Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee

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Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee was made for people like me. People who only played the first couple of games and believe the original 151 are the most memorable Pokemon to date. I’ve tried Pokemon Sun/Moon but found it too slow and too talky for a Pokemon game. All I wanted to do was to drop in, set out, and catch Pokemon. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee gave me that and then some. 

I felt it was a satisfying remake of the first generation Pokemon titles (Pokemon Yellow specifically), it evoked the classics while making smart improvements along the way. The most notable alteration was replacing the random wild Pokemon encounters with Pokemon Go styled catching. Catching them required me to run into them in the world, sedate them with berries before using the right Pokeball and throwing technique to catch them. Fortunately, there were still a handful of Pokemon which required the classic style of weaken before catching.  

I found the visuals to be simple but very charming. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to not push the Switch to its limits but I and the Switch’s battery welcomed it. Playing the game in portable just felt right. It was nice to see the game hold up on the big screen but Pokemon will forever be a portable title first for me. It was also strange that the Pro controller wasn’t a viable option. I get the appeal of playing one handed with a single Joy-con but sometimes I just want to relax with a proper controller.  

New features like two on two battles, categorized bags, and expanded stat pages were welcomed additions. I don’t know if those were taken from the recent games but they didn’t overcomplicate or deviate too far Pokemon Yellow. It’s that smart blend of old and new that made Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee a joy to play.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Hollow Knight (Switch) Review

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Hollow Knight delighted then frustrated. 
Hollow Knight delighted then frustrated.
And on and on it went until the credits rolled.

Hollow Knight walks and talks like a Metroidvania title but after a bit of time it’s obvious that it’s a more sinister and annoying variant of those types of games.

Many of the choices Team Cherry made were reminiscent of Dark Souls where the developers intentionally stripped away modern conveniences in to develop a fear of dying. I didn’t fear dying though; I’m used to the minor inconvenience of running back for my soul/currency. In fact, I actually developed a dread for exploration.

I was annoyed and bewildered by the idea of not drawing in the map until I owned a map of said area. Having to wander around in the figurative and literal dark was not my idea of fun. It was a cute idea the first time around but as the areas got more complex and dangerous, that feeling of curiosity was replaced with perplexity.

Back tracking is par for the course in these types of games. I don’t mind trekking all the way back to the beginning and unearthing new treasures with my newfound abilities. Hollow Knight’s one ups other games in this subgenre by evolving certain areas in significant ways as I defeated story centric bosses. I just wished the game automatically noted secrets.

There’s an unlockable pin system for the maps but I just never remembered to use them. Plus it’s not a particularly entertaining mechanic for me.

I wasn’t thrilled with the exploration aspects of the game but the combat and platforming were pitch perfect; to be honest, it carried me towards completion. The combat mechanics were straightforward but slicing up enemy bugs with the nail felt gratifying. I would have liked a broader array of moves to play with though. The fear of losing my only source of health regeneration kept the idea of using spells other than healing at bay. When I’m faced with the dilemma of dealing more damage or the ability to erase my mistakes, I’m always going to pick the latter.

“What if I need it?”

That was the concern that plagued me in this game. I never felt confident enough to pull off the damage dealing spells. I felt they often left me way too vulnerable with their long cast and recovery times compared to the basic attacks. This was especially true against the boss fights.

The non-essential boss fights in this game were by far the toughest boss fights I ever encountered in recent memory. A lot of it was pattern recognition but sometimes I was just underpowered and needed to augment my abilities with upgrades or equipment changes. However, my stubbornness meant I often refused to back down and kept trying to beat these bosses via immaculate execution.

Nail upgrades improved strength. Charms, on the other hand, worked like a Call of Duty Pick 10 class system where I was given a limited number of slots to shift and augment my little bug warrior. If I wanted to increase the range of my nail attacks, I could do that. If I really wanted to increase the range and heal faster, I can do that as well but then I would have to give up the ability to see my current location on the map. It was an interesting system that could have benefitted with loadouts.

Hollow Knight was cute. It was a game filled with bugs, unsettling stories of a destroyed kingdom and fallen warriors. I didn’t pay attention to most of it; I merely basked in its overarching ambiance. I completed the first ending with 82% world completion and had my fill. I completely missed an area of Hollow Knight and did not feel the desire to go find it after the fact. I was leaving Hollow Knight delighted and I didn’t want it to follow through to frustration.

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

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

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