Super Smash Bros

“Metroid Fusion” video game review

Game Boy Advance’s Metroid Fusion is also known as Metroid 4, but you may not have noticed, as it was released the same day as Gamecube’s Metroid Prime, which went on to be hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. While Prime began a legacy of 3D first-person adventures, Fusion is a 2D action-adventure in the same vein as Super Metroid, also hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. By the way, this is the only 2D Metroid game I’ve played. I’ve completed the Metroid Prime Trilogy and got quite far in Metroid Prime Hunters but never clocked it.

You play as Samus Aran, the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy, who wears an upgradable space suit granting her special abilities. Her arm cannon is used to gun down enemies, while her Morph Ball ability allows her to literally morph into a ball to roll through tight spaces. At the beginning of the game, much of the area is inaccessible, so Samus must traverse what is accessible to pick up power-ups to make her stronger, acquire new abilities and unlock doors. Oftentimes bosses are standing in the way of achieving these goals. Eventually, more of the area is accessible and Samus’s abilities reach badarsery.

Every other Metroid game prior to Fusion basically said “here you are, this is the area, you’re on all own, go find stuff and use it to kill stuff”. Super Metroid was nice enough to have a map, whereas the original Metroid on the NES has players scribbling out their own map on paper, as well as passwords instead of save stations. In Fusion, you have Navigation Rooms where a computer guides you on what to do next, usually pointing to a Data Room on the map, or telling you to investigate some suspicious activity.

Some may believe this takes away from the Metroidvania style of players being lost and having to find their own way in a non-linear fashion. It is more linear yes, but the guide is simply a step in the right direction. You still have to figure out how to get to the destination yourself, and no-one tells you where secret upgrades are. Samus’s interactions with the computer also help with storytelling. Plus for a handheld game, that pick-up and play nature works well with this new format. I’m not a fan of being lost and wondering around aimlessly (which still can happen despite the game’s linearity), so I liked the way Fusion played.

The story sees Samus bring sent by the Galactic Federation to the Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL) space station after an explosion to see what’s up. The station is swarming with X parasites, which can replicate their hosts physical appearance and memories before killing them. Samus’s new mission is overseen by a computer who she nicknames ‘Adam’, after a late friend.  The Fusion subtitle refers to Samus’s fusion suit; after she is infected by the virus and saved by surgery, parts of her suit have become physically attached to her body and too dangerous to remove. Her infection means a fully capable Samus Aran X parasite is wondering around the BSL.  It’s a good story, well told, and gives a new light to some familiar Metroid characters, mainly the Galactic Federation.metroid4_12

The worst part of a Metroid game is usually the beginning. You’re not only powerless physically, but mentally, as you have no grasp of the world around you. Once you get a groove on everything – the story, the controls, the map – and you start to collect some cool power-ups, Fusion starts to feel and play beautifully.

For a handheld game with 2D sprites, the sound design and graphics work surprisingly well to create atmosphere and tension. The music certainly sounds like it would fit in any science-fiction movie score.

The game is short, but is extended slightly by being very hard. Thankfully there are plenty of save stations around, because no-one likes to repeat things. Unlike Nintendo friends Mario and Zelda, the bosses Samus faces are not easy and go beyond attacking the same spot three times when the boss puts their guard down. No, to defeat the bosses in Fusion, you need speed, endurance and agility, because they hit Samus hard.

I don’t mind short games, you’re likely to actually finish them and Fusion is the sort of game you would want to replay. And of course, good short games don’t overstay their welcome.

For Metroid fans, Fusion is a must-have. In fact, anyone a fan of action games should give this one a spin. It’s a fun, challenging, well-polished and involving sci-fi adventure..

Rating: 4/5.

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‘Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’ review

In my earlier review, I gave Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS a 9 out of 10 and predicted the Wii U version would be the superior version. Is Super Smash Bros for Wii U worth 10 out of 10? Hell yes! If there was just one game I would bring to a deserted island, this would be it.

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Ever since Smash Bros. Melee, I’ve dreamed of playing 6-player Smash. I hoped it would be possible one day. Imagine how surprised I was when not just 6 players were announced…

BUT EIGHT.

EIGHT PLAYER SMASH!!!

OH. MY. GODDDDDD!!!!!!

Even the original eight Smash Bros. characters were excited!

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I’ve played 8-player Smash with my friends and it is absolutely insane. Some may think it makes an already chaotic game too hectic, and it certainly seemed that way at first, but overtime you just relax and revel in the craziness. If eight players are too much to you, at least the fourth or fifth person at your gathering doesn’t have to sit out. Nintendo seems to be the only company pushing multiplayer in the living room, and Smash Bros is perfect for the homely gathering.

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The Wii U version has an exclusive mode called Smash Tour, which is quite simply Smash Bros mixed with Mario Party. Your Mii characters spin a dice to move forward to collect stat boosts and extra fighters. The mini-games in this case are the battles where you fight to steal other player’s fighters. At the set number of turns, the fighters compete in a final battle, with each fighter they collected acting as an extra life to play. Just like Mario Party, the outcome is heavily influenced by random events. Just like Smash Run on the 3DS, I’m glad this mode was included but it’s not my favourite way to play.

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Andddd Nintendo’s obsession with extra peripherals continues. I bought the Gamecube adapter bundle plus a super special Smash Bros. Gamecube controller, because I’ve used that controller since the Melee days. However, the Gamecube adapter is only compatible with Smash Bros and not other Wii U games for reasons unknown. I don’t think this will change, because it even said on the peripheral’s box that it’s only for Smash Bros Wii U.

Thanks for that Nintendo…

In addition to the Gamecube controller, you can use the Wii U Gamepad, Wii Remote, Wii Remote + Nunchuk, Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro and Wii U Pro Controller to play. So many options available! You can even play the game with the 3DS as long as you have the 3DS version. I don’t think there is a game out there with so many controller options, thus making an eight-player battle not such an impossible task.

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This is the best Smash Bros. to date, but it makes me wonder if the game could have been ever better if they just made the Wii U version. Would we have had more characters, stages and modes if the dev team focused exclusively on the home console version? I wouldn’t say the 3DS version held the franchise back (and that wouldn’t be fair as so many more people have a 3DS), because both versions of the game are incredibly polished. Thankfully, the game physics and character moves are the same on both versions, so the many 3DS owners can still easily go to a friend’s house with the Wii U version and be on a level playing field.

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Don’t worry Brawlers, unlike Smash Bros Brawl, the online is at least playable. As you’d expect, the Wii U performs better online than the 3DS version. Any lag you do experience is generally because of the connection of either you or an opponent, unlike in Brawl where it was just bulls**t. Obviously the usual Nintendo online limitations apply, for example they recommend you buy their ethernet adapter for wired play because they didn’t include an ethernet port on the console. No regional option means that it’s bad luck if I’m battling someone on the other side of the world, which is obviously more prone to lag. Finally, there’s the usual Nintendo lack of online options compared to other games, but the For Fun and For Glory modes were pretty neat ideas, so Super Smash Bros. online is still very, very enjoyable. I’m too competitive at this game to stop playing it, damnit!

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The customisable character feature from the 3DS return intact in the Wii U version. You can create your own Mii character from one of three types (Brawler, Swordplay and Gunner), customise their appearance, their attack, defence and speed stats, and select from nine special modes. All the other characters can be customised too, and have altered special moves to choose from. Aside from the Mii Fighters, Palutena is the only character with completely different special moves to use (but they used the worst ones for her default).

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You can use customs in all modes except online play against strangers, and that includes the Mii Fighters. I think an option to use Mii Fighters in For Fun mode with default stats should have been included.

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Custom is a completely optional mode that you can use to make multiplayer mode more enjoyable or assist in single player modes. Outside of the Mii Fighters I didn’t have much interest in it myself, but a significant barrier to enjoying it was the way custom moves are unlocked. Mii Fighters and Palutena’s custom moveset are unlocked from the beginning, but to unlock the derivatives for the other characters…well you have to keep playing and just hope you get a custom move for your favourite character on the rewards screen. While you can import your customised character from the 3DS version, or export one to it, you still have to unlock the custom moves in both versions. Such a pain.

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Then there’s amiibo, Nintendo’s answer to Skylanders and Disney Infinity, well it was only a matter of time wasn’t it? In Smash, you get the figures of Nintendo characters into the game as customised computer controlled players registered to that Amiibo. I would probably have more fun with them if I had all the custom movesets. You have them battle other players or amiibos to level them up and their AI becomes smarter. Amiibos are a nice but non-essential feature.

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That’s the beauty of Smash. There are so many modes, options and characters to play, that the way you want to play is limitless. You can go through all features, but even if you choose to ignore a mode or two, there’s plenty to do, in both single player and multiplayer.

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This is the best version of the best series ever, making Super Smash Bros for Wii U the best game ever, and obviously my Game of the Year for 2014. The HD visuals look amazing, the online play is functional enough, the variety of game modes is unbelievable and of course the local multiplayer can last forever. The multitude of game options allows so many options and unlockables that it feels meaningful and rewarding every time you pick up and play. You can play how you want. Don’t care for online multiplayer? Despite a lack of story mode, the single player options will keep anyone occupied for a long time.

Man I wish I had this game where was I 8. I was free of responsibilities, yet free of the ability to play video games for hours and hours. Smash Bros for Wii U is a game that can last an entire generation.

Rating: 5/5 – best game ever!!!

This review was originally written for radio. The pre-recorded review was aired on 5th December on the Australian digital radio station SYN Nation, on the show Player One. Unlike the 3DS version review, I’ve revamped this review, because the radio segment aired less than a week after I got the Wii U version. I’ve been playing the game since late November so this adjusted review is the better for it. I paid for the game copy.

‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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