The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Review

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is my favorite 2D Zelda game. I’ve played Phantom Hourglass, A Link to the Past, and now Link’s Awakening but that 3DS original continues to be my favorite.  

I wouldn’t have played Link’s Awakening if Nintendo didn’t remake it for the Switch. The most Game Boy I experienced was Pokemon Yellow via emulator. I owned a Game Boy Advance but we only bought Pokemon Ruby for it. The Game Boy was a Pokemon machine and nothing else.  

For the longest time I mistakenly thought Link’s Awakening was a lite version of A Link to the Past for the handheld. There were some resemblances to the SNES classic but this was a wholly original adventure. However, it had some shockingly rudimentary side-scrolling segments. This was surprising coming from the makers of Super Mario. I realize it’s likely a faithful adaptation from the Game Boy days but those moments stood out as oddities considering the Goombas and other Mario hallmarks within them. 

Nintendo have always been very good at creating a beautiful and timeless aesthetic for their 2D games and I think this may be their best work yet. Unfortunately uncharacteristic performance dips frequently plague the overworld and even occasionally in dungeons. They were not game breaking but it was odd to see these issues so prevalent in a Nintendo developed title. I even waited a few months in hopes for a patch but ultimately gave up on that idea. 

These issues are even more boggling when a more graphically and technologically ambitious title like Luigi’s Mansion 3 is so performant.  

Thankfully the flow of the game was not nearly as bumpy. I hit some trouble spots with locating a few entrances but after night’s sleep I was able to pick out that cracked wall or finally recall the part of the map that I didn’t revisit yet. Progress was not as straightforward as it could have been but that’s part of the original’s DNA. 

Remakes in general are tricky propositions. How much does one change? How faithful does it have to be to the original? Some of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’s flow issues could have been ironed out but that would have resulted in a much shorter game. Upon reflection, I think this remake did a bang up job walking that line between modernizing and remaining faithful to the original. If I can pick up a guide referring to the Game Boy version and have it still be relevant in this 2019 remake, I think they’re onto something. It’s a shame about the performance issues though.  

Verdict: 
I liked 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.

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

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