The One BIG Thing Missing from the Switch

Image result for nintendo switch

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: the Nintendo Switch just might be the company’s greatest system of all time. I mean, having the ability to take the system out of my TV and bring my large-scale, console-quality games on the go is simply perfect. In just its first year on the market, the Switch became the fastest-selling console in U.S. history, and surpassed the lifetime sales (approximately four years) of its failed predecessor, the Wii U. Most importantly, the games have been of the utmost quality, with the new mainline Legend of Zelda and Super Mario games taking bold new risks, both to great payoffs. It has been a rough several years for the Big N, but 2017 marked an unprecedented and absolutely magnificent comeback for the brand.

While I sing highly the praises of the Nintendo Switch, I do acknowledge its flaws, as no system is, has been, nor ever will be perfect. Namely, the console is a bit underpowered when compared to its contemporaries, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This I can understand though, as some sacrifices to its graphical capabilities need to be made in order for the console to double as a handheld, something that distinguishes it from the competition. However, one major thing that Nintendo could bring to their new system, seeing as it was on both the Wii and Wii U, but unfortunately has not (as of this writing), is the Virtual Console.

Image result for virtual console

For those out of the loop, the Virtual Console was large selection of classic video games that could be purchased digitally and downloaded onto one’s Wii or Wii U. The games were ported over from the original Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, among others, and being older titles, were reasonably cheap. In my opinion, Nintendo made its fair share of mistakes during the “Wii era”, trying too hard to cater to as wide an audience as possible, including non-gamers. However their intent to make all their major legacy titles accessible on one convenient system, to generations old and new, was definitely not one of them.

You might be thinking: “why the heck is this service not on the Switch?!” Seeing as the Switch has objectively superior hardware and specs to its predecessors, it is indeed frustrating to see something proven technologically possible not be done. Additionally, as a big fan of retro games myself, I have become rather weary of the increasingly high asking prices for used, physical copies of them. As such, the idea of not only being able to get these games cheaply, but to also be able to play them anywhere, would be a massive missed opportunity for Nintendo if they ultimately do not do it.

Image result for virtual console switch

On a more positive, optimistic note, Nintendo has stated that they are open to having Virtual Console in for the Switch. Perhaps they have been working on it, but have simply taken some extra time to make it even better (I personally hope that they will add GameCube games onto the service). They did say something about discussing updated “online services” at this June’s E3, so here’s to hoping we hear something about the VC!

3/8/18 Nintendo Direct: My Thoughts

Image result for nintendo direct march 8

If my blog posts on various Nintendo games have not convinced you to give them a shot, then I would like to introduce everyone to arguably the best perk of being a Big N fan: looking forward to and watching Nintendo Directs!

For those out of the loop on what this means, a few times a year, Nintendo will air a special online livestream in which they announce a slew of news regarding upcoming games. Directs last around thirty minutes, the dates of which are typically revealed on short notice, so they are usually a pleasant surprise. Given Nintendo’s tendency to surprise viewers, you can never really know what you will get out of each livestream, but needless to say, this is what makes them very exciting to watch!

Image result for nintendo 3DS

Overall, I thought that last Thursday’s Direct was pretty awesome. However, before I discuss what I felt pushed this particular one over the edge, I would like to talk about the things that I did not quite care for. Personally, I found the beginning of the livestream, which pertained to announcements regarding the Nintendo 3DS, to feel rather redundant in 2018.

The 3DS was released in 2011, and while it was great for its time, I believe that there is little need for Nintendo to spend valuable resources supporting it when we now have the much more advanced Switch, which doubles as both a home console and a handheld. In particular, I was slightly irked at the news that the beloved Luigi’s Mansion was being remade for the 3DS; why not give it a high-definition remaster on the Switch, where it could still be taken on the go?!

Image result for crash bandicoot n sane trilogy switch

On the topic of game re-releases, they were featured in this Direct in spades. However, besides Luigi’s Mansion, I was all for these, given that every other remake was announced for the Switch. Nintendo’s previous home console, the Wii U, was a commercial failure despite housing some great titles, so they have been porting over several said games to the astronomically more successful Switch since it launched last year as a means to give those games the spotlight they initially deserved. To me, the added portability factor the Switch provides these re-releases is enough to get me to buy them again, so I was pretty ecstatic to see some of my favorite Wii U titles get Switch versions.

Additionally, titles that originally came out on PlayStation and Xbox have also found their way onto the Nintendo Switch, such as Crash Bandicoot (pictured above). Again, I support these, as the idea of Nintendo having many of the same games as its competitors plus the ability to play them on the go is simply an ingenious one that will help make the Switch competitive on similar footing to its contemporaries.

Related image

As for entirely new content, the Direct aired a special segment on the upcoming Mario Tennis Aces, which, surprisingly, made me somewhat consider buying a sports game. Another highlight was an upcoming story expansion for Splatoon 2, which gave me more incentive to eventually buy that game. However, the best was saved for last, as the end of this Nintendo Direct featured a brief, surprise teaser for something that us fans have been speculating about for over a year: a new installment in the Super Smash Bros. series! I will admit to screaming like a girl when the famous logo appeared in Inkling’s eye (as seen above), and this is what ultimately made this Direct great for me.

However, it can be argued that the best part of last week’s Nintendo Direct for me was actually what happened afterwards. The announcement of a new Smash game immediately went viral on social media, and within a few hours, one of my high school friends, who is not a Nintendo fan, texted me saying he now wanted a Switch. I was overjoyed when I heard this, as I have used this blog as a means to try and persuade others to get into the kinds of games that I like, and the fact that it is now starting to occur naturally indicates that Nintendo is obviously doing something right that is appealing to more “mainstream and mature” gamers!

YOU Choose!

I have greatly enjoyed my time blogging about some of my favorite games to play, truly hoping that my posts have made readers interested in trying them for themselves. Today, however, I am flipping the script a bit: instead of me suggesting games to my fans, I want you guys, the viewers, to help me pick the next game I’ll play!

I am a passionate gamer, but of course, I do not have the ability to play everything at once, especially when one mixes the ever-busy life of college into the equation. This means that I can only stick to very few games at a time. As such, what follows will be a brief overview of several games that I either need to buy, or already own but have not had time to play.

I would like readers to view my description each game and leave a comment down below to recommend what they think is the best one. The person who comments with the most compelling argument will “win”, and I will tackle the game they suggested, eventually creating a post about it. Be sure to check out all of the games below, and happy commenting!

Image result for shovel knight plague of shadows

The Shovel Knight DLC Campaigns: 

An indie-developed throwback to various games on the original, 8-bit Nintendo, Shovel Knight has recently received free downloadable content. I played the base game some time ago, and absolutely adored the game’s “very challenging, but very fair” approach. While what I played starred the titular protagonist, the new DLCs are brand new adventures in which gamers play as some of the boss characters, who have their own distinct abilities to traverse through levels.

 

Image result for A hat in time

A Hat in Time:

Whereas Shovel Knight is an indie throwback to sidescrollers on the NES, this game is an indie throwback to the early 3D platformers of the Nintendo 64 and GameCube era. From what I have heard, this game has been praised for its cute, charming aesthetic, solid controls, and even its humor.

 

Image result for mario rabbids kingdom battle

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle:

A lot of people thought that a game like this would absolutely bomb; a crossover between these two franchises simply came off as forced to them. However, it became a sleeper hit, and currently has an average review score of 85 on Metacritic. People have stated that, despite featuring the rather infamous Rabbids, the game is a clever new take on the strategy genre, a genre which I have rarely dabbled in, but am interested in.

 

Related image

Splatoon 2:

Much like Overwatch, which I recently discussed, Splatoon 2 is a more lighthearted take on the shooter with a creative concept to boot. Players play as “inkling” children who use super soakers to shoot colored ink. Inklings also have the ability to transform into squids at will, and quickly swim through their team’s ink color undetected. A team wins if their ink color covers more territory than the other’s does.

 

Image result for dragon ball fighterz

Dragon Ball FighterZ:

Yes, what you are seeing above is an image from this game, NOT the anime from which it is based upon! I’ll admit, I have never seen Dragon Ball Z, but I was nevertheless in awe when I saw the trailers for this game. It has just been released, and it has been critically acclaimed not only for looking flashy and stylized, but also being a great fighting game in general.

Overwatch: Best of Both Worlds

While the title of my blog is “Games for Kids”, with the purpose of such being to discuss games often overlooked by my age demographic, that does not mean I do not also play more “mature” games, such as the likes of Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. In fact, I would consider the former a hallmark of my middle school years; Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the first M-rated game I ever played, and I remember being pretty blown away by how realistic the graphics looked (for the time, that is). However, after the stellar Black Ops II, the series started to become rather stale, stagnating once it moved from the PS3 and Xbox 360 to their next-generation counterparts, the PS4 and Xbox One. As such, I lost interest in Call of Duty, and have not followed the series as of late.

The bottom line: I actually do enjoy shooter games, but I had been somewhat dissatisfied with the “rut” in which many triple-A games in the genre had fallen into, often feeling like the “same game every year”, with little improvement to the core gameplay mechanics, uninspired, generic storylines, and feeling increasingly like watching a movie rather than playing a video game. Game developer Blizzard Entertainment likely took note of all this when developing their take on the first-person shooter, Overwatch. Already famous for their work on World of Warcraft, Blizzard’s newest game was met with glowing praise when it released in 2016, lauded for its unique spin on the genre.

Related image

Naturally, I was intrigued, and after looking at a few reviews online, I asked for Overwatch for Christmas of 2016, which is how I received it. Almost immediately, I was hooked. Not only was it a fun, polished experience, but it was aesthetically very pleasing; unlike the typical gritty, realistic graphics of most modern shooters, this game, as many have said, “looks like a Pixar movie”.  Although this may be a turn-off to some, I find that it makes the game run better overall, as less detailed textures leave more resources for it to run at a silky smooth framerate. Besides, the more upbeat and lighthearted atmosphere of the game as a whole is certainly a breath of fresh air.

In addition to the visuals distinguishing themselves from how they look in similar types of games, I greatly admire the variety and myriad of options that Overwatch provides to the player. Instead of having the choice between, say, an automatic firearm, a shotgun, or a sniper rifle, you have the option to select one of more than twenty superhero characters (pictured above), each with their own special abilities. For example, one character can “rewind” herself back to a previous location, whilst a robot can transform himself into a stationary turret gun. These characters make for a different experience each match, keeping the game’s admittedly low amount of maps fresh.

I see Overwatch as a “best of both worlds” sort of game; you have the basic, mainstream template of a first-person shooter combined with “Nintendo-esque” creativity and lightheartedness. As such, it is a game that a very wide audience can enjoy, and I personally recommend it to other gamers as an “introduction” to the type of game I like the most.

How Breath of the Wild Parallels my First Semester of College

Being more than nine months late to the hype train that was the widely-praised The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I finally received the game shortly after coming home for winter break as a reward for keeping my grades up that semester. Immediately, I popped the shiny new cartridge into my Nintendo Switch, eager to see what all the fuss was about. As I soon found out, the excitement was well-warranted, and was absolutely blown away when given a panoramic view not unlike the one below of the game’s open world mere moments after booting it up; I knew I was probably free to explore everything in my field of view, and then some.

Image result for breath of the wildThe freedom I was given was initially overwhelming, especially since I knew the land would be infested with various hazards and enemies, and all Link, my character, had when waking up was a pair of shorts. I had very little health and stamina, no armor, no weapons, and no map; I was all on my own. However, the beginning moments of this game were particularly resonant with me, as I was reminded of my own personal experiences when witnessing it. More specifically, having my first semester of college newly under my belt, I could relate to Link’s situation of being presented a strange, new world with minimal hand-holding.

Image result for first day of college

Despite my concerns, I proceeded with my game, holding onto the hope that Link’s near-helpless condition would soon improve. Given my character’s then weak state and inexperience with the game, I obviously went through much trial-and-error, making silly mistakes and dying repeatedly, often to a frustrating degree. At times, this made me want to rage quit and yank the television cord from the wall, as was the case during the times in which I was down on my luck and was tempted to give up during my first semester.

Image result for breath of the wild fail

It was during these times in Breath of the Wild where I was most worried about how I would even think to complete the game if I was so “terrible” at it. I noticed that I got a similar nervous gut feeling from this concern as I did during one particular predicament I had experienced in college: the time in which I absolutely bombed my first calculus midterm. I remember constantly worrying about how terrible my final grade in that class would be, how it would destroy my GPA. The advice my academic adviser gave me was to take things “one day at a time” in math, and I decided to heed her word. I made sure to set aside time each day to study for that class, making sure I deeply understood the material bit-by-bit, and as a result, I crushed the weekly quizzes, which in turn led me to do much better on the second exam, as well as knocking the final right out of the park. I completed the course with a solid “B”.

Image result for grade improvement

Likewise, I applied the same philosophy to my experience of Breath of the Wild, not worrying about how I will win in the grand scheme, but instead focusing on each small victory, much like my weekly quizzes in math that past semester. I took satisfaction in completing each puzzle, seeing Link’s health and stamina increase little-by-little, accumulating stronger armor and weapons, and seeing my map expand as I charted new territory. The funny part in all of this: I still have not completed the game, yet I am feeling extremely confident in my abilities to do so, and am, most importantly, having loads of fun along the way.

Sonic Forces me into Disappointment…

Yes, I know that putting this game’s title before a regular sentence is a meme done to death at this point; I guess one could say that the name of this blog post is pretty forced.

Related image

Okay, I’ll stop now…

Anyways, Sonic Forces is actually the second game featuring the famous blue blur to release this year, coming out mere months after the wildly successful Sonic Mania, a game which I, alongside many others, had highly praised. While the Sega-supervised indie team was developing the retro-inspired Mania, Sega’s own division, Sonic Team, worked on the more modern-styled Forces. The two games were announced simultaneously at Comic-Con 2016, and I was intrigued by Sega’s apparent “best of both worlds” approach to the series.

Image result for sonic mania sonic forces poster

Aside from a few of its duds, I generally enjoy the modern incarnation of Sonic. However, while I loved the likes of more recent titles such as Colors and Generations for their fun gameplay, one thing that I have felt has been missing from the series as of late is solid storytelling. Although it is debatable as to whether the games at the beginning of the “Modern Era” (around the early 2000s) have aged well overall, titles such as the Adventure duology excelled in character development and world-building. After the failure of Sonic ’06, a soft reboot of sorts occurred, as the cast of characters was greatly reduced, and the plots not only became simpler, but also stopped building upon Sonic’s established lore, so imagine my excitement when the first trailer for Forces depicted a dark, dystopian world in which the evil Dr. Eggman has, in a twist, actually won.

Related image

However, I was slightly put off by one aspect of the initial teaser: Classic Sonic would appear as a playable character alongside his modern counterpart. This confused me, given that the ’90s icon was already getting his own game via Mania, and a crossover between the Classic and Modern iterations already occurred in 2011’s Generations. As such, I was concerned that Forces would come off as redundant. Nevertheless, I remained cautiously optimistic, seeing as I enjoyed Generations, and hoped that Sega would take cues from the Mania team when designing Classic Sonic’s stages and physics.

Related image

In the months leading up to Sonic Forces’ release, I noticed a pattern of sorts: for every good thing revealed about the upcoming game (such as the promising premise), there would also be something disconcerting (such as Classic Sonic’s inclusion) announced. Likewise, when a third playable character in the form of a customizable avatar was confirmed, complete with species-based abilities and different gadgets to choose from, I felt this was a great way to give players some freedom in how they played through levels. However, around this time, gameplay surfaced of Green Hill Zone, a classic stage so constantly referenced and remade in the series that it has gotten downright annoying. Similarly, I was excited when learning that several heroes and villains were being brought back into the game’s supporting cast, hoping that the series would finally build upon its stagnant lore, but was simultaneously concerned by how overtly linear and easy the level design was shaping up to be.

Not surprisingly in hindsight, this mixture between good and bad announcements ultimately foreshadowed how the final product would turn out to be: mediocre. The story, while a step up from the most recent Sonic games, was only slightly so, and did next to nothing to truly develop its characters or world. In terms of gameplay, the graphics and music were great as always, and while it was admittedly satisfying to mindlessly speed my way through the game, the fact that the levels were shallow in their design to be like that felt like a step down from the more intricately-made stages of previous titles.

All in all, while not an objectively bad game, Sonic Forces is not very good either, being rather forgettable in the end. Sadly, I cannot recommend this game to anyone outside of Sonic’s core fanbase, which is disappointing considering how I was able to easily do so with the excellent Sonic Mania just three months ago.

Image result for meh

Satisfying Taxi

For me, one of the biggest appeals of playing video games is the feeling of being immersed in them. True, robust sounds and crisp visuals can contribute to my engrossment in a game on their own, but more importantly, it is when these two aspects interact that I almost feel a physical connection to what I am doing on-screen. Last night, my dorm neighbors and I were playing Crazy Taxi on the old Sega Dreamcast I had brought with me from home, and the rush of excitement we all felt as we were playing really got me to think about this.

Image result for crazy taxi dreamcast

Released in 2000, Crazy Taxi just may be Sega’s most fast-paced game not starring a blue hedgehog! The main mode of the game has players select one of four different drivers before being placed in a city reminiscent of those in California. Players are free to drive around the city, stopping to pick up passengers of their choosing to take them to their requested destinations. The object of the game is to collect as much cab fare as possible within the specified time limit, and greater pay is given when driving customers around quickly and efficiently. Once time runs out, players are given a rank ranging from A to E (highest to lowest). Combined with the infamous “recklessness” of real-world, urban taxi drivers, this makes for a rather frenetic experience.

Image result for crazy taxi

It is such a simple concept, but similarly to today’s mobile apps, Crazy Taxi takes such straightforward gameplay and makes it incredibly addictive. As such, despite there only being one level to drive around in, I keep coming back for more. At first glance, my urge to play this game seemingly stems from the desire to beat my high score. However, upon closer scrutiny, I feel that my appreciation for the game comes from the sensory experience it brings.

Not only is the sheer sense of speed complimented by upbeat music (tunes which were likely popular seventeen years ago), but the auditory impact of the sound effects in general works with the game’s frantic nature incredibly well; the racket of horns honking, cars crashing, as well as pedestrians screaming as they narrowly avoid my terrible driving, all constitute an experience which I can only describe as “rollercoaster-esque”, and I love it! In my opinion, the most satisfying of these sounds comes from driving past other vehicles at high speeds without collision, in which a “cha-ching” plays, indicating that the passenger is paying me extra tips for my (somewhat) good driving.

Last night, I took notice that every satisfying “cha-ching” I received made me feel giddy inside, and that I kept wanting more. As my dollar score continued to rise quicker and quicker, I felt my heartbeat speed up, and therefore, I became increasingly pumped up. It soon became clear that I was not the only one who was now excitable once I managed to obtain an “A” rank, one of my neighbors cheered so loudly that all of Brumbaugh Hall could hear! I will always remember that as a fun night, especially as a reminder as to why I love video games.

Image result for college kids playing video games

It isn’t Even Out Yet, but Super Mario Odyssey is Awesome!

In my previous blogpost, I frequently compared Banjo-Kazooie with a childhood favorite of mine, Super Mario 64. Quite honestly, while the former does many things better than the latter, such as (in my opinion) more creative level themes and superior music, I will always have an undying nostalgic appreciation for Mario 64. Aside from it still being an objectively fantastic game, the Italian plumber’s famous N64 outing holds a special place in my heart for just how it shaped my tastes in gaming. If my memory serves me correctly, Super Mario 64 was the first “3D” game I played, and the amount of freedom given to the player to roam its worlds absolutely blew my mind at the time!

Image result for Super Mario 64A trend that I, and many other Mario fans, have noticed is that following 64, the 3D titles have been becoming progressively more linear, meaning that the newer games are more focused on getting from Point A to B in each level, rather than exploring each world and finding secrets and collectibles. Additionally, recent Mario games have been increasingly reliant on “cliche” level themes (grass, desert, snow, lava, etc.), making them feel a bit too similar for my liking. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the more streamlined entries, and was impressed by how effectively Nintendo had been able to “milk” the same tropes over the course of several years. However, I was concerned that Mario would begin to falter if this kept up, but these fears were laid to rest this past January, when Nintendo released the following trailer during their presentation for their then-upcoming system, the Switch.

Similarly to the reveal of Sonic Mania, I went into absolute “nerd-out mode”. I thought to myself, “The game looks so detailed, crisp, and smooth! The level themes are new and inspired! Look at Mario’s cool new cap abilities! Who are all those new characters?! Why does Mario’s cap now have EYES?!” The icing on the cake for me, however, was when the game’s producer confirmed that Super Mario Odyssey would be emphasizing open-ended exploration akin to 64. Seeing as the more linear titles did so well critically and commercially, I honestly did not expect Nintendo to do a complete one-eighty like this, but nevertheless, I was overjoyed, and felt as if there was no way the game could be any better; that was until a second trailer was released in June, at the E3 gaming convention.

“So that’s why Mario’s cap is like that now”, I said to myself after seeing this new trailer. To me, Mario’s ability to “possess” other beings by a mere toss of his hat was a stroke of pure genius, as it completely changes the dynamic of the game, allowing the player to traverse the already expansive-looking worlds in new, original ways. That is when it hit me: Odyssey is not merely bringing back Mario 64‘s design philosophies as a means to cheaply bank on nostalgia, but is instead building upon it in a meaningful way, allowing the game to have an identity of its own!

True, the game does not come out for a few more weeks, and I have yet to play it, but given the Mario’s track record of high quality, withstanding even when the series plays it safe, I am confident that I, as well as anyone my age who grew up with the likes of 64, will get a real kick out of Odyssey; just make sure not to leave me without a copy on launch day, as they will fly off the shelves!

Banjo-Kazooie: The Best Childhood Game You & I Never Played

As fans of particular genres, whether they be action movies, mystery novels, or in my case, mascot platforming games, chances are that despite our perceived expertise in our areas of interest, there will always be a film, book, or video game in our niche that we have not experienced. For me, this was Banjo-Kazooie: a whimsical 3D platformer released for the Nintendo 64, featuring “collect-a-thon” gameplay in the vein of Super Mario 64, a childhood favorite of mine. I knew that this game was up my alley, and had heard high praises sung for Banjo for quite some time, but did not get the chance to play it until about six months ago. Needless to say, given the title of this post, I had an absolute blast!

Image result for banjo kazooie n64

The game, as its name shows, has the player control a bear named Banjo, who’s moveset is augmented by his bird companion, Kazooie; if the former jumps, the latter can flap her wings to pull off a double jump, for example. The duo travel through nine large, open levels ranging from a pirates’ cove to a Christmas-themed winter wonderland. The worlds the two explore are filled with collectibles, each containing ten jigsaw pieces (or “Jiggies”) used to unlock new levels, as well as one-hundred musical notes, which are needed to open pathways to said levels. Secondary trinkets and additional moves can also be obtained throughout the adventure.

Image result for banjo kazooie mumbo's mountain

Now, I am aware that many prefer a more straightforward, level-to-level approach to their games, so Banjo-Kazooie‘s emphasis on thoroughly scouring each area to collect every item might be a turn-off to some. However, I personally feel that Banjo’s levels are not as expansive as they initially come off to be; although I was slightly overwhelmed whenever I arrived in a new world, but in due time, was able to intuitively traverse it. Additionally, I would argue that the game is not much more sprawling than the rather similar Mario 64, a classic that many people my age played as children, with the “Power Stars” in that game being analogous to the Jiggies in Banjo as gold coins are to musical notes. Heck, it is even possible that some players would consider the admittedly tighter controls of the bear-bird twosome easier to manage than their Italian counterpart’s more slippery handling.

Image result for super mario 64 star

Image result for banjo kazooie jiggy get

Pretty dang similar if you ask me!

If readers decide to indeed heed my advice on Banjo-Kazooie, I truly hope that they enjoy the similarly blissful experience I had. From the moment of booting it up on my old N64, I knew I was in for something special when a fun, quirky opening cinematic featuring the titular characters playing their namesake instruments was shown. To me, being left to explore such open worlds and collecting each and every item in the game felt incredibly rewarding, and I even found myself dancing along with Banjo and Kazooie each time they collected a Jiggy. In addition to the great levels and game mechanics, the game just has a great “feel-good” atmosphere to it in general, especially in terms of the soundtrack, which contains some of the most “hummable” music from a video game, a solid example being shown below.

Discovering a new great work in one’s favorite genre of film, literature, or gaming is a very gratifying experience, as is the case with me and Banjo-Kazooie. This game made me feel the same sense of wonder I had as a child when first playing similar titles, and not only do I recommend this game to platforming fans, but I also recommend readers try out new things in general both within and outside their interest ranges.

P.S. You don’t need a Nintendo 64 to play Banjo-Kazooie! It is available as a digital download on Xbox 360 for $14.99, and as part of the “Rare Replay” compilation for Xbox One!

 

 

I’ll Admit it: I’m a Sonic Maniac!

“By the mania, for the mania”; these were the words Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka used to describe the recently released Sonic Mania, a full-blown throwback to the Blue Blur’s games of the early 1990s that was officially published by Sega, but developed by an indie team composed of lifelong Sonic aficionados with a history of creating fangames. In other words, this game was made specifically with people like me in mind, for I am a “Sonic Maniac” myself.

Image result for sonic mania

Sonic Mania has received critical acclaim since launching, with many praising the game as one of, if not the series’ absolute best. I consider myself among those who agree with this consensus, and as such, will be focused more on my personal experiences surrounding the game (and series in general) as opposed to a straight-up review.

I have been a Sonic fan since kindergarten, when I played some of the earlier 3D titles (the Adventure duology, Sonic Heroes, etc.) on my GameCube, and was instantly enamored by the slick, fast gameplay, as well as the ever-expanding world and cast of characters surrounding the franchise. I eventually gained access to the 2D-era games of the ’90s as well via a compilation known as the Sonic Mega Collection, where I fell in love with the “holy grail” that is the original trilogy.

Image result for sonic characters

I have since kept up with the hedgehog’s outings, and while I do enjoy many of the more modern titles, I will acknowledge Sonic’s occasional misstep, the worst of which I feel was 2014’s Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, which made me legitimately concerned for the series’ future, assuming there was one, as no news on an upcoming installment was released in a long time.

That all changed at Comic-Con 2016, when Sonic Mania was announced to great fanfare. I vividly remember watching the reveal trailer (see below) in absolute amazement; not only did it hearken back to the original set of games, graphics and all, but it was being developed by the same people who made near-perfect ports of the first two games for iOS! Call me overly sentimental, but I may have shed a tear of joy as I saw the beautifully-animated Sonic pose at the end of the trailer.

Waiting for this game to come out was absolutely grueling, so imagine my frustration when the release dated was delayed from this spring to just three weeks ago. All was forgiven, however, once the game turned out to be well worth the hype. From the pinball-esque physics to the godly soundtrack, Mania hit all the right notes, and then some; even my biggest concern regarding the game, that it was confirmed to rely primarily on “remixes” of older levels, was averted, and I ended up looking forward to seeing how the development team shook up each of my childhood favorites. I had a wide, dumb grin on my face the entire time I was playing, and it truly felt like I got to be a kid one last time before moving off to college.

If someone my age is looking for a game to broaden their horizons past the stereotypical shooter and sports genres, Sonic Mania is definitely a good place to start, being a fairly straightforward side-scroller. Despite a newcomer not being able to understand the many obscure references slipped into the game (all of which I squealed with elation at), it is still a very fun time in its own right, and a great way to “convert” them into a Sonic fan.