Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Review

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Mario and Rabbids together at last. In an XCOM styled game as well. What a pleasant and bizarre surprise announcement that was. I was immediately curious and seeing it was well received, I had every intention to pick it up. But since it was an Ubisoft game, I chose to bide my time and await a sale.

There were only four kingdoms in the Ubisoft strategy title but I was ready for the credits heading into the fire kingdom. I thoroughly enjoy the battles for their inventive situations, gimmicks, and boss battles. But everything else in-between said battles became a chore. 

It was initially charming to roam around these worlds checking out the random hijinx the other Rabbids were up to. I even enjoyed the simple puzzles and light exploration at first. All these innocuous activities wore out their welcome through repetition and lack of diversity. They could have made it worthwhile by including worthwhile treasures but instead I picked up a lot of artwork that will go untouched.

I felt Mario + Rabbids had a very solid gameplay foundation. The simplified take on turn-based strategy worked very well and it didn’t result in me uttering curses because a high percentage shot missed. Having 0%, 50%, and 100% be the only three shot percentages made for a quicker paced game. The combination play between the different characters was unique and sparked the desire for strategic thinking. I wasn’t particularly keen on the restrictions of a Rabbid party member at first but after spending some time with them, their silly personalities won me over. 

Without taking into account turn restrictions, Mario + Rabbids is an extremely easy game. However, adding turn limits into the equation gave this game a puzzle element. It became a game of ability examinations, build combos, and efficient movement. Unfortunately for me, I decided to go for the high marks and restarted the battle any time I took a misstep. I tried to run through every battle as efficiently as possible which resulted with me restarting battles over and over again. I focused on the high marks to a fault and willingly interrupted the flow of the game repeatedly.

To my pleasant surprise, the Rabbids were fun. Peach Rabbid and the rest of the Rabbid variants brought quirky fun to the classic Nintendo characters that we wouldn’t have ever seen from Nintendo proper. I was also pleasantly surprised by the the aesthetics. That Snowdrop Engine produced some very impressive visuals for the Nintendo Switch. I would have liked to see it run at 60FPS for the “running around” moments but seeing how simplistic those parts were, it wasn’t a deal breaker.

I was far more impressed with the musical score brought in by the the great Grant Kirkhope. It’s very him and it didn’t take me long to realize that he was bringing his iconic touch to this game. I distinctly recall thinking: “This music is far too good for your typical Ubisoft title. It reminds me of Donkey Kong Country.”

Whoever came up with the idea of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was a genius. But whoever managed to successfully pitch this idea to Nintendo was the true hero of Ubisoft because I cannot believe Nintendo green lit this unorthodox pairing. I guess all the Red Steels and ZombiUs of the last decade or so finally paid off. Some issues aside, I felt Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was a success and I look forward to the next iteration of this unlikely collaboration. 

Verdict:
I liked it

Ratings Guide

 

Super Mario Odyssey Review

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Super Mario Galaxy is my favorite 3D Mario game and continues to be number one in my books. There was a sense of wonder and amazement when I played the Wii title for the first time that I just didn’t feel when I played Super Mario Odyssey.

With that out of the way: Super Mario Odyssey is a fantastic game.

Cappy was a wondrous gimmick that allowed for a lot of novel shenanigans to be had. Capturing (possessing) a T-Rex was amusing but I found the mechanics surrounding other enemies such as the Pokio and its ability to fling itself with its beak offered far more interesting gameplay challenges. Capturing different enemies offered a nice variety but I extracted the most joy out of using Mario’s core move set. I loved Mario’s ability to throw Cappy and hop on him. It expanded Mario’s core mobility options for the first time since Super Mario Sunshine and I appreciated it. I finally understand why a subset of the Mario audience didn’t like the reduction of moves in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World.

Odyssey was visually intriguing but inconsistent and, in some cases, a bit of a let down. Mario has never looked better but I felt some Kingdoms like the Luncheon Kingdom were too safe. I loved the Metro Kingdom, Seaside Kingdom and a vast majority of other Kingdoms on offer but I was disappointed when I landed Luncheon only to discover pink goo and blocky vegetables strewn about. Rayman Origins pulled off that concept with superior pizzazz and craft. Odyssey was at its best when they leaned heavily into the theme of the Kingdoms. Luncheon stood out as a disappointment because it felt very static and capturing Hammer Bros. and Fireballs wore out their welcome quick. Also who thought talking cutlery was a good idea? Weird properly dressed humans, French beret wearing snails, and robots were more to my liking.

Aesthetics aside, many Kingdoms were dense with gameplay opportunities. A lot of it involved clever use of Cappy’s abilities, platforming and/or experimentation. Some of my favorite challenges involved racing other Koopa Troopers across the kingdom or figuring out how to reach certain spots to collect purple coins or Moons. I felt the races in particular allowed for creativity and tested gameplay knowledge very well. My only wish was for more Moons to feel this rewarding.

By littering collectible Moons everywhere, Nintendo cheapened their rewards. Collecting Stars in Super Mario Galaxy felt rewarding. There were less than stellar challenges and activities but at least I did more than look into a small nook for one. In Super Mario Odyssey, I was rewarded for the most mundane actions; I couldn’t walk into a cave without expecting to find a Moon. In some ways, it was like Nintendo’s commentary on positive feedback loop in modern games. “No matter what you did. Here’s a reward.”

While it’s a bit odd to see them cheapen Moons, I was amused by how they managed to make gold coins matter again. Traditionally used to gain additional 1UPs, the coin seemed like a relic of the past. In Odyssey, I redeemed coins for costumes, additional health, and Moons. With death being nothing more than a minor inconvenience in modern Mario games, this was a welcomed evolution.

Minor quibbles aside, Super Mario Odyssey will live on as one of the great games of 2017. Every time I picked up the game, I found something fun to do. I even found myself humming a few of the game’s excellent tracks to myself already. It’s a celebration of all things Mario and while it didn’t dislodge Super Mario Galaxy from top spot, there’s still a ton of fun to be had here.

Verdict
I love it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Resurgence Edition

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The Game Awards have improved dramatically. So much so that I am considering watching more of it next year. I caught a very brief glimpse of it and I was impressed with presentation and production; it actually resembled a normal awards show. Congratulations to Geoff Keighley.

The two announcements that were of note to me SoulCalibur VI and Bayonetta 3. I hear SCVI is channeling the original Dreamcast release which is something that tickles my fancy. As far as Namco fighters are concerned, I have a stronger affinity towards this sword swinging fighter than the King of Iron Fist Tournament. Bayonetta 3 is coming out exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. It’s truly amazing to see Nintendo go out and just grab this former multiplatform character action game and treat it like one of their own.

I will undoubtedly pick up the third installment but what about the upcoming Switch re-releases? I very much enjoy the idea of having the entire trilogy on one platform – especially if they all run at a near faultless 60 FPS. If I end up picking up Bayonetta 1+2 again, this would be the third copy of Bayonetta 1 that I own and the second copy of 2. Who am I kidding? If Bayonetta 2 ends up being a superior version of the Wii U exclusive, I think I’ll just pull the trigger and pick both up.

Capcom is on the upswing with a handful of announcements that’s slowly restoring my faith in the company. They’re making Mega Man 11 and it doesn’t look like a pure nostalgia grab like the 9 and 10. It looks a bit weird at first glance but I am warming up to the chosen art style. They’re also re-releasing all the Mega Man X titles on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. I love the idea of owning all the X games on the Switch. If it’s a quality port, I might just pick it up there.

The same can be said for the 30th Anniversary Collection of Street Fighter which includes arcade ports of 12 Street Fighter games excluding IV and V. I understand not including Street Fighter V but what about IV? I would even pay closer to $79.99 for a version with that game included.

And finally, Street Fighter V actually piqued my interest this past Sunday with the reveal of the third season’s cinematic opener. Sakura, Blanka, Cody, and Sagat make their return and Capcom looks to be injecting some serious effort into the single player portion of the game. I don’t know if I would go as far as to buy this game again but I’m happy to see Capcom still trying with it.

I am still marching towards full completion of Super Mario Odyssey. By and large, I am enjoying the hell out of Super Mario Odyssey; there’s a lot to love but I am losing steam collecting Moons. Huge swathes of the moons feel like tedious collectibles like feathers in Assassin’s Creed. But for every frivoulous Moon, there’s a charming or clever one that makes it worthwhile. I think I’m ready to write up my review of it.

I started Uncharted: The Lost Legacy last week and it’s a bit of an eye opener. Going from playing Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to playing Uncharted highlights some glaring communication issues with Naughty Dog’s otherwise excellent game. Uncharted (and games in general) speak their own languages and despite years of playing Uncharted, I still mess up and drop to my death on occasion. My girlfriend asked: “How do you know where to go?” and I had to explain the subtle cues and other signposts that a hyper detailed game like Uncharted uses to her. It takes time to learn and adjust to the way games like this communicate but once you do, games like this become a cake walk.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch Review

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It took me over four months to finish it but I finally reached the end of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m not 100% done with the game — there are so many shrines, side quests and a true ending to see – but I’ve played more than enough to render a verdict. There was so much to love and a handful of design decisions that assaulted my patience but in the end I ended up enjoying my time with Breath of the Wild and intend to return to Hyrule. 
  
There’s a level of expectation that comes with Nintendo first party efforts with regards to polish; everything needs to work well. Cramming a bunch of systems into the game and having them all interact with each other seamlessly may seem like a simple expectation but when I see the likes of Skyrim, Fallout, The Witcher 3, and other open world games mill about with its share of “jank”, I know it’s not so easy. 
  
The very fact that Link can climb anywhere and nearly anything was a mind blowing addition. He’s only restricted by his stamina gauge and if I decided that I didn’t want to wait until I leveled up my stamina gauge to climb a tower, I could cook cup a bunch of stamina food or potions and brute force my way up tower or mountain. It may seem like I’m pulling a fast one on the designers, but they really did fabricate a game where Link and I can go or do anything we want however we want.  
  
The unfortunate side effect to this open ended approach was the less than optimal experience for me early on. I ignored the Kakariko Village objective and bumbled my way through the most punishing Divine Beast who dwelled in Gerudo. I didn’t have any meaningful armor, didn’t realize I could parry attacks, didn’t get the camera, missed the ability to unlock additional inventory spaces, missed out on armor enhancements, and missed out on easy shrines to bolster my health and stamina. I may have made it more difficult for myself by ignoring the main objective for so long but I’m so glad Nintendo allowed me to make the journey so arduous for myself.  
  
Setting things on fire is fun and it’s about time Nintendo embraced that past time. I don’t think setting wooden weapons or arrows on fire and subsequently using them against Bokoblins ever got old for me. I also loved the fact that if I equipped a fire sword, it would keep me warm in the frigid lands of Hyrule. Systems like those kept me on my toes. What did wear out its welcome quickly was the weapon breakage and cooking.  
  
I felt weapons shouldn’t have broken so easily on the flesh of Moblins or other fleshy enemies. If I were striking rocks, shields, or the undead, I can see why my swords and spears would shatter in time. Thankfully as I unlocked more and more weapon slots, I was no longer fumbling around for weapons as frequently.  
  
Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a reprieve from cooking. I understood the need to combine different ingredients to create a dish or potion for Link to consume but it wasn’t necessary to force me to do that each and every time. If I discovered the recipe once, I should be able to select it from cookbook and be able to create whatever dish I had ingredients for with a press of a button. I wasn’t being more creative with my cooking as time wore on; I was becoming lazy and just tossing in the same ingredients over and over again.  
  
I cannot say I had a consistently enjoyable time with Breath of the Wild but such is life in the real world or Hyrule. For every piece of meat that I had to roast there was an awesome moment of floating through the sky or shield surfing down some slopes in Hedra. For every broken sword, there was a brilliant little puzzle shrine to be found and unravel. These aren’t the gives and takes that I’m used to encountering in a Legend of Zelda game and that alone makes it very special.  
 
Verdict: 
I like it 

Ratings Guide
 
 

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