Salt. A True Story of Fortnite's Hidden Weapon

I may have been late to the bandwagon, but there is no denying the fun that is Fortnite. If you are tired of hearing about this game, and have not yet played it, I highly recommend you give it at least a try. And now is the perfect time to join! It’s the start of a new season, which means that the map is new, there are new weapons and features, and everyone is getting used to them together. Plus, it Is free to play on Switch (or computer, if you’re taking a more tactical approach)!

Enough advertising. I was skeptical to start playing Fortnite for a number of reasons, including:

  • The game has been out for a while, which means I thought I had no chance (which turned out not to be the case).
  • I am not very good at, or typically drawn to, any type of shooting game.
  • The game is super popular, and sometimes I’m a hipster hater like that.

In the end, though, after an invitation from Scott, I finally succumbed and gave it a shot. Scott had been introduced by his brother, and it was his turn to bring me into the fold. After a round or two of battle royale (100 competitors all against each other) I was cracking the top twenty, and my turns were regularly lasting longer than Scott’s. Unbeknownst to me, I began to unlock some mind games that, although not beneficial for me, threw my buddy into a mood.

During one particular match as I decided which shotgun was better to keep, Scott, having been unable to find a gun his previous match, mocked with, “HUH! SHOULD I HAVE PUMP SHOTGUN, OR SHOTGUN PUMP?!” His brother and I were the only ones laughing.

After a day or so, Scott and I had about evened out, regularly placing in the top ten, but never claiming the elusive first place.

My wife happened to be with me on one such visit and requested to give it a shot to see what the big deal was. My wife is by no means a gamer, and I was elated that she was willing to give this ridiculous game that held her husband captive a shot. She dropped from the flying bus pretty much straight down next to the lake with a cabin situated on an island in the middle of it. without a gun, she marched through the lake, up the hill, and into the house without any opposition. Climbing the stairs, she entered a room with an occupant, and the rest of us (Scott, his wife and brother, and myself) cried out in shock! Swinging her pickaxe, she slew the unwitting squatter and took his gun.

We cheered and yelled through each step of her run, as the storm slowly forced her out of the house, making her take cover on the shores where the eye set up camp for the rest of the game. She crouched and crawled around as the number of remaining players dwindled. A port-a-fort popped up in the valley below. She popped out of cover, lobbing a stink grenade into the opening. Though she was not credited with the kill, we all saw that the bomb’s victim was killed after being forced into the open.

Eventually, the streak came to an end, and my significant other was slain. Her first game’s placement? Third place. We were all flabbergasted at the results. But her results were no fluke: her next two runs landed her in second and fifth respectively.

Though Scott has finally netted several victory royales since, the two of us were both jealous of my wife’s success. I had my very own piece of humble pie to eat. No matter the game, sometimes salty humble pie is the fuel of champions.

Astro Duel Deluxe Spit Shine

We’ve all heard the saying, “everyone’s a critic.” It’s true, just about anyone can tell you when something’s bad; some can even tell you why it’s bad, but for some strange reason, very few ever take the time to determine how to take something bad, terrible, or simply unpolished and make it shine. Welcome to Spit Shine, a new blog series where I attempt to do just that: find the flaws in games that are good, bad, or anywhere in between and spitball ways to fix those issues while building upon what already works. In short, I’ll be refining games, not redesigning them from the ground up.

Just under a year ago, I published my first game review here at Two Button Crew (assuming you don’t count my That Was a Thing series). Despite ultimately liking the experience Astro Duel Deluxe offered, I couldn’t help but take issue with its lack of content and some staggeringly bad U.I. design.

User Interface

Let’s start with the first thing you’ll probably notice upon starting the game: the menus. Thankfully, most of the menus are perfectly functional. Selecting the character has a two-way list scroll menu and stages can be selected from a 2D grid menu. The problem comes when one tries to customize the rules of the next match. Each option is cycled through via a one-directional list, meaning one would have to cycle through the entire list to access an option that is merely one space prior. Considering that the game already has better menu schemes coded into the game, I’m surprised they even went to the trouble of screwing up the options menu. This fix is fairly self evident: make each menu item accept bidirectional input like the character select screen.

So what if it only effects two of the options and one them only has three choices? The BEST option is a massive pain to set.
The character select screen features bidirectional selection (upper left inset). Despite this already being coded in the game, the options menu only allows players to navigate in one direction by pressing A repeatedly.

Single Player

Now, let’s get to the interesting stuff. While it’s possible to play the standard vs. mode against bots, Astro Duel Deluxe doesn’t feature a proper single player mode. As with the previous issue, all of the necessary components to add a single player mode are already in the game. Simply have the player face off against the aforementioned A.I. players in a sequence of increasingly difficult matches. It could start with the player facing one A.I. set to “easy” then slowly increase the number of opponents and eventually switch the opponents to “hard” mode. Giving enemy ships a starting power-up or shields could further ramp up the difficulty.

The real question is, “what would the objective be?” I could see this going a few different ways: a time attack, a survival mode, or an arcade mode. Time attack would task the player with destroying a set number of enemy ships as quickly as possible. Survival mode would test how many rounds the player could play before their ship gets shot down. Lastly, the arcade mode would be similar to time attack in that the player has to clear a set number of stages. The difference is they’d be scored on a variety of factors instead other than time, such as enemies defeated, special abilities used, distance the shot traveled before hitting its target (to encourage fancy, long shots), time bonuses (okay, it does still matter), and so on. Admittedly, this would require the most work out of all of the modes as the team over at Wild Rooster, as they’d have to devise a scoring system, so—in staying in the spirit of keeping things simple—I’d recommend sticking with either of the first two…or both!

Of course, if we just want to go for broke, we could implement a leader board for players’ scores, but that’d require writing net code which would add another layer of complexity to the game engine. Then we’d need a server, which needs it’s own programming, not to mention the cost of running/renting the server. Probably more trouble than it’s worth for a small team.

Unlockable Content

While one or two single player modes would be an excellent addition, having an incentive to play it would increase the game’s replay value exponentially…or maybe just polynomially. Either way, unlockable content would give players a more tangible reason to get good at the single player mode than just a (most likely temporary) spot on a leader board. I would hazard to guess that extra characters would be the easiest to implement, due to the game’s very simplistic art style. In fact, the folks over at Wild Rooster have added characters via updates, so it clearly isn’t too difficult a task. Continuing from there, I’d reckon stages would be the next easiest to implement. That said, the stage select menu isn’t really designed to be extensible. I’d avoid unlockable power-ups, as they’d require the most coding to implement.

I prefer to EARN my fun, thank you very much!
If a character can be patched in, why not unlocked?

Unlock methods wouldn’t have to be anything special: beat X enemies in survival, clear time attack in under Y minutes and Z seconds, etc.  Of course, locking multi-player content behind single-player game modes is somewhat frowned upon nowadays; if you’re the sort to find that sort of unlocking scheme abhorrent, then we could add the option of unlocking the same content by playing X number of matches in multiplayer. Heck, we could even have a mechanic where if one unlockable is obtained in single player, it bumps the multiplayer requirements for each future unlockable down to the previous multiplayer tier, though I hardly think that kind of effort is necessary.

Conclusion

I’m not sure these improvements ultimately would increase the game’s overall value up to its fifteen-dollar asking price, but I’d definitely feel comfortable recommending it for $12.00, as opposed to the 8-10 I thought it was worth when I reviewed it.  A few simple refinements and additions is all it would take to make Astro Duel Deluxe not only a good party game, but also an engaging single player experience.

The Real Reason E3 Disappointed Us

Leaks.

Leaks ruined E3 2018 for the Nintendo fan.

Each and every year, Nintendo endeavors to surprise and delight you. They spend months holding meetings about E3, planning their lineup, signing deals, scripting speeches, recording VO, and editing trailers meant to drop your jaw.

Each and every year, gamers scour Internet forums and fansites for the latest news, rumors, and speculation.

Is there any wonder why you weren’t in shock and awe after the Nintendo Direct?

For some unknown reason, Nintendo fans expect that they can examine every patent, floor plan, internal email, and industry job listing—yet STILL be blown away when it finally comes time for the Big N to show their big guns.

You can’t have it both ways!

Badly Kept Secrets

Do you know how epic (pun intended) it could have been when Fortnite was revealed? That was a moment that was passed over without fanfare because we knew it was coming. Imagine going into E3 blind, then finding out: not only is Fortnite confirmed for Nintendo Switch, it’s free… and you can get it now!

Or Killer Queen Black, a 5v5 arcade game that’s sweeping the scene with its unique gameplay and set up, now coming to a much more convenient portable/console hybrid.

Dragon Ball FighterZ, Paladins, FIFA 19, Overcooked 2, and more… all these announcements were stolen from Nintendo.

Unmet Expectations

Another way leaked information harms the industry is… well, sometimes it’s not true. And who are we to say what’s fake and what isn’t? Nintendo “doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation,” so anybody with a Resetera account can string along the entire community of Switch gamers, get every podcast and YouTube channel talking about them, just by making something up and saying they “heard” it. Since when did we decide to be this gullible?

There are actually people feeling down about the absence of Star Fox: Grand Prix and Simon Belmont in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate because those things didn’t materialize. You could argue that Nintendo is holding those cards for the future, and maybe they are—but I prefer not to peak at the player’s hand across the table. It takes the fun out of the game.

Put a Cork in It

Curious how Nintendo feels about E3 leaks? Here’s Reggie via IGN: “You know, as a company, we want to surprise and delight our fans. That’s what we live to do. So when leaks happen, it’s really disappointing. We work hard to maintain the confidentiality of our information. In this day and age where everyone has a camera and everyone is looking for their 10 seconds of internet fame, it’s really tough. But we try hard, very hard to keep our information confidential and keep leaks from happening.”

Nintendo is doing their part, but Reggie is right: after the advent of smartphones, leaks can’t be stopped. You simply can’t cork all the holes in the boat.

But you CAN put a cork in your mouth, and help stop the spread of leaks. If you find yourself underwhelmed at Nintendo’s announcements, maybe it’s time to start doing things differently. Make a change. Ask content creators to stop reporting leaks as news, or at least preempt them with a spoiler warning.

Let Nintendo surprise us again!


(By the way, I heard Retro Studios is working on Mach Rider: The RPG. My name is Scott Campbell and I would love to be Internet-famous. Please spread the news!)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: 3 Things to be Excited About

After this year’s E3 video presentation, the consensus among the Crew here at TBC is that, as a whole, it was a little disappointing. There were very few “surprises”, and, though we were excited to see Smash Bros., we felt like the amount of time they spent showing us what they showed us was not wisely used. You can see our in-depth E3 reactions here.

Even so, Nintendo can’t present a game for a half-hour at E3 and not show anything to get excited about (don’t. Just… Don’t). In the spirit of contented mess, I wanted to draw attention to three things about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that should get us excited.

#1: Port-Like Qualities

This may sound like something to gripe about, but I see so many advantages to all of the similarities between Sm4sh and Ultimate. First, some minute balance issues aside, Sm4sh was a fantastic fighting game. My hopes for the upcoming title were that it was either a totally new direction for the series (ala Marvel Vs. Capcom) or a tweaked port, and it looked like the Big N granted my latter wish. Do we really need major “improvements” when what we have is already great? I do not think so.

Second, porting a game with slight changes should take less time and cause fewer problems at the game’s release. For Sakurai’s sake, I hope this is the case. The man’s tireless dedication to his work is legendary, and he needs some sleep.

#2: Attention to Audience

Super Smash Bros. has evolved a lot over time. It started out as a fun new foray into the crossover fighting genre. Melee made the game more competitive. Brawl fleshed out the single player experience as well as made the game more accessible to newcomers. Smash for 3DS and Wii U fleshed out previous imperfections, making it clear that, though party elements are still very much present, it had grown into a well-balanced fighting game.

With the last entry, especially, we saw a shift in the developers listening more to the competitive fans. Even in the simple gesture of placing the stage select before the character select, we see that Ultimate will continue this tradition. They are piecing elements of what made each of the previous entries great and unique together to make happy a crowd that has wanted to see this series taken seriously. Sakurai shaking his head at imbalances, roll staling, ”easy” character unlocking, and more keep me excited for release.

#3: Everybody’s here!

So what if “Echo Fighter” is just an attempt to avoid calling characters “clones”? The fact that every fighter from all previous games is playable right out of the box has me stoked! The fact that Sakurai stated that there will be few new characters does not have me concerned for a number of reasons. First, the amount of free characters is more than any previous game in its final state, and we do not have to pay extra to have that. Second, Sm4sh had a large enough roster as it was. Throwing in more characters makes the game more and more difficult to balance. Lastly, I think Sakurai is not quite being honest with us. The DLC support for the previous game was extensive, and, though the initial bundle might not be teeming with new characters, I am sure we will see more newcomers after first release.

Nintendo’s Direct this year might not have been knock-your-socks-off great, I think there are plenty of things for which to be grateful. I think ultimately (see what I did there?) what I am trying to say is that people who are complaining about the lack of Animal Crossing need to grow up and realize they got a game every year for the past three.

Pre-E3 Nerves

It’s that time of the year again! E3 2018 is just a couple days away, and the excitement around the gaming community is quickly escalating. Every year when I get out of bed on the day of Nintendo’s E3 press conference (Direct, as of late), I’m essentially a kid waking up on Christmas morning. The anticipation is high, and I can’t wait for the flurry of announcements that Nintendo has been holding from the public for months. The reason why I have what I refer to as “E3 Jitters”, is because Nintendo is known for taking their fans on an emotional roller coaster during E3. Whenever I expect to hear something, they announce something completely different and unexpected. I understand from a marketing and competitive standpoint that this puts them at an advantage, but it usually drives me and a lot of the fan base crazy. However, I would argue this spontaneity just adds to the anticipation. Nintendo really is like a box of chocolates. The games are usually sweet, but you NEVER know what you are going to get.

He’s a power guy, what can I say?

From Reggie officially being classified as overweight, to Cammie Dunaway awkwardly throwing virtual Frisbees at dogs, to Iwata announcing the vitality sensor, to Ravidrums and the entire Wii Music catastrophe, we’ve seen it all. Of course, they’ve had their high notes as well, such as when Miyamoto came on stage for the Twilight Princess announcement. From the lows to the highs, I can say it has always been a ride that I anticipate greatly, despite often leaving disappointed.  Nonetheless, E3 has provided some fantastic entertainment value, and Nintendo certainly isn’t the only company to have E3 blunders. Just look up Ubisoft’s Mr. Caffeine. He managed to singlehandedly make every single person in the audience uncomfortable just in a matter of seconds. That’s almost impressive.

Yes, it was as rough as it looks.

This year the usual suspects are of course Smash Bros. for the Switch and Metroid Prime 4. Though I’m excited for both of these games and this may put me in the minority, I hope there is minimal coverage on both. We haven’t seen any gameplay for either, so a pair of 5 minute gameplay videos would be just enough to get me excited, and then they can move on to the next announcement. When Nintendo bogs down their E3 showcase with announcements that gamers already know, to me, that is filler. Let’s just have a video or small demonstration of what we already know is coming and move on. Nintendo, among other competitors, have been known to spend way too much time talking about sales numbers, though this has been less of a problem lately.

Absolutely no disrespect toward the late Mr. Iwata, but this idea was just bad. Really bad.

Besides the obvious heavy hitters, I’m sure there will be at least some coverage on Pokémon Let’s Go!, Mario Tennis Aces, and Go Vacation for Switch. I wouldn’t mind some actual Super Mario Odyssey DLC (come on Isle Delfino), or possibly even expansions for Breath of the Wild, but these might be stretching it a bit. There may be some coverage on their new online service and downloadable games. I don’t mind Indie games either, as long as this section is short and sweet. Of course, as I mentioned above, Nintendo always rides the wave of the unexpected, so we’ll just have to wait with anticipation.

I do want to point out that Nintendo is not only selling to gamers, but investors. Companies selling to this odd mix can create some of the best, and most awkward moments in gaming history. Whatever be the case for 2018, I’m sure we’re in for a ride.  When I wake up on E3 morning, I’m going to be hoping for an Animal Crossing Switch or Pikmin 4 announcement under my theoretical E3 Tree. What are you most anticipating this year?

My body is ready.

Botched Battle Viewtiful Joe

I’ve mentioned it before, but here in the last year or two I’ve started frequenting used game stores. I’m not entirely sure why, but there’s something about stumbling across an old classic or hidden gem that I never got to experience when it first came out that I find immensely satisfying. And let’s not forget the warm and fuzzy feeling of getting said games for a good price!

One such game is Capcom’s Viewtiful Joe, an ultra-stylish, side-scrolling beat-em-up for the GameCube. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though I think it was probably for the best that I waited until I was an adult to play it. It’s fobbing hard! That said, it’s an enjoyable kind of hard: it gives you a myriad of over-powered abilities but only hints at the best way to use any of them. It takes almost the entire game to figure out how and when to use each of your powers, which makes you feel all the more accomplished once you do. This game’s a good example of being tough but fair…except when it comes to the boss battles, those just plain suck. Read more Botched Battle Viewtiful Joe

The Rise and Fall of Retro Studios

What do you think Retro is working on? I wonder if we’ll see their secret project at E3 this year!

Those are the kinds of things you commonly hear about this time of year. The Electronic Entertainment Expo looms ahead, hype rises, and with it come the skyrocketing hopes and expectations of Nintendo fans around the globe.

I’d prefer to burst your bubble now, rather than wait until the press conferences and live streams have died down and another convention happens without a miraculous reveal from the Austin, TX based developers.

Retro Studios isn’t special anymore.

It’s been years since the 2nd party put anything truly meaningful out onto the market. Yes, the trilogy of Metroid Prime games was epic. But since? They helped on some course for Mario Kart 7. And they’ve made a pair of Donkey Kong platformers.

I’m not here to besmirch the latest Donkey Kong Country games, but you’ve got to admit—they’re a tame affair compared to the hype that surrounded the Metroid series’ simultaneous revival and leap into the third dimension.

Platformers are run-of-the-mill Nintendo fodder. What with the New Super Mario Bros. series, Kirby games, and other shoe-horned franchises like Chibi-Robo and Pikmin, we’re not hurting for 2D side-scrollers by any means. Yet, this is what Nintendo charges their once-lauded team of USA developers with.

Haven’t you grown tired of asking (year after year) what Retro is up to? Crossing your fingers, hoping the time will finally come for the reveal that will blow the wrist straps right off your Joy-Con?

Sorry. It’s in the past. The era has ended.

Designer Mark Pacini left Retro in 2008.
Art director Todd Keller departed in the same year.
Principal technology engineer Jack Mathews went with them.

They formed Armature Studios and created an Arkham game. Coincidentally, have you heard that series has Metroid Prime-like progression?

More recently, senior designer Kynan Pearson exited the company to join 343 Industries, where other former-Retro personnel joined the development of Halo 4.
Senior designer Mike Wikan quit Retro and was hired at id Software.

Kensuke Tanabe, Producer of the Metroid Prime trilogy and modern Donkey Kong Country games, lost touch with the studio and is now acting as Producer for Metroid Prime 4, a title being developed outside of Retro Studios.

Why do you think Nintendo turned to another developer for Prime 4?
It’s because Retro is not what it used to be. You might have an image in your mind’s eye of all the people who made Prime 1-3, huddled around their desks, secretively working away at the Next Big Thing.

Sadly, that’s not reality. There’s been so much turnover in the decade between today and Samus’ last title on Wii. Those developers are spread out across the industry, making games for other consoles.

If you enjoy being disappointed, keep holding out hope for Reggie to say “before we let you go, we’ve got one more trailer to show you that we think you will really enjoy!”

But if you’d rather not board the emotional rollercoaster, learn to be content with two simple things: Karts and Kongs.

Scott Ranks his 35 Game Switch Collection Scott's Thoughts

1. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
2. Rocket League
3. Thumper
4. A Robot Named Fight
5. Celeste
6. SteamWorld Dig 2
7. Super Mario Odyssey
8. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
9. Bombslinger
10. Splatoon 2
11. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
12. Super Meat Boy
13. Flinthook
14. Snipperclips Plus
15. Cave Story +
16. Mega Man Legacy Collection 2
17. Mega Man Legacy Collection
18. SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition
19. Runner3
20. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition
21. Rayman Legends – Definitive Edition
22. Graceful Explosion Machine
23. SteamWorld Dig
24. Mutant Mudds Collection
25. Xeodrifter
26. TumbleSeed
27. Pokken Tournament DX
28. Sonic Mania
29. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
30. Picross S
31. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
32. 1-2-Switch
33. Alteric
34. Energy Invasion
35. Energy Balance

Honorable Mentions (have not yet played)
• Axiom Verge
• Cat Quest
• Skyrim
• Stardew Valley

Dear Good Game Developers

I know that what you do is an art form. You strive hour after hour to perfect your masterpiece. You build hype the best you can in order that as many people as possible will enjoy your work. You are a craftsperson, you are a businessperson. You are an artist. You are good at what you do.

Dear video game developer…

Stop it. Stop it, please.

I despise your talent. I hate it because you are too good at what you do. Because you pour your blood sweat and tears into your Sistine Chapel of a game, I never want to stop playing. And it’s not just one of you, it is so many talented individuals who create endless grand adventures. I cannot be separated from your works. My only hope to play all of these amazing games is for you all to quit now. I implore you; have mercy.

Now, to those of you who make bad games, on the other hand, please, I beg of you, never stop. In the spirit of Two Button Crew, your terrible games bring me most profound joy. They bring me a laugh, or, at the very least, a scowl of confusion. Your immediate stench alerts me to the fact that I have encountered the extent of what you have to offer me in the first five minutes. You bring me smiles. You bring me tears. You make me want to pull my hair out because of your painfully obvious design flaws. Most importantly, you give me no incentive to come back for more, so that I can move on to the next piece of garbage. Our love is a passionate, though brief, one.

Oh, the pains of pleasure! To hate to love, or to love to hate? Why must this mortal frame force me to choose betwixt the two? For to do both would throw me into a deep valley and leech my time to naught.

In all sincerity (or, maybe not),

Simeon

The Apes of Summer

While the King of Kong scandal, centered on the alleged cheater Billy Mitchel, is heating up, Donkey Kong is yet again taking center stage in a port on the Nintendo Switch, and the timing couldn’t be better for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. If you know anything about me, you probably know that I am an absolute sucker for playing games at certain times of the year and this one is a perfect game to pick up in the summer. It starts out in the tropics and the player progresses into the later levels that slowly transition into dark and wintry which feel oddly dystopian. Tropical Freeze happens to be one of my favorite Wii U games. While this statement may not seem that earth shattering (sorry, Wii U), Tropical Freeze puts on a master class of what a platformer should be. It’s a challenging game and when player gets comfortable with one thing, the game throws in something totally new and unexpected. It took everything that was right with Donkey Kong Country Returns and amped up the experience tenfold.

First off, the game is pure beauty. The tropical vistas have never looked better, and the water effects are top notch. For me, the thing that sets this game apart is the ambiance. This is something that is hard to get right, and many developers still haven’t figured it out. It’s amazing how Retro Studios captures the ominous feeling of a dark and scary storm approaching on a clear and beautiful day. This game has the player experience the environment through the use of genius shading, intricate detail of the environment, and what seems to be a real life simulation of weather changes and other natural disasters. Whether the player is swimming deep in the ocean while there is a thunderstorm looming overhead, running through a scorching wild fire, or even bracing through a tornado, there is never a dull moment. What sets this apart from recent Mario side scrollers is that nothing is blocky and linear, it all looks like natural environment and from a development perspective, there is no noticeable copy and pasting of environmental textures going on.

Of course, the ambiance wouldn’t be possible without the music. David Wise, who was the composer for the original DKC Trilogy, captures the same magical feeling through his sweeping and oddly calming scores. Playing through the game, the level that actually gave me goose bumps was Grassland Grooves in the Bright Savannah. This level starts slow and builds up to a grand climax of cheerful music and visuals. It’s not all pleasant though. Some of the music also matches the fear of a raging thunderstorm and it only adds to the intensity. If you don’t believe me that this game has intense music, go ahead and Youtube “Vikings Island Theme” and tell me that isn’t one of the most adrenaline inducing songs you have ever heard.

Like any game, however, it does have some flaws. My biggest gripe is that there isn’t really enough variety between characters. Cranky Kong’s “Duck Tales” pogo-cane technique is fun, but the game never really forced me to utilize it so I usually wound up using Dixie Kong for her twirl technique. I do want to note that it never really subtracted from the gameplay. The other issue with the Wii U version was load times. These were downright awful. Loading a level could take upwards of half a minute, and sometimes it felt even longer. Lastly, some people critique the challenge in this game. Personally, I have no issue with it, but I can see where it would be challenging for newcomers of the series. The Switch version seems to have a solution for every one of these issues. For one, Funky Kong is now a playable character and should take some of that difficulty edge off. I’m not sure how much I will use him, but it’s nonetheless a neat addition. I’m expecting load times to be better based on the new hardware, but that is to be determined.

So if you can’t tell by now, I’m pretty pumped to play this game again. It should be a huge success on the Switch and will give those that didn’t want to get near the Wii-U a crack at a game that was already near perfection. By nature, platformers are great “pick up and play” games, so it should adapt perfectly to the Switch. Up to this point, I haven’t used the Switch portable feature much, but I predict that should change upon release of this game. Though the price point may seem a little steep for a release of an older game, if you have never experienced the joy that is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, do yourself a favor, pick it up, and go bananas. (Sorry!)

The Super Mario Bros. Movie We Never Got in America

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Nintendo has partnered with Illumination Entertainment to produce an animated movie staring everybody’s favorite Italian-American-who-looks-like-a-Mexican plumber, Mario. Of course, given how well the Big N’s last film deal turned out, many fans are understandably anxious about Mario’s return to the big screen. Personally, I don’t think we have to worry about it turning out like 1993’s live-action bomb: that film was plagued with a very troubled production and an obscene number of rewrites that ultimately eroded the quality of the end product. I even wrote an article about the original—and much more faithful—screen play over a year ago.

Hmm…Why do I suddenly feel like I’m forgetting something…? Read more The Super Mario Bros. Movie We Never Got in America

Post Tournament Distress Disorder

“Oh, there’s a Smash Bros. tournament? I’m totally going to win—I beat my friends every time!” said many newcomers to competitive gaming. The rude awakening swiftly followed, as the wide-eyed casual was introduced to brackets and tournament organizers and double elimination and commentators and fist-bumps.

eSports is an entirely different world from the living room rivalries of old. A world where most people lose.

I’ve been losing in Super Smash Bros. competitions for the better part of decade now. I attend tournaments, get beaten, learn a few lessons, and wake up the next day experiencing post tournament distress disorder, a phrase that I coined to describe how it feels inside the crushing cycle of defeat.

Clearly, I must be getting some enjoyment out of these events or else I wouldn’t keep coming back for more. I’m not a glutton for punishment—am I?

After talking to many fellow competitors, it’s safe to say I’m not alone. “I should just quit this game.” “I’m not coming back next month.” “I’m such a scrub.” “This is just a big waste of time and money.” All fairly common remarks to be heard as setups are unplugged and venues packed up.

PTDD normally dissipates in the weeks between big tournaments (or “monthlies”) as Facebook events are created, alliances are formed, top-ranked players make travel plans, and hype rises. But the funk waits to greet you at the threshold of your next elimination. And the cycle repeats.

Expectations Matter

If you are looking to curb the nasty effects of Post Tournament Distress, there are some techniques you can employ. Adjusting your expectations is a good place to start. Realize that your odds of winning the whole thing are slim, and remind yourself that winning isn’t what it’s really about.

Look for ways to improve. Don’t lose hope when your name is called along with someone who outclasses you; be in a constant state of downloading information. See if you can take more ground in the second match, even if you just 25% extra damage.

Set smaller goals. Over three tournaments, you can improve your overall rank if you maintain the right attitude and keep learning.

Choose your Battles

My miniature claim to fame was Ranked 7th best in Eastern WA. It was a lot of hard work to obtain that position, and I was proud of it. But you know what? It was even harder to keep it.

Players in my region really stepped up their game. Multiple weekly practice sessions sprung up all over, and the serious competitors were dedicating half their evenings to invest in their Smash skills.

I decided that this wasn’t my battle to fight. I had gotten married young, accepted a full time job, started side-projects like a daily YouTube channel and writing my own novel. In order to minimize the effects of PTDD, I had to realize that I simply can’t match the effort these other guys are putting in. Their situations are different than mine. I could practice as much as them to try and claw my way up to the #1 spot, but I’d be sacrificing other things in my life that I’m not willing to give up.

Fun on the Sidelines

It’s amazing how much I enjoy everything at the tournament… except for the tournament. The main attraction isn’t the most attractive to me anymore.

Oftentimes there will be crazy side-events, like Crew Battles or Smashketball (a weird mash-up of Smash Bros. and basketball using a custom stage) that are way more fun. These things cost $0 or $1, so the pressure is off and it’s easy to get into the team spirit and cheer people on.

Commentating is also a blast, especially when you’ve built a rapport with your co-host. Sometimes, it’s actually a relief to get booted out of bracket so you can sit down with a headset and help make an awesome live-stream.


If you want to be the very best (like no one ever was), it’s a long and hard road and I wish you good luck.
Otherwise, find every opportunity to release the tension, lower the stakes, and enjoy video gaming for what it is: a reprieve from the grind.

How “Plan 9” Ruined Video Games for Me ... and the arduous journey back.

I hate art. Well, to be more correct, I hate the concept of art. I am (as many of you reading this are) a man who likes concrete answers. Numbers. Black and white. Objectivity. Things that escape exactness vex me. With much art (especially of the abstract variety) not only do I not understand it, but I do not understand why I do not understand it. Why can it not be like math: “It is right (or wrong), and this is the reason why it is right (or wrong)”. At least give me a scale of one to ten to deal with, please!

Many of you can sympathize with my pain. Some of you are probably shaking your head, thinking, “You poor, lost soul.” Indeed, today I will tell you the tale of how this poor soul became lost, and how it found its way home. And I promise you that I will tie it back into video games in the end.

Bliss:

This story opens, as many others do, with a small child, happy in his home. He loves video games, movies, and sharing these experiences with his friends and family. This child… was me. I’ve watched comedies from the ‘30’s, the latest Disney releases, and all sorts in between. Of course, some movies I liked better than others and had my favorites, but I always recognized that a film was built to entertain me.

And entertain me they did; I hardly ever remember being bored while watching a movie as a kid. Other children would play, goof off, or run into the other room when a movie was playing. I do not know whether it was some etiquette I learned or a part of my nature, but once the screen flickered on, my eyes were glued. I was mystified at the thought that someone would get up to go to the bathroom or to get snacks in the theater. I still am, actually.

When you are a child things are bigger, magical, and you cannot see the little imperfections. This age of blissful ignorance lasted for some time: years, in fact. I still remember that fateful day when it all changed.

Innocence lost:

My oldest brother brought home a VHS tape from the video rental store (obligatory age joke here) and showed me the box. A phrase akin to “Winner of the Golden Turkey Award!” was displayed across the back. It was a film called Plan 9 from Outer Space, a 1959 b-movie about aliens and zombies. As I held it in my hands he told me, “This is the worst movie ever made.”

My eyes grew wide as he popped it in the VCR and pressed play. I was met by acting so bad I could hardly believe and pie tins held up by fishing line to be passed off as UFO’s. I strained to follow the plot as well as keep my eyes from closing or from looking at the clock. I never did finish the movie, but it had left its forever impression on me.

Of course, we laughed at how horrible it was. Eventually, though, the laughter subsided, and I was left with the question echoing in my head: “How could something be ‘the worst’?” Quite a simple question on its face, but it carries a lot of weight with it. By calling something “the worst”, you admit that a movie can be “bad”. From here all that needs to be decided is the metric which one uses to determine what is good and what is bad, and to what extent either is displayed. If you have watched “Dead Poets Society”, you may have already caught my fallacy. Unfortunately for me, my propensity to measure in finite terms took me for a longer drive than would be pleasant.

The Cynic:

For some years I tried in vain to measure the virtue of each art piece I consumed: movies, books, and especially video games. Not only did I point out why things I liked were great, but I could tell you as a fact why your choice was inferior. It did not help me that often my choice of company had similarly staunch opinions. If my knowledge ever fell short, they would be sure to educate me on what was the “best”.

It was during this period that Two Button Crew was in its primordial stages. It may or may not have had the same name, but Scott and I had started game journalism and reviews. We did not really have any “in” with Nintendo (or any following to speak of, for that matter), but that never kept us from producing content. We made blogs, podcasts, and even let’s-plays of Nintendo’s most recent. Scott’s frequent trips to Game Stop also got us a sweet deal: one of the managers let Scott take home a review copy of some recent games for a time. We would scrutinize them, looking for each imperfection in any jewel we were handed. Every new game became a performer, and we sat as the audience with a handful of tomatoes should it have any slip-ups. I even went so far so as to draw up a formula to determine a game’s definitive score in search, not of the best game, but of the perfect game. My philosophy told me that a perfect game could only come from one of two genres. Does all of this seem a little pretentious?

Needless to say, the search for a perfect game was a futile exercise. Video games became homework instead of leisure. Critics are supposed to expose errors, I thought. I had mistaken a critic for a cynic.

Surrendering the Yardstick:

Eventually, Scott noticed that playing video games no longer made us happy. It had become a chore. I remember him asking me, “Why aren’t video games fun anymore?” We both breathed a sigh and admitted our error. We were so focused on the negative. Video game reviews are meant to help others have fun, not to make a statement of truth to be etched into the obelisk of morality. We made a pact to each other to have fun playing games again.

And it worked! Over the next years I began not only enjoying games more, but my movies, too (I stopped reading books for fun. School can do that to you, kids). Every time I watch a movie I try to identify the things I like as well as things I dislike. It drives my wife nuts when I tell her that I like a movie, and then spend a half hour explaining the problems I had with it. Critical thinking, not cynicism, enhances my enjoyment of media. I see criticism, discerning consumption, like eating a meal: sure I could scarf down my steak, but I will enjoy it much more if I chew each bite, taking in the texture and smell as I appreciate the unique situation around me. Whether you find me in a fancy restaurant or a dive, I hope you see a smile on my face as I take in that one-of-a-kind moment. The same goes for media. Even from the two movies I hate most I picked out a few things I liked.

Does this mean that I think that video game reviews are pointless? No. Do I think we should throw out rating scales? No, I don’t. My hope is that this journey has made me a better reviewer with a better rating scale. What I do think, however, is that each game is an experience. That experience will leave you with a memory. Don’t let anyone take that memory from you.

My Nintendo Vs. Club Nintendo

Nintendo clearly loves its fans. Of the three current heavy hitters in the console wars, Nintendo is the only one to offer a Loyalty Program at no charge, as a reward to longtime and frequent customers. Sony offers PlayStation Plus, which is a marvelous program, but at a monthly cost – same with the revamped Games with Gold for the Xbox 360/Xbox One.

Club Nintendo closed in 2015. It’s replacement – dubbed My Nintendo – has received a very lukewarm reception, and the recently unveiled way of using earned coins (reward currency) for Nintendo Switch games has further frustrated many fans. One thing is clear to me… while it was hip to complain about Club Nintendo down the stretch, it was head and shoulders above what is being offered now. Let’s take a look back at what made Club Nintendo so special.

Inception

Club Nintendo was launched seemingly everywhere else in the world before it finally hit North America in 2008. Registration for the new program was marred by frequent website crashes and whatnot – something Club Nintendo users would frequently encounter towards the end of the program, making it a full circle-like of website woes. Long, mysterious PIN codes began to show up in game cases for Wii and DS games, as well as hardware. In America, you would get “coins” for registering your products and taking a survey – in other regions, you could obtain “stars”, and you would save them and cash them in on exclusive merchandise.

Rewards R Us

At fiscal year end (which would be normally in late Spring), Club Nintendo would reward you with a bonus item, free of any deduction in coins/stars as a thank you for those who reached a certain level of buying throughout the year.

The Elite Awards usually amounted to a $10 eShop game, a $5 Virtual Console game or, in later years, a nice desk calendar with original artwork. But the Platinum Awards were where it was at! For those who earned 600 coins in the year (a user could get up to 50 coins per game purchased/survey filled out, and 100-150 for a console purchase) you would be at the exclusive level to get something really special.

The first rounds of Platinum Awards were amazing. Among the first was a wearable Mario hat, a Super Mario statue (which fetches a good amount on eBay today), a badge set, limited edition posters and more. Club Nintendo was great.

But the real meat of the program was free games and random merchandise that would be offered throughout the year. Free games would be offered for coins every month – although the available titles would be selected by Nintendo, and many would end up repeating as time went on. But the merchandise often would be exciting and one-of-a-kind. I personally scored a Super Mario Starman Messenger Bag, decks of Animal Crossing and Mario Party playing cards, Animal Crossing and Mario 3DS carrying pouches, the Super Smash Bros soundtrack 2-CD set, Pikmin tote bag, History of Mario T-Shirt, Wii Remote holder, Animal Crossing DS card game case, Super Smash Bros posters, Animal Crossing posters, etc. I cashed in a lot, and you could probably get the feeling that I like Animal Crossing. Other rare items were offered including a couple great Game and Watch  collection games for the Nintendo DS, unique styluses, and other items ranging from other T-Shirts to a much sought after Luigi’s Mansion figurine.

And, did I mention the shipping on everything offered down the line was also free?

Club Nintendo seemed like a dream.

Anger, Resentment, and Counterpoint

People can never seem to be happy, and the complaints held some merit. Users began to “grumble grumble” about filling out repetitive surveys after their purchases that Nintendo never seemed to take into consideration. People were frustrated with the forced selection of free games every month. And people began to write off Club Nintendo as a joke when rewards stopped being refreshed in a frequent manner.

Personally, I always found people complaining about a free program to be a little absurd. Club Nintendo was a completely free program. Some would say that we earn the coins to get the “free” stuff, so we are in a sense paying for it – but that is a backward way of thinking. I didn’t buy games to get Club Nintendo coins… I bought games to play the games. The Club Nintendo stuff was a bonus, which is what it was meant to be. People would say we paid in the time we spent answering surveys and stuff… but again, I can’t get mad about spending two minutes or less to earn coins that would get me free games and merchandise. I spent more time on the toilet each day and it is a far less rewarding experience! Sure I got tired of the sameness of their offerings, but I couldn’t complain – how could I whine about something that was free… and by free I mean didn’t cost me extra out of pocket money. Club Nintendo was always meant to be a rewards program bonus, and I never looked at it as anything more than that.

Decline and Closure

The decline in Club Nintendo became apparent in North America around 2012 when the same old rewards would be present and fresh offerings were few and far between. Tired old merchandise like Mario and bland Nintendogs postcards and cheap screensavers would always greet me when I would log in to check which free games were offered. Gone were the days when CN would break out something special every other month it seemed. The Platinum Rewards also took a hit, dwindling from
amazing Mario statues to a deck of Mario Party playing cards.

In its final two years, the year-end rewards went to all digital download games, with the Platinum members getting a choice of a selection of full-priced retail games (ranging from a value of $15-$50). When it happened in 2014, red flags were raised, and when the ending of Club Nintendo was announced in 2015, at least we were prepared for the end of the line.

To its credit, Club Nintendo of America trotted out some of its best merchandise at the end, including a Majora’s Mask messenger bag, sleek Duck Hunt posters, an 8-bit Mario T-Shirt, the aforementioned 2-disc Super Smash Bros Soundtrack CD and more. And they practically unloaded every digital game they ever offered in one lump selection sum. The final Elite/Platinum awards featured downloadable games up to a monstrous $50 in value. So, Club Nintendo went out with a bang – and offered up rewards that I wish the program did more often.

In Moratorium and the Future

Club Nintendo provided me with a lot of great collectible merchandise that I couldn’t get through any other means. Being a huge Animal Crossing fan, I cashed in on everything from decks of playing cards to posters to game card holders and more. I used my Starman messenger bag in New York when I visited the Nintendo World Store, like the proud Nintendo Nerd that I am. When I open up games now and they don’t come with a Club Nintendo code, I still weep a little inside. It was like losing a good friend who would pat me on the back and tell me thanks for supporting him. My Nintendo debuted in March of 2016, and it was met with a big resounding thud. It was clear from the beginning that the program was set to be heavy on rewarding people who bought digital games over physical ones, rewarding more coins for those purchases over boxed copies. Whereas Club Nintendo put an emphasis on digital content, My Nintendo does the same, but specializes in disappointing discounts on the retail eShop prices of games as opposed to actually offering free content as rewards – unless you count a parade of mobile and PC wallpapers as a thrill. Cashing in coins for dollars off of new Nintendo Switch (downloadable) games is good in theory until you realize that one coin equals one penny, so a stash of 700 gold coins from hundreds of dollars of purchases only nets you a paltry $7 off – and even then on a “select” title.

I mentioned that it was absurd to complain about a program that is free. It was true for Club Nintendo, and it is true for My Nintendo. But it just feels a little frustrating for a rewards program to start off so well in the form or the former, and end up so lackluster in the form of the latter.

One thing that My Nintendo has done, though, is make people realize just how good Club Nintendo was when it was around, proving that we really can take things for granted – until it’s gone.


Related: Swag Haul from Club Nintendo

Minority Report: Everybody Runs A Masterpiece of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance

Several months ago while at a used game store, my older brother found and bought a copy of Minority Report: Everybody Runs for the GameCube, the licensed tie-in game for the 2002 film, Minority Report. His rationale was that he thought it’d be good for a laugh. Then we more or less forgot about it until a few weeks ago. My two brothers and I were hanging out one evening when Kyle, the aforementioned eldest, suggested we play the game and pass around the controller. Not having anything better to do, we shruggingly agreed. I have to admit, my brother was right: the game is absolutely hilarious in all the wrong ways. Read more Minority Report: Everybody Runs A Masterpiece of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance

The Toymaker King A Poem

The King of the Mountains ruled the land
His subjects thrived under his caring hand

The King of the Mountains was full of joy
He loved making toys for every girl and boy

The king’s reign was powerful and long
His years on the throne stretched on and on

The king’s universal acclaim was his boast
But there was one individual who loved him most

This boy grew up in the mountainous kingdom
Enjoying his childhood of toys and freedom

This boy grew up quickly, no longer a child
But his love for the king never became mild

His respect for the king grew as he grew old
And thankfulness kept him warm in the cold

No longer content to be thankful inside
The man would thank the king, he did decide

‘I’ll build a great large monument,’ said he
‘A monument that the whole kingdom will see’

The man dropped everything, his mind made
‘I’ll carve out time to carve every day’

That’s exactly what he did atop a mountain peak
Day after day and long week after long week

Hammer and chisel became his only friends
As he formed a statue out of scraps, odds and ends

It took all he had, his time and all his money
And every single day whether rainy or sunny

He sculpted the monument unto perfection
Only the best would convey his affection

Weeks turned to months with his back bent
Until not only months but three years were spent

The man took a step back and admired his work
‘Wait until the king sees this’ he thought with a smirk

A beautiful likeness of the king returned his smile
A wooden and carefully-crafted lifesize profile

‘I’ll cover up the statue, with a curtain conceal
Then gather up the town for the grand reveal’

The man turned to descend the mountain at last
But what he saw next caused his heart to beat fast

Every peak in the kingdom looked like his own
Monuments all over, paying tribute to the throne

He had been too consumed, too busy to see
That every townsperson had the same idea as he

‘I built a monument, come and see, come and see!
I finished my statue of the king,’ cried he

But his neighbors did not listen, hear or heed
They had monuments, and his they did not need

The man’s eyes fell and he began to plea
‘Just one visit to my statue’ he asked on bent knee

Alone he cried on his mountain, face wet with tears
This wasn’t the outcome he imagined in his worst fears

Hours later, the sun rose and with it a new day
The night had washed the man’s sorrows away

‘I’ll try a different approach, another tactic, something new
I’ll invite the king himself, surely he won’t deny me too’

So he entered the throneroom of the toymaker king
And asked ‘Do you have a moment? I made you something’

The old ruler laughed and shook his head
‘There are bigger monuments all around,’ he said

The man stared blankly and stood in silence
Then walked away like a dog without guidance

‘My hard work wasted, all for nothing, all for nought
My time and efforts were useless’ the man thought

‘To think—I loved that king—how foolish could I be?
There’s no love left for him in my heart, believe you me’

Perhaps the man should have slept on it or waited
But his feet were taking him to the likeness he now hated

‘I’ll unmake the monument he never deserved
Nothing in the king’s image should be preserved!’

He stormed up the mountain and threw his tools aside
Destroying the statue would be the next thing he tried

But something stayed his hand and stopped the blow
A simple thought came into his mind and began to grow

The statue would not stand for the king and his audacity
But it represented his own creativity, talent, and tenacity

Slowly, he realized ‘The king was never the key…’
‘It was the journey itself,’ he urged his heart to agree

‘I became what I wanted to be, what I admired
I became whom I loved, to whom I aspired’

He allowed the pride of his craftsmanship to return
A spark of happiness in his heart began to burn

No longer pleading, the man returned to bent knee
And inscribed below the statue, his initials, TBC

The Nintendo Experience: Controlling Outside the Box

With Nintendo Labo announced, something that is sure to change the way we view how video games control, I find it appropriate to look back on some of the times that Nintendo flipped game control on its head. Now, obviously, not every time Nintendo ventures into an unexplored frontier is a smashing success, but they are usually the only company “daring” enough to branch out as far as they do. Games like WarioWare: Twisted, Kirby’s Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, and 1-2-Switch brought a whole new dimension to gaming that took the geniuses from the Big N to complete. Today, I will be adding three new games to the Nintendo Experience that challenged the boundaries of what it meant to be “in control”. (If you are not sure what the “Nintendo Experience” is, check out the previous blog posts).

Donkey Konga was Nintendo’s attempt at jumping into the (then-budding) rhythm genre. It was a little more entry-level than staples like Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero, a little more immersive than Parappa the Rapper, and, of course, containing that Nintendo charm. Overall, it was an average game with mediocre covers of classic songs, but it did give birth to the DK Bongo peripheral. Once you had enough of Donkey Konga and its sequel (and tried it out on Smash Bros.), there did not seem to be much use for the hunk of plastic; I mean, if you consider the size-to-button ratio, you are losing the space-saving-game.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GameCube)

Leave it to Nintendo to make a deep, compelling platformer that only uses two buttons. Consumers had the option to buy the whole package, including the bongos, or just the disc if you had the bongos already (you could also play it with the normal GameCube controller, but where’s the fun in that?). This game was fantastic, and is a must-play for fans of Nintendo that want that truly unique hybrid experience.

Wii Sports (Wii)

What more can I say about Wii Sports than has already been said? Motion controls may not have turned out how we thought they would (only seeing wide application currently paired with VR or AR), but it was really nothing before Wii Sports. Now, it is true that there was motion control games before Wii Sports, and that the Wiimote was not 1:1 like we (at least, I) thought, but from the first time I picked up this game, my view of what video games could be was never the same. I do not think I need to elaborate too much further, as I can almost be certain that everyone reading this blog has either played this or, at least, its sequel, Wii Sports Resort, and had a similar life-altering experience.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

Just as Twilight Princess rolled the dice with motion controls in a beloved Nintendo franchise, Metroid Prime 3 similarly pioneered how the Wiimote would handle first person shooters. Other FPS’s had released on the Wii by the time Prime 3 was released, but those could not be compared to what Corruption brought to the table: not in genre, and certainly not in successful execution. In fact, Prime 3 controlled so great that Nintendo decided to re-release all three games of the trilogy with the new Wiimote controls. The world it created and the story it tells are fantastic as well, but the way Samus controls in the new age was forever revolutionized by this fantastic piece of Nintendo history.

These are just a few examples of Nintendo’s abstractly-controlled masterpieces. What are some of your favorites? The Nintendo Experience continues to grow…

Fate of 3DS Determined Scott’s Thoughts

For some time now, fans of Nintendo have debated what should be done about 3DS:

“Just let it die.”

“Leverage the fanbase! Make more exclusives!”

“KILL IT! KILL IT NOW WITH HOLY FIRE!”

In the March 8th Nintendo Direct, the Big N made their intentions clear:

3DS will continue to receive ports and remakes into 2019.

Absolutely perfect for the younger generation who aren’t old enough to have played the originals.

Captain Toad, Sushi Striker, Luigi’s Mansion, Mario & Luigi, not exclusives. All playable elsewhere. It services the install base but doesn’t lock out gamers who have moved on.

Smash Bros. as a Service Scott’s Thoughts

I expected a port of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U in 2018. Smash development cycles are too long, and we would never get new entries this close together… those were my thoughts entering into the March 8th Nintendo Direct.

I was wrong; it’s a brand new game.

There are still skeptics, or fans who are simply being cautious not to jump to conclusions. But Nintendo laid it out plainly for us:

  • The game has a working title (not simply “Super Smash Bros. for Switch” in the Smash 4 branding.)
  • Nintendo chose to forgo the transition used at the beginning of every Smash 4 trailer
  • SmashBros.com has been completely started over from scratch
  • The trailer shows only vague outlines of a cast with fewer than 20 characters, not the entire Smash 4 ensemble waiting to welcome the Inklings

It’s really happening. It’s a new console generation, a new Smash Bros. website, a new series of character reveals (who’s staying, who’s leaving, and who’s arriving?)—friends, it’s a new Super Smash Bros. game.

And the cherry on top? 2018.

It seems impossible. How would Nintendo have time to develop a new title from the ground up? The Wii U and 3DS entries only came out during the tail end of 2014.

The answer: The developers probably didn’t start from scratch. For one thing, this new game could very well use the Smash 4 engine. They finally struck the perfect balanced formula that resonated with casual players and eSports alike (not easy), so Sakurai and his team won’t be quick to abandon the engine.

Smash 5 likely won’t launch with a beefy lineup of 50 characters, either. I think the group of brawlers shown in the trailer was deliberately small.

Super Smash Bros. could easily be sold to us as a service. Think of all the popular games these days that add content gradually—the “Splatoon approach,” if you will.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smash launch alongside Nintendo’s paid online service in September to help promote the program. I also would not be surprised if Smash, in September, feels like a half a game.

Sakurai could keep the hype train of character reveals steaming along the tracks for—well—years!

P.S. Why didn’t Nintendo save this bombshell announcement for E3? Because it’s going to be the central theme of their booth, and booth decorations are literally impossible to prevent from leaking. We knew about Breath of the Wild and Odyssey before Nintendo decked out their corner of E3 in previous years, and the same will go for Smash this time. The lid is going to be absolutely blown off this game at E3 2018, only months ahead of launch!

The Cuphead Influence

Cuphead was one of my favorite games released in 2017. Everything about it I adored. From the 1930 cartoon style visuals right out of the old Fleischer cartoons to the big band jazz ensembles to the cutthroat difficulty, this game has it all. Alas, it’s not on the Switch, or any Nintendo console for that matter, so you may be wondering why it’s appearing here. The reason is I believe that Cuphead would be an amazing fit on the Switch, and I hope it opens the door to other creative talent to hit the Switch in the future. Before you comment, “But Matt, Cuphead will never come to the Switch because Microsoft helped Studio MDHR fund the game”, I’m aware, so please don’t. The focus of this blog is to simply discuss why Cuphead would be a great fit for the Switch and what sets it apart from most other Indie titles.

It doesn’t take one long to figure out that there are a plethora of Indie titles on the Switch. Unfortunately, for me at least, it’s like wading through a dumpster trying to find jewels. I’m not saying that Indie developers should be discouraged from putting games up, nor dissing any one game in particular. But the majority of the games posted seem as though the developer put almost no thought or effort into the art direction, and some of these games even carry a $20 price tag. It baffles me that someone can put time and effort into something they obviously care about, but aren’t willing to go the extra mile to make it great. I know that indie developers have to deal with an extraordinarily reduced budget, and they don’t have a lot of time to work with. I really do get that, but there is no excuse for some of the games I have seen.

Every boss battle is fresh and meticulously crafted

What makes Cuphead stand out? Well, for one, the level of polish is evident. It looks and feels nearly perfect. Never have I thought that I would enjoy playing a 1930’s cartoon so much. Even though it’s old, it’s new. It’s a fresh concept and they took a risk that paid off. Whenever the debate arises whether or not videogames are art (this discussion warrants its own blog), it’s games like Cuphead that I think of.  Next, the difficulty. Yes, to this day, I have over 400 deaths. That is what it took for me to complete my expert run, and not once did I get upset. For every single one, I accounted for a mistake that I made. Once I corrected my mistake, I moved on until I made the next mistake, where I learned and moved on progressively until a boss or level was defeated.

So what is my point? Simply put, Quality > Quantity. I would rather have one game that takes 3 years to complete than 100 games that take 3 months to complete. I’m not saying that all developers need to remortgage their homes, or draw everything frame by frame like the Moldenhauers of Cuphead, but just a little more time on the presentation and polish go a long way. My hope is that Cuphead will encourage developers to try unique art styles and better yet, follow their dreams. Gamers want quality games where passion is oozing out of everything seen on screen. Unfortunately, Cuphead will likely never see the light of day on the Switch, even though it would be a phenomenal addition to a fairly lackluster Indie library. Nonetheless, hopefully game designers are inspired and this will translate into better quality games. Perhaps you agree, or alternately you’ve been eating up the Switch eShop and loving it. That’s fine too. Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that gamers will always appreciate the extra mile. Hopefully Cuphead and Mugman will pave the way for the future, without dealing with the devil.