TBC 025: Paper Mario: The Origami King

Play
Paper Mario is back! Whereas the last few entries in the series were not received warmly, Nintendo fans were slightly more optimistic about this particular outing. Maybe because Nintendo has been serving up first party hit after hit on the Switch. Maybe because the developers finally seemed to hear our feedback about certain things like attacks-as-inventory being bad or battle companions being good. Even with a more positive outlook, many decided to sit back and wait for reviews before plopping 60 crisp dollar bills down for this origami adventure. Glen and Scott have spent a lot of time with the title and are here to talk about every detail.

Enjoying the TBC Podcast? We are an ad-free show! Drop a comment, leave a like, or share with a friend.

Check out our old YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/TwoButtonCrew

“Two Button Crew Theme” by Katie Straughn

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

Vitamin Connection Review (Switch)

Vitamin Connection brings new meaning to the word cooperative.

Most games are pretty content with just putting you and a buddy in the same space and letting you play together, working in tandem and exploring the same areas. Even though you are working together, what you or your pal are capable of doing isn’t beholden to what the other does. In Vitamin Connection you have a truly symbiotic relationship – you play as a couple of ridiculously cute cartoon bobbins who save a family from their literal ills by way of a two-pilot capsule ship that can’t function without full
communication and cooperation from your friend.

Well, you could by playing the game solo, but what’s the fun in that!?

Each stage is set-up like an episode of an old Saturday morning cartoon – a member of the Sable family is on their way to an outing when disaster strikes as they step out the door and they become sick. It is then up to our heroes, Mina-Girl and Vita-Boy, to get them back on the healthy train by attack the bacteria plaguing them so they can get about their day. You travel through their interiors on mostly predetermined paths (with occasional branches to help you find secrets or pick your own route) and find and suss out that level’s big baddy by taking on what amounts to boss battles in pivotal areas of the body.

As you’re traveling, one player is in control of moving the ship in all directions and also the trigger to the Vitamin Beam which you use to clear your path. The other play is in control of rotating the ship, which is crucial in navigating your human host as well as aiming the Vitamin Beam. Both jobs are not created equal, with the person in charge of rotation and aim has to use motion controls which makes for some harrowing moments. The challenge of the game can be mitigated by one simple trick – communication. If you talk to each other and work together, it becomes a breeze!

The aforementioned boss battles are less your typical “find the weak spot and attack” nomenclature and more like mini-games. These too often make use of the Switch’s oft-forgotten gimmicks by having players play Irritating Stick-like obstacle courses and the IR sensor camera to extend a hand through a highway of viruses. It’s a nice break for the most part and yet another fun way to test your communication skills, but it felt like the game would ramp up the difficulty of these segments rather quickly, with my son and I getting stuck on the second level because the IR camera was finicky and the bad guy’s patterns being rather unforgiving. It was frustrating and could have done with maybe a different control option, but it doesn’t dilute the enjoyment we were having.

If nothing else, Vitamin Connection’s presentation compelled us to keep going as the saccharine storyline and infectious music kept us entertained so much that we had to see it through to the end!

Much like Affordable Space Adventures on the much-maligned Wii U, Vitamin Connection feels like an essential on the Switch. The game can be played solo, but it’s use of motion control feels important to the experience as a whole, thus making this game a tough sell for people intending on playing by themselves but imperative to those who have a friend or kid on hand. It has that WayForward charm permeating the whole experience and was so much fun I plan on playing through it again soon with a different son!

Vitamin Connection is a worthwhile way to spend a sick day, especially if you’re stuck at home with a co-pilot.


By Matt Mason. Follow him on Twitter @ObtainPotion and read more of his writing on his blog.

TBC 021: Shovel Knight Treasure Trove

Play

Now that Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is finally complete, it’s time for the TBC team to get their opinions on the record. Join us as we discuss Shovel of Hope, Plague of Shadows, Scepter of Torment, King of Cards, and all things SHOVEL KNIGHT!

Ready for more TBC Podcast? We are an ad-free show, and you can support us on Patreon: http://patreon.com/twobuttoncrew

Get Your Daily Nintendose of Fandom on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/TwoButtonCrew

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

TBC 019: Luigi’s Mansion 3

Play
Glen and Scott are back to discuss Luigi’s Mansion 3, a beautiful game and strong Game of the Year contender. They have a lot to say about the game’s pros and cons, so get cozy and listen to their deep dive on Luigi’s newest solo outing.

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

Review: Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game by House House is a unique, charming game for Nintendo Switch.

Disguised as a goofy goose sim, this stealth/puzzle game has you work your way through to-do lists, perfect for a productivity nerd like myself. But these tasks are all mischief related, and involve messing with innocent people’s things without getting caught.

There are four areas to explore, so while you may have an ear-to-ear grin throughout the experience, the credits could roll before you feel that your investment has been returned. It took me under two hours to complete (though post-game content in the form of additional to-do lists should effectively double your play time).

Everything is quite sound here, whether we’re talking about controls, music, systems, graphics, etc. This game took awhile to release considering its short length, and it is evident that the developers made the most of that time to iron out any potential kinks in the gameplay.

While I would love to praise the game in specific ways, it’s difficult to do so without spoiling the moment-to-moment gameplay, which is often humorous and always inventive and charming.

I had a great time solving all the puzzles as they progressively got more complex. Making someone spit their coffee out as a troublemaking goose was an experience I won’t quickly forget.

Making someone spit their coffee out as a troublemaking goose was an experience I won’t quickly forget.

Untitled Goose Game is clearly lacking one feature, however, and that is a hint system. After having just played BoxBoy + BoxGirl, I can’t help but think of how helpful that hint system could have been if implemented in Untitled Goose Game.

Without an option for hints, some puzzle solutions just will not present themselves to you, no matter how long you waddle around the level flapping your wings and honking to no effect. You can always Google a walkthrough, but something more subtle and built-in would have been a worthy inclusion.

The value proposition for Untitled Goose Game is… well, suspect. House House is up against a lot of great competition on the eShop, especially around the $20 asking price. My gut tells me that the game will perform well during sales, but otherwise will have a hard time convincing people to part with a crisp green Jackson.

Conclusion: Untitled Goose Game is a tight, fun, memorable experience that leaves the player wanting more.

7/10

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 017: Breath of the Wild Sequel Wish-List

Play

Glen and Scott are joined by Zelda expert GameOver Jesse! What brought about such a momentous occasion? Why, the announcement of the sequel to Breath of the Wild! Join us for a podcast packed with hype, speculation, analysis, and complete guesses.

Savor It Scott's Thoughts: Smash Ultimate is HERE!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is here! This blog post concludes the Ultimate Countdown.

What a wait it has been! It’s been so fun to see glimpses of this game over the past nine months, and the next character reveal was always an event to look forward to.

Now we have the game in our hands, and our wait has been rewarded.

Savor it.

To savor is to enjoy completely. 

This game has to be the title with the most content, the most replayability, of any Nintendo game ever!

Nintendo fans have a horrible reputation for being insatiable, for calling a game “old news” the week after it hits store shelves.

It be tempting to start calling for certain balance patches, to create campaigns for additional DLC…

But this time, what about being content? How about being satiated? Let’s appreciate Sakurai, the development team, the marketing folks at Nintendo, the Treehouse testers, everyone who was involved in making this superb title.

And let’s enjoy it fully for years to come.

My Release Night Plans Scott's Thoughts: 1 Day to Smash Ultimate

It’s Thursday—AKA, RELEASE NIGHT!

We’ve endured the long wait for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, although if you think about it… the wait really hasn’t been that long! We only learned about this title in March, and development faced zero known delays, something that’s almost unheard of for this series.

Word on the street (read: Reddit) is that eShop servers will update at midnight Eastern, which is fortunately 9pm in Pacific timezone where I live. If you preloaded the game digitally, that’s when it should unlock on your home screen!

Simeon and I are ready and extremely excited to play. I just wanted to share a quick post about our plans for release night.

  • Get done with a meeting about 8:15pm. It absolutely must NOT go late, or there will be consequences!
  • Rush to Best Buy so I can pick up my physical copy at 9pm.
  • Simeon will accompany me, and will then use his phone’s mobile-hotspot feature to connect his Switch and unlock his digital copy.
  • Speed through every red light and stop sign to arrive at home. Periodically shoot Simeon dirty looks of jealousy as his Switch’s speakers emit sounds of smashing in the passenger seat.
  • Scale the 3 flights of stairs up to my apartment in about 7.3 seconds.
  • Slam the cartridge into my Switch (after a quick lick).
  • Start up a stream on our YouTube channel [ring that bell to get notified when we go live].
  • Unlock characters as fast as possible.
  • Kick Simeon’s sorry tushy with Dark Samus.

If you’re not picking up the game and playing it right away, we’d love to have you join our release night stream!

I’ve got one more blog post in this series, publishing tomorrow, Dec. 7th at noon Pacific.

Will there Be Another Smash? Scott's Thoughts: 2 Days to Smash Ultimate


ul·ti·mate
/ˈəltəmət/

noun: the best achievable or imaginable of its kind.
adjective: 
being or happening at the end of a process; final.


Will Super Smash Bros. Ultimate be the last game in the series? Is the subtitle more of a noun, or an adjective?

It certainly seems that this 5th entry in the series is a celebration of all things Smash. Until E3 2018, we were unsure if the Switch would see a simple port of the Wii U game, or if we would get a true sequel. From the moment the words “Everyone is Here” flashed across our screens, we knew that this game was something special.

With every character and nearly every stage reporting for battle, it’s easy to see why some would think this is the climax of the franchise.

Not to mention Sakurai’s constant threats that he may be finished with Smash development after each entry nearly kills him. He calls the games being completed a “miracle” and has battled various physical conditions while new games are in development, often putting strain on his wrists and his sleep schedule.

I believe we’re nearing a time of turnover in Nintendo’s headquarters in Japan. Of course, the President’s chair has seen a few different occupants in recent years, but their stable of developers and directors is also showing its age. Miyamoto-san has been actively raising the next generation of Mario makers, resulting in many of the new ideas found in Super Mario Odyssey. It’s only a matter of years before Aunoma decides that it’s time to retire as well.

Sakurai is a bit younger than his aforementioned contemporaries, but has seen more crunch-time than just about anyone in the industry. He also tends to take on more responsibility than necessary, insisting on doing all the balancing himself by hand. Carrying a franchise as large as Super Smash Bros., with a roster as big as it’s grown, is too big a burden for one man.

I can easily see Sakurai stepping down after Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If he had additional games in him, I don’t think this Switch title would have gotten the name it did.

Now, from a business perspective it’s hard to imagine a world without a new SSB game in the pipeline. It’s one of Nintendo’s most dearly loved franchises, one of their best selling series, and is one of their few tenuous connections to hardcore, competitive gaming and events like EVO and Genesis.

I don’t think Nintendo will ever let Super Smash Bros. die, but Sakurai will likely pass the leadership on after the Fighter Pass DLC is complete.

 

The Best Characters in Smash 5 (So far) Scott's Thoughts: 3 Days to Smash Ultimate

Here’s a quick list of who the best characters are in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Note: I’m counting down to the release of the game, so this is pre-day-1-patch! Always remember that your favorite character has a good chance of being patched into oblivion. That’s another reason why character selection is only 10% of the key to victory.

But some characters are going to start out with a bit of an advantage, and here they are:

Isabelle

Isabelle is a beast to play against. She has the side aerials of Villager, making her a great zoner. She has a Lloyd rocket that gets planted slyly in the ground, difficult to see and able to be set off remotely or by proximity. Isabelle also has an absurdly powerful pocket move, dealing ~3x the damage of whatever she pockets. Characters like Samus, Mewtwo, Lucario, or others with charge shots can die at extremely low percents if Isabelle nabs your attack.

Young Link

Young Link is nimble and packs a hefty punch. His arrows feel a bit overpowered, as they fly quickly, have little to no endlag, and light the opponent on fire. And speaking of projectiles, Young Link isn’t damaged by his own bomb’s explosives, meaning he can be much more aggressive at close-ranges. Thanks to Ocarina of Time, he still possesses the hookshot that allows him to tether-grab and tether-recover, which his adult counterpart lacks. Young Link can also reliably kill with up-air, which has a powerful lasting hitbox to punish any airdodges.

Roy

In Smash 4, Roy appeared to be the meatier/slower/stronger version of Marth. In this game however, a group of competitive Smash players huddled around a TV watched as a challenger approached, and it turned out to be a very speedy and very strong Roy. We couldn’t believe how quick he was moving around. Getting up in people’s grilles and hitting with the base of the sword is going to be easier than ever thanks to this huge buff.

Other candidates…

It’s too early to tell on a few others, but Donkey Kong looks promising with his low-percent “Ding Dong” (carry > up-throw > up air) still in tact, and some new grounded combos. King K Rool is a heavyweight that actually has a fantastic recovery. Inkling looks to be a bit overwhelming with a super-fast squid form dash. Yoshi also has nothing but buffs (though few people will take the time to learn him).


Time will tell how tier-lists shake out after several patches and after millions of players experiment with the new roster, but if you want to get a head-start on online matches day one, these characters would be a great place to start!

The Pie-Chart of Victory in Smash Bros. Scott's Thoughts: 4 Days to Smash Ultimate

What factors determine the winner in a “serious” Super Smash Bros. match?

It’s easy to think that it all comes down to tier lists; whichever player trains with the more optimal character wins. I have also fallen into this trap, having second thoughts about playing a certain fighter because their stats are lower.

However, after giving this some thought, I’ve decided that character selection is only a small percentage of what determines the result of a match. I present… the pie-chart of victory!

Stage Choice (5%)

Stage choice is the smallest factor. Very few stages favor certain characters so much as to make them dangerous (and those can be striked/banned in the selection process). Whether you’re playing on Battlefield, Dream Land, or Smashville matters very little. I have known players that only practice on Battlefield, however, and that is to their detriment. As long as you put in some hours with each of the legal stages, nothing is going to surprise you too badly.

Character Choice (10%)

I’ve seen entire tournaments won with a bottom-tier character. I’ve seen players in a bind pull out their “pocket Cloud” or their “pocket Bayonetta” just to get trounced because, although they went with a top-tier pick, they didn’t have the practice needed. Tier lists aren’t everything, and in fact, playing the fighter with the best stats will probably cripple you in other areas. You won’t learn to compensate attacks that have slow start-ups with reads. You won’t learn how to leverage rage to even out a disadvantage. Playing characters with drawbacks teaches you the game much better than the star of the roster will.

Mindset (20%)

Most noticeable In Super Smash Bros. Melee, there’s a momentum that occurs when a player gets ahead. It would be hard to explain using only in-game language, because it’s actually a mindset problem. When a player takes his opponent’s stock, the opponent should have a good opportunity to get off the platform and strike back, starting up a combo while under invincibility. What’s more likely to happen, though, is that the winning player will take another stock. And probably a third. That’s why there are so many 4-stock compilations of SSBM. This trend applies to all Smash games, and in Smash 4 where players only had two stocks, you could often see a competitor give up after a 50% disadvantage. You wouldn’t notice this as much in the gameplay, but in the playercam. Someone who believes a comeback is always possible will be capable of unlocking the biggest key to victory:

Adaptability (30%)

This is more important in Smash Ultimate than ever before. With an enormous roster, you’ll never be able to practice every match-up, coupled with every competitive playstyle. You’ll go into tournaments or serious online matches without the knowledge needed to form a gameplan in advance. Smash Ultimate players will need to be able to plan piece-by-piece simultaneously while playing. If you get hit by a combo once, how can you get out of it the second time? A true combo—how can you avoid the setup? We have three whole stocks to work with, meaning that you have plenty of time to go from aggressive to defensive and back again if the situation calls for it. Adaptability also includes a player’s reflexes, which is just responding to what’s on screen in a split-second moment. Active learners win in Super Smash Bros.

Reads (15%)

Reading your opponent is the most proactive you can be in a game of Super Smash Bros. It’s predicting when the other player will use a laggy move, and having a response ready. It’s determining if your opponent will be recovering high or low. It’s knowing when a roll is about to come out, so you can have an attack ready. It’s the foresight to see that a counter or air-dodge is about to come out, and being ready to punish it. This is also known as “getting in the other player’s head” and will completely knock them off their game. It’s good to have fast reflexes and be able to respond quickly to what’s on screen, but it’s a whole other thing to be playing based on what’s about to be on the screen.

Experience (20%)

You can’t shortcut practice! Months and years of grinding against other competitors will allow you to level up your reads, adaptability, your mindset, and knowledge-base from which to know the right characters and stages to pick. Just showing up and losing, then watching other players will help you place better the next time.

Squad Strike mode is Amazing! Scott's Thoughts: 5 Days to Smash Ultimate

Squad Strike mode in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks amazing!

Nintendo has yet to explain this mode very well, but thanks to the game leaking we have some great new details about this optional mode.

(Yes, these are leaked details—but come on, there are no spoilers for a mode in a game, right?)

I said Nintendo hasn’t done Squad Strike justice, because they weren’t very clear about what it actually does. Their short presentations left too many open questions. Do you have one stock for each character, and play as multiple characters in one round? Or are you and an opponent just creating a playlist of characters to battle in a set order? Or is it a series of different matchups, but your character’s individual stocks carry over (“winner stays in” style)?

I’m ecstatic to say that the answer to all these questions is yes!

Squad Strike has multiple modes inside the mode. It’s like mode-ception.

✅ Our dream of picking multiple characters for one match will come true. When I die with Mario, Dark Samus will appear on the spawn platform.

✅ Tournament style Crew Battles work in the game, where I can take out multiple different players in a row as long as I hang on to a stock.

✅ My sparring-partner and I can create multiple match-up scenarios ahead of time, then play through them uninterrupted.

With this much flexibility and this many new options, I might spend more time in Squad Strike than in the actual Smash mode!

Physical, Digital, and All the Options Between Scott's Thoughts: 6 Days to Smash Ultimate

Back when Simeon and I were doing the Daily Show for Nintendo fans, we put out a video that went on to be very popular: What’s Better, Physical or Digital Games?

YouTuber tip: Any time you can title a video with the exact question people are typing in to search, you’ll find a lot of viewers who need help! And I think we were able to provide some solid advice.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate hits store shelves and digital shops in one week, so it’s about time we made up our mind about what format we’re buying, eh?

Physical Advantages

  • Resale: If you get sick of Smash, you can sell it and make some investment back. (If you’re reading this blog though, you’ll probably hang on to the game forever.)
  • Lending: You can let a friend borrow your game. It helps to have real life sparring partners who can challenge you, and letting them take the game home to practice is a good way to build up a rivalry.
  • Packaging: When you spend your $60 at a retailer instead of an eShop, you get a little more. That is, you receive a box that can be placed on a shelf or propped up to display its awesome cover art.
  • Storage: Smash 5 is a big game, and takes up a lot of memory. Multiple Gigabytes, in fact. Do you want that storage used up on your Switch’s hardware (digital), or more efficiently stowed on the cartridge itself?
  • Discounts: Maybe you renewed Best Buy Gamer’s Club Unlocked or have a discount through Amazon Prime.

Digital Advantages

  • Invulnerable: It can’t get broken or eaten by a baby.
  • Unlosable: It’s built into your Switch so you won’t lose a tiny cartridge in a couch cushion or vacuum.
  • Pre-Load: You can purchase the game early and have most of its data sitting on your console, waiting to be unlocked on release day.
  • Convenience: Smash is a game that gets played a lot, and it will be super nice not to have to swap out games every time you want to play a quick match.
  • Gold Coins: Nintendo is offering additional gold coins for players who get Smash through the eShop, and you can also redeem previously-acquired gold coins to lower the price on your purchase.

I didn’t plan it that way, but it looks like there are an equal number of advantages either way! It truly is a conundrum, isn’t it?

But don’t decide just yet! There are a few more factors.

Physical Options

  • Standard game
  • Steelbook & Pro Controller bundle (Best Buy)

Digital Options

  • Standard game
  • Deluxe version (Fighter Pass included)

Console Bundle

This is another option I can’t stick under either one of the above headings, because in a way it’s physical and digital! By purchasing a Smash-emblazoned Switch, you receive a digital copy of Ultimate.


It’s a tough choice, but I think I’ve landed on physical standard. I’d like to have that case sitting on my shelf, plus I’ll get a bit of a discount, and I’ll be able to buy my Ridley amiibo at the same time. What about you? How are you going to be purchasing SSBU?

No Character is Deconfirmed Scott's Thoughts: 7 Days to Smash Ultimate

The Super Smash Bros. series is truly a celebration of all things Nintendo. With hours upon hours of remixed tunes, over a hundred stages collected from gaming history, and hundreds of combinations of unique matchups and modes, there is no shortage of fun to be had in SSB Ultimate. However, nothing causes a fan to delight more than when their favorite character is added as a playable fighter.

The cast of 70+ characters is the main attraction, and everything else is seen as ancillary. Who cares if Geno is a Mii costume, I want him to be a playable character! Goomba as a trophy—no way, he should have been added to the roster back in Melee! 

And so, Smash fans wait on pins and needles to catch a glimpse of their favorite phantasy fighter, hoping that Father Sakurai will do them justice.

You could hear the collective groans around the world when Waluigi was shown as merely an Assist Trophy at E3. He was “deconfirmed.” He didn’t stand a chance.

I disagree. I think you can look at all the Pokeball Pokemon, all the Assist Trophies, Mii Fighter costumes, and every one of the 1,000+ Spirits and be looking at a list of DLC candidates.

My opinion isn’t popularly shared, so let me explain:

  1. Sakurai didn’t decide the DLC. Nintendo did, just as development on the title was wrapping up. (Side-note: Nintendo is careful not to work on DLC too early—otherwise gamers would accuse them of charging extra for content that was made under primary development time.) Sakurai did not know what his bosses would settle on for future roster additions, so he couldn’t have kept every potential fighter from showing up by some other means.
  2. There are over 1,000 characters represented as Spirits in this title. If being a Spirit disqualifies a character from inclusion in the main roster, then there’s no one good left to pick from gaming history.
  3. Overlap happens. One good example is Smash 3DS, where you could take Pac-Man to his stage, throw an Assist Trophy, and have 3 instances of Pac-Man ghosts on the screen at once (Smash Attack, stage, and Assist Trophy).

Being in Smash in one form doesn’t mean you can’t be in Smash in another form. If a Pokeball Pokemon was converted to a DLC fighter, I honestly think the developers would see no problem in removing that Pokemon from the Pokeball lineup anyway!

Don’t despair. Your favorite character still has a chance.

Only Buy the DLC Pass If… Scott's Thoughts: 8 Days to Smash Ultimate

Nintendo will be offering the “Fighter Pass” for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a $25 advance payment for future DLC.

Sakurai and co. will be adding 5 characters to the game between launch and February 2020, and said characters will be accompanied by new stages and music tracks.

You can purchase these bundles individually as they are released for $6 each, or shave $5 off the cumulative pricetag by paying up-front.

Purchasers won’t be given anything up front except for a Mii Costume for fans of the Xenoblade Chronicles series.

Only plop down your $25 if one of these applies to you:

  1. You know without a shadow of a doubt that you’re going to buy all the characters anyway
  2. You want to help tournaments by bringing a complete set-up
  3. Xenoblade Chronicles is like life to you
  4. You feel sorry for Sakurai and want to donate to his Carpal Tunnel relief fund
  5. You have a tree in your back yard producing literal money
  6. Your wallet is actually getting too heavy and it’s wearing a hole in your pants

I probably fall into camps 1, 2, and 4. But I’m still going to wait until the first DLC package is actually available, then I’ll spring for the whole payment. I see no reason to fork over my twenty-five now, while I’m already spending a small fortune on the game and accessories.


What are your plans for buying or skipping the Fighter Pass?

I Played Ultimate for Several Hours Scott's Thoughts: 9 Days to Smash Ultimate

I was fortunate enough to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for several hours over the last two days. This may come as a surprise after my previous post in the countdown, “The Game Leaked, but Who Cares?” A few points on that; I primarily wrote about the non-issue of spoilers being posted online, specifically saying Smash is fun to play instead of just learn about. So yes, I took the opportunity to play the game at a few events, but no, I won’t be hacking my Switch or installing the game illegally on my console.

No real spoilers follow.

My takeaways from several hours with Ultimate over the last few days:

  • The engine feels quite a bit different from Smash 4. You’ll have a learning curve period, and your practice won’t translate over immediately. There’s an awkward feeling of the game not responding to your inputs in the way you expect, and that’s pretty much unavoidable, but does lessen a few hours in.
  • Shielding, air-dodging, and rolling are all worse options. These defensive/evasive maneuvers are all punishable unless you’re using them sparingly and intentionally. Shield-poking happens way more often, even when half a shield appears to be in tact. Note: Once people get the hang of new Perfect Shield timing, they won’t be such a bad option.
  • Neutral is more grounded. Gravity seems to be more of a factor, and when not ledge-guarding or chasing, characters feet stay planted on the ground more. In other words, expending your double jump on stage feels like a risk as it did in Melee.
  • The graphics are beautiful. Characters are animated with a lot of personality, but the main thing I couldn’t get over was the beautiful stages. Previous games look drab by comparison.
  • Smash Ultimate is packed to the brim. Although the character selection screen is limited on startup, the rest of the game is not! The stages and modes are all there at your disposal, and so much is customizable! Decisions that would have been made for us in the past are now left up to the player to tweak, such as “Stick Sensitivity” which is now adjustable in custom controls. There will be a lot to learn in the menus, but we can finally fine-tune just about everything we’ve wanted to.

I had a lot of fun, though most of my matches were 4v4 or 3v3. In that kind of chaos, I didn’t get to put many characters through their paces like I would have wanted to. It does seem that Donkey Kong is an absolute beast, and he’s a character I’ve always tried to play since Brawl. I might have to make room for DK in my mains.

Simeon and I are planning some fun stuff for the launch of Ultimate! More on that soon.

The Game Leaked, but Who Cares? Scott's Thoughts: 10 Days to Smash Ultimate

Copies of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are circulating out in the wild, 10 days before the December 7th launch!

Nintendo didn’t intend for this to happen, but a variety of things have taken place:

  • Certain stores have broken street date and sold the game early
  • Some people received review units and have broken embargo, uploading confidential information
  • Other people have preloaded the game from the eShop and hacked their Switches to datamine the download

The cumulative result is a lot of spoilers leaked online, including soundtrack files, World of Light cutscenes, unlocking instructions, etc.

But who cares?

My flippant response surprised me a little bit. It was only a few years ago that I managed to secure an advance copy of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U for review (legally) and I practically jumped for joy when that happened!

Why am I not excited about the prospect of Smash Ultimate leaking? Well, this series is fun to play, not just learn about! Sure, character reveals are one thing, but we’ve gotten all those officially. I can wait patiently to hear the game’s music when I’ve actually bought the thing.

Besides, launch is only 10 days away! It’s coming up quick, and I have plenty of things to play before Smash 5 changes all my gaming habits. I need to hit someone with a Grenade Launcher in Fortnite to complete my challenges, play a few games I picked up on Black Friday, and finish off Hollow Knight which I’m 20 hours into.

It’s weird, but I’m content to wait the week-and-a-half until I can legitimately play SSBU. Maybe I’m growing up a little.