Mario Golf World Tour
Publisher: Nintendo (2014)
It's been many years since Mario Golf Toadstool Tour
(GameCube, 2003), but in the meantime the Hot Shots Golf series has done a good job of filling the arcade-golf niche. By 2014, everyone knows how to make a good golf game - except the designers of Mario Golf World Tour
. Not only is its gameplay riddled with flaws, but the structure of the game is aggravating. I was happy to see a selection of my favorite characters like Peach, Yoshi, and Boo (ever see a ghost swing a golf club?), but disappointed only one generic "forest" course was available. After playing it a few times I discovered it was necessary to play the "Castle Club" mode to unlock new courses. If that's not bad enough, you're forced
to play using your dorky Mii. Is Nintendo still
pushing those things? My Mii is an unlikeable loser
who makes me cringe whenever he gallivants around yelling "yay!" and "yahoo!" The whole point of buying this game was to play as my favorite Nintendo characters! The Castle Club is a huge pain. Upon selecting the forest course championship I was told I had to first play a practice round. Really?
Upon completing that, I selected championship again, only to be told I had to play a "handicap tournament" first. How many times do I have to play this [expletive] course?! And why does this game insist on presenting me with options that I can't actually choose?!
Eventually I unlocked courses like seaside and mountain, and sure, they look good. I like the smooth contours and rounded trees, and you can even see the wind gusts. A second set of "fantasy courses" can be unlocked by completing challenges, but they look like ass
. The only thing worse than competing on Peach's all-pink course (my eyes - it burns!
) is hitting balls between urine puddles on Yoshi's yellow course. In terms of control, the developers were intent on reinventing the wheel. The "expanding circle" swing meter is horrible. It's actually harder
to hit shorter shots since you have to react quicker. A more conventional line meter can be found on the top edge of the lower screen, but even that sucks because it limits your power (no overswing). The shot screen is cluttered will all sorts of unnecessary arrows and indicators, and why does everything have to be rainbow colored? The rainbow grid is so gaudy I can't even see the flag on the green! The ability to expedite ball rolls is useful, but a "fast forward" function would have been preferable to abruptly ending my shot. You can only save your game between rounds, which is really annoying when I'm having the best round of my life and my 3DS power lights are blinking like crazy. Mario Golf World Tour is a botched job. I'm pretty sure there's a good golf game here somewhere, but it's buried under a pile of garbage. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
When I reviewed Super Mario 3D Land
(Nintendo, 2011), I thought I had seen the best the 3DS had too offer. Clearly, I spoke too soon. Mario Kart 7 is amazing. You might dismiss the 3D as window dressing, but it actually makes a big
difference! The sense of speed is more convincing and the environments feel more open and expansive. After soaring off a ramp your cart turns into a glider so you can navigate through the air to collect floating coins or look for alternate routes. It's an adrenaline rush that adds a whole new dimension to the racing. The graphics are the best I've seen in a Mario Kart title, offering 16 sensational new tracks along with 16 remixed tracks from past Mario Karts on the N64, Game Boy, and GameCube. The Aladdin-inspired night stage features exotic scenery and beautiful lighting effects. I also love the tropical resort that lets you race underwater (not in a tunnel - in
the actual water!). Neo City has a Blade Runner vibe with its high-tech, rainy scenery. The characters include all the usual suspects but the weapons include some new additions. The leaf power-up gives you a tail you can use to smack cars that ride too close. The awesome "lucky seven" power-up surrounds you with seven items
you can unleash with reckless abandon. Mario Kart 7 offers one of the best one-player race experiences ever, and naturally there are on-line and off-line multiplayer modes. It's been 20 years since I purchased the original Super Mario Kart
(SNES, 1992), and this series is still king when it comes to pure racing fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Mario Party: Island Tour
Publisher: Nintendo (2013)
The original Mario Party
(Nintendo 64, 1998) and its many sequels were designed with four-player action in mind, but sometimes it's hard to round up three other willing opponents. That's why I like Island Tour. In addition to the obligatory on-line modes, it's actually fun to play solo (with CPU-controlled competitors). In case you've never played a Mario Party title, it bridges the gap between conventional board games and video games. Four characters roll dice and move around imaginative boards with hazards, branching paths, and special spaces. Periodically you'll compete in four-player mini-games, with the winner awarded extra spaces. You'll collect helpful items along the way, but the goal is always to be the first to reach the end of the board. Six boards are available from the outset, each with an imaginative layout and unique style of play. One lets you climb platforms into the clouds, and one lets you boost along an elevated platform in space. In the mountain stage you can duck into caves to shelter from passing bullets. Each board comes with a time estimate so you can select a shorter course (10-20 minutes) if you don't have an hour to kill. I like the way the dice softly bounce around, and the mini-games are pretty good. Some require you to use the stylus (tracing constellations) or tilt the system (to locate items in a scene). A few are based on pure luck, such as spinning a wheel. Some have an old-school flavor, like the one where you carry penguins across moving ice floes. The game doesn't really have a tropical vibe as the subtitle might imply. As with other Mario Party games, Island Tour suffers from a deliberate, plodding pace. You're constantly having to page through unnecessary messages like "3 rounds until a bonus mini game!" Shut up!
The game is also obsessed with the turn order, reminding you about it every single round. There are so many superfluous messages and prompts that I find myself mindlessly tapping A almost constantly throughout the entire game. A streamlined "quick play" option would have come in handy. That said, the game is still fun and it's satisfying when you win. If you can stand its leisurely pace, Mario Party: Island Tour is a pleasant way to kill an hour. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Mario Tennis Open
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Nintendo can't always hit a home run, and Mario Tennis Open is proof. I had high hopes for this, as Mario Tennis (1995) on the Virtual Boy is one of my old favorites. That was a nifty 3D game with amazing depth perception that put you right smack in the middle of the action. In Mario Tennis Open however 3D is not even a factor. When holding the system upright, you use the close "dynamic view" which lets you move the system sideways to adjust your angle. This technique never works well in games. Swinging your arms is tiring and doesn't have much impact on the game. The 3D is turned off completely in this mode. When you lay the system flat, it automatically changes to a more traditional overhead view. This view makes it easier to see what's happening, but the 3D is barely noticeable. The touch screen can be used to hit the ball, but it's a confusing patchwork of colored areas, so stick with the buttons. To execute drop shots or lobs, you need to hit combinations of the A and B buttons. Why do they do that? The cheap "super shots" of the N64/GameCube are gone, but these have been replaced with "hot spots" on the court. Certain opponents are pretty cheap - including Boo who tends to disappear and re-appear all over the place. Even the courts and music seem run-of-the-mill. I was hoping the mini-games might redeem this mess, but it was not to be. The "hit the ball through the rings" variation is challenging and "Super Mario Tennis" lets you interact with the classic Super Mario Bros. game by hitting the ball off the screen. It sounds like a lot more fun than it is. After playing once or twice, you'll be ready to move on. Sadly, I think my favorite aspect of Mario Tennis Open is the "quick save and quit" feature, but not because I was being called away. I just didn't feel like playing
. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Metroid: Samus Returns
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Rating: Everyone 10+
Samus Return is the "proper" 2D Metroid sequel fans have been waiting for since Super Metroid
(SNES, 1994). This engaging sci-fi platformer takes place on an exotic planet that's part ancient Egypt and part Aliens. Our heroine's default weapon is weak but can be fired rapidly. You also have a limited supply of missiles. It love how you can hold in the left shoulder button to adjust your shooting angle with precision. And once you get the timing down the new counter move lets you easily beat back dive-bombing alien birds. The game has an excellent sense of progression as you slowly gain new powers such as the ability to roll up into a ball. Whenever you acquire a new ability (like scaling walls for example) you'll want to revisit old locations just so you can access previously out-of-reach areas. The map on the bottom screen comes in handy in terms of figuring out where to go next, but it's still easy to get lost in this expansive world. What makes the game difficult is that not only do enemies regenerate, but so do blocks and other obstacles. The cut-scenes look almost anime quality, and the manner in which Samus enters and exits a save booth leaves no doubt she is a female. The problem with Metroid: Samus Returns has less to do with the game and more the system. I found the analog pad to be squirrelly, especially since you often need to hold in the shoulder buttons at the same time. It's awkward for making precise jumps and downright frustrating when you need to quickly transition between stand, squat, and ball positions. You'll want to use the digital pad but that's not an option. Metroid: Samus Returns is a well-crafted sci-fi adventure. I just wish I could play it using an SNES controller instead. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Majesco (2011)
Rating: Everyone 10+
You have to give the developers of Nano Assault a lot of credit. It would have been very easy to release a 3D version of the Nanostray shooters that were such a hit on the DS. Instead we get a completely original title that fully leverages the 3DS capabilities. In a typical stage you guide a small ship around the surface of a cell. Your ship looks like a flea but the cell itself rotates impressively as you move around it. Your goal is to exterminate all living organisms crawling over its surface while collecting DNA strands. Each cell has a unique shape, and the high-resolution, clammy surfaces look very organic. You use the four main buttons to unleash a stream of shots in any direction, and you also have a limited supply of special weapons (like guided missiles). Enemies have health meters, and it's satisfying to wear them down. It's fun to see what each new stage has in store at first
, but enemies never evolve into anything more than simple shapes. The shooting action is just okay. Organisms can spawn from a cell's surface with annoying frequency - sometimes directly beneath you. The treasure hunting aspect adds another dimension to the gameplay, forcing you to fully explore each cell. The illusion of depth is impressive (especially in the tunnel stages) and the pulsating electronic music is intense. A story mode allows you to unlock the various stages, and the arcade mode lets you play through each for score. Nano Assault earns points for originality, but on the whole it just doesn't leave a lasting impression. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Rating: Everyone (comic mischief)
It makes sense that the cover of this game is gold-colored, because New Super Mario Bros. 2 has more gold than [expletive] King Tut!
There are power-ups that turn enemies to gold. There are special buttons that transform hills into mounds of gold. Gold flowers unleash Golden Mario. When Mario sticks his head into a golden block, he spouts gold coins as he walks. It's raining gold (Hallelujah), but is it too much of a good thing? Nintendo was clearly trying to find a new wrinkle to set this game apart. At its core, this still has all of the floating platforms, buzz saws, swimming stages, and haunted houses we've come to know and love. All the familiar Koopa, ghost, and turtle enemies are back, along with standard power-ups like the ability to hover or shoot bouncing fireballs. It's always a good time, but I was expecting New Super Mario Bros. 2 to somehow
leverage the 3D capabilities of the system. If anything it downplays
them. The stages have a modest sense of depth (the backgrounds are blurred), but like the musical tunes, most seem recycled. Interspersed are minor new elements like growing green platforms and super-wide "bump" blocks. Some new things are annoying, like those disappearing spider webs and pesky underwater tornadoes. The red centipedes are a pain because you never know how high you're going to bounce off them. It's easy to accidentally vault off the side of blocks, leading to accidental deaths. Collecting loads of coins is fun at first, but eventually you start to wonder if it's worth the effort. The game prompts you to save frequently and there's also a handy "quick save" feature. A coop mode is also included, but that's just another sign of an old franchise looking for a new hook. Has my love affair with 2D Super Mario games finally come to an end? Let's not get crazy, people. A below-average Super Mario title still blows away just about any other platformer out there. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions
Publisher: Namco (2011)
Offering six games in one, Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions packs hours of maze-chomping and alien-shooting goodness into one tiny cartridge. You get three variations of each game, including the arcade originals. The original Pac-Man and Galaga games have aged well in 30 years, but their vertical screens don't lend themselves to the 3DS display, so the objects look tiny. The newer games are a better fit. Pac-Man Tilt is a conventional platformer with a pinball flavor. It's not in 3D but it does let you tilt the screen in order to slide platforms, guide floating bubbles, or make Pac-Man roll into a ball like Sonic the Hedgehog. It's amusing for a while but I lost interest as the stages become more sophisticated - and tedious. Galaga 3D Impact is the most ambitious game on the cartridge. It's a 3D, first-person shooter and there's plenty of eye candy as you glide over various planets and ominous space stations. What makes the game unique is how you can move the system around you
to aim at the aliens. It's a good idea in theory, but in practice you tend to lose that 3D effect when you start jostling the system. You can aim using the thumbstick instead, but that's not nearly as precise and kind of defeats the purpose. The final two games straddle the line between classic and modern, and they feel like turbo-charged versions of the arcade originals. In Galaga Dimensions you face hundreds of swarming enemies at a time. Each group has an easy-to-spot leader, and if you destroy him the rest are instantly pulverized. There's no shortage of firepower as you have two rapid-fire "helper" cannons that you can position anywhere on the screen. The frenetic shooting is moderately fun but when the screen gets crowded it's hard to tell what's going on. The final game, Pac-Man Championship Edition, probably justifies buying this entire cartridge. It takes the classic 2D formula and makes it bigger, faster, and a lot flashier! Pac-Man can rip through the maze at high speeds as point values flash, and there's no time to catch your breath as new dots constantly appear on the fly. All the game variations record high scores, and most offer individual challenges to extend their replay value. Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions experiments with a lot of interesting styles while attempting to stay true to the original games. Some work better than others, but I think everyone will find something
to like in this retro-minded cartridge. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
The Pilotwings franchise has a long tradition of showcasing the new graphical capabilities of Nintendo consoles, dating back to the SNES edition with its fancy "mode 7" effects. Pilotwings Resort lets you soar over tranquil island locations in a plane, jetpack, and hang glider. On paper, flying and 3D sounds like a match made in heaven, but in practice the small 3DS screen tends to understate the visual splendor of your surroundings. I never felt that sense of exhilaration that I was hoping for. The exotic environments are pleasant enough, but Nintendo fans will notice that one island was recycled from Wii Fit. A mission mode offers a series of increasingly difficult challenges where you fly through rings, pop balloons, shoot targets, and snap pictures of landmarks. To maximize your score you'll want to use speed boosts to improve your time, and be sure to nail the landing. Landing is not particularly hard and it's very satisfying to land your plane on the strip in the water. The early training missions are an absolute chore to get through, but things gradually get more interesting, so hang in there.
My favorite stage is the one where you chase a car and shoot at its balloons. When the car goes through a tunnel, it feels like a chase scene from a James Bond movie. While I generally prefer the plane missions, the jetpack gives you the maneuverability to freely explore your surroundings. The hang glider relies on "updrafts" to remain in the air, which look like weak tornados. These stages are relaxing but some people may find them extremely dull. The 3D aspect of Pilotwings Resort is good but not great, and I found that turning down the 3D setting a tad helped me maintain focus. The music is of the easy listening variety - not particularly catchy but not bad either. I've always found it hard to get excited about Pilotwings games, but this well-crafted title is fine for those looking for some leisurely fun. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ubisoft (2011)
Except for the 3D treatment, this is a straight port of Rayman 2 which appeared on the Dreamcast way back in 2000. Ubisoft sure is getting a lot of mileage out of this game, and can you blame them? It's a charming, well-constructed platformer that appeals to all ages. Its smooth textures still look great, although some boxy platforms tend to reveal its age. Parts of the game seem particularly well suited to 3D (barrels falling toward you in a shaft) but the effect is mostly aesthetic (butterflies fluttering in the foreground). The 3D can be a liability during combat as it's easy to lose that 3D "sweet spot" when frantically targeting enemy pirates. Besides fighting and exploring you'll collect "lums" which resemble floating puff balls with wings. Grab as many yellow lums as you can or else you may be forced to replay early stages, some of which are pretty long. I found the brief cut-scenes to be funny and clever, and they sometimes offer vital clues so pay attention!
I initially pegged this as a "spring" game, but in retrospect the swamps, bayous, and pirates make it feel more like a summer title. I like Rayman 3D's frequent save points, but not so much the frequent load screens. The controls are generally responsive but the swimming controls absolutely suck
. Also, why does the game sometimes prompt me to hit buttons not on the 3DS controller? Uh-oh!
The audio boasts appealing natural sounds (like bird chirps) and the soundtrack has a magical Disney quality. Rayman 3D may be a port, but this game seems to defy age. If you've never played the original, you're in for a treat. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil: Revelations
Publisher: Capcom (2012)
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, language)
I was less-than-enthused about Resident Evil: The Mercenaries
(3DS, 2011), but Revelations feels more like a good old-fashioned Resident Evil romp. The action takes place on a plush ocean liner and the nautical theme is refreshing. It's not the first horror game to be set on a ship, as Carrier
(Dreamcast, 2000) and Resident Evil Dead Aim
(PS2, 2003) have also done it - but not as well. The icon used to start the game is a small cast iron box with a big eyeball looking through its round glass window - creepy! The star of the game is Jill Valentine, and her breasts look even better in 3D. I love the opening sequence in which Jill and her partner board a ship in the middle of a violent storm. The driving rain and sound of churning water really helps set the mood. The ship turns out to be an ideal setting for survival horror with its claustrophobic hallways, dark rooms, and creaky doors. The monsters are these generic white creatures that shamble around and try to give you the big French kiss. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my monsters to be a little bit more disgusting. Revelations is nicely paced for a portable title, and having a recap between chapters is a nice touch. While the game has an old-school feel, you get all the modern conveniences like 180-degree turning, auto-mapping (on the lower screen), and an auto-save (which says "Saving", leaving no doubt). As good as the game is, there are a few issues. First, the idea of turning the screen red as you take damage is ill conceived. Your eyes need to work hard enough to play a 3D title, and having your vision obstructed is just painful. Another problem is the crappy map system, which makes it hard to reconcile the 3D map with the 2D ones. Sometimes there's one not-so-obvious item you need to make progress, and you'll waste a lot of time scouring the ship for it. Still, Revelations is compelling, and the water theme means this is a zombie game you can enjoy in the summer too. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries
Publisher: Capcom (2011)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
It's a total rehash, but that doesn't mean I didn't have some fun playing this. Resident Evil Mercenaries recycles scenes and enemies from Resident Evil 5. That's the game where you shot black zombies in Africa ya racist bastard!
Just kidding. I like the general format of Mercenaries. Its short, timed stages are well suited for portable gaming. I also like the idea of playing each stage for high score. The problem is, you may not have a burning desire to replay these stages. The graphics are sharp but the bland scenery doesn't lend itself well to 3D. I wish Capcom had based this off of a more traditional Resident Evil instead. As with many first-person shooters I tend to contort my body while playing, making it easy to lose the 3D effect. Frankly the 3D doesn't add anything to this game so you might as well shut it off. The aiming controls are pretty tight however and the red laser sight works great. I love how you can approach stunned enemies and bludgeon them at the press of a button. I find it amusing how zombies run toward you at full speed but then suddenly stop in front of you - pausing long enough for you to shoot them in the face
. It's convenient! Bonus items are hard to spot in the scenery, and as soon as you're prompted to pick something up, you've already walked past it. One object you're not
likely to miss are those pink snowmen that extend your time. What the heck is that
all about? Mercenaries could have benefited from a little tuning. That bat/scorpion boss took me about 50 attempts
to kill! When you shoot a boss in his "weak spot" at point blank range 20 times and he doesn't die, something is obviously wrong. One interesting bonus feature is the ability to play one stage from the upcoming Resident Evil: Revelations title. It takes place on a ship at sea on a stormy night - a concept that may seem familiar to those who remember Resident Evil Dead Aim
(PS2, 2003) or Carrier
(Dreamcast, 2000). The creaky hull and narrow corridors convey a creepy sense of isolation, not unlike the early Resident Evil titles. It has potential. Mercenaries however will only keep you busy until you've unlocked the stages. It's worth noting that Capcom took a lot of flack for not providing an option to reset the high scores for the cartridge. If you're buying this game used, you may want to be aware of that. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (2011)
I've been a big Ridge Racer fan since the original pack-in for the Playstation, having played every sequel. Consequentially, when I started playing this 3DS edition I couldn't help but notice that the courses seemed awfully
familiar. I can't verify that all
of the courses are recycled from past games, but most seem to be. It's not a serious problem though because there are so many
scenic tracks to choose from. Ridge Racer has always been big on the eye candy, and adding 3D is just icing on the cake. When you're cruising on sunny highways, racing through a desert valley, or cruising through a tropical resort at sunset, everything has an inviting arcade gloss. As you would expect from a mature driving series, the controls are very refined. As a matter of fact, they may be too
good! Steering with the analog nub is ultra-precise, and hitting the brake sends you into a controlled power slide. Even when it looks like you're about to hit a wall, a simple tap will have you hugging the rail and back on the straightaway with no problem. While staring at the screen I would occasionally lose that 3D "sweet spot", probably because I naturally tend to lean my body while racing. A branching championship mode provides long-term play value by constantly introducing new courses and cars. The audio is the weakest aspect of the game. You can barely hear the techno music over the droning of engines, and that overly-enthused female commentator talks non-stop
. I swear she is absolutely obsessed
with my ability to slip-stream. "You're slip-streaming!" "Someone's using your slip-stream!" "Don't let them take advantage of your slip-stream!" Shut up woman!
Ridge Racer 3D is exactly what I was expecting, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. It will give longtime fans deja-vu, but frankly it will be hard to come up with a better racer for the 3DS. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Sega 3D Classics Collection
Publisher: Sega (2016)
Finally - a 3DS cartridge worth getting excited about! This excellent compilation does what Sega should
have been doing for the last decade
, which is leverage their substantial (and long dormant) back catalog. Sega 3D Classics Collection offers nine games originally from the arcades, Genesis, and Sega Master System. Its 3D-centric games like Thunder Blade have been enhanced to dramatic effect, and even 2D games like Sonic the Hedgehog benefit from the razor-sharp, layered backdrops. The first game, Power Drift, is a high-speed racer with scaling graphics and elevated roadways. I had never even heard
of this game! It's such a pleasant surprise I can almost
forgive Sega for the omission of Outrun. Puyo Puyo is a pleasant Japanese Tetris clone with endearing anime graphics. If you haven't played Sonic the Hedgehog for a long time, rest assured it's still awesome. This version may run a smidge
slower (no blast processing - duh!
) but that's offset but by the spin-dash move (not in the original game) and a stage select screen (formerly available via cheat code). I was never a huge fan of Galaxy Force II or Thunder Blade, but the eye-popping new 3D visuals elevate these games to a whole new level. They both look absolutely sensational and occasionally vertigo-inducing. Altered Beast is a cheesy side-scrolling beat-em-up. The graveyard looks very cool but its 3D effects are most pronounced on the transformation screen. Fantasy Zone II is a lighthearted side-scrolling shooter with goofy enemies, fluorescent scenery, and steel drum music. The Sega Master System version is also included. Maze Walker is aptly-named because it's super slow! Originally known as Maze Hunter 3D
(Sega Master System, 1988), it was designed for use with Sega's 3D glasses peripheral. This overhead platformer looked pretty amazing on the Master System, and this version is much sharper and conveys more depth. Some instructions for these games would have been nice, but I like how you can adjust the settings for each game and there are even few bonus modes. Sega 3D Classics Collection really brings the arcade home with fast action, easy controls, and eye candy galore. And if you think 3D effects are just window dressing, this cartridge might just change your mind. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Publisher: Rising Star Games (2016)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (cartoon violence, mild suggestive themes)
I felt like Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
(Wii U, 2016) was a nearly flawless platformer, and when I began playing Pirates Curse I got that same feeling! This game has it all: cool atmosphere, clever dialog, keen attention to detail, and a toe-tapping soundtrack. At first the controls were cause for concern. The 3DS nub is a little touchy for jumps, and falling into the water is harmful (you can tell by the ghostly skulls emanating from it). Fortunately falling into water or off a cliff only costs you a fourth of a heart so it's not the end of the world. Once again our hair-smacking heroine finds herself in gorgeous tropical locations, battling mermaids, giant frogs, crabs, and zombies while searching for incredibly specific items like "ham stink". There's a lot of creativity in Pirate's Curse, including a cornfield stage overrun with creepy animated scarecrows! The visuals have a stylish anime flair reminiscent of Metal Slug (Neo Geo, 1994). I just wish those ghosts didn't materialize while you're in the air - not fair!
I'm not normally big on 3D, but the towns are beautifully layered and I love how scenery in windows appears much further away. Even the mineshaft stages are easy on the eyes. I love the pacing of this game; you can really get into a rhythm playing this. The action is non-stop and there are frequent save points. I also enjoyed the infectious soundtrack and the offbeat humor. One thing Pirate's Curse lacks however is structure. I didn't mind revisiting various islands, but sometimes it was hard to remember what the heck I was trying to do. Certain sequences of the game are a too long, like having to carry Rottytops through that never-ending underground obstacle course. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is not as good as its Wii U cousin but it's still a heck of a good time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal
Publisher: Sega (2014)
It seems like Sega is repeating the same mistakes over and over again. There are so many fundamental flaws with Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, I can't get over it. The action is fast-paced but you'll typically fall into a familiar pattern of busting through blocks, swinging on electric beams, and performing homing attacks on robots. A branching map offers a variety of challenges. The foot races reminded me of Sonic Rivals
(PSP, 2006) and the worm tunnel felt like a throwback to the 16-bit era. But the basic stages are not very fun. You'd expect a stage called "seaside jungle" to be loaded with eye candy, but it's so boring! The music sounds like something you'd hear on an elevator. You need to collect a whole lot of stuff including crystals, gears, and various types of rings. I hate how when you bust through an object the rings spill behind
you, forcing you to go back and retrieve them. You toggle between characters via the directional pad, but it all feels very mechanical and contrived. You use Tails to float on vents, Sonic to break through blocks, and newcomer Sticks to activate switches with her boomerang. The stages are so repetitive and maze-like it's hard to tell if you're making progress or going in circles. You'll wonder if it will ever end! Good luck mustering enough enthusiasm to revisit stages to collect missing items. Between stages you're subjected to prolonged cutscenes. You can't skip them and paging through all that inconsequential text is pure agony. Even the branching stage mechanism is flawed, with seemingly unlocked areas turning out to be unavailable. When I entered Knuckles Hideout I was told "Knuckles has stepped out. Come back tomorrow." Who the [expletive] designed
this game? Sonic isnt even fast
for crying out loud. The only thing this Sonic Boom will shatter is the hopes and dreams of every long-suffering Sega fan. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2011)
Normally I'm leery about buying a portable game if I already own the console version. Still, I was intrigued to hear that this portable Sonic Generations has its own set of stages. Plus I wanted to see how they looked in 3D. No question about it, the classic Green Hill zone looks all new and shiny on the 3DS. The characters really "pop" and the layered backgrounds are sweet. The zones are culled from many Sonic titles over the years, and each offers "classic" and "modern" modes. The classic side-scrolling stages tend to play better, but the modern 3D stages are more spectacular. Unfortunately, on the small screen these modern stages look a lot less
spectacular. In fact, they look a heck
of a lot like the classic stages. And since both modes have slightly
different controls, switching between them is confusing. I enjoyed unlocking the zones, as they feature plenty of eye candy, secrets and alternate routes. Unfortunately the later stages tend to incorporate "deadly drop-offs" which are frustrating as hell. Those "wind updrafts" are supposed to help, but they're just plain dumb. I was psyched to see the Emerald Coast stage (from the original Sonic Adventure), but these elements ruin it. All of the stages are needlessly elongated, making them feel more repetitive and less fun to explore. The bottom screen shows your progress, and often I found myself checking it just because I wanted the stage to end!
At least the original music has been retained, and hearing these excellent tunes will instantly transport you back 10 or 20 years. Sonic Generations offers both the best and worst of Sonic, which will give Sonic fans a lot of mixed feelings. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (fantasy violence)
If one Nintendo property screamed for the 3D treatment, it had to be Star Fox. The original Star Fox
(SNES, 1993) was Nintendo's first polygon shooter, leveraging a special "FX" chip to perform 3D rendering. Star Fox 64
(N64, 1997) realized the potential of the franchise, delivering smooth flight through rich 3D worlds. Star Fox 64 3D lets you relive the fun and even tosses in a new enhanced mode for good measure. The tutorial is lengthy (I thought it would never end) but playing the game rekindled fond memories. It's fun to skim over colorful landscapes while ducking under barriers and flying through rings to collect power-ups. The shimmering water effects look great and I love to see enemy ships explode before crashing into the ground. In most stages you move continuously forward, using your thrusters to dodge obstacles. Other areas give you free range, but they tend to be small, forcing you to constantly loop around. Star Fox looks great on the 3DS, but it's easy to lose the 3D focus in the heat of battle, so I turned it off. The bosses are interesting, and that lanky robot in the desert reminded me of General Grievous of Star Wars fame (complete with exposed heart). Star Fox veterans will appreciate subtle details like the distinctive robot voice that says good luck
. The thumbstick control is serviceable but the gyro steering option is an absolute nightmare
- I hate
it. Like other Star Fox games you're joined by wacky companions like Slippy Frog and Peppy Hare. These guys tend to get in trouble a lot, asking you to shoot down bogies on their tail. The problem is, it's really hard
to figure out what to shoot with so many ships criss-crossing on the horizon. Your limited vertical movement makes it hard to follow - or even locate
- enemies. Fortunately the low difficulty eases the frustration. Star Fox 64 3D has its charm but it feels somewhat constrained by its 64-bit heritage. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
I hear Steel Diver was originally a technical demo for the 3DS, and I believe it. This is an unconventional submarine shooter that plays in slow motion. The main campaign is a series of missions that typically run from five to fifteen minutes in length. Your goal is to get from point A to point B while navigating caves, avoiding mines, blasting rocks, and facing off against other vessels. There's even an occasional boss encounter. Two sliders on the lower screen control your speed and depth, and they seem perfectly positioned for your thumbs. Unfortunately they tend to be hard to "grab" (ugh) and when making slight adjustments they often return to their original positions (gah!). You'll probably need to use the stylus. A third control lets you adjust your sub's angle of attack. Momentum plays a key role as you're constantly fine-tuning the three controls, and it's pretty satisfying once you get the hang of it. The missions require a cautious, deliberate approach. While reasonable in difficulty and thoughtfully constructed, they are not the least bit addictive, and I never felt a burning desire to play the same mission twice. I do like the idea of repairing damage by "rubbing out" breaches in the hull. The "periscope strike" bonus game injects some much-needed action, presenting a first-person view as you fire torpedoes at ships and subs. I like the option of playing in stormy weather, but it's still nothing to write home about. A third mode is "steer commander" which is a Battleship-style game. I gave it a try but it was too complicated and definitely not my cup of tea. Steel Diver's 3D effects only slightly enhance its visuals, although I will admit those shipwrecks on the sea floor look pretty cool. The highlight of the game may be its audio. You'll want to wear earphones so you can become immersed in the echoing pings, clanking controls, and bubble sound effects. Steel Diver will appeal to patient gamers but thrill-seekers will quickly become bored with this. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Super Mario 3D Land
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
Super Mario 3D Land combines the freedom of movement you get in a 3D platformer with the simple, confined stages of a 2D title. This prevents aimless wandering, although there are still plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Some stages have a "lookout point" that lets you peer through a pair of binoculars to plan your route through the course ahead. At its core 3D Land is typical Mario as you hop between floating platforms, bump blocks to reveal coins, pounce on man-eating plants, and jump on a flag pole at the end of each level. Naturally there are special suits that afford you additional abilities. The Tanooki suit for example puts you in a raccoon fur and gives you the ability to hover in the air or smack foes with your tail. The new "propeller suit" propels you high into the air, making it easy to land on targets below. Though never spectacular, the stage designs play to the strengths of the 3DS. The 3D effect makes it easier to gauge your relative position, and when high in the air the sense of depth is more pronounced. There are even some clever optical illusions. The stages don't have a unifying theme as they do in most Mario titles, but their layouts are so inventive that you never feel as if you're doing the same thing twice. Best of all, 3D Land is consistently fun and hard to put down. It's also ideal for gaming on-the-go since the stages are brief and your progress is automatically saved. Nintendo hit a home run with this one. The 3DS was in dire need of a system-defining title, and Super Mario 3D Land fits like a glove. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo (2014)
Rating: Everyone 10+
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
(Wii U, 2014) was big on multiplayer mayhem but a little light on the single-player action. That's why I prefer this 3DS version. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is scaled down but feels more accessible. The diverse selection of fighters includes favorites like Mario, Zelda, Link, Pikachu, Sonic, Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man. The characters have black outlines which make them look flat, but the dynamic 3D stages provide enough eye candy. They include Sonic's lush Green Hill Zone, the flying ship of Star Fox, and a charmingly pixelated F-Zero track. This Smash Bros. may not look nearly as sharp as the Wii U, but its gameplay is right on point. Beating the crap out of loveable Nintendo characters is habit-forming. It's especially fun to bash them with weapons like hammers and swords, launching them off the screen. Special items let you unleash entities to fight on your behalf like the Galaga boss ship or the Mother Brain from Metroid. The manic fighting action is an acquired taste but I think novice players will find this portable edition more palatable, if only because the game tends to focus on your character. That said, you'll still occasionally lose track of what's going on or find yourself outside the field of view. I love the new Smash Run mode that lets you advance through side-scrolling stages to power-up your character for a single epic battle. The classic and all-star modes let you rack up high scores while forging through progressively difficult stages. There are dozens of modes, endless customization options, and a myriad of statistics. With Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, glorified cartoon violence is always at your fingertips, and I like
that. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Publisher: Capcom (2011)
Rating: Teen (mild language, mild suggestive themes, violence)
Street Fighter IV kicked some serious tail on the 360 and PS3, and incredibly, this portable edition looks like the same game!
Obviously there's some graphic degradation but on the small screen you can't even tell. It looks amazing, and while the 3D doesn't affect the fighting action one iota, it does add depth to the scenery. I always found the distillery and construction site stages to be pretty dull, but in 3D they look a lot more interesting. The roster is jam-packed with 35 characters. The fighting action is first-rate, although the tiny 3DS buttons are likely to induce hand-cramps during extended play (especially if you have large hands). I map the shoulder buttons to the light attacks, since I use them less often. The bottom touch screen is divided into four quadrants that let you perform special, super, and ultra moves with a touch of the screen. I know what you're thinking - no respectable Street Fighter fan would reduce themselves to that level, right? Well...
I hate to say it, but once you get used to tapping that screen to pull off tricky moves, it's a hard habit to break. A less compelling new feature is the new "3D versus" mode which tries to put you "in the game" with a closer, over-the-shoulder view. I'm not impressed with that viewing angle, and frankly it offers no real advantage. Wi-Fi and Internet play are supported, but I wish there were more attention paid to the off-line modes. Oh well, at least it records your highest arcade scores (overall and per character) and there's plenty of stuff to unlock. The main problem with Super Street Fighter IV 3D is it feels a little stale if you've already played the heck out of the console versions. But taken for what it is, this is the ultimate in portable fighting action. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Yoshi's New Island
Publisher: Nintendo (2014)
The intro story to Yoshi's New Island explains in lurid detail exactly where babies come from. They're delivered by storks
of course (duh!
). When one such delivery goes awry, baby Mario sets out to save baby Luigi from baby Bowser. Can't these babies all just get along?
The true star of the game is Yoshi, with baby Mario just along for the ride. New Island's style and controls harken back to the original Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World 2
(SNES, 1995). The backgrounds resemble kiddie art projects with soft edges and muted color schemes. The lighthearted platform action is easy and leisurely paced. You'll flutter between platforms, pounce on enemies, hit switches, and climb beanstalks. Yoshi's ability to toss eggs adds some much-needed spice. This is done by swallowing an enemy (B button), laying an egg (push down), and then hurling the egg using a timed aiming mechanism (X button). It seems awkward at first but becomes second nature with practice. Not only can you hurl eggs at enemies, but you also hit special clouds to reveal hidden doors. Does that make any sense at all? Nope!
Yoshi's New Island is enjoyable once you get the controls down. There are a few surprises like giant Shy Guys that produce huge eggs that can be thrown (or rolled) to wreak immense damage (very satisfying). I also enjoyed the puzzle sections where you guide a "fake" Yoshi into a bed of spikes. The 3DS capabilities aren't on display except for the bonus stages where you guide minecarts and balloons by tilting the system. The music and sound effects aren't exactly pleasing to the ears. Some of the tunes sound like they're played on kazoos (ugh) and hearing baby Mario screaming after you take a hit is grating. I'm not sure when the game saves your progress exactly, since it doesn't bother to tell you. I wouldn't call Yoshi's New Island particularly addictive or memorable, but it's kind of relaxing, and there's something to be said for that. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
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