus not entirely worth focusing on in detail.   And in the game of Ping Pong known as Call of Duty, we move back to Infinity Ward. Released back in 2011, Modern Warfare 3 is is often perceived to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the very essence of the typical Call of Duty experience: set pieces at every turn; levels that felt uninspired; little to no improvements; plenty of repawning enemies; and so much more. It was all there to hate. Modern Warfare 3 felt lazy, forced, and lacking any creativity whatsoever. In essence, it was just a full-price expansion pack. As for the multiplayer, it had a few tweaks which ultimately did nothing to really improve or change the established formula. The series has always had decent sales figures, especially so at the time, so perhaps the term ”if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” was applied to almost every part of Modern Warfare 3. The general opinion of videogame fans was changed by Modern Warfare 3; people were becoming entirely fed up of same old, same old. This brings us to the latest entry, Call of Duty: Ghosts. Its release last month was the first time a Call of Duty game was not met with such a hungry audience. The release was very low key compared to past entries. It was slightly hushed, with no appearances on any TV news shows (which happened with the release of MW2 and Black Ops); instead, there was a lot of internet advertising and short TV adverts. Ghosts just went by on its own, with the only real discussion of the game being found on CoD fan boards or people condemning the franchise across various forums. People just did not seem to care about Ghosts in the slightest. As for the game itself, it’s still packed with the same overused set pieces, plot twists, and environments. It’s nothing new or even all that interesting. The production values are still high, but what does that matter when it’s the exact same game people have been playing since 2010? Ghosts produced low sales figures that would be respectable for other franchises but not for the behemoth of Call of Duty, which suggests that perhaps the age of the series is nearing its end. Perhaps it’s fitting that a game called Ghosts is the beginning of the end for the franchise. The future of Call of Duty will heavily depend on how the games use the PS4/Xbox One/PC systems going forward. Can the next entries really afford to be exactly the same as past titles? Will the franchise ever experience another leap in progress like it did with Call of Duty 4? The next few years could be interesting for both Call of Duty fans and its detractors....

Where Does The Wii U Fit In?

Where Does The Wii U Fit In?

With the holiday season fast approaching, as well as the next generation of gaming hardware, people are digging deep into their wallets. Whether it’s parents buying for children or people buying for themselves, Christmas always marks a rise in hardware sales. The big hitters this year will undoubtedly be the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo’s 3DS/2DS. The question, however, is where does the Wii U fit in? As an owner of a Wii U since launch, I’ve had plenty of time with the system. I love the Wii U Pad, I love Miiverse, and I’ve had some great times with some of the Wii U’s games (Zombi U and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate being highlights). The problem with the Wii U is trying to maintain a sense of relevance in a changing market and industry. Since the Wii U was fully detailed, there have been questions over how it would fare with the arrival of the next generation systems. Would people be willing to invest a decent chunk of money into a system that would be expelled from the bracket of next generation? Sure, the Wii U has various interesting features, mainly the pad, but beyond that it doesn’t offer a whole lot–and that’s an issue. It’s not like the games are bad. That’s very far from the case. The issue with the games is that most are either ports (often being released much later on Wii U than their counterparts), or HD remakes. Wind Waker HD is stunning and maintains every quality it did back in 2003 (it even makes decent use of the Wii U pad), and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate works fantastically well thanks to its online features and excellent DLC support, even if it does look quite ugly at times, but most people aren’t willing to pay large amounts of money for a system that hosts mainly ports and remakes. Bayonetta 2 and any new entries into classic Nintendo franchises will surely entice some people, but not as many as they once would. It’s not that I dislike Nintendo; they played a large part in my childhood thanks to their early home systems, and I’ll cherish them forever for that. I simply worry for the Wii U. Even as a fan of the system, I struggle to see where it will fit in next to the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One. There’s still plenty of time for Nintendo to work wonders with the Wii U, but in such a competitive market, time runs out a littler quicker than normal. Price cuts, Legend of Zelda, Metroid, new IPs, and niche games could easily help the Wii U forge itself a identity helping it coexistent with the next generation of systems.    ...