Assorted Reviews and Initial Thoughts

After two weeks of mid-terms, I can finally write in my blog again! Unfortunately, because I’ve been working on schoolwork a bunch the past two weeks, I really haven’t had time to play anything. I did, however, purchase the DLC for New Super Mario Bros. 2 (NSMB2), Pokémon Black 2, and Code of Princess. I also started playing Minecraft (which is way more fun than I thought it would be). So, I’m just going to do little short reviews of the stuff I’ve played and my initial thoughts on Black 2 and Code of Princess.

Let’s jump in!

Minecraft:

Minecraft is, in a word, addicting. Last winter, I played Terraria with my friends for hours. Minecraft is basically a 3D Terraria, so I got hooked really quickly once I started building. I decided that, for my very first building project, I would construct a castle. It’s main body is 50×50 squares, and it’s got two living areas that are 50×15 squares that is 10 squares to the left and right of the castle. I’m not finished, yet, but once I am, I’ll be putting up a video. It’s nothing too impressive, but I thought I’d capture my very first Minecraft project once it’s done. I wish my friends hadn’t shown me it, though – it’s hard to stop once you get going. I do have to say, though, that it is much more difficult than Terraria, and I have found myself wanting to stop more than a few times because I died and was unable to retrieve all the stuff I had gotten and forgotten to put into chests. Learning the hard way sucks sometimes.

Either way, it’s really fun, especially with friends. Just don’t get it during school. Wait until you have some downtime.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 DLC:

The DLC for NSMB2 is actually really good. All three packs are awesome, although I haven’t tried setting any records for the first two. By the way, the “leader boards” are only the top 5 for the week, and they have no name next to them! I wish the leader boards were cumulative and showed their name – then I could see my record (which I don’t even know if the any of the top 5 are mine) up there. The nerve-rack pack is incredible, and is definitely my favorite of the three. Golden Mario and the paratroopa level is the best. The BEST!

Pokémon Black 2:

I gotta hand it to Game Freak, they’re doing the sequel right for now. I’ve only gotten 1 badge, but I’m liking all the connectivity with the Dream Radar (which I also bought), and the whole Memory Link is cool, although my character in Pokémon Black is named Kappy…and so is my character in Black 2, so now I’ve got two Kappy’s running around (LOL!). The achievement system is…cool, I guess. I can’t really formulate an opinion on that, yet.

And why is Cheren the first gym leader? I get that he’s the new one, but he literally has a Patrat and a Lillipup! I understand why he has to have those in order to be a new gym leader and so that the first gym isn’t impossible (because if he had his old team it would be). Still, I wish he could’ve been later so that he would’ve had stronger Pokémon.

Oh, and wild Riolu is mad swag, but in the whole day I spent last Wednesday looking for him, I only found 5. That’s insanely rare!

Code of Princess:

The first character (who is wearing way too little to be ready to battle against monsters) is broken. In the ten minutes I played the game last Tuesday, I found an infinite loop with her →→B. It’s hilarious. The gameplay is fun, the voice acting seems solid (so far. I’m impressed, Atlus), and the co-op is awesome.

The co-op is really the hook for me. Unfortunately, my friend and I had only a few quests unlocked last Thursday when we played multiplayer, but it was really fun. I have yet to try versus, though.

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REVIEW: New Super Mario Bros. 2

New Super Mario Bros. 2, according to most reviews that I was reading online, was sub-par compared to its predecessor, New Super Mario Bros. So when I picked it up and started playing with my brother, I wasn’t expecting too much, and what I got was something that, to me, was just as good as – if not better – than New Super Mario Bros.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

This is the worst part of New Super Mario Bros. 2. The graphics and music are exactly the same as New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. While those worlds, models, backgrounds, and music are all passable and allow you to enjoy the game, I was hoping for something a little different. Maybe a different song here and an entirely new level there. If you look at New Super Mario Bros. U, you notice that the style of the game is completely different in backgrounds and in actual models (except for Mario), and I was hoping they’d do something like that with New Super Mario Bros. 2. I mean, would it have killed Nintendo to put in a monochrome or all gold/silver world? That would’ve been cool!

Gameplay:

Where New Super Mario Bros. 2 excels is in its gameplay. I haven’t really played the game solo yet, instead opting to complete the game with my brother, but I would assume it’s still as fun as the rest of the New Super Mario Bros. series. The amount of coins is the only difference you’re going to see in gameplay, and while you’ll probably be obtaining a ridiculous amount of lives, the levels aren’t drop-dead easy, and trying to get as many coins as possible is harder than you think. But let’s talk about the co-op.

The co-op is, simply put, fantastic. Not only do you get a x2 coin bonus when both Mario and Luigi are on-screen, but the levels are just begging to be played in co-op. So far, there is only one level my brother and I found ridiculously difficult with two players, but other than that, every level has been awesome for co-op. In reviews, I heard that the camera is a gripe, but I disagree. My brother and I have been able to stay on-screen for most of our time playing, and when we haven’t, there’s the ever-omnipotent bubble to bring us back together. Many of the harder challenges in single-player (like getting to a specific warp pipe) is made simple in co-op, but it still requires a degree of skill to learn how to bounce each other around (especially when moving forward).

The camera itself will not only focus on Mario. If Mario dies, Luigi is the first to go through a warp pipe, or Luigi reaches the checkpoint first, the camera will switch to him (and vice-versa if the camera is on Luigi). Also, you can take the camera away performing a ground pound on the bro with the camera. Sometimes, the bro without the camera will fall behind and be caught in a bubble loop, but this has happened so few times that it’s negligible to really talk about. If you and your friend are roughly the same level of player, you shouldn’t be having any problems with the camera.

Aside from the co-op, there’s one extra feature that I am currently addicted to, and that is Coin Rush. Coin Rush is very simple – you are randomly selected 3 levels (the last always being a mid-point or ending castle), and you have 100 seconds for each level to get through it as fast as you can and collect as many coins as you can. As a gamer who loves to speed run, this mode is right up my alley, and I love it.

The best part is the ability to play as either regular Mario or White Raccoon Mario (which is a Tanooki Suit and Star combined). This lends itself to some rather interesting strategy – should you play as regular Mario or White Raccoon Mario? I’m sure some of you are thinking White Raccoon Mario, but you’d be wrong – regular Mario is usually the better choice, and here’s why: golden hoops. If you go through a red hoop, you have the ability to get 8 red coins – if you go through a golden hoop, then every enemy becomes golden and has different properties to earn coins (Koopas leave a trail of coins behind them, Lakitus throw coins, Boos spawn coins behind them and run away from you, etc…). As regular Mario, you can take advantage of jumping on Goombas and earning more coins with every consecutive bounce or following a golden koopa shell as it spawns coins after being kicked. Regular Mario has access to the Gold Fire Flower, which makes Mario’s Fire Ball turn everything into coins. White Raccoon Mario does not have access to those, and that really makes the difference in the amount of coins you can get. However, there are certain levels where White Raccoon Mario outperforms regular Mario.

Now, since it’s random when playing normal Coin Rush, this isn’t really something to think about – but when you start using Street Pass to pass along your best record (which you can save), you can challenge those records (meaning you play the same three levels they did), and that’s where picking which Mario to play becomes important.

New Super Mario Bros. 2, while really lacking new graphics and music, makes up for it with its incredible co-op and surprisingly deep Coin Rush mode. If you’re a fan of the New Super Mario Bros. series, definitely pick this game up.

Score:

Atmosphere: 5/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Overall: 7/10

Just sayin’

Was E3 2012 as horrible as it was made out to be?

E3, one of the big gaming events of the year, was last week, and although I had finals, I did take some time to explore E3 and what it had to offer. As I perused, I noticed that almost everyone held the same opinion about the event as a whole – that it sucked. And I found myself disagreeing. Ultimately, I think it’s because too many gamers aren’t critically thinking about what decisions each company has to make and because they were expecting big surprises, but I digress; let’s dive into the big three conferences, first:

Microsoft:

This was the worst conference according to popular opinion, and I do agree that Microsoft’s was under the bar. There was a lot of ‘apps’ being shown and not a lot of games – of course, there was Halo 4, Gears of War, and the like, but this is a problem that every company had – a lot of their games shown were of franchises that have been out for years. In short, they’re safe bets, but I’ll talk about why I don’t think this is that bad later. Besides that, Smart Glass looks cool – if they can pull something off with it next year I’ll be impressed.

It seems to me that Microsoft is trying its arrest to be that one system that every family wants to have – a true entertainment hub. Honestly, I think it’ll do fine – great, even – if it gets there. I think anyone can see why they’re trying to go for the ‘entertainment hub’ angle. If they beat Sony to the punch, they’ll pull out ahead.

Sony:

Sony’s was definitely better – a new God of War, Tomb Raider, Beyond, and The Last of Us all looked solid, and as you can see, a mix of some newer games. There was a lot about the Vita and ‘apps’, though, which disappointed a lot of people, but like Microsoft, Sony is trying to be a hub of entertainment for people. Sony’s style usually is, “take something and make it better,” so when you look at how Sony has developed, it’s easy to see why they’re trying to bring out new material to show that they can make better ‘apps’ than Microsoft and Nintendo. And they still had some great-looking games thrown in. The Wonderbook is a huge source of anger for gamers, but I found this to be fascinating. I realize that many hardcore gamers think this is trash, but look at the possibilities! Now, Sony has a way to compete with Nintendo for younger ages. In a market where Nintendo generally dominates the younger market thanks to kid-friendly characters like Mario and Kirby, parents may now decide to purchase a Playstation and Wonderbook instead.

It has to be good, so I’m not really sold, but it has a lot of potential.

Nintendo:

Because Nintendo is more of a first-party developer than a third-party one like Microsoft and Sony, it had a lot more on the line when it came to their franchises. What’s more, it had 3 conferences to cover everything it wanted to. I only saw the press conference and 3DS Showcase, so that’s what I’ll be talking about here.

The press conference, I thought, was just as good as Sony’s. The Wii U looks awesome, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. What really jumped at me was Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Pikmin 3, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and ZombiU. All of them look awesome, and because I am a huge fan of Nintendo, I do intend to purchase all of those games. The Super Mario’s looked good, and Nintendo Land looked interesting and fun. One of my problems with the conference was how long they took to explain one mini-game in Nintendo Land. It was really stupid. Besides that, Nintendo’s press conference, I thought, was good.

Their 3DS showcase was, for me, AWESOME. I got to finally see some real Paper Mario: Sticker Star gameplay, which I’ve been wanting for a long time, and hearing the New Super Mario Bros. 2 is co-op was a pleasant surprise. The new Castlevania game coming to 3DS looked nice, and they showed Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance with better trailers than ones I had seen before. The new Epic Mickey I did not care for, and it didn’t look very good to me.

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All in all, I enjoyed all three conferences, which many people I talked to were surprised to hear. Many wanted something new and big. They wanted a huge surprise like Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs (which does look sick!) but instead got games that were, as I said before, safe bets. But that isn’t bad. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony all laid their new cards (Wii U, Smart Glass, Wonderbook) on the table, and to complement that they laid out games that will, more or less, sell well. This allows them to work on new games and hopefully have some big surprises next year.

The 3DS showcase garnered a lot of disappointment because it only showed games we had already heard of and games releasing this year, and this is not just Nintendo – all three companies were getting complaints about this. To that, I ask – why would they show you something that’s going to be released next year? Wouldn’t that be something for another event like the Tokyo Game Show? Maybe next year’s E3? It just didn’t make sense to me.

While I was watching the 3DS showcase, all the comments were, “Where’s the new Animal Crossing/Zelda/Fire Emblem?!” Hey, guys, ever thought about them coming out next year? Why get gameplay for something that’s not going to come out for another year or two? That’s a stupid thing to do, in my opinion.

Just wait until next year’s E3 – that’s when I think all the surprises are coming. For now, I’ll be content with my Super Mario’s and Paper Mario‘s and ZombiU.

Just Sayin’.

P.S.: I would comment on the booths, but I wasn’t there. I heard all of them had way more games than showcased during the presentations, so that’s good to hear!