Category Archives: nintendo 3DS

Drowning in random drops in Crimson Shroud’s Gerseym Waterway

crimson shroud waterway random drop gd bs

I have a problem. Well, more specifically, my Nintendo 3DS has a problem. See, there are updates to both Pokémon Shuffle and Nintendo Badge Arcade that I desperately want to install, but I can’t download them. I also have a code for Retro City Rampage: DX thanks to the latest Humble Friends of Nintendo Bundle that I can’t do anything with yet. Why? Well, of course, after many years of downloading things like games, DLC, themes, and StreetPass data, the system’s memory is just about full.

Upon reviewing everything that is installed, I noticed that Crimson Shroud is extremely large, coming in at 1,965 blocks. Yowza-bo-bowza. However, me being me, I can’t simply just delete this outright, and so I’ve gone back in to this magical land of figurines and digital dice, to figure out how to progress in hopes that I can complete the game and then feel justified in removing from my handheld. I did this with Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale, though there is a part of me that wants to revisit that game relatively soon down the road, especially with summer creeping on in.

See, last I played Crimson Shroud, which I sheepishly admit was back in January 2013, I had just defeated the Zombie Minotaur boss and was looking forward to exploring the area more. Unfortunately, to progress forward, you have to work through one of the most obscure puzzles I’ve come across in all my years gaming. Which is over twenty-five. Anyways, after dealing with the Zombie Minotaur, our trio of adventuring table-top figurines–Giauque, Lippi, and Frea–make their way to the Gerseym Waterway. There, you need to recall something Frea previously said:

“If you’re going to continue to search this way, you’ll need something to dispel the darkness–a gift. Anything with a gift like that would be an enemy to any mage. More of a curse than a gift, really.”

Right. Evidently, from that, you’re suppose to know that in order to move forward and not perpetually explore the limited number of spaces over and over and over again you need to obtain a single item called Obsidian Daphne. However, you won’t find this in a treasure chest or somewhere on the map. It needs to drop from a battle encounter, one specifically involving a Skeleton Mage. Your best bet for finding Skeleton Mages to battle against them in the Gerseym Waterway, but it’s not as simple as just getting into a battle, taking them down, and walking away with their sweet, puzzle-solving loot, and this is probably why I eventually put Crimson Shroud down despite loving rolling digital dice to regain MP.

Okay, every time you move away from and back to the space for the Gerseym Waterway, you get some muddled text and the chance to fight some monsters. A choice, really. Here’s the rub. There are four types of encounters you can…well, encounter. Not all of them contain Skeleton Mages as enemies, and the only way to know is to first take out an enemy and see what it gets replaced by. I think there’s a higher chance of a Skeleton Mage showing up if you destroy the Skeleton Archers first, but that’s just me guessing. Regardless, if you get the wrong encounter, you’re out of luck, but must still finish the fight, which takes several minutes as the enemies have a lot of HP and do not go down swiftly. Then you have to rinse and repeat your actions from before and pray to the skies above that you walked into the correct encounter. Remember, each of the four types of encounters have the same initial set of forces, so it’s all a crap-shoot from the get-go. For me, this took about an hour to do, and I almost missed grabbing the Obsidian Daphne at the end from the list of available loot. Eek.

Alas, that’s all the progress I’ve made so far in Crimson Shroud. Granted, it’s big, and hopefully there isn’t another section just like it up ahead, but I found the whole thing unnecessarily frustrating. I’m only on chapter two and already looking up online walkthroughs. Also, I’m beginning to remember another major issue I had with Crimson Shroud, and that comes down to screen real estate. With three party members and upwards of four enemies on the top screen, plus other information, it can be a bit hard to see what is even going on. I’m all about portable RPGs, but this one might make the case for being on one of those fancier Nintendo 3DS systems with the larger screens.

Oh, and once you find the Obsidian Daphne, it is used up immediately to further the story along. I didn’t even get a chance to hug and kiss it–after all that.

Happy Home Designer gently puts you to work

animal crossing hhd bw bastion gd thoughts

I stopped playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf on May 5, 2014. That’s two days after my favorite villager Sylvia’s birthday. I missed her party. I meant to go all out and get her every gorgeous, pink item I could find, wrapping each up in special paper to make her day all the more memorable. Instead, I blanked and didn’t even show. With panicky fingers, I visited her only to discover her entire home in boxes, ready to be picked up and moved by a service of muscles. She was leaving me. I tried my everything to convince her to stay, but it was too late–she was unmovable. Or rather, completely movable.

It was hard to step away from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, a game which still to this day sits at the top of my Nintendo 3DS stats as my most played game, with only a few others creeping near it. And yet, Sylvia’s departure from my town, as well as her finally giving in and presenting me with her portrait only a few weeks before, unfolded right around the time my marriage was concluding. Two lives ending in unison, and me, standing still, scared and uncertain of what I could do. Thankfully, to help ease the nights, another game swooped in and stole all my attention.

Well, Happy Home Designer is not another full-blown Animal Crossing title, and that’s fine. I’m not ready to commit once more. Instead, it takes elements from the main series, specifically the home decoration aspect, and expands it into a full-time job for your character, who is no longer mayor of the town, but once again another employee of that nefarious rascal Tom Nook. As the newest designer at Nook’s Homes, you’re given the power to create homes, yards, and other buildings, inside and out, with the main goal of making your animal client friends happy. You can help out one client or building request from Isabelle per day–that’s in-game per day, not real life–and before you call it a night, you can spend Play Coins to study your handbook and acquire new blueprints, items, and other decorative thingies for future use.

For some people, decorating is not the siren’s call of the Animal Crossing series. They might prefer fishing and collecting bugs, selling beetles from the tropical island for a large amount of Bells, or doing all the community requests around your village. Or perhaps you really got into designing outfits. There’s also working at the cafe. I think the great thing about Animal Crossing is that it is wide open, and you can love what you love and go deep on it without completely pushing everything else out of the way. For instance, when my sister Jules was playing, she made a great effort to breed all the rarer flowers and enforced a strict “no running” rule when I’d visit her town.

For myself, I really enjoyed expanding and decorating my home, both in Animal Crossing: Wild World and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve gone to great strides to get rare furniture before. For the most part, I’d pick a theme for a room and work towards collecting items that were either officially part of the theme, like astro furniture only, or somehow related, like a meteor or toy rocketship to place in the corner. The struggle sometimes was finding all the pieces of furniture, which relied on the daily luck of the shop, the generosity of your neighbors, and whether or not you had a friend who could visit and dump everything you need at your tiny, pointy feet. Thankfully, Happy Home Designer gives you a large amount of the furniture objects to you right from the get-go, so you can attack your client’s house with all you have and not be restrained by things like missing lamps or using a chair that obviously clashes with the aesthetic.

Or, if you want, and this is something I don’t ever want, you can go against your client’s wishes and run amok in terms of design and feng shui. For instance, say a squirrel wants a forest-themed house, but you decide to fill it up with pink princess furniture, robots, and all things not related to the forest. As far as I can tell, the job will still get done, and the client might be okay with it. There doesn’t seem to be any penalty for going outside the box, but I prefer to accomplish what the buyer is paying for. I mean, you’ll still get something to eat if you order a hot dog and get a hamburger instead, but that doesn’t mean you’re one hundred percent satisfied with the course of action.

I’ll never stop moaning and groaning over the severe lack of Play Coin integration during the lifetime of the Nintendo 3DS, but the Animal Crossing series has at least tried here and there. In this one, before you clock out for the day and count some sheep that hopefully look nothing like Pietro, you can spend Play Coins, ranging from one to five (so far), to upgrade your decorating abilities and the items available to you, as well as other functions. Like, now I can change my avatar’s skin tone and hairstyle in the boutique section upstairs at Nook’s Homes. Also, I have every gyroid possible, simply at a fingertip’s reach. Same with famous pieces of art.

Now, you’ll recall I had a bad case of epic fail last time I went to GameStop. Well, seems like there was still some in my system when I went to purchase Happy Home Designer with a Christmas gift card. Speaking of cards, there are special amiibo cards for this game that allow you to personally invite celebrities like Tortimer and DJ KK to Main Street and help construct a home for them. Since I have a regular ol’ launch Nintendo 3DS, I asked the young man behind the counter if the amiibo cards would still work or if they only worked on the New Nintendo 3DS, which remains a terrible name to this day. I mean, there’s only one copy of the game, and the game itself comes with a card, so I hoped they would work no matter where you ended up playing it. The GameStop employee told me they would work. Got home, played for a bit, unlocked the amiibo phone, and nope–they do not. I’d have to buy some sort of electronic reader for $19.99 to get them to work, and I already spent enough money on the game and cards themselves that I’m annoyed by the whole process, so forget it.

I’m not playing Happy Home Designer every day like I did for Animal Crossing: New Leaf when I first got it and then for many, many months thereafter. Instead, I’m chipping away at it, doing a client’s request or a job from Isabelle, and then calling it a night. That’s fine. It’s a leisurely game about making animals happy, and making animals happy makes me happy, so this is how I get my fix when needed. However, I am curious to know how long this whole business plan lasts because, eventually, I will run out of clients and things to do.

You cannot mindlessly play Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition

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GameStop’s PowerUp Reward points are stupid. Or maybe I’m stupid. Certainly one of us is to blame, and, as a human stuffed with ridiculous emotions like pride and shame and deep-seated embarrassment, I’m inclined to place the fault on someone other than myself. So there. Well, no…let me explain more. Trust me, this story will eventually lead to both the reason why this blog post is about Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition and my early impressions on it, up to the end of World 1.

See, I recently noticed I had a ton of “points” in my PowerUp Rewards account, seeing as I’ve bought a number of things over the last few months, like an Xbox One, and decided to cash some of these points in for a single $25.00 redeemable coupon. In my mind, I was planning on burning this to buy four more amiibo card packs for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer because I’m broken inside. No, really, I am. Utterly and completely damaged. Animal Crossing is one of my all-time favorite series, and now there are collectible cards out there that one can collect and caress and cherish until the end of time. Insert that Futurama meme hard as heck right here.

Anyways, this did not work out. Evidently, the $25 coupon can only be applied to a single item, not your final bill. Sure, that means I could waste it all on one $5.99 pack of amiibo cards, but I wouldn’t get any of that leftover credit. It would just vanish. Seems both like a waste of points and effort. So, instead, I looked around the store for something that was more than $25.00, and so a new copy of Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition for $30.00. Fine. I mean, after all, it was a game I wanted to play last year, but did not get to. Still, that $25.00 credit coupon is beyond misleading, and, unfortunately, it seemed like there was no way for me to return to the points to my account; doing that would have allowed me to at least create two $10.00 credit coupons, and thus two more amiibo card packs. Oh well–lesson stupidly learned.

Anyways, Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition takes the super popular in Japan free-to-play mobile model of Puzzle & Dragons and coats it in a cutesy, colorful Nintendo skin. I say that as if I know anything about Puzzle & Dragons vanilla, which I don’t. I’ll do my best now to explain it in mechanical terms. Gameplay revolves around matching three or more orbs of the same color/element by displacing one orb around the board to attack enemies. Each turn you conduct counts down as a timer for the monsters to attack your party. The goal is to complete the dungeon/level you enter by defeating every foe and surviving until the end. Also, skilled players can create chained combos for massive damage in a single turn.

I’ve only gone through the first world, which obviously loads up some tutorial stuff, but it’s pretty fun. Creating those big combos feels so dang good; also, missing those combos hurts more than I can explain. It’s not as simple as moving one orb over to another like in Pokemon Shuffle or Frozen Free Fall, since sliding the orb around the field affects other orbs in its path, and I don’t have the best handle on how this actually works. Plus, you’re timed. It can be a bit stressful, but truly satisfying too. Sometimes I score big, and sometimes my party of goombas and red winged turtles simply sit there, frozen in regret, bracing for the worst.

There’s actually a lot of options for you from early on to help build up a strong, capable team that will help you rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. Oh, did I not mention that she is kidnapped again? Good job, Nintendo. Really stretching those creativity muscles. Basically, you can sacrifice weaker teams members you aren’t using to power up a single team member. There are also items to find to help with this, as well as lot of experience points to earn along the way. Right now, I have three separate teams created, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what those are and picking a compatible leader is key to surviving some of the later fights, which deal out a ton of damage to your team if you don’t combo fast and early enough. There’s also a few grayed out options on the menu still to open up.

I’ve not gotten to try Puzzle & Dragons Z yet, which is the other game packed in, but I suspect I will eventually. Want to continue on this path for now so that I’m not trying to juggle two sets of similar teams in my mind. I also have to imagine it’s the weaker of the two titles in this nifty 3DS bundle though I’m curious to see how they work in a JRPG story around all these orbs. We’ll see in due time.

My five favorite games in 2015

my five favorite games in 2015 gd post

While I love listening to “Game of the Year” podcasts and sifting through dozens and dozens of lists featuring, in descending order, ten videogame titles, I myself don’t really participate in this tradition. Instead, I like to muse about the games I didn’t get to play in 2015, as well as list what I consider to be my five favorite games. Yup, five–not ten. I’m truly an outlier.

Chances are a few of these are smaller games or experiences no one else is talking about in big, bold tones, and that’s fine. Take for instance, my five from last year, which highlighted Disney Magical World as the shining star. It’s my list, and these are favorites for a reason, which I’ll go into more later with each game. Also, enjoy some artwork I whipped up for every numbered item.

::insert sound of drumroll here::

::okay, here as well::

::almost there::


5. Lost Constellation

gd 2015 top five - lost constellation

Look, technically Lost Constellation came out two days after Christmas in 2014, but I didn’t get around to playing it until February, after a Quick Look from Giant Bomb brought it to my attention. I’m counting it for this year because it has continued to stick with me since then, and I’m bummed that Night in the Woods still hasn’t come out yet. Here’s me going out on a limb and saying that you’ll see that game somewhere in my top five next year, so long as it hits all the same marks as the supplemental demo did.

Anyways, Lost Constellation is a tantalizing appetizer of things yet to come, but stands strongly on its own as a cute, somewhat dark bedtime story perfectly set in the winter. I played it in the winter, but I’m looking forward to going through it again when the summer heat kicks in as it can easily transport you from one season to another. There’s not much replayability to it, other than creating different looking snowmen, but the succinctness of the story–and mesmerizing soundtrack–are worth revisiting. Plus, there’s a rather sardonic cat to converse with, which I’ll never turn down.

4. Time Clickers

gd 2015 top five - time clickers

Here’s the scary thing. I’ve not actually played that much Time Clickers, but Steam says I’ve logged 199 hours on it, and that’s mostly because I enjoy leaving it open while I’m drawing or listening to a podcast. That’s still an insane number of hours, rubbing shoulders with other giants from my past, like Dragon Quest IX and Fallout 3. The difference here though is that those games are more based around actions while Time Clickers is a game of choices. Do I level up this element of my gun or something else? Do I hit the space bar now to use all my power-ups at once or wait until there are only a few cubes left? Do I reset and use Time Cubes to grow stronger, but start over? That last one is easy to answer: no. Never start over. Not when it took around 199 hours to get to the level 500s.

3. Pokémon Shuffle

gd 2015 top five - pokemon shuffle

I always hit a wall in Pokémon Shuffle, and, so far, I always break past it. Might take me a few nights, might take me a week or even a month, and it might take me a number of coins to purchase special power-ups to get the job done. But I persevere. For those that don’t know, it’s a match-three puzzle game where you match cartoon heads of Pokémon to damage the level’s enemy. You get five chances to play before having to wait some silly amount of time to recharge your hearts, but that aspect never bothered me because this was my before-bed experience, burning five hearts. Sometimes making progress, sometimes not–though you are always leveling up your team.

Currently, I’m at level 219 (Spewpa) and plan to keep going. I have no idea how many more levels there are, if there is in fact one for every Pokémon out there. Seems like it keeps getting updated. Pokémon Shuffle is also the third most played game on my Nintendo 3DS according to the stats library, at nearly 65 hours, behind Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Disney Magical World. I expect to be playing this a bunch in 2016, which is the opposite of that other free-to-play Pokémon game that came out this year.

2. Super Mario Maker

gd 2015 top five - super mario maker

As it turns out, I was not able to finish writing about Super Mario Maker before firmly placing this title as my numero two for 2015. The blog post for that is still in the works, so this might seem a little out of nowhere considering I’ve not really talked about it a whole bunch…on Grinding Down.

It’s fantastic, and I’m terrible at half of it. Namely, the half where you construct your own levels. It’s probably the most I’ve ever messed with a create-your-own-level mode other than Super Scribblenauts, and it works just fine, but I think I enjoy playing–and watching others play–Mario levels more than creating them. I constantly check back in to see what new levels will give me cutesy 8-bit costumes, as well as try my hand at a random assortment of levels. Truthfully, I love watching people stream demonically-designed stages and struggle, like with Patrick Klepek and Dan Ryckert’s ongoing feud. There’s a growing community around this game, one I’m finding myself actively participating in.

1. Fallout 4

gd 2015 top five - fallout 4

I finished Fallout 4 the other night out of fear of being spoiled, rushing through the end of the main storyline. If I could go back in time, I’d give a hug at a very specific time in my life, as well as not rush through Fallout 4 like that. It’s not great. In fact, I’d say that it is a better game to play and live in, but not complete. I’ll have some more thoughts on the various lackluster endings at a later date, but despite that, I can’t get enough of this world. It’s open, brimming with items and enemies and places to discover, and while I struggle with a lot of the settlement stuff and house decorating, it’s still something I think about whenever I find a certain item or resource out in the wild. I’m already thinking about other characters to craft and new ways to build up Sanctuary. I’m already planning a run where I’m friends with every faction in the Commonwealth and stop playing main questlines once those are locked in.

As someone who ate up every ounce (or nearly ounce) of Bethesda’s previous open-world games, Fallout 4 did not surprise me or the industry. It’s exactly what you expect it to be. It’s like going home.

There you go.

As many should now know, I did not get to play many newly released games in 2015, and so it was actually slim pickings when it came to my top five for the year. Regardless, I’m happy with them, and wonder what will grip my head and heart next year. Here’s hoping for a few surprises.

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2015

gd 2015 games i didn't get to play sad puppy

Well, lookie here. The year is done, and every single videogame that came out passed through my hands and by my eyes and got a firm, fair opinion. Er, no. That’s not true. Not the “firm, fair opinion” part, because I write what I feel and feel what I write, but rather the can’t argue with that fact that I simply cannot play every big or small game that drops over the course of twelve months. Perhaps one day, when I retire–you know, in something like fifty years, when people are playing videogames embedded in their eyes.

Right. Here’s a short bullet list of the previous entries in this annual Grinding Down fan-favorite feature (I think I’m its only fan, but that still counts):

With all that perfunctory introduction text said, onwards, towards the titles never to be touched, at least not until maybe next year or some time deep into 2017 when they are handed out as freebies on consoles or dumped together in a money-saving bundle…

10. Just Cause 3

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Considering I only began digging into Rico Rodriguez’s wild, chaos-causing antics in Just Cause 2 this past summer and haven’t even hit the 25% completion mark yet, I’ve got a ways to go before I try out that new, fun-looking squirrel suit in Just Cause 3. This new adventure continues to look like a fun time, but I’m in no rush to explore another mass of open, sprawling landscape with things colored red prime for exploding. I mean I could, but I shouldn’t. Not until all of Panau is fire and ash.

9. Rocket League

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I’m only mildly interested in soccer, having been forced to play it a whole bunch as a young boy, and I’m even less interested in cars. Which is funny when you consider that I’m currently shopping around for a new ride. So long as it has plenty of cup holders and working AC, I’m good. But enough about that. Rocket League evidently fuses these two elements to create a futuristic sport that is fun as all gets. I figured that I’d just never play this, seeing as I sided with getting an Xbox One over a PS4, but rumor has it that it’s coming to Microsoft’s bulky console soon enough.

8. Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below


I love the Dragon Quest roleplaying series, but am even more fascinated with its spin-offs, like Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker. I’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game, as these seem too button-mashy for my thumbs, but this one comes with all the iconic and goofy trappings that the RPG series is known for, as well as many smiling slimes to slice. Color me, at the very least, intrigued; plus, it has a wickedly weird title, something I cannot resist and which can only be shortened to…DQH: TWTWATBB.

7. Life is Strange

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I have the first episode on Steam thanks a recent bundle from Humble Bundle, but I still don’t see myself playing this over the next day or so. Regardless, of all the episodic adventure game series that were happening this year, Life is Strange seemed to be the one garnering the most interest. Probably for good reasons. I really enjoyed the studio’s Remember Me and its time-rewinding mechanics, which I know play a part of this game’s plot. I’m eager to see what terrible choices I can make and who will remember what.

6. Volume

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While I might not have enjoyed the repetitive nature of Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, I applauded the effort it took to stretch that content out into something bigger and better than just the ten or so training levels you easily handle in Metal Gear Solid. Volume seems to be a big fan of those levels too, at least from a style and gameplay mechanics perspective. Knowing full well how great of a narrative Mike Bithell was able to create for something like Thomas Was Alone, a simplistic-looking platformer starring colored shapes, I have to imagine there’s a good, cool-as-heck spy story to go along with Volume.

5. Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition


Over the course of 2015, I’ve played a few different match-three style puzzle games, some new and some old–and some of which I never even got to write about, though y’all already know my high and low thoughts on Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight and Pokemon Shuffle. That said, haven’t gotten around to Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition, which seems like your typical addicting match puzzle game, but smeared in all things Nintendo. I see nothing wrong with that. Evidently, this comes bundled with another Puzzle & Dragons game, one more slanted towards acting like a JRPG, and I see nothing wrong with that also.

4. Grow Home

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I’m not going to lie–I miss the days of character-driven platforming games, where the goal was often navigating an open space, while also collecting trinkets and thingamajigs to meet some required demand before hitting the exit. Every day I have to resist popping in my PS2 copies of Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank, to remember what it feels like to jump from one colorful platform via a cartoony character to another. I assure you, it is satisfying. Anyways, out of seemingly nowhere, Ubisoft released Grow Home earlier this year, which stars a goofy robot growing vines and climbing higher into the sky. The graphics are stylish and colorful, and I am super curious to explore this world. Perhaps next year.

3. Her Story

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I don’t know much about Her Story, and I don’t want to know much about Her Story. That’s deliberate. From what I can gather, it is an FMV-driven adventure game where you play a detective, watching clips from taped interviews with a woman involved in some kind of crime. From there, it is up to you to don your deerstalker, take out a pad of paper and pen, and investigate further clips in a database by searching for key words and phrases. Sounds really awesome, especially since I’ve been listening to a lot Serial and watching Making a Murderer this week. The non-professional detective in me is eager to get to work and solve a crime with only my noggin.

2. Undertale

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Alas, I have not lived up to many of my promises in 2015. I was hoping to finally see Final Fantasy IX through to its conclusion, as well as get farther along on the lonely path that is clearing out all the Metal Gear Solid games (more on that in a bit). After those promises, there was another one, unspoken, but beginning to blossom…one that has sat inside my chest since May 2015, eating away at my heart. See, that’s when I, at last, got hold of a copy of EarthBound (as a digital download on the Wii U), a game which Undertale, as far as I know, takes a lot of inspiration from. I’d like to play the former before I touch the latter.

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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I thought I was making good progress on getting through all these Metal Gear Solid games. In 2015, I finished replaying Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and experienced, for the very first time, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. In a way, I was on a roll, but then I hit Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. It’s not that Peace Walker is a bad game; in fact, it has some style to its cutscenes, but is perhaps bloated with far too many teeny tiny missions that take too long to complete, and everything is doled out at the pace of a snail on speed and too much caffeine. All of that is to say that I’m far from the end of it, and even then I still need to get through Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes before I dive into The Phantom Pain, which, from the little I’ve seen, is kind of similar to Peace Walker. Hmm.

So, there’s my list. Ba-dah-dum. It certainly contains some heavy-hitters from the last twelve months, though I’m just happy to not see Fallout 4 on here to tell y’all the truth. I’ll drop a few others that didn’t quite make the above cut, but are games I would have liked to try out this year, but did not: Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 4, Downwell, Happy Home Academy, Emily is Away, and Cibele. I’ll cut it off there for now because, really, truthfully, depressingly, the list is ever endless.

Now what about you reading this here blog of mine? Tell me a game or two that came out in 2015 that, for some reason, you didn’t get to touch whether because it is on a different console or your backlog is simply too massive or your mother declared it too violent for your pubescent eyes or whatever. Go on. Leave a comment. Curious minds want to know, and I’ll see everyone back here in December 2016 for another fantastically depressing list.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap really makes you shrink

gd early impressions The-Legend-of-Zelda The Minish Cap

Don’t ask me why, but I often like to begin playing a new game–well, new to me, that is–during the Thanksgiving holiday break, with me digging into Metroid II: Return of Samus and Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters in the past. Well, this year, I only had my Nintendo 3DS with me as I traveled down to South Jersey for turkey, Christmas tree decorating, and too much Black Friday shopping even during “regular” hours, and while I dabbled in my daily staples of Pokémon Shuffle and Nintendo Badge Arcade…I wanted something fresher. You know, from 2005, the era of the Game Boy Advance. Enter The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.

This is also one of those freebie 3Ds Ambassador titles given to all us early investors, of which I’ve played just about all of them for various lengths of time. You can read some words on things like Kirby and The Amazing Mirror, Metroid Fusion, and Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 by clicking this very sentence. I think the only one left for me to really try, and maybe write about some day, is Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.

The Minish Cap‘s quest begins when Link, who I renamed Pauly, is chosen by the king of Hyrule to seek the help of the Picori after Vaati destroyed the Picori Blade and petrified Princess Zelda. Also, evil monsters are now running rampant in Hyrule, with Vaati creating as much chaos as possible in his search for the Light Force. Link was selected for this journey because he’s able to see and interact with the Minish, a race of small, elf-like people. Along the way, Link rescues Ezlo, a strange being resembling a green cap with a bird-like head, who joins him and is able to shrink the leading adventurer to the size of the Minish.

The basic gameplay is nearly identical to previous games in the series, with Link acquiring items, exploring dungeons, and defeating bosses for extra hearts and story-vital trinkets. The two stand-out elements that make this GBA adventure unique, as far as I can tell, involve Link shrinking down to the size of an ant and fusing kinstones. The former is used to open up new areas to explore, but also provides some stunning visuals, with plants now as large as trees and shoes on a tabletop a major roadblock. You see tiny doors everywhere, but you can only shrink in specific areas, which means you have to either figure out how to get there or come back later on when, I assume, you kill and roast Ezlo, gaining his powers by piercing his duck-like flesh with your cartoony chompers.

Fusing kinstones, is really addicting, mostly because it is really rewarding, and I hope the loop of finding a kinstone, fusing it with someone, going out for that revealed treasure, and finding more kinstones never fades. Basically, kinstones are items you collect as you cut grass and attack enemies, and back in town, if a person has a bubble over their head, you can take your half of a kinstone and match it with theirs. If they complete each other, something will reveal itself on the Hyrule map. So far, it’s been rupees, entrances to hidden areas, and more difficult enemies that drop a lot of money.

Look, I’m playing The Minish Cap with a guide open next to me on my laptop; however, I am not following the guide line by line. In the past, I’ve struggled to get through many quests involving Link, Princess Zelda, and the Tri-Force because I either get lost or forget where I need to go next or simply walk away from the journey for too long. There’s a reason why I still haven’t gotten through The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and it’s because every random chance I hop back into it…I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, what world I’m supposed to explore. Anyways, at any time, you can press “select” to get a clue as to where to go next from Ezlo, but even that is not always crystal clear. My greatest fear is returning to a dungeon I already completed and spending a chunk of time in it before realizing I’m supposed to be elsewhere, using that boomerang. So I’m only using the guide to keep me on the main path; I will not let The Minish Cap suffer the same fate as Link’s Awakening.

I’m really enjoying it, and, through glancing at the guide, The Minish Cap doesn’t seem to be the longest of Link’s adventures. That’s fine by me. There’s only a month left for 2015, and I have a number of other conquests to see done before 2016 comes crashing into my face. Cue panic face.

Pay for 3DS home menu cosmetics through Nintendo Badge Arcade

nintendo badge crane arcade gd impressions

Growing up near both the Atlantic City boardwalk and Ocean City boardwalk, I’ve seen my fair share of crane games. If you don’t know what they are, they are this: vending machines that consist of prizes, usually plush toys or alternatives, which can be acquired by steering a claw crane over them, lowering to grab hold, and then, if you were lucky enough to capture something, dropping it down a chute so that you can rub it against your childish face with glee. Anyways, while I’ve seen a bunch, I’ve played very few, often because, even at a young age, I knew they were a gamble, one slanted a little far to the unfair side of things.

Thankfully, things are monetarily safer with Nintendo Badge Arcade. In fact, the game’s nameless bunny host, who I’ll talk more about in a bit, repeatedly informs you that you don’t have to actually spend real-life cash to play, that there are other ways to earn free plays at the themed crane machines. One almost gets the sense that both this bunny and Nintendo are just as hesitant as–and I’m theorizing here–the player is about paying $1.00 for five chances at moving a crane to the left and then down. Either way, your rewards are badges, though some appear to have sharp tips on the back, making me think of them more as pins than anything else.

What can you do with these prizes, you ask? Not much. They are collectibles, and you can then decorate your home menu with them on the Nintendo 3DS. I layered an 8-bit Mario sprite badge on top of the folder that contains all my Mario games, as well as did the same for my Legend of Zelda titles by using a blue octorok–here’s hoping I get something a bit more iconic down the road–but you can also place the badges anywhere in the menu to create cute or inventive scenarios and such. I’m not ready for that. You can also purchase matching themes to work cooperatively with a set of badges. I’m mostly into the badges that can replace certain applications, but still function as activating them; for example, I now have a Yoshi-themed badge to launch into my library stats thing. I want more of them.

Nintendo Badge Arcade‘s claw crane mechanic works as you expect it to. Simply press and hold a button to begin moving it over to the left and release when you want it to stop and lower. If you did it right, then sit back and watch as the claw does the rest. If you done goofed, then my sympathy. I did play one machine that featured a hammer instead of a claw, and the hammer swings forward, hitting everything in its path towards the chute. I got like three or four more badges on this machine.

By far, the most appealing thing about this free-to-play app is its host, which is a charismatic and energetic pink bunny. Who cuts through the cheddar and speaks as plain as possible about what this program is and how you do not have to spend any money on it…though it would help keep the lights on and bills paid if you do. This bunny will randomly change into costumes and other things, as well as promote a Nintendo game in a surprisingly candid and conversationally manner. Heck, I actually felt a slight ping of interest in The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes after speaking with Badge Business Bunny–that’s what I’m going to call him–for a minute or two. Maybe I’m just a sucker for trivia.

I expect to not drop a single ounce of real-life money on Nintendo Badge Arcade, but do see myself checking in every night alongside Pokemon Shuffle as my once-per-day go at progress. The practice claw machine may or may not provide me with free plays, but it’s worth a shot and won’t take very long. I’m definitely interested in more of the app replacement badges, as well as all things related to Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Perhaps I can have Sylvia back in my life after all.