TBC’s regular viewers (the Crew) are truly the people who make Two Button Crew work. If you are reading this, you are probably one of them. If you are not, we welcome all with open arms (more on that later)! With such a growing community, I thought it would be helpful to remind myself what makes our community unique.
With the exception of a few, TBC’s videos have had consistent views, which means that the same viewers come back day after day to watch our videos. Recently, Scott and I have gone back and looked at the low points of our daily show. But I realized that, even when our videos were not our best efforts, our fans were always there, watching faithfully… Except for the Mystery Block. No one watched the Mystery Block.
Our overall channel views (which just recently crossed the 100,000 mark. Yay!) and comments section corroborate this fact; many of our regulars comment on all of our videos. Speaking of YouTube comments…
Something that is so common in many communities, no matter what type, is toxicity. People tend to tear each other down and apart much more than they like to build each other up. The Crew has been nothing short of amazing in this aspect. Comments on our videos are nearly always positive, whether it is a compliment or a criticism; all of it is done with grace. It was recently suggested to me that we add a “rules” section to our Discord. My first reaction was, “Yeah, that’s a really good idea. Why haven’t we done that already?” Then I realized that it was because we have not had to worry about such problems before. Just this last week seven of you recommended Scott for a gaming journalism position on Twitter to IGN. Seven! Kindness like this is a unique characteristic for a gaming community. As the Crew grows, I hope this is something we never lose.
The last element I want to focus on is something I like to call progression. Everyone starts out watching a single video (I wonder how many of you can remember which one it was!); this is the “peruser” phase. A peruser is shopping around to see what channel is worth investing in. After a few views, a peruser might become a subscriber and enter the Crew. From here, subscribers become faithful watchers and commenters. Some of the Crew, after spending some time in the family, might even take the next step into patronage; this means that they not only believe that the Crew is worth investing their time but also their resources. This is crazy to me, and I am so grateful that there are so many who have taken that step. Beyond this, some (*cough* Glen *cough) have even become content creators for TBC. Not every member of the Crew finds his way into the inner circle, but it amazes me to see fans make their progression further into the Crew.
The Crew should go down in the history books as the greatest internet-based community ever. Thank you so much for supporting TBC.
With Super Mario Odyssey looming in the horizon, I thought it would be appropriate to write about my favorite 3D Mario Game. Yes, it’s Super Mario Sunshine, and probably the 3D Mario game with the most divided opinions. The game is by no means perfect (looking at you, Pachinko Machine), but I’m going to outline some key points that for me, make this game better than Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, and the most recent “3D” installments that I have a tough time even grouping into this category. Let us begin.
I’ll get this one out of the way first. I’m an absolute sucker for the tropics. Maybe it’s something about the water lapping up against the shore or the gorgeous sunsets, but I just find myself being really relaxed whenever I play this game. It’s as if you aren’t only playing a stellar Mario game, but having a day at the beach. All of the levels are artfully designed, and even though they are all based around the tropical theme, they each have their unique personality. Whether you’re in the peaceful country life of Bianco Hills, the island theme park known as Pinna Park, or enjoying a world class sunset at Sirena Beach (my favorite), you feel like you are on a vacation. I also really enjoy the fact that you can see different levels in the distance within each area. It’s a simple addition, but a nice touch nonetheless since the world seems connected.
The last thing I’ll mention in this category are the local inhabitants. It’s not your traditional toads, koopas, and goombas. Here, we have Piantas, Nokis, and a whole new variety of enemies. It’s different and refreshing. Nintendo crafted a world here that really does feel genuine. The further you get in a level, the more involved you become in its story, and it’s really nice to feel involved in an environment, rather than just running around for the sake of collecting things.
I have a really tough time describing this one because I’m not sure how to define what makes it better. To me, it’s just more fun to control Mario in this game. It could in part be to the addition of the FLUDD and that you have more moves in your arsenal, but somewhere in the development of Galaxy 1, they tweaked it, and it hasn’t felt as good since then. It seems like Mario controlled tighter and was more responsive in Sunshine. Not to say that later Mario games don’t control well, but I don’t feel like I have the same level of precision control over Mario. I have a feeling that Odyssey will conform to the more recent “loose” style, but we’ll have to wait and see.
This game is hard. This is the aspect of the game that I believe deters some gamers from liking Sunshine. This title does house some of the toughest levels in the entire Mario Franchise, even going back to the original. I’ve beaten it countless times, and each playthrough there are a number of levels that still give me pause (even a Game Over screen or two – something which I never really see in newer Mario titles). On top of some challenging levels, each world features a number of platforming stages where shadow Mario removes your FLUDD. In these levels, the only thing separating you from the Shine Sprite is a gauntlet of platforms. It’s deceivingly simple, and there are some stages that are absolutely brutal, especially later in the game. Not to mention the classic Mario music is playing here, which for some reason makes it even more intense for me.
The last thing in this category I want to include are the blue coins. I’m a completionist, and I must collect every blue coin. The game doesn’t do a fantastic job of tracking these for you, other than giving you a count for each level. I do sometimes get annoyed when I’m missing the last few and I admittedly have to go online to hunt them down. No shame if you do the same.
So here is where the divide occurs. The above points may seem like negatives that take away from the overall experience, and for some, they are. But personally, they enhance my experience by doing something that Mario games rarely do today, and that is make me want to beat it. When I see that Game Over screen, the adrenaline kicks in and I focus. This makes victory that much sweeter. I have to be fair and say that later Mario games do bring in this level of difficulty, but usually at the very end of the game, after you collect everything else. I had fun in the Champion’s Road and Grandmaster Galaxy’s “The Perfect Run”. I can certainly see why Nintendo would put the ultimate challenge of the game at the very end, but it would be nice to have this flavor be added more throughout the game, albeit as optional.
The Graphics and Music
I grouped these categories together because they complement each other so nicely. The music does a fantastic job of speeding up or slowing down depending on what you are doing, and it always sticks to the tropical theme. For an early GameCube title, the graphics are incredible. These visuals have aged really well, and I always look forward to replaying the game just to see the eye candy that it still offers to this day. I still hope that Nintendo makes an HD remake, because that would be… well… tear inducing.
So that is my defense of Super Mario Sunshine. If you want to play a really fun Summer game and need a break from inking squids, pick up Sunshine and do yourself a favor. It’s such an incredible and unique entry in the series that this blog can’t do it justice. If you disagree (which I anticipate as somewhat likely), please let me know, and why. What is your favorite 3D Mario game?
Here’s hoping in just a few months we’ll all have a new favorite!
Contrary to popular opinion from the outside, being a Nintendo fan is not always mushrooms and sunshine. It can be unforgiving, inviting ridicule from fellow gamers, the gaming community, message board commenters, and even friends and family. But being a Nintendo fan is always worth it for me, which leads to the question I get a lot: Why Do You Like Nintendo?
From Sega to Nintendo
My gaming history stretches back to the glorious 16-bit Console Wars between the Nintendo and Sega. I owned both, but I got more use out of my Sega Genesis because kids at school would make fun of me if they knew I liked Nintendo. Sega was cool. Sega was hip. Sonic was fast with attitude and Mario was slow and boring. Secretly, I liked Nintendo as well, but my heart was with Sega. I also owned a Nintendo 64, but I had a Sega Saturn as well and that was my priority. This lasted all the way until the Dreamcast was discontinued, and my gaming tastes defaulted back to Big N.
The current console at that time was the GameCube, which ended up being Nintendo’s second lowest selling home console in history. Sony’s PlayStation brand and Microsoft’s Xbox were the new hip kids on the block, and Nintendo was accused of being a kiddie machine. Outside of a few games that were geared towards a mature gamer – like the then-GCN exclusive Resident Evil 4, Geist and a few others… the GameCube got most of its milage out of family friendly games. If you didn’t like twenty Mario Party games, the GameCube was not for you.
But it was during this era something was rekindled inside me. While Sony and Microsoft began to push online gaming, Nintendo doubled down and continued to focus on the fun of couch multiplayer – games you can play with friends in person and have a blast.
During the very successful Wii era, Nintendo’s dedication to multiplayer games was at its peak. Wii Sports, perhaps the best pack-in game ever, was a prime example of the kind of fun video games could represent. Despite how much it can be ridiculed now, I defy anyone to say that their first few times playing Wii Sports was not fun. It was a lot of fun. That’s what propelled the Wii to sales of over 100 million worldwide.
The Wii U somewhat faltered in this aspect, but the new Switch console has put a heavy emphasis on it again, with games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS and Splatoon 2 all out within the first few months of the system’s debut. Gaming is fun again.
Soooo, Why Do I Love Nintendo?
All that being said, I love Nintendo because, to me, it just represents a good time. When I think of the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One, I think of shooters like Call of Duty or games like Grand Theft Auto. I’m not saying those games have no worth, or that they aren’t entertaining or even visually astounding… but when I want to just have a fun time with friends, or a game I can just pick up and play at any given moment without an investment of 40 hours a week I choose Nintendo. Gaming shouldn’t always feel like a chore where I am punching a time clock to advance.
Certainly, Nintendo does have games that fall into that category. The recent and highly-reviewed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does for sure as it is an adventure game much in the style of Skyrim, but where I feel Nintendo separates itself from its competitors is how that genre of games isn’t all they have. There are more than just adventure and sports games on the Switch this year. There is also fun.
Take a very simple game like Snipperclips, a co-op puzzle game in which you play as pieces of paper and you have to snip each other in order to match certain shapes or get objects from one side of the screen to the other. It sounds simple enough, but its magic is in the gameplay. I haven’t had so much fun in a co-op game in a long time… it was fun, funny, and charming – and challenging as well, as the game progressed. It’s a game that you and your significant other can play, or your younger sibling or cousin. It is the epitome of what beloved Nintendo President Satoru Iwata always believed video games should be – It’s fun for everyone.
Nintendo’s roster of happy characters and cute enemies just bring a smile to my face. I’ve used this word before, but looking at the E3 trailer for the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey is just pure magic. It is what I call “Nintendo Magic.” Playing their games can make anyone forget their troubles for an amount of time and make everyone feel like a kid again. Personally speaking, I struggle with depression and anxiety, so my choice to play games of this nature is not only a preference but a very meaningful choice as well. Nintendo makes me smile.
Their first-party games are consistently of very high quality. Sometimes their franchises don’t progress enough, but then they hit you with a Breath of the Wild or a Super Mario Odyssey, which completely changes your expectations and takes you by surprise. And I will never get tired of them.
It isn’t easy being a Nintendo fan. When the two other major consoles are blowing the doors off the building with the latest Call of Duty, Metro or Assassin’s Creed games, Nintendo creates buzz with Mario or cartoonish characters like in ARMS. This comes with a price, because Nintendo and their fans are easy targets. Buying some Nintendo content can result in a mocking comment from a cashier – a friend recently told of a McDonald’s cashier laughing when he went to order a Mario Happy Meal toy to complete his collection. Playing Nintendo games can mean ridicule from people who like to point out that Nintendo’s consoles dating back to the Wii have not been in the same league as competing systems as far as power and graphics.
All of this, though, can make fans even more dedicated. There is a reason that small groups popped up around the world in major cities for 3DS gamers to swap streetpasses and puzzle pieces and play Mario Kart 7 with each other. There is a reason why holding a meet-up for the newest Animal Crossing game attracted more than dozens of people at every stop during a Nintendo Mall Tour. There is a reason why VANS made a very successful line of Nintendo themed shoes last summer. There is a reason why people love their franchises so much that just a simple title card for Metroid Prime 4 at E3 made the internet meltdown in a frenzy of wild, screaming excitement. There is a reason why people love the company so much that even PR reps (like Bill Trinen or Kit and Krysta from Nintendo Minute) are elevated to near-celebrity status. There is a reason that Nintendo can get away with having one single retail store in New York City and fans will travel from all over to visit it as if they were going to Disney World. The ridicule and snubbing we tend to get from other gamers and game publishers who skip developing games for Nintendo systems just makes me feel like connecting with other Nintendo fans is a major event. We are a community of fans who feel slighted in one way or another, and it makes us feel like we are all in this together. It is so much fun to get in a group of fellow fans and just talk about anything and everything. Attending a Nintendo Switch Preview Event in Chicago this past February was fun in part because of trying out the then-yet-to-be-released system, but largely because of being surrounded by fans, talking about games, seeing people dressed up in Nintendo cosplay, and just being one with the excited community. It was not unlike the feeling you get going to a Comic-Con – it just felt right.
Nintendon’t Sometimes, and That’s Okay
This is not to say that competing systems don’t have dedicated communities or “fun” games, nor does it mean that Nintendo is perfect and doesn’t have any faults. But Nintendo doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but their own. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, but I feel it is mostly a positive. They focus on fun, they focus on being together, and they focus on gaming together. There is a level of fun that online playing just can’t compete in comparison to couch multiplayer. Hitting someone with a red shell in Mario Kart, or stealing all of their stars in Mario Party may be the source of “ruined friendship” memes, but the competition of playing right next to a friend is just a level of satisfaction that can’t be matched. Even though I enjoy a fair share of “mature” games, I will almost always choose the fun of Super Mario Odyssey over the carnage of a Grand Theft Auto. And I will definitely choose a company that will always continue to offer those games to me even when they offer the M-rated stuff.
The Nintendo Magic is why I fell in love with Nintendo. It’s why I put up with some of their occasionally questionable decisions. Their games, characters, and universe just never cease to make me smile and it makes me happy… and isn’t that what gaming is supposed to be about?
Eric “Flapjack” Ashley has been a Nintendo fan for almost his entire life! While he also has a special place in his heart for Sega, it is Nintendo that gets him worked up and the franchises that capture his imagination and wonder. Flapjack is hopelessly in love with Animal Crossing. When he is not playing video games, he is a social media guru, assisting numerous organizations with their outreach and promotions, and he is also a big horror movie buff. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @flapjackashley.
The SNES Classic Edition has been unveiled, but not in enough detail!
On June 26th, Nintendo announced that it will be following up the popular NES Classic Edition with an SNES successor. At an MSRP of $80 and containing 21 games, this bundle of 16-bit nostalgia is liable to fly off shelves as quickly as Nintendo can stock them. However, there is still some information about this mini console that is shrouded in mystery and could affect gamers’ buying decisions.
Controller Cords and Ports (Answered!) Immediately following Nintendo’s announcement of the SNES Classic Edition, questions of the controllers’ cord length and connectivity method surfaced. Thankfully, so did some answers! Nintendo confirmed that the controller cables will be about 5 feet long, an extra 2 ft. compared to the previous Classic console.
It also became clear that the SNES controller ports on the front of the unit are simply for aesthetic accuracy. Due to Wii Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro compatibility noted on the SNES website, it is confirmed the controllers will plug in with the same type of ports utilized by NES Classic Edition and Wii. So questions of the controllers can be put to rest!
Just How Limited is this Edition? The NES Classic Edition was notoriously hard to find last Holiday season and through the remainder of its short production run. Nintendo cites a misjudgment of demand as the reason for that inconvenience, but it also came to light that the system was meant to be sold as a limited run (and actually got extended as its popularity became evident).
How many Super Nintendo units are going to be manufactured is unknown, but Nintendo insists that more units will be made available than its NES counterpart. Though they won’t commit to any production past the 2017 calendar year, they are making an effort to avoid shortages. Understandably so: with sales data on the NES Classic, Nintendo will try to leave less money on the table now that the market has now been proven for these throwback consoles. Additionally, the new system is going on sale several weeks earlier than the NES did, so Nintendo appears to be gearing up for more availability going into Q4.
Will Nintendo Allow Proper Preorders? A missing piece of this puzzle is preorders. Fans of retro gaming were disappointed when preorders never opened up for the NES Classic Edition, and quantity was too limited on launch day and during the restocks that followed. Taking preorders would certainly alleviate much of this frustration, as Nintendo can gauge interest and adjust production accordingly. Allowing gamers to pre-purchase the console would also help avoid common issues with scalpers, and get the 16-bit console into the hands of true Nintendo fans.
Amazon may offer their own form of preorders (like Amazon UK did, and quickly sold out, for this very product), but whether they have actual shipment quantities to allocate remains to be seen. Unfortunately, Amazon has been known to cancel orders when they do not receive as many units from Nintendo as they hoped. Nintendo needs to have strong communication and systems in place with retailers for this product to be a true success, and avoid the frustration that their product distribution has become known for.
How Will the User Interface be Improved? The NES Classic shipped with a perfectly serviceable user interface, allowing players to quickly scroll through the catalog of games, change visual filters, and create restore points while playing. It didn’t leave much to be desired, except one thing: the main menu was only accessible via the console’s Reset button. That is markedly less convenient than the Home buttons Nintendo fans have grown accustomed to since the Wii era. The Super Nintendo’s Reset button will probably retain this functionality as well, but a controller button-combination (like Select + Start) for quick access to the menu would be a welcome addition.
Will Nintendo Have a Different Stocking Stuffer? Many fans expected Nintendo to follow up the NES Classic Edition with another entry in the Classics brand, but it came as a surprise when Nintendo announced its release date to be considerably earlier in the calendar year. The Mini NES was clearly intended to be a Holiday impulse-buy (which would have worked if the inventory was there), but now that the SNES will launch on September 29th, it raises the question of Nintendo’s Black Friday strategy. Will there be an alternate “stocking stuffer” to occupy Christmas lists around the globe, or will Nintendo opt to increase their marketing efforts for the system as Thanksgiving gets closer?
Do the Regional Versions Feature Different Games? (Partially Answered!) The NES Classic Edition featured 30 games, and the list of titles differed from region to region. It was unclear if that would be the same case again until Nintendo of Japan officially announced the Super Famicom Mini. We learned that, yes, 4 different games made the cut (and 4 will remain exclusive to North America and Europe).
In PAL territories, SNES titles were originally made with a slightly lower frame-rate to match the local television sets of the time. On modern HDTVs, this difference is noticeable and can be bothersome. We don’t know which software versions Nintendo of Europe will implement in this new collection, and these are the types of technical specification questions Nintendo tends to leave unanswered.
Will There Be an N64 Classic Edition? What About Handhelds? Rather than just a one-off run of NES systems, the Classics label is now a brand of products for Nintendo. And with two consoles being remade in as many years, it begs the question: “What’s next?” Nintendo 64 follows, but introduces more controller ports, polygonal 3D graphics, and more complicated control schemes that vary from game to game. Nintendo won’t be able to release a Classics console annually for much longer before they catch up to the Nintendo Switch, or the scope outgrows what is reasonable for an impulse-buy product.
An alternate course of action would be to release Handheld Classic Editions, starting with the GameBoy! Grab some Pokemon games, Tetris, Metroid, Kid Icarus (maybe throw in a backlit screen and wireless multiplayer if we’re getting really crazy) and you’ve got yourself an affordable chart-buster.
Clearly, there is a lot that we don’t know! As we wait for answers, let’s take a step back and anticipate all the great things that have been confirmed: Dual controllers in the box? Check! Unreleased Star Fox 2? Check! September release date? Check!
What information are you desperate to know about the SNES Classic Edition? Sound off in the comments below!
If you ever have the chance to talk to Scott, ask him how I feel about Smash Bros. If he happens to recall all of the many times I’ve almost thrown my controller while playing it, he will remember to tell you that I hate those stinking piles of trash, and then probably begin laughing hysterically with memories of my salty tears.
Today, I am going to list reasons I despise the Smash Bros. series. I will not be focusing on one entry, but rather looking at the series as a whole. The list is also not exhaustive. The internet does not contain enough space to list all of this garbage. You may have found some of these same things frustrating, or you may not have. Let me enlighten you to the truth of these monstrosities:
The Crotch. I hate the crotch. For those of you who do not know what this means, it is a term I coined some years back referring to the point on the side of a stage (especially noticeable on Brawl’s Final Destination) at which one gets stuck while trying to recover. This was a major problem for Marth before they fixed things in Smash 4, as he would get stuck due to his forward momentum bringing his upward momentum into the crotch. FYI, you can also use crotch as a verb (“Oh, man, I just got crotched!“).
The invisible Ceiling, or Y-Cancelling. I’ve seen videos that say that Melee’s invisible ceiling is only noticeable when Luigi is being hit. That is so false. It is also extremely noticeable on Roy’s (and Marth’s) counter moves. That crap was extremely annoying.
Teching the sides of walls when you are going straight downward. What is this garbage?
Brawl had online. Hahaha! That was a thing! Hahaha! Oh, boy. Remember that funny joke? It was funny.
Nerfed Ike in Sm4sh. My favorite character to play in Brawl was Ike. It took a few patches, but Ike is finally at least semi-playable in Sm4sh. They did, however take out the best thing about him, which was that he had no landing lag on N-air, which allowed him to go straight into jab. That moment of landing lag is a killer.
Jank. No other competitive fighting game has this much jank, people, especially nowadays. That crap gets patched out. Why Samus’s standing up-B can kill at 0% I will never be able to explain to you.
Samus’ Matchups in Sm4sh. Speaking of Samus, she has some ridiculous matchups in the fourth Smash game. Samus may not be the best in the game, but Samus vs. Dorf or Samus vs. Ike is super dumb for the person who is not playing Samus.
Sm4sh’s “Voice Acting”. One of the first things I noticed about Sm4sh on release night was that a lot of the characters’ voice clips for the game were the same as Brawl. Now, that in itself is kind of lazy, but I get it. What I do not get is when ONE character has, like, THREE different voices! It’s especially noticeable in Dorf and Fox. You might be trying to recover and hear the sound of a chipmunk squeaking “Fire!”, Then the next moment, after your opponent has two-framed you, you hear the deep guttural bellows of 1,000 manly warriors entering the gates of Hades. What?
Playing Brawl on Wii U. It just drops inputs? WHY!? I have never had this problem with ANY other Wii game! Is there a reason? No. It’s just stupid.
B-Reversing. The reason I hate B-reversing is probably just a personal thing. I almost never try to do it intentionally, but it always seems to happen at the worst times when I use a grounded up-B. Why?
Melee Cultists. The rest of these are more “community” complaints, and for the sake of my own precious time, we all know what this one means. Oh, and if you miss meteor cancelling, just don’t get meteored. Git gud, scrub.
EVO making custom moves legal. *Sigh* Why did they have to complicate things so? If you’re not familiar with this fiasco, it goes like this: EVO is the biggest fighting game tournament of the year. All of the important games are there, all of the best fighters are in attendance, so when the EVO people make a rule set, everyone pays attention. In 2015, EVO set the Sm4sh rules to allow for custom moves. We even did one of our first episodes on it. This meant that, until EVO, all of the local tournaments used the new rule set, which meant that each player that was going to bring a set up had to play the stupid extra modes for hours on end trying to unlock all of the custom moves (which, by the way, you could collect multiple of, meaning each time you worked hard for one did not guarantee you would find one you didn’t have) AND set each character’s ten EVO-approved set-ups, which translates to days of work! After all of this local scenes stopped using custom moves after EVO 2015 passed, and the EVO people themselves discontinued this practice.
Project M Scene. I understand, if you enjoy a game, have fun with it. But if you want to play a Smash Bros. game that’s more like Melee… play Melee. I see Project M as an abomination. It’s not Melee, and it’s definitely not Brawl any more. Oh, and the fact that the scene pretty much died after it stopped getting updates? I laughed. #sorrynotsorry
Project M caught on instead of Balanced Brawl. Balanced Brawl was an attempt to fix the MANY problems that Brawl had, and, do you know what? It was pretty stinking good! It embraced what was good about the game instead of mutating it into an unrecognizable mess.
Because, um… uh… Fine. I do not hate Smash Bros. But it does have a bunch of stupid things that make me want to rip my hair out sometimes. Some of those are the same things that make me laugh at how ridiculously zany these games are. So, as much fun as it is to whine about smash Bros., I have to admit, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to rage about.
P.S.: Notice that I was able to write this article without even mentioning tripping. … Darn.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is huge. Not just in terms of the scale and scope of the world it presents to players, but also in terms of its reception in the gaming industry. It’s received numerous perfect scores from critics and the Switch version of the game has reportedly sold more copies than the Switch itself. It’s a big flipping deal, and yet…I couldn’t throw myself into it. In the first episode of The TBCast, I stated that—while I thoroughly enjoyed this game—it didn’t even rank in my top three Zelda games. While I aired several of my grievances with the game’s design in that discussion (some of which will be making an encore appearance here), I never got around to going into detail on my biggest complaint about how the game was structured. But before I can explain what that hang-up is, we need to discuss a concept important to game design and narrative media in general.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the interest curve! An interest curve is a graphical representation of the excitement and engagement the audience of a work experiences throughout the duration of said work. The peaks of the curve represent moments of high excitement and intrigue, while the lows represent the story’s slower, quieter moments. While lows sound like they should be avoided, an optimal curve actually alternates between highs and lows, never staying in one or the other too long. The reason for this is that human beings (who are most game developers’ primary demographic) tend to get acclimated to things pretty quickly. Even action can get boring or even tiresome if there’s too much of it.
That’s not to say that interest shouldn’t slowly increase over time. The base level of interest—that is to say, how far down the graph dips—should increase as a game progresses. If the graph dips down further at the end than it did at the beginning, then the game feels like it screeches to a halt, thus killing the player’s sense of progression (*cough* Triforce pieces *cough*). Finally, the story shouldn’t end on the climax, but instead include a gentle falling action to give the player a sense of closure—commonly known as the denouement (pronounced day-noo-Maw…it’s French). Without a denouement, a story’s ending feels abrupt and rushed.
If you’ve ever heard a reviewer talk about a game having a good “gameplay cycle”, he or she is referring to this concept—most likely without even realizing it!
So what’s all this have to do with Breath of the Wild? Well, my primary issue is its interest curve looks something like this:
Oh gosh, this is a mess…After a great introduction, everything just sort of flatlines. Now to be fair, this is based on my personal experience with the game, but even when the order of events are swapped around, I think this pattern basically holds true. The game’s overall arc seems to just maintain a complacent constant; there’s very little escalation, evolution, or extrapolation of the ideas the game presents. This ultimately leads to the game feeling repetitive.
The game’s overall arc seems to just maintain a complacent constant…
So what happened? What are some ways that Breath of the Wild hamstrings its overarching interest curve? What could they have done better? Let’s take a look, shall we?
The Main Quests
The easiest way to create a good cycle of engagement is to carefully craft a brilliant narrative and guide the player through it in a thoughtfully paced linear sequence…the whole point of Breath of the Wild is to not do that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. My favorite Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: a Link Between Worlds, was at the time of its release notable for being very open-ended. And that game had me hooked the whole time! So clearly, a carefully guided plot isn’t necessary.
That said, there are some notable differences between the the overarching structure of BotW and ALBW. For starters, A Link Between Worlds keeps the series’s usual two-part structure: in this particular instance the first half taking place in the light world, then after a plot twist the second half takes place in the dark world. This means that while the story doesn’t advance much throughout the halves of A Link Between Worlds individually, the events that link both halves of the game still give it the opportunity to raise the stakes of the game’s narrative thus raising the interest curve’s baseline mid-game. This compromise allows the player to pick how he wants to complete his adventure, while simultaneously ensuring the narrative escalates in a natural fashion.
Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, doesn’t follow this two-act structure. Instead, it features a main quest primarily consisting of two parts: awakening the Divine Beasts and the search for Link’s lost memories. Let’s start with the Divine Beasts. The Divine Beast quest is fairly modular, what with each part technically being optional. This means each segment aims to have a similar level of challenge and importance to the overall plot, consequently flattening the interest curve. While A Link Between Worlds‘ dungeons faced a similar issue, as stated before, having a discernible half-way point lets the game escalate the challenge and perceived stakes between the first half and the second making for a more engaging narrative, something Breath of the Wild‘s structure doesn’t.
Another trick A Link Between Worlds used to keep players from noticing the fairly steady baseline engagement throughout each act was the number of dungeons to complete. The concept of an interest curve is scalable, meaning it can apply to a level or chapter as well as a complete work. To this end, dungeons act as climaxes for the (for lack of a better term) chapters of the game they appear in. With several dungeons, the player is constantly experiencing the rising and falling action of finding a dungeon, completing the requirements to gain entry, and then clearing the dungeon and slaying its boss. So long as this cycle isn’t repeated too many times, this cycle sustains the player’s interest until he completes all of the dungeons and moves on to the next plot arc of the game. The problem is that the dungeons in Breath of the Wild are both short and very few and far between. This means that this part of the game is either over too quickly, or these local engagement highs are very spread out (as they were when I played the game).
The concept of an interest curve is scalable. To this end, dungeons act as climaxes for the chapters of the game they appear in.
Compounding with these issues are how the memory quest is presented. If the player follows the early quests in the manner the game suggests, he’ll quickly wind up with both the Divine Beast quest and the lost memory quest at the same time. They’re both very lengthy and the benefit of the latter is never really made clear (Spoiler: it changes the game’s ending and little else). This makes it hard for the player to prioritize which one to attempt first. I think the developers wanted players to search for memories intermittently (which is how I completed it), but this makes both quests feel very disjointed, unfocused, and the memory quest far less consequential to the overall experience. Honestly, I think the memory quest should’ve been saved until after the player completed all of the Divine Beast quests: by that point, the player would already be very familiar with Hyrule’s landmarks, making for a shorter quest that required the player to apply their knowledge, instead of one where they wander around looking for the N.P.C. that tells them where to look. It also would provide a makeshift second act, which would the player a better sense of progression, pace, and momentum.
Okay, on a macro scale, the game only manages to provide a complacent sense of pace, but the interest curve is a scalable model, right? So, how does it fair on a more granular level. Well…it is admittedly better moment to moment, but even then there are times where it outright shoots itself in the foot. Some of the moments of the game that should be exciting, epic, or climatic were memorable precisely because of how underwhelming they were when they play out.
Case in point, the Master Sword: in all prior Zelda games in which the “blade of evil’s bane” appears, getting the darn thing was a major plot point and consequently required some effort on the player’s part. As a result, it’s a big moment. In Breath of the Wild, the only real challenge is figuring out how to get to it. The game does provide some cutscenes upon discovering it and after obtaining it to try to hype it up, which is a good start, but the method in which the player does obtain it feels tacked on, like the quest was an afterthought.
Previously, the player had to collect some items that represented the three virtues of the Triforce—power, wisdom, and courage—to prove their worth, but in this game all they have to do get enough hearts to pull the sword out of its pedestal without dying (it drains hearts to attempt). For any player that is actively looking for shrines, that’s something that’s going to happen in normal gameplay regardless. This means the quest for the Master Sword could be over as soon as the player finds where it’s hidden. This makes the quest’s pacing lopsided and its conclusion anticlimactic, especially for players used to the way previous games devote large portions of their respective stories to acquiring the Master Sword. Instead of an epic moment of triumph that’s built up to, it’s something on the player’s laundry list to be checked back on periodically. “Am I strong enough? No? ‘Kay, see ya after another four shrines!”
To make matters worse, there are three shrines dedicated to said virtues hidden throughout Hyrule. Why didn’t the game include those in the quest to get the Master Sword? I’d guess it probably had something to do with time constraints, but it still feels like a missed opportunity to provide a memorable and unique quest to the player. How much cooler would it be to have to scour the land to find the shrines and overcome a unique trial for each shrine related to the its respective attribute? Now I know some of you are probably saying, “but it’s a callback to the first Zelda,” to which I say, “so?” If the callback is really that important, they simply could’ve just done both methods.
Speaking of weapons, weapon durability also brings with it problems. While I admit finding new types of weapons is exciting, finding weapons themselves gets boring, especially in the game’s second half. One of the exciting aspects of finding a new weapon or item in previous Zelda titles was the understanding that Link was now innately more powerful. He had a new ability that made him more capable in combat or exploration that opened up new possibilities for the rest of the game. Not so in Breath of the Wild. That excitement quickly fades as the player realizes that the shiny new weapon he found will eventually break. In essence, weapons are just temporary power-ups like mushrooms or fire-flowers in Mario. Consequentially, players ultimately have less attachment to—and thereby less investment in—weapons than they would if weapons didn’t degrade.
In essence, weapons are just temporary power-ups like mushrooms or fire-flowers in Mario.
As a point of comparison, let’s examine clothing. Unlike weapons, clothing doesn’t break. This immediately makes clothing a more interesting item as it stays with the player as long a he wishes to keep it in his inventory. More over, it can be upgraded. This adds an element of mystery and intrigue to clothing as certain items gain additional bonuses when upgraded to a certain point. As a result, receiving clothing is exciting and immediately gets the player invested.
Now, I understand why the developers made weapons break. As several critics and apologists have already pointed out, having weapons be fragile forces the player to experiment with different weapon types and thus learn to be versatile in his fighting style. Again, I think a compromise would be fairly easy. Simply let the player find (after much effort) weapons that don’t break. Unlike other weapons, however, they would start off weak and need to be upgraded to be viable against the game’s stronger opponents. Even then these unbreakable weapons would only be upgradable to the point of straddling medium and upper tier, meaning if the player wanted to deal serious damage or utilize special effects (like elemental damage) he would have to stick to breakable weapons. See, that would at least make some of the weapons worth a darn!
I’d like to end this section with the ending. Don’t worry, I’m not going into specifics…because I don’t have to! If you’ve ever beaten a Zelda game before, I don’t think I can spoil this ending. It hits all of the beats, except—unlike other Zelda titles—it adds almost nothing of its own to the mix, making it feel more like the skeletal framework of a standard Zelda ending. It’s lackluster, boring, and predictable. It’s a real shame too, because pacing issues aside, this is otherwise one of the best written Zelda titles to date.
If you’ve ever beaten a Zelda game before, I don’t think I can spoil this ending.
Yet another way to keep the player engaged is to provide variety. As stated before, humans get acclimated to stimulus very quickly, so anything monotonous quickly loses people’s interest. To this end, Breath of the Wild features a huge world full of varied environments and unique landmarks…but then completely gives up when it comes enemies and shrines.
Three of the game’s main enemy types—bokoblins, moblins, and lizalfos—are basically all just variations of the same template. Moreover, each region just reuses variations from the same small pool of enemy types. While combat isn’t the main draw of the game, the fact that a hoard of monsters on one corner of the map looks and acts almost identical to a hoard of monsters on the complete opposite side of the world-space makes engagements incredibly boring and repetitive. Heck, even all of the dungeon bosses are basically palette swaps of each other! What makes this especially strange is that there is a lot of variety from region to region when it comes to flora and fauna. What gives, Nintendo? You clearly were able to populate each region with unique creatures. Why not extend that creativity to the enemy design?
Then there’s the shrines: they all look and SOUND THE SAME! *Ahem* Excuse me. If you’re an O.C.P.D. completion-nut like yours truly, you will get sick of the foggy blue corridors and slow, ponderous music of the shrines. If you complete all the shrines, you will have heard that stupid shrine theme at least 120 times! That not to say there isn’t variety in the puzzles; oh no, the shrine puzzles are great. But would it kill them to come up with more than one shrine aesthetic? Maybe have puzzle shrines and combat shrines differentiated by their visual and audio design. Or perhaps have the shrines’ interiors vary from region to region, showing that even though they were all built by the Sheikah, each regions’ sense of aesthetics subtly influenced the shrines’ construction (that’s just good world building).
The Consequences of Heroism
Now that I’ve ticked off all of the Zelda fanboys, undoubtedly invoking the wrath of their Yiga assassins, let me talk about something Breath of the Wild did right—at least part of the time. Something that I love seeing, especially in open-world games, is the game’s world responding to my actions. A while back, I praised the first Battalion Wars for making me feel like my actions had a direct impact on the game’s progression. This is a concept I like to call “letting the player happen to the world.”
In most games, the player is an entity that reacts to the game’s environments (i.e. “the world happening to the player”). This is fine for level-based action games but in narrative-heavy adventures or open-world games, this tends to make the player’s actions feel inconsequential—like everything is basically just meaningless busy-work. While I still think Breath of the Wild has room for improvement in this regard, it does at least actively contextualize many of the player’s actions.
I want to happen to the world, not let the world happen to me.
First, there’s the Divine Beasts themselves. After clearing an area’s dungeon, not only does the disaster afflicting the area cease in typical Zelda fashion, but the Divine Beast become visible for miles around. Next is the fact that the items and enemies scale in proportion to how far the player is in the game. These both give the game a much needed sense of progression. That said, I wouldn’t say either is anything mind blowing. Because the effects of the Divine Beasts are almost entirely localized, finishing a dungeon only really effects the region it’s found in. It would be far more interesting to see characters start to wander around more and more as Link made Hyrule safer to travel. For instance, wouldn’t it be cool if a Rito merchant showed up in Hateno Village after finishing the Rito dungeon? If they threw in a line about him feeling more at ease traveling now that the Divine Beast was no longer rampaging, it would go a long way toward giving the player a sense that his actions actually matter.
A great example of what I’m talking about would be the Yiga Assassins. At one point in the Divine Beast quests, the player has to infiltrate the Yiga H.Q. Not only is this section a great set-piece on its own merits, but it triggers a change in the Yiga’s behavior. After defeating their master, Kohga (one of the best characters and certainly the best boss in the game), the Yiga assassins go from passively waiting for Link to stumble into ambushes to actively hunting him down in an attempt to get revenge. While I’m sure many players found the constant random ninja attacks annoying, the fact that a specific action I took had a logical effect on the way a certain class of foe behaved absolutely delighted me!
A Game of Little Moments
To Breath of the Wild‘s credit, it does a much better job of creating and maintaining a healthy interest curve on a more granular level. Individual quests, shrines, and subplots are well structured when viewed on their own, leading me to my conclusion that Breath of the Wild is a game of little moments. Despite the grandeur advertised, the game’s best moments come in small packages: the little references, the ways it rewards out of the box thinking, the clever quest design, surprisingly mature writing, etc.
That said, it still fails to feel like it grows or evolves. From my experience, this is actually a pretty common issue with open-world games. While the individual components work well, they don’t come together in a cohesive fashion. That said, compared to the other (admittedly few) open-world games I’ve played, Breath of the Wild really is a cut above the rest. I don’t mean to convince anyone that this game isn’t good. Heck, I’ll say it just to be clear: go play it if you haven’t already. It’s worth your time. But I fear all of the critical praise and 10/10’s may gloss over the obvious (to me, at least) issues that need to be addressed in future games. As I see it, the series is standing on a precipice: from here it can either take off soaring or tumble into another rut.
One of Nintendo’s biggest and most popular franchises is also one of the hardest to explain why it is so beloved. When people find out that I love video games and ask me what my favorite one is, my reply is “Animal Crossing” – and the response is usually one of bemusement and bewilderment. People on the outside looking in don’t see what the big deal is. Why do I love Animal Crossing so much? What is it about this game that sets millions of people into a frenzy when a new installment is announced? Well, get your bells ready and let’s take a closer look…
Animal Crossing debuted in North America on the Nintendo GameCube console in the fall of 2002. Nintendo has always had a reputation of being a “family friendly” (many read as “kiddie”) company – beginning with the controversial censorship of Mortal Kombat on the Super Nintendo, even though the subsequent installments had all the violence and blood that the game came with. The GameCube itself was small like a lunch box and had a handle for crying out loud with little tiny mini-discs. Kiddie? You couldn’t exactly argue against it.
A game like Animal Crossing is hard to market for, and when I saw the game in my local Electronics Boutique, I asked the cashier what it even was. Her reply was “It’s hard to describe. I’d say it’s like a Sims game but with animals.”
I love Sim games, and I love animals, so this sales pitch was a home run. The game came with a bonus memory card that included a “gift” on it for use in-game. After years of over-exposure to Mario and Zelda games, I was all excited to dive into a new Nintendo IP. I was ready to be entertained – but at first, the result was just the opposite.
Booting up the game started what felt like an inane game of Twenty Questions, as you were asked stuff like your name, if you were a boy or a girl, etc. I wanted to play a game, not go through the most basic of setups. After this unwanted pop quiz, the first major character you run into after the setup screens are finished was a raccoon named Tom Nook. Many longtime fans dislike poor old Tom, and with good reason – he is an unfriendly jerk and doesn’t even really do a good job of explaining the game to players (which was his entire function). I did a lot of planting flowers, planting fruit and other mundane tasks, and about 20 minutes into the game, I was wondering where the fun was hiding.
But once you are freed from Tom Nook’s “tutorial”, the world of Animal Crossing begins to open up. The comparisons to the Sims became more evident as you are encouraged to expand and decorate your own house, meet neighbors and become social with them… your interactions with them will have a definite outcome on their lives, too.
Throwback Any Day
Every budding franchise debut needs a hook, and Animal Crossing’s hook was a doozy. The player had the ability to find and play original NES games within your character’s house – games like Pinball, Donkey Kong, Excitebike, and hidden gems The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros (both of which were never officially made available and need a cheat device to unlock). This predated the Virtual Console on the Wii and Wii U (and hopefully the Nintendo Switch), it represented the first time in a major mainstream fashion that old classic games could be played, full-screen, on a then-current console was mind-blowing. Collecting the NES titles became a game within the game. Retro games would not turn up in subsequent entries in the series, unfortunately.
Friendship Is Love
Beyond the retro hook, the one thing that kept me coming back to the game was the emphasis on community and building friendships. Talking with your animal neighbors daily and doing small favors for them allow the player to establish relationships in the game that really feel like friendships. Like in real life, you tend to open up to someone new on a bit-by-bit basis, and that is how it works in Animal Crossing. Using the GameCube’s internal clock, the game is advertised that it “keeps playing even when you aren’t,” and that’s true. Skip a couple days of playing and the game knows it – villagers will say the missed you, dreaded weeds will grow that you’ll need to pluck. The game would also change with the seasons and celebrate major holidays. It is taken for granted now, but this mechanic really was pretty groundbreaking at the time. It pushed me to check in every day and I would actually feel guilty if I didn’t.
I knew at this point that I was experiencing something special, and I became a fan of the subsequent entries in the series.
The game’s sequels – Wild World for the Nintendo DS and City Folk for the Nintendo Wii – introduced online play to the franchise to great results. Wild World also stripped out the NES games you could find and play, as well as the holiday celebrations, which was a very odd and saddening choice. I initially thought having Animal Crossing on a tiny portable system was a really dumb idea – but this is one area I was happy to be wrong in… having a game that is tied to the internal clock makes perfect sense to be on a portable system. I could check in on my town anywhere and not just at home during a dedicated gaming session on the couch.
Hopping online, you could visit a friend’s town, see their house, and talk to their villagers. It may not seem like much, but this addition opened up (pun alert) a whole world of fun, and made me want my house to be at its best for guests. The villagers would even talk to you about people who have visited after they leave.
It’s the little things that make a difference.
The Wii game, City Folk, was very similar to Wild World, all the way down to the hourly music used… but added a small city area you could travel to and shop in.
Saturday Night Fever
Speaking of music, one of the best aspects of the franchise is its use of original music. Each hour has a different theme, as do many holidays and special events. I have an entire playlist of nothing but Animal Crossing music from the various games and it always brings a smile to my face. Of course, I can’t talk about music without mentioning AC’s resident musician, K.K. Slider. He appears every Saturday night in various places depending on the game, and he always delivers the hippest music to the people…or, rather, the animals.
Hail to the Chief
The most recent mainline game in the franchise, Animal Crossing: New Leaf launched on the Nintendo 3DS in 2013 (2012 in Japan) and truly became a major franchise for Nintendo. It is proven to have boosted sales of the handheld and has gone on to sell over 9 million copies worldwide, and counting. New Leaf introduced a few new wrinkles that many fans have embraced: the ability to be Mayor and construct unique designs and extras in your town, thus taking overall customization to a whole new level. But best of all was the introduction of Isabelle – your trusty and loyal secretary who is your town’s biggest cheerleader.
As much as I love the other games, I would have to pick New Leaf as being the best Animal Crossing to date. In fact, it is not only my favorite Animal Crossing game but also my favorite game of all time overall. Yes, I love it that much.
Nintendo seems to realize the popularity of the series as well. 2015 brought an immense amount of marketing to the franchise. amiibo cards (used with the 3DS spin-off Happy Home Designer) that invoke memories of Game Boy Advance eReader cards that were incorporated with Wild World, made its debut… and its own amiibo figure line began to roll out as well. Mario Kart 8 (and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) has a beautifully designed race track based in the Animal Crossing universe.
Not everything has been a hit, however. The aforementioned spin-offs, Happy Home Designer and (especially) amiibo Festival, were poorly received and had low sales. And speaking of low sales, the amiibo cards were popular at the beginning, but the actual amiibo figure line struggled – partially due to being associated with such a bad game – and many can be had for as low as $2 new on clearance. Animal Crossing ran the risk of overexposure because Nintendo, rather than give us a new game, decided to make the curious move and develop a couple of spin-offs that no one wanted. In an effort to possibly make it up to angry fans, an update to New Leaf was issued in 2016 that added amiibo support and a number of new features.
And even with all of that, I’m still anxiously anticipating the next full entry on the Nintendo Switch with baited breath.
Animal Crossing (along with Pikmin) was, up until Splatoon in 2015, the last big original Nintendo IP that took off and became a huge success. I think it is more than worthy to sit alongside legendary franchises like Mario, Zelda and Pokémon. Its fan base continues to grow with each new game. It is often one of the most requested titles for any new Nintendo console launch – as evidenced by the number of disappointed people when an Animal Crossing announcement for the Nintendo Switch was not realized at E3 2017. I have spent more time than I care to admit playing various games the series and I still can’t fully explain what it is to friends when they ask. But I am okay with that… all of its charm, quirks, and addictiveness – it’s part of what makes Animal Crossing so warmly unique.
Are you an Animal Crossing fan? What is it about the series that has made you a fan?
Eric “Flapjack” Ashley has been a Nintendo fan for almost his entire life! While he also has a special place in his heart for Sega, it is Nintendo that gets him worked up and the franchises that capture his imagination and wonder. Eric is hopelessly in love with Animal Crossing. When he is not playing video games, he is a social media guru, assisting numerous organizations with their outreach and promotions, and he is also a big horror movie buff. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @flapjackashley.
Though it’s E3 weekend, and so much is happening, I would like to turn focus to just one of Nintendo’s events: The ARMS Open Invitational. The Big N is getting into the spirit of the season by throwing a tournament for their upcoming title ARMS. Summer fighting game tournaments are nothing new, and since we’re about a month away from EVO 2017 (the biggest, grandest fighting game tournament of the year), I found it appropriate to celebrate all of the riot time festivities by inducting some of the best Pantendo (appearing on Nintendo consoles, including first, second, and third party) fighting games into the Nintendo Experience.
We’ll kick off with an old classic: Soul Calibur II for GameCube. Soul Calibur is a series of 3D fighting games that center around weapons-based combat as opposed to hand-to-hand. If you are familiar with the franchise, you know that they’re usually multi-platform and each platform has its own exclusive character(s). For the second offering, the Playstation 2 version contained Heihachi from the Tekken series, and the Xbox version had the Spawn comic book character. Fortunately, Nintendo fans got the best deal, and Link from the Legend of Zelda series was playable. For that appearance alone this game is worth playing.
The game was a solid fighter and was an arcade classic; perfect for both friendly and serious play. With the exception of Soul Calibur Legends for Wii (of which I had not heard until researching this blog, and is not even a fighting game), this was the only one of the series that made it to a Nintendo console. I suggest you hunt down this old gem and give it a shot.
Next up is a game that should not be foreign to anyone reading this blog: Super Smash Bros. Melee. Whether you prefer this specific version or not (it is not my personal favorite), you cannot deny its impact on Nintendo and Fighting Game Community (FGC) culture.
Melee was released in 2001, and has remained relevant since, having what is possibly the longest, most-permeating tournament longevity of any fighting game ever. People continue to play competitively to this day, and it has found its way into the EVO tournament lineup six times (counting this year’s upcoming tournament) and has churned out record-breaking turnouts. Melee is the fighting powerhouse you cannot ignore.
Lastly, I would like to discuss a pushed-aside Wii gem known as Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.
The saga of TvC is an interesting, but sad tale. The original version of the game, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes, saw some of Capcom’s best-known brawlers facing off against characters from popular Japanese anime studio Tatsunoko (probably best-known in the states for Karas and Samurai Pizza Cats). Since many of Tatsunoko’s characters were unfamiliar to the rest of the world, the game was only released in Japan and the Wii featured region lock, the rest of the world was missing out on a fighting game produced by the community’s best developer. The outcry was so great that Capcom not only decided to relent and release world-wide a year later, but to polish the game up and add new characters. Fighters who owned a Wii were overjoyed, but therein lie the crux. Many people who were serious about fighting games (especially Capcom fighters) had already found satisfaction in one of the other consoles (PS3 or Xbox 360) with Street Fighter IV, and with the announcement of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (for which TvC seemed a test run) for those consoles, there was little incentive to invest in this game. It soon faded into obscurity after reaching the EVO stage once in 2010.
All of this is a shame, because the game is not only technically challenging, but also one of the most balanced fighters ever made. If you scour the internet for TvC tier lists, you will find a few opinions. Almost all of them will rank the giants (Gold Lightan and PTX-40A) as dead last, or at least bottom tier. They’re a huge target, slow, and you do not get a partner to help you out. But if you look at the top eight finishers in the EVO tournament, you will see three of them used giants in their run to the top. In fact, you will see a lot of variety, which is not common in a lot of fighting games. You usually see a few characters over and over again because those characters have a natural advantage over the rest of the cast. TvC was one balanced mamma-jamma, and I love returning to it whenever I can.
… Can I get a chant? (Sequel! Sequel! Sequel! Sequel…)
That is all for this special fighting game edition of the Nintendo Experience. Pick these classics up and go the distance.
Howdy, crew! Welcome back to That Was a Thing, where I take a look at strange and obscure pantendo games and paraphernalia!
The Wii: when it’s key feature, motion control, was first revealed, the first two uses that went through everyone’s mind were sword and gun. Not missing a beat for once, game developers were quick to cater to the public’s sociopathic expectations. Many of the Wii’s early titles utilized the Wiimote’s pointer to aim projectile weapons and its motion detection to swing melee weapons, and the results were undeniably mixed. One such game was Ubisoft’s Red Steel.
The game was fairly standard fair: girlfriend kidnapped by yakuza, go to Japan and shoot them, yada, yada, yada. What separated it from other first-person shooters was its motion-controlled swordplay. At various points in the game, the hero would have to fight in one-on-one katana duels. Long story short, it just didn’t work. Unfortunately, the Wiimote’s I.R. sensor and accelerometer simply weren’t enough to emulate the one-to-one precision players expected.
Which is why Nintendo invented the Wii MotionPlus! And this is where Red Steel 2 comes in. When Ubisoft saw the gyroscope add-on, they knew they had everything they needed to set things right. I seem to recall a lot of hype surrounding this game before it came out; retailers even offered preorder bonuses. I first heard about the game from the now defunct Nintendo Power magazine, and was immediately intrigued. This game was dripping with style and—just as important—it didn’t have anything to do with the first game, so I could jump in without missing anything. However, I wouldn’t get around to playing it until I got an extended trial of the late Blockbuster Video’s online rental service, and decided it was time I a gave it a shot.
Nu-Western Post-Cyberpunk Japanimé
Let’s start at the beginning. The game opens with our hero waking up on the outskirts of town. As he slowly comes to, he notices his hands are tied. Tracing the rope, he quickly realizes he’s not just tied up, he’s tied to the back of one of his assailant’s motorcycles. Just woke up, and this day’s already turning out to be a drag.
And this is how we’re introduced to the game: a gloriously over-the-top, first-person cutscene in which the hero is dragged into town, crashes the bike, and dusts himself off like he does this every day. While it admittedly takes a few minutes to get to gameplay, this intro nails the tone of the game and what players can expect right off the bat! You’re the toughest, badest son of a gun on the planet and you can bet your stetson every pinhead fool-enough to take a shot at you is going to make you prove it!
The intro nails the tone of the game and what players can expect right off the bat!
In fact, I’d say this game runs on distilled, unadulterated cool, and not in a “trying too hard” kind of way either. Even when parts of it seem hokey—or downright silly—the game presents its set-pieces with such confidence and commitment that the player really has no choice but to just go with it. While other games try to convince you they’re awesome, Red Steel 2 just leans in close, stares you right in the eye, and in a low, gravelly voice tells you it’s awesome.
On that note, let’s take a moment to talk about this game’s aesthetics. This game is a chocolate-and-peanutbutter-esque mashup of the wild west and samurai flicks, with the occasional dusting of cyberpunk. The game takes place some unspecified amount of time in the future in a dystopian Nevada. The environments you explore are a strange blend of old-west, feudal Japan, and run-down, futuristic towns. It’s not at all uncommon to see Cracker Barrel-esque country stores with tanukis on their signs right next to radio towers and hovering attack drones. Moreover, the plethora of destructible crates, trash bags, boxes, and barrels gives the environments a cluttered, grungy feel that reinforces the gritty tone of the game.
The game makes use of a heavily stylized visual design. While the Japanese influences on the plot and setting may lead some to call it anime-inspired at first glance, it really has more in common with comic books: bold lines, fairly realistic body proportions, and a deliberate visual roughness that complements the game’s visceral combat and tale of ambition and revenge. As to be expected with a western, the color palette includes a lot of earthy tones: browns, oranges, and sandy yellows. Fortunately, Red Steel 2 manages to avoid the pitfall of making all of its environments dingy brown, with several areas including—if not primarily consisting of—cool blues, grays, and greens. Clearly, the art team put a lot thought into making each area visually distinct from one another, as every stage either has a unique theme or makes use of color to distinguish itself. That said, all the themes are variations of cowboy, samurai, or industrial, so while each level is aesthetically distinct from one another, the constraints of the game’s themes do start to wear thin toward its conclusion.
Clearly, the art team put a lot thought into making each area visually distinct from one another.
While we’re on the topic of environments, one of my biggest complaints with the game’s visuals is that some of them don’t age very well. Between the murky textures and low-res models, a lot of the environments in this game don’t look very good close up. Fortunately, you’ll probably be too busy hacking-up dudes (who themselves look fine) or searching for loot to pay too much attention to such things.
Cutscenes are another weak point. To be fair, most cutscenes in this game are okay, but the ones that trigger when talking to one of the hero’s allies are just painful. These usually consist of a stationary camera shot with one lone character pacing back and forth while talking. And it is so boring. In the end, while I love the visual design, I suspect the artists weren’t given enough time or resources to fully realize it.
So what exactly is the story? You play as the last surviving member of the Kusagari clan, an outcast banished by the elders for…well, the game never actually says. There was a short “animated comic” online that serves as a prequel to the events of the game. You can still find it, but I wouldn’t bother, it’ll just leave you even more confused. The only revelation I got from it is that the hero is wearing a blue shirt under his signature duster.
Confusing backstories aside, the story really isn’t that complicated. First, you get your sword back from a gang leader, then you find out the real villain wants to make more swords like yours because it has special qualities. Along the way, you compile a cadre of companions. Truth be told, they’re exactly who you’d expect to find in this sort of game: the sword smith/kenjutsu sensei; the old, stubborn sheriff; the hacker girl; and the guy who’s going to double-cross you. The plot’s pretty cookie-cutter when you look at it separate from the game’s unique setting, but I’d argue that’s not really the point; this is an action game. So how is the action?
Hack and Shoot
Red Steel 2 is a first-person action game. I say “action game” instead of shooter because, well, this isn’t really a first-person shooter. Sure, you play from a first-person perspective and you shoot things, but once you get a sword, the guns take a backseat. No, at its core Red Steel 2 is a brawler with some F.P.S. trappings.
At it’s core Red Steel 2 is a brawler with some F.P.S. trappings.
During combat, players can freely switch between swinging a sword and shooting thugs with one of four guns. As to be expected, swinging the sword is accomplished by swinging the Wiimote and guns are fire using the B-trigger. Sword slashes are individual attacks in a specific direction instead of 100% one-to-one movements, making each swing a discrete action, much like a button press. While it may sound like a cop-out, this system actually works really well: this system discourages flailing and instead encourages you to make deliberate, decisive strikes, which ultimately gives each hit you land more impact.
This game also showers you special abilities. Each one has its purpose, and figuring out how to combine them seamlessly is immensely satisfying. It also helps that most of them are very easy to perform. All special abilities are simply one swing direction and button combination, and because of the aforementioned motion registering method, the game has very little difficulty figuring out what it is you want to do.
Gun fighting isn’t nearly as intricate. Simply point and pull the trigger. That’s not to say it isn’t fun; getting to smoothly switch between the two fighting styles is a blast. It gets even better once you start unlocking special attacks for your firearms and—of course—more guns. You start with just a revolver, but eventually get a sawed-off shotgun, a Tommy-gun, and finally a rifle. Of all the guns, the only one I don’t really like is the rifle: by the time you get it, it just doesn’t feel necessary. That’s not to say I never found a use for it, just that it doesn’t really stand-out.
Fighting is the most fun when you manage to get into a rhythm. Most fights aren’t terribly difficult, so the fun comes from trying to establish a sense of flow. Fights just look awesome in this game, with animations carrying a great sense of impact and frequent visual effects, like slow-motion, punctuating dodges, parries, and finishing blows. This means that once you get that flow, the fights almost look choreographed, especially if you make a conscious effort to make use of your diverse moveset. All of this is enhanced by the game’s first-person view. Because you experience gameplay entirely through the hero’s heterochromatic eyes, you never get to see what exactly it is the hero’s doing, letting your imagination run wild filling in the blanks.
But visceral acts of violence are only what you’ll be doing about half of the time. A good deal of the game is quietly exploring the levels looking for fights, money, or optional objectives. And I have to say, these quiet moments are what give this game its phenomenal pacing. Much like in Metroid Prime, F.E.A.R., or Half-Life, these exploration segments help to break up the action and give the player some breathing room, not to mention a chance to wind down between battles. These brief interludes never feel out of place, however. Walking the abandoned streets creates a rising sense of tension which makes you anticipate the next fight all the more, especially since your opponents tend to come out of nowhere.
Walking the abandoned streets creates a rising sense of tension which makes you anticipate the next fight all the more.
An odd quirk of these exploration segments is the occasional motion-based prompt. Every now and then, you’ll come across a combination safe or a dial that you’ll have to turn with the Wii remote. It’s never very challenging as you either need to tilt the remote at the appropriate angle and hold it there, in the case of dials, or press the A button to activate the tumblers, in the case of the safe. While it seemed perfectly natural when the Wii and the MotionPlus were still fairly recent, nowadays I can’t help but think it dates the game. Not necessarily in a bad way, mind you, but it certainly screams “Wii.”
Then there’s the upgrades, and—oh golly—are there a lot of them! You can upgrade your sword, your special abilities, your guns, the ammo for your guns, your coat, and even your hat! This is where money comes into play. You’ll come across a lot of cash, be it from completing missions, using special attacks to finish foes, finding secret collectibles, or just plain lying around. I can only assume part of what makes dystopian Nevada dystopian is inflation, ’cause you’ll find money flipping everywhere. And even then you’ll still have to go out of your way to get all of the upgrades available to you. Honestly, while I appreciate the effort, I can’t help but think the dev-team went a little overboard. While not being able to get everything in one run does encourage thinking about how you upgrade the Last Kusagari, it can be frustrating to obsessive types like myself, as this game doesn’t feature a “new game plus” option. Then again, maybe it’s for the best. Since enemies aren’t that strong to begin with, upgrading your weapons means they go down even quicker, thus revealing the tragic irony of this game: one-shotting an opponent is the ultimate buzzkill.
Riding into the Sunset
Red Steel 2 is a rip-roaring good time. From it’s sense of style to its fluid gameplay, the game knows what it wants to be. I think it succeeds partially because it’s so focused on nailing the core concept. That said, it is a bit of a one-trick pony. If you don’t like old-school, run-and-gun shooters or hack-and-slash games, then there is absolutely nothing here for you. It’s a great trick, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome, but the whole game is the same basic exploration and combat loop all throughout. It’s also not without some flaws. Aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned, the ending is pretty weak, the “challenge mode” is just a mission select with a tacked on scoring system, and there’s no post-game content or completion bonuses to add replay value. But I guess that—aside from the ending—all of those complaints just reinforce the notion that this game is about doing one thing and doing it well. This is—in my opinion—one of the best action games on the Wii and an excellent exhibition of what the system’s motion controls could do to enhance gameplay.
Here’s hoping there’ll be a Red Steel 3 on the Switch!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a special game. Is it perfect? Not quite. But in my humble opinion, it’s pretty close. Throughout the 100+ hours I have dedicated to Breath of the Wild, I slowly felt more empowered, more confident, and more ambitious. Finally feeling strong enough to storm the castle gate pumped up the adrenaline inside of me. Not to mention, most of the game I felt as though I was running and gliding through a Bob Ross painting. However, rather than writing a full review on this game, I thought I’d highlight something that just stood out to me. That is, all of the intricate references to past Zelda games.
Wherever, you look, whether you know it or not, you are probably seeing an homage to a past Zelda game. Every other landmark is named after a past character or location, although a letter might be missing or displaced in the name. I felt an unusual sense of happiness when I discovered Tingle Island, even though Tingle was nowhere to be found. I find it crazy that just a name can invoke such a feeling of nostalgia even if the landmark itself does not. There are also specific regions in the map that primarily focus on one game. I found a Phantom Hourglass Area, Twilight Princess themed area, even a Wand of Gamelon area.
Kidding on that last one.
There were many times when I encountered a landmark that tugged on the nostalgia strings. For instance, I was riding on my horse, Lacey (named after my real-life cat), and while I heard the subtle melody of the main Legend of Zelda theme, I stumbled upon Ranch Ruins. I couldn’t believe the condition of this place, and then it hit me that it was a dystopian Lon Lon Ranch. After I disposed of the Guardian that called it home, I took Lacey for a spin around the track and actually started getting emotional as I recalled memories of playing Ocarina of Time and pictured Malon Singing Epona’s Song in the center of the ranch. Another time this hit me was when I discovered Eventide Island (by far my favorite area in the game) and felt as helpless as getting washed ashore in Link’s Awakening. Yet another favorite of mine was discovering the Master Sword. This took me back to a Link to the Past thanks to three blue nightshades in the background.
This game doesn’t forget about its roots, either. It was really nice to see the old man at the very beginning of the game, the only difference being instead of going into the cave to visit him, you go out of the cave. Maybe there is a deep meaning behind that? I’m not entirely sure, but when Link does leave the cave for the first time and overlooks the Dueling Peaks, I was instantly reminded of the artwork from the original game. The Master Sword shooting projectiles when Link has full health is also a nice touch.
Though these references may be a nightmare for people who are keen on placing this game somewhere in the franchise timeline, I view it as essentially a conglomerate of pinnacle moments in the series. For me, this aspect of the game is delicious icing on an already incredibly built cake. This is a special game not only because of its top-notch design, but because it doesn’t forget about how it came to be in the first place.
Over the years, Nintendo’s franchises have continued to grow, but many old games (F-Zero, Ice Climbers) may not see a new entry, and a few games (Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Captain Rainbow) will likely never get a single sequel. There are a couple new strategies they’ve started using that are really elevating the new IPs right out of the gate.
They don’t even call it DLC because it’s not optional. Updating new games instead of asking people to spend extra money on something new and unknown is such a smart move. You can purchase a game at launch knowing you’re getting the full experience… over time. There were a few things that should have been in Splatoon at launch (TEAMS!), but the map and weapon additions every Friday after the game came out that continued for months kept me going back. There’s no way I would have bought all the content in that game (as I tend to like certain weapon types), but giving them to me for free convinces me to try them out and dig deeper into the game. They’ve already confirmed that new fighters, stages, and arms will be available in ARMS following launch, so I know I’ll be throwing punches for a while.
Free content = Ongoing happiness
Splatoon was featured as part of the Nintendo World Championship and now both ARMS and Splatoon 2 have tournaments at E3 2017. This builds so much hype around their games and shows off the competitive side as well. Looking from the outside, ARMS and Splatoon appear to be casual games, and can totally be played as such, but for the gamers that want a deep and challenging experience, there’s no better way to show it off than on a big flashy stage.
Having a Nintendo Direct specifically dedicated to a game has done WONDERS for Nintendo. For the day(s) from announcing the direct until the actual stream, I see Nintendo fans going wild with rumors and speculation of what the Big N has up their sleeve. Showing off new stages and modes plus announcing new characters in ARMS has reignited a spark for that game in a lot of people (myself included). There have been a ton of posts on social media about which fighter is someone’s favorite and planning which arm combos they’ll use with said character.
The possibility of more Reggie is never a bad thing.
Both Splatoons have had a Global Testfire and with ARMS set to have a Global Testpunch this weekend and the following weekend, it’s bound to get even more people interested and talking about the game. While it would be nice to have longer increments to check the game out, I think it’s smart to give people a taste with set times to play. It whets your appetite for the game just enough to sell it to you and makes you want to play the title right at launch to get back into it.
Here’s hoping to the success of ARMS and Splatoon 2. With all the hype that continues to build around them, I don’t see them going anywhere in the near future… but only time will tell.
Tuesday, May 2nd was the day that Two Button Crew uploaded its 500th episode.
This monumental milestone dwarfs everything that has come and gone before! It’s hard to believe that we’ve made a show every weekday for the last 500 weekdays. Just amazing.
Simeon and I (Scott) are almost two years older than when we started, and we’ve grown from a team of 2 to a team of 7 (don’t worry if you can’t name everybody – we’ll introduce them properly soon).
The show has stayed largely the same, although the set has changed, we’ve witnessed the launch of a new Nintendo console, and we’ve changed day jobs.
Oh, and YouTube has changed a dozen times or so.
Here, I’m going to take a few moments and share the things I’ve learned over the last 500 episodes:
You Can Attract the Right Viewers and Build A Community
TBC doesn’t have a huge following, but the quality of our viewers is astounding. There are all kind of stigmas about YouTube comment sections, but none of them apply to our viewers. By avoiding growth shortcuts, follow-for-follow techniques, and by engaging with Nintendo fans, we’ve collected a tight-knit group of like-minded Nintendo fans. Our patience has paid off! We wouldn’t change the connections we’ve made for a big number of mysterious subscribers.
You Can Help People By Providing Entertainment
Our daily show is a mixture of information, entertainment, gameplay, competitions, and the like. But the source material is consistently one thing: video games. Sometimes it’s tempting to feel like all the time we pour into this effort is frivolous compared to more altruistic endeavors, but we’ve found something surprising along the way: we have helped people. Our viewers have chaotic and sometimes difficult lives, and our channel has proved to be a safe-haven of positivity for them. We love making consistent, top-quality content that you can count on, no matter what’s going on in real life.
You Have to Serve Others to Succeed
There are no benefits for creators to reap without helping others. At first, becoming a YouTuber seems like a pretty grand gig. Make content, people will watch, numbers will go up, and you’ll gain credibility and perks in the industry. Right?
Those motives aren’t sustainable. Attach your motivation to helping your audience, and then you can wake up every day, put others before yourself, and make something truly great while improving others’ lives.
You Have to Be Ready to Adapt
YouTube changes the rules constantly, tinkering with their algorithms to keep viewers engaged and to increase their own revenue. Sometimes these changes are in the favor of creators, and other times they’re not. It’s important that we don’t rely on YouTube too much, but that we diversify our sources of support.
Persistence Pays Off
Things that we have invested in for years are just now starting to pay off. It’s all about the long game. I’ll look back on this post another 500 episodes from now and smile at how things have changed.
1-2-Switch, to say it gently, had mixed reactions after its release. We’re going to start this article by analyzing why there seems to be people giving it positive reviews, and many critics bashing it. Once we’re finished looking at that, this article will rank the 1-2-Switch games from best to worst, and sort them into three categories!
To me the issue is simple. It all comes down to audience. League of Legends is a wildly popular strategy game that has taken the world of gaming captive. I’ve tried it, and it’s not my cup of tea. 1-2-Switch is judged harshly because it is being judged by gamers. If you were expecting 1-2-Switch to be a gamer’s game, or even on the level of Mario Party, you are sadly mistaken. From its reveal its intention was clear; don’t look at the screen. With a goal like that, you immediately understand that it’s not aiming to be a video gamer’s game.
This game is PERFECT for any sort of gathering. It is more accessible to everyone than Wii Sports was. It is instantly “get-able”, and most mini-games can be jumped into without any explanation. I have yet to find a non-gamer that did not find it to be a blast.
All these things about audience being said, that does not mean that this game is completely without flaw. There is enough here to keep the crowd entertained for some time, but some experiences were clearly missteps. I believe that all of the 1-2-Switch mini games fall into one of 3 categories: 1) enjoyable games, 2) games, at least, 3) unplayable messes. We’ll start with the best and work our way down to the worst.
1. Fake Draw: This is the genius of the Switch all in one mini-game. It’s a super simple premise with a little extra strategy added. You need a quick wrist and a trained ear, and it’s perfect to test reaction times.
2. Quick Draw: Surprised to see this next? Don’t be! It’s just a simpler version of Fake Draw that’s 100% about speed. This is the game that everyone should start out with. It’s exciting, and it’s the one to which everyone wants to have a go.
3. Ball Counting: This game by itself made me believe in HD rumble. It may not be the most exciting game, but it requires patience and a gentle hand. Seriously, it makes me believe there are marbles in the Joy-Con.
4. Sword Fight: Sword fighting on Wii Sports Resort was fun, but usually turned into a waggle-fest. The motion sensors in the Joy-Cons are much more accurate, and this combat game is the best of them.
5. Plate Spin: It doesn’t sound like a very exciting game, but your goal is to keep your plate spinning while you knock off your opponent’s. Very entertaining. I only wish I could find more people to play with me…
6. Safe Crack: Another game that does the HD rumble really well, Safe Crack requires precision. The right rumbles become more difficult to detect as the game goes on, making it quite the challenge.
7. Wizard: Is this one cheesy? Yes, yes it is. But it is fun, and requires strategy.
8. Gorilla: I like this mini-game, but few others are in my camp, so I rarely get to show off my apely prowess.
9. Treasure Chest: Once again, a simple premise, but shows off the motion controls of the Joy-Con well.
10. Shave: This one is fun to play and entertaining to watch especially if they throw you the buzz cut challenge!
11. Copy Dance: Give the Joy-Cons to the goofiest and most flexible people in the room for this one. Trust me, it’s hilarious.
12. Air Guitar: This one definitely had to be made, and it is fun to play. Most of the times I’ve played this game the Joy-Con seemed to track the beat well and not reward waggling, but in more recent play sessions, it seemed like the biggest waggler won… Try it a few times for yourself.
Well, They’re Games…:
Now we take a step down from the good into the… meh.
13. Milk: Yes, it looks ridiculous, but people enjoy laughing at each other. It’s inevitable that this mini-game will continue to be a staple and will be immediately associated with 1-2-Switch till the end of time.
14. Boxing Gym: Requires quick reflexes, but I’m not really certain how well it reads the different punches.
15. Baseball: The presentation on this one is nice. It’s like Wii Sports Baseball, but without looking silly, and you use your ears as opposed to your eyes. It’s all about reading your opponent.
16. Zen: Not moving as a game… I think the premise works, but it’s not exactly a rip-roaring time.
17. Eating Contest: It’s fun to watch people play, but can be really frustrating if you are playing and it does not read your movements. On Nintendo’s behalf I did try putting the camera in front of my hand and puppeting mouth movements and it didn’t work at all, so the camera CAN tell the difference between my mouth and my fingers.
18. Dance Off: It’s a good premise, but copy dance is more entertaining.
19. Samurai Training: Maybe it is just because I am a sore loser, but I do not really care for this game.
20. Beach Flag: Beach Flag is kind of a waggle-fest that wears you out. I enjoy it, but I haven’t found one other person who does.
21. Runway: Once again, humorous to watch, and it requires technique! I brought 1-2-Switch to school for my students to play one day. One of the boys won EVERY time because he had the hip sway portion absolutely pinpoint perfect.
22. Signal Flag: JUST making the cut as an actual game, this one is about concentration and not plunging a pencil into your ear at how annoying the voices are.
None of these are playable. Turn back now.
23. Telephone: Pick up the controller when you hear a certain sound. That’s it. Also, be careful when you do. It is easy to drop the Joy-Cons.
24. Soda Shake: I understand the premise of this game, but apparently, the developers didn’t. The demonstrational video doesn’t explain it at all! When the last guy loses, they all rejoice, including him! I guess they’re just excited to have whatever’s in that bottle… and to be done with this non-game.
25. Table Tennis: Good idea, poor execution. You’re always going to be missing the timing. The Wii Play version was better. And yes, I meant that.
26. Sneaky Dice: This game is so complicated that I had to explain it to anyone I played with after the instructional video, and they still didn’t understand. Flip a coin. You’ll have more fun that way.
27. Joy-Con Rotation: THE most frustrating thing. You play on a table, someone will bump it. You play on the floor, it had better be hardwood and no one should be moving. Like, at all. Even after that, it will give you hypertension, then make you question your life decisions. My recommendation is to dupe two friends into playing it, then standing behind them saying, “Careful, Spongebob. CAREFUL, SPONGEBOB!” and laugh hysterically after they impale your eye with the Joy-Con because it was worth it.
28. Baby: Why? Why did they think this was a good idea. Better yet, what audience were they going for? For people who don’t have kids, is it supposed to be a method of birth control? For people who have had kids, why would they want to relive the most annoying part about having a baby? It’s baffling that anyone thought this would be enjoyable for any audience. Why? WHY!?!?
All in all, there are more good games than bad in this collection, and I think it is the new must-have for any party or large get-together. It showcases what the Joy-Cons can do so well, and for that reason, it is the next necessity in the Nintendo Experience as well.
The Wii was an awesome console. I admit that I was skeptical at first, but as with the DS, I eventually grew to love it and its amazing library. What made it even better, however, was the inclusion of the Virtual Console service, which let me revisit old favorites and experience classics I had missed out on the first time around. There was just one problem: it required a broadband internet connection.
I received my Wii shortly after moving to rural Oklahoma. Just so some of you don’t get the wrong idea about the OK great state of Oklahoma, high-speed internet is fairly common in towns, even back in 2006. That said, my family decided to move into a house about ten to twelve miles outside of town, which was out of the range of service of every broadband I.S.P. in the region. Heck, until just a couple of years ago, my folks were still on dial-up!
This made purchasing Virtual Console games an absolute pain. I would have to disconnect my Wii, place it in a bag, and (assuming my destination didn’t already have a TV I could use) lug a television with me, then haul everything somewhere I was allowed to use the WiFi or hook up a L.A.N. adapter, make my purchase, and then reverse the whole process when it was time to leave. Bear in mind this was back in 2006-2007 when flat-screen TVs weren’t ubiquitous, which is to say all I had access to was a bulky C.R.T. TV.
And yes, I actually did do this.
I didn’t like doing it this way: it was exhausting and tedious. Fortunately, I come from a long line of engineers, so coming up with creative solutions to difficult problems comes naturally for me. When my family got a new Dodge Caravan with a built-in DVD player and screen, I saw an opportunity to optimize.
The mini-van had standard component cable ports, so getting the Wii to interface with the screen wasn’t a problem. What was a problem, however, was powering the Wii. Most automobiles don’t have standard two-pronged AC power-outlets, which meant I had to find an apparatus to let me plug my Wii into the car’s 12-volt socket. After a little trouble finding the right keywords to get Amazon’s search algorithm to cooperate, I managed to get one for a decent price.
Now that I had all of the hardware, all I needed was a WiFi connection. Fortunately, E.C.U., the local university, has free campus-wide WiFi; even better, it isn’t password protected. All I had to do was drive the family van into town—usually late in the afternoon or evening once all of the parking spaces had opened up—boot up the Wii, connect it to the university’s WiFi, and download the game I wanted.
Sadly, by the time I formulated this plan and had everything I needed, the Wii’s life cycle was about halfway through, and I had bought most of games I really wanted. Come to think of it, the only games I bought this way were Super Street Fighter II and Secret of Mana.
Regardless, my adventures in wardriving make for a good story and fond memories.
Every single year I find myself wondering, speculating, and analyzing what Nintendo is going to release next. I’m about 0 for 300 in predictions. Two Button Crew recently posted something on Facebook that made me laugh, but also made me wonder why Nintendo operates the way they do. What I mean by that is they never do what anyone is expecting. They are probably the most unpredictable company I have ever known. Yet, they are probably the company I have given the most money to. What is the driving force (from a business perspective) behind Nintendo’s decisions and how they market them?
The biggest thing I can think of is innovation. To be innovative, a company has to be different. Nintendo cannot reform the gaming industry by following the same old formula. Unfortunately, this also means that some fans are going to be let down because Nintendo tends to take what they love and either leave it in the dust, or change it just enough so it doesn’t feel old. An example of this for me is Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. I loved that game. I would love nothing more than a true sequel. Since that game came out, we’ve gotten Super Paper Mario, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Paper Mario: Color Splash. Each subsequent game I just mentioned gets closer and closer to the formula that makes The Thousand Year Door, but none of those games kept my interest because of changes made by developers to keep the games “fresh”. Not all changes are bad though (I’m looking at you, Breath of the Wild). When Nintendo takes change and gets it right, that is when nothing else in the industry can come close. And it’s not just about software, the same applies to hardware. The Wii essentially revolutionized gaming, and the Switch so far is a success story as well. Nintendo is basically the cleanup hitter in the lineup. They hit more home runs than anyone, and they can hit them farther. Unfortunately, that also means they are likely going to strike out more than anyone.
The other thing that Nintendo doesn’t really seem to care about is competition. They are 100% independent when it comes to the decisions their competitors make. This is a very ambitious move, but not one that comes without risk. A company as large and with as big of a fan base as Nintendo can get away with this. They don’t have to keep making the same old games and systems because they don’t care about disrupting the status quo in the industry. People expect a new Gears of War game that does not stray far from the formula, because that is what Microsoft is good at making (I’m not saying it’s a bad series). There is very little risk for Microsoft here, because they can look at past sales, and without straying from the formula within the game, they can predict and model how profitable the game will be. My intent is not to start a console war, but in my opinion, no other competitor innovates like Nintendo. This is simply because other companies do not want to partake in the risk Nintendo takes on when they test the waters of the market.
I’ll always love Nintendo, and there are times when I’ll hate them. It’s just the way Nintendo works, and it will not change anytime soon because it’s how they operate. Innovation is what all companies should strive for, but Nintendo takes it to a whole different level. It’s a business model that would drive most companies into bankruptcy sooner than you can say “Mario Kart”. Innovation is something that does come with a cost, but one thing I can be confident in is that Nintendo will be innovating the industry and making my favorite games and consoles for years to come.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been out for a month and a half now and I still haven’t beaten it. That’s because after 70 hours I’m intentionally not finishing it quite yet as I don’t want this amazing experience to end. Even now, before experiencing the end-game, I have to wonder: how in the world will Nintendo follow up this masterpiece?
The few main dungeons BotW does have are really good and unique, but their lack of themes that we’re used to combined with overall length of dungeons is something that could be improved upon. Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker both had fewer dungeons than your average Zelda, but thy had more character and intricacy. This is a common thing I’ve heard from fans, and I expect Nintendo to step up the dungeon game in Link’s next open-air outing.
I love the wide variety of weapons available, but they don’t last quite long enough. I appreciate the fact that it forces you to use different weapons and switch up your playstyle, but if I find a really great weapon it’s always so hard for me to use it as I don’t want it to break. I hope weapons continue to break in future games as well, but once you leave the beginning area of the game the weapons should last much longer.
You get all of your key ways of traversing and puzzle solving before you leave the tutorial area this time around. Once again, Nintendo did the right thing for this game by giving all control over to the player. Next time traditional items such as the Grappling Hook, Mole Mits and Ball & Chain make could a return while still giving the player freedom. The way they could do this is color code the key items, and the entrance to certain dungeons and mini-dungeons that require certain items will be color coded (think colored doors in Metroid). The players can still explore how they want, but will have to leave areas for later once they collect the right items.
Nintendo has already said that Link will continue his adventures in an open-air Hyrule, so here’s hoping they can change up a few little things that will make a huge difference in the future. Until then I’ll have to finish Breath of the Wild… someday.
Nintendo not only revolutionized the home console market, but time and time again, they’ve proven to be the best in the portable sector of gaming. We’ve already talked about several landmark portable titles for the Nintendo Experience: Pokemon Red and Blue and Pokemon GO. These games shaped the way we game on the go (pun intended), and reached far beyond the game to rock the shape of pop culture. These two games were not an isolated incident, and I would like to showcase two more games that are near and dear to my heart.
The first is one of the first games I ever owned personally: Game Boy Camera. To many, even those who loved it in its time, the Game Boy Camera is a joke. Compared to what we have at our disposal nowadays, it is. The resolution was bad, everything was in grayscale, the editor was primitive, the memory was limited to 30 photos, and, if you were looking for it to be a game, you would be sorely disappointed.
Something I will never forget, however, is reading my brother’s copy of “The Guinness Book of Records 1999” and seeing that this odd-looking Game Boy cart was currently the smallest digital camera in the world! I felt like a spy as a kid! It was a novelty, and there were enough menus in the game to navigate and not use (because I was never able to get my hands on a Game Boy Printer) to keep me occupied for a long time. Also, Miyamoto dancing!
If that’s not revolutionary enough to make it a must-play for Nintendo fans, I don’t know what is.
I think it’s time we talk about the real game-changer: Tetris. Tetris was a system seller, plain and simple. It got everyone who touched it into mobile gaming. It was accessible to people of all walks of life… unless you shun technology… I suppose. It’s simple, easy to pick up, and tough to put down. It is one of the best games ever. That is, until, Nintendo outdid themselves.
Tetris DS is the best game ever. I mean, Tetris was already the best, but they found a way to improve it. It had all of the puzzling proficiency of its previous iterations, but they made it streamlined. The multiplayer was great, the art style was perfect… What more could you ask for? I consider it the best version of the best game hands down, and I urge you: if you haven’t played it, pick it up. Like, right now. Why are you still reading? Oh, you already have it? Good.
It all started with a bright light and a girl’s voice calling my name; beckoning me to open my eyes. The voice sounded like that of a noble woman, with that soft, breathy accent that the inbred stratum of Hyrulian society thinks sounds sophisticated for whatever reason. Questions regarding what kind of person the voice belonged to quickly evaporated once I opened my eyes, however. Upon awakening, I found myself alone in a dark, empty room.
…in my underwear.
Yeah, one of those days…
Still quite groggy, I attempted to take in my surroundings. As stated before, the room was dark, lit only by faintly glowing decorations on the walls and furnishings. Speaking of furnishings, the only objects were the trough in which I was laying and a glowing orange pedestal. It didn’t take me long to realize where I was. A dark room with a trough for people to float in? Clearly some sort of sensory deprivation tank, which would mean this is probably some sort of new-age spa. That would also explain the voice and weird visions; I was in the tank for too long and started hallucinating.
Confident in my deductions, I placed my bare feet on rough stone floor. Trying not to think about when the last time the floor was cleaned, I staggered over to the pedestal for a closer look. The top of the object was comprised of two concentric dials adorned with glowing, interconnected patterns. On my arrival, the center dial began to spin and shortly afterward produced some sort of rectangular device. Before I could even question why any sane person would create such a needlessly elaborate charging dock for their Hy-Pad™, the voice from before spoke up, this time explaining that the device was a “Sheikah-Slate” and imploring me to take it.
Sheikah-Slate…now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, I pretty sure it’s that open-source alternative to the Hy-Pad™ everyone was talking about awhile back.
Anyway, after taking the tablet, a nearby door opened up. Peering through the opening, I saw crates, barrels, and two ornate stone chests. I stumbled through the door and up to one of the chests. Inside were a pair of well-worn pants and boots. Glad to finally have some clothes, I put them on only to find they weren’t my size. The other chest contained a shirt, also too small for me. I don’t know which bothered me more, the fact that someone misplaced my clothes or that they thought the shirt needed its own chest despite there clearly being enough space left in the other one.
I debated whether being clothed really out-weighed looking like a hipster, but I eventually rationalized that it was only until I could explain the mix-up to the spa’s receptionist.
At the end of the hall was another pedestal. Again, the feminine voice began dictating instructions. I really don’t like it when the voices in my head start getting bossy. Lacking any other options, however, I did as I was told and held the tablet up to the pedestal, thus opening yet another door. As I shielded my eyes from the light pouring in, the voice in my head told me I was “the light that must shine on Hyrule.”
I briefly contemplated whether the voice was trying to persuade me to start a cult before realizing that despite being out of the sensory deprivation tank for a while now, I was still hearing voices in my head. Yeah…definitely one of those days…
Despite the broken stairs, I managed to clamber my way towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of finding myself in a reception area—like I expected—I was outside overlooking a forest. A quick scan of the area revealed three things: 1) I didn’t know where I was, 2) there was a creepy old hobo staring at me off to my right, and 3) I still had no clue where my clothes where. While I had reservations about approaching the hobo (or any hobo for that matter), there was no one else to ask for directions. I made my way downhill, making sure to pick up a tree branch along the way—just in case.
After a brief trek, I reached the vagrant’s camp. Ignoring the unpleasant aromatic mix of wood smoke and hobo, I politely asked the bum who he was and where we were. He deflected the first question, simply saying he was just “an old fool” (no arguments there). He was much more forthcoming when answering the second, stating that we were on the Great Plateau, that this was the birthplace of Hyrule, and something about an abandoned temple. My eyes rolled so hard I started getting dizzy: if this place was so important, why have I never heard of it? Regardless, I figured that the temple, abandoned or not, must have something that could tell me where I was.
Along the way, I was once again accosted by sound of a girl’s voice, this time goading me to find a place marked on my Sheikah-Slate. Despite my better judgment, I checked the map app to find that the previous user had indeed marked a nearby position. The sensory deprivation theory was starting to lose credibility…
I did my best to ignore the encroaching existential crisis that comes with frequent hallucinations as I made my way over to the temple. The surrounding ruins were littered with strange statues that looked a little like octoroks. Some sort of modern art installation? Whatever they were supposed to represent, it just looked tacky…which—knowing artists these days—may have been the point.
Around then is when I started to notice figures in the distance. They didn’t look like Hylians, or even round-eared folk (I forget the polite term for them). I really didn’t care to find out what it was, deciding it best to not draw too much attention to myself. Despite my best efforts, however, I came face-to-face with one of the creatures at the top of a stairway leading up to the temple. A bokoblin…I couldn’t help but chuckle at my own paranoia as I brought an axe down on it’s head. You know you’re on-edge when even bokoblins spook you. Still, as pathetic as they are, the place being overrun with the little blighters wasn’t very reassuring.
Not much remained of the temple on ground-level. No doubt those filthy bokoblins looted this place until there was nothing of worth left. I quickly formulated a new plan: climb to the roof and look for any towns, settlements, or even familiar landmarks. After a perilous climb, I managed to reach the temple’s steeple. I quickly surveyed the surrounding countryside. That’s when I saw it on the other side of a field: a cabin!
I hastily scrambled down the temple ruins and booked it across the field. A short time later, I arrived at the cabin, peered in, and found it…completely empty. Upon further investigation I realized this must be where Old Fool was squatting (why would I expect anything else?). Running out of ideas, I decided to just pick a direction and hope I found a town or something.
It wasn’t long before I nearly walked off a cliff. Turns out Old Fool wasn’t kidding about this being a “great plateau”. There’s no way I’ll be able to climb my way off this goddess forsaken rock.
Disheartened, I decided to investigate the point on the map. Hallucination Girl did seem to know how to open those doors, and it’s not like I had anything else to do, plus the Slate’s previous user wouldn’t have marked that spot no for reason, right? I followed the map until I reached an alcove with yet another garish glowing pedestal. I knew the drill.
Apparently not, because instead of opening a door, I somehow got a tower to spring from under my feet. No, you read that right, a whole tower. After I managed to peel myself off the floor and calm myself down by reciting a mantra of disjointed curses, I noticed my Sheikah-Slate had downloaded map data for the plateau. That’s handy, I guess.
That’s when I heard her—I mean it—again. Honestly, I don’t know what it tried to convince me to do this time, as I was a little distracted by the image of the shadowy form of a pig engulfing a distant castle. I think the parts of my brain responsible for auditory hallucinations and visual ones are competing for my attention.
Climbing down was difficult. Who ever the idiot that designed the tower was, he apparently didn’t believe in ladders or stairs. I had to jump between platforms jutting from the sides of the tower. Also, I was distracted by that whole “I’m probably crazy” thing. I really wanted to write-off what I just saw as the result of a head injury, but given the frequency, persistence, and increasing vividness of my delusions—not to mention the fact I woke up in a spa and/or psychiatric ward with no memory of how I got there—I couldn’t rule out the possibility of some sort of long term psychological condition. Either way, I should probably find a doctor when I get out of here.
Once at the bottom, Old Fool arrived via some sort of miniature hang-glider. He asked me if anything happened while I was up there. Still mad about earlier, I refused to speak. He then asked if I heard a voice, which he insisted he could tell happened from the way I acted at the top of the tower. Yeah right, like his blurry, semi-sober hobo eyes could make out anything from where he was sitting. I refused to acknowledge his lucky guess or answer any of his other questions.
After he realized his prodding wasn’t going to get me to open up about my psychosis, he decided to change the subject. “I assume you caught sight of that atrocity enshrouding the castle,” he said turning his gaze to the castle and gesturing with his walking-stick. I felt like I had been kicked in the chest. How did he know about that? Could that thing be real? I quickly came to my senses; surely there was a simpler answer. Maybe he was just another hallucination, perhaps he’s somehow been gaslighting me this whole time, or he could just have gotten a hold of my medical records and decided to mess with me. I tried my best not to let on and humored him.
After some talk about a great calamity—y’know, typical doomsday-cult stuff—he offered me his glider in exchange for whatever treasure I found in a nearby shrine. Eager for an easy way off the plateau, I agreed. The outside of the shrine looked much like the tower and spa, with weird coral-like carvings on its walls. I cautiously used my tablet to unlock the front door and proceeded down the elevator.
Once inside, I was greeted by a prerecorded message welcoming me to some sort of trial. Seeing yet another glowing pedestal, I reflexively walked up to it and placed my Slate on it. My Pavlovian conditioning was rewarded with a free app for my Sheikah-Slate. While I don’t care for how they invasively installed software on my device without so much as asking, I have to admit it’s a cool app. It lets me pick up metal objects from a distance. I wonder why they’d just give this away; maybe it’s still in beta? Either way, I shouldn’t overuse it: probably drains the battery like nothing else.
After that, I explored the testing area they provided looking for anything else of value. There isn’t much else worth mentioning except whoever was here last forgot to turn off one of the security robots. Regardless, I effortlessly made my way to the end of the obstacle course and listened as a hologram offered me a congratulatory message and something called a “spirit-orb”. No clue what that was about.
Shortly after I exited the shrine, Old Fool swooped in on his glider to check-in on me. Despite our agreement, and my frequent, tactful reminders, he decided to hold onto the glider. Now he says I need to loot all of the shrines on the Great Plateau. I’m really starting to hate that guy…
So it looks like I’m going to be stuck here for awhile. It’s getting late: I’ll continue in the morning. In the meantime, I’ve decided to keep this journal as a record of my time stranded on the Great Plateau. I can probably adapt it into a best selling book once I get out of here. And if I don’t make it, at least whoever finds this will know:
Don’t trust the old man.
About the Author: Glen is a lifelong Nintendo fan whose love of video games has inspired him to pursue a career in computer programming. He’s currently studying to get his master’s degree in computer science from Oklahoma State University. He’s too busy playing Breath of the Wild to come up with a witty, self-deprecating fact about himself.
Needless to say, the weekend the Nintendo Switch debuted, I didn’t get much done. After the setup of the surprisingly small console, I immediately started playing Breath of the Wild. In my opinion, the introduction is the best in the series. I was instantly hooked and ended up playing until around 2 A.M. I have an embarrassing number of hours logged into the game already, and I only have about 1/3 of the map uncovered, and only one dungeon complete. Though I have a ways to go, I can already tell this game is special. A game like this doesn’t come around often, so I plan to cherish it. I could go on and on about my feelings so far for Breath of the Wild, but alas, this is about the Switch.
The next day wasn’t very different, with the exception that friends were planning on coming over to try out the system. Of course, I played Zelda all day leading up to that. When people started arriving, it was time to try 1-2-Switch. Let me say that this is probably the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer game in a long time. The concept is a little strange at first, especially since it encourages you to look your opponent in the eyes (something us introverts can struggle with). This creates a somewhat awkward (yet hilarious) interaction. As we went through the games we realized we were not only having fun with the game, but having fun with one another. It’s clear this is what Nintendo was going for, and once you ease in and feel more comfortable with how the games work, it’s truly a blast.
After 1-2-Switch, we transitioned over to Snipperclips. Another multiplayer game where two players work cooperatively to solve different puzzles and accomplish different tasks. It’s a lot of fun. I also downloaded Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, and haven’t even gotten to it because I’ve been so enveloped in the other games.
This console has some magic that the Wii U just didn’t have. I truly believe this is what Nintendo needed in terms of their position in the industry. That is, to not worry about competition, but rely on the best development in the industry and innovation. I’m also looking forward to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 releasing in the coming months. Yes, I may be caught up in the whirlwind of hype and still in the “honeymoon phase” with Zelda, but my hope is fulfilled back in Nintendo. Now excuse me, I need to go play Zelda; it hurts to not be playing it.
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