Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review

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Nintendo and Sega coming together to celebrate the Olympics during the heights of the Nintendo Wii and DS crazes yielded the very successful launch of an arcade sports franchise. It’s one of the most successful Nintendo exclusive franchises that I ignored until now. 

I’m a fan of Mario. I like the idea of Sonic. But I’m ambivalent to the Olympic Games. So it will take a bit more to convince me to check out one of these games. What sold me on Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was the title itself. The Summer Games were headed to Tokyo next year and having just spent a wonderful time there in 2018, I thought it would be fun to revisit it virtually. I also figured it would be another fun party title.

I didn’t play any more events with the fiancée since the preview but I sank a good half hour into the Football event. It’s been a long time since I played Mario Strikers so I feasted on this little tease of a high definition Mario football. There was just enough depth to draw me in and keep me wanting.

The Story Mode and Quick Play modes gave a brief introduction to each event. Most events were easy enough to pick up and play while others offered “Advanced” techniques to liven things up a bit. Table Tennis offered different shot choices. Football had through passes and chip shots. Then there were Dream Events which took events like skateboarding and karate and turned them into competitive multiplayer events. Skateboarding Dream Event was essentially transformed into a Mario Kart-lite with usuable items and rings to collect.

I enjoyed the idea of the Story Mode. I liked the idea of Tokyo 1964 Olympics being represented in a 8-bit and 16-bit 2D style while 3D renditions were used to depict the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Interspersed between the two eras were trivia facts of the two Olympic Games, Tokyo, and tidbits about Nintendo and Sega’s iconic characters. I haven’t kept up with Sonic’s growing cast of characters — I didn’t even know Dr. Eggman Nega existed — so this was a solid primer. I learned lots which was not something I predicted going in.

I expected the story to serve as a framework to facilitate Olympic events and it succeeded in that regard. What I didn’t expect was how dialog heavy those story moments were. The pace wasn’t as plodding as Puyo Puyo Tetris’ but the down time between events were often longer than the events themselves.

I never owned an NES before but I felt the 2D events were appropriate for that era of console hardware. Pattern recognition and quick reflexes served as the requisite skillsets for both the 2D and 3D events with the 3D events requiring analog fine tuning for some mini-games. However, since all games can be played with a single Joy-con, controller complexity was kept at a minimum.

Having visited Tokyo late last year and loving it. I found the interactive map and sightseeing filled me with nostalgia. Like the Olympic events themselves, I found Sega captured the spirit and essence of each location and attraction well. I was hoping check out the highest point of the Tokyo Skytree’s observatory but alas they only rendered the grounds surrounding it.

Rounding out the offerings is a multiplayer mode that I found difficult to find matches for prior to release. Splitting 24 events into their own separate multiplayer hoppers on top of having ranked and unranked of those modes cannot possibly be conducive to finding opponents. When I finally found a match (it was the Football event), it was a sluggish experience with unresponsive controls. Needless to say, but this game may be best experienced locally.

Technical issues cropped up during the skateboarding Dream Event as well but every other event performed as I hoped; silky smooth.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a celebration of the Summer Olympics 2020 through the lenses of Tokyo, Sega, and Nintendo. It’s a collection of mini games that have will entertain not unlike a Mario Party title. I came away with it pleasantly surprised by the breadth on offer. The Olympic events themselves were well realized while other included mini-games like the Dream Events and Game Room games were iffy. I would love to see the Table Tennis, Rugby Sevens, and Football events flesh out more with more play options like tournaments but I know that’s a big ask. However, I figured asking for Sega to flex more of its arcade styled chops is never a bad thing.

Ratings Guide

Verdict:
I liked it

Untitled Goose Game Switch Review

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House House’s Untitled Goose Game’s greatest feat was how they disguised a stealth game full of environmental puzzles into unsuspecting Switch owners. It looks like a goose mayhem simulator but make no mistake, Untitled Goose Game is a stealth game. It’s just very forgiving and full of charm.

Many questions surround the white goose’s desire to collect things but there is no question that the goose is a nuisance. Bless the citizens of this village for not shooting their harasser. They are content with shooing the goose away or ignoring it. As a result, there are no frustrating deaths or the need to save scum; just try again.

Like most stealth games, there are tried and true ways to approach each puzzle. Most involve creating distractions. Sam Fisher can throw bottles and cans. Solid Snake can knock on walls. The goose honks.

Untitled Goose Game is an open village game gated by objectives. Finish enough of the objectives and the village folk will trigger an event that unlocks the next area. Most objectives were open ended with multiple solutions. One of the earliest objectives was to get the gardener wet. The most obvious solution at the time was to lure the unsuspecting gardener to the sprinkler and then turn it on. Later on, I discovered I could grab one of this valuable belongings and have him chase the goose into the canal.

It’s very tough to account for the imaginations of players but I generally found House House to have done accounted for a majority of my whims. There was one instance that I thought should have worked but upon further reflection, I doubt a closing garage door can actually snap a broom stick in half.

House House’s Untitled Goose Game was short, sweet, and left me with the desire to revisit it one day. A new game plus opened up after the end credits with a revelation that this goose is an ongoing nuisance. New objectives with new ways to harass the citizens of this village opened up but I had my fill for now. Not overstaying your welcome and leaving me wanting more is not easy to pull off but then again, a stealth game starring a goose is no easy feat either.

Verdict:
I loved it

Ratings Guide

Devil May Cry V Xbox One Review

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It’s disingenuous since I haven’t gone back to play it in a long time, but in my mind, Devil May Cry V feels like another Special Edition of Devil May Cry 4. I know it isn’t; It’s more refined than that PS3/360 era game. But – for better and worse — the feel and structure of the game felt deeply rooted in the past.  

I don’t like how Dante looks in Devil May Cry V. Nero, V and Lady were fine. Trish looked oddly out of place and along with the goofy looking Nico who continued to remind me that people’s teeth shouldn’t be that defined. I understand the desire to move beyond the anime-inspired art styles but I wasn’t keen on this realistic bent they took in this game.  

In the end, how Dante looks is a non-factor. How he, Nero, and V plays are what makes or breaks a game in this genre. Nero and Dante were stylistically familiar with tweaks and reintroductions to freshen things up. Like in DMC4, Dante was the more diverse and varied character. Nero wasn’t nearly as complex but they did give him swappable arms that enabled abilities beyond simply snatching enemies from a distance. I wished these arms were selectable like Dante’s array of arsenal though.  

V’s style of play was the intellectual highlight of the game. Beastmaster classes and characters have been in games like Final Fantasy and Diablo for ages, but I’ve never seen them in action games and I certainly haven’t seen a game execute on that idea so well. Capcom mapped the different beast summons to each button which resulted in V’s attacks functioning like Dante’s or Nero’s but at a distance from V himself. The closest analog I could think of is God of War’s Atreus where these proxies interweave in combat. I wish they could have an entire game dedicated to V where he captures/acquires different beasts.  

It’s been a long time since Devil May Cry 4. The franchise went on a bit of a tangent with DmC by Ninja Theory and Platinum Games put forth a few action bangers of their own with Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising. That lineage of action games went places and I felt DMCV was a bit of regression in several key areas. The stylish act of beating on fodder was comparable to its contemporaries but it failed to match the spectacle and progression variety offered by them.  

DMC4 was criticized for recycling their boss fights and I cannot help but wonder why they found fighting Urizen over and over again would fly in DMCV. They may have cobbled some narrative reasons to justify it but it just hammers home the fact that this game isn’t very fun outside of its sole core competency; fighting low level monsters. 

Finally Capcom concocted a reason for Vergil to make an official return to the Devil May Cry universe. Vergil making an appearance in a DMC game is just as much of a surprise as Vegeta making an appearance in a Dragon Ball Z game. I wasn’t impressed with how his return was handled. It felt needlessly long winded and very much like Dragon Ball: inevitable.  

For fans of the series, Capcom delivering on Devil May Cry V’s combat was enough to win them over. I liked Devil May Cry’s combat but it takes more than just a flashy and stylish combat scenarios to keep me playing. I struggled to maintain pace with Devil May Cry V. It took me well over two weeks to complete this relatively short game. I never felt compelled to play multiple chapters in a row because I wasn’t interested in what was happening. The introduction of new foes early on would just be enough to keep me coming back the next day but rarely in a single sitting. I was happy to see Devil May Cry make its triumphant return but I would like to see Capcom take a massive step forward in the next installment. 

Verdict: 
It was okay 

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (X1)

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I admire Ninja Theory for their efforts in bringing awareness to mental illnesses like psychosis. I empathized with Senua; it would certainly be maddening to constantly hear differing voices doubting and prodding me constantly. I found the use of binaural audio to give players a sample of that experience effective. Watching someone struggle to maintain her reality wasn’t unique to Hellblade but it was one of the better uses of world bending imagery. I just wished they didn’t use live actors and full motion videos. They were jarring. 

Hellblade didn’t run well on my PC so I flipped over to the Xbox One X version and played it with “Enriched Visual Mode” which produced a good looking Unreal Engine 4.0 game. I wish I could have ran it at 4K and 60 FPS but there’s only so much this console can do. I eventually acclimatized to the performance but I never got used to the eerie uncanny valley. Senua’s eyes conveyed so much human emotion and was effective at highlighting her struggles without words. Unfortunately, her mouth and the way they rendered it was consistently distracting to me  — and there were a lot of close ups of her. I found her ghoulish from the beginning which may not have been Ninja Theory’s intention. Did they want me to view this warrior as a member of the undead army? 

What’s the answer to overcoming the uncanny valley? It’s not mixing live action and computer generated graphics, that’s for sure. Every live action clip that I saw conjured a chuckle out of me; they all looked silly. No matter how they tried to integrate it into the game, I found them goofy like the ones found in a Remedy Entertainment game. I don’t think that was their intention, was it? 

The Nordic mythology and over-the-shoulder third person camera bore unavoidable comparisons to God of War. They were unfair and unfavorable comparisons but I couldn’t help it. In every respect, Santa Monica Studio did it better.  

I enjoy “walking” simulators. I don’t have issue with slowly moving around in a space. But I do have issue with movement speed when there’s so little to see between points of interest. Senua walks incredibly slow and her run speed (which I recommend people bind as a toggle) is not drastically faster either. She can move faster in combat which makes it so frustrating to have her move at snail’s pace. I know what I need to do during these “puzzle” moments; they’re not difficult. They’re just time consuming because Senua cannot be bothered to move about the environment quickly.  

I wished I liked Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice more. I found its pacing add odds with my expectations and many of the developer’s intentions falling short of hitting the marks they sought. I wasn’t supposed to giggle at what were supposed to be emotional moments either but I did. When Hellbade works, it works well. But when it doesn’t? It can make you feel like an outsider. 

Verdict: 
I don’t like it

Ratings Guide

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