Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call Review

Rhythm-based gaming hit a fever pitch about 5 years ago, which eventually collapsed on itself with the over-saturation of Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands. To me, the appeal of rhythm and music games died when the amount of plastic peripherals overflowed my gaming area; did I really need DJ Hero turntables? – Probably not. That said, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is the kind of game I’ve been avoiding for some time now. Although I hadn’t played the previous installment, I did have certain expectations for this sequel to 2012’s hit having played Elite Beat Agents and Guitar Hero on Nintendo’s handhelds before. I’m glad to say Curtain Call squashed those expectations.

In its most basic form, a rhythm-based game plays a track and you have to act according to the music all while being judged on accuracy. Curtain Call has that and builds on it to offer a richer and deeper experience. Your performance after a track isn’t just scored and forgotten about – your characters are leveling up and building up experience points just like the RPG-style gameplay Curtain Call‘s source material. There are three different types of gameplay and they include Battle, Field and Event. Field and Event styles of play are largely similar in that they play the same with slight tweaks in the visuals. Personally, I like playing in the Field just to see Chocobos.

When playing a Battle, what’s happening on-screen is reacting to how well you’re hitting notes and inputting the right commands. When a boss enemy appears, the game does a great job at getting you pumped up to hit all your notes. Leveling up will help build up abilities, including Thundara to deal magic damage after chaining a certain amount of notes or Counter to dish out physical damage after missing a few notes. Multiplayer modes are available too and offers fun for those looking for bragging rights. Can you hit notes better than your friend? You can find out both off and online.

There are multiple control methods to play Curtain Call and they can be changed on the fly during any given song. The ways you can play is through touch-screen, buttons only or one-handed. My preferred way to play was with the touch-screen via stylus, but there were times when I felt that the feedback of pressing buttons felt more comfortable – what can I say? I’m fickle. The one-handed controls I never got into, but I can definitely see the practicality of it during a train ride home during rush hour where I had to use one hand to hold on to something. There were moments where the circle pad didn’t recognize my directional input as much as I would have liked and that can be annoying for a accuracy based game no matter how few times it happened.

Curtain Call is a fan service game more than anything. All the main and side characters represented here are easily recognizable by even the most casual Final Fantasy fan. Curtain Call‘s style is cutesy and miniaturized versions of lots of characters from Final Fantasy lore. Think of all the characters you love, such as Cloud, Titus and Lightning in Funko Pop! Vinyl form. The music chosen is not just from the main Final Fantasy series as Tactics, Dissidia and even the movie, Advent Children finds a place in this game. The tracks are as they were in their original form and discovering new tracks I’ve never heard before was delightful as well. This is truly a treat to your ears, so make sure you invest in some high quality earphones, because the 3DS audio output is unfortunately not the best or the loudest.

Whether you’re here to hear Final Fantasy II music or Final Fantasy XII music, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is an amazing retrospective for any kind of fan. Even if you’ve never played Final Fantasy before or don’t particularly like it to begin with, it’s still a great rhythm-based game with great music in its own right. The possibility of having your Final Fantasy dream team is completely realized here and it’s cool to see Square Enix celebrate its history of lovable and iconic characters into one title. The next and most logical step for the series’ future would be the inclusion of other beloved Square Enix characters like Sora and Chrono.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
Genre: Rhythm
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Rating: 8 / 10

Mewtwo DLC for Smash Bros. opens up possibilities for much more

During the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U specific Nintendo Direct, Mewtwo was announced as a returning new character to the series. His return will come in the form of free DLC for players who own both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game. Also announced was that his availability will be made sometime Spring 2015.

The significance of this announcement says a lot of the future of the games. First, it tells us that DLC is entirely possible for both versions. Next, saying it’s free should definitely imply that there is some paid content coming and should be available for both versions, too. Some Smash fans have been distraught that Mewtwo hasn’t been included in the games since Melee, but it looks like their prayers have been answered. Maybe now fans can continue hoping for an Ice Climbers appearance sometime in the near future.

What characters would you like to see return or make a debut? Snake? Lucas? Pokemon Trainer? The gates are wide open now that this announcement has been made. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U arrives November 21.

Review: Super Smash Brothers for Nintendo 3DS

There’s awesome and then there’s mind-blowing. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS on paper is as mind-blowing as it gets for any gamer. This isn’t just a cross-over or a collaboration of a couple of video game characters; this is a game that represents over 20 well-established and memorable franchises into a single game. Mario, Link, Pikachu and even third-party friends Mega Man and Pac-Man have come together to fight it out for no real reason and frankly, who cares! Smash Bros. for 3DS is the latest installment of a series that comes around with a new release once or twice every decade and all of Nintendo’s marbles are literally put into this one bag. With all the characters from all the different worlds come all of their respective developers and makers — a game with an all-star cast needs an all-star team behind it and that’s exactly what happened here.

Smash Bros. is a unique fighter where damage isn’t as much of a priority as staying on the stages or platform. The goal is to knock off your opponent and there are many strategies to do this. One of the more obvious methods is to attack your opponent and bring up their damage percentage; this will make your opponent more susceptible to being knocked further away. There is also the high risk, high reward way to win where you can put yourself in danger by attacking someone while they’re making their way back to the ledge. Stage control is the name of the game and you can witness videos floating on YouTube between pros to see how intense the gameplay can be. There’s something for everyone here as casual players can enjoy the stimulating four-player modes with items on, while serious gamers can play 1-on-1 games with items turned completely off.

The single-player experience has many options to choose from, though not much seen here is new to the series. Classic and All-Star mode is the meat and potatoes of the experience and will offer a significant challenge, especially for completionists who will be spending quite some time beating the game with the over 35 character roster. Classic mode is like most traditional fighters where you fight a series of enemies until facing off against the end-game boss. Classic is also a bit different in this iteration of Smash Bros. where you can choose your path to the end. With my 15 years of experience, I can safely say Classic mode on the hardest difficulty is by far the most difficult this time around. All-Star mode sees your fighter go through every character in the game with one stock of life and this is also the hardest version of this mode I’ve ever seen, because the roster is bigger than it’s ever been.

Single-player doesn’t just stop there as series staples like Home-Run Contest and Multi-Man Smash return while new additions, Smash Run and Target Blast make their debut. They’re neat bonus modes that allow you to take the core gameplay of Smash Bros. and use them to knock sandbags as far as you can in 10-seconds or blast bombs through walls Angry Birds-style. Smash Run is one of the new and most uniquely thought out modes that allows fighters to explore dungeons and build their stats RPG-style for 5 minutes. Then, a random style of battle ensues where every player’s newly built up characters are pitted against each other. The pay off isn’t as good as it could have been, because some of the battles completely disregard stats or are too short to let you get a good feel of all the hard work you just put in.

Another brand new feature for Smash Bros. is the inclusion of customized fighters. You can create and customize yourself in Mii form as a fighter and mix and match moves and character properties, such as speed and strength. Moves for in-game characters can also be unlocked to build your favorite version of your already favorite characters. Perhaps you want a Mario that can shoot fireballs straight forward instead of bouncing around — that’s entirely possible with the customization options and you’ll spend a lot of time figuring out your preferred set-up.

Online can be played with friends or players around the world through the matchmaking system. Playing with friends features everything you can do with local multiplayer and as long as there’s room, other friends can seamlessly join. Playing with strangers is also possible and it can be done through “For Fun” matches and ranked or “For Glory” matches. All the moving parts needed for an enjoyable multiplayer experience is here except for some online console gaming standards that I wish were included. One is the fact that you can’t mix and match friends and strangers — you can only choose friends only or strangers only. The other is no communication options; it would have been thoroughly impressive if voice chat was possible in any form, even if it’s just during post or pre-game lobbies.

The sights and sounds are top-notch, especially the 60 frame per second gameplay. It’s amazing that this handheld title, jampacked with content can run so smoothly off and online. The themes used while browsing the menus or playing during any given stage is a festival of nostalgic favorites and remakes. Many themes return from Melee and Brawl as well as new themes, such as my favorite, Little Mac’s Jogging Theme. Many stages are also recycled from previous Smash installments and about two-thirds of the total being brand new. Most of the new stages are catered to this handheld version of game that will probably remain exclusive to the 3DS, including a Gameboy Kirby stage and Streetpass’ own Find Mii stage. Also worth mentioning is that every stage has an Omega Version of itself; a bare bones version of a stage for hardcore players to fight it out on while being able to enjoy all the awesome visuals without the gameplay distractions. I thought that the visuals and choatic gameplay of Smash wouldn’t work for a handheld, but it fires on all cylinders wonderfully.

Smash is back, folks and as the first release of this unique dual game effort (Wii U version coming later this year), Smash for 3DS certainly delivers. Minor issues include the screen being too small at times and some long load times, but there’s little to no hiccups that interrupt the fun to be had. Single-player offers a lot and multiplayer brings even more. This isn’t a downsized, compromised version of Super Smash Bros. – This is a fully executed game we all know and love derived from its prestigious console lineage. Whether you’re a veteran or brand new to the series, there’s a ton here with lots of replay-ability.

Super Smash Brothers
Genre: Fighting
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Sora Ltd., Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: October 3, 2014

Rating: 9 / 10

First Super Smash Bros. for 3DS National Champion Crowned in NYC

Over 3 hours after 16 of the nations top players duked it out, we finally have a Super Smash Brothers for 3DS champion. Held at the Nintendo World Store during New York Comic Con weekend, Nintendo hosted its championship tournament where the winner took home a trophy and a specially branded Smash Bros. robe — This is, of course, on top of the Smash Bros. 3DS XL and all expenses paid trip won by each qualifier. Players came from Atlanta, Chicago and other cities with a guest to play video games and enjoy New York City. So for all the other 15 players not going home with a trophy, they’re already winners in my book.

Hosts Wynton “Prog” Smith, Kris “Toph” Aldenderfer and Nintendo of America’s Bill “TrinTroll” Trinen did play-by-play throughout and even showed off some of their skills in exhibition matches. The majority of the single-elimination tournament consisted of matches played on random maps with Smash balls turned on. Towards the end of the tournament, items were turned off and only Omega versions of stages were selected. Earlier matches most definitely had some unexpected moments where stages played a big role in determining an outcome, most notably the Earthbound stage, Magicant.

Taking home the prize was New York’s own, Dabuz. His play with Rosalina & Luma was unmatched throughout the entire event and the character’s strengths were also clear by the end of the tournament. Nintendo looks poised to continue building its fighting game seen and let’s hope the future holds more of these type of events, especially with the Wii U version of Smash Bros. coming next month. Below you can check out some photos and a video of the entire event in case you missed it.

Five things missing in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is out now and in many ways it’s a huge hit. It gets a lot right, but there were some questionable exclusions in this version. Here are five that I’ve noticed.

No more post-game assessment

Classic Mode makes its return, but it’s missing an important aspect that has always been there before. In the past, every match would end with a breakdown of key things you did right and what you did wrong. For example, you would be rewarded extra points for defeating your opponent under a certain amount of time or winning a match without using any items. This has completely disappeared and makes the urgency to play well during every match non-existent.

No more stocks in Classic Mode

Another layer of challenge different in Classic Mode this time around is the set amount of stocks during a run-through. Gone are the days where you start off with a certain amount of lives and have to make it through the whole mode with the same stock. Now, every level allows you to have two stocks of lives and this is both a positive and negative in terms of difficulty. On one hand, you always have a backup life in case a fluke death occurs, which potentially allows you one death per stage. On the flip side, no matter how good you do throughout all the stages you will only have two lives during the last battle.

Where is this trophy from?

Trophies no longer hold key information for the character/items they’re showcasing – which game they’re from. Up until Super Smash Brothers Brawl, trophies would include key titles of games the trophy is representing. Now, they’ve completely removed that portion and left it up to the description to tell you, which sometimes isn’t even mentioned! I was thoroughly looking forward to learning about new characters and games during my commutes on my handheld, but that’s been butchered with this Smash iteration.

Stage Creations are gone

Stage customization was a neat inclusion in Brawl, but is entirely absent in the version where it may have been put to use the most. On the go and use of the stylus would have been ideal in creating stages for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and seems like a huge missed opportunity. There’s already a lot here that make the package as a whole a worthwhile experience, but it would have been extra impressive to see such a feature for a portable game. Also, with a stronger and better online presence, it would have been a much more influential feature than before.

We’ll miss you, Ice Climbers
The Ice Climbers are not here and this is the first time an original, non-clone character has been removed from the series. That makes me quite sad, because their unique play style won’t be making it back in this latest iteration of Smash Bros. Sakurai has said that the 3DS’ system limitation have prevented their inclusion in the game, but the hope now is that their exclusion from the 3DS version doesn’t keep them away from the Wii U version. The Ice Climbers should be doable on the Wii U and the exclusion would be entirely based on whether or not Sakurai keeps his word on “both games will have the same roster.” It’d be a shame if the Wii U version is held back (even by just one character), because of the 3DS’ limitations.

What are some Smash Bros. features you’re missing. Leave a comment below!

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review

It can safely be said that two of biggest titles to make a name for themselves on the Nintendo DS are Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright. Their respective gameplay styles were tailor-made for the dual-screen, touch screen format and could not have possibly worked as well on anything else. Both also feature logic and thinking over flashy gameplay and already have more than a handful of titles under their belts with no signs of slowing down. Their similarities are plentiful and it has led to this singular moment, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — A crossover of epic proportions. Expectations are high and this mash-up certainly has a lot to live up to for fans of both series.

Witches are the theme in Layton vs Wright and it’s up to the two to get to the bottom of what is happening in the medieval world of Labyrinthia. The characters from both franchises get transported to this alternate world and the story develops from there. The game starts off quite slow and alternates between the two respective games a few times before the two main characters actually meet. The game eases new players into the different play styles and gives a good recap for seasoned fans. The game also gives you the option to skip some of the tutorials, which is much appreciated. Noticeable is the lack of challenge from the game overall. The puzzles and challenge in previous Layton and Wright titles have proven to stump me good, but not so much this time. On top of the lack of challenge, characters established from both worlds are also lackluster with only one more mainstay character from each title. Layton brings along with him his trusty sidekick Luke and Wright is followed by close friend Maya.

What plagues Layton vs Wright are some of the issues prevalent in each series. Layton games are a series of puzzles tied together with a point-and-click story; they can be a bit too hand-holdy and there is never a shortage dialogue. Every time the brilliant voice-over work is used, I breathe a sigh of fresh air from the constant reading, but it only happens so often. Also, I can’t imagine how hard it would be for my old man eyes to play a text-heavy title like this on a regular sized 3DS/2DS. It may be because Layton games are targeted to a younger audience, but the impatience I have with the title is the same I have with watching kids cartoons now — it takes forever to get to the point.

Phoenix Wright games are riddled with court sessions that you will have to read and decipher where a contradiction lies or where evidence will disprove a claim. It’s a fun system that works wonderfully when your brain is actually in sync with the direction the game is going. Unfortunately, my brain (and I’m guessing other people’s, too) often goes in another direction and whilst my reason for contradiction is 100% plausible, it’s written off as wrong. And even if you are right in guessing where the game is going, you have to figure out how to present it the way the game wants. For example, I knew that one of the contradictions was that a person could not hold two things at once and had to highlight this in a piece of photographic evidence — Turns out I picked the wrong hand and then had to choose the other. It is moments like this that make the game incredibly rigid and frustrating and what I wind up doing is picking every line of text for contradictions until I get it, because there’s no way of accurately knowing otherwise.

The two varying game styles never quite come together in a brand new way that I would have imagined, but there are elements that find their way into each other’s styles. Layton series staple, hint coins are usually used to help solve puzzles, but can now be used in the courtroom to highlight which lines to press or evidence to use, which turned out to be extremely helpful. Layton also finds himself alongside Phoenix in the courtroom to lend a hand in deducing evidence and putting pressure on the eye-witnesses. It’s a bit odd to see the two stand next to each other with their very different art styles, but it is goofy enough to work.

The sounds for this game is absolutely the shining star. Both series had iconic and memorable tunes and this mash-up brought the two minds behind the music together for some brilliant stuff. When the two styles of music is actually woven together, you can hear how much they actually complement each other in a magnificent way. Players who have never played either game will appreciate the stuff here, but there’s something extra special when you’ve played both games for so long — If only the game itself came together as magically.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney serves its purpose well as a game where two iconic characters finally come together. Disappointment comes in the fact that so much more could have been done. The two games never stray too far away from their comfort zone and each take a significant hit in challenge and series lore. There are so many characters and stories from each franchise that could have been used, but sadly none of it comes through. There are some big missed opportunities here and here’s hoping the next game (if any) gets the job done right.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Level-5, Capcom
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Aug 29, 2014

Rating: 7 / 10

Kirby: Triple Deluxe – Hefty Fun in a Cutesy Game

The Kirby series has a knack for getting sidetracked with experimental games like Epic Yarn and Mass Attack. Though good, Kirby games are best when the main focus is absorbing the powers of any enemy on the fly. Kirby: Triple Deluxe is another core Kirby title and it delivers more of what makes the pink puffball so lovable. It is Kirby’s first entry on the 3DS and delivers an experience comparable to the last console game, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land.

In Triple Deluxe, Kirby’s latest adventure begins with a Dreamstalk growing under Dream Land and carrying various landmarks including Kirby’s house and King Dedede’s castle into the sky. While in the new, displaced area of Floralia, Kirby discovers the culprit is Taranza and Taranza has trapped once enemy, now pal Dedede. It is up to Kirby to hunt the six-armed baddie down to restore Dream Land back to normal and rescue Dedede. It’s not very sophisticated, but hey, if you need a reason to play through this awesome platformer, there’s your story.

The name of the game is platforming and Triple Deluxe sticks to the trademarked basics. Kirby jumps, flutters infinitely, dashes and sucks. Yes, Kirby sucks in enemies and the right ones offer power-ups. Favorite power-ups return including the parasol, ice and fire powers and new ones are introduced like bell and beetle. Each has dynamic properties and multiple moves to boot, like the spear’s ability to be used underwater or feather allowing you to maneuver through the air faster. Experimenting with each power-up is a blast and players soon discover their favorite. Mine is the hammer simply because it dishes out tons of damage. A new ability, similar to the limit breaking power-up, Ultra Sword seen in Return to Dream Land, is also introduced in this title and it’s called “Hyper Nova.” I don’t really consider this a power-up since it is forced upon you in order to continue, but it does make you feel like a badass sucking everything up in your path.

The background and foreground play a huge role in Triple Deluxe and it makes this game stand out from other Kirby 2D platforming ventures. There are layers upon layers of depth that Kirby can move to and enemies will take advantage of this, too. So not only will Kirby have to be wary of enemies coming from the front or back of him, but his sides as well. An example of this is where an enemy will chop down a tree from way in the background and it will fall to the side toward your point of view of the screen and Kirby. It’s a neat way to incorporate some 3D gameplay elements, but still stick true to a traditional 2D-sidescrolling fare. Triple Deluxe also has some of the best 3D effects I’ve seen on the system, so I suggest turning up that slider for this one.

Getting through Triple Deluxe isn’t a tough task, but collecting all the Sun Stones can change that. This passive challenge to collect all the Sun Stones will unlock extra stages, which will in turn give you more hours of play. These collectibles are put in plain sight in the beginning, but are tucked away nicely later on in the game. Key chains of Kirby and the cast throughout the series’ history is also sprinkled throughout stages and they’re all in their classic form. My favorite is the 8-bit, black and white key chains from the Kirby Dream Land 1 and 2 days.

The entirety of the game can be finished in 5-7 hours and a bit more if you go for all the collectibles. On top of that, there’s some extra incentives to play through the game again –wink wink– and some mini-games as well. Kirby Fighters is a head to head, power-up against power-up brawler not unlike Smash Bros. and Dedede’s Drum Dash is a rhythm-based, high score seeking mini-game. Kirby Fighters can be played via multiplayer off of a single cart, but there’s no co-op for the story at all. That was a huge letdown, because I think Kirby played with a friend is one of the coolest features in past games.

Rock solid controls, a hefty amount of fun and interesting power-ups and a very good looking, albeit cutesy game sums up Kirby: Triple Deluxe. It is a bit easy and can be short compared to your Bravely Defaults and Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, but it still has a lot to offer. Fans of the series will find an above average version of a game they’re already familiar with. First timers, I suggest you give this a whirl if you get a chance, because it’s definitely worth checking out. Kirby is back and he is absolutely more adorable than ever.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe
Genre: Platformer, Action
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: May 2, 2014

Rating: 8 / 10

‘Super Smash Brothers’ focused Nintendo Direct offers a wealth of information & new characters

On Tuesday April 8, 2014, a special Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS focused edition of Nintendo Direct gave fans a healthy batch of noteworthy news. First, the release dates for both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game have been announced as Winter 2014 and Summer 2014, respectively. That isn’t very big news as we already knew it should be arriving sometime this year, but having vastly different release dates should give players more of a reason to pick up the 3DS version until the Wii U version arrives.

The 3DS version will run at a consistent 60 FPS with some details such as trophies will running at 30 FPS. Both versions will tout online play and some new details on the online play for the Wii U version have been released. Players can now jump into a For Fun mode or For Glory mode when playing online with strangers. For Fun mode will only record wins and will be similar to Brawl’s matchmaking where there will be limited options. For Glory mode will be for the hardcore to face off on Final Destination (plain and tournament legal stage) in 1-on-1 encounters with no items allowed.

Announced as returning characters are Zero Suit Samus, Sheik, Charizard and Yoshi. Yes, ZSS and Sheik are now entirely separate characters and will not be tethered to choosing Samus or Zelda in order to be played with. Charizard was playing under the Pokemon Trainer along with Squirtle and Ivysaur, but, during a teaser trailer, it appears he is a standalone fighter now too. A brand new character was also announced and it is Greninja from the 6th generation of Pokemon, Pokemon X and Y.

As for stages, almost every stage will have a Final Destination version. This means it will aesthetically look like a Mario or Zelda stage, but it will not have any obstructions or feature any distractions to a fight just like Final Destination. Custom move sets were also briefly shown off where Mario’s fireball was slowed down or Pit’s arrow was zig-zagging all over the place. Not much was said about them, but it looks like it will be a fun way to create vastly overpowered versions of each character. Of course, it was explicitly said these customizations will only be available while playing with friends on or offline.

Announced as returning characters are Zero Suit Samus, Sheik, Charizard and Yoshi. Yes, ZSS and Sheik are now entirely separate characters and will not be tethered to choosing Samus or Zelda in order to be played. Charizard was playable in Super Smash Bros. Brawl under the Pokemon Trainer along with Squirtle and Ivysaur, but, during a teaser trailer, it appears he is a standalone fighter now too. A brand new character was also announced and it is Greninja from the 6th generation of Pokemon, Pokemon X and Y.

Lastly, a 3DS only mode was revealed and it is a 4-player mode where fighters can build up their characters skills, such as defense and offense for 5 minutes in a side-scrolling mode, much like Brawl’s Subspace Emissary, for 5 minutes. Then each player gets to use their new powered-up character in battle. It’s an interesting twist that I’m sure will be lots of fun to play and experiment with.


‘Yoshi’s New Island’ – Even nostalgia has its ups and downs

One of Nintendo’s most adorable characters is the star of another game and it’s in the third game of a beloved series, Yoshi’s New Island. Yoshi is back at it with Baby Mario and the mission is the same as before: Save Baby Luigi. The story starts with baby Mario and Luigi, like all babies, being delivered to their parents via stork. But the stork must have gotten the wrong address, because the lovely couple that came to the door wasn’t expecting any babies. In panic, the stork rushes to get this problem resolved. Then suddenly, Kamek and his gang attack and snag baby Luigi away whilst Mario falls to the island full of different color Yoshis. From there, the adventure begins. There’s no real explanation why and how Baby Luigi got kidnapped again or if it’s even following some sort of Yoshi’s Island canon, but who cares?

Yoshi’s New Island features 6 worlds and each world has 8 stages each. The formula sticks to having 6 regular stages, a midpoint castle and a main boss castle. Kamek is always the midpoint boss and the main boss is Kamek transforming a normally unintimidating enemy into a giant version of itself. Bosses are not very hard, but some are interesting and fun to face, like shooting eggs in specific angles to hit your target or shooting them into balloons to drop missiles from above.

Running, ground-pounding, Yoshi tongue action and egg shooting make their return in another duo adventure with Yoshi and Baby Mario. Losing Baby Mario occurs when Yoshi is hurt by an enemy and when a replenishing countdown from 10 hits 0, a life is lost. Lives are also lost instantly when falling off a stage, touching lava and landing on spikes. It’s mostly the same as before and not much new is introduced. The biggest (literally) new addition to the series are giant eggs and giant metal eggs that destroy everything in their path. It must be a god complex, because, much like turning giant in New Super Mario Bros., I love seeing normally stationary things like pipes and walls be destroyed by my hands.

The last game in the series, Yoshi’s Island DS introduced big changes like adding baby versions of Peach, Donkey Kong and Wario into the mix that each had specialties whilst riding Yoshi such as climbing and floating. Rather than build off of that, New Island sticks to only Baby Mario as the featured infant and builds off of what was established in the original Super Nintendo game instead. That’s fine, but it’s almost as if they ignored everything

Yoshi’s New Island is a very easy game if all you’re going for is seeing the final stage. Levels are not exceptionally challenging, even towards the end of the game. They’re also not as memorable as the original’s stages like “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy.” The game can be finished in a measly 2 hours, but that’s if you ignore all the collectibles and hidden areas. Some of the more enjoyable parts of the game is had in bonus areas and secret passages, so it’s encouraged that you go after exploring as much as you can in any given stage. Included in these areas are tilt driven transformation stages that see Yoshi turn into various vehicles like a submarine and mine cart. These portions of the game change things up and some variety is always welcome.

Conversely, going after all the red coins, stars and flowers can be an overwhelming burden. The goal is to collect all of them, but some of these collectibles are tucked away very cryptically or require knowledge beforehand, which is cheap and not very dependent on skill. I found myself rubbing against every wall or ledge to uncover invisible items that only appear when touched or replaying entire levels because I wasn’t aware I would need to carry three eggs with me in a particular area. It’s a cheap way to prolong a game and I’m certainly not a fan of that.

Visually, New Island looks great with its blend of Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s Story graphics. The 3D effects do look decent on this title, but there are certainly titles that have put better use to the feature. The sounds aren’t very memorable, but are expectantly upbeat and Yoshi-like (if that makes any sense). The difference between playing on a 3DS XL and 3DS/2DS is quite noticeable as the colors do wash out a bit because of the significantly bigger screens, as is the case with most 3DS titles.

Yoshi’s New Island is everything you remember the original to be 20 or so years later and that’s both a good and bad thing. The first title was great, but developer Arzesta played it safe with little risks taken nor any new direction for the series to go. It’s a solid platformer that offers a good amount of variety and there are some areas with clever gameplay that can be discovered if you try hard enough. But in the end, it’s too easy to beat, frustratingly difficult to finish 100% and offers little to return to. Sad to say, but saving Baby Luigi this time just wasn’t as enjoyable as the first go-round.

Yoshi’s New Island
Genre: Adventure/Platformer
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo 3DSDeveloper: Arzest
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: March 14, 2014


6.5 / 10

Video Game Gifts for Dad 2013

Now that you’ve finished picking up the typical clothes and power tools to gift that dad in your life, it’s time to give him a little pleasure through gaming this holiday season. Here are our picks.

Saints Row IV (PS3, Xbox 360)

What dad wouldn’t want to hear San Bush’s “The Touch” from Transformers: The Movie, while getting his game on? Saints Row IV was one of the surprise hits of the summer. This sandbox game mashed up Prototype, The Matrix and GTA into one ferocious, off-the-wall game. Realism in gaming may be cool, but playing as a superhero president who can bash an alien’s brains in is what makes playing video games great. Even if you don’t consider yourself a completionist, you may find yourself playing just about every mission so you can enjoy all the wacky M-rated humor and action.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360)

Each new Assassin’s Creed release adds just a little more nuance to make it worthwhile game. While the land action and platforming will be familiar to most, life at sea in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a new-found joy. Play this game on one of the next gen consoles and you’re in for a visual treat. Lush environments feel alive and may just have you planning your next Caribbean getaway.

Tomb Raider (Xbox 360, PS3)

Everyone’s favorite treasure seeker, Lara Croft, went through a major reboot this year. We were introduced to a younger Lara, who had to do a lot of growing up in order to survive. Tomb Raider was one of the more mature adventures of the year and also gave us one of the best stories of 2013. The action and combat are always engaging and the character of Lara has never been brought to life in a more realistic way.

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Any dad who remembers The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on SNES will want to pick up Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on 3DS. The game utilizes a similar visual style to the classic SNES game with a few added twists. Similar to the SNES game, this game features a parallel world to Hyrule. However, travel back-and-forth between the two worlds is done through a new mechanic that also deepens the intrigue of dungeon exploration. Link is now able to flatten himself out on a wall, like a painting, and work his way around the side of a cliff or the exterior of a castle. For lifelong Zelda fans, this game is reason enough to pick up a 3DS if you don’t have one yet.

NBA 2K14 (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360)

NBA 2K13 was damn near perfect. With annual sports franchise games, you’re always left wondering – is it worth it to upgrade to the latest release merely to get a roster update? NBA 2K14 adds just enough polish to the defensive game and ball handling to make this title a worthy holiday pickup – especially at its current, marked-down price. And while the LeBron James Path to Greatness mode doesn’t offer more than a tacked on career mode, NBA 2K14 is just a down-right excellent basketball sim that any sports gamer should own.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)

Studio Ghibli made an RPG? Hell yeah, it did! Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is one of the best RPGs of 2013 and that’s even before you add in all the exquisite animation and compelling storytelling from Studio Ghibli. This is one of those truly memorable RPG experiences that will stick in your mind for years to come. The vast array of oddball characters, freaky monsters and unique locations warrants a franchise.

The Last of Us (PS3)

When people say that the line between movies and video games is getting blurred, they should reference The Last of Us in that conversation. The first ten minutes of the game, thrust you into the mind of one of the most compelling, and tragic heroes, of 2013 – video game or otherwise. The Last of Us gave us characters who you wanted to get to know on a personal level. While there were several AI issues, this game didn’t lack in personality and gamer engagement. I dare you to know five games that came out this year with a more intriguing – and conflicted – leading character.

FIFA Soccer 2014 (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4, PS3)

With the 2014 World Cup just over the horizon, adding a Fifa game to the collection is a necessity. Unlike EA Sports’ Madden franchise, the Fifa development team actually improves this game every year. While the tweaks may seem small to some, better ball control and shot handling makes this release the definitive Fifa game.

Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360, PS3)

Bioshock Infinite was one of the edgier games of 2013. For many, it touched racial and religious nerves. However, this impactful story showed us how deep a video game story could get. The developers at Irrational Games reminded us that a great, nuanced story is essential in game development. Plus, the gameplay was just damn-good fun. Nuff said.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist (Xbox 360, PS3)

Splinter Cell Blacklist didn’t receive nearly as much attention as it deserved. Not only was the game a joy to play, but the multiplayer component gave many shooter fans just about as much fun as a Halo or Call of Duty game. The stealth mechanics and AI were some of the best of 2013. Plus, this is a shooter that was worth replaying the single player campaign just for the challenge. How often can you say that about a shooter these days?

Batman: Arkham Origins (PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U)

Okay, so Batman Arkham Origins was just a buggy carbon copy of Batman Arkham City. I get it. But wasn’t it great to be Batman and fight Deathstroke? If a game is just fun to play, then I’ll play it. If you’ve got a Batman fan in the family – they’ll love to play it as well.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Wii U, 3DS)

While many will say that Super Mario 3D Land is the reason to own a Wii U, I’ll say that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was a great reason to pickup a Wii U or 3DS. This is one of the best multiplayer games around on either Nintendo system. If you’ve ever played Monster Hunter or just dig JRPGs, then this is a game that will give you countless hours of fun through 2014.

Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360, PS3)

If that dad in your life hasn’t had a chance to play this GTA game yet, then now is the time. While the story is short, there’s so much to do and see in this live-out-your-wildest-thrill-fantasy game.

Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)

I’ve met many DS and 3DS gamers who have been longing for the next Advance Wars game. Well, Fire Emblem: Awakening is the next best thing – if not an even better thing. This rich, turn-based strategy game sets a new benchmark of perfection on the 3DS. You don’t need to be a fan of the Fire Emblem franchise to get into this game. But if you are, you’ll delight in the depth of content. While some gamers may not consider Fire Emblem a staple Nintendo franchise – up there with Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong or Metroid – this game will have those naysayers singing a different tune.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate (PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One)

With the Man of Steel sequel in the works and Arrow rocking the CW, picking up Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate should be a no brainer. Even if you’re not a fighting-game genre lover, you’ll dig the story, characters and special moves in Injustice. The game utilizes all the great mechanics of the revamped Mortal Kombat series to give fans one excellent fighting game.

DmC: Devil May Cry (Xbox 360, PS3)

Thanks to Capcom, the Devil May Cry franchise was relaunched and made ripe for next-gen. In DmC, Capcom relaunched a younger Dante. This new origin story may have changed up a few traits with regard to our hero, but DmC‘s nonstop action and wit got 2013 off on the right foot. This game is a great way to jump on the Dante bandwagon because you know that Capcom will be planning something big with this franchise for the PS4 and Xbox One.

In addition to retail games, there are also several digital games that you can gift that dad in your life through XBLA or PSN gift cards. These make for great Stocking Stuffers. Here are a few titles worth gifting:
Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014(PSN, XBLA)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Darkstalkers Resurrection
The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – Faith
Skulls of the Shogun