Coffee Crisis – A balanced roast of retro gaming

I thought it would be interesting this weekend to pick up a random indie game on my Switch without knowing really anything about it and write my thoughts about it. In looking through the Switch Online Store, which I believe could use a bit more organization as it seems daunting to look through page after page of titles without there being much for filter options…but I digress. I found the game Coffee Crisis which was developed by Mega Cat Studios and published by Qubic Games. The game appeared to be a bit of a retro throwback to all the 16-bit side scrolling beat-em-up games that I played as a kid on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. It also happens to involve metal music, retro games, and as the title would suggest….coffee.

I have fond memories of playing beat-em-ups like the Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and Golden Axe games; everything about this game fits right in with these games. I enjoyed the aspect of playing a game so reminiscent of the previously mentioned early-90’s titles. Mega Cat Studios I discovered, even produced an authentic Homebrew version of the game on cartridge with case and manual to play on Sega Mega Drive/Genesis that you can purchase on their website.

The story is set on Smurglians – a race of aliens who’s entire planet runs on the energy generated from coffee, metal music and WiFi( that’s right!) and have set their sights on planet Earth’s most precious resources. You play as either Nick or Ashley, two metalhead baristas at the Black Forge Coffee House who are not going to sit idly by and let this travesty occur as you fight your way through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh.

Walloping the elderly to save the metal…

The gameplay is pretty standard as far as beat-em-ups go; you progress through multiple levels with the occasional mini-boss appearing every several levels until finally making your way to the boss at the end of the game, which I was mildly disappointed in the abrupt not-quite-an-ending of the game, it more or less just….stops. The length of the game overall I was satisfied with, being roughly the same length as others of the genre. My criticisms of the game are pretty mild, as I any drawbacks to the game are the same that you would hear of games like Streets of Rage. For better or worse, Coffee Crisis is authentic to a fault with negative attributes that are commonplace in games like it. You screen position is difficult to keep track of when multiple enemies attack and you get “Caught In A Mosh”( couldn’t resist!). There is also the annoying abundance of enemies who can shoot projectiles at you or simply have “weapons” such as a lasso or a cane…yes, among the enemies you fight off are humans that have been taken control of by the Smurglians. These can be range from random looking “dude bros”, to western looking…uh…cowgirls, to I guess….the elderly? You fight your way through the streets of Pittsburgh drinking coffee, listening to metal, and pummeling old men and women that attack you with canes and walkers. There is also an array of Smurglians to fight from purple aliens sporting mohawks to tuxedo-clad aliens in wheelchairs who can shoot “mental projectiles” at you ( Professor X as a Smurglian). The game in premise alone is not any danger of taking itself seriously, I ALMOST felt like I shouldn’t have been enjoyed this developing chaos as much as I did. My other critique is also all too common in games such as this where, you have a powerful special move at your disposal HOWERVER, using it costs you a small portion of your health. The game is not an easy game, as it was clearly intended to be played in “couch co-op” with another player alongside you.

I still feel these negatives don’t overly hinder any enjoyment to be had playing Coffee Crisis, I had a blast playing this game. The soundtrack to the game is excellent as well, with tracks being provided by Pittsburgh area metal band Greywolf. There is also a couple small cameos from retro-gaming YouTubers Metal Jesus Rocks and Alpha Omega Sin. Mega Cat Studios clearly shows a lot of love for the 16-bit beat-em-ups of yesteryear and I very heartily recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining indie game to play, it’s got coffee, retro games, and metal, hell yeah!

I thought these dudes looked familiar….

Side Note: Coffee Crisis is currently available for LESS than the price of a coffee house brew at $1.99, a GREAT DEAL until May 27th. https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/coffee-crisis-switch/

For anyone else who would like to purchase a physical cartridge version to play on Sega… https://megacatstudios.com/collections/16-bit/products/coffee-crisis-sega-genesis

Keep on playing…

Revisited – Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

We all have games from our childhood that hold a special place, that we still find ourselves coming back to. Games that still provide that spark of youthful enthusiasm even after all these years. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron on Nintendo 64 is without a doubt an example of these types of games for me.

Rogue Squadron was released on the N64 on December 7, 1998 in North America two days after my 13th birthday. Unfortunately for myself, the game came out AFTER my birthday and just a little TOO close to Christmas, so I wasn’t able to get the game until January of 1999…but it was definitely worth the wait as it is still one of my favorite games for the N64. This game was everything a young Star Wars fan could want at the time. For a full historical context, this was 6 months before The Phantom Menace was even released in theaters to much….um…discussion…so the Star Wars expanded universe was depicted primarily in books, comics, and video games. One of the most engrossing aspects of playing Star Wars games was being able to do everything from experiencing moments from the movies yourself or simply exploring the numerous planets lining the galaxy to the ships and weaponry used by the Imperials and Rebel Alliance alike – Rogue Squadron delivered all of these.

The genesis of Rogue Squadron can be pinned to Shadows of the Empire (LOVE this game also!) which was released in November 1996, shortly after the launch of the N64. The very first level you play as mercenary Dash Render piloting a Snowspeeder during the Battle of Hoth. I remember how impressive it was being able to participate in one of my favorite moments of the Star Wars Trilogy(Original) and how easily you could do everything from shoot down TIE Fighters to tangling up AT-ATs with your harpoon and tow cable. LucasArts then commissioned developers Factor 5 with creating an entire game around flight and combat elements using the ships of the Rebel Alliance. The story of the game takes place between Star Wars Episode IV and V, with the opening levels taking place shortly after the events of IV. You control Luke Skywalker – the leader of Rogue Squadron, formed after the destruction of the Death Star.

The game begins with Luke and the rest of Rogue Squadron coming across Imperial troops over Mos Eisley.

The gameplay itself, which is the heart of the Rogue Squadron series is a more arcade-style, action/flight sim game; not as in-depth of a simulator as some of the X-Wing/Tie Fighter games on PC. Factor 5 balanced this nicely in creating something that was easy to pick up and play, but is by no means an easy game. The flight controls are responsive and as smooth as anything else out there on the N64; about as smooth as Star Fox 64…JUST about. The game consists of 16 main story missions with 3 more bonus missions – including the Battle of Hoth and Death Star Trench Run – after completing the main missions. The mission types are generally relegated to finding and destroying targets, reconnaissance, and rescue/escort missions( a video game staple for countless years) though the levels never seemed to get overly tedious or repetitive.

Some of the most memorable missions for me are Defection At Corellia, in which Rogue Squadron sets out to rescue Crix Madine – an Imperial General looking to join the rebels. The level also includes an appearance(sort of) of Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon joining in the fight with Han telling Luke “I thought you could use a hand, this IS my hometown after all…”. Another one of my favorite missions is The Imperial Construction Yards where you pilot a Snowspeeder and infiltrate the industrial planet of Balmorra leading an attack on Imperial facilities producing TIE Fighters, AT-ATs, and AT-STs. Of course, there are missions that are memorable simply for being incredibly difficult at times. Escape From Fest – in which you are escorting 3 stolen AT-PTs from an Imperial research facility and protecting them from basically everything the Empire can throw at you from AT-ATs, to TIE Fighters and Bombers, to turret cannons. If I didn’t hint at it earlier, the escort missions are by far the most difficult in the game along with pretty much any Y-Wing mission.

Rogue Squadron was also one of probably a handful of games that I had for my N64 that was able to take advantage of the boost from dropping in an Expansion Pack in the console. I didn’t get an Expansion Pack until a bit later once it was packed inside the box for Donkey Kong 64 as the more demanding games REQUIRED it to play. The game graphics were good to begin with, but with the Expansion Pack it added more detail and overall sharpness to them. It enhanced the visuals of everything from the planet landscapes; from the foggy, tropical planet Thyferra, to the rusty, Mars-like planet of Kessel. Even the in-game explosions such as destroying a TIE Fighter seemed to be improved. I remember playing the opening Mos Eisley mission after dropping in the Expansion Pack and being impressed saying “It looks just like when the Death Star explodes!” which in hindsight may have been a big exaggerated due to youthful enthusiasm, but the graphics due hold up pretty well especially when compared to other N64 era games. (Side Note: It is interesting in how visual image of some of these planets HAS changed due to being shown in newer Star Wars movies such as Solo: A Star Wars Story which begins on Han Solo’s home world of Corellia – a little more complex and densely populated than in Rogue Squadron – but also the planet Kessel which was affected as much as even in the Solo movie it was still a rust-colored planet that is home to Glitterstim spice mines and slave prisons.)

The audio in Rogue Squadron has also held up well, considering the limitations of the time. Everything from the sound effects of laser blasts, to the iconic screech of TIE Fighters and other fighter ships is true to the Star Wars movies and universe in general. The original score for the game is also very well done, albeit still not quite the same league as a John Williams score, but that is a bar set very high for any medium – movie OR video game.

The N-1 Naboo Starfighter was programmed into the game as an unlockable ship to use if the you entered the correct input code. This was largely undiscovered until much later after the game’s release and that of Episode 1. Still a cool easter egg included by Factor 5 for Star Wars fans awaiting the prequel trilogy.

I still love Rogue Squadron, along with the subsequent titles released on the GameCube and cannot recommend Rogue Squadron enough to anyone has may have missed out on this great game back in the pre-Y2K days. I can still feel the excitement of getting to explore the different worlds throughout the galaxy and getting to fly the different ships used by the Rebel Alliance as well as Imperials, X-Wing toTIE Fighter was a great thrill. This game along with Knights of the Old Republic would have to be my absolute favorite Star Wars game to this day. The sound and graphics have held up well and the controls are still as fun as I remember them being 20 years ago. There are games that we played and loved so much as kids that unfortunately we come back to and find have not aged so gracefully, but LucasArts and Factor 5 did an incredible job with this game and it still is capable of transporting back to those golden days of yesterday…in a galaxy, far, far, away…sorry! couldn’t resist 🙂

Keep on playing…

What I’m Playing Now – Weekend Gaming Review

Having recently finished the mostly long, not so arduous task of getting the platinum trophy for Assassin’s Creed:Origins so I found myself once again asking myself “What do I feel like playing next?”. The platinum trophy for Origins took approximately 74 hours as I had started playing it back in January after setting out to actually complete an Assassin’s Creed game which I had only played a couple up to that time. Without spending too much time going over and discussing the game I will say that I really enjoyed the game, so much that I spent 70-plus hours completing everything and getting the platinum trophy. I don’t typically spend all of my energy(or sanity) trying to collect every trophy for every game, save for a relatively small group of games that I had loved so much that I was determined to accomplish everything within the game. Now that I had Origins wrapped up, I decided I would set my sights on another game. I am usually “juggling” several different games, on different systems at any given time. I have still been playing MLB The Show 19 pretty steadily since it released over a month ago and had just recently begun playing through Cuphead on my Switch, along with still playing a few rounds of Tetris 99 and Super Smash Bros: Ultimate on a routinely basis.

There are three games in particular that I have had in mind for a while now that I wanted to play through – Persona 5, Final Fantasy XV, and The Witcher 3(Complete Edition). All three of these games being somewhat intimidating as I’m not usually able to play a sprawling, epic (J)RPG game while still playing too many others so I decided I would finish up some other games before devoting myself to a more “demanding” game. I have played a good amount of RPGs over the years since first discovering how satisfying and addicting they can be, especially after finally “figuring out” the strategy in turn-based combat…thanks, Pokemon Red :)…but always had trouble finishing them as I would seemingly always just…not play them for a few days or a couple weeks and would have trouble getting “back into” the control scheme and story.

I woke up one morning and just decided to jump in and start playing The Witcher 3, which I am really liking so far and will make sure to keep playing consistently as the control scheme for the game is a little different and can seem more complex than some games. However, after a couple days I decided that I wanted to try Persona 5 as well and started playing that randomly one morning, the update for SSB: Ultimate in adding Joker to the roster may have “assisted” in that decision as well…I was a little hesitant to begin playing Persona as I was thinking the rumors COULD BE TRUE about a port of Persona 5 coming to the Switch and having a 100+ hour JRPG to play on my Switch to take around with me sounded fun. Well…a few days ago Atlus announced that they were bringing the Persona series to the Switch with Persona 5 Scramble – not a straight port of the game but more of a fighter-type game in the vein of the Dynasty Warriors games. So my decision to play Persona 5 on my PS4 was the correct one. I absolutely love Persona so far and have put about 15 hours or so into it already.

The last few couple days however…I felt like going back and playing through some of my childhood favorite games on my N64. I played Star Wars: Rogue Squadron – still one of my absolute favorite Star Wars games, along with some Star Fox 64 and I also dug out my old copy of Mario Golf which brought back tons of fond memories of summer days gone by. I am still in love with many games on the N64, even ones that my not have aged as gracefully like a lot of early 3d era games did, Goldeneye in particular. I do intend on bringing out my old Gamecube and original Xbox to play some of my all-time favorites like Halo(1 &2), Metroid Prime, and Eternal Darkness. I would like to also play through Timesplitters 2 as well as attempt to finally beat Viewtiful Joe which was more difficult than I could accomplish in past years.

I apologize if there doesn’t seem to be much more to this week’s post than a lengthy recollection of my weekend of playing video games(that IS pretty accurate). Part of my mission with this blog has been simply to sort out the endless rambling about “vidya gaemz”. What games are you currently playing? or what’s a game that you have wanted to play to haven’t gotten around to for one reason or another?

Keep on playing…

Here’s some Persona 5 Scramble news if curious – https://www.gamespot.com/articles/p5s-is-persona-5-scramble-a-warriors-style-action-/1100-6466463/

My Nintendo Switch Wish List

Right around this time every year, leading up to E3 in June there is endless speculation regarding what games will be announced for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. This includes brand new series, sequels, along with remastered collections/ports. I thought it would be fun to make a list of the 3 games highest on my wish list for the Nintendo Switch ranging from rumors that have been circulated for a while to “hey, it COULD happen right?”.

Nintendo is still riding high on the success of the Switch and has been busy bringing over titles that gamers may not have gotten the chance to play on previous consoles like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe to franchises that haven’t yet been on a Nintendo system like Diablo 3: Eternal Collection and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There is also a rapidly growing collection of indie titles on the Switch that is still growing like Rocket League, Undertale and Cuphead(just released a couple days ago). My 3 games I would most like to play on the Switch are all previously released Nintendo games that I think would be excellent on their newest handheld/hybrid console.

I desperately hope the rumors are true…

Metroid Prime Trilogy – The rumor that Nintendo would bring a (hopefully hd remastered) version of the Metroid Prime Trilogy to the Switch has been around for a little while, and has grown even more prevalent since it was announced that they weren’t satisfied with how the development of Metroid Prim 4 was coming along and decided to restart the process along with Retro Studios who developed the first 3 games. Metroid Prime is one of my absolute favorite games and this would be incredible on the Switch with some updated visuals and standard button controls; the latter being one of the biggest reasons Metroid Prime 3 (along with many other games) was a bit difficult to go back and play. The rumor of this being brought over to the Switch has Metroid fans like myself salivating and would help to ease the disappointment in the announcement that Prime 4 is very likely a couple years away still.

Super Mario Sunshine could be an excellent port to the Switch library

Super Mario Sunshine HD – This is another Gamecube game that I would love to play on the Switch with a few tweaks to the game. I have very fond memories of spending many summer hours collecting Shine Sprites and cleaning up graffiti around Isle Delfino as Mario with the help of FLUDD his water-jet backpack….contraption. I know people that weren’t huge fans of the game and criticized the game for being “gimmicky” in its usage of FLUDD throughout the game, who I suspect were the same ones that accused Super Mario Odyssey of the same thing. Oddly enough, while playing through Odyssey I noted the game did seem to be a spiritual successor to Sunshine. One thing, along with some refreshed graphics I would like to see would be maybe…possibly…an improvement to the camera scheme in the game. I have long said that Mario’s greatest nemesis in his 3d adventures IS NOT Bowser, but rather Lakitu and the often clumsy, awkward camera angles. Nonetheless, Super Mario Sunshine had some of the most creative(and difficult) 3d levels I have played and would love the chance to tackle them and Shadow Mario again on the Switch.

Wishful thinking…

Banjo-Kazooie/Banjo-Tooie HD Collection – A Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie collection is my “it COULD happen…right?” entry on the list, this being a somewhat extreme hypothetical as the characters from the BK games as well as Perfect Dark and Conker’s Bad Fur Day are properties of Rare Ltd. who was bought by Microsoft back in 2002. However, a working relationship between Microsoft and Nintendo starting with cross-play ability for games like Minecraft and Fortnite has increased with players being able to unlock Xbox Live Achievements while playing the aforementioned games on their Switch consoles. There has also been the rumors that Microsoft may be working on bringing aspects of Xbox Live to the Switch. This could be a game-changing(PUN!) event, as Microsoft has the best and most robust online gaming experience out there with Xbox Live and if that infrastructure were to be integrated with Nintendo it could be incredible. Another rumor leading up to E3 is that Xbox’s Games Pass subscription could be made available to Switch users, which would also be an amazing development. So my wish is that as long as Microsoft and Nintendo are maintaining a friendly working relationship to compete with Sony in the gaming universe, could Rare Ltd. be given the green light to re-release some of their N64 classics in a HD remastered package? This is pure speculation(not even that…) but I would gladly fork over the cash to play upgraded versions of the Banjo-Kazooie games as well as Perfect Dark or Jet Force Gemini, another underrated Rare game from the N64. Any games you would like to play again on the Switch? A guy can dream, right?

Me, every time Nintendo releases another port or remaster on the Switch

MLB The Show 19 – First Impressions

The 2019 MLB baseball season is finally here! Though The Show 19 has only been out for not even two weeks, I can already say this year’s offering from San Diego Studios is looking to be one of the best ever.

The most difficult thing for a developer has to be finding ways to make a sports game interesting and engaging year after year. This year’s The Show game includes the new mode March to October which is a sort of condensed season where you play mostly situational spots through the scheduled season to help your team build momentum, or “catch fire”. This can be anything from completing a series sweep against a division rival to completing a no-hitter for your starting pitcher with player rewards coming at the end of the season. Also new this year is the Moments mode where you play out significant situations throughout baseball history. The starting Moments programs include a Babe Ruth career arc, as well as Willie Mays, the Chicago Cubs historic World Series season, and rookie season for current cover star Bryce Harper. The different challenges have archived in game footage setting up the moment, which I really enjoy as a baseball fan and history geek.

The new Moments mode where you can “call your shot” as Babe Ruth or make “The Catch” as Willie Mays

The XP/Rewards system this year is a little different, and for the better I believe. There are two different paths that you can earn rewards from player cards and equipment to simply more stubs…to purchase more cards and equipment 😉 The first is the XP Path Rewards in which you receive a new reward every five or so levels you increase your profile which is looking to pay off with some pretty nice cards for your Diamond Dynasty team. There is also the Star Program rewards path, which is pretty much the same as the XP path only you receive varying amounts of stars as a result of winning a game or completing the rotating in-game missions that are offered. This too, results in some nice rewards as I already picked up a level 95 diamond-rated Goose Gossage to add to the bullpen of my Diamond Dynasty team.

The game mechanics have been tweaked a bit over the offseason; the player defense is the most realistic I have seen in a baseball simulation game meaning no more awkward throw animations or bumbling fielding attempts. The hitting has also been altered ever so slightly, there is actually good, solid feedback when you get the bat on the ball which is an improvement over last year. I genuinely hope San Diego Studios doesn’t feel the need to experiment with batting physics again this year. There is also an array of different home run calls and animations that can be used for your Road to the Show players which are fun to set, even if it doesn’t affect how the game plays.

There are a couple very minor dislikes about the game such as there isn’t really any additions or improvements made to Franchise mode, or simply the fact that the game boast an overwhelming abundance of game modes and settings and cards that it is near baffling to first play. There is also a feeling that the Live Series player cards actually have a “live” bat versus some of the Flashback Series cards I have used in the past few years…nevertheless, I have truly enjoyed the 40 or so hours I have put into the game so far and have to remind myself that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. MLB The Show 19 is another home run!

Thoughts on Majora’s Mask (after all these years)

“Whether a parting be forever or merely a short time…that is up to you”

These are the words given to you by the Happy Mask Salesman upon leaving Link and setting out across Termina Field. His words seemed applicable as The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask had taken me about a decade to finish and I had set out to play through the game a second time.

Getting my copy of Majora’s Mask in the mail is one of my fondest childhood memories. I was able to persuade my mom into ordering a special bundle from nintendo.com( online ordering was still a novelty in 2000, living in the middle of nowhere) that came with the gold cartridge collector’s edition of the game, the soundtrack cd, player’s guide, and a year subscription to Nintendo Power. I hadn’t really played many Zelda games until Ocarina of Time came out on the N64(and is still my favorite Zelda game…not a real original opinion), so I was excited to play the follow-up which for a considerable amount of time was listed as Zelda: Gaiden in Nintendo Power. I remember playing Majora’s Mask and really enjoying the world and the storyline, but for reasons I don’t remember to this day I kinda just stopped playing about 2/3 of the way through. I picked up the game a several times over the next few years with the intention of completing it, but never did. I read several gaming magazines saying it was EVEN BETTER than Ocarina of Time which I couldn’t comprehend at the time, I just wasn’t in love with the seemingly tedious item and mask quests that relied on a specific day and time to be completed and had a difficult time finishing the game. It was about nine years later by the time I finally finished it. I gained a better appreciation of the game once I made my way through the Ikana Graveyard and Canyon on my way to the Stone Tower and eventually the moon itself. Over time, developing a deeper admiration for the game that a very large portion of the audience did not or could not love as much as its predecessor – Ocarina of Time.

I eventually got the re-release of Majora’s Mask for the 3DS a while ago and made a conscious effort to play through the game within the same week to see what my feelings of the game would be after 19 years…

In the 3DS version of the game there are changes from the N64. There are a lot of minor location changes such as Heart Pieces and Stray Fairies within the main 4 dungeons. Several of the masks are located in different locations. The Giant’s Mask for example, is not acquired until mid-way through the Stone Tower boss battle with TwinMold whereas it’s located in a large chest before you enter the boss room. This made it tricky when I would pull out my weathered Nintendo Power Official Player’s Guide for the game and the items simply weren’t there.

Traveling back and forth throughout the 3 days before the moon crashes into Clock Town and destroys everything in a central mechanic to the game, and the 3DS version has streamlined this a bit. In the N64 version, if I wanted to be somewhere at 10pm for example, I would play the Song of Double Time and warp to either the dawn or night of a given day. You would warp to 6pm(nighttime) and have to wait around until the clock hits 10pm. In the 3DS version however, you can travel by 1 hour increments so you can warp directly to 10pm without having to stand around waiting. This isn’t an enormous, game-changing thing, but it does save a lot of annoyance at the fact you’re sitting waiting for something to happen.

I really liked the fact they moved the location of the Clock Town Bank in the 3DS version to right behind the clock tower and owl statue, which serves as your fast travel points throughout the game. There are countless times where you will pull out your ocarina, Deku pipes, Goron drums, or Zora guitar(coolest instrument in ANY Zelda game, IMO) and play the Song of Soaring to fast travel to Clock Town solely to deposit all of your rupees in the bank as your item inventory will reset once you play the Song of Time and return to the dawn of the first day. Again, this isn’t something that warrants the long explanation but it’s one less inconvenience that I had a hard time liking about the game back in 2000.

My favorite battle is still Goht – the Snowhead Temple Boss

The boss battles are still one of the most memorable parts of Majora’s Mask. The battle with Goht in Snowhead Temple taking place within a circular “track” where you must derail him with your spikes while rolling with your Goron Mask on, seems akin to chariots slamming into each other while racing in the Roman Colosseum. Your fight with TwinMold at the end of the twisting upside-down and then right side up Stone Tower was also memorable. The boss battle that turns into a giant(PUN!) wrestling match once you acquire and wear the appropriately named Giant Mask. In which Link, grabs the stunned TwinMold by the tail and swings it around like Mario fighting Bowser in Mario 64.

The music in the game is still probably my favorite from any Zelda game; from the intro – a sunny, baroque madrigal-esque passage before taking an ominous and foreboding turn, to the Astral Observatory theme – an absolutely enchanting and sublime melody which still brings out all sorts of warm, fuzzy nostalgic feelings after all these years. ( I have included a link below to listen)

There is always the sense of catastrophe hanging overhead…

In summary(finally), my admiration and respect for Majora’s Mask has grown deeper and more affectionate over the years with a better understanding of the game’s darker, more mature themes. It is equal parts beautiful and tragic, showing parallels between the story and our own lives. We go through our lives in a frantic state simply trying to accomplish our goals and ambitions because there is the constant feeling of impending doom, along with helplessness and loneliness; the sense of not having enough time for everything. I am beyond satisfied to have re-experienced this game. Majora’s Mask is a dark masterpiece that I did not or simply could not understand at the time.



Catching Up On Games – Guacamelee!

One of the problems that come along with having a wide interest in different game genres is – You simply don’t have time to play them all. Some games for one reason or another end up being put in the back log and you have to come back to them at a later time(sometimes much later…). I just recently had the chance to play through Guacamelee! the incredibly fun to play metroidvania style action platformer made by Drinkbox Studios. Guacamelee! was first released on the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita in April of 2013 and is currently available on just about every gaming platform. I’m embarrassed it took me this long getting around to it.

Players control Juan, an agave farmer living in rural Mexico. Juan is called to the local town after receiving word that his former flame and daughter of El Presidente – Lupita has been abducted by the evil Carlos Calaca. Juan dons the mask of the mystical Luchador and sets out to save Lupita, learning new abilities along the way. The backdrop is set with traditional Mexican culture and folklore as the events of the game are set during Dia de los Muertos(Day of the Dead). The visuals are colorful and make this game as satisfying to look at as to play. One of the favorite touches is right before you fight one of the game’s bosses such as the Trio of Death (a three headed skeleton armed with mariachi instruments) or the aptly named Flame Face (armed with a pistol and tequila bottle) there is a colorful billboard showing “Juan Vs. Flame Face!” that flashes before the screen adding to the Mexican wrestling vibe.

Guacamelee! is a metroidvania style side scrolling action game that isn’t completely non-linear, but leaves ample room to backtrack and explore the different levels. You come across “Choozo Statues” which from the name right down to the appearance are a nod to the Metroid influence of this game. You learn different move and abilities such as a double-jump, a destructive headbutt, or my favorite – Pollo Power! which allows you to switch back and forth to a chicken inside an egg( an allusion to your Morph Ball upgrade in the Metroid games). There is also the really interesting game mechanic where you gain the ability to switch between the plane of the living or the dead, which adds complexity to the puzzles and combat with the game. The combat of the game is much deeper than I would have guessed with move lists much more extensive than the majority of indie games like this.

The “Choozo Statues” should look oddly familiar to Metroid fans…

The game has many nods to vintage games, but don’t take this as merely a “cover version” of a Metroid game, Guacamelee! is it’s very own unique game. I played the Super Turbo Championship Edition of the game on my Switch, which this edition of the game would suggest a reference to previous Street Fighter 2 titles( Super, Turbo, and Champion). I am making an effort to get caught up on more of these indie titles that I haven’t gotten to play yet, and the Switch is the perfect place to play them. I sadly admit I still have to finish the last level of Shovel Knight as well as pick back up where I left off in Hollow Knight and Journey. Guacamelee! 2 was also released back in October 2018. I very heartily recommend Guacamelee! to anyone, I assume I’m not the only one who hadn’t played it yet.


My 5 Favorite Current-Gen Games

The current generation of gaming has been an incredible time for players with video games being bigger than they have ever been before. Today, I’ve listed what I have narrowed down to my 5 favorite of the games offered on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, etc. These are not in any particular order, and may change as there are some excellent games released just a few months into 2019. We also have not received much news as to when the next-gen consoles will be released.

Far Cry 5 – I have lost track of approximately how many hours I’ve spent running around Hope County’s gorgeous landscape in the fight against the Eden’s Gate cult. I have completed the game a few times and seem to keep coming back with how much I enjoy the mayhem the inevitably seems to follow me wherever I go. The rush of chaos and explosions is some of the most satisfying I have ever played in a game. Far Cry 5 and the entire Far Cry series for that matter are essentially being tossed into an action movie from the 80’s. Side note – Far Cry: New Dawn was released a month ago and I highly recommend that as well.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – There isn’t much I can say for Red Dead Redemption 2 that hasn’t been said already. Rockstar’s open-world wild west masterpiece will be discussed and played for years to come. The game is a very heavy, slow burn that certainly pays off in the end. The story is very nuanced, with new detail that I notice every time I play it. The in-game environment is easily the most impressive I have ever seen, with a landscape truly seems alive. The game conveys desolation, loneliness and at times hopelessness as well as the beauty and brutal struggle of life in the Old West. This game is a bucket-list worthy experience for anyone.

Super Mario Odyssey – When Super Mario Odyssey was announced, I admit I was mildly skeptical. So…Mario is running around a metropolitan looking world inhabited by humans…and he’s throwing a hat on things to transform into them? I mean…that is pretty accurate, but I absolutely loved this game! The main story itself is a little on the short side, but I invested 90 hours into this game going through and collecting all 999 power moons and different outfits for Mario. This aspect of the game along with the heavy dashes of nostalgia is where the most memorable moments of the game were for me. Going through the different worlds and collecting all the power moons and purple coins was reminiscent of the old “collect-a-thon” games on the N64 that I spent my childhood years playing. Super Mario Odyssey was the most fun I had playing a Mario game since the first Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii.

Horizon: Zero Dawn – Giant. Robot. Dinosaurs. That’s all I really knew going into my first play through of Guerrilla Game’s newest ip Horizon: Zero Dawn. There is so much more to this game than what may be first apparent. The gameplay itself is as good as it gets for an open-world sandbox game. The hours flew by just exploring the post-catastrophe world with terrain from snowy mountains to lush green open areas to vast expanses of rocky arid desert. The story is great and protagonist Aloy is one of my new favorite game characters as she is looking for answers to the world’s history as well as her own. An excellent brand-new series entry in a crowded space of remakes and remasters.

God of War – Another game that doesn’t need much else said about it, the most recent(and best) entry in the God of War series is as good as gaming gets. Kratos’ journey this time taking place with his son Atreus at his side. The game is this time around set in Norse mythology rather than Greek. The journey Kratos and Atreus embark on is as much personal as physical, as the story deals with grief, loss and allowing yourself to move on. Game director Cory Barlog stated he wanted to create a more mature Kratos whose past still weighs heavily on him. Everything about this game is excellent, and showcases what games can do as an artistic medium. The only thing left to say is…”Boy!”


Dreams of the Wind Fish – My First Playthrough of Link’s Awakening

To the finder…
The Isle of Koholint is but an illusion…
Human, monster, sea, sky…
A scene on the lid of a sleeper’s eye…
Awake the dreamer, and Koholint will vanish
much like a bubble on a needle…
Cast-away, you should know the truth!

These cryptic words are etched into a wall in the back of the Southern Face Shrine. Link our shipwrecked hero finds them after gaining access to the Face Shrine – one of the latter dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

I will begin by stating my quest was to play through Link’s Awakening for the very first time, which I completed very recently. I sheepishly admit I had never actually played the game even though it had been on my list for quite some time. I am even more ashamed to admit I have only completed a handful of the 16 Legend of Zelda games as I begin far more games than I fully complete(I counted the Oracle games as 1, and am not counting the Phillips CD-i games at all…). I decided to set my sights on Link’s Awakening as I knew very little about this particular Zelda game and also the fact it was recently announced from Nintendo that a remastered version for the Switch will be released in the near future, so it seemed a good place to start. There is also the fact that I have been playing more original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games that I had missed out on. I had played Tetris and few other games on a friend’s Game Boy, but didn’t get a Game Boy Color of my own until after Poke-mania had swept across the country and I begged my parents for one.

I played through the original version on my Game Boy Color, though many prefer the colorized DX version that was released later. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

Link’s Awakening was originally released for the Game Boy in August 1993 and Link’s Awakening DX was released for the Game Boy Color in December 1998. I played through the original version as I haven’t come across many copies of the DX version on the past. The differences in the two versions are minor, the DX version has an extra dungeon – the Color Dungeon which incorporates the fact that it’s….in color as well as the picture mode in the game which you could then use the Game Boy Printer to print out copies of the in game pictures.

The game takes place after the events in A Link to the Past and the opening of the game shows Link sailing over the ocean on a mission to recruit others in the fight against evil but is caught in a fierce storm and ends up shipwrecked on the beach of the strange island of Koholint. Link then comes across a mysterious owl( A different one – Kaepora Gaebora isn’t introduced until Ocarina of Time)who informs him that the island is being terrorized by nightmare creatures and tasks Link with waking the mythical spirit – The Wind Fish who sleeps in a giant egg atop Mt. Tamaranch. The owl tells Link to find the 8 Instruments of the Sirens found in dungeons throughout the island which will wake the Wind Fish and dispel the nightmares from the island. It is in the latter stages of the game you read the above verse and discover that the island itself along with its inhabitants are merely a dream manifested from the Wind Fish’s slumber.

I was impressed with how well the controls worked, given the limitations of the Game Boy(s) having only a D-pad, A, B, Start, and Select buttons. You have an inventory item assigned to each button which can seemingly make for a lot of pressing the Start button to pause the game and assign different items. This can mean switching items over your 2 buttons every few screens. You can have your sword equipped with A and your shield with the B button and go up a screen or two and then will need to press Start to assign bombs or your bow to a different button. There are also items that you can use by pressing A and B simultaneously like the Pegasus Boots and Roc’s Feather which allows you to dash jump over greater distances or if you have your bow and bombs equipped to A and B you can press both at the same time to shoot bomb arrows which I found interesting. The saving mechanic for the game(in the original GB version at least) is….interesting however. You need to press the A and B buttons along with Select and Start at the same time with will prompt you to save and quit the game, this proved the be a minor inconvenience though.

Walking Madame MeowMeow’s “dog” BowWow. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The items are all the typical items we’ve come to expect to see in a Legend of Zelda game. You find your sword and shield and then will eventually acquire more items like the hookshot and bombs, as well as the wonderfully overpowered boomerang. The game has the distinction of having absolutely no mention of Princess Zelda(other than titular) or image of a Tri-Force. Another anomaly is multiple crossover characters from other Nintendo franchises are present on Koholint Island. There are goombas and bloopers along with a small round enemy that tries to inhale you known as an Anti-Kirby. You come across a Yoshi doll in a multiple item trading sequence through the game, during one of these trades you bring a letter from the character Christine the Goat who is an actual goat to her pen pal Mr Write who then proceeds to show you the enclosed picture of his pen pal which has an image of Princess Peach. My personal favorite though, is the island denizen Madame MeowMeow who asks you to walk her “dog” – a giant chain-chomp named BowWow.

The dungeons I found interesting; each getting less linear and more complex in design as the game progresses, with some having multiple levels to navigate. From the first dungeon, the straight forward Tail Cave to the labryinthian Turtle Rock. Each dungeon has a Nightmare Boss defending one of the 8 Instruments of the Sirens, along with a mini-boss(sometimes two). The final dungeon Turtle Rock was one of the highlights of the game for me. A dungeon of 4 floors culminating with a battle against the Evil Eagle on top of the mountain. After collecting all 8 instruments you play “Ballad of the Wind Fish” on your ocarina(another game mechanic that is further expanded in Ocarina of Time) to break open the giant egg and stumble down into the maze below. You then battle the Shadow Nightmare which takes the shape or shadow, rather of some familiar foes including Moldorm, Agahnim, and Ganon before transforming into the cycloptic creature Dethl, who you must slay in order to wake the Wind Fish.

The boss battle with Evil Eagle at the top of Turtle Rock dungeon was my favorite. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

The game design I found was interesting and really enjoyed the general “strangeness” of this particular Zelda game. This has a more lighthearted, whimsical tone to it, whereas other later entries have a decidedly darker feel. There is however, still a lingering feel of something sinister lurking within the island. Game Director Takashi Tezuka has stated his intent was to create something akin to the tv show Twin Peaks. You are washed ashore on an island with very odd, quirky inhabitants and full of monsters which you are throughout the game questioning what is actually real, if anything at all. The Owl admits during your quest that even he himself didn’t believe you are real at first. After you recover the 8 instruments, you discover the Owl is actually the spirit of the Wind Fish guiding you along. I do very highly recommend this game as it was a great experience. I am now planning on playing through the Oracle game(s) on the Game Boy Color next. I am truly glad I was able to experience this entry into the Legend of Zelda timeline and this makes me EVEN MORE excited to play the remake on the Nintendo Switch…whenever that is.


2 Years of Nintendo Switch – Things I Love and Would Love Nintendo to Change

The Nintendo Switch was released two years ago on March 3 2017 and has been a huge success for Nintendo. The console has sold over 32 million units as of December 2018. Today I am going through some of my favorite things about the Switch as well as some that I really would like Nintendo to correct.

I remember being cautiously optimistic when Nintendo announced their newest console they would be releasing to follow up what most consider one of their biggest failures with the Wii U( the Virtual Boy still tops that list….). I thought the idea of a hybrid portable console sounded like an interesting idea. Nintendo has always had interesting ideas…but they haven’t always been the most practical, something that you would use on a consistent basis. The Wii was a very successful console, that DID have a lot of great games…you just had to sift through all of the games that just cashed in on the gimmick of motion controls. I didn’t mind using the Wii-mote and nunchuk in place of a controller as much as I tired rather quickly of being forced to use motion controls where I would have greatly preferred a conventional controller. The Wii U brought about their Game Pad, complete with a touch screen that you could also use to play games if for example – someone wanted the tv and you wished to remain playing. (Yes, I know……only one tv in the house?) However, the Wii U was yet another system without a very large collection of third-party titles and was generally left for dead. You cannot talk about the Switch and it’s success without pointing out it’s essentially what started out as the Wii U Game Pad. Anyways…..here are some things that I really enjoy about the Switch.

Mario Odyssey is still my favorite Switch game. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

  Games – I’ll start by talking about the games the Switch currently has in its library. I am obligated to begin by mentioning launch title – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While BotW was released on the Wii U as well, the Switch has far, far more people playing it so will forever be known as a Switch title first and foremost. I absolutely LOVE Mario Odyssey as well, playing through Odyssey for me was similar to playing through Super Mario Galaxy . Splatoon 2 expanded on the first game and improved the multiplayer experience. And then there’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which is essentially everything any Super Smash Bros. packed into one game. There are also exclusives that aren’t using their flagship franchises(i.e. Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong) like Octopath Traveler and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Nintendo has been putting an extra effort into getting more third-party support this time around, along with a robust platform for indie games in the digital store.

  Hardware – I try to be as careful as possible with all my consoles but I can say the Switch is a very sturdy little console. I knocked it off a side table(to my utter horror) a couple times and not even a scratch, and have heard stories of much worse from others who have noted how durable it is. I also put a screen protector on to minimize fingerprints and scratches. I actually was pleasantly surprised with the Joy-Con controllers for the Switch after using them for the first few times. I was a bit skeptical at first, they seemed likely to feel anything but durable and having tiny, impossible to use buttons but I have really grown to like using them, even with lobster claws for hands. The HD Rumble feature works remarkably well(I CAN feel those ice cubes in my glass),even though it isn’t something that is utilized to any great extent. Nintendo also tweaked their Pro Controller they launched alongside the Switch, and is a very sound, sturdy controller. There is just enough of a weight to the console and controllers, not enough to make it heavy or cumbersome. The touch screen works as good as anything currently on anyone’s smartphone, even after putting a screen protector over it. The motion controls do work surprisingly well, though I honestly don’t use them much.

Function – The Switch is designed so that you can play it either in handheld mode, or you can place the console in the accompanying cradle to use in docked mode. It performs equally well in both modes, although the video quality isn’t quite as well as you would want for some games. I was surprised at how seamlessly you can be playing in handheld mode and place it onto the dock and your game is on your tv screen, or vice versa. Nintendo is improving their online services, even if it seems to be baby steps. The Switch is a completely enjoyable console to play, I have spent many, many hours playing it either on the tv in my living room or lying in bed, or should I actually venture outside my home and spend any significant amount of hours(not something that happens real often…). I have found myself buying multi-platform games almost entirely because I want to play it on the Switch, yes I bought Skyrim and Final Fantasy IX….but along with many others too.

On the flip side of all that, here are some things I’m not crazy about and wish Nintendo could or would change…

Another console, another release of Skyrim… (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

  Games – I will begin talking about the games. I love many Switch games and have bought titles that are ports or remastered versions and released on the Switch, but it does seem like Nintendo is padding their catalog with games that were Playstation and Xbox titles from previous generations. You can buy versions of Skyrim, Doom, Diablo 3, and a remastered version of Dark Souls. Also, these games are generally more expensive for the Switch than you can currently buy on the PS4 or Xbox one. Nintendo has gone with a physical format for their games by using a proprietary SD card, rather than a standard Blu-Ray disc so that can have an impact on cost. I’m not even going to begin discussing how much the upcoming Resident Evil ports of 0, 1, and 4 are going to cost….<sigh>. Nintendo does also seem rather determined to re-release just about every one of its Wii U exclusives on the Switch like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, etc. It can seem like they’re simply recycling titles from the previous console…..I mean hardly anyone bought the Wii U and there were good games for it but a lot of them were too little too late as most people had already long passed on ever buying it.

Hardware – The hardware aspect of the Switch has several things I am not real fond of. First, would be a seemingly minor gripe about the Pro Controller d-pad. It has too “soft” of a feel making it easy to rotate 360 degrees if you were for example playing a fighting game like Street Fighter, but it can make it difficult to hit a specific direction. I have been playing a lot of Tetris 99 lately and the d-pad on the Pro controller can cause you to inadvertently hard drop a block when you where simply be moving blocks around. I have heard that the more recently produced Pro Controllers have corrected this issue, in the mean time I have been using the Joy-Cons with the smaller, more accurate d-pad for games like Tetris 99. There is also a number of people that have had problems with the battery of their Switch and the charging dock not working properly. I personally haven’t had any issues with the battery or charging for mine, but the design of the dock could use a revamp if Nintendo does begin to manufacture different versions of the Switch. I do also wish there would be a headphone jack in the controllers, at least in the Pro Controller. Should you ever want to play something in docked mode but want to be able to hear the game more clearly with a good headset you’re out of luck. This is one of the reasons why I am skeptical as to the quality of playing games like Fortnite on the Switch. You would benefit from using a headset but you can only use the headphone jack ON the console itself and are simply unable to enjoy using headphones AND the Pro Controller. The Switch hardware does have its drawbacks and limitations…

The Switch online service is there, but still needs some work if Nintendo wants to compete for online play. (Image courtesy of Nintendo)

Function – Here is where I complain about Nintendo’s continuing battle with getting online gaming right. The Switch Online service still needs more to it to make it really worth paying for. There is the Members Only Deal of purchasing a set of wireless NES controllers for your Switch at $59.99. The controllers are impressive, but the fact that you have to subscribe just to be able to purchase something isn’t something I’m really crazy about. I have an NES Classic so I do have the option to play those games currently on the NES Switch Online. I would prefer something more along the lines of Microsoft’s Games Pass. When Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was released a lot of people, including myself had lag issues with the online play, making it feel like you were playing entire matches in slow-mode. The online play for games like Mario Kart 8 have been pretty good, whereas Splatoon 2’s online play is generally good with not a lot of matches getting disconnected. The online infrastructure in general I really really would like Nintendo to improve, this being my biggest wish to Nintendo. However, there are the rumors that Microsoft and Nintendo may be partnering up to bring Xbox live service(or something similar) to the Switch. If true, this could be incredible for Nintendo. Xbox Live has consistently provided the best most stable online gaming network since launching back in 2002. I also wish the Switch was not WiFi only; it would be beneficial to be able to use an ethernet cable for stability. There are some things that I dislike about the Switch versus other consoles, but the things I enjoy about it seem to overwhelmingly make up for a few minor(mostly) gripes. It has been a great success for Nintendo so far…I am truly excited to see what the next few years bring.

Here are a couple Switch news links – https://www.businessinsider.com/nintendo-winning-video-games-fastest-selling-console-2019-3

https://www.gameinformer.com/2019/02/21/rumor-microsoft-bringing-game-pass-and-published-titles-to-switch