Unplugged: Pandánte

 Pandas plus poker equals party.

If you’re anything like me, you like the ideas of good ol’ fashioned Texas Hold’em, but wish it had more of a twist. Well, friend, have I got a game that puts more than a few twists on it: Pandánte.

In this game, the players each have a board with one of 10 possible hand combinations on it. They’re given a stack of chips, and then everybody is dealt two cards. Everybody ante’s one “gold” into the pot, then three more cards are dealt into what is normally known as the flop, but what Pandánte calls The Splash. After that comes a betting round, where players place two gold on their board corresponding to the hand they are claiming to have based on their cards and the splash. This is the crux of the game: you don’t actually have to have anything! You just have to convince other people you do. Of course they’ll be able to call you out later after more cards have been dealt, but at great financial risk to themselves if you happen to be telling the truth.

One of the other big differences between this and Texas Hold’em is that you can exchange cards during parts of the game known as “Snacks.” Here, you can pay a certain amount of gold to trade one of your cards for something in the hopes of getting a better hand, or at least telling a better lie. Mix in the Ability Round into each hand and you can create some really great chaos. One ability lets you add a sixth card to the community cards, while another allows you to fold and take back your last bet if things are getting too heated for you.

An aspect of this game that I really love is that it’s innately built to keep players playing the game and less about elimination. One way Sirlin Games does this is by adding a Magic Gold Fairy that will refill you back to 20 gold at the end of a hand where you’re below that amount. Not only does that keep players playing the game, but it helps feed more gold into the game to help other players reach the gold cap for victory. Of course, you can play more like classic poker and go for elimination, or even play for real money. It’s that kind of flexibility in a game that I really respect.

From a presentation standpoint, I’m absolutely in love with this game. I purchased the deluxe set, so I received the elegantly designed poker chips, the minimalist card set, and the sturdy player boards, all wrapped up in a very posh case. It’s a sturdy investment, retailing at $99, but if you have the cash I highly recommend it. Otherwise, Sirlin Games’ website offers cheaper versions of the games if you already have your own favorite poker chip set, and even a printer-friendly version of the game, if you really want to play on the cheap.

Pandánte is a game that should appeal to a wide audience. Most folks will appreciate the Texas Hold’em trappings, geeks will love the addition of powers and tricks, and everybody loves pandas.

Nintendo Treehouse Live 9/12 Breakdown

Nintendo shows off Smash Bros. and more.

The Nintendo Treehouse team has been doing a stellar job showing off games this year. They started at E3 with presentations that lasted all day showing off all sorts of new games for fans of Nintendo products. They also showed up at New York Comic-Con to run challenges using these new games and to host a Smash Bros. for 3DS tournament. Today they returned to show off a bunch of updates to those E3 titles, and to show off the final build of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS.

The first thing they showed this morning was Captain Toad. The adorable little title stars the titular Captain Toad and his adventures to find stars and diamonds in these miniature levels. Folks who played Super Mario 3D World on Wii U Will remember the occasional level featuring a similar premise. This game is those levels blown up into a full fledged title. Captain Toad is set to release later this year.

Next, they showed off NES Remix on the 3DS. NES Remix was a great title on the Wii U, and it looks just as fun on the 3DS. This time, the game features much needed online leaderboards. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend looking forward to the 3DS release.

Mega Man 7 was played for a little while, showing off some of the Virtual Console service. It’s Mega Man 7 so there’s not much to say, other than it’s a good game and it’s available now on the Wii U Virtual Console.

After spending too much time on that, the Treehouse gang showed off some Hyrule Warriors. That game still looks bonkers. Watching Ghirahim cut through entire chunks of armies with that cool looking magic is awesome. It’s that ability to play as my favorite Zelda villains that really is selling me on the game.

The game appears to be an enormous power fantasy, but I worry it gets more repetitive than power happy. I’ve never played one of these newfangled Dynasty Warriors titles, so I really have no idea what I’m in for. I will say that the couch co-op will allow me to play with my husband, which will help me get through any game. *cue sappy music*

There are a lot of modes, including Adventure Mode, and a new Challenge Mode, which will come to the US version of the game care of a day one patch. Adventure Mode has players using the original NES Zelda map to select various challenges that they must then complete in Hyrule Warriors. Challenge Mode is like that, but with the challenges amped up and without the NES Map.

Bayonetta 2 was next, and oh what a delight that game is going to be. It’s all the action of Bayonetta with a brand new adventure and set of weapons. I’m currently in love with the Nintendo costumes adding more variety to the gameplay and weapons. I’m not going to go into too much detail because we just had a Bayonetta Direct, so go watch that if you want to know more.

They showed off the Multi-player mode as well. The online-only feature has two players playing to defeat challenges and competing to get a better score than your other player. It’s all about co-op with a versus twist, and allows players to show off for each other and bet halos against each other.

Next, the Treehouse gang showed off Fantasy Life, which was made by Level 5 (the fine team behind Professor LaytonNi No Kuni, and more). This game looks to have that typical charm you would expect from them. It’s bright, cheerful, and looks to be simplistic while hiding a certain depth. I don’t know that I”ll have time to pick it up, but it looks cute enough to check it out for a co-op experience.

Then came the Smash Bros.

It looks like they’re not going to reveal anything here so I’m going to call this article here. It’s Smash Bros. footage that you’re welcome to watch on their stream for the rest of the day.

What do you think of the games Nintendo showed? Excited for anything in particular?

 

The 5 Best Music Tracks So Far in Smash Bros. for 3DS

Smashing your eardrums with awesome.

Smash Bros. for 3DS is out of the bag. Some folks in Japan got their hands on a copy of it early and have been streaming all sorts of features and reveals, and it’s nuts. I’m doing my very best to avoid it, but it’s all over the internet right now. I just want to hang out until tomorrow during the live stream Nintendo is holding to kind of get an “official” release on any last minute things. Then I think I’ll be satisfied without needing to dive into the rest. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m saving that stuff for a write-up tomorrow. Tonight, let’s bask in the glory of one more list. Let’s talk about the best music they’ve shown off so far for Smash Bros. on the 3DS.

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Smash Bros Hype: The 5 Newcomers I’m Excited For

The first five I’ll probably check out

Finally, I was able to put down streams of the Japanese Smash Bros. for 3DS demo long enough to write another article. Here’s a look at the 5 new characters I’m most excited to investigate! Please note that I’m only drawing from confirmed characters, so certain leaky types are going to have to wait until later to be praised.

5. Mii Fighters (Brawler, specifically)

In any fighting game that offers it, I always go with the Create-a-Character. No matter how limited it may be, I’m much more interested in creating my own characters than using preset ones. Smash is the exception to this, but I’m still very excited to investigate customizing my Mii to be a Brawler. I also tend to pick characters with an up-close and personal fighting style, so unless he turns out to be a Captain Falcon clone, I’ll be enjoying the fisticuffs Mii Fighter has to offer.

4. Mega Man

I didn’t grow up playing Mega Man games like a lot of people. I didn’t pop in until the X series on SNES, and Legends is my favorite off-shoot. But I still appreciate the Blue Bomber in all his forms, and this one looks to be handcrafted for maximum fan service. He also appears to be a super unique fighter with a lot of tools at his disposal, so I’m interested to check him out.

3. Wii Fit Trainer

Before, she was just going to be a fun character that came out of nowhere, but when I learned she’s also a charge character I became much more interested. For those who don’t know, she uses the Deep Breathing technique to charge the power of her attacks. It goes in combination with her Sun Salutation charge-up shot, making for a dangerous combination. I enjoyed playing Lucas in Project M, who had a similar mechanic, and I’m hoping that the Wii Fit Trainer works in a similar manner. I look forward to finding out soon!

2. Robin the Tactician

Ever since I played Fire Emblem: Awakening, I’ve wanted The Tactician, or Robin, as a Smash character. It turns out that Mr. Sakurai and I were on the same wavelength with his design, too, because Robin does everything I imagined he would. He throws out spells and fights with the Levin Sword, creating a mix-up that makes him wholly unique from other sword fighters. I’m hoping he has a “Hood up” alternate appearance, but I somehow doubt it at this point. Oh well!

1. Villager

I’ve been an Animal Crossing fan for years now, and I’ve always wanted the Villager to make an appearance. In my head, he utilized his tools a bit more to do his work, like recovering with the fishing rod as a whip/grapple mechanic, but Mr. Sakurai’s realization of him is even better. The way he moves, the weapons he uses, and his Final Smash are all brilliant. I look forward to weeding out my opponents one at a time in the near future.

What Newcomers are you excited to play as? Anybody in particular catch your eye? Feel free to drop a comment and keep the discussion going!

Smash Bros. Hype: The 5 Veterans I’m Most Excited to Play

Basically, my main characters.

For me, it’s just as much fun seeing an old favorite get redesigned and refit for the upcoming Smash as it is to see a new face enter the fray. That was the thought behind creating this list. Maybe it’s just a new costume, or maybe they were my main and I’m excited to see their changes (and new custom movesets!). Either way, these are the five veterans I’m most excited to see return.

5. Toon Link

I didn’t like the way Toon Link looked in Smash Bros. Brawl. The sort of Twilight Princess art style that all the characters had didn’t fit him. He looked drab and dreary compared to his trophies that used his Wind Waker model. I’m glad to see him in this new engine where he’s much more colorful and expressive. That alone is all I need to know about him to want to keep him as one of my main characters.

4. Bowser

Bowser was always a character I wanted to love but couldn’t. He just didn’t hold up well enough for me. I normally play as big, slow characters as it is, but something about him was -too- big and slow. That, and his move set just didn’t appeal to me. However, we’ve seen Bowser get a huge moveset makeover, and now he looks primed for combat. The most recent 3DS tournament at Comic-Con came down to a Bowser on Bowser fight, so you know he’s picking up playability. I’m excited to see where that new moveset takes him.

3. Pit

Similar to Bowser, I really wanted to learn Pit in Brawl, but couldn’t find anything about him I really liked. He was annoying, he felt cheap, and he didn’t have a whole lot of fun tricks. Most of that seems to have changed for the new game, and I’m hoping that’ll bring me around on Ol’ Pitty-Pat. From his better voice actor, to his revamped moveset, it seems like they’ve done a lot to make Pit more in line with what I wanted when I first picked him up.

2. King DeDeDe

He was probably my first love in Brawl. Everything was perfect as a long time fan of the Kirby franchise. Nothing was more satisfying to me than lining up that perfect hammer blow and KOing somebody at a relatively low percentage, just because I could. In the new Smash, King DeDeDe appears to be more expressive, and, hopefully, more fine tuned like Bowser. I’m interested to see what custom moves he’s going to mix up his arsenal with.

1. Ike

Ike was a character I couldn’t figure out for the longest time. Then one day, fairly recently, he just sort of clicked, and he’s been my main since. His outrageous knockback and damage potential, combined with his hefty weight, has made him a big favorite of mine. His new redesign makes him look like somebody actually capable of wielding a bodacious broadsword like his, and I really appreciate that. Like all of the previous characters, I’m very interested to see how he’s changed in the new game.

So those are my five faves, but what about yours? Do you have any returning characters you’re excited to see? Even if they haven’t been confirmed, who would you love to see return? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Smash Bros. Hype: My 5 Most Wanted Alternate Costumes

Playing Dress-Up with Nintendo Characters

Fighting games these days love alternate costumes. It’s a great way to have unlockable aspects of a game without necessary hiding your roster, or even a great way to make some extra cash post release of a game. We’ve seen some instances of alternate costumes in the upcoming Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS like a male alternative to the Wii Fit Trainer and multiple different Animal Crossing Villagers. I’ve decided to think a little more on the topic. Basically, these are costumes I’d probably pay money in the future to have if they’re not already in the game.

5. Majora’s Mask for Mii Fighters

Majora’s Mask is still one of my favorite Zelda games. It may not have held up as well in terms of raw gameplay, but the story and atmosphere still rank among the best in the industry. It’s not a secret that the mask itself remains an important icon in my life, and I always love finding it in games like Guacamelee, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Animal Crossing. So it should be no surprise that I want it to be one of the costume options for my Mii to don in the upcoming Smash Bros. games.

4. Cosmic Spirit for Rosalina

I’m very hyped for Rosalina. She’s easily one of my favorite Mario characters, and I always seem to enjoy what they do with her in any game they put her in. You may recall that she appeared in Super Mario Galaxy 2 to assist players on their journey in the form of the Cosmic Spirit. If not, there it is above! For obvious reasons, this would make an awesome alternate costume for Rosalina.

3. Rupee Armor for Link

It looks like somebody has already modeled this idea in Brawl, so that makes imagining it a little easier. The Rupee Armor was an awesome little armor set you could get in Zelda: Twilight Princess that made you invincible as long as you had rupees for it to consume. I think it goes without saying that we would remove that little caveat and just leave it a nice armor to put Link in, but just in case, I just said it.

2. Lobster Shirt for Toon Link

This idea was implemented into Project M, and I think it should be used in a more official capacity. The more casual outfit is my preferred way to play Zelda: Wind Waker, and I believe it’s just more visually interesting. Plus there’s a lobster on it.

1. Meowser for Bowser

My number one most wanted costume was the biggest surprise of Super Mario 3D World: Meowser. Bowser donning the cat bell and turning into the ferocious-yet-fuzzy villain was a highlight for that game. It was easily one of the best boss fights in Mario history. I think it would only be fair to bring this costume back for Bowser to terrorize his foes with in Smash Bros.

Those are just some of my costume ideas. What are yours? Sound off in the comments section so I can see what creative ideas you have!

Smash Bros. Hype: My 5 Most Wanted New Characters

In a perfect world, these challengers would approach.

It seems almost pointless to still talk about characters I want to see in the next iteration of Smash Bros. Between all the announcements we already have and the supposed leaks of upcoming reveals, there doesn’t seem to be much room left for speculation. But that’s not going to stop me. If nothing else, we can consider these ideas for future installments in the series.

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Smash Bros Hype: My 5 Most Wanted Songs

Sounds of Smash

The music of Smash Bros. is probably my favorite aspect of the series. It’s a place where all of my favorite tunes from a wide variety of Nintendo games that I love come together in one place. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the team at Nintendo went well above and beyond to bring over 200 amazing tunes into one game, and between both of the new Smash Bros. games coming out, they’re looking to do it all again. But very little has actually been shown in terms of new music tracks. We’ve seen a few titles posted like in the Pic of the Day above, and they’ve added a few samples to their website, but for the most part the music is unknown. I’ve spent far too much time thinking about it, and these are the top 5 tracks in ALL of Nintendo history, and then some, that I would love to see show up in the next Smash Bros. games. Continue reading

Smash Bros Hype: My 5 Most Wanted Stages

The places to be in the next iteration of Super Smash Bros.

A while back I ran a series of regular updates about the content I wanted to see in the next Smash games. With the Japanese release only 10 days away, I wanted to revisit that feature with some of the information we have now and give an update to my most wanted lists. Today, we’re starting with the 5 most wanted battlegrounds for clashing in Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS. 

5. Retro Corneria – Star Fox

There hasn’t been a new Star Fox in the 7 years since Smash Bros. Brawl came out, so there isn’t anything new to draw from. With that in mind, I suggest we go back to the original, which has never seen a stage in Smash.

The goal here is to replicate the look of the FX Chip in glorious HD. For the stage design itself, I would want something like a replica of the Lylat Cruise stage from Brawl, just refitted it was rendered in the FX Chip style. It could fly between different levels, like Lylat Cruise, but the most important thing is maintaining the SNES style of 3D graphics.

4. Skytown – Metroid Prime 3

Well before there was Bioshock Infinite, we were already sailing sky-rails in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Skytown was one of the game’s many amazing locations, and featured floating towers that were connected by rails. A stage based on a part of this city would be appropriate to Smash‘s floating stage design, and would also be a well-needed representation from the Prime series.

Man I really want an HD Metroid Prime.

3. Pushmo – Pushmo

Pushmo is easily one of this handheld generation’s best games, and certainly one of Nintendo’s best new IP’s. For those two reasons alone, it deserves an entire stage in the new Smash Bros. games. Imagine yourself having to fight on these squared surfaces that are pulled out by the game’s protagonist Malo. As the stage goes, he keeps pulling out new stacks of blocks, altering the landscape of the battlefield as the stage continues to endlessly climb upwards on a mountain of Pushmo. It would be a difficult stage to pull off, but I think it would be one of the coolest new locals in the games.

2. Fountain Gardens – Kirby’s Epic Yarn

In all honestly, I’m okay with anything at all from Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but it has to happen. The game’s gorgeous hand-stitched design needs representation on one of the Smash Bros. stages. It could take the form of Quilty Square, or a design based off the first level, or even a rotating map based on the game’s world map. I don’t care. It just needs to be a reality.

1. Sunset Shore – Donkey Kong Country Returns

Perhaps my favorite idea, and the most difficult to pull off, is a stage based on Sunset Shore from Donkey Kong Country Returns. The stage is simple: put together some platforms that are all flat colored with a gorgeous sunset background. Then, make sure all the fighters have a similar flat color with specific highlights depending on their most prominent features, just like in the picture above. It would be a painstaking task to do that to the 35+ characters we have, not to mention alternate costumes. But if it could be done well, I think it would be the most visually interesting stage in a Smash Bros. game to date.

What do you guys think of the list? Any stages you’d like to see in an upcoming Smash game? Let me know in the comments below!