Super Smash Bros. 3DS / Wii U

SmashBoxAccording to WordPress this is going to be my 100th post! So, congratulations to me.

Super Smash Bros. came out for the N64 when I was in college but it was later in the N64’s life cycle and I had already begun moving away from the N64 as a platform of choice.  I might have never tried the game at all, except some of the gentlemen down the hall were REALLY big fans of the game. I wasn’t especially good friends with the gentlemen down the hall, but they enjoyed gaming and avoiding schoolwork as much as I did so we had a lot of common ground. I played a LOT of Smash with those gentlemen, enough to forge some lifelong friendships and move off campus together the next year (where of course we played even more SMASH).  When the Gamecube came out I bought one and we Smashed even harder. Smash became one of the games that defined my college experience, so it is psychologically impossible for me to not purchase new versions when they are released.

This time around Nintendo released Smash Bros. for two consoles, the Wii U and the 3DS. They are NOT the same game as I originally believed although they do have a lot in common. The roster of characters are identical and many of the levels are the same, but there are unique features to each that make the experience for each game distinctive. The games are NOT cross compatible – you can’t play against a Wii U owner with the 3DS version of the game, although in a somewhat unusual move you CAN use the 3DS as an extra controller for a Wii U.

The game hasn’t changed much since the Gamecube iteration. To get started you only need to learn two buttons – attack and special attack. Pressing in a direction with one of the attack buttons will slightly alter which move is performed. All fighters use the same controls so even if you are using someone new you should be able to get a few hits in. This is in contrast to other fighting games (such as Injustice which I recently reviewed) where all fighters have different controls that must be learned separately. I’ve good results introducing new people to Smash by showing them how to jump, and use the two attack buttons. Both of my boys (Who are 5 and 3 years old) were able to play the game and my 5 year old even managed to beat me once or twice (more on that later).  After learning how to use your attacks, advanced players may learn the other two buttons – block and throw.  These are helpful to know but not entirely necessary for enjoying the game.

Fighting games generally aren’t noted for being fantastic single player experiences and Smash Bros. is no exception.  Fortunately Smash makes up for a somewhat lackluster single player experience by including BUTT LOADS (Figuratively) of different modes that can be enjoyed.  These include (but are not limited to) Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Street Smash (3DS), Smash Run (3D), Smash Tour (Wii U), Event Smash (Wii U), Special Orders (Wii U) and online battle modes.  Completing each of the modes with each of the 50 playable characters will take a significant time investment.

Fight

You can post screenshots through the Miiverse.

 

So, Smash is great, but what was my experience like?  Well, on the 3DS I played through most of the single player challenges myself and the only achievements I have left are the ones like ‘beat all-star mode with every character’.  I tried a few online matches for fun but never really got into it.  One of my colleagues at work got a copy for Christmas (I bought mine at launch) and we’ve had a few cooperative battles on break, which is a lot more fun than work.  Taking Smash on the road is a lot of fun, but the opportunity to play it doesn’t come up as often as I would like.

The Wii U version of the game is all about the Amiibos for us.  I may have gone a bit overboard with Amiibo fever – I signed up for the Lootcrate Amiibo promotion which netted us most of the launch characters.  My boys both wanted Link’s Amiibo for Christmas ( I couldn’t convinced them to ask for different characters – Link is too awesome ) which combined with the Lootcrate promotions brings our household total to about 13.  I thought the game would be too hard for my boys to play themselves so the Amiibo integration seemed like a good way to get them involved.  It turns out that they are both able to play the game with at least some measure of success and they HATE it when their Amiibo beats them.

My 3-year-old son isn’t entirely sure what he’s doing so he generally stands still while spamming the attack button.  Sometimes he decides he’s controlling a different character than he started with (which doesn’t affect his results any), and sometimes he gets bored and wanders out of the room. My 5-year-old son is a bit more hardcore about it.  He and I have an agreement to not attack each other so I’m often left attacking the Amiibos on my own.  Periodically this strategy results in my older son winning as I take all the damage and he shows up to knock the bad guys off the stage.

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My progress with the Wii U version achievements is a lot slower since the boys insist that we play the 2 minute Smash battles.  I’m OK with that though, it’s a lot more fun than playing alone.  I think Smash will be a popular diversion for the boys and I for a long time.

Pros

  • Lots of playable characters.
  • Single player story mode was enjoyable.

Cons

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: 3DS / Wii U
Genre: Fighting

Luigi’s Mansion : Dark Moon

Box ArtDate Completed: June 16th, 2013

Happy Year of Luigi!!!

Luigi’s Mansion 2 was one of the earlier games announced for the 3DS and one of the games I was most excited for.  When the pre-order became available on Amazon I added it to my wish list immediately.  My father, being the good Dad that he is, ordered it for me for Christmas 2011.  It would have been a disappointing Christmas if that had been the only thing that he ordered because the game didn’t end up shipping in time.  Instead of getting a copy of the game for Christmas I received an printed email from Amazon stating that the game would ship when it became available.  Every few months my Dad would forward me Amazon’s latest letter apologizing that the game had once again been delayed.  I started to look forward to my ‘Luigi’s Mansion is delayed again’ messages almost as much as I was looking forward to playing the game.  Christmas 2012 came and passed and once again I was given a print-out of Amazon’s apology letter (with some other cool stuff including a Wii U so I’m not complaining).  My Dad was finally able to give me my Christmas 2011 gift in March of 2013.

They might have considered naming this game ‘Luigi’s Mansions’.  The game is carved up into a series of mansions, each with  about 5 missions.  The Dark Moon (an artifact that keeps the ghosts in the valley from being total jerks) has shattered and Luigi must locate the pieces of the Moon so that it can be reassembled and peace can return to the valley.  Each mission took me about 30-45 minutes to complete on the first time through if I took the time to properly explore.  Exploring is usually worth the effort.  In addition fo finding tons of extra cash each mission also has a hidden ‘Boo’ ghost and hidden gemstones that can be collected.  Unfortunately you can’t save the game during a mission, you can only save between missions.  If you need to put your game down during a mission because your kids are putting steak knives into the blender (just an example, I’m 90% sure my kids haven’t tried that yet) you’ll have to put the 3DS in sleep mode and hope your battery holds out.

The basic game play involves first stunning ghosts with your flashlight.  Some ghosts hide, wear sunglasses or have other ways to block  your flashlight so stunning a ghost may take quote a bit of work.  After the ghost is stunned you vacuum the bugger up with the ‘Postergust 5000’.  Depending on how many hit points the ghost has it may take multiple stuns to suck it up.  The original Luigi’s Mansion had dual analog sticks and I was wondering how the 3DS would accomplish the sucking mechanic without dual analog sticks.  I’m happy to say that in spite of only having a single analog stick the 3DS control actually seems better than on the GameCube.  Nintendo has done a fantastic job here.

Sucking up a Ghost

In addition to sucking the Poltergust can also blow.  With the primary game play based on sucking and blowing it makes Luigi’s Mansion at least as awkward to talk about as it is to teach someone to juggle tennis balls (“Hold two of my balls in your left hand and the remaining ball in your right”).  Luigi also has a new ‘Dark-Light’ flashlight that will reveal invisible enemies and objects.  Each of the mansions has interesting objects that Luigi can interact with that add more variety to the game play.  For example there are balloon plants that can be inflated with the Poltergust that will allow Luigi to float, buckets of water that can make plants grow, and spider web wads that can be used as flaming torches.

Each mansion is unique but there are usually a few reoccurring missions in each one.  One example is the ‘Find the missing Toad assistant mission’ which involves locating a painting that Toad has been frozen inside of, freeing him and leading him to the exit.  My wife usually made me shut the sound off if she was around when Toad was following me.  That guy has the most irritating voice on earth.  Another reoccurring mission was the ‘catch the Polterpup’ mission. A poltergeist dog shows up periodically to steal an item from you sending you on a chase through the mansion to get it back.   In spite of his occasional thievery the Polterpup was the surprise star of the game.  It’s not uncommon to find posts in the ‘Year of Luigi’ section on the MiiVerse from individuals wishing for a Polterpup of their own.

468px-LuigisMansionDarkMoonArt7

How can you possibly stay mad at him?

The Luigi’s Mansion theme song is featured heavily and it is as catchy as always.  Luigi will periodically whistle along with the music which I thought was a nice touch.  The graphics look fantastic as well.  My Dad happened to glance at the game over my shoulder while we were all gathered together on Father’s Day and said “Wow! Great Graphics!”.  The 3D mode isn’t ‘in-your-face’ or obnoxious.  It simply adds depth to the scene and it was easy to forget it was on at all.  I mostly played the game in 3D except when my kids were watching.

My boys usually aren’t all that interested in portable titles but they loved Luigi’s Mansion.  Sometimes I tried to sneak a mission or two in while the boys were playing Legos but if they noticed what I was up to they’d immediately hop on the couch with me, usually obstructing my screen in the process.  They’ve started dressing like ghosts and it’s not uncommon to see them running around the house wearing sheets or blankets over their heads.

Finally I’d like to mention that the game does have multi-player and you do not need multiple copies of the game to enjoy it.  My wife and I were able to play the Scare Scraper mode using download play and it was quite a bit of fun.  The only issue was that the player who is downloading a copy is unlikely to know how to play the game and there is no tutorial so it’s a bit of a trial by fire.

Luigi’s Mansion : Dark Moon is a fantastic title and I plan on holding on to my copy for a long while.

Pros

  • Great Graphics and Soundtrack
  • Multiple Mansions
  • Multiplayer Modes (With download play)

Cons

  • No saving during a mission.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  16 hours
System: 3DS
Genre: Action