Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On the Download: Super Smash Bros. Mewtwo Impressions

In recent years, Nintendo has gotten more comfortable with creating and selling downloadable content for their games.  From weekly DLC packs to haggling NPCs to buy new content for a cheaper price, Nintendo has tested multiple approaches to tackling DLC in an effort to determine what model their fan base finds acceptable.  Tests found in games like Fire Emblem Awakening, Pikmin 3 and Rusty's Real Deal Baseball have all led Nintendo to adopting the best practices for their major franchises, in particular, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, and Mario Kart 8.  Since there isn't enough room to cover impressions for both games in this one articles, the Super Smash Bros. DLC will be covered in this article with impressions of the Mario Kart 8 DLC coming next week.
The most anticipated aspect of any Super Smash Bros. is the final roster.  Everybody wildly speculates what iconic Nintendo characters will return for the next entry, what new characters will join the ranks and what third-party characters will interrupt the proceedings.  Out of all the characters people were craving to see in the newest Smash Bros., a large group of vocal fans got behind the return of one psychic Pokemon—Mewtwo.  While Mewtwo did not make it into the initial release of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo heard the fan outcry and you can add him to the popular fighting game on Tuesday, April 28th at the price of four dollars for one version or five dollars for both.

Fortunately, those who registered both versions of Super Smash Bros. on Club Nintendo received Mewtwo for free last Wednesday.  That includes yours truly.  As it has been a long time since I last played Melee, I can't delve into the minute differences between Mewtwo's Melee move set and the updated move set.  The only noticeable difference is Mewtwo's Final Smash, the Psystrike, which sees him mega evolve into Mega Mewtwo Y to blow opponents away with a huge ball of psychic energy.  After playing through multiple matches (on and offline), Classic and All Star modes with Mewtwo, I found this psychic powerhouse to play similar to his Melee iteration.  Due to his floaty movement and weak standard attacks, Mewtwo is meant for seasoned Smash Bros. players that are attuned with charging Smash attacks and playing on the defensive.  In particular, Mewtwo's side and down B moves are only useful for deflecting projectiles or setting opponents up for Mewtwo's smash attacks as they don't have any real offensive use.  Once I got accustomed to Mewtwo's strengths and weaknesses, I found him to be a great new addition to the roster.

For the Super Smash Bros.'s DLC fighters, it comes down to how you personally enjoy the characters available.  Unless you want to get the full roster, it is easy to pick and choose which fighters you want to buy.  At four to five dollars a piece, the DLC offers a great amount of value for the asking price especially when compared the Mii Fighter costume DLC also available.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bit by Bit: March 2015

Let's address the elephant in the room.  I know I promised to have things back to normal by the end of March and it's now three weeks into April.  I am sorry for the delays, but school consumed my entire life until last Wednesday.  Between writing close to 20 pages for final essays and studying non-stop for exams that involved copious amounts of writing, I wasn't in much of a mood to write anything else at that point in time.

Although I originally wanted this edition of Bit by Bit to be the first post back from the hiatus, I am very happy that I got the Launch Station for Xenoblade Chronicles 3D up in time for its release this past Friday, especially considering my reverence for the Wii original.  Since school is winding down for the year (only one exam left!), I will be able to once again post to Silver Bit on a regular basis.  With all that being said, let us rewind the clock to last month and look back at the best and worst of March 2015.

Shame of the Month
Typically, I highlight the best game I played in the past month, but I think the game I am talking about today deserves an exception.  While I critique games, I don't usually review games I find middling or bad because I don't spend enough time with them to justify a review.  Personally, I like to experience everything the game has to offer before writing a review, including playing through the single-player portion and spending a good amount of time with the multiplayer.  It is a time-consuming commitment that I don't usually make for a game that I despise playing.  Now, I want to start playing a greater variety of games, in both genre and quality, to widen what I talk about on Silver Bit.  Although too much time has passed for me to give a full review justice, I will still honour this game as the very first Shame of the Month.

In the middle of all the craziness that was March, I decided to download a little free-to-play game that was popular among everybody I met through StreetPass—Pokemon Shuffle.  At the core of Pokemon Shuffle, there is an okay match-three puzzle game.  Sadly, that core is wrapped in frustrating gameplay mechanics that are only in the game to make players shell out their hard-earned cash.

Unless you have a gripping need to spend real money to play Shuffle for hours on end, it is best to play for the short amount of time offered through the five regenerating hearts.  You will see everything Pokemon Shuffle has to offer in the first 30 to 40 stages, leaving you over 100 stages of recycling the same challenges with increasing difficulty.  What makes the game even worse are the mechanics, such as the catchability meter and enemy disruptions, that are tweaked in such a way that it forces players to pay money in order to advance in the game.  Yes, there are ways around these frustrations by hording jewels until absolutely necessary, but the game continually tempts the player to use them for five more turns or 20 more seconds to catch their desired Pokemon.  These deceitful freemium practices just put a bad taste in your mouth.

Hopefully with Nintendo producing games for mobile platforms, these cash-sucking titles will be exclusive for those markets instead of infecting the 3DS and Wii U eShops.  Pokemon Shuffle is pretty much the exact same game as last year's Pokemon Battle Trozei with new Mega Evolution screen-clearing combos and tons of devious ways to steal your money.  Pokemon Shuffle may not be that fun, but it is perfect start to Silver Bit's Shame of the Month.

Most Anticipated Game of the Month
This past March, Nintendo pulled the curtain back on Splatoon and does it ever look good.  About midway through the month, Nintendo brought video game journalists from media outlets like IGN and Gamespot and Youtube personalities like ProJared and The Completionist to play the game at their American headquarters.  The onslaught of videos and articles that came from this event highlight Splatoon's various single and multiplayer modes.

Back when the game debuted at E3 2014, I initially thought Splatoon wasn't anything special as it looked like a neat little downloadable title.  I can say now that I was totally wrong and I am glad to be wrong in this case.  Splatoon looks to be a very comprehensive game with a Mario Galaxy style Octo Valley single-player campaign and fully-fledged suite of online multiplayer modes like Turf Wars and Ranked Battles.  I am especially looking forward to spending lots of time in Octo Valley launching from floating island to floating island, using ink in unique ways to battle enemies and finding interesting ways to traverse platforms with some cool ink-squid combinations.

If you would've asked me about Splatoon at the beginning of the year, I would've shrugged the game off as Nintendo giving the third-person shooter genre the good ol' college try.  Now, all I want to do is play it.  I know I overuse this saying, but I seriously can't wait until May 29th to play Splatoon.  I am that damn excited.

Video of the Month
In 1987, Hironobu Sakaguchi was a young video designer for Squaresoft that just wanted to finish the final game in his contract to pursue the greener pastures of hip hop.  Unbeknownst to Sakaguchi, his "final fantasy" spiraled into the long-running franchise many gamers know and love and a seemingly never-ending extension to his contract.  How did the success and popularity of Final Fantasy affect the legendary game designer?  Watch Mega64's totally real behind-the scenes look at the making of Final Fantasy to find out.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Launch Station: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

Just over three years ago this week, Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii landed on North American shores.  Xenoblade's release was extremely limited as it was only available through Gamestop and EB Games.  Due to its rarity, Xenoblade Chronicles' resale value jumped well over 100 dollars very soon after its release and has been that way for the last few years.  Unless you were willing to part with upwards of 100 dollars, many were unable experience to the best Japanese RPG of last generation.  With Xenoblade Chronicles being represented by protagonist Shulk and the Gaur Plain stage in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS and Xenoblade Chronicles X coming out later this year, what a better time for Nintendo to re-release Monolith Soft's RPG epic for the New Nintendo 3DS.

Yes, you read that right.  Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is coming to the New Nintendo 3DS, not any of the previous models.  Due to the game's enormous scope, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D needs the power that only the New 3DS can muster.  It is an impressive feat to see Monster Games fit everything contained in Xenoblade Chronicles from the massive world to the thousands of side-quests into a nice handheld package.  Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a straight-forward port of the original Wii release with a few new extras.  These extras are unlocked by spending tokens, earned through StreetPass or placing the Shulk amiibo on the New 3DS' touch screen, on music tracks for the Jukebox or 3D models for the Model Viewer.  Outside of these extras, Xenoblade Chronicles is now able to be played in glass-less 3D.  For a more in-depth preview on the story and mechanics of Xenoblade Chronicles, check out the original Launch Station for the game.

In the annals of Silver Bit, I have spoken volumes about Monolith Soft's JRPG masterpiece.  Despite the Wii's lack of sheer horsepower, Xenoblade Chronicles easily stands among the best games of last generation in terms of both graphics and gameplay.  Standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking Gaur Plain and looking out at the horizon to see mountains, green pastures and a continent-sized titan in the distance is a breathtaking experience.  The MMO-style combat and exploration is just as enthralling.  I cannot praise Xenoblade Chronicles enough.  No matter if you play it on a television screen or in the palm of your hand, Xenoblade Chronicles is a must-have.  If you own a New 3DS, do not hesitate in picking up a copy because they will be gone before you know it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March Hiatus Notice

I haven't been that good at announcing the times when I need to step away from Silver Bit to dedicate time and energy to other areas of life.  When things become too overwhelming, I just stop writing with no explanation whatsoever.  Starting with this notice, I hope to change my poor practices.

Like mentioned in the latest Bit by Bit, school is getting really insane with midterms and projects.  With everything on my plate for March, I can't give the attention that is needed to write posts on a weekly basis.  If I rush the writing process just to fill content for the month, I am not writing to the best of my ability.  It is unfair of me to put out a sub par product for everybody who takes the time to read Silver Bit.  So for the month of March, Silver Bit is going on hiatus.  Things will return to normal by the end of the month with a new edition of Bit by Bit.  Until we reach that point in time, I wish you all a great month of gaming.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bit by Bit: February 2015

February usually marks the beginning of the first quarter game rush.  Despite not being as jam-packed with titles as past years, this February has been a good month for games.  Nintendo launched the New Nintendo 3DS XL in North America with two highly anticipated portable games, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and some big AAA titles like Evolve and The Order: 1886 dropped.  It's easy to say February was quite an eventful month.  As midterms and major projects will soon be a constant part of life, best to utilize the little free time I have to deliver another exciting edition of Bit by Bit.

Game of the Month
As much as I love the core Pokemon RPGs, I can honestly say Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire didn't excite me that much before their release.  Nintendo and GameFreak have been releasing Pokemon RPGs every year since Pokemon Platinum released for DS in 2009 and I was starting to get sick of the yearly releases.  Although I planned on buying one of the remakes no matter what (sorry, I'm a sucker for Pokemon), I seriously thought Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were going to be as disappointing as Black and White 2.  Much like past entries, differences between the two versions are relegated to minor story alterations and Pokemon exclusive to one version over the other.  While I only played Omega Ruby, my opinions on the game can be applied to Alpha Sapphire as well.

It may have taken a few hours of play, but oh was I ever so wrong about these games.  Applying the 3D graphics of Pokemon X and Y to the third gen Pokemon games may be the most noticeable addition to these remakes, but it isn't the biggest.  First, story has become a bigger part of recent Pokemon games and Omega Ruby makes huge advances in this area.  The story is far more engaging than any Pokemon game before it especially the Delta Episode.  Unlocked after beating the Elite Four, the Delta Episode links capturing Rayquaza into a Hoenn-wide adventure that has major implications on the series as a whole.  Instead of skipping through story moments, I felt compelled to read through all the lines of dialogue for once.  The other big additions change the means of exploring the world and capturing Pokemon.  The DexNav app of the PokeNav makes finding and capturing Pokemon in each route a lot more approachable as it tells what Pokemon are in the immediate vicinity and helps in finding rarer Pokemon.  Also the Soar ability adds a new dimension to exploring as you get to see Hoenn from the skies.  Soaring makes the act of flying far more engaging than the fast-travel of regular flying and allows trainers to go off the beaten path to find Mirage Spots, special locations that offer the chance to catch rare and legendary Pokemon.  After experiencing the wonders of soaring, I hope that it replaces Fly as the prime form for aerial travel in future Pokemon games.

Despite my early skepticism, Pokemon Omega Ruby turned out to be a great game that I gladly sunk my precious time into.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the game, enough to pick it for Game of the Month over The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I still feel I am at my wits end with these yearly releases.  I love Pokemon, but Nintendo and GameFreak please give us a year off!

Most Anticipated Game of the Month
It seems Intelligent Systems is dominating my Most Anticipated Game of the Month section this year.  Last month, I gushed over the announcement of a new Fire Emblem for the 3DS.  This month, I am eagerly anticipating Intelligent Systems' new intellectual property, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.  First announced at last year's E3, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. along with Splatoon represent the first new properties for the Big N since the early years of the Wii.  Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.'s interesting look and the pedigree of Intelligent Systems sold me on the game initially then the demo came out and everything changed for the better.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is one of those games that you can't capture the quality in screenshots or trailers—you need to get your hands on it.  The demo takes players through the first few missions of the game, which slowly teach you the core mechanics of the game.  Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. takes aspects from both Valkyria Chronicles and the newest X-Com and blend them into an extremely engaging turn-based strategy game with turns that play like a third-person shooter.

After getting hands-on with Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., I have a feeling this will be one of those great titles that gets lost in the shuffle because its a new IP and doesn't have much marketing from Nintendo.  I highly recommend 3DS owners download the demo and give Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. a chance.  It is well worth it

Video of the Month
There are times when a trailer comes around that just sells you on a game.  It may only be a few minutes long, but everything contained in that video just leaves you in awe and wonder.  That happened this past month with the newest trailer for Persona 5.

In all honesty, I am still fairly new to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise as I have only played the fourth entry in the main series.  Despite my current unfamiliarity with the franchise, the trailer caught my full attention with its stylish UI, jazz soundtrack and unique gameplay mechanics.  Seriously, traversing through the world like an action-platformer or sneaking up on enemies using cover in a JRPG is freaking awesome!

Thanks to this trailer I want to dive headfirst into the world of Persona.  Be it Persona 3, 4, Q or Arena, I am really excited to get into this series when I have the time.  Also I will definitely be there day one to buy the newest entry when it releases later this year.

Monday, February 16, 2015

2015: The Year and Games Ahead

Although we are already a month into 2015, the year is still young.  As each day passes, we move one step closer to the next big game release or product launch.  After how disappointing 2014 was, the video game industry will be trying to bounce back in 2015 with grander spectacles, shocking surprises and innovative concepts.  While we may not know everything that is coming in the next 11 months, I want to share, in no particular order, the games and other products I am looking forward to in the coming year.
Amiibo
Yes, I know it's not socially acceptable for a 23 year-old adult male to be collecting little "children's" toys, but I honestly don't care.  Nintendo and their games have and always will be a significant part of my life and the ability to get physical statues of the characters I love without spending an entire paycheck is incredible.  I want to own them all, but things haven't been going to plan considering the low supply and the insanely high demand.  With their cool designs and extra functionality, I am excited to buy future waves of Amiibos, but I am not going to let these toys consume my life like they have for many others.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
If it wasn't for the additional delay, it would only be weeks between me and Geralt of Rivia instead of months.  The delay may be for the best considering all my responsibilities with school and work at the moment.  No matter when The Witcher 3 drops, I know it consume a gigantic portion of my time.  The scope and scale of The Witcher 3 is just mesmerizing as you can literally go anywhere and do anything you want in its open fantasy world.  Every new piece of information, be it a trailer or news story, gets my blood pumping to play this game.  On May 19th, the rampage of the Wild Hunt begins.
Mighty No. 9
Everybody and their mother has been clamouring for a new Mega Man game for years now.  No matter how loud and boisterous people get about the severe lack of the Blue Bomber, Capcom just doesn't want to give their mascot any love outside the occasional cameo or guest appearance.  While Capcom may not be listening to their fans, Keiji Inafune, father of Mega Man, took the opportunity to capitalize on the high demand with Mega Man's spiritual successor, Mighty No. 9.  Launched via Kickstarter back in 2013, Mighty No. 9 easily demolished its goal and has gone onto entice millions to donate money even after the initial funding campaign.  What Inafune and his studio Comcept have shown off of Mighty No. 9 through trailers, closed betas and previews has looked outstanding.  The game has similar elements to past Mega Man games, but combines them with some unique mechanics, such as dashing as the main way of dispatching enemies, that sets protagonist Beck out of his older brother's shadow. With Mighty No. 9 coming to every system on the market today, there's no way you should miss out on the biggest platforming games of the year.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Back in 2012, Xenoblade Chronicles impressed with its humongous vistas and superb adaptation of MMORPG gameplay into a single-player experience and on the Wii no less.  Sadly due to a limited production run, many people were unable to experience one of the best JRPGs of the last generation.  For those who purchase the New Nintendo 3DS, a port of the original Xenoblade Chronicles is coming in early April, but, in my opinion, the smaller screen of the 3DS will not do the magnificence of Xenoblade's incredible scope justice.  Fortunately, Monolith Soft and Nintendo are joining forces once again to deliver a sequel for the Wii U later this year.  Xenoblade Chronicles X looks to have even larger environments to explore, more refined RPG mechanics and the addition of mechs!  As much as I love giant robots, the added mechs makes the scope of the combat feel as awe-inspiring as the environments.  If you aren't convinced, take some time to watch the 24-minute gameplay trailer Nintendo released a few weeks back and see for yourself.
The Legend of Zelda
The release of a brand new Zelda is always a highly anticipated event.  This time around, the anticipation is at a fever pitch.  Nintendo has shown only two short trailers for the game yet they have been enough to send gamers into a frenzy of speculation.  The reason for this frenzy comes from the significant changes to the formula in the way of progression, combat and exploration.  The most significant change being the creation of a fully realized open-world Hyrule where you can complete dungeons however you choose.  Since Nintendo is aiming to have this new Zelda out by the end of 2015, there is still plenty of information to be revealed in the months ahead.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bit by Bit: January 2015

With Silver Bit's Year in Review 2014 ending last week, it is time to look forward to everything coming out in the next 12 months.  Aside from a few games, most being re-releases, this January has been slow on the games front.  On the news front, there has been a steady flow of new information on upcoming games already known or recently revealed.  An onslaught of news came from Nintendo as their January Nintendo Direct revealed their entire winter line-up from the launch of the New 3DS to Mario Party 10.  Keep reading for more on the latest Direct.  Also keep reading as I have lots to cover in the first Bit by Bit of 2015.

Game of the Month
When I write The Games I Missed article of the Year in Review, it takes me a while to actually start playing any of them.  Thanks to the Steam Holiday Sale and a greater desire to play games on my computer, things were different this year as I jumped into playing a couple games on the list.  Playing one game, in particular, would go on to influence my decisions for the Game of the Month.  The Game of the Month was about to go to Pokemon Omega Ruby before I got into The Wolf Among Us.  While I spent a shorter amount of time with The Wolf Among Us compared to Omega Ruby, it left quite a impact on me.  

The Wolf Among Us is Telltale's Game first game after the incredible The Walking Dead Season One.  Coming after such a lauded game by both gamers and critics alike, Wolf Among Us had high expectations to live up to.  After beating the game, it is safe to say that Wolf Among Us demolishes those expectations.  Although it has some beautiful character moments that bring to light the intricacies of Bigby, Snow White and other fables, the game is a lot more plot-driven than The Walking Dead.  Speaking of the plot, The Wolf Among Us delivers some mind-blowing twists that had my mind racing in speculation for hours on end.  While story takes centre stage, the conversation-based gameplay and quick-time action sequences brings the entire experience together.  Despite needing to complete school readings, each episode had me eager to sit down and play more, the one thing all episodic games should do.  

Most Anticipated Game of the Month
Last week, Nintendo delivered their first Nintendo Direct of 2015.  The 45-minute presentation was great as the Big N announced their entire line-up for the first quarter of the year including release dates (something they usually withhold until the very last minute).  While the New Nintendo 3DS's reveal for North America headlined the show, I am not as enamored with the update as the vast majority.  Personally, I am not spending upwards of 200 dollars to get new features which can be added to my 3DS through peripherals.  It is a wise choice for those with the original 3DS, but not for those with an XL.  I can continue with this tangent, but it is time to get down to business.

My favourite piece of news from the Direct was the announcement of the new Fire Emblem for 3DS.  From the trailer, the new Fire Emblem looks to be very similar in gameplay and art style to Awakening, which isn't a bad thing considering Awakening is, in my opinion, the best 3DS game released to date.  Also the rumours about Fire Emblem's potential release in 2015 has spiked my anticipation for the game tenfold.  More Fire Emblem is always a good thing in my books.  Now, if we can only get an update on Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem from Nintendo.



Video of the Month
Usually when a Nintendo Direct is released, I am hard pressed to include a video of or from the event as the Video of the Month.  This time around that precedence isn't the case as there is a video even better.  Funny enough, my video of choice is Nintendo related as well.  It comes from a great Youtube show called Game Theory, a show which seeks to use video games as a tool for education.  The episode dives into the tragic hidden lore of the Super Smash Bros. series.  It is quite fascinating especially when MatPat looks at the lore's connections to creator Masahiro Sakurai and the possible inner dilemma the famed creator faces with Smash Bros.  If you enjoy this video, I highly encourage watching past episodes of Game Theory.  You might learn some interesting connections between academic theories and video games such as applying multiverse theory to Pokemon.