Saturday, May 19, 2018

Silver Spoon Vol. 2

                                                                   Article Here

This series is really good. Like, really good. Go read it!

Anyway, the aforementioned Hyrule Warriors fixes should be up now.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

One Piece Vol. 86 Review (Hey Poor Player)

Wow, I way too long in posting this here, ahaha.
In any case, certain stuff going on behind the scenes has rendered thins a little slow here, but we'll be seeing some activity starting this weekend.

Hyrule Warriors

Koei-Tecmo’s brand of Warriors games – hack-and-slash spectacles wherein one character takes on entire armies – are, to my mind, excellent stress-relievers. They are not the most polished or ambitious on the market, but their elaborate power fantasies are instant addictions, the thrill of smashing through endless platoons and capturing bases instilling a bountiful catharsis. This isn’t to say the games are doormats – the various missions and down-to-the-wire missions engage us to the point of anxiety, but overcoming such odds is what makes them constantly satisfying to play.

I confess my experience with Warriors is limited – while I’ve played the entire One Piece: Pirate Warriors trilogy and extensively played both Nintendo-themed offerings (Hyrule Warriors, the game we’re reviewing today, and Fire Emblem Warriors), my experience with series progenitor Dynasty Warriors is limited only to the aged Dynasty Warriors 2. A mistake I aim to rectify in the future, but the point is, it is not uncommon at all for fans to claim Hyrule Warriors – a Nintendo and Koei-Tecmo collaboration based on The Legend of Zelda – is the best of them all. Even putting aside the celebrated mechanical improvements, the Wii U game is an insane labor of love and passion from developers clearly enamored with Nintendo’s famous fantasy series, with two years’ worth of DLC culminating with a boatload of content, a 3DS version with exclusive features (Hyrule Warriors Legends), and a Switch version collectively including all aforementioned content (Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition).

Given that Definitive Edition – true to its name -- will feature everything packed into the previous two versions hitherto, we could simply review that iteration and be done with it; however, being the Nintendo archivist I am, there are enough differences between all three versions to warrant individual evaluations. In this instance, the original Hyrule Warriors may have been outstripped by the 3DS port via breadth of content, but it is by far and away the better performing one, owing to the HD console it was originally designed for. The emphasis on DLC from Legends comes with some drawbacks – the absence of certain Adventure Maps leaves less to do with the downloadable characters, for instance, especially for those who’d already unlocked everything prior – but in terms of performance, there’s no contest in which platform’s better suited for Warriors mechanics.

Really, what astounds me most about this original Hyrule Warriors is its base game focus surrounding Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword; as we’ve discussed before, I only adore one of those titles (Ocarina of Time) and don’t particularly care for the other two – already, the cards were stacked against me fully appreciating Hyrule Warriors for what it is, and that was a cause for concern prior to launch. As it turned out, Hyrule Warriors was such a passion project in elevating all three games to such deified heights it’s impossible to rest its worship, even when one has an aversion to Skyward Sword such as I (well, okay, that game’s representation has a couple pratfalls – and I assure they have little to do with my own biases against the game -- but let’s sweep that aside for now).

There’s the roster, for one: the base-game/post-launch period was a healthy mix of the leading cast, (Link, Ganondorf, and Zelda, naturally), reimaginings of popular characters (Impa, Zelda’s ever-watchful steward, is a mixture of her Ocarina of Time/Skyward Sword appearances with unique weapons; actually, Zelda and Ganondorf are in themselves unique incarnations armed with new combat techniques/weapons), a helping of original characters (the magicians Lana and Cia, as well as enemy-inspired foes in the form of Volga and Wizzro) and the occasional surprise pick (Twilight Princess’s Agitha, the girl obsessed with bugs? Um, yes please!). While it wasn’t a particularly huge roster, it leaves ample room for each character possessing wildly unique movesets – be they Lana’s geometric spells, Ghirahim’s phantom summons or Zant’s psychotic mental tantrums manifesting into reality -- and so no character is a clone of one another.

And this is to say nothing of their various weapons! While not the case for every character, many grant entirely new movesets in the form of Impa’s fiery Naginata or the flight whimsy of Lana’s Deku Spear. Some get so extreme with their creativity that they essentially form entirely new characters in themselves, namely an Ocarina of Time-themed Great Fairy capturing Link in a bottle and floating about creepily throughout the battlefield, harmonizing with her green-clad captive in while performing every Ocarina of Time-themed reference possible. If they already hadn’t inflicted horrendous nightmares upon you, now would be the time.

Such boundless artistry keeps us perpetually entertained, so naturally the road paved by this burgeoning roster must follow the same direction; indeed, the insane representational range provided by both Legends and DLC – spanning from The Wind Waker, Link’s Awakening, Majora’s Mask, Spirit Tracks, A Link Between Worlds, Twilight Princess and an original creation in Linkle, a crossbow-wielding gender-bended Link – is a wonder in itself, but more importantly, all complement this individualized direction via novel inventions and referential callbacks: from the acrobatics of Toon Link, Linkle’s first-person quick draws, Young Link transforming into Fierce Deity Link, and Tingle being, well, Tingle.

Only Fi from Skyward Sword is a dud, and I’m not saying that just because I’m not fond of her source title: while basing her attacks on her goddess-channeling ballads is a creative idea – after all, many references are based upon movement – but they’re puny in the face of toppling bosses and captains (particularly in depleting Weak Point Gauges, which take forever thanks to her low attack), and her moveset does little to innovate outside of the “she can turn into a sword” concept; that, and they somehow made her fictional speech even more aggravating. (While I’m at it, this game’s version of The Imprisoned is perhaps even more odious to fight, what with the numerous baby clones – yes, babies, as if -- and the stupid shockwaves being just as impossible to dodge as they were in Skyward Sword). Admittedly, Agitha also has something of a clunky moveset, but I love her giant phosphorous bugs and parasol too much to write her off.

There are many who praise this game’s updates to the Warriors formula: as I understand it, this game’s Dodge Roll mechanic was largely infrequent in previous Warriors games, with blocking having been the prior focus. Given the way counterattacks work, I can hardly imagine the game without it; see, after an enemy captain unleashes a combo, you hack away at their Weak Point Gauge, which upon successfully depleting, initiates a deadly combo halving their health. It’s tactical game of cat-and-mouse, teaching you not to simply hack away at the enemy and striking only at the opportune moment. (And really, what better way to encourage us than dodging their killer attacks?)

So the typical Warriors gameplay is there, but I’m personally fonder of how it slips familiar Zelda elements into the actual battles; for instance, just like in the source material, rupees are salvaged by slicing tall grass, and treasure chests are hidden throughout the battlefield. Meanwhile, numerous weapons are utilized to take down rampaging beasts (bombs for King Dodongo, boomerangs for Manhandla, etc.), certain areas are accessed by bombing boulders or hookshotting up cliffs, and yes, Cuccos hop about innocently within the arenas, but unwarranted attacks will deliver deadly flock hounding you until the end of the battle. Even within a completely different genre, it channels enough Zelda to feel like Zelda without compromising its territory, right down to our emotional ties to the original series; at the very least, I admit to not having very good feelings about pounding on Gorons, my favorite Zelda race (oh, their jolly countenances and poor cries of pain!).

Naturally, this fanservice extends to the story, although it’s admittedly not the greatest. Honestly, I don’t fault Hyrule Warriors: it’s not as if the licensed Warriors games’ deviant narratives before and after were of decent quality, and to its credit, Hyrule Warriors doesn’t hit the bipolar extremes of pure insanity (One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2) or insipidity (Fire Emblem Warriors). Still, the entire war revolving around Cia’s “obsession” with Link feels more akin to high school fanfiction AU hijinks as opposed to any actual drama, but such is the price for a crossover; it’s moreso an excuse for the entire thing to exist, and let us ooh and ahh at the shiny fanservice, even if the lack of voice acting channels the awkwardness found in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword (barring the narration, which does possess a Middle Earth mystique). Let us not dismiss its highs though, particularly in its late Ganondorf segment where we drive his rise to claim Hyrule – such narrative segues have surely been done before, but I can scarcely recall anything comparable within Nintendo’s library, let alone Zelda (unless, of course, one emits such repulsion to Tingle they perceive Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland as recounting his diabolical uprising, but let’s not get sidetracked).

Really, the game’s most appropriate tribute lies within Adventure Mode: operating as an 8-bit homage to the original The Legend of Zelda, pixelated avatars of the game’s cast travel that game’s overworld, divided into the very same grids that composed the NES classic. Various missions and weapons are unearthed via solving overworld puzzles via familiar item cards; based on tools from the original Zelda (with a couple other cameos, including Twilight Princess’s Water Bombs) that naturally solve the same exact puzzles from the original game. With maps based on other games (Twilight Princess and Majora’s Mask) arriving via DLC, A Rankings to earn and level-ups earned through hard work, it is where we spend the majority of our time, basking ourselves in never-ending nostalgia.

Alas, perhaps to a fault, as there’s a certain oversight that prevents Hyrule Warriors from reaching well-earned perfection here: grinding for item cards. Indeed, the time spent in Adventure Mode is to an uncountable degree, but repeating battles to earn certain tools bloats it to levels of repetition. It is hardly game-ruining, but that it constantly delays our passage to the maps’ many rewards lengthens it to unreasonable degrees, as evidenced by my only having cleared over half of the original map within three years’ worth of game time. Granted, I had been juggling other games in the meantime (for context, it was the only Fall 2014 game that survived the gaping timesuckers that were Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS), but when considering the other maps available, it’s unfortunate we had to wait until the Definitive Edition for convenient concessions.

It’s a good thing, then, the game has such a good soundtrack to calm our procrastination; naturally, Dynasty Warriors veterans arrive to helm the score, with a mixture of your series trademark guitars and orchestrations/chiptunes to complement the source material. As expected, much of the music consists of classic arrangements within all three genres: the classic Zelda theme opens the first level with a rocking guitar theme, orchestrations range from a menu medley echoing Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess to somehow successfully transforming the homely House theme into a rousing prep-battle march (seriously, how did they come up with that?) and nostalgic chiptunes that compose the Adventure Maps.

Of course, original songs come into the fold, and while not as many steal the show, there’s enough winners standing proudly among Koji Kondo’s iconic themes. Eclipse of the Moon, reserved for climatic battles, is the faraway winner in it gradually building battle’s progress, culminating into an adrenaline-pumping guitar/chorus finale. There’s also Silent Guardians, which plays during the acquirement of the Master Sword, is bizarrely enchanting in its backbeat/guitar combo accompanying a series of ominous chanting, while Sequence of Drops’ violin channels the eerie hypnosis of Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple.

However, Zelda music is Zelda music, and so it stands to reason the best song must be an arrangement; following that line of logic, the winner must be the original Adventure Map theme. While only a minute long, the chiptune arrangement of the famous Overworld Theme cleverly differentiates itself from the NES original in lacing a subtle orchestral undercurrent throughout, giving that iconic tinny percussion a dignified flair. The way it segues into Zelda’s Lullaby is nothing less than the finest of nostalgia magic, wrapping us up in a warm red carpet down memory lane

Still, as of tomorrow, Hyrule Warriors is doomed as another Wii U relic set to be superseded by a superior version. Had we wasted our time with two versions prior to the risk of burnout? A cynic would say yes, but let us not forget the seed it sprouted: thanks to wonderful production values, content upon content, and a bountifully diverse roster, it is perhaps the one Warriors game I’ve played that doesn’t feel outdated, cheap or a mere timewaster. For a beautiful love letter such as this, there is no higher honor, and the final draft arriving tomorrow will surely stand proudly with the likes of Namco’s Smash games, F-Zero GX and Zelda: The Minish Cap as being the finest third-party collaborations in Nintendo history.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Nintendo Labo Beginner's Guide (Hey Poor Player)

My third guide dives into the basics of Nintendo Labo! I still need to figure out how to properly insert playtime with Nintendo's cardboard invention into my own schedule, but in the meantime, I painstakingly devised this guide. It's mainly for the use of parents, but anyone curious about Labo can learn something, too.

Friday, May 4, 2018

I'm Going to E3!!!

Today, a childhood dream comes true. For nearly 20 years, I've followed an annual gaming trade event from the pages of Nintendo Power, the webpages of Nintendojo and IGN, and real-time streams on YouTube and Nintendo's official site. Like every other gamer, I awaited it like a three-day Christmas, absorbing and obsessing over every announcement, every trailer, every interview, every screenshot, any scrap of information to satisfy my craving. Some years came up short, others wildly surpassed my expectations, but regardless of the highs and lows, it remains an uninterrupted ritual.

Next month, the process will be hands-on: I'm beyond thrilled to announce I'll be heading to E3 as a representative of Hey Poor Player! In June, I'll be heading down to LA with my editor Francis and a couple other folks to cover the show, and you better believe I'll be providing write-ups like mad! Currently, I'm planning an emphasis on Nintendo games (naturally!), but I'll be expanding playtime/analyses on PlayStation 4 games as well (Kingdom Hearts III being a top priority, and it seems like Wattam is on-track to arrive as well).

This has been processing behind the scenes for the past couple weeks -- certain circumstances brought up this opportunity, and I had to keep quiet until I got a confirmation (readers may also recall I almost went two years ago, which made this confidentiality even more vital) -- but needless to say, I'm on Cloud Nine. Just knowing I'll be in the same building with the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto and Masahiro Sakurai is...well, obviously, I'm not expecting to run into them or anything (much less stalk them, heh), but just that very privilege is a step closer to my dream.

And this is to say nothing of the blog! My amazement in what started out as an experimental platform leading me into gaming journalism has been well-documented, but it's particularly amazing when considering this particular subject: for five consecutive years, I produced in-depth thoughts, critiques and essays on my feelings regarding each show, and now I'll be providing impressions right from the show floor! Truly, I've come full-circle, but naturally you can expect links to my Hey Poor Player write-ups from here. Given the insane workload involved, I don't think you can expect anything unique for the blog, but said previews and whatnot should surely make up for the lack of E3 content around these parts, eh?

Although, it may be fun to showcase pictures/videos I'll be taking around the showfloor? Hmm...I'll think about it!

I may provide more details as E3 Week nears, but in the meantime, it shouldn't take too much effort to guess what my most anticipated game to play is...

Hehehe, how jealous are you:?!? Actually, this won't be the first time I played a Smash game pre-launch -- I did the same for Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U during the Best Buy demo sessions -- but given I'll have exponentially more time, I highly suspect it'll suck up most of my first day. (Unless, of course, Nintendo finally gets off their lazy butts and reveals Pikmin 4; seriously, if that becomes a Pikmin 3-esque wait again, I'm calling shenanigans.)

Anyway, I'll see y'all real soon. So excited!!!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Donkey Kong Country Returns

In retrospect, perhaps Donkey Kong didn't have it that bad following Rare's departure from Nintendo. An observation that may be heresy to some, but as I recall, the following output was hardly disposable: Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat was the stellar (2D!) debut of Nintendo's famous Tokyo branch, Mario vs. Donkey Kong was born in this era (although it had admittedly grown tired), the Donkey Konga games were entertaining spin-offs in their own right -- that they remain the only Nintendo-published products you'll ever hear Rock Lobster and songs from Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo surely counts for something -- and supposedly Paon's handheld action games were pleasant enough. On the downside, you had technically-inferior Game Boy Advance ports of the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy (albeit developed by Rare with new features), although only Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast drew particularly harsh ire; admittedly, having only been subjected to the abominable character designs from Super Smash Bros. Brawl's trophies, I suppose it was enough to taint the series’ image.

Regardless, fans demanded a true spiritual successor to the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, and our prayers were answered through a most unexpected savior: Retro Studios. Having wrapped up their own Metroid Prime Trilogy, transitioning from a series of highly-ambitious first-person shooters -- I'm sorry, first-person adventures – to a mere sidescroller may have seemed like a stepdown for some; true, Donkey Kong Country Returns is as much of a revival as Metroid Prime before it, but we had previously witnessed an unknown studio masterfully revive one of gaming’s most beloved franchises into practically another genre – certainly, a 2D Donkey Kong game would be beneath Retro’s talents, yes?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kirby Fighters Deluxe

In retrospect, the absence of Kirby spin-offs following Kirby Air Ride is quite odd when considering how much of them populated the series' early life: nothing in the vein of Kirby's Dream Course, Kirby's Pinball Land or Kirby's Block Ball ever arrived in the DS era or even GBA. Perhaps HAL felt the sub-games found in Amazing Mirror and Super Star Ultra were enough, the mainline games being a priority as opposed to rebuilding a franchise empire. Whatever the reason may be, the eleven-year absence is evident, and so we must ask ourselves: what compelled HAL Laboratory to develop downloadable expansions on Kirby: Triple Deluxe's own brand of sub-games?

Thankfully, that's an easy one: because they're probably the best sub-games in series history. At the very least, Kirby Fighters Deluxe is a common-sense idea: the original Kirby Fighters was a slightly-altered tweak on Triple Deluxe's engine framed within Super Smash Bros. mechanics, complete with multiple Copy Abilities, stages, items and even its own little campaign. As opposed to the previous design rhetoric of Kirby sub-games -- little time wasters deviating our attention from the main game for just a teensy-bit -- it was the closest any mini-game had reached "game within a game" status within the series hitherto, and its addictive nature repeatedly kept fans coming back for more.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Case Closed Vol. 66 Review (Hey Poor Player)

Annnnd Case Closed! That wraps up manga for this month, so you can expect a review or two here within the week.

By the way, through some unexpected turn of events, something unbelievably exciting is unfolding behind-the-scenes! I can't talk about it just yet, but let's just say it involves Hey Poor Player. In the meantime, I'm planning out a Nintendo Labo Beginner's Guide for release sometime next week.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

My Hero Academia Vol. 12 Review (Hey Poor Player)

                                                                         Article Here

Whoops, I forgot to put this one up here too, ahahaha.

Both of the My Hero Academia reviews thus far have been really tough to write. We already had the series apex last time, but the ensuing cooldown here, while hardly bad, didn't inspire too much to talk about. Thankfully, things pick up again the next volume, but I wonder if that'll be just as difficult for other reasons...?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Promised Neverland Vol. 3 Review (Hey Poor Player)

I am a lazy, forgetful bastard, and the proof lies in taking nearly a week to share this here. In any case, read the damn series if you haven't already!

Anyway, expect My Hero Academia to pop up later today, too.