Games We’re Excited About: September 2017

Summer is over, but the season of games is just getting started. As we get ready to turn the page on August and head into the first big release month of the fall, we’ve got our first megaton release of the season in Destiny 2, as well as Metroid and the long-anticipated release of Cuphead. Without further ado:



Pokkén Tournament Deluxe (Switch) – September 22
I’ll be honest, I’m not even really that into Pokemon, but I am so in love with the Nintendo Switch, that the idea of a Pokemon fighting game on the Switch definitely interests me. The game features over 20 fighters, and the controls will be simple enough that you can play on an individual Joy-Con, so it seems like this could be a fantastic multiplayer game for the Switch.



Destiny 2 (PS4, Xbox One)–September 6

I played the heck out of the original Destiny when it first came out, but by the time the second expansion came along, I had completely lost interest. The story was so fragmented and thin that I didn’t care, and as soon as I fell behind my friends in levels, the group aspect of the game was gone for me. That said, Destiny 2 provides me a clean slate and a new chance to recapture that co-op magic with my friends, so I am definitely in.



Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)–September 15
This was one of the biggest announcements of E3 in my humble opinion, and it may well be one the last great 3DS games we get. Not just a remaster of the 1991 Game Boy classic, Samus Returns features updated maps, gear and abilities, as well as additional content that can be unlocked with Amiibos. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t rather have it on the switch, though.



Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, Xbox One, PC) – September 19
Despite the lack of X-Men characters, I still think MvC: I is looking good. As expected, the Marvel side of the roster is pretty much all MCU characters, from mainstays like Iron Man to newcomers like Captain Marvel. Of the MArvel characters revealed so far, I’m most excited about captain Marvel and Spider-Man (I really was hoping for Shuma-Gorath, though). On the Capcom side, I’m all about Arthur, Haggar and Frank West. I recently bought a fight stick for my PS4, so that’s where I’ll be picking this one up.



Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)– September 29
I will believe it when I see it, but Cuphead is fianlly set to release this month. When this 1930s cartoon-inspired shoot ’em up first showed up on the scene at E3 2014, I was immediately sold. And then it fell into the abyss for the apst few years. But it seems like we will finally, finally get our hands on this game this month. Can it even come close to living up to the hype? We’ll see.

Those are the games we’re most excited about for the month of September. What’s on your list of “must-have” games?


Why I’m Waiting on the New Nintendo 3DS XL

So, I canceled my preorder on the NewNintendo 3DS XL.

For me, that kind of a big deal, as I’d bought both the original 3DS and the 3DS XL on their respective launch days in  2011 and 2012 (I wrote about the 3DS XL when I got it here). Even when I tell myself that I’ll wait on picking up a new console or handheld, I most often end up getting them right when they come out. I’m always lured in by the newest and best gaming experience this is why I have an XBox One, PS4, Vita, WiiU and 3DS, as well as a gaming PC.

And so, I’d preordered my New 3DS XL at GameStop a few weeks ago, planning on strolling in this Friday and picking it up, probably with a copy of Majora’s Mask.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is really no reason for me to get a New 3DS XL at launch. For starters, I don’t have time to play Majora’s Mask right now. We’re knee-deep into Dying Light and Dragon Age: Inquisition for upcoming Co-Op Critics podcasts.

I’ve also started a Minecraft and Disney Infinity 2.0 series with my son (I used my preorder refund to get more Infinity stuff), so Majora’s Mask would be sitting for a while. I’m also not huge into the Monster Hunter series (although I’d love to have it finally ‘click’ with me), so there are no games I absolutely must play at launch.

Finally, and maybe the biggest reason I’m holding off, I missed out on the Monster Hunter and Majora’s Mask bundles, which both featured limited edition versions of the New 3DS XL. I put my preorder money down on the red one, but I just wasn’t feeling it after I did.

So, I’m waiting for two things before I take the plunge–a game that takes advantage of the new features that I’ll feel compelled to buy when it launches, and a new color or design. I’m guessing that we’ll get both of those things before the holiday season rolls around. For once, I’ll wait and see.


New 3DS Models Pave the Way for Increased Wii U Interactivity, Possible GamePad Replacement

This morning at a Nintendo Direct, Nintendo announced new models of the 3DS and 3DS XL, which will hit Japan later this year and presumably, the US next year. The new models have better CPUs, built-in NFC capability and, most importantly, a second analog stick.

Well, it’s not really a stick, so much as a nub. But, this means the new models will have all the functionality of a Wii U tablet, built into the 3DS.

Now, I’ve been saying since the Wii U launched that with the addition of the Circle Pad Pro, a 3DS could function as a tablet controller for the Wii U (although it did not have NFC included). With the new models, everything you need to make the 3DS a Wii U controller is built into it already.

If Nintendo could make this work, then they could offer a version of the Wii U without the tablet for under $200, and New 3DS owners could use those devices as the primary tablet. They could also bundle the Wii U and New 3DS together for $399, giving them a great value proposition when compared to the Xbox One and PS4. The library of games the Wii U now has, coupled with the enormous catalog of 3DS games would be a huge selling point.

Now of course, I don’t know if this is part of Nintendo’s plan moving forward, but here’s why I think it is. Nintendo is fracturing their 3DS user base with this move. The 3DS is currently their most successful console. There will be games you can play on the New 3DS that can’t be played on the old models. In the long run, the only reason this would make sense is if Nintendo was updating the 3DS to enable it to be more interactive with the Wii U, and potentially replace the GamePad.

This could be very interesting.


Exiting the Tomodachi Life

Though I’m an online creature, I don’t think that the online version of me is radically different than the meatspace version of me that occupies the physical world. The same brain directs both versions of me, even though the brain has to adjust to how each version of me interacts with and receives feedback from its respective world. The same soul is reflected in how the digital and physical me interacts with the people who inhabit each world.

Since I never made a distinction between the digital and the physical me, I never saw the point of playing social simulations like The Sims, Animal Crossing, or Harvest Moon. Furthermore, the physical act of playing social simulations like The Sims or Animal Crossing seemed particularly tedious; there didn’t seem to be the type of feedback that more active games like character action-adventure games or sports simulation games or first person shooters can provide.

So, I was surprised at my own reaction to what I saw of Tomodachi Life, specifically when the Giant Bomb crew played it on an episode of their weekly show, Unprofessional Fridays. The game’s quirkiness appealed to me, and for a while, it kept me glued to the game on my commute to work every morning. One morning, I found that Jesus of Nazareth, whom I had invited to live on island, named Tummy Isle Island, had been arrested for adding hot mustard to foods around the island. No explanation was given for why Jesus had made this his mission, and the other residents of Tummy Isle Island had muted reactions to this news. Another morning, Jesus attempted to break the world record of facial distortion by stretching his face but failed by an inch. Did Jesus go on his hot mustard mission because he failed to break this world record, or was it because I fed him something that he didn’t like the day before? Another morning, one resident dreamed an ill-fated romance between a brownie and a stack of pancakes. On a different morning, another resident dreamed that he was a bobblehead on a dashboard of a car that was racing through a dark forest. One night, my own avatar dreamed that he was a snail crawling along a blank white floor. These snippets sound like gibberish when I recount them to anyone else.

Though quirky and kooky stuff have a fairly limited lifespan (I’ve seen the dashboard bobblehead dream multiple times from different residents, so it seems like something with which the game likes to populate its characters’ dreams), that wasn’t what ultimately caused me to  finally put Tomodachi Life aside. Instead, it’s something that should seem impossible for a game that’s as theoretically personalized as Tomodachi Life: the feeling of homogeneity.

For a while, my game felt personalized enough that I wasn’t left wondering about the game’s nuts and bolts. The goal is to keep the avatars I’ve populated Tummy Isle Island with as happy as possible by meeting their essential needs (food, clothes, shelter, companionship). I populated my world with a mix of celebrities (Shaq, the Giant Bomb crew), my family members (my wife, son, brother, and sister-in-law), my friends, and fictional characters (Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s Rei Ayanami, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Geordi LaForge, Yotsuba&!‘s Yotsuba Koiwai, and Left4Dead‘s Zoey and Louis). Though I inserted my wife and me into the game, but there’s no obvious guarantee that they would become sweethearts and eventually husband and wife. (Except, if you think about the game’s logic, there is, but we’ll explore that later.) As in real life, my wife’s avatar proposed to me, and I felt awful when I botched my wife’s avatar’s proposal to my avatar by tapping the screen at the wrong time.

As time passes and I continue to solve the avatars’ problems, the avatars’ levels rise. I think my avatar is at level 14; Shaq’s probably at level 13. The game’s simulacrum breaks not from the fact that the avatars’ measure their growth in levels, but from the homogeneity that this mechanic forces upon the avatar. At each level, the player is forced to give the character a gift from a limited selection, a catchphrase for when the character is angry, happy, or sad, an apartment design again from a limited selection, a song from a limited selection of styles, or some pocket money from the player’s own in-game funds. In the physical world, I can’t rap or sing opera. But, my avatar in Tomodachi Life does because I simply ran out of things I could give him as he gained levels. The player is limited in the number and type of gifts we can give the avatars; almost all of the avatars, including Jesus of Nazareth, on Tummy Isle Island have cell phones I had to give them something, and Jesus didn’t seem like the type to have a punching bag. Similarly, my wife and I both rap, sing opera, have cell phones, and have the same apartment designs. The distinctions between characters gets filed down by the limited variety of things we can do when the characters level up. In order to keep the avatars unique, I can either give them pocket change that they won’t use from a pool I need to use to buy things to keep the avatars happy or homogenize them.

Once the game’s own obstacle to avatar growth became clear, I was given the mental space to wonder how and why my avatars formed their connections. It was fairly obvious why my wife’s avatar formed a relationship with my own avatar: we were the only avatars on Tummy Isle Island for a while. Oddly enough, neither avatar ever formed a connection with my son’s avatar, even though I had designated in the Mii Creator that he was our son. This left me in a weird position of wondering what happens when our avatars have a baby in Tomodachi Life when our actual kid’s avatar is already in the game and seemingly estranged from our avatars. And this doubt led me to where social simulation games die: GameFAQs.

The moment I’m tempted to open a guide to understand the game’s nuts and bolts, the game’s illusions are dispelled. And because the mini-games in Tomodachi Life are shallow, the mechanics of clothing and feeding the avatars shallow, and the lifespan of quirkiness fairly limited, I took the cartridge out of the 3DS XL that I ostensibly bought so I could play Tomodachi Life with a small sense of relief.


Animal Crossing: New Leaf–An Elegant Introduction of Systems

This past Friday, I picked up two brand new games–Animal Crossing: New Leaf for 3DS and The Last of Us for PS3. Three days later, The Last of Us in still in the shrink wrap, and I am completely addicted to Animal Crossing. There is something about this game, man. The more I play it, the more I want to evangelize it.

The crazy thing is, I had never played an Animal Crossing game until Wild World came out for the DS in 2005. I put a few dozen hours into the game, before I got distracted by something else. When City Folk came out in 2008, I tried to get into it, but the awful WiiSpeak killed any excitement I had for multiplayer, and I kind of realized that for me, Animal Crossing is a handheld console experience.

So along comes Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and from the moment I started the game, I’ve been completely hooked. In the first several hours I’ve spent with it, what strikes me most about the game is how well designed all of its systems are. When you arrive at town, you find out that you’re the new mayor, and from that point forward, you get introduced to all of the game’s systems in a very methodical way. Before you can start your mayorly duties, you need to buy a house, which brings in Tom Nook and the notion that you’ll be owing him money for the rest of eternity. Then you learn about how to make money through fishing, bug collecting and farming. After that, you find out that you need to interact with residents to raise your approval rating as mayor, giving you a run through of the social system in the game. And so on, and so on.

I love the way the game brings you in and just layers all of its systems in a way that makes perfect sense. There are some hadcore simulation aspects to Animal Crossing, but they are never presented in that panic-inducing type of way that takes away from the relaxed feel of the experience. I want to engage with all of the systems, instead of feeling compelled to try and manage them.

I’ll post more when I get farther into the game, but I thought it was worth mentioning what a great job Animal Crossing: New Leaf does of educating new players about its many systems. I think that the technical excellence of this series often gets overlooked because of it’s cute exterior. It really is amazingly well designed.


Diary of a Monster Hunter–Part 2: The First Parallel

Well, it didn’t take long into my time with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate to see the first strong parallel with the Souls series of games. Much like both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, Monster Hunter is a game that almost requires you to seek outside help in order to understand its systems and maximize your efficiency in terms of game time. Fortunately, there’s an even bigger community built up around the Monster Hunter series than the Souls series, so there’s no shortage of places to look for help when it comes to understanding the game and its systems.

I tried to go it alone, but you basically arrive in a port city to start the game, and then talk to a bunch of people to get the lay of the land. None of those encounters are particularly helpful in terms of making weapon choices, or thinking about how to start shaping your character. Because upgrading things take resources that you must collect (just like the Souls games), I didn’t want to waste any of those resources exploring upgrades paths I would abandon later.

So, after a few quick searches, I found a great tutorial on getting Started in MH3U by YouTube user DMJared. Entitled “The Beginner’s Guide to Monster Hunter,” this series of videos offers a clear introduction to the game, its systems and the world itself. Despite the narrator sounding like he’s doing a bad NPH impression, the videos are very well put together, and are really funny at times as well.

Having watched the series and begun some of my first monster encounters, I feel well informed enough to slog through the first few hours of the game. Much like my time with the Souls series though, I will be gathering and storing resources before I make any final decisions an what gear I’m going to seriously upgrade.

More to come!


The Nintendo 3DS Is Enjoying An Embarrassment of Riches Right Now

After a rough launch two years ago, the Nintendo 3DS has emerged as one of the strongest consoles of this generation and right now, it may be the best console on the market. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but for a console that just launched in 2011, the 3DS had an amazing software lineup, and the next year is looking fantastic as well. In the US alone, the 3DS has sold over 8 million units, which is a better pace than the original DS set in its first two years.

In the past two months, Fire Emblem Awakening (240,000 units in US), Monster Hunter 3D Ultimate and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (415,000 units) have all had strong launches. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is coming in June and will likely be a huge hit on the 3DS as well.

In yesterday’s Nintendo Direct, a slew of new 3DS games, as well as upcoming virtual console releases were announced. Mario Golf: World Tour, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, a new Mario Party, a new Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, the latest Professor Layton, and a sequel to Zelda: Link to the Past, are all planned for release this year.

On the virtual console and eShop front, two Zelda GameBoy games (Oracle of Ages /Oracle of Seasons) are coming in May, three new Level-5 games are on the way and the acclaimed Bravely Default: Flying Fairy from Square Enix is coming later this year. It’s already been a great year for the eShop, with games like Crimson Shroud, Cave Story, Crashmo, and Tokyo Crash Mobs, to name a few. The virtual console offerings are robust as well, especially if you were part of the Ambassador Program. Even in just the last few months, NES gems like Ninja Gaiden and Zelda II have arrived, adding to a huge collection of classics that are already available.

It’s really an amazing time to be a 3DS owner. There is a great balance of classic and new games available for the console, and with gems like Liberation Maiden and Crimson Shroud, well-known developers are flexing their creative muscle with downloadable titles that are a perfect fit for the handheld.

If there’s one negative about how awesome the 3DS is doing right now, it’s that the WiiU’s struggles seem even greater by comparison. If there’s one thing Nintendo proved with the 3DS though, it’s how to recover from a poor start. Let’s hope they learn some lessons from the 3DS soon.


Diary of a Monster Hunter–Part 1: Does This Game Have Soul?

Well, I finally did it–I bought my first Monster Hunter game. Yesterday, I picked up Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for my 3DS XL. After everything I’ve seen and heard about the series over the years, I decided to take the plunge and see what it’s all about.

Mostly though, I picked up this game because it appears to have some similarities to Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, two of my all-time favorites. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that my enjoyment of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will come down to how real those similarities are.

So, from the outsider’s perspective, here’s what I presume the similarities between the series will be:

1. Combat is pattern-based. In the Souls series, every enemy has a tell, and every animation counts. Getting good at combat means knowing when to strike, and exactly how vulnerable a particular attack makes you. Monster Hunter seems to take a similar approach to combat, and that’s very interesting to me.

2. Larger than life bosses. The boss battles in the Souls series are some of the most memorable I’ve had in any game. Monster Hunter to me seems like a game made up almost entirely of boss battles.

3. Building the right gear for the job. One of the best things about the Souls series is that you’re constantly building up your gear and weapons to take on the different threats you face. There seems to be a premium on that in MH3U as well.

4. Co-Op. Teaming up to take down bosses together? Sounds like the Souls series to me. Sadly, the 3DS version doesn’t have the online co-op features, but if I enjoy the 3DS version enough, I’ll pick up the WiiU one, as there is some cross-functionality between the two in addition to the online co-op the WiiU has. And my save carries over!

So, as I begin my first foray into the Monster Hunter universe, I’ll be writing about whether my perceived connections to the Souls series pan out, and whether I enjoy the game for what makes it unique as well. Stay tuned!


Nintendo + Christmas = Joy

The Nintendo Entertainment System I received for Christmas in 1985 is, to this day, the single greatest Christmas gift I have ever gotten. I have fond memories of taking the NES to my grandparents’ house that same Christmas day, hooking the console up to the 13-inch color TV in their bedroom, and spending the day playing Super Mario Bros. while the adults engaged in their merriment downstairs.

Mind you, I was already a full-fledged gamer by that time, having spent plenty of time in arcades, as well as having poured hundreds of hours into my Atari 2600. But the NES was different. Maybe it was the fact that it came with Super Mario Bros., arguably the greatest game of all time. Maybe it was that perfect rectangular controller, whose design has never been improved upon. whatever it was, the NES cemented my budding love affair with gaming, and I’ve never looked back.

So it was with absolute joy that I watched my son enjoy his new Nintendo 3DS on Christmas day yesterday. What was even cooler was that unlike me, he did not hide himself away for the day, but rather took every opportunity to show all of his relatives the funny video he recorded of himself, the pictures he took and the music you can listen to on the 3DS. All of the things that I never bothered with on my 3DS are the things he loves most about his. We downloaded and played Photo Dojo, where we took pictures and made him a character in the game. We played Face Raiders, which also uses pics of family and friends to populate the game. We also used StreetPass to share Miis, which he thought was awesome.

Watching my son explore the 3DS gave me a new appreciation for mine, and I loved it already. He borrowed my copy of New Super Mario Bros. 2 this morning, or as he called it “the one with all the coins all over the place.” I wonder if that game will be for him was the original Super Mario Bros. was for me. Maybe not, but I now have a new Nintendo memory to add to my personal collection, and he has a lot of great gaming ahead of him.