Retro concepts with modern sensibilities make for a brilliant game.
Every now and again we get another game that promises retro-platforming action. Spelunky, 1001 Spikes, Mega Man 9. Few actually manage to find what made retro games so great, and most of them forsake modern game designs to try and reach that “classic” feel. Shovel Knight manages to hit a sweet spot on both accounts, and the results are astounding.
Shovel Knight might sound ridiculous, but it is straight forward. You play as a knight who wields a shovel for purposes of combat and exploration. He also gets an array of sub-weapons to use, many of which that hearken back to games like Castlevania and Mega Man.
Using these weapons, you travel the world of Shovel Knight, defeating members of an insidious order as you fight to win back your beloved Shield Knight, a dear friend that was thought lost to The Tower of Enchantment. Traveling the world is a combination of Super Mario Bros. 3‘s overworld map and The Adventures of Link‘s villages. It gives a great sense of exploration to a game that otherwise features fairly straight-forward levels in the vein of Mega Man and Castlevania 3.
Gameplay within these levels feels very much like a more fluid Adventures of Link with swordplay replaced with shovelplay, which is now a word. You swipe can swing your shovel in arcs in front of you, or you can come down upon your enemies with a vertical shovel-drop. When combined with the aforementioned sub-weapons, you’ll find an incredibly gratifying gameplay system built into the game. The same method of combat is used to traverse platforming puzzles to find more and more treasure, a key component for buying new weapons and upgrades.
The level design is varied and compelling: from interesting puzzles using your shoveling skills to their utmost potential to perplexing paths that require sub-weapons and quick reflexes to navigate. Equally varied and challenging are the boss fights, each reminiscent of a variety of fights throughout video game history.
I can’t say enough about the music of the game. While it isn’t exactly true to the capabilities of the 8-bit era, it is evoking that same feeling of games like Mega Man and Castlevania. Jake Kaufman has put together an incredibly array of songs here that are well worth purchasing on their own from the game.
In the end, Shovel Knight is more than a game that just wants to invoke that “classic feeling” for a bullet-point. It’s a love letter to the great game design that brought all of us where we are now, and it shows.
Note: For what it’s worth, I played the game on the 3DS and that appears to be the place to play. The layered dimensions among the backgrounds of the game really make it pop, visually. The game in general really works well in a portable format, but it’s also available on Steam and Wii U, and I would easily recommend it there as well.
Pushmo returns in HD, and manages to rekindle my desire to shove blocks around.
The 3DS saw one of the most innovative puzzle games in recent memory with Pushmo a few years back. A simple downloadable title became one of the 3DS’s best games, if nothing else for the refreshing nature of it’s gameplay. It wasn’t about speed or necessarily skill, it was about thinking things carefully to get from the bottom to the top. Plain, simple, and immensely enjoyable.
Pushmo World seeks to bring that same innovative gameplay to the big screen. Admittedly, it’s not as fresh the second time, but it still delivers head scratching brilliance with a new batch of puzzles. You also get a more robust social feature through Miiverse, allowing you to find and endless assortment of user-generated Pushmo puzzles!
What makes Pushmo great is it’s simplicity. The colorful art style, the peppy music, and the minimal amount of mechanics helps to keep the game clear and concise, and yet the variety of puzzles seems endless. The amount of innovation you get from a game about pushing and pulling blocks around never ceases to surprise me, even in the franchise’s second iteration.
Ultimately, Pushmo is a puzzle game only in competition with itself. It’s nice to see that Nintendo didn’t try and staple more weird mechanics into it, or re-introduce elements from the less favorable offshoot Crashmo (also available on the 3DS). What we have is a great game, in high definition, with nearly unlimited content. At the end of the day that’s all anybody could ask for.
With just a day before E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) starting proper, I thought I would have some fun with one of the supposed leaks going around. The craziest leak is a game titled “Mario Maker.” As seen above in this suspiciously blurry picture (taken with a 3DS?), there may just come an announcement during Nintendo’s digital E3 presentation featuring a game that involves making and/or Mario. But what could a game like this be? We won’t know until Tuesday if it even exists, but a game like this could just as easily be a real project. So I decided to make believe that it is real and talk about what I want it to be.
The obvious answer here is that this is a Super Mario Bros. level creator. Using either the 3DS or Wii U stylus, you plop down blocks and create your own levels. We’ve seen these types of ROM programs on the internet before, which is why I feel that this alone is too much of a low hanging fruit. If that’s all “Mario Maker” turns out to be, I think that’s cool, and I’d love to see sequels using Super Mario 2, 3, and World assets as well.
Then we can get into some sick shit.
But I do hope there’s more to this whole “Mario Maker” than a level creation/sharing tool. What if you could have access to a sprite maker to make your own enemies/stage designs? Heck, they could even go full blown Mario Paint and give you access to the same sound font that Koji Kondo once used to create the famous Mario tune we all know in our heads. This would allow level creators to also create original tunes to add to their unique characters and worlds, all using the Mario Bros. gameplay. Adding this almost Little Big Planet level of customization could really turn a simple ROM stage creator into a full-packaged game maker. Now -that- would be an E3 surprise.
There could also be a chance to add some of that NES Remix magic in here too. Nintendo could include other characters like Kirby or Samus. There was an old flash game, called Super Mario Crossover that allowed you to play through the original Super Mario Bros. as other NES favorites like 8-bit Link, or Mega Man. Tapping into Nintendo’s nostalgic collection of characters to play Mario games as could really open the whole “Mario Maker” project.
We’ll see if this is even a real thing come Tuesday, but for now it’s just fun to pretend what kind of things Nintendo could do, even if it’s sometime in the future. What kind of game would you want out of a “Mario Maker?” Drop a comment below and let’s speculate together!
Mario Kart 8 is probably one of the strongest Mario Kart’s to have come out. It’s gorgeous, fast, and entertaining.
As far as Mario Kart‘s go, you’re not getting a bunch of new territory here outside of the brilliant zero-g racing. Riding upside down and on walls never fails to be fun. Above all else, come to this game for it’s gameplay, but while you’re here, enjoy the bountiful visual feast blowing out of your screen.
The battle mode is the worst, but the online works phenomenally! Creating videos with Mario Kart TV and viewing them at Mariokart.tv is a blast. This is a new format I’m trying called the “Hundred Word Review.” Just like it says, I take only 100 words to describe my feelings towards a game. I’m doing this in an attempt to find a gimmick that appeals to folks. Quick, bite-sized reviews are the idea. Something to counterbalance the half-a-novel reviews you see elsewhere.
I could write a lot about Mario Kart 8, but I feel like these 100 words are all I need to say to tell you what I think of it. Let me know what you think in the comments. Does this format work for you? Am I omitting things? Do you like the idea of shorter reviews in general, or have I taken it to far? Please slap that feedback on the table so I can write more gooder for you.
Release windows! Stages! Characters! Items! Masahiro Sakurai used Substitute!
Whew! I’m still catching my breath after that last Smash Bros. Direct. Or maybe it’s time to get back to the gym. Probably both. Here I’m going to provide a breakdown of what was seen and heard, and for impressions you’ll want to wait for our upcoming, and first, podcast! But until that get’s recorded, here’s the news!
First off, and probably most importantly to most people, the release date. If you don’t want to be spoiled and just want that release window, stop after this. The Smash 3DS will be released this summer, and the Wii U version will be released this winter. No actual date’s confirmed, but if I were a betting man I’d narrow this down to late August and early to mid-December.
Technically, on the 3DS, the game will run at 60 fps even in with your 3D slider on. Things like assist trophies and Pokemon will be slowed down to 30 fps to help maintain the characters. I’m not sure how exactly this’ll look in theory, but odds are it’ll look fine.
It was confirmed once more that both games have the same roster, but the stages will be different between the 3DS and and Wii U. During this segment, it was also revealed that what was once thought to be two different Animal Crossing: City Folk stages (or two different looks) are actually one stage that sort of packs up and travels from the village to the city.
As for the music between the games, there are two songs per stage on 3DS, similar to Melee. Meanwhile, the Wii U version will see the return of “My Music.” This feature allows players to select the regularity of which they’ll see songs assigned to each stage. Shown in the screenshot were an arrangement and original version of the Ballad of the Goddess from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, as well as a number of tracks returning from Smash Bros. Brawl.
There will apparently be some sort of connectivity feature between the 3DS and Wii U, but the Direct was not the time to discuss them, apparently.
Here’s a breakdown of stages that were shown off:
For the 3DS!
Reset Bomb Forest – Kid Icarus Uprising
Super Mario 3D Land – Super Mario 3D Land
Spirit Train – The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – This time they showed more platforms in the form of side-cars that link up with the train.
Gerudo Valley – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D – The Twinrova twins were shown icing and flaming up the stage.
Arena Ferox – Fire Emblem: Awakening – The stage morphs like Castle Siege in Brawl, but it looked more seamless. Many different morphs have been shown thus far.
Tortimer Island – Animal Crossing: New Leaf – As was shown in the Pic of the Day, the stage has many randomizing aspects to the layout each time you play it. The music playing during this segment was from Tortimer Island’s mini-games in New Leaf.
Living Room – Nintendogs – Appears to have some random platform arrangements, or transforms at some point.
Prism Tower – Pokemon X and Y – Reminds me of Halberd with it’s travelling.
Rainbow Road – Mario Kart 7 – F-Zero style level.
Find Mii – Find Mii I and II – This stage was finally seen in action. Looks very simple but with a stage hazard boss in the demon that kidnaps Mii’s. Hopefully Mii’s will be pulled from your system.
Balloon Fight – Balloon Fight. Finally! I always thought this game made a perfect Smash level. Notably: the sides don’t knock you out, but wrap around, like in the original Balloon Fighter. The only way out is up or down.
Smash Bros. Melee’s DK Jungle refuses to die with dignity and continues to torture us with rushing rapids.
Wii U Stages:
Mario Galaxy – Mario Galaxy – Friggen gorgeous. Falling starbits!
Pyrosphere – Metroid Other M – Ridley’s shadow shown as a “boss.” Does this deconfirm him from playable? I think so, but it’s up for speculation!
Town and City – Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Travelling stage.
Boxing Ring – Punch-Out!! – This stage has two designs.
Pilot Wings – Pilot Wings – Still looks like a new Pokéfloats to me!
Skyloft – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Windy Hill – Sonic and the Lost World
Garden of Hope – Pikmin 3
Wii Fit Studio – Wii Fit – The stage morphs with different balance board platforms.
Palutena’s Temple – Kid Icarus: Uprising – This is the new Hyrule temple
Halberd is back from Brawl, and now in HD!
Also shown was the Wily’s Castle stage from Mega Man 2. The Yellow Devil that we’ve seen before is a combination Boss and goal. Defeat him by attacking his only vulnerable spot, his eye, and he blows up on your foes.
Up next, Smash Bros. Director, Masahiro Sakurai, discussed online play!
Both the Wii U and 3DS have online multiplayer. Sakurai warned that you should have a good connection! Use the LAN adapter for your WiiU (if you can find one!)
Playing with Friends recreates the local multiplayer, so there’s no real surprises there, but there’s a few new modes for playing with anyone. “For Fun” allows for all stages except for Final Destination and items. It’ll only record your wins. “For Glory” is Final Destination only, no items, allows for 1v1 matches, and records wins and losses.
One very interesting detail shown off was that every stage now has a Final Destination form. This mixes up the standard Final Destination by allowing for more scenery and music to be played. This’ll be great for the FD-only lovers out there.
There was also some talk of banning people, so long story short, don’t be a dick.
There’s a new rank system called “Global Smash Power.” It’s still vague on how you increase your stat, but your score is the number of people you’re better than.
Items got their own feature, so here’s a list of what was shown! (This presentation was accompanied by an arrangement of the barrel rocket music from Donkey Kong Country Returns!)
Beam Sword looks great
Motion sensor bomb
Fire Bar looks like a length-decreasing sword
Back Shield protects your back
Bombchu does what you think
Fairy bottle heals
Ore Club is another melee weapon that can make a whirlwind
Hocotate Bomb (Does this mean Olimar has a new final smash?)
Rocket belt recovery from Pilot Wings
Steel Diver submarine gun that shoots torpedoes.
Assist Trophies! Or: Who didn’t make the cut!
Saki Amamiya from Sin and Punishment.
Skull Kid flips the screen upside-down.
Mother Brain shoots with a laser.
Midna battles foes and throws ‘em
Ashley does… something with a cloud of magic smoke?
Pokémon! In this we learned that Master Balls holds legendary Pokémon!
Arceus meteor smashes from a range.
Eevee is adorable
Fennekin uses PK Fire
Meloetta throws music orbs I guess
Gogoat can be ridden
Palkia flips the stage
Kyruem freezes on both sides
Kaldeo uses his horn to cut up foes.
Xerneas makes.. pretty colors happen? I guess.
A lot of information was given on returning characters and new characters, so here’s kind of a quick and dirty breakdown of what we saw:
Samus and Zero Suit Samus are separated – Samus’ Zero Laser no longer drops her armor. In fact, there are no more transformation characters at all.
Instead, Zero Suit Samus zeroes in! Now she’s got some sweet space-heels that turn her into the closest thing to Bayonetta we’re getting in this game (Unless we get Bayonetta! Finger’s crossed!)
Zelda’s Phantom Slash looks like more unnecessary power and defense for Zelda who can already dflect attacks.
Sheik is going solo, now with Burst Grenades seem to work like Snake’s grenades in Brawl. Sheik also has a Bouncing Fish move, which is a heel kick.
Kirby has a new hammer technique: Hammer Flip. It’s a charge to his previous hammer ability: like Roy, it can hurt him. He also has a new final smash: Ultra Sword, from Kirby’s Return to Dreamland.
DeDeDe is more expressive and throws only gordo’s instead of waddle-dees.
Lucario is back with more powerful Aura attacks that build when he’s damaged. Charge his aura too much and it can backfire on you when you try to recover. And now he has a Mega Form (unclear, but likely his Final Smash). His aura attacks are always max damaged.
Olimar, shown with a new Pikmin music track, can only have 3 Pikmin, but they are in order. Red, yellow, blue, white, purple. Reduced numbers means easier management, visually, and knowledge of number is easy. Recovery move is now winged pikmin but more pikmin means heavier. Interesting.
Pit has lost his gliding mechanic. However, his Power of Flight is a great recovery move. His new Final Smash is now the 3 sacred treasures which looks ridonkulous. It’s like Triple Finish with a PK Starstorm chaser.
Yoshi struts his stuff over the new Smash. He now stands upright, and is the most gorgeous shade of green. His video also comes with a great Yoshi’s Island arrangement.
Roslaina and Luma, featured with an amazing carnival themed arrangement of the Cosmic Observatory theme, return with a breakdown of Luma’s separation mechanics. Still looks like it’ll be a handfull to master, but very rewarding when you do. Starbits is their side special, shooting an array of starbits. Looks to have great cancellation potential for charging enemies. Up special is the Launch Star recovery. Down special is Gravitational Pull (have ya makin’ a fool out of yourself on the dance floor), which can render shots ineffective. Power Star final smash shoots stars EVERYWHEEEERE!
Little Mac, featured with a power ballad Punch-out theme, has great ground game. But in the air he is physically weaker and is as clumsy as all get out. His Rising Uppercut is a terrible recovery with great attack power. Slip counter makes it look like he’s been hit, then counters. Giga Mac is basically Giga Bowser for his Final Smash. There’s a Wire Frame Mac costume change, calling back to the original Punch-Out!! arcade machine.
Villager, shown with an arrangement of Kapp’n’s Sea Shanty, has SO much pocketing. He can even pocket Zelda’s new Phantom Armor! His side special is Lloid rocket, which looks to have some great horizontal recovery. Up special is Balloon Trip, which appears to be a great recovery move save for it’s fragility. His Down Special is Timber, where you plant a tree and then chop it down onto your foes. And finally we see his Final Smash: Dream Home! He pays off Nook and kin to build a house on top of his foes!
All you need to know about Mega Man is his Final Smash:
Wii Fit trainer has a Deep Breathing ability that chargers her powers, and Sun Salutation is a projectile that can be saved like Samus’ power canon. Combining the two is a great combo!
Custom Move Sets were also discussed. You can’t use them online with strangers, but you can customize the way abilities work to change fighters up. Changes shown include: A giant Mario fireball that persists past contact, a straight firing fireball, a circling Pit arrow, charging Marth, a flaming uppercut from Mario, Kirby’s ice breath, and DK getting invincible armor for his headbutt. It looks like it might break balance, and probably won’t be allowed for competition, but it looks pretty neat none the less to change up less-desired aspects of moves!
New Game Mode: Smash Run
Solely for the 3DS, Smash Run is like an adventure mode in a giant level that up to 4 people can partake in. It features enemies and elements from multiple games including Donkey Kong Country Returns, Pokemon, Mario, Kid Icarus, Pikmin, and Brawl’s Subspace Emissary story mode. it’s a 5 minute run through a dungeon to collect power-ups that you then take to a big fight at the end with your foes. It looks pretty nuts!
Finally, because no Smash presentation would be complete without new announcements, a new trailer showing Charizard and Greninja was shown. Charizard is now sans the Pokemon Trainer and his alternate compatriots, and Greninja is a brand new fighter. WIll we see a grass type to top it off? We’ll see…
Finally, there’s a host of new screenshots showing even more details that weren’t in the Direct, so check those out here!
Now that was a -lot- of information, and that wasn’t even really any impressions of it. As I mentioned at the start, I’m saving that for an upcoming podcast, so stay tuned!
In a rather colorful picture today, the Pokemon Dedenne was confirmed to be a Pokeball character in the next Smash Bros. games.
Dedenne is an electric/fairy type Pokemon who fulfills Generation 6’s requirement of an lightning slinging rodent. A cross between a diabetic Pikachu and a rooftop antennae, this Pokemon is sure to do something that, if you squint hard enough, makes him look like somebody who could be useful.
Because I’m already tired of talking about this thing, what useful Pokemon are you hoping to see on the Pokeball line-up in the next game? Drop me a few names in the comments below!
Sorry, Waluigi fans. It looks like The Goblin in Purple will be an Assist Trophy. With the Mario Roster currently boasting 5 people (not to mention characters like Yoshi and Wario who are totally Mario characters, but have spun off into their own franchises) it really didn’t make sense for Waluigi to come in and play ball. I think this was always his destiny, and at least it’s safe to say he looks great in HD!
I hope fans aren’t too bummed out, but remember: The Assist Trophy is a way to see your favorite characters come to life in Smash, even if they’re not full fighters. I couldn’t have been happier to see Jill from Drill Dozer in Brawl, even if she was just an Assist. I didn’t think I’d even get that.
What do you think about Assist Trophies? Happy to see Waluigi return his racketing ways as one? Comments and stuff go below!
It was no real surprise that we would get a character reveal with the launch of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The pattern thus far has been that major releases coincide with a character reveal. But those hoping for a new addition to the Smash roster were perhaps a bit disappointed that we received another veteran. It’s silly to be, though- the pattern has only fit veteran reveals, not new characters. Those have only been with Nintendo Directs, and we -just- got Little Mac.
From what little there is to tell, it would appear that Diddy remains largely unchanged from his Brawl self. He still appears to toss banana peels, fire his peanut popper gun, and use barrels to recover.
Something I’d like to see out of an alternate costume for Diddy Kong would be a Dixie Kong outfit. I know, we’re getting a little gender-bendy here, but let’s face it facts; it makes more sense than Dixie Kong being her own character. I figure it’s either that or a Lanky Kong pair of suspenders just because.
How do you feel about the return of Diddy? Excited? Are you positively bananas over it? Comments below are a great way to discuss!
With today’s screenshot, it’s become almost -too- apparent that Sakurai both goes over fan feedback, and analyzes it. Mostly, the latter is so he can troll people with comments like this:
“Pic of the day. This dog is huge… Wait, no, the playable characters are small. The Smash Bros. series doesn’t always stay true to scale.”
It’s like he knows our argument against Ridley and is just throwing fire under everybody’s feet to laugh at us as we dance in the flames. Yes, size is flexible but Ridley isn’t just shrink-able. He’s unwieldy. But I’m not getting into that argument here.
Instead: that’s a cute puppy. Conversation over. Unless you have something to say about how cute that puppy is in the comments below!