Category Archives: nintendo 3DS

Anticipating the strangeness that is Nintendo’s Tomodachi Life

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Over the years here on Grinding Down, I’ve gotten further and further away from what other websites might call “preview coverage” of the videogames still to come out. Mainly the ones I’m interested in. Which is, without a doubt, dozens upon dozens. Really, I want to play just about anything, though we all know, based on time, money, and the consoles I do own, that is never going to happen. Instead, I prefer to wait until I can actually get my stumpy little hands on the game and experience it for myself, that way the words I’m writing at least come out with confidence and a certainty that you can’t get by imagining what a game might be like. I mean, I remember thinking Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, based on a few screenshots alone, was going to be awesomely magical, and it was everything but that.

Wait, wait, wait. Before we begin, let me give y’all my early thoughts on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. If two full-fledged games and 492 packs of DLC were not enough to sate your hunger for guns and loot and farming pearls, good news–there’s going to be more Borderlands action for you. It’s set on the moon. A new move lets you “ground pound.” You can play as the wise-cracking Claptrap. I’m just setting myself up for disappointment here, as I’m probably going to pick up regardless because, well, I find the gameplay pretty addicting. There, I came clean.

Moving on. Let’s talk about Tomodachi Life, recently announced today in an unannounced Nintendo Direct to be coming out for the Nintendo 3DS this summer (June 6, 2014 to be exact), right around the same time Animal Crossing: New Leaf dropped last year. It’s the localization version of Tomodachi Collection, a unique mash-up of The Sims playful style of gameplay using your customized Miis for a whole bunch of zany nonsense. I think nonsense is a great descriptor for Tomodachi Life, and if you don’t believe, please do watch that Nintendo Direct again. Eyes open, mind open. As of late, Nintendo’s not been afraid to get weird, and I’m really digging that mentality. However, they need to figure out what they prefer–unwavering loyalty to the classic franchises to the point that they feel unnecessary, such as with Yoshi’s New Island, or mixing things up with oddball titles like NES Remix and Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball.

So, what is Tomodachi Life? Well, from the outside looking in, it’s your own personal soap opera. You fill a town with Miis–ones you’ve created or gotten from StreetPassing and so on–and you give all of these Miis distinct personalities. Digitalized voices too. After that, a lot of what happens in this alternate reality is…well, out of your hands. You and your Miis will go on adventures, fall in love, break hearts, be weird, dream a little dream, sing songs, etc. For those looking for a little more guidance, Miis have specific desires for food, clothes, other accessories, and even relationships, and they will sometimes want to play minigames with you, one of which looks like a turn-based RPG in the same vein as Find Mii. It’s not a day-to-day simulation á la Animal Crossing, more like checking in on your gaggle of Miis and seeing what trouble they get into. I personally hope to fall in love with Samus Aran and woo her away from Iwata.

Just like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Tomodachi Life supports Nintendo’s Image Share tool, which means you can expect my Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages to be constantly updated with the batshit antics my Mii gets up to. This push for social media interactivity makes perfect sense for this kind of game, where it is all about the seemingly unexplainable moments. Now you can just share them with everybody else with the click of a couple of buttons and watch the “likes” roll in.

Lastly, and let this be understood–the existence of Tomodachi Life on U.S. shores is a great thing, as it means there’s still hope for Fantasy Life. You haven’t forgotten about that one, have you? I certainly haven’t.

See you next year at Festivale, Pavé

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Everyone plays Animal Crossing: New Leaf differently, and that’s a scientific fact, proven by science. Or me just assuming. One of those two. Some people make a bee-line for each and every bell, in hopes of paying off their entire house before focusing on anything else. Others tackle one Public Works project after the other, sprucing up the look and originality of their town, and then there are those that put all their energy into getting every fish, bug, and fossil they come across. I’m all of those people at varying times, but last night I did something I’ve never done before in an Animal Crossing adventure–I grinded.

First, let me talk a bit about snowflakes and Snowmam. During the winter, you can build four different types of snowpeople by rolling specific-sized snowballs into each other. There’s a Snowman, Snowmam, Snowboy, and Snowtyke. Each gives you special pieces of furniture and wallpaper in their own distinct way. I went through the entire winter season never getting anything from a Snowboy or Snowtyke, but the Snowman plays BINGO with you, giving you something once you hit five numbers in a row. As for the Snowmam, she asks you to collect falling snowflakes and in return gives you a piece of Ice furniture. I did this for a while, but only got a few pieces before I lost interest in the tediously simple process and stuck with playing BINGO, which, while annoying at times, at least kept things unexpected.

Well, whatever. Winter is over, but only in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. There’s still plenty of snow and cold temperatures outside in Pennsylvania to argue otherwise. Bring on Festivale, which is a spring event that happens in February or March, depending on the year. It mirrors Mardi Gras and Carnival, a holiday celebrated worldwide. Pavé the peacock hosts the event in front of the Town Tree. As it is an all-day festival of color, costumes, and craziness, there is no snow or rain during the entire day. Confetti constantly falls from the sky, and if you look close enough, you can see colored feathers in the mix. Bring enough of a specific color to Pavé, usually three, and he’ll reward you with an item from the Pavé series of furniture. If you find a rare rainbow-colored feather, all you have to do is bring him one of those to get an item. Also, you can interact with your villagers to trade feathers or win them in mini-games, such as charades and rock, paper, scissors.

Now, I totally missed out on both the Harvest Festival and Toy Day due to the fact that both of those fall on the respective U.S. holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that time is spent traveling and drinking wine and being full of food. By the time I had turned on my 3DS, the events were all over–which is a shame. And not. But it is heart-twisting to miss out on these special moments and the chance to earn some rare pieces of furniture. And so I decided to make the most out of Festivale as I could, running up and down and all around Arni in search of the specific feathers, trading when I can, and dumping not needed items on the ground to save inventory space. It’s actually harder than it sounds, as the feather drop rate–slowly falling rate?–is low, and you can never predict who has what color of feathers and are willing to trade. Seemed like any time I had three of one color, Pavé wanted three of a completely different shade. I’d say I put a total of three hours of devotion into this grinding task and came away with about half of the Pavé items for it.

Here’s a list of what I ultimately earned:

  • Pavé Bed
  • Pavé Bookshelf
  • Pavé Bureau
  • Pavé Chair
  • Pavé Chest
  • Pavé Closet
  • Pavé End Table
  • Pavé Floor
  • Pavé Lamp
  • Pavé Sofa
  • Pavé Table
  • Pavé Wall
  • Pavé Clock

Grr. Waah. I think I have duplicates of the Pavé chair and table if anyone wants to trade. Otherwise, I gotta wait a whole year now to try again, and that stinks as I also happen to really love the look of this series. It has a sort of retro kitchen cabin-like look to it, with the blue and white. I’d save the multitude of feathers I still have in my pockets, but my storage space is actually quite limited as is, so I think I’ll save a green feather to wear and sell the rest. Oh well. Until next time, you beautiful picture of a peacock!

The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2013

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Well, I’m not gonna deny it–this year went fast. Except for June through July, but that always seems to drag by due to non-gaming reasons I won’t get into, but otherwise, the months really did seem to slip by. This was extremely noticeable once I began to actually work at my “five games I want to beat in 2013″ checklist, and it seems like I was only able to polish off three out of five: Chrono Cross, Silent Hill 2, and Primal. I’m pretty proud of that, but I probably should have started much earlier than the summer. However, I did complete a good number of games over the past three hundred and sixty-five days, and one might consider some of them big AAA titles that are probably going to be on everyone’s final praise list, such as BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V, though they absolutely won’t make mine. Sorry, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my game of the year; just deal with it.

Once more, here’s what I didn’t get to play last year, the year before that, and the year before that:

Also, do not worry: I have plenty of sad puppy photos to do this kind of post for many more years, so long as videogames keep coming out and I keep not playing ‘em. That sounded more threatening than I originally wanted. But enough behind-the-scenes talk. Let’s get into the meat of this yearly post, shall we? The meaty meat, I mean.

10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

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Sounds like this is a return to form, though the last Assassin’s Creed game I played was Brotherhood, so hopefully people are meaning that game. I’ve kept my distance from the franchise since then for good reasoning, as the later games have seemed repetitive, clunky, and sub-par, but I do enjoy pirates and the ship-based combat looks kind of neat. I wonder if the multiplayer is still there, as that is surprisingly an enjoyable slice of cat-and-mouse. This could be a really perfect summer time-sink for 2014, though I still also have an untouched copy of Assassin’s Creed II in my backlog to get to as well. Hmm.

9. Saints Row IV

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Originally, the Saints Row series was just another take on Grand Theft Auto, if a bit more ambitious and zany. I never got into it until Saints Row: The Third, and that was only after hearing the Giant Bomb staff praise and praise and praise it. I’m glad I finally listened to them, as I absolutely loved my role as the leader of the purple-clad gang on the rise, but I haven’t made the jump to Saints Row IV yet, as this year I gave my time and money to Grand Theft Auto V instead. I probably choose poorly. In this one, you can literally jump up to rooftops, thanks to alien superpowers. However, the console versions don’t sound up to par to the PC, but I don’t have a great gaming computer so I might just let this one slip by entirely.

8. Tomb Raider

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Here’s a little known fact about me: I’ve only played the original Tomb Raider. That’s right. Just the first one, and I remember it fondly, despite it probably aging terribly. My copy sits proudly next to Suikoden and Suikoden II. The sense of exploration was fully realized–for the time–and I loved how the game slowly revealed its supernatural hand with each level. Like Indiana Jones, a perfect mix of serious and silly. This 2013 reboot looks gritty and grimy and throws Lara in one terrible situation after the next, but sounds well done. Plus, she can use a bow for stealth kills. Mmm. Stealthy. Rhianna Pratchett wrote the script, which gives me hope that Lara, as a person, is more fleshed out here as well.

7. Rogue Legacy

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I enjoy rogue-likes because, for me, they don’t ask for much. You can do a run, and if things end terribly, then that’s it. Try again. Conversely, if you’re on a hot streak, every action, jump, and sword swing becomes stressfully vital. This is why I continue to poke at The Binding of Isaac, in hopes of hitting a lucky note and making it to Mom easily, brimming with powers and extra hearts. Alas, that’s not happened yet–but it totally could one day. Rogue Legacy seems to share a lot of that, with the neat mechanic of playing as the children of whatever character you just got killed. These kids acquire different traits–such as colorblindness and vertigo–which affects how you move through the main castle. It’ll probably end up in a Humble Bundle some time in 2014.

6. The Last of Us

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Look, I barely got through Silent Hill 2 this year. Horror-themed games are very difficult for me to keep my cool in, and it sounds like the majority of the combat scenarios have you creeping around enemies, trying not to make a sound. That sounds fine to me, actually, but the monster designs and sounds they make are very unnerving, and I just don’t think I could ever get through The Last of Us, which is a dang shame, as it certainly sounds like an amazing–if depressing–experience.

5. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

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The last Mario-based RPG I played, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, and so I remained skeptic when a new one came out, even though it lives in an entirely different franchise. However, according to some reviews, it sounded like this one was maybe too hand-holdy, which is funny because Sticker Star couldn’t lift a finger to help you out. When I bought Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection, I also grabbed a used copy of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story on the Nintendo DS for free. I suspect I’ll give that one a go and if I love the mechanics and all that jazz will move on to the newer iteration.

4. Super Mario 3D World

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Super Mario 3D Land is one of the rare 3DS titles that I continue to pop back into the handheld and fart around in for a few minutes, always with the hope of earning a couple more stars. See, I’m in the post-completion content, but only halfway through it, so there’s still plenty more to see. And it sounds like Super Mario 3D World is all that and more…and on a console, which is where I’d truly rather be playing my plumber-based platformers. Throw in a silly cat theme, and I’m salivating from the mouth. Alas, no Wii U in this house, and still no interest in getting one any time soon unless there’s a big price drop or more interesting games in the pipeline. Sorry, I have no interest in the Smashing Bros.

3. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

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Love me my LEGO videogames, and I haven’t played one since LEGO Lord of the Rings, which means Tara and I are severely overdue for some co-op funtimes. Any will do, really, but I’d rather side with Iron Man and Wolverine over Batman and Superman. That’s right. I’ve always been a Marvel fan before a DC one. The formula doesn’t look to have changed one block–hub world, individual levels, a billion things to collect and unlock–but that’s okay, because at least I know what I’m getting here.

2. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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The subject matter of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, two siblings on a mission to save their deathly ill father, hits a little too close to home for me, and so I doubt I’ll ever get around to playing it. It’s not a direct parallel to my life, but there are enough elements present to put more weight on my shoulders, push me closer to the ground. Yes, I suffer from depression and would rather avoid mediums that enhance my feelings of hopelessness. I do love the idea of controlling two separate players with both analog sticks, but ibb and obb showed me just how difficult this could be for my brain to wrap its mind around. Also, Ni no Kuni did it first. I suspect the Giant Bomb podcasts will end up spoiling the story’s key moments and ending.

1. Gone Home

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Sigh. My gaming laptop is really great for playing indie Flash games or point-and-click adventure games that don’t require too much in terms of software. In the past, I’ve been able to play bigger productions, like Red Faction: Armageddon, but only if I turned down every setting, and even then it’s a bit rubbish. Same goes for Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim; there is no draw distance because I can only see a few inches in front of my character. All of that is to say that I don’t think I can run Gone Home at the required settings to do it justice. Evidently, the game is loaded with high resolution posters, pictures, notes, and so on, and a big part is exploring the house and looking at stuff up close. I have no other way to play Gone Home, so hopefully it’ll come to consoles at some point, but I kind of doubt it.

Well, there you go. Or rather, there I go, not playing all these games. Of course, there’s more that didn’t make the list, such as Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable, but I had to draw a line somewhere. Given that I still haven’t played a few games from the previous lists yet–hello, Portal 2!–I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting to see me get to all of these next year. Maybe one or two. Plus a ton of older games. Can’t forget about the PS1 and PS2.

Anyways, what games did you miss out on this year? Shout ‘em out in despair in the comments section below.

My five favorite games in 2013

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Well, it’s here. The end of the year. That special time when one sits and thinks about all the months that came before, and the interactive media that helped pass the hours, enjoyably or not. This post is about the stars, the winners, the smile-makers–not the clunkers, many of which I managed to avoid thanks to keen eyes and a tightened wallet.

As Grinding Down readers are most likely to know already, I’m not always able to play a lot of the big AAA titles that come out in over the swoosh of the past three hundred and sixty-five days, though I try now and then to at least sample a few of them. Click this very sentence for the full list of games I went through in 2013. For instance, this year, I did experience both BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V, but the truth of the matter is that those two titles are, unfortunately, pretty mediocre–to me. Remember, this is my list, my favorite games that I have greatly enjoyed playing and am still playing, and I’d completely understand if you’d want to fight me tooth and nail in defense of why the combat in Infinite is more than just a means to pad out the story or why Los Santos is the most sandboxy sandbox that ever sandboxed, but your cries fall upon deaf ears. I like what I like, and there’s nothing you can do to make me swing the other way.

Fine. Let’s not dress this up any more than necessary. Without further wandering, these are my five favorite games from 2013.

Doritos Crash Course 2

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I bet you’re scratching your collective heads over this one. Number five on my list is a sponsored free-to-play sequel with microtransactions to a sponsored free-to-play side-scrolling platformer that was solid fun, but limited in variety, and you probably think that sounds absolutely terrible. Maybe in writing it does, but I can’t get over how fun running, jumping, sliding, and climbing to the end of every obstacle course is in Doritos Crash Course 2. I continue to play it and earn stars, always striving for a better time on some levels or that occasionally elusive gold medal. The game is also constantly comparing your score with those on your friends list, giving you extra incentive to do better.

Thankfully, the microtransactions are completely ignorable, though earning more stars to unlock new levels or alternate paths might feel like a grind to some, but I enjoy both racing through a course to be first and going back a second time to slowly find all the collectibles. The level designs are pretty imaginative–there’s a tropical jungle and ancient Egypt and so on–and the music that plays when you cross the finish line is catchy and forever burned in my brain. If you have an Xbox 360, this is the free game to download and devote yourself to, not Happy Wars or Ascend: Hand of Kul.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

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So far, I’ve only played Fire Emblem: Awakening once, and I suspect I will never go back to it, since I played the game with permadeath on and those that fell in battle truly fell in battle for me. That’s how my story went. Just like how I play Telltale’s The Walking Dead. In fact, I documented every death that happened–21 in total, I believe was the final count–and you can read about each sad story by sifting through this tag. I can understand why many chose not to play with permadeath on or would constantly reload a previous save if things went awry, because I ended up missing out on a lot of content by losing a good number of men and women. Mostly marriage and future kid stuff, but that element of the game is fascinating and fun, thanks to really quirky, fantastic writing. I’d have loved to see more pairings.

Strategy RPGs are very hit or miss with me, but something about the rock, paper, scissors nature of the battle system was easy to grasp, even if it could lethally bite you in the ass if you moved a flier too close to an archer. Leveling up and selecting new roles added just the perfect amount of customization that I’m always looking for, and Fire Emblem: Awakening‘s presentation, cutscenes, sound, and voice acting was beyond amazing. Really superb stuff. Just ignore the fact that nobody has feet.

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale

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Like playing a Hayao Miyazaki film. Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is a small, quiet game, which ironically tells the story of giant monsters that eventually fight each other just above a rather quaint village. It’s a love letter to a childhood I imagine I had, even if I didn’t because I grew up in South Jersey, not rural Japan. There’s not a lot of game here save for collecting sparkly glims and battling friends in a card-based minigame, but, as Sohta, you’ll come to know the town and its streets rather intimately, as well as the relaxing drone of cicadas. Exploration, learning, and being a kid are the key themes here, and even when things get weird, they remain charming as heck. Absolutely the standout when it comes to Level-5′s Guild series, even if the digital dice-rolling in Crimson Shroud is freakishly satisfying. It’s not a long gaming experience, but rather a lasting one.

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

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I just finished this up over the weekend, and I’m not even mad that it ends with a clunky, finger-tiring QTE. I’m not even mad, bro. Thieves in Time will stand the test of time as another great entry in the Sly Cooper series, and that’s saying a lot since it was not developed by the original creators at Sucker Punch Productions.

Sanzaru Games clearly saw what were the best elements from the original trilogy–open world, a variety of missions, fun-to-get collectibles–and added their own fancy ingredients, like ancestors with unique powers, to make a solid, time-hopping adventure. The cutesy, goofy characters and Saturday morning cartoon vibe is retained, as are Sly’s ability to climb up nearly everything and make a swift trip from rooftop to rooftop. Love it so very much. I have to still go back for some hidden treasures, but I’m kind of waiting for Giant Bomb‘s 2013 GOTY podcasts to go up, as I can do that while I listen to them argue with each other. This came out early in 2013 at a budget price, with cross-buy too for the PS Vita. However, it was unfortunately easy to miss. Glad I got to it this year.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

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Hmm. Where do I begin? I guess at the beginning. I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf every day–or just about every day–since it came out. Sometimes it is only for ten minutes, which is just enough time to find fossils, hit the money rock, say hi to my favorite resident Sylvia, and visit the shop, and other times it can be around 45 minutes to an hour, where I’ll spend more time fishing or maybe visiting the summer island or just goofing off with Tara. There’s both always things to do and emergent gameplay to be found. My house is barely paid off, as I have enjoyed expanding Arni more with public projects, like building the police station, the cafe, and, most recently, the Dream Suite.

The improvements over Wild World are both extremely noticeable and great. You can now stack fruit in your inventory, select multiple fossils for Blathers to assess in one gulp, switch between tools with the d-pad, and so on. Plus, you can take screenshots and share them online on all the usual social media hotspots, which I love doing, even if they probably drive my 3DS-less sister mad with jealousy. There’s just something so amazing about a game that is more interested in constantly rewarding you for your hard work than berating you to constantly do better. With holiday events, visiting guests, and fishing/bug collecting tournaments, you’re never without something to look forward to. In fact, every Saturday night, I turn on Animal Crossing: New Leaf and go watch K.K. Slider perform to earn a new song for my astro CD player to blast out. This game is very much part of my life again, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

And there’s my list. I’m pretty pleased with it, though I do wish I had gotten to a couple other big name games–or big name indie games, if that’s a thing–in 2013. Stay tuned for that list maybe later this week. Anyways, that’s my five. What were some of your favorite games this year?

I’ve never been and never will be a Mega Man

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Before I talk about my lackluster performance so far in Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge, which I picked up for a cheap deal of two bucks on the Nintendo 3DS the other night, let me share with y’all my history with Keiji Inafune’s robotic humanoid servant-turned-hero franchise, which I like greatly from a distance, but have never really enjoyed playing most of the games, save for Mega Man Legends, the shiniest diamond in the dirtiest rough.

Shocking as this may read, I didn’t pick up my first Mega Man game until I had my SNES. Yup, my first experience of running and jumping and shooting enemy bots with balls of energy didn’t happen until Mega Man X, some ten iterations after, uh…I don’t know. And maybe not exactly ten, given the number of spin-offs and such, but whatever. I’m not going to go through the list and count them up, but I’m sure many started somewhere else in its early years, with either the original game or maybe Mega Man 3. I do remember hanging out at a neighbor’s house, watching them play one of these earlier games–whatever one had you in the clouds, jumping on those floating faces that had spikes rising up from the sides of its head–but I was always a quiet, timid kid, and so I simply watched them try to reach the level’s Robot Master and did nothing more until many years later when I had a Super Nintendo console of all my own.

Call me kooky, but I find it rather fitting that the first Mega Man game for the SNES was also my first Mega Man game. I mean, that system and me–to use this generation’s language: SO MANY FEELS. From what I can tell, there’s also a more substantial story in the X series to follow than the older games gave out, which was basically a handful of levels to run through, get to the boss, beat it, and use its power on other bosses. Good job, robot. You win. Mega Man X takes place in a futuristic world inhabited by both humans and Reploids, which are robots capable of emotions. Alas, because of that, Reploids are prone to criminal activity, and those bad boys are labelled Mavericks and no longer invited to Bots Night Out, which happens every Thursday after work. Anyway, you play as Mega Man X, an android member of the military task force Maverick Hunters, and it’s up to you–along with the help of Zero–to stop Sigma, a Maverick leader intent on human extinction. It’s pretty fun and relatively easy when compared to other adventures, but I remember it fondly, especially finding all the hidden suit upgrade chambers.

Since the Mega Man X days, the only other traditional Mega Man games I’ve dabbled in would be Mega Man 8 for the PS1, Mega Man 9 for the PS3, and Mega Man 10 for the PS3. When I say dabbled, I mean that. I pick a level, make a decent attempt at it, and don’t get very far, especially when disappearing platforms are involved. There’s just always been something about the platforming that I’ve never been good at. Or maybe it has to do with how quickly our blue-suited hero loses health. Yeah, let’s go with both of those for escape goats. Other related titles in my collection include Mega Man X7…and that’s it. Sadly, there will be no Mega Man Legends 3. Ever.

Hmm. I guess I should get back to talking about Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge now. I mean, really, that’s the true topic at hand. Sometimes I get lost reminiscing. My bad. This spin-off title originally for the Game Boy continues Mega Man’s adventures as he once again confronts Dr. Wily and his slew of revived Robot Masters, as well as a special “Mega Man Killer” called Enker. There are four initial stages and bosses (Cut Man, Ice Man, Fire Man, and Elec Man), all from the original Mega Man. Later, you can take on another four levels and bosses from Mega Man 2–if you get that far. And then, if you’ve gotten that far, I believe there’s one more level to go to stop Dr. Wily for the time being.

Like I said, I’m strangely rubbish at these games, and I really don’t understand why. I do just fine in other platformers, though I can’t really think of any at the moment that specifically follow Mega Man in style and skill. Duck Tales for the NES? Cave Story? But these levels here are exceptionally difficult, and I haven’t even made it to a boss fight yet. Little to no room for error. Also, whenever Mega Man takes damage, he slides back a teensy bit, which means don’t get hit when standing on a thin, narrow ledge. There’s no actual save slot, but a built-in password system will help you keep your progress intact; however, as soon as I get far enough that I feel proud of, I’m going to also rightly abuse the Nintendo 3DS’s Restore function. One other complaint I have is that the sprites are huge. Massively so. Which can be problematic as you can only fit so much on one screen and can’t see what dangers lie ahead, leading me to jump and shoot at the same time for nearly every jump at the far right side of the screen. This was fine in Metroid II where you’re not going to lose a ton of progress from falling into an open pit. But no, not here. The screen needs to be zoomed out by another 25%.

So, two dollars well spent? Probably not. Just two dollars spent.

Everything old is new again in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

TLOZ A Link Between Worlds early impressions

The first thing I did when I got my copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is make a silly Vine video. However, the second thing I did, once the game opened up enough to allow me the freedom to explore, was travel this way and that way and every way possible across the Hyrule map, seeing all my old stomping grounds. Because, in case it wasn’t clear from Grinding Down‘s never-changing header image, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my absolute favorite game of all the times, of all time. It is only closely followed by Suikoden II. And I, more or less, know it by heart.

To be honest, when ALBW was first announced, I was put off. Very put off. How dare Nintendo create something that seems to exist solely to play with my childhood and early gaming experience nostalgia! HOW DARE THEY. And even as time went on, as previews and early impressions leaked out to the public and even final copy reviews, I refused to give in. No, I will not stand for this. I cannot. This game needed no direct sequel, and all they really had to do was put ALTTP on the 3DS eShop and watch the rupees flood in.

For one, I thought Nintendo’s newest take on Link and Zelda and the realm of Hyrule looked terrible, like some kind of knockoff, straight-to-DVD version called The Tale of Telba: Princess Panic that you’d find in the bargain bin and toss aside without a second glance. When you think about it, the newest game’s graphics are that way and not SNES era sprite-based because you are playing on the Nintendo 3DS, a system able to produce 3D effects sans glasses. However, by the time ALBW came out, Nintendo itself was over the gimmick–and rightly so–but it had been produced that way for a reason from the very start. Which is a shame. I’d rather have had what looked like ALTTP and no 3D than what we have now, even if it does look pretty nifty in a few cinematic spots.

I’ve only played about an hour or so of ALBW since Tara and I were playing catch-up with The Walking Dead, and it’s nice and bouncy and brimming with wonder, but I’m not sure if those warm, fuzzy feelings in my belly are because the game itself is fun or if it’s just reminding me very much of the same kind of fun I had in ALTTP. I guess that’s going to be the real question throughout is whether or not I enjoyed this very same dungeon more some twenty-two years ago or if the new twist on it is enough to warrant it some distinction.

ALBW opens innocently enough: Gulley, the blacksmith’s son, wakes Link up because he has a job to do, which is deliver a finished sword to the Captain at Hyrule Castle. Why Gulley himself couldn’t do this is beyond me. However, Link eventually finds the Captain stuck inside the Sanctuary by a mysterious man called Yuga–hey, that’s A GUY backwards–who turned the Sanctuary’s minister Seres into a painting before running off. Princess Zelda informs Link that he has to obtain the three Pendants of Power to gain the Master Sword, which can defeat Yuga, and yadda yadda yadda. You kinda know the drill by now. Oh, and thanks to some strange, purple rabbit squatting in your house, Link now also has the power to turn into a painting and move along walls and into cracks.

While I still stand by my negative reaction to how the game looks, thankfully it plays like a dream. Moving around with the circle pad instead of the d-pad makes for speedy trekking, and slashing at grass, firing arrows into trees, and bothering chickens is just as enjoyable as it once was. Navigating Hyrule is a joy thanks to the timeless, slightly remixed tunes, as well as the ability for fast travel via a witch’s broomstick. You can also now acquire all of the items before tackling a dungeon by renting them from that previously mentioned purple rabbit. This allows you to take on the dungeons in your order of choice, which sounds really awesome. Alas, so far, I’ve only done the first mandatory one at the Eastern Palace so I can’t speak to exactly how effective this works. There’s definitely a lot of new stuff here to do–that chicken-avoiding mini-game in Kakariko Village is silly fun–and collect, and a lot of other parts have been streamlined for playing portably, which is always appreciated.

I’ll definitely be eating up more ALBW over the upcoming holiday break, but don’t also be surprised to hear that I went through the trouble of dusting off and hooking up my SNES to play the realest, most amazing Hyrule adventure that Link ever played part in. You know that which I speak of. It’s the one that begins with, “Help me… Please help me… I am a prisoner in the dungeon
of the castle. My name is Zelda.”

Checking back in with Pokemon Y and my team of monsters

pokemon y checkin

For the last few weeks, it’s been a mini-game of swap city on my Nintendo 3DS. I’ll play a little bit of Animal Crossing: New Leaf before bed, take the cartridge out, pop in Pokemon Y, and play a little bit of that. Eventually, I’ll remember that I have a loan to pay off and quite an important job to do as mayor of Arni, and so the cycle returns to where it started. It’s not the worst problem in the world, but I am beginning to see the benefits of owning digital copies of these large portable games as, strangely, I find removing carts from the 3DS to be a troublesome process. In my mind, it’s as laborious as lifting boulders over your head. One day, I’ll have to look deeper at this quirk of mine.

When last I talked about Pokemon Y here on Grinding Down, I had played maybe about five hours. That meant starting out slow and perfunctory as has been the case in all previous Pokemon game romps I’ve experienced, taking care of the first gym and doing some story-related stuff that blocked forward progress. Truthfully, it mostly involved wandering around tall grass and collecting as many fun-looking pocket monsters as I could with my limited amount of money and Pokeballs, as that Pokedex simply won’t fill itself out. The jerk.

But now I’ve played for a total of fifteen hours and have gotten the chance to see the Kalos region a bit more. Okay, okay–fifteen hours and seven minutes, for those that must really know. After kicking the butts of four gym leaders and earning their respective badges, as well as providing a swift beatdown to Team Flare to get the power back on in Lumiose City, my team looks like so:

  • Delphox, LV 45 – nicknamed Fenny
  • Talonflame, LV. 43 – nicknamed Flit
  • Blastoise, LV 42 – nicknamed Urtle
  • Roselia, LV. 41 – nicknamed Rosebud

There are two other spots on my team that are, for lack of a better way to say it, temporarily filled. I couldn’t even tell you what two Pokemon are there–as they don’t matter. They are just there to fill the gaps just in case and gain some EXP after battles thanks to the new rules of EXP Share. However, I do hope before the end-game fights start to find better replacements. I’m most definitely, no doubt in all the galaxy, saving a spot for a Garbodor, but the other slot is open territory. I guess I probably need to pick a Fairy-type Pokemon soon and stick with it, as I’m sure a Dragon-based gym is on the horizon, but I don’t have one that I really like just yet. Please suggest something other than Jigglypuff.

I don’t know if the gyms have been designed to feature easier progress-blocking Trainers with fewer challenging Pokemon to throw at you or if I’m a lot better at Pokemon Y than I originally thought, but it’s been smooth sailing since Day 1. I’ve not died once yet, and maybe that means my team is a bit overpowered. My starter Delphox is ferocious, able to wipe an opponent out in a single breath (of fire). Should they all be more around LV 35-37? Well, you can blame the EXP Share for that then, as it helps keep everyone growing, everyone improving. But yeah, it’s been extremely easy, which makes for a very lax gaming experience. I’m not terribly bothered by this, as I found Pokemon Black 2 to be pretty difficult and off-putting in its later half, and maybe Pokemon Y will get there too, though I kind of doubt it. This is the game Nintendo needed to sell a lot of 2DS and 3DS systems, and no one likes a game too difficult to play, unless you’re a sicko and into things like Dark Souls.

So, I’m about halfway through Pokemon Y‘s main story stuff, but after all that is dead and done this might be the first game in the franchise I spend some solid time tracking down all the collectible Pokemon. Granted, I like to think that about each iteration I play, and it never seems to pan out in the end. However, it really helps seeing them in 3D models even if by then I’ll never use them or battle against strangers online. Though I do need to try this Wonder Trade thing out sometime soon. Maybe I can pick up a cool ‘mon to fill that sixth slot void.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #33 – VVVVVV

2013 games completed vvvvvv

You flip up, flip down
Find crew members in tough spots
Die oodles of times

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Flipping and flopping in VVVVVV

vvvvvv outdoors2

I had to double-check, but I don’t think I’ve written about playing VVVVVV on the Nintendo 3DS yet. Sure, I excitedly put down some words when it was announced that it was coming to the little-handheld-that-could, but that doesn’t really do the thing justice, as that was more about me moving from playing a control-heavy puzzle platformer on my lackluster Mac’s mouse and keyboard to on something a bit more viable, like the Nintendo 3DS. Yes, I like jumping by pushing a button, not clicking a mouse; don’t sue me. Though, in VVVVVV‘s case, it’s more like flipping than jumping.

I’ll do y’all a solid and re-summarize the short, but sturdy story: Captain Viridian has to both save a dimension on the brink of collapse and find his spaceship’s missing crew members–all of whose names begin with the letter V. There’s six of ‘em. See the connection to the game’s title yet? No? Well, just keep trying, and remember that it’s always good to have goals. Anyways, you save friends and the dimension by having Captain Viridian traverse around a somewhat Metroidvania-like map, flipping to the ceiling and across moving platforms and avoiding deadly spikes and getting lost. A retro-inspired chiptune soundtrack fuels the wind beneath Viridian’s feet as you explore space and the weird rooms and buildings filling in the gaps.

I’ve definitely gotten farther playing VVVVVV on the 3DS than the computer, and that’s to say that I’ve rescued a total of four out of the six lost crew members, as well as found three trinkets (out of twenty), which I’m not actively hunting down. Flipping gravity on its head is a simple button press, but there have been a few tough spots that have taken time and practice to nail perfectly, especially when the levels move and you can’t see what is ahead of you before you jump; thankfully, just like in Super Meat Boy, death is quick, and the music never stops, so you always feel like you’re progressing, even if you’re technically not. It definitely helps to keep you in the game, as a long death and reload animation would have been both cumbersome and off-putting. Instead, you just get up and try again.

However, I’ve reached my “stuck” point, and that is the levels called “Do As I Say” and “Not As I Do”, which involve Captain Viridian leading a found crew member to, hopefully, a teleporter that will bring them back to the ship’s control room. Unfortunately, any time Captain Viridian is standing on the ground, the crew member will walk over to him, and you have to lead them across moving platforms and over spikes–and it is no easy thang. I watched someone on YouTube do it in about 45 seconds, but I spent about ten minutes alone going at it, only to frustratingly give up and turn the 3DS off before I threw it in a blender and went to Smoothie Town.

As with my recent roadblock in Mutant Mudds, I’ll just put the game aside for a bit and come back to it later with a clean aura. Only two more crew members to save, and one is currently following me around. That has to mean I’m close to the end, right? Well, time will tell, unless I can’t get past this part, in which case I’ll just have to track down that person on YouTube, invite them over for dinner,  beg them to do it for me, and the shove them in a special barrel and dissolve them into goo so no one will ever know….oh, sorry about that last part. Been catching up on Breaking Bad, you see. I would never do that. But the problem is that I can’t go back and explore more of the map until this part is complete, so it really is this or never seeing any more of VVVVVV, which would be a bummer.

Evolving with a new generation in Pokemon X and Y

Pokemon Y early impressions

I haven’t touched a Pokemon game since beating Pokemon White 2 earlier this year, but the unwritten rule in my heart still says that I will purchase every new Pokemon game that comes out, no hesitation. And so, on Saturday, after learning that Sears was booked up for hours and unable to take my car for an oil change and a busted brake light, I swung by the GameStop and stood in a line made up of mostly young kids, trying to decide right there and then which version of the game to get. And then the moment was upon me: Pokemon X or Pokemon Y? I went with the latter because Y not.

Anyways, I’ve already dropped about four to five hours into the colorful beast, defeating the first gym leader with ease and waking up a sleeping Snorlax and learning a bit about the mysterious O-Powers that reside deep within me. My team currently consists of mainly a Fennekin, a Squirtle, a Fletching, a Farfetch’d, and two spots filled with random Pokemon that I’m giving a trial run, to see if they are interesting enough to stay. Not yet sure of what my dream team is going to look like in the end, but I know that the Fennekin and Squirtle are definitely staying. Sure, it’s early on and Fletching’s just a bird, but pretty cool-looking if you ask me.

This won’t surprise any of you: Pokemon Y is a Pokemon game, and if you’ve played one before, this is all that and a bag of chips, with a few new minor twists to either enhance your experience or detract from it. You pick your starting Pokemon, get handed a Pokedex, and are asked to fill it full of data while exploring the Kalos region. There’s also a mystery about mega evolutions to investigate, but it’s this iteration’s throwaway sub-plot that pops up frequently in these adventures. In Pokemon White, there was a whole bit about treating Pokemon ethically, and HeartGold has members of Team Rocket chasing after you. I’m sure it won’t come to much, but that’s okay, as battling and collecting pocket monsters is continuously a joy, and the graphical overhaul really makes the fights come alive. Seriously, Fennekin’s flame attacks look absolutely stunning, helping you forget that you simply just pushed a button to make it happen.

Your mileage may vary, but some enhancements to me are that you get rollerblades (instead of a bike) very early into the adventure, and they are always on and usable via the circle pad; if you want to walk, use the d-pad. Also, let’s give it up for the refined EXP Share, which is now a key item that you can turn on or off. Here’s a tip: never turn it off. Before, you had to give this item to a specific Pokemon to hold, and they’d gain a percentage of EXP after a battle, even if they didn’t participate. Now, with the item always on, every Pokemon in your party gains EXP after each battle, which helps keep your team balanced and roughly around the same levels. I’ve already seen some folks online crying foul over this, that it makes the game far too easy, but I don’t see a problem with it. Trainer customization seems neat, too, but there isn’t much available to select from just yet besides a new hat and maybe a different shirt; I can’t wait to dress like a true lumberjack pretending to be a Trainer.

Because I entered Pokemon gaming fandom fairly late in my twenties, not counting a few times I tried to play the TCG or watch the TV show, I recognize very few of the critters that pop out of the grass, save for the most iconic ones, like Pikachu and…um, that other one. A lot of people are excited for Pokemon X and Y as it shows off the original generation over some of the more recent incarnations, but they are all mostly new to me, which I’m loving. I mean, from what I can tell, my teams have all been strikingly different across the various ‘mon games in my collection, and I’m hoping to find a really cool Fairy type to use down the road (sorry, Flabébé), as they are humanity’s only hope against a Dragon-based gym.

Still haven’t messed around with the new mini-games like Pokemon-Amie or whatever else they have hidden in some city building. These are generally decent distractions, but I only ever got really invested in Voltorb Flip from HeartGold, which was an addicting mix of Picross and Minesweeper. Still haven’t had a sky battle, but I did experience a horde battle, which felt a little underwhelming. It’s only been a day or two, but haven’t connected with anyone online to battle or trade, and have always found this process to be overcomplicated in previous games so I’m genuinely curious to see if the 3DS is able to make interactivity easier. Also, still haven’t found a Garbodor yet. Sigh…

All in good time, hopefully.