Sunsoft was one of the major third-party developers of the NES era, and Blaster Master was arguably the company’s most enduring hit, spawning quite a series of spin-offs, sequels, and remakes, very certainly including the much-maligned Fester’s Quest. Sunsoft declined rapidly after the third generation came to a close, however, and, while the company still exists today, its last release of any significance was 2003’s Clock Tower 3. Blaster Master Zero, a comprehensive reimagining of the 1988 original, was licensed out to the Japanese action-platformer specialists at Inti Creates, who have attempted to recreate the magic of the NES original while simultaneously bringing the gameplay into the modern era. Well, that was the plan, anyhow; so did it work?
Posts tagged Switch
Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is the poster boy for overpromising in one’s Kickstarter campaign. Due to Yacht Club’s exuberance, they were left on the hook to produce three free DLC campaigns for the game, of which number Specter of Torment is the second. Indeed, it’s mostly free: all owners of Shovel Knight get Specter of Torment at no additional charge, though the price has increased for those who don’t already own it.
What should one expect from a free DLC campaign? Yacht Club, to its credit, is not phoning this in; Specter of Torment features ten entirely new levels, completely new play mechanics, boss fights that have changed in substantial (and sometimes surprising) ways, and an all-new tale of shovelry. Unlike Plague of Shadows, which was set contemporaneously with the original game, Specter of Torment is a prequel, telling the tale of how Specter Knight came to serve the Enchantress, and why he recruited the Order of No Quarter. There is a rather darker tone to the story this time around, full of melancholy and angst and all those other things you kids like, but not so dreary and lifeless as it could be. The main storyline is pretty bleak, but the supporting cast is still colorful and fun, and the incidental dialogue is lively. Worth noting is that Specter of Torment is not a good jumping-off point into the world of Shovel Knight; it definitely assumes that the player is familiar with the characters and events of the original game, and isn’t going to make much sense otherwise.
When we last checked in with Shantae, at the end of 2014’s Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, she had just completed an arduous quest to regain her genie magic so she’d have the raw power needed to steal the Ammo Baron’s rightful property and distribute it to people she believes to be more deserving. It is indeed a blessing that Half-Genie Hero is less overtly communist than that. This time around, Shantae is trying to help Uncle Mimic constuct a "dynamo," which device he believes will keep Scuttle Town safe from pirates and monsters forever. Of course, then the pirates and monsters get involved, and nothing goes quite to plan.
Shantae is back to her staple mechanics this time (after the magicless departure of Pirate’s Curse), meaning that her primary gimmick is magical dances that transform her into various animals. There are lots of dances this time around — fourteen in total, though it’s not possible to have them all at once — and a few of them have effects other than transforming Shantae; there’s a warp dance that helps her get around more quickly, a recovery dance that restores health at the cost of magic points, and an obliterate dance that does big damage to all onscreen monsters. That still leaves room for eleven transformations, including both series staples like the monkey and mermaid forms and interesting new transformations like the spider and dryad. Each of the forms serves a different purpose, and knowing which form to use when is the key to success.
The Sega Master System did not sell very well in North America. As such, the primary exposure western gamers had to the Wonder Boy series was via Hudson’s Adventure Island on the NES, which was quite thoroughly a Wonder Boy ripoff. However, while Master Higgins stuck to his mostly linear, skateboard-and-fruit routine throughout the NES years, Wonder Boy pushed out in a different direction, and, by the third game in the series, had adopted many of the hallmarks of what would later be dubbed the Metroidvania genre.
That third game, subtitled The Dragon’s Trap, has recently been remade by French developer Lizardcube, and it is this new version over which I cast my baleful gaze today. Does it live up to the original? Does it also succeed as a modern game?
Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch, is finally on the market, and, in typical Nintendo fashion, is impossible to find anywhere. Still and all, your intrepid reviewer has gotten his sweaty palms on one, and is finally ready to guide you through all the ins and outs of this weird new system. So, without further ado: wossit like?
The first thing one notices about the Switch is that it’s small. I mean really, really small. The entire console measures just 6.75 x 4 x 0.5 inches and weighs ten ounces — in a world of video game consoles large enough to require their own time zones, this is positively shocking. It also drives home how small the system’s onboard screen actually is; it measures just 5.5 x 3 viewable inches, substantially larger than the 3DS XL but quite a bit smaller than a standard tablet. It is, however, exactly the same size as the Wii U’s onboard screen, and there’s the rub; while Nintendo is understandably keen to distance the Switch from the Wii U in the eyes of the market, it is in reality very much a further iteration of the same basic concepts, as we’ll see.
The "open-world game" genre is the bastard child of Super Mario 64 and World of Warcraft — create a giant, continuous landscape, fill it with travel time and fall damage, and send the player on endless scavenger hunts. When executed well, it can be quite an enjoyable experience; Nintendo’s own Xenoblade Chronicles is probably the preëminent example, filled as it is with breathtaking vistas, secret places to explore, mysteries to discover, and fun characters to meet. On the other hand, open-world games often become exercises in bookkeeping and tedium, ground down by systems that stubbornly insist on inserting themselves in between the player and the fun.
Into this morass rides The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a Zelda game recast in the open-world style. Producer Eiji Aonuma has stated that one of the team’s major inspirations for this game was the original NES Legend of Zelda, a game that set the player loose in the world and left him to discover for himself what’s out there and how to complete his quest. This is a theme that was touched on previously in 2013’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which boldly disassociated the usual Zelda items from the dungeons themselves, allowing the player to acquire any item at any time, and proceed through the world any way he sees fit. This idea turned out to be fantastic, since it liberated the game from the linear path previous entries were forced into, and allowed the player a sense of freedom that more structured games, such as 2011’s Skyward Sword, were lacking.
As I write this, the Nintendo Switch live presentation has just concluded, and the world has had its first real look at Nintendo’s odd new system, complete with actual confirmed games. So I know what you’re thinking: wossit like?
The technical nitty-gritty of the console is still unknown, but we did get a confirmation that the system does have a touchscreen. We also got new information about the joy-con controllers: specifically, the joy-cons each have independent motion controls, and each has one analogue stick, A/B/X/Y face buttons, and L and R shoulder buttons, making for a fairly robust set of inputs. In addition, there are the expected start and select buttons, the former on the right joy-con and the latter on the left, along with a home button and a "share" button for taking screenshots. The right joy-con also apparently has an IR camera built into the top of it; what on earth anybody intends to do with that thing was left an open question, but we know it’s there. The joy-cons also contain NFC readers for easy Amiibo compatibility. Apparently they can also simulate the feeling of putting ice in your drink. Don’t ask me; I don’t know either.