Dr. Mario World

I pre-registered for Dr. Mario World on Google Play a while back, and just a few days ago I was pinged with a reminder that the game had gone live. I downloaded it that evening but didn’t play it until a couple of days later. A few things spring to mind when considering this mobile version of the famous Nintendo puzzle game. Firstly, I was surprised to find Nintendo entering the mobile market considering their success with console titles and a monopoly on first party intellectual properties. However, their success with portable game devices would easily lend itself to the mobile sphere, as they wouldn’t need to create hardware for these games, as everyone already has a cell phone in their pocket capable of playing console quality games. For whatever reason though, Nintendo’s prior releases haven’t been all that great (depending on who you ask). Arguably one of the more popular mobile games of all time, Pokemon Go had its time in the sun but doesn’t seem to be the phenomenon it once was. I do have it installed currently because my family plays and I have to participate to some degree but it is definitely not the type of game I would normally see myself playing. Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes both seemed pretty good, just not really worthy of the Nintendo name. Don’t take me the wrong way, I’m not a huge Nintendo fan as it is, but I was for the first few generations of hardware and have dipped my toes in their offerings ever since, but I don’t really buy their consoles often. As such, mobile versions of their games work for me as well, because I don’t really want to spend the $300 on a Nintendo Switch just to play some Mario (I might pull the trigger on the new Switch Lite that’s coming, but I’m still on the fence). Either way, those games are gone as well, only spending a limited amount of time on my device. I’d still prefer a traditional version of one of these games but I guess the only way you’ll get that is with their flagship console. Anyway, let’s take a look at the newest offering, Dr. Mario World.

I enjoyed Dr. Mario on the NES, and played other versions as well. It was a solid puzzle game in a genre dominated by Tetris. Let’s get this out of the way — Dr. Mario World really doesn’t feel like Dr. Mario at all. That’s not to say it’s bad though, just to say that it is different enough that I can’t really compare the two outside of the very core thematics. Nintendo as a company has changed drastically since the 1980’s and 1990’s, so I wouldn’t expect a game released today to feel just like a game from thirty years ago, but it’s almost not familiar enough. There’s a loose storyline that translates to viruses poisoning the land and Dr. Mario and friends being tasked with eliminating all of the disease.

You’ll start with a world map that has a trail for you to follow with levels at each stop. The first twenty levels serve as the game’s tutorial, so you won’t find much in the way of things to do until you complete them. You’ll have infinite hearts with which to do so, and losing does nothing outside of forcing you to try the level again. The game’s mechanics will be explained, and it definitely feels different here in particular. Instead of dropping capsules from the ceiling as has been the norm in puzzle games for decades, instead you’ll rotate and put your capsules onto the playing field from the bottom of the screen, and things float upward. There is a vague sense of these things being thrown into liquid and floating towards the surface, but it’s not really explained why the change in aesthetics was necessary. The rules are otherwise the same in that you must match three or more of the same color capsules/viruses to eliminate them. Other special items, power-ups and hindrances have been introduced, such as turtle shells that clear a whole row when matched or viruses frozen in ice that need to be effectively cleared twice. It does add some variety to an otherwise solved format, and honestly it feels like its in a pretty good place, it’s just so much different that it’s almost off-putting at first. Still, I managed to finish the game’s tutorial in one sitting and then some additional options arise.

At one point during the tutorial you are able to choose different doctors besides Mario. Koopa and Peach are options, and I’m sure there will be additionals added to the game at some point. Beyond the doctor selection, you’ll also get access to two assistants who are basically passive effects — the initial Goomba assistant provides a 1% bonus to your score after clearing a level, this helps with gaining stars on each level. Daily quests will earn you gold, and gold can be used to buy some of the power ups, but also other characters that can be used to play the versus mode. There’s a ladder and the game works basically the same as versus modes in other puzzlers. You’ll have to move quicker than your opponent to drop in extra viruses and things to mess them up, but they’ll be trying to do the same to you. I lose my initial matchup but I’m not exactly pro at the game yet either. A friend system allows you to send extra hearts to each other, as that is the time-gating mechanic for this mobile title. You can only hold so many though, so you’ll want to use up those hearts so friends can send you more.

Overall it seems like a promising title. I enjoy puzzle games but they tend to get stale after a while. The campaign seems to be long enough to keep you engaged, and I’m sure there will be other updates to take advantage of free-to-play monetization. I’d check it out if you enjoy puzzle games, but not if you are expecting a port of the original NES titles.

Thoughts on the SNES Classic

We’ve known about the SNES Classic since it was announced last year, and like the NES Classic before it, I knew I had to have one. When the NES Classic released the year prior, I had a tough time finding one like most people. It turned out that Nintendo didn’t really expect (or purposely decided to under-produce) the demand so these beauties immediately sold out and people started selling them 3rd party and really gouging on the price. Despite retailing for $60 I ended up getting mine for double the price. I was still happy with the product, and wrote about it here.

The SNES Classic was priced a little bit higher with an MSRP of $80. This is probably due to the fact that this time around they included the second controller, whereas with the NES I had to purchase a secondary controller separately. Nintendo must have heard the message loud and clear this time around, as they seem to have produced more of these consoles. My girlfriend picked me up this one on Amazon for $106, which is still over the MSRP, but not marked up nearly as much as the original.

The two consoles are essentially the same size, both fitting in your hand and both are set up pretty similarly. They both output to HDMI and use a micro USB power adapter. They are interchangeable so in my case I used the existing power supply and HDMI to swap between the two as I see fit. The other cords I’ll likely use for when I lug them around. Packed in are 21 games, and there are some great titles here:

Contra III: The Alien Wars
Donkey Kong Country
Final Fantasy III (VI)
F-Zero
Kirby Super Star
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Mega Man X
Secret of Mana
Star Fox
Star Fox 2
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Super Mario World
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Super Metroid
Earthbound
Kirby’s Dream Course
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Super Castlevania IV
Super Punch-Out!!

The interface is identical to the NES Classic as well, so users will find it easy to navigate right off the bat. You still have save game states which is great for those challenging games that used to induce rage due to the lack of saving. There are a number of titles here that I’ve never played or completed due to never owning an SNES (I was a Sega kid) so I’m looking forward to checking them out. Over the weekend the fam and I played some Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, and I checked out a couple other games. I’m not a huge fan of Kirby, Donkey Kong or Star Fox, but I’d love to play through Zelda 3 and FF6 as I’ve never played them all the way through. I’ll report back when I’ve played through a title or two, but if nothing else I’m glad to have another console in the collection!

The Year in Gaming: 2017

It’s that time of year when games are being awarded “Game of The Year” honors and people are rounding up their activities for the year as well. Year in Review posts aren’t something new here on this blog, but sometimes I make lists of my favorite games of the year, sometimes I talk about what was going on with my personal life and sometimes I even make lists about my favorite Metal releases or what have you. This year I’m going to talk about my year in gaming, particularly about what games I picked up, those I finished, and those that came out this year that I still want but haven’t purchased yet. At the end of it all I’ll throw out my nod for game of the year and call it a day. The only criteria for these categories going forward was that the games in question released this year. So let’s get started, shall we?

Games I Actually Finished:

Resident Evil 7
Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 3
Bioshock Remastered (didn’t release this year)
Bioshock Remastered 2 (didn’t release this year)
Destiny (didn’t release this year)

I poured through my blog posts for the past year and there were a shit load of games that I played, but many of those I didn’t finish were MOBAs, CCGs, or MMOs (no finished state). I did say I wasn’t going to count any sort of games that didn’t release this year, but the games listed above were completed despite not being a new release and I wanted to catalog what games I actually completed. Resident Evil 7 and Telltale’s Walking Dead games were fantastic and I beat them shortly after release. I played through the original Destiny early in the year but didn’t have an interest in the sequel after reading much of the blogosphere’s opinions on it. I only recently finished up the first two Bioshock games and though they were excellent, these latter three titles aren’t in contention for game of the year.

Games I Bought But Didn’t Finish:

Mass Effect: Andromeda
I Am Setsuna
Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap
Cosmic Star Heroine
Codex of Victory

I bought a lot of games around the beginning of the year. I was still subscribed to Humble Monthly, so I was getting games left and right via that platform and Playstation Plus, on top of anything I purchased. The above list were games that released this year and that I picked up and played, but didn’t complete. Some are in the backlog to finish and honestly some of them probably won’t be finished anytime soon. I would like to play Mass Effect Andromeda soon, but for now I’m concentrating on finishing the Bioshock series. I’m rarely on the cutting edge of new games in my catalog as I typically wait for big titles to go on sale but outside of Mass Effect these were smaller indie titles and though they were all good in their own ways, I only tried them out and never completed them. Perhaps I’ll be able to add them to the completed list by this time next year, but that really depends on how much time I devote to Magic: The Gathering and Everquest II over the next year.

Games I Want To Buy:

Gran Turismo Sport
Divinity Original Sin II
Wolfenstein 2
Quake Champions
The Evil Within 2
Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite
Prey
Horizon Zero Dawn

There were a bunch of new releases over the year that I’d really like to pick up. Gran Turismo is my favorite racing series and the newest version looks great. Divinity Original Sin II got rave reviews, though I do need to finish the original first. I did complete the first Wolfenstein so I’d definitely like to pick up the sequel (it’s on sale on Steam right now too!). The other games are sequels to games I’ve already enjoyed, or a remake in the case of Prey. Finally, Horizon Zero Dawn is the type of game that probably made some Game of the Year lists, but I was waiting for the complete version that released this month, so perhaps I’ll grab that one soon.

Systems I Want:

SNES Classic
Nintendo Switch

Lastly, 2017 saw the rise of Nintendo from the ashes. Not only did the company make some decent releases on mobile platforms, they’ve continued portable system dominance with the 3/2DS systems. I’m tempted to grab one of those but I didn’t list it here, because I’m actually kind of interested in the Switch, which itself is a semi-portable device. I also really want on of the SNES Classic systems to go along with my NES Classic, but it’s likely I’ll be price gouged on that just like I was with the original. It’s surprising to me to be interested in a Nintendo system again (outside of the Classics which are just plain awesome), because I’m usually against their kid-friendly platform and lack of “mature” titles. However, having played some Super Mario Maker on my step-son’s 3DS, I’ve actually found the desire to play some of the newer games. I’ve heard great things about the new Zelda and Mario titles, and well it’s stuff I grew up on so I’m interested. Plus it’s a more portable device so I can take it with me when I go on trips, etc. Lastly, my step-son is very interested in games and Nintendo tends to make family-friendly titles that aren’t too difficult so it will give us something to do. I may pick one up next year after I get my tax return.

So with all of that said, 2017 seems to have been a pretty good year for gaming. I’d now like to give my nod for Game of the Year, and because I didn’t play many titles to completion this year I only have a couple to choose from, and I’m going to give my award to Resident Evil VII.

The game was amazing. The first person perspective really brought a whole new life to the series, and it was actually very creepy throughout. I enjoyed the hell out of it and would place it much higher on the scale that some of the more recent entries. Of course, I probably could have played something else and just as easily given the award to another game (there are certainly other titles out there that are worthy) but in my experiences this year, it was the game that stuck out most in my head as my favorite experience.

So there you have it. Another great year of gaming down the tubes. See you next year!

Thoughts on the NES Classic

I first wrote thoughts down about the NES Classic when it was announced last summer. Like most gamers my age, I was hyped for a chance to play not only some games that I owned a loved as a child, but some of the titles that I missed. With the updated system, we get a small sample size of the existing games catalog, but in that regard the packed-in titles are worth every penny. At the $60 price point that was announced, that is. In typical Nintendo fashion, demand outweighed supply so when the console released in November 2016, they sold out rather quickly. I know I looked everywhere I could think that sells games around the release date and had no luck. One of my friends camped out and got one, but he was the only person I knew that did. Nintendo’s next press release said that they would have more consoles out to retailers soon. Units were still available online, but prices soared and it seemed the best bet was to wait until they got a handle on the demand and produced enough units to meet that demand.

Just last week, Nintendo made another announcement, and this time it was to say that the new shipments were on their way but that the console was officially discontinued. They didn’t say why, but the rumor is that an SNES Classic is on the way. Time will tell if that’s correct, though I’d be interested in that console as well, mainly because I never owned an SNES but there are plenty of games I’ve played that I’d like to play again. I’d wish for a Genesis type version as well, but I have already collected those games on other platforms due to Sega being smart about licensing their products. Anyway, with the demise of the NES Classic I knew it was time to make a decision: Tempt the fates and attempt to get one for MSRP, or pony up the extra dough and buy one online, now.

I think you can guess what I did.

It cost me nearly $200 to pick up the console, an additional controller, two cable extensions, and a carrying case. My Prime membership netted free shipping. Was it overpriced at that point? Yes. Do I have regrets? Nope.

It’s so cute sitting on my PS4! I’m going to have to invest in an HDMI splitter or switch to use it more efficiently though, as my TV only has 2 ports that are both currently being used. Outside of that hassle, I fired it up and took a trip back to the 80’s, in which ironically I also played my original NES in this very room! I played several games and had a blast, but there are titles that are going to take some time to play through that I really can’t wait to get into. I also look forward to introducing my girlfriend’s son (he’s 9) to games I played when I was his age, because he’s a little gamer in training and needs to learn to appreciate the classics!

Overall I was impressed with the console’s construction. The controller looks and feels just like the original. I was disappointed with the look and feel of the secondary controller that I picked up, not realizing it was some 3rd party knockoff, but I will live with it, or maybe I’ll go pickup one of the official controllers later on, I know I’ve seen those in stores. The carrying case was official and will do the trick. I’m satisfied with the purchase, and I think you would be too, but try to get it on the cheap if you can!

Fire Emblem Heroes

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My relationship with Nintendo is strange. I was an absolute fan during the NES era but shortly thereafter, I was a Sega kid followed by being a Sony player. I did own a DS lite and the original Wii, and I really want one of those NES Classics (but have yet to find one), but it just seems that outside of a few titles Nintendo’s systems have failed to impress. Even the new Switch console that is coming out soon doesn’t really do it for me, but it does have the added bonus of being portable and a console. Still, I probably won’t purchase one of them.

A while back, Nintendo announced that they would be entering the mobile market and though that sounded cool, the original announcement was a couple of titles that would come out on iOS, which didn’t do me any good. For years I have been saying that I would play the shit out of some Nintendo games, were they on Steam or another device I already own. I really don’t want to have to own each and every console, though I do see the point in having both one console and a gaming PC. It appears that this has been rectified now though, as a couple of weeks ago there were options on the Google Play Store to “pre-register” for the new Nintendo games coming out soon. The first to release is you guessed it, Fire Emblem Heroes. Super Mario Run is to follow next month I believe.

Just a couple of days ago, there was a small bit of conversation about how some people couldn’t find a mobile game that stuck for them. They had downloaded many and though some seemed interesting enough, after a few hours to a few days they were tired of the game and uninstalled it. I can’t say that doesn’t sound like me, as for years I was never finding anything to play on my phone that was really worth my time. Up until a few months back when I started playing Clash Royale did I really find a mobile game somewhat addictive. Though some of the timed mechanics are still annoying, it tends to work because you only play the game for a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

This game is now the second game that I would say is really playable and really fun. Where Clash Royale succeeds at providing a solid PvP dueling experience, Fire Emblem Heroes provides a solid RPG formula that I find very appealing. At first glance, I didn’t really know what to expect. I haven’t ever played a Fire Emblem game, but I have heard very good things about them. I’ve always been a fan of grid-based, turn-based strategy games, and this one is right up my alley. If you’ve ever played games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force, or even games like X-Com you’ll enjoy the combat system. It reminds me most of Shining Force as it’s 2-D and there aren’t advantages to having the high ground, etc. It also has animated cut scenes for the actual swings you and your enemies take on each other, which is a direct influence for sure.

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When you aren’t battling through the story missions (which start with a prequel that will teach you some of the game’s nuances), there are some other screens you will stare at in an attempt to improve your party in various ways. Loosely stated, the story centers around you, a “legendary hero” who comes to this particular land and is able to use this special artifact that allows you to summon heroes from other realms to do your bidding. Though the main characters have their motivations and the story chugs along, it’s really not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Summoning is as easy as spending orbs that you’ll earn from completing quests and doing various activities.

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Heroes that you summon will have starred ratings, with 3 stars being a bronze hero, 4 being silver and 5 stars being gold. Obviously the better the hero’s rating, the better they will perform in combat and the more abilities they will start out with. Most abilities trigger automatically or add passive traits, but they are definitely useful in combat. Eventually as you move through the missions you’ll open up other “maps” that essentially functions as different game modes. Special maps are special events where you can do one time battles on different difficulty settings and provide extra rewards. Arena Duels are PvP matches which was a good call on the developer’s part, as you’ll be able to lengthen the replay value of the game. I have opened the other maps just yet, but I’m guessing the training tower is to hone skills, and the ??? map with probably end up being some sort of end-game activity. Soon enough though, you’ll have a lot of heroes and plenty to do.

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There is a cash shop as well, as each map takes stamina to fight on. You have a limited amount of stamina, and it though it recharges fairly quickly I’m sure some people wouldn’t want to wait. Arena Duels also take a different time-limited currency, but I have found items you can use to restore it. It’s also true that Orbs don’t drop very fast, so I’m sure paying some money for those wouldn’t be too bad of a deal if you’re really investing in the game. I know I’ve spent a little bit of money on Clash Royale so it’s safe to say I might spend a little on this title too. Overall I think it’s a great first entry into what I hope is a nice catalog of mobile Nintendo games. Give me a proper Mario, Zelda, Metroid or Smash Bros port and I’ll be happy.