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by Ethos

Metroid: Other M Preview

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Like I told you guys, I got to go see Metroid: Other M on Friday. I watched a 20 minute demo of mostly cutscenes with a little gameplay, then got to play about 15 minutes myself consisting of only gameplay.

The Expected
To be honest, I don’t really know what I was expecting. I’ve never been a massive Metroid fan, and I only really got into the Prime series when I tried out the Trilogy version. Even then, I didn’t get far into it before I got the thing stolen and had to rebuy it then return it to my friend. Other M appears to be catering to both fans of Prime (the 3D perspective) and the old side-scrolling adventures (2D and only using the Wiimote). Which I knew already, so I suppose I was expecting that. But the bulk of my feelings from this event fall into the other two categories.

The Unexpected
Although I knew that Other M was supposed to be story heavy, I suppose I thought that meant “for Nintendo”. The opening cutscene was epic and lengthy, and after the game started, they didn’t really let up. It was a little off-putting, but after I let myself relax, I found that I was enjoying the scenes. The voice acting and writing isn’t the greatest, but like Kingdom Hearts it appears to be sincere and character focused enough for me to get into it anyway. I like how the focus was on Samus’ point of view, and how she would narrate her feelings and reactions to the situations and people around her. There’s obviously more than enough room for the story and scenes to be largely terrible, but they were better than I was expecting.

In terms of gameplay, I was happily surprised to find that the 2D gameplay doesn’t seem to be restrictive in terms of traditional Metroid exploration. It’s because you can actually move in and out of the environments, making it more like 2 and a half D, as much as I dislike that term.

Another pleasant surprise was how intuitive the transition between 2D and 3D was. Pointing at the screen then going back to the SNES-style position was smooth as butter, and alleviated my fears of fighting with the controls in that respect.

2D?

The Mixed
Despite the smooth transition between perspectives, I’m still not sold on it. While I never got annoyed during the demo, I’m hesitant to say that I don’t expect to get frustrated that I can’t move around while in first person, especially because of the similar visual look to the Prime series.

I mean, the game at least seemed to react appropriately depending on your choice of perspective. 2D combat is frantic and fast, and the 3D seems to be more forgiving in terms of timing, but requires precise aiming as opposed to the auto-aim in 2D mode. That, however, doesn’t mean that the 3D perspective adds anything yet, and I’m completely unconvinced so far. Like always, I’m willing to change my mind, and I hope I end up liking it.

The only thing that struck me as outright bad was something of relatively little consequence to the experience. The way Other M handles Samus’ suit and weapon upgrades is that she’ll only use the equipment that she’s authorized to use. That’s dumb and will likely take me out of the game every time a little message pops up that says “Samus is choosing not to use her missiles out of respect for Captain Whoever’s orders”. Losing all your power-ups at the beginning of the game is just as silly, but at least it only happens once.

Another thing I should mention is that Nintendo made sure to point out that despite the heavy focus on story, Metroid: Other M will retain its traditional mood of loneliness. And from the little I saw, that actually appears to be true. The cutscenes are full of people, but the levels are solitary and have a classic Metroid feel. Only one boss battle included other characters, but it didn’t detract from the mood for me.

So that’s it. The demo made me cautiously optimistic for the title. At this point, it really could go either way.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Preview

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 has been bringing on the surprises this year for me. First was the announcement that it would be released 6 months earlier than anybody expected, then was the fact that I would be able to play it for a lucky short time yesterday afternoon. The demo was closely guarded to make sure no secrets would get out, but I was able to play three levels, hear about two others, and also take a look at the unique blend of old and new hubworlds.

The Expected
This is more Super Mario Galaxy. It’s the first time a 3D Mario game has had a direct sequel on the same console, and even the Nintendo rep admitted that it is largely more of the same. This, of course, is no surprise and not really a downer either because all I wanted at the end of Galaxy was more Galaxy, and that’s more than I can say for 64 or Sunshine. Also, while I didn’t play them, the names “Haunty Halls Galaxy” and “Honeybloom Galaxy” were released to me, and that spells Boo Mario and Bee Mario to me. Fun stuff, yes, but new Mario games are exciting for the new power ups. Still, the worlds look to have the same creative, and varied design as last time, although the environments seem to be more detailed and the backgrounds more interesting. The Galaxy games are truly the best Wii games will ever look. We played Sin and Punishment 2 for a short time after Galaxy 2 and it was like we changed systems even though the former isn’t a bad looking game. SMG2 is obviously in SD, but it’s one of the few games that really don’t make me feel like it’s missing much graphically.

The Unexpected
The world map. This has been exposed on other sites, but it’s still a surprise to me. It appears to be a bizarre hybrid of the typical 3D hub worlds introduced in Super Mario 64 and the classic style hubs exemplified in New Super Mario Bros Wii. You can run around on a giant grassy Mario face that has a steering wheel on it – yes, it’s also a spaceship – which takes you to a Super Mario World-style overworld that actually feels a bit like the original Kingdom Hearts. I say that because there seems to be more going on than just the typical New Super Mario Bros progression. The Nintendo rep told me that this decision was made to make the organization of the galaxies more clear, but it seems more convoluted to me if anything. They also wanted to make sure I saw that Mario was able to leave the giant grassy Mario spaceship head, although they wouldn’t let me see to where, so there’s a possibility that there will be multiple spaceships. We’ll see. I was also surprised to see that the difficulty appeared to be ramped up. I know Miyamoto mentioned it, but I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it. Finally, things really seem to just be more streamlined in this sequel. I guess this came as a surprise because Nintendo isn’t typically good at improving things since it would imply that their earlier formula was wrong. Still, there are now Lumas that accept coins instead of star bits (finally a solid use for collecting coins), skating makes a return but no longer requires ice Mario, and just a general feeling that Nintendo had fun making a 3D Mario sequel for once.

Never tried this move...

Never tried this move...

The Mixed
Yoshi. I’m only hesitant about my childhood favourite character because of how terrible he was in Mario Sunshine. He added nothing to the game and controlled awkwardly. Still, that seems to be remedied in Galaxy 2, and there are cool speed sections that only Yoshi can partake in that are challenging and fun. The pointer controls also help Yoshi feel more natural as the dinosaur’s tongue is controlled with the reticule. Also, I didn’t see any sign of Rosalina, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, or Baby Bowser, and the Nintendo rep wouldn’t say a word when I asked (nor when I asked about Star Fox Wii, Pikmin 3, or any E3 tidbits. I’m trying for you, readers!). I really only care about the first two on that list of missing characters, because Rosalina’s awesome, and I loved the Luigi stuff in the first Galaxy. The missions with him were great, and then playing through the adventure again and actually having him control differently was sweet. I really hope that makes a return. There will also be the return of a semi-multiplayer mode and although I was told it would be modified from the original in some ways, I wasn’t enlightened by details (and yes, I asked for those too).

Anyway, big thanks to Nintendo of Canada for the great event, and I’m definitely incredibly excited for this game. In fact, I haven’t been this excited for a Wii game since the original Galaxy. May 23rd, people. Crap, now I want to play the original.

Oh, and my Sunshine list is coming, so hold your horses. I’m having an off week.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Preview

Friday, November 13th, 2009

I was lucky enough to try out two Nintendo games before their release this week. One was obviously New Super Mario Bros Wii as indicated by my awesome preview below. The other was the direct sequel to Phantom Hourglass (which was the direct sequel to Wind Waker, can you believe it?), Spirit Tracks. I didn’t get to play it for quite as long as Mario, but I played enough to feel confident in giving you guys a small preview. Let’s get to it.

spirit_tracks_previewThe Expected
It, graphically, looks like Phantom Hourglass. Which – also like PH – looks surprisingly better running on the DS than on video or screens on the internet. The game also had the same Wind Waker brand of cutesy gag humour that actually had me chuckling a bit. While some people complained about the all-touch controls of the first DS Zelda, it’s difficult to deny that they are absolutely the best touch controls on the DS. Spirit Tracks is no different. It feels fast, intuitive, and fun. The set-up is also the same: go to an annoying repeat dungeon in the middle of the map to unlock more sections of the world map. At least it looks like the annoying repeat dungeon might have measures to make it less annoying this time around. I’m not holding my breath for that yet, though. Just speculation based on some things I saw.

The Unexpected
How quickly I was hooked. Like the entire universe, I was extremely skeptical of this title the first time it was shown. Link on a train? Really? But seeing the world, hearing the music, exploring the puzzles, and realizing that Link wouldn’t be in that ridiculous conductor outfit, I instantly started craving more. Because this is the first “cartoon” Zelda game to take place on a major land mass, I realized that I was really excited to see what Nintendo did with it. This “New Hyrule” is only 100 years old and so there’s the opportunity to show the beginnings of new cultures and maybe even the revival of ancient ones. The music seemed to be a great mix of the Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass style combined with hints of a brand new style. So while at first this game looked to be a disappointment, I now believe it has the potential to be the best of the Cel-shaded Zeldas.

Surprisingly, I didn't draw this

Surprisingly, I didn't draw this

The Mixed
The train. It’s definitely better than I originally feared. There are many branching paths, and to be honest, it’s not like you had to turn all that often in the boat, anyway. You can control speed, scare animals out of your path, and I’m more than sure that there’ll be upgrades to keep the experience fresh. That being said, I can’t imagine that it won’t get a little tiring. Also, going backwards is a bitch, and no matter how smooth the train experience, I’d still rather be on a horse. Spirit Tracks also marks the return of a musical instrument, which I love. However, it’s a set of wind pipes that will require you to literally blow into your DS to work. It strikes me as lame and gimmicky. Still, I didn’t really get a chance to test it out, and since the rest of the game has surprised me, I’m open to letting my mind be changed.

The Outlook
Strong. Just a few weeks ago, Riddles and I were talking about how we were feeling apathetic toward the title even though we’re both massive fanboys. But Nintendo has lured me in with their unbeatably tight game design and the promise of entirely new Hyrule lore. The train thing is still ultimately ridiculous, but like Kingdom Hearts: Dumb Name, there’s a place to relentless poke fun at a great game. These few weeks look to ease a little bit of the pain Nintendo has caused by not releasing any of their first party gold in ages.
I couldn’t have done better than the folks at MEGATONik with that hilarious picture above, so thanks to them for drawing the perfect picture for me to steal.

New Super Mario Bros Wii Preview

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Well dear readers, here at Riddlethos, we finally got a chance to get a little preview on a game for you. I suppose I got Forza 3 early as well, but I didn’t talk about it much before its release and I don’t think there was an overwhelming interest either. Either way, I played New Super Mario Bros Wii for 70 minutes straight yesterday, and so I have definitely played enough to give you fine folks some detailed impressions.

nsmbw01The Expected
Oh no, you have to save Princess Peach. What a flipping surprise. While this is an entirely new game from the DS entry, the premise and set-up is exactly the same. You have the classic layout of worlds from the NES and SNES eras, a Bowser minion to fight at mini-castles and end-of-world castles, and multiple paths to unlock if you find the secret ending within a level. In fact, it’s all so predictable that after we beat the castle in the first world I said “bet you we go to a desert world next”. I was right. I was also then accused of seeing spoiler footage. I had not. But, of course, while no different, this is a classic set-up for a reason and the new mini-boss character models are a nice change although their move sets may barely be different. It also looks just like the DS game if not a little crisper. REALLY makes me want a 2D Mario game in HD though.

The Unexpected
NewSuperMarioBrosWii2Multiplayer rocks. It really does. I was quite skeptical, but it works, and it’s completely awesome. It’s annoying at times, sure, especially when your head keeps getting jumped on, but that can also be used as a technique to more easily get to certain areas. It’s also very balanced. If you’re playing with players far less skilled than you, they can just press the A button to float in a bubble to where the other players are. You can’t just have everybody just press A, though, you need at least one skilled player to make any progress. The result is that the skilled players still get the better power-ups, they still find the secret areas, and they don’t get annoyed by less skilled players bringing them down. Sometimes it’s just fun to goof around, however. Even in co-op, all four of us were laughing our asses off while riding Yoshis and spitting one poor soul back and forth between us. It’s a huge relief to see that even with all the measures to incorporate newbies, the hardcore Mario fans truly will not suffer. The play session also showed that the very strong Mario level design is still present. I am beyond excited to test out all these new levels. Even the first world proved that legitimate challenge has not been abandoned.

Almost Badass

Almost Badass

The Mix
Those goddamned motion controls. While I defend games like Excitebots and the pointer mechanics in Galaxy, I hate whenever moves are attached to random shaking. Granted, Nintendo being Nintendo, it works better in New Super Mario Bros Wii than in other games, and it is minimal, but I’d still rather press the B trigger button awkwardness be damned. However, there are a few tilt mechanics that do work, and add to the experience. The first player to jump onto certain platforms gets tilt power. That means the platform mirrors the player’s remote. It’s actually a fun mechanic, and along with the ice powers and propeller cap, a welcome addition.

The Outlook.
Really good. When this was announced, I was apathetic. I become mildly more excited as news was released, but now I’m full on pumped. I am buying it this Sunday, no question.