Defining Game Of The Year In 2017

Defining Game Of The Year In 2017

In spite of its rich and storied history, video games are still a very young hobby, and the modern internet culture surrounding the hobby is even younger. Around this time every year, the gaming industry comes together to discuss what game best represents the hobby, otherwise known as the Game of the Year.

Whether it’s professional sites like IGN and GameSpot, industry influencers on Youtube, fans on message boards like Reddit, or even a humble blog like my own, every gamer on the internet has an opinion on this subject.

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But as gaming culture grows from year to year, so too does the meaning behind the title of Game of the Year. While determining Game of the Year was never an exact science to begin with, the sheer diversity in styles of gaming has really changed how these conversations are held, and the most recent example of this is the phenomenon known as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

It’s impossible to have been someone who is invested in gaming culture to not have heard about PUBG this year. It has broken a few really impressive records on Steam, been an extremely popular title for Twitch streamers and been a hot topic of conversation when it comes to deciding whether or not it should be considered for Game of the Year.

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There have been many people that don’t see the game as a contender for the title, with the biggest reason being that it is still in early access, meaning it technically isn’t finished. In spite of this, the game was still nominated for Game of the Year for Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards show, alongside Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Persona 5.

At their core, video games are about gameplay, and Super Mario Odyssey is my personal pick for game of the year because it’s moment to moment gameplay is incredible. But video games in 2017 are much more than that.

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Games like Uncharted and Bioshock have great gameplay, but it’s their incredible worlds, characters and narratives that have made them into some of the greatest games ever released. Going even further with narrative, games like Journey and Gone Home are almost entirely story based, and are also revered as some of the best games released in recent years.

There is also something to be said about a game’s impact. The argument could be made that there are games much more polished and technically sound than something like PUBG, but one thing that can’t be denied is that game’s impact, as it is easily the biggest game of the year in this respect.

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In that same sense, could not an argument be made for Pokemon Go being 2016’s Game of the Year? It’s initial launch was littered with bugs, and it’s not the deepest gaming experience out there, but it was impossible to go anywhere without hearing or seeing something about Pokemon when that game was at its peak.

The nominees for Game of the Year would look completely different if we were basing the title on one criteria. For pure gameplay, Super Mario Odyssey would likely be accompanied by games like Sonic Mania and Cuphead, but none of those titles would stand a chance if the judging was based on narrative.

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The great thing about Game of the Year discussions in 2017 is the fact that gameplay, narrative and impact all seem to get a fair chance at the title, as evidenced by the nominees for the Game Awards.

As weird as it may seem, games are no longer simply about raw mechanics and gameplay. Video games have the potential to tell stories that rival and even surpass those seen in theaters, and can have just as big an impact on mainstream culture as any popular song or television show.

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As games evolve year after year, so too will the definition of Game of the Year. The conversation may seem pointless to some, but myself and many others get a lot of enjoyment from the various debates held across the internet (the civil ones, anyway).

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My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Sonic Unleashed’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Sonic Unleashed’

I’ll never forget how excited I was during the lead up to the November 2008 release of Sonic Unleashed, my all time favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game. The initial teaser trailer featuring the hedgehog whistling and twirling a gold ring around his finger caught my interest, but it’s the trailer that debuted at that year’s E3 convention that really sold me on the game.

Sonic was always known for being the fastest thing alive, and Sonic Unleashed is a game that truly lived up to that title. I had never seen Sonic move at such absurd speeds, and my little 8th grade mind would watch that trailer over and over again until I finally got the game for myself the following Christmas, along with a brand new Playstation 3.

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Sonic Unleashed is my favorite Sonic game for a multitude of reasons, many of which have to do with just how ambitious the game was. To this day, it is still the most visually impressive Sonic game ever released, as well as the best use of the innovative technology afforded to Sega and Sonic Team courtesy of the custom built Hedgehog Engine.

This also extends to the computer animation done by Marza Animation Planet. The opening that they did for Unleashed will likely always be my favorite Sonic the Hedgehog cutscene, and seeing it always makes me wish for a fully animated Sonic movie (it also gives me some serious Toy Story 2 opening vibes).

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Speaking of which, Marza did actually get the opportunity to make an animated short film based on the game, aptly titled Night of the Werehog. It’s a cute little short, and I go back and watch it from time to time just to enjoy the animation.

The entire premise of Unleashed is Sonic and his new friend Chip embarking on a globe-trotting adventure to solve a planet sized jigsaw puzzle created by Eggman. Each level in the game is based on a real world location, and the music is appropriately composed to include instruments and sounds from each continent.

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Sonic Unleashed isn’t my absolute favorite Sonic soundtrack, but it’s definitely up there. The music is so catchy and varied, and every song goes a long way towards making each new place you visit feel unique.

Sonic Unleashed is the game that set a new standard for storytelling in Sonic games. It really feels like there was a lot of thought and effort put into the narrative, and tone wise, it feels very appropriate for the franchise. The game also featured one of Jason Griffith’s best performances as Sonic, and he remains my favorite voice for the hedgehog.

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Gameplay is what really makes or breaks a video game in most cases, and that is absolutely true of Sonic Unleashed. Just to get this out of the way, no, I’m not really bothered that much by the Werehog. While I do think it was a bad inclusion, his gameplay was largely inoffensive to me, outside of his stage length, and that’s about all I have to say on the matter.

The game’s biggest selling point is the new boost gameplay for 3d Sonic, which debuted in Sonic Rush three year prior. The two original Sonic Adventure games tried their best to bring Sonic and his friends into the third dimension, and in many ways, they succeeded. However, there were a few things that they never really nailed, and this held them back from being truly regarded as excellent 3d platformers.

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Sonic Unleashed’s solution to this problem is to essentially strip Sonic of being a platformer almost entirely. The worst parts of even the classic Sonic games were when they tried to be more like traditional platformers, and this problem was present and even exacerbated for the 3d entries in the series.

The classic games were all about earning your speed. Mastering the game’s controls and mechanics, as well as the Sonic franchise’s unique momentum based pinball physics would reward the player with incredible moments of speed.

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Sonic Unleashed takes the concept of speed as a reward, and applies it in a brand new way. Sonic’s boost ability rockets him to top speed in an instant, but the challenge this time around is being able to keep that speed for the duration of the level.

Sonic Unleashed manifests itself like a racing game, and to borrow a term from TSSZ writer BlazeHedgehog, it feels like a “racing platformer”, right down to Sonic’s secondary abilities such as the drift and quick step.

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Levels are littered with obstacles to stop Sonic dead in his tracks. Enemies, fire traps, spikes, springs that misdirect you, quick step challenges, having to drift around tight corners, all of these things and more keep the player engaged as they attempt to flawlessly dash through the beautiful locales the game has to offer.

The game perfectly nails the arcade-y feel that Sega is known for. I love chasing high scores and attempting to beat my own best times, and doing it in Sonic Unleashed feels so darn satisfying.

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I actually believe that Sonic Generations is, overall, a better game than Sonic Unleashed, as well as the right direction for the Modern Sonic boost gameplay style. It improves Sonic’s control, adds in platforming challenges that mesh well with the high speed gameplay and scales back on the difficulty present in Unleashed.

Having said that, Sonic Unleashed is my prefered game almost entirely because of the higher difficulty. It’s a game that forces you to master its mechanics if you want to have any real fun, and though this may be offputting to many players, it really appeals to someone like me.

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I love that feeling of getting your teeth kicked in by a level on your first time playing, only to return to it later on with a better grasp on how to play. This makes Unleashed a deeply rewarding game to play, and is the main reason why I still enjoy it almost a decade later.

Sonic Unleashed is a flawed game, and of that there is no doubt, but the high points of the game are some of the most fun I’ve ever had in any video game. Every inch of this game feels like it was made by people who wanted to make it, who wanted to make a revolutionary Sonic the Hedgehog game, and I can’t commend Sonic Team enough for this.

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No matter what bad times the series may go through, and even if I never get to play an amazing 3d Sonic game ever again, I’ll always be able to pick up Sonic Unleashed and have a great time. I’ve been playing it for nearly a decade, and I hope to play it for many more years to come.

Game Review: ‘Sonic Forces’, Something Something, Blue Hedgehogs

Game Review: ‘Sonic Forces’, Something Something, Blue Hedgehogs

The reveal of Sonic Forces, formerly known as Project Sonic 2017, capped off the Sonic 25th anniversary party during the summer of 2016. The trailer showed off Sonic running through a burning city not too dissimilar from Sonic 06’s own Crisis City, before being joined by his rotund and lovable Classic counterpart.

Dr. Eggman has conquered the majority of the world in Sonic Forces, and it’s up to Sonic and the Freedom Figh… er, the Resistance to stop him from achieving total domination. To this end, the Resistance needs your help to overthrow Eggman’s empire.

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Sonic Forces allows players to make their very own original character, and they actually play a small role in the events of the story. The game starts with Sonic traveling to a city under siege to stop Eggman, and he is promptly defeated by a group of villains from his past, as well as newcomer, Infinite.

Fast forward six months, and the Resistance is one the defensive against Eggman’s army. With no Sonic (Eggman took him as a prisoner), the Resistance and their leader, Knuckles the Echidna, are doing all that they can to survive, while at the same time looking for a weak spot in Eggman’s forces.

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The main plot device of Sonic Forces is the Phantom Ruby, the very same jewel that was the source of Eggman’s power in Sonic Mania. In what is probably the weirdest move this franchise has ever made, Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces are directly tied together, and the Phantom Ruby is the reason Classic Sonic is back in the first place.

Having said that, Classic’s appearance doesn’t really amount to much. Outside of a small side plot with Tails, the character is barely a presence in the narrative, and he has basically zero meaningful interactions with the rest of the cast, his Modern self included.

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I don’t wanna spend too much more time on the story, but I will say it was surprisingly enjoyable. It strikes a good balance between comedy and drama, and is more akin to Sonic The Hedgehog SatAM rather than Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

It feels like a story ripped right out of the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, something I think is a welcome addition to the series. It doesn’t have the best writing I’ve seen in a Sonic game, as there are a handful of points in the story that aren’t well developed, but it’s definitely the most enjoyable Sonic story since at least 2010’s Sonic Colors.

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Sonic Forces has pretty solid presentation across the board. It has a consistent 60fps, and I never saw it stutter a single time. But this excellent performance does come at a cost, namely, the visual fidelity.  Outside of the quality of the character models, Forces doesn’t look nearly as good as Sonic Unleashed or Generations, and backgrounds are much less detailed.

Many level aesthetics also feel way too same-y for my taste. The designs for Chemical Plant, Death Egg and Eggman’s Empire all just look like chunks of metal stuck together, and lack any real distinct sense of identity.

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Although I do wish the game was more visually impressive, I think opting for a rock solid 60fps over high fidelity graphics was the right call. It was just hard for me to ignore the fact that nothing very interesting was ever going on in the levels, with the only major exception being the burning city.

The music in Sonic Forces ranges from bland and forgettable to amazing. Modern Sonic is a mix of guitars and electric synths, while the Avatar is full on EDM. Classic Sonic’s music is very reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, meaning it tries way too hard to emulate the sounds and tones of the Sega Genesis, leading to almost all of his music sounding really generic.

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But when Sonic Forces has a good song, it’s an absolute joy to hear. I loved tracks like Sunset Heights and Park Avenue, and my personal favorite was Aqua Road. The free Episode Shadow DLC had great music too, as well as some genuinely cool callbacks to the black hedgehog’s most famous tunes.

Gameplay in Sonic Forces is split between Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and the Avatar, and I’ll start by going over Classic Sonic. The cute and mute dude was just sort of there in the story, and the same can be said of his gameplay.

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Just to get this out of the way, no, he doesn’t play nearly as good as his Sonic Mania counterpart, and he’s actually not even as good as he was in Sonic Generations. His rolling physics have been slightly improved from that game, and he also has Mania’s Drop Dash, but the level design almost never lets you play around with these mechanics.

Classic Sonic’s stages are littered with boosters and springs that keep you moving forward, and there’s very little in the way of meaningful alternate paths to explore. His gameplay as a whole is largely inoffensive, and nothing special to write home about.

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Now for the Avatar. Players can choose from a handful of different species to create their very own Original the Character such as hedgehogs, wolves and birds. Each species has their own unique ability such as the wolf being able to draw in items, and the cat being able to double jump. These additions are fun, but don’t have too big of an impact on level progression and challenge.

The real source of variety comes from the Wispons, special weapons powered by the alien Wisps that have been featured in the last few Sonic games. Each Wispon has a basic attack to deal with enemies, as well as a special skill that can only be used upon finding specific Wisp capsules, and these can range from having multiple jumps, using the light speed dash and gaining temporary invincibility.

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The Avatar controls like a slightly worse Modern Sonic. He lacks the former’s boost, and his jump doesn’t damage enemies, but he does have his own quick step, stomp, slide and homing attack thanks to his grappling hook.

When levels simply ask you to defeat enemies, explore the area using different wisp abilities and chain together grappling hook attacks, they can be pretty fun. But the few times they ask you to do actual platforming can be a nightmare. The Avatar’s jump is abysmal. He’s stiff as a board, and you can’t really influence his direction once you commit to a jump.

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Level design rarely asks you to be precise with your movement though, and you’ll probably breeze right through them on repeated playthroughs when you have the appropriate Wispons, but his awful jump was a real hindrance at times.

The most fun part about the Avatar is being able to customize them to your heart’s content. The Avatar can equip a number of pretty cool items, and you can even unlock clothing from other characters such as Sonic’s Soap shoes from Sonic Adventure 2, or the scarf worn by the hedgehog in Sonic Boom.

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Last but not least, Modern Sonic. What Sonic 4 was to the Classic Sonic games, Sonic Forces is to Unleashed, Colors and Generations. It features the return of the boost gameplay after being absent in Sonic Lost World, but only on a superficial level.

Modern Sonic in Forces lacks all of the little nuances that made him fun to play, and this especially sticks out to someone like me, whose favorite Sonic game is Unleashed. His control is noticeably worse this time around, and many of the moves that define the boost games are either changed for the worse, or a complete afterthought.

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The boost itself remains much the same, with the only major difference being the fact that the air boost has an upwards arc to it, and no longer fizzles out. The quick step is back, though its uses are few and far between, and the returning slide is never required, and doesn’t offer any real utility. In addition, the drift maneuver has been removed entirely.

Sonic Team made an interesting change to Sonic’s homing attack this time around, as you have to be almost entirely centered in front of an enemy to use it. I think I understand why they did this, as it eliminates the problem of targeting something that you can’t see off screen, but I never really found this to be an issue in previous games.

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In fact, not being able to attack enemies directly to my side would often lead to death, or not being able to access a rail or spring that leads to a different path.

Sonic Forces also epitomizes the “boost to win” complaints that have often been wrongly attached to previous games. Modern Sonic’s 3d sections are almost entirely straight line boosting paths, with practically no obstacles in the way to stop you. 2d sections don’t fare much better, as they usually consist of homing attack chains and basic platforming challenges.

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There were some levels that I beat almost entirely one handed, something I was never able to do in previous games. I have no problem with a linear game, but the linear path has to be interesting.

Sonic Unleashed was a linear game all about going fast, but the fun and challenge came from how well you were able to do so. Levels were often filled with spikes, quick step sequences, obstacles to slide under, and drifting challenges. All of these things and more made levels in Unleashed really fun and engaging, something Forces completely misses.

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Modern Sonic’s levels are also way too short, and always feel like they were just getting started when they end. Most of his stages can be completed in under 2 minutes, and that’s on your very first playthrough.

I’ve been really hard on Modern Sonic so far, (mostly because I’m a student of the boost games), but I still found enjoyment in his levels. While they lack the thrill and challenge of previous boost games, it was still kinda fun to just blast through them.

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I’m just disappointed that they brought back the boost gameplay style, and left out the control accoutrements and level design mentality that made it so rewarding to play in the first place.

Sonic Forces also has a handful of Tag Team stages that have the player take control of both Modern Sonic and the Avatar at the same time. Controlling both characters is surprisingly fun and easy, and it felt pretty natural to switch between boosting and the Wispon abilities.

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There are a handful of other activities to partake in outside of the main campaign. Each level has 5 Red Star Rings to collect, and doing so allows you to collect Numbered Rings and Silver Rings upon revisiting them.

The Numbered and Silver Rings don’t do much of anything, but the Red Star Rings unlock additional clothing options for the Avatar, as well as few secret levels.

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The game also has SOS missions, and these require you to either play through one of the main levels with a random Avatar, or search for a hidden capsule that’s usually pretty easy to find. There are also challenges and daily missions to complete, and these award a score multiplier that helps you obtain easy S Ranks.

There’s also the free Episode Shadow DLC. It consists of three levels unique to Shadow, as well as a short prologue to the main events of the story that gives background to Infinite. I enjoyed this extra little bit of content, and I especially love the remixes that came with it. As a bonus, you also get to play as Shadow in a few of Modern Sonic’s stages.

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I was initially really hard on Sonic Forces (mostly Modern Sonic), but my opinion softened the more I played. While I still hold strong to the fact that it doesn’t come anywhere close to the quality of games like Generations and Mania, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have at least a little fun.

My final thoughts are as follows. Classic Sonic’s inclusion is harmless, but I think he should stick to his own games (or dimension, which is now a thing by the way) for future installments. The Avatar was a cool idea, and a great show of fan service, and I wouldn’t actually mind them trying the idea again, just fix his jump and overall control.

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As far as Modern Sonic is concerned, I really hope that Sonic Team goes back to study what made earlier boost games work if they want to continue with this gameplay style, as Forces demonstrates that their understanding of them is cursory and superficial at best.

Although the boost games are my prefered style for 3d Sonic, I wouldn’t at all mind them giving the Sonic Adventure style of gameplay another chance. It’s been years since they last attempted to do so, and I’d at the very least like to see what they would come up with.

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Sonic Forces is just fine. It’s not great, and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s very good, but it’s definitely not bad. But I’d be hard pressed to recommend a game that’s just fine when there are so many other amazing titles to play like Sonic Mania, Super Mario Odyssey and Cuphead to name a few.

It’s a totally serviceable game, and the $40 price tag definitely doesn’t hurt, just don’t go into this expecting to have a grand old time. Hardcore Sonic fans have most likely already bought the game, and kids can probably find some enjoyment out of it. I’d say give it a try if you’re curious, but I’ll also say that there are much better games to spend your money on.

Game Review: ‘Super Mario Odyssey’, Hats Off To You Super Star!

Game Review: ‘Super Mario Odyssey’, Hats Off To You Super Star!

Super Mario Odyssey is the best video game of 2017, and considering the staggering amount of quality titles that have released throughout the year, that’s quite the compliment. The game is so full of magic and excitement, and every inch of the game is practically bleeding with that special Nintendo magic.

Super Mario Odyssey begins with everyone’s favorite red capped plumber suffering an uncharacteristic defeat at the hands of Bowser. The giant Koopa’s latest scheme sees him trying to force Peach into a marriage, and he travels to various new kingdoms in order to gain the supplies necessary for the perfect wedding.

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Just as he is recovering from his encounter with Bowser, Mario meets a friendly spirit named Cappy, and he informs Mario that Bowser has kidnapped his little sister. With a common enemy in mind, Mario and Cappy join forces to thwart Bowser’s plan and rescue their loved ones.

Super Mario Odyssey takes Mario and Cappy on a globe-trotting adventure. The duo start their journey in the Nightmare Before Christmas inspired Cap Kingdom, and they will eventually discover over a dozen other unique kingdoms to explore.

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Odyssey, much like Super Mario Galaxy before it, largely avoids retreading the standard Mario platformer tropes in terms of level aesthetics. Almost every single kingdom in the game is something entirely fresh and new to the Mario series.

Whether it’s the lush and vibrant Cascade Kingdom where dinosaurs roam free, the Mexico inspired Sand Kingdom or the ever so appetizing Luncheon Kingdom, there’s definitely no shortage of breathtaking sights to see in Super Mario Odyssey.

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Not only are the kingdoms unique in their visual design and platforming gimmicks, but they each have their own citizens and currency. Each kingdom has a number of purple coins to collect, and these coins can be used at the shop to purchase new costumes, stickers to decorate the Odyssey (Mario’s ship) and souvenirs to decorate the interior.

Certain costumes must be worn to unlock a door containing a power moon in each kingdom, but aside from these instances, they are entirely cosmetic. I love being able to dress up characters in just about any video game, and the plethora of outfits to choose from in Super Mario Odyssey did a great job of satiating my inner fashionista.

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Super Mario Odyssey is sort of a best of both worlds experience when it comes to 3d Mario titles. It takes the sandbox layout of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, meshes them with the more platforming centric, obstacle course design mentality of Galaxy and 3D Land/World, and throws in its own special twists on top of that.

Levels in Super Mario Odyssey are huge, but never feel overwhelming. In addition, they do an excellent job of providing a fun experience for both the explorative gamer, and the ones who prefer to follow a linear path.

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There’s plenty of fun to be had if you stay on the main course of each kingdom, but the game truly begins to shine when you comb through each environment looking for the myriad secrets hidden within the game.

There are hundreds of power moons to find in Super Mario Odyssey, and Nintendo has hidden these little guys in every corner imaginable. Some moons can be found out in the open, usually on top of a tree or building, while others can be found by destroying certain obstacles or ground pounding specific locations.

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Power moons can also be found by completing special platforming challenges, or playing a host of fun mini games. You’ll play slots, participate in volleyball matches, jump rope in the parks of New Donk City and race RC cars among many other things to find the little luminescent collectibles.

There’s always something to do in Super Mario Odyssey. I would tear through every nook and cranny imaginable on my first visit to a new kingdom, only to be astonished at the amount of power moons I failed to find (though some moons are only unlocked after completing the main campaign).

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In addition to having sandbox levels that are an absolute joy to explore, Super Mario Odyssey has what is probably the best controlling Mario in the entire history of the series. Mario comes equipped with his tried and true moves like the triple jump, long jump and backwards somersault, but he’s also gained a ground pound jump and a spin da… er, rolling move.

The most notable addition to Mario’s moveset is his companion Cappy. Mario can throw Cappy to damage enemies, collect coins and interact with certain environmental gimmicks, and using motion controls allows Cappy to perform numerous other attacks.

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Cappy also has some pretty cool utility for platforming. After throwing Cappy, Mario can use him as a makeshift platform, something I found myself doing all the time. As a whole, Cappy feels like a great and natural addition to Mario’s moveset.

Cappy’s primary function is the ability to “cap-ture” people and things (so long as they aren’t already wearing a hat). From Goombas to Bullet Bills and trees, Mario can take control of just about anything he comes across.

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Captures are typically used to complete unique puzzles and challenges, as well as find more power moons. All in all, they feel pretty comfortable to use, and none of them ever overstay their welcome. A few of them even get used for certain boss fights, and I was impressed with just how much fun it was to make use of their abilities to damage them.

Super Mario Odyssey is the most gorgeous Mario game to date, so much so that you can see the individual hairs in Mario’s moustache. These impressive visuals pair up quite nicely with the game’s absolutely delightful soundtrack.

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The star of the show is obviously the vocal track, Jump Up, Super Star!, but the entire soundtrack is a joy to my ears, and I got some serious Vince Guaraldi Trio vibes from the jazzy tunes of New Donk City.

Super Mario Odyssey is pure and simple fun. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I would find myself smiling and feeling like a kid again during my time with the game, and there were a few moments that made me verbally exclaim how cool the thing happening on my screen was.

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Super Mario Odyssey makes me happy, and it makes me smile as if I was a kid experiencing Super Mario World all over again. Not only is it the best game of 2017, but it’s one of the best games of all time, and will probably surpass Super Mario Galaxy in my mind as the best 3d Mario game. An absolute must own title for any Switch owner.

Waifu Review: ‘Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash’

Waifu Review: ‘Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash’

Note: I won’t be discussing the game’s online multiplayer component in this review. I tried numerous times to get a match going in each mode, but never got paired up with enough people.

Water gun fights, tight, transparent clothing and sexy shinobi school girls. If that isn’t the sentence of the year, then I don’t know what is, but I do know that Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a pretty good game, and a welcome addition to the musou style games that the series is known for.

Peach Beach Splash takes place some time after the events of the previous game, and each faction of girls is invited to participate in the PBS Tournament. The girls aren’t allowed to make full use of their usual weapons, and are instead forced to use numerous water guns in order to splash their opponents.

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Peach Beach Splash’s story mode is mostly comical in nature, but at times, there can be some legitimately poignant issues being discussed. Each faction has their own 10 episode story mode, and they typically focus on a personal dilemma that one or more of the girls is facing.

Hanzo’s story involves Ikaruga and Katsuragi, the two oldest students, dealing with the fact that they soon will graduate and leave their friends behind. Joke’s aside, I found this to be pretty interesting. However, I’m glad that the game never goes too serious with this type of stuff, as this series really isn’t about that.

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There’s plenty of fun to be had with the game’s story modes, especially the paradise episodes. These are smaller, arcade mode-esque adventures that usually feature a funny story about a few of the girls. One episode is about Ayame’s attempts to bring business to her shop, while another shows the girls enjoying a Senran Kagura version of Pokemon Go.

The story mode is a fun time, but how is the gameplay? Peach Beach Splash is a third person shooter where you use various water guns, pets and skill cards in order to spray down your opponent, while getting some nice fan service shots in the process.

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The concept is just as lewd and absurd as it sounds, but the actual shooting mechanics are solid. All of your standard gun types are here in Peach Beach Splash, and the feel of each weapon is different enough to add a layer of strategy to the water gun fights.

Aside from the expected differences like range, power and reload speed, your weapon of choice also influences the function of your jetpack, a tool that gives you a lot more mobility in combat. Some guns will give you greater hovering time, while others give you quick bursts forward.

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Besides the weapon, players will also be able to create a custom deck of pet and skill cards. Pet cards allow you to summon temporary allies that can assist you in combat with perks like a shield, additional coverage, healing and increased reload speed.

Skill cards are probably what you’ll spend the most time tinkering with, and they are separated into categories based on the girls. There’s quite the variety when it comes these abilities, and I was personally a huge fan of Miyabi’s black hole, and the controllable tornado that comes with Ikaruga and Yomi.

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Both skill and pet cards are acquired from the various themed packs in Peach Beach Splash. These packs can be acquired in every single player mode in the game, with the pack’s rarity based on the difficulty of the mission. Packs can also be bought at shops with in-game currency, which is super easy to obtain.

I love collecting cards in real life, so I especially loved collecting cards with pictures of sexy shinobi girls in suggestive poses. The majority of the art is brought over from the Senran Kagura: New Wave mobile game, with a few new action shots thrown in for good measure.

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Skill cards are super helpful (while not totally invalidating the guns and melee attacks), but I had a great time simply just collecting them. Hebijo newcomer Souji is one of my favorite Senran girls, and even though I didn’t care for the abilities of her skill cards, I still put in the effort to pull every single card that featured her.

I have two major gripes with Peach Beach Splash. The first one is the fact that your computer controlled partners are almost always useless, meaning you’ll often feel like a one shinobi army. They get a bit better when you equip them with maxed out water guns, but not by much.

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My second one is the game’s knockdown system. There’s no quick or easy way to get up, and you’re completely vulnerable to damage while you’re downed. There were numerous times where I would get shot down on my blind side, only to get finished off while I couldn’t do anything about it.

Fan service is the hallmark of Senran Kagura, and Peach Beach Splash doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The trademark tearable clothing mechanic is back, and it’s combined with new attire that become more and more transparent as the girls get wet.

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Peach Beach Splash replaces the creative finishers of Estival Versus with squirmy finishers. When an enemy character is defeated, the player can approach them and start a minigame where you shoot various parts of their body, and the end result is a soaking wet, half naked shinobi who is totally embarrassed.

Dressing up the girls was one of my favorite parts of Estival Versus, and it’s just as fun this time around. Pretty much all of the old outfits return for this game, and there are plenty of cute and sexy new ones to try on. I particularly love the diving suit, as it was my outfit of choice for the Hebijo sadist Ryobi.

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Peach Beach Splash is a great game to just turn off your brain and have fun. It can at times get frustrating when you’re being gun downed and receiving no help from your teammates, but the good far outweighed the bad for me in this regard.

I love the story, the fan service and I really loved collecting all of the cards. Peach Beach Splash is a welcome change of pace for the shinobi battle series all about life and hometown, and it actually got me really excited for the next games in the series.

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My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Super Mario World’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Super Mario World’

Few things remind me of my childhood the way that the Super Nintendo does. It was the first video game console that I ever owned, and went hand in hand with Sonic the Hedgehog in creating the gamer that is writing this essay today.

I spent a ton of time playing the Super Nintendo with my two older cousins, and we would spend hours and hours passing the controller while indulging in games like Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, Family Feud, Turtles in Time and Super Play Action Football.

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There are dozens of games I love on the Super Nintendo, but no title is closer to my heart than what I personally consider to be the greatest video game of all time, Super Mario World.

This game is essentially perfect. Mario is an absolute dream to control, with Yoshi and the cape feather being fantastic additions to his moveset. Level design is tight, and home to tons of pipes and secret exits, and I especially love the design of the castles.

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I could gush for hours on end about what makes this game so special. The way that Mario’s hat bounces as he jumps is such a small, but nice little detail, and the sprite work as a whole is phenomenal. And the soundtrack, oh man the soundtrack. It may lack the variety seen in other Mario games, but every tune is super nostalgic for me.

More so than just about any other game, Super Mario World reminds me of what it was like to play games as a kid. There were no internet guides, and I wasn’t old enough to have the knowledge about game design that I do now. Back then it was just me and my cousins against the game, and it was up to us to figure out all of its inner workings.

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I’ll never forget struggling to overcome Larry’s castle. I’ll never forget when we finally made our way out of the Forest of Illusions, and I’ll especially never forget the first time I ever saw the final confrontation with Bowser.

As much as I love this game, even I’m surprised at just how much I’ve remembered about it over the years. I’ve been replaying it on the Super Nintendo Classic, and I made it to the Forest of Illusion with every secret path and exit unlocked with zero problems.

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Everything about playing the game just feels right to me. I know exactly how Mario and Yoshi are going to respond to my inputs, I know exactly how far the momentum in my jumps is going to carry me, and I definitely know how to abuse the cape feather for flying through levels.

Aside from the memories I have of Super Mario World with my cousins, I also have fond memories of playing the game with some of my best friends. One weird thing I’ve noticed with me and Mario games is the fact that all of my favorites are the ones I’ve played with other people.

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A few years back, my friend Lucas and I pulled an all nighter beating Super Mario World, as I believe he had never fully beaten the game. An even shorter time ago, my friend Jesse and I opted to stay up all night beating Super Mario Galaxy, instead of studying for our college final exams like we had originally intended to do (we still passed though).

There isn’t anything I don’t love about Super Mario World. It’s perfect in just about every sense of the word, and is a title that every gamer should play at least once. I probably wouldn’t love games the way I did if it weren’t for Super Mario World and numerous other Super Nintendo games, and that console will always be very near and dear to my heart.

Game Review: ‘Golf Story’, Tee Time

Game Review: ‘Golf Story’, Tee Time

Who would’ve guessed that an rpg about golf would be one the most anticipated Nintendo Switch indie games of the year? Certainly not this reviewer, but from announcement to release date,  Sidebar Games’ Golf Story was a really hot topic on the Nintendo Switch subreddit.

As the name implies, you’ll do plenty of golfing and golf related activities in Golf Story. The actual golf mechanics are super solid, but not necessarily anything that hasn’t been done in other golf games.

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Players will be able to choose from a number of different drivers, irons, wedges and putters, and there are plenty of options for controlling the spin, direction and strength of your swing.

Golf Story also has some really nicely designed courses. In addition to being completely aesthetically different, each course also has its own unique obstacles to navigate. Some courses may have stronger winds or a higher number of water hazards, while others have rough greens or require clever use of chip in shots.

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The coolest thing about Golf Story is the fact that you can tee up almost anywhere, and doing so allows you to scout out a number of hidden areas and side quests contained on each course, or just have fun shooting around.

The only real issues I encountered with the golf mechanics were the wind speed and slope variations. I never got too comfortable with gauging how far the ball would go in any given direction, as there seemed to be little difference between the numbers on either end.

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All of this golfing is nested into a really fun story about one man’s journey to be a professional golfer. Our nameless hero picks up his father’s old clubs in hopes of recapturing some of the latent talent he displayed as a child.

In order to sharpen his skills, he enlists the help of a famous golf coach named… Coach. After quite a bit of coaxing, our hero eventually convinces Coach to take him on as an apprentice. From this point on, Golf Story puts the player through a number of humorous and unorthodox situations on the road to the pro tour.

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Golf Story tasks you with doing so many unusual quests that I wouldn’t be surprised if you forgot this game was about the sport. In the 20 hours I spent with the game, I fought wizards and zombies, participated in a murder mystery and watched a rap battle between an old man and a teenager.

These events work as well as they do because of Golf Story’s really charming writing. There were tons of jokes that made me genuinely laugh out loud, especially the reactions from the protagonist to the events unfolding around him.

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Besides being able to have golf matches, you can also fully explore each one of the courses. Every course in the game is home to a pro shop where you can buy new equipment, and there are tons of side quests to take on.

The majority of these side quests are small golfing challenges, but some of them require you to run laps, dig up buried treasure, do yard work and even play disc golf. A few of these quests even span the whole game, requiring different things to be done on each course.

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All of this is complimented by a simple, but really colorful pixel art style. The soundtrack is pretty decent stuff too, but what really sells the game’s golf aesthetic is the great use of HD rumble, as this made the feeling of sinking a shot all the more satisfying.

Golf Story is a great addition to the ever growing library of the Nintendo Switch. It has solid golf mechanics, cool courses to explore and a really entertaining story. I’d recommend it to any Switch owner.