Sonic the Hedgehog

‘Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS’ review

Super Smash Bros is my favourite game series, and I’ve been there since the very beginning on the Nintendo 64. Needless to say, I was hyped for this game. Do I love it? Hell yeah brother.

Smash Bros is very different from most fighting games where you simply attack an opponent to deplete their health gauge. A typical Smash game takes place on a 2D stage with up to four players, and the objective is to attack opponents to increase their percentage of damage and then knock them out of the stage. The higher their percentage is, the further they fly when attacked. All K.O.s are ringouts, essentially.

The fighting itself is as good as ever. The game has been slightly sped up from Smash Bros Brawl, taking us back to the Melee days. Nothing major has changed, but it is all in the little things that make the experience better, and makes Brawl feel obsolete in comparison. The new stages are well designed, some being utter chaos, something only this series can get away with.

1370981035-super-smash-bros-3ds

It amazes me how well the 3DS captures the feel of a console Smash Bros title. While the 3DS does obviously have hardware limitations, the game didn’t feel like a dumbed down handheld port. The only thing that didn’t feel right was the controls at first. The GameCube controller or the Wii Remote nunchuk is the way I play Smash, but the 3DS control layout isn’t as well equipped to handle the fast paced action of Smash Bros. Sometimes the screen zooms too far out and the characters appear too small on screen, even when two players are up close and personal; this is when it’s not necessary to zoom out that far.

Another thing that sets the game apart from other fighters is its aforementioned controls. Many fighting games have players memorise different button and control stick combinations per fighter to have an advantage over other players…but then of course you are easily beaten by the damn button mashers. In Smash Bros, once you figure out the core control commands, you can use them for all characters.

entry3-2

Despite every character following the same general button commands, each fighter feels incredibly different. Marth’s swordplay is very different from Little Mac’s boxing chops, for example. A rewarding challenge is learning how to utilise the unique attributes of each character.

Super Smash Bros is of course, the Avengers of the Nintendo universe. About 50 characters are playable, from decades of Nintendo history. Mario, Pikachu, Link, Kirby, Samus and many more recognisable players enter the fray, along with some unexpected surprises. Capcom’s MegaMan and Namco’s Pac-Man also make welcome guest appearances, fitting right in with the cartoony ensemble cast, along with Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog making a welcome return. A handful of characters from the game’s predecessor have been cut. Konami’s Solid Snake, who started the entire guest character concept in Smash, hasn’t returned, presumably because he may not fit in as well as some other characters. Ice Climbers were cut because of the 3DS limitations. The 3DS’s limited horsepower also led to Zero Suit Samus, Shiek and Charizard becoming full characters rather than as part of another character’s transformation, but this is a welcome change.

Characters are customisable now, and you can unlock badges to change their stats. Even their special modes can be altered. There are also special Mii characters that come in three classes: Brawler, Swordfighter and Gunner classes, and these are essentially three different characters that are completely customisable. The customisation options are very impressive and can be used in all modes except when playing online with strangers.

entry4-2

A staple of the Smash Bros series has been its multiplayer from the very beginning, but lag is an issue. It’s not as bad as Brawl, in fact, nothing is as bad as the lag from Brawl. Even in online matches with one friend who lives 5 minutes away I’ve suffered lag. It’s not a deal breaker, and I’ve had plenty of enjoyable online matches, but the times where the game lagged so much it was almost unplayable just simply isn’t fun.  In fact, I was playing a local match with someone with 3DSs literally centimetres apart and we suffered from latency issues.

Online matches with randoms are split into ‘For Fun’ and ‘For Glory’ modes. For Fun selects stages at random and items are on. Only your wins are recorded. For Glory pits you on flat stages with no hazards and items are turned off. Your wins and losses are recorded. Both For Fun and For Glory have Free for All and Team Battles, and For Glory also having the one versus one, a true test of skill.

The usual Smash versus mode is the star of the show, allowing you, the computer players or friends to battle each other with an astonishing level of customisation. There are free-for-alls and team battles, survival or timed matches, and you can turn items on and pick whatever characters and stages you want. It’s play how you want, and it is excellent. You can have all these same options when you play with your friends online.

Exclusive to the 3DS version is a mode called Smash Run. I was pretty excited about it because it’s based on the City Trial mode from Kirby Air Ride, and oh the memories I have from that mode, and what a great game too! Four fighters are placed in a large map, and you are given five minutes to attack enemies from other Nintendo games in order to collect stat boosts. After time runs out you take that boosted character over to a battle, or sometimes a race.

gamemode2-1

Smash Run is a fun distraction, but wasn’t as executed as well as it could have been. In Kirby Air Ride you could attack other players, while in Smash Run you can see the other fighters on the map screen but can’t interact with them. That would have been a fun element. Also, while I gushed about the options of Smash Bros just before, Smash Run is surprisingly restrictive. Searching the map is locked at five minutes, and after all that, your fight lasts one minute. It would make the hunt for stat boosts more meaningful if you could set longer end matches. A lack of an option to actually know what the match is going to be means you won’t necessarily be hunting for certain stat boosts, and I died a little inside when I saw my awesome attack and defence buffs at the end, only to find out the match was a race and I had almost no speed

Classic Mode returns as the single-player mode where you fight one character after another, sometimes giant, sometimes, metal and sometimes in teams.  All-Star mode allows you to fight every character in chronological order starting in 1980 with Pac-Man and ending with Greninja in 2013. Returning modes include the Multi-Man Smash where you defeat as many foes as possible, Home Run Contest where you rough a sandbag up and send it as far as possible with a home-run bat. Target blast is Smash Bros Angry Birds where players fire a bomb with a timer in the hope that it blows up in the right spot to hit all the targets. I haven’t personally spent much time in any of these modes because I’m all about the battles.

There is so much damn content in this game such as trophies, characters, customisations and ways to play with your friends that you’ll be playing it for months. And defeating strangers online is too satisfying to stop. I have been playing around with the new characters and trying to figure out whom to main. Smash works well as a portable game as most matches are very short, so the time on the train has all but disappeared. This game is a must buy for anyone who owns a 3DS. I am hoping the Wii U version won’t have the control or latency issues, but the 3DS version is a very, very, very damn good game. Oh my lordy I love Smash Bros.

4.5/5, Smash it out!

This review was originally written for radio. The pre-recorded review was aired on 31st October on the Australian digital radio station SYN Nation, on the show Player One. I’ve edited the article a bit to make it read better, but all opinions from time this was originally written have been kept intact. I paid for the game copy.

Roster-720x405

Advertisements

“Sonic Colours” review

Image

I grew up liking both Sonic and Mario, so I was in neither camp, although me owning only Nintendo consoles automatically placed me on the plumber’s side. Sonic’s adventures in three dimensions have not been as well received as the ones in his 2D heyday. Sonic the Hedgehog and his series often end up on lists arguing against their existence, due to the poor quality of the games released in the 2000s.

The new 3D Sonics followed this formula: it would be announced that the new game would return Sonic to his roots, and all the fans would truly believe that it would be the first great 3D Sonic and that their mascot was back. The game would be released, and it would strike hatred in the hearts of the fans, and they swore they would never fall for it again. Then the next game would be revealed and the cycle would restart. This happened quite a few times, from Sonic Heroes to Sonic Unleashed. It hit its lowest of the lows with Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. If you type in Wikipedia “List of video games notable for negative reception” (a formal way of saying “list of games that suck”), you will find Sonic ’06 on there.  I never had the opportunity to play it, but I know it had a killer soundtrack. I also quite liked the 3D Sonics I did play, even Shadow the Hedgehog, although I can see why they are disliked as such.

Before Sonic Colours was released, Sega de-listed all the games in the franchise with a low Metacritic score, to “increase the value of the brand”. Seems like a good plan, to keep Sonic ’06 out of unsuspecting gamers hands and let them buy Sonic Rush instead. Sonic Colours is pretty good too, so it looks like this mission is succeeding.

So is Sonic Colours finally the 3D Sonic to break the mold of mediocrity? Well, according to the fans and critics that answer would be yes. I agree too, but I wouldn’t say Sonic Colours is a great game, but it’s definitely the most well made 3D Sonic in years.

Sonic Team listened to the fans and critics complaints of the other games, and got rid of the gimmicks, such as the sword in Sonic and the Black Knight, and all the playable character that aren’t Sonic. This just leaves the player in control of Sonic and his speed.

Sonic Team says that this game is marketed towards a younger demographic – Mario fans in particular. It’s easy to see what they mean by this, as the story, setting and dialogue are quite kiddy. Dr. Eggman wants the world to believe he has stopped being evil by opening an intergalactic amusement. Sonic and Tails obviously don’t buy it and vow to stop whatever the mad scientist is preparing. Sonic, Eggman and Tails are the only core characters from the franchise to appear in this instalment, with only Sonic being playable and the rest in cutscenes. I was a bit disappointed that Knuckles didn’t make an appearance, but I suppose the writers would have ruined him with cheesy dialogue, which makes me breathe a sigh of relief that Amy wasn’t included. The cutscenes feel beyond juvenile; I think they tried to make gamers feel like they are watching a Saturday morning cartoon. The cutscenes go on for far too long and the dialogue is full of jokes you’d see on ABC3 (kids channel in Australia) that have nothing to do with the simple plot at hand. This game made me think whether I’m getting older and less patient because I rarely skip cutscenes, but Sonic Colours made me do it!!

Gameplay is a mix of 2D and 3D Sonic. 3D Sonic controls smoother than past games. Homing attack, charge attack and riding on rails, business as usual. The perspective occasionally shifts to 2D, where the controls are the same but you can only move on a 2D plane obviously. This gameplay is taken from Sonic Unleashed, but without the God of War rip-off Wolf sections (thankfully I never played this game). So we have the best bits of Sonic Unleashed gameplay. The goal, like always is to reach the end of the level, or beat the bosses reach them.

Sonic and Tails discover an alien race, whose power Eggman is utilising for his evil purposes, called Wisps. These Wisps help Sonic out throughout the course of the game by acting as powerups. These remind me of the powerups in Super Mario Galaxy, which may have been the inspiration. I liked the Spike Wisp, which allows Sonic to turn into a spiky ball that can spin up walls and attach himself to terrain. The Block Wisp allowed you to switch blocks into solid or “fall through”, a bit lame I thought. The Drill Wisp was a lot of fun, where Sonic can digs through dirt very quickly, as well as move swiftly through the ocean. Those are just a few of them, and most of the time Sonic uses them in his 2D perspective. Powerups are great additions to the Sonic series, and I’d like to see them expanded upon in future games.

The levels are a little bit different this time for the franchise. Instead of classic zone/act after the other, the game features a world map. Each world has six acts and a boss, rather than the two or three acts and a boss in most Sonic games. The levels vary in length; I’ve beaten some of them after six minutes whereas others I’ve reached the exit in just one minute. It makes each Act feel like they were developed around an idea, which is a nice idea. The level design is good, but technically flawed, as in the deaths are a little unfair. At times you may get stuck and struggle to find your way out, which isn’t good for a Sonic game as it ruins the flow. There’s that spring that follows you, but only to a certain point, which lead me to losing a lot of lives because I didn’t jump to the bloody thing’s standards. The issues in the level design create a rather inconsistent difficulty curve. One level I would easily complete on my first try, when the level before that I had lost all my lives multiple times. These kinds of problems have plagued Sonic’s 3D adventures since the beginning, but at least it’s improved.

The god damned live system returns, which is just really annoying in this day and age. I could complete a level with no extra lives remaining, and then get far in the next but start again because I made a mistake and died. Dear developers: GET RID OF THE EXTRA LIVES SYSTEM IN PLATFORMERS PLEASE. Thank you Rayman Origins for doing just that.

The music takes on a bit of a less rocky feel present in most Sonic games and more of an electronic direction. It sounds good and suits the game very well. The graphics look great, and make everything visually stand out.

Overall, a fun back to basics title in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, that feels like it could have started  where Sonic 2 left off (but in 3D of course). By sticking to why gamers loved the series in the first place, just him and his speed jumping through levels, Sonic Colours has succeeded where many of the other 3D iterations failed. There are great ideas here I’d like to see in future 3D titles, (which they did use, in Sonic Generations). The levels are designed well, but they needed to be tested a little more to stop the accidental deaths that shouldn’t be my fault. Some of the Wisp powers also feel clunky.

If you never liked 3D Sonic games, I still recommend giving this a go as it fixed many of the problems present in those games such as glitchy gameplay, too many playable characters, over convoluted plot, awkward controls and broken camera system. If you liked them regardless, you’ll definitely like Sonic Colours. Fans of the 2D Sonics should give this a go. Younger gamers who never played Sonic before will play a great introduction to this long-running series. To Sonic virgins I recommend this game (Wii) or Sonic Generations (PS3/360), or Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS to take the hedgehog for a spin.

Rating: 3.5/5.

“Wreck-It Ralph” review

Image

Film adaptations of video games have not gone down too well. In fact, not a single one has a rating of at least 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. On the other hand, original films centred on video games haven’t fared so badly, with Tron, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and now Wreck-It Ralph showing us how it’s done.

The film takes place in the present day in an arcade. During the day, all the video game characters fulfil their roles in the games they originate from as kids play them. During the night, after the arcade closes, the characters are able to travel to other games, all connected via a central arcade hub. For three decades, Ralph has been the bad guy in the game Fix-It Felix Jr and disregarded by the game’s other characters, whereas the titular protagonist has been lauded. Ralph decides he doesn’t want to be a bad guy anymore and leaves his game to prove he can be a good guy, upsetting the state of affairs in the process.

I heard this film was good, but it ended up being much better than I expected. It’s not a Pixar film but resembles one in many ways, with its art style and the general quality of the film itself. The four main characters are voiced by top actors. Felix Jr is voiced by Jack McBrayer of Kenneth from 30 Rock fame. It seems as if McBrayer was just being Kenneth in the role of Felix, which was fine by me as Kenneth is my favourite character from that show. Providing an opposite personality is Jane Lynch, who seems to have become a typecast of that woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Her character, Sergeant Calhoun (the main character from the first person shooter Hero’s Duty), is exactly as you’d expect if you’ve seen Lynch in Glee, Role Models and Two and a Half Men.  John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph creates a straight-forward character we can identify with; he’s a guy who’s not happy with who he is. Sarah Silverman as Vanellope, a young girl from the kart-racing game Sugar Rush, becomes a likeable and charming character later on, which was great as I had a feeling she would be the weak link when she first opened her mouth. While being very different characters, Ralph and Vanellope both have a common goal to be someone special, which is a very familiar theme (not saying that’s a bad thing).

As a fan of retro games, I was enthralled by all the references. I believe that the Fix-It Felix Jr game is inspired by the original Donkey Kong arcade game. The art style and the use of actual existing video game characters result in fantastic fan service for gamers as well as making the video game world believable. This film is full of surprises, so I won’t mention any of the references. In saying that, some of the references are so obscure even a hardcore gamer might not catch them. The plot is relatively simple but has depth, heart and charm, which is complimented by the soundtrack and the visuals. You know an animated film is well done when you’re trying to resist shedding tears, and Wreck-It Ralph did it for on more than one occasion.

If there were weak points, I’d say that the film could’ve been a bit funnier and no cameo by Mario definitely hit me where it hurts. Although I guess it’s good they didn’t just awkwardly include him for marketing appeal.

The 3D is pretty good in this film, and there are some moments where it really shines, however 2D viewers won’t miss out on anything as the movie is great anyway. Watching it in 3D is definitely a nice bonus, but it’s essential.

You don’t have to be a gamer at all to enjoy this movie, as it targets a family oriented audience, but nonetheless gamers will definitely enjoy it the most, especially with the references and the recognisable characters. It would be easy to mistake this for a Pixar film (which is a compliment in the highest form) because it is a real joy to watch. It’s a family film, but adults will still enjoy it nonetheless. In fact, everyone can enjoy it, so go see it!

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Paperman

Image

Another reason Wreck-It Ralph could be mistaken for a Pixar effort is the short film before the main feature. It’s a love story presented in black and white and features a fantastic use of symbolism to create meaning. A man and a woman encounter each other on public transport and the woman catches the man’s paper caught by the wind and leaves a lipstick mark on it. After they depart ways the man tries to get her attention after spotting her again. It’s a much better love story than Twilight. Ok, to be fair I haven’t read nor seen Twilight but my point is that this seven minute short film is quite lovely and I’m glad that Disney attached it to Wreck-It Ralph for moviegoers to enjoy.

Rating: 4/5