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
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Metroid

Date Completed: November 12th, 2011

Metroid was the last great NES era game that I had never completed.  Today this grave injustice is finally put to rest.

Thanks to the 3DS Ambassador program conditions were finally perfect for me to play through this classic.  I had a free portable copy I could play while enjoying my ultra mobile lifestyle.  The half-assed state save system eliminated the need to use Metroid’s build in 12 random character password system which I always found too cumbersome to use.

Metroid is completely non-linear.  You can go (almost) anywhere right from the beginning and tackle the game in any way you choose.  I was following a speed walk through with the hope of getting the best ending (which I failed to do) but I have played the game in the past and spent more time that I’d care to remember wandering around planet Zebes trying to find out what I need to do next to beat the game.  There are no cut scenes, no NPC’s to guide you, you’re dropped on a planet and left to your own.  This is a complete contrast to most of the games of today that coddle you through the entire storyline.

Metroid is all about exploration and killing stuff

In addition to wandering around you also have to kill stuff.  You have the ability to shoot left, up and right as well as turn your character into a ball and drop bombs on the ground (After you find some in-game upgrades).  You can also switch from your primary gun to a missile attack by hitting ‘select’ which is extremely frustrating on the 3DS because of the crappy location and design of the select button.  You can collect several upgrades to your weapon systems throughout the game as well as energy (life point) upgrades.  Very few of these are actually required so insane individuals who want a challenge can play through the game and collect as little as possible.

The game is fun but suffers from many of the problems of the early NES games.  If too many objects get on screen the animation slows down, or some of the objects might become invisible.  This is particularly frustrating in the final area where you have several things flying while you’re trying to kill the final boss.

What this game is really missing is a MAP function.  The graphics are all based off of palette swapped tiles which can make telling the various rooms apart difficult.  With no indication where you are on planet Zebes you may spend a long time wandering around before you find a location your recognize.  I can remember a friend of mine drawing out maps of Metroid on graph paper in an attempt to help him find his way through the game.  I don’t think he ever finished.  Now of course, through the magic of the Internet you can just download the maps and it isn’t an issue anymore (but it would still be nice.)

I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys classic gaming and open exploration.  It doesn’t really hold up well to today’s standards but it can still be fun for the right audience.

Pros

  • Open exploration.
  • Non-linear game play.

Cons

  • Slow animation when things get busy.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  ~5 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS eShop
Genre: Action

Metroid Other M

I feel sorry for Metroid in a lot of ways.  The Zelda series really has it easy.  In every game it makes sense that Link has to go and look for every single item that was available in the previous game because each game is separated by some vast period of time and it’s a completely different Link.  Metroid unfortunately uses the same Samus over and over so game designers have to resort to alternate means to completely eliminate her arsenal of upgrades at the beginning of each game.  Nintendo (via Team Ninja) thought they had a winner this time.  Samus is on a mission and she doesn’t have access to all of her upgrades because those upgrades have not been authorized for use on the mission by the commanding officer.  Simple, believable…unfortunately it’s SEXIST!!!

That’s right people, taking orders from a commanding officer is sexist.  If you believe all of the internet controversy anyway.  Personally I didn’t find anything sexist about this game – Maybe that makes me sexist too?
Sexism aside, game play is simple and fun.  The world is rendered in 3D but the game engine uses a fixed camera for each room so it gives a similar impression as that of the old 2D Metroid games.  Since you have no way to aim in 3D Samus automatically locks on to the nearest enemy that she is facing.  It may sound kind of lame but I had a blast running through corridors blowing away enemies.
Anywhere in the game you also have the option of pointing your Wiimote at the screen and switching to a first-person mode to look around (Normally you hold your controller horizontally in both hands).  When in first-person mode you also have access to some of your alternate weapons such as missiles as well as your grappling beam.  The implementation of this feature is a little awkward but the game is better for having it.
Maps design is pretty much what you’d expect from a Metroid game.  There are four sectors that you’ll have to keep running back and forth between throughout the game.  The actual size of each sector is pretty similar to the size of each area in the original Metroid.  Unlink the original Metroid this game always tells you what direction you’re supposed to be heading so it ends up feeling pretty linear.  It would have been nice if they had an option to turn off hints and have more of an ‘open exploration’ game but to be honest with myself I would have probably left the hints on because exploring is a drag.
The game also features voice acting and cut-scenes at a scale not previously seen in Metroid titles.  These types of features are always somewhat subjective by I found them to be done quite well.  There are some story elements that will leave you scratching your head, but nothing too major.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience and my only major complaint about the game was that it was too short.
Pros
* Simple, Fun Action Game
Cons
* Short
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length: 10 hours
System: Wii
Genre: Action