TBC Table-Top: Episode 08 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

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Now available in high quality Vorbis audio!

Join Scott, Simeon, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.  Our heroes now have a taste of the dangers that await them in the Spring Shrine.  They’ve defeated the chuchus, but how will they fair against the lizalfos awaiting them in the next chamber?

Cast

Sigil: Scott

Trouse: Nathan Blake

Oscar: Simeon

Sage: Glen

Music Credits

Divinity
Nostalvania
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

Thelonius Temple
MC
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

The Guru
The OC Jazz Collective
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

TBC Table-Top: Episode 07 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

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Now available in high quality Vorbis audio!

Join Scott, Simeon, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.  After being led to the headwaters by a pair of friendly fairies, the party now delves into the mysterious Spring Shrine.  What dangers lurk in the dark, dank depths of these forgotten ruins? Read more TBC Table-Top: Episode 07 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

TBC Table-Top: Episode 06 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

Play

Now available in high quality Vorbis audio!

Join Scott, Simeon, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.

After camping for the night, our heroes make their way to the headwaters of the river.

Read more TBC Table-Top: Episode 06 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

TBC Table-Top: Episode 05 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

Play

Now available in high quality Vorbis audio!

Join Scott, Simeon, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.

After dispatching their bokoblin assailants, our heroes continue delving even deeper into the woods.  Will they find the river’s headwaters or more trouble? Read more TBC Table-Top: Episode 05 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

Shantae and the Seven Sirens Review

Developed by WayForward Technologies,  Shantae and the Seven Sirens may be the half-genie’s most ambitious game yet.  Not only does the game return to the series’s Metroidvania roots, but it also serves as a grab bag of all of the series’s best ideas.

Gameplay

Map

Shantae and the Seven Sirens plays like a cross between Metroid and The Legend of Zelda.  Players alternate between exploring a large, interconnected overworld, towns, and puzzle and monster-filled dungeons.  This is a refreshing return to form, as Half-Genie Hero utilized a linear, level-based structure and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was sort of a halfway point between a level-based progression and Metroidvania structure.  In regards to the world and exploration, fans of Super Metroid will feel right at home.

Of course, a large world isn’t much good if it’s a chore to explore.  Thankfully, the various locales in Seven Sirens are easy to traverse quickly, with multiple routes to any one point and several, evenly-spaced warp rooms and plenty of save points for added convenience.  This is further helped by the fact that Shantae herself controls perfectly and her transformations—while relatively basic this time around—are all very intuitive to use.

This does lead me to my first complaint, however.  While it’s relatively easy to get from one end of the map to the other, it’s not always easy to know where to go.  The map only provides the barest essentials to be useful, with the only markers on map being the locations of warp rooms, save points, towns, and dungeons.  While this may sound like a lot, it isn’t helpful at all when backtracking in search of items.  Several items in the game are hidden in optional puzzle rooms that require a certain ability to complete.  The entrances to these rooms—which are never hidden, for the record—aren’t marked on the map—nor does the game give the player the ability to place markers on the map.  This left me wandering in circles desperately trying to remember where that one specific puzzle room I had just obtained the power for was on multiple occasions.

Another related issue is that the game doesn’t feature any sort of summary of the player’s current objective on the pause screen.  If you happened to forget what exactly you’re supposed to be doing or missed an important detail, you’ll have to remember who gave you your current objective and backtrack all the way to their location to ask them again.  Likewise, the game provides no easy way for the player to track their progress, which makes tracking down every item in the game somewhat tedious.

Abilities

Shantae has a bevy of new abilities.  This time around, all of her transformations are instantaneous, working more like the pirate gear from Pirate’s Curse or Risky Boots’s mode from Half-Genie Hero.  This is way more intuitive than transformations in previous Shantae games and helps gameplay maintain a consistent flow.

That said, the game’s protagonist retains her signature belly dancing ability.  This time, however, dances come in the form of screen filling magic spells.  This works really well as a compromise, as having Shantae plant her feet and spend a few seconds dancing to activate a screen-wide effect feels way more natural than having to constantly stop to transform.  These abilities also have a surprising number of uses, affecting enemies and the environment in a variety of fun and surprising ways that reward experimentation.

Best of all, Shantae and the Seven Sirens fixes a long standing issue I’ve had with previous games: there are no useless abilities!  There’s no pointless back dashes or power kicks, and every power Shantae obtains remains useful until the end of the game.

Monster Cards

New to Shantae and the Seven Sirens are monster cards.  After defeating a monster, it might drop a card bearing its likeness.  Three of these cards can be equipped at a time, with each one granting a special ability.  None of these abilities are particularly creative: decrease how much magic a certain power uses, increase damage of a particular item, etc.  As you can probably guess, most of these are situational at best.  That wouldn’t be too bad if it was easy to quickly equip cards as the situation demanded.  Unfortunately, the cumbersome interface makes the process of equipping and unequipping them very tedious.

Difficulty

Having said that, equipping cards is about as hard as this game gets.  Enemies frequently drop healing items, meaning that the player is never without a means of restoring health or magic.  To put it in perspective, I managed to go the entire game without having to use any store-bought restoratives; I always had more than enough just from what I picked up from enemies.  On top of that, powering up Shantae herself and maximizing her damage output takes very little effort.  I managed to get all of the upgrades for her standard attack before the second dungeon.  This just may be the easiest game in an already fairly easy series.

Writing

The story begins with Shantae and her friends arriving on Paradise Island to attend a half genie festival and to enjoy a much needed vacation.  Shortly after arriving, Shantae meets five other half genies who inform her that they all are expected to perform in show that night.  However, Shantae’s fellow half genies all suddenly vanish during the performance.  Being the only one left, it’s up to Shantae to discover what happened to her peers and uncover the island’s long lost secrets.

As to be expected from a WayForward game, the writing adopts a light-hearted and humorous tone, with a strong emphasis on character-driven comedy.  While WayForward has proven time and again that they have this style of writing down pat, this game stands out as some of their funniest work yet.  Just about every conversation had me at the very least cracking a smile, if not laughing outright.  

Because the game ditches the level-based progression of Half-Genie Hero and its episodic plot structure, the overall plot also feels much more cohesive.  This benefits the humor as it’s now allowed to set up jokes well in advance, only to call back to them later.  That said, some of the subplots between dungeons, while humorous and all-around entertaining, tend to come out of nowhere and don’t really fit into the game’s overarching narrative.  They’re something players will do because they know the game expects it, not because it makes sense in the context of the story.  Additionally, the dungeons oddly get little build up; the player just kind of stumbles across most of them.

Lastly, the game’s plot reminds me of Mega Man Legends in a lot of ways, which is always a good thing.

Visuals

In-Game

Unlike its predecessor, Half-Genie Hero, Shantae and the Seven Sirens returns to a fully 2D world, with both 2D characters and 2D environments.  While I think the 2.5D graphics of Half-Genie Hero were a bit more visually interesting, the visuals in this game are still very good.  My biggest complaint is how small all of the characters are on the screen, not because I had trouble keeping track of where they were, but because it makes it harder to admire all of the silky smooth animations.  You know the game looks good when my biggest issue with the visuals is my inability to properly admire them.

Cutscenes

An additional facet of Seven Sirens’ visual presentation, however, is the inclusion of 2D animated cutscenes.  While much of the game’s story is still delivered the old fashioned way, with text boxes and character portraits, these animated cutscenes depict the key moments of the game’s story and provide a little extra flare.  The game starts with an intro cinematic by esteemed anime studio, Studio Trigger, while the rest of the game’s cutscenes are by WayForward’s animation team.

The intro features snappy, expressive, and frenetic animation, making for a tough act to follow.  For the most part, the rest of the game’s cutscenes look great, but the quality isn’t entirely consistent.  A few cinematics feature disorienting transitions between shots, noticeable lack of movement, and odd shot composition.  Also, this game features some of the worst looking lip flaps I’ve ever seen.  

Fortunately, these issues are the exception rather than the rule.  The cutscenes make the game’s big moments stand out and the game is ultimately better for their inclusion.

Sound

Voice Acting

Just as this is the first Shantae game to feature full-motion cutscenes, it also introduces voice-acted dialog.  It isn’t fully voiced, however, as many scenes still rely entirely on text and the occasional, short, emotive utterance.  In fact, the application of voice acting is somewhat inconsistent, with conversations often being mostly text only to have a few voiced lines in the middle.  The acting itself is quite good and each character’s voice fits them well.  This is especially true for Shantae and Ricky Boots, both played by Christina Vee.

Music

Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the first Shantae game not to feature music by Jake Kaufman.  I have mixed feelings about the soundtrack.  Some of the songs, especially the ones in the early areas, sound painfully generic and don’t have that signature Shantae energy.  At other times, the music fits in perfectly with the rest of the series’ best tracks.  While I wouldn’t say the music in this game is quite as catchy as Half-Genie Hero’s, it’s still overall an excellent soundtrack that complements the game quite well.

Technical Notes

Before I wrap up this review, there are just a couple of technical issues I’d like to address.  While playing this game, I did experience some slowdown when there was a lot happening on screen at once, though that was very rare.  Also, during my playthrough, this game did crash one time.

Conclusion

Shantae and the Seven Sirens continues the series’s excellent track record and in many ways out does it.  It features the franchise’s best gameplay with well-utilized abilities, great exploration, and the return of many of the series’s best ideas; and is only held back by inconveniences such as cumbersome menus and a lack of quality-of-life features for completionists.  The writing is rich with charming characters and hilarious dialog.  On top of all of that, the game features a great soundtrack and the added flair of good voice acting and a few fully animated cutscenes.  All in all, I would say this is Shantae’s strongest outing yet.

Overall, I would give this game a rating of “great”.

As for the price, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is priced at $30 (U.S.).  While the game is on the shorter side, with my playthrough clocking in at ten and a half hours, I think that’s a fair price.  However, I do feel obligated to point out that Shantae ½ Genie Hero: Ultimate Edition’s digital version goes for the same price but includes a lot more content.  That said, I would say Seven Sirens is the superior game, and you in no way have to play the previous games in the series to enjoy this one.

Hideaway Island An Animal Crossing: New Horizons Narrative Let's Play

Day 1

I arrived at the airport around 9 A.M. Upon entering, I was greeted by two young raccoons who immediately got to work arranging my trip. We boarded the plane not long after that. Once finished suffering a long, boring flight during which there was nothing to do except watch an informational video and avoid eye contact with the other passengers, we arrived on the island. The two young raccoons informed the other residents and me that there was an orientation meeting nearby and that our presence was requested. Needing to retrieve my tent and other supplies, I begrudgingly followed the others to what appeared to be a construction site. There a middle-aged raccoon delivered a droll and poorly-rehearsed corporate monolog. Read more Hideaway Island An Animal Crossing: New Horizons Narrative Let’s Play

Virtua Quest That Was a Thing

I’ve mentioned it a few times on the podcast, but I love the Virtua Fighter series. Unfortunately, as a Nintendo fan, that puts me in a difficult position. See, the Virtua Fighter series has been absent from Nintendo consoles. There is, however, one noteworthy exception to this history of Nintendo exclusion: the action-R.P.G. spin-off game, Virtua Quest.

Virtua Quest was developed jointly by Tose co. and Sega AM2 and published by Sega. It was released in Japan under the name Virtua Fighter Cyber Generation: Ambition of Judgement Six on August 26, 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. It was later released in North America on January 18, 2005. As mentioned before, it was a departure from the standard Virtua Fighter series in that the game is a beat-em-up with R.P.G. elements.

My history with this game is a little different than previous installments of That Was a Thing, as I’ve never actually played this game before. Well, not the full version at least. I knew about it way back when it first came out, due it being playable at the GameCube demo kiosk at my local Target. At the time, I thought the idea of a martial-arts-based action-adventure game was intriguing, but after seeing the middling review scores it received in the now-defunct Nintendo Power magazine, I ultimately decided to pass on it.

It wouldn’t be until a few years ago once I got into the Virtua Fighter series that I developed a renewed interest in this title. After over a year of searching, I finally stumbled across it while revisiting the GameXChange in my old, grad-school stomping grounds. Read more Virtua Quest That Was a Thing

TBC Table-Top: Episode 04 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

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Join Scott, Simeon, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.

After losing their way in the woods, our heroes run afoul of a band of bokoblin bandits.  Will the might of their arms be enough to fend off their assailants?

Read more TBC Table-Top: Episode 04 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

Mario’s Express Ticket to Subcon An Examination of Mario's Sleep Habits

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor an expert on sleep disorders. This article is for entertainment purposes and should not be consulted for medical advice. If you are suffering from a sleep disorder, please consult a specialist.

It’s January again, a time of year when many people resolve to improve themselves and their lives. Long-time Nintendo fans are no strangers to the subject of self improvement. From the Brain Age games to the recent Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo has a history spanning over a decade of releasing products to improve the health and cognitive well-being of their fan base. There was even a time not too long ago that the Big N toyed with the idea of building a third pillar to their business around the idea of quality-of-life consumer electronics. The only product in this line that we fans ever even heard about, however, was a device that was supposed to improve the user’s quality of sleep. As someone who has trouble maintaining a healthy sleep cycle, I was disappointed when they announced that the project had been canceled.

Now that I think about it, though, I’m not the only one with an odd circadian rhythm. One of Nintendo’s most iconic characters has exhibited strange and potentially worrisome sleep behaviors on multiple occasions: Mario. Ever since his landmark 3D debut, Super Mario 64, Mario has often been depicted as nodding off in a matter of minutes if left inactive. This leads to me wonder: how does he do it, and is it cause for concern? Read more Mario’s Express Ticket to Subcon An Examination of Mario’s Sleep Habits

TBC Table-Top: Episode 03 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

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Join Scott, Simeon, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.

After making their preparations, our heroes relax with a little arm-wrestling before venture into the woods.  Who or what will they encounter in the forest? Read more TBC Table-Top: Episode 03 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

Super Mario Odyssey Spit Shine

Back in August, I finally managed to complete Super Mario Odyssey. While I found much to love about it—the gorgeous and eclectic visuals, the fast-paced story, the fact that Mario is weird again, the myriad of accessibility features, etc., etc.—there was a reason it took me nearly two years to complete. While I definitely intend to replay the game’s story someday, I can say with confidence that completing it is a task I will never undertake again.

As the number of remaining moons dwindled, so too did my enthusiasm. In fact, by the end of my run, I was having more fun grinding for coins in Luigi’s Balloon World so that I could afford the last few moons needed to max out the counter than I did hunting for the ones populating the game’s various worlds. Why was that, and what could Nintendo have done differently to avoid the slog? That’s exactly what I intend to answer in this edition of Spit Shine. Read more Super Mario Odyssey Spit Shine

River City Girls: Review

Product provided for review. Thanks WayForward!

Please note that I played the P.C. version of the game. The following review is for the game itself, and does not cover platform specific details such as performance or glitches.

Developed by Wayforward Technologies and published by Arc Systems Works, River City Girls is, as the name would imply, a spin-off of the N.E.S. classic River City Ransom. Much like its 8-bit predecessor, River City Girls is a blend of side-scrolling beat-em-up combat and open-world action-adventure exploration with a sprinkling of R.P.G. elements on top. The game follows the adventures of the tough, temperamental, and sarcastic Misako and the cute, bubbly, and emotionally unhinged Kyoko as the two set out to rescue their respective boyfriends from being kidnapped. Read more River City Girls: Review

TBC Table-Top: Episode 02 A Zelda Table-Top R.P.G. Adventure

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Join Scott, Ryan, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.

In this episode, our heroes continue their preparations by swinging by the general store and searching for armor.

 

Cast

Sigil: Scott

Trouse: Nathan Blake

Noire: Ryan

Sage: Glen

 

Music Credits

Divinity
Nostalvania
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

Hawaii Shoppi’n
NoppZ
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

Battle (Field)
Manaka Kataoka
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Original Sound Track
Nintendo

The Guru
The OC Jazz Collective
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

Does “Indie” Still Mean Anything?

Perhaps one of the greatest movements in the history of the game industry is the rise of indie development in the late 2000’s. With the advent of widespread digital distribution, increase in instructional content available on the internet, and the introduction of affordable game development software suites, such as the Unity or Unreal engines, game development opened up to be available to the general public, and not just those lucky few who managed to get hired at an established studio. Likewise, said established studios were freed from the need to secure funding from large publishing companies to keep their doors open via crowd funding services such as Kickstarter or the topically named Indie-Go-Go.

But what exactly is an indie game? Read more Does “Indie” Still Mean Anything?

TBC Table-Top: Episode 01 A Zelda T.T.R.P.G. Adventure

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Join Scott, Ryan, Glen, and Nathan Blake of Nathan Blake Games on an adventure through the backwoods of Hyrule as the crew plays a table-top R.P.G. inspired by The Legend of Zelda.

In this inaugural episode, our heroes learn that the town that they’re passing through is in trouble: the river that’s vital to their lumber trade is drying up.  They then band together to discover the cause and begin preparations for the journey ahead.

 

Cast

Sigil: Scott

Trouse: Nathan Blake

Noire: Ryan

Sage: Glen

Music Credits

Timeless Journey
Sam Dillard
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

Heart Home and Hearth
Rebeca Tripp
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

The Guru
The OC Jazz Collective
OverClocked ReMix (http://ocremix.org)

 

The rules used in this podcast can be found at: https://1d4chan.org/wiki/Legend_of_Zelda_RPG

Buck Bumble That Was a Thing

It’s spring again, and you know what that means!

Rain… Lots and lots of rain.

At least where I live, that is. Not that I mind: I like watching rain fall, and rain brings with it flowers. And with flowers come bees.

My history with Buck Bumble is much like that of my experience with Bomberman Hero: I rented way back in the 90’s and it always stuck with me. Unlike Bomberman Hero, however, I never even got close to beating it. Heck, having played it again recently, I’m not sure I ever even got past the tutorial.

Buck Bumble is a third-person shooter published by Ubisoft and developed by the now defunct Argonaut Games. Hold up, Argonaut Games? Yes, the company that helped develop the Super Nintendo’s Super FX Chip and the first Star Fox game. Strange, I heard that after Nintendo turned down their proposal for a 3D Yoshi game—which would eventually become Croc: Legend of the Gobbos—they had a grudge against the Big N and only released their games on every other system. Well, if that rumor is true, it apparently only applied to the Croc games, because they not only made Buck Bumble for the N64, but went on to develop several other games that were released for Nintendo platforms: Bionicle Matoran Adventure for the G.B.A., I-Ninja for the GameCube, and… Catwoman: The Game… Hm…

Wait, where was I? Ah right, Buck Bumble! As with Bomberman Hero, I stumbled across Bumble in a used game store—possibly the exact same one—for a mere ten bucks. Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to see if this game was worth remembering. Read more Buck Bumble That Was a Thing

How Cliched is Shadow the Hedgehog?

I’ve been a fan of the Sonic franchise for almost my entire life. Over the years, I’ve seen Sonic’s ups, downs, and all-arounds, either first-hand or from a safe distance. The franchise’s difficulties with maintaining relevance in the modern day have produced an incredible amount of debate as to what works and what doesn’t work for Sonic games. Fans have argued over every aspect of the series: game mechanics, storytelling, character redesigns, and so on.

One particularly controversial figure in the Sonic series is Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow is simultaneously a fan-favorite character, often ranking in the top five in popularity polls, and a symbol of everything wrong with the series post Dreamcast era, with many fans citing him as an egregiously clichéd “bad Sonic”.

So is Shadow a bad character? Is he just a cheap and cliched “anti-Sonic” or does he bring something of his own to the series? Let’s take a closer look are the Sonic franchise’s resident antihero to find out.

While I will admit there are many legitimate issues one can take with Shadow’s characterization (convoluted, self-contradicting back-story; inconsistent characterization; the entirety of Shadow the Hedgehog, etc.), when it comes to the question of whether or not Shadow is a walking cliché, I think the issue isn’t as open and shut as many like to make it out to be. Read more How Cliched is Shadow the Hedgehog?

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: ½ Genie Hero Spit Shine

With my recent completion of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, I am proud to say I’ve finally gotten all caught up on WayForward’s Shantae series. From the first game via the 3DS Virtual Console, to ½ Genie Hero on the Switch, I’ve played every game in the series all the way through (not counting bonus modes for the half genie’s latest title that is). Those of you who’ve seen my review of ½ Genie Hero know I greatly enjoyed that game, as I do the rest of the series, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take issue with some elements of the games’ design. Read more Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: ½ Genie Hero Spit Shine

Ghost Trick That Was a Thing

Have I ever mentioned I love a good mystery? Maybe it started with my childhood affection for Encyclopedia Brown books, or perhaps even earlier with my adoration of Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. Whatever the case may be, my fondness for sleuthing didn’t really take hold until I got into the Ace Attorney series. The sorts of bizarre and colorful lateral-thinking puzzles that lie at the core of the many murder mysteries throughout the series clicked with me instantly. So it’s no wonder that when I read in the now defunct Nintendo Power magazine that Shu Takumi, the creator of the Ace Attorney series, was making a new game about an amnesiac ghost trying to solve his own murder, I was immediately intrigued. Read more Ghost Trick That Was a Thing

Loading Questions

We’ve all been there. Maybe you just entered a new shrine in Breath of the Wild or you got enough moons to go to the next kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. Whatever game it is, you press the confirm button, eager to see what’s next, only to be met with a mostly blank screen and the words:

Now loading…

Slumping back in your seat (assuming you’re not playing at a rooftop party and sitting on the parapet), you glare intently at the message, brow furrowed. After a long and agonizing five seconds, you can’t help but wonder, “what on earth is taking so long?”

And I intend to answer just that, and many more questions, in the following article! No waiting necessary! Read more Loading Questions