Pokemon Sword Review

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It took me a while but I finally figured out that I only like Generation 1 Pokemon games. I tried Pokemon Sun but bounced off it. I finished Pokemon Sword but was desperate for the credits towards the end. I realized that I enjoyed Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee a whole lot more than this game and it was all due to nostalgia.

Pokemon Sword was fine. The Galar region was well crafted and filled with many touches inspired by England. Large open spaces gave the region scale like I’ve never seen in a Pokemon game before. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how many spaces I was able to enter and explore. Sure many homes were carbon copies of one another, but it was still an appreciated detail that made each new town/city seem massive.

In-between the major city hubs were wild areas where Pokemon roamed. It was a neat idea that should have been leveraged more. More game could have been wrung out of it but instead I found myself just blitzing through most of it after capturing what I could at the time. The desire to “catch them all” is the primary reason to tread and retread these areas. Different Pokemon will appear depending on time of day and weather. I explored and hunted around these parts for a bit but I just didn’t have an affinity to these newcomers to revisit often.

I pushed forward and wrapped up Pokemon Sword in just over 30 hours. By the end, I was desperately pushing through the final series of battles with sheer brute force. I relied on Hyper Potions, Revives, and a trio of over-leveled Pokemon to carry me to the end credits.

I wasn’t driving forward for story reasons, I just wanted to see the spectacle. While the story was a snore, the spectacle was not. Every Dynamax moment or Gym Leader battle was awesome. Pokemon never felt so grand and I think they nailed the atmosphere of those battles. I just wish the story was as captivating.

As straightforward as the story was, I felt the gameplay was a bigger offender. Earlier Pokemon games leaned in on the game aspect of this series with weird areas like the secret Team Rocket bases with teleporters and conveyor belts. There were caves and other areas that felt like puzzles with TMs and other treats hidden within. The Galar region was noticeably more grounded coming from Pokemon Let’s Go and the Kanto region. There was little to no figuring out in this game. It all felt too straightforward.

There’s fundamentally nothing wrong with Pokemon Sword. In many ways it’s superior to its predecessors. Battles are more complex than ever. The Pokemon are more complex. The Gym Leaders are stylish. The spectacle is more grandiose. But I just felt it all didn’t resonate with me like Pokemon Let’s Go did. It took me a couple of games as of late but I finally realized that I’m not a Pokemon fan. I’m just a fan of Pokemon Red/Blue

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

Ring Fit Adventure Review

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My most played Nintendo Wii U title is Wii Fit U. It was my regular interactive yoga routine that legitimately helped me stay in shape. I found the feedback provided incredibly useful and motivated me to stick with it. I used it to get in 30 minutes of stretching activity per day after some pushups and crunches. It wasn’t the most rigorous exercise but I was content with it. 

Other exercise games found on the Xbox One may have been superior experiences but I stuck with Wii Fit U until I finally got my hands on Ring Fit Adventure in December of 2019. After getting over the loss of Wii Fit trainer for their less vocal cousin, Tipp, I was sold on the entire setup.

I found the Joy-cons (installed on the Ring-con and leg strap) provided accurate tracking of movement which resulted in less frustration and reinforced good form during many of the exercises. I did not miss having to restart entire exercises just to recalibrate the Balance Board. The Ring-con wasn’t perfect but easy mid-exercise recalibrations were possible simply be pointing downwards. I didn’t have issues with exercises tracking me properly but the flying disc smashing mini-game would lose tracking after several swings of the Ring-con. That imprecision didn’t bother me until one of the Adventure mode’s side quests asked me to perfect it. That was an exercise in frustration and a test of my mental strength.

I think spent nearly an hour doing torso twists.

The Adventure mode is fun. I’m at World 10 at the time of writing with just over 30 days worth of sessions. Ring Fit Adventure doesn’t reward daily streaks but both the fiancée and I have committed ourselves do playing Ring Fit Adventure at least 5 days a week. We primarily play Adventure mode. Marrying turn-based RPG mechanics with Pilate exercises worked brilliantly. We strive to burn off at least 100 calories (in-game) per day. The calorie count is an estimate but it usually averages out to about 20 – 30 minutes sessions. I don’t think either of us pay any attention to the dialog but we sure love getting the numbers to go up, acquiring skills, and making progress through these worlds. I don’t know how many Worlds there are but I would gladly pay money to acquire more.

I never heard of a Pilates ring before Ring Fit Adventure. I didn’t come in doubting its ability to deliver a genuine workout for me but I still came away surprised how effective it is. We’re both building muscles with creative exercises involving the Ring-con and occasionally just with the leg strapped Joy-con.

We both started the difficulty levels around the low to mid-20s and gradually inched our way up to the max of 30. Every tick in difficulty resulted in more reps. I appreciated the game’s regular prodding to increase or tune difficulty. Some exercises were still kicking our asses but we were able to tackle level 30 exercises without feeling like we’re brushing with death.

I found the aesthetics fun, quirky, and surprisingly beautiful at times. The visuals gave off The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild vibes as well. The nonsensical upbeat battle music is something that I will forever remember too.

We’re keeping up with Ring Fit Adventure. I don’t see myself or my fiancée putting it down any time soon. Many games will come and go but Ring Fit Adventure may end up being the most played Switch game ever. It’s what happens when you successfully marry fun and fitness.

Verdict:
I loved it

Ratings Guide

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

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Preview

The 2020 Summer Olympics are less than a year away which means it’s time for another Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. The franchise eluded me for years. I didn’t fancy it on Nintendo’s previous consoles but with it coming to the Switch and the Games being hosted in Tokyo, I figured there’s no better time to give this franchise a look. 

I roped my fiancée into trying this game with me and were immediately impressed with how easy it was to pick and play. We appreciated the fact that most if not all the events were unlocked in the Quick Play menu.  

We went through half of the events in a single sitting, trading wins, and generally having fun with many of the events. Some were trickier than others. The triple jump gave us a bit of trouble   because we were both getting mixed up with button placements due to all the time spent on Xbox controllers. Make no mistake though — that wasn’t a slight against it. We both felt it was representative of the real sport. The triple jump isn’t easy.  

We were both fans of the 4 x 100 relay race. It was great to see the option play it on the same team and we appreciated that there was a bit of strategy and execution in this event. I think this mode would be a barn burner in a party setting.  

After we pulled off some great tricks on the wave and skate park, the fiancee took a break and I decided to check out the story mode. I had no idea what to expect but I didn’t quite anticipate an interactive brochure to Tokyo and the Olympic Games. Japanese and Olympic trivia enlightened and informed while Sonic and Mario characters populated the streets and locales of Tokyo.  

I’ve only scratched the surface but I firmly believe that if you bought tickets to an Olympic event, this game should be included. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has been a wonderful taster to both Tokyo and the upcoming games. I look forward to checking it out some more.

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