Tales of Xillia: 4-man Co-op (first impressions)

So, for anyone who doesn’t know, I stream myself playing games pretty much every Saturday night. Usually, I do single-player games with a commentator or two. This time, after talking to a friend, I decided that I would tackle a game from the Tales series of games. These games are known for supporting 4-player combat, although most people just play by themselves or with one other person. Now, each Tales game generally has a gimmick that they can use to enhance combat.

However, Tales of Xillia’s is a little odd. It actually “hampers” 4-man combat. When you link with another character, the one being linked to is automatically taken over by an AI, and only unlinking will restore the ability to control that character. It’s basically a way to make playing by yourself easier and more fun because it makes the AI much smarter.

Now, at first, I didn’t like it. I didn’t think my group would need it. But then I started doing some research after a very painful 1st boss, and after doing some research and really thinking about it, 4-man combat with linking is starting to grow on me.

Let me explain linking really quick. Linking allows characters to beef themselves up, share skills, and use “Link Artes”, more powerful versions of normal Artes. With 4 players, linking isn’t really an option if everyone wants to participate in 100% of the combat. So, you’re basically gimping yourself for bosses, which is the problem (normal battles are completely fine with no linking). How can my group utilize linking effectively while not feeling like we can’t play during boss battles?

The easy way is to have two people allow themselves to be linked from time-to-time. I played a lot of Tales of Symphonia – it was my first ever Tales game! I played it so much I’d go through the whole game just having the CPU’s fight during boss battles and managing them through items. So, really, I’m okay with being linked and just sitting there sometimes, but even I’ll want to play sometimes, so I’m set on finding a way to utilize linking differently than the game intends you to (which is have it up basically all the time).

My strategies going in are not to try and fill the Link Gauge, which is filled through normal attacks while linked and using Artes while linked.

We could link for different things quickly. For example, if one of us is knocked down, we link with Jude, get picked up, and then unlink. We could link to position someone from behind quickly since the AI is programmed to take the best route to the back of an enemy. These are the kinds of small optimizations I think we could use with linking to utilize it while still basically playing the whole time.

We could also link just to spam more powerful artes if the boss is knocked down/stunned, and then unlink. It’d be a quick link to unleash a couple powerful attacks.

Those are all I’ve got right now though. If we wanted to fill the Link Gauge effectively we could go in waves of 2 players being linked and switching off every “tier” (I think there’s 4) of the Link Gauge. Again, I personally am okay with letting myself be linked, but this is a final resort kind of option if the boss is really hard and we need over limit.

I’m actually pretty excited to try and master linking with 4 people. Sure, it’s not the standard Tales 4-player experience, but to be honest it’s kind of refreshing and I think it can be a lot of fun. It’s obviously poorly designed (it feels like the multiplayer for Xillia was shoe’d in), but I’m the kind of guy who tries to make something work, and I think linking could be a really cool way to play this game with 4 people, even if it’s generally seen as bad. I think there’s a lot of strategy to be had with this sort of linking; unfortunately, no one’s really experimented with it and just bash it, so I think there’s a lot of untapped potential here.

There’s got to be a way to make this work. I think people just focus on filling the Link Gauge too much and not on the little optimizations you can make regardless of the Link Gauge.

Just Sayin’.

REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. Wii U

I apologize for having not put up any posts in the past month. I’ve been working hard to prepare for interviews and so much of the time I’d spend writing these posts was dedicated to such preparations. Now that Christmas is around the corner I do find myself with a little bit of time to write, so let’s jump right in to my review of the recently released Super Smash Bros. Wii U!

Now, this version is incredibly similar to Super Smash Bros. 3DS, which I also reviewed, so my opinion of the game is very similar, but there are a few subtle and not-so-subtle differences that the game has with its hand held counterpart, so that’s what I’ll be addressing with this review.
Graphics
 
I think this is an obvious improvement, but Super Smash Bros. Wii U looks great! From the stage designs to the characters and animations, everything looks great in HD. The game is very pretty.
 
Smash Tour
 
Replacing Super Smash Bros. 3DS‘ Smash Run is Smash Tour, a Mario Party-esque mode where players collect fighters by traveling across a game board and then competing in mini games. A good addition, but I really wish they had put in an updated Smash Run where all 4 players could interact with each other.
 
8-Player Smash
 
This is by far the best addition. 8 players is chaotic and incredible. I could play this for hours.  My personal favorite is how you can really mix up the teams: 2v2v2v2, 3v5, 4v4, 3v3 – there’s a lot of combinations, and it’s really fun. If you were on the fence about getting Super Smash Bros Wii U, this alone is a reason to purchase it, grab 7 friends, and go at it.
Amiibos
 
Amiibos are a figurine that you can use to interact with certain games. Super Smash Bros Wii U is the first one to utilize it, and what it does is create a CPU character (that you get to name) of the figurine that can play with you. What’s unique about an Amiibo CPU is that it learns and grows based on what it plays. It starts at Level 1, and levels up as you play with it (max level is 50). The cool thing is that it responds to the way you play and has the capacity to become more intelligent than a stock level 9 CPU. It’s a really cool feature that I’m definitely going to be making use of.
 
Stages
The stages in the Wii U version are better than the 3DS version (except for the Paper Mario stage in the 3DS version – that stage is my favorite stage of all time); The giant 8-player stages are great (especially The Great Cave Offensive – what a great stage!), the version exclusives like the Star Fox Assault stage, the new Legend of Zelda stage, the new Super Mario Bros. Wii U stage – they’re all really welcome additions and they’re all great-looking. I think the only really bad part about the new stages is that a lot of them are in the same vein as Delfino was in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. A lot of them have a “hub” stage that transitions to various parts of the level. They look cool, but having multiple stages like that is kind of stale.
Event Matches
 
I don’t have a lot to say about this – I’m just happy that they’re included. Speaking of, the Master Order and Crazy Order modes are also really cool.
——
All in all, Super Smash Bros. Wii U takes what made its 3DS counterpart so great, added some new modes, and made it look prettier. Oh, and you can use Game Cube controllers, so that’s a plus. If you were on the fence about buying either the Wii U or 3DS version, get the Wii U version, if only for 8 player Smash.
Rating: 8/10
 
Just Sayin’

REVIEW: Super Smash Bros. 3DS

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted! I’ve been meaning to write this review but I was having so much fun with the game that I forgot to write it!

So, the new Super Smash Bros. game is out. While most of my friends in the competitive area of Smash aren’t exactly enjoying it, I am enjoying it a lot. Now that I have the full game let’s go into what I’m excited about and what I’m looking forward to with the Wii U version.
The Good:
 
Smash Run
 
I have to start here. Smash Run is probably my favorite mode of Super Smash Bros. I’ve ever played. Collecting power ups and duking it out in quite a few different varieties of mini games (including racing, climbing, and various versions of Smash) is awesome. I loved Kirby Air Ride’s City Trial (which is basically what Smash Run is), and so I instantly took a shine to this mode. I think the only problem is you can’t interact with the other players besides a bomb you can throw into their screen.
All-Star Mode
 
The new All-Star mode is really cool. Instead of grouping characters together by game, they’re grouped by time period. This makes some really interesting variety of characters and stages while fighting. The mode is a little on the easy side for me, but I really enjoy it nonetheless.
Music + Graphics
 
Super Smash Bros. 3DS (and the Wii U version) has the best music in a Smash game to-date. Really digging the remixes, and the game looks fantastic. I think the only problem here is you can’t change the music like you could in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but that’s a minor detail I can look over.
Teams
 
So you can now be whatever color you want in team battles. That’s the best. Now you have team outlines, which is way cooler and way better. Seriously, forced colors was never something I enjoyed about teams. I’m glad they changed that.
Stages + Items
 
These are, hands down, my favorite stages in the franchise. The Paper Mario stage is definitely my favorite. All the new stages offer something really cool, and I LOVE the new old-school Mute City stage! To add to the craziness of the stages, the new items are a blast. The Galalga Boss that sucks you up, Cuckoos, and the new Pokemon and assist trophies really make for a hectic item experience. It’s fun!
Characters
 
The new characters rock. I love them all. In fact, Villager is my main! I actually don’t mind Dr. Mario, Lucina, and Dark Pit, either. While I will never play Dark Pit, I really enjoy Lucina and would rather pick her over Marth, so I’m glad she’s in the game. Also Dr. Mario is a boss and actually has different moves so I wouldn’t consider him a straight-up clone.
Custom Moves
 
Are probably the best part of this game. I am loving some of the custom moves the characters have! They give the characters some much-needed flavor or just help their kit in general. For example, Luigi has an ice ball – how cool is that?!
The Bad:
 
Controls
 
I’m actually very used to the controls, but as a competitive player (who doesn’t really play Super Smash Bros.), I really miss the c-stick. Being able to do a falling Up Air is something I have taken for granted, and while I can still do it, it takes a lot of precise manipulation of the joystick, and to be frank, the 3DS’s joystick isn’t incredible. I wouldn’t say the controls are awful, but there’s definitely something left to be desired here.
Classic Mode
 
Is still kind of boring.
Online + For Glory
 
Okay, so every For Glory mode stage is basically Final Destination with the stages usual blast zones. Some of the have walls that go down to the blast zone. This is fine, but I really wish some of the stages (I’m looking at you, Paper Mario stage and Rainbow Road) had their original design in For Glory mode, just minus the hazards. It’d make some of the levels way more varied and interesting without it just being flat. This ties into online.
You see, Final Destination is a horribly balanced stage. It gives characters with projectiles a clear-cut advantage (unless you’re Little Mac), and that’s hardly fair to slow characters. I think Battlefield is the most balanced stage, but I’m digressing. It seems that the cast is balanced around Final Destination, and that’s…not great. Granted, I think the game is incredibly varied right now and a lot of characters have untapped potential, but it sucks that online every stage is basically Final Destination,  giving some characters inherent advantages. That’s not too bad if you’re really good, but I think a lot of players who want to become competitive aren’t going to enjoy their character suffering as they try to practice their character.
Also the lag can be dreadful sometimes. At least the game has decided to dish out “No Contest” where neither player receives a detriment or plus to their record if the game lags for too long. It can detect intentional DC’s though, which is awesome. Other than those few complaints, though, online is incredibly fun. I’ve played just about 100 1v1 games and a few 2v2 (both For Glory) and they’ve been really fun. I have yet to play the “For Fun” mode or 4 player For Glory, and I probably won’t for a long time. I enjoy 1v1 the most.
Equipment
 
I’m not really a big fan of equipment, and that’s because they only give out stat boosts. I’m okay with the changing stats of characters. It’s a cool concept and it’ll make your Amiibo CPU’s way more fun to watch. However, it’d be nice if there were some pieces of equipment that only gave effects, no stats. I’m a big supporter of custom moves for official tournaments with this game, and I would’ve loved to include equipment in there, but alas. Equipment will be no more than a side tournament option.
And that’s about it. I could rate this game on my usual criteria but there’s so much content in the game I won’t do that. With that said, my rating for this game is a solid 8/10. If you’re a fan of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, you will love this game, even if it’s on the 3DS. I wouldn’t wait for the Wii U. Having Smash on the go is incredible.
Just Sayin’

REVIEW: Super Mario 3D World

Apologies for last week; school has just started and so I was a little preoccupied with transitioning into school mode. But, enough of that, it’s time to review Super Mario 3D World!

I won’t bore you with the plot or characters. It’s standard Mario fare, except Peach is a character you play and the victims are a group of fairies. What’s really important is the gameplay.

Gameplay:

If I were to sum up the gameplay of Super Mario 3D World, it’d be “wow”. With this addition each character (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad) has different properties – Mario is the most balanced, Luigi jumps the highest (but is a little slippery), Peach can float (but is the slowest), and Toad is the fastest (but jumps the lowest). This allows for some pretty interesting gameplay choices within each level, as some characters have a vastly easier time with certain platforming elements depending on the level.

Speaking of levels, the level design is fantastic, and you can see the thought put into the 4-player co-op with each level. While the worlds are pretty standard (Grassy, water, desert, lava, etc…), I loved most of the designs, some of them proving to be quite challenging.

Because each level doesn’t brutally murder you for having 4 players (like New Super Mario. Bros), playing with friends is very fun. The twist to playing with multiple players is that, instead of everyone having their own lives, the players are share them. That means that playing with friends, while more fun, is also much more dangerous. Expect game overs, even if you’re experienced with Mario games. My brother and I probably accumulated 3 or 4 game overs throughout the main portion of the game due to us sharing lives.

Thankfully, unlike in New Super Mario Bros., you cannot bubble in the air. This is great because it means you can’t just haphazardly attempt to make a jump and just bubble to safety. I always hated that feature because it decreased the game’s difficulty while playing multiplayer. I like how punishing it is now, because it forces cooperation. The ONLY problem with bubbling is that you can get out yourself, and sometimes, the bubble will hover above an abyss and you’ll pop out yourself and die again (I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me). Even near land, the bubble would literally hover just off the ledge and so you had to wait until you popped out. I would rather get back to the action as fast as possible, not wait 10 seconds for the bubble to be over land so I don’t die again.

Oh, and let’s not forget the new power up, the Cat Bell, which transforms Mario and co. into a cat that can dive and climb walls. This is, without a doubt, the best power up Mario has ever used. Platforming is a breeze once you master how to use the cat suit. It’s an awesome power up, and the little “meow!” that Mario and co. say after beating a level is absolutely priceless.

Atmosphere:

There’s not a lot to say, unfortunately. Pretty standard Mario fare, although I liked a lot of the level designs and the art. Nothing really captured me, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.

———

All in all, Super Mario 3D World is a fantastic game, especially for co-op. If you’re a Mario fan that still loves the series or even someone who’s been a little bored with the series, I recommend it. It’s a breath of fresh air to the Mario franchise co-op wise, and that’s something, I think, a lot of Mario fans have been yearning for since New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Gameplay: 10/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Final Score: 9/10

Just Sayin’

REVIEW: Mario Party Island Tour

I apologize for this being late, I was busy Friday and Saturday. Onto the review!

——

I haven’t really played any of the recent Mario Party games. Mario Party DS I played a bit, but not too much. The newest installment into the series, Mario Party Island Tour, however, is shaping up to be a Mario Party I will play quite often.

Mario Party Island Tour, like Mario Party 9, completely offs the classic gather stars and circle a game board. Instead, they’re replaced with “race” boards, as I call them, where the first player to reach the finish line wins. However, unlike Mario party 9, where everyone rides that dumb vehicle together, it hearkens back to the classic style of moving, where everyone takes their own turn and uses dice…or cards on certain boards. Because of this style, there are no blue and red spaces that give out coins, instead having item spaces, move back spaces, and other various spaces that switch places with opponents, summon Bowser, etc… It’s actually pretty refreshing, and I find myself not missing the old style because, really, I can play the old ones on the virtual console.

So that’s all great, but what really makes this game awesome are the mini games, which are surprisingly great. I didn’t think the mini-games would be spectacular, but they’ve all been really fun and I haven’t been disappointed by one yet, and I’ve played through almost every board.

That’s really it. The music has some cool throwbacks to old games, and the graphics are pretty good (the Mario Galaxy board is awesome!), but there’s really nothing else to write about.

If you’re looking for a Mario Party experience not quite the classics, but refreshing and new with some awesome mini games, consider picking up Mario Party Island Tour. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Final Score: 7/10

Just Sayin’.

REVIEW: Sonic Lost World

After seeing the trailers and getting incredibly hyped for Sonic Lost World, I have finally beaten it. That means it’s time for a review! Before we begin, note that I’m reviewing the Nintendo 3DS version.

Plot:

I can’t say too much about the plot. It’s a standard Sonic vs Eggman with some extraneous other enemy thrown in. The Deadly Six are just, well…there.

Characters:

This part surprised me. The relationship between Sonic and Tails is actually very well done – at one point, Sonic recklessly kicks the device Eggman was using to control the Deadly Six without heeding Tails warning, and after running from the ensuing fight due to the Deadly Six controlling all of Eggman’s robots, he laments that he should’ve listened to Tails, and Tails almost replays with a sarcastic, “You think?” It’s cool to see that Tails has some backbone as opposed to other games where he just plays the sidekick. I was impressed. Even Eggman has some real personality when interacting with Sonic and Tails. It’s almost comedic.

On the flip side, the Deadly Six are awful. They’re one-dimensional and boring.

Gameplay:

Sonic Lost World really steps up the “Sonic Formula”. Instead of gradually reaching max speed, Sonic has two speeds – walking, and running. You simply hold the R button and you will always be traveling at max speed. It’s an incredible mechanic, allowing Sonic to blaze through the parts of the level where he should without gradually reaching max speed, and when he needs to platform he has the option not to go full speed and go for some precision. Switching between the two is seamless and – I must stress – quick. Accelerating to max speed takes less than a second, and it’s very satisfying to go from precision platforming to max speed so quickly.

Sonic still has his old tricks – spin dashing, homing attack, etc… but with some new twists. Sonic can now very quickly homing attack a series of enemies with the homing attack, making for a very satisfying string of enemies defeated. It’s very flashy looking.

Sonic has also acquired some new abilities, most noticeable his newfound love of parkour. Running up and on the side of walls looks very cool, and gives a more realistic way for Sonic to traverse the levels. A lot of animation videos of Sonic show him flashily moving around his environment with jumps, spins, wall kicks, and vaults, and while it’s not exactly parkour, the vaults and jumps that those who parkour utilize is definitely something Sonic should be using. I think this style is a step in the right direction, and I’d love to see Sonic start to free run.

He can also send a slice of air out by doing an aerial backflip. It’s mainly for combating certain enemies. He also has new “Color” powers, meaning new wisps powers to use. There are some classics like Lightning and Drill, with some cools one like one that lets you latch onto magnetically charged bars and enemies, one that’s literally a moving black hole, and one that turns you into a giant iron ball. They’re all really cool.

Atmosphere:

The levels are very well designed. I didn’t get bored once with them. As with many of these kinds of platforming games, you have your grass world, laval world, water world, desert world, etc…but what’s working for the levels are the Super Mario Galaxy-esque level designs. Although not as sharp as the aforementioned platformer, Sonic Lost World does a pretty decent job incorporating gravity into their levels. It’s an interesting experience after having played both games in the Mario Galaxy series, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed. It didn’t feel like some cheap rip-off design. There was definitely thought put into how Sonic world interact with gravity.

The music is surprisingly unmemorable for most of the game. I can recall only the first world’s music clearly. I’m a little disappointed; as a Sonic fan, I’ve played through some of the not-so-great games in the series, but there was always some really solid and memorable music.

——

If you like Sonic games, you’re sure to love this. As with Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, this is a big step in the right direction for Sonic games, and I hope this uphill trend continues.

Score:

Plot: 5/10
Characters: 7/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Final Score: 7/10

Just sayin’