Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

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  1. Excitement
  2. Accomplishment
  3. Plateau
  4. Drop off

Every Animal Crossing player goes through the same steps at their own pace. I’m on step 3. I invested over 125 hours into Animal Crossing: New Horizons and I still feel good about checking in on a regular basis. I am not making the headway that I expected nor is my island anywhere near as pretty as I hoped it was, but I’m okay with this. Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed at just the right time and has given me and many others a sense of routine and progression.

There’s technically a built-in goal that triggers the rolling of credits, but there’s still a lot more game to enjoy and experience. I wanted to build more bridges, arrange more landmarks, and furnish my multi-story house with weird and wonderful furniture.

My criticisms of Animal Crossing: New Leaf still ring true with New Horizons. The menus could be friendlier to navigate, repetitive dialog continues to plague players, and the general flow of everything is still as deliberate and plodding like it always is. New additions like crafting and terrain customizations give Animal Crossing big shakeups but all these features will be worn down by the Animal Crossing ethos. 

The lack of interactivity may not be a new gripe for long time fans, but it’s quite strange when there’s absolutely no interaction with certain objects. I can dive into the ocean after the July 2020 update, but I cannot do a damn thing with this hot tub that I just crafted. 

I was okay with the fact that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a game about gathering items in the service of decorating. I decorated my island, my house, and my character. The real time aspect of the game continues to amuse me for days, weeks, and even months. Nintendo already released regular events and patches that introduced new content and functionality. Unfortunately, while they all satisfied the definition of new content, they don’t always satisfy. Re-adding the ability to swim and dive in the ocean is amusing, but taking photos for a pair of llamas? Not so much.

There are no surprises in Animal Crossing: New Horizons; players will know whether this appeals to them or not. How long before you reach the drop off point will depends on your level of patience. My fiancée went through all four steps within three weeks. There was so much excitement that she even considered getting a Switch of her own. I’m still puttering away on the island for the both of us. It can definitely be better, but at the same time, I also like it for what it is.

Verdict:
I like it

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Luigi’s Mansion 3

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We did it! It took months and months, but we finally finished Luigi’s Mansion 3. 

Minor correction: I finished Luigi’s Mansion 3.

My fiancée and I started Luigi’s Mansion 3 together late last year and we chipped away at it for months before I finally wrapped it up in early June 2020. Why did it take so long? A number of fundamental issues contributed to a rapid descent in interest.  Needless backtracking and growing frustrations with the controls during boss fights were primary factors.

The game made a wonderful first impression with its charming visuals and highly interactive environments. The ability to vacuum up nearly everything in the world was both impressive and fun. We would discover hidden secrets and coins which rewarded our desire for exploration.

Solving puzzles with the flashlight, UV light, and manipulation of world objects via the Poltergust vacuum amused for about a third of the game. Then we were asked to backtrack to older levels to chase down a ghost cat. They disrupted the game’s momentum by delaying the next piece of new content. We devoured each hotel level; we vacuumed up very inch of each level before we moved on and then they asked us to revisit those levels and look for this ghost cat by vacuuming up stuff again.

We collected a lot of money as a result of all the vacuuming. Unfortunately for us, we had nothing worthwhile to spend it on. There were purchasable hints for other collectibles, but that was it. I would have loved an upgrade mechanic or costumes for Luigi; something fun to cash all this currency for.

It started to feel like a drag but we pushed forward. We were amused by Luigi’s reactions to the antics surrounding him. We had fun taking down the early boss fights and figuring hidden tricks of the spooky hotel. The boss fights started out as wonderful caps to finish off each level, but they gradually became increasingly annoying. I never felt 100% comfortable with the controls and I’ve been playing all manner of console games for decades. Some of these boss fights required a level of finesse that these controls did not reliably deliver. These encounters transitioned from fun victories to frustration laden slogs as we repeated fights due to minor execution errors. 

I wrapped up the last few levels of Luigi’s Mansion on my own. My fiancée had checked out and gave me the blessing to finish it on my own. Since I initially played a large chunk of the game co-operatively, the switch to controlling both Luigi and his slime clone, Gooigi, was a bit awkward. It felt fine when I was simply exploring the levels, but it felt unnatural during combat. I stumbled my way through the last few levels and managed to defeat King Boo after a handful of tries, but was left dissatisfied with the gameplay.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 held a lot of promise early on and I was disappointed to see it fail to deliver on that promise. If they axed all the backtracking, included meaningful rewards for exploration, and tweaked the boss fights to accommodate their controls, I think my fiancée and I would have seen it through together. In the end, I was left playing with myself and that felt weird.

Verdict:
It was okay

Ratings Guide

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

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