A Call to Arms (Arms First Impressions)

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In the seemingly never ending wait for new content on the Nintendo Switch, there is shining light in the distance, just a couple weeks away: Arms is a Nintendo-made unique spin on the fighting-game genre. Every character has stretchy arms (or some equivalent) and they take each other on in the most intense style of boxing and tests of skill imaginable. And it comes complete with bombs, fire, ice, electricity, robot suits, mummies, laser-shooting-dragon-head attachments, and unidentifiable piles of goo with fists.

Over the past couple weekends, Nintendo has been running a special demo version of the game called the Arms Global Testpunch. Nintendo Switch users from all over were able to get a taste of the game, playing online against other players experiencing the game for the first time, myself included. So, I felt like it would be fun to voice my opinion on the whole thing! There was only so much players were allowed to experience, but the online sessions I did manage to jump in on were a lot of fun.

Let’s get started on this little analysis, shall we? I’ll divide up different subjects about the game, and lists the pros and cons I feel were presented in the demo.

  • Graphics and Music: 
    • Pro: This game looks really, really good. It’s nice and colorful, it runs smoothly, and the characters and stages all look unique and are a joy to see in motion. The music is equally great, and the main theme can stick in your head pretty easily (as a good main theme to a game should).
    • Con:  I can’t think of any major negative aspects I would think are important enough to bring up. Some of the character designs didn’t seem quite as good as others (I don’t really care much for Ribbon Girl or Helix design-wise), but that’s really a non-issue.
  • Gameplay and Control
    • Pro: Your basic Arms match is a one-on-one fight, you and an opponent in the ring together. The standard fighting game rules apply: knock your opponent’s health down to zero, and you win! And with unique character abilities and a bunch of different styles of weapons (called Arms, of course) you can attach to you stretchy limbs, finding the combination of fighter and tools that suits you best is an experience of its own. There’s also two-vs-two gameplay where you team up with a partner, and a boss battle mode of sorts where three players join forces to take down a baddie called Headlok (who is literally a giant metal head that locks himself onto another fighters body. Get it? Headlok?). But there’s also a target punching mode, volleyball, and a basketball game where you use your opponent as the ball. It’s a good variety, to say the least!
    • Pro: The game has multiple control modes, and the one mainly featured in the demo is what’s called the “Thumbs Up Grip” mode. You play holding each half of the Joycon controller in your two hands, and you play the game mostly through motion control. You dodge, block, and punch all through the movements of your hands, and it’s AWESOME. This is motion control done right, making you feel like a part of the game! Of course, if you’re looking for something more standard, there are normal controller options too. But I feel like the true way to play is by swing your own fists! It makes for a good workout that way, too!
    • Con: I’d say the main problem with the controls is that maybe the game can be a little TOO sensitive in Thumbs Up mode at times. Like I mentioned, your movement, defending, and fighting are all done through the motion control. In the heat of a fight, depending on how you move your hands or the direction you hold the controllers in, you could end up blocking or throwing out a grab when you didn’t mean to, and it could cost you the game. You have to pay veeeeery close attention to what your hands are doing. And when your adrenaline gets pumping in the middle of a fight, that’s not the easiest thing in the world. Perhaps a normal control style can be more suitable for this game? I suppose it depends on the player.
  • Online Play
    • Pro: A big issue with Nintendo games in the past is the sometimes shoddy online play. Even the recently released Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is reportedly having issues. That being said, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Arms. The demo, after all, was online play only. And every motion of the controller, every button press, and every impact of my punches felt spot-on with no delay (not counting the occasional lagging connection with an opponent). Of course, this could change once the game is released and more people are playing online more regularly, but as it stands, Arms might be the best online experience for a Nintendo game to date.
    • Con: At least, it is the best when the game doesn’t randomly drop you. I had this strange issue where every 20 minutes or so, I would be given an error code and kicked out of the online lobby, even when I was in the middle of a fight. It could have been an issue with my internet, or maybe just an issue with the demo itself. And even when I did get kicked, I was able to jump right back online almost immediately with no problem. So I’m not sure what was up with that. I’d be interested to hear if other people experienced the same issue. Hopefully it doesn’t persist when the full game launches.

And that about covers my opinion on Arms so far! Overall, aside from the occasional oddity, it made a really good impression. Even if you didn’t manage to catch the demo periods, I would highly recommend picking up the full game when it launches on June 16th! I know I am.

Thank you for reading my little blurb on what could be Nintendo’s next smash-hit game. I would be well deserved for this to become a best seller for the system! Until next time, Sparky is signing off!

(I might even have a main fighter already! Mechanica is my jam!)

A Reason for Re-Releases

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Anyone who owns a Nintendo Switch can tell you that the wait for new game content on their brand new gaming console has been a little… slow. True, it’s only been about two months since the system launched in early March, but that two months has felt like an eternity for the next big system release to follow up The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I myself only own one other physical Switch game right now: I bought Skylanders: Imaginators to fill in the time between game releases, and give myself a reason to use the assorted Skylanders figures I had sitting around doing nothing. On the digital front, I also have gotten Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap, a remake of possibly one of the best 8-Bit games I’ve ever played (and a Sega Master System game, of all things! Weird, right?). But overall, the wait for game releases has felt so long, I was suddenly caught off guard by the fact that two game launches I’ve been waiting for suddenly hit me at almost the same time.

The puzzle game combination Puyo Puyo Tetris and the next game in Nintendo’s biggest racing series, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, were releasing within days of each other at the end of April. So as not to spend TOO much money at once, I decided to settle on buying only one of these games for the time being (alongside getting an additional controller for multiplayer action awesomeness). Though the biggest question was “Which one do I pick?”

Immediately my thoughts drifted to Mario Kart as the prime contender for my money. Ever since the time of the Nintendo 64, Mario Kart has been a big favorite of mine, and I get the game on every system it comes out on. But while making plans as to when would be a good opportunity to grab the game, something occurred to me that I hadn’t thought of: I already own Mario Kart 8. I have it on the Wii U. In fact, I hadn’t even technically finished doing stuff in the game at that time. And the additional content the new Deluxe version added was arguably minimal, so I began to ask myself a few things.

Do I really need the re-release? And the game is so recent, does it really even need a re-release at all? What’s the purpose BEHIND a re-release?

Re-releases, remakes, new versions, ports, virtual consoles, HD collections… things like this have become commonplace in the world of gaming. But re-releasing a game in any form can come under harsh criticism as being a shameless money grabbing tactic, in place of just producing new and original content. Especially for Nintendo: the Big N has been doing things like that for ages now, it becoming a really popular practice of theirs in the era of the Game Boy Advanced. Not only was there an entire game series dedicated to re-releasing classic NES and Famicom games on the system, but several other NES and SNES games got ports and remakes for the handheld as well. So redoing and remixing some of their classic titles is clearly nothing new to Nintendo. But Mario Kart 8 came out as recently as May of 2014. It’s just barely under three years old! Do you really need to sell what amounts to being the same game two different times so close together?

Thinking about this got me wondering if I should buy the game at all. I got to thinking about the purpose of behind a re-release or a remake, aside from making money and milking its popularity. And I feel like I came up with a good one: having accessibility to a game.

Consider the above-mentioned GBA games. During that time, there was no digital Nintendo store you could buy and download a copy of Super Mario Bros from, and the NES and SNES were old and outdated. You couldn’t exactly walk into a Wal-Mart and find an NES on the store shelf along with the state-of-the-art Nintendo Gamecube. By making the Classic NES Series and games like Super Mario Advanced, Nintendo not only found a way to preserve and upgrade the classics that people loved, but it gave younger gamers a way to experience these games as well. They made them accessible to both long time fans and young people too!

I can personally relate to this kind of situation: I didn’t have many NES games growing up, and I never owned a Super Nintendo at all. Thanks to the Game Boy Advanced, I got to experience games like the original Legend of Zelda and Super Mario World for the first time ever! And they’ve been some of my favorites ever since.

Even though the game is newer, turning Mario Kart 8 into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe stems from a similar situation of having accessibility to a game. I mentioned in my last post that a lot of Wii U games were getting brought to different systems in one way or another. And there is a very good reason for that: if these games didn’t get some kind of port or remake, then probably next to no one would have ever played them. The Wii U did not sell well, it continues not to sell well, the system itself has basically been pulled off of store shelves to make way for the Switch, and as a result its library of games has gone relatively un-played and is un-accessible for most gamers. It’s a shame all around, but its the truth. So what’s the solution to the problem? Why, bring the games to other systems, of course!

Mario Kart 8 is a beautiful and wildly creative entry in the series. And now that it’s getting its new Deluxe version, I’m happy that more gamers will be able to experience it. And I’ll be more than glad to get it a second time, to experience the new content and old content in one awesome package. Heck, the mere fact that people own two or three versions of any given game can say a lot about its quality and how enjoyable it is as well!

So yes, in my opinion, remakes, re-releases, port and whatever HD Turbo Remix Deluxe Collection comes along will always have a reason for being made and sold, outside of a company just trying to make money. It’s all about accessibility, and giving everyone everywhere a chance to play it in some form!

If anyone out there reading this agrees with me, or has some other opinion on the matter, I’d love to hear what you have to say and talk about it a bit! Until then, Sparky is signing off for now!

(I’m thinking about getting some more Mario Kart practice in… I don’t want to be rusty for the new game!)

Nintendo Switch: Switching too Soon?

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It’s no secret: Nintendo’s probably the best video game company ever (says I, with my totally unbiased opinion). But it’s also no secret that as of late, they had fallen on some difficult times.

Nintendo had some massive success with the Wii, making a console with motion control that appealed to gamers and casual players alike, spanning all ages. Andit no doubt came as a surprise that their next endeavor, the Wii U, barely sold a tenth of what the Wii did over its regrettably short lifespan.

Now you can talk all day about why the Wii U failed, and continued to fail, since it launched in 2012. Personally, I love my Wii U. I still do. I’m still in the act of playing and buying games for it. But with a weak launch lineup of games and poor marketing (among other things), the system failed to convey what it was trying to accomplish, and it missed its mark completely. The audience that loved the Wii just wasn’t interested in getting a Wii U.

But now we fast forward to March of 2017, and the launch of Nintendo’s next baby, the Nintendo Switch. And they must be doing something right with this one, because it has already overtaken the Wii’s launch sales. And no doubt, it’s mostly do to the outstanding quality of their newest adventure, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Though if I’m being perfectly honest, that’s really the only reason I can see as to why.

Don’t get me wrong: the Switch is pretty great. It’s got a lot of promise, blending the market of handheld and console gaming, and sporting a lot of impressive technology. But the launch titles, aside from Zelda, are really no more impressive than the launch titles for Wii U. You know, the ones that failed to convince anyone to actually buy the darn thing when it came out.

And that’s not saying anything bad about the other games’s in the Switch’s launch line up. It would be wrong of me to say that they’re bad games, since I haven’t played them at all yet. I couldn’t have played most of them if I wanted too, anyway: whenever I check the electronics department at my place of work, they basically only have Zelda on the shelf for sale. It’s been that way since launch day. So it’s seems that, while they’re not necessarily bad games, not many people are interested in them compared to Zelda.

But back to my main point. Let’s compare the launch lineups of the Wii U and the Switch, shall we?

The Wii U launched in November of 2012 with these following games (in the United States):

  • New Super Mario Bros U
  • Nintendo Land
  • Zombi U
  • Assassins Creed III
  • Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition
  • Darksiders II
  • Just Dance 4
  • Skylanders Giants
  • Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2
  • And several others, ending up with a total of 32 Launch Titles for the system, available for purchase on disc right away.

Now, the Nintendo Switch lineup (again, for the US region):

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • 1-2-Switch
  • Just Dance 2017
  • Super Bomberman R
  • Skylanders: Imaginators
  • And a handful of games available for digital download, leaving us with a total of only ten launch games.

That leaves me a little confused. Comparably, the Wii U had a much stronger line up of games available day one. True, most of them were ports of already existing games from the Playstation 3 and XBox 360, but the fact of the matter is that they… existed. And it wasn’t like they were unknown titles, either: there were a lot of big name games from big name developers. Logic dictates that the Wii U should have been the better selling system at launch. And yet, here we are in some sort of bizzaro world where less games equal more sales.

Do the Switch’s capabilities and a Zelda launch title mean that much to gamers? Apparently so. And Breath of the Wild isn’t even an exclusive Switch title: the game was in development for the Wii U for the longest time, and was going to be the system’s exclusive Zelda title. Or at least, that’s what we all thought. Now the Wii U has no Zelda game to truly call its own! Though ironically, you can play almost every other console-based Zelda game on the thing, and even a few handheld ones.

It doesn’t really seem like there’s a strong case for the Switch being a success, oddly enough. I’d go as far to say that, with all these crazy sales, people are buying into the Switch a little too soon. And this is coming from a guy who jumped on a chance to reserve the thing, so I could get it day one and star playing immediately, like I was a five year old jumping into a ball pit.

My personal advice to people looking to buy a Switch (if you can even find one right now, they seem to be sold out all over) is to wait a little a while. More specifically, wait until closer to summer, after the Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3 (and Gamer Christmas), this June. At that point, the Switch will have more games released for it, like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Hopefully the new Nintendo title Arms will also be out, and we’ll be closer to the release of Splatoon 2.

Plus, waiting till Nintendo’s E3 presentation this year will be beneficial in the decision to buy the system as well. No doubt we’ll get even more game announcements, including some release dates for more anticipated titles. It just makes sense to give the Switch a little more time to produce more content, rather than throwing $300 at a system that barely has anything to do on it yet.

Overall, I think the Switch’s early success comes down to the marketing side of things; the Switch has had its debut, its features, and its strengths portrayed much more effectively than the Wii U did. I remember when the Wii U was announced, people couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Was it a new system? Was it an upgrade to the Wii? Was it a new controller? No one really knew. Heck, even I wasn’t totally sure what to make of it.

But overtime I found plenty of reasons love the Wii U, and I’m sure I will with the Switch as well. The new Zelda is so gigantic, it will keep any dedicated fan playing for weeks. But if a new Zelda isn’t quite convincing you to get the system right away, just listen to your instincts. Waiting till the summer seems like the best choice in this situation.

What’s your thoughts on the Switch and Zelda? Did you grab them right away, or are you not sure and you’re gonna wait it out before buying? Be sure to let me know!

Anyway, I guess that’s the end of my little rant. I’m gonna go back to saving Hyrule and waiting for Mario Kart to come out. Sparky is signing off for now!