My Favorite 3D Mario Title

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.

The Locale

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.

There are so many good things happening here…

The Gameplay

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.

The Challenge

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.

Plan your next move carefully…

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.

Conclusion

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!

Which Button Am I Pressing? (Blindfolded!)

You’re really pressing my buttons.


Are you so familiar with Nintendo controllers that you could recognize individual buttons without looking?! That’s exactly what Simeon and Scott are attempting today, while blindfoldedly shoving fingers into gaming input devices. Who will win?

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Population Growing: The Wonderful Legacy of Animal Crossing

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…

Humble Beginnings

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.

World Traveler

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.

Population: Growing 

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.

Video Game Pricing Through the Ages

No wonder Nintendo has so much money!


#537 – Video games… kind of an expensive hobby, no? Ever wondered if gaming used to cost more back in the day, or if the prices have only gone up? When you take inflation of the US dollar into account, the information is quite interesting!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Best Nintendo Buttons Of All Time

Maybe one day, buttons will slide in and out of controllers just like Joy-Con on a Switch, and everyone can be happy.


Buttons. Do you like click? Sponge? Analog, or digital? Diamond layout, or some shaped like beans? For every button Nintendo makes, there are a plethora of preferences. Which controllers or handhelds have the buttons that you like most? Do you agree with Scott or Simeon’s picks – or neither?! Let us know in the comment section!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Why We Are Nintendo Fans

Because Nintendo does what everywon’t.


When is the last time you stopped and asked yourself the question: Why AM I a Nintendo fan? That’s exactly what we’re doing on the NF YouTube channel today – join in the comments!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

How Switch Combines Past Systems

No idea why they didn’t mention the Virtual Boy at all…


The Nintendo Switch is the product of over 30 years of hardware manufacturing. Its designers learned a lot along the way, and have kept the best features of each console that proceeded it. The result is a Nintendo system that has a little bit of everything!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Battalion Wars | That Was a Thing

Welcome to That Was a Thing! A new series in which I discuss my favorite weird, obscure, or simply underrated pantendo games and media. Think of it as the evil twin to Simeon’s Nintendo Experience series. In this inaugural installment, I’m going to look at one of my favorite—not to mention one of the only—real-time strategy Nintendo series out there: Battalion Wars.

The Battalion Wars duology was a spin-off of the Nintendo Wars franchise and originally had the working title of Advanced Wars: Under Fire. Unlike the other Nintendo Wars games, however, Battalion Wars wasn’t developed by Nintendo or Intelligent Systems, but a British company: Kuju Entertainment. The first game was released for the GameCube on September 19, 2005 and its sequel debuted on the Wii on October 29, two years later.

Overview

The Battalion Wars games are a combination real-time strategy and third-person shooter. Like most R.T.S. games, players are tasked with completing objectives with the units provided for the mission—riflemen, tanks, bombers, etc. Needless to say, each unit type had its own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities and the majority of the strategy revolves around knowing where and when to deploy each unit. The unique selling point of this game is that the player directly controls one of the units the whole time, with the ability to freely switch between units as needed. Think of it as being sort of like Pikmin but with guns…and tanks.

Both games are set in a fictional world filled with global super-powers just itching to find a use for their massive armies. Seeing as the series was developed in England, each of the games’ fictional nations are comically stereotypical counterparts to real-life countries. The United States is represented by the gung-ho Western Frontier, the Tundran Territories are an odd combination of Tsarist/Soviet Russia, likewise Xylvania combines Imperial Germany with Nazi Germany, the Solar Empire is a futuristic tropical Japan, and the Anglo Isles—first introduced in the second game—mirrors the Anglo Isles…I mean the United Kingdom…seriously, they weren’t even trying to be subtle with that one.

As to be expected, each of these nations employ an eccentric and colorful cadre of commanders. Each mission has the player receiving orders from one of their faction’s commanding officers while the enemy commander emotes and responds according to the events of the game. While they don’t offer any special gameplay bonuses like the commanders of the Advance Wars series, the commanders’ typically blasé attitude toward warfare and nonchalant dialogue helps keep the tone light. I would say the only commander that I personally didn’t care for was Empress Lei Qo of the Solar Empire—who left so little of an impression on me, I had to look up her name just to write the previous sentence.

The third-person perspective really is what makes gameplay stand out. Giving orders from the perspective of one of your men while returning fire yourself really makes you feel like you’re an actual part of the conflict, instead of some ghostly observer calling the shots. When your battalion’s under fire, you’re under fire, and having to make tactical decisions in the midst of the chaos of the battlefield can create some really tense moments. Then there are the times when you spot some enemies in the distance or look at the map and have to plan your next move. I’m not sure I can properly express the feeling I would get as my men crowded around me, expectantly waiting for me to formulate a plan of attack.

Take that ya tsarist turnip!
Being an entity on the battlefield requires the player to look after both himself and and his units.

If quality gameplay wasn’t enough, these games are also overflowing with personality. The games’ humor and cartoonish visuals give the series a lighthearted tone; these aren’t games out to deliver a ham-fisted “war is bad” message but instead revel in the innocent—and perhaps naive—feeling of playing with toy army men. Despite having the depth of a Saturday morning cartoon, almost every character is likable in some way—with my personal favorites being Tsar Gorgi, Kaiser Vlad, and Col. Austin—and I genuinely wanted to know what happened to them next. Each faction’s units are instantly recognizable, and their designs convey a lot of personality, not just for the unit itself, but for the faction it belongs to.

Giving orders from the perspective of one of your men while returning fire yourself really makes you feel like you’re an actual part of the conflict.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, take a closer look at the first game.

Battalion Wars

Clearly, this is a real man's adorable war game.
The cute proportions and solemn color choice of the cover art sums up the game’s unique atmosphere quite well.

I first heard of Battalion Wars from the now defunct Nintendo Power Magazine. That’s not to say I immediately took an interest in it, however. I wouldn’t pay it much mind until my younger brother returned from the now defunct Hasting’s Entertainment with a used copy of the game. Shortly after he inevitably lost interest in it, I took a crack at it and fell for it harder than Tsar Gorgi off a bridge (too soon?).

The game places the player in command of the forces of the Western Frontier—with some exceptions in the form of unlockable bonus missions. The story begins during an uneasy truce between the Western Frontier and their longstanding enemies, the Tundran Territories. War breaks out when Western Frontier troops find a Tundran spy on the Frontier side of the border. As the plot continues, the Tundrans ally themselves with the Xylvanians, the Xylvanians betray the Tundrans, an old man is thrown off a bridge, I think there was a zombie-ghost legion at some point…you get the picture.

While it won’t win any awards, the story has a great sense of progression to it. Plot-wise, mission objectives often tie into something you did in a previous stage. If you saved a spy, you can bet his intel is what will point you toward your next target. The fort you defend in one mission is essential to launching a counter attack in the next and so forth. It’s a small detail, but having your actions contextualized like that goes a long way toward making your input feel meaningful.

While it won’t win any awards, the story has a great sense of progression to it.

While we’re talking about writing, I need to discuss the most important character: the grunts. Throughout the game, the troops under your command are constantly responding to your orders, quipping at the enemy, talking among themselves, or commenting on the situation at hand…and it is freaking adorable! Okay, I know that sounds like it’d get annoying after awhile, but the troops have so many lines that I would sometimes still be discovering new ones on my fourth or fifth play-through of particular missions.

“I’m beat…let’s make camp and whip up some cocoa!”

On to the atmosphere: the visual style is a strange blend of cute, chibi soldiers and vehicles and a muted color palette that gives the environments an oddly grim and gritty feel. This, in conjunction with a great soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place in an old WW2 movie, produces a unique atmosphere in which the tone is never too heavy or oppressive but the player is still fully aware that—no matter how cute the enemy’s tanks are—this is still war.

The game isn’t without faults, however. The A.I. for units under the player’s control is a little slow on the uptake, to the point of seemingly lacking a self preservation instinct at times. I found any mission where I had to fight enemy aircraft especially aggravating, as anti-air vets tend to not take initiative, resulting in massive losses from even brief lapses in focus. I didn’t care much for missions where the game expects me to command planes and ground forces at the some time, either. For whatever reason, when given the wait command, planes continuously fly in a straight line instead of staying in proximity to where they were when the order was given. This required me to constantly check back on them to make sure they weren’t about to fly over enemy anti-air embankments.

Battalion Wars 2

"Sir, the last game didn't sell well." "Then put an explosion of the cover of the next one!"
More playable factions, more unit types, more color! KA-BOOM!

Battalion Wars 2 starts its story off 200 years in the past by showing the player the final conflict between the Solar Empire and Old Xylvania at the end of the “Lightning Wars”. Bottom line is that the S.E. nukes O.X.’s H.Q. with an orbital death ray and then—fearing that the weapon is too much power for anyone to wield—chucks the controller (a staff) into a glacial ravine…what could possibly go wrong?

Back in present day, it’s been 2 years since the events of B.W. 1 and the nations of the world are at peace…until the Anglo Isles preemptively attack the Solar Empire based on rumors that they are harboring some sort of super weapon. The plot jumps between flashbacks and modern day from there with each campaign focusing on a different faction: a conflict between the Western Frontier and Tundra, the Anglo Islands staving off the Solar Empire’s retaliation, one where the player controls Old Xylvania’s forces, and finally Tundra’s attempts to prevent Xylvania from finding the staff.

The plot sounds a lot more complicated, but it really isn’t. I assume the 200-year-old-artifact-of-doom plot was meant to make the story feel bigger than the last game’s. Unfortunately, I’m not very fond of epics; I much prefer down-to-earth plots as I think they tend to have better focus and require the author to actually make me care about something specific like people or places. Fortunately, most of the characters are still quite likable, including most of the new ones.

Sadly, the narrative’s constantly changing point of view leaves the story unfocused and absolutely kills that sense of progression the first game had. You only play as any one faction for at most five missions (usually less). Between less emphasis being placed on the player’s actions between missions and the fact the player constantly switches sides, that feeling from the first game of being a single commander fighting in a series of much larger conflicts is completely gone.

Did I mention the volume on the player’s soldiers has also been dramatically reduced? They still speak, and I’m sure it’s still adorable, but I for the life of me can’t hear what they’re saying.

The narrative’s constantly changing point of view leaves the story unfocused and absolutely kills that sense of progression the first game had.

Moving on to the visual design of this game: many of the units received redesigns, especially the Tundran Territories’ infantry, most of which I think are improvements. The same can’t be said for Brigadier Betty: her look, not to mention her distinctive voice and a good deal of her peppy can-do attitude, are gone, making this iteration rather bland and forgettable. Speaking of bland, the game’s color palette is much more colorful which, while fitting well with the cartoonish style, demolishes the unique atmosphere of the B.W. 1 and stands out less by comparison.

What's that orange bit above her shorts? Her underwear? C'mon guys, this is a Nintendo game...
On the left, a plucky, upbeat, and memorable character; on the right, the uncanny valley.

Okay, so maybe the aesthetics and narrative aren’t on par with the original, but this game fixes many of its predecessor’s failings when it comes to gameplay. The A.I. is much more proactive: there were many times I would be ordering my units to attack a tank or some entrenched enemy infantry and would be surprised by the wreckage of an enemy gunship I didn’t notice suddenly crashing nearby. Oh, and planes finally fly in circles when put on standby!

The motion controls also make targeting enemies and issuing commands a snap. The only place where they really feel out of place is when controlling aircraft, as pointing the Wii remote up or down controls altitude. This feels awkward, especially if the player is trying to target a ground based unit, partially due to the game not making the change in altitude immediately obvious.

The game’s missions do feel a bit more repetitive than before. BWii’s missions follow a pretty predictable formula: defend a location then go on the assault or go on the assault and then defend the capture point. That said, BWii doesn’t have any missions that drag on too long or feel unfair—which the first game was occasionally guilty of, so I guess it more or less balances out.

The game’s missions do feel a bit more repetitive than before. That said, BWii doesn’t have any missions that drag on too long or feel unfair—which the first game was occasionally guilty of.

Of course, Battalion Wars 2 also brought new gameplay elements to the table: naval units and buildings. Naval units basically feel like tanks and artillery, but much more sluggish. That said, the game does a great job of conveying their weight and scale, and their long range means naval missions don’t feel too drawn out. Unfortunately, missions in which the player has to command both land and sea units tend to feel disjointed and tedious, due the two unit types’ inability to travel together and the player not being able to use the “All Units” button to regroup their units without messing up their positioning.

Buildings are a solid addition. Players can’t select their position, instead having to secure predetermined locations. Once under the player’s control, buildings will periodically replace fallen units corresponding to the type of building (e.g. aircraft for airfields). These help take the edge off, as the player doesn’t have to worry about losing essential personnel. That said, the fact that units have to run all the way to the players position, which can be on the other side of the map, means the player can’t rely on reinforcements too much.

Debriefing

Despite all of the flak I just gave Battalion Wars 2, I do think it’s the better game. While I think Battalion Wars has more personality, it can also be much more tiring—and sometimes frustrating—to play. Of course, neither is particularly hard to come by, and they’re both worth your time.

Sadly, Nintendo never commissioned Kuju to make a Battalion Wars 3. I think it’s blend of action and strategy would’ve been a great fit for the Wii U, and the Wii U gamepad would’ve been a great help in micromanaging units, something that neither game made easy. Nintendo still seems to have a fondness for cartoony wars games if the recent 3DS game Tank Heroes is anything to go by, so I haven’t completely given up hope. If the rumors of GameCube games coming to the Switch’s Virtual Console are true, I’d happily double dip on Battalion Wars…and not just because of how utterly unreliable old GameCube memory cards are.


About the Author

Glen Straughn is a lifelong Nintendo fan whose love of video games has inspired him to pursue a career in computer programming. He is currently studying to receive his masters in computer science from Oklahoma State University. He has gotten an S rank on every mission in BWii, and even managed to get an S on the final mission on his first successful play-through…completely by accident.

What do we Still Not Know about Switch?

We won’t be satisfied until we know about every screw and strip of adhesive in the console! Oh, and, details on digital purchases carrying over would be awesome too.


We Nintendo fans have been described by Reggie as “insatiable” before, and that title still holds true for us today. Less than a week ago, Nintendo spent an entire weekend informing us about their new Switch console and giving press members hands-on time with the system, yet we STILL want to know more. There are still some burning questions that we must have answered before the home/portable hybrid releases on March 3rd!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Which Metroid Prime Game is Best?

The winner is… Metroid Prime HUNTERS! For the best Metroid Prime game on the original DS.


The Metroid Prime trilogy of games that started on Gamecube and ended up Wii are just a phenomenal set of games. It’s hard to pick which one is the best, but that’s exactly what we set out to do in this episode. Whether you remember one particularly fondly or you have a hard time making up your mind, Simeon and Scott introduce some strong arguments for each game and any of them are viable to win! Watch first and then let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments – we want to hear from YOU!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Beat it Blind: Super Monkey Ball 2

How much sense do you think the command “backwards backwards foreward foreward” makes to you when you’re blindfolded?


If Super Monkey Ball 2 on the Nintendo Gamecube isn’t a big enough challenge for you, try to Beat It Blind! That’s the exact challenge that Scott and Simeon have before them today, using only the guidance of each other’s voice to complete the level. It’s no easy task, but they’ve proven in previous installments that teamwork can carry them across the finish line.

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Vintage Home Video “Mad Katastrophe”

Ah yes, the “nasty month-old Coke,” a staple at Scott’s household.


If you love embarrassing home videos, and/or gaming, you’re in for a treat today! On a recent episode, Scott and Simeon promised that if you gave the show enough likes, we would post an OLD Two Button Crew video that predates the Daily Show for Nintendo Fans. Well, here it is. The Crew harbors an intense hatred for cheaply made, sloppy 3rd Party Controllers that just don’t compare to the real deal. MadCatz is a well-known culprit of terrible off-brand alternatives, and in this video, a MadCatz Gamecube controller is destroyed. Literally.

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

All Nintendo Console’s Final Games

Depper. Large. These are the words you must put in the title of your game if you want it to be a success in Japan.


Some games get the honor of singing the sweet swan song for their console as it passes into history. We’ve found each game that Nintendo and 3rd parties published last for every console – enjoy!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

What is the Boundary Break Webseries?

He is the easiest person to interview, as in, most easy-going!


Subscribe to the amazing show – Boundary Break at www.youtube.com/c/shesez – where you get to see parts of your favorite games that you’ve never seen before!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

October’s Nintendo Experience

Welcome back to the Nintendo Experience! I’m once again expanding the list of necessary games for every Nintendo fan. We’ve since added Photo Dojo to the list as the essential DSi game, and we’re moving on.

For the past few weeks I’ve really been enjoying the indie title Axiom Verge, and while it won’t be making its appearance on the Nintendo Experience, it is a great game. While trudging through the depths of cyberspace… or the subconscious… or another dimension… whatever that setting is, it got me thinking of the game that inspired it.

Super Metroid for the SNES is a Nintendo classic through and through. Originally marketed as Nintendo’s biggest game yet (see our Watching Old Nintendo Commercials episode), it sure does show. The game’s environments and inhabitants are varied and give an awesome sense of exploration and conquest as you traverse the world of Zebes. from your initial encounter with Ridley to the final showdown with Mother Brain, it is an unforgettable thrill-ride.

One of the clear inspirations that Axiom Verge took from Super Metroid is its use of traversal items. Though the two games’ items differ in specific application, they both serve the purpose of making you feel like you have the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere. You may start out feeling like you don’t have much in the way of mobility, but soon enough you’re getting from point A to point B using methods of which you’d never dreamed. The sense of control you have over your character and freedom to explore the environment is truly a great feeling.

It was also nice to recently revisit Donkey Kong Jungle Beat in a recent episode (man, I’m killing it with these shameless self-promotions!). There is something to be said about the Donkey Konga Bongos. While Donkey Konga and its sequel were alright for rhythm games, Nintendo didn’t leave the peripheral to be used for one game only. They decided to do what no one else had thought of: use a rhythm game controller for another kind of game. That’s genius! Have you seen “Guitar Hero Platformer” or “DDR Fighter”? No! Of course, you haven’t because Nintendo has harvested all of the geniuses in the world to come up with those ideas for them.

As far as how the game actually plays, it’s pretty good (nothing ultra groundbreaking besides the control method). But it’s the fact that one day, someone sat down and said “let’s use a set of drums to control a character,” then made it work that lands it a “must play” sticker for me.

Well, that’s it for the Nintendo Experience for now. It feels good to finally see the shelf start to fill out.

nintendo-experience

Beat it Blind: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

PUNCHPUNCHPUNCHPUNCHpunchpunchpnchpnchpnchpchpchpchpch!


What’s harder than playing a Donkey Kong game with a bongo controller? Probably nothing… No, wait – doing it while blindfolded!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Which Nintendo Series Evolved Most?

It takes BILLIONS of years for games to get good – duh.


Nintendo and their franchises have been around longer than the two of us, so which series have evolved the most during that time?

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

A Debatably Brief Overview of Homebrew

I want to make Nintendo games.

Let’s face it, we’ve all thought that at one point or another. Usually it doesn’t go any further than wishful thinking, though. Sure, some of us might doodle concept art or gameplay ideas in a notebook, a few might even learn to program, but even for those with all of the skills there’s another, more tangible hurdle: the tools. Game development isn’t free and procuring a software development kit (SDK or devkit for short) is often a costly proposition. For those of you not familiar with the game development process, a devkit is a collection of specialized software and hardware used to make and test games. They’re quite expensive: the Wii’s devkit cost around $5000, which at the time was rather cheap compared to the XBox 360’s and PS3’s $20,000 price tag. Now, those of you who are used to making do with free software—like me—are probably thinking, “do I really need all of those fancy tools?”

No.

Homebrew is the process of making software for a system without the original development kit or system distributor’s blessing (more commonly known as a “license”). The term originated among beer aficionados for beer brewed by an individual instead of a commercial brewing house, but now is used in many hobbies—including video games—to refer to unofficial/amateur produced content. Homebrewering shouldn’t be confused with modding or ROM hacking: homebrewing is concerned with making new content for a system, while modding and ROM hacking only intend to change or manipulate an existing game (sometimes to the point where it’s arguably a different game made from the parts of the original).

Homebrew is the process of making software for a system without the original development kit…

What’s Homebrew Like?

Homebrew provides a surprisingly diverse selection of content. There’s homebrew for almost all Nintendo systems, though the type of content varies greatly from system to system. Older systems mostly focus on games, while newer ones–from about the Wii onward–have homebrew for everything from games to system utilities. Let’s take a quick look at some examples.

Games

Blade Buster

Just as “all toasters toast toast [sic]” Nintendo homebrewers homebrew games…duh. Sadly, most of the homebrew games I found in my research are simple, forgettable diversions much like the flash games of the early days of the internet. It’s not that surprising, considering game development on any level is an intricate and time consumptive process. That isn’t to say that all homebrewers lack diligence and ambition. There are still many quality original titles. Notice that I said original titles; a large number of homebrew game projects are simply ports, usually of games whose creators have released the source code to the general public. In fact, the Wii alone has ports of P.C. classics such as Tyrian, Quake, and Jazz Jackrabbit.

 

N-Warp ScreenshotI’m not going to try to enumerate every homebrew project released for a Nintendo system, but for the sake of being thorough, there are some that warrant mention. First up is Blade Buster, a Famicom shoot-em-up notable for its screen filling boss sprites (on an 8-bit console mind you), an insane number of sprites on the screen at a time, and unique time-attack styled gameplay. Next for the Super Nintendo is N-Warp Daisakusen, a game that allows eight—yes, eight—players to compete in a free-for-all brawl. Lastly, I want to mention a puzzle game for the DS named Negative Space which has the player drawing paths to guide two opposite colored blobs to their respective goal flags. The catch? They can only travel through the other’s color, meaning every path you draw for one is an obstacle to the other.

Negative Space
This game is also available as a free download on Android.

Emulators

After games, the most common type of homebrew is emulators. I’m not exactly sure why when emulators are already so prolific on P.C. Maybe people make them because they like the challenge of getting an emulator to function on the constraints of a game console. Maybe it’s to prove that more fully featured emulation is possible on Nintendo systems. Maybe people just think it’s funny to play Playstation games on their Wii. Whatever the reason, most of Nintendo’s modern systems have a multitude of homebrewed emulators available on them.

WiiSX
I can’t be the only one who thinks this is hilarious.

Obviously, many of the homebrewed emulators available online for Nintendo consoles are for older Nintendo systems. As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, however, the homebrewed emulator scene isn’t exclusively concerned with Nintendo systems. On the just Wii alone there are emulators for Sega Genesis/Mega-Drive, Sega Saturn, Playstation 1, CalecoVision, Commodore 64, Atari Lynx, and many, many, many, many, many more. Also, there’s a Super Nintendo emulator that runs on the original 3DS (I knew it!).

Whatever the reason, most of Nintendo’s modern systems have a multitude of homebrewed emulators available on them.

Miscellaneous Software

Not all homebrew projects are game related. Some are just the sort of software you’d find on any computer: music players, web browsers, etc. One such program of note is an art program called Colors! Which was originally developed as homebrew for the DS but has since gotten an official release on multiple systems, including the 3DS eshop. Then there’s software that changes system behaviors. For example, the 3DS has an application that removes the cap on the number of play coins a player can receive in a day. More impressive is a Wii hack that let’s the user change the region of the console—y’know, to play region locked games.

Linux

Where there’s hardware, there’s Linux. Much like the speed of light or the certainty of death and taxes, it’s one of the constants of our universe. Seriously, any system that’s powerful enough to run Linux sooner or later will. There’s Linux for the GameCube, Linux on the 3DS, Linux for the Wii, a distro is in development for the N64, there’s a version for the DS; heck, even the GameBoy Advance has…Unix?

…Wait, what?

GameBoy Advance Unix
What?

Any system that’s powerful enough to run Linux sooner or later will.

Cool! Let me try!

For those of you who don’t know, I happen to be a programmer, so when I write an article that gives me the opportunity to talk about programming, I’m going to talk about programming. If you think programming is some kind of voodoo (which it isn’t: it’s sorcery), you may want to skip this part.

Still here? Great! Believe it or not, if you’re already comfortable with programming it’s almost as simple as picking the system you want to develop for and a few Google searches. While homebrewing isn’t exactly the go-to past-time among bored nerds, there are several online guides and communities dedicated to the craft: forums, YouTube videos, blogs, and wikis galore! Heck, there’s an entire free book on WikiBooks about Super Nintendo programming.

Even though you’re not going to be using The Man’s toolkit, you can’t exactly make a game with just your imagination and wishful thinking (trust me, I’ve tried). You will need software to compile the code you write and, if you’re developing for one of Nintendo’s more recent systems, an API library to interface with the system (getting controller input and such). You’ll also want an emulator. Fortunately, all of these tools can be easily acquired on the internet for free.

 There are several online guides and communities dedicated to the craft: forums, YouTube videos, blogs, and wikis galore!

As for the coding itself, it’s mostly the same as regular programming. For example, I—out of curiosity—browsed through a tutorial on GameBoy Advance homebrewing and was quite relieved (and just a little surprised) to find that the code was hardly distinguishable from any other program written in C. There are certainly nuances to keep in mind—like in the case of the GBA, some memory addresses are reserved for the screen’s RGB values, tracking whether buttons are pressed, and so on. You may also need to go without some modern conveniences (hope you like compiling your code from command-line!). But by-and-large, anyone who’s sufficiently experienced with C and/or C++ should be fine.

Unless you’re developing for an 8 or 16-bit system. In that case I hope you really like 65c816 Assembly!

 

We Haven’t Even Touched the Red Pill

Instead of starting on a proper summation, I’d like to cover my backside real quick and stress that despite this being the longest article I’ve written for Two Button Crew to date, I have only given the barest of overviews of the subject. I encourage you to look further into this, either as someone interested in finding new games to play or someone hoping to make such games. More over, there’s a lot I omitted for length, like how some retail games have been pulled from store shelves because of homebrewers.

Having said all that, it’s a shame homebrew isn’t more popular. I understand why, though: if someone’s going to go to all the trouble to make a game, why make it for a dead system? And if it’s for a modern system, why make a game that they can’t license and sell? But, hey, who knows? Many Nintendo fans have grown up and started making games of their own. As time goes on and more fans get old enough to take an interest in game development, maybe some of them will try to make a few for the systems they played on as kids. Wouldn’t that be something, a flood of new old games?


About the Author:

Glen is a lifelong Nintendo fan whose love of video games has inspired him to pursue a career in computer programming; so much so that he is now studying to get a masters in computer science. He doesn’t understand that the average person isn’t interested in programming and won’t shut up about how awesome it is.

#6 Mega Man IV

If only you could reverse those DARN backwards buttons!


What if Mega Man could fly? And what if he could float upward extremely slowly? Let’s answer those burning questions.

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Reformat” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/